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USS Firedrake (AE-14) on 21 November 1952
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        MOUNT HOOD (AE-11)
Design:        MC C2-S-AJ1
Displacement (tons):        5,604 light, 15,295 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        459.2' oa, 435.0' pp x 63.0' e x 28.25' lim.
Original Armament:        1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 10-20mm (1944: AE-11)
Later armaments:        1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT 10-20mm (1944-45: AE 12, 14-15); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT 8>4-20mmT (1945-56: AE-12, 14-19); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT (1957: AE 14-15);
4-3”/50 (1957-59: AE-12, 14-19); 2-3”/50 (1963-69: AE-12, 14, 16, 18-19)
Complement:        
256 (1944)
Speed (kts):        16.4
Propulsion (HP):        6,000
Machinery:        G.E. turbine, 1 screw

Construction:

AE Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
11 MOUNT HOOD 28 Jan 44 North Carolina SB 28 Sep 43 30 Nov 43 1 Jul 44
12 WRANGELL 28 May 44 North Carolina SB 21 Feb 44 14 Apr 44 10 Oct 44
14 FIREDRAKE 21 Jun 44 North Carolina SB 13 Mar 44 12 May 44 27 Dec 44
15 VESUVIUS 3 Jul 44 North Carolina SB 25 Mar 44 26 May 44 16 Jan 45
16 MOUNT KATMAI 12 Feb 45 North Carolina SB 11 Nov 44 6 Jan 45 21 Jul 45
17 GREAT SITKIN 19 Feb 45 North Carolina SB 23 Nov 44 20 Jan 45 11 Aug 45
18 PARICUTIN 3 Mar 45 North Carolina SB 7 Dec 44 30 Jan 45 25 Jul 45
19 DIAMOND HEAD 10 Mar 45 North Carolina SB 12 Dec 44 3 Feb 45 9 Aug 45

Disposition:
AE Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
11 MOUNT HOOD -- 11 Dec 44 10 Nov 44 Lost --
12 WRANGELL 21 Dec 70 1 Oct 76 1 Jul 72 MA/T 1 Aug 83
14 FIREDRAKE 19 Mar 71 15 Jul 76 16 Nov 77 MA/T 16 Nov 77
15 VESUVIUS 14 Aug 73 14 Aug 73 5 Apr 74 MA/S 5 Apr 74
16 MOUNT KATMAI 14 Aug 73 14 Aug 73 5 Apr 74 MA/S 5 Apr 74
17 GREAT SITKIN 2 Jul 73 2 Jul 73 25 Feb 74 MA/S 25 Feb 74
18 PARICUTIN 23 Apr 71 1 Jun 73 16 Oct 75 MA/S 16 Oct 75
19 DIAMOND HEAD 1 May 72 1 Mar 73 3 Oct 74 MA/S 3 Oct 74

Class Notes:
FY 1944. On 25 Jun 43, when approving the report of the Auxiliary Vessels Board that provided for the construction of AE-13, CominCh added a directive the acquisition and conversion of two more C2s to help fill the burgeoning need in the Pacific theater for ammunition ships. On 15 Apr 44 CominCh directed the acquisition of two more AEs for the Pacific, noting that operations scheduled there for late 1944 and in 1945 would take place at much greater distances from Pearl Harbor and the continental United States. In arguing for more Navy-operated AEs, he wrote that "the present use of merchant cargo vessels to carry part of the Fleet ammunition supply is dangerous, due to lack of refrigeration and special handling and stowing facilities. It is also inefficient as mixed cargoes cannot be carried and ammunition must be transferred to Navy manned Ammunition Ships for further issue to the Fleet." On 6 Jun 44 JCS requested that the MC modify its building program for the first half of 1945 to provide for the construction of 56 merchant type vessels as Naval auxiliaries. The MC on 22 Jun 44 agreed to supply 54 ships, including four more AEs, and the Auxiliary Vessels Board approved the program on 5 Jul 44. The four AEs were to be delivered to the Navy by their builder incomplete but capable of steaming under their own power for conversion by the Navy similar to the procedure used for AE 14-15.

