The first American Armoured Cruiser
The USS Saratoga is certainly not as well-known as the aircraft carrier that fought in ww2 “lady sara”, but she will remains the first of a kind, the first armoured cruiser built in the USA (ACR2), born USS New York. ACR1 was given to the USS Maine, reclassified as a small battleship. Four a young navy forging a new fleet of modern ships equal to European standards, the USS New York was every bit a success. She served also for quite long, ending her career in the Philippines, scuttled to avoid Japanese capture in December 1941, after being known as the USS Rochester, partially rebuilt, in the interwar.
USS New York before the 1898 war.
First life: USS new York
Built at Cramp, New York, the ship that embodied the city had handsome lines, and a potent armament. She was authorized by the Congress under the act of 7.9.1888. Her first lines were drawn that year, and the blueprints were finalized in late 1889, as a radical departure over the USS Maine. She was sleeker, faster, and armour was reduced to the most vital parts, as should be in a proper cruiser. Armament was also “lighter” in a sense, made of 8in guns, standard caliber for a heavy cruiser (concept that did not existed back then). She was a good substitute to a battleship, possibly best suited for distant stations, although at that time there was no such prospect of an overseas empire. USS New York was laid down on 30.9.1890, launched 2.12.1891 and commissioned on 1.8.1893.
USS New York was a 8200 tonnes ship, 9021 fully loaded, and 117 meters long for 19.76 wide (384 x 64 feets, 1/5 ratio) she was wide as well. She received two propellers, two clutched in tandem on each of the shafts. VTE engines (triple expansion) were used, and 8 boilers rated at 160 psi (1,100 kPa) which gave 16,000 ihp for a top speed of 20 knots. She carried 750/1290 tonnes of coal. On trials she achieved 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph) and her cruise was helped by disconnecting her forward engines. She shared this feature with the Brooklyn, but this proved a liability at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba (both were left behind).
Her armament comprised six 8-in/35 cal. guns (203 mm) in twin turrets fore and aft and two single mounts in the center, on port and starboard. Her secondary armament comprised twelve Quick-Firing 4in/40 cal. guns (110 mm) in sponsons, but also a handful of 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) Driggs-Schroeder to deal with TBs close, plus four others 1-pounder (37 mm (1.5 in)). You may have never heard of Driggs-Schroeder as a gun maker, but this Driggs-Seabury Ordnance Company funded in 1897 delivered three types of QF guns of the “single shot”, with brass cased ammunition type, to USS Texas, Maine, Olympia, New York, and Brooklyn. They also designed a 4-inch/40 caliber that was adopted as a defence by several forts and naval bases. For closer range, USS New York also carried three 14 in (356 mm) Howell torpedo tubes.
At sea, full speed ahead – Archive From Navsource.
Protection was good, with a 4 in (102 mm), 186 ft (57 m) long over the machinery space, an armored deck 6 in (152 mm) on the slopes, and 3 in (76 mm) flat. The turrets were covered by 5-1/2 in (140 mm), the Barbettes 10 in (254 mm) and the ammunition hoists 5 in (127 mm) and secondary gun sponsons 4 in (102 mm). The coning tower was protected by 7 1⁄2 in (191 mm) or armor thickness. This level of protection was somewhat a bit inferior to the belt of the French Dupuy de Lôme, but the New York surpassed the British HMS Blake both in armament and protection, the British then swapping over protected cruisers instead.
The war of 1898
Before the war she operated with the the South Atlantic Squadron, and cruised along Brazil and Nicaragua, before joining East Indies. Transferred to the North Atlantic Squadron before again sailing to the East Indies. Ironically she was called to the rescue to help extinguishing a fire threatening to destroy Port of Spain, Trinidad. She later joined European Squadron in 1895, and made the opening of the Kiel canal in behalf of the US Navy. At the start of the war she was transferred to Key West. From there, she sailed to Cuba, shelling the Spanish defenses at Matanzas, then joining the squadron at San Juan to hunt down Cervera’s squadron, without much success. She latter shelled Castillo San Felipe del Morro and was promoted flagship of Admiral William T. Sampson’s squadron, bound to Santiago. However when news arrived of the Spanish squadron spotted, her cruise mode was activated, and the time needed to reconnect all her shafts meant she only participated in the closing phases of the battle.
