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Friday, April 11, 2014


Led by the U.S.S. Connecticut, America's Great White Fleet steams toward San Diego Harbor, May 11, 1908

BUT SILTY HARBOR KEEPS THEM ANCHORED OFF SHORE--In 1908, an American fleet of 16 battleships on a cruise around the world, the Great White Fleet, anchored outside of San Diego harbor because the bay was not deep enough to allow the dreadnoughts to dock at any of the wharves.

Original 1908 text as follows to end of blog:

APRIL 14, 1908 - 15,515 miles from Hampton Roads
APRIL 19, 1908 - 509 miles to San Francisco
Last Leg on the Cruise

FROM A U.S. NAVY DISPATCH, SAN DIEGO, Cal, Saturday, April 11, 1908--The Great White Fleet (aka: the Atlantic fleet of 16 battleships) began today the last leg of its originally planned cruise from Hampton Roads, VA to the Golden Gate. The four divisions of the fleet weighed anchor at 4 pm, and three-quarters of an hour later were threading their way out of Magdalena Bay [north and east of Cabo San Lucas, Baja California], in the wake of the flagship U.S.S. Connecticut. 

The fleet command, Rear Adm. Charles M. Thomas, was aboard the flagship. Sailing in single column formation, according to dispatches, the six black-hulled destroyers of the torpedo flotilla gave a parting salute to the big white vessels and the stay of the American battleships in the Mexican Bay was at an end.

An easy journey of 620 miles lies before the fleet, which is scheduled to anchor off Coronado beach at 1 pm Tuesday afternoon (April 14). Adm. Thomas has allowed 69 hours for the run up the coast, requiring gain an average of only nine knots an hour. The ships left Magdalena at the usual cruising speed of ten knots, however, and will slow down during the latter part of the journey. The early hour of departure was fixed to guarantee against the possibility of delay in a fog.

When the ships reach San Diego they will have logged 13,569 knots since their departure from Hampton Roads December 16, 1907. The USS Connecticut has 1,204 knots additional to her credit on account of the trip to this port last week to bring Adm. Evans ashore and her subsequent return to Magdalena Bay. Every coast city from San Diego to San Francisco is to see the fleet during the next four weeks, it having been arranged that at all points where no stopping is scheduled the ships will pass as close to shore as possible, always being within the range of visions of persons gathered along the shore.

San Diego Is Already Decorated in Honor of the Coming of the Squadron.

Preparations for the four days stay of the ships at San Diego are complete. The city is gaily decorated with flags and patriotic bunting. In this city of 40,000 inhabitants a fund of nearly $20,000 has been raised for the entertainment of officers and men of the Navy. Interest in coming of the ships is intense, the strong personal sentiment being reflected in the banners, which have “welcome to our fleet.”

Media welcomed the 16-ship flotilla

FROM A U.S. NAVY DISPATCH, SAN DIEGO, Cal, Tuesday, April 14, 1908--Fleet off San Diego - Will Enter the Harbor Early Tomorrow Morning

The fleet will arrive in San Diego tomorrow, and its stay will be marked by the most notable parade of bluejackets and marines ever landed from American vessels of war.

The San Diego parade will be held next Wednesday afternoon, April 22 beginning at 2 o’clock. It will be the initial step in the formal ceremonies of welcome which have been arranged here in behalf of the state and the city. Gov. Gillette and Mayor Forward, were the principal speakers at the exercises to be held in the city park. In order to assemble this great marching force it will be necessary for the sailors and marines to embark in small boats from the respective ships at 12 noon. The maneuvers of landing the 5,000 men, after a journey of some ten or twelve miles from the ocean into San Diego bay, will be a spectacle in itself and will be watched with keen interest as an evidence of small boat drill efficiency in the fleet. All of the men will be landed with arms and in light marching order.  (In 1908, San Diego Bay was not deep enough to accommodate the battleships.]

The parade of 5,000 enlisted men and more than 200 officers will outnumber those participating in the famous welcome to Adm. Dewey in New York City, when he returned from the Battle of Manila Bay to accept his commission as head of the American Navy.

