Naval Militia of Washington

By: Peter Grilley | Published 2019-04-19

The Beginning

Interest in a Naval Militia can be seen as early as 1893 in Adjutant General O’Brien’s Bi-Annual Report. He believed that four divisions could be mustered in with little expense to the state since the Federal Government would provide a training ship and supplies. He recommended the State Legislature authorize a Naval Militia.

In 1910, Washington was one of the last coastal states to not have a Naval Militia. In spite of the Washington State Militia Code not yet authorizing a Naval Militia, Adjutant General Lamping endorsed the creation of a civil committee in January to organize the Naval Militia. The committee was chaired by Miller Freeman, a Seattle industrial periodical publisher.

The first drill was held in Seattle in February 1910 attended by 60 members. They spent two hours learning navigation, seamanship and became the founding members of the Naval Militia of Washington (NMW).

In August 1910, eight officers and forty men sailed from Seattle to San Francisco on board the USS Washington to take possession of the NMW’s first vessel. The crew of the Washington lavished praise on the NMW saying they had the potential to make a fine organization. The NMW returned to Seattle with the USS Cheyenne.

USS Cheyenne (M-10)

A coastal monitor of the Arkansas class, the USS Cheyenne (M-10) had previously served the west coast from 1900-1909 as the USS Wyoming (Monitor No. 10). It was renamed to USS Cheyenne on Jan 1, 1909, and decommissioned later that year. It was recommissioned on July 11, 1910 and assigned to the NMW. The ship displaced 3225 tons, was 252 ft long, 50 ft beam, and draft of 12 ft 6 in. It had a complement of 13 officers and 209 men. With its two vertical triple expansion oil fired engines, it could make 12.5 knots. Armed with two 12 inch rifles in a forward turret, four 4 inch guns, three 6 pounder 57 mm guns, and protected by up to 11″ of Harvey armor, its low profile was well suited for protecting the coastal and inner water ways of Washington.

Adjutant General Lamping agreed with the need for an organized Naval Militia and requested the State Legislature and Governer authorize its formation in his bi-annual report.

In March 1911, the State Legislature passed the Naval Militia Act authorizing the Naval Militia of Washington. Authorized strength was four divisions of three officers and 60 men each. To limit political interference, Adjutant General Llewellyn appointed a board of Army and Navy officers to nominate the NMW commander. For commander, W. Frank Andrews was selected. Andrews was from Tacoma, considered an experienced mariner, and previously the NMW Navigating Officer. William B. Allison was selected as the Executive Officer. Allison was vice president of a Seattle shipping company and veteran of Cuba. Two naval divisions were mustered in; 1st Division in Seattle and 2nd Division in Tacoma. With the formal organization of the NMW, the USS Cheyenne was assigned to Tacoma and the USS Concord was added to the fleet, assigned to the 1st Division in Seattle.

USS Concord (PG-3)

When received by the NMW, the USS Concord (PG-3) had a storied career since commissioning in 1891. A member of the Yorktown class of gunboats, it was built to patrol coastal waterways. In January 1898, she was assigned to the Asiatic Station. With the declaration of war against Spain in April 1898, the USS Concord joined Admiral Dewey’s fleet near Hong Kong before sailing for the Philippines. On May 1, the USS Concord participated in the Battle for Manila Bay. Following the end of the Span-Am war, she returned to patrol duties at Asiatic Station in August 1898. Her next assignment on Dec 19, 1898, was patrol, shipping interdiction and providing fire support in putting down the Philippine Insurrection where she remained until 1901. She was commissioned and decommissioned several times until 1909. She was subsequently assigned as a barracks ship to the NMW. The USS Concord displaced 1710 tons, 244 ft long, 36 ft beam and 14 ft draft with a crew of 193. She was powered by two horizontally mounted triple expansion coal fired steam engines that could move her at 16.8 knots. She could also go under sail as a three-masted schooner rig. Armament included six 6 inch Mark 3 guns, two 6 pounder 57 mm guns, two 3 pounder 47 mm guns, and two 1 pounder 37 mm guns distributed around the ship. The ship itself was only slightly armored with 2 in around the conning tower. In a terrible condition, she was transferred from the NMW to Astoria, OR as a quarantine barge in 1914. Under the direction of the United Spanish War Veterans, two 6 in guns were placed in a monument at Woodland Park, Seattle, WA where they remain today.

In 1911, the Cheyenne was utilized by the NMW for several weekend cruises and the annual cruise. An additional cruise consisting of 3 officers and 22 men left Bremerton, WA on the USS St Louis for San Francisco. The detachment returned on the USS Raleigh. For 1912, there were several weekend cruises on the Cheyenne as well as an annual cruise on the USS Pennsylvania. The cruise on the USS Pennsylvania was well regarded by militia and regulars. The training schedule was full and Militiamen substantially improved their skills. Talks began immediately looking forward to a repeat in 1913.

With two divisions full and proficiency improving, there was a desire to muster in a third division. The 1911 order called for the 3rd Division to be mustered in Seattle, but there was apparently insufficient interest to fill the ranks. Adjutant General Llewellyn issued an order in 1912 authorizing the 3rd Division for muster in Tacoma. Enlisted men were recruited from the Cushman Indian Trade School in Tacoma, WA. Members of the school were from Washington and Alaska Native American tribes. Performance reviews indicate they were excellent sailors. However, the unit was deactivated in 1915 largely due to the racism that was prevalent at the time.

