USS Stewart is one of only two remaining Destroyer Escorts, and the only Edsall-class DE in the United States. She was built in 1942 by Brown Shipping Company in Houston and commissioned in May of 1943.
USS Stewart began her patrols out of Miami, then as a “school ship” training student officers out of Norfolk, VA. She escorted President Roosevelt in the presidential yacht down the Potomac River to rendezvous with USS Iowa for his mission to Casablanca and Tehran. In 1944, she commenced North Atlantic convoy operations, making 30 crossings with occasional enemy submarine and aircraft encounters. On April 9th, 1945, Stewart rescued the surviving members of the SS Saint Mihiel-SS Nashbulk collision and helped put out fires and salvage the ships. During her many convoys, heavy seas and icing conditions were frequent.
USS Stewart is named after Admiral Charles Stewart who was the first Admiral of the US Navy, and commanded the USS Constitution during the War of 1812. In addition to DE-238, two earlier U.S. Navy destroyers, DD-13 and DD-224, were named in Stewart's honor. One of her special duties as an escort ship, in October of 1943, USS Stewart transported flag officers and their staffs while escorting and protecting the Presidential Yacht of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he made his way to the Battleship USS Iowa and on to Tehran, Iran for an historic meeting with Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Secretary Joseph Stalin. There, they decided that in May of 1944, the Allies would conduct Operation Overlord, the landing at Normandy Beach. USS Stewart led the way to history! On April 10, 1945, USS Stewart assisted the SS St Mihiel after it collided with another ship off the coast of New York. Stewart fought the fire, reestablished power, and helped escort the ships back to port.
Stewart moved to the Pacific theater in mid 1945, and conducted training exercises out of Pearl Harbor until the end of the war. She was decommissioned in late 1945 and changed berths 3 times before arriving at Seawolf Park In 1974. She is the only ship of her class in the US and the third ship (DD-13, DD-224, and DE-238) named for Rear Admiral Charles Stewart who commanded another ship in the historic naval fleet, USS Constitution, from 1813 to 1815.
USS Stewart was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
At the ladder leading up to the deck of USS Stewart are two bronze, fifty-six inch ship propellers. Each weighs over a ton and was powered by 2 Diesel Engines. That means the Stewart had up to 6,000 horsepower available to drive it up to 21 knots (or about 24 mph). These have been removed from the ship so they can be seen by visitors. Behind the propellers are 2 x 3 inch, 50 caliber memorial guns donated from the USS Texas which is a battleship located in La Port, Texas. The Stewart had three more of these guns on board. Quarter Deck: This is a designated area on the ship’s main deck right next to the boarding ladder. It is customary that when you are in uniform and boarding any ship where the flag is flying, you halt at the gangway, face aft and salute the flag. You then turn to the Officer of the Day (OOD) and salute saying “Request permission to come aboard, sir/ma’am.” The OOD will return your salute and say, “Come aboard.”
The anti-submarine weapons located on the After Deck; also called the Stern or Fantail were the depth charges and the MK6 Depth Charge Projectors (or K guns). The depth charges on the roller racks at the very back of the ship were dropped from the ship, and the K-guns along the side of this deck were used to fire depth charges off both sides of the ship for 60 to 120 yards to form an oval pattern behind the ship as it pushed forward. Depth Charges held over 200 lbs of explosives and were most effective when they detonated under and within 10-20 feet of the submarine. There were three 3inch, 50 caliber guns on Stewart. During “battle stations”, they were manned by a seven man gun crew to fight against enemy submarines, airplanes, and other ships. Barrel length: 150” Ammo: 3 in., 34 lbs with 13 lb shells Range: about 14,000 yds Shell Velocity: 2,700 ft/sec
The large hatch at the Aft deck leads to one of three Crew Berthing areas. On the Port side of the passageway was the Emergency Radio Room. Further up the passage way toward the front of the ship was the Crew’s Head, or restroom. Showers, toilets, and sinks allowed a large number of crewmen to clean up quickly when necessary. Fresh water was a premium, so a shave or shower would consist of a 30-second rinse, lather with the water off, then 30 seconds rinsing off the suds. The Engineering /Logistics Office, the last compartment in the passageway, was where all the blue prints dealing with engines and auxiliary machine rooms were kept. During an emergency, this compartment was Damage Control Central. Ships Store on the port side of the passageway, was where crewmen could purchase items like soap, cigarettes, candy and other personal items. Any profits would support morale and recreation.
There are four hatches along the passageway that led to either a Main Engine Room or an Auxiliary Machine Room. All power for the ship is generated in these rooms where four large Diesel Engines sit, two for each propeller. The Auxiliary Equipment ties the 2 engines’ power into one drive shaft for each propeller.
The Ship’s cooks prepared three meals a day for over two hundred individuals. The food was stored in “Refers,” or refrigerators, and was cooked in the Galley. Food was then carried to the officer’s pantry or enlisted mess one pot at a time where it was served. Officers ate in their wardroom located forward on the main deck. Cooks made the food in ovens and large kettles known as “coppers.” In the Officer’s Ward Room was a dining table and chairs, a book case, a safe for classified papers, map drawers and a small bench. Officer’s quarters were located just off the ward room. The Ward Room table doubled as the medic’s operating table.
This was the gun deck; and much of the ship’s anti-aircraft weaponry was located on this deck. All the way aft, were the 40mm guns, amidships were the 20mm anti-aircraft guns. The interior includes the ships office, The Captain’s Cabin and the Radio Room. The Ship’s yeoman prepared correspondence, orders and transfers, mail, paychecks and any other correspondence. The Captain’s Cabin was an ideal location for him to quickly receive messages from the ship’s office or Radio Room, as well as be close enough to get to the bridge and pilot house within seconds. Radio Central was the ship’s main communications center. Today, local radio groups continue to use this equipment to transmit to other museum ships around the world.
The ship’s Wheel House, or Pilot House, was where the ship was steered. A helmsman operated the ship’s wheel, taking orders from the Officer of the Deck. Orders to the engine rooms were transmitted from here, and a binnacle with magnetic and gyro compass behind the wheel indicated the ship’s heading. For quick communication with CIC, Captain’s Quarters, and the Flying bridge, the brass tubes in the overhead (Voice Tubes) were used. The CIC or Combat Information Center was off limits to any sailor without clearance as all of the ship’s critical data was collected, interpreted, and plotted here for navigation, attack routes, and defense of the ship. The Flying Bridge was where the Captain commanded the ship. Surface and aircraft lookouts were stationed at vantage points on the Port and Starboard sides of the ship. The “Sound Shack” or Sonar Room occupied the front area of the Flying Bridge, providing Enemy submarine tracking information directly to the Captain. Below and in front of the Wheelhouse and Flying Bridge is the Bow of the ship or Foc’sle. The third 3 inch gun and the hedgehogs were operated from here. The anchors or “Ground Tackle” were located here.
After Hurricane Ike (2008) caused extensive damage to both USS Cavalla and USS Stewart, the Edsall-Class Destroyer Escort Veterans Association (ECVA) stepped up to provide restoration support for the old Destroyer Escort. Twice a year, members of the ECVA gather onboard USS Stewart for a week to take on some major restoration actions; repair 40mm guns, repaint the deck, or restore the flag box. They enjoy renewed camaraderie, swapping stories and meeting new friends. ECVA is open for anyone willing to join in the fun and labor to restore history!