Ray Farrand Letter Home 1919

    Following is a letter from Ray Farrand who was on the battleship South Dakota on July 4, 1919: ”Dear Mother and All; Well my ambitions have been partially realized as I have been to Paris and the battle front at Rheima and Château-Thierry. Now when I see a little of the States I will be perfectly happy.

We left Brest at 7:30 p.m. June 29 and get to Paris at 7:30 a.m. Monday. That afternoon we used in getting our bearings and took in the Eiffel tower. It is the highest structure in the world, 980 feet, and was probably as near Heaven as I will ever be, of course the view from there was wonderful. We couldn’t go to the extreme top because there is a large radio station there but we got within about 50 feet of it.

That evening we took in the French cabarets and will say that the folks in the States don’t know what a cabaret is, and maybe it is well that they don’t. I don’t see how they stand it with some of their customs. Of course they don’t know any better or maybe they wouldn’t do as they do.

The next morning we got up early and went with a Y. M. C. A. party to Rheims and Château-Thierry. I never expected to get so far into France but you can never tell. Rheims is about a three hour ride from Paris on the train and we went right from there to the front where the Germans were located while trying to take the town. It won’t do to go into detail so will only say that we saw trenches, forts, dugouts, tanks, and German prisoners filling in the trenches and removing the barbed wire entanglements. We saw the famous Reims Cathedral that took 250 years to build and which the church officials have official record of 350 high caliber shells hitting it besides probably many more. The town is completely ruined and it must make the natives sick when they see it. We came back from there to Château-Thierry and went out to Beileau Wood. It is about five miles from the city to the first trenches that we saw and the road was strewn with shells being carried to the front when the Armistice was signed and was also very rough where it had been shelled. The patch of woods is comparatively small for so much fighting to take place in being only about three miles long and in the shape of a triangle. There are single dugouts about every step and in some there are still bones with flesh on. The “Yanks” certainly did well there for the only approach to the woods is across open ground on all sides. There is a cemetery there with 2,057 American graves and on top of the woods on a knoll is a spot with six or seven German graves who tried to hold an old windmill. There is a German prison camp there and the Germans are being worked to fill in the trenches and the shell holes in the fields. Every time they find a shell that didn’t explode they fire it with rifles. We saw them fire several. Saw a lot of English tanks that were used to try to take the woods and believe me they looked about like a sieve. I wouldn’t want any for mine but it must have been exciting while it lasted.

The second was the only day we went around the city much and we took in about all of the most interesting places. We left Paris that evening at 8:00 on a troop train so were pretty crowded but no one cared as we had seen Paris and were content to put up with most anything. We got here yesterday morning about 9:30 and came directly to the ship.

The president left Brest Sunday afternoon and the George Washington was anchored just a shot distance from us. With glasses he could be seen clearly. All ships in the harbor were in full dress and each fired a twenty-one gun salute. All along the way every one wanted to give us something for souvenirs or a drink of wine because peace had been signed the day before. When I saw the ruins of Rheims and Château-Thierry I wondered how the natives had the heart to do anything at all.

When I have many clothes to scrub after the big trip so will close for this time. Love to all, Ray


An early post card of the South Dakota in her original Spar and White paint and also with her original fore mast.

South Dakota was renamed Huron on 7 June 1920 and was designated CA-9 on 17 July 1920. She served in the Asiatic Fleet for the next seven years, operating in Philippine waters during the winter and out of Shanghai and Chefoo, China during the summer.


In 1930 the Powell River Company Limited took possession of some decommissioned ships to be used as floating breakwaters for the log pond at their pulp and paper mill at Powell River, British Columbia Canada. Using decommissioned ships hulls as breakwaters was not a new idea and had been used many times. However, in most cases ship breakwaters were created by sinking the vessels in shallow water to create the breakwater. At Powell River the water is too deep to allow this and so the floating breakwater designed was used. The ships at the Powell River mills Breakwater Fleet form what many believe is the largest floating breakwater in the world. These ships are know to the people of Powell River, British Columbia as “The Hulks”.

The first two ships that were brought to the log pond at the Powell River mill were the decommissioned US Cruisers USS Charleston and the USS South Dakota/Huron. On October 25, 1930 the hulk of the Charleston stripped to her waterline was towed to the log pond and was the first ship to take her place standing guard at the log pond. The Charleston remained in the breakwater fleet at Powell River until 1961 when she was removed because she was in danger of sinking. She was removed and used again a short distance away at Kelsey Bay on Vancouver Island where she was grounded at the booming ground at Kelsey Bay. She can be seen there today as her hulk is partially out of the water along with several grounded ships. It was at the end of August 1931 that the hull, stripped to her waterline, of the South Dakota/Huron arrived to take her place at the log pond at Powell River along side of the Charleston. These ships were ballasted and anchored in place and routinely pumped out to keep them afloat. For the next 30 years the South Dakota/Huron remained rusting peacefully protecting the log pond along with the other hulks that formed the Breakwater Fleet. On February 18, 1961 with a storm raging and the South Dakota/Huron riding low in the water, the once proud ship lost her battle with her enemy of 30 years and slipped quietly beneath the waves. She settled to the bottom of the log pond in about 80 feet of water and rests there to this day.