Tuesday, September 27, 2011
USS Nevada (BM-8)
Figure 1: "U.S. Monitors Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida and Wyoming." Pen-and-ink side elevation and plan view, by the Bureau of Construction and Repair. These monitors (numbers 7-10, respectively) were built under the 1898 ship construction program. Connecticut (Monitor No. 8) was renamed Nevada in January 1901, after launching but more than two years before completion. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Color postcard of the USS Nevada (BM-8) at anchor at New London, Connecticut, in 1905. Photograph by Enrique Muller, courtesy of Tommy Trampp. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Caption of this black-and-white photograph reads: “The crew of the USS Tonopah (BM-8) dressed in whites in 1909, while the ship was at anchor, probably on a Sunday. “ But this photograph looks like the picture used by Enrique Muller for the color postcard dated 1905. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Starboard view of USS Nevada (BM-8) circa 1903-09, location unknown. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Tonopah (BM-8) heading out to sea, circa 1914. Originally laid down as USS Connecticut, she was renamed USS Nevada to avoid confusion with a pre-dreadnought battleship. She was again renamed in March 1909 to USS Tonopah. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: View on USS Tonopah’s (BM-8) foredeck, showing 12-inch guns and crewmen, taken while she was serving as submarine tender at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, circa 1917. Submarines alongside are USS L-11 (Submarine No. 51) and USS L-9 (Submarine No. 49). Note the workbench, with vise attached, in the left foreground. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Tonopah (BM-8) in the harbor at Ponta Delgada, Azores, in April 1918. She is painted in what appears to be Mackay-type camouflage. Photographed from USS Margaret (SP-527) by Raymond D. Borden. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: Postcard of USS Nevada (BM-8), date and place unknown. US Navy photograph courtesy of Darryl L. Baker. Click on photograph for larger image.
USS Connecticut (BM-8) was a 3,225-ton Arkansas class monitor that was laid down on 17 April 1899 at the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, and was launched on 24 November 1900. But the ship was re-named USS Nevada in January 1901 and was commissioned on 5 March 1903. Nevada was approximately 225 feet long and 50 feet wide, had a top speed of 13 knots, and had a crew of 220 officers and men. Nevada was armed with one main turret that held two 12-inch guns and also carried four 4-inch guns and two 6-pounders.
Nevada’s initial career was rather subdued. She was in commission for roughly three years when the ship was decommissioned on 19 August 1906. Nevada was then re-named USS Tonopah on 2 March 1909 to allow Battleship Number 36 to be named Nevada. Re-commissioned on 14 May 1909, Tonopah was assigned to the US Navy’s Atlantic Fleet as a submarine tender. Tonopah operated along America’s east coast from Massachusetts to Key West, Florida, until January 1918.
Although briefly based in Bermuda, Tonopah was sent to Ponta Delgada on the island of San Miguel, Azores, in February 1918. From February to December 1918, the ship tended to five submarines and several submarine chasers operating from the Azores. In December, Tonopah was towed to Lisbon, Portugal, and then returned to the United States. The ship was decommissioned at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in October 1919. On 26 January 1922, USS Tonopah was sold for scrapping.
The era of the big-gun monitor had drawn to a close. They were powerful ships, but anachronisms, with a design that belonged to a previous century. Monitors were very slow, poorly ventilated, and extremely sluggish and hard to handle in heavy seas. In fact, it’s amazing more of them were not lost in stormy weather. Yet from 1865 to about 1900, they were still considered by many old-fashioned admirals to be the last word in battleship design. But with time came change and with so many newer and more modern battleships joining the American fleet after 1900, there was no need for them, even as coastal patrol boats. Most of these strange-looking warships were disposed of by the 1920s.