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USS General Alava on 17 September 1903
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Class:        GENERAL ALAVA (AG-5)
Design        Pass. & cargo, 1895
Displacement (tons):        1,115 normal
Dimensions (feet):        212.5' pp x 29.75' wl x 11.0' mn
Original Armament:        2-6pdr 2-3pdr (1903)
Later armaments:        none (1907);
2-6pdr (1911-18);
none (1919-20);
2-3pdr (1921-29)
Complement:        68 (1929)
Speed (kts.):        10.5
Propulsion (HP):        770
Machinery:        Vert. triple expansion, 1 screw

AG Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
5 GENERAL ALAVA 21 Feb 00 A. McMillan & Sons -- 8 May 95 9 Mar 00

AG Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
5 GENERAL ALAVA 28 Jun 29 19 Jul 29 17 Jul 29 Tgt. --

Class Notes:
The small transport GENERAL ALAVA was built for the Spanish Navy in 1895 in Dumbarton, Scotland. In 1898 she was one of three transports with Spanish naval forces in the Far East, the MANILA (1883) being of about her size and the CEBU (1880) being smaller. The annual Spanish Navy List showed her as a 532-ton steel ship with a length of 211.1 feet, beam of 29.9 feet, depth of hull of 17.8 feet, single screw machinery of 140 [nominal] horsepower, a 67-man crew, and an armament of 2 Hontoria 7mm guns. She and the gunboats VILLALOBOS and QUIROS were apparently in the Caroline Islands at the time of the U.S. victories in the Philippines and later came to the Philippines. The Spanish proposed to use GENERAL ALAVA under a flag of truce in an abortive effort in August 1899 to obtain the release of Spanish prisoners by Aguinaldo's insurgents. On 20 Nov 1899 a Spanish shipbroker sent specifications of GENERAL ALAVA and the two gunboats to Rear Admiral Watson, CinC of U.S. Naval Forces in the Philippines, claiming that he was authorized to do so by the President of the Spanish Naval Commission in Manila and that, although they had not received any instructions for a sale, the Commission felt that if a suitable offer was made the Government would approve it. In early 1900 the three vessels were put up for sale to the highest bidder and Governor General Otis, hearing that the Navy wanted vessels like these, bought them and transferred them from the Army to the Navy on 21 Feb 1900 for $215,000 (Mexican). At this time she was described as a lighthouse supply tender. Her armament, probably still Spanish, was listed by the U.S. Navy in 1901 as 2-42mm and 4-11mm, all Nordenfelts.

GENERAL ALAVA was initially listed by the U.S. Navy as a gunboat, but she served primarily as a transport and also carried dignitaries and special commissions to various parts of the Philippines. She was decommissioned at Cavite on 24 Jan 03, and when she was recommissioned on 11 Jun 04 she was briefly listed as a dispatch boat for the Asiatic Fleet. Finally classified as a transport, she spent the period from May to November 1905 on the China coast and was again decommissioned on 26 Feb 06. Recommissioned on 18 Dec 06, she was largely used to carry passengers between Cavite and Olongapo until February 1925, with the exception of a cruise in 1919 to Batavia, Saigon, and Celebes. She was designated as a miscellaneous auxiliary, AG-5, when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. Her crew at this time consisted of 9 officers, 6 CPOs, and 82 men.

GENERAL ALAVA departed Manila on 18 Feb 25 for Shanghai, proceeding via Batavia, Saigon, and Hong Kong. For the next two years she carried passengers between Chinese ports, twice returning to the Philippines for brief visits. On 24 Aug 27 she became station ship at Shanghai for transient officers of the Yangtze Patrol and from time to time made inspection trips along the river. She underwent a material inspection on 1-3 Apr 29 and the inspection board found her unfit for further service. SecNav on 18 May 29 informed CNO and the Bureaus that, in view of the small sale value of this vessel, her material condition which made it unsafe to remove her to the nearest American port (Manila), and the difficulty in ensuring that her sale in a Chinese port would not violate the Treaty Limiting Naval Armament, the ship would not be placed on sale but would, after removal of all equipment of value to the Navy, be sunk as a target for gunnery practice. Similar action had been taken to dispose of the gunboats ELCANO, PAMPANGA, and VILLALOBOS in 1927.

GENERAL ALAVA returned from her last trip up the Yangtse on 3 Jun 29 and decommissioned at Shanghai on 28 Jun 29. Her hulk was towed to a position off Tsingtao, China, and on 15 and 16 Jul 29 Destroyer Squadron 15 used her as the target for day and night spotting practice and night division practice. She received six holes in the hull above the waterline and about seven in the upper works. The holes in the hull were temporarily stopped but during the night on 16 Jul 29 she was noticed to be slowly settling in rough weather and she sank early on 17 Jul 29. The Squadron Commander expressed the opinion that the practice was most instructive and that it demonstrated that the Squadron could fire a battle practice on short notice.

Ship Notes:
AG Name Notes
5 GENERAL ALAVA Ex Spanish Navy transport GENERAL ALAVA, purchased by U.S. Army and transferred to Navy 21 Feb 1900. Sunk as gunnery target off Tsingtao 17 Jul 29.

Page Notes:
AG        1900
Compiled:        26 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012