The Navy retained the name that this ship carried at the time of her being turned over to the U.S. Navy by the Yugoslavian government.
(Pre-dreadnought Battleship: displacement 14,500; length 456'0"; beam 82'0"; draft 26'6" (mean); speed 20.0 knots; complement 880; armament 4 12-inch, 8 9.4-inch, 20 3.9-inch, 6 11-pounders; 2 11-pounders (antiaircraft). 17.7-inch torpedo tubes; class Radetzky)
Zrinyi -- an Austro-Hungarian, pre-dreadnought battleship -- was laid down on 15 November 1908 at the Stabilimento Tecnico of Trieste; launched on 12 April 1910; and completed in July 1911.
During World War I, Zrinyi served with the Second Division of the Austro-Hungarian Navy's battleships and took part in the bombardment of the key seaport of Ancona, Italy, on 24 May 1915. Allied control of the Strait of Otranto, however, meant that the Austro-Hungarian Navy was, for all intent and purposes, effectively bottled up in the Adriatic. Nonetheless, their presence tied down a substantial force of Allied ships.
After the Hapsburg Empire collapsed in 1918, the Austrians wanted to turn the fleet over to the newly created state of Yugoslavia to prevent the Italians from getting their hands on the ships. The victorious Allies, however, refused to acknowledge the conversations between the Austrians and Yugoslavians and, in due course, reallocated the vessels.
Zrinyi had apparently been turned over to the Yugoslavs, for it was a Yugoslavian naval officer, Korvettenkapitan Marijan Polic who turned over the ship to representatives of the U.S. Navy at Spalato, Dalmatia, on the afternoon of 22 November 1919. Simultaneously the pre-dreadnought was commissioned and Lt. Edward E. Hazlett, Jr., assumed command. The initial American complement consisted of four officers and 174 enlisted men, the latter entirely composed of U.S. Naval Reserve Force personnel.
Zrinyi remained at anchor at Spalato for nearly a year while the negotiations that would determine her ultimate fate dragged on. Only once, in fact, did she apparently turn her engines over, and that occurred during a severe gale that struck Spalato on 9 February 1920.
On the morning of 7 November 1920, Zrinyi was decommissioned. The light cruiserChattanooga (CL-18), assisted by the destroyers Brooks (DD-232) and Hovey (DD-208), then towed her to Papaja, Italy. Under the terms of the treaties of Versailles and St. Germain, Zrinyi was ultimately turned over to the Italian government at Venice. The pre-dreadnought was later broken up for scrap.
Robert J. Cressman
12 December 2016