Wyoming III (Battleship No. 32)
The first Wyoming was named for the valley in Luzerne County, eastern Pennsylvania, that runs along the Susquehanna River; the second and third commemorate the state of Wyoming, the 44th State of the Union.
(Battleship No. 32: displacement 27,243 (full load); length 562'0"; beam 93'3"; draft 28'6" (mean); speed 21.22 knots (trial); complement 1,063; armament 12 12-inch, 21 5-inch, 4--3-pounder (saluting), 2 21-inch torpedo tubes (submerged); class Wyoming)
The third Wyoming (Battleship No. 32) was laid down on 9 February 1910 at Philadelphia, Pa., by William Cramp & Sons; launched on 25 May 1911; sponsored by Miss Dorothy Eunice Knight, the daughter of former Chief Justice Jesse Knight of the Wyoming Supreme Court; and commissioned at the Philadelphia (Pa.) Navy Yard on 25 September 1912, Capt. Frederick L. Chapin in command.
Wyoming departed Philadelphia on 6 October 1912 and completed the fitting-out process at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., before she joined the fleet in Hampton Roads, Va. Reaching the Tidewater area on 30 December 1912, she became the flagship of Rear Adm. Charles J. Badger, Commander, United States Atlantic Fleet, soon thereafter. Sailing on 6 January 1913, the new battleship visited the soon-to-be-completed Panama Canal and then conducted winter fleet maneuvers off Cuba before she returned to Chesapeake Bay on 4 March.
After gunnery practice off the Virginia capes, on the Southern Drill Grounds, Wyoming underwent repairs and alterations at the New York Navy Yard between 18 April and 7 May 1913. She then participated in war games off Block Island (7-24 May), a period of activity broken by repairs to her machinery, carried out at Newport, R.I., (9-19 May), before she underwent more repairs at Newport. She then visited New York City (28-31 May) for the festivities surrounding the dedication of the monument honoring the battleship Maine, destroyed in Havana harbor on 15 February 1898.
Shifting to Annapolis, Md., on 4 June 1913, Wyoming embarked a contingent of Naval Academy midshipmen and took the young officers-to-be on a summer cruise off the coast of New England that lasted into late August. Disembarking the "middies" at Annapolis (24-25 August), Wyoming then conducted torpedo and target practices on the Southern Drill Grounds, out of Hampton Roads, into the late autumn. She was docked at New York for repairs (16 September-2 October) and then ran a full power trial as she headed south to Norfolk to resume exercises off the Virgina capes before sailing for Europe on 25 October.
Reaching Valetta, Malta, on 8 November 1913, the dreadnought visited Naples, Italy, and Villefranche, France, during the course of her Mediterranean cruise. She then left French waters astern on the last day of November and reached New York on 15 December.
Wyoming then underwent voyage repairs at the New York Navy Yard, remaining there through the end of 1913. Getting underway on 6 January 1914, the battleship reached Hampton Roads on the morrow and spent the next three days coaling to prepare for the annual fleet exercises in warmer Caribbean climes.
Wyoming exercised with the fleet, out of Guantanamo Bay and Guacanayabo Bay, Cuba (26 January-15 March 1914), before setting her course northward for Cape Henry, Va. She then ranged with the fleet from the Southern Drill Grounds, off the Virginia capes, to Tangier Sound, for gunnery drills and practices. She remained engaged in that routine until 3 April, when she headed for the New York Navy Yard and an overhaul.
After that period of repairs (4 April-9 May 1914), Wyoming subsequently embarked a draft of men for transport to the fleet, departed Hampton Roads on 13 May, and headed for Mexican waters. She reached Veracruz on 18 May, less than a month after American Sailors and Marines had occupied that Mexican port.
Wyoming remained at Vera Cruz over the months that ensued, into the late autumn of 1914, before she returned northward. After conducting exercises off the Virginia capes en route, she put into the New York Navy Yard on 6 October and then underwent repairs and alterations that lasted until 17 January 1915.
