During the month of October 1922, many cities around the nation welcomed units of the naval service to celebrate Navy Day. These widespread celebrations took many shapes, but one of the more unique celebrations was held in the city of Bridgeport Connecticut. The navy had a ship named USS Bridgeport and by good fortune, she was stationed in the northeast.
This article brought back a lot of memories for me. Even though I was a submariner and served on submarine support vessels, the memories of the submarine tender Hunley came rushing back to me as I read the descriptions of what the civilians would see. A tender is truly a community in so many ways and I can almost feel myself walking through the decks of the Hunley as I read the article.
Also of interest is the two submarines that were sent to act as ambassadors. The R class boats were not great weather submarines. I can almost hear the crew grumbling as they are told that they will be traveling through rough waters. Plus, since they did not have their own support ships, there was probably not much food until they arrived. But the need to showcase the navy was paramount. This mission was to combat an invisible enemy. The politicians that were trying to kill the navy.
The Bridgeport times and evening farmer. October 26, 1922
Bridgeport will pay honor today to the officers and men of the destroyer tender Bridgeport, and the submarines R-9 and R-22, which arrived here yesterday to participate in the celebration of Navy Day tomorrow.
The navy vessels were thrown open to inspection at 9 o’clock this morning and visitors will be welcomed on board during their stay here. Today’s program includes a parade of bluejackets under command of Commander H. C. Cooke, through principal streets of the city shorn before noon; a show for the enlisted men, and a luncheon tendered officers and 25 enlisted men by the Kiwanis Club.
Since the visit of the naval vessels is intended by the Navy department primarily to reawaken interest in the first line of defense, arrangements have also been made for the officers today to visit city schools, where they will address the students. So far as navy visitors are concerned, Mayor Atwater has thrown the key to the city away and the town is theirs.
High seas yesterday made rough going for the submarines and caused the Bridgeport to anchor well out from shore. The same high seas provided an uncomfortable quarter of an hour for the reception committee which went to meet the naval vessels and which had serious doubts for a time they would ever return. The members of this committee got back very damp and very chilled and well content to let the prohibitionists and the navy rule the deep.
Those on the committee, who went out In R. C. Mayo’s cruiser. “Virginia,” were Edmund S. Wolfe, president of the Chamber of Commerce; George Knox. Veterans of Foreign Wars; George Moore, American Legion; Clarence O. Lister, president Junior Chamber of Commerce; Walter M. Bangs, president Kiwanis club; Attorney William W. Bent, vice president Lions club; George C. Waldo, president of Rotary club; Albert W. Smith, Chairman Navy Day committee; James L. McGovern, Collector of Port; Seward W. Price, Chamber of Commerce and E. Earle Garlick, prosecuting attorney.
Although a naval parade was scheduled for yesterday it was found necessary to postpone it until today but the reception committee welcom ed to the city a landing party which docked at the float off the Stratford avenue bridge and which was composed of Commander H. C. Cocke, Lieut. Commander H. C. Boynton, Lieutenant Commander L. P. Pamperin ; Lieutenant Commander E. E. Woodland; Lieutenant Commander C. C. Copp, Lieutenant H. R. Sobel, Lieutenant K. Rundquist, Lieutenant A. Langfield and Chaplain S. W. Salisbury. The freedom of the city was warmly extended the visiting seamen when officers paid a formal call upon Mayor Atwater.
Battling their way from New London in what they described as the roughest weather ever encountered on the Sound Lieutenants T. D. Carr and M. D. Moore brought the submarines R-22 and R-9 into the harbor safely, but three hours overdue. Both officers had been drenched by breakers surging over the conning towers during the trip. An official welcome was tendered them by a delegation headed by Assistant Prosecutor Clarence Lister.
The ships will remain here until night. Visitors to the Bridgeport anchored out near the breakwater, will be welcomed from 9 a. m. to 11:30 a. m. and from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Inspection of the submarines, which are tied up near the Stratford avenue bridge, will be held tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The twelve destroyers which were recently sent to the Near East to aid in the rescue work there were fitted out before sailing and repaired by the Bridgeport, destroyers’ tender, which is here today. It is appropriate that this ship should be named after Bridgeport with its important and immense factories, because she Is really a floating machine shop.
