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G. W. Fleet 1908


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Great White Fleet 1908

Great White Fleet Arrives May 1908



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GWF - Part 1 of 5


The Great White Fleet

in San Francisco May 6, 1908


by Jack Daley

The "Great White Fleet" was sent around the world by President Theodore Roosevelt from December 16, 1907 to February 22, 1909. It consisted of 16 battleships of the Atlantic Fleet and various smaller vessels. The hulls of the battleships were painted white except for the gilded scrollwork on their bows. The superstructures were painted spar [ sample of Great White Fleet spar color ], a color approximating varnished wood.  The Atlantic Fleet battleships later became known as the "Great White Fleet." 


Click to Enlarge Image: Freat White Fleet 1908


"The Nation's Pride"

The fleet sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 16 December 1907 under the command of Rear Admiral "Fighting Bob" (Robley D.) Evans."  His flagship was the U.S.S. Connecticut.  Among the junior officers of the fleet were William Halsey (on U.S.S. Kansas) and  Raymond Spruance (on U.S.S. Minnesota) who were to play major roles in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Evans stated  that his ships "were ready at the drop of a hat for a feast, a frolic or a fight".

Click to Enlarge Image: Freat White Fleet 1908


"California's Welcome to the Fleet 1908"

The 14 month long voyage was A showcase of American sea power. The ships were manned by 14,000 sailors. They covered 43,000 miles and stopped at 20 ports on 6 continents.  The fleet arrived in San Francisco on May 6, 1908 from Magdalena Bay, Mexico for a huge celebration hosted by the City of San Francisco.  As each ship passed Fort Point it fired a 21-gun salute, which was answered with a salute from land.  Crowds flocked to San Francisco to see the fleet.  Transbay ferry traffic from May 5 to May 17 exceeded the normal business by 450,000 passengers. The heaviest travel day was on May 6 when 186,000 passengers were taken across San Francisco Bay to see the arrival of the fleet on a very clear day. It was one of the largest crowds of Californians ever assembled.


Click to Enlarge Image: Great Naval Parade at San Francisco 1908


"The Great Naval Parade at San Francisco, May 8, 1908"


The officers of the fleet were entertained at theater parties, and had their hotel expenses paid by the city welcoming committee.  They were hosted at receptions at the Ferry Building, St. Francis and Fairmont Hotels.  The enlisted men were entertained with a clubhouse, music, athletics and sightseeing.  The people of San Francisco were taken by launches to visit the ships.


Click to Enlarge Image: Freat White Fleet 1908


"Celebrate With Us The Arrival Of Admiral Evans
And His Fleet, Wednesday, May 6, 1908"



At San Francisco ill health forced Admiral "Fighting Bob" Evans to relinquish command of the fleet.  He was relieved by Rear Admiral C. M. Thomas.  Admiral Thomas took some of the ships to visit Seattle, Bellingham and Tacoma in the state of Washington. 


Approximately 14,000 sailors made up the crews of the ships.  During the voyage, 300 sailors deserted their ships.  More sailors deserted in California than anywhere else.  More than 200 of the deserting sailors stayed behind to marry local girls.  The postcard that claims that  "California Captured the Atlantic Fleet in 1908" has some merit.   


On July 7, 1908 the fleet was reassembled under the command of Rear Admiral Charles Sperry and bid farewell to San Francisco and departed for Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii.





GWF - Part 2 (Great White Fleet 1908) Continued...



Last updated: 11/06/2013 03:45:33 PM -0500
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