Bridgeport (Id. No. 3009)
A city and port of entry, located in Fairfield County, Conn., at a point where the Pequonnock River empties into Long Island Sound. Settled in 1639 and known at various times in its history as Pequonnock, New Fairfield, Stratford, and Fairfield Village, Bridgeport received its present name in 1800 upon the building of the first drawbridge to span the River. Bridgeport was incorporated as a borough in that year, as a town in 1821, and as a city in 1836.
(Id. No. 3009: displacement 8,600; length 447'7½"; beam 54'4"; draft 29'2" (aft); speed 12.5 knots; complement 786; armament 4 3-inch)
Breslau, a twin-screw, steel hulled passenger and cargo steamship built in 1901 at Vegesack, Germany, by the Bremer Vulkan yard for the North German Lloyd line, spent the years preceding World War I in the passenger and cotton trade, operating between Bremen and the American ports of New Orleans, La., and Boston, Mass. The outbreak of war in Europe in the summer of 1914 found Breslau far from home, and she sought sanctuary from the Royal Navy by putting into New Orleans. Upon the entrance of the United States into World War I, customs officials seized the ship, but not before her German crew had wreaked considerable damage to her machinery. Breslau was assigned the identification number (Id. No.) 3009; renamed Bridgeport on 9 June 1917; and commissioned on 25 August 1917, Lt. Cmdr. Albert B. Randall, USNRF, in command.
Bridgeport embarked a draft of 358 men for transportation to Charleston, S.C., on 2 September 1917 and, after coaling, got underway on the 4th. Disembarking her passengers at Charleston, Bridgeport sailed for Hampton Roads on the 7th, and reached her destination on the 9th. After taking on board a cargo of 5 inch guns earmarked for installation on board Bridgeport and Savannah (Id. No. 3015) from a lighter moored alongside on the 11th, she set out for Boston the same day and moored there on 13 September.
For the next six months, Bridgeport, originally designated Repair Ship No. 2, underwent repairs and alterations in the Boston Navy Yard. Inspected on 19 November 1917 to determine how the Navy could best utilize her, Bridgeport was attached to the Mine Force, Atlantic Fleet, on 1 January 1918. However, on 1 March, near the end of her refurbishment, she was redesignated Destroyer Tender No. 10 and fitted out for tat role. During this time, eight 5-inch guns and two machine guns replaced her original battery of four 3-inch guns. After coaling ship on 9 March, Bridgeport got underway the following day, and reached the New York Navy Yard on the 13th. She remained there until sailing for Bermuda on the morning of 6 April. The destroyer tender anchored at Grassy Bay on the 9th.
Late in the morning watch on 15 April 1918, Bridgeport sailed for the Azores as part of a goodly company of ships. Thirty 110-foot submarine chasers made up the core of the convoy that sailed in three squadrons; four U.S. Navy tugs and two French had been included to provide towing assistance if needed, while Salem (Cruiser No.3) and the armed yacht Wadena (S. P. 158) provided an escort; Bridgeport and the fuel ship Arethusa had been included to provide support. British submarine HMS H-14 rounded out the group and gave it a truly Allied character.
Not long out of port, however, a collision reduced the numbers by two when H-14 collided with Arethusa, necessitating the former’s return to Bermuda at the end of a towline astern of Conestoga (Fleet Tug No. 54) on 18 April. That same day, Bridgeport coaled Montcalm (Fleet Tug No. 39) while underway; on the 19th, she towed the ailing Bagaduce (Fleet Tug No. 21), and, as necessary, the submarine chaser SC-255 on the 24th and SC-142 on the day following, proving her versatility.
Reaching Ponta Delgada on the afternoon of the 27th, Bridgeport spent the remainder of April and the first two weeks of May 1918 in the Azores. Her log reflects the multi-faceted work of a ship of her type, one that was becoming increasingly important as the U.S. Navy expanded to meet the challenge imposed by a World War. Reflecting the true allied nature of her calling, Bridgeport sent repair parties to several ships three days after her arrival, 30 April, ranging from the American armed yacht Wadena and submarine chaser SC-277 to the Italian steamship Virginia and the French tug Rene. She fitted out her no. 2 motor launch to patrol the anchorage on 11 May, arming it with a Mk.III “automatic machine rifle” and a Mk. II depth charge, and two days later issued 100 Mk. II depth charges to Marietta (Gunboat No. 15). Underway on the morning of 14 May on the first leg of her homeward voyage, Bridgeport paused briefly at Grassy Bay from 21 to 26 May, and after picking up tug Conestoga and minesweeper Lykens (SP-876) on 26 May, ultimately reached New London on the 29th.
Early in June, Bridgeport made a round-trip voyage to Hampton Roads, Va., arriving back at New London on the 23rd. She took on cargo and got underway on 28 June in a convoy of 18 subchasers and other vessels, bound for Europe by way of Bermuda and the Azores. Throughout the crossing, Bridgeport provided medical assistance and repair work as required.
