The United States began its growth as a notable all-modern naval power in the late 1800s - fresh off of its bloody Civil War (1861-1865). By the early 1900s, the force was becoming a major global player and this culminated with the voyage of the "Great White Fleet" (1907-1909) - a two-squadron armada of United States Navy (USN) warships, to include sixteen battleships, undertaking a journey around the world in a show-of-force. During this period, naval superiority provided both political leverage and protection of vital shipping lanes while also serving well as tools of deterrence and intimidation.
USS Oregon (BB-3) became a product of the period, adding considerable firepower and protection to serve American interests. Ordered on June 30th, 1890, USS Oregon saw her keel laid down by Union Iron Works on November 19th, 1891. She was launched to sea on October 26th, 1893 and formally commissioned on July 15th, 1896. While termed a "battleship" when she was commissioned, the arrival of HMS Dreadnought in Britain during 1906 ultimately rendered ships like Oregon "pre-dreadnought" battleships in short order. HMS Dreadnought revolutionized naval warfare by her uniformed main battery and steam turbine machinery providing an excellent combination of firepower and speed.
USS Oregon was part of the three-strong Indiana-class which included USS Indiana (BB-1) and USS Massachusetts (BB-2). Her original machinery utilized 4 x Scotch double-ended boilers with 2 x vertical inverted triple expansion reciprocating steam engines driving up to 9,000 horsepower to 2 x shafts under the stern. The Scotch boilers were replaced by 8 x Babcock & Wilcox boiler units during her career. Maximum speed in ideal conditions was 15 knots and range was out to 5,600 miles.
Oregon's original armament was 2 x 13" /35 caliber twin-gunned main turrets on her deck backed by 4 x 8" /35 caliber twin-gunned turrets. She also carried 4 x 6" /40 caliber guns, 20 x 6-pounder cannon and 6 x 1-pounder guns. In keeping with surface warship design of the time, Oregon was outfitted with 4 x Whitehead torpedoes. In 1908, the 6" guns were removed while, in 1910, 12 x 3" /50 caliber guns were added.
As Union Iron Works was located in San Francisco, California along America's West Coast, USS Oregon was conveniently assigned to the U.S. Pacific Squadron in the early going (the Panama Canal had yet to be built and thus transiting to Atlantic waters were quite a journey). As the political situation between Spain and the United States began to deteriorate, the vessel relocated to the American East Coast for the foreseeable future. With no convenient passage options available, Oregon rounded the South American southern coast to reach Atlantic waters, covering some 16,000 total miles during a journey spanning from March to May 1898. War with Spain formally began on April 25th, 1898.
As part of the Atlantic Squadron, USS Oregon was used to help blockade Santiago. On July 3rd, 1898, she supported American actions during the Battle of Santiago which resulted in a decisive U.S. victory as five battleships, an armored cruiser, and two militarized yachts of the USN tangled with four cruisers and a pair of destroyers from the Spanish Navy. American casualties numbered one dead and one wounded to Spain's 323 dead, 151 wounded, and 1,720 captured. During the fighting, Oregon's speed was put to good use alongside USS Brooklyn as they ran down the escaping Cristobal Colon - which was forced to surrender.
The war with Spain ended months later on August 12th, 1898 with an American victory (and the demise of the Spanish Empire) but spurred a new war in the Philippines. USS Oregon was stationed in Pacific waters once again and completed a one-year tour during the Philippine-American War (1899-1902). The war's results were quite the same as the Americans forced a Philippine surrender and became American territory for the foreseeable future. USS Oregon then stationed off Wusong, China during the Boxer Rebellion (August 1899 - September 1901) as a multinational coalition battled Chinese and Yihetuan anti-imperialist forces - the war becoming a coalition victory. Oregon returned stateside for a much needed overhaul. During March of 1903, the vessel was back in Asian waters and completed a three-year commitment in the region. Following that, the vessel was decommissioned for the first time during April 1906.
During August of 1911, USS Oregon was recommissioned but this service tenure was short-lived. The subsequent years proved rather uneventful and Oregon was set back into reserve status from 1914 onwards. With the outbreak of war in Europe during the summer of 1914 to begin World War 1 (1914-1918), tensions worldwide mounted and the United States ultimately entered the war on the side of the Allies during 1917. This pulled USS Oregon back into active service as she was used to escort vital cargo ships supporting the White Russian forces against the Communist Red Army during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922) - an outgrowth of the global conflict.
With World War 1 having ended with the Armistice of November 1918, USS Oregon was a victim of the military drawdown and the Washington Naval Treaty naval limitations that proceeded the conflict, being decommissioned again on October 4th, 1919. She became a floating museum for the state of Oregon beginning in June of 1925 and remained at this post for decades. She was handed the new designation of IX-22 in February of 1941.
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