The U.S. Navy built several variations of escorts after World War II, including both steam and diesel powered ships. The 314-foot Dealy-class displaced 1,800 tons and had a 600-lb. steam plant. Four similar ships of the Claud Jones-class were diesel powered. At 27 knots, steam-powered Dealys had limited speed and firepower, and the diesel Claud Jones had even less of both.
The USS Bronstein (DE 1037)-class of destroyer escorts incorporated several new and important developments in warship design. It was the first ship built with the SQS-26 sonar, as well as the first ship designed with a flight deck for the drone anti-submarine helicopter (DASH). It was one of the first ships to be designed for the anti-submarine rocket (ASROC) system, which could propel a torpedo up to five miles away. Bronstein and sister ship USS McCloy (DE 1038) were built at Avondale Shipyard in Louisiana. Both joined the fleet in 1962.
Bronstein’s mission was “to screen transoceanic convoys and to operate effectively against submarines,” according to a press release issued upon her commissioning at Charleston, South Carolina in 1963. The ship was named after Ben Richard Bronstein. Born in 1915 in Manchester, New Hampshire, Ben Richard Bronstein was appointed an assistant surgeon in the Naval Reserve in 1941. He was killed in action Feb. 28, 1942 when an enemy submarine sunk his ship, USS Jacob Jones (DD 130) off Cape May, New Jersey. DE 1037 was the second to bear the name, with the first being USS Bronstein (DE 189).
Lt. Cmdr. John McCloy, the namesake of DE 1038, was a recipient of two Medals of Honor. Officials presented his first for his actions in the 1900 relief expedition of the Allied Forces in China, and the second for heroism at Vera Cruz in 1914. McCloy also received the Navy Cross for commanding USS Curlew, that cleared mines of the North Sea mine barrage during World War I.
Fahey’s Eighth Edition of Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet refers to these two ships as “graceful newcomers,” and “a smaller type designed for mass production.”
At 371-feet and 2,650 tons, Bronstein was longer and heavier than the Dealy-class, but had the same two 600 PSI boilers and a single shaft, and so was slightly slower. The new and longer hull form was designed for the large bow-mounted SQS-26 sonar, as well as ASROC and DASH. Two MK32 triple-mount surface vessel torpedo tubes were installed, which were (and still are) common on most U.S. Navy combatants. The designed speed was 24 knots; certainly fast enough for escorting convoys. The new design also featured an enclosed bridge and fin stabilizers.
“She rode terribly. Because the ship was somewhat top-heavy, she tended to roll significantly. I remember routinely doing 30 degree rolls with an occasional 45 degree roll that would send everyone flying about.”
The 1037s had 13 officers and 178 crewmembers. The commanding officer was a lieutenant commander selected for early command-at-sea.
Vice Adm. Scott Fry, U.S. Navy, (Ret.), recalls reporting aboard McCloy as communications officer in 1971 at Newport, Rhode Island, then home to the Atlantic Fleet Cruiser-Destroyer Force. “Newport was a big Navy town, and with only two piers ships were nested sometimes four to a berth. Since we were the smallest and had the most junior commanding officer we were always last ship outboard.”
Fry would return to McCloy to command the ship in 1983.
The 1037s were somewhat top heavy and the large bow sonar caused the ships to trim by the bow, particularly at higher speeds. They were relatively slow for battle group operations.
“McCloy was a remarkable, but somewhat unseaworthy ship,” recalls Capt. Richard Callas, who served on McCloy between 1979 and 1983, and later commanded USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7). Callas is currently chief of staff for Strike Force Training Atlantic. “She rode terribly. Because the ship was somewhat top-heavy, she tended to roll significantly. I remember routinely doing 30 degree rolls with an occasional 45 degree roll that would send everyone flying about.”
The ship’s fin stabilizers were removed in the 1970s because they caused a jerking motion when the ship rolled. Because of the heavy AN/SQS-26 AXR steel sonar dome and the lack of a hurricane bow (which were standard issue on the Charles F. Adams-class guided missile destroyers and even the Knox-class class escorts), McCloy’s bow tended to ‘dig’ into the seas when underway.
“The foc’sle was always awash,” remembers Callas, “even in moderate seas. Yet despite her poor design and poor seakeeping abilities, McCloy consistently ‘steamed,’ operating from the ice flows in the Arctic to the Caribbean to the Mediterranean Sea. I think as a result, the ship produced some very proficient and seasoned ship handlers.”
“The sailors aboard the LPD subsequently ‘re-designated’ Bronstein ‘SS 1037,’ because she frequently looked like a submarine broaching and rolling on the ocean’s surface.”
Capt. Rick Wright, who commanded Bronstein from May 1987 to May 1989, agrees with Callas that the ships were notorious for their seakeeping abilities. “When Bronstein operated off the coast of Alaska in the summer of 1987 in heavy seas, the admiral aboard the amphibious platform dock (LPD) that the frigate was in company with queried the commanding officer via flashing light as to whether ‘everything was all right with the ship’ as he watched her plunge and roll while his flagship was riding through the rough seas with little apparent trouble. The sailors aboard the LPD subsequently ‘re-designated’ Bronstein ‘SS 1037,’ because she frequently looked like a submarine broaching and rolling on the ocean’s surface.”
“When I came aboard in 1971 the fin stabilizers were two huge lumps of rust,” says Fry. “They never worked. When I came back aboard for my command tour they were gone.”
The new SQS-26 AXR was a very powerful mid-frequency active sonar and much more powerful than the SQS-4 and SQS-23 sonars being used in the fleet at that time. It was the precursor to the very capable AN/SQS-53 series sonar found on combatants in the fleet today. The 26 had a bottom bounce and convergence zone capability, which meant it could detect submarines at greater ranges, so newer and longer range weapons were needed. The 1037s also had the AN/SQR-15 towed array surveillance system (or TASS), which was removed in 1984.
The McCloy received the TASS during an availability at the Boston Naval shipyard in 1977. The installation included a large equipment van that was inserted inside the ship’s DASH hangar. The van contained a bank of AQA-5 wide-band acoustic processors (WAPs) used for processing acoustic information from the towed array. The other part of the SQR-15 installation included a large equipment reel with associated deck gear located on the fantail. The reel, manufactured by Western Gear, stored, deployed and retrieved several thousand feet of 1.25 inch tow cable and a several hundred foot towed array of detachable modules containing acoustic hydrophones.