The Cost of Contempt: The Loss of the USS Milwaukee

The USS Milwaukee on Samoa beach with local rescue boat. Photo from Humboldt County Historical Society

The USS Milwaukee on Samoa beach with local rescue boat. Photo from Humboldt County Historical Society

Humboldt County Historical Society

EUREKA – Savannah Smith presents “The Cost of Contempt: The Loss of the USS Milwaukee” at the Humboldt County Historical Society program meeting on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m., in the first-floor conference room of the Humboldt County Library, 1313 Third Street, Eureka. Admission is free and everyone is invited.

The ruins of the USS Milwaukee can still be seen on Samoa beach at low tide, and its tale has often been told. Now, newly declassified documents from the Department of the Navy reveal the story in a new light, as presented in this program by Savannah Smith.

The 10,000-ton first class navy cruiser USS Milwaukee ran aground on Samoa beach in January 1917 while trying to rescue the already grounded submarine H-3. The dual disaster was the greatest naval blunder on the West Coast to that date.

The Navy scheme to rescue the beached H-3 with the USS Milwaukee was pursued in spite of the local bid by Mercer Fraser – accustomed to moving logs of greater size and heft than the H-3 – to haul the submarine over the peninsula and relaunch her in Humboldt Bay. With naval Lieutenant William F. Newton insisting that an overland attempt be tried only as a last resort, the Navy rejected Mercer Fraser’s $18,000 bid as too low to be seriously considered, and carried on with their own plans.

The disastrous outcome has been the subject of articles, reports, and discussions ever since. Using the newly declassified documents and the “Humboldt Times,” Savannah Smith explores Naval and local points of view to elucidate why the Milwaukee was stranded during its attempt to pull the beached H-3 submarine out to sea. Join Savannah Smith at the Eureka Library on Oct. 3, for the latest developments in one of Humboldt County’s best-remembered and most notorious shipwrecks. For more information contact the Humboldt County Historical Society at (707) 445-4342, or visithumboldthistory.org/.

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3 Comments

  1. Yakitarian said:

    Is part of the ship still sticking out of the sand down bt the jetty? Or is that just a random big chunk of rusting metal?

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