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USS Saugatuck (AO-75) on 21 June 1943
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        SUAMICO (AO-49)
Design        MC T2-SE-A1
Displacement (tons):        5,730 light, 22,380 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        523.5' oa, 503.0' wl x 68.0' e x 30.8 lim.
Original Armament:        1-5"/51 4-3"/50 12-20mm (1942-43: AO 49-50)
Later armaments:        
1-5"/51 4-3"/50 16-20mm (1942: AO-67)
1-5"/38 4-3"/50 12 or 16-20mm (1942-43: AO-65, 67); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT 12-20mm (1943: all); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 4-40mmT 8<10-20mm or 4-20mmT (1944-46: all less AO-67, 78)
Complement        216 (1944)
Speed (kts.):        15.1
Propulsion (HP):        6,000
Machinery:        1 screw, G.E. turbo-electric (Westinghouse in AO 65, 67, 74, 75, 77)

Construction:
AO Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
49 SUAMICO 27 Jun 42 Sun SB & DD 27 Sep 41 30 May 42 10 Aug 42
50 TALLULAH 30 Jul 42 Sun SB & DD 1 Dec 41 25 Jun 42 5 Sep 42
65 PECOS 29 Aug 42 Sun SB & DD 20 Apr 42 17 Aug 42 5 Oct 42
67 CACHE 28 Sep 42 Sun SB & DD 25 May 42 7 Sep 42 3 Nov 42
73 MILLICOMA 30 Jan 43 Sun SB & DD 4 Aug 42 21 Jan 43 5 Mar 43
74 SARANAC 31 Dec 42 Sun SB & DD 27 Aug 42 21 Dec 42 22 Feb 43
75 SAUGATUCK 21 Dec 42 Sun SB & DD 20 Aug 42 7 Dec 42 19 Feb 43
76 SCHUYLKILL 27 Feb 43 Sun SB & DD 24 Sep 42 16 Feb 43 9 Apr 43
77 COSSATOT 17 Mar 43 Sun SB & DD 24 Oct 42 28 Feb 43 20 Apr 43
78 CHEPACHET 25 Mar 43 Sun SB & DD 1 Nov 42 10 Mar 43 27 Apr 43
79 COWANESQUE 25 Mar 43 Sun SB & DD 23 Nov 42 11 Mar 43 1 May 43

Disposition:
AO Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
49 SUAMICO 22 Nov 74 15 Nov 74 22 Jan 75 MA/S 22 Jan 75
50 TALLULAH 1975 31 Mar 86 1 Oct 77 MA/R 2 Feb 87
65 PECOS Sep 74 1 Oct 74 17 Jul 75 MA/S 17 Jul 75
67 CACHE 1973 31 Mar 86 1 Jul 74 MA/R 2 Feb 87
73 MILLICOMA 1976 31 Mar 86 1 Oct 77 MA/R 2 Feb 87
74 SARANAC 19 Jul 46 26 Mar 56 4 Dec 57 Sold --
75 SAUGATUCK 5 Nov 74 15 Feb 95 1 Jul 76 MA/R 2 Jun 06
76 SCHUYLKILL 1976 31 Mar 86 1 Oct 76 MA/R 4 Mar 88
77 COSSATOT 12 Sep 74 18 Sep 74 2 Sep 75 MA/S 2 Sep 75
78 CHEPACHET 1972 1 Apr 80 1 Jul 73 MA/R --
79 COWANESQUE 1972 1 Jun 72 24 Jul 72 MA/S 24 Jul 72

