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USS Williamsburg (AGC-369) on 13 November 1945
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        WILLIAMSBURG
Design:        Yacht
Displacement (tons):        1,532 light, 1,920 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        243.8' oa, 224.0' pp x 36.0' e x 16.0' lim
Original Armament:        2-4"/50 (Aug 41: as PG)
Later armaments:        2-3"/50 (Jan 42: as PG);
No guns (1945: as AGC)
Complement:        82 (as PG, 1944)
Speed (kts.):        16
Propulsion (HP):        2,200
Machinery:        Diesel, 2 screws

Construction:
AGC Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
369 WILLIAMSBURG 30 Apr 41 Bath IW 19 Mar 30 8 Dec 30 7 Oct 41

Disposition:
AGC Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
369 WILLIAMSBURG 30 Jun 53 1 Apr 62 9 Aug 62 Trf. 4 Feb 69

Class Notes:
FY 1941. The twin screw diesel yacht ARAS ("Sara" spelled backward) was built at Bath Iron Works (their hull 139) for Hugh J. Chisholm, president of the Oxford Paper Co., Rumford, Maine, and delivered on 15 Jan 31. Her original measurements were 1,294 tons light and 1,805 tons full load displacement, 243.8' oa x 36.0' x 14.0'. The Navy purchased her from Chisholm in 1941 and classified her as a gunboat, PG-56. Between November 1941 and February 1943 she served primarily as a North Atlantic escort and VIP transport based in Iceland, and between March 1943 and June 1945 she served as flagship of Commander, Fleet Operational Training Command, Atlantic Fleet, based in Norfolk. She was rated in May 1944 for 58 passengers in addition to her crew of 82.

In 1941 the Navy had condemned the Presidential yacht POTOMAC (AG-25) as unfit for duty in open waters because of excessive topweight and recommended substitution of another ship, but because of the war President Roosevelt instead directed that POTOMAC never be taken into open waters. In June 1945 the Navy informed President Truman that POTOMAC would need a general overhaul if she were to continue in service and recommended substitution of another vessel. Upon Truman's approval, the Navy selected WILLIAMSBURG (PG-56), which entered the Norfolk Navy Yard on 10 July for conversion to the Presidential yacht. She relieved POTOMAC on 8 Nov 45 and made her first cruise between 10 and 17 November. President Truman first visited the ship on 22 November and first traveled on her on 2 December.

President Truman spent more time aboard WILLIAMSBURG than any other president spent on a presidential yacht because during a long period of his administration the White House was undergoing restoration and the President lived in Blair House. Truman found Blair House cramped and preferred the yacht for meetings and weekend retreats. In March 1950 President Truman headed on WILLIAMSBURG for the Little White House in Key West. Florida. The ship hit very heavy weather off Cape Hatteras and the President, his guests, and many crew members were reported sea-sick for two days. Although Truman was reported in good spirits upon arrival in Key West, he returned to Washington by plane. He never again used the WILLIAMSBURG, now known for her violent movements in rough weather, on an offshore cruise - only on the smooth waters of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. President Eisenhower made only one trip on the yacht before ordering her decommissioned in 1953 due to her high operating costs.

WILLIAMSBURG was laid up at Washington, D.C. in 1953 and moved to the reserve fleet at Newport, R.I. in 1957 and at Philadelphia in 1960. In November 1961 the National Science Foundation asked if the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution could use the ship to participate in an international Indian Ocean oceanographic expedition planned for 1962-64. The Navy initially responded that it had no plans to dispose of the ship, but in March 1962 President Kennedy approved the idea and on 9 Aug 62 title to the ship was transferred to NSF and she was towed from Philadelphia to the Maryland SB & DD Co., Baltimore, for conversion to an oceanographic ship, which included larger bilge keels and reduced topweight. She was renamed ANTON BRUUN in memory of a noted Danish marine biologist and was chartered to Woods Hole. ANTON BRUUN made 10 research voyages to the Indian Ocean and 8 to the Pacific Ocean. In September 1966 the State Department proposed that NSF donate the ship to India, but this idea fell through and the ship's operations for Woods Hole came to an end when a floating drydock in which she was being repaired sank in around September 1967.

Repairs after this accident were assessed as uneconomical, and on 4 Feb 69 the Maritime Administration sold ANTON BRUUN to a manufacturer in Salem, N. J. who planned to convert her into a hotel and restaurant. The ship reverted to the name WILLIAMSBURG, but this and several later plans to put her to use all fell through. After spending 12 years deteriorating at a pier in the Potomac River just south of Washington, DC, the ship was bought on 15 Apr 93 by the U.S.S. Williamsburg Corp., which planned to have her restored at the Valdettaro Shipyard in Italy for use as a cruise ship along the East Coast between Key West, Florida and New England. She was towed to Italy, but little more was done and by 1998 she lay gutted and awaiting scrapping at La Spezia. An urgent appeal to the Italian government got her another reprieve as attempts were made to return her to the US for restoration and preservation, and she was still moored at La Spezia in 2011.

Ship Notes:
AGC Name Notes
369 WILLIAMSBURG Ex private yacht ARAS (completed Jan 31). Acquired as PG-56. Reclassified AGC-369 10 Nov 45. In USN reserve 1955-62. Trf. to NSF and loaned to Woods Hole as ANTON BRUUN. Sold by MA to Marlboro Machine Co. 4 Feb 69 for use as floating restaurant, to buyer 28 Feb 69. See ship notes for later history.

Page Notes:
AGC        1945
Compiled:        22-Feb-2006
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2006