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USS Oregon (BB-3) was a pre-dreadnought Indiana-class battleship of the United States Navy. Her construction was authorized on 30 June 1890, and the contract to build her was awarded to Union Iron Works of San Francisco, California on 19 November 1890. Her keel was laid exactly one year later. She was launched on 26 October 1893, sponsored by Miss Daisy Ainsworth (daughter of Oregon steamboat magnate John C. Ainsworth), delivered to the Navy on 26 June 1896, and commissioned on 15 July 1896 with Captain H.L. Howison in command. Later she was commanded by Captains Albert S. Barker and Alexander H. McCormick. Captain Charles E. Clark assumed command 17 March 1898 throughout the Spanish–American War.

USS Oregon in dry dock, 1898
United States
Name: Oregon
Namesake: State of Oregon
Ordered: 30 June 1890
Builder: Union Iron Works
Laid down: 19 November 1891
Launched: 26 October 1893
Sponsored by: Daisy Ainsworth
Commissioned: 15 July 1896
Decommissioned: 27 April 1906
Recommissioned: 29 August 1911
Decommissioned: 12 June 1919
Struck: 2 November 1942
Identification: Hull symbol: BB-3
Nickname(s): Bulldog of the navy
Fate: Sold for scrap, 15 March 1956
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Indiana-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 10,288 long tons (10,453 t) standard
Length: 350 ft 11 in (107.0 m)
Beam: 69 ft 3 in (21.1 m)
Draft: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Installed power:
Speed: 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph) (design)[2]
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km; 5,600 mi)[a][4]
Complement: 473 officers and men[5]

Oregon served for a short time with the Pacific Squadron before being ordered on a voyage around South America to the East Coast in March 1898 in preparation for war with Spain. She departed from San Francisco on 19 March, and reached Jupiter Inlet 66 days later, a journey of 14,000 nautical miles (26,000 km; 16,000 mi). This was considered a remarkable achievement at the time. The journey popularized the ship with the American public and demonstrated the need for a shorter route, which led to construction of the Panama Canal. After completing her journey Oregon was ordered to join the blockade at Santiago as part of the North Atlantic Squadron under Rear Admiral William T. Sampson. She took part in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, where she and the cruiser Brooklyn were the only ships fast enough to chase down the Spanish cruiser Cristóbal Colón, forcing its surrender. Around this time she received the nickname "Bulldog of the Navy", most likely because of her high bow wave—known as "having a bone in her teeth" in nautical slang—and her perseverance during the cruise around South America and the battle of Santiago.

After the war, the Oregon was refitted and sent back to the Pacific. She served for a year in the Philippines during the Philippine–American War and then spent a year in China at Wusong during the Boxer Rebellion before returning to the United States for an overhaul. In March 1903, the Oregon returned to Asiatic waters and stayed there for three years, decommissioning in April 1906. The Oregon was recommissioned in August 1911, but she saw little activity and was officially placed on reserve status in 1914. After the United States joined World War I in 1917, the Oregon acted as one of the escorts for transport ships during the Siberian Intervention. In October 1919, she was decommissioned for the final time. As a result of the Washington Naval Treaty, the Oregon was declared "incapable of further warlike service" in January 1924. In June 1925, she was lent to the State of Oregon, which used her as a floating monument and museum in Portland, Oregon.

In February 1941, the Oregon was redesignated IX–22. Due to the outbreak of World War II, it was decided that her scrap value was more important than her historical value, so she was sold. Her stripped hulk was later returned to the Navy, and it used as an ammunition barge during the Battle of Guam, where she remained for several years. The USCGC Tupelo (WLB-303) assisted in towing the Oregon to Guam. During a typhoon in November 1948, she broke loose and drifted out to sea. She was located 500 miles southeast of Guam and then towed back. She was sold on 15 March 1956 and reduced to scrap iron in Japan.

