Huntington I (Armored Cruiser No. 5)
A city in West Virginia.
(Armored Cruiser No. 5 : displacement 13,680; length 503'11" ; beam 69'7"; draft 24'1"; speed 22 knots; complement 829; armament 4 8-inch, 14 6-inch, 2 18-inch torpedo tubes; class Pennsylvania)
The first Huntington (Armored Cruiser No. 5) was launched as West Virginia on 18 April 1903 by Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Miss Katherine V. White; and commissioned on 23 February 1905, Captain C. H. Arnold in command.
After shakedown training, West Virginia cruised with the New York Naval Militia as a unit of the Atlantic Fleet until 30 September 1906 when she sailed for duty with the Asiatic Squadron. The ship remained with the Asiatic Squadron on training operations for two years, and after overhaul at Mare Island in 1908 joined the Pacific Fleet for similar exercises along the West Coast of the United States. During 1911 and 1912 she made a cruise with the Fleet to Hawaiian waters and in 1914 steamed on special duty off the west coast of Mexico for the protection of American interests. She remained off Mexico during the Vera Cruz crisis, and returned to Bremerton, Wash., to become a part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
West Virginia remained at Bremerton until 20 September 1916 when she again sailed to Mexico for the protection of American lives and property and to back up U.S. diplomacy. While on this service, she was renamed Huntington on 11 November to permit the assignment of her old name to a newly-authorized battleship (Battleship No. 48). After five months service off Mexico she steamed to Mare Island for the installation of catapult devices on the quarterdeck and equipment to accommodate four seaplanes on the boat deck ways.
Huntington was detached from the Reserve Force and placed in full commission on 5 April 1917. She departed Mare Island on 11 May and steamed to Pensacola, Fla., via the Panama Canal. Detached from the Pacific Fleet after her arrival in Florida on 28 May, she spent the next two months at the Naval Aeronautic Station, Pensacola, engaging in a series of important early experiments with balloons and seaplanes launched from the deck. The cruiser then sailed for Hampton Roads on 1 August and arrived New York 5 days later. There Huntington formed with a convoy of six troopships bound for France, departing on 8 September. En route, several balloon observation flights were made, and on one of these, on 17 September, the balloon was forced down by a squall and the balloonist became entangled in its rigging. Seeing the emergency, shipfitter Patrick McGunigal jumped overboard to release the pilot from the balloon basket, by then overturned and underwater. For his heroic action McGunigal was awarded World War I's first Medal of Honor. The day after the rescue the convox was turned over to American destroyers in European waters; and Huntington steamed back to Hampton Roads, arriving on 30 September.
After replenishing at Norfolk, Huntington sailed to New York on 5 October to have her catapult and seaplanes removed. She got underway on 27 October and arrived Halifax two days later to embark a high-level U.S. Commission to confer with the Allies. Presidential envoy, Colonel House; Adm. W. S. Benson; Gen. T. H. Bliss; and other dignitaries took passage in Huntington, arriving Davenport, England, on 7 November 1917, to be met by British officials. Huntington departed for New York, via Hampton Roads, arriving on 27 November.
Subsequently, the cruiser returned to the important duty of escorting convoys of troops and supplies to Europe, making nine such voyages to Europe and back between 19 February and 13 November 1918. In addition, Huntington made three coastal convoy passages from New York to Hampton Koads. She entered New York Navy Yard on 17 November 1918 for conversion to a troop transport.
Assigned to Transport Force, Atlantic Fleet, Huntington next sailed for France to bring home veterans of the European fighting. She departed New York on 17 December, arrived at Brest on 29 December, and brought over 1,700 passengers to New York on 14 January. The ship made five more voyages to France and return, bringing home nearly 12,000 troops, and terminated her last voyage at Boston on 5 July 1919. Detached from Transport Force, she was reassigned to Cruiser Force and became flagship of Flying Squadron 1 on 8 July 1919. Huntington decommissioned at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H., on 1 September 1920. She was stricken from the Navy List on 12 March 1930 and sold in accordance with the London Treaty for the reduction of naval armaments on 30 August 1930.
Huntington (CL-77), a light cruiser under construction at New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, N.J., from 1941 to 1942, was converted to a small aircraft carrier while building and was launched as Cowpens (CVL-25).