The Storied History Of The 6 Ships Named U.S.S. Detroit

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This fall, the U.S. Navy will commission a new USS Detroit. The ship was Christened on Oct. 18, 2014 and delivered to the Navy in late 2015 for further tests and trials. The USS Detroit is an innovative surface combatant designed to operate in littoral seas and shallow water to counter mines, submarines, and fast surface craft threats in coastal regions.

This ship is the sixth in a long line of USS Detroits that stretches all the way back to the 1800s. In anticipation of the most recent USS Detroit’s commission, we’re taking a look back at the ships that predate it.

First USS Detroit


The first USS Detroit started out as HMS Detroit. It was a 20-gun sloop belonging to the British Royal Navy. The ship was launched in August 1813 and served on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. HMS Detroit didn’t last very long on the lake. She was captured by the Americans on Sept. 10, 1813.

Afterwards, she was commissioned into the US Navy as the first USS Detroit. Unfortunately, she was so damaged that the Americans didn’t have much use for her. Detroit was taken into Put-in-Bay, Ohio to prevent her sinking. In May 1814, the USS Ohio helped convey Detroit to Erie, Pennsylvania. She was laid up and sold there in 1825.

Second USS Detroit


The second USS Detroit also started out with a different name. She was known as the USS Canandaigua from 1862 to 1869. She was a sloop-of-war with a steam engine screw. She was acquired by the Union Navy during the Civil War. Because of her heavy guns and fast speed, she was an ideal gunboat in the Union blockade of the Confederate States.

After the Civil War, the USS Canadaigua was decommissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on April 8, 1865. She was recommissioned on November 22 that same year and was part of the European Squadron until February 1869. At that time, she underwent three years of repairs at the New York Navy Yard.

She was renamed USS Detroit on May 15, 1869. However, she returned to her original name on August 10, 1869. Her last cruise was in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico. She spent her last days at the Norfolk Navy Yard. She was broken up in 1884.

Third USS Detroit

USS Detroit 3
USS Detroit. Library of Congress. LC-D4-20354

Unlike the previous two USS Detroits, the third ship to bear the name was originally named USS Detroit. She was an unprotected cruiser, Montgomery-class. She was launched on Oct 28, 1891 at Columbian Iron Works in Baltimore and was commissioned on July 20, 1893.

She sailed from Norfolk, Virginia to Rio de Janeiro and lay at anchor in the harbor. Her job was to protect American citizens and interests during revolutionary disturbances in Brazil. She returned to Norfolk in April 1894 and served on the Asiatic Station fro two years.

The USS Detroit returned to New York City on May 17, 1897 and then sailed for Key West. During the Spanish-American War, she was part of a squadron that shelled For San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morrow on May 12, 1898.

Returning to the Caribbean in February 1899, she protected American interests in Nicaragua and later in Venezuela. She returned to Key West on December 21, 1899 and remained there until she was decommissioned on May 23, 1900. However, the USS Detroit wasn’t finished. She was recommissioned on September 23, 1902 and would remain active until August 1, 1905. She was sold on December 22, 1910.

Fourth USS Detroit


The fourth USS Detroit was an Omaha-class light cruiser. She was commissioned on 13 July 1923 and spent her first eight years as part of the Scouting Fleet in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Her first duty was to assist in the USAA’s first aerial circumnavigation of the world in 1924.

The USS Detroit moved from her home harbor of San Diego to Pearl Harbor in 1941. She was moored next to two other ships, Raleigh and Utah, when the Japanese attacked on the morning of December 7, 1941. Fortunately for Detroit, Raleigh and Utah took the brunt of the attack. She was able to get underway and safely set up an anti-aircraft fire, which helped take down several planes.

Once Detroit cleared the harbor, she was ordered to join with the light cruisers Phoenix and St. Louis and two destroyers to investigate the west coast of Oahu for signs of a Japanese landing. After she returned to Pearl Harbor on December 10, Detroit was given convoy escort duty between Hawaii and the West coast.

On November 10, 1942, she sailed for Kodiak, Alaska and patrolled between Adak and Attu Islands to prevent any further invasion from the Aleutians. In April 1943, she bombarded Holz Bay and Chichagof Harbor. Detroit stayed in Alaskan waters until 1944, when she sailed for Panama on August 9. In January 1945.

She entered Tokyo Bay on September 1,1945. Detroit was one of two ships present at both Pearl Harbor and the singing of the Japanese surrender. She left Tokyo Bay on October 15, 1945, taking US servicemen home. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia on January 11, 1946.

Fifth USS Detroit


The fifth USS Detroit was the fourth and last Sacramento-class fast combat support ship built for the US Navy. She was commissioned on March 28, 1970. During her 35-year service, Detroit operated primarily with the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf regions.

From the Puget Sound Naval Yard, Detroit sailed to her first operational home port in Newport, Rhode Island, passing the horn of South America. In March 1971, she was involved in a minor collision with a US Navy olier off the coast of South Carolina. After that, she was deployed for operations with the 6th Fleet.

When she was undergoing repairs on December 12, 1973, Detroit’s aft engine room exhaust stack exploded, causing extensive damage. However, she was repaired and moved to a new home port in Norfolk. She continued her service without incident until June 10, 1981. Detroit ran aground on a sandbar in Hampton Roads while she was entering port. After four days, she was refloated, but the commanding officer was relieved of command.

In the late 90s, Detroit was key in Operation Desert Fox. She provided ammunition, combat stores, fresh food, and fuel to battle group units in the operation. On August 27, 2000, Detroit was involved in a minor collision with the USS Nicholson about 100 miles off the Virginia Capes. Fortunately, damage to the ships was minor.

Detroit was decommissioned on February 17, 2005 and berthed at the inactive ships maintenance facility at Philadelphia. She was brought to Brownsville, Tx for final disposal in October 2005.

Sixth USS Detroit

That brings us full circle to the most recent USS Detroit that has yet to be commissioned. It will be the fastest surface combatant in the U.S. Navy, and will serve multiple purposes while at sea. While we wait for that exciting event in the fall, check out this neat video from the US Navy about the USS Detroit.

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