Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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  • Boats-Ships--Battleship
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  • World War I 1917-1918
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Conestoga (S.P. 1128)

NH 71507. Conestoga (AT-54) Deck Division beside the ship, circa early 1921.

USS Conestoga (AT-54) Deck Division posed beside the ship, San Diego, California, circa early 1921. The Sailor marked by an arrow (top row) may be Seaman 1st Class W. P. Burbage. [Editor's note: Seaman 1st Class Burbage was not assigned to the ship at the time of the disappearance.] Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph. (NH 71507)

Conestoga was built in 1904 for the Maryland Steel Company for the Philadelphia and Reading Transportation Line. The U.S. Navy acquired the ship on 14 September 1917 and commissioned Conestoga (S.P. 1128) as a fleet tender and mine sweeper on 10 November 1917, Lieutenant (j.g.) Carl Olsen, USNRF, in command.

Conestoga was assigned to the Submarine Force and carried out towing, transport, and escort duties, and operated with the American Patrol Detachment in the vicinity of the Azores during WWI. At the end of the war she was attached to Naval Base 13 (Azores), towing disabled ships and escorting convoys, until she arrived in New York on 26 September 1919. Conestoga was formally classified as a fleet tug (AT-54) and assigned to harbor tug duty in the Fifth Naval District at Norfolk, Virginia, on 17 July 1920.

Conestoga left for her new duty station at Tutuila, America Samoa, on 18 November 1920, passing through San Diego and Mare Island, California, for repairs between 7 January 1921 and 17 February 1921. She left Mare Island on 21 March 1921 with Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones in command and a crew of three warrant officers and 52 enlisted men. She never reached her interim destination of Pearl Harbor, and after an extensive search the U.S. Navy declared Conestoga lost with all 56 souls on 30 June 1921.

In August 2009, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Coast Survey discovered the wreck of the Conestoga in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of California. USS Conestoga remains a grave for the 56 Sailors lost and is protected from unauthorized disturbance under the Sunken Military Craft Act, and is also protected as a cultural resource within a NOAA National Marine Sanctuary. For more on the wreck of Conestoga, visit the NHHC Underwater Archeology Branch Conestoga wreck page.

 

Further Reading

NHHC Sextant blog: What’s Next for USS Conestoga?

95-Year-Old Lost U.S. Navy Ship Mystery Solved

NHHC Received Conestoga Paintings 

United States Navy and World War I: 1914–1922

NOAA Conestoga website

 

Selected Art and Imagery


<p>Painting of <span style="background: white; font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,sans-serif; font-size: 11pt; mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;">Philadelphia andReading Railroad tug <i>Conestoga t</i>owing coal barges</span></p><div style="left: -10000px; top: 0px; width: 9000px; height: 16px; overflow: hidden; position: absolute;"><div>&nbsp;</div></div>

“Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Tug Conestoga Towing Coal Barges” by Danijel Frka, 2016. Acrylic painting on illustration board, 23 inches high x 32 inches wide (2017-024-01).

 

 

 
 

<p>Painting of <span style="color: black; font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,sans-serif; font-size: 12pt; mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;">USS <i>Conestoga </i>(AT-54)battling the gale that ultimately claimed her</span></p><div style="left: -10000px; top: 0px; width: 9000px; height: 16px; overflow: hidden; position: absolute;"><div>&nbsp;</div></div>

“USS Conestoga (AT-54) Battling the Gale That Ultimately Claimed Her” by Danijel Frka, 2016. Acrylic painting on illustration board, 23 inches high x 32 inches wide (2017-024-02).

 

 

 
 

<p>Painting showing how t<span style="color: black; font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,sans-serif; font-size: 12pt; mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;">he Wreck of USS <i>Conestoga</i>
(AT-54) was discovered</span></p>
<div style="left: -10000px; top: 0px; width: 9000px; height: 16px; overflow: hidden; position: absolute;"><div>&nbsp;</div>
</div>

“The Wreck of USS Conestoga (AT-54) Is Discovered” by Danijel Frka, 2016. Acrylic painting on illustration board, 2016, 23 inches high x 32 inches wide (2017-024-03).

