Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Aboard the USS North Carolina (ACR-12)

Recently, I contacted an member, who had several obituaries attached to his family tree  which were written about the descendants of Leroy P. Jennings, my great grandfather's first cousin. We emailed back and forth and have spoken by telephone, sharing our information about the Jennings family.

His grandfather was James Henly Jennings, the oldest son of Leroy and his second wife, Sarah Ellen Clements, and Leroy's first child born in Texas. James was born on 12 October 1886 in Lorena, Texas, and married Mary Hanna Tellaro on 14 May 1909. The newspaper article about the marriage stated James was a prominent rice planter from Lissie and Mary was a daughter of Italian immigrants who settled in Chesterville. The next year James was still growing rice on a farm he rented in Lissie but in 1911, he and Mary had moved to Houston where James worked for Dickson Car Wheel Company.

When James registered for the World War I draft on 5 June 1917, he continued to work for Dickson Car Wheel Company as a wheel moulder and he and Mary had two children. He claimed an exemption from the draft due to his dependents. The government must not have agreed, however, because when his father's obituary was published in 1919, James was in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS North Carolina. When the 1920 census was enumerated James and his family were back in Houston. So I know he served on the ship for some period of time between 5 June 1917 and 12 January 1920.

Official U.S. Navy photograph of the USS North Carolina (ACR-12); courtesy
of NavSource

The USS North Carolina (ACR-12) was a Tennessee-class armored cruised built in 1905 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company. She was launched on 6 October 1906 by Rebekah Glenn, a daughter of the governor of North Carolina, and commissioned on 7 May 1908. During World War I, she became the first ship to launch a plane by catapult while underway.

Using a catapult to launch a sea plane in 1916; photograph courtesy of

I contacted the curator of the USS Battleship North Carolina (BB-55) archive and asked about the World War I service of her predecessor, the armored cruiser ACR-12. She told me the following information about the ship's service:

When the U.S. entered the war, the USS North Carolina (ACR-12) was assigned to the Cruiser and Transport Force and began escorting ships across the Atlantic in July 1917. Her home port was New York City. She made nine trips across the Atlantic Ocean, covering 60,000 miles and safely escorting 61 troop transport ships to the French coast. From December 1918 to July 1919 she ferried the American Expeditionary Forces home from Europe. Overall, she brought nearly 9,000 men home.

USS North Carolina (BB-55) archives include muster rolls for March and September 1919. James Henly Jennings did not appear on those rolls. However, they do not have rolls for July 1919, so it is possible he was onboard at that time.  In July 1919, the archive curator told me she was detached from the transport force and ordered to the Pacific. She went into reduced commission at Bremerton, Washington.  In July 1920 she was renamed Charlotte (CA-12) so that her name could be used for a new battleship. She was decommissioned in 1921.

10 October 2015 Update: One of my fellow Jennings researchers discovered that it was not James Henly Jennings who served on the USS North Carolina, but rather his brother, Leroy Carrington Jennings, Sr. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1917 to 1919. He played in the ship's band. The source of the confusion was his father's obituary, which was published in the Tulia Herald on 4 July 1919. The paragraph that confused me:

"He is survived by his widow and 17 children and all except three were at his bedside when the end came. They are as follows: O. W. [Oscar William] Jennings, Peoria, Ariz.; Mrs. M. E. [Minnie Etta] Henry, Broaddus, Texas; E. W. [Edgar Willis] Jennings, Lufkin, Texas; H. L. [Harry Lee] Jennings, Ontario, Cal.; C. M. [Charles Marion] Jennings, Palestine, Texas; Mrs. R. B. [Rosa Bell] Key, Tulia, Texas; A. H. [Archie Herbert] Jennings, Louisville, Colo.; Mrs. E. H. [Cora Jane, married to cousin, Edward Henry] Jennings, Jacksonville, Texas; J. H. [James Henly] Jennings, United States cruiser North Carolina; Mrs. H. L. [Hilda Lillian] Stevens, H. M. [Henry Meriwether] Jennings, Jennie, Clarence, Bernardine, Lucille, and Leona Jennings, all of this city."

What I didn't catch was that son, Leroy Carrington Jennings, Sr., was omitted from the list of survivors. Since they are in age order, he should have been listed between James Henly and Hilda Lillian. Leroy, or Roy as he was called, was the one serving on the USS North Carolina. James Henly Jennings lived in Houston and worked for the Dickson Car Wheel Company as a wheel moulder during the war. He had a wife and two children at the time he registered for the World War I draft.

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