In the midst of the War of 1812, British and American forces traded control of Detroit following incursions into each others’ territory. Britain commissioned the construction of the HMS Detroit, launched in August 1813. Its relatively small design made the ship ideal for scouting and carrying dispatches. Within a month, the sloop of war was engaged with American vessels in the Battle of Lake Erie, where it was heavily damaged, captured by the Americans and renamed the USS Detroit.
The second USS Detroit also started out with a different name: The USS Canandaigua, a sloop of war launched in the midst of the Civil War. It was designed to help the Union choke off Confederate ports. With a shallow draft, the Canandaigua could reach places other ships could not. The Canandaigua was renamed the USS Detroit in 1869 and served the states for another six years until decommissioning.
The third USS Detroit was a cruiser built at Baltimore’s Columbian Iron Works and launched late in 1891. Her earliest action came in Caribbean and Latin American waters. In countries with uprisings and conflict, the USS Detroit would often land troops, or bluejackets, in order to protect American interests and provide a show of force.
In the 1880s and 1890s, downsizing gave way to a Naval build-up sparked by several factors. The “closing” of the nation’s frontier meant adventure might be easier to find on the seas. The third USS Detroit, left, sails stormy seas with the USS Monterey and USS Oregon in this 1893 painting by artist Fred Cozzens.
The third USS Detroit is seen in a photograph taken circa 1893-98, and published in Uncle Sam’s Navy, 1898.
The figurehead on the third USS Detroit is shown. The ship was decommissioned in 1900, recommissioned in 1902 and remained active until 1905. It was sold in 1910.
During the Spanish-American War, the third USS Detroit was part of a squadron that shelled Fort San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morrow in May 1898. Despite its success, the USS Detroit was a troubled vessel that served only 14 years. She was decommissioned in 1910.
The fourth USS Detroit is ready for launching in Massachusetts on June 29, 1922 — four years too late for World War I, but well-timed to play a role in the follow-up. Like its predecessor, the ship spent its earliest years in Latin American waters as well as in the Atlantic.
The fourth USS Detroit was classified as a light cruiser. It was 555 feet 6 inches long, steam powered and could accommodate 458.
The fourth USS Detroit was moored at Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy executed its infamous attack. The Detroit floated between the USS Utah and the USS Raleigh. A pair of torpedoes struck the Utah, sinking it. Aboard the Detroit, crew members reported a torpedo passed by its own stern — missing by just 30 yards.
This photograph of the western side of Ford Island, taken from a Japanese Navy plane during the attack, shows: The USS Detroit, left; USS Raleigh, listing to port after being hit by a torpedo; USS Utah, capsized after being hit by two torpedoes; and USS Tangier.
With many sailors ashore on leave, the USS Detroit’s remaining crew faced the task of getting their ship into the fight.
USS Detroit gunners reported downing a pair of Japanese aircraft, but the reports were not officially confirmed. The Detroit’s after-action report showed the ship fired 10,000 .50-caliber rounds in the battle.
The USS Trout approaches the USS Detroit at Pearl Harbor in early March 1942 to unload a cargo of gold it evacuated from the Philippines.
With Japan about to take control of the Philippines, the USS Trout kept the bullion out of the enemy’s hands. The USS Detroit, above, carried it to port in San Francisco.
The ship’s forward superstructure and bow area featured a tripod foremast, signal flag bins and 6″/53 guns in casemate mounts.
The fourth USS Detroit is seen in at the Mare Island Navy Yard in California in August 1942.
The USS Detroit was in Tokyo Bay for the surrender of Japan, Sept. 2, 1945. The USS Missouri, where the surrender ceremonies took place, is at left. the USS Detroit is in the right distance.
The fourth USS Detroit was decommissioned at Philadelphia on Jan. 11, 1946.
In the summer of 1969, the fifth iteration of the USS Detroit emerged from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington — a fast combat support ship destined for a 35-year career. That career would carry her into a variety of situations around the globe. She is shown her during commissioning ceremonies in 1970.
Rear Admiral William F. Petrovic, USN, left, Commander, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard; and Captain Robert E. McClinton, USN, salute at the commissioning of the fifth USS Detroit in 1970.
Sailors parade the colors at the commissioning ceremonies for the fifth USS Detroit at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, March 28, 1970.
While not a direct combatant, the fifth USS Detroit served as a support ship in the Vietnam War.
The new, $440 million USS Detroit, classified as a littoral combat ship, was formally commissioned during an Oct. 22, 2016 ceremony following a week of festivities and tours along the Detroit River near the Renaissance Center.
The ship’s design team came up with something that could get into areas larger, traditional naval vessels wouldn’t risk entering. Despite being 389 feet in length with a displacement of 3,500 metric tons, the USS Detroit and other Freedom-class ships have a draft of 13.5 feet.
Sharon Hopkins, of Johannesburg, and Liz Soderlund, of the UP, cheer as the USS Detroit arrives at the Riverfront behind the Renaissance Center.
Sailors prepare for the USS Detroit’s Commissioning Day ceremony in Detroit. The Freedom-Class Littoral Combat Ship was docked in the Detroit River behind the Renaissance Center on Oct. 20, 2016.
USS Detroit Commanding Officer Michael Desmond, right, greets David Boysnack, center, 61, of Dearborn Heights, and Gerard Jones, left, 51, of Detroit. Tthe commander thanked them for their service.
Ceremony attendees prepare to tour the USS Detroit on its commissioning day.
This is the crest of the USS Detroit.
The USS Detroit complements its ability to get in and out of shallow or narrow waters with its ability to bring all manner of equipment and personnel along for the ride.
At full throttle, the USS Detroit’s engines can force nearly 2 million gallons of water through its four water jets in a minute — enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every 20 seconds.
Out on the USS Detroit’s forecastle or helipad, the ship has the look of larger Navy vessels. The USS Detroit is part of a new breed of naval vessel, which operates with speed, agility and is, as one of its designers said, “not like anything else out there.”