Monday, May 23, 2011

Live Fire Exercises in the Chesapeake Bay, 1911

This the Norfolk-based, pre-dreadnought battleship USS New Hampshire (BB-25) conducting live fire exercises near the Chesapeake Bay's Tangier Island, March 1911. The battleship's gunners fired at San Marcos (ex-USS Texas) and hit the 6,660-ton, Spanish-American War veteran forty-seven times.

While the exercise was useful in training sailors in the operations of large caliber weapons, both the U.S. Army and Navy studied the exercise for a different reason. The exercise was a rare opportunity for surface warfare and coast defense artillery experts to closely inspect and interpret the effects of large caliber artillery shells on an armored target. Secretary of the Navy George Meyer and his aides observed the exercise from USS Dolphin (PG-22), as did the U.S. Army's Chief of Ordnance, Brigadier General William Crozier, from the destroyer USS McCall (DD-25), and a pool of newspaper reporters from the torpedo boat USS Stringham (TB-19). What is not known is how this aerial picture was taken as there was no naval avaition at the time.

Not everyone looked forwarded to the test. Shortly before New Hampshire put to sea, seventy sailors of the ship's company deserted. They believed the ship's 12-inch guns were on the brink of bursting and thus unsafe to use. They claimed that the guns had been fired over 200 times without a safety overhaul. The Navy placed a request with the City of Norfolk police department to assist in rounding up the deserters and within a few days, most had been arrested. None of the guns had any issues during the operation.

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