It’s a Bonny Life in the Land of Kilts and Bagpipes – ALL HANDS September 1967 4

This article was written less than a decade after Site One was established in the Holy Loch.

I did not arrive in Scotland until August of 1990 to serve on board the AFDB 7 Floating Drydock but many of the same conditions that existed back in the Sixties were very similar to what was written. The major differences of course were mostly economic and the price for gasoline was WAY higher than what it was in 1967.

My wife and I lived off base in a little house at the head of the loch that had just been vacated by another American family. To be honest, it was a real learning experience for us as we sacrificed a few small appliances while learning about the different electricity. But the wood stove furnace kept us very cozy at night.

It was really very pleasant and we enjoyed the new way of living. It was a far cry from our base housing in Hawaii, but it held a certain charm of its own. The neighbors were nice and by the time we were stationed there the site had been active for over thirty years.

The saddest day of my career came when we were informed that our tour was ending due to the site being phased out and closed. But as I sat here tonight and reread the article from ALL HANDS, so many memories came flooding back.

I am grateful to the Navy for giving me a chance to live in Scotland (even if it was a short tour). For us, it was indeed a Bonny Life.

Mister Mac

“September 1967 THE BULLETIN BOARD – ALL HANDS MAGAZINE

It’s a Bonny Life in the Land of Kilts and Bagpipes

Authored by William Roger Maul, CTC, USN

When NAVYMEN and their families complete a tour at duty stations overseas, they leave with a better appreciation of the country and its people, thanks to their life as neighbors of the local residents. That’s part of the broadening experience of travel, one of the service fringe benefits that has a tendency to be overlooked.

Of course, some duty stations abroad are more interesting than others. Some have an ideal climate. Some have exotic scenery. And then there’s duty in Holy Loch, Scotland.

Navy families have been known to return from a couple of years in Holy Loch almost unrecognizable to family and friends they had left behind. Hitherto unmusical Navymen can be seen—and heard—sending the skirl of the bagpipes wafting across the water as their submarine pulls into Charleston, S. C.

Friends are sometimes startled when newly returned families rush outside at the first sign of sunshine and throw their arms skyward as if greeting a long-lost comrade.

Former diehard bachelors come home with brides, whose thoroughly charming accent quickly devastates the local populace.

There is no U. S. naval base at Holy Loch. A small, protected bay near Scotland’s western coast, it is used by the Navy as an anchorage for a submarine tender (currently Uss Simon Lake (AS 31) is as signed), and the boats of Submarine Squadron 14, most of which are Fleet ballistic missile subs.

Since there is no base, Navy families are required to live among the Scots (not Scotch, if you please), and it apparently doesn’t take long to become captivated by the whole Scottish scene. Most of the scene, anyway. The Scottish weather is notoriously uncaptivating.

There are three principal towns close to Holy Loch. Most Navy families set up housekeeping in either Greenock, Gourock, or Dunoon.

Greenock (about 77,000 population) is the largest of the three, and thus has most to offer the Navy family, especially with respect to available housing.

It is also only 25 miles from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. Greenock has one major disadvantage. It is on the wrong side of the Firth of Clyde, as far as the submarine tender is concerned, and the boat ride to the ship is rather long.

Gourock (about 10,000) is near Greenock, also across the Firth of Clyde from the tender, and the boat ride to the ship is still lengthy.

Many Navy families choose to live in Dunoon (about 10,000), since it is closest to the anchorage. There is a small Navy Exchange and Commissary located here, and the tender is anchored nearby.

Housing: Most Navy families rent furnished apartments (called flats) or houses. Unfurnished houses are available, but are much more difficult to find, and often require a minimum two-year lease. Furnished two-bedroom apartments and houses usually rent for $100 per month and up. One-bedroom flats start at $45 per month.

Houses are generally unheated. But, even if they are provided with central heating, the maximum temperature may not be as high as that to which you are accustomed during the winter months in the States.

