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USS Camden (AS-6) in 1921
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Class: CAMDEN (AS-6)
Design Cargo, 1900
Displacement (tons): 4,218 light, 9,000 full
Dimensions (feet): 403.7' oa, 389.2' pp x 48.0' wl x 22.3' mn, 25.5' mx
Original Armament: 4-4"/50
Later armaments: --
Complement 407 (1929)
Speed (kts.): 12
Propulsion (HP): 2,550
Machinery: Vert. 4-exp., 1 screw
||22 May 17
||15 Aug 17
||21 Jun 46
||29 Oct 46
||23 Oct 46
This ship was built as the freighter KIEL for the German-Australian Steamship Co., which operated in the cargo trade to Australia and the Dutch East Indies and later to North and South America. Eight sisters were built by the same shipyard for the same buyer between 1897 and 1901: MEISSEN, BIELEFELD, VARZIN, HARBURG, ITZEHOE, MAGDEBURG, DUISBURG, and LAEISZ. (HARBURG and MAGDEBURG became the U.S. merchantmen PAWNEE and NEUSE in 1917.) The British-built BERGEDORF and OFFENBACH (both 1900) may also have been sisters. The MEISSEN class had two separate boiler rooms, each with its own smokestack, in order to produce the high speed desired (KIEL developed 14 knots on trials). KIEL was interned at Southport, N.C., with the freighter NICARIA (later USS PENSACOLA), and the two ships were seized there upon U.S. entry into the war in 1917. On 2 May 17 the Charleston Navy Yard was directed to make arrangements with the Collector of Customs at Pensacola to take over NICARIA and make necessary repairs, and on 5 May the Bureaus were notified that repairs at the Charleston Navy Yard had been authorized. KIEL was one of eight ships ordered transferred by Presidential Executive Order 2625 of 22 May 17 from the Treasury Department to the Navy Department for use as collier and cargo carrier. She was one of the 13 seized German cargo ships that received Navy names from the Secretary of the Navy on 9 Jun 17, the others being the ships later designated AS-6, AS-8, and AK 1-10. Commissioned at Charleston 15 Aug 17 as a cargo ship, CAMDEN proceeded to Philadelphia for more repairs. Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service on 9 Jan 18, she left Philadelphia on 31 Jan 18 on a cargo voyage to the United Kingdom and returned to Philadelphia on 25 Apr 18. However the Navy Department had decided in October 1917 to use this ship as a submarine tender and she was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 3 May 18 and recommissioned on 21 Feb 19 after conversion. She retained her distinctive two smokestacks in this conversion but had her well deck forward filled in and new superstructures including a large midships island added.
In 1919 CAMDEN was assigned as tender to Submarine Division 9, which consisted of the first ten "R"-class subs. She was designated AS-6 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. In September 1920 CAMDEN's commanding officer reported that the ship had the necessary facilities for tending a division of eight subs of the "S" class except that she lacked berthing space for men below the chief petty officer ratings. However because "S" class subs had very habitable quarters the men not berthed on the tender could be berthed on board the subs. The ship's crew also needed to be increased from the current 304 to around 394, which would require berthing some of the tender's men outside the berthing compartments. The tender and most of her subs were transferred from Norfolk to San Pedro in mid-1921. In November 1922 the Mare Island Navy Yard reboilered the ship, installing four coal burning boilers that had been built in 1918 for the old cruiser CINCINNATI and replacing CAMDEN's twin smokestacks with a single stack. She returned to the Atlantic in March 1923 and became tender for the eight "S" class subs of Submarine Division 4. As part of a fleet reorganization and force reduction announced in October 1930, CAMDEN escorted four "S" boats from the Atlantic to the Pacific and then escorted twenty "R" boats from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The old tender was then put out of commission at Philadelphia on 26 May 31.
On 4 Sep 40 the Bureau of Navigation informed CNO that there was an urgent need for additional receiving ship facilities at the New York Navy Yard and recommended that CAMDEN be used as a barracks ship in conjunction with the old cruiser SEATTLE, which was the receiving ship. CNO approved this recommendation on 11 Sep 40 and directed the Commandant, 4th Naval District to prepare CAMDEN for towing and have her delivered to the New York Navy Yard as soon as possible. On 17 Sep 40 SecNav approved CNO's recommendation of the same date to change the classification of CAMDEN from "Submarine Tender (AS)" to "Unclassified." The tug ALLEGHENY (AT-19) towed the former tender out of Philadelphia on 18 Sep 40 bound for New York. On 7 Oct 40 BuShips directed that her conversion to a barracks ship be carried out primarily by the personnel of SEATTLE to limit costs. SecNav assigned her the number IX-42 on 17 Feb 41. CAMDEN was stationed throughout the war at the Naval Receiving Station, Pier 92, Hudson River, New York, where she supplied steam and power to herself, SEATTLE, and Pier 92. On 18 Apr 45 the Commanding Officer of the Receiving Station requested replacement of the vessel because of unsatisfactory living conditions in berthing spaces, structural weakness and extensive corrosion, insufficient boiler capacity, difficulties of ash removal, frequent coaling, and scarcity of personnel trained in the operation of a coal burning installation. An Insurv inspection on 1 Jun 45 found her to be in fair to poor condition, but no significant improvements seem to have been made during her remaining year of service.
||Ex German KIEL (ID-3143). To Unclassified 17 Sep 40, numbered IX-42 17 Feb 41. To buyer 23 Oct 46 or 4 Nov 46.
Compiled: 21 Jun 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012