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Old 26-11-2011, 16:40
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Default US Navy Floating Dry Docks

Now and again, queries appear on the forum regarding US Navy floating dry docks, and not wanting to skew the threads these appear in, and also not wanting to take the established Admiralty Floating Docks thread off track, I thought it be approraite to start a new “sister” thread looking at this topic.

The first U.S. Navy floating dock appears to be a wooden one, used for the West Coast Dock at the Mare Island Naval Yard, Mare Island, California, in 1854. Interestingly, it was the only Navy yard for the Pacific Squadron and, in fact, the only repair facility on the entire PacificCoast. Other docks were apparently built at other yards, but little seems to be known of their history.

After the Spanish-American War in 1898, the U.S. Navy needed a dry dock in the western Pacific. In 1905, USS Dewey (YFD 1) was towed across the Atlantic and Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, and across the Indian Ocean, arriving at Olongapo, Philippines, 6Ĺ months later. This dock will be covered in due course.

Dewey was built at Maryland Steel (Bethlehem Steel from 1918), Sparrow’s point Maryland, and another early dock, YFD2 was also built there, seemingly, before Dewey in 1900. Her history, and demise at Pearl Harbor, will be featured in a future post. I have found a record that Maryland Steel built a dock for the U.S. navy for service at Algiers on the Mississippi, near New Orleans. This was a four-section self-docking Clark Stansfield design at 525 feet long, and with a lifting capacity of 18,000 tons. The contract to build this dock was awarded in 1899 at a cost of $810,000. I have yet to ascertain whether this was in fact YFD2 (which apparently ended up in the Dominican Republic).

In late 1918, the Morse Dry Dock company began work on a new sectional floating dry dock. Constructed from at least three million feet of timber, and said to be a far more complex and difficult task than the building of a ship, the $1,000,000 dock was six years in the planning and took more than twelve months to build. It was constructed section by section at an ancillary yard of the company at the foot of 63rd St., Brooklyn. By March 1919, the first three sections were ready and were put to use for the first time in lifting the steamer Black Arrow out of the water, at the rate of one foot per minute.

When completed in late 1919, the six-section dock was the largest floating dry dock in the world, capable of lifting a ship 725 feet long and weighing 30,000 tons. In February 1920, all six sections of the dock were used to lift a single ship for the first time, the 30,000-ton SS Minnesota, a task that took 25 minutes.

Evidence of other docks for the U.S. Navy prior to WW2 appears a bit sketchy, and so far I can only find records of one more in service during this time, and this was the 2200 ton ARD1, which is recorded as being in active service in 1934, and taken to Pear lHarbor. Further investigation to be carried out.

In 1935, the Bureau of Yards & Docks obtained $10,000,000 for a similar one-piece mobile dock, to be capable of lifting any naval vessel afloat. Complete plans and specifications were prepared by the Bureau for this dock, which was to be 1,027 feet long, 165 feet beam, and 75 feet moulded depth. Bids received for this huge drydock, designed as ARD3, appreciably exceeded the appropriation, and the project was abandoned when the additional funds needed for its execution were refused. At the same time, plans were prepared for ARD2, an improved and enlarged model of ARD1. But it was not until November 1940, however, that funds were obtained for its construction, and the project placed under contract. More on that later.

Dry docks were generally classifed as follows (note – records of classifications vary):

ABSD - Advance Base Sectional Dock
All Steel Construction. Either ten sections of 10,000 tons lifting capacity each, or seven sections of 8,000 tons lifting capacity. For battleships, carriers, cruisers, and large auxiliaries. (Some records shown smaller capacities of 3,850 tons).

ARD - Auxiliary Repair Dock. (including ARDB and ARDM)
Steel construction with distinctive enclosed ship shaped bow. Normal lifting capacity of 3,500 tons. For destroyers, submarines, and small auxiliaries.

ARDC - Auxiliary Repair Dock, Concrete
Concrete dock with faired bow and stern. 2,800 tons lifting capacity. (Some records 8,300 tons?)

AFD - Auxiliary Floating Dock
Steel dock with faired bow and stern. 1,000 tons lifting capacity. AFDB 3,850 tons.

AFDL - Auxiliary Floating Dock, Lengthened
Steel dock similar to AFD's, but lengthened and enlarged to provide 1,900 tons lifting capacity.

