USS Dixmude (A-609) Aircraft Transport / Escort Carrier (United States)
The American-built Dixmude served with British forces through World War 2 via Lend-Lease then with French forces before being returned to the US in 1966.Entry last updated on 9/26/2016; Authored by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The French escort carrier Dixmude A-609 was built in the United States in 1939 first named as the Rio Parana - a river in South America - as a C3 type passenger cargo ship by the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Chester, Pennsylvania. She was incomplete and delivered to the US Navy for conversion to an aircraft escort vessel by the Atlantic Basin and Iron Works, Brooklyn, N.Y. By early 1942 she was completed and classified as BAVG 3 for transfer reasons and made ready for her next phase to be turned over to the United Kingdom under the Lend Lease Act. The Royal Navy's representative took delivery at the New York Navy yard and BAVG3 was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Biter - D 97, in May 1942. Biter carried out important convoy escort duties through the end of 1944 in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic but with the addition of newer escort carriers in HMS Navy caused her to be placed in reserve in January 1945.
In April 1945, HMS Biter was retransferred to the French Navy and again renamed as Dixmude A-609, after the French name of the Flemish city of Diksmuide. After the conclusion of WWII she was off to fight another conflict to retake the French colony in Indochina, or Viet Nam. She departed Toulon in January 1947 with an air group composed of World War II vintage Douglas SBD 5 "Dauntless" dive bombers, as well as 20 plus French Air Force planes. Reaching Saigon in March, her planes supported two landing operations.
Dixmude was the first French aircraft carrier to carry out combat sorties. The old Dauntless assigned to the French Flotilla 4F made its first bombing attacks in April, when the SBD's bombed the Viet Minh stronghold at Tuyen Quang. Later that spring she returned to France required repairs before heading back to Indochina. This was a dual mission first as an aircraft ferry with her deck cargo being 12 Junkers Ju.52 tri-motored transports and 12 "Spitfire" fighters. Her assigned air groups consisting of the aging Dauntless of Flotilla 4F were below deck for the cruse. She reached Saigon in October 1947 and unloaded the deck cargo then returning to sea to fly her planes off to land bases at Hanoi and Haiphong for Operations inland. These actions, conducted over 200 sorties, dropping over 65 tons of bombs.
Her last combat mission took her to the coast of Cochin China where she operated untill the spring of 1948. While she was deployed her planes bombed rebel positions on the Camau Peninsula. Reclassified as a transport she spent the rest of her active career under the French flag as a ferry for aircraft, in the summer of 1948, she took two fighter groups equipped with the American Bell P 63A King cobra to Indochina. On her second run, in the summer and fall of 1950, she carried Grumman F6F 5 "Hellcat" fighters and Curtiss SB2C 5 "Helldiver" dive bombers. Dixmude was returned to the United States in January 1951 and again was renamed as the US designation, BAVG 3. However as a grant she was re-retransferred back to France on the same day in January 1951. Dixmude continued operations in the French Navy into the 1950's. She continued to perform as a ferry delivering 35 Dassault M.D. and 450 Ouragan jet fighters to the Indian Air Force in Bombay, India in 1953. She carried 32 more to India in 1954. The French government returned the ship to the United States at Toulon, France, in June 1966 for the last time. She made her last voyage as BAVG 3 to serve as a target for the 6th Fleet and was sunk, a brave ship having many classifications and names for three nations.