At 0513 on 5 August 1918, Bridgeport's lookouts spotted Ushant Light. At 0640, SC-48 sighted a torpedo and sounded a warning. Two minutes later, men on board the tender saw the torpedo wake on Bridgeport's port quarter. Orders came down for full left rudder and full speed ahead. Bridgeport swung barely out of harm's way as men on her stern observed the torpedo disappear on the port side and reappear to starboard. It passed five feet astern, barely clearing the rudder. The starboard battery fired one shot in the direction of the torpedo, which broached on the starboard quarter, while the port guns fired in the direction from which the torpedo had come. Meanwhile, two destroyers, with a number of subchasers, hurried toward the spot where the torpedo wake had apparently begun and dropped depth charges. Bridgeport ceased fire and resumed her place in the formation. Through all this activity, no one actually saw the submarine that had fired the torpedo.
Bridgeport's lookouts later spied what looked like a submarine periscope some 2,000 yards distant on the starboard bow. Putting on full right rudder, the ship commenced firing with her starboard battery while four subchasers hurried to the spot. She fired 22 rounds, but apparently to no avail. Bridgeport and her consorts reached Brest shortly afterward.
Designated the "parent ship" for destroyers based there, Bridgeport remained at Brest through the armistice and into the autumn of 1919. Bridgeport was the third such ship sent to French waters, and her arrival in August 1918 freed Panther to attend to urgent repair work in the Gironde River. Bridgeport and Prometheus (Repair Ship No. 3) not only maintained the various types of patrol craft operating with the Patrol Force but also supported troop transports and cargo vessels arriving in France. Toward the end of 1918, Bridgeport joined in the salute to President Woodrow Wilson when he arrived at Brest on 13 December 1918 on board the transport George Washington (Id. No. 3018) Underway for England on the afternoon of 15 October 1919, Bridgeport arrived at Portland the following day and remained there until she sailed for New York on the 26th. En route to the United States on 3 November, the destroyer tender spotted the American merchant steamer Avondale with her engineering plant disabled, and sent over a repair party. Various machinery components were repaired in the tender's shops as Bridgeport's boat shuttled between the two ships carrying parts and workmen. By the following afternoon, Avondale was able to proceed under her own power, and the two ships parted company. Bridgeport reached the New York Navy Yard on 11 November and remained there into 1920.
Attached to Destroyer Squadron 3, Flotilla 2, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, Bridgeport departed New York on 6 February 1920 for Guantanamo Bay, where the fleet concentrated for winter maneuvers. Underway for Kingston, Jamaica, on the 17th, she remained there until the 24th. During the destroyer force's departure from Kingston, Dixie (Destroyer Tender No. 1) ran aground. Bridgeport stood in to assist her and succeeded in working Dixie out of her predicament. They reached Guantanamo Bay on 26 February. A month later, Bridgeport helped another grounded ship. She left Guantanamo Bay on 26 March bound for Guacanaybo near Manzanillo. On the 27th, the destroyer tender encountered the British merchantman Crostafels that had run aground off Ceiba Bank and set about to assist her in getting off the bank. Schenck (Destroyer No. 159) joined in the effort not long thereafter, and together the two American warships had Crostafels afloat again.
After visiting Guacanaybo and Cienfuegos late in March 1920 and early in April, Bridgeport moved to Manzanillo and remained nearby until setting sail for New York on the 24th. She arrived at New York on 30 April for several days of upkeep and liberty before moving on the her summer base. On 17 May, she sailed for Newport, R.I., the summer base for the Destroyer Squadrons, and arrived there the following day to tend the destroyers of Flotilla 2.
Departing Newport on 31 May 1920, Bridgeport arrived at the Boston Navy Yard the next day and remained there through July, undergoing repairs and alterations. During this refit, on 17 July 1920, she received the designation AD-10 when the Navy adopted the alphanumeric system of hull classification and identification. Her battery underwent its third change when 5-inch, 51-caliber guns replaced her 5-inch, 40 caliber guns. Bridgeport remained in the yard until 20 August, when she returned to Newport. Back at New York at the end of the month, Bridgeport received orders to join in the rescue effort for submarine S-5 (SS-110) that had sunk off the Delaware capes during post-overhaul trials. The destroyer tender left the anchorage off Tompkinsville late on 2 September and reached the scene late the following morning. Bridgeport remained in the vicinity until late on the 3rd when she headed back to New York to reembark some of her crewmen left behind as a result of her hasty departure.
Bridgeport sailed for Charleston, S.C., on 8 September 1920, and reached that port on the 14th to serve the destroyers based there. The ship remained at Charleston into the early part of May 1921 when she sailed for New York, accompanying the fleet's destroyers northward to the Narragansett Bay operating areas. After a visit to New York City from 14 to 31 May 1921, Bridgeport arrived at Newport on 1 June and remained there, tending destroyers, into late September. She then spent the first half of October at the New York Navy Yard. Returning to Charleston on 15 October, Bridgeport worked there into late December, when she returned to the New York Navy Yard for the rest of 1921.
