USS Noma (SP-131)

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USS Noma as a Navy ship.jpg
USS Noma (SP-131)
Union Navy Jack United States
Name: USS Noma
Namesake: A name retained
Owner: Vincent Astor of New York City
Builder: Burlee Dry Dock Company of Staten Island, New York
Laid down: date unknown
Launched: 1902
Christened: as Noma
Acquired: May 1917
Commissioned: 10 May 1917
Decommissioned: mid-July 1919
Struck: circa mid-July 1919
Homeport: Brest, France
Fate: returned to her owner at New York City 15 July 1919
General characteristics
Type: Yacht
Tonnage: 763 tons
Displacement: 1250 tons
Length: 262’6”
Beam: 28’6”
Draft: 15’6”;
Propulsion: Steam engine
Speed: 19 knots
Complement: 80

USS Noma (SP-131) was a yacht loaned to the U.S. Navy during World War I by Vincent Astor of New York City. Noma was outfitted by the Navy with military equipment, including heavy guns, and commissioned as a patrol craft assigned to protect shipping from German submarines. At war’s end she performed various services for the American Relief Commission in Constantinople and in the Black Sea before returning to the U.S. for decommissioning and return to her owner.

Noma before her service with the Navy

Built in New York[edit]

Noma (SP–131) a steam yacht, was built in 1902 by the Burlee Dry Dock Co. of Staten Island, New York. Noma was commissioned on 10 May 1917, with Lt. Comdr. Lamar Richard Leahy in command.

Noma was acquired by the Navy from Vincent Astor (the wealthy heir of John Jacob Astor IV who died on the RMS Titanic). Astor was commissioned as an officer in the Navy and served aboard her as a junior officer.

World War I service[edit]

Assigned to the North Atlantic[edit]

At the outbreak of World War I Noma was ordered and brought to France as the flagship of Capt. William B. Fletcher, Commander U.S. Patrol Squadrons operating in European waters.

She sailed from New York City 9 June 1917 accompanied by five other ships of her squadron: Christabel, Harvard, Kanawha II, Sultana, and Vedette.

Anti-submarine duty[edit]

Upon arriving at Brest 4 July, Noma immediately commenced operating in the submarine danger zone, convoying troop transports and cargo vessels. While patrolling off Cape Finisterre 20 July, she sighted a German U-boat running awash and boldly attacked it. On 25 July Noma escorted a large American convoy from Belle Île to the Loire.

Noma next encountered a German submarine when she went to the aid of British “Q-ShipDunraven 8 August. At the time the vessel was being shelled and torpedoed by the enemy submarine. Dunraven’s commanding officer, Capt. Gordon Campbell, RN, credited Noma’s arrival and prompt depth charge attack with saving his ship. Noma stood by Dunraven until two British destroyers arrived, and she took off several wounded sailors.

Noma came upon a large German U-boat recharging her batteries 16 August and engaged her in a vigorous gun duel until the U-boat submerged. She next sighted a medium-sized German submarine watching for convoys close in shore 17 September, and in a dawn attack, straddled it with many salvos.

Awarded the Navy Cross[edit]

While escorting store ships Koln and Medina, westbound for France 28 November, Noma in company with Wakiva II engaged two German submarines. Noma tenaciously depth charged her contact while Wakiva II seriously damaged the other U-boat. Noma and Wakiva II were commended for distinguished service by both Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson and Admiral William S. Sims. Lt. Comdr. Leahy was awarded the Navy Cross for his role in the battle.

Noma continued to screen convoys in 1918, and escorted Madawaska to St. Nazaire 25 January. She later accompanied a convoy of 13 merchant ships westbound for the U.S. and returned 21 May with a group of 8 ships bound for La Pallice. Noma's last combat with German submarines occurred 15 August when two ships of eastbound Convoy HB–8, West Bridge and Montanan, were torpedoed; Montanan sank, but West Bridge was towed in to Brest.

End-of-war operations[edit]

After the war Noma was temporarily stationed at Plymouth, England until she was transferred to U.S. Forces based at Constantinople in early 1919. She passed Gibraltar 26 January; stopped at Taranto and Malta; and arrived Constantinople 13 February, bringing with her members of the American Relief Commission. Between February and May 1919 she supported the American Relief Commission during its operations in the Black Sea.

Once at Constantinople her duties involved carrying commission members to Constanţa, Romania 9–14 March; to Varna, Bulgaria 3–6 April, and to Batum, Russia 21 April–1 May. Noma also removed American gold funds from Varna and took on board U.S. Army personnel at all three ports.

Post-war decommissioning[edit]

Noma departed Constantinople for the U.S. 21 May. She was decommissioned in mid-July 1919 and was returned to her pre-war condition and then returned to her owner at New York City 15 July 1919.

See also[edit]