“Next Monday will be a Red Letter day for the men and women of the Charleston Navy Yard. On this day the arc will be struck for the biggest ship ever to be built here, and at the same time the opening of the biggest War Bond drive in the history of the Yard will be launched.” Dateline: November 24, 1944
Those headlines are from the Charleston Naval Ship Yard (CNSY) news paper Produce to Win. The two activities of building the biggest ship and paying for the ship by the community, set a benchmark for a ship yard that had already been in existence for nearly two hundred years. This could be another article written about a ship, where she sailed, and those who served on her but the story I want to leave you with, is that she was more than a sailing vessel. This one ship tied many events together making her a community of a city, a shipyard, a commandant with a presidential friendship, the many countries and ports she visited where she gave a helping hand, and the adoration of all those whose lives were touched by having been a part of a ship called “Tidewater”.
August 12th, 1901 Captain Edwin Longnecker took possession of the Charleston Shipyard on behalf of the United States Navy and on June 9th, 1917 the CNSY laid the keel for the yard’s first U.S. Naval war ship, USS ASHEVILLE PG-21. August 23rd, 1918 a young recruit reported to the Naval Training Camp at the shipyard. When he filled out a questionnaire about his civilian work experience, he entered ‘illustrator.’ The young man’s was Norman Rockwell. He was immediately assigned to the training camp newspaper “Afloat and Ashore”. While at the camp Norman continued his work on the Saturday Evening Post and Life magazine covers and in true sailor fashion he traded portraits of base officers for extra passes to town. From the keel lying of the Asheville to the keel lying of the Tidewater, CNSY launched 228 vessels. The type of vessels ranged from sub chasers, gun ships, yard tugs, harbor cutter, destroyers, destroyer escorts, LST, LSM, LSMR, fast troop transport, landing craft of various types and finally two destroyer tenders. The USS Tidewater and USS Bryce Canyon, the “Tides” sister ship, were the last ships built at the yard. On Monday November 27th 1944 at 11:15am the first arc was struck laying the keel of the USS TIDEWATER that set in motion several firsts for the CNSY and the “Tide”. The Tidewater was the largest and most expensive project to that date. Also, the biggest war bond drive and the first time a bond drive was dedicated to one project, the USS Tidewater.
The bond drive inspired another first for the Tidewater and the CNSY. The “Build-Buy” slogan. Charles M. Simpson, a patternmaker at the yard, thought of the idea to dedicate the bond drive to make the Tidewater their own. To help fund the $10,000,000.00 cost, the shipyard workers and citizens of Charleston County purchased 2.5 million dollars in war bonds to be dedicated toward the construction of the Tidewater. To get the bond drive underway the Navy brought in actress Janet Blair. While Ms. Blair was already a movie star in Hollywood, she first got her start as a big band vocalist in her home state of Pennsylvania. Ms. Blair is now 83 years of age and still resides in the Hollywood area and owns a dance studio. Ms. Blair was a huge hit with the shipyard employees and was excited to be part of the Tidewater project. She also participated in the keel laying ceremony.
While the Tidewater was still a project in the planning stages, the CNSY received its 26th Commandant May 14, 1943. Rear Admiral Jules James was appointed commandant of the Sixth Naval District by President Roosevelt, which included the CNSY. Jules James graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1905 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1908. Jules served on a total of 13 ships and his final ship assignment was as Captain of the USS Philadelphia CL-41. President Roosevelt joined the Philadelphia on its shakedown cruise in Charleston and accompanied Capt. James to Havana, Cuba and back to Charleston. Jules also served as Naval Aid to President Wilson, was director of the Naval War College, and later Director of Naval Intelligence. Directly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt directed then Capt. James to Bermuda with the task of establishing that portion of the Eastern Seacoast Defense. The primary objective was to detect enemy ship and submarine movements. While stationed on Bermuda Capt. James was promoted to Rear Admiral. By coincidence the Tidewater made her “Twilight Cruise” to the island of Bermuda.
