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Arriving at an American East Coast Port on 14 November 1942.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.
Class: EX EL COSTON (AK-60)
Design: Cargo, 1924
Displacement (tons): 7,286 gross, 8,002 dwt.
Dimensions (feet): 445' oa, 426.8' pp x 57.1'
Original Armament: 1-4"/50
Later armaments: --
Speed (kts.): 16
Machinery: Turbine, 1 screw
||Todd DD & SB, Tacoma
||16 Jul 24
||21 Jul 42
No FY assigned. On 6 Apr 42 CNO's office wrote to the Maritime Commission concerning its grave concern over the availability of ships to serve the Iceland area. The need for supplies there were increasing as the U.S. built up its forces there, and it was also desirable to build up reserves of supplies and coal on the island as a precaution against future bad weather and enemy action. At the same time the delays in the services provided by the eleven ships allocated by WSA and the Navy to Iceland were becoming severe. Currently four of the ships were out of action, and the time it took each of the others to make a round-trip voyage was nearly two months. The Navy felt that to meet present needs four Lake-type small cargo ships should be added to the Iceland service at once and that, to meet the anticipated need for 24 ships beginning in June, up to five more Lake-type ships would be needed. On 19 May 42 the Secretary of the Navy approved a policy to take over vessels in the Iceland service. By 1 Jul 42 CNO's office had identified four freighters, all then being operated by WSA under allocation to the Navy, that the Navy would acquire, give very limited two-week long conversions, and turn over to small Coast Guard Reserve crews that would be about the same size as the ships' merchant crews. The ships would then be operated by the Naval Transportation Service instead of by WSA. On 2 July 1942 the VCNO wrote to the Auxiliary Vessels Board suggesting that these four ships, MALANTIC, LARRANAGA, EL COSTON, and MANA be acquired, and the board in its report #47 of 4 Jul 42 directed the acquisition of the ships. The hull numbers AK 58-61 were reserved for them, and an ordnance listing dated 18 July indicates that these numbers were assigned in the order just named. On 3 Jul 42 the acting SecNav, James Forrestal, asked the director of WSA, Admiral Land, to acquire the ships and make them available for conversion at Boston between late July and late August 1942. On 13 Jul 42 Admiral Land sternly refused, stating that the Navy's request was in conflict with an agreement reached between WSA and the Navy in April that WSA was to "acquire for the Navy the use of all commercial vessels requested by the Navy for employment as fleet auxiliaries or combatant vessels." The requested four ships, however, were operating in the Icelandic ship pool with military supplies for both the Army and Navy, and it was clear that they could not be classified as either fleet auxiliaries or combatant vessels. The Navy was thus challenging one of the main functions of WSA, to operate vessels under pool rather than individual service or agency control in order to best coordinate the use of scarce vessels' space by all agencies. WSA appears to have won this argument, as there is no further mention in Navy records of the acquisition of these ships. AK 58-61 were listed in the 1956 Ships Data Book as "not acquired" (cancelled) as of 21 Jul 42, although the document on which this entry was based has not been located.
In 1924 the Southern Pacific Railway built at Tacoma, Wash., a coastal passenger-cargo ship named BIENVILLE for its East Coast subsidiary, the Morgan Line. Within a few weeks of entering service in 1925 between New York and New Orleans the ship was gutted by fire in March 1925 at New Orleans. Because of the extensive damage and because she had shown a tendency to be top heavy, her owners had her rebuilt at New York as a cargo ship (although she retained her original two stacks), and renamed her EL COSTON. The Morgan Line sold all its ships in 1941 and the War Shipping Agency bought EL COSTON and assigned her on 2 Jul 41 to the United States Lines for operation. By mid-1942 she had been put under Panamanian registry. The Navy expected as of 1 Jul 42 that she would be available for conversion and manning at Boston on 10 Aug 42. The Navy planned to add a 3"/50 gun to the ship's armament and replace the 4-.50 cal machine guns then in her anti-aircraft armament with 6-20mm.
||Ex BIENVILLE 1925 (ID-4732, completed Nov. 1924). Hull number officially not used. Sunk by collision, fire, and resulting flooding 26-27 Feb 44.
Compiled: 10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010