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USS Henderson in the 1920s or 1930s
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Class: HENDERSON (AP-1)
Design Navy AP-1
Displacement (tons): 7,297 light, 10,000 full
Dimensions (feet): 483.9' oa, 460.0' wl x 60.9' wl x 20.6' mx, 19.9' mn
Original Armament: 8-5"/50 2-3"/50
Later armaments: 8-5"/51 2-3"/50 (1927);
6-5"/51 4-3"/50 (Jan 42);
2-5"/51 4-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 8-20mm (Jul 42);
None (1944, as hospital ship)
Complement 382 (1929)
Speed (kts.): 14
Propulsion (HP): 4,000
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 2 screws
||19 Feb 14
||19 Jun 15
||17 Jun 16
||24 May 17
||13 Sep 46
||29 Oct 46
||16 Sep 46
||31 Dec 47
FY 1914 (Act of 4 Mar 13). Name assigned 13 Dec 15. On 7 Dec 08 the General Board forwarded a recommendation of the proportional number of non-military auxiliaries deemed necessary as compared to battleships and other military units of the fleet. These non-military auxiliaries included two transports to carry landing battalions of Marines with advanced base outfits on annual fleet cruises. On 26 Oct 10 the Board transmitted detailed characteristics for transports for the naval service that were to be designed for use in connection with the Advance Base regiments in time of war, although they would be used for other purposes as well. Plans for an advanced Base then contemplated the use of a Marine brigade consisting of two regiments of about 1,300 officers and men each and requiring two transports of similar design (although their loadouts would differ) to carry the men and material to establish the advanced base.
On 3 Jul 12 the Commandant of the Marine Corps drew the attention of the Secretary of the Navy's Division of Personnel to the urgent need for a properly designed and fitted out transport for the use of the Marine Corps. At present the only ship available was PRAIRIE, which at best was a makeshift. While this ship could carry 750 officers and men for short trips, this could be done only by most unsanitary crowding, the extent of which can be realized only by those who have served on board under those conditions. Whenever a large number of marines was required for expeditionary service (as in Cuba in June 1912) it was necessary to split up the force and assign battleships for duty as transports. The addition of 125 or more men to the complement of a battleship caused crowding and discomfort and interfered with the work of the battleship. The Marine Corps needed transports for expeditions, in connection with peacetime training in advance base work, and for relief of men on foreign service. The Commandant noted that VESTAL was no longer to be used as a fuel ship and recommended her conversion to a transport, but SecNav's Aid for Personnel noted that the FY 1913 appropriation bill, then before Congress, included an item for the conversion of VESTAL or PROMETHEUS into a repair ship and that the Department would select VESTAL because PROMETHEUS was the only modern collier on the Pacific Coast. The General Board, to which the Commandant's letter was referred, noted on 25 Sep 12 that its recommendations for FY 1914 contained the conversion of PROMETHEUS into a second repair ship but also included two Navy transports.
Refined characteristics were forwarded on 25 Sep 12 for the transports recommended for the 1914 building program. Each transport was to be large enough to transport 1,250 men in addition to its crew, and its draft was to be moderate in order to permit the ship to get in near shore for discharge. (It also needed to be moderate to embark the Marines at their base at Quantico, Virginia.) The ship was to have an endurance of 8,000 miles at 10 knots and a sustained sea speed of 14 knots, though a greater speed of up to 16 knots was desirable if it could be obtained without sacrifice of other necessary characteristics. Her battery was to be composed of eight 5-inch guns of the same type as the guns used in the advanced base outfit, and the guns were to be so mounted as to be readily dismounted and taken ashore if necessary for the defense of the base. Other features included torpedo protection and general watertight subdivision to delay sinking, clear upper deck space for exercising personnel, twin screws, facilities for loading, stowing, and discharging cargo quickly, and provisions to carry the equipment of either the fixed defense regiment or the mobile regiment, the latter including 32 horses and artillery equipment. The ship was to have an adequate number of boats and launches for landing men and supplies, including some specially designed lighters or scows for landing guns, mounts, animals, and stores, plue two 50-foot picket launches heavily built for towing and rough work as well as laying and picking up mines.
