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USS Aquila (AK-47) on 4 August 1942
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Class: AQUILA (AK-47)
Design: Cargo, 1936
Displacement (tons): 2,054 light, 4,075 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 288.1' oa x 40.5' e x 18.3' lim
Original Armament: 4-.50 cal. machine guns (1941)
Later armaments: 1-3"/50 4-mg (1942)
2-3"/50 4-20mm (1942)
Complement: 91 (1945)
Speed (kts.): 12.5
Propulsion (HP): 1,950
Machinery: Burmeister & Wain diesel, 1 screw
||11 Aug 41
||Helsingor Iron S&E
||10 Aug 35
||8 Nov 35
||24 Oct 41
||9 Oct 45
||24 Oct 45
||9 Oct 45
FY 1942. TUNIS was the first of four similar freighters built at Helsingor, Denmark, for the Danish shipping firm DFDS (United Steamship Co.). TUNIS and MAROCCO were built in 1936 and ALGIER and SICILIEN followed in 1938. The ships operated on the company's service between northwest Europe and the Mediterranean. SICILIEN, which with TUNIS had taken refuge in the United States, became the U.S. Army transport SICILIEN in 1941 and was torpedoed off Haiti in 1942. ALGIER was lost in the North Sea in 1940, and MAROCCO spent the war laid up at Copenhagen.
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. After being taken over by the Maritime Commission at New York on 21 Jul 41 the ex-Danish TUNIS was placed under Panamanian registry and briefly chartered to the Marine Transport Lines for operation before being delivered to the Navy. 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 on 18 Jul 41 the MC responded unofficially that it planned to acquire two former Danish ships, SS TUNIS and SS MARIA, for delivery to the Navy at conversion yards at New York in August. CNO informed BuShips of this action on 30 Jul 41 and indicated that TUNIS would be classed as a cargo vessel and MARIA as a provision store ship. They became AK-47 and AF-14 respectively. On 1 Aug 41 President Roosevelt approved the requisitioning of five ships including TUNIS (they became AF-14, AK 46-48, and AP-41).
The Navy directive for the initial conversion of the ship was identical to that for AK-46, providing 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 AQUILA for the ship on 3 Sep 41. On 30 Sep 41 CNO approved an armament of only 4-20mm AA guns for this ship, although initially only 4-.50 cal. AAMG could be provided. On 19 Jan 42 CNO requested the installation of 1-3"/50 on the ship's stern, information having been received that recently installed ballast provided sufficient stability for this alteration. The gun was fitted later in January by Sullivan DD. On 1 Jun 42 the ultimate approved armament was set at 2-3"/50 (the second one to be on the bow) and 4-20mm guns. 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. AK-47 was ordered withdrawn from this service in October 1942 and served the rest of the war on the East Coast and in the Caribbean. After briefly being operated for the MC by the Alcoa Steamship Co. she was returned to her Danish owners at New York on 25 Jun 46 under Public Law 101 and went on to have a thirty year career as a Danish, then Greek, merchant ship.
||Ex merc. TUNIS (Danish, completed 15 Jan 36). Converted by Sullivan DD and Repair Co., Brooklyn, N.Y. Merc. BONANZA 1945, TUNIS 1946, MARIA T 1966, MATHIOS 1972. Scrapped 1978 at Perama, Greece.
Compiled: 10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010