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|Photographed by William B. Childs, Newport, Rhode Island, while under full sail
U.S. Navy photo NH 57046
|Naval Historical Center
|Photo by The Walter Studio, Majestic Theater Building, Fulton Street, Brooklyn, New York
Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2009
Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 106627
|Library of Congress photo LC-D4-43711
|Original photo: Maunsel White
Replacement photo: Robert Hurst
|USS Aloha (SP 317)
|2 October 1917
Brooklyn Navy Yard
Photo by Burnell - Poole
National Archives photo 165WGZ-K-11
|At sea during World War I
Halftoned reproduction of an artwork by Fred S. Cozzens, 1919.
U.S. Navy photo NH 98600-KN
|Original photo: Naval Historical Center
Replacement photo: Robert Hurst
An Hawaiian word that can be taken as either a greeting or a farewell.
Aloha-a steel-hulled, single-screw, bark-rigged steam yacht— was regarded by some as the "finest thing of her kind ever built." Designed by Tams, Lemoine, and Crane, naval architects, Aloha was built in 1910 at the Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Mass., for the industrialist, railroad magnate, and inveterate yachtsman Arthur Curtiss James (1867-1941), The second ship of that name owned by "Commodore" James (the first being a brig-rigged yacht built in 1899), Aloha-manned by a comparatively large crew for a yacht, 39 people—was designed specifically for ocean cruising. James took his floating palace to England and Scotland on her maiden voyage in 1910; to Panama and Ireland in 1911; and to Egypt and the Near East during 1912 and 1913.
Apparently, the war clouds gathering over Europe precluded any cruises to that part of the world during 1914, and indeed in the years immediately following. Obviously, too, such a well designed vessel could scarcely have escaped the notice of the United States Navy after this country joined the Allied and Associated Powers in April of 1917, James turned over his ship to the Navy under a free lease on 22 April 1917.
Aloha-assigned the identification number SP-317—was commissioned on 5 June 1917, Lt. Harry R. Swift, USNRF, in command. This unique vessel soon came to draw unique duty, as flagship for Rear Admiral Cameron McRae Winslow, Inspector of Naval Districts, East Coast.
Unfortunately, records of her movements during-1917 are not extant, but deck logs chronicling her movements from January 1918 to January 1919 do exist.
On the New Year's morning, while Aloha lay moored at the Norfolk Navy yard, Portsmouth, Va., a fire broke out in downtown Norfolk which quickly spread to engulf almost two city blocks. The city's civil authorities soon requested help from the Navy, which dispatched men from the naval base and ships nearby. Aloha contributed 12 men under a Chief Boatswain's Mate Whalton to the efforts that ultimately succeeded in bringing the stubborn blaze under control. The civil government, fearing incendiaries," or German agents, suggested that naval guards were required as well. Aloha sent a detachment of 15 sailors under Ensign Hall, USNRF, the next morning as the Navy placed Norfolk briefly under martial law in the wake of the $2,000,000 blaze. They remained ashore only a short time before returning to their ship shortly before noon on 2 January.
Aloha remained at Norfolk until 23 February, when she got underway with Admiral Winslow embarked. She reached Key West, Fla., five days later. Over the next few months, Aloha touched at ports along the lower eastern seaboard and on the Gulf Coast, ranging from Key West and Pensacola to Galveston and New Orleans. Admiral Winslow, usually accompanied by his aide, Ens. Ackert, USNRF, and Chief Yeoman Timmermann, conducted inspections of the Coastal Air Station and Naval Reserve Training Camp, Miami; the New Orleans Naval Station; the naval defenses of Tampa, Fla.; the naval station and shipyards at Jacksonville, Fla.; and the training camp at Charleston, S.C., before staying at Charleston, S.C, from 15 April to 17 May 1918 while undergoing voyage repairs.
Aloha shifted to Hampton Roads on 20 May, where Admiral Winslow inspected the training camp at Hampton Roads Naval Base. Two days later, while she lay anchored in Hampton Roads, a lighthouse tender hailed the yacht and asked if Aloha could care for an aviator she had picked up "who had met (with an) accident." Fortunately, the pilot proved to be uninjured, so he was sent to the Naval Aviation Base by motor launch.
The yacht spent the remainder of the month in the Tidewater area before she sailed for points north. Aloha transferred Admiral Winslow to SP-549 on 1 June so he could inspect the Naval Base Lewes, Del., but he returned on board that afternoon.
Aloha then coaled at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 3 June before returning to Hampton Roads, via Lewes, on the 8th of that month. The yacht then cruised in the Hampton Roads, Chesapeake Bay area for the balance of June before heading north for New York, where, on 6 July 1918, Capt. H. D. Hinckley, USCG, relieved Lt. Swift as commanding officer.
Aloha spent much of the summer in waters off the northeastern seaboard, at Port Jefferson, New London, Conn.; Newport, R.I.; Machias and Boothbay, Maine; Portsmouth, N.H.; and Gloucester, Mass., before arriving at the Boston Navy Yard for a major refit on 27 August. During this period of repairs and alterations, which lasted through September and October, the ship received additional armament in the form of two 4-inch guns.
After departing the Boston Navy Yard on 5 November 1918 Aloha spent much of the ensuing passage to Shelburne, Nova Scotia, under sail and arrived at that port two days later. Returning to Boston on 10 November, the ship was lying moored there when the armistice, ending hostilities, was signed on the 11th.
The remainder of the ship's career was spent alternately at Newport, R.I., and at New London and New Haven, in Conn. before she arrived back at New York City on 14 December shifting her berth to a point off Pier 72, East 25th St., New York City, on the next day, where she spent the ensuing holiday season.
Aloha entered the New York Navy Yard on 10 January 1919, where yard workmen removed her guns the following day. Returning to her anchorage off Pier 72, Aloha spent the next few days undergoing the initial stage of the transformation from warship to yacht: her crew cleaned the ship, shined brightwork and landed such paraphernalia as flag mess gear, chairs, and an oval table from the admiral's cabin at pier 72. Finally, the metamorphosis was almost complete on 29 January 1919, when the crew mustered aft, and Capt. Hinckley read the orders from the commandant, 3d Naval District, putting the ship out of commission. Down came the admiral's flag (Rear Admiral Winslow had maintained Aloha as his flagship to the very last moment) and the colors, and a representative of Commodore James signed a receipt for the vessel.
Over the ensuing months, the Commodore's men reconditioned the erstwhile flagship, refitting her back to pre-war splendor and preparing her for her owner's next voyage. During 1921 and 1922, James took his pride and joy around the world, in 1925 Aloha cruised the Mediterranean, in 1927 she went to England the Baltic, and Holland; and in 1930, again to the Mediterranean. Aloha even appeared at New York during the Presidential review, in May 1934, an occurrence noted humorously by Capt. Rufus F. Zogbaum, then commanding Saratoga (CV-3), in his autobiography—From Sail to Saratoga: "Aloha came close aboard . . . I thought I should send them a signal of greeting. We turned all available apparatus on her but there was no one on board the yacht who could read our blinker signals. I could almost hear the Commodore storming up and down on his deck shouting to his Norwegian yacht captain, "What is she saying? What—can't you read it?"
Ultimately, this fine and famous yacht, the only one of her size afloat rigged in that manner, served faithfully until she was broken up for scrap in 1938.
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