USS New York (BB-34): The Only US Ship to Sink a German U-boat In WWI

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The USS New York (BB-34) was a US Navy battleship and the lead vessel of her two-ship class. Named after the state of New York, she was designed to be the first ship to carry a 14-inch/45-caliber gun. The vessel entered service in 1914 and first actively served during the US occupation of Veracruz.

Following more than three years of operations off the east coast and in the Caribbean, she set sail across the Atlantic to join the British Grand Fleet in December 1917. With the fleet, she acted as the flagship of US battleships in the 6th Battle Squadron for the remainder of World War I.

Accidental collision

It was during an escort mission that the USS New York first came into contact with a German U-boat. As she led a fleet of battleships into the Pentland Firth on October 14, 1918, she was badly damaged by an underwater collision. Two blades broke off of one of the vessel’s propellors, significantly reducing her speed, and there was damage to the starboard side.

New York‘s commanders opined that the depth of the channel omitted the notion that she may have collided with a shipwreck, and instead concluded she must have hit a submerged U-boat. Given the damage the vessel had suffered, her commanders also concluded that the collision would have been fatal, marking it the only time a German vessel was sunk by Battleship Division Nine during their service with the Grand Fleet.

USS New York at sea
USS New York (BB-34). (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Following the war, it was suggested the German craft was either the SM UB-113 or SM UB-123. However, both suggestions were debunked, as the UB-113 was sunk by a French gunboat in the Gulf of Gascony, while the UB-123 sank in the North Sea Mine Barrage five days after the collision.

The USS New York was also present for one of the most dramatic moments of the war, in which the German High Seas Fleet surrendered in the Firth of Forth on November 21, 1918, just days after the Armistice was signed.

The USS New York during the interwar period

By 1919, the USS New York had transited from the Panama Canal to the Pacific, where she was stationed for the next decade-and-a-half. It was during this time that she underwent some serious modernization. Between 1925 and 1927, she received new oil-fired boilers, heavier deck armor, anti-torpedo bulges on her hull sides and up-to-date gunfire control mechanisms.

The USS New York at sea
The USS New York (BB-34) during the Grand Naval Review, May 1937. (Photo Credit: Harley Flowers / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

By the mid-1930s, New York was transferred to the Atlantic, stopping in England and becoming the US representative to the British Coronation Grand Naval Review. She remained actively employed as a training ship until she was employed in the Second World War.

World War II contributions

The USS New York was part of Neutrality Patrol operations in the Atlantic at the opening of WWII. As the US drew closer to conflict in 1941, she was employed to help the Allied Occupation of Iceland and in escorting convoys. When America became a combatant in the war, she continued her convoy activities.

USS New York at sea
The USS New York (BB-34) arriving in New York City as part of Navy Day celebrations, October 1945. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

In November 1942, New York participated in the Allied invasion of North Africa and provided gunfire support for the landings at Safi harbor in Morocco. She also spent 1943 and most of 1944 conducting escort and training duties.

In February 1945, the vessel was active during the Battle of Iwo Jima, with her guns used for artillery support and shore bombardment. She was then deployed off the coast of Okinawa for similar purposes. During the Battle of Okinawa, New York suffered slight damage from a kamikaze plane on April 14, 1945.

The USS New York sinking
The USS New York (BB-34) being sunk as a target off the coast of Hawaii, 1948. (Photo Credit: Naval History and Heritage Command / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Following the end of the conflict, New York participated in Operation Magic Carpet, transporting troops back to the US, after which she participated in Navy Day celebrations in New York City.

New York‘s last activity was as a target during atomic bomb tests in the Bikini Atoll in 1946. These tests (Able and Baker) caused her to become far too radioactive. This, along with her age, led the Navy to decommission the vessel, after which she was towed out to sea and sunk off the coast of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.