The assembling of the 16 first-class battleships for the voyage to the Pacific brought tougher the greatest power of fighting craft ever known in the Navy, and made possible the spending land display which is to be held here and which will be repeated when the fleet reaches San Francisco.

Landing a Great Fleet.

The small boats of each ship will be loaded to their utmost carrying capacity, the sailing launches, the largest of the boats now carried on the battleships, each containing from 60 to 70 men. The handling of these frail craft in divisional and flotilla formation and towing them into the harbor by means of the stalwart little steam launches hooked in tandem procession will be fraught with many difficulties.

But American Navy is skillful at such things, and it is believed that the orders issued by Adm. Thomas will be carried out without the slightest hitch at any point. The force to be launched at San Diego has officially been designated as the “Fleet Naval Brigade.” Its formation was a task of no mean proportions, the detail occupying the attention of the staff officers during the large portion of the journey from Magdalena straits to the northward.

The fleet brigade has been divided into five divisional brigades, the first being marine brigade and the others being known as first, second, third and fourth division brigades, the latter being composed of bluejackets from the ships of the divisions from which the numerical order is taken.

Order of Parade.

Sixty-four separate companies of bluejackets and 16 companies of marines compose the total forces. These figures quickly convey an idea of the extent of the parade and give it to history-making proportions. Each battleship will contribute four companies of bluejackets and one company of marines. All 16 bands of the fleet are to be combined and then divided among the five divisions, giving about 72 persons to each organization. This feature to the display also has its notable side to it.

As commander of the fleet brigade, Adm. Thomas has selected Capt. Seaton Schroeder, commanding the battleship Virginia. Capt. Schroeder is to be promoted to the flag rank and will command one of the divisions of the battleship fleets when it starts on its cruise around the world from San Francisco in July.

The marine brigade will be commanded by Maj. Dion Williams, U.S.N., fleet marine officer.
Commander V.S. Nelson or the repair ship Panther has been designated as beach master of the brigade and will have charge of the landing of the men ashore.

An escort of honor, a battalion of coast artillery from the army post at Fort Rosecrans, local companies of the California National Guard and Naval Reserves, posts of the G.A.R., Confederate Veterans, Spanish War Veterans and uniformed civic bodies also will have a place in Wednesday’s parade.

FROM A U.S. NAVY DISPATCH, SAN DIEGO, Cal, Friday, April 17, 1908—Leaving San Diego--The stay of the American battleship fleet in San Diego bay is rapidly drawing to a close, and the 16 ships, under command of Rear Adm. Charles M. Thomas, will hoist anchors at 6 a.m. tomorrow and steam to the northward, their next visiting place being the ports of Los Angeles. Four of these ports are included in the calling list, a division of four ships being sent to each place.
Leaving San Diego early this morning, a run of nine hours lies before the fleet to the next stopping place, the ports of Los Angeles, where the ships are scheduled to arrive at 3 o’clock. All 16 of the fighting vessels will drop anchor at San Pedro for an overnight stay, and tomorrow the fleet will divide into four divisions and spend the remaining  days of one week’s stay allotted to Los Angeles at the various ports of Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Redondo, the first division remaining at San Pedro.

Northern Plans.
The fleet is proceeding in single column up the California coast, standing inshore far enough to let all town and villages, between San Diego and Los Angeles, bordering on the sea, have a look at the imposing line. After a week at Los Angeles, the fleet visits Santa Barbara, Point Harford, Monterey, Santa Cruz and then enters the Golden Gate, its originally announced destination, remaining twelve days at San Francisco. The fleet then proceeds to Puget Sound for a brief visit to Seattle, Tacoma and neighboring towns.

One-half of the vessels will dock at Bremerton, the others returning to San Francisco May 29 for docking and minor repairs. The entire fleet will reassemble July 3 and set sail July 7 for Honolulu on the way to Australia, the Philippines, Japan, China, the Suez Canal and New York.

Source: Courtesy of the Navy Historical Center and

The Mr. Bill Stewart Collection.

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