That Time the Navy Built a Battleship in Union Square

That Time the Navy Built a Battleship in Union Square

commonly held notion that WW1 was started out of outrage over the assassination of Archduke
Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie at the hands of the Serbian nationalist secret
society known as the “Black Hand” isn’t entirely correct. In fact, the Emperor Franz Josef himself expressed
relief over the assassination because it rid him of an heir that he deeply disliked. The Emperor commented that “God will not
be mocked. A higher power had put back the order I couldn’t
maintain.” It wasn’t just the Emperor who was relieved;
it was reported by an Austrian newspaper that the general consensus among the various political
circles was that the assassination, though a tragedy, was for the best. As far as the Austrian people were concerned,
it was noted in said paper, “The event almost failed to make any impression whatever. On Sunday and Monday, the crowds in Vienna
listened to music and drank wine as if nothing had happened.” So why go to war over an assassination if
nobody cared? Because, while nobody seemed to much care
about the assassination itself, Austria-Hungary had been looking for an excuse to wage a “preventative
war” against Serbia as a state in order to weaken or destroy them so as to take back
territory in the Balkans that had been taken during the Balkan Wars. They had not taken it back up to this point
because they lacked Germany’s support; without that support, they feared Russia too much. (Russia had a treaty with Serbia.) With the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
and his wife on June of 1914, Austria-Hungary was able to secure the promise from Germany
that it would aid in a war with Serbia and possibly Russia, if Russia chose to enter
the fray. It should be noted here that Austria-Hungary
did not really expect Russia to enter the fight as they expected this to be a very small
war that would be over quickly before Russia would feel obligated to respond. Now with Germany’s support if Russia did
enter the war, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia with remarkably severe terms that
Serbia would be sure to reject, thus giving Austria-Hungary an excuse to go launch a limited
war on Serbia to reclaim territory in the Balkans. Surprisingly, Serbia responded relatively
well to the ultimatum, but they did dispute a few clauses, giving Austria-Hungary the
excuse they needed to go to war. At this point, the following general series
of events happened due to a variety of existing treaties between various nations, escalating
this minor clash into the first “Great War”. • Russia, bound by their treaty with Serbia,
decided to come to Serbia’s aid. • Germany, with the recent treaty with Austria-Hungary,
declared war on Russia. • France, bound by an existing treaty with
Russia, now was at war with Germany by association. Germany then invaded neutral Belgium to have
easy access to France. • Britain, allied with France with an existing
treaty, declared war against Germany. This was unexpected by Germany as they thought
Britain would stay out of the war due to the fact that the treaty with France was loosely
worded and not entirely binding. However, Britain also had a 75 year old treaty
with Belgium. So because of both of these treaties, they
decided to declare war on Germany. • With Britain now warring with Germany,
Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were obligated to enter the war
as well. • Japan then honored an existing treaty
with Britain and declared war on Germany. • Austria-Hungary declared war on Japan
for declaring war on Germany. This all brings us to the spring of 1917 when
the United States officially entered World War I. Short on soldiers and seamen, the military
needed volunteers. While New York City had a population of around
6.5 million at the time, it nonetheless lagged behind its goal of 2,000 recruits to the United
States Navy by under half. To get around the problem, New York City’s
Mayor, John P. Mitchel, decided that he needed a gimmick to spark young men’s interest
and convince them to volunteer for the war. What better way to draw attention to the Navy
than to construct a battleship in the middle of Union Square? Teaming up with the Navy on the project, the
Mayor’s Committee on National Defense raised approximately $10,000 (about $187,000 today)
to fund the ship and hired Jules Guerin and Donn Barber to design the appropriately named
USS Recruit, basing the design loosely on the USS Maine. With work rapidly completed by the U.S. Navy,
the USS Recruit, also known as the Landship Recruit, was built on the island of Manhattan. Construction finished for a “launch” on
May 30, 1917, with the ship being christened by Olive Mitchel, the Mayor’s wife. The wooden battleship mockup measured over
200 feet long and had a beam, or width, of 40 feet. While not actually armed for battle, the ship
featured wooden replicas of two cage masts, six 14-inch guns inside three twin turrets,
and ten 5-inch guns. It also had two 50-foot masts, an 18-foot
tall smokestack, a main bridge, and a conning tower. As you might expect, the Recruit was designed
such that it contained ample space for the job of recruiting and training sailors, with
multiple waiting rooms and physical exam rooms, complete with full amenities, as well as space
for doctors, officers, and sailors to live aboard the ship in their separate quarters. As for the latter, the initial complement
was thirty-nine sailors-in-training and their commander, Captain C.F. Pierce. The crew maintained a similar routine to the
one of a crew at sea. As reported by Popular Science Magazine in
August of 1917, “The land sailors arise at six o’clock,
scrub the decks, wash their clothes, attend instruction classes, and then stand guard
and answer questions for the remainder of the day. There is a night as well as a day guard. From sunup to eleven o’clock all lights of
the ship are turned on, including a series of searchlight projectors.” In addition to recruiting volunteers for the
Navy and training new sailors, the USS Recruit also served as a public relations tool. Citizens were invited onto the ship to learn
about then modern battleships, and the sailors aboard routinely answered the public’s questions
