"The 'Oglala' laid 56,000 mines during the World War," said Captain D. C. Bingham U. S. N., when visited Friday aboard his ship at the Navy Yard, Charlestown. "But you'd never know it now."
The U. S. S. "Oglala", flagship of a mine squadron which played an important part in laying the North Sea Mine Barrage during the World War, is now in the Navy Yard, undergoing repairs to refit it for service in the U. S. Navy.
"They've taken eight boilers out of her, and replaced them with two to do the same work. That shows you what steps have been made in engineering since she was built in 1907," he continued. "Right now we are cleaning the ship up, and preparing for visitors on Navy Day, which will be celebrated Monday, October 28."
But Captain Bingham's explanations were unnecessary. The air was filled with the roar of drills, and great gaps in the deck testified to the one-time existence of smoke stacks.
The "Oglala" has had an interesting history. It was first built in 1907 as a passenger and freight boat for the Eastern Steamship Lines, but at the opening of the World War it was converted for wartime use.
Down in the hold of the ship he exhibited the narrow gauge tracks which run from bow to stern, on which mines are stored during war time, ready to be dropped from a door in the stern itself.
"Very few people know exactly what a mine looks like," the commander of the "Oglala" continued. He pointed to several which were left in the hold. They are large cylindrical shells of iron which are filled with T. N. T. when needed. To each mine is attached a large square weight which serves as an anchor.
"When the mine is lowered a cable is fastened to it which runs above and below the mine itself. To explode the mine a ship does not have to strike the cylinder, it may touch any part of the cable, and an electrical contact will set off the dynamite. This device makes possible many explosions which would otherwise never occur, as a vessel rarely strikes the mine."
The "Oglala" will display one of each type of naval mine on Monday, when visitors are to be specially entertained as part of the Navy Day celebration.