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Old 27-11-2011, 11:37
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Default Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks

Dewey Dock YFD1

As mentioned in post #1, after the Spanish-American War in 1898, the U.S. Navy needed a dry dock in the western Pacific, and the Bureau of Yards & ships ordered a dock for this, and that could handle repairs of its largest ships.

The dock was 525 feet long over blocks, with a usable width of 100 feet. She had a draft of 6 feet 6 inches unflooded and empty, and the side walls were 37 feet high. She had a lifting capacity of 18,500 tons, but could accommodate a 20,000 ton battleship by using the ‘pounds’. Her hull weight was 5580 tons. The dock was named after the highly distinguished American Admiral Dewey, the only officer of the US Navy ever to hold the rank of ‘Admiral of the Navy’.

The Dewey dock was built by the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrows Point, Baltimore. It was laid down in early 1905, and was launched on the 10th of June the same year, being christend by Miss Endicott, the daughter of U.S. Navy Chief of Yards Mordecai T. Endicott. Dewey was completed at Solomon’s Island. The dock needed deep water for its test lifts, and the Navy decided that the tidewater in the mouth of the PatuxentRiver was the best site.

Dewey carried out her first test lift on Friday the 23rd of June 1905, lifting the 13,500 ton armoured cruiser USS Colorado (ACR-7). It took 2 hours and 15 minutes to lift her 6 feet above the surface. The second lift was the battleship USS Iowa (BB4). Most records have this taking place on the 23rd as well, but I have yet to substiate this, although I have found one newspaper article that says Iowa docked the following day; this, I believe, being the case.

It is interesting to note the different methods adopted by the British and American for the shoring of ships in a floating dry dock. The British custom in the case of ironclads of the pre-Dreadnought era, and also that of Italy and Japan, was to support the armour belt on more or less vertical shores inserted under an angle-iron firmly attached to the belt. These shores are put into position as the ship is rising, and, as the water recedes, more and more shores are inserted. The Bermuda dock actually had large and heavy altars constructed for this purpose. The American custom was to strengthen the bilges of their ironclads with strong bilge docking keels, forming, with the keel proper, a level bottom. No shores were required beyond those necessary to centre the vessel, and no great care was required in adjusting the berth, and one set of bilge blocks did for all sizes of vessels. The American method afforded a great saving in weight and quantity of shores, and, what was more important, a great saving in time, not only in the preparation of the berth and centering of the ship, but also in the
actual lifting. With the American plan it would be perfectly feasible to dock a vessel completely in the time required to centre and adjust her with shores disposed according to the British method.

The Dewey dock was destined for Manilia in the Philippines. The islands had been taken during the Spanish-American War, and the Navy planned to establish a major base at Manila which they thought was essential to the US Navy in establishing a global naval presence. The plan was to tow the dock via the Suez canal, and two Navy colliers USS Caesar and USS Glacier were selected to carry out the tow. A third collier, USS Brutus and the tug Potomac were to accompany as assistants.

The convoy left Chesapeake Bay on Friday December the 28th 1905 on its 12,000 mile trip, crosing the Atlantic into the Mediterranean and then through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, and then across the Indian Ocean to her destination at Olongapo, Luizon, at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Dewey arrived on the 10th of July 1906 and remained at Olongapo for the duration of World War I and the inter-war years, serving the fleet at Subic Bay.

On the 24th of May 1910 there was a curious incident that led to Dewey sinking 70 feet to the bottom at her moorings. I can find no real detail about this other than a number of newspaper articles that mention that the dock was believed to have been deliberately sunk. The possibiliy of valves being opened deliberately, or not shut properly was investigated, but it was concluded that this could not have ben the cause. There are further repoprts that manholes were found to be left open, and even that a hole was found in the port side. In any event, the dock was successfully raised several days later.

On the 17th of July 1920 Dewey was re-classified as as YFD1 as part of the US Navy’s fleet-wide assignment of alph-numeric hull numbers.

In 1922, the Washington Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armaments nearly put an end to the naval base at Subic Bay. The treaty included provisions that facilities for the repair and maintenance of U.S. naval forces in the Philippine Islands would have to be reduced. Shops were dismantled, Fort Wint was reduced to caretaker status, and personnel levels were cut. In addition to the limitations imposed by the treaty, the Navy was struggling in the light of defence cuts by the Coolidge Administration. Even though the facilities at Subic Bay were reduced, some ship repair capability remained, including the Dewey dry dock.

