Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

NH-52032-KN: USS Kearsarge (BB 5)
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USS Kearsarge (BB 5)

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USS Kearsarge (Battleship # 5), 1900-1955. Later Crane Ship # 1 (AB-1)

USS Kearsarge, first of a two-ship class of 11,525-ton battleships built at Newport News, Virginia, was commissioned in February 1900. She spent much of her first eight years operating along the U.S. East Coast and in the Caribbean area, much of the time as flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron. In addition, she steamed across the Atlantic for brief service as European Squadron flagship in June and July 1903 and for a Mediterranean cruise in mid-1904. On 13 April 1906 Kearsarge suffered a turret fire during target practice. One of a series of such tragedies that gave the Navy some difficult lessons in ammunition supply design and gunnery safety practices, this incident took the lives of ten officers and men.


In December 1907 Kearsarge began a long voyage around South America, the first leg of a cruise around the World in company with most of the Navy's battleships. This "Great White Fleet" arrived at California in the spring of 1908 and, after refitting, crossed the Pacific to visit Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Japan. Kearsarge returned to the U.S. in February 1909, at the conclusion of a homeward-bound voyage that took her through the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. She decommissioned in September 1909 for modernization, work that included fitting new "cage" masts and other improvements. The battleship was only occasionally active during the next several years, largely on training duties, but also serving off Mexico in 1915-1916. After the U.S. entered World War I she operated as an armed guard and engineering training ship along the East Coast. On 18 August 1918 she rescued survivors of a sailing ship that had been sunk by a German submarine.


In 1919, Kearsarge carried Naval Academy midshipmen on a summer cruise to the West Indies. She was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in May 1920 and soon began conversion to a heavy-lift crane ship. Redesignated AB-1 in 1939 and renamed Crane Ship No. 1 in 1941, the old ship spent more than thirty years handling some of the Navy's heaviest loads before being sold for scrapping in August 1955.