Heating is usually by portable electric or paraffin (kerosene) heaters.

Gas heating is more expensive than in the States.

Scottish communities have an electrical supply of from 200 to 240 volts at 50 cycles. Electrical appliances of American manufacture normally operate on 110/120 volts, 60 cycles; therefore, they can be used only with a transformer. It is suggested that you check your American-made appliances to determine the correct size transformer to use.

You should bring plenty of sheets, pillowslips, towels, and tablecloths so that you do not have to do your laundry too frequently. Good drying days do not come with any regularity.

Clothes dryers are especially helpful items to bring with you, although the limited space in the kitchen area can present a problem, and you may have to pay for special wiring or run your dryer on half power.

Clothes washers of the semiautomatic or wringer type will work with a converter. Automatic washers can present a number of problems due to the difference in cycles, plumbing lines, and fixtures.

Radios, hi-fi’s, phonographs, mixers, toasters, grills, vacuum cleaners and electric heaters are desirable, and you will want to bring them with you. However, it is suggested you store television sets (completely useless), freezer, stoves, and automatic washer-dryer in the States until you get back home. Television sets may be bought or rented locally.

Medical and Dental Care: There are two U. S. naval clinics, one in Dunoon, the other in Greenock. Medical care is also available from civilian sources, but dependents may not use the free facilities of the British National Health Service without the permission of a U. S. Navy medical officer. When hospitalization is required, it must be obtained from civilian sources.

It is recommended that dependents have all necessary dental treatment completed before leaving the U. S., because only limited dental treatment is available from the Navy Dental Clinic and local civilian dentists. British dentists are highly skilled and qualified, of course, but their first concern is to their own patients. Some, however, will accept other than National Health patients.

Their fees are comparable to those charged by dentists in the States.

Commissary and Exchange: The U. S. Air Force has a commissary store and exchange at Prestwick Air Base, approximately 40 miles from Holy Loch. The store is, of course, open to Navymen and their dependents.

You will probably find yourself doing considerable shopping in the local markets, since the Air Force commissary is so far away. (In Scotland, a 40-mile jaunt can turn into quite an expedition. There are few super highways between Holy Loch and Prestwick.) You will find that personal contacts in your daily marketing are far more important than they are in the U. S. supermarket, and you will get personal attention that you will not find at home.

There are many small towns and villages in this area, and you will rarely find it necessary to leave your neighborhood for most of your needs.

A limited selection of commissary and exchange items and package liquors is available at the Ardnadam Recreation Complex, near Dunoon. Money and Banking; U. S. currency is used on U. S. bases in the United Kingdom. Elsewhere, British sterling is the medium of exchange.

The pound sterling (£) is valued at approximately $2.80, and is composed of 20 shillings. A shilling is valued at 14 cents. Other units of exchange are: 10-shilling notes ($1.40), half crown, or two and one half shillings (35 cents), two-shilling piece (28 cents), six pence (seven cents), three pence (pronounced “thruppence”) (three and one-half cents), and half-penny (pronounced “hayp’nee”) (one-half cent).

One U. S. bank maintains a branch in Glasgow. Military personnel may maintain dollar or sterling checking accounts with this bank. However, checks drawn on this bank are not readily negotiable outside Britain. Postal money orders and bank drafts are the only practical means of remitting funds to the States. While it is suggested that you consider retaining your checking account with your present bank, a local bank account is most convenient and highly recommended.

Clothing: The reporting uniform for Navymen is Service Dress Blue Bravo. In addition to the prescribed military uniform, personnel are permitted to wear civilian clothing for shore leave. A full seabag should be brought when reporting for duty. Local prices on women’s clothes are from moderate to expensive, depending on taste. Materials are of excellent quality, and woolens can be bought at a considerable saving.

Sweaters and other woolens are in good supply and reasonably priced.

