Quick Links Menu.
USS Lejeune (AP-74) on 15 May 1944
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.
Class: LEJEUNE (AP-74)
Design: Pass & Cargo, 1936
Displacement (tons): 12,225 light, 19,200 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 572.7' oa, 541.3' wl x 72.2' e x 26.0 lim.
Original Armament: 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 4-40mmT 14-20mm
Later armaments: 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 4-40mmT 4-20mmT (1947)
Speed (kts.): 17.5
Propulsion (HP): 13,500
Machinery: Bethlehem turbines (as rebuilt), 2 screws
||12 May 42
||Blohm & Voss S&E
||27 Aug 36
||12 May 44
||9 Feb 48
||12 Jul 57
||16 Aug 66
FY 1942. In 1936 two passenger and cargo ships were launched for the German-Africa Line: PRETORIA (on 16 Jul 36) and WINDHUK. The two ships operated between Hamburg and ports in South Africa and South West Africa (a former German colony). PRETORIA was in Germany when World War II broke out and became a submarine barracks ship, a hospital ship in 1945, and a troopship and merchant ship after the war. WINDHUK had just departed Capetown, South Africa when the war began, and after picking up passengers in Angola and evading British pursuit at sea for almost two months she entered port at Santos, Brazil, on 7 Dec 39 and was interned there. The Italian CONTE GRANDE joined her there in mid-1940.
Shortly after the U.S. entered World War II Brazil sent two minesweepers to patrol the entrance to the port of Santos and put guards on the pier near the two ships but their crews remained on board. The Brazilian Government was sympathetic to the U.S. in the conflict, and in December leaders of the Brazilian Maritime commission asked a visiting U.S. Navy officer why the U.S. did not take over the two ships, as Brazil had no use for them and they should make excellent transports. Brazil severed diplomatic relations with Germany on 28 Jan 42 and soon discovered that the crew of the German ship had sabotaged most of the ship's machinery by pouring concrete into the main turbine engines; draining water from the boilers and lighting all burners, thus melting down the boilers; and cutting main shafts and their bearings with high temperature metal cutting torches. All electric generators, refrigeration equipment, steering gear, small motors, etc. were also damaged beyond repair, but no attempt was made to sink the ship. The Brazilians sent the crews to prison camps (many stayed in Brazil after the war) and towed the ships to Rio de Janeiro for repairs.
On 7 Mar 42 CNO directed the acquisition of the two ships, then still at Santos, informing the Bureau of Ships that preliminary negotiations had been completed with the Brazilian Government for their acquisition by purchase by the U.S. Navy. The Italian ship, which had not been sabotaged, proceeded to the U.S. under her own power while the German ship was surveyed at Rio to determine the extent of the damage. The Navy probably purchased WINDHUK from Brazil on 12 May 42. On 19 May 42 BuShips informed the Philadelphia Navy Yard that it had allocated WINDHUK to the yard for conversion to a transport, the work to include the installation of temporary main propulsion machinery at Rio to allow the ship to proceed to the U.S. under its own power. Arrangements were made to purchase from Cargill, Inc., two 2,000 HP Fairbanks Morse 10-cylinder marine diesels that it had ordered in 1940 for installation on a tanker but had not used and for the purchase from Falk of reduction gears for these engines. (When installed in Rio, both diesels were connected through the reduction gears to the ship's starboard propeller shaft.) A temporary armament of 1-5"/51, 2-3"/50, and 2-20mm was assigned in May 1942, the identification number AP-74 was assigned in August 1942, and some sources indicate that the ship was placed in commission, probably in ordinary, on 16 Oct 42. The ship was placed in commission at Rio on 26 Mar 43 for the trip to the U.S. shortly after being given the name LEJEUNE. She departed Rio 18 Apr 43 with a cargo of 4000 tons of coffee in bags and arrived at Norfolk over a month later, on 22 May 43, after stopping at Bahia, Trinidad, and Guantanamo.
In the meantime the full conversion of the ship had been reassigned from the Philadelphia Navy Yard to the nearby Cramp yard, to which a contract had been awarded on 30 Oct 42, although the navy yard remained in charge of the temporary machinery. Cramp, however, reported on 26 Nov 42 that it had discovered that it would not have enough electricians (a trade in particularly short supply) to perform all of its previously assigned work and requested that WINDHUK be reassigned elsewhere, and on 4 Dec 42 the Norfolk Navy Yard agreed to take the job if it were not given a high priority. On 28 Oct 42 the Navy and the MC had agreed that the Navy would order for WINDHUK a duplicate set of the main turbines and gears being built for AO 51-64, to be added to the 14 sets being built for the twin-screw tankers by the MC, and in December the Norfolk Navy Yard placed the order. The ship was placed in commission in ordinary for conversion at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 1 Jun 43, was placed in full commission on 15 Apr 44, and completed conversion at Norfolk on 15 May 44. In 1945 her troop capacity was 4,666 men.
||Ex German WINDHUK (completed 13 Mar 37). Commissioned for voyage from Brazil 26 Mar 43. Converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard. In USN reserve 1947-57. To buyer 19 Aug 66, scrapped by 1 Jun 67.
Compiled: 14 Jun 2009
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2009