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USS Aries (AK-51) on 29 May 1944
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Class: ARIES (AK-51)
Design: EFC Design 1044
Displacement (tons): 1,881 light, 4,500 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 261.0' oa, 251.0' pp x 43.5' e x 17.8' lim.
Original Armament: 1-4"/50 4-.50 cal mg. (May 1942)
Later armaments: 2-3"/50 4-20mm (July 1942)
Complement: 36 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 9
Propulsion (HP): 1,250
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||22 Sep 41
||14 Nov 17
||22 Jun 18
||18 Jul 42
||28 Mar 46
||17 Apr 46
||1 Jul 46
||5 May 47
FY 1942. A Laker-type cargo ship ordered for a French buyer to a variant of the Norwegian "Fredrickstad" design (later designated EFC Design 1044), and requisitioned by the Shipping Board in 1917 while under construction. Ships of this design had an unusual rig, copied from contemporary small freighters in the Baltic Sea, with masts on the forecastle and poop and kingpost pairs at each end of the amidships superstructure. The ship that became ARIES was completed as LAKE GENEVA and became JOHN J. O'HAGAN when sold by the Shipping Board in 1925.
On 8 Jul 41 the Navy asked President Roosevelt for authority to acquired five old Laker-type freighters for operation by the Coast Guard as North Atlantic weather patrol ships to release for other missions the four 327-foot Coast Guard cutters then performing this duty. The President approved the plan on 23 Jul 41, the Navy asked the Maritime Commission for the ships on 26 Jul 41, and on 11 Aug 41 CNO directed BuShips to acquire the vessels. The vessels selected were all of EFC Design 1044 and were all then located on the Great Lakes. The Navy designated them AG 36-40 and the Coast Guard prepared the specifications for the conversions. The War Shipping Administration took over JOHN J. O'HAGAN at Buffalo, NY, on 30 Aug 41. Redesignated USS MANOMET (AG-37), she began conversion at the General Ship and Engine Works, East Boston, Mass, on 23 Sep 41.
On 6 Dec 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board noted that because of changes in the locations of its weather patrol stations, the Coast Guard only needed three of the five Lakers acquired for this purpose and recommended that the conversion work planned or about to be undertaken on two of the five Lakers should be stopped immediately (an action already taken by BuShips on 4 Dec 41) and that the two ships be considered available for assignment to the Naval Transportation Service or to such naval districts that might require their use as district craft (similar to two ships of similar size that entered service as YAG 8-9 and later became AG 47-48). On 11 Dec 41 a BuShips inspection team reported that the two ships selected (AG-37 at Boston and AG-38 at Brooklyn) were best suited for conversion to cargo vessels (AK) or colliers (AC) for use in supplying Alaskan, West Indies, or Icelandic bases. On 19 Dec 41 CNO directed that the ships be converted to cargo ships and fitted to burn oil fuel instead of coal. BuShips reported on 3 Jan 42 that it had assigned the identification numbers AK 51-52 to the former AG 37-38, and the names ARIES and GEMINI were approved on 7 Jan 42. On 15 Aug 42, after brief service as a civilian manned Navy cargo vessel, GEMINI (AK-52) was reclassified as a transport and designated AP-75, under which designation she is listed in this work.
On 7 Apr 42 ARIES was ordered to be manned by a civilian instead of a Navy crew. As a civilian-manned "U. S. Naval Cargo Ship" (USNCS) she was turned over to Marine Transportation Lines, Inc., for operation on 23 May 42 and completed conversion two days later. This firm was already operating other ships for WSA on her intended route to Iceland and Greenland. The ship made one voyage in early June, during which she claimed to have been tracked by an enemy submarine and damaged her bow in a collision. Repairs to her bow at Boston in June were followed by repairs to her engine at Brooklyn in July, along with the alteration of her armament from the original 1-4"/50 to 2-3"/50. On 11 July 1942 VCNO ordered that the ship be given a Navy crew and placed in commission during the July repair period. USS ARIES operated in Icelandic waters between August 1942 and August 1943 and was then reassigned to the Pacific. Her main engine had to be replaced by the Mare Island Navy Yard in mid-1944 and the ship finally arrived in the South Pacific in October 1944. She then operated continuously in the western Pacific until returning to San Francisco in December 1945 for disposal.
||Ex USS MANOMET, AG-37, 7 Jan 42. Ex merc. JOHN J. O'HAGAN, originally LAKE GENEVA (ID-4215B, completed 31 Aug 18). Converted by General Ship and Engine Works, East Boston, Mass. Merc. JOHN J. O'HAGAN 1946 (MC), ADELANTO 1947. Scrapped 1952.
Compiled: 10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010