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USS Dixie (AD-14) on 20 May 1940. Gun mounts 52 and 53 never received shields.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        DIXIE (AD-14)
Design:        Navy AD-14
Displacement (tons):        9,201 light, 18,000 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        530.5' oa, 520.0' pp x 73.3' e x 25.5' lim.
Original Armament:        4-5"/38 (AD 14-15)
Later armaments:        4-5"/38 4<12-20mm (1942: AD 14-15);
4-5"/38 4-1.1"Q 12-20mm (1942: AD 14-15);
4-5"/38 2-40mmT 2-1.1"Q 12<22-20mm (1942-44: AD-14);
4-5"/38 4-40mmT 23-20mm (1943-44: AD-15, 17-19); 4-5"/38 4-40mmT 9<12-20mm (1946-48: AD-15, 17, 18); 4-5"/38 4-40mmT 8<14-20T (1946-55: all); 4-5"/38 4-40mmT (1955-57: AD-15, 17-19);
4-5"/38 (1957-59: all); 2-5"/38 (1959-63: all); 1-5"/38 (1963-71: all); no guns (1972-74: all); 4-20mmS (1975-76: all)
Complement:        
1,127 (1944)
Speed (kts):        19.6
Propulsion (HP):        11,000
Machinery:        NYSB Parsons turbines (Allis-Chalmers in AD 17-19), 2 screws

Construction:

AD Name Ord. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
14 DIXIE 27 Dec 37 New York SB 17 Mar 38 27 May 39 25 Apr 40
15 PRAIRIE 14 Oct 38 New York SB 7 Dec 38 9 Dec 39 5 Aug 40
17 PIEDMONT 10 Apr 41 Tampa SB 1 Dec 41 7 Dec 42 5 Jan 44
18 SIERRA 10 Apr 41 Tampa SB 31 Dec 41 23 Feb 43 20 Mar 44
19 YOSEMITE 10 Apr 41 Tampa SB 19 Jan 42 16 May 43 25 Mar 44

Disposition:
AD Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
14 DIXIE 15 Jun 82 15 Jun 82 17 Feb 83 MA/S 17 Feb 83
15 PRAIRIE 26 Mar 93 26 Mar 93 1 Apr 93 MA/T 6 Apr 93
17 PIEDMONT 30 Sep 82 6 Aug 87 2 Oct 82 Trf. --
18 SIERRA 29 Oct 93 29 Oct 93 25 Aug 95 Sold --
19 YOSEMITE 27 Jan 94 27 Jan 94 18 Nov 03 Tgt. --

Class Notes:
FY 1938 (AD-14), 1939 (AD-15), 1941 (AD 17-19). AD-14 and AD-15 were included in the annual building programs for 1938 and 1939 respectively while AD 17-19 were among a large group of auxiliaries whose construction or acquisition was directed on 5 Aug 40 in the 70% Expansion Program (the second increment of the Two Ocean Navy mobilization effort) along with many combatant ships. Two additional destroyer tenders, AD 28-29, were ordered on 18 Feb 44 to the AD-14 design, but they were reordered on 15 Apr 44 as C3's of the AD-26 class (q.v.).

