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USS Keokuk (CM-8) on 1 November 1942
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Class: KEOKUK (AN-5)
Design: Car Ferry, 1914
Displacement (tons): 3,582 light, 6,150 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 353.0' oa, 337.25' wl x 57.0' e x 17.0' lim.
Original Armament: 2-3"/50
Later armaments: 2-3"/50 8-20mm (1942);
3-3"/50 12-20mm (1943);
3-3"/50 2-40mmT 12<16-20mm (1943-45)
Speed (kts.): 12
Propulsion (HP): 2,700
Machinery: Vert 3-exp., 2 screws
||28 Jul 41
||William Cramp & Sons
||20 Apr 14
||22 Sep 14
||28 Feb 42
||5 Dec 45
||19 Dec 45
||1 Jul 46
||10 Mar 47
FY 1941. The car ferry HENRY M. FLAGLER, followed by two sister ships JOSEPH R. PARROTT and ESTRADA PALMA (later CM 11-12, q.v.) were built for the Florida East Coast Railway to carry railcars from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba. The ships had four sets of tracks on the main deck and could carry thirty large refrigerator railcars. The US terminus for the three ships moved to Port Everglades after the 1935 hurricane wiped out the railroad tracks to Key West. She and her sisters were laid up at Port Everglades around 1939 and HENRY M. FLAGLER was sold in April 1941 and renamed COLUMBIA HEIGHTS for operation as a train ferry between Norfolk and Baltimore.
On 8 May 41 CNO directed the acquisition of this ship, then being repaired at Baltimore, using funds earmarked for the purchase of civilian ships to augment local district defense forces. (See CMc 3-5 for earlier acquisitions under this program.). The CNO directive specified that she was to be classed as a district craft, specifically as a coastal mine layer (CMc), and she accordingly became CMc-6. However plans were then developed for her conversion to a combination net layer and mine layer, net laying being her primary role with the minelaying capability provided by portable mine rails in the net trough. Plans of the large British net layer PROTECTOR were used as a guide in configuring the ship's stern. When her Navy name KEOKUK was assigned on 15 Aug 41 her classification was changed to net layer (AN-5). The Navy already had four large net layers (AN 1-4) under construction, but these were not assigned a secondary minelaying mission and were ultimately completed as Vehicle Landing Ships (LSV 3-6, q.v.).
The Navy quickly found it had a greater need for minelayers than net layers, and when a new mine division was organized in the Eastern Sea Frontier in May 1942 consisting of KEOKUK (AN-5), MONADNOCK (CMc-4), and MIANTONOMAH (CMc-5), all three ships were reclassified minelayers (CM 8-10). KEOKUK participated in the Casablanca operation in November 1942 and was then described as a three-purpose ship: mine layer, tank carrier, and net layer. She continued to act as both a net layer and mine layer until October 1943 when the Pacific Fleet expressed a need for a ship that could be rigged to handle nets without the help of ramps or decks. In response KEOKUK was given a minimal conversion to a net cargo ship (AKN) and sailed for the Pacific in November 1943. In 1947 KEOKUK and SHAWMUT (CM-11) were sold back to their original owners and resumed service from Florida to Havana under their original names.
||Ex merc. COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, ex-HENRY M. FLAGLER 1940 (ID-1585, completed Dec 14). Ex CMc-6 15 Aug 41. Converted by Bethlehem Steel Co., Fletcher Division, Hoboken, N.J. To CM-8 15 May 42, to AKN-4 1 Nov 43. Merc. COLUMBIA HEIGHTS (1946, MC), HENRY M. FLAGLER (1947). Foundered in tow 16 Dec 71 as FREIGHT TRANSPORTER.
Compiled: 29 Dec 2008
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2008