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USS Pensacola (ID-2078) on 3 October 1917
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Class: PENSACOLA (AK-7)
Design Cargo, 1901
Displacement (tons): 9,821 normal
Dimensions (feet): 351.8' oa, 339.1' pp x 51.2' wl x 23.0' mn
Original Armament: 4-3"/50
Later armaments: none (ca. 1919)
4-3"/50 (ca. 1922)
Complement 125 (1924)
Speed (kts.): 10.7
Propulsion (HP): 1,700
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||22 May 17
||15 Jun 01
||8 Oct 17
||14 Mar 25
||14 Mar 25
||5 Aug 25
In 1901 the Neptun shipyard at Rostock built two cargo ships of a special type for the Hamburg-America line, NAUPLIA and NICARIA. These were the only ships built in Germany with a water ballasting system developed by the Scottish engineer Archibald McGlashann that used side tanks extending up to the main deck as well as bottom tanks. The ships were also unusual for their day in having three masts. The U.S. Navy crew of the former NICARIA noted in 1925 that she was "well suited for general cargo or coal. Economical in operation. Slow speed. Low freeboard subject[s] wells to much water. Deck cargo must be impervious to water and capable of being well secured." Hapag chartered NICARIA to the Kosmos Line who operated her on their run from Hamburg to the west coast of South, Central, and North America. NICARIA was still in this service when she sailed from Rio Grande do Sul on 30 Jun 14 for New York, but after she stopped at Southport, N.C. on 6 Aug 14 and then at Wilmington, N.C. her owners ordered her to return to Southport where she took refuge on 11 Aug 14, joining the freighter KIEL (see AS-6). NAUPLIA was interned in Argentina and was eventually turned over to Britain in 1920.
On 31 Jan 17 Germany notified the United States that it intended to resume unrestricted submarine warfare the next day and the crews of many of the German ships in the U.S. began to sabotage the machinery of their ships to prevent their use when the U.S. entered the war, which occurred on 6 Apr 17. NICARIA was seized at Southport on 6 Apr 17 with damage to her machinery that was limited to two of her three main engine cylinders and their connections. On 2 May 17 the Charleston Navy Yard was directed to make arrangements with the Collector of Customs at Pensacola to take over NICARIA and make repairs "under the same conditions as repairs to HOHENFELDE," and on 5 May the Bureaus were notified that repairs at the Charleston Navy Yard had been authorized. The Commandant of the Charleston Navy Yard on 14 May 17 appointed a board to assess the work needed to place the ship in condition for merchant service, but on 22 May 17 Presidential Executive Order 2625 ordered that NICARIA be transferred from the Treasury Department to the Navy Department for use as collier and cargo carrier. She was one of 14 seized steamers for which SecNav announced new names on 4 Jun 17. These, including PENSACOLA for NICARIA, were promulgated in Navy General Order 301 of 9 Jun 17. PENSACOLA was commissioned at Charleston following repairs on 8 Oct 17.
During 1917 and 1918 PENSACOLA was primarily engaged in transatlantic supply runs between the United States and French and British ports. During the first half of 1919 she carried a cargo for the Syrian-Armenian Relief to Turkey and made a voyage to the Caribbean. On 19 Jun 19 she departed Norfolk for the Pacific, where she and NEWPORT NEWS (AK-3) provided freight services on the route between the West Coast, Hawaii, Guam, and Manila. These two ships were essentially cargo vessels that carried a few passengers (25 first class and 150 troops in PENSACOLA) for lack of other public transportation, especially to Guam. Larger trans-Pacific troop movements were conducted on Army transports. PENSACOLA was designated AK-7 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20.
On 2 Nov 21 the newly-acquired cargo ship SPICA (AK-16) was designated to proceed to the Pacific to relieve PENSACOLA after being placed in commission at the New York Navy Yard. On 21 Nov 21 the Department ordered that PENSACOLA be sold when relieved by AK-16, but the Department removed her from the sale list on 3 Dec 21. On 31 Dec 21 the Department stated that PENSACOLA was to be assigned as station ship at Guam about 15 Mar 22. She departed San Francisco on 5 Apr 22 to take up her new station. The Department transferred her from Cargo Ships (AK) to Auxiliaries, Miscellaneous (AG) on 19 Jun 22 and approved "AG-13" as her new classification number on 26 Jun 22.
PENSACOLA returned to San Francisco from Guam on 30 Dec 24. On 12 Feb 25 the Department again ordered the ship to be sold and, in a practice sometimes followed at this time, specified that she was to be stricken on her decommissioning date. She was decommissioned at Mare Is. on 14 Mar 25 and was sold on 5 Aug 25 to M. Davidson of Stockton, Cal. for $28,000. On 4 Sep 25 Red Stack tugs towed her out of the Mare Island Navy Yard to Cooper Metal Co. for scrapping, although she may have lingered until 1930 before actually being broken up.
||Ex merc. NICARIA (ID-2078, completed 18 Aug 01). Converted by NYd Charleston, S.C. To AG-13 26 Jun 22. Probably scrapped in late 1925.
Compiled: 26 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012