Naval History and Heritage Command

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Wasp VII (Armed Yacht)


Any of numerous winged hymenopterus insects possessing smooth, slender bodies, and an abdomen attached by a narrow stalk. They have well developed wings, biting mouthparts, and often administer painful stings.


(Armed Yacht: displacement 630; length 180'0" (waterline) ; beam 23'0"; draft 12'0" (mean); speed 16.5 knots; complement 55; armament 4 6-poujnders, 2 Colt machine guns)

Columbia, a steam yacht built in 1898 at Philadelphia by William Cramp & Sons, was acquired by the Navy from Mr. J. H. Ladew; renamed Wasp; and commissioned at New York on 11 April 1898, Lt. Aaron Ward in command.

The converted yacht departed New York on 26 April 1898 and headed south for duty blockading Cuba. She stopped at Key West, Fla., from 1 to 7 May and arrived off Havana on the latter day. From there, she moved west along the northern coast to Bahia Honda, also arriving there on the 7th. On 12 May, while cruising on blockade station off the Cuban coast between Havana and Bahia Honda, Wasp joined a small convoy escorted by the revenue cutter Manning and made up of the merchantman Gussie and the tugs Triton and Dewey. Gussie carried two companies of Army troops scheduled to land at Bahia Honda while Triton and Dewey carried representatives of the press.

Just before 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, some of the soldiers from Gussie went ashore near Cabanas, purportedly the first American troops to land on Cuban soil. They formed a skirmish line and started their advance through dense underbrush. At about 3:15 p.m., Spanish forces counterattacked the American troops and opened fire on the ships in the bay. Wasp returned fire with her port side six-pounders, carefully avoiding the area occupied by friendly forces. At that point, she received word that the 100 or so soldiers fighting ashore were heavily outnumbered and outflanked to the west. The only course of action open to them was to disengage and reembark in Gussie. During that operation, Wasp joined Manning and recently arrived dispatch vessel Dolphin in providing covering gunfire for the evacuation. When another landing, scheduled for the following day, did not occur, Wasp lobbed a few shells at an adobe watchtower from which Spanish riflemen had taken the ships under fire, and then she resumed her patrol station off the coast.

Two days later, the converted yacht departed the Cuban coast to return to Florida. She arrived at Key West that same day and remained in the Keys, either at Key West or Sand Key, almost until the end of May 1898. Wasp returned to the blockade, at Cienfuegos, briefly on the 29th but was back at Key West on the 31st. During June, the yacht moved from blockade station to blockade station, returning periodically to the Florida Keys for necessities. From 9 to 11 June, she stood off Havana. After a three-day return to Key West, Wasp took station off the southeastern coast of Cuba on 20 June patrolling between Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo Bay.

At the beginning of July 1898, she paid a five-day visit to Key West, returning to the Santiago area again on 10 July. On the 19th, the converted yacht cleared Guantanamo Bay for Nipe Bay on Cuba's northeastern coast. She arrived at Nipe Bay late on the morning of the 21st and, on orders to reconnoiter the bay in company with the tug Leyden, started in toward Port Nipe. Upon entering, Wasp sighted a Spanish warship at anchor some four miles up the bay. She fired several shots at the signal station located at the entrance; then sped forward to engage the enemy ship. At 12:44 p.m., the Spanish ship opened fire at extreme range, and Wasp returned fire immediately. Leyden, followed by Annapolis and Topeka, quickly joined in. As the range decreased, American gunfire became more accurate, and all four ships began scoring telling hits on the enemy. Finally, at 1:12 p.m., the Spaniard's colors disappeared. Wasp and her three colleagues ceased fire and watched their quarry, the cruiser Don Jorge Juan, sink at 1:42.p.m,. After making a complete reconnaissance of the southern and western portions of the bay, Wasp anchored there for the night.

On 23 July 1898, the ship departed Cuba, bound for Puerto Rico, and arrived off Fajardo that same day. For the next seven weeks, she cruised the coasts of Puerto Rico in company with armed merchant cruiser Dixie, gunboat Annapolis, and armed yacht Gloucester. Throughout the entire period, only one noteworthy event occurred. On 27 July, the four ships encountered three Spanish brigantines at Ponce but evaluated them as too insignificant even to take as prizes. On 8 September, Wasp departed San Juan to return to the United States. After a five-day stop at Charleston, she continued her voyage north on the 18th and entered the Norfolk Navy Yard on the 21st. On 27 September, she was decommissioned there and laid up.

On 15 December 1898, the yacht was loaned to the Florida Naval Militia for training purposes. That tour of duty lasted until 21 June 1899 at which time she was returned to the Navy. She resumed her retirement to serve as station ship at Port Royal, S.C. In July 1902, she returned to Norfolk to be decommissioned once again on the 23rd.

However, on 2 October 1902, she went into commission again and received orders to the Eighth Naval District. During her service there as a district tender, she made infrequent cruises in the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies. In 1906, she moved from the Gulf of Mexico to Newport, R.I., for a tour of duty at the Naval Torpedo Station. In 1907, she visited east coast, gulf, and Mississippi River ports during a cruise to spur enlistments in the Navy. The following year, Wasp began a nine-year assignment, again training naval militiamen, this time on loan to the New York Naval Militia.

That duty ended early in 1917, as the U.S. moved closer to war. On 7 April, the day after the American declaration of war on the German Empire, she began patrolling the coast of Long Island. Throughout the first year of the conflict, the yacht cruised the coastal waters of the Third Naval District as a unit of, and later as flagship for, Squadron 8, Patrol Force. In April 1918, Wasp received orders detaching her from the Third Naval District and assigning her to duty at Annapolis, Md. She arrived there on 9 May and, but for periodic runs to Norfolk, remained there for the remainder of her naval career. Stricken from the Navy list on 13 November 1919, Wasp was formally decommissioned at Norfolk on 1 December 1919. On 20 September 1921, she was sold to Mr. Halsted P. Layton of Georgetown, Delaware.


(S.P. 1159: length 40'0"; beam 9'0"; draft 2'9"  (mean); speed 12.0 knots; complement 5; armament 1 1-pounder)

Wasp, a steel-hulled motorboat built in 1910 at the Superior Shipbuilding Co., was owned by W. S. Pattison of Duluth, Minn., in 1917, when the Navy inspected the ship, in the Ninth Naval District, for possible service. She was assigned the classification S.P. 1159 but was never listed in the Naval Vessel Register. However, records indicate that Wasp was acquired by the Navy on a free-lease basis on 29 June 1917 and was used as a patrol craft by the Ninth Naval District. She operated on the Great Lakes until returned to her owner on 3 November 1917.

Published: Tue Aug 03 12:13:14 EDT 2021