Lucius Domitus Nero, sixth emperor of Rome, ruled from 54 to 68 A.D. His reign is notorious for the great fire which nearly destroyed Rome in 64 A.D. and which Nero charged to the Christians.
(AC–17: dp. 6360; l. 320’; b. 41’; dr. 20’; s. 9 k.; cpl. 80; a. 4 6 pdr.)
Nero (AC–17), a steel steam collier, was built in 1895 as steamer Whitgift by J. H. Thompson & Son. Ltd., Sunderland, England; purchased 30 June 1898 from McCondray and Co. at San Francisco; and commissioned 8 June 1898, Comdr. Charles Belknap in command.
Acquired by the Navy for service as a collier and supply ship, Nero was part of the first mobile Fleet Train, organized to meet logistic demands created by far-flung U.S. Naval Operations in the Spanish-American War. Following conversion at Mare Island Navy Yard, the ship departed San Francisco 23 June 1898 for the Philippines, in company with monitor Monadnock. Sailing by way of Honolulu and Guam, the collier arrived Manila 14 August and remained there supporting U.S. forces occupying the Philippines until departing 4 October on a coaling voyage, steaming to Taku, China and Nagasaki, Japan, before returning Cavite 20 November.
Nero sailed for home 1 December and arrived Mare Island 7 January 1899, where she was placed out of commission.
Nero recommissioned 10 April and sailed five days later for the Hawaiian Islands for deep sea soundings, then steamed via Guam to the Philippines arriving Cavite 4 August. There she coaled various naval vessels until sailing 9 September for Yokohama to continue deep sea sounding. The collier got under way for the west coast 24 September, stopping at Guam and Honolulu and arriving ‘Mare Island 15 February 1900. She decommissioned 20 May.
Placed in service 4 October 1900, Nero departed 23 October from Mare Island on her third voyage to the Far East. Steaming to Yokohama by way of Honolulu 23 October to 27 November, she then proceeded to Cavite 12 December to supply American forces putting down the Philippine insurrection. On 9 February 1901, the collier sailed for the United States, taking the long way home by way of Ceylon, Suez, Algiers, Malta, and Gibraltar, and docking at Norfolk 16 April. The ship departed Norfolk 11 June on a long coaling voyage down the east coast of South America, returning 12 December. Two months later she sailed again for Latin America, this time going “round the Horn” to supply the Pacific outpost of Tutuila, Samoa. Returning to the States 29 July, Nero underwent overhaul at Now York and then sailed 12 October for a return voyage to the Philippines. Once again steaming through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean, the well traveled collier arrived at Cavite 21 December where she remained for one month, giving needed logistic support, and then returned the way she had come, putting into Boston 28 April 1903.
Nero sailed 25 July for the Pacific. Rounding Cape Horn once again, the collier made intermittent stops along the coast of South America and arrived San Francisco 22 February 1904. She remained in the Pacific making one voyage to Honolulu and then Kiska in the Aleutians from 14 April until 22 August, when she departed Mare Island to return around Cape Horn to Norfolk, arriving 2 March 1905.
Serving as an Atlantic Fleet auxiliary for the next six years, the collier cruised the east coast from Boston to Rio de Janiero, decommissioning twice for brief periods of upkeep, 23 June 1906 to 1 February 1907 and 3 January 1910 to 16 September 1911, and coaling many ships of the Atlantic Fleet and South American Patrol Force in her valuable service to the Fleet. On 21 October 1911, the collier departed Norfolk to return to the Pacific. Steaming once more ‘round Cape Horn, she arrived San Diego 29 January 1912 and the next month began supply operations off Mexico. Following a voyage to the North Pacific 20 May to 23 November, visiting various ports in Alaska and the Aleutians, Nero continued cruising the eastern Pacific, making two brief trips to Pearl Harbor 5 February to 6 March 1913 and 31 March to 8 May, until decommissioning 31 July 1913 at Puget Sound Navy Yard.
Nero was once again placed in full service 29 April 1914 and 3 days later resumed her logistic operations, cruising from Bremerton to La Paz. Assigned to the Pacific Fleet 5 June 1915, the collier continued her operations on into 1917. On 19 July she departed San Francisco for New York, to meet the demand for auxiliaries in the Atlantic due to the increasing scope of U.S. naval operations in World War I. Passing through the Panama Canal 2 August, Nero arrived Norfolk on the 18th. She sailed for Europe via the Azores 11 September and shortly after her arrival at Queenstown, Northern Ireland 13 October, was assigned to duty with the newly formed Naval Overseas Transportation Service.
Based at Cardiff, Wales, Nero began operations with the Army’s Cross Channel Service, transporting coal from English ports to France until 25 February 1919, subject to German submarine attacks and the hazardous English Channel weather. She then sailed for Norfolk, arriving 17 March. After unloading, the collier proceeded to New York 22 April, and then cruised the east coast for the next month, carrying cargo to New England and Middle Atlantic ports until arriving Charlestown 22 May for extensive overhaul. There she remained for over a year, undergoing complete repair and alteration. On 14 August 1920, she sailed to Hampton Roads to load cargo and then steamed to the Caribbean to coal U.S. naval vessels at Guantanamo Bay and Santo Domingo, returning to Norfolk 28 September.
Nero departed Norfolk for the last time 5 December 1920 to return to the Pacific and her homeport of San Francisco. Proceeding by way of the Panama Canal, the veteran collier arrived Mare Island 7 February 1921. She departed on her last voyage the next day, steaming first to Pearl If arbor and then to Tutuila and returning by way of Pearl Harbor to San Francisco 6 June. Nero decommissioned 12 September 1921 and was sold 29 July 1922 to A. Bercovich and Company, Oakland, Calif.