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New Mural, Exhibit Honors Crew Of The USS Tampa

One hundred years after the sinking of the USS Tampa during World War I, a new mural was unveiled on Saturday honoring the more than 130 men - including 24 from Tampa Bay -who  were killed when the ship was sunk by a German submarine.

During a dedication ceremony at the the Tampa Bay History Center,  Robin Gonzalez read each of the names of Tampa residents who were aboard the USS Tampa warship when it sunk in 1918. Afterwards, city leaders and descendants of those who died tossed memorial wreaths onto the water across from the history center.


Gonzalez helped lead the push for the city to create a remembrance of the tragedy.

"After World War I, then came the depression and World War Two and people just kind of forgot," she said. "Now with the mural and the education program, it will never be forgotten again."

In addition to Saturday's event, the Tampa Bay History Center will have an exhibit on the USS Tampa running through March.

Credit Courtesy of the Tampa Bay History Center
The mural of the USS Tampa was erected on the south side of the Tampa Bay History Center in Channelside.

Gonzalez and Tampa resident Nancy Turner compiled a book about the USS Tampa that has been distributed to all Hillsborough County schools. The book documents the connection between the warship and its namesake city.

The Coast Guard cutter was the first to be a part of the Gasparilla invasion in 1913. In 1914, it was ordered onto iceberg watch in the North Atlantic Ocean following the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

In 1917, the ship was transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Navy, where it was tasked with escorting ships from Gibraltar to the southern coast of Great Britain. The sinking of the USS Tampa on September 26, 1918 was the largest Navy combat loss during the war.

"There's nothing to tie Tampa to much history, and to tie Tampa directly to World War I is amazing," Gonzalez said.

The mural, designed by artists Sandra Bryan and Carl Bryant, was paid for by the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. They said the mural attempts to capture the history of the original USS Tampa.

"It starts off at the dawn light, and the moon and the stars are to the right, Bryan said of the piece that covers an exterior wall of the history center. "It sort of depicts the lifeline of the story."

In addition to local officials and relatives of the men lost at sea, the crew of the modern US Coast Guard Cutter Tampa attended Saturday's memorial. After the ceremony, the American Legion Post 5 of Tampa held a reception for its crew members.

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.
Andy Lalino serves WUSF Public Media as a journalist, video producer/editor, and graphic designer/animator. He’s authored pop-culture journalism articles, contributed weekly columns for Tampa Bay nostalgia websites, and published features for Fangoria magazine.
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