If you wear narrow shoes you may find it difficult to get a proper fit. Otherwise, shoes are attractive and moderately priced. It is a good idea to be in contact with your favorite shoe dealer in the States. Have your size and width handy, and allow three to four weeks for delivery.

Comfortable walking shoes are a must.

Clothing for girls is easier to find than for boys. Girls’ wool skirts and sweaters are plentiful as are good coats. Mail order houses in the States give good service and orders can usually be obtained in three weeks. If you enter a child in a British school, the school uniform is comparable in price to other clothing, and is of good quality.

You will probably want to bring some summer clothing, but the bulk should be placed in permanent storage in the States. For everyone, a raincoat with a lining is another must.

Automobiles: There are no restrictions on the importation of a privately owned automobile, as long as it is in a safe operating condition and in good mechanical order. A mandatory inspection of all automobiles manufactured over six years ago is now in effect in the United Kingdom.

Vehicles are entered free of duty and purchase tax, provided that a certificate is executed which requires the owner to export the car at a later date. A sale to another U.S. serviceman, who must execute the same type of certificate, is permissible.

Spare parts and repairs on American cars are expensive in Scotland and hard to get. Compacts are preferable to larger automobiles, since some of the roads and gates are quite narrow.

Military personnel are not required to obtain a British driver’s license, but must hold a valid U. S. license. If your stateside license expires while you are in Scotland, you can obtain a British license for five shillings (70 cents) a year, upon the presentation of a certificate signed by your commanding officer.

Two other items are essential for operation of an automobile in Great Britain: payment of road tax at the rate of 15 pounds a year, and automobile insurance for which the yearly rates vary according to a number of circumstances. In regard to automobile insurance, a letter from your present insurance company attesting to the number of accident- free years you have driven will result in a no-claims bonus policy with the resultant reduced rates.

Exchange gasoline is sold at Ardnadam Recreation Complex, at25 cents per imperial gallon. Gasoline at this price is rationed for use in driving to and from work (that is, the appropriate pier). Gasoline on the local market (petrol, of course) costs 70 cents per imperial gallon.

Education: Since there are no U.S. Schools in the Holy Loch area, your children will attend British schools. Each school is under the supervision of a headmaster, who is generally one of the faculty. The children are placed in classes according to age and ability.

These classes are called “forms” instead of grades—thus, what we call the sixth grade is called the sixth form. The first stage of schooling, called the “infant stage” is for children from five to seven years old.

The next stage, the “primary,” takes the child through age 11.

At this point the local children are given an examination called the eleven plus exam, which determines where they will be placed in the secondary system. American children do not have to take these examinations.

The secondary system takes the child through to ages 15 to 18, or older. In secondary, or grammar school, the student will be offered college entrance courses, commercial, homecraft, or technical courses. American children are placed in classes based on the records transferred from their last school and, in some cases, as a result of conferences with the teachers. Once school is in session, the child will be moved up or down until he is with a class of the same educational level.

Children are generally expected to walk or cycle to school if they live less than two miles from the school.

Students who are under 15, living two or more miles from school, are entitled to transportation. The transportation provided may be a season ticket on public transportation and does not have to be a special bus or automobile.

Students at most schools in the Holv Loch area wear uniforms. This is often just a blazer, but is sometimes a complete outfit. Although wearing the uniform is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged.

Preparing for the trip: Dependents planning to travel to Scotland would be wise to check early on immunization requirements. Applications for passports and visas should also be made well in advance. It is a good idea to maintain close liaison with your sponsor so that you will have up-to-date information on requirements.

Pets: As there is a six-month quarantine for all pets arriving in Great Britain, you are advised not to take your pets to Scotland. Costs of maintaining animals in quarantine are high, and must be borne by the owner.

Recreation: Most of the towns in the Holy Loch area have public facilities for individual sports such as golf, tennis, swimming, bowling, and fishing.

The U. S. Navy contingent also has established its own sports program. There are softball and bowling teams for the ladies, and baseball competition for boys. The men participate in basketball, softball, swimming, soccer, boxing, golfing, skiing, cycling, bowling, camping, and other sports.”

