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USS Pontiac (AF-20) on 16 March 1944.
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Class: PONTIAC (AF-20)
Refrig. Cargo, 1937
3,081 light, 5,410 full load
354.2' oa x 47.0' x 20.4'
2-3"/50 4-20mm (1942)
Machinery: Burmeister & Wain diesel, 1 screw
||11 May 42
||6 Feb 37
||11 May 42
||20 May 45
||2 Jun 45
||20 May 45
||10 May 48
FY 1942. In 1937 the Danish shipping firm J. Lauritzen (Vesterhavet) took delivery of the refrigerated cargo ship AUSTRALIAN REEFER for operation on the company's South American service. Her single sister, AMERICAN REEFER, was completed in 1936. Following the German occupation of Denmark AUSTRALIAN REEFER was laid up at New York on 30 Jun 40.
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, including AUSTRALIAN REEFER, which it put into service under the name PONTIAC. In December 1941 the Navy commenced negotiations with the Maritime Commission (WSA) for the time chartering of this ship, which received a hull number and a Navy name (her previous one, retained) on 27 Dec 41. The Navy planned to operate her initially as a civilian-manned "U. S. Naval Store Ship," but WSA soon allocated her to the Navy under bareboat charter. On 14 Feb 42 the Director of the Naval Transportation Service, acting for CNO, directed the bureaus to take her over and provide a Navy crew. Her conversion (begun by the Maritime Commission) lasted from 10 February to 11 May 1942.
PONTIAC was intentionally run aground on the Newfoundland coast and sank in 40' of water after being holed by a loose paravane during a storm. In reviewing this incident on 9 Apr 45 BuShips noted that the outstanding feature of this ship was the lack of bulkheads in the cargo spaces. The space between the forward engine room bulkhead and the forepeak had no bulkheads except for one extending about half-height between number one and number two hatches, and there were no bulkheads between the after engine room bulkhead and the afterpeak. In June 1942 the installation of bulkheads had been found not to be feasible because the refrigeration system utilized air ducts which would have had to pass through such bulkheads. It was recognized that the ship would founder if uncontrolled flooding existed either in the forward or after cargo spaces, and in fact the ship was nearly lost because of a few small holes punched in the hull as a result of a freak accident, being saved only by the proximity of land. Although refloated on 18 February, the ship was considered not worth repairing because of her long submergence, and a Navy memo dated 13 Apr 45 stated she was a constructive total loss.
||Ex merc. PONTIAC, ex Danish AUSTRALIAN REEFER 1941 (completed 22 Mar 37). Converted by the Arthur Tickle Engineering Works, Brooklyn, NY. Run aground and sank off McNab Island near Halifax 30 Jan 45, raised 18 Feb 45. To buyer 17 May 48, scrapped by 13 Sep 48.
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2001