YFD - Yard Floating Dock
This category included a wide variety of types, designed generally for yard or harbor use, with services supplied from shore. Among the principal types were 400-ton concrete trough docks; 1,000-ton, 3,000-ton and 5,000-ton one-piece timber trough docks; sectional timber docks ranging from 7,000 to 20,000 tons lifting capacity; and three-piece self-docking steel sectional docks of 14,000 to 18,000 tons lifting capacity.

These classifications were modified in 1946 in order to make the standard nomenclature of floating drydocks consistent and more descriptive. Four class designations were established, as follows:

AFDB - Auxiliary Floating Drydock Big
30,000 tons and larger.

AFDM - Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium
10,000 to 30,000 tons.

AFDL - Auxiliary Floating Drydock Little
Less than 10,000 tons.

AFDL(C) - Auxiliary Floating Drydock Little (Concrete)

Under this re-classificaton, ABSD's were redesignated AFDB's; ARD's became AFDU's; RDC's became AFDL(C)'s; AFD's became AFDL's; and YFD's became AFDM's.

More details of the different dock specifications will feature in later posts. Some docks also carried names, which again, will be seen in ensuing posts.

During World War II, over 150 floating docks were constructed across the United States. They were included in the Navy’s Support Craft Category – “A grouping of navy-subordinated craft (including non-self-propelled) designed to provide general support to either combatant forces or shore-based establishments”.

A total of 78 docks saw service in advance areas. Commercial ship repair yards utilized 44, and continental naval activities, 21 docks. Three docks were furnished to Army ports of embarkation, two docks to the Coast Guard, and five to the United Kingdom; one was lost, and one was sunk in the Bikini tests.
Clive Sweetingham

"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 : 30-11-2011 at 21:37. Reason: YFD2 lifting capacitychanged
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Old 26-11-2011, 16:47
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Default Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks


Going to start with AFDL47 simply because of a recent enquiry in the USS Laffey thread.

AFDL47 was designed by the Bureau of Yards & Docks, U.S. Navy for the Bureau of Ships. It was built by the Dravo Neville Island Plant, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and launched on Saturday the 10th of August 1946. She was designated as ARD33, but as mentioned in post #1, the docks were re-classified in this year and the dock was known throughout her career as AFDL47.

The Auxiliary Repair Dock was the largest single group of floating drydocks built during the war, and as mentioned in post #1, were designed to accommodate destroyers, submarines, and other craft of comparable size. They were extensively used throughout combat areas and proved among the most useful, flexible, and effective facilities supporting the U.S. fleet.

Like all of the ARDís, ARD33 (AFDL47) had a nominal lifting capacity of 3,500 tons. She was 485 feet 8 inches long and 71 feet wide overall. This gave a usable length of 413 feet, a clear width of 49 feet 4 inches. The depth over the keel blocks was 21 feet.

The hull was an integral unit structure, and was strong enough to resist safely the maximum hogging, sagging, and torsional stresses to which the dock might be subjected in heavy storms at sea, and this made the ARD docks exceptionally rigid when in normal use.

The docks were well compartmented, both for maximum safety at sea or in combat and for optimum control of ballasting during docking operations. The bottom pontoon was divided by one longitudinal and four transverse bulkheads into eight ballast tanks. Each wing wall was divided into five ballast tanks, and, in addition, two tanks were provided in the bow, forward of the head wall of the inner dock. A watertight horizontal safety deck installed in the wing walls and bow precluded immergence below the minimum designed freeboard and helped to prevent undue trim or list at deep draft. These ballast tanks were interconnected by valved piping to two pumping plants, each consisting of two vertical shaft pumps rated at 15,000 g.p.m. at 12 feet head. The flooding and pumping system permitted submerging the dock to minimum freeboard in 50 minutes, and raising the dock and pumping the basin dry in 100 minutes. The ballast tanks were equipped with water-level indicators centralized in the control house, from which all pump and valve operations were also remotely controlled.

Above the safety deck in the wing walls were two machinery decks. The lower, or C, deck accommodated the pump and valve motors, small machines, welding equipment, and storage spaces. The upper, or B, deck accommodated the main diesel generators and other heavy equipment, as well as quarters and messing facilities for the crew. In the bow, the upper deck was omitted in order to provide adequate headroom for the hull repair shop.

