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USS Enceladus (AK-80) circa August 1943 in her original configuration.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        ENCELADUS (AK-80)
Design        MC N3-M-A1
Displacement (tons):        1,677 light, 5,200 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        269.8' oa, 255.0' wl x 42.5' e x 20.7' lim.
Original Armament:        1-3"/50 6-20mm (AK-80, 82)
Later armaments: 1-3"/50 8-20mm (1943: AK-80); 1-3"/50, 9-20mm (1945: AK-80)
1-3"/50 4<6-20mm (1944: AK 81-89 as Army ships)
Complement:        63 (1944)
Speed (kts.):        10.25
Propulsion (HP):        1,190
Machinery:        Cooper Bessemer diesel, 1 screw

AK Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
80 ENCELADUS 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 14 Feb 42 9 Oct 42 18 Aug 43
81 EUROPA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 2 Mar 42 7 Dec 42 --
82 HYDRA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 11 Apr 42 23 Jan 43 25 Sep 43
83 MEDIA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 28 Jan 43 29 Aug 43 --
84 MIRA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 22 May 43 31 Oct 43 --
85 NASHIRA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 1 Nov 43 23 Apr 44 --
86 NORMA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 3 Dec 43 4 Jun 44 --
87 SAGITTA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 24 Jan 44 9 Jul 44 --
88 TUCANA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 24 Apr 44 13 Sep 44 --
89 VELA 1 Jan 43 Penn-Jersey SB 5 Jun 44 15 Jan 45 --

AK Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
80 ENCELADUS 18 Dec 45 8 Jan 46 1 Jul 46 MC/R 5 May 64
81 EUROPA -- 6 Dec 43 25 Nov 43 Army 11 Mar 65
82 HYDRA 19 Nov 43 24 Nov 43 19 Nov 43 Army 1 Dec 93
83 MEDIA -- 24 Nov 43 17 Nov 43 Army 17 May 67
84 MIRA -- 16 Nov 43 17 Nov 43 Army 11 Mar 65
85 NASHIRA -- 9 Jun 44 25 Apr 44 Army 11 Mar 65
86 NORMA -- 28 Jun 44 6 Jun 44 Army 11 Mar 65
87 SAGITTA -- 1 Jul 61 20 Jun 61 MA/S 22 Jan 76
88 TUCANA -- 14 Oct 44 14 Sep 44 Army 11 Mar 65
89 VELA -- 3 Apr 59 3 Apr 59 MA 23 Nov 70

Class Notes:
FY 1942. These ships (with their sisters BAK 1-4) originated in a Maritime Commission order for 50 small (250') cargo ships undertaken at British request on a Lend Lease basis. Most of these 50 ships were of a steam propelled type called "Norwegian Coasters" that was little different from the numerous World War I Great Lakes-built freighters, but the 14 ships built at Penn-Jersey SB in Camden, N.J. were of a special diesel-propelled type designed by that yard. Called "Bowes Coasters" (after Thomas D. Bowes, a designer at the firm who later acted as the Navy's design agent for the ships) and designated N3-M-A1 by the MC, they used a mobile Clyde Whirley crane (built by the Clyde Iron Works of Duluth, Minn.) running on tracks along the deck edges instead of the usual masts and booms to handle cargo. This crane would enable the ships to lift heavy (30 ton) loads and operate efficiently in congested ports. The MC ordered nine ships to this design from the Penn-Jersey Shipyard in Camden, N.J., on 4 Sep 41 and added five more on 15 Dec 41.

