U.S.S. Dixie On The Job

The War Horse Dixie - A Destroyer Tender

By James Donahue

The Dixie was one of a little-known and certainly unsung fleet of ships that participated in the Navy's great battle for the Pacific during World War II and later the Korean conflict. She was a destroyer tender . . . that is, the vessel was a service vessel trailing behind the warships.

The name destroyer tender is perhaps a misnomer. While the Dixie certainly provided a full range of repair, maintenance and provisions of food, armament and medical attention to the destroyers, she also was there for the larger ships as well.

The very name "tender," suggests that the Dixie was a small and insignificant vessel that anchored just outside the line of fire and did its work after the battles were over. Actually, Dixie was a massive ship, over 530-feet in length, and she was not only armed, she was right alongside the battleships, cruisers and other fighting ships and did her share of fighting.


Mother Dixie And Her Brood

So diverse were the Dixie's duties, they even included the rescue of sailors on stranded and sinking ships at sea, and picking up the sink and wounded for quick medical care while steaming off to a nearby hospital facility.

Not only did Dixie carry a full supply of arms to feed the guns of the fleet ships, she brought fresh produce to feed the fighting sailors, and a full warehouse of parts, and skilled craftsmen who could do everything forge large steel parts to intricate parts for precision instruments used at sea.

The Dixie had a distinguished 42-year naval career and she was the first ship awarded the First Navy Jack as the ship with the longest active service in the Navy. She also received five battle stars for Korean War service.

Dixie was launched by the New York Shipbuilding Corp. in Camden, New Jersey, in May, 1939, and commissioned April 25, 1940, just in time for World War II.

She sailed under the command of Lt. Commander G. H. Bahm from Norfolk to Pearl Harbor in 1940, but was at San Diego, California, tending a destroyer group there, and was in the Mare Island Navy Yard for an overhaul when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Dixie soon was back at Pearl Harbor and followed fleet actions throughout the Pacific Theater throughout the war. The ship remained in constant duty, not returning to the United States coast until December, 1945, after four consecutive years at sea.

In the summer of 1946 Dixie participated in the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll, and from 1947 to 1949 she served destroyers on patrol off the Chinese coast, during the Communist advance through that country. She also was active during the Korean Conflict, even firing her guns at a shore target during one united assault.

This fine ship was decommissioned in June, 1982.

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