From All Walks of Life: Sailors of the USS Cyclops
Published: 9 June 2023
By Marvin Barrash special to the Doughboy Foundation web site
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This short production marks the 105th anniversary of the administrative date, June 14, 1918, as the date of death for all aboard the U.S.S. CYCLOPS. It also presents some background about several members of the ship's crew. In particular, those who had varied employment and careers prior to their enlistment in the U.S. Navy. All of these men perished with the ship in March 1918.
These men and many more just like them answered their country’s call and served aboard the U.S.S. Cyclops in WWI
The collier CYCLOPS was a U.S. Navy ship that fueled the fleet from 1910-1918. The term collier refers to her coal carrying capability although the ship also carried fuel oil. The CYCLOPS was a massive vessel with an overall length of 542’. Her top speed was 14.61 knots. At one time she was the largest and fastest ship in the navy.
The collier CYCLOPS was placed in-service on November 8, 1910. She was initially operated by the Naval Auxiliary Service, a component in the Bureau of Navigation. The ship’s personnel structure was similar to that of the ships in the merchant service. Typically, sailors who signed up to serve on these colliers were experienced men of the sea.
Duty on board colliers was far from attractive. The coal handling equipment and other machinery was enormous and very dangerous to operate. Coal dust was everywhere. There was no rest for the weary as electric lighting ensured that operations took place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A battleship would typically require several hundred to 1,500 tons during a coaling, but some received as much as 2,600 tons at a time. Fuel ships, such as the CYCLOPS, did not appear on recruiting posters.
The CYCLOPS was placed in commission on May 1, 1917 following the United States’ entry in the World War. The ship’s manning transitioned to a typical Navy complement. There were some veteran officers and enlisted men to lead and teach, but many of the sailors newly-assigned to the crew had never set foot on a ship prior to their wartime enlistment. They came from all walks of life; young and old; from big cities and from R.F.D.s. They were professionals, high school drop-outs, tradesmen, salesmen, a physician, mechanics and more.
The men listed below and many more just like them answered their country’s call and served aboard the U.S.S. CYCLOPS.
Burt Jacob Asper (Assistant Surgeon, Lieutenant (jg), USN)
Burt Jacob Asper (Assistant Surgeon, Lieutenant (j.g.), USN) from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania was the ship’s medical officer. Prior to receiving his naval commission Dr. Asper was appointed to the post of Assistant Physician at the City Detention Hospital of Baltimore. Later he joined the staff of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland where he studied and treated psychiatric cases. He then returned to the University of Maryland as an instructor of Clinical Pathology. He was then appointed Assistant Physician and Pathologist at Springfield State Hospital in Maryland.
Carroll Goddard Page
Carroll Goddard Page (Paymaster, USNRF) from Hyde Park, Vermont had been a non-commissioned officer in the infantry program at the University of Vermont. Prior to his naval service he was a hide buyer.
George Henry Allred
George Henry Allred (Fireman, 2C, USN) grew up on the family farm in Randleman Township, Randolph County, North Carolina. He was a railroad fireman for the Southern Railroad at High Point, North Carolina. When the naval authorities notified George Allred’s parents about unknown whereabouts of their son’s ship, Western Union contacted the Bureau of Navigation for authorization to charge an additional fifty cents delivery fee as the Allred residence was two miles in the country. The Navy agreed to pay the additional fee.
Andrew Theodore Askin
Andrew Theodore Askin (Mess Attendant, 3C, USN) was from Steelton, Pennsylvania. Prior to his U.S. Navy service, he was a porter for the Ridgeway Drug. Co., in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Fred J. Beale
Fred J. Beale (Seaman, 2C, USN) of Findlay, Ohio had worked as an automobile mechanic.
John F. Boese
John F. Boese (Fireman, 1C, USN) from Duck Creek, Wisconsin had spent all his days in that village before joining the navy. Before enlisting he was engaged in a fishing business with his brother.
Carl Eugene Clausen
Carl Eugene Clausen (Coal Passer, Oiler, USNRF) Was from Brooklyn, New York. Prior to his naval service he was employed by a ship sailmaker company.
Earnest Randolph Crammer
Earnest Randolph Crammer (Seaman, USN) from Asbury Park, New Jersey was an employee of the Central Railroad at Jersey City.
