ABSD-4 Class Large Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock:
825' x 246' 5" x 8' 8"
Lifting: 70,000 Tons
14 x 40mm AA guns
14 x 20mm AA guns
Harig Nov 26, 1945
Frank Morrill 1945
Jeff Hutchingson 2003
The seven sections of this dry dock were built at three locations separately before finally assembled. Two sections were built at Everett, Washington. The first section built was designated Section D (ABD-53) completed March 30, 1944 and was commissioned in the U. S. Navy (USN) as Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock 4 (USS ABSD-4) under the command of LCdr Dean H. Beeman and that same day was assigned to Commander Arthur Lee Karns.
Two more sections were built at Eureka, California and three section were built at Stockton, California. As the sections were completed, they were towed to San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point in San Francisco for submersion testing, fitting out, final assembly and crew assignment and was tended by tended by three Yard Tugs: YF-998, YF-999 and YF-1000. By August 7, 1944 USS ABSD-4 was ready for deployment overseas and disassembled into individual sections for towing by different vessels.
Each section had an alphabetical designation (A-G) plus a USN Advance Base Dock number:
Section A: designation ABD-45
Section B: designation ABD-41
Section C: designation ABD-47
Section D: designation ABD-53
Section E: designation ABD-54
Section F: designation ABD-42
On August 21, 1944 the disassembled sections, each towed by different vessels departed Hunters Point on a voyage across the Pacific bound for Navy 3205 (7th Fleet, Manus Island, Admiralty Islands) for Seeadler
(ABD-47) was towed by USS Lyra (AK-101) under the command of Captain D. B. Downer and served as convoy commodore and as the lead ship and guide vessel for the entire convoy.
Section D (ABD-53) was towed by
SS White Shoal.
Section G (ABD-46) was towed by
YF 1000 and SS Petit Manon but days into the voyage suffered engine trouble and on August 25, 1944 USS Menoquet (YTB 256) was dispatched as a replacement catching up with the convoy on September 2, 1944 and taking over towing duties.
Section B (ABD-41) was towed by YF-1001 and SS Sombrero Key.
Section E (ABD-54) was towed by YF 999 and SS Sabine Pass.
Section F (ABD-42) was towed by YF 998 and SS Point Cabrillo.
Section A (ABD-45) was towed by 6x18 pontoon barge and SS Sand Key.
The sea voyage took approximately 47.5 days with an average speed of 6.5 knots and without incident. By October 7, 1944 all sections and tow vessels anchored off Ponam Island to awaiting further orders.
On October 12, 1944 at 4:52am departed for Seeadler
Harbor to the eastern portion of the anchorage to Berth 389 to Berth 390 and arrived by 12:20pm and by 1:00pm commenced work to reassmeble the sections. To reassemble the sections, CBD-1053, CBD-1055 rendered aid with three shifts working eight hours led by the crew of USS ABSD-2 working 12-16 hours per day for the next eight weeks.
On December 7, 1944 USS ABSD-2 was reassembled and reported for duty with Commander Service Force, 7th Fleet to provide dry docking and repair operations and were commended for their efforts.
On December 8, 1944 began servicing operations with the first ship to enter USS St. Louis (CL-49) for repairs.
Between December 8, 1944 until the end of the Pacific War, ABSD-4 serviced a total of 95 ships that were docked and repaired before the end of World War II.
ABSD-4 began servicing warships and transports that required dry docking or repairs along with Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock 2 (USS ABSD-2).
During late February 1945 ABSD-4 dry docked USS New York (BB-34) repairing her propellers until March 1945.
Frank Morrill adds:
"The ABSD's had their own living Quarters and a large barge along side for workshops. I did not know anyone aboard them. I came very close to them while 'cruising' around the harbor in an LCVP."
Dr. Marshall Lowry adds:
"I was pharmacist's mate second class [PHM2] aboard ABSD-4. The doctor on board was Dr. Billy Marshall. I remember the attack I stayed on the ABSD and took it apart before I transferred to Manus. I was a hospital corpsman second class, went to medical school after I was discharged. I am now 80 years."
On April 22, 1945 at 1400 A6M2 Zero modified two seater pilot Shimbo with Ensign Chuhei Okubo overflew Seeadler
Harbor at 14,000' and observed two "aircraft carriers" that were actually floating dry dock USS ABSD-2 and USS ABSD-4. Back at Rabaul, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) planned a strike against the two "aircraft carriers" with repaired aircraft from the 105th Naval Base Unit dubbed the "Rabaul Air Force".
On April 27, 1945 targeted by B5N2 Kate pilot Nagai that released an aerial torpedo that hit the rear pontoon under the side wall, rupturing the hull and moderately damaged the dry dock then went missing.
Afterwards, the damage was repaired and this dry dock continued to perform dry docking and repair work.
On November 26 1945 dry docked Small Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock 12 (AFDL-12)
Decommissioned May 1, 1946. Redesignated AFBD-4. Officially stricken from the U. S. Navy register on April 15, 1989.
This dry dock was abandoned in Seeadler
Harbor. To this day, the dry dock is partially sunk with the upper edges of both wing walls visible above the surface.
Note, some sources incorrectly state this USS ABSD-4 was built by Mare Island Navy at Mare Island in error.
Joel Bromberg adds: "Dry dock was, originally, two words. It became one word [drydock] after the mid-20th century. When I was at Military Sealift Command in Bayonne, NJ (1985-1997), we always referred to the historic drydock there as one word in all official correspondence."
NARA "History of USS ABSD-4" pages 1-9
(Page 3) "The Commanding Officer of this dry dock [Commander Arthur Lee Karns] received the following letter: 'This command is grateful with the record set by you and your officers and men, in assembling the U.S.S. ABSD-4, within a period of eight weeks. As a result of your tireless efforts many ships may now be dry docked and repaired close to combat areas, and returned to active service at a minimum length of time after damages are sustained. To the Commanding Officer, officers and men of the U. S. S. ABSD-4, the Commander Services Force, Seventh Fleet, makes the signal, 'well done'.' "
USS ABSD-4 (AFDB-4)
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida pages 79-85
of the Pacific War (2003) by Bruce
Petty page 186 interview with Bob Addobati, served
Thanks to Dr. Marshall Lowry, Frank Morrill and
for additional information
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April 28, 2020