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USSSanDiego1 Eureka Times StandardThe U.S WWI Centennial Commission unveils a new memorial plaque honoring the crew of the U.S. Navy WWI heavy cruiser USS San Diego during Fleet Week New York. The plaque honors the USS San Diego, which was sunk by enemy action off the coast of New York’s Fire Island over a hundred years ago, and the six U.S. Navy sailors who were lost in the tragedy. A Blue Lake resident was among those honored. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)  

Blue Lake man who died in World War I honored in New York’s Fleet Week 

By Dan Squier
via the Eureka Times-Standard newspaper (CA) web site

The story of how a Humboldt County native’s name, alongside those of five other U.S. Navy sailors, ended up on a memorial plaque in New York City on Tuesday begins in 1918 — the final year of World War I.

In July of that year a mine laid by a German U-boat off the coast of Fire Island, New York, detonated against the hull of the USS San Diego. Within 30 minutes, the armored cruiser launched from the Union Iron Works shipyard in San Francisco in 1904 under its original name, the USS California, had flipped over and sunk beneath the Atlantic waves. The ship came to rest upside down on the seafloor.

One of the sailors who perished that summer day in 1918 was 24-year-old Blue Lake native James F. Rochat, born in 1894 to George and Catharine Rochat in Humboldt County. According to historical records from the Naval History and Heritage Command, Rochat died instantly in the explosion. The cruiser was the only capital ship the Navy lost in WWI.

“The ship was a heavy armored cruiser and it still only took 28 minutes for her to go down,” said Chris Isleib, director of public affairs for the WWI Centennial Commission, the organization that organized the commemoration of the San Diego at Fleet Week in New York City. “One of the first things the San Diego was involved in was the mission of the Navy to transport troops to Europe in convoys. In less than a year, the Americans were able to deliver nearly two million troops from our eastern shores to France. You’re talking about U-boat infested waters. The Germans had almost 400 U-boats out there.”

Read the entire article on the Eureka Times-Standard web site here:

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