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USS Tasker H. Bliss (AP-42) on 8 October 1942
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Class:        TASKER H. BLISS (AP-42)
Design:        EFC 1029
Displacement (tons):        13,529 light, 21,900 lim
Dimensions (feet):        535.2' oa, 534.0' pp x 72.0' e x 31.25' lim
Original Armament:        1-4"/50 2-3"/50 (AP 42-43)
Later armaments:        1-4"/50 4-3"/50 8<14-20mm (1942: AP 42-43)
Complement:        --
Speed (kts.):        17.5
Propulsion (HP):        12,000
Machinery:        Curtis geared turbines, 2 screws

AP Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
42 TASKER H. BLISS 19 Aug 42 Newport News SB & DD 24 Jun 19 17 Jul 20 15 Sep 42
43 HUGH L. SCOTT 14 Aug 42 Bethlehem Sparrows Pt. SY 29 Aug 18 17 Apr 20 7 Sep 42
44 WILLARD A. HOLBROOK -- Bethlehem Sparrows Pt. SY 3 Oct 18 24 Jul 20 --

AP Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
42 TASKER H. BLISS -- 7 Dec 42 12 Nov 42 Lost --
43 HUGH L. SCOTT -- 7 Dec 42 12 Nov 42 Lost --
44 WILLARD A. HOLBROOK -- -- -- Canc. 21 Oct 57

Class Notes:
FY 1942. During World War I the U.S. Shipping Board's Emergency Fleet Corporation built 16 large troop transports to its Design 1029. These were 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. By the late 1930s they were becoming obsolete and their owners began selling them off. The military ultimately acquired 12 of these ships, the last of which were three ships sold to the Army by the American President Line in 1941. These were eventually designated AP 42-44, although AP-44 ended up remaining in Army hands.

On 26 May 41 the President directed the Maritime Commission to turn over to the Army seven ships of C3 passenger type, or ships of equivalent size and speed, by 30 Jun 41 in addition to 19 ships that it was to deliver to the Navy. Earlier in May the Army and Navy had agreed to a plan to replace the civilian crews of the large ships of the Army Transport Service with Navy crews and place the ships under Navy jurisdiction, and on 27 May 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board recommended that the seven transports be acquired and manned with Navy crews for the use of the Army. Personnel shortages prevented the Navy from implementing this plan, however, and in June and July 1941 the Army took control of the seven ships. TASKER H. BLISS was converted for Army use at San Francisco in July 1941. On 17 Sep 41 the Joint Board approved a Navy request that the Army convert ten of its ships (the future AP-30, 34-35, 42-44, and 46-49), to combat unit loaded transports as soon as Army operating schedules permitted. On 29 Sep 41 the Acting CNO stated that six of the seven Army vessels in the President's directive, along with two under construction by the Maritime Commission, were to be eventually taken over by the Navy and asked the Bureau of Ships to assign hull numbers to them. They were designated AP 42-49 before the end of October 1941. (The seventh ship in the directive, PRESIDENT COOLIDGE, was never listed for Navy manning and never received a Navy hull number.) Their Navy manning continued to be deferred and was officially cancelled, probably for all of them, on 30 Mar 42.

On 1 Aug 42 CominCh directed that arrangements be made immediately for the partial conversion and the manning by Navy crews of ten vessels, which he specified by name and which became AP 42-43 and 66-73, for use in connection with "prospective movements overseas of U. S. troops." (the North Africa landings). On 3 Aug 42 the Auxiliary Vessels Board recommended acquisition of these ships, three including AP 42-43 from the Army and seven from WSA. They were to be Navy manned and converted to modified combat loaded transports. Specifically, the Board recommended that provision be made for carrying the maximum number of landing boats and tank lighters, including adequate fuel stowage for them, along with the accomplishment of such other conversion features as might be applicable on a not-to-delay basis. The Board noted that the program was an urgent one--the conversions were to be completed within 30 days of the arrival of the ships at the conversion yards or as soon thereafter as possible. Navy conversion instructions for AP 42-43 called for 8 Welin davits and stowage for 34 landing boats and 2 tank lighters. TASKER H. BLISS (AP-42) was converted for the Navy at Baltimore in August 1942, at which time the life boats used by the Army were replaced with 18 landing craft: 16 LCVs and 2 LCM(3)s. One LCV was probably removed in October when the number of 20mm guns was increased from 8 to 14. HUGH L. SCOTT (AP-43) arrived at New York in July 1942 for conversion to a Navy combat loaded transport, and in early October she reported that her assigned landing craft were 14 LCVs and 2 LCM(3)s. She also had 16 rubber LCP(R)s, while in September AP-42 had only one.

