On this day in Duluth in 1915, the Minnesota Naval Militia met at the new Duluth Armory on London Road to organize the militia’s First Engineering Division, which would operate out of the port of Duluth along with three other deck divisions already stationed in the Zenith City. In particular, the militia was hoping to attract future pilots. “Aeronauts,” the newspaper announced, “will be enrolled in the engineering division and any young man interested in the ‘flying’ game is urged to attend the meeting. A volunteer who tested sufficient would be sent to Pensacola, Florida, to attend “the government school for aeronauts.” Captain Guy Eaton was also looking for men to man the U.S.S. Topeka, a third-class cruiser, which was scheduled to replace the U.S. S. Gopher as the militia’s training ship. More than fifty men attended the meeting that night; fifteen candidates enlisted. Only one “prospective aeronaut” attended the meeting, but decided against enlisting until he indeed “learned more about the ‘flying game’.” Captain Eaton would eventually need 48 men, including three officers, to complete the division. The Topeka never arrived, and the Gopher served the militia—which became the Duluth Naval Reserve in 1915—until 1922, when she was replaced by the U.S.S. Paducah. The Duluth Naval Reserve Center closed in September, 2007. Learn more about Captain Eaton, called “the father of the Minnesota naval Militia,” here.
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