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USS Mahanna (AG-8)
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Class: MAHANNA (AG-8)
Design EFC 1003
Displacement (tons): 4,000 light, 6,125 normal
Dimensions (feet): 286.0' oa, 274.0' pp x 46.0' lwl x 23.25' mn
Original Armament: none
Later armaments: --
Complement: 94 (1921)
Speed (kts.): 11
Propulsion (HP): 1,400
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 2 screws
||20 Sep 20
||20 May 18
||20 Nov 18
||29 Sep 20
||15 Sep 21
||2 Dec 21
On 1 Feb 17 Germany resumed the use of unrestricted submarine warfare in waters around the United Kingdom. On 23 Feb 17 a Boston engineer and yachtsman named Frederic A. Eustis proposed to the Chairman of the new United States Shipping Board, William Denman, that the U.S. build a fleet of small mass-produced wooden steamers, hundreds of which would carry supplies to the Allies and solve the shipping shortage. At the end of March the Shipping Board's Vice Chairman, Theodore Brent, met in San Francisco with Edward S. Hough, who had developed a special type of construction for wooden cargo ships and stated that such ships could be mass produced quickly. Hough's drawings arrived in Washington on 3 May 1917 and encountered opposition from Theodore E. Ferris, the chief naval architect for the Shipping Board. Eventually the two agreed to changes to Hough's design, but ultimately only 35 vessels were completed by the Emergency Fleet Corporation to Hough's plans (EFC Design 1003) while 218 were completed to Ferris's own design (EFC Design 1001).
Mass producing wooden freighters in small shipyards proved to be harder than the program's advocates had expected, and many were completed after the armistice or not at all. Of the ten Hough type freighters in EFC Contract 96, awarded on 6 Sep 17 to the McEachern Ship Co. of Astoria, Oregon, two were completed in October and November 1918, six followed in the first half of 1919 of which the last, in June, was MAHANNA, one was delivered as a barge in July 1919, and one was finished privately in 1920. MAHANNA, which with one sister had been engined by the Sumner Iron Works of Everett, Washington, ran trials on 12-13 Jun 19, achieving 13.45 knots on the measured mile and 12.26 knots over the 6-hour trip downriver, both aided by a 2.5 knot current, putting her unassisted speed at about her designed speed of 10 knots. She was accepted on 27 Jun 19, loaded lumber at Hoquiam, Washington, and sailed on 3 Jul 19 for Baltimore where she arrived on 27 Aug 19 after 17 days repairing engines at San Francisco. In late August the Shipping Board assigned her to the small New York firm of Patterson, Graham & Co. for management and operation. At this time she was listed as loading coal for the Philadelphia-Glasgow trade. By January 1920 she was listed in the French trade, probably still carrying coal which was in short supply in war-damaged France. Patterson, Graham & Co. returned her to the Shipping Board later in 1920.
At this time the Navy was planning survey operations in the West Indies during 1921 and needed a survey ship in addition to HANNIBAL (AG-1). MAHANNA was available and suitable and was transferred from the Shipping Board on 20 Sep 20. She was commissioned and converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard, surveying launches being embarked between the bridge and foremast. After one surveying season Congress curtailed funding for the West Indian survey and the Navy no longer wanted the ship, which was decommissioned at the Portsmouth, N.H. Navy Yard on 15 Sep 21.
In October 1921 the Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass., was offered MAHANNA as a training ship for young men in its maritime curriculum. The ship was in sound condition, but Tabor soon lost interest, recognizing that maintenance would ultimately be too costly. The Shipping Board was now eager to dispose of all of its wooden freighters, which were consuming large amounts of money while laid up, and in February 1922 it sold two ships each to ten contractors in order to determine empirically the scrap value of the fleet. MAHANNA and BOXBUTTE went to the Boston Iron and Metal Co. of Baltimore, which removed and disposed of all salable equipment and material and destroyed the integrity of the hulls by cutting out portions of the keelsons and other beams. The crippled hull of MAHANNA became the property of the shipbreaker when accounts were settled with the Shipping Board in October 1922 and was beached in a Chesapeake backwater. A Mr. A. A. Leyare acquired her in July 1926 from the Chief Harbor Master of the city of Baltimore, and on 17 Jan 29 the Baltimore Evening Sun printed a picture of her at a pier in South Baltimore bearing a large sign saying "Joy Boat" and with the bridge deck laid out as a dance hall with a player piano and a long bar for selling soft drinks. By September 1931 the "Joy Boat" was at Frederick Town, Md., in the custody of the sheriff and Leyare had been arrested for maintaining a disorderly house aboard the vessel. At this point the mangled hulk, which as the "Joy Boat" had about 12 feet of foul water in the lower holds, mercifully disappears from history.
Much of the information in these notes comes from Louis A. Hough, A Fleet to be Forgotten
, San Francisco: San Francisco Maritime History Press, 2009, passim. The author is the grandson of Edward S. Hough.
||Ex merc. MAHANNA (ID-3618C, completed 23 Jun 19, also assigned ID number 4480). Transferred to Shipping Board 2 Dec 21, sold 27 Feb 22, scrapped 1922 and ca. 1931.
Compiled: 29 Oct 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012