For AE 11-12, the Navy and the Maritime Commission turned to a new variant of the C2 design and a new shipyard. The C2-S-AJ1 differed from the standard C2 in that it was of the full scantling rather than the shelter deck type, with a greater maximum draft and higher gross and deadweight tonnages. All C2s of the AJ type were built by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co. of Wilmington, N.C., a wartime yard built and operated by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. The availability of conversion plans for the AJ type caused the Navy to return to this yard for AE 14-19. In November 1944 the Navy added to the conversion specifications features to make the ships capable of transferring ammunition (including aircraft bombs) while underway at sea. All of these ships were delivered in an incomplete status but capable of steaming to conversion yards under their own power. AE 11-12 were to carry 1-5"/38 and 2-20mm guns on the ferry trip, but AE 16-19 were to make the trip unarmed.

The first ship of this class was lost in a cataclysmic explosion after only a little over four months service. At the time of the accident, the ship was acting as an ammunition depot, both receiving and delivering ammunition to other ships and lighters simultaneously from all five holds of the ship. An official analysis of her loss, promulgated to the fleet on 15 Aug 45, noted that the explosion originated within the ship and described numerous unsafe conditions and practices on board that were revealed by the investigation.

Although these ships, and those of the previous LASSEN (AE-3) and MAUNA LOA (AE-8) classes, became ubiquitous in the Navy of the late 1950s and the 1960s, their value was apparently not fully appreciated during the massive post-World War II demobilization. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, all but two of them (MOUNT KATMAI and GREAT SITKIN) were out of commission in reserve. Much of the ammunition resupply to the fleet during the early part of this war was carried out by AKAs of the LIBRA (AKA-12) and ANDROMEDA (AKA-15) classes. Two of these, VIRGO (AKA-20) and CHARA (AKA-58), served again as ammunition ships during the Vietnam War.


Ship Notes:
AE Name MC# Notes
11 MOUNT HOOD 1356 Ex merc. MARCO POLO. Delivered 97.9% complete. Ferry comm. 28 Jan-3 Feb 44, converted by Norfolk SB & DD, Norfolk, Va. Blew up at Manus, Admiralty Is.
12 WRANGELL 1375 Ex merc. MIDNIGHT. Delivered 97.8% complete. Ferry comm. 28-30 May 44, converted by Norfolk SB & DD, Norfolk, Va. In USN reserve 1946-51. To NDRF 29 Apr 71, to buyer 7 Sep 83, scrapped by 15 Dec 83.
14 FIREDRAKE 1379 Ex merc. WINGED RACER. Delivered 99.4% complete. Ferry comm. 21-24 Jun 44, converted by Gibbs Gas Engine, Jacksonville, Fla. In USN reserve 1946-51. To NDRF 21 Jul 71, to buyer 28 Dec 77.
15 VESUVIUS 1381 Ex merc. GAME COCK. Delivered 99.4% complete. Ferry comm. 3-7 Jul 44, converted by Atlantic Basin IW, Brooklyn, NY. In USN reserve 1946-51. To buyer 30 Apr 74.
16 MOUNT KATMAI 1704 Delivered 99.0% complete. Ferry comm. 12-14 Feb 45, converted by Gibbs Gas Engine, Jacksonville, Fla. To buyer 29 Apr 74.
17 GREAT SITKIN 1706 Delivered 99.0% complete. Ferry comm. 19-21 Feb 45, converted by NYd Charleston (S.C.).
18 PARICUTIN 1708 Delivered 99.0% complete. Ferry comm. 3-6 Mar 45, converted by Bethlehem Steel, Key Highway, Baltimore, Md. In USN reserve 1946-50. To NDRF 29 Jul 71, to buyer 26 Nov 75.
19 DIAMOND HEAD 1709 Delivered 99.0% complete. Ferry comm. 10-14 Mar 45, converted by Bethlehem Steel, Key Highway, Baltimore, Md. In USN reserve 1946-51. To NDRF 28 Mar 74, to buyer 30 Oct 74.

Page Notes:
AE        1943

Compiled:        15-Sep-2001
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2001