Warship Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018: The Quilt City Slugger
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018: The Quilt City Slugger
Here we see the Dubuque-class gunboat USS Paducah (Gunboat No. 18) of the U.S. Navy on a sunny Spring day, 28 May 1912, while assigned to the Caribbean Squadron. This humble 200-feet of rock and roll served Uncle in both World Wars and kept on chugging post-1945.
Designed at the turn of the century as a slow (12 knot) but decently-armed (2 4-inch, 4 6-pounders, 2 1-pounders) steel-hulled gunboat capable of floating in two fathoms of brackish water, the Dubuque-class gunboats were both built at the Gas Engine and Power Co. and Charles L. Seabury Co., Morris Heights, N.Y.
Both class leader Dubuque and sister Paducah were the first U.S. Navy warships named after those mid-sized river cities, which seems appropriate as the ships themselves could be used in rivers, bays, and lakes otherwise off-limits to larger men-of-war of the day. Still, they were handsome ships with a pair of tall stacks, twin masts, and a raked bow, and fast enough for what they were intended for.
With their armament pumped up while under construction from a pair of 4″/40cals as designed to a full set of six of these guns (rivalling light cruisers of the day) and augmented by a Colt M1895 Potato-Digger machine gun for landing duties, they were well-suited to wave the flag in far-off climes on the cheap and patrol out-of-the-way backwater ports in Latin America, West Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean.
Yes, they were the Littoral Combat Ships of 1905!
Commissioned 2 September 1905, Paducah was soon dispatched to the Caribbean Squadron “to protect American lives and interests through patrols and port calls to the Caribbean and Central and South American cities.”
Patrolling Mexican waters in the aftermath of the Vera Cruz incident through the summer of 1914, she then returned to her Caribbean operations, performing surveys from time to time.
When the U.S. entered WWI in 1917, Paducah was tapped to perform overseas escort and coastal patrol duties in Europe, reaching Gibraltar 27 October. Based from there, the plucky gunboat escorted convoys to North Africa, Italy, the Azores, and Madeira.
She logged an attack on an unidentified U-boat 9 September 1918 after it had sunk one of her convoys, and was credited with possibly damaging the submarine, although this was not confirmed by post-war audits. Her sister Dubuque spent the Great War investigating isolated harbors and inlets in the Caribbean and on the coasts of Venezuela and Colombia to prevent their use by German submarines, an ideal tasking for such a vessel.
After post-WWI survey duty in the Caribbean, Paducah was re-engined with twin 623.5ihp vertical triple-expansion engines, and her armament reduced. She then transferred to Duluth, Minn in May 1922, to serve as a training ship for Naval Reserve forces in the 9th District. Sister Dubuque likewise pulled the same service, taking Reservists on cruises from her home port of Detroit into Lakes Superior and Michigan every summer, and icing in for the winter. Good duty if you can get it.
When WWII came, both Paducah and her sister returned to the East Coast in early 1941, and, based at Little Creek, Va. throughout the conflict, trained Armed Guard gunners in Chesapeake Bay for details on merchant vessels. Some 144,970 Armed Guards served during the war, trained at three bases, with over 1,800 killed or missing in the conflict. Witnessing a staggering 1,966 air attacks and 1,024 submarine attacks, 467 guard crews participated in destroying enemy planes in addition to engaging surface raiders and submarines.
Decommissioning 7 September 1945, both transferred to the Maritime Commission 19 December 1946 and Paducah was sold the same day to one Maria Angelo, Miami, Fla. Then came a second career for Paducah as Dubuque was sent to the breakers.
Purchased for a song by the Israeli group Haganah and renamed Geulah (Hebrew: Redemption) a scratch crew of mostly-American volunteers sailed her first to France and then Bulgaria, taking aboard an amazing 2,644 Ma’apilim refugees for passage to Palestine through the British blockade.
The British trailed her off Palestine and raided the vessel in Haifa harbor, impounding the ship among others used by the Israelis until the new government formed. (See fellow Warship Wednesday alumni Gresham).
Later the Israeli Navy was able to reclaim Paducah/Geulah in 1948 after independence, but following inspection, the desperate organization realized they were not that desperate, and, after a brief stint as a tramp steamer, sold her for scrap in Naples in 1951.
The only other Paducah commissioned in the Navy was the 109-foot large harbor tug, YTB-758. Built at the Southern Shipbuilding Corp., Slidell, La., she joined the fleet in 1961 and was decommissioned 1970. Struck from the Naval Register, 25 June 1999, she is in commercial service today in Connecticut as Patricia Ann, berthed at New London.
The silver punch bowl from the old gunboat Paducah, donated to the Quilt City in 1946 by the Navy, is on display at the city’s Market House Museum.
Displacement 1,237 t.
Length 200′ 5
Length between perpendiculars 174′
Draft 12′ 3″
Propulsion: Two 235psi Babcock and Wilcox boilers, two 500ihp Gas Engine Power Co. vertical triple-expansion engines, two shafts, 200 tons coal
1921 – Two 630ihp vertical triple-expansion engines.
Speed 12 kts, as designed
1921 – 12.9 kts.
Complement 162, as designed
1914 – 172
1921 – 161
Six 4″ (102/40) Mk VII mounts (replaced by newer 4″/50s in 1911)
Four Driggs-Schroeder Mk II 57mm 6-pounders
One .30-06 cal. Colt machine gun
(1921) Four 4″/50 rapid fire mounts and one 3″/23 mount
One 5″/38 dual-purpose mount
Two 4″/50 gun mounts
One 3″/50 dual-purpose mount
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