The year 1922 found Bridgeport continue her service on the east coast, mostly between Narragansett Bay and Hampton Roads, tending destroyers and assisting in destroyer target practices on the Southern Drill Grounds, off the Virginia capes. She visited the city for which she was named, Bridgeport, Conn., between 25 and 30 October. After a busy year’s operations, she arrived at the Boston Navy Yard on 21 November 1922 and remained there into January 1923.
Later that month, Bridgeport returned to Cuban waters in January 1923, and served as reference vessel for torpedo-firing exercises off Manzanillo early in February. After that mission, she transited the Panama Canal on 13 February to take part in Fleet Problem I as a “radio-relay vessel.” That assignment occupied her through the 21st, and she entered Panama Bay on the 23rd. She lay anchored there through the end of March and was among the ships reviewed by Adm. Robert E. Coontz, the Chief of Naval Operations, and Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby, who were embarked in the transport Henderson (AP-1) at the time. Retransiting the canal on 26 March, Bridgeport returned to Guantanamo Bay on the 30th and then headed northward, returning to Newport on 26 April.
From Narragansett Bay, Bridgeport returned to the Boston Navy Yard for post-deployment upkeep; while moored there, the ship conducted observances that followed the death of President Warren G. Harding on 2 August 1923. Her officers and men assembled on the boat deck, aft, and after the ship’s band had played two hymns “Lead, Kindly Light,” and “Nearer, My God, to Thee” observed a moment of silence before resuming their work.
For the rest of 1923, Bridgeport supported the fleet’s destroyer forces, interspersing her time at Hampton Roads and on the Southern Drill Grounds with visits to Bridgeport (25-28 October) and Baltimore (10-11 November). She reached the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 18 November, and remained there through the end of 1923. Underway south on 3 January 1924, Bridgeport paused briefly at Hampton Roads the next day before pushing on toward Panama. She arrived in Chiriqui lagoon, Panama, on 12 January and participated in a search for a lost seaplane from Langley (CV-1). While there, the destroyer tender also changed the starboard propeller of Childs (DD-241).
Standing out of Limon Bay, Panama, on the 25th, Bridgeport visited Culebra, Puerto Rico, and Kingston, Jamaica, before she served as a reference vessel for torpedo practices being conducted by destroyers off Culebra. She departed Kingston late in April 1924 and steamed via Guantanamo Bay to New York. Returning to the Southern Drill Grounds on 20 May, the tender transferred five motor sailers and two motor whaleboats to the minesweeper Vireo (AM-52), for use as tows and umpire boats for the torpedo practices fired by Putnam (DD-287), Bruce (DD-329), and Case (DD-285). Bridgeport supported the destroyers' evolutions through mid-June.
The ship visited New York from 20 to 29 June 1924 before continuing on to Boston. She reached the Boston Navy Yard on 30 June and was decommissioned there one hour into the afternoon watch on 3 November 1924. Bridgeport remained inactive for almost two decades. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 2 October 1941, and she was acquired by the Bridgeport Steamship Co. on 2 February 1942 for conversion to merchant service.
She proved unsuitable for service as a cargo carrier, and was returned to the government a few months later, when the War Shipping Administration (WSA) took her over on 29 June 1942 from the Blidberg-Rothschild Co., Inc. Acquired under a General Agency Agreement, by the Blidberg-Rothschild Co., on 20 April 1943, she was acquired by the War Department at Mayport, Fla., on 11 September 1943.
Surveyed and found suitable for conversion to a hospital ship, Bridgeport underwent modernization at the Merrill-Stevens Drydock & Repair Co., Jacksonville, Fla., from September 1943 to August 1944, during which time she was renamed Larkspur. Her maiden voyage as an Army hospital ship took her from Charleston, S.C., to the British Isles. After visits to the Clyde River and to Belfast, Ireland, she underwent repairs at Newport, England, before sailing for home. The ship reached Charleston on 16 October 1944 with her first group of patients.
Larkspur conducted two more voyages to England before she sailed for the Mediterranean where she operated for several months, visiting Oran, Algeria; Marseilles, France; and Naples, Italy; among other ports. She then returned to Atlantic waters before being selected for conversion to an Army transport in January 1946. Reclassified as a U.S. Army Transport (USAT) and resuming operation under her old name, Bridgeport was reconfigured to carry military dependents (“G.I. Brides”) at the Todd yard in Hoboken, N.J. She made several voyages between England and the United States in that capacity, operating into 1947.
Entering the Reserve Fleet on 16 April 1947 at midnight on 16 April 1947, at Brunswick, Ga., the ship was sold to H. H. Buncher Co., for scrap, the contract being awarded on 13 February 1948. Ultimately, she was delivered to Richard Davis, the agent for H. H. Buncher Co., at noon on 1 March 1948.
Robert J. Cressman
Updated 30 September 2017
Bridgeport (PF-58) was renamed Abilene (q.v.) on 28 June 1944.
Bridgeport (CA-127), a projected Oregon City-class heavy cruiser, was laid down on 1 January 1945 at Quincy, Mass., by the Fore River Plant of Bethlehem Steel Company; but her construction was cancelled on 12 August 1945.
Robert J. Cressman
Updated 30 September 2017