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USS Vega circa the late 1930s
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        CAPELLA (AK-13)
Design        EFC 1022
Displacement (tons):        4,037 light, 11,450 full
Dimensions (feet):        401.0' oa, 390.0' pp x 54.0' wl x 24.4' mn
Original Armament:        None installed (1921)
Later armaments:        2-5"/51 4-3"/23 (1941: AK-17);
2-5"/51 4-3"/50 0<8-20mm (1940-42: all);
1-5"/38 4-3"/50 8-20mm (1943-44: all)
Complement        122
Speed (kts.):        11.5
Propulsion (HP):        2,500
Machinery:        Curtis geared turbines, 1 screw

AK Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
13 CAPELLA 20 Nov 21 American International SB 1 Jul 19 3 Mar 20 8 Dec 21
15 SIRIUS 10 Dec 21 American International SB 22 Apr 18 31 Dec 18 20 Jan 22
16 SPICA 16 Nov 21 American International SB 15 Jul 18 8 Aug 19 1 Mar 40
17 VEGA 2 Dec 21 American International SB 8 Jul 18 12 Jul 19 21 Dec 21

AK Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
13 CAPELLA 30 Nov 45 19 Dec 45 17 Jul 46 MC/D 4 Sep 47
15 SIRIUS 26 Apr 46 5 Jun 46 1 Jul 46 MC/D 10 Sep 47
16 SPICA 18 Jan 46 7 Feb 46 28 Jun 46 MC/D 2 Apr 47
17 VEGA 15 Jan 46 12 Mar 46 1 Jul 46 MC/D 8 Aug 46

Class Notes:
These ships were products of the largest American mass-production merchant shipbuilding effort during World War I. Between December 1918 and November 1920 the shipyard at Hog Is., Pa., delivered 110 freighters to EFC Design 1022. Every one of these ships entered service after the end of the war and many soon ended up in the reserve fleet. The six ships of this type acquired by the Navy in November 1921 (including AG 10-11) had been allocated upon their completion by the Shipping Board to various commercial shipping firms for operation but by mid-1921 all had been returned and laid up.

By 1920 the Navy realized that many of its pre-war auxiliary vessels were reaching the end of their useful lives, that Congress would not provide appropriations for replacements, and that the Shipping Board had a large number of surplus vessels from its wartime building program that would fill the Navy's needs. In 1920 the Navy's lawyers determined that ships could be acquired from the Shipping Board by Presidential Executive Order, and by 17 Oct 21 negotiations between the Navy and the Shipping Board had reached the stage at which 27 specific hulls (12 tankers, 3 refrigerating ships, 11 cargo ships, and one passenger & cargo ship) had been selected, all but the tankers to replace an equivalent number of worn out Naval auxiliaries. On 29 Oct 21 Executive Order No. 3570 authorized the transfers. SecNav on 2 Nov 21 assigned new Navy names to 17 of the ships including four EFC Design 1022 (Hog Island Type A) freighters intended for use as cargo ships. These, COMERANT, SALUDA, SHANNOCK, and LEBANON, became CAPELLA, SIRIUS, SPICA, and VEGA respectively. All four ships were inoperative and available without delay in the New York area at Staten Island, New York, Prall's Island, and Jamaica Bay respectively.

On 2 Nov 21 CNO instructed the Commandant, 3rd Naval District, to place SPICA and SIRIUS in commission at the New York Navy Yard and direct them to proceed to the Pacific as reliefs for PENSACOLA (AK-7) and HOUSTON (AK-1) respectively. VEGA was to replace ABARENDA (AC-13) on the Navy List, but the actual relief would be accomplished by BATH (AK-4). CAPELLA would replace GULFPORT (AK-5). On 26 Nov 21 CNO directed Com-3 to take over VEGA and SIRIUS and then transfer them to the 1st Naval District for commissioning. By 8 Dec 21 SPICA had been designated as the relief for CAESAR (AC-16) instead of PENSACOLA. CAPELLA commissioned on 8 Dec 21 at which time the transfer from GULFPORT was in progress near the New York Navy Yard. On 22 Dec 21 CNO indicated that, in order to relieve freight congestion on the Atlantic Coast, VEGA would be commissioned and prepared for temporary service. She would operate between the Atlantic Coast ports and Navy Yards until freight congestion was relieved, and she would then return to the Boston Navy Yard for fitting out for regular service. She left Boston around 6 Jan 22 for this temporary duty. On 6 Jan 22 CNO indicated that these four new freighters and REGULUS (AK-14, q.v.) had been assigned to the Naval Transportation Service. CAPELLA and SPICA were to transport freight between Atlantic Coast ports and Navy Yards and to the West Indies, SIRIUS and REGULUS were to transport freight from Atlantic ports to Pacific ports, and VEGA was to replace HOUSTON on the Trans-Pacific freight service. VEGA was to sail from Boston on 25 Feb 22 following her temporary East Coast duty and would fit out for regular service at Mare Island. Of the four ships not yet in operation CAPELLA was expected to be ready on 1 Mar 22, SIRIUS on 1 Apr 22, and SPICA and REGULUS on 1 May 22. However a major force cutback ensued and, instead of being commissioned, SPICA and REGULUS lay in reserve for the next 18 years. SPICA was placed in commission on 1 Mar 40 in accordance with SecNav instructions dated 17 Oct 39.

