Destroyer tender

A destroyer tender, or destroyer depot ship in British English, is an auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to a flotilla of destroyers or other small warships. The use of this class has faded from its peak in the first half of the 20th century as the roles of small combatants have evolved (in conjunction with technological advances in propulsion reliability and efficiency).

USS Klondike (AR-22), USS Taussig (DD-746), USS John A. Bole (DD-755), USS Lofberg (DD-759) and USS John W. Thomason (DD-760) at Subic Bay on 1 November 1963 (NH 82517)
The destroyer tender Klondike with a flotilla of Allen M. Sumner-class destroyers, Subic Bay, Philippines, November 1963


As the industrial revolution progressed, steam-powered steel ships replaced sail-powered wooden ships; but naval artillery remained the preferred weapon. The first large warship to be sunk by a torpedo was the Chilean ironclad Blanco Encalada in 1891. As major naval powers realized the vulnerability of their expensive battleships to inexpensive torpedo boats, they started building defensive flotillas of torpedo boat destroyers or destroyers for short.[1]

The earliest torpedo boat destroyers were small, to maximize maneuverability, and powered by large steam engines, to maximize speed to intercept enemy torpedo boats before they could get close to the battleships.[1] These torpedo boat destroyers were so full of machinery, coal, quick-firing guns and ammunition that there was not enough room for living quarters for their crew. Destroyer tenders with berthing and dining accommodations for the destroyer crews joined the fleet train of colliers accompanying the battle fleet. The destroyer tenders also carried cooks, administrative and medical personnel, and senior ratings qualified to repair the destroyer machinery. Although individual destroyers were too small for these specialized personnel, the skills of those aboard the tender were available to the whole destroyer flotilla. The tender also carried a supply of spare parts for destroyer machinery.[2]


When the Great White Fleet circled the globe in 1907, it was accompanied by a tender, USS Yankton, and a repair ship, USS Panther.[2] Repair ships did not offer the personnel services of a tender, but offered a broader range of repair capability, including equipment and personnel for repair of more significant machinery failures or battle damage.[3] Repair ships carried a fully equipped machine shop and foundry capable of completing any repair not requiring a drydock.[4]

Destroyer displacement had increased to 1,000 tons by World War I and to 2,000 tons for destroyers accompanying the Fast Carrier Task Forces of World War II.[5] United States destroyer tenders of World War II carried some destroyer ammunition and depth charges, and performed torpedo maintenance and resupply, but focused on repair work. The Dixie class had a foundry, forge, metal lathes, and welders for heavy repairs, plus an optical shop and clockmakers to repair binoculars, sextants, marine chronometers, optical rangefinders, and fire-control system computers. These tenders operated stills and electric generators to supply fresh water and electrical power to destroyers moored alongside for boiler repair.[6]

Each increment of size enabled destroyers to carry more of the personnel and equipment previously found on the tender. Destroyers reached the size of cruisers during the cold war, and with that size acquired a cruiser's capability for independent action. Surviving tenders became functionally indistinguishable from repair ships.[7]

Some destroyer tenders were designed and built to attend a flotilla of destroyers, while others were converted from ships built for other purposes. Tabled below is a comparison of ships designed as destroyer tenders:

Name Date Number Nation Displacement Speed Crew
USS Melville[8] 1915 1 US 5,250 tons 15 knots 600
HMS Greenwich[9] 1915 1 UK 8,100 tons 11 knots 224
Altair class 1918 3 US 6.250 tons 10.5 knots 481
Dobbin class[8] 1921 2 US 8,325 tons 16 knots 600
Dixie class[8] 1939 5 US 9,450 tons 19 knots 1,262
Hamul class 1940 2 US 8,560 tons 17 knots 857
Hecla class[10] 1940 2 UK 10,850 tons 17 knots 818
Klondike class[8] 1944 4 US 8,560 tons 18 knots 860
Shenandoah class 1944 6 US 11,755 tons 18 knots 1,035
Samuel Gompers class[11] 1966 2 US 21,000 tons 18 knots 1,803
Yellowstone class[7] 1979 4 US 20,224 tons 18 knots 1,595

See also


  1. ^ a b Potter & Nimitz, p.335
  2. ^ a b Potter & Nimitz p.640
  3. ^ Lenton & Colledge, p.333
  4. ^ Fahey, p.39
  5. ^ Silverstone, pp.103&135
  6. ^ "USS Dixie's 40th Anniversary Cruise Book, page 24". Unofficial US Navy Site. USS Dixie. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  7. ^ a b Cooney, pp.6&13
  8. ^ a b c d Silverstone, pp.283&285
  9. ^ Lenton & Colledge, p.336
  10. ^ Lenton & Colledge, p.338
  11. ^ Blackman, p.524


  • Blackman, Raymond V.B. (1970–71). Jane's Fighting Ships. London: Jane's Yearbooks.
  • Cooney, David M. (1980). Ships, Aircraft and Weapons of the United States Navy. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.
  • Fahey, James C. (1978). The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet (Two Ocean Fleet ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-634-1.
  • Lenton, H.T.; Colledge, J.J. (1964). British and Dominion Warships of World War II. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
  • Potter, E.B.; Nimitz, Chester W. (1960). Sea Power. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
Altair-class destroyer tender

The Altair class destroyer tender was a class of three United States Navy destroyer tenders. These ships were built in Skinner & Eddy's Seattle shipyard as commercial cargo ships during World War I, and acquired by the Navy when the shipyard closed in 1921. All three served through World War II, and were decommissioned and scrapped shortly after the war.

