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USS West Point (AP-23) on 24 July 1942
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Class: WEST POINT (AP-23)
Design: MC P4-S2
Displacement (tons): 22,262 light, 35.440 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 723.0' oa, 660.0' wl x 93.2' e x 32.75' lim.
Original Armament: 4-5"/51 2-3"/23 (Aug. 1941)
Later armaments: 4-5"/51 4-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 12<14-20mm (1942);
4-5"/38 4-3"/50 4-1.1"Q 14-20mm (1944)
Complement: 842 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 17.5
Propulsion (HP): 34,000
Machinery: Newport News turbines, 2 screws
||6 Jun 41
||Newport News SB & DD
||22 Aug 38
||31 Aug 39
||15 Jun 41
||28 Feb 46
||12 Mar 46
||28 Feb 46
||2 Aug 48
FY 1942. The new Maritime Commission began its long-range building program to revive the U.S. merchant marine with a symbol, a passenger liner that was to be the flagship of the new American merchant marine and operate on the best known of all trade routes, the North Atlantic. The contract for AMERICA, MC hull 1, was awarded 30 Sep 37 and the ship sailed on her maiden voyage for the United States Line on 10 Aug 40. Because of the war, this voyage was not the transatlantic crossing for which she had been designed but instead was a 12-day cruise to the Caribbean. In February 1941 her cruise itineraries were extended to the West Coast.
On 10 May 41 the Assistant CNO directed that the Auxiliary Vessels Board update its recommendations for the acquisition of auxiliary vessels so that a list could be submitted to the Maritime Commission. On 14 May 41 the Board reported that it had recommended acquisition of a total of 46 ships since its first report on 11 Feb 41. Of these 12 had been acquired or were being acquired, 8 had been funded but not acquired, and 26 had been approved by SecNav but not yet funded. The Board added 11 ships to these 26, including the AMERICA, then in commercial service. On 26 May 41 President Roosevelt directed the MC to acquire and turn over AMERICA to the Navy immediately. On 27 May 41 the Board, responding to a CNO directive to submit a list of auxiliary vessels that needed to be ready not later than 22 Jun 41 for a special mission (probably the movement of troops to Iceland), recommended that AMERICA be taken over at the earliest possible date, although it warned that she might not be suitable for a mission where depth of water or maneuvering room were limited. The ship's initial conversion did not include the installation of her armament, and in July 1941 she made a publicly announced voyage to Lisbon, Portugal, to return German and Italian diplomats and citizens to Europe. Her guns were installed and additional conversion work was done in August 1941.
On 18 Jul 41 CNO advised BuShips that the conversion of AP-23 to an Airplane Transport (APV) similar to the AP-21 class (q.v.) was contemplated. Much design work was done during the remainder of 1941 for the aircraft transport conversions (primarily for the AP-21 class), and in November the designations AVG 2-4 were reserved for the converted AP 21-23 respectively. AVG-4 was to be converted at Bethlehem, Quincy and was to have a 620-foot long flight deck with the pilot house below its forward edge and horizontal smokestacks extending out 15 feet either side of it. But on 31 Dec 41 CNO informed the Bureau of Ships that it had been decided not to proceed with these large AVG conversions. The reasons were the extensive time required to carry out the conversions and the present need for the ships as transports. The AVG designator remained in use for the ships that in 1943 became escort carriers (CVE).
Following the fire that nearly destroyed AP-21 the Navy purchased AP-23 on 28 Sep 42 to remove the limitations that her charter placed on modifying the ship to reduce fire hazards and increase troop capacity. Her troop capacity in 1945 was 7,678 men. At some point, probably in late 1944 when the ship's 5"/51 low angle guns were replaced with 5"/38 dual purpose weapons, the two forward 5" guns were moved from their positions on deck forward of the bridge to a new raised platform on the forecastle. This platform was destroyed in a storm off northern Ireland, probably on 21 Feb 45, but was soon replaced.
The ship was delivered by the Maritime Commission to the shipyard at Newport News, Va., on 28 Feb 46 for reconversion for civilian use. She was purchased from the MC on 2 Aug 48 by the United States Lines, which operated her on the North Atlantic run until selling her to a Greek owner on 15 Nov 64. She then passed through the hands of several owners, became a floating hotel in around 1982, and was wrecked on Fuerteventura Is. in the Canary Islands on 18 Jan 94 after her tow line parted in a storm.
||Ex merc. AMERICA (ID-5016, completed 2 Jul 40). Converted by Newport News SB & DD (initial conversion completed 10 Jul 41). Merc. AMERICA (1946), AUSTRALIS (Greek, 1964), wrecked as AMERICAN STAR 18 Jan 94.
Compiled: 27 Feb 2009
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2009