On 27 Sep 33 the Secretary of the Navy wrote to the Navy's General Board, stating that the latest military characteristics of naval auxiliaries had been drawn up in 1914-1917 and directing that these characteristics be brought up to date. At that time the Navy was preparing for a significant revival of combatant construction under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and the Vinson-Trammell Act of 1934 and realized that its existing auxiliaries, nearly all built during World War I, would soon be inadequate to support the expanding fleet. On 21 Dec 33 the Board forwarded to CNO a tentative revision of the characteristics for destroyer tenders with a request for comments and recommendations. At about the same time it forwarded characteristics for the other types of large auxiliary vessels that the Navy had built between 1914 and 1917: ammunition ships (AE), provision storeships (AF), hospital ships (AH), transports (AP), submarine tenders (AS), repair ships (AR), and oilers (AO) , and it laid down a ten-year program for peacetime auxiliary vessel construction. (Wartime requirements would be handled by conversions of merchant ships.) The destroyer tender was to support one squadron of destroyers (12 ships), have a sustained speed of at least 15 knots and an endurance of 6,000 miles at that speed, a main battery of 4-5" or 6" guns, and at least one and preferably two 20-ton capacity booms. On 11 Jun 34 the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) proposed a number of refinements to these characteristics. For the ship's draft, BuC&R proposed a deep load draft of 24' to 26' based on the 16.5' diameter of the propeller of DOBBIN (AD-3), noting that if a lesser draft was needed it would probably be necessary to resort to twin screws. BuC&R cited the 16 knot speed of DOBBIN as the basis for its recommendation of 16.5 knots, for which it added that modern machinery would permit attaining an endurance of up to 10,000 miles. The Bureau also recommended including an underwater protection scheme like that of DOBBIN, which had full torpedo protection for about half of her length amidships, although it acknowledged that the weight and space that this extra compartmentation would require might not be available. CNO on 21 Jun 34 noted that the DOBBIN and her sister WHITNEY (AD-4) more nearly fulfilled the requirements for a destroyer tender than other existing ships on the Navy List and could therefore be used as a basis for a design, subject to comments based on subsequent experience and other recommendations. He also noted that it was not considered desirable to install twin screws (possibly because they made it harder to moor destroyers alongside) but that draft should be as small as practicable to avoid excluding use of harbors which might otherwise be desirable for destroyer basing.

The General Board on 8 Jan 35 issued its final characteristics for destroyer tenders, which included all the items mentioned by BuC&R. These characteristics specified that the ship was to be able to support fifteen destroyers, including five alongside, and also specified that a single purpose main battery (without anti-aircraft capability) was sufficient. They were circulated to forces afloat for comment around the beginning of March 1935. On 20 Mar 35 WHITNEY recommended that the tender's draft be not over 24 feet, because destroyer tenders usually were assigned anchorages for long periods in fairly shallow water as at San Diego and Guantanamo and their strainers became clogged and circulating water became dirty if their intakes were too close to the harbor bottom. Both DOBBIN and WHITNEY, which had single screw propulsion plants, felt that a two shaft installation would be preferable, to enhance maneuverability in confined spaces and for reliability. WHITNEY cited a BuC&R letter of 7 Dec 34 stating that, despite their torpedo bulkheads, she and DOBBIN could not be considered to have torpedo protection as a single hit would result in an excessive list on account of the ships' very poor stability. On 14 May 35 Commander Scouting Force pointed out that destroyer tenders would probably spend most of their time in advanced fleet bases which would be tempting objectives for air attacks and that a dual purpose battery would be desirable. Forces afloat were practically unanimous in recommending that the ship be designed to support 19 destroyers (3 divisions of 6 plus a leader) instead of 15. Concerning the ship's speed, on 12 Mar 35 Commander Battle Force called the attention of CNO to press reports of Japanese merchant ships and oil tankers being constructed for speeds as high as 19 knots. In forwarding this letter to the General Board CinCUS recommended considering increasing the maximum sustained speed of 16.5 knots in the various auxiliary vessel characteristics to 18 knots. The General Board declined on 17 Apr 35 to make the increase for all new auxiliaries because of cost, although on 3 Jul 35 it agreed to make the change solely for seaplane tenders. On 13 Jul 35 CNO explained that in auxiliaries designed for a sustained speed of 16.5 knots, a 25% excess of power was to be provided which was expected to give 1 1/4 knots more on trials in loaded condition in smooth seas and with a clean bottom, but some operational commanders continued to press for at least 18 knots sustained speed with bottom fouling equivalent to four months out of dock.