Shifting down the coast upon completion of that yard period, Wyoming left Hampton Roads in her wake on 21 January 1915 for the annual exercises in Cuban waters and in the Caribbean. Returning to the Tidewater area on 7 April, the battleship carried out tactical exercises and maneuvers along the eastern seaboard, primarily off Block Island and the Southern Drill Grounds, into the late autumn, when she again entered the New York Navy Yard for an overhaul.
After repairs lasting from 20 December 1915 to 6 January 1916, Wyoming got underway on the latter day, bound for war games in the Southern Drill Grounds. She subsequently headed farther south, reaching Culebra, Puerto Rico, on 16 January. After visiting Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 27 January, Wyoming put into Guantanamo Bay on the 28th and then operated in Cuban waters, off Guantanamo and Guacanayabo Bays and the port of Manzanillo, until 10 April, when she sailed for New York.
Wyoming remained in the New York Navy Yard (16 April-26 June 1916) undergoing repairs; she then operated off the New England coast, out of Newport, and off the Virgina capes through the remainder of 1916. Departing New York on 9 January 1917, Wyoming then conducted routine maneuvers in the Guantanamo Bay region through mid-March. She departed the Caribbean on 27 March and was off Yorktown, Va., when the United States entered World War I on 6 April 1917.
Over the months that ensued, Wyoming served in the Chasepeake Bay region as an engineering ship until until 13 November 1917. On that day, Rear Adm. Hugh Rodman broke his flag in New York (Battleship No. 34) as Commander, Battleship Division 9. After preparations for "distant service," Wyoming, New York, Delaware (Battleship No. 28), and Florida (Battleship No. 30) sailed for the British Isles on 25 November and reached Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, on 7 December 1917. Although retaining their American designation as Battleship Division 9, those four dreadnoughts became the 6th Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet upon arrival in British waters.
Wyoming carried out maneuvers and tactical exercises with the units of the British Grand Fleet until 6 February 1918. On that day, she got underway with the other ships of the 6th Battle Squadron and eight British destroyers to guard a convoy routed to Stavanger, Norway. En route, Wyoming dodged torpedo wakes off Stavanger, on 8 February but reached Scapa Flow safely two days later. In the following months, Wyoming continued to patrol off the British Isles, guarding the coastwise sea lanes against the danger posed by the still-powerful German High Seas Fleet.
Between 30 June and 2 July 1918, Wyoming operated with the 6th Battle Squadron and a division of British destroyers, guarding Allied minelayers as they planted the formidable North Sea Mine Barrage. Later, Wyoming returned to the Firth of Forth, where she was inspected by the King of England, His Majesty George V, along with other units of the Grand Fleet.
Although American and German capital ships never met in combat on the high seas, they nevertheless made a rendezvous. On 21 November 1918, ten days after the armistice ended World War I, Wyoming, New York, Texas (Battleship No. 35), and Arkansas (Battleship No. 33) joined the Grand Fleet as it escorted the German High Seas Fleet into the Firth of Forth to be interned following the cessation of hostilities.
Later, Wyoming, hoisting the flag of Rear Adm. William S. Sims, Commander, Battleship Division 9, sailed on 12 December 1918 from Portland, England, bound for France. The following morning, she and other battleships rendezvoused with George Washington (Id. No. 3018) off Brest, France. Embarked in the transport was the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, en route to the Paris Peace Conference.
After serving in the honor escort for the President and his party, Wyoming returned Adm. Sims to Plymouth, England, along with the newly appointed Ambassador to Great Britain. Debarking her distinguished passengers on 14 December, the battleship loaded 381 bags of mail and, within a few hours, sailed for the United States. Reaching New York City on Christmas Day 1918, she remained there through New Year's Day 1919. On 13 January 1919, she became the flagship of Battleship Division 7, 3rd Squadron, and broke the flag of Rear Adm. Robert E. Coontz.
Wyoming departed New York on 1 February 1919 and, following winter maneuvers in Cuban waters, returned north, reaching New York on 14 April. However, she stood out to sea soon thereafter, getting underway on 12 May to serve as a link in the chain of ships stretching across the Atlantic to guide the NC-boats on their flight across that ocean. After completing her duty as plane guard and meteorological station, Wyoming returned to Hampton Roads on the last day of May.
