Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
YFD2 “Old New Orleans”
This dock was ordered by the United States Government under the Act of Congress of May the 4th 1898, and the contract awarded to the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrows Point, Baltimore. The initial design was that of Clark & Standfield, but then modified to conform to American standards.
I cannot find any record of when the dock was laid down, but it appears that work started in 1899, and completed in 1900. With a length of 525 feet, overall width of 128 feet, and walls of 55 feet, the dock was designed to have a lifting capacity of 18,000 tons. These dimensions are a bit questionable and my hunch is that they are overall dimensions. I have the impression that the clear width is just less than 100 feet, and the quoted 525 feet includes the pontoon projections. The height above the keel blocks, I cannot be sure of … yet. As far as I can gather, the dock was in three sections with the midle section being 242 fet long, and the end sections 141 feet. There were a total of 261 keel blocks.
The dock was destined for the U.S. Naval Staion, Algiers, Louisiana. The history of the Naval Repair Base dates back to February the 17th 1849, when three arpents (3.12 acres) of land fronting on the Mississippi River was purchased for a Naval reservation. For almost fifty years, however, the activity remained dormant. Not until 1893 was a Naval station with ship repair facilities established. Then, purchasing 212 more acres and spending nearly $3,000,000 on buildings and equipment, the Navy constructed the U. S. Naval Station, which was completed in 1903.
The dock (not yet classified as YFD2) arrived at Algiers in November 1901 (one record only, and I don’t know how she got there).
On the 6th of January 1902 the dock was tested by lifting the newly commissioned (16th September 1901) 11,565 ton battleship USS Illinois
In 1911 government economy forced the closing of the New Orleans station and it was not re-opened until the 7th of January 1915 for repairs and overhaul of gunboats, New Orleans class cruisers, and other vessels of the Special Service Squadron performing duty in the Gulf and Caribbean waters.
During World War I the Naval Station was operated as an Industrial Navy Yard for repair of vessels of a size able to be handled by YFD2.
In 1940 the dock was moved to Seattle, and then via the Panama Canal to Pear lHarbor to supplement the inadequate docking facilities there, and as a stop gap until ARD3 could be completed. Since the dock was wider than the Canal locks, it was necessary to disassemble it at Cristobal and to reassemble it at Balboa. There is evidence that later 3 section Yard Floating docks were taken through the Panama Canal on their beams ends because of the width problem, I can find no evidence that YFD2 was transported in this manner, so I shall leave the detalis of this method until we discuss YFD3.
YFD2 arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 23rd of August 1940, and sometimtime during November the battle ship USS Shaw arrived at the Navy Yard for repairs and docked in YFD2.
I do not want to attempt to catalogue the whole of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; it is well documented and covered on the internet, and we already have a thread HERE on this topic. However, to try and establish the context around what happened to YFD2, I will indulge in some background detail.
At 6:00 a.m. ont the 7th of December 1941 the first wave of 183 Japanese bombers and fighters were launched from aircraft carriers positioned west of Oahu, Northern Japan. The strike force achieved total surprise when they arrived and attacked the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor shortly before 8:00 a.m. The Navy air bases at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, the Marine airfield at Ewa, and the Army Air Corps fields at Bellows, Wheeler and Hickam were all bombed and strafed, as other elements of the attacking force began their assaults on the ships moored in Pearl Harbor. The purpose of these initial simultaneous attacks was to destroy American planes before they could rise to intercept the Japanese.
There were more than 90 ships anchored in Pearl Harbor, but the primary targets for the Japanese, were eight large battleships. Seven were moored at 1010 dock – ‘Battleship Row’, along the southeast shore of Ford Island, and USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) laying in drydock across the channel. Within the first minutes of the attack, all the battleships in ‘Battleship Row’ had suffered strikes by bombs or torpedoes. Both USS West Virginia (BB-48) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) were sunk. At about 8:10 a.m., the USS Arizona (BB-39) was hit by an armour piercing bomb causing the ship's forward ammunition magazine to explode, killing 1,177 crewmen. The USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS Nevada (BB-36) also suffered varying degrees of damage.
Around 8:30 a.m., there was a short lull in the fury of the attack, and USS Nevada (BB-36), despite her damage, managed to get underway and move down the channel toward the open sea. Before she could clear the harbour, a second wave of 170 Japanese planes appeared overhead.
USS Shaw was still docked in YFD2, and berthed just ahead of her, also in the dock, the tug Sotoyomo (YT9). USS Nevada had by now, traveled the length of Ford Island and was close to Shaw in the dock. A squardon of Japanese dive bombers targetted the escaping Nevada hoping to sink her in the channel and block the narrow entrance to Pearl Harbor.