Several modifications to these characteristics were made during the design process. The Bureau of Ordnance pointed out that the advanced base outfit was equipped with 5/40 guns, the last of which had been made in 1900, and the General Board replied on 13 Nov 12 that the transport should have 5-inch guns of the same type as those provided for in contemporary battleships. BuC&R began work on the preliminary design in March 1913, and at about this time the Marine Corps asked that the ship be able to carry 1,600 men and 75 officers. Bu C&R replied on 13 Jun 13 that it was designing the ship to carry the General Board's 1,250 men but would try to work in the extra 350 men (but not the extra officers), which proved to be possible. On 10 Jun 13 BuC&R and the Bureau of Steam Engineering informed the Department's Material Division that they had found it impossible to increase the ship's speed to 16 knots without sacrificing valuable stowage space because of the need to fine the hull lines of the vessel and that they were designing the ship for 14 knots sustained; the General Board concurred on 17 Jun 13. BuC&R also found it impossible to provide for dismounting the two foremost and two aftermost guns and recommended that they be considered as permanent and not available for taking ashore for advance base defense. BuC&R submitted the preliminary design on 18 Aug 13 to the Material Division, but on 27 Aug 13 the General Board sent it back to have the magazines moved below the waterline. The General Board approved the revised plans on 23 Sep 13 and plans and specifications for this ship and Supply Ship No. 1 (BRIDGE) were completed and circulars were signed on 4 Oct 13 for issue to bidders on request after 15 Oct 13. Bids for the two ships were opened on 20 Dec 13 with the low bidder for the transport being the Newport News S.B. & D.D. Co. for $1,695,000 based on the Department's design of hull and the company's design of machinery. The Philadelphia Navy Yard, however, estimated that it could build the ship for $1,458,305, and it received the order in February 1914.
On 10 January 1917, shortly before the ship was commissioned, the Marine Corps recommended that animal accommodations be removed from the ship because motor transportation for artillery had replaced animal transportation and the stable space was much needed for other purposes. The General Board approved the change on 9 Feb 17. In 1915 the Sperry Gyroscope Company proposed the use of gyro stabilizers on ships, and on 16 Jul 15 a contract was signed for a stabilizer outfit for use in HENDERSON. The equipment, consisting of two gyros with rotors nine feet in diameter, was installed in drydock through holes in the side of the ship in April 1917. Experiments during 1918 showed it to be quite successful, especially in dampening a heavy roll, and the Bureau of Ordnance advocated use of the technology in new battleships to increase gunnery accuracy but it was omitted from these ships so as not to delay their construction and its development appears to have been abandoned. BuC&R on 18 Jul 21 specified the authorized passenger capacity of HENDERSON as 1,200 troops for indefinite periods, 800 more for short periods, plus 118 women and children and some officers in first class accommodations. The characteristics card compiled by the ship in 1935 listed her maximum speed over a period of 24 hours as 12.86 knots.
On 12 Mar 43 the conversion of three older transports, HENDERSON (AP-1), CHAUMONT (AP-5), and KENMORE (AP-62), to hospital ships was approved. The Navy eventually obtained three modern C3 passenger and cargo ships, PRESIDENT POLK, PRESIDENT MONROE, and DELBRASIL (AH 103-105) to replace them as transports, and the crews of the old ships were to help man the new ships. On 26 Jun 43 VCNO directed that HENDERSON be laid up for conversion before PRESIDENT POLK completed her conversion to facilitate the transfer of the crew. On 2 Sep 43 the new name BOUNTIFUL and classification AH-9 were approved for HENDERSON, to take effect when the ship was recommissioned as a hospital ship. HENDERSON was decommissioned as AP-1 on 13 Oct 43, converted to a hospital ship by General Eng. & D.D. Co., Alameda, between 13 Oct 43 and 23 Mar 44, and recommissioned as AH-9 on 23 Mar 44. On 18 Feb 44 BuShips ordered that the ship be painted gray when completed, and it repeated this order when notified on 3 Mar 44 that painting of the ship in accordance with the Geneva Convention had already been completed. Prior to post-conversion trials in late March the designation of the ship was changed temporarily from an AH to AP-0 without any name. Both measures were probably taken to allow the ship legally to run trials before formally being designated as a hospital ship in accordance with the 1907 Hague Convention.
||To AH-9 and renamed BOUNTIFUL effective 23 Mar 44. To buyer 28 Jan 48, scrapped by 1 May 48.
Compiled: 28 Jul 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012