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USS Bowditch (AG-30) on 28 December 1942
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Class: BOWDITCH (AGS-4)
Design: Pass. & Cargo, 1929
Displacement (tons): 5,405 light, 7,680 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 386.0' oa, 370.0' pp x 53.0' e x 20.0' lim.
Original Armament: 4-3"/23
Later armaments: 4-3"/50 8-20mm (1943)
Complement: 394 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 12
Propulsion (HP): 4,700
Machinery: Burmeister & Wain diesels, 2 screws
||4 Mar 40
||Burmeister & Wain E&S
||20 Dec 28
||1 Jul 40
||31 Jan 47
||5 Mar 47
||9 Jun 48
||7 Aug 59
FY 1940. On 12 Jun 34 the Bureau of Navigation noted to CNO that there was a great need for an additional survey ship to operate with the fleet during a Pacific wartime fleet movement, the two ships then assigned to this duty, HANNIBAL (AG-1) and NOKOMIS (PY-6), being unsuitable for wartime use. The Bureau recommended a specially-built ship of between 4,000 and 5,000 tons, 14-15 feet draft, twin screws, and ample room for specialized survey personnel and equipment. CNO referred the matter to the General Board on 14 Jul 34 but no further action was taken until 12 Dec 36 when CNO informed SecNav that the auxiliary building program included certain types of ships for which no approved characteristics existed and asked him to direct the General Board to recommend characteristics. The types were Special Survey Ships (AG), Stores Issue Ships (AKI, later AKS), and Aircraft Repair Ships (ARV). In response the Board in January 1937 began to develop characteristics for the survey ship that were based on updated recommendations from the Bureau of Navigation that specified diesel propulsion and included two photographic aircraft in the ship's equipment. The Bureau of Construction and Repair on 10 Apr 37 acknowledged the request of the General Board for a detailed design study of the ship but then stated that the Bureau would proceed with it "in accordance with the priority of this vessel in the auxiliary program." Nothing further was heard of this project for a Navy-built surveying ship.
In 1929 the Grace Line took delivery of two new small passenger and cargo ships, SANTA INEZ and SANTA RITA. Apart from a cruiser stern, a short funnel and diesel propulsion, these ships built by Burmeister & Wain of Copenhagen, were much like the five ships of the SANTA ANA type built by Grace during World War I (see AP-28, AP-36, and AS-9 for three of these). Measuring 5,000 tons and 386 ft. overall, they had accommodations for 125 passengers in two classes. Each had two six cylinder, 4 cycle, 3,600 HP main engines, giving a service speed of 13 knots and speeds on trials of 15.24 and 15.1 knots. This pair joined two pre-World War I ships in Grace's secondary service between New York and Valparaiso.
On 29 Sep 38 CNO noted that the transfer of one of these ships to the Navy was under consideration and asked for an estimate of the cost of converting it to a survey ship to replace HANNIBAL. These ships, except for draft, matched fairly closely the main characteristics being considered by the General Board in 1937 for a custom-built special survey ship. In discussing the features to be included, a representative of the Hydrographic Office indicated that the ship's draft was too great for close inshore survey work but would be satisfactory for survey work in the Pacific, where his office anticipated about four seasons of work. Desirable features included two 40-foot motor launches converted to sounding boats, two 50-foot motor launches converted for sounding or wire drag boats, numerous smaller boats, plus a photographic aircraft with the general characteristics of a Beechcraft or J2F. The Bureau of Ordnance suggested limiting the ship's armament to one 3-pounder gun (probably for saluting) plus small arms. CNO forwarded the completed estimate to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy on 12 Dec 38 for use in preparing legislation. Early in 1939 the Navy decided it needed the other sister ship as a transport, and Congressional legislation of 25 Jul 39 authorized the purchase of both ships. On 28 Aug 39 CNO directed the acquisition of the two ships, SANTA INEZ for use as a surveying ship (AG-30) and SANTA RITA as a transport (AP-6), and assigned the conversion job on both ships to the Norfolk Navy Yard. The ships were to be delivered by the Grace Line after replacement ships being built by the Maritime Commission (probably C2 freighters) were completed. The surveying ship was named BOWDITCH on 6 Oct 39 and the Bureau of Construction and Repair assigned her the official number AG-30 on 14 Nov 39. In view of the changed international situation, the Secretary of the Navy on 30 Sep 39 approved the recommendation of CNO and the General Board to give both ships 4-3"/50 guns.
The type symbol AGS, which had existed since around 1935, was first used in April 1942 for the much smaller PATHFINDER (AGS-1) and HYDROGRAPHER (AGS-2) and was extended to larger ships when BOWDITCH was reclassified AGS-4 in December 1943. Since then the Navy has had two distinct series of surveying ships both designated AGS, one consisting of large deep-draft vessels and the other of smaller vessels more suitable for inshore work.
||Ex merc. SANTA INEZ (completed Mar 29). Commissioned in ordinary 12 Mar 40. Converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard. Ex AG-30 1 Dec 43. To buyer 19 Aug 59, scrapped by 21 Nov 60.
Compiled: 29 Dec 2008
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2008