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

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.

USS Recruit being built on Union Square

USS Recruit being built on Union Square

Mabel Garrison and Captain Pierce

Bald Eagle and other Native Americans on the USS Recruit

Colonel Gutnrie on the USS Recruit

Mabel Garrison posing near one of the fake guns on the USS Recruit

Mabel Garrison on one of the gun turrets on the USS Recruit

Officers on the USS Recruit

Captain 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

On the Recruit

USS Recruit

Rookies on the USS Recruit

Wash day on the Recruit

Recruits on the USS Recruit

Junior Naval Scout on the USS Recruit

Norman Louis Martinson on the USS Recruit

All images: Library of Congress


Ian Harvey

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