Monday, October 13, 2014

100th Anniversary of the First Naval Ship to Transit the Panama Canal

"This Week in History"

October 12, 1914

Photograph courtesy of U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

On October 12, 1914, the USS Jupiter (AC-3) became the first United States Navy ship to complete the transit of the Panama Canal. Built in 1911 at the Mare Island Navy Shipyard in Vallejo, California, and launched August 14, 1912, Jupiter was originally built as a collier. A collier is a ship designed to carry coal for naval use by coal-fired warships. These bulk cargo ships were noted for their flat-bottom hulls and sturdy construction, which assisted them well in transition. They served the Navy until the invention of aircraft carrier hulls that were built for this specific task. Jupiter reported to the Pacific Fleet in Mexico on April 27, 1914. She assisted the U.S. Navy during the Veracruz crisis, remaining there until October 1914. She departed for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 10th. En route to Pennsylvania, she steamed through the Panama Canal on Columbus Day to become the first vessel to transit from west to east. From the Naval Yard in Norfolk, Virginia, she was converted into the first United States aircraft carrier to assist with conducting experiments in the new experimental phase of seaborne aviation. She was renamed USS Langley, and reclassified as a CV-1. She officially was re-commissioned on March 20, 1922.

Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On October 14, 1912, President Taft traveled to the Panama Canal for inspection aboard USS Arkansas (BB-33).  Arkansas did not transit the canal until July of 1919.  The battleship made this transit multiple times during her service in the Navy.  Like JupiterArkansas made the transition through the Panama Canal to join the war effort in the Pacific Ocean.  The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum displays an exhibit about Arkansas's service from 1912 through 1946.  Visitors can browse the museum exhibits about the battleship and missile cruiser ships named after the State of Arkansas as well as a World War II submarine, USS Razorback (SS-394).  Today, the museum honors the victories and the brave men who fought during World War II.  Come on down to North Little Rock, Arkansas, and take a tour to see the history for yourself.

Author: Nicolette Lloyd


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