Design and constructionEdit

Oregon was constructed from a modified version of a design drawn up by a policy board in 1889 for a short-range battleship. The original design was part of an ambitious naval construction plan to build 33 battleships and 167 smaller ships. The United States Congress saw the plan as an attempt to end the U.S. policy of isolationism and did not approve it, but a year later approved funding for three coast defense battleships, which would become Oregon and her sister ships Indiana and Massachusetts.[6] The ships were limited to coastal defense due to their moderate endurance, relatively small displacement and low freeboard which limited seagoing capability.[7] They were however heavily armed and armored; Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships describes their design as "attempting too much on a very limited displacement."[8]

Construction of the ships was authorized on 30 June 1890 and the contracts for Indiana and Massachusetts were awarded to William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia. They also offered to build Oregon,[9] but the Senate specified one of the ships had to be built on the West Coast of the United States.[10] Therefore, the contract for Oregon—not including guns and armor—was awarded to Union Iron Works in San Francisco for $3,180,000.[9] The total cost of the ship was over twice as high, approximately $6,500,000.[11] Her keel was laid down on 19 November 1891[11] and she was launched two years later on 26 October 1893, a ceremony attended by thousands of people.[10] The construction was slowed due to delays in armor deliveries,[12] so the ship was not completed until March 1896.[13] Her sea trial was on 14 May 1896, during which she achieved a speed of 16.8 kn (31.1 km/h; 19.3 mph), a significant improvement over the design speed of 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph) and superior to her sister ships.[14]

Service historyEdit

Journey around South AmericaEdit

USS Oregon in 1898.

Oregon was commissioned on 16 July 1896 under the command of Captain H.L. Howison as the first American battleship on the Pacific Coast. During the winter of 1897–1898 she was put into drydock where new bilge keels were installed to improve her stability. She left dock on 16 February 1898 after receiving news that the Maine had blown up in Havana harbor. While she went to San Francisco to load ammunition, relations between Spain and the United States rapidly deteriorated. In San Francisco, her captain fell ill and was replaced by Captain Charles Edgar Clark.[15] Because of the impending threat of war, the Oregon was ordered to reinforce the North Atlantic Squadron on the East Coast. To do so the ship would have to make a journey of roughly 14,000 nmi (25,900 km; 16,100 mi) around South America.[16][17]

On 19 March, the Oregon started on the first leg of her journey, departing from San Francisco and steaming to Callao, Peru. She arrived in Callao on 4 April and replenished her coal.[15] Her next stop would have been Valparaíso, Chile, but Captain Clark decided to press on. The Oregon entered the Strait of Magellan on 16 April, where she encountered a severe storm. She was forced to anchor on a rocky shelf during the night and proceed the next day through the narrow passage and to Punta Arenas, Chile. While refueling, she was joined by the gunboat Marietta, which was also sailing to the East Coast. The ships left Punta Arenas together and steamed on to Rio de Janeiro, where they arrived on 30 April and heard the United States and Spain were now officially at war. The Oregon stopped very briefly in Salvador, Brazil, and then proceeded to Barbados for a final coal resupply. She arrived off the Florida coast on 24 May, completing a 13,675 nmi (25,326 km; 15,737 mi) journey in 66 days, a remarkable achievement at the time.[16][17][18]

The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships describes the effect of the journey on the American public and government as follows: "On one hand the feat had demonstrated the many capabilities of a heavy battleship in all conditions of wind and sea. On the other it swept away all opposition for the construction of the Panama Canal, for it was then made clear that the country could not afford to take two months to send warships from one coast to the other each time an emergency arose."[16] The extensive press coverage of the journey also increased the popularity of the ship with the American public.[17]

Spanish–American WarEdit

Oregon in New York Harbor during the Spanish–American War naval review

Oregon proceeded to the naval base at Key West, where she was attached to the North Atlantic Squadron under Rear Admiral William T. Sampson. They had just received word that Commodore Winfield Scott Schley's Flying Squadron had found the Spanish fleet and was blockading them in the port of Santiago de Cuba. Sampson reinforced the blockade on 1 June[16] and assumed overall command.[19]

In an attempt to break the stalemate, it was decided to attack Santiago from land. An expeditionary force, under the command of Major General William Rufus Shafter, landed east of the city and attacked it on 1 July.[20] The Spanish commander, Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete, saw that his situation was desperate and attempted to break through the blockade on 3 July 1898, resulting in the battle of Santiago de Cuba.[21] The cruisers New Orleans and Newark and battleship Massachusetts had left the day before to load coal in Guantanamo Bay.[22] Admiral Sampson's flagship, the cruiser New York, had also sailed east earlier that morning for a meeting with General Shafter,[23] leaving Commodore Schley in command.[22] This left the blockade weakened and unbalanced on the day of the battle, as three modern battleships (the Oregon, Indiana and Iowa) and the armed yacht Gloucester guarded the east, while the west was only defended by the second-class battleship Texas, the cruiser Brooklyn, and the armed yacht Vixen.[24]