Class Notes:
FY 1942 (AO 49-50), FY 1943 (others). In early 1942 Congress funded the first 200 ships of what became a huge wartime emergency merchant ship construction program. These were all standardized cargo ships of the famous "Liberty" (EC2-S-C1) type. In April 1942 heavy British losses in tankers prompted President Roosevelt and the Maritime Commission to add tankers to the second installment of the emergency shipbuilding program. All 72 tankers in this installment were allocated to the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. at Chester, Pa. The design for these ships was based on a commercial design that Sun had developed for three ships ordered by the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey for its Petroleum Shipping Co. subsidiary, STANVAC MELBOURNE, STANVAC PALEMBANG, and STANVAC WELLINGTON. These ships, a bit smaller and slower than the tankers Sun was then building for Standard Oil's own use, measured 503.9 feet on the waterline and 68.2 feet beam and had 4,400 hp steam turbine plants rated at 13 knots. The MC increased the horsepower of the ships to 6,000 to obtain a speed of 14.5 knots and adopted a turbo-electric design for the propulsion plant because the reduction gears needed for standard turbine plants were in extremely short supply. Sun was familiar with turbo-electric machinery as it had begun a series of nine large turbo-electric tankers for the Atlantic Refining Co. in 1938 (the last of these was completed in 1943). Sun received contracts for 87 ships of this type on 27 May 41 and completed their design, designated T2-SE-A1 by the MC, in June. The first of these ships, ESSO GETTYSBURG (ex-GETTYSBURG), was delivered on 28 Feb 42. The T2-SE-A1, along with with A2 and A3 variants, was the only tanker design mass produced in the United States during World War II and, with a total of 525 ships of the three variants completed, was the largest class of tankers ever built.

On 9 Jun 42 CinCPac stated that he had an immediate need for four more fleet oilers. A representative of CinCUS recommended to the Auxiliary Vessels Board the acquisition of two ships already in operation in the Pacific (see AO 47-48) and two under construction on the East Coast. The latter were early ships of the T2-SE-A1 type then being completed by Sun. A representative of the War Shipping Administration stated that there would be no objection to the transaction, and on 19 Jun 42 the Board recommended acquiring the two East Coast ships as AO 49-50.

By mid-1942 the Navy faced a situation in which the rapid increase in the number of Naval ships being placed in service and contemplated, the vast expanse of operating areas, the wide dispersal of fleet units, and the urgent need for ample fuel supply had outpaced the building and acquisition of tankers for the Navy. In addition the directive creating the Army-Navy Petroleum Board made the Navy responsible for procuring and operating such tankers as are required solely for the movement of cargoes of Army and/or Navy petroleum supplies. The only readily available sources of supply for additional tankers for the Navy were those now building by the MC and a limited number being built for private account. On 30 Jun 42 VCNO recommended that commencing August 1942 the Navy acquire every month for a period of one year two new tankers of the T2-SE-A1 type. CominCh approved this recommendation on 12 Jul 42 but suggested incorporating tankers having a greater speed if possible. On 14 Jul 42 VCNO referred the matter to the Auxiliary Vessels Board with a list of all the tankers scheduled for delivery to the MC during the following year, including 40 T2-SE-A1 ships at Sun and seven of the faster T3-S-A1 vessels building at Bethlehem Sparrows Point. He recommended acquiring all seven of the T3's and making up the balance of 17 ships from the 40 T2's at Sun. On 7 Aug 42 the Auxiliary Vessels Board strongly recommended this course of action, with the exception that it included seven vessels building on private account in its list of 24 hulls to be acquired.

On 26 Aug 42 the MC agreed to a delivery schedule for the first 12 of the 24 hulls that included six T2-SE-A1's from Sun. The Navy hull numbers for these 12 ships were assigned in the order of expected delivery dates, making the Sun ships AO-65, 67, and 73-76. The Navy asked the MC to deliver all 12 ships to conversion yards in the Baltimore area designated by the Navy. The conversion work, consisting primarily of the installation of fueling-at-sea gear, installation of armament, and an increase in personnel accommodations for Navy crews, was expected to take about 3 weeks. The MC later agreed to perform the conversions of the Bethlehem ships at the builder's yard under the MC Military Program.

On 13 Feb 43, as the acquisition of the first 12 of the planned 24 tankers neared completion, the Navy noted to the MC that it had learned that the MC had contracted with the Marinship Corp. to build 22 T2-SE-A2 tankers which would have propulsion units developing about 10,000 SHP. It requested that the first nine of these, which were scheduled for delivery between May and August 1943, be delivered to the Navy (see AO 80-88). In order to maintain a uniform program of delivery and conversion the Navy requested that three more T2-SE-A1 ships be acquired for the Navy from Sun. These, which became AO 77-79, were scheduled for delivery in March and April 1943. They were to be converted by the Navy in the Baltimore area like the previous group from Sun. The Navy asked the MC to incorporate in these three hulls some alterations made in its new tankers from Sun by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. which had increased their horsepower appreciably and which the Navy hoped would raise their speed from 14.5 to 15.5 knots. (Specifications for the completed ships do not indicate that this enhancement was made.)

