The story of the ghost of Mobile Bay, and her robot crew
The ex-USS Shadwell (LSD-15) is a 7,300-ton, 457-foot gator– the last member of the 19-ship Casa-Grande-class dock landing ships. Commissioned in 1944, she was hit by a torpedo and downed a kamikaze in WWII. She was part of the Third Fleet in Tokyo Bay, Japan, on that fateful day in September 1945 when the war concluded.
After more than 25-years faithful service around the world, she was on 9 March 1970, placed out of commission, and mothballed. In 1976 her name was stricken from the Navy List and she was a warship no more.
However, the Navy Research Lab’s Navy Technology Center for Safety and Survivability’s Shipboard Fire Scaling Section operates and maintains Shadwell as the Navy’s full-scale “Real Scale” Damage Control Facility dedicated to integrated Research, Development, Test and Evaluation studies on active and passive fire protection, flooding and chemical (simulants) defense for the past 30 years. As such, she has been renovated and instrumented to a degree that her builders never imagined.
Among the high-tech systems, the ship has been a testbed for is Virginia Tech’s SAFFiR robotic firefighter built for ONR.
Based in Mobile Bay since 1988, she is currently on the disposal list.
Shadwell is to be dismantled in place and all fire testing will be shifted to land-based facilities located at NRLs 168-acre Chesapeake Beach Detachment.
Below is an All Hands video of her from 2015, highlighting some of what made her so special.