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USS Munargo on 26 May 1942
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Class: MUNARGO (AP-20)
Design: Pass. & Cargo, 1921
Displacement (tons): 7,100 std., 10,484 full
Dimensions (feet): 432.0' oa, 414.0' pp x 57.5' m x 23.6' mn
Original Armament: 1-5"/51 2-3"/23
Later armaments: 1-5"/51 4-3"/23 (Jan. 1942);
4-3"/50 8-20mm (Jul. 1942)
Complement: 254 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 16
Propulsion (HP): 5,800
Machinery: Parsons geared turbines, 1 screw
||4 Jun 41
||New York SB
||30 Sep 20
||17 Sep 21
||4 Jun 41
||18 Oct 43
||26 Oct 43
||18 Oct 43
||19 Feb 57
No FY assigned. The Munson Line, a major ocean freight line serving the East Coast and the Caribbean since 1899, built its first passenger vessel, MUNAMAR, for its New York to Cuba service in 1915 and its second, MUNARGO, in 1921. MUNARGO began her maiden voyage from New York on 7 Jan 22. The line, which also operated four "535" class ships (later AP-7 and APA-12, 14, and 17) on a South American service, failed in the mid-1930s and MUNARGO was sold to United Fruit Co. in 1938 and was purchased by the Army in March 1941. Conversion was begun at once to fit her for Army service (including installation of armament in May and early June), and in May a new Army name, ARTHUR MURRAY, was selected, but this name was not used because the ship was transferred to Navy control on 4 Jun 41.
Back in 1935 the Army and Navy had agreed that the Army would operate its own ships except where naval opposition was expected, in which case the ships would be Navy manned. However, experience in the first part of World War II indicated that naval opposition by the enemy, in the form of submarines, could be encountered anywhere. In April 1941 the CNO proposed to the Chief of Staff of the Army that a board review the issue. The Board recommended on 28 Apr 41 that the Army "surrender operation of its transport service for the term of the present emergency" following procedures that it enumerated, the first of which was that the Navy would commission the Army transports with Navy crews as soon as possible. (The Army used the term "transports" for all ships in the Army Transport Service, including cargo ships and other types.) On 14 May 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board recommended the implementation of this plan, which then covered 26 Army ships, and on 22 May 41 the Secretary of War approved the transfer of the ships, noting that jurisdiction over each ship was to pass at the time it was manned by the Navy. On 5 Jun 41 the Secretary of the Navy approved names for the 26 ships, all but three of which (AP 21-22 and AK-39) retained their Army names. The hull numbers AP 20-36 (less 23), AK 32-40, and APL-1 (for the barracks ship in Newfoundland) were soon assigned to them. The Navy manned, took over and commissioned AP 20-29 and 31-33 before the end of July, but it then found that it did not have the personnel to man the remaining ships, and ultimately the Navy was able to man only 15 of the 26 ships (all AP's). Five of the ships commissioned (AP-20, 28, and 31-33) were later returned to the Army because of more urgent demands for trained Navy personnel and because the Army wanted to convert them to hospital ships.
The date for transfer from the Army in some Navy records is 6 Jun 41. MUNARGO underwent a preliminary conversion at the Atlantic Basin IW, Brooklyn, from 7 to 17 Aug 41 and a final conversion at Robins DD (Todd, Erie Basin), Brooklyn, from 10 Nov to 8 Dec 41. On 21 Jun 43 the Army requested the return of this ship and two others, AP-31 and 32, for conversion to Army hospital ships, but several months were needed to arrange for appropriate delivery and conversion locations.
||Ex merc. MUNARGO (ID-4609, completed Dec 21). To Army 27 Mar 41. Navy conversions by Atlantic Basin and Robins DD (Todd), Brooklyn. USAHS THISTLE 1943. From Army to MC reserve fleet 2 Nov 48. To buyer 11 or 13 Mar 57, scrapped by 20 Jan 58.
Compiled: 27 Feb 2009
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2009