When the Spanish fleet steamed out of the harbor at 9:00 on 3 July,[17] it immediately turned westwards and tried to outrun the blockade ships. Oregon took the lead in the ensuing chase as she was the only large American ship which had good steam pressure when the battle began. The cruiser Brooklyn had uncoupled two of her four engines, but could still achieve 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) and was right behind her.[25] Cervera's flagship, the Infanta Maria Teresa, took heavy damage and Cervera ordered her driven ashore at 10:15 to prevent her from sinking. Almirante Oquendo shared her fate 15 minutes later and Vizcaya had to beach herself at 11:15. Only the Cristóbal Colón, which had a 6 nautical miles (11 km; 6.9 mi) lead at that point, was still running westward.[26] She was trapped inshore of the American vessels and would need to make a large detour around Cape Cruz 60 nautical miles (110 km; 69 mi) westward. Schley ordered the Oregon to keep up the chase and directed the Brooklyn directly to the point of the cape.[27] The American ships were slowly catching up and started firing when Cristóbal Colón came within range of their forward guns. Cristóbal Colon—who was ordered to Cuba before her main guns could be installed—had nothing to return fire with. She struck her flag at 13:20 and was scuttled in the mouth of Tarquino River to prevent capture by the Americans.[28]

The battle of Santiago de Cuba was a complete victory for the U.S. Navy, and it left Spain without any major naval force in the Caribbean. Santiago capitulated on 17 July and the war itself ended less than a month later on 12 August.[17] The Oregon went to New York for a refit, and then she departed for the Pacific in October 1898[16] under the command of her new Captain Albert S. Barker.[29] By now she had received the nickname "Bulldog of the Navy", most likely because of her high bow wave—known as "having a bone in her teeth" in nautical slang, and also her perseverance during the cruise around South America and the battle of Santiago.[17]

Asiatic StationEdit

A gunner and 1" pounder on Oregon

After the war the United States annexed the Spanish colonies of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.[30] However, in the Philippines revolutionary forces under Emilio Aguinaldo had ousted the Spanish colonial government, declared independence and established the First Philippine Republic.[31] The United States did not recognize the republic, which led to the Philippine–American War. Oregon was sent to the Philippines to be used for gunboat diplomacy[17][32] and arrived in Manila on 18 March 1899. Over the next year she functioned as a station ship, took part in the capture of Vigan, and performed blockades.[16] She left the Philippines on 13 February 1900 and cruised in Japanese waters for a few months until heading for Hong Kong in May. She then left Hong Kong on 23 June for Taku, China to take part in the Boxer Rebellion, but grounded on a rock near the Changshan Islands on 28 June.[c][16][33] She took significant damage and a forward compartment was flooded.[17] After several days she was successfully re-floated and headed towards Kure, Japan, where she arrive on 17 July and was put into drydock for repairs.[16]

On 29 August she steamed again for China, this time to serve as a station ship at Woosung, the port town of Shanghai. She stayed there until 5 May 1901, when she departed for the United States to be overhauled in the Puget Sound Navy Yard.[16] Extensive repairs were made to her bottom and deck, to repair damage caused by her grounding in June 1900. She stayed in the navy yard for over a year and left for San Francisco on 13 September 1902.[34] She then returned to the far east, arriving in Hong Kong on 18 March 1903.[16] From there she returned to Woosung, where she helped quell a mutiny on a civilian ship.[35] She remained in Asiatic waters for the next three years to support United States interests there.[17] During that time she visited various ports in China, Japan and the Philippines and went to Honolulu during an Asiatic Fleet winter cruise.[36] Early 1906 she was ordered back to United States to be modernized,[37] for which a budget of a million dollar was approved (adjusted for inflation, approximately $23 million in 2010 dollars).[38] She officially decommissioned on 27 April 1906 in the Puget Sound navy yard.[16]