 

 

black and white photo of crew of USS Conestoga

Ship's Company beside and on Conestoga, at San Diego, California, circa early 1921. Officers and Chief Petty Officers in front row are (from left to right): Chief Boatswain's Mate Elias Melvin Zimmerman; Chief Carpenter's Mate John Wesley Powell; Machinist Louis A. Liscomb, Engineering Officer; Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones, Commanding Officer; Boatswain Roy E. Hoffses, Ordnance Officer; Boatswain Harvey H. Reinbold, Executive Officer; Chief Water Tender Charles Ingerson Westover; and Chief Machinist's Mate George F. Kaler. The Sailor marked by an arrow (top row, 6th from left) may be Seaman 1st Class W.P. Burbage. Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 71503)



black and white photo of 4 men in naval officer uniforms identified with handwriting

USS Conestoga (AT-54) ship's officers at San Diego, California, circa early 1921. They are (from left to right): Machinist Louis A. Liscomb, Engineering Officer; Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones, Commanding Officer; Boatswain Harvey H. Reinbold, Executive Officer; and Boatswain Roy E. Hoffses, Ordnance Officer. All were lost when Conestoga disappeared after leaving San Diego in March 1921. Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 71501)



black and white photo of men standing in 4 rows on deck in front of ship in uniform

Ship's Company beside and on Conestoga, at San Diego, California, circa early 1921. Officers, seated in front row, are (from left to right): Machinist Louis A. Liscomb, Engineering Officer; Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones, Commanding Officer; Boatswain Harvey H. Reinbold, Executive Officer; and Boatswain Roy E. Hoffses, Ordnance Officer. Chief Petty Officers, in 2nd row center, are (from left to right): Chief Boatswain's Mate Elias Melvin Zimmerman; Chief Water Tender Charles Ingerson Westover; Chief Machinist's Mate George F. Kaler; and Chief Carpenter's Mate John Wesley Powell. The Sailor marked by an arrow (top row) may be Seaman 1st Class W.P. Burbage. Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 71506)



Sailors standing around gun on deck of ship

Men of the ship's Gunnery Department posing with her 3/50 gun, 1921. The Sailor at left, marked me, may be Seaman 1st Class W.P. Burbage. Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 71510)



black and white photo of ship docked

USS Conestoga (AT-54) at San Diego, California, February 1921. She was lost without a trace after leaving San Diego on 25 March 1921, en route to Samoa. Courtesy of H.E. (Ed) Coffer, 1988. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 102094)



Photo #: NH 71508  USS Conestoga (AT-54)

Memorial crew list of the officers and men serving in Conestoga when she disappeared while en route from San Diego, California, to Samoa by way of Pearl Harbor. She had departed San Diego on 25 March 1921. Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 71508)



black and white photo of man in Navy uniform on a deck in front of ship

Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Conestoga (AT-54), standing alongside his ship, at San Diego, California, circa early 1921. He was among those lost when Conestoga disappeared after leaving San Diego in March 1921. Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 71504)



Photo #: NH 71505  Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Conestoga (AT-54)

Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Conestoga (AT-54), with the ship's quartermasters (one of whom has been cut out of the image), at San Diego, California, circa early 1921. Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones (center), QM 1st Class Martin Phillip McKeigh (left). Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 71505)



Photo #: NH 71299  USS Conestoga

USS Conestoga (AT-54) at San Diego, California, circa early 1921, shortly before she disappeared while en route from San Diego to Samoa, by way of Pearl Harbor. Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970.  U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 71299)



Photo #: NH 89794  Conestoga

Conestoga (American Tug, 1904) In port, prior to World War I. She served as USS Conestoga (SP-1128, later AT-54) in 1917-1921. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 89794)


Published: Wed Mar 24 14:12:45 EDT 2021