The mighty, if hard to see, last hurrah of the Silver State monitor, 101 years ago today
Here we see the Arkansas-class monitor USS Tonopah, Monitor #8, in her submarine tender role, sporting a complex geometric “dazzle” camouflage at Boston Navy Yard, 21 December 1917.
This image was taken just before she set out for the Azores in February 1918 to shepherd the early submarines K-1, K-2, K-3, K-5, and E-1 along with a host of wooden submarine chasers and armed yachts operating out of that near-Europe strategic crossroads in the last nine months of the Great War.
This was the pinnacle of monitor development by the U.S. Navy, able to float in 12 feet of water yet packing a pair of 12″/40cal Mark 3 guns and as much as 11-inches of Harvey Armor. However, they were slow (12kts), poor sea boats, and had short legs, which meant they would never be any good in a fleet engagement but could serve well as coastal defense boats.
This relegated these craft to sideline support missions as tenders for equally maligned early submarines as their names were taken from them to be given to “real” battleships. You see Tonopah had originally been laid down as USS Connecticut, 17 April 1899, then commissioned as Nevada in 1903 when the former name was recycled for use on BB-18. In 1909, she picked up the monicker Tonopah, after the small Nevada town, when that state name was set aside for BB-36.
Post-war, Tonopah (ex-Connecticut, ex-Nevada) was decommissioned at Philadelphia, on 1 July 1920 and sold for scrap two years later, aged just 19 years.