USS UTAH  BB-31 / AG-16

The Forgotten Ship of Pearl Harbor

Occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico - 1914

Utah began 1914 at the New York Navy Yard, but soon got underway and steamed south for Cuba for torpedo and small arms exercises. However, due to tension in Mexico, Utah sailed for southern Mexico, reaching Vera Cruz on February 16. She operated off that port until arriving in Tampico on April 9 where several hundred refugees would embark. Under the overall command of Brigadier General John J. Pershing, Utah, along with other American ships learned that a German steamship, the SS Ypiranga was bound for Vera Cruz with a cargo of arms and munitions for Dictator Victoriano Huerta. Utah began a search for the ship, but when it appeared that the shipment might be landed, the Navy took steps to take the customs house at Vera Cruz and stop the delivery. Accordingly, plans were drawn up for a landing at Vera Cruz to commence on April 21, 1914.


Utah landed her battalion of 17 officers and 367 sailors under the command of Lt. Guy W.S. Castle, as well as her Marine detachment, which formed part of the improvised "First Marine Brigade." In the ensuing fight, the men of Utah's bluejacket battalion suffered 94 casualties, but also distinguished themselves as seven were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.


Those seven included the battalion commander Lt. Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle, company commanders Ensign Oscar C. Badger and Ensign Paul F. Foster, section leaders Chief Turret Captains Niels Drustrup and Abraham Desomer, Chief Gunner George Bradley, and Boatswain's Mate Henry N. Nickerson. Utah remained at Vera Cruz for two months before being ordered back to New York in June of 1914.