 

Floating Drydocks: A Noteworthy Innovation That Changed the Course of Two Wars 7

Floating Drydocks had been around for a long time before World War 2. But the scope of naval warfare during World War 2 and the Cold War that would follow would test the Navy’s ability to maintain vessels in faraway locations. This is part on of the story of docks like USS Los Alamos (AFDB 7) which serviced the Polaris and Poseidon Missile submarines of the Cold War.

Looking back on the years since the LA was placed out of commission, its easy to forget that for over thirty years she served on the front lines of a different kind of conflict. But it was a need identified and filled many years before that which made her ability to fill this new role possible. This is the story of the Floating Drydocks of World War II.

 

Advanced Base Sectional Dock Number 3

“The fleet of floating drydocks built by the Bureau of Yards and Docks during World War II was a significant and at times dramatic factor in the Navy’s success in waging global war.

It had long been recognized that in the event of another world war the fleet would be required to operate in remote waters, and that ships were going to suffer hard usage and serious battle damage. It was obvious that many crippled ships would be lost, or at least would be out of action for months while returning to home ports for repairs, unless mobile floating drydocks could be provided that could trail the fleet wherever it went. It was the Bureau’s responsibility to meet these requirements.

Floating drydocks have been used for overhaul and repair of ships for many years, and many ingenious designs have been devised from time to time. One of the most interesting was the Adamson dock, patented in 1816, which may be considered the prototype of some of the new mobile docks. The Navy apparently built several wooden sectional docks at various navy yards about 1850, but little is known of their history.

About 1900, two new steel floating drydocks were built for the Navy. The first of these, of 18,000 tons lifting capacity, was built in 1899-1902 at Sparrow’s Point, Md., and towed to the Naval Station a Algiers, La., where it was kept in intermittent service for many years. In 1940, it was towed via the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor to supplement the inadequate docking facilities there. Since the dock was wider than the Canal locks, it was necessary to disassemble it at Cristobal and to reassemble it at Balboa. Although both the dock and the ship in it were damaged during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the dock was not lost, but was quickly repaired and subsequently performed invaluable service both in the salvaging of vessels damaged in that attack and in the support of the fleet in the Pacific.

The other dock, the Dewey, was a 16,000-ton dock, built in three sections, and capable of docking itself. It was constructed in 1903-1905, also at Sparrow’s Point, Md., and was towed via the Suez Canal to the Philippines. The saga of this voyage is an epic of ocean towing history. The Dewey was still in service at Olongapo when the Japanese invaded the Philippines early in 1942. [sic: Preliminary landings took place as early as 8 December, with the main landings following on the 21st. Manila was occupied on New Years Day. — HyperWar] It was scuttled by the American naval forces before they abandoned the station.

Neither of these docks was suitable for mobile operation. Between 1920 and 1930, the Bureau of Yards and Docks made numerous studies of various types of mobile docks of both unit and sectional types. In 1933, funds were finally obtained for one 2,200-ton dock, and the Bureau designed and built the ARD-1. This dock was of revolutionary design. It was a one-piece dock, ship-shaped in form, with a molded closed bow and a faired stern, and may be best described as U-shaped in both plan and cross-section. The stern was closed by a bottom-hinged flap gate, operated by hydraulic rams. This gate was lowered to permit entrance of a ship into the submerged dock and then closed. The dock was then raised by pumping water from the ballast compartments and also from the main basin. This dock was equipped with its own diesel-electric power plant, pumping plant, repair shops, and crew’s accommodations. It was the first drydock in any navy which was sufficiently self-sustaining to accompany a fleet into remote waters.

The ARD-1 was towed to Pearl Harbor, where it was used successfully throughout the war. Thirty docks of this type, somewhat larger and incorporating many improvements adopted as a result of operational experience with this experimental dock, were constructed and deployed throughout the world during the war.

