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Photo # NH 79954:  Merrimac Operation Crew, 3 June 1898

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Lieutenant Claus K. R. Clausen, USN, (1869-1958)

Claus Kristian Randolph Clausen was born on 9 December 1869 in Denmark. Later enlisting in the Navy from the State of New York, he served in USS New York during the Spanish-American War as a Coxswain. He was one of eight volunteer crew members of the collier Merrimac, which Rear Admiral William T. Sampson ordered sunk to block the entrance of Santiago Harbor, Cuba. On the night of 2-3 June 1898, during the courageous attempt to execute this mission, Merrimac's steering gear was disabled by enemy gunfire, and she sank without obstructing navigation. Her crewmen were rescued by the Spanish and made prisoners-of-war. After the Battle of Santiago de Cuba destroyed the Spanish fleet a month later, Clausen and his shipmates were released. For his "extraordinary heroism" during this operation, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Clausen was promoted to the warrant officer rank of Boatswain on 30 July 1903. As an officer, his initial assignment was in the cruiser USS Detroit, operating in the Caribbean. Following this sea duty, he served two years on the New York Navy Yard's receving ship Hancock. Boatswain Clausen's next time at sea was on the battleship Mississippi in 1908-1911. On 30 July 1909, while on Mississippi, he was promoted to Chief Boatswain. After another tour at the New York Navy Yard, in 1911-1914, Chief Boatswain Clausen obtained the special qualification of a "Master's License under Steamboat-Inspection Service" before reporting on board battleship New Jersey. He served in her during World War I and received a temporary promotion to Lieutenant (Junior Grade) in May 1917.

After the war, Clausen transferred back to the New York Navy Yard and, in 1920, reverted to Chief Boatswain. His next shipboard assignment was as an officer of USS Florida. In November 1922, he transferred to the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island and three months later reported on board the receving ship Pueblo at New York. Chief Boatswain Clausen was placed on the retired list on 15 November 1925. Though retired, he was promoted to Lieutenant in June 1930, but again reverted to Chief Warrant Officer 4 in the early 1950s. Claus K. R. Clausen died on 23 December 1958 at St Albans, New York and is interred in the U.S. Columbarium, Middle Village, New York.

This page features the only image we have concerning Claus K. R. Clausen.

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Photo #: NH 79954

USS Merrimac Operation, 3 June 1898

Halftone reproduction of a photograph, published in "Deeds of Valor," Volume II, page 370, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. This image shows an artistic interpretation of the scuttling of USS Merrimac across the entrance of Santiago Harbor, Cuba, with portraits of her crew on this mission. The crew members from upper left to right are Lieutenant Richmond P. Hobson, Coxswain Claus K. R. Clausen (note: official sources state Clausen's first name to be Claus, not Randolph), Coxswain Osborn W. Deignan, Watertender Francis Kelly. The crew members from lower left to right are Coxswain John E. Murphy, Chief Master-At-Arms Daniel Montague, Machinist First Class George F. Phillips, and Gunner's Mate First Class George Charette. All the crew members received the Medal of Honor for this operation.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 87KB; 585 x 765 pixels


Medal of Honor citation of Coxswain Claus K. R. Clausen (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 73):

"In connection with the sinking of the U.S.S. Merrimac at the entrance to the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, 2 June 1898. Despite heavy fire from the Spanish batteries, CLAUSEN displayed extraordinary heroism throughout this operation."

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the "Online Library's" digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

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Page made 12 May 2006