- The California Naval Militia in
World War I:
- The Six Percent Riddle
- Lieutenant Colonel Norman Marshall,
- Naval History Section, California
Center for Military History
- The Naval Militia of the State of California
was called into federal service on April 6, 1917 and 1,200 men
were mobilized throughout the state and reported to the Naval
Training Station, Mare Island, California. By reason of crowded
conditions at the training station, they were housed aboard the
USS Oregon, the USS San Diego
and the USS Huntington, all then moored at Mare Island.
- The vast majority of these militia sailors
were sworn into federal service as members of the newly formed
National Naval Volunteers.
- There were among them 72 exceptions (6%),
all from the 1st Battalion, Naval Militia of California based
in San Francisco, Eureka, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles.
- "The circumstances attending the
discharge... are somewhat obscure." One such circumstance
related to their refusal to take the Federal Oath of Office as
explained in a letter from the Commandant of the l2th Naval District
in San Francisco to the Navy Department, dated November 5, 1917
(Exhibit 1, below). The fourth endorsement thereon, first of
all, describes that the Comptroller General of the Treasury,
by circular letter number 164, had ruled that such men receiving
an early discharge were entitled to pay until the date of discharge
and transportation back to their homes. Notwithstanding that,
by the fourth endorsement, the men refusing to take the federal
oath were treated as follows: "All equipment was taken away
from them, they received no pay from the date of mobilization
to the time they refused to take the federal oath, they were
put on the beach at Vallejo, California in dungarees without
transportation, subsistence and in many cases did not have the
necessary means to reach their local rendezvous."
- Yeoman First Class Harold C. Brahm, explained
in a letter of September 28, 1917 to the officer in charge of
Naval Militia Affairs in Washington, D.C. (Exhibit 2, below)
of his refusal to take the oath explaining that Lt.
Frank R. Seaver (the subject of another article in this series)
explained to Los Angeles (which was his division of origin) volunteers
that when the Naval Militia was called into service, they were
advised that it was for the duration of the war only. But upon
arrival at Mare Island, they were called to take the Federal
Oath and noted that it read for three years service (America's
involvement in the war lasted only 18 months. At the time of
our entry into the conflict, it had been going on for three years).
Brahm was beached at Vallejo, California on April 28, 1917, just
two weeks after the call-up. He then enlisted in the Signal Corps
Reserve of the United States Army on July 31, 1917.
- The remaining sailors were principally
assigned to the USS Huntington, the USS St. Louis,
the USS San Diego and the USS Pueblo. A few, according
to the needs of the service, were assigned to the destroyers
Farragut, Paul Jones, and Frederick. One
sailor was assigned to the Aeronautics Station at Pensacola,
Florida. E.L. Doheny, Jr. (the subject
of another article in this series) was initially assigned to
the USS Huntington and was later transferred to the Judge
Advocate General's Office in Washington D.C., through the efforts
of his father who arrived in Pensacola, Florida a few days after
the ship arrived.
- It was through introductions by Ned
Doheny that Seaver met Doheny, Sr., the oil magnate who was
so impressed with Seaver that he hired him to run his Mexican
oil production operations for many years after the war. Following
Ned's death, Seaver became very close to Doheny Sr. who allowed
him to purchase, for a nominal sum, Hydril Corporation, the world's
largest producer of oil well explosion preventers.
- Imagaes are courtesy
of the National Archives