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The Mothball Fleet at Green Cove Springs, FL

One Man's Quest To Document A DE Resting Place

May 2008

by
Ken Adams, RM2/c
USS Edsall DE 129 & USS Walter B. Cobb APD 106

With the end of the war, in 1946 and 1947 about 600 DEs, APDs and other ships were berthed at Green Cove Springs, FL, in what was known as the US Naval Atlantic Reserve or " Mothball Fleet".  But, there is little written or documented about this historic event.  The two ships on which I served were sent here in 1946 to wait patiently in case they were again needed to serve our country.

Green Cove Springs is a city in Clay County, FL, and is the county seat. The city is named after the portion of the St. Johns River upon which the city is built.

In September 1940, the U.S. Navy opened Naval Air Station Lee Field in honor of Ensign Bejamin Lee who had lost his life in a crash at Killinghome, England during World War I.  In August 1943, the facility was renamed Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs (Lee Field).  After the war, NAS Green Cove Springs was downgraded in status to a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) as part of the greater NAS Jacksonville complex. The Navy also constructed 13 piers along the St. Johns River to house a "Mothball Fleet" of some 600 vessels(1).

In an effort to learn more about the mothballed ships, I interviewed folks in the Green Cove area, both civilian and former "swabbies", placed newspaper ads requesting information and gathered story material.   I spent many hours in the library archives, but, sadly, they had only a few photos of the mothball fleet.

I requested the assistance of the Clay County Historical Society in obtaining photos and information.  Within two weeks times my wife and I had not only received a reply from the Society, but had been give the "cook's tour" through the Clay County Historical Museum by none other than the volunteer president himself!  He saw to it that I had numerous photos to look through and also helped me to obtain several 8x10 copies of photos I had never before seen of DEs and APDs at Green Cove.  These photos are shown below.

My newspaper ad brought great results.  I was contacted by a Green Cove native, Mr. James Gillies, who took part in the mothballing of many of the ships.  Below is the letter and photos of APDs 96, 97, 105, 116 and 119 that I received from him.

In 1962 the docking facility for the mothball fleet was moved from its Green Cove Springs location to Texas. It was not until 1984 that the city annexed the former naval base into its corporate limits, tying this part of its heritage to its future growth and development.  In January 2007 the City Counsel discussed plans to erect a memorial marker to the former base and the project came to fruition in late 2007.

I continue to seek information and photos about the APDs and DEs that were berthed at Green Cove Springs, FL.  This historical event deserves to be preserved for future generations.  If you have information, please contact me.

Ken Adams RM2/c
224 Blvd Des Pins
St. Augustine, FL  32080-6411
(904) 471-2855

Mr. Ken,

My name is Jim Gillies and I read your article in the newspaper.  I helped bring a ship from Norfolk, Va Feb. 1946 which was one of the first ships tied up on the other side of old Shands Bridge.  My ship was the Daniel T. Griffin (APD 38).  Then I went to other ships to put them in mouthballs.  I went from APD 38 to the APD 116.  After putting these ships out of Commission I went aboard a personel ship, USS Marlboro (APB 38) for the rest of my time until I got out of the Navy, Nov. 5, 1947.  I married a girl from Green Cove Springs in 1948.  I have been here since Feb. 1946.  I helped put a lot of ships out of Commission the last 2 years I was in the Navy.  I was on an aircraft carrier in WWII in the South Pacific.

You said that there was a DE tied up along side APD-106.  I don't recall a DE which is a Destroyer Escort tied up with the APDs.  But I could be wrong.  My memory is not that good now.  I am 77 years old.

The APD 106 I am sure I helped put that ship out of Commission because I put the APD 38 that I brought from Norfolk, Va, then APD 116, the APD 105 and APD 119 and a lot of others.

I am sending you these pictures of some of the ships I was on here in Green Cove Springs.

This picture of the APD 105, the APD 106 might be one of the ships near the 105.  I don't know.  I am sorry I didn't get a picture of the 106.  I didn't even get a picture of the APD 38 that I brought from Norfolk, Va.

Feb 1946 USS Daniel T. Griffin APD 38
April 1946 USS Francovich APD 16
May 5 1946 USS Myers APD 105
Feb 10 1947 USS B. W. Reid APD 119
May 5 1947 USS Marlboro APB 38

I spent 9 months on the APD 105.

The picture of the piers and ships were taken 1947 before all piers were built.  This picture shows about 240 ships.

There is a picture of all the 800 ships at the old Court house in Green Springs.

I will close for now glad to have talked to you on the phone.

Jim Gillies

[webmaster note:  The above letter was typed exactly as written.  However, in several sentences Mr. Gillies used the designation APB when he clearly meant APD.  I made those changes in the letter.]


click on the image for a larger view


From Jim Gillies


From Jim Gillies


From Jim Gillies


From Jim Gillies


The following 5 photos courtesy of the Clay County Historical Society


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