Tuesday, July 25, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: July 25

July 25, 1904 – Roy Hanson, a Minneapolis boy serving on the USS Scorpion, was sent to the masthead for six hours for accidentally breaking a window. As he was descending, his benumbed fingers refused to hold and he fell 60 feet to the deck, sustaining serious injuries.

Hanson’s parents reside in North Minneapolis. Word of the accident, which happened two weeks ago, reached Minneapolis today.

Young Hanson has been in the Navy long enough to have acquired the reputation of being the best climber aboard the Scorpion. Possibly it was his reputation that suggested the form of punishment he received. The ship was then in West Indian waters, off San Domingo. It was hot day and Hanson ran lightly aloft to do penance, attired in the thinnest clothing issued in the Navy for wear in the tropics.

USS Scorpion1

Less than an hour after he had taken his post, the wind suddenly veered, and black clouds came driving down before a tropical storm. Long, gray combers began to growl past the ship and all on deck was made fast for a big blow. To the men on deck, the high sea was easy compared to what the man hundred feet above experienced; the masthead swept through an arc of 75 feet for every roll the ship made.

With the storm came a sudden drop in temperature and a driving rain. Accustomed to tropical heat, the cold seemed positively wintry to the sailors, who hustled into flannels and pea jackets.

Up aloft, Hanson clung miserably to the reeling mast, waiting for his period of punishment to expire. Whether the superior officer who had ordered him up forgot about his predicament, or whether naval discipline prevented a modification of the order, Hanson remained in his perilous post more than five hours before he decided he must descend or lose his life. He started down, but was so numb with cold that he lost his hold and fell when 60 feet above the deck. He was picked up with one broken rib and suffering from internal injuries from which it is feared he will not recover.

The Minneapolis Journal; “He Stayed Aloft in Raging Storm. Naval Discipline Nearly Killed Minneapolis Boy. He Was Sent Aloft for Breaking a Pane of Glass and Rode Out a Storm at the masthead—Finally Fell, sustaining Possibly Fatal Injuries.”; July 25, 1904; p. 7.



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