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USS Castor (AKS-1) on 1 June 1943
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        CASTOR (AKS-1)
Design:        MC C2-Cargo (Federal) and C2-F
Displacement (tons):        6,365 light, 14,400 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        459.2' oa, 435.0' wl/pp x 63.0' e x 26.4' lim.
Original Armament:        1-5"/51 4-3"/23 (1941: AKS 1-2)
Later armaments:        1-5"/51 4-3"/50 0<8-20mm (1942: AKS 1-2);
1-4"/50 4-3"/50 8>4-20mm (1942-49: AKS-4);
1-5"/38 4-3"/50 8<10-20mm (1943-44: AKS-1); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 6-20mmT (1949-51: AKS-1);
4-3"/50 6-20mmT (1949-51: AKS-4); 4-3"/50 (1957: both)
Complement:        207 (1944)
Speed (kts.):        16.5
Propulsion (HP):        6,000
Machinery:        G.E. turbine, 1 screw

AKS Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
1 CASTOR 23 Oct 40 Federal SB & DD, Kearny 25 Aug 38 20 May 39 12 Mar 41
2 POLLUX (1) 16 Jan 41 Federal SB & DD, Kearny 26 May 39 16 Dec 39 6 May 41
4 POLLUX (2) 23 Mar 42 Federal SB & DD, Kearny 2 Oct 41 5 Feb 42 27 Apr 42

AKS Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
1 CASTOR 31 Oct 68 1 Dec 68 25 Jul 69 MA/S 25 Jul 69
2 POLLUX (1) -- 25 Mar 42 18 Feb 42 Lost --
4 POLLUX (2) 31 Dec 68 1 Jan 69 25 Jul 69 MA/S 25 Jul 69

Class Notes:
FY 1941 (AKS 1-2), 1942 (AKS-4). ). AKS 1-2 were called C2-Cargo by the MC and were probably nearly the same as the builder's later C2-F (including AKS-4), the C2-F type being modified slightly for Lykes Lines.

On 3 Oct 35 the Navy's Bureau of Supplies and Accounts recommended that a Stores Issue Ship (for which the designation AKI had been created in the late 1920s) be included in the building program. The Bureau noted that as early as 1924 an investigation by the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet had revealed the inherent difficulties in the supply of general stores to ships of the fleet when operating away from a home base. The Fleet Base Force and its attendant train contained the fuel, machine shop, hospital and food elements of an advanced base but not the stores element. Stores issue ships would provide general supplies to ships other than destroyers and submarines (which had tenders for such services) and supplement the supplies ordinarily carried by combatant ships with supplies of a selected character for emergency military use. The mobility of AKI's would render unnecessary the establishment of shore supply depots at the fleet's temporary operating bases. On 12 Dec 36 CNO informed SecNav that the auxiliary building program included certain types of ships for which no approved characteristics existed and asked that the General Board be directed to recommend characteristics. The types were Stores Issue Ships (AK, later AKI), Special Survey Ships (AG), and Aircraft Repair Ships (ARV). In response the General Board on 5 Jan 37 asked the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts to study the matter and recommend the essential characteristics of the type. However on 24 Feb 37 CNO informed SecNav that the need for recommendations on stores issue ships and aircraft repair ships was not urgent since ships of these types were not included in the proposed auxiliary building program (which may have been updated in the interim), and on the same date CNO approved suspension of work on characteristics for new construction ships of these types. The new construction auxiliaries of the 1930s were intended mainly to support the expanding peacetime fleet, and a combination of limited funding and low priority relative to other auxiliaries kept AKI's out of the annual peacetime building programs.

The Navy's war plans called for wartime requirements for auxiliaries to be handled by conversions of merchant ships rather than by new construction, and as the world crisis deepened the Navy turned to its extensive prewar mobilization studies of the U. S. merchant marine for its first AKI's. On 15 Mar 40 the Bureau of Construction and Repair sent to the other Bureaus proposed plans for the conversion to Stores Issue Ships in case of national emergency of the Maritime Commission's four new C3-E type cargo ships of the EXPRESS (ID-4998) class. On 17 Jun 40 BuC&R distributed plans with a revised armament, reflecting a change in the basic publication governing the conversion of merchant ships to naval auxiliaries, WPL-10, from 4-5" guns to 1-5" gun aft and four 3"/50 anti-aircraft guns. On 5 Aug 40 two converted AKI's were included in a large group of auxiliaries whose construction or acquisition was directed in the 70% Expansion Program (the second increment of the Two Ocean Navy mobilization effort) along with many combatant ships. The designation AKI was changed to AKS on 16 Oct 40. The ships ultimately acquired for conversion to AKS 1-2 were not of the C3-E type but were standard C2 cargo ships, although the C3-E conversion plans provided guidance in their conversion.

MC hull 131 was to have been acquired as AK-54 but this was cancelled on 13 Feb 42 and MC hull 133 (AK-56, later AKA-14) was substituted. Five days later AKS-2 was wrecked on the coast of Newfoundland, and the Navy soon acquired MC hull 131 as a replacement. On 23 Mar 42 the Auxiliary Vessels Board recommended acquisition of the ship and also recommended that only a limited AKS conversion be made at the present time and that it be limited to what could be accomplished during the installation of defense items. During the remainder of World War II both AKS-1 and AKS-4 were fully configured for stores issue purposes and both became mainstays of the fleet in the early postwar period. AKS-4, however, never received a 5"/38 dual purpose gun in place of the 4"/50 low angle weapon fitted by the Maritime Commission for merchant service on 14 Mar 42. This gun was removed when the ship was reactivated in 1950 because by then no other ship in the Navy carried a 4" gun.

Ship Notes:
AKS Name MC# Notes
1 CASTOR 14 Ex merc. CHALLENGE (ID-4997, completed 10 Jul 39). Converted at Brewer Dry Dock Co., Staten Is. In USN reserve 1947-50 (decommissioned 30 Jun 47, recommissioned 25 Nov 50). To buyer at Sasebo, Japan, 2 Sep 69, scrapped by 16 Feb 70.
2 POLLUX (1) 33 Ex merc. COMET (ID-4997I, completed 25 Mar 40). Converted at Brewer Dry Dock Co., Staten Is. Wrecked on Lawn Head west of the entrance to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, in storm.
4 POLLUX (2) 131 Ex merc. NANCY LYKES. Acquisition as AK-54 cancelled 13 Feb 42. Converted by Robins Dry Dock and Repair Co. (Todd), Brooklyn, N.Y. In USN reserve 1949-50 (decommissioned 3 Apr 50, recommissioned 5 Aug 50). To buyer at Sasebo, Japan, 2 Sep 69, scrapped by 30 Jan 70.

Page Notes:
AKS        1940
Compiled:        24 Aug 2008
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2008