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USS Edward Rutledge (AP-52) circa September 1942
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        HARRY LEE (APA-10)
Design:        Pass. & Cargo, 1930
Displacement (tons):        9,989 light, 14,520 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        475.3' oa, 450.0' pp x 61.5' e x 26.3' lim.
Original Armament:        1-5"/51 4-3"/50 (1941: APA-10)
Later armaments:        1-5"/51 4-3"/50 8<16-20mm (1942-43: all);
4-3"/50 2-40mmT 14<18-20mm (1943-44: APA-10)
Complement:        450 (1944)
Speed (kts.):        16
Propulsion (HP):        7,200
Machinery:        Parsons turbine, 1 screw

APA Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
10 HARRY LEE 30 Oct 40 New York SB 25 Nov 29 18 Oct 30 27 Dec 40
22 JOSEPH HEWES 8 Jan 42 New York SB 4 Nov 29 5 Aug 30 1 May 42
23 JOHN PENN 8 Jan 42 New York SB 25 Oct 30 28 May 31 9 May 42
24 EDWARD RUTLEDGE 7 Jan 42 New York SB 11 Aug 30 4 Apr 31 18 Apr 42

APA Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
10 HARRY LEE 9 May 46 19 Jul 46 17 Sep 46 MC/D --
22 JOSEPH HEWES -- 7 Dec 42 11 Nov 42 Lost --
23 JOHN PENN -- 11 Oct 43 13 Aug 43 Lost --
24 EDWARD RUTLEDGE -- 7 Dec 42 12 Nov 42 Lost --

Class Notes:
FY 1941 (AP-17, later APA-10), 1942 (others). After Congress passed the Jones-White Act in 1928 the Export Steamship Corp. (later American Export Lines) quickly took advantage of it and ordered four new passenger-cargo liners for its freight services between the United States and the Mediterranean. The act provided mail subsidies as an incentive for shipping companies to build their ships in U.S. shipyards and man them with U.S. crews. The company placed these four new passenger-cargo liners in operation in 1930-31 as its "Four Aces" and offered cruises on them to the Mediterranean of up to 40 days.

On 20 Jun 40 CNO, acting as Secretary of the Navy, wrote to the Maritime Commission stating that world conditions made it necessary for the Navy to acquire 18 additional auxiliary vessels, ranging in size and type from transports to tugs. These included two transports in addition to two (AP 8-9, later APA 2-3) that were being requested separately. The Navy asked that the two ships be provided from a list of six candidates that included all of the "Four Aces," and on 1 Jul 40 the Bureau of Ships sent to the Naval Districts for their information a hastily drawn plan of the conversion of this type to combat loaded troop transports. On 2 Jul 40 the MC replied that all six vessels requested by the Navy were considered by their owners as indispensable and suggested several alternatives, including the two Grace Line ships that ultimately became AP 10-11 (later APA 4-5). In October 1940 the Joint Board ordered the Navy to provide sufficient amphibious lift for an entire division of 15,000 men, and on 9 Oct 40 the Secretary of the Navy directed the acquisition of six more transports (AP 12-17) along with one provision store ship (AF-11), and seven high speed tankers (AO 27-33). This time the Navy was able to get one of the "Four Aces" (AP-17, later APA-10) along with all five of the Baltimore Mail vessels. On 10 Dec 40 the Philadelphia Navy Yard, which by then was doing most of the Navy's conversion design work, sent to the 3rd Naval District detailed plans for the conversion of the "Four Aces" that had probably been derived from the July 1940 plan. These arrived after the conversion of AP-17 had begun but may have been used in that work. On 9 Jun 41 Philadelphia delivered a set of these plans to the Bureau of Construction and Repair.

The Navy gained control of the other three ships over a year later by time chartering them in mid-December 1941 (the future AP-52 on 15 Dec 41). They had been under charter to carry food supplies to Honolulu and were all due at East Coast ports in mid-December. They were to be armed and defense items and armed guards embarked there before departure. Two 4"/50 guns were installed on AP-52 at Norfolk 22 Dec 41 and were test fired on 28 Dec 41 while the ship was still on time charter. However the Navy decided almost immediately to cancel the charters and buy the ships. On 30 Dec 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board considered a verbal directive from the Secretary of the Navy to the Board's senior member to recommend the acquisition and conversion to combat loaded transports of nine "C3 type" passenger and cargo vessels including the remaining three "Four Aces" and also the acquisition of three C2 type cargo vessels as auxiliaries for the nine transports. The Board concurred with the guidance and recommended the acquisition of AP 52-60 (later APA 22-30). On 27 Dec 41 SecNav had approved the retention of the merchant names of the three "Aces" because they were being operated under time charter, but on 9 Jan 42, following the purchase decision, he cancelled these names and approved Navy names for all three. AP-52 was accepted from the MC upon her arrival at her conversion yard at Tampa (arrival was originally scheduled for 31 Dec 41 but probably slipped to the acceptance date of 7 Jan 42). BuShips correspondence throughout January 1942 referred to AP-52 as USS F. J. BRADLEY, but since SecNav had approved the name EDWARD RUTLEDGE for her on 9 January, with no reference to a previous Navy name, the Bureau must have been in error.

Only one of these "Four Aces" survived the war, two falling victim during the North African invasion and one being lost off Guadalcanal. Following the war the American Export Lines converted four former C3 type APAs (APA 97-98, 103, and 105) to combined passenger and cargo ships, gave them the names of the first quartet, and operated them until the mid-1960s as its second "Four Aces."

Ship Notes:
APA Name Notes
10 HARRY LEE Ex AP-17 1 Feb 43. Ex merc. EXOCHORDA (ID-4872B, completed Jan 31). Converted by Tietjen & Lang (Todd), Hoboken, N.J. Merc. TARSUS (Turkish Government), delivered by MC to buyer 16 Apr 48 (out of reserve fleet 16 Sep 47 for conversion at Hoboken, NJ). Lost by fire after collision in Bosporus 14 Dec 60.
22 JOSEPH HEWES To have been reclassified APA-22 from AP-50 1 Feb 43 but had been lost by then, hull number APA-22 officially "not used." Ex merc. EXCALIBUR (ID-4872A, completed Dec 30). Commissioned in ordinary 6 Apr 42. Converted by NYd Norfolk. Sunk by German U-173 off Fedala, Morocco.
23 JOHN PENN Ex AP-51 1 Feb 43. Ex merc. EXCAMBION (ID-4872C, completed Jul 31). Commissioned in ordinary 6 Apr 42. Converted by NYd Norfolk. Sunk by Japanese aircraft off Guadalcanal.
24 EDWARD RUTLEDGE To have been reclassified APA-24 from AP-52 1 Feb 43 but had been lost by then, hull number APA-24 officially "not used." Ex merc. EXETER (ID-4872, completed May 31). Converted by Tampa SB, Tampa, Fla. Sunk by German U-130 off Fedala, Morocco.

Page Notes:
APA        1940
Compiled:        12 May 2007
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2007