Sunday, February 16, 2014

U. S. S. CROCUS: Coast Guard Lighthouse Tender

U. S. Coast Guard Cutter CROCUS and Her Crew
date unknown
Captain Frank Hamilton Photographs
Charles E. Frohman Collection

The Crocus was built at Shooter's Island in Richmond, New York by the Townsend-Downey Company in 1905.  She was a steel-hulled Inspector's Tender assigned to duty at the 10th Lighthouse District and was based at Buffalo, New York. In 1932, she was converted to oil-fired boilers and transferred to Detroit. During WWII she was based in Toledo, Ohio, continuing her peacetime duties of servicing navigation aids. She was decommissioned in 1946.

In December 1942, she assisted the United States Coast Guard vessel Ossipee in recovering the bodies from the wrecked oil barge Cleveco and the tug Admiral after both foundered in a raging winter storm some nine miles from the harbor at Cleveland, Ohio. Loaded with nearly a million gallons of fuel oil, the Cleveco with 18 hands aboard, was being towed from Toledo to Cleveland by the tug the Admiral when suddenly the tow line went limp. The Admiral disappeared beneath the surface after encountering 18-foot waves in a blinding snowstorm.  The crew of the 260-foot barge radioed for help, but without power, they could do little more than hope for the best. The Ossippee arrived, but failed in her attempts to get a towline to the Cleveco.  A short time later, the barge and her crew met the same fate as the Admiral. In all, 32 sailors perished.

The wreck of the Cleveco remained a concern. With a full cargo of oil, an environmental catastrophe would result if a ship collided with the sunken barge. In 1961, salvage crews attempted to bring the big tanker barge to the surface and pump off the oil. Once again, bad weather played a role. Failing in their efforts, the salvage crews towed the Cleveco to deeper waters and sunk her once more. 

In 1995, leaking oil appeared on the Lake Erie surface. This time, the Coast Guard and salvage crews were successful in reaching the overturned tanker barge and pumping off more than 340,000 gallons of oil. Resting some 14 miles from Euclid, Ohio, in 78 feet of water, the  ill-fated Cleveco no longer poses a threat to the environment or as a navigational hazard. Instead she remains a popular site for shipwreck divers. 

Col. Webb C. Hayes and Mary Miller Hayes; Traveling the Pacific Rim

Traveling the Pacific Rim
Colonel Webb C. Hayes and Mary Miller Hayes
 (standing second from right) with Missionaries

When Colonel Webb Hayes married Mary Miller Brinkerhoff in 1912, he delighted in finding a global traveling companion. For months at a time, they traveled the world, spending brief periods between trips at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio – always their touchstone.

Before Christmas in 1913, Webb and Mary set sail aboard the S.S. Mongolia out of San Francisco. For the next six months, they toured the Pacific Rim. In the Age of Steam, their travels became longer and farther. They packed everything they would need in four steamer trunks, two suitcases, and bundles of steamer rugs. After leaving Hawaii, they booked passage on the S.S. Mauara for Australia via the Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Japan.

The colonel reveled in seeing exotic wildlife, meeting old comrades, and sharing memories of past military campaigns. For Mary, it was a time of adventure and discovery. She rode out rough seas and the remnants of hurricane winds and rain on the steamer’s deck. She played cricket, fished, and faced the last of a small pox epidemic.
Well educated and a keen observer, she was fascinated with the native peoples and their “strange” cultures, customs, foods, languages and dress. The colonel happily arranged journeys by train, car, and boat far into the back country so that Mary could gain a deeper understanding of native peoples’ ways. She attended festivals, rituals, and poi dances. Sensing that the cultures and customs soon would disappear, Mary Hayes purchased sea grass steamer chairs and willow furniture. She filled her trunks with fabrics, bracelets, skirts, rattan mats, painted tea sets, blackwood carvings, beads, baskets, and bags – all with the intent of displaying them at Spiegel Grove. 

She and the colonel became immediately aware that it was the native peoples who provided the labor on large sugar, tobacco, hemp, and coconut plantations controlled by foreign powers. They questioned missionaries about education, working conditions, and entire islands that served as European penal colonies.

Steaming more than a thousand miles in three weeks, they reached the heavily fortified post at Manila and then journeyed by mail train, car, bus, sampan, ferry, and rickshaw to see former battlefields, memorials, and military posts, where Colonel Hayes had served at the turn of the century. As Colonel Hayes reminisced, Mary, ever the diarist, recorded every detail, leaving an amazing historical record. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

U.S.S. West Point During World War II

U.S.S. West Point
Originally built as the U.S.S. America, this ship was the largest merchant vessel built at the time of World War II. She was converted to a transport vessel, carrying U. S. soldiers to both the Pacific and the European theaters of the war. During WWII, she traveled more than 350.000 miles, more than 14 times around the world, transporting soldiers, the wounded, prisoners of war, and auxillary wartime personnel. Despite her mammoth size, 723 feet overall and 93 feet at the beam, the West Point was as graceful as a clipper ship. She traveled without escort around the world, even though her size made her a prime target of the enemy, particularly the wolf packs. that prowled the North Atlantic. 

Officers of the U.S.S. West Point
Her captain was Webb C. Hayes II (seated second from the right)

During one of his return trips across the North Atlantic during the winter of 1944/1945, Admiral Hayes guided her through a raging storm in which waves swelled to 50 feet. The West Point pitched and rolled. One wave struck the forward gun platform, 50 feet above the water line. The waves demolished the gun platform, crushing a gunner on lookout. Steel ladders were crumpled into shapeless debris and gun shields were ripped to shreds. Only her size and the sea worthiness of her construction allowed her to escape with only the loss of one sailor and minor damage. 

G.Is aboard the U.S.S. West Point

U.S.S. West Point transporting U.S. soldiers home from Europe after V.E. Day. The vessel had a crew of more than 800. She could carry as many as 7.,700 passengers

U.S.S. West Point
July 11, 1945
New York Harbor
Tugs nose the U.S.S. West Point  into her slip in the New York Harbor. Thousands of soldiers stand on  the top deck as they await a hero's  welcome home

U.S. S. West Point arriving in New York Harbor
July 11, 1945

These photographs are part of the Admiral Webb C. Hayes Collection at the Hayes Presidential Center