In the postwar economic boom the Navy was unable to buy all of the oil it needed from its former domestic suppliers and had to transport large quantities from the Persian Gulf. In October 1947 it asked the Maritime Commission for 50 T2 tankers to be operated by the Navy with merchant crews. On 7 Oct 47 it asked for 26 civilian T2-SE-A2 tankers, which were delivered in October-November 1947 and became the AO-111 class. On 20 Oct 47 it asked for the return and reconversion for civilian operation of 24 former Navy tankers, 10 T2-SE-A1's of the AO-49 class and 14 T2-SE-A2's of the AO-80 and AO-101 classes. During October 1947 the MC transferred these 24 tankers from the reserve fleets to commercial firms acting as operating agents, presumably to oversee the movement of the ships to shipyards and their reactivation. When reactivation was complete in January-March 1948 the MC transferred ownership of the vessels to the Navy. When AO-86 broke in half during reconversion the MC replaced her with AO-137 from the merchant marine. On 25 Mar 48 the Navy informed the MC that the 50 tankers would be inadequate to meet the increased requirements of the armed services and asked for five more T2s and one T1. It received the civilian AO 138-142 and the former Naval AOG-68 between April and July 1948.

The Navy listed these 56 ships as "U.S. Naval Tankers" in the Naval Vessel Register separately from the commissioned "oilers - fuel oil tankers." The U.S. Naval Tankers (USNT) were Navy-owned tankers manned by merchant crews of about 9 officers and 39 men. They were assigned to the Naval Transportation Service (NTS) and were operated by four civilian firms acting as operating agents: Marine Transport Lines, Inc. (New York), Pacific Tankers, Inc. (San Francisco), American Pacific Steamship Co. (San Pedro), and Tankers Company, Inc. (New York). The 32 ships acquired from the merchant marine retained their commercial names and their Navy AO numbers were "temporarily assigned for BuShips accounting purposes only," while the 24 former Navy ships continued to be carried in the Naval Vessel Register as "stricken" while they were in use as U.S. Naval Tankers.

All active U.S. Naval Tankers were transferred to the new Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) on 1 Oct 49 and, like all other civilian-manned MSTS ships, were redesignated "U.S. Naval Ships" (USNS). The naval tankers became one of the three major components of the new MSTS, the others being the commissioned cargo ships and oilers of the Naval Transportation Service and the personnel transports of the Army Transportation Service. On 22 Feb 50 CNO approved the assignment of the status "Active, In Service" for all non-commissioned vessels assigned to MSTS, including the former naval tankers with merchant crews. However, of the non-commissioned tankers then in operation under MSTS, 14 T2s and 1 T1 were being carried in the "Naval Vessel Register" as "stricken," a holdover from their USNT status. The Secretary of the Navy resolved this technical conflict by promulgating a letter on 28 Apr 50 formally reinstating them on the "List of Naval Vessels." The same situation applied to nine more T2s that had been operated with merchant crews until they were inactivated in late 1949; these were restored to the list on 20 Mar 50.

In 1978 the navy created the new classification symbol AOT, "Transport Oiler," for the tankers (all in MSC) that carried oil from point to point rather than delivering it to fleet units. On 30 Sep 78 the six surviving units of the AO-49 class, all by then in reserve, were classified AOT.

Dummy smokestack on AO-76 (1943): On 25 Feb 43 BuShips was handed a copy of a message from the British Admiralty to one of its representatives in Washington that pointed out that U-boats were singling out tankers for attack because of their special value and asking of the Navy had any views on disguising tankers to look like cargo carrying merchant ships. On 15 Mar 43 VCNO directed BuShips to try as an experiment building a simulated deckhouse at the location of the stack aft, cutting down the stack to the extent possible, and installing a dummy stack approximately amidships on SCHUYLKILL, which was about to begin conversion. The ship emerged from her initial conversion in this configuration.

