George W. Steele Jr.
In 1903, the American Consul in Beirut was reported murdered. The USS San Francisco was ordered there in order to retrieve the Consul's body. Ensign George W. Steele, Jr., was placed in command of a machine gun and ordered to land and retrieve the Consul or his body. Fifteen minutes after going ashore Steele returned to the San Francisco with the Consul, who was alive (Indiana War History). This young man named George Steele was a native of Marion, Indiana. Steele had a long career in the United States Navy that saw many theatres of operations. His command of the rigid airship ZR-3 USS Los Angeles is perhaps the most recognizable part of his career. George W. Steele, Jr., was a distinguished naval officer and is one of Marion, Indiana's most distinguished citizens.
Steele's Young Life
George Washington Steele, Jr., was born on 19 June 1879, in Marion, Indiana. He was the son of George Washington Steele, Sr., a former United States Representative and Territorial Governor of Oklahoma. Steele attended Shattuck School in Fairbault, Minnesota and public schools in Marion. Following this education he received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland (George W. Steele, Jr.). While in the Academy he was elected adjutant of the Naval Academy twice, "an honor probably never before given to another cadet in the history of the school" (Record). He graduated from the Academy on 8 June 1900 (George W. Steele, Jr.).
USS Los Angeles
Captain Steele continued his command of Los Angeles during its deployment to Puerto Rico in April of 1925. He remained in his cabin for much of the trip owing to illness. During this deployment Los Angeles and Patoka continued exercises. Once the tail fin of Los Angeles tilted dangerously and hit the water. On May 8, Los Angeles began her trip back to Lakehurst. The Puerto Rico deployment marked the first time Patoka had been used as a mobile airship base. The Bureau of Airships planned to have enough helium to operate both USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) and USS Los Angeles by August 1, 1925. In the meantime, the Los Angeles was to make local passenger flights and travel to Annapolis for "June Week." Los Angeles made three flights with distinguished guests. She returned from her flights on June 3 and Captain Steele received orders to fly to Minneapolis via Dearborn, Michigan. Steele was uncomfortable with the notion of flying over the Midwest in early summer and he let his reservations be known. Nevertheless, Los Angeles departed Lakehurst on June 7. Nine hours after departure engine #5 had to be shut down with a burned-out connecting rod bearing. Steele became concerned about the other engines due to their extensive flight time. He continued on to Cleveland then decided to turn back for Lakehurst. Los Angeles returned to Lakehurst on the morning of May 8. Captain Steele felt that his ship could not fly again without an overhaul (Keller and Robinson 143-45).
Captain Steele was given command of USS Pittsburgh, flagship of the Asiatic Fleet (George W. Steele, Jr.). Early in 1927 Steele's ship landed sailors and Marines in Shanghai to protect Americans and other foreigners present in the city. Pittsburgh returned to her station at sea after Chiang Kai-shek's Cantonese army took control of Shanghai in March (Hansen). Following this duty, Steele was transferred to Paris, France in 1928 to serve as United States Naval Attaché. He continued this duty until 1931 serving in Madrid, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal in the same capacity (George W. Steele, Jr.).
- Althoff, William F. Skyships. New York: Orion, 1990.
- "Captain George W. Steele, Jr., U.S. Navy, Retired" is a United States Navy Biography. from 1953 describing Captain Steele's career. It was found in the Indiana Room in the Marion Public Library under the vertical file, Steele, George W. Jr.
- "Capt. G.W. Steele, Dirigible Expert" is an obituary from the New York Times from 1955. It was found in the Indiana Room in the Marion Public Library under the vertical file, Steele, George W. Jr.
- "CAPT. STEELE GIVEN ROYAL WELCOME" is a newspaper article from the Marion Leader Tribune from 1924. It was found in the Indiana Room in the Marion Public Library under the vertical file, Steele, George W. Jr.
- Hansen, Michael. PITTSBURGH. http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/cruisers/acr4.txt. (8 May 2000).
- "Indiana War History Records" is a war record and attached George W. Steele, Jr. from World War I. It was found in the Indiana Room in the Marion Public Library under the vertical file, Steele, George W. Jr.
- Keller, Charles L., and Douglas H. Robinson. Up Ship! Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute, 1982.
- "Personal Log" is an excerpt from the personal log of Capt. Steele during his journey aboard ZR-3. It was found in the Indiana Room in the Marion Public Library under the vertical file, Steele, George W. Jr.
This article was written by Matt Eckerle. The original presentation is available here.