Tag Archives: uss bennington

The U.S.S. Bennington—Part 2

Out & About

The U.S.S. Bennington—Part 1

After reading about the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove and discovering that it was a memorial to the USS Bennington, I went to Wikipedia to search for USS Bennington. There I discovered that another memorial to the 66 dead Bennington sailors was at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. It’s the tallest thing for miles around, including trees.

U.S.S. Bennington memorial at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego CA

U.S.S. Bennington memorial at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego CA

U.S.S. Bennington memorial at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego CA

San Diego is the only place in the nation that has two national cemeteries. The newest one, Miramar National Cemetery, was dedicated on January 30, 2010. Fort Rosecrans NC was dedicated in 1882. Further comparison: Miramar NC comprises 313 acres and Fort Rosecrans NC comprises 77½ acres. There are 101,079 graves in Fort Rosecrans NC with no more being accepted; cremated remains can still be accepted. Miramar NC, as of May 2015, had 6,845 graves (in just five years!) but can hold a total of 235,000. Let’s hope it never gets close to holding that many graves.

The USS Bennington monument is a granite obelisk 75 feet tall and dedicated to the men who lost their lives on that ship in San Diego harbor on July 21, 1905. The monument was dedicated on January 7, 1908.

Although there were 66 dead, with sources indicating that they were buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, I didn’t see 66 headstones. Further research indicates that some men later were disinterred and shipped home for burial by their families.

U.S.S. Bennington memorial at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego CA

U.S.S. Bennington memorial at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego CA

Eleven men were awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism displayed at the time of the explosion:

Edward William Boers
George F. Brock
Raymond E. Davis
John J. Clausey
Willie Cronan
Emil Fredericksen
Rade Grbitch
Frank E. Hill
Oscar Frederick Nelson
Otto Diller Schmidt
William Sidney Shacklette

A twelfth man, John Henry Turpin (1876-1962), reportedly saved three officers and twelve men by swimming them to shore one at a time. He was not among those awarded the Medal of Honor, presumably because he was African-American. Current efforts are underway to have the Navy award Turpin the Medal of Honor posthumously.

An interesting tidbit is that Turpin was a survivor of the USS Bennington disaster but also survived the USS Maine explosion in Havana, Cuba, in 1898.

I thought it would be appropriate to list the 66 dead here so that Google could index them:

Don Cameron Archer
Leroy Brewster Archer
John Calvin Barchus
Amel Bensel
Clive Wintreth Brockman
Frederick William Brown
Glenn Brownlee
Elmer Ulysses Brunson
Thomas Burke
John Leo Burns
Preston Carpenter
Robert Bartley Carr
Charles Samuel Carter
Matthew Garfield Chambers
William Isaac Cherry
George T. Clark
Michael Conway
Frank DeCurtoni
Emil Dresch
Josiah Ezell
Edward Brewster Ferguson
William Martin Fickweiler
Lyn Joseph Gauthier
Frederick John Geiss
John Goika
Walter Gilbert Grant
Lawrence Andrew Gries
Clyde Haggbloom
George Henry Hallet
Joseph Hilscher
Emil Christian Hoffman
Dwight Noble Holland
Richard Ansley House
Bert Arthur Hughes
Joseph Hunt
Andrew Kamerer
Jodie Wirt Kempton
Ward Vars Kennedy
Charles Joseph Kuntz
Charles Oliver McKeon
John McKone
H.O. Metius
Kirtley Felix Morris
Harry Mosher
Frederick James Muller
Charles Nelson
Joseph Newcombe
Peter Nieman
Bernard Joseph Olges
Stephen William Pallock
Warren Niles Parrish
Newman Kershaw Perry
Michael George Quinn
Edwin Burton Robinson
Claud Emerson Rushing
Harry Fay Saunders
Robert Lee Savage
Albert Henry Schoregge
Harry Frank Smith
William Staub
Claude Henry Stephenson
Sago Takata
Wesley Marsh Taylor
William Clyde Willson
Wilbur Washington Wright

U.S.S. Bennington by William H. Rau

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

The U.S.S. Bennington—Part 1

Out & About

One of the best things about this Internet-connected world is that I can subscribe to various sources to let me know what’s happening, what happened, and what’s going to happen.

Recently I was informed by our weekly newsmagazine, the San Diego Reader, that the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove got a new entry sign. I had never heard of the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove so I rushed right over there to explore.

Bennington Memorial oak Grove

That was not the easiest thing to do. The reason why I had never heard of it is because it’s the most difficult place to get to. Perhaps it wasn’t way back in 1905 when 66 oaks were planted in the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove, but that intersection now is a nightmare of traffic into and out of Balboa Park, into and out of a major subdivision, on and off ramps for Interstate 5, and on and off ramps for State Highway 94.

