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SS George G. Henry, which later became USS Victoria (AO-46), on trials on 3 June 1917
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Class: VICTORIA (AO-46)
Design Tanker, 1917
Displacement (tons): 4,650 light, 15,150 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 453.0' oa, 435.0' wl/pp x 56.0 e x 27.9' lim.
Original Armament: 2-3"/50 (1942)
Later armament: 2-3"/50 8-20mm (1943)
Complement 139 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 10
Propulsion (HP): 3,200
Machinery: 1 screw, vert. 3-exp.
||15 Apr 42
||Union IW, San Francisco
||9 Apr 17
||15 Apr 42
||14 Dec 45
||8 Jan 46
||14 Dec 45
FY 1942. In 1916 the Union Iron Works in San Francisco began building what became a series of fifteen 453-foot tankers. The firm absorbed the yard of the United Engineering Works across the bay in Alameda in 1916 and subsequently built many of its tankers there. One of the last San Francisco-built ships was GEORGE G. HENRY, which later became USS VICTORIA (AO-46). The firm assumed the name of its owner, the Bethlehem Steel Co., in 1917. It then built 18 more ships of this popular type under a wartime order from the EFC, which designated the type its Design 1047, and seven more followed under private orders in 1920-21. Most of these ships survived to serve in World War II, and six of them were acquired by the Navy as station tankers late in the war (see the IX-131 class.) Some of the prewar ships, including GEORGE G. HENRY, were built with 11-knot, 2,600 IHP Curtis turbines, while others were built with reciprocating engines. In 1919 or 1920 the turbine in GEORGE G. HENRY was replaced by a 10-knot, 3,200 HP vertical triple-expansion engine built by the Sun Shipbuilding Co. of Chester, Pa. The usual reason for such a change was the high fuel consumption of some early turbines.
S.S. GEORGE G. HENRY was at Manila when Japanese bombers attacked shipping there on 10 Dec 41 and escaped the attack unharmed. After being time chartered by the Navy on 15 Dec 41, she sailed south to Australia via the Dutch East Indies. For the next four months she was one of the three American tankers that fueled the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, the others being USS PECOS (AO-6, lost 1 Mar 42) and USS TRINITY (AO-13). On 31 Mar 42 VCNO directed that the ship be acquired because her civilian crew would not extend its contract, and on 11 Apr 42 the Auxiliary Vessels Board included SS GEORGE HENRY in a list of five ships that it recommended be acquired by time charter. (The other four became AOG 12-13, AG-41, and AK-57). The ship was duly taken over on 15 Apr 42, her master (a Naval Reserve officer) was called to active duty and put in command, and her civilian crew, except for one other reserve officer, was shipped home. The tanker's location in the Australian state of Victoria at the time of her acquisition may have inspired her Navy name. (This was confusingly rendered as VICTOR in the initial naming dispatch received by the ship from CNO on 20 Apr 42 and was corrected in a dispatch received on 25 April). VICTORIA was converted for naval service at Sydney, Australia, between April and November 1942 and then began an active career of fueling U.S. and allied ships in various ports and anchorages in Australia and New Guinea. She then followed advancing Allied forces, refueling them as they advanced through the Southwest Pacific Area. The old but active tanker reached Manila Bay in September 1945 and was soon ordered home for decommissioning and disposal.
||Ex merc. GEORGE G. HENRY (ID-1560, completed Jun 17). In commission as USS GEORGE G. HENRY 23 Aug 1918 to 21 May 1919 (to be listed separately). Converted by Mort's Dock and Engineering Co., Sydney, Australia, between late April and November 1942. Returned to owner by MC 15 Mar 46, merc. GEORGE G. HENRY 1946, scrapped 1949.
Compiled: 24 Jul 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010