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USS Delta (AR-9) on 2 March 1943
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Class: DELTA (AR-9)
Design: Matson C3 Cargo
Displacement (tons): 8,975 light, 14,500 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 490.5' oa, , 465.0' pp x 69.5' e x 24.25' lim.
Original Armament: 4-3"/50 1-40mmT 2-1.1"Q 12-20mm (1943: AR-9)
Later armaments: 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 20-20mm (1943: AR-12); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT 10-20mmT (1945: AR-9); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT 8-20mmT (1951-55: both);
4-3"/50 (1959-61: AR-9)
Complement: 825 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 16.5
Propulsion (HP): 8,500
Machinery: Newport News turbine, 1 screw
||4 Jun 41
||Newport News SB & DD
||2 Apr 41
||16 Jun 41
||16 Feb 43
||Newport News SB & DD
||14 Feb 41
||15 Nov 43
||20 Jun 70
||1 Oct 77
||19 Jul 83
||19 Jul 83
||9 Sep 55
||1 Jan 77
||1 Jul 73
||19 Nov 80
FY 1942. The Navy's war plans called for wartime requirements for auxiliaries to be handled by conversions of merchant ships rather than by new construction, and in the mid-1930s the Navy began to prepare plans for the conversion of ships to various auxiliary types in the event of national emergency. On 21 Aug 37 the Bureau of Construction and Repair circulated draft plans to other Bureaus for converting seven large but old (1916-1921) freighters of the MONTANAN (ID-1590, ex SANTA PAULA) class to repair ships (XAR). The Bureau distributed final plans on 15 Jan 38 to the Naval Districts and followed them on 9 Oct 40 with updated plans, but none of these ships was converted.
In 1939 or 1940 the Matson Navigation Co. ordered four large freighters from two shipyards. These ships closely resembled the Maritime Commission's C3 types but were built privately outside the MC program. Newport News built HAWAIIAN PLANTER and HAWAIIAN PACKER while Federal, Kearny, built HAWIIAN MERCHANT and HAWAIIAN SHIPPER. These ships, which featured the flush deck without forecastle favored by Matson, were delivered between April and June 1941. (Newport News also built one other MC-type ship outside the MC program, the C2 IRENEE DU PONT, delivered in August 1941 to the International Freighting Corp. of New York.) Of the Federal ships, HAWAIIAN MERCHANT became EURYALE (AS-22, q.v.) while her sister remained in merchant service.
In its first report, dated 11 Feb 41, the Auxiliary Vessels Board included four AKs (AK 26-29) of the C1 or C2 type in its estimate of the Navy's peacetime needs and directed their acquisition. It based this decision on the demonstrated need to have one of these vessels for every three marine transports in order to carry additional landing boats, guns, tractors, etc. The CNO, however, noted in a cover memo that the President had recently directed that the Navy not make arrangements to take over any other commercial vessels because of shortage of shipping, in effect disapproving the acquisition of 21 ships including the four cargo ships. On 14 May 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board reaffirmed the Navy's need for the ships, and on 26 May the President directed the Maritime Commission to turn over to the Navy 19 ships including 12 cargo ships of 15 knot speed. Nine units, AK 23-31 were to be turned over immediately, including HAWAIIAN PACKER, renamed DELTA (AK-29). This ship was still at her builder's yard when acquired by the Navy.
On 16 Jul 41 CNO directed the procurement of critical repair equipment for the conversion of one C3 type ship to a repair ship (AR). On 14 Jul 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board approved the selection of DELTA for this conversion. On 13 Oct 41 CNO directed that, in view of her planned conversion to another type of auxiliary vessel, DELTA not be equipped for assignment to a Combat Loaded Transport Division (i.e. that she not be fitted as an attack cargo ship). On 2 Mar 42 BuShips selected Cramp SB as the conversion yard, and the conversion contract was awarded on 1 Jun 42. George G. Sharp, Inc., was designated the design agent. DELTA continued to serve as a cargo ship until finally arriving at Cramp's on 8 Jul 42 to begin conversion to a repair ship (AR-9). In early March 1942 she had received a temporary armament as an AK of 1-5"/51 and 4-3"/23 AA. On 3 Jun 42 VCNO specified the structural changes as follows: "New upper deck, new flying bridge and bridge deck extensions, new first and third platforms in #1 hold, new third platform in #2 hold, new third platform in #4 hold, new second and third platforms in #5 hold and new watertight bulkheads as shown. Raising king posts at frames 45 and 71, cutting down king posts at frames 55 and 126, removing king posts at frame 151 and installing one new king post at frame 178 on center line."
On 9 May 42 the Auxiliary Vessels Board noted that the Maximum War Effort Program included 13 tenders (4 AD, 1 AR, 4 AS, and 4 AV), 2 ammunition ships, and 14 oilers to be converted from C3, C2, and T3 type hulls in 1943-45. Of the portion of this program to be provided in 1943, the Maritime Commission estimated that it could build all but one submarine tender and one repair ship, both C3 type ships. To meet this deficiency, the Board recommended that the Navy purchase two C3 type vessels through WSA, one as AS-22 and one as AR-12. The Board noted that it had been informed that HAWAIIAN PLANTER and HAWAIIAN MERCHANT might be immediately available for this purpose. On 19 Jun 42 the War Shipping Administration allocated the use of these two vessels with their civilian crews to the Naval Transportation Service until the Navy was ready to convert them. On 29 Oct 42 VCNO designated HAWAIIAN PLANTER for conversion to a repair ship and her sister for use as a submarine tender. HAWAIIAN PLANTER continued to sail as a cargo carrier to the Southwest Pacific until the plans, materials, and facilities for her conversion to a repair ship (AR-12) were ready. Her armament in November 1942 was 1-4"/50, 1-3"/50 and 2-20mm. The Navy finally took possession of the ship on 16 Feb 43 at her conversion yard.
DELTA was fitted with a large rotating crane on the starboard side just aft of the midships superstructure. BRIAREUS was originally to have been fitted similarly, using a crane removed from MATAGORDA (AVP-22) at Boston and reported available there in April 1942. In March 1943 the New York Navy Yard raised the question of eliminating the 45,000 lb crane planned for AR-12, noting that Commanding Officers of ships having such cranes had practically all objected to them and stated that they were little used, that the topside weight of these cranes was objectionable, and that one or perhaps two 30-ton booms should suffice to replace such a crane. The result was that BRIAREUS was fitted with a goalpost mast with two booms abaft the superstructure instead of the crane.
||Ex merc. HAWAIIAN PACKER. Ex AK-29 1 Jul 42. Placed "in commission in ordinary" for conversion 27 Jun 42, converted by Cramp SB, Philadelphia, Pa., placed in full commission 14 Feb 43. In USN reserve 1946-50 (decommissioned 5 Mar 47, recommissioned 1 Nov 50) and 1955-59 (decommissioned 1 Dec 55).
||Ex merc. HAWAIIAN PLANTER (completed 15 May 41). Converted by Bethlehem 56th St., Brooklyn, N.Y. In USN reserve 1946-51 and 1955-72. To NDRF 7 Jun 72.
Compiled: 31 Jul 2007
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2007