Quick Links Menu.
USS Sequoia (AG-23) in 1938.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.
Class: SEQUOIA (AG-23)
Design: Yacht, 1925
Displacement (tons): 103 light, 105 lim
Dimensions (feet): 104.0' oa, 99.0' wl x 18.2' e x 4.5' lim
Original Armament: Machine guns (1941)
Later armaments: None (1944)
Speed (kts.): 12
Propulsion (HP): 400
Machinery: Winton diesels, 2 screws
||25 Mar 33
||25 Mar 33
||1 Oct 68
||23 May 77
No FY. This small yacht was designed by John Trumpy and built by his Mathis Yacht Building Co. in 1925-26 as SEQUOIA II for Richard Cadwalader of Philadelphia, Pa. (He already had an 85-foot SEQUOIA.) Cadwalader sold her in 1928 to the president of the Sequoia Oil Co. of Texas. The Department of Commerce bought her on 24 Mar 31 for use as an inspection boat. (Some accounts state that she was used as a decoy ship to trap rum runners on the Mississippi River during Prohibition.) President Herbert Hoover, an avid angler who had decommissioned the much larger presidential yacht MAYFLOWER in 1929, borrowed her on occasion as an unofficial yacht and once took her to Florida.
On 22 Mar 33 the Secretary of the Navy, in response to a letter of the same date from the director of the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection, Department of Commerce, requested that SEQUOIA, then berthed at Annapolis, be transferred from the Commerce Department to the Navy. On the same date CNO informed the Superintendent of the Naval Academy that the vessel was to be transferred to the Navy "as is" and placed in full commission. SEQUOIA was acquired and commissioned on 25 Mar 33, and on 27-28 March the tug TECUMSEH (YT-24) towed her from Annapolis to the Washington Navy Yard. While serving President Roosevelt the vessel was in full commission for two brief periods, 25 Mar to 20 Nov 33 and 1 Apr to 9 Dec 35. During the remainder of the time she was carried in "in service, not in commission" status.
On 9 Nov 35 the Navy issued a press release stating that the Coast Guard Cutter ELECTRA (soon renamed POTOMAC and classified AG-25, q.v.) was to be turned over to the Navy for use by the President. The release stated that the main purpose of the substitution of POTOMAC for SEQUOIA was to give a greater degree of security to the President, as the cutter was of steel construction while SEQUOIA was built of wood and was of necessity a greater fire hazard. POTOMAC could also carry more passengers, allowing the President to travel in her with his normal quota of secret service men. The crew of SEQUOIA was to man POTOMAC. On 2 Mar 36 POTOMAC was commissioned as the Presidential Yacht and SEQUOIA was redesignated and refitted for the use of the Secretary of the Navy. SEQUOIA, however, was also used by Presidents, including Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy.
In late 1967 pressure from the Secretary of Defense caused the Navy to look for a way to change the vessel to something other than an active status, thereby eliminating the requirement to have a crew assigned to her. A memorandum dated 21 Nov 67 states that after discussions within OpNav it was decided to recommend striking SEQUOIA from the Naval Vessel Register and reclassify her as a boat (to be referred to as a yacht). This also put her in the same category as the other two presidential craft, HONEY FITZ and PATRICK J, which apparently responded to a 9 Oct 67 suggestion from the Armed Forces Aide to the President that the presidential yachting elements be merged. On 13 Jun 68 the Commandant, Naval District, Washington D.C., who operated the vessel, recommended that this plan be implemented and also stated that SEQUOIA had been declared unseaworthy and had been limited to inland waters. On 16 Sep 68 CNO forwarded this recommendation to the Secretary of the Navy, and SecNav approved it on 20 Sep 68 effective 1 Oct 68. CNO had stated that the vessel would continue to be maintained for use by the Secretary of the Navy, but she was redesignated in 1969 as a Presidential yacht and as such served Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.
On 30 Mar 77 President Jimmy Carter, as a symbolic cost saving action, directed the Secretary of Defense to deactivate SEQUOIA and have her disposed of through public sale. He stated that "despite its distinguished career, I feel that the Presidential yacht SEQUOIA is no longer needed." Bids were opened on 18 May 77 and on 23 May 77 the vessel was awarded to Leisure Craft, Inc., owned by Thomas A. Malloy of Cranston, R.I. The terms of sale specified that Malloy's firm would use the vessel "only for commercial ventures of historical interest not inconsistent with the history of the craft" and would not change her hull configuration, interior or color without prior Navy approval. Malloy removed the vessel from the Washington Navy Yard on 6 Jul 77 after paying all charges in full.
The craft then quickly passed through the hands of three other owners, the last of which loaned her in 1981 to the Presidential Yacht Trust (PYT), a non-profit organization that hoped to restore and maintain the historic vessel. After taking her on a fund-raising tour in 1984 the PYT purchased her in May 1985 and sent her in early 1986 to the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Corp. for major repairs and restoration. The vessel left the yard in July 1986 to participate in the Statue of Liberty celebration at New York. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. But the PYT went bankrupt in late 1988, and in early 1989 the yacht was seized by the Norfolk yard, placed in a shed ashore there, and covered in plastic for preservation. The shipyard, itself sold in 1998, put her up for auction on the internet in June 2000, and she was purchased by the Washington D.C. lawyer Gary Silversmith, a self-proclaimed presidential history buff, who brought the vessel back to Washington on 18 Aug 2000. As of 2009 his Sequoia Presidential Yacht Group was offering the meticulously restored vessel on a limited basis for private charters.
||Ex yacht SEQUOIA II (delivered 1925). Acquired from Department of Commerce. Was "in service" for most of her career. Now (2009) maintained as a carefully restored charter boat at Washington, D.C.
Compiled: 07 Sep 2009
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2009