Thursday, August 27, 2009

USS Albany (PG-36, CL-23)

Figure 1: The cruiser USS Albany (PG-36, CL-23), in an undated broadside view early in her career, clearly showing the disposition of her main battery and the white and spar color scheme prevalent in the United States Navy early in the 20th century. US Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS New Hampshire (Battleship No. 25) coaling while moored alongside a US Navy fleet collier, at Brest, France, in December 1918. The ship in the left background is USS Albany. Next ship ahead of her is a US Coast Guard cutter. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS Albany (PG-36, CL-23) in Villefranche harbor, France, circa 1901-1902. The original image is printed on a postcard published by Michel Photographe, Nice, France. Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2007. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: Port side view of USS Albany (PG-36, CL-23) while at anchor at the Astoria, Oregon, Regatta, circa 1915-1916. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Originally named the Almirante Abreu for the Brazilian Navy, the 3,340-ton USS Albany was built by Whitworth & Company at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, and was purchased by the United States Navy on 16 March 1898. The United States was drifting towards war with Spain and the US Navy was concerned that it didn’t have enough ships to face this potential enemy. The Navy, therefore, bought two cruisers from Brazil while they were still under construction in England. The first ship was called the Amazonas, which was renamed USS New Orleans. The other cruiser was the Almirante Abreu. Unfortunately, Albany was launched in February 1899, much too late to see action in the war with Spain, which ended in August 1898. Albany finally was commissioned in the Tyne River, England, on 29 May 1900 and she and the New Orleans were the first steel cruisers in the US Navy to have wood-sheathed and coppered hulls. Albany was approximately 354 feet long and 43 feet wide, had a top speed of 20.5 knots, and had a crew of 353 officers and men. She was armed with six 6-inch guns, four 4.7-inch rapid-fire guns, 10 6-pounders, four 1-pounders, and three torpedo tubes.

On 26 June 1900, Albany left England and headed for the Philippines. She steamed to Gibraltar, went across the Mediterranean, transited the Suez Canal, crossed the Indian Ocean, and arrived at Cavite in the Philippines on 22 November. For the next seven months, Albany served with the Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines. She also made a voyage to Hong Kong where she was dry docked and repaired from 28 December 1900 to 17 February 1901. After returning to the Philippines and staying there for several months, Albany left Cavite on 3 July 1901 and returned to the European Station, arriving in the Mediterranean on 15 September.

For the next nine months, Albany steamed throughout the Mediterranean, visiting ports in Greece, France, Italy, Spain, and Egypt. She left the Mediterranean and proceeded into the Atlantic on 18 June 1902. Albany made stops at Cherbourg, France, and Southampton, England, and, after a brief interlude where she participated in naval exercises with the battleship Illinois and the cruisers Chicago and San Francisco, Albany sailed to the Baltic Sea on 20 July. While visiting northern Europe, Albany made stops at Stockholm, Sweden; Kronstadt, Russia; and Copenhagen, Denmark. In September 1902, Albany left the Baltic and, after a brief visit to Plymouth, England, returned to the Mediterranean on 12 September. After two more months of travelling around the Mediterranean, Albany was sent to the western hemisphere. She arrived in the West Indies in late November and participated in fleet tactical maneuvers towards the end of that year. On 5 January 1903, Albany headed for the United States for the first time, steaming to Boston, Massachusetts, for an overhaul.

After undergoing repairs at the Boston Navy Yard and then at the New York Navy Yard, Albany left for Europe on 15 February 1903. She sailed briefly in the Mediterranean before transiting the Suez Canal at the end of May and then headed for the Far East. She stopped at Hong Kong for some coal before joining the Asiatic Fleet at Chefoo in northern China. Albany patrolled off the coasts of China, Korea, and Japan, but then set sail for Hawaii on 3 December 1903. After staying in Hawaii for several days, Albany headed back to the western Pacific on 29 December. The cruiser spent some months in both China and the Philippines before returning to the United States in May 1904. Albany arrived at Bremerton, Washington, on 16 June and was placed out of commission at the Puget Sound Navy Yard.

Albany remained out of commission for almost three years. But on 10 June 1907, she was re-commissioned and assigned to the Pacific Fleet. Albany spent the next three years cruising off the coasts of North and Central America. She spent much time protecting American lives and property in politically unstable countries including Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and especially Nicaragua. Nicaragua was her principal area of operations during the first few months of 1910 and she was attached to Rear Admiral Kimball’s Nicaraguan expeditionary force. Albany returned to the Puget Sound Navy Yard in May 1910 and on 4 August left once again for China. After stopping briefly at Honolulu, Hawaii, and Yokohama, Japan, Albany arrived at Woosung, China, on 15 September. For almost three years, Albany remained in the Far East and visited numerous ports in the Philippines and Japan, as well as China.

On 20 October 1913, Albany left Yokohama and headed for home. She reached San Francisco on 12 November, but returned to the Puget Sound Navy Yard and was placed in reserve there on 23 December. After another overhaul, Albany was re-commissioned on 17 April 1914. She spent the next few months off the coast of Mexico after an incident in Tampico led to the American invasion of Vera Cruz. Her assignment there ended in November and on 4 December she again was placed out of commission at Bremerton, Washington. In the spring of 1915, Albany was assigned to training duty with the state naval militias of Washington and Oregon. On 12 May 1916, the cruiser was fully re-commissioned and once again headed for the coast of Mexico, this time as part of the American response to the massacre of American citizens in Columbus, New Mexico, by the bandit Pancho Villa and his men.

During the start of 1917, Albany was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet off the coast of Virginia. In early April 1917, America entered World War I by declaring war on Germany and on 5 July Albany steamed to New York for convoy duty. She became the flagship of Squadron Six, Patrol Force, Atlantic Fleet, and carried the flag of Rear Admiral William C. Watts. For the rest of World War I, Albany escorted merchant ships and troop transports back and forth across the Atlantic. From July 1917 to 11 November 1918, when the war ended, Albany successfully escorted 11 convoys between the United States and Europe.

In 1919, Albany once again was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet. She supported American troops that were sent to Vladivostok, Russia, to assist anti-Bolshevik forces that were fighting in Russia’s Civil War. From 1919 to early 1920, Albany completed several tours of duty at Vladivostok while American troops still were stationed there. She also sent armed landing parties ashore on several occasions to assist the American troops and to bring wounded men back to the ship. When American troops finally were withdrawn from Vladivostok in the spring of 1920, Albany resumed her duties with the Asiatic Fleet and spent the bulk of her time off the coasts of both China and the Philippines.

On 17 July 1920, Albany was designated PG-36, but on 8 August 1921 the ship was reclassified as a light cruiser and was designated CL-23. In July 1922, Albany left China for the last time and headed for home. She arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 6 August and was placed out of commission on 10 October 1922. She remained at Mare Island until 3 November 1929, when her name was struck from the Navy list. On 11 February 1930, USS Albany was sold for scrapping.

The most interesting aspect of Albany’s career is the sheer number of ports and countries she visited while in service with the US Navy. She was the quintessential gunboat, showing the flag and protecting American lives and property all over the world. She visited a wide array of countries, including China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, most of the countries in Central America, as well as all of the major nations bordering the Mediterranean. When not assisting the US Army or the Marine Corps in China, the Philippines, Central America, or Russia, or escorting precious convoys during World War I, Albany and her men visited friendly (and some not-so-friendly) nations. These visits made by Albany and ships like her showed that, without a doubt, the US Navy could project power and guard American interests anywhere in the world.