AO-74 as power hulk (1946-57): On 16 Apr 46 CNO directed that AO-74, then inactivating at San Francisco, be made available to Naval Air Station Alameda for the installation of regulator and transformer equipment as directed by the Bureau of Docks. The ship's armament was to be removed and she was to be stripped except for material needed for the trip to Guam. The ship sailed with minimum crew to Guam between 20 Jun 46 and about 4 Jul 46. She decommissioned there on 19 Jul 46 and became a hulk operated by a civilian crew as a floating power unit in connection with the Bureau of Docks dredging project in the harbor of Apra, Guam. After this project was completed custody of the hulk was transferred on 3 Aug 47 to the island's Public Works Officer who operated her until 24 May 51. Between 12 and 23 Jun 51 she was towed to Yokosuka, Japan, by ABNAKI (ATF-96). After being drydocked the hulk was towed to Inchon, Korea, between 26 Oct 51 and 5 Nov by MOCTOBI (ATF-105). There she was turned over to the Army for use as a power station. Returned to Navy custody, she was towed from Masan, Korea, to Yokosuka between 16 and 22 Oct 53 and entered the Ship Repair Facility there on 3 Mar 54. On 1 Sep 54 she was reclassified YFP-9 but may not have seen further use. The ship was stricken on 26 Mar 56 and sold on 4 Dec 57 for scrapping abroad.

