Harding I (Destroyer No. 91)
(DD-91: dp. 1,060; l. 315'5" ; b. 31'8" ; dr. 8'6" ; s. 35 k.; cpl. 100; a. 4 4", 3 .30 cal. mg., 12 21" tt.; cl. Wickes)
Seth Harding was born at Eastham, Mass., 17 April 1734. He went to sea early in his life and commanded several merchant ships during the French and Indian War. At the beginning of the American Revolution, he offered his services to Connecticut and was commissioned commander of the state brig Defence. Harding captured many British ships while in command of this and two other vessels. In September 1778 Harding accepted a Continental commission and took command of Confederacy. He cruised along the coast in company with Deane during 1779, taking three prizes and performing convoy duties. He was ordered to take John Jay, newly appointed minister to Spain, to Europe in September 1779, but the ship was dismasted 10 days out. Harding, through skillful seamanship, sailed his ship to Martinique for repairs, his passengers continuing on another ship. Confederacy raided British merchantment and guarded convoys until 18 April 1781, when she was forced to surrender to two British ships, Roebuck and Orpheus. Harding was subsequently exchanged, commanded the letter of marque Diana, but was captured again. After this release the fighting captain volunteered to serve as First Lieutenant to John Perry in Alliance, and was wounded on board during the last engagement of the revolution, off the coast of France. Harding spent his last years as a merchant sailor and in retirement in Schoharie, N.Y., where he died 20 November 1814.
The first Harding (Destroyer No. 91), a torpedo-boat destroyer, was launched 4 July 1918 by Union Iron Works, San Francisco ; sponsored by Mrs. George A. Armes; and commissioned 24 January 1919, Comdr. Henry D. Cooke in command.
Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Harding sailed 3 February 1919 for Newport, R.I., via Santa Cruz and the Panama Canal. Arriving 18 February, she shifted to Boston 2 days later and stood out of the harbor 21 February to escort George Washington, carrying President Wilson back to the United States from the Versailles Conference. Harding participated in the ceremonies in Boston harbor following the berthing of George Washington 23 February.
After repairs Harding departed Norfolk 8 March for fleet exercises in Cuban waters, then steamed to New York; arriving 14 April. She departed New York again 1 May as part of the destroyer group acting as guide for the historic flight of Navy seaplanes across the Atlantic. Harding and the other destroyers made smoke by day and provided searchlight illumination by night during the first long leg of the flight; NC-1 and NC-3 made forced landings near the Azores and Harding rendered assistance to NC-1 before it sank. NC-4, the remaining seaplane, arrived Ponta Delgada 20 May and as she took off for the last leg of her journey, Harding got underway to provide radio compass signals at sea. After the seaplanes landed at Plymouth, England, to complete the flight 31 May 1919, Harding visited Brest and the Azores before returning to Newport 18 June.
For the next few months Harding trained out of Newport and Norfolk, reporting to the Philadelphia Navy Yard 13 December 1919 for conversion to seaplane tender. She completed the conversion at Charleston Navy Yard and sailed 20 May 1920 for duty at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Before she could take up her new duties, however, Harding was ordered to Vera Cruz, Mexico, with urgently needed medical supplies for the American Red Cross. Reaching Vera Cruz 9 June 1920, she unloaded her precious bubonic plague serum and other supplies, touched at Tampico, and returned to Pensacola 13 June. Harding's fast response had helped to save many lives.
Harding's role at the burgeoning Pensacola Naval Base was a key part of the training program for seaplane pilots. She remained there until 4 August, after which she operated in the Caribbean area tending seaplanes until 23 February 1921. She then arrived Key West, and after a short period at Philadelphia proceeded to Hampton Roads to take part in the bombing tests on U-117. Steaming from Norfolk 21 June, Harding spent the next month witnessing the important experiments that gave much valuable information on the effects of bomb explosions on warships. The tests came to a climax with the controversial sinking of ex-German battleship Ostfriesland 21 July 1921, and Harding was detached from duty 22 July.
Harding subsequently trained out of Newport and other Atlantic ports until 27 December 1921, when she arrived Charleston. Remaining there until 3 April 1922, she sailed to Philadelphia where she decommissioned 1 July 1922. Harding was sold for scrap 29 September 1936 to Schiavone-Bonomo Corp., New York City.