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USS Robert L. Barnes (AO-14) at Guam between the World Wars
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Class: ROBERT L. BARNES (AO-14)
Design Tanker, 1917
Displacement (tons): 1,630 light, 3,850 full
Dimensions (feet): 258.5' oa, 251.8' pp x 43.2' wl x 15.0' mn
Original Armament: None (1918)
Later armaments: --
Complement 104 (1929)
Speed (kts.): 8.5
Propulsion (HP): 1,100
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||ROBERT L. BARNES
||29 Jun 18
||19 Oct 18
||ROBERT L. BARNES
||24 Jul 42
||10 Dec 41
Captain Alexander McDougall designed S.S. ROBERT L. BARNES as a prototype "rectangular ship" or "sea-going canal boat," with a simple, low hull and a "portable" superstructure that could be removed to pass under the bridges of the New York State canals. McDougall had previously invented the unusual "whaleback" freighter, of which he built over 40 examples, both steamers and barges, between 1888 and 1898. ROBERT L. BARNES was built in 1917 in less than four months by the McDougall-Duluth Co, Duluth, Minn., then little more than a blacksmith shop, and was fitted with a steam engine that had been built in 1888. She was built 42 feet short to pass through the Welland Canal on her trip to New York from Duluth. Originally fitted to carry 3,000 tons of coal, she was quickly converted to carry oil. She was inspected and taken over by the Navy in June 1918 and commissioned as a fuel ship at New York in October. The inspectors noted that she was probably not structurally strong enough for seagoing service with the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS). Her cargo capacity was rated as 1,806 tons of oil.
Assigned to the Fifth Naval District, ROBERT L. BARNES departed New York in March 1919 and sailed for Hampton Roads. After calling at Guantanamo Bay and New York, she returned to Norfolk in April and commenced a period of extensive repairs at the Norfolk Navy Yard. In September 1919 she was assigned to duty with NOTS, probably for the transit to her newly-assigned duty station at Guam. She sailed from Norfolk in late November via the Panama Canal and San Pedro to Pearl Harbor. The ship underwent more extensive repairs at Pearl Harbor and only arrived at Guam in April 1920. There she commenced duty as a floating oil storage facility in Apra Harbor. When the U. S. Navy's hull number system was implemented in July 1920 ROBERT L. BARNES was described as "station ship" at Guam and designated a cargo ship (AK-11), but in July 1921 she was described more correctly as an oil depot and her designation was changed to oiler (AO-14). She remained at Guam throughout the interwar period, departing only in 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1930 and 1934 under tow for overhaul at the Cavite Naval Station in the Philippines. Her designation was changed to miscellaneous auxiliary (AG-27) in July 1938. In a rare moment of glory, ROBERT L. BARNES assisted in the salvage of the grounded U. S. Army transport U. S. GRANT in May 1939.
When the Japanese attacked Guam the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, ROBERT L. BARNES was bombed and strafed at her moorings and left damaged and leaking. She fell into enemy hands two days later in an abandoned condition and became the Japanese merchantman HASU MARU. Recovered at the end of the war, she was sold to British mercantile interests and served as FORTUNE and M.T.S. No. 2 from 1945 to 1949. The former "sea-going canal boat" was finally scrapped in 1949.
||ROBERT L. BARNES
||Ex merc. ROBERT L. BARNES (ID-3088, completed Jul 17). Ex AK-11 1 Jul 21, to AG-27 1 Jul 38. Captured December 1941, merc. HASU MARU 1942, FORTUNE 1945, and M.T.S. No. 2 in 1946. Scrapped at Singapore 1949.
Compiled: 04 Sep 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012