Dixie-class destroyer tender

The Dixie class destroyer tender was a class of United States Navy destroyer tenders used during World War II. This class' design was based on the specifications of USS Dixie (AD-14) and constructed based on drawings for that vessel plus ongoing modifications specified for each continued vessel of the class. The basic hull and superstructure for this class was the same as the Fulton-Class submarine tenders and Vulcan-Class repair ships.

Known Ships

USS Dixie (AD-14)

USS Prairie (AD-15)

USS Piedmont (AD-17)

USS Sierra (AD-18)

USS Yosemite (AD-19)Towards the end of World War II, a modified Dixie-class destroyer tender was planned, the New England-class. New England was laid down on 1 October 1944 by the Tampa Shipbuilding Company, Inc., at Tampa, but the ship's construction was cancelled on 12 August 1945.

Hamul-class destroyer tender

The Hamul-class destroyer tender was a class of ships that served the United States Navy From 1941 to 1969.

Known Ships

USS Hamul (AD-20)

USS Markab (AD-21)

Klondike-class destroyer tender

The Klondike-class destroyer tender was a class of ships that served the United States Navy from 1945 to 1970.

Samuel Gompers-class destroyer tender

The Samuel Gompers-class destroyer tenders were a class of ships that served the United States Navy from 1967 to 1996.

Shenandoah-class destroyer tender

The Shenandoah-class destroyer tenders were a class of ships built for the United States Navy that served from 1945 to 1984.

USS Acadia

USS Acadia (AD-42) was a Yellowstone-class destroyer tender in the service of the United States Navy, named after Acadia National Park. She was inactive and in reserve after her 1994 decommissioning at Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility (NISMF), Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, under maintenance category B, until sunk off Guam during a live-fire training exercise (Valiant Shield) on 20 September 2010. She was the first ship to house a wartime mixed sex crew and was unofficially nicknamed "The Love Boat" in the 1991 Persian Gulf War after 36 women (10% of women in crew) became pregnant during deployment.She was ordered on 11 March 1976, laid down on 14 February 1978 at San Diego by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, launched on 28 July 1979, sponsored by Mrs. Clarence R. Bryan, wife of Vice Admiral Bryan, and commissioned on 6 June 1981 with Capt. Brenton P. Hardy in command.

USS Arcadia (AD-23)

USS Arcadia was one of four Klondike-class destroyer tenders built at the tail end of World War II for the United States Navy, and the third U.S. Naval vessel to bear that name. Destroyer tenders were typically named after U.S. National Parks. However the destroyer tender AD-23 was apparently misnamed Arcadia in an effort to commemorate Acadia National Park in Maine.

Arcadia was laid down on 6 March 1944 at Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, San Pedro, California; launched on 19 November; sponsored by the widow of Captain Edward L. Beach; fitted out at Terminal Island, San Pedro, California; and commissioned on 13 September 1945 with Capt. James M. Connally in command.

USS Bridgeport (AD-10)

USS Bridgeport (AD-10/ID-3009) was a destroyer tender in the United States Navy during World War I and the years after. She was a twin-screw, steel-hulled passenger and cargo steamship built in 1901 at Vegesack, Germany as SS Breslau of the North German Lloyd line. Breslau was one of the seven ships of the Köln class of ships built for the Bremen to Baltimore and Galveston route.

Interned at New Orleans, Louisiana at the outbreak of World War I, Breslau was seized in 1917 by the United States after her entry into the war and commissioned into the Navy as USS Bridgeport. Originally slated to be a repair ship, she was reclassified as a destroyer tender the following year. Bridgeport completed several transatlantic convoy crossings before she was stationed at Brest, France, where she remained in a support role after the end of World War I. After returning to the United States in November 1919, she spent the next five years along the East Coast and in the Caribbean tending destroyers and conducting training missions. She was decommissioned in November 1924 and placed in reserve at the Boston Navy Yard.

After being struck from the Naval Vessel Register in October 1941, and a brief, unsuccessful attempt at merchant service early in World War II, she was transferred to the War Department for use by the United States Army in November 1942. The ship was selected for employment as a Hague Convention hospital ship and renamed USAHS Larkspur. She made three round trips to the United Kingdom before an extended tour of duty in the Mediterranean.

