1917: A Motorboat Begins Service as a U.S. Navy Patrol Vessel During World War I

April 18, 1917

Less than two weeks after the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allied Powers, a private motorboat designated as Patrol No. 4 was commissioned for service in the U.S. Navy. This vessel was owned by a Virginia resident named Guy Norman and, three days after her commissioning, she was formally leased from him for military use.

USS Patrol No. 4 (SP-8) had been constructed in 1915 by Britt Brothers Boat Builders in Lynn, Massachusetts. This motorboat was one of five that Britt Brothers built to the same design for private owners as part of a nationwide civilian campaign known as the Preparedness Movement.

This movement taken shape in response to the outbreak of World War I in Europe in 1914, and it was led by Leonard Wood, who had served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army; and former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt. The central purpose of the Preparedness Movement was to help ensure that the United States would be ready to fight if it was drawn into the war, and those five motorboats were built by Britt Brothers with the understanding that they would be handed over for U.S. Navy service in the event of American involvement in that military conflict.

Those other motorboats were Patrol Boat No. 1, which was commissioned as USS Patrol No. 1 (SP-45); Patrol Boat No. 2, which was commissioned as USS Patrol No. 2 (SP-409); Patrol No. 3, which never entered military service; and Patrol No. 5, which was commissioned as USS Patrol No. 5 (SP-29).

After being commissioned, Patrol No. 4 was headquartered at Newport, Rhode Island, and assigned to coastal patrol within the Second Naval District. This district, which had been created in 1903, encompassed Rhode Island and adjacent waters. Patrol No. 4 remained in military service in that region of the United States throughout the remainder of the war. This motorboat was decommissioned a little over four months after the armistice ending the war went into effect. She was subsequently returned to Norman on March 17, 1919.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on USS Patrol No. 4 (SP-8), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Patrol_No._4_(SP-8)

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