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USS New York – History

USS New York ARC-2/ USS Saratoga / USS Rochester

Now a Dive site at Subic Bay the USS New York is one of the best wrecks in Asia

USS New York 1899 Note the Bow Decoration

When you get divers together talking about the best wrecks to dive, the USS New York located in the inner harbor area of Subic Bay gets a frequent mention. Not only is she an incredible dive, she has a history in both war and peace that had a significant influence on world events. The US congress authorized her to be built in 1888 and her keel was laid on 19 September 1890 by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia. While her hull number is ARC-2, she is the first armor cruiser of the U.S. Navy. After the keel for ARC-1 was laid, the Navy changed plans and built it as a second class battle ship the USS Maine. A few years after her commissioning, The USS Maine mysteriously blew up in Havana and became the trigger point of the Spanish American War.

The Unites States was decades behind other world powers at the time in the development of its Naval forces. Even while the USS Maine was being built, experts conceded that it was all ready obsolete. While the keel for ARC-1 was laid almost two years before the keel of ARC-2, The USS New York was commissioned 1 Aug 1893,two years before the USS Maine. Naval historians and architects consider the USS New York an era ship, She was a milestone that changed naval architecture. At her sea trails she became the fastest cruiser with a speed of 20 knots. When she was launched, nothing smaller than a battleship could match her. While she did not have the armaments of the battleships, her six 8 inch guns, twelve 4 inch guns, eight 2.2 inch rapid fire guns, four 1.5 inch guns and three torpedo tubes made her better armed that similar class vessels. Her armor plating provided her protection that exceeded those of armor cruisers of other nations.

USS New York drawing

A line drawing from the original layout length 384 feet (117 meters) Beam 64.9 feet (19.8 meters)

384 ft (117 m)

Except for some short periods of decommissioning, mostly for modernization, from the outbreak of the Spanish-American War until her retirement in 1931, she was a flagship. She served that role longer than any other ship has and in every fleet of the U.S. Navy during her time.
In the course of her military career she had a couple of name changes.

Bow ornament of USS New York (1893) from Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Bow ornament of USS New York (1893) now at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. The bow ornament is based on the coat of arms of the State of New York.

The USS New York (AC-2) was the fourth ship to carry that name. The first New York was a gondola built by Gen. Benedict Arnold’s American troops on Lake Champlain at Skenesborough, N.Y. in the summer of 1776. The second New York, a 36-gun frigate, was built by public subscription by the citizens of New York for the United States Government; laid down in August 1798. The third of the legacy was the Screw sloop Ontario (q.v.) renamed New York on 15 May 1869.The US New York ARC-2 was renamed Saratoga 16 February 1911 giving up her name to have it transfers to a new battleship. The fifth New York (BB-34) was laid down 11 September 1911 by Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York; launched 30 October 1912. The proud tradition of the name continues, the USS New York (LPD-21), the fifth San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, is the fifth ship of the United States Navy to be named after the state of New York. It is notable for using a symbolic amount of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center after it was destroyed in the September 11 attacks.

The Saratoga also gave up her name to a new ship on 1 December 1917 and she became the USS Rochester. The USS Rochester ended her career on April 23, 1933 almost forty years after her commissioning, one of the longest serving ships in history. For eight years she remained tied up at the pier of Subic Bay. While much of her armaments had been removed, her large guns were still in place. She was still received some basic maintenance and was being used for different support functions. Her engines and other critical systems were not operational but at the outbreak of WWII she was still a functional gun platform. She was towed to a deeper section of the inner harbor, mines were placed inside her hull and she was scuttled to keep out of Japanese hands.

Entering dry dock 1 at Bethlehem Hunter's Point shipyard. Photos are marked as being taken on 11 June 1903.

Entering dry dock 1 at Bethlehem Hunter’s Point shipyard. Photos are marked as being taken on 11 June 1903.

A full history can be found on the Navy’s history website additional Photos at Navsource archive.
Here are some highlights of her career :

The Early Years

  • Authorized by Congress in 1888
  • 19 September 1890 Keel ARC-2, USS New York, Laid down by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia
  • 26 March, 1893 Sea trails top speed 20.57 knots, four hour sustained speed 20.03 knots
  • 1 August 1893, Commissioned Assigned to the South Atlantic Squadron, New York departed New York Harbor 27 December 1893 for Rio de Janeiro
  • August 1894 Transferred to the North Atlantic Squadron, the cruiser returned to West Indian waters for winter exercises and was commended for her aid during a fire that threatened to destroy Port of Spain, Trinidad.
  • Joined the European Squadron in 1895
  • Rejoining the North Atlantic Squadron, USS New York operated off Fort Monroe, Charleston, and New York through 1897.
  • 17 January 1898, With the threat of War with spain rising, the USS New York relocated to Key West.

Spanish American War

  • Apr. 27, 1898 – First action in the Spanish-American War: The armored cruiser USS New York (ACR 2), now the flagship of Admiral Sampson, cruiser USS Cincinnati (C 7), and monitor USS Puritan (BM 1) engaged and destroyed two Spanish batteries at Matanzas, Cuba. (conflicting “official” reports show USS New York destroying the batteries before joining with the other ships)
  • July 3, 1898, The Spanish fleet that was blocked in the Port of Santiago for several weeks, attempted a breakout. Only one of the six ships escaped, but was easily pursued and the Captain surrender after scuttling his ship.

Philippine-American War and Russo-Japanese war

  • Supported Marine operations and patrols in the Philippines.
  • Enforced neutrality laws during the Russo-Japanese war

World War I

  • Patrol duties in Pacific before and early in the war
  • Involved in convoy escorts in the Atlantic
  • Trained arm merchant crews in weapons.

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