Boilermaker Edward Floyd
USCIS Charleston Field Office
U.S. Navy Boilermaker Edward Floyd was born on February 21, 1850, in Ireland, and was a resident of Charleston, South Carolina. He served on the second of three battleships to sail under the name Iowa. The citation for his peacetime Medal of Honor reads:
Serving on board the USS Iowa, for extraordinary heroism at the time of the blowing out of the manhole plate of boiler D on board that vessel, 25 January 1905.
There were no fatalities, likely thanks to the actions of Boilermaker Floyd and five other crew members who also received Medals of Honor. Of those six sailors, four were immigrants. In addition to Boilermaker Floyd, they included Seaman 1st Class Heinrich Behnke (Germany), Fireman 1st Class Demetri Corahorgi (Greece) and Chief Watertender Johannes J. Johannessen (Norway).
On its website, the State Historical Society of Iowa recounts the events of that day:
Crews shoveled coal into the boilers to keep the engines powered, and constant monitoring was required to prevent the buildup of excessive steam. If boilers were carelessly attended, an intense increase in heat could blow up the engine, kill the crew, possibly ignite gunpowder and sink the entire ship. On January 25, 1905, an overheated boiler blew open a manhole, and scalding hot steam and water poured out into the engine rooms. Heroic action was needed to save lives. According to the ship’s logbook, the surgeon reported serious but not critical burns on the feet and ankles of the MOH recipients. The engineer reported that the boiler plate explosion flooded fire room #7 and a ‘fire was deadened with water.’ The crew then disengaged the afflicted boiler and switched power to a back-up boiler. Since their precise actions of over a century ago were not recorded, these six MOH recipients, to prevent further danger, most likely had to run through the hot, steamy boiler room to activate the back-up boiler.
Boilermaker Floyd died on January 16, 1923, and is buried in the St. Lawrence Cemetery in Charleston.
The first Iowa, built in the 1870s, was deemed unfit for sea duty. Newspapers called the second Iowa, commissioned in 1897, the “queen of warships.” The 360-foot ship participated in the Spanish- American War, firing the first shot at approaching Spanish ships in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba in July 1898. After the war, the Iowa served in the Pacific and later the Atlantic. After a final decommissioning in 1919, the ship was renamed Coast Battleship No. 4 and became the first radio-controlled target ship to be used in a fleet training exercise. The target ship was sunk in March 1923 in Panama Bay. That same year, work on the next Iowa was cancelled under a five-power treaty limiting naval armament, and the unfinished ship was sold for scrap. The third Iowa was commissioned during World War II, decommissioned in 1958 and returned to service in 1984. It was decommissioned again in 1990, the year after a gun turret explosion killed 47 crew members.