USS Vicksburg (PG-11)

Also a veteran of the Spanish-American War, the USS Vicksburg (PG-11) was an Annapolis class gunboat commissioned in October 1897. On April 26, 1898, the USS Vicksburg sailed to join the blockade of Cuba. During her tour, she captured three blockade runners. Sailing too close to Havana, the Santa Clara shore battery engaged the Vicksburg without damage. In Nov 1900, she left Boston Harbor to join the Asiatic Station and support Army operations during the Philippine Insurrection. Following several commissioning and decommissioning events, the USS Vicksburg joined the NMW on June 18, 1912 as a training ship. The Vicksburg left NMW service in 1917 for WW1 service. She displaced 1010 tons, 204 ft long, 36 ft beam, and 12 ft 9 in draft. Vicksburg was powered by three masts under sail or one triple expansion coal fired steam engine that generated 13 knots. With a crew of 143, she was armed with six 4 in guns, four 6 pounder 57 mm guns, two 1 pounder 37 mm guns, and 1 M1895 Colt-Browning machine gun.

The 4th Division, NMW was mustered in at Aberdeen, WA, on May 16, 1913. Aberdeen was selected due to its location on Grays Harbor and the enthusiastic interest of residents in the Naval Militia. The 4th Division had its own ship, the USS Fox (TB-13).

USS Fox (TB-13)

A Davis class torpedo boat, this was the third ship with the name USS Fox. Commissioned in 1899, the platform was created as a pioneer of torpedo boat technology and tactics. What was learned from the Fox and its sister boats, directly lead to the effectiveness of the PT boats of WW2. As expected of a torpedo boat, the Fox was not much in stature. It displaced 154 tons, 148 feet long, 15 feet 4 inch beam, and 5 feet 10 inch draft. Crew was 24 officers and men. Powered by two Thornycroft boilers, it had an amazing top speed of 23 knots propelled by a vertical triple expansion engine driving two screw propellers. It was armed with three 1 pounder 37 mm guns and three 18 inch torpedo tubes. The Fox served with the NMW from 1913 to 1916 when it was sold.

In 1913, the NMW participated in a cruise to Alaska with Regular Naval personnel for instruction upon the USS Galveston.

In 1914, the NMW was joined by the Naval Militia of Oregon and embarked on the USS Milwaukee for a 23 day training cruise to Honolulu. After a four day port stop, the Milwaukee returned to Port Angeles for target practice. Unfortunately, the Regular Navy on the Milwaukee had no interest in drill or instruction for the Militia during the cruise, so most agreed it was not a productive trip.

Cruise were, of course, the highlight of Naval Militia activity. After all, what’s the purpose of being a sailor if you can’t be on a ship? Initially, Navy policy was to turn over operation of a ship to the Naval Militia during its cruises. The Regular Navy crew would be tasked as instructors allowing the Militia sailors to run the show and increase their proficiency. On the USS Milwaukee cruise, the handover never occurred prompting a formal complaint by the Adjutant General. The Navy agreed resulting in the requirement of relinquishing control of a ship to the Naval Militia.

Following the mustering out of the 3rd Division in Tacoma, the 3rd Division was mustered in at Seattle in 1915. In 1915, the Naval Militia consisted of more than 250 personnel spread among four divisions; 1st Division – Seattle; 2nd Division – Tacoma; 3rd Division – Seattle; and 4th Division – Aberdeen, WA. The 1915 cruise was on the USS Albany going to San Francisco and back with target practice at Port Angeles. The entire NMW participated.

Naval Aeronautical Section

Also in 1915, the Naval Militia expanded to include an Aeronautical Section consisting of a single officer and ten enlisted men. The section was aided by the Aero Club of Washington which included William E. Boeing and aviators Terah Maroney and Herbert Munter. Munter was Boeing’s first employee and test pilot. He had built the PNW’s first functional aeroplane in 1912.

Maroney built his own plane and was an early barn stormer. In 1915, Maroney gave William Boeing his first flight that provided the motivation to start the Boeing Company. On April 23, 1916, Maroney was commissioned in the Naval Militia and placed in command of the aeronautical section. Washington may have been one of the last states to form a Naval Militia, but only two other states had an aeronautical section in 1915.

Everett, WA soon requested the formation of its own Division which was authorized April 1916. The 6th Division was mustered in with 48 men, sharing the ship in Seattle. With the addition of the 6th Division, the NMW became too large to cruise on a single vessel, so in 1916 there were two cruises. One section included 186 officers and men who sailed on the USS New Orleans visiting Alaska and Portland finishing with target practice at Port Angeles. Lt Maroney loaned his aeroplane to the Naval Militia and loaded it on the New Orleans for use as a spotting plane during target practice.

Second section consisted of 88 officers and men who cruised aboard the USS Vicksburg to San Francisco and back with target practice at Port Angeles. The Vicksburg cruise was significant as it was completed without Regular Navy personnel and was the final cruise of the Naval Militia of Washington.

End of the Naval Militia

The Naval Militia of Washington had a short lived career of about 7 years. The end was probably part financial and part political. Regular forces did not have much appreciation for state militia forces. They wanted more control of the activities and standards. The Army resolved the issue with the Militia Act of 1903 also known as the Dick Act. In 1916, the Navy decided to eliminate the Naval Militias and roll them into the National Naval Volunteers which subsequently became the Naval Reserves.

With war on the horizon, in March 1917, the state organized three new Naval Militia Divisions: 5th Division – Seattle; 7th Division – Aberdeen; and 8th Division – Hoquiam. On April 6, 1917, all eight divisions of the Naval Militia of Washington were federalized. Five additional divisions were created for federal service in August 1917: 9th Division – Seattle; 10th Division – Tacoma; 11th Division – Bellingham; 12th Division – Hoquiam; and 13th Division – Raymond.

By act of Congress in 1916, the Fleet Reserve program was created and the Naval Militia of Washington was not revived following WW1. Law authorizing the NMW remained on the books until 1943.