On 31 Mar 42 CominCh asked the Auxiliary Vessels Board to arrange for the acquisition of 20 small cargo-carrying transports within a year (ten of them within six months) for interisland use in the Pacific. On 11 Apr 42 the Board determined that the only ships then under construction that might be suitable, besides 15 Algerine-class minesweepers under construction in Canada for the U.S., were the 14 ships of the N3-M-A1 type and recommended acquiring them. The Navy already had two 173-foot minesweepers (AM 98-99) on order at the Penn-Jersey yard and wanted to build similar patrol craft there, and on 20 Jul 42 the MC and the Navy decided that the Navy would take over the entire shipyard from the MC including all contracts for ships being built there, leaving it to the Navy to finish construction of the 14 freighters and determine how many the British would get. Following negotiations with the British, who at one point wanted eight of the ships, CominCh on 7 Oct 42 directed acquisition of ten of the ships, leaving four for the British. On 10 Oct 42 the Auxiliary Vessels Board ratified the arrangements with the MC and the British and recommended the acquisition of the ten ships, and on 24 Oct 42 it recommended they be completed as cargo vessels rather than as combined troop and cargo ships as it had recommended in April. The Navy assigned names to the ten ships on 30 Oct 42.

In December 1942 it was agreed to allocate to the British MC hulls 466-469 instead of the previously planned 465, 467, 469, and 471. The Navy negotiated a new contract dated 31 Dec 42 with the builder, and the MC transferred all of the rights under its contract of 4 Sep 41 to the Navy effective 1 Jan 43. The four British ships (BAK 1-4) were to be completed according to the original MC plans, but the ten U.S. Navy ships were to undergo a fairly extensive conversion. In early 1943 the hull designations were shuffled again to move AK 83-84 ahead of BAK 3-4 in construction sequence. MC hulls 468-69 were thus completed as AK 83-84 and MC hulls 470-71 were completed as BAK 3-4. The new designations were confirmed in a BuShips letter of 15 Oct 43. The MC did not make this change in its records, and the previous numbers (463-65 and 470-71 for AK 80-84) continue to appear in many otherwise reliable sources.

In early 1943 work on the ships began to fall behind schedule, and a Navy conference of 29 Apr 43 decided to move six of the Navy hulls (AK-80, 82-85, and 87) immediately after launching from the Penn-Jersey yard to the nearby Bethlehem Key Highway yard for completion and conversion. On 17 Jul 43 the Navy tested the Whirley crane on one of the ships and discovered that the wheels opposite the load lifted off of their track when handling the designed 30-ton load. The Navy therefore re-rated these cranes at 15 tons maximum capacity. On 19 Aug 43 a Navy INSURV sub-board inspected AK-80 and reported on 3 Sep 43 that the cargo handling facilities of the ship were not suitable for Navy use. The original merchant ship design had been for a very specialized service, carrying a bulk cargo of paper, all of which was to be handled by the now-downrated Whirley crane. The Navy conversion had added two masts, one at the after end of the forecastle and one forward of the bridge, each with two cargo booms, but the cargo holds with their unobstructed depth of more than 40 feet were only suitable for carrying bulk cargo, not the varied cargoes usually carried by naval cargo ships. The inspectors recommended replacing the Whirley crane with a mast and four booms between each pair of hatches and adding at least one (preferably two) 'tween decks in the holds between the main deck and inner bottom.

On 8 Sep 43 BuShips telephoned its representative in Baltimore with instruction to remove the Whirley crane and track from the ships under construction, of which AK 81-82 had already received theirs. It confirmed these instructions in writing on 16 Sep 43 and specified that the most advanced of these, AK-82, was instead to be fitted with a kingpost with two booms between the two forward holds. On the same day representatives from VCNO's office, BuShips, and several operational commands met on board AK-80 at Norfolk and, after inspecting the ship, decided to modify the cargo handling facilities of all ten Navy ships along the lines just ordered for AK-82, except that the old foremast was to be removed and the new kingpost was to receive the topmast and pair of booms from the old foremast in addition to its own pair of booms. A non-watertight 'tween deck was to be fitted in all three holds, while two more 20mm guns were to be fitted near the location of the original foremast. These changes were carried out in AK-80 during a second conversion period at Norfolk between 7 Oct 43 and 12 Nov 43.