The crews of both the destroyer and the tug were ashore, as was customary for vessels undergoing overhaul in dry dock, and only a few men were on hand when the Japanese attacked and the bombs started to fall. Some of the Shaw's crew were on watch, some were lounging about, others were in the forward, below-decks mess hall chatting over coffee when the attack began.
At about 9:12, Shaw was hit by three bombs which were released by steep-diving planes from an altitude of about 1000-ft. Two 250 pound bombs hit the forecastle and penetrated the main deck, going through the forward machine gun platform and exploding in the crew’s mess hall. A third 250 pound bomb went through the port wing of the bridge and exploded in the wardroom pantr, rupturing the fuel oil tanks, and causing burnimg oil to spurt out throughout that part of the ship.
By 9:25, all of Shaw’s fire fighting facilities were exhausted, the explosions having cut off the water supply, and the order to abandon ship was given. The officer in charge, Lieutenant James H. Brown went down to the dry dock headquarters demanding that the dock be flooded so that the ship could float off its perch and fight. Brown, however, couldn't make it back to Shaw. Burning fuel oil had flowed under the dock’s wooden keel blocks setting them on fire.
Shortly after 9:30, Shaw’s forward magazines blew up, evidently exploded by the heat of the burning oil and keel blocks. The spectacular blast shredded the ship’s superstructure and ripped off part of the bow. The explosion also holed YFD2, and she started to sink.The tug Sotoyomo, also in YFD2, was badly burned by thefires and also went down.
Efforts to flood the dock and extinguish the conflagration were only partially successful. As YFD2 sank, Shaw's bow fell off to starboard and went under with the dock. Shaw then toppled off her blocks into the water, but remained afloat. As the dock submerged, flaming oil swirled around the stricken vessel. Her survivors swam through a gauntlet of patches of smoking oil to safety. USS Shaw lost 25 crewmen in the attack.
When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended, shortly before 10:00 a.m., and less than two hours after it had begun, twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet had been sunk or damaged, these being,
Battleships: USS Arizona (BB-39), USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Nevada (BB-36), USS Oklahoma (BB-37), USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS West Virginia (BB-48).
Cruisers: USS Helena (CL-50), USS Honolulu (CL-48) and USS Raleigh (CL-7); the destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372), USS Downes (DD-375), USS Helm (DD-388) and USS Shaw (DD-373).
Seaplane tender USS Curtiss (AV-4); target ship (ex-battleship) USS Utah (AG-16); repair ship USS Vestal (AR-4); minelayer USS Oglala (CM-4); tug USS Sotoyomo (YT-9); and Floating Drydock YFD2.
Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged, the majority hit before the had a chance to take off. American dead numbered 2,403, which included 68 civilians, most of them killed by improperly fused anti-aircraft shells landing in Honolulu. There were 1,178 military and civilian wounded.
USS Shaw appeared to be so badly damaged that the U.S. Navy initially wrote the ship off as a total loss. However, the Navy salvage team at Pearl Harbor thought they could resurrect the vessel and get her back into service. Temporary repairs were made, with the installation of a new bow. Shaw left Pearl Harbor on the 8th of Febraury 1942, bound for San Francisco where remaining repairs were completed at Mare Island Naval Base, enabling her to return to active duty for the remainder of World War II.
Despite also being severely damaged, YFD2 was raised and repaired. Although this task was considered a Navy Yard job, it was in fact carried out by the Base Force, and under the direct supervision of the Pacific Bridge Company, which had diverted some of its divers and equipment from work on Dry Docks 2 and 3 at the base. To start with, divers plugged or welded up over 200 holes in YFD2 in order to make her watertight. She finally pumped out and raised on the 9th of January 1942. She had been resting at the bottom of Pearl Harbor for over a month, lisiting at an angle of more than 15 degrees. Apart from the damage caused by bomb splinters, she had also suffered heat damage from the intense fire onboard Shaw, and although she was afloat, many of the repairs were of a temporary nature, and the dock was unusable.
In an attempt to effect more permanent repairs, divers from the Pacific Bridge Company installed a 40 square feet “patch” under the hull of the dock that created a chamber, 4 feet deep, which permitted repairs to the frames and bottom shell paltes. This ingenious setup prevented YFD2 from having to go into dry dock for repair.
There was, however, work to be done in clearing the floor of the dock, which was littered with the wreckage of Shaw’s bow and the burned out tug Sotoyomo. On the 17th of January, the tug was floated clear, leaving the problem of the bow wreckage to deal with.
