Great White Fleet: USS Ohio (BB-12)

USS Ohio (BB-12). Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Ohio (BB-12) was a Maine-class battleship that served with the US Navy from 1904 to 1922. The first warship named for the state since the ship-of-the-line USS Ohio that had been launched in 1820, the new battleship represented an improved version of the earlier Illinois-class. Built in San Francisco, Ohio joined the fleet and saw immediate service in the Far East. Transferring to the Atlantic in 1907, it joined the Great White Fleet for its cruise around the world. Ohio was modernized in 1909 and later supported American operations in Mexico. Though briefly decommissioned, it returned to active duty with the US entry into World War I. Fulfilling a training role during the conflict, Ohio was placed in reserve in 1919 before being removed from the fleet three years later. 


Approved on May 4, 1898, the Maine-class of battleship was meant to be an evolution of USS Iowa (BB-4) which entered service in June 1897 as well as the more recent Illinois-class. As such, the new battleships were to be of a sea-going design rather than the coastal configuration used in the Indiana- and Kearsarge-classes. Initially designed to mount four 13"/35 cal. guns in two twin turrets, the design of the new class changed under the guidance of Rear Admiral George W. Melville and more powerful 12"/40 cal. guns were selected instead. This main battery was supported by sixteen 6" guns, six 3" guns, eight 3-pdr guns, and six 1-pdr guns. While the first designs called for using Krupp Cemented armor, the US Navy later decided to utilize Harvey armor which had been employed on earlier battleships.


Designated USS Maine (BB-10), the lead ship of the class became the first to carry the name since the armored cruiser whose loss helped incite the Spanish-American War. This was followed by USS Ohio (BB-12) which was laid down on April 22, 1899 at Union Iron Works in San Francisco. Ohio was the only member of the Maine-class to be built on the West Coast. On May 18, 1901, Ohio slid down the ways with Helen Deschler, a relative of Ohio Governor George K. Nash, acting as sponsor. In addition, the ceremony was attended by President William McKinley. Over three years later, on October 4, 1904, the battleship entered commission with Captain Leavitt C. Logan in command.

USS Ohio (BB-12) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: Union Iron Works
  • Laid Down: April 22, 1899
  • Launched: May 18, 1901
  • Commissioned: October 4, 1904
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, 1923


  • Displacement: 12,723 tons
  • Length: 393 ft., 10 in.
  • Beam: 72 ft., 3 in.
  • Draft: 23 ft., 10 in.
  • Speed: 18 knots
  • Complement: 561 men


  • 4 × 12 in. guns
  • 16 × 6 in. guns
  • 6 × 3 in. guns
  • 8 × 3-pounder guns
  • 6 × 1-pounder guns
  • 2 × .30 in machine guns
  • 2 × 18 in. torpedo tubes

Early Career

As the United States' newest battleship in the Pacific, Ohio received orders to steam west to serve as flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. Departing San Francisco on April 1, 1905, the battleship carried Secretary of War William H. Taft and Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, on an inspection tour of the Far East. Completing this duty, Ohio remained in the region and operated off Japan, China, and the Philippines. Among the ship's crew at this time was Midshipman Chester W. Nimitz who would later lead the US Pacific Fleet to victory over Japan in World War II. With the end of its tour of duty in 1907, Ohio returned to the United States and transferred to the East Coast.

Great White Fleet

In 1906, Roosevelt became increasingly worried regarding the US Navy's lack of strength in the Pacific due to the growing threat posed by the Japanese. To impress upon Japan that the United States could move its main battle fleet to the Pacific with ease, he began planning a world cruise of the nation's battleships. Dubbed the Great White Fleet, Ohio, commanded by Captain Charles Bartlett, was assigned to the force's Third Division, Second Squadron. This group also contained its sister ships Maine and Missouri.

Departing Hampton Roads on December 16, 1907, the fleet turned south making port calls in Brazil before passing through the Straits of Magellan. Moving north, the fleet, led by Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, reached San Diego on April 14, 1908. Briefly pausing in California, Ohio and the rest of the fleet then crossed the Pacific to Hawaii before reaching New Zealand and Australia in August. After taking part in elaborate and festive visits, the fleet cruised north to the Philippines, Japan, and China.

Completing port calls in these nations, the American fleet transited the Indian Ocean before passing through the Suez Canal and entering the Mediterranean. Here the fleet parted to show the flag in several ports. Steaming west, Ohio made visits to ports in the Mediterranean before the fleet regrouped at Gibraltar. Crossing the Atlantic, the fleet arrived at Hampton Roads on February 22 where it was inspected by Roosevelt. With the conclusion of its world cruise, Ohio entered the yard at New York for a refit and received a new coat of gray paint as well as had a new cage mast installed.

Later Career

Remaining at New York, Ohio spent much of the next four years training members of the New York Naval Militia as well as conducting occasional operation with the Atlantic Fleet. During this period it received a second cage mast as well as other modern equipment. Though obsolete, Ohio continued to fulfill secondary functions and in 1914 helped support the US occupation of Veracruz. That summer the battleship embarked midshipmen from the US Naval Academy for a training cruise before being deactivated at Philadelphia Navy Yard that fall. Each of the next two summers Ohio reentered commission for training operations involving the Academy.

With the US entry into World War I in April 1917, Ohio was re-commissioned. Ordered to Norfolk following its re-commissioning on April 24, the battleship spent the war training sailors in and around the Chesapeake Bay. With the conflict's conclusion, Ohio steamed north to Philadelphia where it was placed in reserve on January 7, 1919. Decommissioned on May 31, 1922, it was sold for scrap the following March in compliance with the Washington Naval Treaty.

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Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "Great White Fleet: USS Ohio (BB-12)." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, Hickman, Kennedy. (2021, July 31). Great White Fleet: USS Ohio (BB-12). Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "Great White Fleet: USS Ohio (BB-12)." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 1, 2023).