In August 1935 BuC&R completed its preliminary design based on the General Board's characteristics of 8 Jan 35. On 28 Aug 35 the Bureau tasked the New York Navy Yard (Central Drafting Office) to produce contract plans and detail specifications based on this design and on the following day the Bureau forwarded the design to CNO for approval. This design provided for a ship with full load measurements of 16,710 tons displacement, 511.0 feet waterline length, 71.0 feet beam, 25.3 feet mean draft (more than the desired 24 feet but under the General Board's 26 feet), 16.5 knots sustained sea speed and 17.75 knots on trials. The ship's single-screw propulsion machinery was just aft of amidships in an engine room and a boiler room which, along with warhead and depth charge holds, were located behind torpedo bulkheads that extended about two-fifths of the ship's length (about 200 feet). Because the ship would be tending modern destroyers carrying 5"/38 dual purpose guns the Bureau of Ordnance selected this weapon for the tender, but BuC&R was unable to place four of these guns on the centerline because of interferences forward from derrick posts and aft from the ship's towing engine and boats and instead adopted a quadrilateral arrangement. A 5" AA range finder and a Mark 33 fire control director were to be provided. Two 15-ton electric cranes were located aft of amidships to handle the boats and stores stowed there. Electric cranes were selected because of the positive control they provided when handling heavy weights, particularly in a seaway. Deck space was assigned on the superstructure for two catapults in case it was found necessary to fit them, but the Bureau felt that aeronautic facilities would distract from the ship's primary mission and did not reserve any weight for them. The large increase in displacement over DOBBIN and WHITNEY was largely due to the requirement to carry more stores, ammunition and fuel, of which the design provided for about 7,843 tons deadweight vice 4,900 tons in DOBBIN.

On 9 Oct 35 CinCUS asked forces afloat to comment on the August preliminary design, but on 26 Oct 35 the Bureau informed CinCUS that it was revising it based on comments already received. The General Board made two changes to the characteristics for the type on 4 Dec 35, adopting twin screws and reducing the anti-torpedo protection to cover only the cargo ammunition magazines. CNO distributed these revised characteristics on 12 Dec 35 and BuC&R circulated a new preliminary design based on them on 23 Jan 36. The new characteristics and design implemented nearly all of the recommendations received from forces afloat during 1935 except for the increase of sustained speed from 16.5 to 18 knots and the increase in the number of destroyers to be supported from 15 to 19. The new design reduced the draft to 24 1/4 feet by increasing the ship's beam. BuC&R felt that, even with the high stability provided for in the revised design, the tender was too small for torpedo bulkheads like those in battleships to be effective. Instead the new design featured two main machinery spaces, each with a main engine and two boilers, separated from each other by a distance of 44 feet giving almost complete assurance that both would not be flooded by a single torpedo hit or by a collision. The Bureau felt that this arrangement gave greater assurance of continued power than the single screw arrangement with torpedo defense bulkheads in DOBBIN. BuC&R retained anti-torpedo protection over the cargo ammunition magazines to prevent sympathetic explosion of cargo ammunition in a torpedo attack. While the ship carried stores and cargo ammunition for only 15 destroyers of the new 1,500-ton type, the Bureau argued that the tender's extensive shop facilities would be able to support a squadron of 19 destroyers under most circumstances. Forces afloat continued to criticize the 16.5 knot speed requirement, but the large reserve of power built into the ships ultimately allowed the Bureaus to achieve trial speeds over 19 knots in the AD-14 and AR-5 classes, which by their estimates would have produced the 18-knot sustained speed desired by forces afloat.

On 13 Mar 35 CinCUS had recommended that newly designed auxiliaries incorporate limited facilities for providing emergency service to occasional patrol planes. These included hoisting facilities for and the ability to carry on deck for limited periods seaplanes up to and including patrol planes of the 4-engine type, which had a full weight of 46,000 pounds. With the advent of the Consolidated PBY Catalina in 1933 the Navy had acquired a viable long-range patrol plane which some officers hoped would also serve as a strike bomber in a Central Pacific offensive. The Navy therefore began designing into as many as possible of its new ships cranes or booms to support the big patrol seaplanes. The January 1936 destroyer tender design included two 20-ton (45,000 pound) capacity rotating electric cranes, larger than the 15-ton cranes in the 1935 design. In addition to handling boats and general weights associated with the ship's tender mission, these cranes were designed to lift the largest patrol plane contemplated in early 1936, the Sikorsky XPBS-1. Considerable effort was spent in late 1938 to develop a way to stow a large seaplane on the aft end of the superstructure deck of the destroyer tender just forward of No. 3 5-inch mount for emergency servicing or transportation.