With the Tidewater under construction, President Roosevelt made several visits to the shipyard on his way to and from Warm Springs, Georgia. The shipyard was a favorite stopover for the President and served as an opportunity to visit his friend Admiral James and family. Helen Keller also made visits to the CNSY to work with the disabled servicemen during this same time. The Tidewater attracted a considerable amount of attention.
With the Tidewater almost ready for launching, another “first” for the shipyard occurred. Three hundred shipyard workers were selected to ride the ship down the launching ways. Elma England is one of the workers who rode on the Tidewater while being launched. Ms. England was a welder and helped build the Tidewater. Ms. England is a member of the Tidewater Association and resides in Charleston, S.C. On April 12, 1945 the nation received word, President Roosevelt had passed away while at Warm Springs, Ga. Admiral James traveled to Warm Springs to be part of the President’s honor guard. The Tidewater was launched on 30 June, 1945 with Mrs. Robert N. Scott, wife of Commander, Naval Shipyard as sponsor.. The ship was so large it had to be tethered so she would not breach on the opposite side of the Cooper River. After launching, Tidewater was moved to Pier “C” and for the next thirteen months the ship was fitted out and made ready for commissioning. Tidewater was commissioned on 19 February 1946, with Capt. Frank H. Ball as her first Commanding Officer. With the Tidewater set for its initial sea trial another first occurred. “An Exclusive, Dramatic, On-the-Spot Account of the Initial Sea Trial of the Destroyer Tender, USS Tidewater.” WTMA’s news and special features department was aboard the Tidewater with wire recorder to bring the first on the spot description of every department of this great ship and its performance during the initial sea trial. This was the first broadcast of its kind in the area. Certainly a first for the Charleston radio station. Since World War II had ended, the Tidewater completed its initial sea trials and was placed in ready reserve to serve as an accommodations ship for the staff of Submarine Group 3. The Tidewater was then designated AS-30. With the Korean War escalating the need for support ships increased. After nearly five years in the reserve fleet, on October 2, 1951 the Tidewater was re-commissioned and placed in active service with Capt. Harold S. Harnly serving as her second Commanding Officer.
In November 1951 the Tidewater joined the Navy Fleet Training Group in Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk. She took part in a two week shake down exercise. With the shake down exercise completed, she returned to Charleston in mid December. The Tidewater was now loaded with spare parts and equipment along with the necessary inventory to perform her repair tasks. After a long inactive period the Tidewater was now on active duty, being assigned to DESTROYER FLOTILLA 4, with her home port in Norfolk, Virginia at the D&S piers. In early 1952 the Tidewater made a trip to New York to participate in the New York World Expo. Unfortunately she ran aground in front of the Statue of Liberty.
In the fall of 1952 the Tidewater participated in the first NATO exercise, “Operation Mainbrace”. This six week exercise consisted of 150 ships of the combined NATO forces and took place in the north Atlantic. During the exercise period the Tidewater made port visits to Glasgow Scotland, Bergen Norway and Cherbourg France. Coincidentally during the NATO exercise numerous UFO sightings were reported. It is now believed the German government was performing test flights of its “flying wing”. The following February, she joined other Navy ships in the Caribbean for her first of several “Springboard” exercises. The Tidewater arrived back in Charleston 19 July, 1953 to render her services to the ships of the Mine Force. The Tidewater returned to Norfolk in mid August and entered the naval shipyard for overhaul on 12 August 1953. Upon completion of the yard overhaul, she put to sea for the Caribbean and refresher training on 2 November 1953. The Tidewater returned to Norfolk on 1 December and resumed tending destroyers until February 1954 when she headed to the Caribbean to participate in her second “Springboard” exercise. Upon completion of that exercise the Tidewater headed across the Atlantic for her first deployment with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean where she provided tender services to ships in Algiers, Algeria.
