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USAT Ludington during World War II
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Class: LUDINGTON (AK-37)
Design: Cargo, 1920
Displacement (tons): 8,266 gross, 13,750 dwt
Dimensions (feet): 455.0' oa, 439.5' pp x 60.2' x 28.5' load
Original Armament: 2-4"/50 (1942: actual)
Later armaments: --
Speed (kts.): 11.5
Propulsion (HP): 3,400
Machinery: Turbine, 1 screw.
||Pusey & Jones, Gloucester
||14 Jan 20
||30 Mar 42
||23 Jul 47
No FY assigned. This ship was the last of 11 large freighters built by the Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Co. (later taken over by the Pusey & Jones Co.) at Gloucester City, N.J. during World War I. Ordered by commercial shipping firms, all were requisitioned by the Shipping Board in August 1917. All but the first were named after famous American patriots. Their design was numbered 1135 by the Shipping Board after World War I. The Army took over JAMES OTIS in 1930 or 1931 and renamed her LUDINGTON.
Back in 1935 the Army and Navy had agreed that the Army would operate its own ships except where naval opposition was expected, in which case the ships would be Navy manned. However, experience in the first part of World War II indicated that naval opposition by the enemy, in the form of submarines, could be encountered anywhere. In April 1941 the CNO proposed to the Chief of Staff of the Army that a board review the issue. The Board recommended on 28 Apr 41 that the Army "surrender operation of its transport service for the term of the present emergency" following procedures that it enumerated, the first of which was that the Navy would commission the Army transports with Navy crews as soon as possible. (The Army used the term "transports" for all ships in the Army Transport Service, including cargo ships and other types.) On 14 May 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board recommended the implementation of this plan, which then covered 26 Army ships, and on 22 May 41 the Secretary of War approved the transfer of the ships, noting that jurisdiction over each ship was to pass at the time it was manned by the Navy. On 5 Jun 41 the Secretary of the Navy approved names for the 26 ships, all but three of which (AP 21-22 and AK-39) retained their Army names. The hull numbers AP 20-36 (less 23), AK 32-40, and APL-1 (for the barracks ship in Newfoundland) were soon assigned to them.
The Navy soon decided that the nine Army cargo ships on this list were unsuitable for operations in hostile waters because of their age (all dated from World War I) and lost interest in manning them. On 11 Jun 41 the CNO informed major Navy commands that the commitment to man the nine cargo ships in August could not be met and that would be held in abeyance until the Bureau of Navigation could furnish Navy crews. The Navy manned, took over and commissioned AP 20-29 and 31-33 before the end of July but personnel shortages then greatly slowed down the process. In December 1941 the President suspended the obligation for the Navy to man Army ships. The Navy directive for manning AK 32-40 as well as two other low-interest vessels, AP-36 and APL-1, was definitively cancelled on 30 Mar 42 and their hull numbers were officially listed as "not used." AK-37 received 2-4"/50 guns on 17 Jan 42 from the Mare Island Navy Yard.
||USAT LUDINGTON, ex merc. JAMES OTIS Oct 31 (completed Aug 20). Requisitioned by USSB 1917, completed Jul 20. From Army to WSA (NDRF) as JAMES OTIS 18 Feb 47 (MC). To buyer 30 Jul 47, scrapped by 8 Oct 47.
Compiled: 10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010