Charlestons Naval History

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In 1706, Governor Johnson and Lieutenant Colonel William Rhett lead the defense of Charleston against the Spanish, French, and Native Americans who sailed into Charleston harbor from St. Augustine.

During the early 1700's Charles Town leaders and residents grew increasingly intolerant of the raiding and plundering done by pirates and privateers. The final straw came when Blackbeard and his men held the city of Charles Town ransom. Blackbeard agreeing to free the hostages only if they received much-needed medical supplies. The governor met Blackbeard’s demands.

Embarrassed and infuriated by the blockade Governor Johnson dispatched Colonel William Rhett in the ships Henry and the Sea Nymph to deal with the criminals once and for all. Rhett finally caught up with Stede Bonnet, a member of Blackbeards fleet, at the battle of Cape Fear River, on September of 1718. Bonnet was hanged in Charleston on Dec. 10th 1718 with 30 of his crew. Blackbeard’s luck eventually ran out, and was killed in battle by the Royal Navy.

Anne Bonny, a women pirate also terrorized South Carolina. She is believed to have been a daughter of a prosperous Charles Town planter. Bonny sailed with Calico Jack Rackham, a pirate known for his fancy calico attire. The two sailed and fought together caught by the British. Bonny, escaped the gallows due to her pregnancy. No one knows for certain what became of Anne Bonny. Legends say she returned to her father, others say that she returned to piracy.

The first decisive Naval victory of the revolutionary war occured on June 28th 1776, The battle began when 11 British warships and 1,500 troops attacked Ft. Moultrie. William Moultrie and 2nd South Carolina Regiment, fought off the British in a 9 hour battle.

Starting in 1777, when it was known as Palmetto Day or Sergeant Jasper's Day, Carolina Day was celebrated to remember the decisive victory. Regardless, the day continued to be marked by the tradition of playing the tune of "Three Blind Mice" at noon at St. Michael's Episcopal Church.

Twenty-four whaleships were sunk in Charleston Harbor by Captain Charles Henry Davis, beginning on 19 December 1861.

In 1864 the 3rd crew of the Confederate submarine CSS H. L. Hunley rams her metal spar afixed with a 135 pound torpedo into the USS Housatonic, becoming the first submarine to sink a vessel in war.

In 1890, Charleston, having never fully recovered economically from the Civil War, was awarded the contract for a naval yard.

President Wilson declared war in April 1917.  As the United States entered the Great War, production at Charleston’s shipyard accelerated and there was further expansion of facilities, land area, and workforce.

The declaration of war prompted the seizure of five German freighters interned in Charleston Harbor.  The ships were overhauled, refitted, and sent into action as part of the U.S. Fleet. Eighteen new vessels were constructed and work started on the Yard’s first destroyer, the USS Tillman in 1917. Alterations and repairs were made to 160 vessels from destroyers to small craft.

Type Pennant Name Type Tons Delivered Disposition
    Pee Dee Snag Boat   1913  
    Wateree Snag Boat   1913  
    Brunswick Tender   1916  
YFB 10 Wave Ferry   31-Aug-16  
AT 17 Wando  Tug   3-Apr-17 Reclassified YT 123 1936, then YTB 123, struck 1946
SC 106   Sub Chaser   31-Dec-17 Sold 1921
SC 107   Sub Chaser   19-Jan-18 Sold 1921
SC 108   Sub Chaser   12-Feb-18 To USA 1919
SC 109   Sub Chaser   12-Feb-18 Sold 1921
SC 110   Sub Chaser   30-Mar-18 Sold 1921
SC 111   Sub Chaser   30-Mar-18 Sold 1921
SC 112   Sub Chaser   22-Apr-18 Sold 1921
SC 113   Sub Chaser   3-May-18 Sold 1921

A Naval Training Center, Camp Bagley, was established and up to 5,000 Navy recruits at a time received basic training. A thousand civilians, mostly women, were hired to operate the naval clothing factory. Only six boats and tugs were built during 1920 to 1932.