The Bureau's January 1936 design succeeded in locating an armament of 4-5"/38 dual purpose guns on the center line fore and aft. This location increased the effectiveness of the battery and left the deck edges clear for handling the lines and gear of destroyers alongside. The battery was to be controlled by a Mark 37 main battery director. On 13 Aug 37 the General Board updated its characteristics for the main battery to 4-5"/38 dual-purpose guns on the centerline. However on 13 Nov 37 for budgetary reasons SecNav approved an austere version of this armament that omitted directors, range keepers, and remote control of the 5"/38 guns, although the foundations for the omitted equipment including the director were to be installed and space was to be reserved in the I.C. room for the fire control computer and stable element. In response BuOrd on 20 Nov 1937 assigned to the ship four open-type hand-operated roller path mounts instead of the previously intended enclosed powered type. Fire control was to be limited to a Mark 32 rangefinder. The first two ships of the class were completed with two open and two enclosed mounts, although PRAIRIE (AD-15) was upgraded to four enclosed mounts during post-fire repairs in 1942. The later three ships of the class were built with four enclosed mounts but unlike the first two ships did not receive their Mark 37 directors until after the war.

Commands both in Washington and afloat considered the January 1936 preliminary design a decided improvement over the 1935 design. The Navy's 1936 auxiliary building program called for three new destroyer tenders: one in fiscal year 1937, one in 1939, and one in 1941. The material bureaus spent much of 1936 producing the detail specifications and the contract plans for the ship, which incorporated a few additional recommendations from the fleet and required working out the intricacies of structural design and the details of the propulsion plant. Upon the recommendation of BuC&R, SecNav on 23 Oct 36 assigned the official number AD-14 to the first ship of the new class so that the contract plans and specifications for the ship could be titled. The ship having slipped to the fiscal 1938 program, the final design was submitted to CNO for SecNav approval on 30 Aug 37, the contract plans were submitted to SecNav for approval around 1 Oct 37, and the ship, DIXIE, was ordered on 27 Dec 37. The second unit, PRAIRIE, followed on schedule in 1939 and the war emergency increased the number of units provided for in 1941.

The DIXIE class destroyer tenders--along with the similar VULCAN (AR-5) class repair ships and FULTON (AS-11) class submarine tenders--were big, useful ships that were able to adapt to radically changing requirements during their unusually long active careers. Of the 16 ships in these three iconic classes, nine remained in active service into the 1990s and one (AS-19) remained on the list until 1999, albeit as a lowly IX.

Ship Notes:
AD Name Notes
14 DIXIE To NDRF 14 Oct 82, to buyer 29 Mar 83.
15 PRAIRIE To buyer at Long Beach, Cal., 23 Apr 93.
17 PIEDMONT Earlier order: Sun (16 Dec 40). Transferred to Turkey as DERYA. Sold to Turkey 17 Aug 87. Scrapped 1995.
18 SIERRA Earlier order: Sun (16 Dec 40). To NDRF 25 Jan 94. Sold by Navy, out of NDRF and to buyer 17 Jan 96, scrapped by 4 Nov 97.
19 YOSEMITE Earlier order: Sun (16 Dec 40). To NDRF 12 Apr 94. Planned donation as drug rehabilitation center did not occur. Departed NDRF 19 Feb 03, sunk as a target off the Virginia coast by surface warships.

Page Notes:
AD        1938

Compiled:        03-Jun-00

© Stephen S. Roberts, 2000