USS New York, enforcing the 1898 blockade.
After the war, she cruised with various South American naval militias and was transferred to the Asiatic Fleet in 1901 (flagship). She steamed to Yokohama in July (memorial to the Perry Expedition), sailed to the Philippines, Hong Kong and other Chinese ports, Vladivostok, and then back to San Francisco. She was transferred to the Pacific Squadron and among others took part in enforcing the President’s neutrality order during the Russo-Japanese War.
The ship was undergoing an extensive refit, from 1905 to 1909. She received a lighter armament of four 8 in (203 mm)/45 caliber Mark 6 guns in brand new Mark 12 turrets which had improved Krupp cemented armor. This was up to 6 1⁄2 in (165 mm) (turrets) and 6 in (152 mm)-4 in (102 mm) (barbettes). The torpedo tubes were removed and secondary armament changed for ten 5 in (127 mm)/50 caliber Mark 6 guns and eight 3 in (76 mm)/50 caliber guns. On the engine compartment she received twelve Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Funnels were taller to improve draft. After being recommissioned in 1909 she departed for the Mediterranean Armored Cruiser Squadron, then in 1910, joined again the Asiatic squadron.
USS New York at the victory celebrations 1898 naval review
Second life: USS Saratoga (1911-1933)
She was renamed on 16 February 1911 to free the name for a new American dreadnought (BB-34). She spent the next five years in the Far East, before joining the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Then WW1 broke out and she went on patrolling with Pacific Patrol Force from june, 7, 1917, policed the Mexican coast, and later joined the Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet. She was also refitted during World War I: Two 5-inch were removed as well as all the 3-inch. Two 3 in (76 mm)/50 anti-aircraft guns were added.
Third life: USS Rochester and final days in WW2
On 1st December 1917, she was renamed to free the name for the new battlecruiser. Her last active mission was for escorting a convoy to France, but upon return she went a new career, as a target and defense instruction of armed guard crews in Chesapeake Bay. From March 1918 to the end armistice, she went on new escort missions, helping rescuing crews of the steamer Atlantian. After the war she served as a troop transport back home. She was redesignated by the navy hull number CA-2 and went on to serve in South America and the Carribean. In 1925 she transported General John J. Pershing to solve a diplomatic dispute in Chile. She was helped pacifying Nicaragua revolting. In 1927 her boilers were reduced to four with two funnels, leaving only 7,700 ihp (5,700 kW).
She also relieved the gunboat Tulsa at Corinto in 1928 and patrolled along Haiti, landing the 1st Marine Brigade to Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien in order to rescue nationals. She later served again with the Pacific Fleet, arriving at Shanghai on 27 April 1932, and patrolling on the Yang Tse. Back to Cavite, Philippines in 1933 she was mothballed eventually at the Olongapo Shipyard at Subic Bay, stricken on on 28 October 1938. In December 1941 she was however still there when the Japanese attack went on, and ordered were given to scuttle her when the situation degenerated in order to avoid capture. Long after, she has been converted as an artificial reef, which today makes the local divers a worthy attraction point, at shallow depth (59–88 ft (18–27 m) nearby other hulls in Subic Bay.
USS Rochester mothballed at Olongapo, 1938. (navsource.org)
Sources, read more
About the guns: navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_8-35_mk3.php
newspapers.com/clip/829420/uss_new_york_acr2five_fathom_bank/? Scranton newspaper
1893 Navy News chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030272/1893-09-07/ed-1/seq-9/
Ships data: books.google.fr/books?id=rXijAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y
navsource.org archives, blueprint and photos
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905, 1906-1921.