Keep off Gov boats!

The sad fate of the majority of the U.S. Navy’s Great War splinter fleet.

Here we see a trio of disarmed 110-foot subchasers to include USS SC-216 and USS SC-225 in Boston harbor’s Dorchester Bay boat graveyard, likely shortly after they were bought by the firm of C. P. Comerford Co., who picked up at least seven of these ships for pocket change in 1921. Note the sign that reads “KEEP OF GOV BOATS.”

Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Designed by Herreshoff Boat Yard Vice President, the esteemed naval architect Albert Loring Swasey (Commodore of the MIT Yacht Club in 1897) on request of Asst SECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1916 and rushed into construction the next year, the Navy ordered hundreds of 110-foot subchasers to smother the Kaiser’s U-boats on the high seas. It was believed the vessels could be rushed out via commercial boatyards at $500K a pop.

Derided as a “splinter fleet” the SCs were built from wood, which, when powered by a trio of Standard 220-hp 6-cylinder gasoline (!) engines, a 24~ man crew could get the narrow-beamed vessel underway at a (designed) top speed of 18 knots, which was fast enough for U-boat work at the time. However, once the war was over, the steel Navy had little need or use for immense flotillas of these little wooden boats with their fire-prone engineering suites. Of the nearly 450 built, more than 100 were transferred to the French during the war, some to the Coast Guard in the 1920s, and most liquidated throughout the 1920s.

As a reference for just how short of a life the two named boats above had, here is the entirety of their DANFS entries:

SC-216: Built at Alex. McDonald, Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, N.Y. Commissioned 2/14/18. Sold 5/11/21 to C. P. Comerford Co., Lowell, Mass.

SC-225 Built at New York Yacht, Launch & Engine Co., Morris Heights, N.Y. Commissioned 12/10/17. Sold 5/11/21 to C. P. Comerford Co., Lowell, Mass.

Here are a few more shots from the same series:

Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

110 Sub chaser No. 241 in the scrapyard. According to DANFS, she was, “Built at New York Yacht, Launch & Engine Co., Morris Heights, N.Y. Commissioned 4/8/18. Sold 5/11/21 to C. P. Comerford Co., Lowell, Mass.” Photo from Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

By WWII, just a dozen of the Great War’s 110-footers remained on the Naval List although they were still in their 20s. A similar fate would meet the myriad of wooden PT-boats and rescue boats rushed into service during the 1940s.

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