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USS Wharton on 6 January 1942 with her original armament of 4-6"/50 guns
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Class: WHARTON (AP-7)
Design: EFC 1029
Displacement (tons): 12,998 light, 21,900 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 535.2' oa x 72.0' e x 31.25' lim.
Original Armament: 4-6"/50 4-3"/50
Later armaments: 1-6"/50 4-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 10<20-20mm (1942);
1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 18-20mm (1944); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT 18-20mm (1945)
Complement: 548 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 16.5
Propulsion (HP): 12,000
Machinery: Westinghouse turbines, 2 screws
||8 Nov 39
||New York SB
||8 Oct 18
||20 Jul 19
||7 Dec 40
||26 Mar 47
||4 Apr 47
||26 Mar 47
||11 Feb 52
No FY assigned. On 27 Sep 33 the Secretary of the Navy wrote to the Navy's General Board, stating that the latest military characteristics of naval auxiliaries had been drawn up in 1914-1917 and directing that these characteristics be brought up to date in preparation for the impending expansion of the combatant fleet. Transports (AP) were among the eight types of large auxiliaries that had been built during World War I, and on 8 Jan 35 the General Board promulgated new characteristics that called for a twin-screw AP with a sustained speed of 18 knots and an endurance of 10,000 miles at that speed (both increased on the recommendation of HENDERSON (AP-1) and BuC&R, although CNO and the Marines wanted 20 knots). The ship's armament was to be the usual four 5-inch or 6-inch single purpose guns and she was to carry over 30 boats. The transport was to have accommodations for up to 3,000 troops and 165 officers and have 150,000 cubic feet of hold capacity for their supplies and equipment. Fewer troops and more cargo could be carried by using the lowest deck for cargo instead of troop quarters. The ship was to have at least one, preferably two, cargo booms of 30 tons capacity and was to be capable of carrying artillery, tanks, tractors, and troop and artillery barges, with stowage over hatches permitted. The embarked troops were to be from the Fleet Marine Force, and the ship's draft was limited to allow her to dock at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia. However the new construction auxiliaries of the 1930s were intended mainly to support the expanding peacetime fleet, and even though authority was still available under 1916 legislation for the construction of one transport (HEYWOOD, AP-2), a combination of limited funds and low priority relative to other auxiliaries kept AP'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 new AP's. During World War I the U.S. Shipping Board's Emergency Fleet Corporation had built 16 large troop transports to its Design 1029, commonly known as the "535 class" after their overall length. After World War I the Shipping Board allocated these ships to shipping lines for operation under loan as passenger liners, and in the mid-1920s it sold most of them to private firms. On 19 Jul 37 the Bureau of Construction and Repair distributed to the other bureaus and to the Marine Corps preliminary plans for the conversion of PRESIDENT CLEVELAND (ID-4575) and her 15 sisters of the "535 class" to troop transports, and on 5 Jan 38 it distributed the completed plans to the Naval Districts and the Marines for retention in their mobilization files. These plans were for conversions to accommodate the maximum number of troops (3,478 men) without regard to combat loading; the cargo space in this design was 109,613 cubic feet, all in the holds. The armament in this design was 4-6"/50 or 4-5"/51 guns and 2-3"/23 anti-aircraft guns. On 3 Jun 39 BuC&R distributed to the Naval Districts a variation of these plans that also provided for converting the ships to Evacuation Hospital Ships (APH).
By the late 1930s the "535 class" ships were becoming obsolete and their owners began selling them off. Four of them were repossessed by the Maritime Commission and laid up upon the default of their owner, the Munson Line. The MC transferred these gratis in 1939 to the Navy (AP-7) and Army (later APA-12, 14, and 17). The Navy ultimately acquired 12 "535 class" ships; see the APA-2 class for full details and a continuation of the design history of the type. On 15 Nov 39 CNO directed that AP-7 was to be converted for operation as a peacetime transport, performing duties generally similar to those being performed by CHAUMONT (AP-5). However the conversion was to be done in a manner that a subsequent complete wartime conversion could be undertaken without changes to the peacetime conversion. Her conversion specifications included accommodations for 200 first class passengers and 1,500 troops, and gun foundations for four 6"/50 or 5"/51 guns and four 3"/50 antiaircraft guns. When the conversion was completed a year later the ship was taken to the New York Navy Yard for fitting out, and in December 1940 and January 1941 an armament of 4-6"/50 and 4-3"/50 was installed, making her one of the most heavily armed U.S. Navy auxiliary vessels. In April 1942 three of the 6" guns were removed at the Mare Island Navy Yard to make room for more antiaircraft guns, and in September 1944 the remaining 6" gun was replaced by a 5"/38. Her troop capacity in 1945 was 2,311 men.
||Ex merc. SOUTHERN CROSS, ex SEA GIRT 1921, ex MANMASCO 1919, ex CHARLES M. SCHWAB 1919, ex MANMASCO 1919 (ID-4476F, completed 23 Sep 21). Converted by Robins DD (Todd), Brooklyn, N.Y. Commissioned in ordinary 14 Dec 39. Merc. SOUTHERN CROSS 1947 (MC). To buyer 21 Mar 52, scrapped by 26 Jan 53.
Compiled: 27 Feb 2009
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2009