With her first assignment in the Mediterranean the Tidewater set a pattern which endured for the remainder of her Navy career. Over the next 13 years the Tidewater made several deployments to the Mediterranean, alternating that service with 2nd Fleet duty along the Atlantic coast of the United States. 14 March 1960 the Tidewater made her fourth deployment to the Mediterranean. During that deployment the Tidewater visited the ports of Augusta Bay, Ville France, Naples, Barcelona and Palermo. The highlight of the cruise was a visit by Queen Fredricka of Greece. Completing a successful tour the Tidewater was relieved on 21 September and headed home for Norfolk. The tidewater departed for her fifth Med cruise on February 1962. While on that deployment the ship’s divers and deck crew successfully changed the port screw of the USS Stickle while working underwater. It was said that “changing a ship’s 7.5 ton 12’ diameter screw is not unusual, but was a problem few tenders had overcome.” The Tidewater returned to Norfolk in June, 1962 and continued her repair duties until November 1962 when she entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul and FRAM update which included the addition of the DASH hanger and landing pad. The overhaul was completed in February 1963.
The Tidewater departed Norfolk for her sixth Mediterranean deployment on 1 October 1963. The first port of call was Barcelona, Spain for two days R and R then on to Naples. On 22 November, while in Naples, the crew of the tidewater along with the rest of the world learned of the assassination of our Commander In Chief, President Kennedy. Shortly after, the Tidewater sailed to Toulon, France where the crew spent Christmas and News Years. In the tradition of good will by the crew, on 29 December a party was held aboard the tidewater for orphan girls. In January, the tidewater returned to Naples to resume tender repair duties. The Tidewater departed the Mediterranean on 7 March 1964 and headed back to Norfolk and a brief inactive time before continuing her repair duties.
In October of 1964 the Tidewater made a short trip to Bayonne, New Jersey to tend to destroyers in that area. The New York World’s fair was in progress at that time the trip was billed as a “ Worlds Fair Cruise”.
In early 1965 the Tidewater returned to the Mediterranean for the seventh time. The Tidewater remained in Naples for the duration except for turnover periods which were accomplished in Palma de Mallaorca. While in Naples, in addition to the routine tender duties, the crew of the Tidewater preformed volunteer work at the Case Dello Storpio. Casa Dello Storpio is a home for crippled orphan boys located in Palma Campainia just outside Naples. Approximately 35 boys were waiting for the two hundred year old villa to become their new home. They were currently living in an eleventh century monastery which was both crowded and dilapidated. The renovation of the old villa was a community relations project of “Operation Handclasp” by the sixth fleet. During this cruise Tidewater Volunteers departed the ship each Wednesday and Saturday for a day of work at the villa. The worked as carpenters, electricians and glaziers, (there were several hundred window panes in the old villa, most were broken). The crew also painted and preformed general clean up duties. Just prior the Tide’s departure from Naples, a picnic was held at the beach for the children of Casa Dello Storpio. The food was provided by the ship’s commissary department and HMC Conway entertained the boys with his clown act. In August the Tidewater returned to Norfolk where she took up the duty as flagship for COMMANDER CRUISER DESTROYER FLOTILLA 4, and primary tender of the Tidewater area for the remainder of 1965. On 1 January 1966 the Tidewater departed for San Juan and the St. Croix, Virgin Islands to participate in another “ Springboard” exercise
. With the completion of that training exercise on 9 February 1966 Tidewater returned back to her homeport of Norfolk. The Tidewater remained in Norfolk until March 1966 when she departed for Charleston, South Carolina to assume tending duties until her departure on 17 July 1966 when she departed for shipyard overhaul in Baltimore, Maryland. The overhaul at Bethlehem Steel Shipyard lasted until 1 November. The Tidewater then fitted for sea, loaded with ammunition, fuel and stores began an Independent Ship’s Exercise in the Virginia Capes operating area until her departure for refresher training in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on 17 November. Since the Tidewater was placed in commission, she had logged over 100,000 nautical miles.
