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 US Navy Battleships in Ireland during ww1

 US Battleships in Berehaven
US Battleships Oklahoma and Nevada in Berehaven Harbour, 1918

In the summer of 1918, the First World War was still raging in Europe. The US military presence was having the effect of turning the tide in the Allies favour. The convoy system was proving effective against the u-boats, and overwhelming amounts of men and materials were coming to Europe from the United States. There was a fear that the German forces would set some of their fast, heavily armed battle-cruisers to wreak havoc on the convoys, when they arrived in the Western Approaches. It was decided to send Battleship Division Six, to Bantry Bay, in southwest Ireland, to counter this threat. The Commander in Chief on the Coast of Ireland Station, Admiral Sir Lewis Bayley, welcomed this force, but was aggrieved that he was expected to sacrifice some of the Queenstown US Destroyers as an escorting force for the slower battleships. The notion of large battleships, based in in the southwest corner of Ireland was not without its critics. Some officers felt that in the event of a fast raider hitting a convoy, the raider would be long gone before any of the battleships could get up steam to pursue it.

 USS Oklahoma in Bantry Bay
USS Oklahoma in Berehaven Harbour, 1918.

The USS Nevada (BB-36) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) arrived in Berehaven on Friday the 23th of August, 1918. They were screened by the US destroyers Balch, Conyngham, Downes, Kimberly, Allen, and Sampson . The coal-burning battleship USS Utah arrived in Berehaven on Tuesday the 10th of September. She was escorted to her destination by the destroyers Stockton, Shaw, Conyngham, and Rowan . The Oklahoma and Nevada were oil-burning ships, and included in the force was the oiler Abalama (not to be confused with Battleship Alabama BB60) which arrived on September 17th. The Utah was flagship of this force, under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas S.Rogers. They carried six months of stores and were self-sufficient, apart from fresh produce. Unlike the other US Naval forces in the British Isles, this Battleship Division was not under the operational command of the British Navy, but was under the direct command of Admiral Sims and staff.

 Baseball grounds Berehaven
Baseball grounds, Berehaven.(utilising the British Navy recreation grounds)

On the 21st of September SNO (Senior Naval Officer) Berehaven, Commodore Heard, reported that influenza was rife on board the American Battle Squadron. There were so many sufferers of the Spanish Flu in the fleet, that their infirmaries were overwhelmed. Tarpaulin shelters had to be set up on deck, and the victims brought up in cots. In all, 17 crewmen died of influenza on these ships.

 unnamed US troop ship
Unnamed troopship in wartime camouflage

The three battleships remained in Berehaven, awaiting orders. On the 14th of October 1918, there was a report of three mysterious ships seen in the Irish Sea. It was thought that these were three German raiders. There were two important troop convoys inbound, so the order went out to protect the convoys. The Nevada , Oklahoma, and Utah went to sea to intercept and escort the two convoys. The convoys were HC 20 bound from Quebec to a western British Port, and HX 51, from Hampton Roads to another British port. The battleships were, in turn, escorted by the destroyers Stevens, Downes,Terry, Sampson, Conyngham, Beale and Allen . The weather was heavy and the ships were unable to make over 15 knots. That night, the kite balloon towed by the Utah was struck by lightning and destroyed. Later the kite balloon of the Oklahoma was brought down in heavy winds and sank.

Justica sinking
Troopship Justica sinking after torpedo hit off coast of Ireland

On the morning of the 15th Convoy HX51 was met and escorted through the danger zone of the southwest of Ireland. The battleships and destroyers then returned and found convoy HC 21 on the morning of the 16th, and escorted this safely . The naval ships then returned to Berehaven. There they remained until the war ended.

bluejackets ashore

Bluejackets ashore in Bere Island

The Armistice was declared, on the 11th of November 1918. The US Naval Forces in Berehaven did not remain long. On the 20th of November 1918, the USS Nevada departed Berehaven, for Portland, England. On the 26th of November, The USS Oklahoma and USS Utah left Ireland, for England.

Notes USS Oklahoma - Commanding Officer, Captain Mark L.Bristol, to October 14, 1918 Commanding Officer, Captain Charles B.McVay, Jr, from October 1918, to July 1919.


There have been a number of publications detailing the history of Queenstown (Cobh) during World War One. The standard reference works are those those listed below

Danger Zone. The story of the Queenstown Command.
By E.Keeble Chatterton
Little, Brown and Co, Boston 1934
(copy available in Cork City Library – local history section top floor)

The Victory at Sea. By Rear-Admiral William Sowden Sims, Doubleday, Page and Company, New York, 1921.

Available to download here

Simsadus London, The American Navy in Europe.
By John Langdon Leighton.
Henry Holt & Co, New York, 1921.
Available to download here

Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy
For the Fiscal Year, 1918
Available to download here

Officers and Enlisted Men of the US Navy who died during WW1
Available to download here

Bayley’s Navy,
by Vice Admiral Walter.S.Delany (Rtd)
Available to download here

American Participation in the Great War,
by Captain Dudley W.Knox.
Available to download here

Naval Aviation in WW1,
by Adrian O. Van Wyen.
Available to download here

For Operational Records Various files from the Public Records Office,of the United Kingdom, Kew are invaluable, especially records of ADM137, which were files bound for the official history of WW1 Naval Operations. None of these records are digitised yet, and can only be accessed by visiting the British Public Records Office, Kew, near London.

For photographs of the Queenstown Command, the following websites have many photographs available to download free of charge. Most of the aforementioned publications also have photographic illustrations.

US Naval History and Heritage Command website

United States National Archives Website

The British Imperial War Museum
This site contains many photographs of US and British Naval operations in Ireland. Importantly, it also has a number of copies of unique newsreel footage. These can be played on the site.

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