Type Pennant Name Type Tons Delivered Disposition
YT 46   Tug   29-Apr-19  
YT 47   Tug   24-Apr-19  
YC 534   Coal Barge   1919  
YC 535   Coal Barge   12-Nov-19  
YE 31   Ammunition Barge   21-May-19  
PG 21 Asheville Gunboat 1,575 6-Jul-20 Sunk by Japanese gunfire south of Java 1942
DD 135 Tillman Destroyer 1,090 30-Apr-21 To Britain 1940 as HMS Wells (I 95), scrapped 1946
PG 22 Tulsa Gunboat 1,575 3-Dec-23 Renamed Tacloban 1944, scrapped 1948
YT 55   Tug   8-Oct-25  
YO 40   Fuel Barge   10-Dec-28  
YO 43   Fuel Barge   10-Dec-28  
YG 13   Garbage Barge   29-Aug-29  
YG 14   Garbage Barge   29-Aug-29  
YT 13   Tug   17-May-32  
WYT 86 Calumet Tug 290 3-Dec-34 Sold 1968
WYT 88 Navesink Tug 290 5-Jan-35 Sold 1970
WYT 89 Tuckahoe Tug 290 30-Jan-35 Donated 1969
PG 51 Charleston Gunboat 2,000 8-Jul-36 To Mass. Maritime Academy 1948
WPG 31 Bibb Gunboat 2,750 10-Mar-37 Scuttled 1987
DD 407 Sterett Destroyer 1,500 15-Aug-39 Scrapped 1948
YT 129 Osceola Tug   1-Jun-38 Later YTB 129, then YTM 129, struck 1973 
YT 131 Massasoit Tug 222 1939 Sold 1973
YT 132   Tug   1938  
YT 141 Heekon Tug 325 1940 Sold 1963 as Philip Steers, later Venture, Yvonne St. Philip
YT 142 Nokomis Tug 218 1940  
YT 143   Tug   1940  
YT 144   Tug   1940  
DD 418 Roe Destroyer 1,620 5-Jan-40 Sold 1947
DD 427 Hilary P. Jones Destroyer 1,620 6-Sep-40 To Taiwan 1954 as Han Yan (DD 15)

After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen passed through its military facilities on their way to war. The Navy Yard in Charleston was one of the Navy's primary destroyer builders during WWII.

Type Pennant Name Type Tons Delivered Disposition
DD 435 Grayson Destroyer   2/14/41 Scrapped 1972
DD 443 Swanson Destroyer   5/29/41 Scrapped 1972
DD 444 Ingraham Destroyer   7/17/41 Sunk in collision off Nova Scotia 1942
DD 463 Corry Destroyer   12/18/41 Sunk by mine off Utah Beach 1944
DD 464 Hobson Destroyer   1/22/42 DMS 26; sunk 1952
DD 640 Beatty Destroyer   5/7/42 Sunk by German aircraft off Algeria 1943
DD 641 Tillman Destroyer   6/4/42 Scrapped 1972
DD 477 Pringle Destroyer   9/15/42 Sunk by kamikaze off Okinawa 1945
DD 478 Stanly Destroyer   10/15/42 Scrapped 1971
DD 479 Stevens Destroyer   2/1/43 Scrapped 1973
DD 587 Bell Destroyer   3/4/43 Sunk as target 1975
DD 588 Burns Destroyer   4/3/43 Sunk as target 1974
DD 589 Izard Destroyer   5/15/43 Scrapped 1970
LST 353 No Name Landing Ship, Tank   11/27/42 CTL 1944 in Pearl Harbor
LST 354 No Name Landing Ship, Tank   11/27/42 Scrapped 1948
LST 355 No Name Landing Ship, Tank   12/22/42 Sold for scrap 1948 but may be in China
LST 356 Bledsoe County Landing Ship, Tank   12/22/42 To Indonesia 1970 as Teluk Tomini (L 508), active
LST 357 No Name Landing Ship, Tank   2/8/43 Scrapped 1947
LST 358 No Name Landing Ship, Tank   2/8/43 To Britain, scrapped 1947
LST 359 No Name Landing Ship, Tank   2/9/43 Lost 1944 off Gibraltar
LST 360 No Name Landing Ship, Tank   2/9/43 To Britain, scrapped 1947
DD 649 Albert W. Grant Destroyer   11/24/43 Scrapped 1972
DD 665 Bryant Destroyer   12/4/43 Sunk as target 1969
DD 590 Paul Hamilton Destroyer   10/25/43 Scrapped 1970
DD 591 Twiggs Destroyer   11/4/43 Sunk by Japanese aircraft off Okinawa 1945
DE 199 Manning Destroyer Escort   10/1/43 Scrapped 1969
DE 200 Neuendorf Destroyer Escort   10/18/43 Sunk as target 1967
DE 201 James E. Craig Destroyer Escort   11/1/43 Sunk as target 1969
DE 202 Eichenberger Destroyer Escort   11/17/43 Scrapped 1973
DE 203 Thomason Destroyer Escort   12/10/43 Scrapped 1969
DE 204 Jordan Destroyer Escort   12/17/43 Scrapped 1947
DE 205 Newman Destroyer Escort   11/26/43 APD 59, scrapped 1966
DE 206 Liddle Destroyer Escort   12/6/43 APD 60, scrapped 1968
DE 207 Kephart Destroyer Escort   1/7/44 APD 61, to Korea as Kyong Puk 1967, struck 1985
DE 208 Cofer Destroyer Escort   1/19/44 APD 62, scrapped 1968
DE 209 Lloyd Destroyer Escort   2/11/44 APD 63, scrapped 1968
DE 210 Otter Destroyer Escort   2/21/44 Sunk as target 1970
DE 211 Joseph C. Hubbard Destroyer Escort   3/6/44 APD 53, scrapped 1968
DE 212 Hayter Destroyer Escort   3/16/44 APD 80, to Korea as Jon Nam 1967, struck 1986
DE 213 William T. Powell Destroyer Escort   3/28/44 Scrapped 1966
DE 230 Chaffee Destroyer Escort   5/9/44 Scrapped 1948
DE 231 Hodges Destroyer Escort   5/27/44 Scrapped 1973
DE 232 Kinzer Destroyer Escort   11/1/44 APD 91, to Taiwan as Yu Shan 1965, active
DE 233 Register Destroyer Escort   1/11/45 APD 92, to Taiwan as Tai Shan 1966, struck 1991
DE 234 Brock Destroyer Escort   2/9/45 APD 93, to Colombia as power barge 1962
DE 235 John Q. Roberts Destroyer Escort   3/8/45 APD 94, scrapped 1961
DE 236 William M. Hobby Destroyer Escort   4/4/45 APD 95, to Korea as Chi Ju 1967, struck 1989
DE 237 Ray K. Edwards Destroyer Escort   6/11/45 APD 96, scrapped 1961
DE 281 Arthur L. Bristol Destroyer Escort   6/25/45 APD 97, scrapped 1965
DE 282 Truxton Destroyer Escort   7/9/45 APD 98, to Taiwan as Fu Shan 1966, active
DE 283 Upham Destroyer Escort   7/23/45 APD 99, to Colombia as power barge 1962
DE 284 Vogelgesang Destroyer Escort     Cancelled 1944
DE 285 Weeks Destroyer Escort     Cancelled 1944
DE 960-995   Destroyer Escort     Cancelled 1943
LSM 126-187   Landing Ship, Med.   4/44-10/44 For details, see the LSM page
LSMR 188-199   Landing Ship, Med.   11/44-12/44 For details, see the LSM page
LSM 200   Landing Ship, Med.   12/44 For details, see the LSM page
LSM 295-309   Landing Ship, Med.   12/44-1/45 For details, see the LSM page
LSM 389-400   Landing Ship, Med.   1/45-3/45 For details, see the LSM page
LSMR 401-412   Landing Ship, Med.   4/45-5/45 For details, see the LSM page
LSM 413   Landing Ship, Med.   8/45 For details, see the LSM page
LSM 553-558   Landing Ship, Med,   9/45-10/45 For details, see the LSM page
AS 30 Tidewater Sub Tender   2/19/46 Reclassified as AD 31, to Indonesia 1971 as Dumai (A 652), scrapped 1984
AV 20 Hobe Sound


