Fear the Mighty Hippocampus!

Official caption: “Hippocampus, U.S. Motor Boat, 1913, photographed prior to World War I with a rowing boat and several model sailing boats in the foreground.”

The original print is in National Archives Record Group 19-LCM. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 101822

Named for the humble sea horse, Hippocampus was a 55-foot gasoline powerboat built by the New York Yacht Launch & Engine Co. of Morris Heights in 1912 for one James F. Porter, of Chicago.

On 21 June 1917– 105 years ago today– she was leased to the Navy and before the week was out was commissioned as USS Hippocampus (S. P. 654) at Rockland, Maine, BMC F. L. Greene in command.

Hippocampus plans by her builder, New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Company, Morris Heights, New York. This craft served from 1917 to 1919 as USS Hippocampus (SP-654). NH 101821

Capable of just 11 knots, she was armed with a single 1-pounder 37mm pop gun and assigned to the First Naval District, served as a harbor patrol craft at the harbor entrance at Rockland and in Penobscot Bay during the Great War.

Hippocampus decommissioned on 30 November 1918 and was returned to her owner on 5 April 1919, without firing a shot in anger, although Kapitänleutnant Richard Feldt’s SMS U-156 did come fairly close to Maine during his famed “Attack on Orleans.”

Halftone reproduction of a photograph published in a contemporary publication. Handwritten notes are on the original print, which is mounted on Hippocampus’ SP data card, and reflect the compensation paid to the boat’s owner for her use by the Navy during World War I and restoration to its former condition, a total of some $1,847.85. NH 99375

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