Ship Notes:
AO Name MC Notes
49 SUAMICO 319 Ex merc. HARLEM HEIGHTS. Ferried to New York by WSA crew with Navy escort and armed guard. Converted by Bethlehem Steel Co. 56th Street, Brooklyn. Decomm. 20 Mar 46, stk. 5 Jun 46, to MC 4 Oct 46, merc. HARLEM HEIGHTS (MC). Began reactivation 28 Oct 47, from MC 23 Jan 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49, and on list 28 Apr 50. FRAM II overhaul 1966. Returned to MSC by operating agent 22 Nov 74 in Japan for sale by MA. To buyer 13 Feb 75.
50 TALLULAH 321 Ex merc. VALLEY FORGE. Ferried to New York by WSA crew with Navy escort and armed guard (1-5"/51, 2-.50 cal MG). Converted by Bethlehem Steel Co. 56th Street, Brooklyn. Decomm. 2 Apr 46, stk. 5 Jun 46, to MC 3 Oct 46, merc. VALLEY FORGE (MC). From MC to American Pacific SS Co. 30 Jan 47 for operation under General Agency Agreement. To Navy from MC 12 Feb 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49, and on list 28 Apr 50. FRAM II overhaul 1966. To NDRF 29 May 75. Reclassified AOT-50 30 Sep 78.
65 PECOS 325 Ex merc. CORSICANA. Converted by Bethlehem Steel Co., Key Harbor, Baltimore (completed 15 Oct 42). Decomm. 14 Mar 46, to MC 1 Apr 47, stk. 23 Apr 47, merc CORSICANA (MC). Began reactivation 20 Oct 47, from MC 29 Jan 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49. In USN reserve 1949-50 (inactivation completed 4 Jul 50). On list 20 Mar 50. To MSTS 18 Jul 50, activated 2 Aug 50. FRAM II overhaul 1965. To NDRF 1 Oct 74.
67 CACHE 328 Ex merc. STILLWATER. Converted by Maryland DD Co., Baltimore. Decomm. 14 Jan 46, stk. 7 Feb 46, to MC 30 Jun 46, merc. STILLWATER (MC). Began reactivation 22 Oct 47, from MC 10 Feb 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49, on list 28 Apr 50. FRAM II overhaul 1964. To NDRF 9 May 72. Reclassified AOT-67 30 Sep 78.
73 MILLICOMA 336 Laid down as merc. CONASTOGA, launched as KING'S MOUNTAIN. Converted by Maryland DD Co., Baltimore. Decomm. 21 Feb 46, stk. 12 Mar 46, to MC 30 Jun 46. Began reactivation 30 Oct 47, from MC 12 Feb 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49, on list 28 Apr 50. FRAM II overhaul 1965. To NDRF 16 Jul 75. Reclassified AOT-73 30 Sep 78.
74 SARANAC 337 Ex merc. COWPENS. Converted at Baltimore. Converted to power hulk (using turbo-electric propulsion plant) April-June 1946 in California for use at Guam. Served there from July 1946 to May 1951. Towed to Yokosuka, Japan, June 1951, loaned to Army 25 Aug 51 for use at Inchon during the Korean War, returned Oct 53. Continued to be listed as AO-74 until reclassified YFP-9 on 1 Sep 54.
75 SAUGATUCK 335 Ex merc. NEWTOWN. Converted by Bethlehem Steel Co., Key Harbor, Baltimore (completed 25 Feb 43). Decomm. 19 Mar 46, stk. 5 Jun 46, to MC 9 Oct 46, merc. NEWTOWN (MC). Began reactivation 30 Oct 47, from MC 22 Jan 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49, on list 28 Apr 50. FRAM II overhaul 1963. To MA and NDRF from operating agent 5 Nov 74. Reclassified AOT-75 30 Sep 78. Title to MA 1 May 99. Withdrawn from NDRF 18 Jul 06, scrapping completed 15 Oct 08.
76 SCHUYLKILL 306 Ex merc. LOUISBURG. Converted by Bethlehem Steel Co., Key Harbor, Baltimore (completed 15 Apr 43 with dummy stack amidships and none aft). Decomm. 14 Feb 46, stk. 26 Feb 46, to MC 30 Jun 46, merc. LOUISBURG (MC). Began reactivation on 1 Nov 47, from MC 29 Jan 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49, on list 28 Apr 50. FRAM II overhaul 1963. To NDRF 8 Sep 75. Reclassified AOT-76 30 Sep 78.
77 COSSATOT 307 Ex merc. FORT NECESSITY. Converted by Maryland DD Co., Baltimore (completed 28 Apr 43). Decomm. 7 Mar 46, stk. 20 Mar 46, to MC 28 Oct 46, merc. FORT NECESSITY (MC). Began reactivation 28 Oct 47, from MC 13 Feb 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49, on list 28 Apr 50. FRAM II overhaul 1964. To MC and NDRF from operating agent 12 Sep 74. To buyer 17 Oct 75.
78 CHEPACHET 340 Ex merc. EUTAW SPRINGS. Converted by Maryland DD Co., Baltimore (completed 6 May 46). Decomm. 15 May 46, to MC 2 Apr 47, stk. 23 Apr 47, merc. EUTAW SPRINGS (MC). Began reactivation 1 Nov 47, from MC 12 Feb 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49. In USN reserve 1949-50. On list 20 Mar 50. To MSTS 18 Jul 50. FRAM II overhaul 1964. To NDRF 13 Mar 72. Reclassified AOT-78 30 Sep 78. Loaned to Department of Energy for ocean thermal energy project OTEC-1 and withdrawn from NDRF 9 Nov 78. Extensively modified at Portland, Ore., and renamed OCEAN ENERGY CONVERTER. Conducted OTEC experiment off Hawaii from November 1980 to May 1981. Further fate not found.
79 COWANESQUE 308 Ex merc. FORT DUQUESNE. Converted by Bethlehem Steel Co., Key Harbor, Baltimore (completed 5 May 43). Decomm. 30 Jan 46, stk. 25 Feb 46, to MC 30 Jun 46, merc. FORT DUQUESNE (MC). Began reactivation 22 Oct 47, from MC 18 Jan 48 as USNT, to MSTS 1 Oct 49. In USN reserve 1949-50. On list 20 Mar 50. To MSTS 18 Jul 50. FRAM II overhaul 1965. Constructive total loss after grounding off Henza, Okinawa, on 23 Apr 72. To buyer 16 Aug 72 at Sasebo, Japan.

Page Notes:
AO        1942
Compiled:        04 Aug 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010