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- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
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- June 1990 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Cockatoo Dockyard Chief Executive (Mr J.C. Jeremy) has unearthed some fascinating insight into the unique job of work done at Cockatoo Island to provide a new stub bow for the American heavy cruiser USS New Orleans which had steamed all the way from the Solomons to Sydney backwards after its bow had been blown off by a Japanese torpedo during World War 2.
Following Max Thomson’s story on USS New Orleans in recent issues of Naval Historical Review and Bulletin, Mr Jeremy has provided pages from the Cockatoo Docks War Record 1939-45 which show that USS New Orleans was at Cockatoo from December 28, 1942 to March 6, 1943 during which a whole new temporary bow section was fashioned and fitted enabling the big cruiser to steam across the Pacific to USA for a complete bow replacement.
The Cockatoo archives state:
‘The United States heavy cruiser New Orleans, 11,600 tons, came to the dockyard at the close of 1942 with about 150 feet of her bow section from the upper deck to the waterline missing and the remnants of her lower portion torn, twisted and buckled.
As was the case with other heavy US cruisers, the damage was sustained during a terrific sea battle in the South West Pacific… and led one to wonder how the vessel was ever able to reach port. But this war has certainly shown that ships with hulls badly damaged below the waterline can be kept afloat and brought to a base capable of carrying out these repairs.
The work of repair commenced with the cutting away of the remaining distorted plating and the dismantling of damaged pipe lines and fittings.
To allow the vessel to be taken to an American base for permanent repairs, a false bow was fabricated and erected in place on the ship proper. The false bow, measuring about 30 feet in length at the upper deck and eight feet at the keel was constructed principally of 5/8 inch thick steel stiffened with heavy fabricated sections. With this 70-ton structure completed, the floating crane Titan transferred it from the building slip to the dock where the intricate work of connecting to the original vessel was carried out. The importance of this operation can best be understood when consideration is given to the varying shapes and dimensions of the two sections.
The total amount of steel used on this project was approximately 150 tons”, added the USS New Orleans report in the wartime archives of Cockatoo Dockyard provided by Mr Jeremy.
Interestingly, Mr Jeremy added that in addition to this job on USS New Orleans, the American cruisers USS Chester and USS Portland also had undergone repair work during the war years at Cockatoo.