The Battleship of Union Square: How a 200ft Wooden ‘Destroyer’ Got Recruits To Join the Navy

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The destroyer USS Recruit docked at Manhattan’s Union Square in 1917, but was in fact a wooden replica that was used as a recruitment drive to encourage civilians to join the US Navy.

According to the New York Times at the time, the USS Recruit had ensured that more than 25,000 civilians signed up to join the US Navy. The ship was put up in Union Square in 1917 when the US joined World War One. It was on the square for three years, after which it was dismantled and transported to another location.


The ship had a crew of eighty men who all attended its dismantlement and they even had a military band to lower the ship’s flag.

The destroyer became an icon of the US’s effort during World War One and was set to be rebuilt as a permanent recruitment office for the US Navy at Coney Island in Brooklyn. However, it never reached its destination and was never resurrected,.

No one knows what then happened to the USS recruit.

17782822499_782e1afc0a_bUSS Recruit being built on Union Square

17781203618_544e2e06e5_bUSS Recruit being built on Union Square

20750499202_0d934e578c_bMabel Garrison and Captain Pierce

21320908465_cc03c5a516_bBald Eagle and other Native Americans on the USS Recruit

20759906545_261f8f750b_bColonel Gutnrie on the USS Recruit

20750497092_8bff27aa69_bMabel Garrison posing near one of the fake guns on the USS Recruit

20571902188_11705b0326_bMabel Garrison on one of the gun turrets on the USS Recruit

19850949442_7fa2073ef0_bOfficers on the USS Recruit

19335682441_607ae9267c_bCaptain C. F. Pierce, Lt W.P. Vickerman, Assist Surg J.J. Kaveny, Com C. Adams, Lt. Com. T.N Taylorm Lt. C McKinney, Assist P.M. Wells Hawkes, Assist Surg R.H. Jenkins

18552267738_2c2fa3f7ba_bOn the Recruit

18552273548_cc834d1c65_bUSS Recruit

18554734614_f266fc8d0a_bRookies on the USS Recruit

18556620423_1825cd057a_bWash day on the Recruit

19144118088_ffed3d695f_bRecruits on the USS Recruit

19331730955_dce4eeb39a_bJunior Naval Scout on the USS Recruit

19331732665_eb03b56785_bNorman Louis Martinson on the USS Recruit 17500889588_f21a2406d0_b 17615461613_ceae774052_b

All images: Library of Congress


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE