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USAT Meigs circa the 1930s
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Class: MEIGS (AK-34)
Design: EFC 1133
Displacement (tons): 7,358 gross, 10,950 dwt.
Dimensions (feet): 430.4' pp x 54' x 28.9' load
Original Armament: 2-4"/50 (1941: planned)
Later armaments: --
Speed (kts.): 11
Propulsion (HP): 3,500
Machinery: Triple expansion, 1 screw
||Los Angeles SB & DD
||30 Mar 42
No FY assigned. The last five ships built by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding Co. under its World War I contracts for Design 1013 freighters (see the AK-33 class) were of an entirely different type, larger flush-decked freighters with two decks and a shelter deck. The Army took over one of these, WEST LEWARK, in 1922 soon after her delivery to the Shipping Board and renamed her MEIGS.
Back in 1935 the Army and Navy had agreed that the Army would operate its own ships except where naval opposition was expected, in which case the ships would be Navy manned. However, experience in the first part of World War II indicated that naval opposition by the enemy, in the form of submarines, could be encountered anywhere. In April 1941 the CNO proposed to the Chief of Staff of the Army that a board review the issue. The Board recommended on 28 Apr 41 that the Army "surrender operation of its transport service for the term of the present emergency" following procedures that it enumerated, the first of which was that the Navy would commission the Army transports with Navy crews as soon as possible. (The Army used the term "transports" for all ships in the Army Transport Service, including cargo ships and other types.) On 14 May 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board recommended the implementation of this plan, which then covered 26 Army ships, and on 22 May 41 the Secretary of War approved the transfer of the ships, noting that jurisdiction over each ship was to pass at the time it was manned by the Navy. On 5 Jun 41 the Secretary of the Navy approved names for the 26 ships, all but three of which (AP 21-22 and AK-39) retained their Army names. The hull numbers AP 20-36 (less 23), AK 32-40, and APL-1 (for the barracks ship in Newfoundland) were soon assigned to them.
The Navy soon decided that the nine Army cargo ships on this list were unsuitable for operations in hostile waters because of their age (all dated from World War I) and lost interest in manning them. On 11 Jun 41 the CNO informed major Navy commands that the commitment to man the nine cargo ships in August could not be met and that would be held in abeyance until the Bureau of Navigation could furnish Navy crews. The Navy manned, took over and commissioned AP 20-29 and 31-33 before the end of July but personnel shortages then greatly slowed down the process. In December 1941 the President suspended the obligation for the Navy to man Army ships. The Navy directive for manning AK 32-40 as well as two other low-interest vessels, AP-36 and APL-1, was definitively cancelled on 30 Mar 42 and their hull numbers were officially listed as "not used."
||Ex USAT MEIGS, ex merc. WEST LEWARK 1922 (ID-4490, completed Jun 21). Sunk by Japanese aircraft at Port Darwin, Australia, 19 Feb 42.
Compiled: 10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010