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USS Savannah (ID-3015) circa 1919
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Class: SAVANNAH (AS-8)
Design Cargo, 1899
Displacement (tons): 5,000 light, 8,570 full
Dimensions (feet): 414.5' oa, 400.0' pp x 46.1' wl x 21.6' mn, 22.3' mx
Original Armament: 4-5"/40
Later armaments: --
Complement 385 (1929)
Speed (kts.): 10.5
Propulsion (HP): 2,000
Machinery: Vert. 3-exp., 1 screw
||22 May 17
||18 Apr 99
||3 Nov 17
||16 Dec 26
||26 Jun 34
||26 Sep 34
This ship was built in 1899 as SAXONIA by the Hamburg-American Line for its extensive worldwide freight services. SAMBIA (later the U.S. merchantman TUNICA), built by the same shipyard in the same year for the line's East Asia service, was a near sister. SAXONIA was interned in Puget Sound at the outbreak of World War I and was seized there upon U.S. entry into the war in 1917. SAXONIA 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 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. While the ship was under repair at the Puget Sound Navy Yard the Navy Department decided in October 1917 to convert her into a submarine tender. SAVANNAH was commissioned at Puget Sound on 3 Nov 17 and then proceeded to the Boston Navy Yard for conversion, at the same time escorting the three Seattle-built submarines N-1, N-2, and N-3 to the East Coast. She arrived at Boston on 13 Feb 18 and left Boston after conversion on 1 Aug 18. The tender sailed for the Azores in support of submarines deploying to Europe but upon her arrival on 16 Nov 18 after the Armistice she was recalled to the U.S.
SAVANNAH was designated AS-8 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. She underwent alterations at the Boston Navy Yard in 1920 during which her well deck forward was filled in, making her a flush decker. During this overhaul her Commanding Officer estimated in August 1920 that the ship would be able to act comfortably as tender for 8 subs and could care for 12 as a maximum. The limiting factor was berthing facilities, as she would have bunks or hammocks for only 153 submarine enlisted men (except for CPO's) in addition to her own complement of 312 men. (Most submarines before the "S" class were too small to berth their crews comfortably for extended periods.) However 123 more submarine men could be accommodated if part of the ship's company was berthed in shops and offices. The ship also had room for 47 submarine CPO's and 38 submarine officers in addition to the ship's own 25 chiefs, and 21 officers. 4-3"/50 were added to the authorized battery of the ship at about this but were never placed on board. SAVANNAH tended Submarine Division 8 ("O" class subs) from 1921 to 1922 and Submarine Division 11 ("S" class) from 1922 to 1926 while also serving as flagship for a senior submarine force commander. She and her subs were reassigned from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1925. When decommissioned and laid up at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in 1926 she was one of the Navy's last coal burners.
The ship's name was dropped effective 15 Sep 33 to make it available for the new cruiser SAVANNAH (CL-42), the tender thereafter being referred to simply as "AS-8." SecNav on 28 Feb 34 informed the Bureaus and CNO that she was to be sold, and after being stricken from the Navy List in June she was sold as a hulk in September to Nieder & Marcus of Seattle. On 15 Jul 41 she was offered back to the Navy by L. B. Sandblast of Portland, Ore., who stated that the private interests who had purchased her had kept her in good condition while laid up. The Navy declined the offer, but as merchant bottoms became scarcer in 1942 her owners reconditioned her and renamed her ORBIS for wartime cargo services. On 15 May 42 the Orbis S.S. Corp. delivered her at Seattle to the War Shipping Administration, which simultaneously time chartered her to the Arnold Bernstein Shipping Co. for operation. WSA redelivered her from time charter to the Orbis S.S. Co. at New York on 7 Mar 46, and on 29 Aug 47 she was purchased by the Sociedad Armadora Valenciana. She was reported in February 1948 operating between Port Said and Beirut and was scrapped at Osaka on 26 Jan 54.
||Ex German SAXONIA (ID-3015, completed 3 Jun 99). Name cancelled effective 15 Sep 33. Sold as hulk 1934, reactivated as mercantile ORBIS 1942, scrapped 1954.
Compiled: 21 Jun 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012