Great White Fleet visited San Francisco 100 years ago
Great White Fleet visited San Francisco 100 years ago
Tuesday, May 6, 2008http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/06/BA5U10H4RC.DTL&hw=Great+White+Fleet&sn=001&sc=1000
The newspapers all said it was the grandest spectacle of the age - that great day exactly 100 years ago today when what looked like the entire United States Navy steamed through the Golden Gate, 16 battleships bristling with guns and trailing plumes of black coal smoke.
It was popularly nicknamed the Great White Fleet, sent on an around-the-world voyage by President Theodore Roosevelt, who famously liked to quote an old African proverb: "speak softly, but carry a big stick."
Perhaps a million people saw the fleet steam in the Golden Gate, and millions more saw it in South America, Australia, Japan, China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Suez, Italy, Greece and France.
The Great White Fleet was a spectacle on many levels. Sending around the world a fleet this size - those 16 battleships and dozens of escorts - had never been done before.
The ships were painted white with gilt trim to show this was a goodwill voyage. But the message was not lost on other countries, particularly Japan.
"Roosevelt's idea was to show that the United States was a power to be reckoned with," said Richard Abrams a professor of history at UC Berkeley. "He wanted to show that when it came to world power, the U.S. was in the game."
Congress had appropriated funds for half the voyage, but Roosevelt said he would send the fleet to the Pacific, and the politicians would have to put up the money if they wanted to get it back.
The Atlantic Fleet, its Navy designation since 1906, sailed from Hampton Roads, Va., in December 1907. Rear Adm. Robley D. Evans -"Fighting Bob" - a hero of the Spanish-American War, was in command.
"We are ready at the drop of a hat for a feast, a frolic or a fight," he said.
The arrival of the Great White Fleet on May 6 was also a pointed lesson for San Francisco, a city that had annoyed Roosevelt by attempting to segregate Asian students, and particularly Japanese, in separate schools.
Roosevelt summoned the city's mayor and members of the school board to the White House and read them the riot act. Later, in a message to Congress, he called the school board's action a "wicked absurdity" and the city's leaders "infernal fools."
There were two results: One was a "gentleman's agreement," in which Japan would restrict immigration to the United States, the other that the United States would not make Asians go to separate schools.
All that was forgotten when the fleet arrived in San Francisco. The hills around the Golden Gate were black with people; the San Francisco waterfront was jammed. "The largest crowd of San Franciscans ever assembled," said the San Francisco Municipal Report.
It might have been true. The number of people riding on the Transbay ferries increased by 450,000 in the first week the fleet was in town.
There were parades up Market Street and a grand ball at the Fairmont Hotel that went on for two days. The city's elite hosted the officers with dinner and theater parties. The enlisted men could visit a Naval Club House, erected in their honor. The city even put up tents in several parks where they could sleep free.
The sailors loved it. "The boys were used to the East Coast, where some bars had signs that said "no sailors allowed," said John Freeman, who has studied the history of San Francisco after the earthquake and fire.
"The city's merchants, saloons and bordellos did a land-office business," wrote Gray Brechin in "Imperial San Francisco."
Part of the fleet visited Seattle during the early summer; all the ships sailed from San Francisco on July 7.
The fleet was well received everywhere it went, particularly in Japan. It returned to Hampton Roads on Washington's Birthday, 1909. Later, Roosevelt said, the cruise was "the most important service I ever rendered for peace."
E-mail Carl Nolte at cnolte@....
This article appeared on page B - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
The Great Naval Parade Embarcadero, San Francisco, May 8, 1908.
San Francisco and the Great White Fleet
The City's Welcome.
On December 2, 1907, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution requesting the President of the United States send the fleet to San Francisco after leaving Magdalena Bay, Baja California.
It had been just a year and a half from the 1906 Earthquake and much of the City had not been rebuilt, yet San Francisco enthusiastically went to work when the city was selected as a port of call.
Committees of finance, decoration, entertainment, sight-seeing were formed. The chairman was one of San Francisco's most distinguished men, James D. Phelan.