Second commissionEdit

In 1911 a reserve fleet on the Pacific coast was formed,[39] for which Oregon recommissioned on 29 August 1911[16] She remained in reserve until October, when she sailed to San Diego. The following years were ones of relative inactivity for the aging veteran, as she operated out of West Coast ports. On 9 April 1913, she was placed in ordinary at Bremerton, Washington and on 16 September 1914 went into a reserve status, although she remained in commission. On 2 January 1915, she was again in full commission and sailed to San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Two of the ship's steam launches participated in the rescue of passengers on board the steamer General Frisbie, which grounded just off shore of the Exposition grounds.[40] The ship visited Portland for the Rose Festival in 1916, arriving on 6 June.[41] The sailors wrote the Portland mayor on 12 June, especially thanking the Portland Railway & Light streetcar company for giving the sailors free rides.[41]

From 11 February 1916 – 7 April 1917, she was placed in commission in reserve, this time at San Francisco. Returned to full commission again on the latter date, Oregon remained first on the West Coast, then acted as one of the escorts for transports of the Siberian Intervention. On 12 June 1919 she was decommissioned at Bremerton. From 21 August – 4 October, she was recommissioned briefly and was the reviewing ship for President of the United States Woodrow Wilson during the arrival of the Pacific Fleet at Seattle.[16]

Inter-war periodEdit

Oregon as a museum ship in Portland.

With the adoption of ship classification symbols on 17 July 1920, Oregon was redesignated BB-3.

In 1921, a movement was begun to preserve the battleship as an object of historic and sentimental interest, and to lay her up permanently at some port in the state of Oregon.

In accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty, Oregon was rendered incapable of further warlike service on 4 January 1924, and was retained on the Naval Vessel Register as a naval relic with a classification of "unclassified". In June 1925, she was loaned to the state of Oregon, restored, and moored at Portland, Oregon, as a floating monument and museum.[41]

On 17 February 1941, when identifying numbers were assigned to unclassified vessels, Oregon was redesignated IX-22.


Oregon in the Willamette River, April 1941.

With the outbreak of World War II, it was deemed that the ship should be scrapped. Accordingly, she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 2 November 1942 and sold on 7 December. On that day, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a parade commemorating the ship marched through the streets of downtown Portland. Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson delivered the keynote speech, and the front page of The Oregonian included a fifteen-stanza ode to the ship by Ben Hur Lampman. The poem ended:

The gray, gray mists where once she lay —
(Ah but her name is pride!)
She loosed her moorings and bore away
To serve again in a thunderous day —
The Oregon sails with the tide!

She was sold for $35,000 and towed to Kalama, Washington in March 1943 for dismantling.[41] The scrap company removed her superstructure and turned her stripped hulk into a barge, hoping to sell it for $150,000, but the War Shipping Administration wanted it.[41] The ownership of the barge went to the United States Court of Claims, was reinstated by the military and towed to Guam to be used as a munitions barge during the Battle of Guam.[41]

The hulk of the old battleship remained at Guam for several years. During a typhoon on 14–15 November 1948, she broke her moorings and drifted out to sea. On 8 December 1948, she was located by search planes 500 miles (800 km) southeast of Guam and towed back. She was sold for $208,000 on 15 March 1956 to the Massey Supply Corporation, a large salvage operation owned by Lester M. Dean, Sr., of Kansas City, Missouri. After salvaging and retaining much of the teak wood from the decks and officers' quarters of the USS Oregon, the ship, with all its steel plate, was resold to the Iwai Sanggo Company, and finally towed by Dean to Kawasaki, Japan, and scrapped.

