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Original U.S. WWII Auxiliary Floating Drydock AFD-5 California Champagne Ceremonial Ship Launching Bottle In Labeled Case - February 22, 1944

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Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. An auxiliary floating drydock is a type of US Navy floating dry dock. Floating dry docks are able to submerge underwater and to be placed under a ship in need of repair below the water line. Water is then pumped out of the floating dry dock, raising the ship out of the water. The ship becomes blocked on the deck of the floating dry dock for repair. Most floating dry docks have no engine and are towed by tugboats to their destinations. Floating dry docks come in different sizes to accommodate varying ship sizes, while large floating dry docks come in sections and can be combined to increase their size and lift power. Ballast pontoon tanks are flooded with water to submerge or pumped dry to raise the ship.

At the start of World War II, the US Navy had only three steel auxiliary floating dry docks:

- Auxiliary floating drydock YFD-2, built in 1901, was at Pearl Harbor. YFD-2 was repairing the US destroyer USS Shaw on 7 December 1941 during the attack on the harbor. Both YFD-2 and USS Shaw were repaired, after being hit and damaged in the attack.
- The auxiliary floating drydock USS Dewey, built in 1905, was scuttled at Mariveles to prevent its capture by the Japanese. In 1942 Japan raised the Dewey, but it was resunk by US forces.
- Auxiliary floating dry dock USS ARD-1, built in 1933, was also at Pearl Harbor. USS ARD-1 was a self-sustaining mobile dry dock.

To reduce travel time for repair work, over 150 auxiliary floating dry docks of different sizes were built during World War II between 1942 and 1945. These newly built floating dry docks had a lift capacity of 400 to 100,000 tons. Without these forward repair bases, ships would have had to return to the US for repairs. Between 1 October 1944 and 17 October 1945, 7,000 ships were repaired in auxiliary floating dry docks. After World War II some auxiliary floating dry docks were sold for private use and others were scrapped. In addition to auxiliary floating dry docks, timber floating dry docks were built for use in World War II. Timber floating dry docks had a lift capacity of 400 to 20,000 tons. They were not towed across the open ocean and were not given a US Navy class.

During wartime, ships in continuous use need repair both from wear and from war damage such as from naval mines, kamikaze attacks, dive bombs and torpedoes. Rudders and propellers are best serviced on dry docks. Without remote on-location dry docks, months could be lost if a ship returned to a home port for repair. Most auxiliary floating drydocks had provisions for the repair crew, including bunk beds, meals, and laundry. Most had power stations, ballast pumps, repair shops, machine shops, and mess halls to be self-sustaining. Some auxiliary floating drydocks also had provisions for the ship under repair, but when possible, the crew of the damaged ship remained on ship while repairs were done. Many had cranes able to lift tons of material and parts to remove damaged parts and to install new parts.

This sacrificial bottle of champagne was broken over the bow of AFD-5, a small class floating dry dock which operated under that name until 1946 when it was redesignated as AFDL-5. The dock was built by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company and was sponsored at the ceremony by Helen Hill James. The dock was scrubbed from the Naval Register some time during the Korean War (date unknown) and was transferred to Taiwan and was renamed as Kim Men.

This 16” x 6” x 7” case has a lovely tag on the top lid and reads as follows:


CB&I was founded in 1889 by Horace E. Horton in Chicago, Illinois, USA. While initially involved in bridge design and construction, CB&I turned its focus to bulk liquid storage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coinciding with the western expansion of railroads across the United States and the discovery of oil in the Southwest. CB&I quickly became known for design engineering and field construction of elevated water storage tanks, above-ground tanks for storage of petroleum and refined products, refinery process vessels and other steel plate structures. As such, CB&I supported the expansion of oil exploration outside the US, starting operations in South America in 1924, in Asia two years later and in the Middle East in 1939.

According to one of the founder's heirs, "The old joke is that Chicago Bridge & Iron isn't in Chicago, doesn't build bridges and doesn't use iron."

During World War II, CB&I was selected to build Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs), which carried troops and supplies to American and Allied troops fighting in Europe and the Pacific theater. CB&I was chosen because of their reputation and skills, particularly welding. Since the coastal shipyards were busy building large vessels for the war effort, such as aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers, there was no alternative but to use the inland waterways and shipyards for the production of smaller ships. As a result of these and other wartime production activities, CB&I ranked 92nd among US corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.

CB&I was acquired by Praxair in 1996; Praxair kept a chemical subsidiary and spun off CB&I as a Dutch-incorporated company the next year. CB&I headquarters moved from Chicago to Houston, Texas in 2001 and then to the Hague, Netherlands when Texas enacted a franchise tax.

The condition is about what you would expect a 90 year old bottle of broken champagne to be. There’s no way of telling if all of the broken pieces are present but a majority of the original label is still inside of the case. The original patriotic ribbons that were fashioned around the bottle are still mostly present and in good condition with the expected tearing and staining. The case is still solid without any major damage present and much of the original finish on the tag is still present.

This is a fantastic piece of history and not too many opportunities surface to add a commissioning bottle to your collections. Comes more than ready for further research and display.

Ceremonial Ship Launching
Ceremonial ship launching involves the performance of ceremonies associated with the process of transferring a vessel to the water. It is a nautical tradition in many cultures, dating back thousands of years, to accompany the physical process with ceremonies which have been observed as public celebration and a solemn blessing, usually but not always, in association with the launch itself.

Ship launching imposes stresses on the ship not met during normal operation and, in addition to the size and weight of the vessel, represents a considerable engineering challenge as well as a public spectacle. The process also involves many traditions intended to invite good luck, such as christening by breaking a sacrificial bottle of champagne over the bow as the ship is named aloud and launched.

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