The sight-seers who visit her will see shops which can repair the most delicate watches and instruments, shops which can turn out patterns for all kinds of machinery, and foundries which can mold brass, iron and copper; machine shops that can make any and all sorts of delicate mechanisms needed to run a destroyer. There is a print shop also and an electrical repair. One of the most interesting places will be the radio “Shack,” where messages are received and sent at all hours.
There is a large library and a place for procuring magazines. This is the spot that is usually crowded with men drawing books and returning them. In another compartment will be found men training as fighters to be ready for the big contests which will be later on the battleships at Panama. Elsewhere the band win be practicing for the concert which is given twice a day for the pleasure of the crew. Uncle Sam believes in entertainments for his nephews in blue because two moving pictures machines will be seen which show eight reels of the best pictures each night.
Women visitors will be interested in the galley, which is the navy name for a kitchen of a ship. In this well-lighted, and well ventilated spot, spotlessly clean will be found the stoves, and other apparatus for feeding five hundred men three times each day. Attached to it is the butcher shop, where all the meal is cut and prepared. Then there is the “spud locker” where five men spend almost every day peeling the potatoes necessary to satisfy the inner man of hard-working sailors. On another deck, is the bakery where bread, biscuits, pies, cakes, cookies, and pastry of all sorts is baked. One of the favorites is the large ice box where thousands of pounds of meat can be stored at a time.
This is not for the Bridgeport alone. She is a supply ship for the destroyers as well as a repair shop. In her holds is everything from a pin up to an anchor. Food, spare parts, gasoline, oil, paints, clothes, shoes, blankets and other necessary articles go to make up the stock of this Navy department store.
There is a little branch store on upper deck, where a sailor may buy candy, tobacco, ink, writing material and most of the articles to keep him clean and snappy looking. A small profit is made which is used for athletics and for the welfare of the crew. Some of the Welfare Fund comes from the laundry, tailor shop, cobbler shop and the barber shop. Thus local visitors will see a self-sustaining community of five hundred persons with almost every convenience known but all grouped on a ship.
The USS Bridgeport had a fascinating 47 year career that began as a German commercial ship and ended as an army transport.
Bridgeport Class Destroyer Tender:
- Built in 1901 as the commercial steamship SS Breslau at Bremer Vulcan, Vegesack, Germany
- Launched, 14 August 1901
- Seized by the Collector of the Port of New Orleans on Americas entry into World War I
- Turned over to the United States Shipping Board (USSB) and transferred to the Navy at New Orleans
- Renamed Bridgeport, 9 June 1917 and designated as a Repair Ship
- Redesignated and completed as a Destroyer Tender
- Commissioned USS Bridgeport (ID #3009), 25 August 1917, LCDR. Albert B. Randall, USNRF, in command
- Designated (AD-10), 17 July 1920
- Decommissioned, 3 November 1924, at Boston Navy Yard, Boston, MA. and laid up in Reserve
- Struck from the Naval Register, 2 October 1941
- Turned over to the War Shipping Administration, which in turn turned her over to the US Army in November 1942
- Converted to a US Army Hospital Ship at Jacksonville, FL., September 1943 to August 1944, Commissioned USAHS Larkspur
- Decommissioned as a hospital ship in January 1946
- Renamed USAT Bridgeport and modified for use as a military dependents’ transport
- Decommissioned and returned to the Maritime Commission in April 1947 for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet
- Final Disposition, sold for scrapping in 1948
- Displacement 7,175 t.
- Length 447′ 3″
- Beam 54′ 4″
- Draft 29′ 2″
- Speed 12.5 kts.
- Complement 552
- Armament eight 5″ guns
- two quadruple expansion steam engines
- two oil fired boilers at 320 PSI (c.1944)
- two propellers
Navy Day 1922 would show the country a small slice of what the navy was capable of. The seeds were planted for the rebuilding of a strong navy someday in the future. It is interesting to note that the Bridgeport demonstrated one of the most remarkable characteristics of the navy: adaptability to the need. This would be played out many times over the next two decades as the nation was drawn closer and closer to war across the globe.
Trivia: No other US Navy Ship has born the name Bridgeport. The Coast Guard used it once and one other fleet: Buried in the trivia pile, the USS Bridgeport was an Excelsior class cruiser that served in the Sixth Fleet during the Dominion War.
USS Bridgeport (NCC-40627)