USS Kearsarge (BB-5)
The USS Kearsarge BB-5 was a turn-of-the-century pre-Dreadnought battleship leading a class of two-strong for the United States Navy.
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The USS Kearsarge (BB-5) was an early modern United States Navy (USN) steel battleship leading a class of two-strong, displacing at 11,525 tons, and intended for coastal defense sorties. The vessel was named after Mount Kearsarge of New Hampshire and followed, in name, the original USS Kearsarge sloop-of-war commissioned in 1861. The original Kearsarge is remembered for subduing the effective CSS Alabama, a successful Confederate commerce raider, during the American Civil War (1861-1865). The Alabama was finally tracked down, engaged and sunk in June of 1864 near French shores. The new Kearsarge was ordered on March 2nd, 1895 and laid down on June 30th, 1896 by Newport News. She was launched on March 24th, 1898 and commissioned on February 20th, 1900.
As completed, the Kearsarge was outfitted with 5 x Scotch boilers feeding 2 x 3-cylinder vertical triple-expansion steam engines driving 2 x shafts at 11,674 horsepower output. The vessel could reach speeds of nearly 17 knots in ideal conditions. Structurally, she was given a sleek, stout design with a noticeably low main deck. Double turret arrangements were fitted forward and aft while the superstructure took up most of the space amidships. The superstructure was lined with guns along both of its sides while the bridge was set high atop the forward portion of the superstructure with twin crucifix-style masts towering high above the hull. The side profile was dominated by a pair of high-reaching smoke funnels exhausting the twin engine arrangement. The vessel carried several boats which were at the disposal of the crew - each to suit a particular operational need. As a combat vessel, Kearsarge was well-protected with armor measuring between 5" and 16.5" at her belt, 12.5" to 15" at her barbettes, 15" to 17" inches at her main gun turrets, 6" to 11" at her secondary turrets and 10" at the conning tower.
Her armament centered on 4 x 13" (330mm) main guns fitted to a fore and aft cylindrical turret, two guns to a mount. Atop these turrets were situated smaller turrets, each fitted with 4 x 8" (203mm) guns, two guns to each turret. Additional armament included 14 x 5" (127mm) guns and up to 20 x 6-pounder cannon. There were also 8 x 1-pounder guns and up to 4 x 0.30 caliber machine guns for close-in work. Enemy surface threats were also countered by way of 4 x 18" (467mm) torpedo tubes.
Kearsarge's began her career in May of 1901 and her early years were spent in Atlantic waters, primarily serving along the American East Coast and in the Caribbean. In June of 1903, Kearsarge sailed for European waters as flagship of the European Squadron en route to several good will stops which saw the vessel play host to Emperor Wilhelm of Germany in June and the Prince of Wales in July before returning to the U.S. Kearsarge was then sent to Cuba for the official American takeover of Guantanamo Naval Reservation in December. In 1904, she headed for Europe once again on additional good will stops before returning home in August. On April 13th, 1906, Kearsarge was hit by tragedy when ten were killed by a turret fire during gunnery practice, forcing a rewrite of American naval powder handling.
In December of 1907, Kearsarge joined other members of the United States Navy to undertake a worldwide voyage under the nickname of "The Great White Fleet" - America's show of force on the high seas in this industrial age. The journey, commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt, would span from December 1907 to February 1909. The fleet sailed down the coast of South America, around Argentina, and up the Chilean coast before reaching California for refit in 1908. The group then sailed through Hawaiian waters, rounding southern and western Australia before traversing the Indian Ocean. Northbound through the Suez Canal, the fleet emerged in Mediterranean waters, finding the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar before returning home to Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was seen fit to modernize the fleet and Kearsarge underwent a program that saw the installation of all-new water-tube boilers, additional 5" guns, new "caged" masts and the removal of the 1-pounder guns and sixteen 6-pounder guns. For the work ahead, she was officially decommissioned, this on September 4th, 1909.
Once completed, Kearsarge was brought back to active status and recommissioned on June 23rd, 1915. Her service saw her once again patrolling the Atlantic Coast at which time Europe had erupted into World War 1 (1914-1918). In September, Kearsarge delivered marines to Veracruz, Mexico and then to New Orleans, Louisiana. She was made part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet on February 4th, 1916 and served as a training platform while America remained neutral. On April 6th, 1917, the United States formally joined its allies in France to participate in World War 1 as millions of Americans were committed to the fighting. Kearsarges notable action in the conflict was coming to the aid of survivors of Nordhav, a Norwegian barque on August 18th, 1918, the vessel having been torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-117. The armistice was signed in November of 1918 officially ending the war.
Kearsarge managed to continue her career despite an end to the war and deflated defense spending. She served as a training platform and sailed in Caribbean waters into 1919. She was then recalled back to the Philadelphia Naval Yard and decommissioned during late-May 1920. Instead of scrapping the still-useful vessel, the United States Navy undertook a project to completely rework her superstructure and support a heavy-lift 250-ton capacity crane assembly. All her guns and heavy armor were removed. She emerged as hull classification "IX-16" which then evolved to "AB-1" in August of 1920. She served in this second-line role for decades leading up to World War 2 (1939-1945). By this time, AB-1 was given the name of "Crane Ship No. 1" which freed her "Kearsarge" name for a new Essex-class aircraft carrier. However, this carrier new carrier was itself renamed to USS Hornet (CV-12) to honor the USS Hornet (CV-8) lost at the Battle of the Santa Cruz. "CV-33" then took the Kearsarge name and served throughout the latter part of World War 2, decommissioned twice before scrapped in 1974.
"Crane Ship No. 1" served the USN well during the construction of other needed warships during World War 2 where her lifting capabilities were put to excellent use. She was later relocated to the West Coast at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard in 1945 and ended her war time service participating in the construction of several more prominent warships including aircraft carriers. In 1948, she found her way back to the East Coast at the Boston Naval Shipyard where her twilight years awaited. On June 22nd, 1955, her name struck from the Naval Register and the hull was given up for the scrap yard on August 9th. The Kearsarge managed a career spanning 55 years in which three decades were spent as a crane platform. Her tenure covered two world wars and the Korean War (1953-1955).