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Today's episode of Unfashionable History takes us to Waterfront Park and the Battleship Oregon Memorial, which is all that remains of the old USS Oregon. As I've said before, I'm not a big fan of war, or of grandiose war memorials for that matter. What I find kind of fascinating is that people went to a great deal of trouble, decades ago, to put this in place. They felt this was deeply important and needed to be preserved for future generations -- and now, well, I'm not going to say nobody cares about the Spanish-American War, but I wouldn't be too far from the truth if I said so. Portland is full of grandiose memorials to this brief and ugly little war of imperial expansion. I've never figured out quite what that was all about.
This post has lingered in my Drafts folder for months, because (like most people) I just can't muster a lot of enthusiasm about the thing, as peculiar as it is. There's probably more research I could do beyond what I've got here, but if I wait until I feel like doing that, this post may never go live at all, period. Which would be a shame, since I think some of the photos turned out ok, at least.
Various bits of info about the ship. Fortunately, in the event that you're curious, there are people who are vastly more fascinated with naval history than I am. Actually there was a point where I was, believe it or not, but I got over it when I was about 12 or so. Seriously.
A couple of links about the war. Which I hope you'll agree was an ugly, and needless, little episode, one that led to additional ugly episodes in Panama and the Philippines, and a troubled relationship with Cuba that lingers to the present day.
Not too many photos of the memorial around the 'tubes, that I've noticed. Here are a couple I ran across:
A couple of photos of the long-lost art deco Teddy Roosevelt memorial on the waterfront, with the Oregon in the background:
One little tangent to mention: It turns out there've been a variety of other Navy ships named after places in Oregon. In particular, at one time there was a USS Willamette, which -- ironically, given our local eco-pious inclinations -- was an oiler, basically a floating gas station for other ships. I mention this because it had an unfortunate tendency to collide with other ships, earning it the nickname "USS WIll-Ram-It". Which you have to admit is kind of funny, even if you don't normally care about this sort of thing.
Oh, and during the Civil War there was a CSS Oregon, a small Confederate blockade runner based out of New Orleans -- which is weird because Oregon was a Union state. There's probably a mildly fascinating story behind that, if I was interested enough to go look for it.
This shield thingy you can kind of see in the above phot was apparently part of the ship as well. More detail on that:
One surprising thing about the memorial is the number of plaques and signs commemorating various aspects of the ship's career, and some that don't obviously relate to the ship at all.