Tuesday, August 24, 2010

USS Isla de Cuba

PLEASE NOTE: Due to a conflict in my schedule, the ship that was to be posted on Tuesday, August 31, will be posted on Thursday, September 2.

Figure 1: Isla de Cuba (Spanish Cruiser, 1886-1898) photographed soon after completion, probably in a British port. This small cruiser was lost at Manila Bay, 1 May 1898, but was salvaged and entered the US Navy under her Spanish name. She was sold in 1912 and became the Mariscal Sucre in the Venezuelan Navy. Copied from Office of Naval Intelligence Album of Foreign Warships. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: Scuttled wreck of the Spanish cruiser Isla de Cuba, photographed sometime after the Battle of Manila Bay, 1 May 1898. This ship was later salvaged and became USS Isla de Cuba. Donation of Lt. C.J. Dutreaux, USNR(Ret), 1947. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS Isla de Cuba, American gunboat from 1900 to 1912. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: Postcard from 1908 depicting the gunboat USS Isla de Cuba at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Navy Yard. Photograph courtesy of Arnold A. Putnam. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: The Mariscal Sucre of the Venezuelan Navy, circa 1918. She was formerly the American gunboat USS Isla de Cuba. Photograph from the 1924 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships. Click on photograph for larger image.

The Isla de Cuba was a 1,030-ton Isla de Luzon class cruiser built in 1886 for the Spanish Navy by the British shipbuilder W.G. Armstrong at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. The ship was approximately 197 feet long and 30 feet wide, had a top speed of 13 knots, and had a crew of 137 officers and men. As built, Isla de Cuba was armed with four 4-inch guns, four 6-pounders, and three torpedo tubes. This armament, though, was altered slightly in later years.

At the time of the Spanish-American War, Isla de Cuba was part of the Spanish Squadron based in the Philippines. She was scuttled and sunk by the Spanish during the Battle of Manila Bay on 1 May 1898. After the war was over, the US Navy salvaged the ship and, after extensive repairs were made at Hong Kong, commissioned the vessel into the Navy on 11 April 1900. USS Isla de Cuba went on her shakedown cruise off Hong Kong and then was assigned to the Asiatic Station.

Isla de Cuba assisted in the suppression of the Filipino revolt after the Spanish-American War and was used as a gunboat and a supply ship. She steamed throughout the Philippine Islands and supported amphibious operations against the Filipino rebels. Isla de Cuba transported a battalion of American troops to Ormoc, Leyte, and the soldiers held that town from 17 November to 8 December 1900 until relieved. In 1901, Isla de Cuba also completed a survey of the Ormoc anchorage and of Parasan Harbor. In March and April 1901, the gunboat was assigned to the Navy’s Southern Squadron in the Philippines and assisted in cutting off rebel supplies on the island of Samar. Isla de Cuba also supported ground troops in capturing the rebel leader on Samar and she maintained a close blockade of the island as well. All of these measures helped defeat the Filipino rebels and eventually forced them to sign an armistice with the United States.

Isla de Cuba left Cebu in the Philippines on 4 March 1904 and made a long voyage to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she was decommissioned on 9 June. The ship underwent a major overhaul and on 21 March 1907 was loaned to the Naval Militia of Maryland as a training ship. Isla de Cuba remained with the Maryland Naval Militia until 2 April 1912, when she was sold to Venezuela for service in that country’s navy. Renamed Mariscal Sucre, the ship served in the Venezuelan Navy until 1940, when she was sold for scrap. Isla de Cuba served in three navies for more than 54 years, demonstrating just how tough and useful this gunboat was.