Alert was an iron hulled screw steamer built in 1873-74 by John Roach & Sons, Chester PA. Armed with an 11-inch gun and two 9-inch guns for main battery, she saw active service in such configuration until 1903. She served as training ship with the California Naval Militia 1907-10. Reoutfitted as a submarine tender in 1912, she served the US Navy until 1922 in this configuration lasting much longer than most ships of her day.
Following nearly three years of inactivity, the veteran steamer was recommissioned on 11 May 1901, Commander Gottfried Blockinger in command and was assigned to the Pacific Station as a training vessel for apprentice sailors. In that capacity, she made short cruises along the California coast until decommissioned again on 10 December 1903. She was berthed in the Mare Island Navy Yard until transferred on loan to the California Naval Militia sometime early in 1907.
Although returned to the Navy on 27 February 1910, ALERT was not reactivated until amost two years later. On 25 January 1912, she was placed in commission, in reserve, Lieutenant Charles E. Smith in command, in connection with her fitting out for service as a submarine tender. She was placed in full commission on 1 July 1912, with Lieutenant Smith still in commnad.
ALERT tended submarines for the Torpedo Flotilla, Pacific Fleet, until late in 1917. In executing her new duties, she made short voyages along the California coast in much the same manner as she had done while serving as an apprentice training vessel.
The entry of the United States into World War I necessitated an increase of American naval strength in the Atlantic. Thus, in December 1917, the ship steamed south from San Diego, transited the Panama Canal, and proceeded to Bermuda where she took up duty as base and repair ship.
In April 1918, ALERT returned to the west coast and resumed duties as a Pacific Fleet Torpedo Flotilla submarine tender based at San Pedro, California. That assignment occupied her for the remaining four years of her naval career. When the Navy odpted the alphanumeric system of hull designations on 17 July 1920, she was classified AS-4. On 9 March 1922, ALERT was placed out of commission at the Mare Island Navy Yard. She was sold to A. Bercovich Co., Oakland, California, on 29 July 1922.
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