Tuesday, May 13, 2014

USS Boothbay (ID No. 1708)

Figure 1:  S.S. Boothbay photographed prior to her Navy service. Commissioned as USS Boothbay (ID No. 1708) on 14 December 1917, she was re-named Grampus in November 1920 and decommissioned on 30 December 1930. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2:  S.S. Boothbay shown prior to her Navy service during World War I. This illustration has the ship with her bow mostly open. Photograph courtesy of Mike Green. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3:  Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC. Aerial view of the main part of the Navy Yard, looking north (and a little west) from over the Anacostia River, 18 December 1918. Photographed from a Naval Air Station Anacostia airplane. Note construction work in the Yard's eastern extension, to the right. The ferry steamer Boothbay (ID No. 1708), which was later renamed Grampus, is in the lower right center, with USS Shuttle (ID No. 3572) immediately off her bow (further to the right). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image. 

Figure 4:  USS Grampus (SP-1708) during the 1920s. She was formerly USS Boothbay (ID No. 1708) during World War I. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

The 334-ton S.S. Boothbay was a small coastal ferry steamer that was built in 1907 by the Neafie and Levy ship yard at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was owned by the Eastern Steamship Line of Boston, Massachusetts, and purchased ten years later by the US Navy in late 1917 for use during World War I. The ship was commissioned USS Boothbay (ID No. 1708) on 14 December 1917 and was approximately 126 feet long, had a top speed of 12 knots, and had a crew of 28 officers and men. Boothbay was not armed.

For the remainder of World War I, and for more than a decade afterwards, Boothbay was employed carrying personnel and materiel from the Washington Navy Yard at Washington, DC, to the Navy’s ordnance facilities at Indian Head, Maryland, and Dahlgren, Virginia. The ship was re-named USS Grampus (ID No. 1708) on 15 November 1920 and made daily ferry trips carrying an average of 50 passengers and cargo each way per day.

Grampus, which was named after a dark-colored type of dolphin, was decommissioned on 11 December 1930 and the ferry was struck from the Navy List a few weeks later. The ship was sold to the Buxton Line of Norfolk, Virginia, and was re-named Deepwater in 1931. She was once again acquired by the US Navy on 12 April 1944 for use as a ferry boat during World War II. The boat was re-named USS Liberty (YFB-53) and was struck from the Navy List on 21 January 1946, well after the end of the war. However, Liberty languished out of commission and was not sold until 1965. The ship remained in commercial service under various names and owners until 1981, but the final fate of the 74-year-old ship (and veteran of two World Wars) is unknown.

Not all ships have glamorous war records, but they still do hard work that needs to be done.