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USS Pleiades (AK-46) on 18 March 1943
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Class: PLEIADES (AK-46)
Design: Cargo, 1939
Displacement (tons): 2,874 light, 8,185 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 383.2' oa, 361.9' pp x 50.9' mld. x 21.75' lim.
Original Armament: 4-.50 cal. machine guns (1941)
Later armaments: 1-3"/50 4-mg (1941);
2-3"/50 4-mg (1942); 2-3"/50 4-20mm (1943)
Complement: 94 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 12
Propulsion (HP): 2,400
Machinery: Fiat diesel, 1 screw
||11 Aug 41
||C. N. Riuniti, Palermo
||25 Oct 41
||21 Nov 45
||5 Dec 45
||21 Nov 45
||17 May 66
FY 1942. MANGALIA was the third of four freighters built for the Romanian State Maritime Service at Cantieri Navali Riuniti, Palermo, in 1939-1940 as part of a barter deal between the Italian and Romanian governments. King Carol II of Romania came to the US on board MANGALIA after abdicating on 6 Sep 40 and the ship was then laid up at New York. The playboy king later lived in Mexico and Brazil before settling in Portugal in 1947. MANGALIA's sisters SULINA, CAVARNA, and BALCIC were all lost in the war, although BALCIC was salvaged and returned to service in 1948.
On 6 Jun 41 Presidential Executive Order 101 authorized the Maritime Commission to take over foreign merchant vessels lying idle within the jurisdiction of the United States and place them into operation to assist in the national defense. The MC soon used this authority to take control of a number of foreign ships at New York and elsewhere, and it took over MANGALIA on 25 Jun 41. On 15 Jul 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board took under consideration a request from the Director of the War Plans Division in CNO's office to acquire cargo vessels for the purpose of servicing outlying bases. After consideration of a list of available vessels the Board recommended acquiring eight relatively small ships, several of which were foreign. The Navy asked the Maritime Commission to procure the ships, and the MC subsequently responded unofficially that it planned to acquire the ex-Romanian SS MANGALIA for delivery to the Navy at a conversion yard at New York in August. On 1 Aug 41 President Roosevelt approved the requisitioning of five U.S. and foreign ships including MANGALIA (they became AF-14, AK 46-48, and AP-41). CNO informed BuShips of the impending acquisition of this ship on 5 Aug 41 and indicated that she would be classed as a cargo vessel.
The Navy directive for the initial conversion of the ship provided for accommodations for a crew of 50 naval personnel plus 110 troops and their officers. The berthing for the troops was to be portable for removal when the space was needed for cargo. SecNav approved the Navy name PLEIADES for the ship on 3 Sep 41. On 30 Sep 41 CNO approved an armament of 4-20mm AA guns for this ship, although initially only 4-.50 cal. AAMG could be provided. In addition one 3"/50 gun was installed on 25 Oct 41, probably aft. On 1 Jun 42 the ultimate approved armament was set at 2-3"/50 and 4-20mm and she had all of these guns by March 1943. She was initially one of five Navy cargo ships (AK 46-48 and 51-52) that were employed on the Iceland resupply run, sailing regularly from New York or later Boston, although beginning in 1942 she also operated in convoys to the United Kingdom. Her service became more varied after mid-1943, including voyages to the Caribbean, and South America. Between July and October 1944 she operated for ComServLant in the Mediterranean and was given a temporary minimum conversion to a stores issue ship (AKS). The United States did not return her to Romania and instead retained her in the MC reserve fleet from 1 Mar 46 until 1966, when she was sold for scrapping.
||Ex merc. MANGALIA (Romanian, completed Apr 40). Converted by Robins DD Co. (Todd, Erie), Brooklyn, N.Y. Merc. SCEPTER (MC) 1945, to NDRF 1 Mar 46. To buyer 14 Jun 66, scrapped by 7 Jun 68.
Compiled: 10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010