On the 1st August 1908 a committee made up from the councils of Gerringong, Jamberoo and Kiama and notable citizens assembled to discuss the upcoming visit by the American Fleet, a battle fleet of 16 ships. The fleet arrived on the 21st August and departed for Melbourne 26th August.
The catch was that the sailors would be coming by train and not ship. The fleet was moored in Sydney harbour and the sailors were made into groups in went in a variety of directions from Sydney as a goodwill gesture. At the time cheap railway tickets were made available for the public to view the fleet in the harbour.
Expecting to receive 100 sailors, the committee planned for an extravaganza. They planned a luncheon, decorations (£5 budget), military band and a public holiday."Any persons who will undertake to take an American for a drive in their private vehicles that day between the hours of 1pm and 3pm are requested to notify the secretaries.”
41 sailors and 2nd regimental band (25) arrived in Kiama to a disappointed organising committee. However the sailors and the band made up for the lack of numbers and proved a winner with the crowds.
While here, two sailors drowned and 80 sailors jumped ship. 50 of these were captured and returned to their ships. A bounty of $10 was placed on each deserters head.
US Yanckton delayed its sailing with the fleet, waiting back to gather the stragglers.
Requests were made to Admiral Sperry of the American Fleet that as they sailed to Melbourne down the south coast, that an effort be made to sail as close to the coast as possible for the viewing of the people of the Illawarra.
On August 27th the fleet sailed past Kiama on its way to Melbourne at 1:10pm, yet the fleet was well off shore and only those with telescopes could see the fleet.
A reporter of the day asked the sailors some questions.
Speaking of the blowhole? "If we had that in America, we'd make money out of it.
What he enjoyed in Kiama?, "Yes, fine, wish we could stay longer"
Good looking girls of the Illawarra compared to Sydney? "Yes we'd like to take you all away with us."
What did you like about your visit? "Oh, everything, the drive was just good."
Image is of American Fleet and 2nd Regiment Band arrives in Kiama 1908.