    Cancelled 1944

The Cold War and the threat of nuclear attack dominated international affairs from 1945 to 1991. In 1945, the Navy Department reorganized the various activities at Charleston by creating Naval Base, Charleston.  During most of the Yard’s history, the commandant of the Charleston Navy Yard also served as Commandant of the 6th Naval District.  In November 1945, this dual command ceased and the district commandant was given additional duty as Commander of the Charleston Naval Base.

The Navy Yard became the Charleston Naval Shipyard, a component of the Naval Base. The 6th Naval District was enlarged in 1948 to include the seven states in the southeastern United States and 2,936 miles of coastline, the longest of any district in the country.

Type Pennant Name Type Tons Delivered Disposition
AD 36 Bryce Canyon

Destroyer Tender

  9/15/50 Scrapped 1982

In the late 1950s, the Base became a major home port for combatant ships and submarines of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Operation staffs and fleet support commands also arrived.  New facilities for a Naval Mine Craft Base, Mine Warfare School, and Fleet Training Center were constructed.

In 1955, with the advent of nuclear propulsion, submarines were transformed from diesel and battery powered vessels to nuclear powered, which enabled them to move and fight for months without surfacing.  SSNs (“fast attacks”) and SSBNs (“boomers”) were considered the new ships of the Cold War. Crews from Charleston were sent throughout the world to protect and act as the final line of defense in the Cold War.

The ammunition depot became home to Polaris missile submarine weapons facilities.  As the Cold War intensified and the Base moved into the nuclear age, one of the largest ship conversion jobs ever attempted was initiated in 1959. The World War II ERA 530-foot submarine tender USS Proteus was moved into dry dock, cut amidships, and a  44-foot plug was installed in sections to accommodate the repair and transport of missiles.

In 1983, the Naval Base was the third largest naval home port in the United States, employing roughly 36,700 people, including 23,500 Navy and Marine Corps personnel and 13,200 civilians.  This heavy workload of maintaining surface ships, overhauling  nuclear submarines, and providing supplies and support to the U.S. Navy, continued until the Base closed in 1996.