The bow was, in fact, fairly intact forward of frame 32, between the 5–inch guns, but had been shredded aft of that point. It lay on its starboard side and the shield over gun 2 was crushed, with the deckhouse upon which it sat, twisted to port. There were dents in the starboard side from the impact of YFD2’s keel blocks, and the hull plating was badly wrinkled due to the intense heat of the fire that had raged on the dock floor. Work had began cutting the wreck into sections prior to the dock had beeing raised.
On the 10th of January several bodies of those who had gone down with the bow when it was torn away during the explosion. Recovered ordnance, including a torpedo warhead, 5-inch and 0.50 calibre rounds, plus a Thompson sub-machine gun, were taken to the Naval Ammunititon Depot. Other items salvaged included an anchor, some chains, and various bits and chocks, all lifted onto a barge on the 17th of January.
The bow was finally removed and taken to Waipo Point where it was cut up for scrap. One of the guns had been removed whilst the ship was still in the dock, the other was still attached to the bow.
YFD2 was restored to service on the 25th of January 1942, but did not yet have full buoancy due to a large hole which had not yet been repaired. She could, however operate on a limited basis, and could dock a destroyer. On the 26th of January, she docked USS Shaw - again. She was in the dock for 10 days having her new bow firmly secured for her journey to Mare Island, undocking on the afternoon of the 4th of February. She was then manoeuvered, with the assistance of two tugs, to 1010 dock for the last of the repair work.
It was not until the 15th of May that YFD2 was fully operational again, and provided an invaluable service to the salvage of other vessels damaged in the attack, as well as in support of the Pacific Fleet.
I have collated YFD2 dockings for the period 1942-1943 and have tabulated them in the attached PDF. There was an incident on December the 23rd 1943 when the Bomb Disposal Unit were called to remove four unexploded 5-inch shells, and five unexploded 38 calibre shells from one of the lower tanks of the dock, having been there since the explosion of USS Shaw on the 7th of December 1941.
It is unfortunate that I cannot find any records beyond the end of 1943, as what happened next to YFD2 is a bit of a mystery, and as yet I do not know how long she stayed at Pearl Harbor.The record from which I drew the dockings information ends with a couple of curious entries. The first one, on the 13th of November 1943, simply states “YFD-2 Docked Dry Dock #4”, and the second and final entry, on the 15th of November states that this was for “inspection of underwater body”. Was this routine, or does it indicate that there was a problem, or that the dock was being prepared for being moved? It is frustrating that the only reference to the dock after this, anywhere, is a fleeting mention (NavSource) that the dock ended up in the Dominican Republic in the year 2000. I have tried in vain to confirm this, and if it is the case, where was she in the interim period.
At the Ciramar Shipyard, which is near the Naval Base, San Domingo, Dominican Republic, is listed a floating dock (Nr.2) with a length of 155 metres (~508 feet) and width of 25 metres (82 feet), and, with a deadweight capacity of 18,000 tons. Assuming that these are the internal usable dimensions, they are extremely close to those of YFD2, and the lifting capacity is spot on, except that the whole question of displacement, long tons and deadweight tons is slightly confusing to me. Looking at the dock (well, a dock) on Google Maps is inconclusive, so I cannot be sure whether the Dominican dock is YFD2 or not. I am hoping this will all come to light in due course.
YFD2_1: Test lift with USS Illinois at Algiers, New Orleans, Louisiana; 6th of January 1902. Original photograph from the Wightman family. US National Historical Center photograph #NH 68863
YFD2_2: Coloured postcard of the same event.
YFD2_3 – YFD2_6: Unknown vessel docked at Algiers, 1903. Original source of photographs not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.
YFD2_7: Arriving at Pearl Harbor, 23rd August 1940. The dock still carries “YFD-2, U.S. Naval Station New Orleans La.” On her side wall.
YFD2_8: USS Shaw in YFD2, on fire before the magazine exploded. Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.
YFD2_9: Another shot prior to the explosion. National Historical Center photograph #80-G-32719.
YFD2_10: Iconic photogrpah of USS Shaw’s magazine exploding whils docked in YFD2. US National Historical Center photograph #NH 86118.
YFD2_11: USS Shaw and YFD2 just after the explosion. The dock is now sinking and Shaw, minus her bow, is beginning to float free. Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.
YFD2_12: Aftermath showing the sunken dock listing at more than 15 degrees. US National Historical Center photograph #NH 64481
YFD2_13: Another. National Historical Center photograph #80-G-19939.
YFD_14: The severed bow of USS Shaw in the botom of the dock. US National Historical Center photograph #NH 84000
As mentioned, this is not a post about Pearl Harbor, of which there are many photographs available. The last pictures shown have been selected to show how YFD2 suffered during the attack.
"Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it." - Sir Henry Royce
Last edited by Dreadnought : 04-12-2011 at 08:54.
Reason: Changed spelling 'harbour' to 'Harbor' - thanks BB60