In July 1941, Dewey, which had served at Subic Bay for 35 years, was towed to Mariveles harbour on the tip of the Bataan Peninsula, in order to afford better protection from the Japanese advance.

When Bataan fell, Japan was one step closer to controlling Manilla Bay. There was one thing that stood in Japan's way, and that was Corregidor, which had a sophisticated tunnel system all over the island, and held plenty of supplies. There was also a huge hospital. Earlier in the year, and in the May of 1942, the Japanese pounded this island with a countless number of bombs and shells. On the 4th of April, at around 6.00 p.m., Dewey was attacked by several Japanese dive bombers, but heavy anti-aircraft fire managed to stave off the attack. The continual bombardment eventually took its toll - resolve was sapped, the island’s weapon systems were wiped out, and many fortifications destroyed. The men and women of Corregidor island knew they would have to surrender.

The remaining fleet on the island set about destroying anything and everything that would be of value to Japan - weapons, books, and confidential papers were burned or destroyed. On the 8th of April 1942 the Dewey dock was scuttled by docking officer Lieutenant C. J. Weschler and Engineer Jose Otero. Captain K. M. Hoeffel, U.S.N., the senior U.S. naval officer in the forces defending Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor, acting under the orders of Lieutenant General Wainwright, U.S.A., ordered the complete destruction of the previously damaged U.S. submarine tender Canopus, the Dewey dry dock, the mine sweeper Bittern and the tug Napa in order to prevent their being of use to the enemy in the event of capture. These ships and Dewey, had been used at and near Corregidor and Bataan Peninsula by the Army, Navy, and Marine forces serving under General MacArthur, and later under Wainwright in the valiant defence of what were vital positions for controlling the entrance to Manila Bay.

After the fall of the Philippines, the japanese raised Dewey and put her back into action, but she was sunk again by Allied forces in 1944 – cannot yet find any details about this, except a CINCPAC Communique (no,182), November 1944, which reports an attack “in and arouind Manila Bay”, on November the 12th, and lists in the damage report “one floating dock hit by torpedoes”. Another report (Combat eports AG4) mentions an attack on Cavite and Manila Harbour on November the 13th 1944 by 13 Avengers loaded with 2000 lb torpedoes (from USS Bunker Hill I think?). It states …

Because the TBMs were carrying torpedoes, they had to come in low in a different approach. Davis led the group along the south shore of Manila Bay. All VT attacked the same target, a floating drydock. The dropping altitude was 400 - 500 feet at about 230 knots. At least four torpedoes were observed definitely to hit the drydock. Credit was given to Davis and Vogt for two of the hits. "It was not possible to establish credit for the other two known hits. The attack completely destroyed the 'bay side' of the drydock."

Was this Dewey?

Today, Dewey remains somewhere at the bottom of Manila bay, but again, I do not yet have any detalis.

DeweyDock_1: Being towed to Manila 1906 (US National Historical Center)

DeweyDock_2: Poor photograph of USS Iowa during the test lift June 23rd 1905.
Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

DeweyDock_3: USS Chauncey, Olongapo 1910
DeweyDock_4: USS Mohican (left) and submarines A6, A4 & A2. Olongapo circa 1912
DeweyDock_5: USS Galveston, Olongapo circa 1916
DeweyDock_6: USS Isabel, Olongapo, 1933
DeweyDock_7: USS Maryland, Olongapo, date unknown
(all above photographs US National Historical Center)

DeweyDock_8: Newspaper article regarding the test with USS Colorado
DeweyDock_9: New York Times article regarding the 1910 sinking
DeweyDock_10: The other theory about the 1910 sinking
Attached Images
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_1.jpg (393.5 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_2.jpg (396.9 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_3.jpg (444.1 KB, 14 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_4.jpg (436.5 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_5.jpg (305.9 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_6.jpg (334.3 KB, 19 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_7.jpg (320.4 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_8.jpg (244.6 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_9.jpg (452.5 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg DeweyDock_10.jpg (267.3 KB, 10 views)
Clive Sweetingham

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