CAPELLA had several unusual experiences during her career. On 26 Sep 22 she embarked two Army Model 1919 16-inch guns, one on her forward well deck and one aft. These she delivered on 28 Dec 22 at Pearl Harbor where the Army emplaced them on the west side of the entrance to the port. This was but one of many oversized military cargoes carried by these ships. In April 1923 SIRIUS was tasked to load eight 14"/50 guns and CAPELLA was tasked to lift four more, all to be taken to the Puget Sound Navy Yard for use in re-gunning battleships. CAPELLA was decommissioned on 1 Sep 24 as an economy move. While she was in reserve CNO gave authority for the Bureau of Construction and Repair to use her in connection with experimental torpedo explosion test caissons. A structure attached to the ship supported a series of at least seven caissons during tests. On 20 Jun 38 the Norfolk Navy Yard reported that the testing was complete and that the ship had been restored to her pre-test condition and would be returned to the Maritime Commission's James River Reserve Fleet on 23 Jun 38. The ship was recommissioned on 10 Nov 38 to carry Marines and their equipment during Fleet Landing Exercise No. 5, and holds were modified to carry vehicles and troops and booms were strengthened to handle the tank and artillery lighters and experimental boats (Philadelphia type) that were stowed over the hatches. Her long-authorized battery of 2-5"/51 and 4-3"/50 AA guns was finally fitted at Norfolk in November and December 1940. On 9 Apr 42 CAPELLA was anchored in Narragansett Bay, R.I., when PT-59 on a practice run accidentally discharged a live torpedo at her. (A short-circuit in a safety switch was later blamed.) The nearly-spent torpedo struck the freighter on the starboard side about 27 feet forward of the propeller and the 385-pound warhead blew holes in both sides of the ship and caused major flooding. Tugs helped the ship move into shoal water as her stern settled. After repairs at the New York Navy Yard she resumed operations on 20 May 42. Between June and October 1944 she acted as a temporary stores issue ship (AKS) during voyages from Norfolk to Scotland and North Africa.

SPICA, the only ship of the class not used at all by the Navy between the wars, was the only one to see postwar commercial service. Sold to an Argentine firm in 1947, she had her original turbines replaced by diesel machinery in 1957 and was taken out of service in 1963.

Ship Notes:
AK Name EFC Notes
13 CAPELLA 150 Ex merc. COMERANT (ID-4253W, completed 17 Apr 20), ex LIBERTY BELL, ex COLFAX, ex SEA GIRT. Decomm. at Norfolk 1 Sep 24, recomm. there 10 Nov 38. To buyer 2 Oct 47, scrapped by 21 Jul 48.
15 SIRIUS 501 Ex merc. SALUDA (ID-4004, completed 18 Apr 19). To buyer 19 Sep 47, scrapped by 23 Oct 47.
16 SPICA 527 Ex merc. SHANNOCK (ID-4270A, completed 27 Sep 19). To Canadian buyer (J. T. Robinson Ltd.) 13 Jun 47, resold to Navemar (Argentina) and merc. PLEAMAR 1947. Scrapped in Buenos Aires 8 Oct 64.
17 VEGA 525 Ex merc. LEBANON (ID-4239G, completed 7 Sep 19), ex QUITTAPAHILLA, ex SHAMONG. To buyer 2 Jan 47, scrapped by 4 Feb 47.

Page Notes:
AK        1921
Compiled:        02 Sep 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012