Although the grove is in Balboa Park, this is not an easily accessible area of Balboa Park because the closest place to park is a mile away in that older subdivision which also happens to have those Permit Parking Only Between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. signs. After driving around for a while, the Balboa Park ranger opened an obscure road to a parking area, and that’s where I parked. When I got back to my car a couple of hours later, every parking spot in that little parking lot was taken, and cars were circling like vultures waiting for the next car to leave.

It was a mile walk down a very busy thoroughfare, 26th Street, to get to the entrance to the grove.

Walk down to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Walk down to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

At 6:00 in the morning, one should be enjoying the fresh morning air instead of car exhaust fumes….

It was not a pleasant walk but it was the only logistically logical walk, and there were quite a few cute little bridges over the dry creek. Bridge might be too nice of a word for a couple of them.

Bridge on the walk to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bridge on the walk to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bridge on the walk to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bridge on the walk to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bridge on the walk to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bridge on the walk to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bridge on the walk to Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

I finally got to the grove. It looked like no one has done any maintenance to it in about 112 years. Poor trees.

Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

The path is well worn but in my two hours on a weekday morning, I saw no one using it, not a single person. Just me. Maybe it’s an evening path instead of a morning path….

There were billions and billions and billions of squirrels. Uh, der. Oaks…. Acorns….. Squirrels.

Squirrel in Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

Squirrel in Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

I had a staring contest with one little guy. Finally, I focused my camera on him, said “I’m going to put you on Facebook” and pushed the shutter button. Here’s what I got:

Squirrel in Bennington Memorial Oak Grove

So, what is the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove and why is it there? Why was it created? Why 66 oak trees?

The Bennington refers to the U.S.S. Bennington, Gunboat No. 4/PG-43 (picture from Wikipedia, by William H. Rau):

U.S.S. Bennington by William H. Rau

On July 21, 1905, the Bennington was rocked by a boiler explosion in San Diego that killed 66 men and injured nearly everyone else on board. A tug beached the ship to prevent her from sinking. After Bennington was refloated, the damage was deemed too extensive to repair and the ship was decommissioned in September 1905. It was sold for scrap in 1910 and served as a water barge for the Matson Line at Honolulu from 1912 to 1924 when it was scuttled off the coast of Oahu. Eleven men were awarded the Medal of Honor for “extraordinary heroism” in the aftermath of the explosion.

At the time of the explosion, a group of city officials and fraternal organizations were preparing to plant over 300 memorial trees in Balboa Park, then called City Park. They voted to add the men who died aboard the Bennington to the list. On November 30, 1905, with a ceremony to honor the dead, 66 California live oaks were put in the ground at the bottom of 26th Street.

According to my news source, “USS Bennington oak grove now on Balboa Park map” by Leorah Gavidor; San Diego Reader; April 20, 2017:

“Until recently, the grove lacked signage or explanation. Kathleen Winchester, historian for the San Diego Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, is working to put the trees on the map. When she took on the project, as part of Friends of Balboa Park’s adopt-a-plot program, the memorial did not appear on the park map. It’s on there now, where 26th meets Pershing, across from the municipal golf course.

“Enlisting the help of local Boy Scouts, Winchester set out to give the long-neglected grove a makeover. Judith Reale, another Daughter of the American Revolution and a landscape designer, donated plans. Winchester divided the work into several scout-sized projects that earned the boys their Eagle designations. Balboa Park maintenance worker Jaime Diez provided tools, materials, and equipment to do the heavy lifting.

“Improvements include a new bridge on the trail along 26th; a welcome circle of redwood logs salvaged from the maintenance yard; a gravel path (still in the works); a sturdy wooden sign facing 26th Street; and a kiosk that will list the 66 names alongside a link to a website with details about each man’s biography.

“I didn’t want to disturb this serene grove, but I wanted something more for the memorial. I want to commemorate each of the men’s contributions to their country.

“A survivor of the blast was the only black man aboard the Bennington, John Henry Turpin. Turpin was among a dozen men who worked to save the lives of fellow sailors. Eleven of the men received medals, but Turpin was not among them. Though he went on to achieve Chief Gunner’s Mate and retire from the Navy, his deed was not recognized during his lifetime.

“Winchester is petitioning the Navy to award Turpin the Medal of Honor posthumously.

“In addition to regular Balboa Park maintenance funds, money for the project came from the Daughters of the American Revolution and the scouts themselves. Any proceeds left in the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove fund will go to replacing dead trees in the grove.

“Winchester is “very happy with the City of San Diego” for adding safety features along 26th Street to complement the improvements: curbs, cones, and striping were put in to protect pedestrians using the popular trail that runs through the grove.”

I didn’t see any safety features while I was there.

This is not the final story of the U.S.S. Bennington, though. Part 2 tomorrow.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat