Dewey Drydock YFD-1

Floating Drydock INDEX 



The Dewey Dry-dock was built by the Maryland Steel Co., at Sparrow Point, Md., and was floated for the first time on June 10, 1905. She was to handle fleet repairs of it's largest ships of the time.

The dry-dock was named for Admiral Dewey of Spanish - American war fame.

She was 18,500 tons and 501' 3/4" long, 100' wide and 37' tall. The dry-dock was a floating type and could accommodate a 20,000-ton battleship.

She is 500 feet long, with a width of 100 feet between fenders and has a freeboard of 11feet when empty, and when lowered has 30 feet of water above the keel blocks. She contains 11,000 tons of steel, and 2,000,000 rivets. Her sidewalls are 42 feet high and have a thickness of 14 feet. The monster structure draws only 6 1/2 feet of water and she is very simply built. Basically she consists of three pontoons, or metal tanks, with two sidewalls. The center one is 320 feet long, and the end tanks measure 90 feet each in length.

These pontoons are constructed on the principle of a huge sponge. There are 24 cells, or watertight compartments in the middle tank, and 18 in each of the others.

These are all connected with the pumping plant, located in one of the sidewalls. The pumping system consists of three 24-inch horizontal, centrifugal pumps. When it is desired to submerge the dock, to receive a vessel, the valves leading to the watertight compartments are opened, the water rushes in and the pontoons gradually sink, the ship is placed in the proper position over the keel plates, blocks are adjusted, and then the pumps are set to work to expel the water from the steel tanks. An electrical device indicates whether the water is taken out evenly, so that there will be no danger of straining the vessels by lifting one part faster than another. One of the many remarkable qualities is the power to dock itself and is so constructed that one of it's three parts may be floated by the other two.

The original cost for which the bid was let was $1,127,000. [1905 dollars] This was increased somewhat by the addition of machinery and equipment not called for in the specifications. She was designed for use at Manila, P. I. and was towed there after the completion of her acceptance trial.

In 1905, the Navy selected the mouth of the Patuxent River as the best site in the tidewater to test the famous Dewey floating dry-dock, recently constructed at Sparrow's Point, Baltimore, and completed at Solomons Island. This mammoth vessel needed deep water for its test and the waters off Solomon’s Island fit the bill. In the final test for the craft the cruiser USS Colorado was dry-docked on Friday June 23rd, followed by the battleship USS Iowa. In both cases, the Dewey passed with flying colors. In the first test with the Colorado the Dewey lifted the Colorado, which her displacement was estimated at 13,500 tons, in two-hours and fifteen minutes a full six feet above the surface of the river.
The Iowa shown in the Dewey during her test lift in 1905

From 28 December 1905 - 9 July 1906 she underwent the greatest sea-towing feat of it's day. It took four ships to tow the Dewey Dry-dock 12,000 miles from the U.S. East coast across the Atlantic, into the Mediterranean Sea, through the Suez Canal,

Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean and ending the journey at Olongapo, Luzon, Philippines. The four ships were the USS Caesar (AC-16), USS Brutus (AC-15) under the command of Lt. V. L. Cottman, USS Glacier (AF-4) and the USS Potomac (AT-50). During 1901 the Navy had selected Subic Bay on the island of Luzon, Philippines, for a major repair and supply facility. During the late 1880's Spain had invested considerable money in making Subic Bay usable for it's fleet. After the Spanish-American War the United States took it over and completed the work begun by the Spanish Navy. The summer of 1906 saw the arrival of the dry-dock and she would remain at Subic Bay servicing ships in the Asiatic and Pacific Fleets until 1941.

During WWI Subic Bay served the fleet well supporting and repairing ships for the Pacific and Asiatic forces. When the United States entered the war in 1917, twenty-six German ships were captured and interned in Subic Bay including the 600 foot German passenger ship that was renamed the USS Madswaska and served the Navy during WWI and WWII.

The 1922 Washington Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armaments nearly dealt a death-blow to Subic Bay. This treaty included provisions that facilities for the repair and maintenance of U.S. naval forces in the Philippine Island would be reduced. Shops were dismantled at the navy yard at Subic Bay, Fort Wint was reduced to caretaker status and personnel levels were cut. In addition to the limitations imposed by the treaty, the Navy was enduring a hand-to-mouth existence during the lean national defense days of the Coolidge Administration. Even though the facilities at Subic Bay were reduced, some ship repair capability remained, including the Dewey Dry-dock. On August 30, 1923, an earthquake devastated Yokohama, Japan and the transport Merritt was made seaworthy in 72 hours and left Subic Bay loaded with Red Cross relief supplies and 200 Filipino nurses.

Above is a photo of the working model of the Dewey Drydock that was on display at the 1907 Jamestown exposition. There is a notation of this model in the official report of the Jamestown exposition. This photo came from the Jamestown Exposition Blue Book via the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

The photo at right is another working scale model of the Dewey taken by photographer Frank H. Nowell in 1909 at the United States Government Building at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle. In this view the Dewey has a scale model of a 11,552 ton battleship lifted up, which is of the general type, which looks to be the Alabama, Illinois or Wisconsin all built in 1898.

In July 1941, the Dewey Dry-dock, which had served at Subic Bay for 35 years, was towed to Mariveles harbor on the tip of the Bataan Peninsula. It was scuttled there on April 8, 1942 by docking officer Lieutenant C.J. Weschler and Engineer Jose Otero to prevent its falling into Japanese hands. Capt. K. M. Hoeffel, U. S. N., the senior U. S. naval officer in the forces defending Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor, acting under the orders of Lt. Gen. Wainwright, U. S. A., ordered the complete destruction of the previously damaged U. S. submarine tender Canopus, the Dewey Dry-dock, the mine sweeper Bitern and the tug Napa in order to prevent their being of use to the enemy in the event of capture. The destruction was ordered when it became apparent that the increasing weight of enemy numbers, combined with the fatigue and exhaustion of our forces, made imminent the fall of Bataan. These ships and the Dewey Dry-dock were used at and near Corregidor and Bataan Peninsula by the Army, Navy, and Marine forces serving under General MacArthur and later under Lt. Gen. Wainwright in the valiant defense of these vital positions which control the entrance to Manila Bay. Then after the fall of the Philippines the Japanese raised the dry-dock, but she was soon sunk again by American forces and remains there today.

The photo at left was shared by Dan Kerlee. Dan maintains a web site ( with the history of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 (AYPE). This is a postcard from his collection and shows a working scale model of the Dewey Drydock that was used to demonstrate to the public how the Dewey worked. This model was known to be displayed at several expositions and it is not know exactly where this is at and may be at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909.