On 12 November 1942 the German U-130 got into the transport anchorage off Fedala, Morocco, and at sunset torpedoed three transports anchored there: first EDWARD RUTLEDGE (AP-52), then HUGH L. SCOTT (AP-43), then TASKER H. BLISS (AP-42). It hit each with two torpedoes, the first two in separate salvoes, the third in one. The first two sank soon after being hit, the burning hulk of the third sank early on 13 November. A day earlier, on 11 November, U-173 sank JOSEPH HEWES (AP-50) in the same anchorage. These and the other losses during the North African landings led the Navy to expect significant attrition to its transport and cargo-carrying forces during subsequent amphibious assault operations and to include replacements in its building and conversion programs. In the event, these were the most severe losses suffered in a single operation by the Navy's auxiliary vessels during the entire war.

WILLARD A. HOLBROOK, although designated AP-44, was never taken over by the Navy. She began her Army service in June 1941 as USAT PRESIDENT TAFT. In September 1941 she was renamed and hastily converted to carry more troops. Her Navy manning was officially cancelled on 30 Mar 42. She was selected in February 1945 to become a hospital ship and began conversion at Alabama Drydock Co, but was incomplete at the war's end and returned to service in January 1946 as a troopship.

Had AP 42-43 survived and AP-44 received a similar Navy conversion, they would have become APAs along with their sisters of the APA-2 class. Displacements, dimensions and machinery specifications given here are those of the APA-2 class, which probably also applied to AP 42-44. The light displacement later listed for AP 42-43, 7,845 tons, appears low, though the displacements and limiting draft of these ships at the time of their loss in late 1942 were probably not as large as the 1945 figures for their sisters shown here.

Ship Notes:
AP Name EFC Notes
42 TASKER H. BLISS 2564 Ex USAT TASKER H. BLISS (from MC to Army 27 Mar 41, taken over Jul 41), ex merc. PRESIDENT CLEVELAND 1941, ex GOLDEN STATE 1922, ex LITCHFIELD 1919 (ID-4575, completed 1 Feb 21). Renumbered EFC hull 2872 under new contract. Converted for Navy by Maryland DD, Baltimore, Md. Torpedoed by German U-130 off Fedala, Morocco.
43 HUGH L. SCOTT 1164 Ex USAT HUGH L. SCOTT (from MC to Army 31 Jul 41), ex merc. PRESIDENT PIERCE 1941, ex HAWKEYE STATE 1922, ex BERRIEN 1919 (ID-4476E, completed 28 Jan 21). Converted for Navy by Tietjen & Lang DD (Todd), Hoboken, N.J. Torpedoed by German U-130 off Fedala, Morocco.
44 WILLARD A. HOLBROOK 1165 Ex USAT WILLARD A. HOLBROOK (from MC to Army 17 Jun 41), ex merc. PRESIDENT TAFT 1941, ex BUCKEYE STATE 1922, ex BERTICE 1919 (ID-4604, completed 30 Apr 21). Not taken over by the Navy. Began conversion to Army hospital ship ARMIN W. LEUSCHNER 1944, reverted to transport WILLARD A. HOLBROOK 1945. To NDRF from Army 8 Mar 48. To buyer 29 Oct 59, scrapped by 19 Mar 59.

Page Notes:
AP        1942
Compiled:        05 Jun 2007
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2007