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USS Medusa (AR-1) early in her career
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        MEDUSA (AR-1)
Design        Navy AR-1
Displacement (tons):        8,855 light, 10,620 full
Dimensions (feet):        483.8' oa, 460.0' pp x 70.0' wl x 20.5' mx
Original Armament:        4-5"/51 2-3"/50
Later armaments:        6-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 8<20-20mm (1942)
Complement:        512 (1929)
Speed (kts.):        16
Propulsion (HP):        7,000
Machinery:        Parsons geared turbines, 1 screw

AR Name Ord. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
1 MEDUSA 25 Apr 19 NYd Puget Sound 2 Jan 20 16 Apr 23 18 Sep 24

AR Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
1 MEDUSA 18 Nov 46 10 Jun 47 18 Nov 46 MC/D 4 Aug 50

Class Notes:
FY 1919. The Naval Appropriation Act for FY 1917 that became law on 29 Aug 16 authorized a three-year building program of ten battleships, six battle cruisers, ten scout cruisers, fifty torpedo-boat destroyers, nine fleet submarines, fifty-eight coast submarines, one experimental (Neff) submarine, and two gunboats. To support these combatants it also authorized three fuel ships (oilers), one repair ship, one transport, one hospital ship, two destroyer tenders, one fleet submarine tender, and two ammunition ships. Sixty-six of these ships including one fuel ship, the hospital ship, and one ammunition ship were to be begun during FY 1917, the others were to be funded and begun during the following two fiscal years. AR-1 was funded in FY 1919 (Act of 1 Jul 18) and was named on 31 Mar 19.

In 1898 the Navy leadership had been impressed with the support the hastily converted repair ship VULCAN had provided to the blockading squadron off Santiago and concluded that her work showed "the necessity of providing a repair vessel for every large squadron of war ships." In 1907 the former auxiliary cruiser PANTHER was converted to a repair ship, but the General Board wrote in 1911 that she had never been satisfactory, even in peace, and would be still less so in war. On 26 Oct 10 the General Board submitted to the Secretary of the Navy the military characteristics of several types of vessels proposed for fiscal year 1912 including repair ships. No repair ships were authorized that year (although Submarine Tender No. 1 was), and in 1911 and 1912 the General Board recommended characteristics for repair ships for FY 1913 and FY 1914 with equal lack of success.

On 25 Aug 15 the General Board forwarded to SecNav characteristics common to all fleet auxiliaries that might be included in the FY 1917 building program, and on 7 Oct 15 it forwarded the special characteristics that it recommended for repair ships in that program. These two documents were slightly modified versions of characteristics first issued in 1913 for the FY 1915 building program and largely repeated in 1914 for FY 1916. The speed of all new fleet auxiliaries (ammunition, fuel, hospital, repair and supply ships, destroyer and submarine tenders, and transports) was to be 14 knots sustained, their steaming radius was to be 8,000 miles at 10 knots, and they were to have twin screws housed under the stern. The FY 1917 repair ships were to have a minimum deep load draft compatible with other characteristics and good sea-going qualities. Their repair plant was to be of about the same capacity of that in VESTAL and was to be completely equipped to meet the probable demands of battleships. (Earlier characteristics had referred to "eight battleships" but in the FY 1917 document the word "eight" is absent.) Their shop deck was to be located well above the waterline with headroom as great as practicable, and with particular attention to ventilation and illumination both natural and artificial. They were to have an armament of 4-5" guns and 4-3" anti-aircraft guns (replacing the 8-5" guns and no AA guns called for in FY 1915 and 1916).

The Bureau of Construction and Repair designed the new ship to the FY 1917 specifications, none having been issued for FY 1918 or FY 1919. The Bureau noted that VESTAL, although a "make-shift job," met these characteristics. In August 1918 the Bureau's Plan Divisions furnished to the Preliminary Design Division scale plans of a proposed repair ship that met these characteristics using hull lines and dimensions generally as those of Transport No. 1 (HENDERSON) which were then being adopted for Destroyer Tender No. 3. Compared to the tender the principal hull dimensions of the repair ship were not changed (and the single screw was retained) but the depth was altered and the main and second decks were each raised more than three feet above their previous locations. A half and forecastle decks were added, which raised the anchors and anchor windlass from the main to the forecastle deck. The heavy torpedo bulkheads below the third deck and large amounts of cargo, ammunition, and fuel oil were omitted. With the addition of high weights and the deletion of weights low in the ship this design was found to lack stability (HENDERSON herself had turned out to have less metacentric height in actual service than desired) and a hull measuring 480' by 67.5' was then considered. The Bureau decided in December 1918 to retain the length of 460', which had been used for all the recent auxiliaries, leading to a beam of 70'. The draft of the design at the desired displacement of 10,000 tons as of late February 1919 was 19.0' mean with the maximum of 19.4' being forward. The design had to be rushed to completion as SecNav had given orders that the contracts for the repair ship, submarine tender, and transport of the 1919 program all be placed before the end of the present session of Congress, meaning that materials had to be ready for bidders by 15 Jan 19. The Circular of Requirements was approved on 12 Dec 18 and distributed in mid-January.

The armament approved for Transport No. 2 (also a FY 1919 ship) on 14 Dec 18 consisted of four 5"/51 guns, two 1-pdr guns, and four machine guns. BuOrd confirmed to BuC&R and to CNO on 28 Jan 19 that no AA battery was specified for the transport while the repair ship was to have 4-3" AA guns with the same main battery of 4-5"/51 guns. BuOrd recommended that the AA batteries of both ships be changed to 2-3" guns. SecNav approved the change to the repair ship's armament on 8 Feb 19 and BuC&R told BuOrd on 13 Feb 19 that the bidders had been notified of the change.

After considering the results of the bidding process the Navy decided to build the ship itself in the Puget Sound Navy Yard. Upon completion MEDUSA replaced PROMETHEUS in the Fleet Train, MEDUSA being commissioned at Bremerton in mid-September 1924 and PROMETHEUS being decommissioned at the same location sixteen days later. Stability continued to be an issue for this ship, and a 1936 characteristics card said she would capsize if the machine shop were flooded except under the most fortunate circumstances of wind, sea, and conditions of loading. Otherwise she appears to have been highly regarded, and when VULCAN (AR-5) was being designed the officers of MEDUSA offered their opinion that the allocation and assignment of spaces in MEDUSA had been found to be highly satisfactory while the Bureau's design for AR-5 had some serious weaknesses, and they recommended that the Bureau replace its design with one based on MEDUSA lengthened 60 feet amidships.

Ship Notes:
AR Name Notes
1 MEDUSA To buyer 24 Aug 50, scrapped by 7 Aug 51.

Page Notes:
AR        1920
Compiled:        30 Apr 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012