In January 1946, she was converted into transport ship USAT Bridgeport, destined for returning war brides and other military dependents from overseas. She continued in this role until laid up in the Reserve Fleet at Brunswick, Georgia, in 1947. Bridgeport was sold as surplus in February 1948 and broken up for scrap later that year at Mobile, Alabama.

USS Cape Cod (AD-43)

USS Cape Cod (AD-43) was the third Yellowstone-class destroyer tender in the United States Navy.

USS Denebola (AD-12)

USS Denebola (AD-12) was an Altair-class destroyer tender named for Denebola, the second-brightest star in the constellation Leo.

Originally built in 1919 as SS Edgewood by Skinner and Eddy of Seattle, Washington, then transferred from the Shipping Board on 4 November 1921 and converted for naval use at Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was commissioned as USS Denebola (AD-12) on 28 November 1921 with Commander J. F. Daniels in command.

USS Dixie (1893)

The first USS Dixie (later AD-1) was a United States Navy auxiliary cruiser and later a destroyer tender. The Dixie was the first ship of the United States Navy to have this name.

She was built as the steam brig El Rio in 1893 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Virginia for the Southern Pacific Railroad's Morgan Line. El Rio was purchased by the Navy 15 April 1898, converted to an auxiliary cruiser by her builder, and commissioned 19 April 1898, Commander Charles Henry Davis, Jr. in command.

USS Hamul (AD-20)

USS Hamul (AD-20) was the lead ship of a class of two destroyer tenders; she was most likely named after Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation Aries.

Laid down on 6 March 1940 as SS Sea Panther, a Maritime Commission type (C3 Cargo) hull under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 40) by the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Company of Kearney, New Jersey. Launched in May 1940 she was delivered to the Lykes Brothers Steamship Company of New Orleans and renamed Doctor Lykes. After two trips to the Orient she was acquired by the United States Navy and commissioned as a cargo ship, USS Hamul (AK-30), on 14 June 1941 at Charleston, South Carolina, Commander F. M. Tillson in command.

USS Markab

USS Markab (AD-21) was a Hamul-class destroyer tender named for Markab, the third-brightest star in the constellation Pegasus.The ship was built as the cargo ship Mormacpenn by Ingalls Shipbuilding Company of Pascagoula, Mississippi and launched 21 December 1940. A ship named Mormacpenn launched the previous year had been acquired by the Navy to become the USS Griffin. The later Mormacpenn, sposored at launch by the wife of the General Counsel of the Maritime Commission, Mrs. Carl F. Farbach, was intended for service on the South American routes of the American Republics Line.The ship was acquired by the United States Navy on 2 June 1941 before any commercial service at Charleston, South Carolina; and commissioned as USS Markab (AK 31) on 15 June 1941 with Commander Allen D. Brown in command.

USS Melville (AD-2)

USS Melville (AD-2) was a United States Navy destroyer tender that saw service in both World Wars. Laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey, on 11 November 1913, she was launched on 2 March 1913, sponsored by Miss Helen W. Neel, granddaughter of Rear Admiral George W. Melville; and was first commissioned on 3 December 1915, Comdr. Henry Bertram Price in command.

USS New England (AD-32)

USS New England (AD-32), was a planned destroyer tender of the United States Navy during World War II.

Originally planned as a submarine tender and designated AS-28, New England was reclassified as a destroyer tender and redesignated AD-32 on 14 August 1944; she was named New England on 2 September 1944. The New England-class was to be a modified Dixie class destroyer tender.New England was laid down on 1 October 1944 by the Tampa Shipbuilding Company, Inc., at Tampa, Florida. She was scheduled to be launched on 1 April 1946 with Mrs. Paul H. Bastedo as her sponsor, but the ship's construction was cancelled on 12 August 1945 when she was 12% complete, due to the end of World War II.

USS Samuel Gompers (AD-37)

USS Samuel Gompers (AD-37) was a destroyer tender, the first of her class, and designed to be a floating repair shop for ships of the U.S. Navy either in port or at sea. The vessel was named for Samuel Gompers, a distinguished American labor leader during the late nineteenth century.

Samuel Gompers was laid down on 9 July 1964 by the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington and launched on 14 May 1966; sponsored by Mrs. Joseph Holmes. The destroyer tender was commissioned on 1 July 1967, Capt. Harry Risch, Jr., in command.

USS Yosemite (AD-19)

USS Yosemite (AD-19) was a destroyer tender which served with the United States Navy during World War II through to the 1990s.

The fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name, Yosemite was laid down on 19 January 1942 by the Tampa Shipbuilding Company at Tampa, Florida; launched on 16 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Melville W. Powers; and commissioned on 25 March 1944, Captain George C. Towner in command.

Yellowstone-class destroyer tender

The Yellowstone class was a class of four destroyer tenders in service with the United States Navy from 1980 to 1996.

Aircraft carriers
Patrol craft
Fast attack craft
Mine warfare
Command and support


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