during their guard duty. Both patriotic and social events were also
held on the battleship with the sailors acting as hosts. One patriotic event, according to a contemporary
account from The New York Times, was the presentation of a recreation of Betsy Ross’s American
flag. Other events were just social in nature, such
as dances held for New York’s social elite. There were reportedly even Vaudeville shows
held on board. World War I ended in November of 1918 when
both Austria-Hungary and Germany agreed to an armistice while the terms of peace could
be negotiated. However, the USS Recruit continued its recruitment
mission until March of 1920. So how did it do in its goal of boosting recruitment
rates? In its approximately three year run, it helped
the Navy recruit an astounding 25,000 new sailors (enough to man the USS Maine, which
the Recruit was loosely modeled after, a whopping 45 times over). At this time, the Navy announced that it would
move the wooden battleship from Union Square to Luna Park on Coney Island and maintain
it as a recruitment site there. The New York Times described the “sailing”
of the Recruit in an article on March 17, 1920:
“Yesterday when 10 o’clock came around and with it ‘sailing time’ all of the
ceremonies were put on. The crew of eighty men lined up on the quarterdeck
and the ship was formally abandoned while the Stars and Stripes and the commissioned
pennant were hauled down. The ship’s band struck up ‘The Star-Spangled
Banner’ as the colors were lowered to the deck.” The ship was then carefully dismantled over
the course of a few days, with the pieces shipped off to Coney Island. Though The New York Times estimated that it
would take just two weeks for the Navy to complete the move of the battleship, it was
never rebuilt. Out of sight, out of mind, no contemporary
news source seems to have bothered to cover why the ship, which was supposed to be immediately
rebuilt, was not. What happened to the pieces of the dismantled
ship is also a mystery to this day. A search through the Navy archives by us for
the period in question likewise turned up nothing insightful concerning the ship’s demise. Presumably it was simply decided at the last
minute that rebuilding and maintaining the ship was an unnecessary expense given the
Navy’s recruitment needs at the time. Whatever the case, while this was the end
of the Union Square battleship, it would not be the end of the name in the U.S. Navy. The USS Recruit (AM-285) was launched in 1943
and served during WWII before being decommissioned in 1946 and ultimately sold to the Mexican
Navy in 1963. Following this, another landlocked ship was
built, the USS Recruit (TDE-1), at the San Diego Naval Training Center in 1949. Built to scale at two-thirds the size of a
Dealey-class destroyer escort, the ship was made of wood with sheet metal overlay and
was used to train tens of thousands of recruits over the coming decades. It was, however, decommissioned in 1967, funny
enough, because it could not be classified in the Navy’s new computerized registry. However, commissioned or not, it was in continuous
service from 1949 to 1997 (with a complete re-model in 1982) when the base it is on was
closed. While no longer being used, the ship still
stands, with some thought to perhaps turning it into a maritime museum at some point. Bonus Fact:
Speaking of christening ships, it turns out while today breaking a bottle of champagne
over the hull of a ship is considered tradition before launching a vessel in certain countries,
particularly Britain and the United States, people have been performing ceremonies at
launches seemingly as long as humans have made boats. Like today, this was essentially for the hope
of good fortune on the ship’s voyages. For instance, one of the earliest known references
to a similar practice when launching a ship goes all the way back about 5,000 years ago
when a Babylonian stated, “To the gods I caused oxen to be sacrificed,” before launching
a new ship he’d made. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians
also called upon their various gods to protect a new ship and her crew upon its initial launch. For example, the ancient Greeks, during their
launch festivities, would drink wine to honor the gods and pour water on the ship as a sort
of blessing. The religious aspects of ship christening
remained well into more modern times, particularly in Catholic nations. For example, there’s an account of a ship
christening by the Knights of Malta in the seventeenth century that describes two friars
boarding a new warship, praying, and sprinkling holy water all around the ship before deeming
her seaworthy and sending her out into the water. After the Protestant Reformation, kicking
off in earnest after Martin Luther’s 1517 “Ninety-Five Thesis”, certain nations
in Europe did away with some aspects of the religious part of the christening. Rather than use religious leaders for this
task, members of the monarchy or military leaders would take over the christening duties. For instance, 65 years before the aforementioned
Knights of Malta reference, in 1610, the Prince of Wales was present at the christening of
the Prince Royal. In this instance, there was a standing cup
on board the ship, which is just a large and expensive cup made of some precious metal,
usually silver. The Prince took a ceremonial sip of the wine
in the cup before throwing the rest of the contents across the deck. The cup was then thrown off the side of the
ship to be caught by a lucky observer. Late in the seventeenth century, the standing
cup ceremony was replaced with breaking a bottle of wine over the bow. This switch was in part because the cups were
extremely valuable and the British navy was growing rapidly; it just wasn’t practical
to continue to give the expensive cups away every time a ship was launched. As for the switch from wine to champagne,
it’s thought that preferences simply switched with the times. Champagne came to be seen as an “aristocratic”
choice -for a time in the nineteenth century being more popular than wine among many elite
–and, therefore, considered the best option for ship christening. The tradition of using it has stuck around
ever since in certain countries.

