By late 1915 - early 1916 USS Chester departed for the Mediterranean for a relief aid operation in the Middle East and to protect US Citizens on the Liberian coast during the insurrection. She retuned to the reserved until 24 March 1917. She operated on off the East Coast until 23 August, and from Gibraltar escorted convoys bound to Plymouth, England. On 5 September 1918, she correctly identified a U-boat. She tried to ram the German submersibles, but the latter dove quicker. However she managed to damage her own port paravane. In 1918, after a career without notable incident, USS Chester carried the Allied armistice commissions inspecting German ports. In 1919 she would ferry US Army troops to support actions of the "whites" in northern Russia. She later would depart Brest in April 1919, with veterans to New York and later was sent at Boston NyD for overhaul, and decommissioned, until 10 June 1921. By 1927, she was renamed USS York at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, scrapped on 13 May 1930.
Birmingham was commissioned on 11 April 1908, taking her service under captain Burns Tracy Walling. She served in the Atlantic Fleet until June 1911, then was placed in reserve at Boston. Later from her deck, a daring civilian pilot Eugene Ely attempted the first ship-borne takeoff, on 14 November 1910, in a Curtiss Model D biplane designed by Glenn Curtiss and piloted by Eugen Ely. By 15 December 1911, the cruiser was fully recommissioned and toured the West Indies and was stationed at the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Philadelphia NyD in April 1912. Until 11 July, she made the infamous "Ice Patrols" and was later versed to the previous Reserve Group. In 1913 she carried carried Commissioners of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
She left the yard on 2 February 1914, and resumed operations with the Atlantic Fleet as flagship of the Torpedo Flotilla. From 22 April – 25 May, she operated with the fleet in Mexican waters. During this time, one of her two Curtiss Model F flying boats performed the first military mission by a US heavier-than-air aircraft, while scouting for mines off Veracruz on 25 April. In 1916, she became flagship of Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet, and Torpedo Flotilla 3.
World War I and fate
Following American entrance into World War I, Birmingham patrolled along the northeast U.S. coast until 14 June 1917, when she sailed from New York as part of the escort for the first US troop convoy to France. After returning to New York she was fitted for service in Europe and in August reported to Gibraltar as flagship for Rear Admiral A. P. Niblack, Commander, US Forces Gibraltar. She escorted convoys between Gibraltar, the British Isles, and France until the Armistice. After a short cruise in the eastern Mediterranean, she returned to the United States in January 1919.
From July 1919 to May 1922, she was based at San Diego, California as flagship of Destroyer Squadrons, Pacific Fleet, and then moved to Balboa, Canal Zone as flagship of the Special Service Squadron. After cruising along the Central American and northern South American coast, she returned to Philadelphia and was decommissioned there on 1 December 1923, being sold for scrap on 13 May 1930.
In a painting titled "The Beginning" by the late, great aviation artist R. G. Smith, 24-year-old civilian pilot Eugene Ely takes off in a 50-horsepower Curtiss biplane from a wooden platform built over the bow of the USS Birmingham (then designated as Scout Cruiser #2) at anchor in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Ely landed moments later on Willoughby Spit.
USS Salem was the Navy's first turbine-powered warships. So she was to be tested and evaluated in detail. She departed Boston on 17 October 1908 for a test campaign on the Atlantic coast. Together with USS Birmingham and Chester she formed the Scout Cruiser Division, patrolling in the Atlantic. She toured Funchal on the island of Madeira. This was the further away she went at that time. She joined the 5th Division, Atlantic Fleet and in 1910, she was stationed in Haitian waters. She was back to NYD on 11 September and placed in reserve at the Boston NyD by April 1912, as a receiving ship. She would return in the Atlantic Fleet and toured Gibraltar.
In 1913-14 she remained in Philadelphia until placed in reserve to be on duty again by 23 April 1914. She joined the Special Service Squadron in Mexican waters, took part in the Veracruz operation, and returned to the Atlantic Fleet, but returned in reserved on 1 December as receiving ship at Boston NyD by March 1915. She cruised in the Caribbean by May 1916, and off Mexican and Dominican ports, transported Marine detachments and other taks before being decommissioned again on 2 December 1916.
Recomm. in 21 April 1917 she left Philadelphia NyD for Boston NyD and entered a drydock to have her original Curtis turbines replaced by General Electric turbines. This was completed by 25 July, and she departed for a crash test from Boston to New London (Ct) and a force made of sub-chasers to protect Atlantic convoys. She served as flagship for two convoys up to the Azores and back. She headed later a flotilla of 12 sub-chasers at Key West. Patrols stretched from Florida to the Yucatán Peninsula. By 27 November, the squadron was disbanded and after a short overhaul at Boston, Salem sailed to the west coast, and as CL-3 (from 17 July 1920) she was decommissioned at Mare Island, struck on 13 November 1929, sold in 1930 and BU in California.
Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905.
Burr, Lawrence. US Cruisers 1883–1904: The Birth of the Steel Navy. Oxford : Osprey, 2008.
Photo archives https://www.navsource.org/archives/04/001/04001.htm