Later embarking midshipmen and taking them on their southern cruise in the Chesapeake Bay-Virginia capes area, Wyoming entered the Norfolk Navy Yard on 1 July to prepare for service in the Pacific. On that day, she became a unit of the newly designated Pacific Fleet, assigned the duty as flagship for Battleship Division 6, Squadron 4. On the morning of 19 July, the fleet, led by flagship New Mexico (Battleship No. 40), got underway for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal soon thereafter, the fleet reached San Diego, Calif., on 6 August.
Shifting to San Pedro, Calif., three days later, Wyoming operated out of that port into the autumn. After an overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash. (15 September 1919-19 April 1920), Wyoming returned to her base at San Pedro on 4 May. Over the next few months, the battleship exercised off the southern California coast. During that time, she was reclassified BB-32 on 17 July 1920.
Departing San Diego on the last day of August 1920, Wyoming sailed for Hawaiian waters and conducted exercises and maneuvers there through September. Returning to San Diego on 3 October, Wyoming subsequently conducted tactical evolutions off the western seaboard, ranging north to Seattle. Departing San Francisco, Calif., on 5 January 1921, Wyoming, over the ensuing weeks, conducted further drills, exercises, and maneuvers reaching from Panama Bay to Valparaiso, Chile, and was reviewed by the President of Chile on 3 February. Returning north via Panama Bay and San Pedro, Wyoming arrived at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 18 March and remained there into the summer.
Upon completion of repairs, Wyoming headed south and, on 2 August 1921, reached Balboa, Canal Zone, where she embarked Rear Adm. Hugh Rodman and members of the commission to Peru for transportation to New York City. Reaching her destination on 19 August, she disembarked her passengers and, that afternoon, broke the flag of Adm. Hilary P. Jones, the Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet.
Over the next 41 months, Wyoming operated primarily in the Atlantic, off the eastern seaboard of the United States, participating in Atlantic Fleet exercises, ranging from the coast of New England to the Virginia capes. She took part in the routine winter maneuvers of the fleet in Caribbean and Cuban waters, serving at various times as flagship for Vice Adm. John D. McDonald, Commander, Battleship Force; and, later, Commander, Scouting Fleet, and his successors, Vice Adm. Newton A. McCully and Vice Adm. Josiah S. McKean. During that time, the ship received routine repairs and alterations at the New York Navy Yard and conducted a midshipman's training cruise in the summer of 1924, cruising to Torbay, England; Rotterdam, Holland; Gibraltar; and the Azores.
Departing New York on 26 January 1925, the battleship conducted battle practice in Cuban waters, out of Guantanamo Bay, and then transited the Panama Canal on 14 February to join the Battle Fleet for exercises along the coast of California. Wyoming next sailed for Hawaiian waters and operated in those climes from late April to early June. After a visit to San Diego (18-22 June), the battleship returned to the east coast via the Panama Canal, and arrived back at New York City on 17 July to resume operations off the coast of New England. Following those training evolutions with a cruise to Cuba and Haiti, Wyoming underwent an overhaul at the New York Navy Yard (23 November 1925-26 January 1926). During her yard period, Cmdr. William F. Halsey, Jr., reported on board as the battleship's executive officer. The future fleet admiral served in Wyoming until 4 January 1927.
Wyoming subsequently took part in the Fleet's annual winter maneuvers in the Caribbean and then returned northward, reaching Annapolis on 29 May 1927 to embark midshipmen for their summer training cruise. After touching at Newport, R.I.; Marblehead, Mass.; Portland, Maine; Charleston, S.C.; and Guantanamo Bay, Wyoming returned to Annapolis on 27 August, disembarking the officers-to-be upon arrival. The ship then put into the Philadelphia Navy Yard for modernization.
