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USS Bellatrix (AKA-3) on 19 February 1943
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        PROCYON (AKA-2)
Design:        C2 (Tampa) and C2-T
Displacement (tons):        8,045 light, 14,225 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        459.3' oa, 435.0' pp x 63.0' e x 26.4' lim.
Original Armament:        1-5"/51 4-3"/23 (1941: AKA-2)
Later armaments:        1-5”/51 4-3”/23 4-20mm (1942: AKA-2);
1-5"/51 4-3"/50 (1942: AKA 3-4); 1-5"/51 4-3"/50 4<18-20 (1942-44: all);
1-5”/38 2-40mmT 18-20mm (1944: AKA-2);
1-5”/38 4-3”/50 18-20mm (1944-45: AKA 3-4); 1-5”/38 4-3”/50 10-20mmS (1952-55: AKA 3-4)
Complement:        271 (1944)
Speed (kts.):        16.5
Propulsion (HP):        6,000
Machinery:        Nordberg diesel (TSM), 1 screw

AKA Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
2 PROCYON 14 Nov 40 Tampa SB 15 Jan 40 14 Nov 40 8 Aug 41
3 BELLATRIX 16 Apr 41 Tampa SB 20 Nov 40 15 Aug 41 17 Feb 42
4 ELECTRA 16 Apr 41 Tampa SB 6 Mar 41 18 Nov 41 17 Mar 42

AKA Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
2 PROCYON 23 Mar 46 12 Apr 46 30 Jun 46 MC/R 18 Oct 73
3 BELLATRIX 3 Jun 55 14 Nov 63 1 Mar 64 Trf. --
4 ELECTRA 13 May 55 1 Jul 61 1 Oct 62 MA/T 23 May 74

Class Notes:
FY 1941. In May and June 1938 the Maritime Commission awarded its first contracts for cargo ships, which followed one passenger liner and twelve large tankers. It ordered twenty ships (MC hulls 14-33) designated simply C2-Cargo from four shipyards: three existing (Federal, Sun, and Newport News) and one essentially new (the Tampa Shipbuilding and Engineering Co.). Half of these fast (15.5 knot), medium-sized, standard-design freighters were propelled by steam turbines, and half (including those from Tampa) were diesel propelled. The Maritime Commission ordered these ships on its own account in accordance with its plans for a rejuvenated American merchant marine and with the intent of finding commercial operators for them as they approached completion. Tampa became a test case for the Commission's efforts to expand American merchant shipbuilding: in 1938 it was a little-known Southern concern with three building ways which had built ships during World War I but whose facilities had later been burned over and which was practically bankrupt. The Commission accepted its bid partly to beat down the prices of the better established firms. Tampa encountered severe labor problems, but the Commission persisted and in October 1939 awarded a follow-on contract for four more ships to an almost identical design, designated C2-T (the T indicating Tampa). The yard's problems continued, however, ultimately resulting in the default of the company and imposition of new management by the Maritime Commission.

The Maritime Commission's efforts to keep the Tampa shipyard in operation were facilitated by the Navy's need for auxiliary ships. On 20 Jun 40 CNO, acting as Secretary of the Navy, wrote to the Maritime Commission stating that world conditions made it necessary for the Navy to acquire from the merchant marine 18 to 21 additional auxiliary vessels ranging in size and type from transports to tugs, including two cargo ships (AK) and two ammunition ships (AE) of the C2 type. The Navy expressed a preference for steam propelled ships, but the Tampa ships otherwise matched the Navy's requirements. These conversions were included in a large group of auxiliaries whose construction or acquisition was directed on 5 Aug 40 in the 70% Expansion Program (the second increment of the Two Ocean Navy mobilization effort) along with many combatant ships. The Maritime Commission, in an arrangement that later triggered a Congressional investigation, had the Navy purchase on 14 Nov 40 the three incomplete ships from the first contract with Tampa at high prices that enabled the yard to pay all its debts. The ships became AK-19 (later AKA-2) and AE 3-4. AK-19 was converted to a naval auxiliary by her builder, but this initial conversion did not include combat loading features.

On 15 Jan 41 SecNav approved a program for the acquisition of 17 more auxiliaries including another two AKs and two AEs. The Maritime Commission initially resisted the Navy's request, fearing the impact of large Navy requests on the Commission's primary tasks of satisfying the U.S. need for sealift in wartime and providing lend lease ships to the British, but on 16 Apr 41 it turned over to the Navy all four ships in its second contract with Tampa. These became AK 20-21 (later AKA 3-4) and AE 5-6. At the same time, as part of a realignment of shipyards between the naval and merchant shipbuilding programs, the Maritime Commission turned the Tampa yard over to the Navy. A day later, on 17 Apr 41, the Navy issued a contract to Tampa for the completion of the four ships and the full conversion of AK 20-21 to naval cargo ships with combat loading features. The yard went on to build under Navy contracts three more C2s (AE 8-9 and 13) and a sizeable number of other auxiliaries and combatants.

AK-19 received a provisional armament of 1-5"/51 and 4-3"23 guns in August 1941 and upgraded to its designed armament with 4-3"/50s in April 1942. She was initially fitted as a general cargo ship and operated as such from August 1941 to June 1942. She was fully converted to an attack cargo ship at Mare Island in Jul-Aug 42, at which time her existing kingposts fore and aft were strengthened to support 30-ton booms for handling tank lighters. She embarked boats at Norfolk in September. Late in the war she received two quadrupod masts in place of two sets of kingposts. AK 20-21 were converted during construction and received two tall center kingposts with 40-ton booms for lifting tank lighters placed between pairs of regular kingposts fore and aft. (After fitting the same equipment to AKA 12-14, the Navy decided that 30-ton booms were sufficient for later ships.) These two ships received their full armament before commissioning and operated with amphibious forces from the outset of their careers.

Ship Notes:
AKA Name MC# Notes
2 PROCYON 25 Ex merc. SWEEPSTAKES (ID-5005C). Ex AK-19 1 Feb 43. Delivered incomplete, converted by builder. To NDRF 1946, to buyer 19 Nov 73.
3 BELLATRIX 126 Ex merc. RAVEN. Ex AK-20 1 Feb 43. Commissioning date also reported as 18 Feb 42. Stk. 1 May 46, to MC 30 Jun 46 as RAVEN. Reinst. 17 Jul 51, from MA 27 Aug 51. In USN reserve 1954-59. To NDRF 16 Dec 59, to MA 30 Jun 60, stk. 1 Jul 60. Reinst. and from MA 15 Mar 63, trf. to Peru 15 Mar 63 as INDEPENDENCIA under lease signed 16 Jan 63. Sold to Peru 20 Mar 64. Deleted by Peru 1991.
4 ELECTRA 127 Ex merc. METEOR. Ex AK-21 1 Feb 43. Torpedoed off Morocco 15 Nov 42, repairs completed at NYd Charleston (S.C.) in July 1943. Stk. 12 Apr 46, to MC 30 Jun 46 as METEOR. Reinst. 17 Jul 51, from MA 16 Oct 51. In USN reserve 1955-60. To NDRF 21 Jul 60, to buyer 7 Jun 74.

Page Notes:
AKA        1940
Compiled:        17-Mar-2006
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2006