Sunday, May 15, 2005


Building warships on the Piscataqua since 1690


The Union Leader
By Jerry Miller
May 14, 2005

KITTERY, Maine —The Pentagon's decision to again recommend the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for closure could spell the demise of the nation's oldest shipyard and an end to a history as rich as the nation's itself.

The latest round of proposed base closings is nothing new for the shipyard. It survived three closure attempts in the late 1980s and early '90s.

The history of military shipbuilding on the site dates back some 288 years to the construction of a British frigate.
Formally established as a government shipyard in June 1800 during the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, the yard has been involved in the design, construction and repair of virtually every type of warship, from sailing vessels to steamships to nuclear-powered submarines.

Over the generations, Portsmouth has achieved a number of milestones:

1690: Construction of the first warship in North America, HMS Falkland, in 1690.

1777: The Ranger, the first "man of war" to sail under the American flag, was commissioned at the shipyard.

1815: The 74-gun USS Washington, the first warship built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, was launched.

1867: The yard built the USS Franklin, then the largest steamship constructed in the Navy.

1905: The shipyard hosted the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War. At the invitation of President Theodore Roosevelt, delegates from the two warring nations met on the second floor of the yard's supply building, now known as Building 86.

1917: Shipyard workers built the L-8, the first submarine constructed in a U.S. Navy shipyard.

1937: USS Snapper, the first submarine built with an all-welded steel hull, was built locally.

1942: The shipyard built USS Balao, the first U.S. submarine made of high-tensile steel.

1944: The yard established a record for building the largest number of submarines, 31, in a single calendar year.

During World War II, the workforce expanded to nearly 30,000 as the shipyard became a hotbed of submarine construction. Before the war ended, more than 70 subs had been built. On one day alone, four submarines were launched from the island facility.

After World War II, the shipyard's focus turned to submarine design and development.

The experimental USS Albacore, now a Portsmouth museum, was launched in 1953. It was the first sub designed with the now common "teardrop" shape hull, and was the fastest submarine of its day.

The shipyard was also the first government-owned shipyard to build a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Swordfish in 1958.

Despite its many successes, the shipyard has also known sorrow. On July 9, 1960, the USS Thresher, designed and built at the yard, was launched. The Thresher, with a crew of 129, went out for sea trials on April 9, 1963. The following day, the vessel was reported "overdue and presumed missing." The sub had made a test dive and never surfaced.

As the nation's nuclear fleet grew, the shipyard began to specialize in the repair and overhaul of nuclear-powered subs. The last submarine built at the shipyard, the USS Sand Lance, was launched in 1971.

Today, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is recognized as the leading yard in the overhaul, repair and refueling of the Los Angeles Class attack submarines.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?