Advance Base Sectional Dock in the South Pacific
View shows keel blocks and bilge blocks set to accommodate a ship.

 

In 1935, the Bureau 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 molded depth. Bids received for this huge drydock, designed as the ARD-3, 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 the ARD-2, an improved and enlarged model of the ARD-1. It was not until November 1940, however, that funds were obtained for its construction, and the project placed under contract. The ARD-2, and an additional dock, the ARD-5, were completed in the spring of 1942. Additional docks of this type were built in rapid succession and were delivered during 1943 and 1944 at an average rate of more than one a month.

Types of Floating Drydocks

The war program of floating drydocks included a wide variety of types to meet the varying service requirements for which they were designed. The principal categories were as follows:

  • ABSD — Advance Base Sectional Dock. Mobile, military, steel dock, either (a) of ten sections of 10,000 tons lifting capacity each, or (b) of seven sections of 8,000 tons lifting capacity, for battleships, carriers, cruisers, and large auxiliaries.
  • ARD — Auxiliary Repair Dock. Mobile, military, steel unit dock, ship-form hull, with a normal lifting capacity of 3,500 tons, for destroyers, submarines, and small auxiliaries.
  • ARDC — Auxiliary Repair Dock, Concrete. Mobile, military concrete trough type, unit dock with faired bow and stern, 2,800 tons lifting capacity.
  • AFD — Auxiliary Floating Dock. Mobile, military, steel trough type, unit dock, with faired bow and stern, of 1,000 tons lifting capacity.
  • AFDL — Auxiliary Floating Dock, Lengthened. Mobile, steel trough type, unit 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 modification, the ABSD’s were redesignated AFDB’s; the ARD’s became AFDU’s; the RDC’s became AFDL(C)’s; the AFD’s became AFDL’s; and the YFD’s became AFDM’s.

Advance Base Sectional Dock

The problem of providing floating drydocks capable of moving to advanced operational areas in the wake of the fleet, of sustaining themselves in full operation without support from shore, and of sufficient size and lifting capacity to dock all capital ships had been under study by the Bureau for many years. The ARD-3 was one solution of this problem. It was recognized that a unit dock of this size possessed certain disadvantages. In required a special basin of huge size for its initial construction. It was necessary to retain this basin in reserve or provide an equivalent basin elsewhere, for the periodic docking of the hull, since it was not self-docking. The towing of a craft of this size presented an operational problem of unprecedented magnitude. Provision for stresses during storms at sea required heavy reinforcement of the dock. Concern was felt over the possibility of losing the unit dock from enemy action while en route.

Cruiser in an Advance Base Sectional Dock
Showing the ship secured in position so that it will be supported on the prepared blocking as the dock is unwatered.

 

Studies had been carried on concurrently by the Bureau on various types of sectional docks, which would be designed with faired hulls for ease of towing and with joint details which would permit rapid assembly in forward areas under adverse conditions. These schemes were not carried to a final conclusion, primarily because the requirements of the Bureau of Ships for the longitudinal strength and stiffness of the assembled dock could not be met by an practicable form of joint.

When war was declared, it was apparent at once that a number of mobile capital-ship floating drydocks would have to be constructed immediately. The project was authorized and funds made available early in 1942. Studies in connection with the preparation of plans and specifications led to the proposal of a sectional type of dock, with field-welded joints, designed for a strength materially below that previously specified by the Bureau of Ships. This reduction was accepted, and the sectional type adopted.

Unwatering an Advance Base Sectional Dock
Water is pumped out of the bottom pontoons and wingwall compartments to raise the ship out of the water.

These docks were of two different sizes. For battleships, carriers, and the largest auxiliaries, the larger docks, consisted of ten section, each 256 feet long and 80 feet wide, and with a nominal lifting capacity of 10,000 tons. When assembled to form the dock, these sections were placed transversely with 50-foot outrigger platforms at either end of the assembly, making the dock 927 feet long and 256 feet wide overall, with an effective length of 827 feet, a clear width inside wing walls of 133 feet, and a lifting capacity of 90,000 tons.

