Tuesday, September 22, 2009

USS Dubuque (PG-17)

Figure 1: USS Dubuque (PG-17), date and place unknown. Courtesy David Buell. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS Dubuque (PG-17), date and place unknown. Courtesy the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS Dubuque (PG-17) or USS Paducah (PG-18) underway in harbor, circa 1916 or early 1917. Probably seen from USS Melville (Destroyer Tender # 2). A column of older ("pre-Dreadnought") battleships is steaming past in the background, headed toward the right. The original photograph is printed on postcard stock. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: USS Dubuque (PG-17) as seen during World War I. Courtesy US Warships of World War I. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: "O-Boats" of Submarine Division Eight at the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, circa Christmas 1918. Note holiday greenery displayed on the submarines' superstructures. The three outboard submarines are (from left to right): USS O-6 (Submarine # 67); USS O-3 (Submarine # 64); and USS O-7 (Submarine # 68). The two-stack ship in the left center distance is probably USS Dubuque (PG-17). Copied from the collection of David J. Lohr, by courtesy of Radioman 1st Class Pamela J. Boyer, USN, 1986. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: USS Dubuque (PG-17), circa 1943. US Navy photo. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: USS Dubuque (PG-17) as she appeared on 15 June 1943. US Navy photo. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after a city in Iowa, USS Dubuque (PG-17) was a 1,084-ton gunboat that was built by the Gas Engine and Power Company at Morris Heights, Long Island, New York, and was commissioned on 3 June 1905. The ship had a “composite” hull (which was made up of wooden planks over a steel frame) and was built specifically for service in tropical climates. Dubuque was approximately 200 feet long and 35 feet wide, had a top speed of 13 knots, and had a crew of 198 officers and men. She was armed with six 4-inch guns, four 6-pounders and two 1-pounder guns.

Dubuque initially was based at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but eventually was sent to the Caribbean to protect American lives and property in the region. She participated in the notable rescue of American citizens from Cuban bandits on 19 May 1907 and remained in the area for four more years. Dubuque then was sent to Chicago, Illinois, and arrived there on 29 June 1911. She was decommissioned on 22 July and was given to the Illinois Naval Militia for use as a training ship.

Dubuque was re-commissioned on 4 August 1914 and steamed back to Portsmouth where she was placed in reserve on 3 October. Dubuque was brought out of reserve and converted into a mine-training ship. On 30 July 1915, she was assigned to the Mining and Minesweeping Division of the Atlantic Fleet and participated in training exercises along America’s Atlantic coast. After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Dubuque installed and tended to submarine nets at Hampton Roads and at New London, Connecticut. The gunboat also was used to train reserve officers at the US Naval Academy.

During World War I, Dubuque also served as a convoy escort, making three trips from New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia, from 6 June to 14 July 1917. On 3 August, she joined the Caribbean Patrol and was based at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Her primary duty was to search small harbors and inlets in the Caribbean and along the coasts of Venezuela and Colombia and prevent them from being used as a refuge for German submarines. On 8 December 1918, Dubuque was assigned to the American Patrol Detachment of the Atlantic Fleet, where she continued patrolling off of America’s East Coast. Dubuque returned to Portsmouth on 6 May 1919 and was decommissioned there on 27 May.

Dubuque was re-commissioned on 25 May 1922 and sent to Detroit, Michigan, where she arrived on 24 June. She was assigned to the Ninth Naval District and was used as a training ship for Naval Reservists. Dubuque was based at Detroit and went on training cruises on Lakes Superior and Michigan every summer. The ship eventually was placed in reduced commission on 1 November 1940 and on 14 November was sent to Boston, where she was assigned to the First Naval District. The old gunboat was updated and refitted and fully re-commissioned on 1 July 1941. She patrolled off the coast of New England until 14 October and on 16 October arrived at Little Creek, Virginia, where she was used as a gunnery practice ship for the US Naval Armed Guard School that was located there. For the remainder of World War II, Dubuque served as a training ship for the Naval Armed Guard and stayed primarily in Chesapeake Bay. Dubuque was decommissioned for the last time on 7 September 1945 and was transferred to the Maritime Commission. She was sold for scrapping on 19 December 1946.

USS Dubuque was one of the few warships from the old “Steel Navy” that served in both World Wars. She provided 40 years of service to this nation and proved just how durable and versatile gunboats could be.