Converted from a coal burner to an oil burner, Wyoming also received new turbines, blisters for added underwater protection against torpedoes, and other alterations. Completing the overhaul on 2 November 1927 and heading south for Norfolk, Wyoming then underwent a post-modernization shakedown cruise to Cuba and the Virgin Islands before returning to Philadelphia on 7 December. Two days later, she hoisted the flag of Commander, Scouting Fleet, Vice Adm. Ashley H. Robertson.
Over the next few years, Wyoming operated out of Norfolk, New York, and Boston, making training cruises for the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NROTC) units hailing from Yale, Harvard, Georgia Tech, and Northwestern. That duty took her from the Gulf of Mexico to Nova Scotia and into the Caribbean, as well as to the Azores.
During the course of that duty, she departed Hampton Roads on 12 November 1928, and, on the night of 13 and 14 November, picked up eight survivors of the sunken British merchant steamship Vestris. She landed them at Norfolk the following day, 15 November.
Relieved as flagship of the Scouting Force on 19 September 1930, Wyoming then became the flagship of Rear Adm. Wat T. Cluverius, Commander, Battleship Division 2, and performed that duty until 4 November. After then hoisting the flag of Rear Adm. Harley H. Christy, Commander, Training Squadron, Scouting Fleet, the battleship conducted a training cruise into the Gulf of Mexico, during which she visited New Orleans.
Returning north after that cruise, Wyoming was placed in reduced commission at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 1 January 1931 to prepare for demilitarization and conversion to a training ship in accordance with the 1930 London Treaty for the limitation and reduction of naval armaments. During that process, Wyoming lost her blisters, side armor, and the removal of guns and turret machinery from three of her six main battery turrets. On 21 May 1931, Wyoming was relieved of her duties as flagship for the Scouting Force by the new heavy cruiser Augusta (CA-31) and by her sister ship Arkansas (BB-33) as flagship of the Training Squadron.
Wyoming subsequently visited Annapolis upon the completion of her demilitarization and, between 29 May and 5 June 1931, embarked Naval Academy midshipmen for a cruise to European waters. Sailing on 5 June, the ship was in the mid-Atlantic 10 days later, when she went to the aid of the foundering ice-cutting submarine Nautilus, commanded by the famed British Arctic explorer, Sir Hubert Wilkins. Wyoming took the disabled submersible in tow and took her to Queenstown, Northern Ireland. Later in the course of the cruise, the former battleship visited Copenhagen, Denmark; Greenock, Scotland; Cadiz, Spain; and Gibraltar, before she returned to Hampton Roads on 13 August. During her cruise, she had been redesignated from a battleship, BB-32, to a miscellaneous auxiliary, AG-17, on 1 July 1931.
Over the next four years, Wyoming continued summer practice cruises for Naval Academy midshipmen and training cruises for NROTC midshipmen with units from various universities. Her service took her throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as to northern European ports and into the Mediterranean.
There were, however, new jobs for the old campaigner. On 18 January 1935, she embarked men of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, at Norfolk, for the winter-spring landing assault practices at Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal Zone. In almost every succeeding year, Wyoming took part in amphibious assault exercises, as the elements of the Fleet Marine Force and Navy developed tactics for use in possible conflicts of the future.
Departing Norfolk on 5 January 1937, Wyoming transited the Panama Canal; headed for San Diego soon thereafter; and spent the following weeks engaged in assault landing exercises and gunnery drills at San Clemente Island, off the coast of California. On 18 February 1937, during the culminating phase of a multi-faceted (land, sea, and air) exercise, a shrapnel shell exploded prematurely as it was being rammed into one of the ship's 5-inch broadside guns, killing six marines and wounding 11. Immediately after the explosion, Wyoming sped to San Pedro, where she transferred the wounded men to the hospital ship Relief (AH-1).
