USS Recruit: The Battleship That Sprang Up In The Middle of New York City

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In the spring of 1917, when the United States entered the First World War, the need for more sailors and marines became paramount. In order to spark interest among young men and convince them to volunteer for the war, the US Navy decided to erect a huge wooden replica of a battleship in Union Square, in the heart of New York City.

Called USS Recruit —since its purpose was recruitment— the wooden battleship mockup measured over 200 feet long and had a width of 40 feet. It carried two cage masts, a conning tower and a dummy smokestack. It was also equipped with six wooden replicas of 14-inch guns in three twin turrets, ten wooden five-inch anti-torpedo boat guns and two replica one-pound saluting guns, matching the configuration of battleships of the time.

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

In order to demonstrate the life of a navy to potential civilian recruits, USS Recruit had a full crew of sailors, officers and doctors who lived in the ship, and slept in their respective quarters and cabins. The crew would wake up at 6 a.m., scrub the decks, do their laundry, and take shifts standing guard until 11pm. During this time they were available for answering questions from visitors. By night, all the ship's lights were turned on, including a series of searchlights.

The ship functioned both as a tool for recruitment and training. There was a wireless station, a heating and ventilation system and examination rooms to assess the health of potential candidates.

USS Recruit was largely successful, helping the Navy enlist 25,000 new men.

After the war ended in 1918, the ship remained in Union Square for two more years hosting a variety of social events and receptions, dances for New York's socialites, as well as patriotic events such as speeches and unfurling of a recreated Betsy Ross American flag.

In 1920, the ship was dismantled with the intention of relocating it to Coney Island's Luna Park. But this did not happen and the fate of the Recruit is unknown.

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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Photo credit: Library of Congress

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The Union Square in 2010. Photo credit: chensiyuan/Wikimedia

Sources: Wikipedia / Mashable / Historical Firearms

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