Destroyer Tender Melville Served During Two Great Wars

By James Donahue

At 417 feet, the USS Melville was not an impressive warship. In fact, she was not quite a warship at all, although she was close to the action in both World Wars I and II.

The Melville carried a compliment of 397 crew members, was lightly armed, but was designed to service the larger destroyers and ships of war within the fleet.

She was commissioned in December, 1915 and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet just prior to the first great conflict. In May, 1917, after the United States entered the war, Melville steamed to Queenstown Ireland and spent the duration of the war there, providing base services for U.S. Navy destroyers that were conducting anti-submarine operations in that area.

After the war, Melville served off the East Coast of the United States, in the Caribbean, and the Azores. In May, 1919, she was involved in supporting the trans-Atlantic flight of the Navy seaplane NC-4.

For the next two decades, Melville was assigned to the Pacific Coast fleet, tending destroyers at San Diego and Hawaii. Then as storm clouds gathered in Europe once more, Melville was moved back to the Atlantic Coast, where she supported warships participating in "neutrality patrols" and eventually convoy escort ships. Melville was in England and actively involved in assisting minesweepers and landing craft as they prepared for the June, 1944 invasion of Normandy.

After the war, Melville returned to Jacksonville, Florida, where she was involved in laying up the excess warships returning home. Once this work was finished, she was decommissioned and sent to the scrap yard with many of the other ships that participated in that war.

During all of those years of war service, there was only one serious mishap aboard Melville. It happened in July, 1919, when a boiler explosion killed five crew members and laid the ship up for three months for repair.

The ship was named in honor of Rear Admiral George W. Melville, a noted Arctic explorer and Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering at the turn of the century.


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