100 thoughts on “That Time the Navy Built a Battleship in Union Square

  1. Thanks to War Thunder for sponsoring this channel, helping us to continue to do these videos daily. Go check out War Thunder free using this link and get a premium tank or aircraft and three days of premium time as a bonus:

  2. Cha, in my city they dock actual military ships for military-public relations once a year. Perks of living in a harbor city.

  3. Christening/blessing of ship fleets still occur today all around the world. For example, Catholic influenced communities around the US Gulf of Mexico coast have blessing ceremonies of all the ships at the start of brown or white shrimp seasons to seek God's protection. This often occurs with great fanfare as each ship passes a priest on an elevated dock tossing holy water with prayers.

  4. Ayo I'm finna take my chances on my manhood and acquire a Persian rug upon which a hung aboriginal will take what he desires from moi derriere, feel me shawty?

  5. Here in Saskatoon SK. Canada, we also have a land locked commissioned Navy ship. The HMCS (Her Majesty's Cadet Ship) Unicorn. Sadly building shaped.

  6. For the first half of this, I thought maybe I was watching the white feather video again, or which ever one it was where you did the history of World War I. I almost turned it off because I thought I had already seen it and I mistake it been made. I am mainly saying this for anyone else who comes along and thinks the same thing: this does eventually get on to the topic it’s actually about.

  7. One World War got started because an Austrian was killed, another one because an Austrian wasn't killed. Damned if you do, damned if you don't!

  8. The Kingdom of Serbia didn't take territory from Austria-Hungary in the Balkan Wars. Those were directed against the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary was neutral. The Hapsburgs had no colonies, and they had intentions to colonize Serbia, or parts of it.

  9. Simon should have clarified that it was based on the USS Maine (BB-10), not the USS Maine (ACR-1) which blew up in Havana harbor, and is much more famous. BB-10 didn't really do anything particularly interesting in her service career as she was a pre-dreadnaught that had the misfortune of being launched only two years before HMS Dreadnaught, thus being obsolete almost immediately, and she wasn't used for combat in WWI.

  10. Once again you have portrayed the reaction to the assassination of the Archduke as something that many Austrians – as if that's the only population that matters – did not lament – which is partially true. But you neglect to say what segment of the population was less than unhappy. That was the ultraconservative faction who stood to lose power as Franz Ferdinand had liberalizing plans such as creating a triple-monarchy from the dual-monarchy, increasing rights of all minority populations,. etc. Who opposed these ideas? The very same people that cheered as Hitler marched into Austria during the 1938 Anschluss – you got it – the Austrian Nazis.