The account of the 16 September meeting on board AK-80 concluded with the statement that "it was the opinion of all officers present that this type of vessel should not have been taken over by the Navy in the first place due to the extensive scope of work which appears to be required in order that the vessel can be utilized to any extent as a U.S. Naval Cargo Carrier. It was felt that the vessels of this class should be reassigned to other Government Agencies, the British, or used for the purpose for which originally designed, the carrying of pulp, paper, or similar bulk cargo." Since mid-1943 if not before, the Army had been trying to get some of these ships for conversion to Engineer Port Repair Ships in the European theater, but the Navy had resisted these efforts, CominCh claiming on 2 Jun 43 that the Navy needed them to operate in small ports and rivers in the South and Southwest Pacific Areas where limited or no cargo handling facilities existed. The Navy's resistance ceased after the 16 September meeting, and on 22 Oct 43 CominCh directed that AK 81-89 be transferred to the Army if the Army wanted them. A conference of representatives of CNO, the Army, and BuShips decided on 27 Oct 43 to allocate all nine ships to the Army, and the Secretary of the Navy approved the transfer on 12 Nov 43. The transfer included one ship that had just been completed and commissioned (HYDRA, AK-82), four in various stages of construction, and four that had not yet been laid down. The most prominent feature of the subsequent Army conversion was the addition of a 40-ton cathead at the bow for salvage work, although numerous other changes including the fitting of a 50-ton boom were also made.

The subsequent career of the only ship of the class actually to serve in the Navy, ERIDANUS (AK-80), did little to restore the reputation of the type. Soon after arriving in the Pacific she was overtaken by a tropical hurricane east of Fiji. In winds that reached force 8 the ship was driven backwards and refused to answer her helm even on full power. Water entered the ship nearly everywhere, causing most electrical and interior communications systems to fail, and the hull was badly strained. Her Commanding Officer judged her not seaworthy due to her construction for use in internal waters, her peculiar configuration, and her extreme under powering. Her maximum speed proved in service to be 8 knots, which fell to 7 knots in force 4 winds and was insufficient to hold a course in higher winds. After emergency repairs the ship settled into a career of interisland freight service, interrupted by repair periods in June-September 1944 and December 1944 to January 1945. In mid-1945 ComServPac planned to fit her as a bulk loaded electronic spares ship, though her operational schedule indicates that this plan was not implemented. On 6 Sep 45 ComServPac recommended to CNO that "in view of the small size, slow speed, limited radius, poor material condition, and the fact that at an extended overhaul is required prior to further operations" the ship be returned to the West Coast for a relatively early disposal.

Of the seven Whirley cranes actually completed for the 14 ships, four were installed on BAK 1-4 (BAK-3 receiving the one originally on AK-81 and BAK-4 possibly receiving the one from AK-82); the crane removed at Norfolk from AK-80 was sent to a shipyard in Staten Island for use ashore and the other two were probably also used ashore following a period in storage at Scotia, N.Y. The remaining seven cranes were cancelled, although the Navy later ordered some cranes that used some of their parts.

