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 [
], a color approximating
varnished wood. The Atlantic Fleet battleships later became known as the "Great White Fleet."
"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".
"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
"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
"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)
Last updated: 11/06/2013 03:45:33 PM -0500
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