The smaller docks, intended for all except the largest battleships, carriers, and auxiliaries, consisted of seven sections, each 240 feet long and 101 feet wide, with a lifting capacity of 8,000 tons. The assembled dock had an effective length of 725 feet, an overall length of 825 feet, a width of 240 feet, a clear width inside wing walls of 120 feet, and a lifting capacity of 55,000 tons.

At maximum submergence the 10-section docks had a depth over the blocks of 46 feet, with a freeboard of almost 6 feet; the 7-section docks had a corresponding depth of 40 feet and and a freeboard of almost 5 feet.

For both sizes, the sections were faired fore and aft to a truncated bow and stern, and could be towed at a speed of 6 to 8 knots without excessive power. In the assembled docks, the flat bows and sterns formed interrupted berths alongside to which barges and vessels could be readily moored.


A Section of an Advance Base Sectional Dock in Tow
Wingwalls are down to reduce wind resistance. Repair equipment is stowed on deck.

The sections consisted of the bottom pontoon and two wing walls, which were hinged at the bottom so that they could be folded inboard for towing, the purpose being to reduce the presentation to the wind and to lower the center of gravity as compared to fixed standing wing walls.

Each bottom pontoon of the battleship dock was 28 feet deep and was subdivided by two watertight bulkheads running lengthwise and four watertight bulkheads athwart the section to form twelve water ballast compartments and a central buoyancy compartment, 36 feet by 80 feet. This buoyancy compartment contained two decks, the upper deck being used for crew’s quarters, and the lower deck, for the machinery compartment. The double bottom was subdivided to form fuel-oil and fresh water tanks. Access to the usable compartments was provided by passageways under the upper pontoon deck which connected to stair trunks in the wing walls.

The wing walls were 20 feet wide and 55 feet high, and were subdivided by a safety deck set 14 feet below the top deck to form dry compartments above and three water ballast compartments below. The dry compartments were completely utilized for shops, storage, and similar facilities. Quarters and galleys were in the dry compartments in the bottom pontoons.

Each section was equipped with two 525-h.p. diesel engines directly connected to 350-k.w. generators, and with pumps evaporators, compressors, and heating and ventilating apparatus. No propulsion machinery was provided.

The smaller docks were similar, except that the bottom pontoons were 231/2 feet deep and the wing walls were 18 feet wide and 49 feet high.

Each dock was equipped with two portal jib cranes having a lifting capacity of 15 tons at a radius of 85 feet, traveling on rails on the top deck of the wing walls. In the case of the smaller dock, the cranes were set back from the inner face of the wing walls to provide clearance for overhanging superstructures of carriers, and the outer rail was supported on steel framing erected on the outboard portion of the pontoon deck.

ABSD Construction

The 58 sections required for these docks were constructed by five contractors at six different sites, including four on the West Coast, one on the Gulf Coast, and one near Pittsburgh on the Ohio River. Generally, they were built in dry excavated basins which were flooded and opened to the harbor for launching. In one case, two basins in tandem were utilized to suit local site conditions, and the sections were locked down from the upper basin, in which they were built, to the lower basin, the water level of which was normally at tide level and was raised temporarily by pumping.

 

Picture:


Raising the Wingwalls of an Advance Base Sectional Dock with Hydraulic Jacks
Crews on top of wingwalls change position of the pins in the beams alternatively.

At one yard, the sections were built on inclined shipways and end-launched; at another, they were side-launched. These sections were built in from 8 to 14 months. Maximum possible use was made of prefabrication and pre-assembly methods.

ABSD Assembly. — Although the wing walls were generally erected initially in their upright position for ease of construction, it was necessary to lower them to the horizontal position for towing at sea. On arrival at the advance base where they were to be placed in service, the wing walls were first raised again to their normal position and the sections then aligned and connected.