The Tidewater departed Norfolk on 27 March 1967 for her Mediterranean assignment. Tidewater arrived in Rota Spain on 6 April 1967 to relieve the USS Cascade as the Mediterranean Destroyer tender and then departed for Naples Italy arriving on 9 April 1967. While in Naples the outbreak of the Six-Day war between the Arabs and Israel occurred. The Tidewater was sent to Suda Bay Crete, where she served as an advanced base ship for the 6th Fleet units standing watch in the eastern Mediterranean for the duration of the hostilities. While in Suda Bay the Tidewater preformed another first. The USS Sampson came along side with a damaged propeller. Changing a propeller the size of the Sampson’s was a dry dock procedure. The Tidewater crew set about the task of changing the propeller in the water. With the work of the ship’s divers, deck and repair personnel the task was completed.
A secondary mission of every Sixth Fleet ship is to express in tangible means the good will of the United States toward the countries where Sixth Fleet ships visit. The Tidewater was no exception in that effort. While the Tidewater was on her deployment to the Mediterranean she participated in “Operation Handclasp.” Most of these efforts were carried out on the island of Crete under the supervision of the ship’s Chaplain, Lt. M.E. Bollesen, with several officers and enlisted assisting him. Much of the donated items which consisted of clothing, household utensils, hand crèmes, soap, shoes and various other items were given directly to individual needy families located in several mountain villages near Souda Bay, Crete. Books, pencils, and crayons were donated to the grade school in Souda Bay where men from the ship had painted and repaired many of the classrooms and performed various other repairs as needed. Several cartons of medical supplies were delivered to the Boy Orphanage and the Day Nursery for Children in the city of Chania. A great deal of the items donated were collected by Tidewater personnel and their families before departure from Norfolk.
For the six week stay in Crete, during the Middle East crisis, the Tidewater was commended for providing effective support to U.S. Naval Fleet Units operating in the eastern Mediterranean. During this time, amiable relations were also established with the Royal Hellenic Naval Command in the area. With the end of hostilities, the Tidewater returned to Naples to resume her normal tending duties. While back in Naples the Tidewater crew answered a call from a local hospital for type "O" negative blood for a newborn child. The need for the rare blood type was fulfilled by five of Tidewater's crew members. Tidewater departed Rota Spain on 9 August 1967 and arrived back home in Norfolk 18 August where she remained for the duration of 1967. While on this cruise the Tidewater lost a friend and fellow shipmate, EM3 Ronald Cecere 1946-1967
Early in 1968 Tidewater joined the Fleet Winter exercise “Springboard” once again in the Caribbean Sea area and returned to Norfolk in February 1968. During May and June 1968 the Tidewater was ordered to Mayport, Florida to tend various units of the Cruiser Destroyer Force Atlantic, and then return to Norfolk. While in Mayport the crew made visits to St. Augustine and Marineland.
The Tidewater departed Norfolk on 21 November 1968 and sailed for the Mediterranean to assume duties as the Sixth Fleet tender, relieving the USS Everglades in Naples, Italy on 5 December. After two days underway from Norfolk, BM3 Hillenbach reported to sick bay complaining of severe stomach pains. The ship’s physician Dr. Bryant determined Hillenback had suffered a damaged spleen, requiring removal. With the assistance of Dr.Kjome and Dr.Cholaki along with medical department corpsmen the operation was a success. Hillenbach was air lifted to Bermuda for recovery. Asked if he had ever done this before, Dr Bryant answered “Never by myself". Capt. Durkin stated “We have an outstanding doctor on board, his quick diagnosis and operation saved Hillenbach’s life” The Tidewater spent the next four and a half months tending ships in Naples, Italy. She was relieved by the USS Yosemite AD19 and sailed for home on 19 April 1969, arriving in Norfolk 2 May 1969. While in Naples the Tidewater again participated in “Operation Handclasp.” Tidewater personnel preformed maintenance and repairs as needed at a Naples area orphanage. The repair department constructed and installed a much needed refrigeration unit. Tidewater’s Santa Clause made a visit to the orphanage at Christmas. This sadly would be the Tidewater’s final Mediterranean cruise. In a message from the Naval Communications Station at Rota Spain to the USS Tidewater: "All of the ORESTES operators would like to wish all of you at Tidewater a Happy Christmas and a Good New Year to come and we want to thank you for the outstanding job. You people at Tidewater made it easy on us with the cooperation you have given. We are thankful." On this stay in Naples the Tidewater lost yet another friend and Shipmate EN1 James F. Minton 1923-1969. The ship and crew received word that President Eisenhower passed away on March 28, 1969. In a message from COMMANDER SERVICE SQUADRON SIXTH FLEET to the Tidewater crew, “Upon completion of your tour of duty in the Mediterranean I would like to express my congratulations for your outstanding performance. The helpfulness can do attitude, and high degree of professionalism exhibited by tidewater were exemplary. The performance of your personnel ashore and the commendatory comments of individual operational commanders clearly indicate the splendid job you have done. Arrivederci and Buon Viagga” signed RADM C.L. CASSELL. The Tidewater remained in Norfolk for the duration on 1969.
