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S.S. Larranga arriving at an American East Coast port on 16 November 1942.
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Class: EX LARRANGA (AK-59)
Design: Cargo, 1917
Displacement (tons): 3,804 gross, 6,000 dwt.
Dimensions (feet): 355' oa (?), 340.9' pp x 48.2'
Original Armament: 1-4"/50 4-20mm (1942: as merchant ship)
Later armaments: --
Propulsion (HP): 2,000
Machinery: Triple expansion, 1 screw
||Union IW, Alameda
||15 Jun 17
||21 Jul 42
||24 Jun 47
No FY assigned. On 6 Apr 42 CNO's office wrote to the Maritime Commission concerning its grave concern over the availability of ships to serve the Iceland area. The need for supplies there were increasing as the U.S. built up its forces there, and it was also desirable to build up reserves of supplies and coal on the island as a precaution against future bad weather and enemy action. At the same time the delays in the services provided by the eleven ships allocated by WSA and the Navy to Iceland were becoming severe. Currently four of the ships were out of action, and the time it took each of the others to make a round-trip voyage was nearly two months. The Navy felt that to meet present needs four Lake-type small cargo ships should be added to the Iceland service at once and that, to meet the anticipated need for 24 ships beginning in June, up to five more Lake-type ships would be needed. On 19 May 42 the Secretary of the Navy approved a policy to take over vessels in the Iceland service. By 1 Jul 42 CNO's office had identified four freighters, all then being operated by WSA under allocation to the Navy, that the Navy would acquire, give very limited two-week long conversions, and turn over to small Coast Guard Reserve crews that would be about the same size as the ships' merchant crews. The ships would then be operated by the Naval Transportation Service instead of by WSA. On 2 July 1942 the VCNO wrote to the Auxiliary Vessels Board suggesting that these four ships, MALANTIC, LARRANGA, EL COSTON, and MANA be acquired, and the board in its report #47 of 4 Jul 42 directed the acquisition of the ships. The hull numbers AK 58-61 were reserved for them, and an ordnance listing dated 18 July indicates that these numbers were assigned in the order just named. On 3 Jul 42 the acting SecNav, James Forrestal, asked the director of WSA, Admiral Land, to acquire the ships and make them available for conversion at Boston between late July and late August 1942. On 13 Jul 42 Admiral Land sternly refused, stating that the Navy's request was in conflict with an agreement reached between WSA and the Navy in April that WSA was to "acquire for the Navy the use of all commercial vessels requested by the Navy for employment as fleet auxiliaries or combatant vessels." The requested four ships, however, were operating in the Icelandic ship pool with military supplies for both the Army and Navy, and it was clear that they could not be classified as either fleet auxiliaries or combatant vessels. The Navy was thus challenging one of the main functions of WSA, to operate vessels under pool rather than individual service or agency control in order to best coordinate the use of scarce vessels' space by all agencies. WSA appears to have won this argument, as there is no further mention in Navy records of the acquisition of these ships. AK 58-61 were listed in the 1956 Ships Data Book as "not acquired" (cancelled) as of 21 Jul 42, although the document on which this entry was based has not been located.
LARRANGA (often spelled LARRANAGA) was built in Alameda, California, for and delivered to a Norwegian owner (B. Stolt-Nielsen) as DICTO just before the U.S. Shipping Board seized all ships then under construction in the U.S. in August 1917. Although listed as built by Union Iron Works, Alameda, she may actually have been built at the Alameda yard of United Engineering which Union Iron Works absorbed in 1917 just as both became part of Bethlehem Steel. She was bought by an American owner in 1933 and by C. D. Mallory Corp. in 1936 and was taken over by WSA on 30 Sep 41. The Navy expected as of 1 Jul 42 that she would be available for conversion and manning at Boston on 10 Aug 42. Her merchant ship armament would be retained but not increased. Between 6 Mar 44 and 22 Sep 45 she was under charter to the Government of Iceland. In May 1948 she was bought by the New York procurement delegation of the Hagana to run a cargo of arms from Mexico to Israel, which she did in August and September 1948 under the cover name PINZON. The cover name of the operation itself was DROMIT (Southerner, for the Mexican connection), which became the ship's registered name in 1949.
||Ex MALLARD 1941, ex AMERICAN CARDINAL 1936, ex DICTO 1933 (ID-4991, completed July 1917). Hull number officially not used. Merc. KEFALOS 1947, DROMIT 1949, DVORA 1955. Deleted from Israeli registry 6 Mar 62, scrapped 1963.
Compiled: 10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010