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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
 
South Jersey

September 05, 1999

First ship bearing the state's name helped to display U.S. naval might in early 1900s.

By ARON PILHOFER
Gannett State Bureau

Mention the battleship New Jersey to a naval historian, and the response might be, "Which one?"

In fact, there have been two. Prior to the 1942 launch of the Iowa-class battleship known as the New Jersey, another ship bore the name of the Garden State. Although it had a shorter career, just 16 years in service, it was among the noteworthy American naval vessels built before World War I.

The first New Jersey was just under 15,000 tons … about one-third the displacement of the World War II battleship. It was built in Massachusetts, one of five Virginia-class battleships armed with 8-inch and 12-inch guns. Launched in November 1904, the ship was commissioned two years later with Capt. William W. Kimball in command.

The ship is probably best remembered as part of President Teddy Roosevelt's Great White Fleet.

The New Jersey was one of 16 battleships and six destroyers sent by Roosevelt on an around-the-world cruise starting in December 1907. The ostensible mission was peace: to quell tensions with Japan, then a growing industrial power. But it was also the largest display of sea power to date for the United States, which was just becoming a player in world affairs. And although not a shot was fired in anger by the fleet, it made the impression Roosevelt intended. Tensions with Japan subsided.

On Feb. 22, 1909, the fleet returned to Hampton Roads, Va., after stops in Australia, New Zealand and the Far East. As one of his last acts in office, Roosevelt reviewed the fleet as it came to anchor.

During the years leading up to World War I, the New Jersey spent time as a training ship and was dispatched to protect American interests in the Caribbean and in Mexico. During the war, the ship was again converted to a training ship for gunners and seamen recruits.

After the war, it helped ferry American forces home from Europe before being decommissioned for a final time in 1920.

The New Jersey's last action was perhaps as important as its first. The ship was sunk off Cape Hatteras on September 1923 by Army bomber aircraft, helping to convince a skeptical military hierarchy of the growing importance of air power.

USS New Jersey Home Page



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