Surviving piecesEdit

Oregon's mast, in Portland

Her mast and bow shield survive as a memorial located in Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon. On 4 July 1976, a time capsule was sealed in the base of the memorial. The time capsule is scheduled to be opened on 5 July 2076.[citation needed]

Oregon's two funnels were preserved for a time at a separate location, in Portland's Liberty Ship Memorial Park.[42] In 2006, the funnels were put into storage and the park (always on private property) became part of the Waterfront Pearl[43] condominium development.[citation needed]

During the dismantling of the ship during World War II, small 3" by 3" sections of the ship's wooden decking and interior were used as incentives for selling war bonds. Purchase of a certain number of bonds would allow the buyer to claim a small piece of the ship. This program was highly successful and resulted in a large number of bonds being sold in the Portland area. Other items from the ship's interior were also auctioned for war bonds at this time, such as the pool table from the officers' mess.[citation needed]

Lester Dean, Sr., founder of Dean Realty Co., in Kansas City, Missouri, bought the remains of the USS Oregon, salvaging what was left of her beautiful teak wood decks and officers' quarters, and selling the hull to the Japanese for scrap. His son, Lester Dean, Jr., had the teak fashioned into a conference room table, reception table, and armoire. Those are housed, along with one of the portholes of the USS Oregon, in the company's boardroom, dedicated to the battleship and entrepreneurial spirit of Dean, Sr. In 2012, a three-foot scale model of the USS Oregon in peacetime colors was commissioned from master model builders, taking nearly a year to complete by craftsmen in the United States and the Philippines. The model is currently displayed in the boardroom under glass, protected by museum-quality alarms; the deck crafted from the salvaged teak of the USS Oregon.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Rounded average calculated from experimental data in paper. See Bryan 1901.
  2. ^ Sources conflict on this. Reilly & Scheina 1980 claim first that Oregon had five tubes, but give three in their data table. DANFS says six tubes, while Friedman 1985 states the contract called for seven tubes, but Oregon was completed with five.
  3. ^ According to Lomax 2005 the Oregon was headed towards Hong Kong when she grounded, but this appears to be an error as it directly contradicts both the DANFS and newspaper articles of the time.


  1. ^ a b Reilly & Scheina 1980, p. 68.
  2. ^ a b Friedman 1985, p. 425.
  3. ^ Reilly & Scheina 1980, p. 58.
  4. ^ Bryan 1901.
  5. ^ Reilly & Scheina 1980, p. 63.
  6. ^ Friedman 1985, pp. 24–25.
  7. ^ Gardiner & Lambert 1992, p. 121.
  8. ^ Chesneau, Koleśnik & Campbell 1979, p. 140.
  9. ^ a b The New York Times & 1 December 1890.
  10. ^ a b The New York Times & 26 October 1893.
  11. ^ a b Reilly & Scheina 1980, p. 69.
  12. ^ The New York Times & 23 August 1894.
  13. ^ The New York Times & 18 March 1896.
  14. ^ The New York Times & 15 May 1896.
  15. ^ a b Haran, Mike. "Voyage of the USS Oregon" (PDF). Christopher Cummins. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m DANFS Oregon (BB-3).
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lomax 2005.
  18. ^ Reilly & Scheina 1980, pp. 66–67.
  19. ^ Graham & Schley 1902, p. 203.
  20. ^ Hale 1911, p. 286.
  21. ^ DANFS Indiana (BB-1).
  22. ^ a b Graham & Schley 1902, pp. 299–300.
  23. ^ Hale 1911, p. 288.
  24. ^ Graham & Schley 1902, pp. 303–304.
  25. ^ Hale 1911, p. 290.
  26. ^ Hale 1911, pp. 292–295.
  27. ^ Graham & Schley 1902, p. 340.
  28. ^ Hale 1911, p. 295.
  29. ^ The New York Times & 29 June 1899.
  30. ^ Treaty of Paris, 1898.
  31. ^ Guevara 2005.
  32. ^ The New York Times & 25 February 1899.
  33. ^ The New York Times & 1 July 1900.
  34. ^ The New York Times & 13 September 1901.
  35. ^ The New York Times & 25 April 1903.
  36. ^ The New York Times & 21 November 1903.
  37. ^ The New York Times & 7 November 1906.
  38. ^ The New York Times & 2 February 1907.
  39. ^ The New York Times & 27 July 1911.
  40. ^ "200 Orphans On Frisbie Wreck". Oakland Tribune. 30 March 1915. p. 11.
  41. ^ a b c d e f Snyder 1991, pp. 73–79.
  42. ^ "Stacks". Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  43. ^ "Portland OR". Waterfront Pearl. Retrieved 20 May 2012.


Print referencesEdit

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting ShipsEdit

The New York TimesEdit


External linksEdit