U.S.S. Oregon (BB-3)
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Career (United States)
Ordered: 30 June 1890
Laid down: 19 November 1891
Launched: 26 October 1893
Commissioned: 15 July 1896
Decommissioned: 4 October 1919
Fate: Sold for scrap, 1956
Displacement: 10,288 tons / 9,333 tonnes (standard), 11,688 tons / 10,603 tonnes (full load)
Length: 348 ft. (106 m) (waterline), 351 ft. (107 m) (overall)
Beam: 69 ft. (21 m)
Draft: 24 ft. (7.3 m) (mean), 27 ft. (8.2 m) (max)
Propulsion: Twin screw
Speed: 16 kn (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Complement: 737 officers and men
Armament: 4 - 13 inch (330 mm)/35 cal guns, 8 - 8 inch (200 mm)/35 cal guns, 4 - 6 inch (150 mm)/40 cal guns, 20 - 6 pounders (57 mm (2.2 inch)), 6 - 1 pounders (37 mm (1.5 inch)), 6 - 18 inch (460 mm) torpedo tubes
USS Oregon (BB-3) was a pre-Dreadnought Indiana class battleship of the United States Navy. Her construction was authorized on 30 June 1890, and the contract to build her was awarded to Union Iron Works of San Francisco, California on 19 November 1890. Her keel was laid exactly one year later. She was launched on 26 October 1893, sponsored by Miss Daisy Ainsworth, delivered to the Navy on 26 June 1896, and commissioned on 15 July 1896, Captain H.L. Howison in command.
After commissioning, Oregon was fitted out for duty on the Pacific Station, where she served for a short time. Leaving drydock on 16 February 1898, she received news that Maine had blown up in Havana harbor the previous day. As tensions with Spain grew, on 9 March Oregon arrived in San Francisco and loaded ammunition. Three days later she was ordered on what was to become one of the most historic voyages ever undertaken by a Navy ship. Oregon departed San Francisco on 19 March for Callao, Peru, the first coaling stop on her trip around South America to the East Coast for action in the impending war with Spain. Arriving at Callao on 4 April and departing several days later, she bypassed the coaling station at Valparaíso, Chile on the orders of her commanding officer, Captain Charles Edgar Clark, and continued on through the Straits of Magellan. On 16 April, Oregon entered the Straits and ran into a terrific gale which obscured the perilously close rocky coastline. For a time she was in great danger, but just after dark she let go her anchors on a rocky shelf fringed by islets and reefs, and safely weathered the night. Before dawn on the 17th, the gale moderated and Oregon proceeded around Cape Forward to Punta Arenas, where she was joined by Marietta, also sailing to the East Coast.
Both ships coaled and departed on 21 April for Rio de Janeiro, keeping their guns manned all the while for a Spanish torpedo boat rumored to be in the area. Head seas and winds delayed them, and they did not reach Rio until 30 April. There, Oregon received news of the declaration of war against Spain, and on 4 May she left on the next leg of her remarkable journey. By chance on 14 May, just north of the equator, Oregon encountered Joshua Slocum in his little vessel Spray nearing the end of his famous solo circumnavigation. With a brief stop in Bahia, Brazil, Oregon arrived at Barbados for coal on 18 May, and on the 24th, anchored off Jupiter Inlet, Florida, reporting ready for battle. Altogether, Oregon had sailed over 14,000 mi (23,000 km) since leaving San Francisco 66 days earlier. The record-setting voyage delighted the public and inspired popular song: ''The Race of the Oregon,'' by John James Meehan, included the lyrics:
Lights out! And a prow turned toward the South,
And a canvas hiding each cannon's mouth
And a ship like a silent ghost released
Is seeking her sister ships in the East.
When your boys shall ask what the guns are for,
Then tell them the tale of the Spanish war,
And the breathless millions that looked upon
The matchless race of the Oregon.
On one hand, the feat had demonstrated the many capabilities of a heavy battleship in all conditions of wind and sea. On the other, it swept away all opposition for the construction of the Panama Canal. Despite Oregon's inspiring transit, the realization that the 74 day delay would have been cut to some three weeks if the Panama Canal had been operational greatly helped to persuade the United States to buy the failed French operations in Panama and complete the canal.
On 26 May, Oregon proceeded to the Navy Base at Key West, joined Admiral William T. Sampson's fleet two days later, and on 1 June arrived off Santiago, Cuba to shell military installations and to help in the destruction of Admiral Cervera's fleet on 3 July. Oregon's dogged determination to fight acquired for her the nickname ''McKinley's Bulldog''. Oregon then went to the New York Navy Yard for a refit, and returned to the Asiatic Squadron in October 1898.