In the Municipal Report it took 19 pages to list all of the names of individuals and business firms who made donations. Even citizens who gave 50 cents or a dollar are listed, as are firms such as the United Railroads, $5,000; DuPont Powder, $300; the Emporium, $250; the Fly Trap Restaurant $10. Donations totaled $74,000.
The report assails the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Santa Fe Railroad who refused to make a donation. Yet no other firms benefited as much by the Fleet's visit as these companies. The report uses a half page to detail the business done by the Southern Pacific as a result of the celebration. Here is just one example:
"Transbay traffic during May 5 to May 17 exceed the normal business by 450,000 passengers. The heaviest day's business was on May 6 when 186,000 passengers were taken across the Bay, showing that the day of the arrival of the fleet drew together the larges crowd of Californians ever assembled.".
The officers of the fleet were entertained at theater parties, and had two days of hotel expenses paid, and were hosted at a reception at the Ferry Building. Reception rooms were maintained at the St. Francis Hotel and the Fairmont.
The enlisted men were entertained at a cost of $19,000, including an exclusive Naval Club House, music, athletics and sightseeing.
There was a surplus at the end of the visit of $4,400 and this was used to maintain the Club House for all sailors in the future, until the funds were exhausted.
This concept could be called a forerunner of the U. S. O.
- THE GREAT WHITE FLEET. San Francisco to Hawaii. Postcards from the Myers collection ... the fleet went to Seattle, then rejoined the rest in San Francisco, and ...mars.ark.com/~camorris/gwfleet/ gwfleet1.htm - Cached
- ... detached from the fleet at San Francisco, and two others ... Carl, "Great White Fleet Visited S.F. 100 Years Ago", San Francisco Chronicle, May 6, 2008, pg. ...en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_White_Fleet - 64k - Cached
I don't believe we recognized the anniversary or highlighted it during San Francsco Fleet Week.
Leaders, Community Celebrate Great White Fleet Aboard Nassau
Story Number: NNS081015-02
Release Date: 10/15/2008 12:36:00 AM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riza Caparros, Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic
NEW YORK (NNS) -- The amphibious transport ship USS Nassau (LHA-4) visited New York City and took part in Navy Birthday, Columbus Day and Great White Fleet festivities Oct. 12, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of President Theodore Roosevelt's Great White Fleet.
During a reception on board, Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), spoke about the history of the Great White Fleet and how Roosevelt's vision of a strong Navy is still recognized and utilized today.
"Our Navy was built on great traditions," said Winter, "including humanitarian aid and building relations between our Navy and partnering navies to work together toward a common goal of maritime security."
When discussing the Great White Fleet's influence on today's Navy, Winter said America is a respected world power, with a strong Navy leading the way, and "now one hundred years later, the future of the United States as a great nation continues to depend on our continued maritime superiority."
CMDCM(AW/SW) Stanley Kopiczak, Nassau's command master chief, spoke about the event and what it means to recognize the anniversary of the Great White Fleet.
"I think the crew should be proud to have the event take place on our ship," said Kopiczak. "We remember the Great White Fleet and the humanitarian relief aid they provided to Italy. We just returned from providing humanitarian aid to our own country; we should be proud to carry on the vision of Theodore Roosevelt."
Louise Tallarini, president of Columbus Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit organization recognizing Italian-Americans and their achievements, addressed the crowd during the shipboard reception. He referenced the Great White Fleet's humanitarian relief to Italy after an earthquake devastated the city of Messina.
"We support our military, and we thank you," said Tallarini.
--- In PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com, "Phelps Hobart" <nlsac@...> wrote:
> Great White Fleet visited San Francisco 100 years ago
> Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer
> Tuesday, May 6, 2008
> The newspapers all said it was the grandest spectacle of the age - that great day exactly 100 years ago today when what looked like the entire United States Navy steamed through the Golden Gate, 16 battleships bristling with guns and trailing plumes of black coal smoke.
> It was popularly nicknamed the Great White Fleet, sent on an around-the-world voyage by President Theodore Roosevelt, who famously liked to quote an old African proverb: "speak softly, but carry a big stick."
> Perhaps a million people saw the fleet steam in the Golden Gate, and millions more saw it in South America, Australia, Japan, China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Suez, Italy, Greece and France...