In mid January 1970 the Tidewater was deployed to San Juan, Pr to assume tender duties. On this deployment Harold Kidd, MMC brought his mobile ham radio aboard, and for the duration of the cruise provided radio/telephone service for the ship’s crew to contact loved ones back home. When Harold was not available Al Murray one of Tide’s radiomen filled in. While in San Juan our XO, John Derr’s father passed away in Clark Fork, ID. With the help of Harold and Al he was able to make arrangements to fly home to be with his family. We met Commander Derr back in Norfolk. We also lost another shipmate, SN Humphries who was a steward. He was killed in a drive by shooting. When the ship arrived in Norfolk the Captain and staff made a visit to SN Humphries family to pay respects on behalf of the ship's crew. The Tidewater departed San Juan in mid March to return to Norfolk, with a brief stopover in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands for some down time. (Read booze run) The Tidewater remained in Norfolk until June 1970 when she departed for Charleston, S.C. to relieve the USS Everglades and celebrated her 25th Anniversary in active service. During the Anniversary activities a Tidewater plaque was presented to the employees of the shipyard. The ship hosted an open house to the public and lunch was served aboard ship. In a wire note from CWO2 Green to Radio Officer USS Tidewater: “understand you will be U/W for NORVA soon. Speaking for section three sure hate to see you and your fine radio gang leave. TKS vry mch for all your help during your stay here in CHASN. Regards MG” The cruise to Charleston would be the Tidewaters last cruise as an active duty ship in the U.S. Navy.
The Tidewater received word in August, 1970 that she would be decommissioned the following spring. The Tidewater served as flagship for the Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group 4, from 10 September to 13 November 1970 at which time she began preparations for inactivation under the command of Richard P. Multer Commander, USN. Commander Multer was the Tidewater's last Commanding Officer. Commander Multer previously decommissioned the USS Everglades in Charleston, S.C. In a message from COMMANDER CRUISER DESTROYER FLOTILLA FOUR, “As a final and fitting cruise for a destroyer tender that has proudly served our Navy for twenty-five years, it is requested that an informal port visit to Bermuda be scheduled for USS Tidewater for the period 18-23 November 1970.”
January 4, 1970 the United States Navy agreed to lease the Tidewater to the Indonesian Navy upon decommissioning. When she was placed out of commission at Norfolk on 20 February 1971, she was turned over to the Indonesian Navy and commissioned as Dumai (pennant number 562).
With all the years of service to the U.S. Naval fleet the Tidewater and it’s crew, truly was a class act.
The Dumai was used as both a destroyer tender/depot ship and used to maintain offshore drilling rigs. By 1977 most of her equipment had been removed and she was used as an accommodation ship for oil rig personnel. She was purchased outright by the Indonesian government on 1 March 1980. The Dumai was sold to a company in India and cut apart for scrap in 1984
The Tidewater earned the Engineering “E" award in 1957,1959 and 1962
Compiled and written by Robert Hall
Radio messages provided by Dick Engebretson
Message deciphered by Al Murray
Partial history from DANFS and various Tidewater Cruise Books
Admiral Jules James history provided by the James Family
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