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USS Ancon (AGC-4) on 21 April 1943.
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Class: ANCON (AGC-4)
P&C, 1939 (PANAMA class)
9,946 light, 14,150 lim.
493.0' oa, 471.5' pp x 64.0' e x 26.25' lim.
2-5"/38 2-40mmT 14-20mm (1943: as AGC)
Later armaments: 2-5"/38 4-40mmT 14>12-20mm (1945-46)
Machinery: Bethlehem turbines, 2 screws
||7 Aug 42
||Bethlehem Steel, Quincy
||25 Oct 37
||10 Dec 38
||12 Aug 42
||25 Feb 46
||17 Apr 46
||25 Feb 46
||9 May 73
FY 1943. In 1939 the Bethlehem Steel yard at Quincy, Mass., delivered to the Panama Railroad Co. three sister ships that were similar to the MC's early C3 passenger and cargo types but were built privately outside the MC program. They replaced three much older and slower ships on the express run between New York and the Panama Canal. The first to be completed, PANAMA, was briefly listed by the Navy as JAMES PARKER (AP-46, q.v.). The third, CRISTOBAL, was laid down on 15 Nov 37, launched on 4 Mar 39, placed in merchant service on 17 Aug 39, taken over by the Army in December 1941, returned to the Panama RR Co. on 14 Jun 46, and scrapped in 1982. The second, ANCON, commenced her maiden voyage on 22 Jun 39, was taken over by the Army on 11 Jan 42, hastily converted in San Francisco to a convoy-loaded transport with accommodations for a merchant crew, and on 31 January began the first of three trooping voyages to Australia.
On 3 Aug 42 the Auxiliary Vessels Board recommended acquisition of ten transports (AP 42-43, 66-73) for the Casablanca operation. ANCON was one of six ships (AP 42-43, 66, 68, 72-73) that were to be acquired immediately and given accelerated conversions to modified combat-loaded troop transports by the Navy. ANCON was transferred from the Army to the Navy at Boston on 7 August 1942. Initial plans were to convert her to carry a 411-man Navy crew, 2,077 troops, 22 landing boats, and 2 tank lighters. Other conversion features, except fuel stowage for the boats, were generally omitted--the Bureau of Ships estimated that about 60% of the work normally accomplished in converting vessels to combat loaded transports during the usual 4 1/2 month conversion period was accomplished during the 1 to 1 1/2 month conversions of the Casablanca ships. As many tests had also been omitted, the Bureau expected to--and did--receive many complaints about these conversions. ANCON'S armament as a transport as of 14 Sep 42 was 1-4"/50 3-3"/50 10-20mm. She served as a transport division flagship in the Casablanca landings in November 1942 and subsequently received a full AGC conversion at the Norfolk Navy Yard between 16 Feb and 28 Apr 43. She was the first fully configured AGC to enter service and experience with her substantially influenced the configuration of other AGCs, particularly AGC-5 and the AGC-7 class.
In mid-1944 the configuration of the AGC was described in an 87-page manual published by CominCh. The ship's most outstanding feature was its enormous radio communications suite, including 70 receivers and 30 transmitters (mostly HF and LF), the most extensive afloat and larger and more diverse than most if not all shore radio stations. Many of the radio antennas were spread between the ship's two tall pairs of kingposts. Radar equipment consisted of one long range SK air search and two SG surface search radars whose information was displayed on six PPI repeaters in five locations. The Flag Bridge was the battle station of the Task Force or Task Group commander. The senior officers of all services engaged sat around a large conference table the War Command Room and received information from the Joint Operations Room, where the Navy, Air, and Ground Force operations officers used the ship's extensive radio communications to maintain a complete air and surface picture on plotting tables and status boards. The Combat Information Center was the radar information center of the ship, where data from CIC's two radar PPI's supported by relevant radio circuits was plotted on plotting boards to track the position, courses, and speeds of air and surface craft. CIC also used radar and VHF radios to control friendly fighters, especially in intercepts of enemy aircraft.
For two years ANCON was the only large AGC in European waters, and on 29 August 1945 she led the victorious Allied naval forces into Tokyo Bay. In September 1945 the Army requested her earliest possible return to the Panama RR Co. for postwar civilian service on the New York to Cristobal route alongside her two sisters, which had remained in Army hands throughout the war.
||Ex USAT ANCON, ex merc. ANCON (ID-5007A, completed Jun 39). Converted by NYd Boston at South Boston to Navy AP (completed 4 Sep 42). Converted to AGC by NYd Norfolk and reclassified AGC-4 26 Feb 43. Merc. ANCON 1946-61, to MA and loaned as training ship STATE OF MAINE 1962-73. To buyer 25 May 73, scrapped by 22 Aug 75.
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002