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USS Astoria (AK-8) in 1920
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Class: ASTORIA (AK-8)
Design Cargo, 1902
Displacement (tons): 7,150 normal
Dimensions (feet): 319.6' pp x 46.0' wl x 20.1' mn
Original Armament: 4-3"/50
Later armaments: none (1920)
Complement 87 (1920)
Speed (kts.): 9.5
Propulsion (HP): 1,400
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||22 May 17
||9 Apr 02
||15 Nov 17
||20 Apr 21
||20 Dec 21
The ship was constructed in 1902 by J. Blumer & Co., Sunderland, England, as BURBO BANK for the Fenwick Shipping Co., Ltd., (W. Esplen, Jr., & Co.), and was that firm's only steamer. She was sold to Leonhardt & Blumberg of Hamburg, Germany, circa 1914 and, renamed FRIEDA LEONHARDT, was one of that firm's two largest ships at the outbreak of the war. In August 1914 was sighted at sea by a French warship and ran into Jacksonville, Florida, where she took refuge.
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. FREIDA LEONHARDT was taken to a pier at Jacksonville on 1 Feb 17 and a Customs guard was put on board but this did not prevent the 10-man German crew from vandalizing the main engines, dry firing both boilers, and possibly scuttling the ship. She was seized by Customs officials at Jacksonville on 6 Apr 17. On 2 May 17 the Charleston, S.C., Navy Yard was directed to make arrangements with the Collector of Customs at Jacksonville to take over the ship and make repairs to her, and on 5 May the yard and the Bureaus were notified that repairs at the Charleston Navy Yard had been authorized.
On 22 May 17 Presidential Executive Order 2625 ordered that FREIDA LEONHARDT 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 ASTORIA for FREIDA LEONHARDT, were promulgated in Navy General Order 301 of 9 Jun 17. The Navy Department directed that ASTORIA be fitted out as a Supply Ship at the Charleston Navy Yard. She was inspected by the Joint Merchant Vessel Board on 17 Nov 17 and the Navy Department in error assigned two different ID numbers, ID-2005 and ID-2137, to two copies of the same inspection report. The error was corrected on 31 Jan 18 and the duplicate number, ID-2137, was later assigned to another ship.
After completing her repairs on 20 Nov 17, ASTORIA made a run from Charleston to Gulfport, Miss., and back and then moved to Hampton Roads where she loaded a cargo of Army supplies and departed in convoy for France on 26 Jan 18. She arrived at Pauillac on 18 Feb 18 and, after discharging her cargo underwent repairs for damage suffered when a French ship rammed her at Brest on 15 Feb 18. On 10 May 18 she was assigned to the Army Coal Trade, in which capacity she shuttled from her home port at Cardiff, Wales, and nearby Barry Roads to the French ports of Brest, St. Nazaire, and La Pallice. She remained in this duty until arriving on 2 Feb 19 at Queenstown, Ireland, where she loaded a cargo of stores for the Azores and returned on 21 Mar 19 via those islands to Hampton Roads. She was transferred from Army to Navy account on 9 Apr 19. She sailed on 11 Apr 19 from Newport News with a cargo of coal for the Azores, but the bunkers there were full and she continued on to Verdon near Brest to offload her cargo. She returned to Hampton Roads on 12 Jun 19 with a cargo of Army supplies from Bordeaux and then underwent repairs at the Norfolk Navy Yard. ASTORIA departed Norfolk in January 1920 on a cargo run to the West Coast and headed back to the East Coast in November 1920. In the meantime she was designated AK-8 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20.
On 26 Feb 21 CNO put ASTORIA on a list of ships to be decommissioned at the Boston Navy Yard during March 1921. She was decommissioned on 20 April 1921 and was probably put on the sale list on 1 Jul 21. On 25 Aug 21 SecNav directed the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts to advertise ASTORIA for sale as a ship and proceed with the sale. He added that ASTORIA would be considered stricken from the Navy Register as of the date she was actually disposed of by sale, a practice sometimes followed at this time. ASTORIA was sold on 20 December 1921 to Mr. Richard T. Green of Chelsea, Mass. She operated under the name ASTORIA until 1929 when she was renamed HARTWELSON. She brought 4,000 ton cargoes of bituminous coal from Boston to Maine for many years. On 5 March 1943 the old collier ran onto on Bantam Rock, five miles off Cape Newagen and eight miles south of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and broke up after her crew was rescued.
||Ex merc. FREIDA LEONHARDT, ex-BURBO BANK (ID-2005, completed Jun 02). Converted by NYd Charleston, S.C. Merc. ASTORIA 1922, HARTWELSON 1929. Wrecked 5 Mar 43.
Compiled: 26 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012