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Front Page » November 27, 2007 » Local News » Navy Launches Utacarbon After WWI Ends
Published 2,870 days ago

Navy Launches Utacarbon After WWI Ends

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The Utacarbon as it slid into the water of San Francisco Bay on July 31, 1919. The ship was a 10,749 ton tanker that served through World War II,

Ships of the United States Navy have been named after various things during the years.

In the early to mid part of the 20th century, battleships were named after states like Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia and many cruisers were named after cities in the country, including Indianapolis, Nashville, Montpelier and Salt Lake City.

But while warship names seem to live on in the annuals of popular history, many of the support ships that also made winning the world wars possible have faded into anonymity.

But there was a time when having any ship named after an area was a big deal. It was a matter of pride for a number of reasons.

On a Sunday afternoon in April 1919, a drive was started to select a name for a U.S. Navy ship that would spread the story of Carbon County around the world for the 27 years.

The U.S. Navy vessel, which was to carry oil and aviation fuel to various regions of the world, was to bear the name of the area in a unique way and, even when it was renamed, the Carbon connection would always be there.

World War I ended in November 1918, but the U.S. was still in a ship building frenzy, thinking of the future defense of the country. Therefore, ships that had been planned to be used against hostile powers in Europe were still being constructed.

The honor of naming a ship had been earned by the citizens of the county because more war bonds had been sold in Carbon than in any area of comparable size in the multi-state 12th federal reserve district during the Fourth Liberty Bond Drive of World War I.

When the money was raised, the government gave each locality the right to choose a name for a new naval vessel.

LDS church president Heber J. Grant stands with Margaret Horsley who reportedly christened the Utacarbon with a bottle of Colton Springs water.

The money that put Carbon into the position of selecting a name was sizable at the time, especially for a county that was often considered poor in contrast to others in the district.

During the five bond drives conducted while the U.S. was engaged in WWI, Carbon nearly doubled the "quota" of $187,000 dollars and raised more money than almost all Utah counties.

In fact, The Sun newspaper trumpeted at the time that "Carbon had saved the state of Utah from embarrassment" by being the only county in Utah to raise enough to get naming rights.

At the time of the naming competition, the U.S. Navy vessel was being built in the Alameda shipyard in northern California.

Presumably, as the contest wore on, the drive would conclude with a moniker affiliating the future oil tanker with the landlocked county in the middle of the western desert.

In the weeks preceding the meeting in which the name would be selected, officials announced that any Carbon resident could submit a name to the local "council of defense" and the entry would be considered for the honor.

Council president A.W. Horsley and secretary R.W. Crockett were named to the committee conducting the ship naming contest.

A number of rules were set down, including the U.S. War Department edict that no ship could be named after an individual.

The council meeting produced many suggestions and, for the next couple of months, people submitted entries.

The council eventually decided on Utacarbon, a name submitted by Mrs. C.H. Stevenson.

The decision came in June and the county was buzzing with what was going on as the for launching the ship approached in late July.

Articles in The News-Advocate and The Sun chronicled the upcoming event with differing approaches.

The Sun covered the entire story in a positive way, building up to the big day of launch.

The News-Advocate, on the other hand, put less in the newspaper and, once the launch was completed, claimed Utah Gov. Simon Bamberger and his friends had stolen the limelight from the county at the lauching.

The Utacarbon as it looked when it was an oil tanker for the Union Oil Company. This photo was taken in the 1930's before the ship was pressed into service by the Navy in World War II. During most of that conflict the ship was in the Russian Navy transporting aviation fuel.

Margaret Horsley was selected by the council to christen the ship as it slid into San Francisco Bay.

Local representatives traveling to the launch including defense council members, county commissioners, mayors and citizens.

As part of a statewide celebration, Utah state officials also planned to be in attendance for the christening.

It was eventually decided to use Colton Spring water to launch the vessel. A silver service with the inscription, "As Utah served in the world war, so may this serve with the Utacarbon," was to be presented to the ships's captain upon the launch.

Two special train cars of dignitaries and citizens were to leave Salt Lake for the West Coast.

California Gov. William Stephens proclaimed July 31 as Utah Day and the mayors of Oakland, Alameda and San Francisco planned to be in attendance for the launch.

The train left the station July 28 with more passengers than expected. Shortly after 3 p.m. on July 31, Horsley christened Utacarbon. Some papers reported that Horsley broke champagne or wine on the bow and Bamberger broke the water on the ship's iron. Another account said Horsley used the water while the ship's sailors broke a bottle of wine.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 1, the ship was dedicated to Utah and Carbon County by William Day, vice governor of the federal reserve bank. Gov. Bamberger accepted the honor.

One week later, motion pictures of the launching showed up in Carbon County.

A large crowd gathered Aug. 12 at the Eko Theatre to watch the show.

The 150-foot roll of film cost $20 to be shipped from New York and Utah Fuel Company made the arrangements to secure the footage. In the end, the county paid for the costs.

The film went to Sunnyside the next day, then to Castle Gate, Spring Canyon and Helper.The ship was off and sailing. But Utacarbon's road would be rocky as the ship passed through the Great Depression into World War II and then to a uncermonius demise in 1946 near Mobile, Ala.

Editors note: Today's article is the first of a two part series about the Utacarbon.

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