Figure 1: The steam yacht Kanawha II underway prior to her World War I Navy service. She was acquired by the Navy and commissioned on 28 April 1917 as USS Kanawha II (SP-130). Renamed Piqua on 1 March 1918, she was returned to her owner on 1 July 1919. The original print is in National Archives' Record Group 19-LCM. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Piqua (SP-130) dressed with flags on 4 July 1918, as flagship of the US District Commander at Lorient, France. Note her pattern camouflage. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Piqua (SP-130) photographed on 4 July 1918, as flagship of the US District Commander at Lorient, France. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Piqua (SP-130) off Lorient, France, circa 1918. She is painted in a distinctive camouflage pattern. The French Navy machinist school is in the extreme right distance. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2011. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
The 575-ton steam yacht Kanawha II was built by the Gas Engine and Power Company and the Charles L. Seabury Company at Morris Heights, New York, in 1898. After nearly two decades of use as a pleasure craft, Kanawha II was acquired by the US Navy from her owner, John Borden, on 28 April 1917 for use as a patrol boat during World War I. The ship was commissioned into the Navy on the same day as USS Kanawha II and was given the designation SP-130. The former owner, John Borden, was now a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy and was given command of his yacht, which was quickly converted into a patrol boat. The ship was 227 feet long and 24 feet wide, had a top speed of 20 knots, and had a crew of 65 officers and men. Kanawha II was armed with four 3-inch guns and one 6-pounder.
During her first three weeks after being commissioned, Kanawha II performed various patrol and escort duties off the coast of New York. She then was equipped for overseas service and on 9 June 1917 sailed for Europe. Kanawha II arrived at Brest, France, on 4 July, one of the first of many US warships to reach Europe following America’s entry into World War I.
Two weeks after her arrival to France, Kanawha II began patrol duties off the coast of Brest. On 3 September 1917, the patrol boat sighted her first U-boat periscope off the French coast. Unfortunately, she was too far away from the submarine to launch a successful attack. While escorting a convoy on 28 November, Kanawha II sighted another U-boat. She immediately alerted the rest of the convoy and the U-boat was later tracked and sunk by two other patrol vessels that were equipped with depth charges (Kanawha II did not have any, probably because of her size and the way she was built). The convoy eventually made it to port without suffering any losses.
On 1 March 1918, the ship was re-named USS Piqua (SP-130), after a city in Ohio that was named for a tribe of Shawnee Indians. The change probably occurred to avoid confusion with a Navy oiler named USS Kanawha. On 16 July 1918, Piqua sighted her third U-boat, which was on an almost parallel course with the convoy the patrol boat was escorting. Piqua steamed to within 11,000 yards of the U-boat and began firing her guns at the submarine. The gun crews, though, were unable to actually see their target due to the poor positioning of their guns. They had to aim according to ranges and bearings that were estimated and called down to them from the bridge. Although Piqua did not score any hits, she did force the U-boat to abandon its attack on the convoy.
Piqua continued to patrol off the coast of France until the end of the war (11 November 1918) and well into 1919. On 20 May 1919, the ship sailed to New York. After making stops in the Azores and at Bermuda, Piqua anchored off Tompkinsville, Staten Island, New York. She later docked at Morris Heights, New York, and was decommissioned and returned to her owner, John Borden, on 1 July 1919. The ship was later purchased in April 1920 by Marcus Garvey of the Black Star Line and re-named Antonio Maceo. The yacht was abandoned in 1922 at Antilla Harbor, Cuba, and her final fate is unknown.