She arrived at Manila on 18 March 1899, and remained in the area until the following February. In cooperating with the Army during the Philippine-American War, the battleship performed blockade duty in Manila Bay and off Lingayen Gulf, served as a station ship, and aided in the capture of Vigan.
Departing Cavite on 13 February 1900, Oregon cruised in Japanese waters until May, when she went to Hong Kong, then arrived at Taku Forts on 24 May with 28 US Marines and five seamen, under the command of Captain John Myers, the first United States forces sent to China to protect American citizens during the Boxer Rebellion.
Oregon departed on 23 June, and on 28 June, while steaming through the Straits of Pechili, she grounded on an uncharted rock. Suffering some damage and taking on water, the battleship was in a precarious situation for a week. On 5 July, Oregon took to the water again and the following day was towed to Hope Sound for temporary repair. Arriving Kure, Japan on 17 July, she was placed in dry dock at the naval station there for final repairs.
On 29 August 1900, the battleship departed again for the coast of China and cruised off the Yangtze River and served as station ship at Woosung. On 5 May 1901, she got underway for the United States. Sailing via Yokohama, Japan, and Honolulu, Hawaii, she arrived at San Francisco, California on 12 June and entered Puget Sound Navy Yard on 6 July for overhaul. Remaining in the Puget Sound area for well over a year, it was not until 18 March 1903 that Oregon returned to Asiatic waters, arriving in Hong Kong on that day. Visiting various Chinese, Japanese, and Philippine ports, the battleship remained in the Far East until returning to the West Coast in February 1906. She decommissioned at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 4 April 1906.
World War I
Oregon recommissioned on 29 August 1911, but remained in reserve until October, when she sailed to San Diego. The following years were ones of relative inactivity for the aging veteran, as she operated out of West Coast ports. On 9 April 1913, she was placed in ordinary at Bremerton, Washington and on 16 September 1914 went into a reserve status, although she remained in commission. On 2 January 1915, she was again in full commission and sailed to San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition from 11 February 1916 - 1917. April 1917, she was placed in commission in reserve, this time at San Francisco. Returned to full commission again on the latter date, Oregon remained first on the West Coast, then acted as one of the escorts for transports of the Siberian expedition. On 12 June 1919 she decommissioned at Bremerton. From 21 August - 4 October, she recommissioned briefly and was the reviewing ship for President of the United States Woodrow Wilson during the arrival of the Pacific Fleet at Seattle.
With the adoption of ship classification symbols on 17 July 1920, Oregon was redesignated BB-3. In 1921, a movement was begun to preserve the battleship as an object of historic and sentimental interest, and to lay her up permanently at some port in the state of Oregon. In accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty, Oregon was rendered incapable of further warlike service on 4 January 1924, and was retained on the Naval Vessel Register as a naval relic with a classification of ''unclassified''. In June 1925, she was loaned to the state of Oregon, restored, and moored at Portland, Oregon, as a floating monument and museum, to be visited by hundreds of thousands in the ensuing years. On 17 February 1941, when identifying numbers were assigned to unclassified vessels, Oregon was redesignated IX-22.
With the outbreak of World War II, it was deemed that the scrap value of the old veteran was vital and necessary to the war effort of the nation. Accordingly, she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 2 November 1942 and sold on 7 December. On that day, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a parade commemorating the ship marched through the streets of downtown Portland. Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson delivered the keynote speech, and the front page of The Oregonian included a fifteen stanza ode to the ship by Ben Hur Lampman. The poem ended:
The gray, gray mists where once she lay-
(Ah but her name is pride!)
She loosed her moorings and bore away
To serve again in a thunderous day-
The Oregon sails with the tide!
She was towed to Kalama, Washington, the following March for dismantling. However, when progress reached the main deck and after the ship's interior had been cleared out, the Navy requested that the scrapping process be halted, since the need for scrap was not critical. The Navy, embarrassed by public criticism of the events, reinstated the vessel, using it as a munitions barge during the Battle of Guam.
The hulk of the old battleship remained at Guam for several years. During a typhoon on 14 - 15 November 1948, she broke her moorings and drifted to sea. Finally, on 8 December, the old warrior was located by search planes some 500 miles south east of Guam and towed back. She was sold for $208,000 on 15 March 1956 to the Massey Supply Corporation, resold to the Iwai Sanggo Company, and finally towed to Kawasaki, Japan, and scrapped.
Her mast survives as a memorial located in Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon. On 4 July 1976, a time capsule was sealed in the base of the memorial. The time capsule is scheduled to be opened on 5 July 2076. Oregon's two funnels were preserved at a separate location, in Portland's Liberty Ship Memorial Park.