George Wallace Melville, born in New York City 10 January 1841, attended the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute before enlisting in the Navy Engineer Corps as third assistant engineer 29 July 1861. He served with distinction in the Civil War and the years following. In 1873 he volunteered for duty as Chief Engineer of Tigress for her rescue in Baffin Bay of 19 survivors of the Polaris expedition to the Arctic.
Lieutenant Melville next volunteered to join the Jeannette expedition, departing San Francisco, Calif., 7 August 1879 to seek an ocean passage to the Atlantic by way of Siberia. Jeannette became icebound in September and, after 2 years of effort to save her, was crushed by floes in the Laptev Sea and sank 12 June 1881. Melville led the only boat party to reach safety in Lena Delta, Siberia. He then returned north to find the frozen bodies of Jeannette’s commanding officer, Lt. George W. Delong, and his party lost in July. Congress rewarded Melville for his gallantry and resourcefulness by advancing him 15 numbers on the promotion list and awarding him a medal.
Following his next assignment in 1884 as Chief Engineer of Thetis for the Greely Relief Expedition, President Grover Cleveland appointed Melville Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering 9 August 1887. During his administration of over 16 years, Melville superintended the design of 120 ships of the “New Navy” and introduced such widely acclaimed innovations, as the water tube boiler, vertical engines, and the repair ship.
Promoted to rear admiral 3 March 1899, he was appointed Engineer in Chief of the Navy 6 December 1900. The author of many technical articles and one book, “In the Lena Delta,” Admiral Melville retired 10 January 1903 and died in Philadelphia, Pa., 17 March 1912.
(AD‑2: dp. 7,150; l. 417'3"; b. 54'5½"; dr. 20'; cpl. 397; s. 15 k.; a. 8 5", 1 3", 2 3‑pdrs., 1 18" tt.; cl. Dixie)
The first Melville (AD‑2) was laid down by New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J., 11 November 1913; launched 2 March 1915; sponsored by Miss Helen W. Neel, granddaughter of Rear Admiral Melville; and commissioned 3 December 1915, Comdr. Henry B. Price in command.
Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Melville reported to Newport, R.I., in January 1916. On 11 May 1917, a month after the United States entered World War I, the destroyer tender got underway for Queenstown, Ireland, arriving the 22d. She carried out repair and support operations and served as flagship for Vice Adm. Williams S. Sims, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in European waters, from 10 September until 4 January 1919.
Melville departed Southhampton, England, 7 January 1919 with troops embarked for the east coast, arriving New York the 26th. She then operated at Newport and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until 30 April when she departed Tompkinsville, N.Y., for the Azores. There she prepared flying boat NC‑4 for the final leg of her long‑transatlantic journey from New York to Europe and embarked crippled NC‑3 for return to the east coast, reaching New York 10 June.
Reassigned to the Pacific Fleet, the destroyer tender stood out from Hampton Roads, Va., 19 July for the west coast. En route one of her boilers exploded injuring six men, five of them fatally. Orion (AC‑11) took her in tow for repairs at Balboa, Panama Canal Zone. On 31 October she arrived at her now home port, San Diego, Calif., for service along the west coast alternated with training and fleet exercises in the Caribbean and off Hawaii for the next 21 years.
With the threat of American involvement in World War II, Melville steamed from the Caribbean for the east coast in November 1940. She arrived Norfolk 9 December for operations with the Patrol Force, U.S. Fleet, and was transferred back to the Atlantic Fleet 1 February 1941. Following intensive training at Guantanamo Bay and Culebra, P.R., and 3 weeks of supply duties at Casco Bay, Maine, Melville continued on to Bermuda 16 September to service neutrality patrol ships until returning to Norfolk 28 November.
Melville got underway 12 January 1942 for Europe, reaching Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 31 January to begin tending escort ships of Allied convoys crossing the submarine infested Atlantic. In the next 2 years she also based at Hvalfjordur, Iceland; Recife, Brazil; and Rosneath, Scotland, as well as Newport and Casco Bay, while continuing support services for warships ranging from battleships to landing craft and minesweepers.
On 1 May 1944 Melville sailed from Rosneath for Portland, England, to begin the massive task of preparing the Allied minesweepers and landing craft for the Normandy landing 6 June. For the next year she was busy maintaining and repairing landing craft for the Allied push toward Germany.
The destroyer tender was at Portland when Germany surrendered 7 May 1945. Melville continued her support duties, now servicing the amphibious craft for final operations in the Pacific theater.
On 7 July Melville steamed for New York arriving the 20th to ready for assignment to the central Pacific. After Japan capitulated 15 August 1945, she sailed 1 October for Jacksonville, Fla., where she assisted in the inactivation of escort ships.
She got underway from Jacksonville 13 July 1946 for Norfolk. Melville decommissioned there 9 August, was struck from the Navy list 23 April 1947, and turned over to the Maritime Commission 30 March 1948. On 19 August 1948 she was sold to Patapsco Scrap Corp., Baltimore, Md., for scrapping.