Ship Notes:
AK Name MC Notes
80 ENCELADUS 463 Ex merc. ELIAS D. KNIGHT. Towed to Bethlehem Steel, Key Highway, Baltimore, 18 May 43 for conversion, completed 22 Aug 43. Additional conversion 7 Oct 43 to 12 Nov 43 by the Norfolk Navy Yard. To NDRF midnight 30 Jun 46-1 Jul 46, to buyer 3 Jun 64 (non-transportation use), scrapped by 22 Jun 70.
81 EUROPA 464 Ex merc. WILLIAM LESTER. Accepted incomplete 24 Nov 43, to Army the next day and towed to Brewer DD Co., Staten Is., N.Y., for conversion to Engineer Port Repair Ship THOMAS F. FARRELL, JR. To NDRF 12 Jun 47, to buyer 14 Apr 65 (non-transportation use).
82 HYDRA 465 Ex merc. EBEN H. LINNELL. Towed to Bethlehem Steel, Key Highway, Baltimore, 27 May 43 for conversion, accepted and commissioned 25 Sep 43, and completed 30 Sep 43. Began to load cargo at Norfolk for Noumea but instead ordered to Bethlehem Steel Co., Simpson Yard, East Boston, Mass. Decomm. and to Army there 19 Nov 43 for conversion to Engineer Port Repair Ship MADISON JORDAN MANCHESTER. To NDRF 20 Aug 47. Assigned by MA as Fleet Service Craft (SS-27) to support the James River Reserve Fleet on 15 Jul 85. To buyer 24 May 94.
83 MEDIA 468 Ex merc. OLIVER R. MUMFORD. Towed to Bethlehem Steel, Key Highway, Baltimore, 1 Sep 43 for conversion, accepted 17 Nov 43 when conversion was half complete and to Army same date for conversion at the same yard to Engineer Port Repair Ship GLEN GERALD GRISWOLD. To NDRF 13 Aug 47, to buyer 8 Jun 67, scrapped by 13 Jun 69.
84 MIRA 469 Ex merc. WILLIAM NOTT. Accepted incomplete 6 Nov 43, to Army the next day and towed 7-8 Nov 43 to Bethlehem Steel Co., 56th Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., for conversion to Engineer Port Repair Ship ROBERT M. EMERY. To NDRF 23 Sep 47, to buyer 31 Mar 65 (non-transportation use), converted to floating aquarium, inactive 1970 at Astoria, Wash.
85 NASHIRA 648 Ex merc. JOSIAH PAUL. Accepted incomplete 25 Apr 44, to Army same date and towed to Sullivan DD & Repair Co., 23rd Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., for conversion to Engineer Port Repair Ship RICHARD R. ARNOLD. To NDRF 17 Jul 47, to buyer 29 Mar 65 (non-transportation use), converted to oil drilling ship.
86 NORMA 649 Ex merc. SUMNER PIERCE. Accepted incomplete 6 Jun 44, to Army same date and towed to Sullivan DD & Repair Co., 23rd Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., for conversion to Engineer Port Repair Ship HENRY WRIGHT HURLEY. To NDRF 8 Aug 47, to buyer 31 Mar 65 (non-transportation use).
87 SAGITTA 650 Ex merc. MOSES PIKE. Accepted incomplete 18 Jul 44, to Army the same day and towed to Brewer DD Co., Staten Is., N.Y., for conversion to Engineer Port Repair Ship MARVIN LYLE THOMAS. Stk. 22 Aug 44. To NDRF 27 Aug 47. Custody to MSTS from MA 26 Apr 52, placed in service with MSTS 11 Jun 52, and reinstated on List of Naval Vessels 22 Aug 52 as SAGITTA (T-AK-87). To NDRF 23 Feb 60 as SAGITTA. To Army 25 Apr 66 and renamed RESOURCE 1966. To MA and buyer 22 Jan 76.
88 TUCANA 651 Ex merc. SYMMES POTTER. Accepted incomplete 14 Sep 44 and to Army same date for conversion by Penn-Jersey to Engineer Port Repair Ship ARTHUR C. ELY. To NDRF 15 Sep 47, to buyer 14 Apr 65 (non-transportation use).
89 VELA 652 Ex merc. CHARLES A. RANLETT. Accepted incomplete 17 Jan 45 and to Army same date for conversion by Penn-Jersey to Engineer Port Repair Ship JOE C. SPECKER. Stk. 8 Feb 45. To NDRF 27 Aug 47. Custody to MSTS from MA 26 Apr 52, placed in service with MSTS 11 Jun 52 and reinstated on List of Naval Vessels 22 Aug 52 as VELA (T-AK-89). To NDRF 3 Apr 59, to buyer 17 Jan 71, scrapped by 12 Jun 71.

Page Notes:
AK        1942
Compiled:        31 May 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010