ARD docks were equipped with four railway-type diesel engines directly connected to electric generators. As originally designed, provision was made for the installation of low-power electric-drive propulsion machinery, but in fact none of the docks was actually equipped with this propulsion, partly because of the urgent need for such equipment for ships, and partly because of its infrequent use.

All the ARD docks (with the exception of the original ARD1) had bottom-hinged stern gates that were that were closed by an electrically driven sprocket and roller chain device at either side, and opened by gravity. Operating difficulties with this mechanism led eventually to its replacement with hydraulic gate operating gear similar to that used in the ARD1 and providing positive force and control for both closing and opening.

These docks proved to have excellent towing characteristics. Many trans-Pacific movements were made at average speeds of 6 to 8 knots, using fleet tugs and auxiliaries of moderate horsepower. The one particular advantage, was their readiness for immediate service as soon as they were moored.

The need for more auxiliary facilities than could be accommodated on board the docks led to the provision of a covered wooden barge equipped as a carpenter shop for each dock. Keel blocks, cradles, and shoring timbers needed for docking or repairs were fabricated on the shop barge, which was moored alongside the drydock and supplied with power from it.

A vast number of combat vessels damaged in action or requiring graving of the bottom or other hull work below waterline were successfully docked in ARD's in the forward areas. This service to the fleet constituted a significant factor in the success of the Navy, particularly in the later actions in the western Pacific.

AFDL47, later named Reliance, had the unique record of being the largest vessel ever constructed and launched on inland waterways. After completion, it appears she was towed to New Orleans by the 1600 hp tug National (owned by the American Barge Line Co.). I have a record of her being at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 1950 until 1952, and an ex-US Navy servicemanís personal record still placing her there in 1958. Then I find a mention of her being handed over to Groton Electric Boat Works in 1958. Not quite sure what happened next, but it appears that at some stage the U.S. Navy put her into Maritime Administration Reserve, until the 15th of May 1991 when she was leased to Detryens Shipyard, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. After the lease expired in 2006, the U.S Government took posession of her and towed her to the Naval Weapons Station at Charleston. South Carolina. Detyens have now purchased AFDL47, and is in their yard at Charleston.

AFDL47_1: In 2006 undergoing a structural survey at Goose Creek Naval Weapons Station.
AFDL47_2: US Laffey docking/undocking at Detyens 2009
AFDL47_3: At Detyens with a barge onboard. Date unknown
AFDL47_4: Newspaper cutting announcing the launch

Original sources of photographs not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.
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Clive Sweetingham

"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
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Old 26-11-2011, 16:52
John Odom John Odom is offline
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Default Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks

This is great Clive! I've been wondering about the US docks.
John Odom
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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
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Clive Sweetingham

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Old 27-11-2011, 16:15
John Odom John Odom is offline
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Default Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks

Somewhere in my Daddy's pictures are pictures of the Dewey dock. As I have said he served in the Asiatic fleet from 1918 until 1922. Most of the time was spent on the Yangtze, but they regularly came to Olongapo and Manila. If and when I find the picture of the Dewey, I will post it. On a tour of Manila Bay and Corregidor, about, 1949, the site of the sunken Dewey Dock was pointed out to Daddy and I my the master of the cruise boat after Daddy,s inquiry.
John Odom
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Old 29-11-2011, 00:50
John Odom John Odom is offline
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Default Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks

There are som more pictures of the Dewey Dock here:

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Old 29-11-2011, 20:24
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Default 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.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg YFD2_1.jpg (324.3 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_2.jpg (511.4 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_3.jpg (299.3 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_4.jpg (142.2 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_5.jpg (424.9 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_6.jpg (448.3 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_7.jpg (541.5 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_8.jpg (513.0 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_9.jpg (490.7 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_10.jpg (541.7 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_11.jpg (643.6 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_12.jpg (396.1 KB, 17 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_13.jpg (860.0 KB, 15 views)
File Type: pdf YFD2Dockings42-43.pdf (71.6 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg YFD2_14.jpg (653.1 KB, 18 views)
Clive Sweetingham

"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
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