HOUSATONIC HUNLEY AND LT DIXON IN THE 20TH CENTURY NAVY

Posted By : manager

Posted : January 30, 2024

By Mike Thomas

HOUSATONIC HUNLEY AND LT DIXON
HOUSATONIC HUNLEY AND LT DIXON

Lieutenant George E. Dixon, commander of the Hunley, would never have dreamed his name and that of his vessel would be given to ships in the U.S. Navy. He and the Hunley had their names etched in history when Hunley sank the USS Housatonic off Charleston’s coast on 17 February 1864 in the world’s first successful submarine attack. Yet, the U.S. Navy acknowledged and honored both ships and Dixon in its most profound way by naming later ships for them. The second Housatonic (SP-1697) was a civilian freighter/ passenger vessel. Built by Southern Pacific Steamship Company in 1899 under the name El Rio, it was taken over by the Navy and renamed as the U. S. entered WW1. Converted to a mine-layer and sailing from Scotland, Housatonic laid over 9,000 mines in the North Sea and, after the war ended, made 3 trips carrying U.S. troops home from Europe. Returned to her civilian owners in 1919, she was re-named Brazos and continued in commercial service until lost in a collision at sea in 1942. 

The third Housatonic (A0-35) was a new tanker, the SS ESSO Albany, built by Standard Oil Company in 1941 and converted into a fleet oiler early in WW11 under her new name. Serving as a workhorse, she earned 5 battle stars while supporting the fleet with service in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific theaters of war. Her navy service began in January 1942 and ended in March 1946 when she was returned to her owners. Afterwards, she sailed under various names and ownerships until the 1990’s. 

The USS Hunley was designed and built specifically as a submarine tender. Designated AS-31, the USS Hunley provided superb service from 1961 to 1994 supporting Polaris and Poseidon submarines. Far different than the spar-torpedo boat size and configuration of the original Hun-ley, she was christened by the wife of Charleston’s mayor J. Palmer Gaillard. Home-ported variously at Charleston, Holy Loch, Guam and Norfolk, USS Hunley earned many awards during her 33 years of active service. After being decommissioned, she was sold for scrap.

The ship named after Lt. George E. Dixon was the USS Dixon (AS-37). She, too, was designed and built for service as a submarine tender. Her 24 years of service (1971-1995) were mostly spent in the Pacific while home-ported in San Diego. USS Dixon provided excellent support for the U.S. Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine fleet and, surprisingly, was involved in Operation Desert Storm. Following her decommissioning, she was used as a target and sunk in a training exercise.

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