Harold Edward Dalnes
Harold Edward Dalnes (Electrician, 2C (R), USN) Prior to his U.S. Navy service, he was a telegraph operator for Western Union in his home town, Devil’s Lake, North Dakota.
Samuel Godfrey Dowdy
Samuel Godfrey Dowdy (Oiler, USNRF) of Norfolk, Virginia was employed by the Norfolk and Washington Steamboat Company and the Old Dominion Steamship Company. His father Samuel Dowdy, was the former Chief Engineer of the CYCLOPS.
Earl Grigsby (Gunner’s Mate, 2C, USN) of New Palestine, Indiana was employed as a laborer.
James Bernard Hake
James Bernard Hake (Seaman, 2C, USN) from Richmond, Virginia, was a clerk for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad.
Lewis Herburt Hardwick
Lewis Herburt Hardwick (Mess Attendant, 3C, USN) from Atlanta, Georgia, was a porter at the Pratt Laboratory prior to his second enlistment.
Rupert Asa Harrison
Rupert Asa Harrison (Yeoman, 2C, USN) of McAlester, Oklahoma, was a school teacher at Fame School in McIntosh County, Oklahoma where he taught until the United States declared war on April 6, 1917.
Lawrence Merkel (Fireman, 2C, USN) was from Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to his naval service he worked at his family’s tailor shop.
Forman Austin Mize (Seaman, 2C, USN) of Odenville, Alabama, left high school to enlist in the Navy.
Edward Scott Morgan, Jr.
Edward Scott Morgan, Jr. (Fireman, 3C, USN) of Washington D.C., was employed by The Washington Times as an advertising agent.
William Archie Pope
William Archie Pope (Fireman, 3C, USN) was Originally from Fountain City, Tennessee. Prior to his naval service, he was employed at the Brookside textile Mills in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Julian Iverson Scarlett
Julian Iverson Scarlett (Fireman, 2C, USN) from Brunswick, Georgia, was employed by a tobacco company.
Samuel Alexander Skellenger
Samuel Alexander Skellenger (Seaman, 2C, National Naval Volunteers) of Camden, Indiana was a carpenter prior to his naval service.
Francis Olney Strong
Francis Olney Strong (Fireman, 3C, USN) of Ashland, Alabama, was employed as a timekeeper with the Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company in Minnesota prior to his enlistment.
Henry Edward Thrasher
Henry Edward Thrasher (Quartermaster, 3C, USN) from Cherry Township, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, previously served on board the U.S.S. Arkansas. He originally enlisted in 1914, then reenlisted on November 8, 1917.
John Freeman Wainwright
John Freeman Wainwright (Seaman, 2C, Gun Crew, USN) of Roanoke, Virginia, had previously served in the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. In civilian life he was employed as a clerk at the VanLear Drug Co. in Roanoke.
Early in 1918, the U.S.S. CYCLOPS was tasked to perform a non-fuel mission for the United States Shipping Board. The naval collier was dispatched to transport a cargo of manganese ore from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Baltimore, Maryland. On what became her final voyage, she departed South America with more than 10,000 tons of manganese ore in her cargo holds. Manganese was an important war material. It had numerous uses in 1918 including the manufacture of dry batteries, but its principal use was in the production of high-grade steel. The propeller blades on the U.S.S. CYCLOPS were made of manganese-bronze alloy.
While manganese was not considered a dangerous in and of itself, it was far denser than the cargoes of coal that the CYCLOPS’ personnel were experienced in loading and manipulating. The Chief of the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Construction and Repair wrote that, “If no special precautions were taken to prevent shifting of cargo, it might have been possible for the heavy ore to shift to one side of the holds enough to incline the ship and submerge the deck edge, which under certain conditions of sea and weather, would have been dangerous.”
The last sighting of the ship was during her departure from an overnight layover at Barbados on March 4, 1918. The U.S.S. CYCLOPS never arrived at her destination.
The Navy Department officially gave up the U.S.S. CYCLOPS as lost on April 13, 1918; however, the ship was not officially stricken from the Navy List until June 14, 1918; 105 years ago. Also, on that date, all 309 persons who were on board the ship were declared as deceased. That included the CYCLOPS’ crew, Navy passengers, the U.S. Consul General at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (who was also a passenger), and five prisoners. You’ve met, but a few, who served on board the U.S.S. CYCLOPS, from all walks of life.