Completing her slate of exercises and war games off the California coast on 3 March 1937, Wyoming stood out of Los Angeles harbor on that day and headed back to the east coast. Returning to Norfolk on the 23rd of the same month, the ship served as temporary flagship for Rear Adm. Wilson Brown, Commander, Training Squadron, from 15 April to 3 June, during the preparations for the upcoming Naval Academy practice cruise. Putting to sea on 4 June from Hampton Roads, Wyoming reached Kiel, Germany, on 21 June 1937, where she was visited by officers from the German armored ship Admiral Graf Spee. Her embarked midshipmen subsequently toured Berlin before Wyoming sailed for home on 29 June, touching at Torbay, England, and Funchal, Madeira, before returning to Norfolk on 3 August.
After local exercises, Wyoming disembarked her midshipmen at Annapolis on 26 August 1937. For the next few months, Wyoming continued in her role as training ship, first for Naval Reserve units and then for Merchant Marine Reserve units, ranging from Boston to the Virgin Islands and from New York to Cuba, respectively, before she underwent an overhaul at the Norfolk Navy Yard (16 October 1937-14 January 1938).
For the next three years, Wyoming continued her operations out of Norfolk, Boston, and New York, visiting Cuban waters, as well as Puerto Rico and New Orleans. In addition, she conducted a Naval Academy midshipman's practice cruise to European waters in 1938, visiting Le Havre, France; Copenhagen; and Portsmouth, England. Ultimately, on 2 January 1941, Wyoming became the flagship for Rear Adm. Randall Jacobs, Commander, Training, Patrol Force, and continued in her training ship duties into the autumn months.
In November 1941, Wyoming embarked on yet another phase of her career-that of a gunnery training ship. She departed Norfolk on 25 November 1941 for gunnery training runs out of Newport, R.I., and was off Platt's Bank when the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet as it lay at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, in addition to local naval and military targets on Oahu.
Putting into Norfolk on 28 January 1942, Wyoming sailed out into the lower reaches of Chesapeake Bay on 5 February to begin gunnery training drills in that area that would carry her through World War II. So familiar was her appearance in that area that Wyoming earned the nickname of the "Chesapeake Raider." Assigned to the Operational Training Command, United States Atlantic Fleet, the former dreadnought provided the platform on which thousands of gunners trained in guns, ranging from 5-inch to .50-caliber.
Refitted at Norfolk (12 January-3 April 1944), Wyoming took on a different silhouette upon emerging from that yard period; the rest of her 12-inch turrets were removed, and replaced with twin-mount 5-inch guns; in addition, newer models of fire control radars were installed. She resumed her gunnery training activities on 10 April 1944, operating in the Chesapeake Bay region. The extent of her operations can be seen from a random sampling of figures; in a single month, November 1944, Wyoming trained 133 officers and 1,329 men in antiaircraft gunnery. During that month, she fired 3,033 5-inch shells, 849 3-inch; 10,076 40-millimeter; 32,231 20-millimeter; 66,270 .30-caliber; and 360 1.1-inch. She claimed the distinction of firing off more ammunition than any other ship in the fleet, training an estimated 35,000 gunners on some seven different types of shipboard weapons.
On 30 June 1945, Wyoming completed her career as "Chesapeake Raider" when she departed Norfolk for the New York Navy Yard and alterations. Leaving the yard on 13 July 1945, she entered Casco Bay soon thereafter, reporting for duty to Vice Adm. Willis A. Lee, Commander, Composite Task Force 69. She fired her first experimental gunnery practice at towed sleeves, drone aircraft, and radio-controlled targets, as the largest operating unit of the force established to study methods and tactics for dealing with the Japanese kamikazes. Upon the sudden death of Vice Adm. Lee as he was being taken out to Wyoming on board the admiral's barge on 25 August, the reins of that important command passed to Rear Adm. Robert P. Briscoe. Subsequently, Composite Task Force 69 became the Operational Development Force, United States Fleet, on 31 August.
Even after the broadening of the scope of the work of the force to cover all the operational testing of new devices of fire control, Wyoming remained the backbone of the unit through 1946. On 11 July 1947, Wyoming entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and was decommissioned on 1 August 1947. Her men and materiel were then transferred to Mississippi (AG-128) (ex-BB-41).
Robert J. Cressman
10 May 2016