  11. So, what do they have over Simon that keeps him working so hard on so many projects?
    Are you safe Simon? Blink in Morse code if you need help

  12. "In 1917 the USA was short on soldiers and seamen…" and you didn’t even crack a smile. Kudos Simon, how thoroughly professional of you!

  13. As much as I love these videos, they always seem to have a "grimy old picture" overlay that gets very distracting, and distorts an otherwise clear picture. Plus, if we're already looking at hundred-year-old photos, I think we're already convinced that it happened a hundred years ago XD Please remove the overlays, they detract from the overall video.

  14. According to Star Trek, smashing bottles of champagne (Dom Pérignon 2265) on ships hulls still carries on in 2293 (old calendar).

  15. You missed the USS Desert Ship LLS-1, at the White Sands Missile Range.

    Built in 1958 to simulate a ship for missile testing, it is still in service to this day.

  16. Lol I used to play war thunder. I feel like Simon didnt play War Thunder from the beginning and just jumped in from the tier 3 game…

  17. Manhatten? Come on guys , I was just getting used to Simon’s mispronunciations now you’re throwing misspelled names in your title at me? For fuck sakes pull it together.

  18. Surprised there was no mention of the USS Rancocas (aka Cornfield Cruiser) still in use today in Southern New Jersey by the Navy.


  20. hey everyone who watches likes and subscribes these videos wouldn't be possible without war thunder talk about a back handed slap to the face

  21. The ironic part was King Ratchet was probably a gamemaster that works for the game company and was masquerading as a regular player (a rich one). Done to goad you into trying to outspend him with massive amounts of micro transactions. One reason I don't play "free" pvp games.

  22. Fortress America. WW1 and WW2 brought us the atomic bomb. "We'll fight until unconditional surrender" has turned to "Crap, that's right. They've got nuclear tipped missiles. We'll just call it a police action." A long drawn out, bankrupting, police action.

  23. Now since you've been doing live demos for sponsored games, it'd be great to see a let's play channel with Simon.

  24. Nearly clicked off this vid because it's into was way too similar to another video ya'll done. Almost verbatim.

    Its not, but.

  25. There was also a battleship "Illinois" built for the 1892 Chicago World's Fair on Lake Michigan. It was a replica of the first US battleships of the Indiana class. It was a recruiting tool like the one in New York. It also demonstrated the new electric lighting system on the real battleships. So the New York "Recruit" was the second land battleship.

  26. If I legally change my name to something like Coca-Cola or Nike and then name my company after myself can those companies still sue me over the trademarks and copyrights and win?

  27. Every time I hear (or read) about the run down of treaties and agreements that led to World War 1, I chuckle a bit and think about Russia’s defensive pact with Iran wondering if there will be a similar run down with that treaty, NATO, and various other treaties in 50+ years talking about how the third one got started.

  28. So, they couldn't fit it into their database due to not being able to classify it! How about "training vessel" you retards.

  29. It sounds like a really stupid idea but when you look at it was really quite brilliant. It must have made a really good Tourist attraction and PR tool.

  30. its funny how inflation does equal to the amount of stuff you got for your money anymore. good video for next time maybe?

  31. I know about how all this World War 1 stuff started but I've never heard someone state it so eloquently and made it so simple. The entire thing was mad.

  32. Wah! I say, Wah! You neglected its predecessor, the Battleship Illinois:

  33. Austria-Hungary, Serbia, and Russia were all in the war before Germany, yet Germany gets all the blame, despite just honoring treaties like everyone else.

  34. The interlocking treaties that existed prior to WWI cause me as an American to question the recent upsurge in nationalism in Europe. You can say we're nowhere near perfect, and you'd be right – but it doesn't change the fact that the lessons learned during WWI and WWII that support the existence of and show the need for the EU have apparently been forgotten. Hegel's quote "We learn from history that we do not learn from history" seems strangely appropriate.

  35. They decommissioned a training platform because of an oversight in the design of their database!? Why would you build a database without first taking a careful inventory of everything that it needs to contain? Apparently once the oversight was discovered it was cheaper to decommission the training platform than to rewrite the database.

  36. I do a lot of business in San Diego, and I always stay at one of the hotels at Liberty Station (the site of the former recruit training center). I look up at the Recruit and smile every time I'm out there.

  37. "The religious aspects of ship Christening remained… particularly in Catholic nations"…

    Does the "Christ" in "Christening" not refer directly to a religious figure..?

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