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USS Pegasus (AK-48) on 5 February 1943
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Class: PEGASUS (AK-48)
Design: Cargo, 1939
Displacement (tons): 1,758 light, 5,070 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 299.9' oa, 286' pp x 43.5' e x 19.6'
Original Armament: 1-4"/50 2-.50 cal mg (1941)
Later armaments: 1-4"/50 2-20mm (1942);
1-4"/50 1-3"/50 4-20mm (1942)
Complement: 103 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 12
Propulsion (HP): 1,750
Machinery: 2-cylinder Lenz reciprocating engine (1,400 HP) with low-pressure exhaust turbine (350 HP)
||18 Sep 41
||Helsingor Iron S&E
||3 Dec 41
||19 Apr 46
||1 May 46
||19 Apr 46
FY 1942. RITA MAERSK was a single ship built in 1939 for a subsidiary of the Danish shipping firm A. P. Moller. She sailed from Philadelphia to Ireland with a cargo of corn on 1 Apr 40 but turned back upon receiving news of the German occupation of Denmark and took refuge at Boston, Mass., on 16 Apr 40. 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. RITA MAERSK was taken over by the Maritime Commission at New York on 16 Jun 41 and was placed under Panamanian registry and chartered to the Marine Transport Lines for operation. The ship made two trips for the Maritime Commission with her Danish crew, first as RITA MAERSK and then as LAWRIN, and was then delivered to the Navy for conversion.
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. On 1 Aug 41 President Roosevelt approved the requisitioning of five U.S. and foreign ships, which became AF-14, AK 46-48, and AP-41. By this time four of these ships had been selected, and the MC subsequently told the Navy that it planned to acquire as the fifth the ex-Danish RITA MAERSK for delivery to the Navy at a conversion yard at New York in September. CNO informed BuShips of the impending acquisition of this ship on 11 Aug 41 and indicated that she would be classed as a cargo vessel. On 30 Sep 41 CNO approved an armament of 1-4"/50 and 2-20mm AA guns for this ship, although initially only 2-.50 cal. MG could be provided for the AA armament. The Navy name PEGASUS was approved for LAWRIN, ex RITA MAERSK on 15 Oct 41. On 1 Jun 42 the ultimate approved armament was set at 2-3"/50 and 4-20mm, but the ship seems to have kept her 4" gun in place of one of the 3". 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. She concluded this duty in October 1942 and then operated in the Caribbean for the next two and a half years.
In September 1944 an officer in CNO's office (Op-23-N) reported that, even though the three foreign-built cargo ships (AK 46-48) were relatively new their records of time spent in repair yards since commissioning were not satisfactory. At this time all three ships had spent 11% of their time in port for repairs. Part of the problem was their foreign-built engines, winches, generators, etc., for which spare parts were difficult or impossible to find. The officer suggested that if this trend continued it might make sense to return the ships to the War Shipping Administration and use their crews to man some of the new small C1-M-AV1 type AK's (the AK-156 class) that would be coming into service. In March 1945 BuShips invited CNO's attention to the same problem. The ships' records for availability had in fact worsened, AK-46 having been out of service 20% of the time, AK-47 17%, and AK-48 the worst of the group at 28%. AK-48 had a low pressure exhaust turbine chain connected to the main propeller shaft, but the friction clutch that engaged this turbine had been inoperative much of the time since the vessel had been in service, throwing an unbalanced load on the main reciprocating engine. BuShips concluded that the frequent and prolonged repair periods of these ships were out of proportion to the value of their service to the Navy, especially considering their limited cargo carrying capacity and speed. In the end AK-48 was the only one of these ships that the Navy essentially gave up on. On 5 Apr 45 Cominch reassigned her to duty in ServPac as a dry cargo floating storage ship, and on 28 Apr 45 she was reclassified IX-222 effective 15 May 45. She was able to operate in restricted waters under her own power but was taken in tow for long transits. She entered the reserve fleet at Suisun Bay, Calif., on 19 Apr 46 and was returned there to her Danish owners on 5 Jun 46 under Public Law 101. She passed to Finnish owners in 1950 and to Greek owners in 1966 and was destroyed by an explosion and fire off Israel on 3 Sep 70.
||Ex merc. LAWRIN (MC), ex RITA MAERSK (Danish, completed 27 Dec 39). Converted by Sullivan DD & Repair Co., Brooklyn, N.Y. To IX-222 15 May 45. Merc. LAWRIN 1946 (MC), RITA MAERSK 1946, KENNETH 1950, FALIRON 1966, CHRISTINA MARIA 1970, burned 1970.
Compiled: 10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010