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USS Roamer (AF-19) circa late 1945 or early 1946.
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Class: ROAMER (AF-19)
Refrig. Cargo, 1935
1,850 light, 4,600 full load
318.5' oa, 301.5' reg x 42.6' e x 18.0' full
Later armaments: 1-4"/50 2-20mm (1944);
Machinery: Burmeister & Wain diesel, 1 screw
||22 Jul 42
||Helsingor Iron S&E
||14 Sep 35
||30 Aug 42
||14 Jun 46
||3 Jul 46
||14 Jun 46
FY 1943. In 1935-6 the Danish shipping firm J. Lauritzen (Vesterhavet) took delivery of four similar refrigerated fruit carriers that together carried apples, pears and oranges from South America to Northern Europe, bananas from West Africa, apples and pears from the West Coast of North America. The first of these was built as PACIFIC REEFER but ran trials as YRSA and then traded as AFRICAN REEFER. She was laid up at Madeira on 16 Apr 40 following the German occupation of Denmark. The three others, BRAZILIAN REEFER, CANADIAN REEFER, and CHILEAN REEFER came from a different shipyard and had slightly different dimensions. CANADIAN REEFER was sunk by a German U-boat and CHILEAN REEFER by the battlecruiser GNEISENAU.
On 6 Jun 41 Presidential Executive Order 101 authorized the Maritime Commission to take over foreign merchant vessels lying idle within the jurisdiction of the United States and place them into operation to assist in the national defense. The MC soon used this authority to take control of a number of foreign ships at New York and elsewhere. AFRICAN REEFER evidently under U.S. control by this time, was renamed ROAMER and chartered to the Army. In December 1941 the Navy commenced negotiations with the Maritime Commission (WSA) for the time chartering of this ex-Danish reefer, which received a hull number and a Navy name (her previous one, retained) on 27 Dec 41. She continued to be operated by the Army under bareboat charter until February 1942 when WSA allocated her to the Navy under indefinite time charter. At that time, the Navy planned to use her in the 14th Naval District Area as a civilian-manned "U. S. Naval Cargo Vessel" to supply advanced bases in the Pacific. In early April, however, the Navy cancelled sailing orders for the ship because WSA had temporarily allocated her back to the Army without the Navy charter having taken effect. In her place WSA temporarily allocated to the Navy the Swedish-built M/V FORT ROYAL (3,485 tons, 1935). On 2 Jun 42 CinCPac recommended that ROAMER be acquired for assignment to the Service Force, Pacific Fleet, and on 6 Jun 42 the Auxiliary Vessels Board concurred, noting that WSA and the Army were willing to cancel her allocation to the Army and recommending that the ship be manned by a Navy crew, and given the minimum conversion to fit her for a small cargo and troop-carrying vessel. On 12 Jun 42 the VCNO specified that she was to be fitted for use as a small Stores Provision Ship and given an armament of 1-4"/50, 1-3"/50, and 4-20mm. FORT ROYAL was returned to WSA on about 20 Jun 42.
The Navy planned to take over ROAMER on the West Coast and convert her at the Bethlehem Steel Co., San Francisco, Cal., but these plans were cancelled when she sailed in mid-July for New Zealand. The Navy ended up sending a crew out to take her over enroute at Noumea. USS RIGEL (AR-11) performed a minimal conversion at Auckland, New Zealand, where ROAMER was commissioned. Plans to give her a fuller conversion later were never implemented because she remained on continuous duty in the South Pacific theater until September 1945.
||Ex merc. ROAMER, ex Danish AFRICAN REEFER 1941, ex YRSA 1936, launched as PACIFIC REEFER (completed 9 Nov 35). Converted by USS RIGEL (AR-11) at Auckland, New Zealand. Merc. AFRICAN REEFER 1946. Scrapped 1963.
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2001