An ingenious method was evolved for the raising of the wing walls, which was found to be quicker and more certain than the scheme originally contemplated of accomplishing the result by the buoyancy process. Each wing wall was jacked into position, using two jacking assemblies, each consisting of a long telescoping box strut and a 500-ton hydraulic jack. Closely spaced matching holes were provided in the outer and inner boxes of the strut through which pins were inserted to permit holding the load while the jacks were run back after reaching the limit of their travel. These devices were also designed to hold back the weight of the wing walls after they passed the balance point during the raising operation. Two 100-ton jacks opposing the main jacks were used for this purpose. After the wing walls were in the vertical position, they were bolted to the bottom pontoon around their entire perimeter, and all access connection between the wing wall and bottom pontoon were made watertight.

The sections of each dock were successively brought together and aligned by means of the matching pintles and gudgeons which had been provided for the purpose on the meeting faces of the sections. Heavy splice plates were then welded in position from section to section across the joints at the wing walls, at top and bottom, and on both the inside and the outside faces of the wing walls. The strength of these connections gave the assembled dock a resisting moment of about 500,000 foot-tons, or approximately one-fourth that of the largest prospective vessel to be docked.

The drydock cranes were carried on the pontoon deck of individual sections during tow, and were shifted to their operating position on the wing walls during assembly of the dock by immerging the partially assembled dock, bringing the section carrying the crane alongside, and aligning it so the rails on the pontoon deck were in line with those on the wing walls of the rest of the dock. The trim and alignment were adjusted during the transfer by a delicate control of water ballast.

The assembled docks were moored at anchorages in protected harbors where wave conditions, depth of water, and bottom holding power were satisfactory. The large docks required at least 80 feet depth for effective use. They were moored by 32 fifteen-ton anchors, 14 on both side and 2 at either end, with 150 fathoms scope of chain.

In actual operation, it was found that the effectiveness of these docks could be improved by providing auxiliary facilities in excess of those available on the dock itself. A considerable number of shop, storage, and personnel accommodation barges were provided for this purpose.

Special Problems

Special conditions of service involved many entirely new studies and developments for our floating drydocks. For instance, as the docks had to operate in outlying areas where ideal conditions for operation could not always be met, it was necessary to give the adequacy of their moorings special consideration. In the largest size docks, this involved wind-tunnel experiments which gave some surprising results and indicated that a rearrangement of the moorings as originally planned was desirable. Also, as the drydock operating crews were initially relatively inexperienced and docking of ships under advance base conditions had never been attempted to the extent contemplated, it was necessary to prepare complete operating manuals for the use and guidance of the crews. Damage control was also important, and damage-control manuals were prepared for all advance base docks, covering every possible contingency of weather an enemy action.

As advance base docks were commissioned and had regular Navy crews and as they operated in areas where they had to be self-sustaining to a large extent, it was necessary to develop allowance lists for each type of dock and outfit them in much the same manner as a ship. This necessitated the incorporation into the docks of special facilities for the handling, stowage, and issuance of great quantities of material and equipment.

Complete statistics have not been compiled of the total number of vessels of all kinds from the mightiest battleship and carriers to the humblest patrol craft that were salvaged, repaired, and overhauled in this armada of floating drydocks. Themost dramatic demonstration of the importance of the mobile drydocks was given during the long drawn-out naval support of the invasion of Okinawa, when the fleet was subjected for weeks to continual and desperate “Kamikaze” attacks by Japanese suicide-bombers. The fleet suffered great damage, but the ready availability of the mobile drydocks at nearby advance bases, and the yeoman service rendered by their own crews and the ship repair components at these bases, save many ships and minimized the time ships were out of action for repairs, to such an extent that these docks may well have represented the margin between success and failure.”

AFDB-1 with West Virginia (BB-48) high and dry in the dock

The AFDB’s served on for many years. You can read about some of their stories in the archives of theleansubmariner.com

Mister Mac