Aug 19, 2020

The Tale of The USS Milwaukee and the Sub USS H3

I restore and research old local historical photos for my job sometimes and this is one of my favorite stories.  I'd heard of wreckage of an old ship that's visible at low tide on a beach near here and found out it was the USS Milwaukee but really didn't know much about why it was here or how it sank.  The entrance to the bay here is known historically to be dangerous and difficult to navigate so hearing about a wreck wasn't surprising.  I chalked the Milwaukee up to just another victim of Humboldt bay until I found an old photo of a submarine propped up on redwood logs on the beach.  When I did some digging I learned all about the Submarine USS H3 and how the USS Milwaukee got stuck here all those years ago.

The original H3 photo I found. 
 

USS Milwaukee sanded in the surf.  Rescue crew on the beach.
 

 Long story short, in 1916 the sub got stuck coming into the bay, the Navy asked for bids to saving it.  A huge company offered to tow it but wanted too much money, a local company had a very low bid to roll it on logs across the sand but the navy turned both down because one was too expensive and one was too crazy.  They brought in the Milwaukee to pull it out but it too got stuck.  They ended up letting the local company try and they succeeded.  The H3 was repaired and was decommissioned in 1930.  The Milwaukee of course is still stuck in the sand.

I was so smitten by what I had learned I wrote some lyrics for my band.  We were trying to turn it into a proper song but then Covid-19 hit and like most musicians we've sort of been on standby.   

Here's my song (poem?) 

"Old Milwaukee"

This is the tale of Old Milwaukee
It has maybe crossed your ears
It's not about the city, it's not about the beer.

Let me tell the story
About a stranded submarine.
And an old ship wreck's rusty bones
that you might have seen.

It all started with The Sub H3
She ran aground in 1916
Some had tried to tow her out
But she could not be freed

The Navy did ask for help so we stepped right up and others too.
While others simply cost too much they said our methods wouldn't do.

They said that we were crazy, they said it can't be done.
So they sent out old Milwaukee to tow that stranded sub.

Old Milwaukee sailed here then she ran aground
Right there off the jetty where the waves did pound and pound.

The storm came in and gave her quite a tear
And the mighty Old Milwaukee was now beyond repair.

With old Milwaukee down and out the navy now agreed, to let us locals have a try with our ropes and trees.

With Old Milwaukee in the sand
We rolled that sub right over land
On Redwood logs under skies of gray
We put that sub back in the bay.

We patched her up and said goodbye
The sky was clear, the tide was high
She sailed the coast like the years before
And she sailed for many more!

But what about Old Milwaukee?
Of mighty Cruiser class
Been stuck there for 100 years
and picked apart for scrap.

Old Milwaukee!
Sailed the Pacific blue
Till she tried to enter Humboldt bay
For a job she couldn't do!

 Since the place I work stopped doing regular jobs, we've started a weekly series in the local news magazine and I was happy to put together this page, featuring the photo of the H3 I'd found a couple years ago as the first one. Check out the NorthCoast Journal E-edition and see other installments of the History Ad Series.  (look on page 5)

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