William Morton Savage 1891-1919 USS New Mexico

William Morton Savage Died aboard the USS New Mexico Sept, 7 1919

Not a lot is known about Uncle Bill.  His sister, Alma Blanche Savage was my grandmother. Their father left when they were very small and their mother married a man neither of them got along with. 

Bill joined the Navy quite young and served through World War 1 and was assigned to the USS New Mexico.  The New Mexico was the first to have a turbo electrical transmission. A high speed steam turbine powered a set of generators. The generators powered  a set of generators. The generators provided electricity for electric motors which turned the propeller shafts.

Wonderful site with many photos of the building and tours of the U.S.S. New Mexico

Bill was an Engineman 2nd class and worked in the engine rooms.

On September 7, 1919, while docked at San Francisco, with 1000 visitors on board for a tour of the newly appointed Flagship of the Pacific Fleet, a fire started in the rheostat room just above the engine room where Bill was maintaining his regular shift.

The ice machine was adjacent to the engine and two Filipino mess members had come down to secure ice for the officers mess.  As they went to exit up the ladder, flames drove them back down.

The fumes and the heat drove firemen from the area and they directed water into the floor below. The water soon flooded the rheostat room and overflowed into the engine room where Bill and the two mess crew were trapped.

It was then that Savage, who was only a few laps ahead of death, secured the receiver from the telephone hook and got into communication with the executive officer.

"Say, the water is coming down and is more than a foot deep down here."

This was the first word, and the voice was full and firm. Savage had no fear for he was certain that his buddies above would do their work and he would soon be released from his predicament.

The hero continued to converse. He was not at all excited, but as the water continued to rise in the compartment and the air became more stifling with the poisonous fumes the voice became weaker and there was an occasional gasp. Then came the last words:
"I'm all right yet, but you'll have to shut that water off, as it is getting pretty high. Better...."
That was all. The fire fighters fought with redoubled fury and decided it was time to again open the hatch and get into close quarters.......... (San Francisco Chronicle, Sept 9, 1919)

The two Filipinos were found first. Bill was found last with the phone still in his hand.

34 others were hospitalized with smoke and fumes to their lungs were on hand and on deck as William Morton Savage age 28, Gonnie Dizon age 18 and Alfredo Hilario age 18 were lowered into a submarine chaser as the band played "near my God to Thee" and the flag was lowered to half mast. 

Uncle Bill's body was shipped to his mother and sister in Whitewright, Texas. The headstone was purchased and erected by his comrades aboard the USS New Mexico and states:
Greater love hath no man than this. That a man lay down his life for his friends.. 


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