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USS Aroostook (ID-1256) in 1918
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Class:        AROOSTOOK (CM-3)
Design        Pass. & Cargo, 1929
Displacement (tons):        4,950 normal, 5,300 full
Dimensions (feet):        395.0' oa, 375.0' reg x 52.2' wl x 14.5' mn, 17.0' mx
Original Armament:        1-5"/51 2-3"/50AA
Later armaments:        1-3"/50 (1919-20: both);
1-5"/51 2-3"/50AA (ca. 1921: CM-4);
1-3"/50 (1932: CM-4);
1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT 8<10-20mm (1944: ARG-1)
Complement        354 (1929)
Speed (kts.):        20
Propulsion (HP):        7,000
Machinery:        Vertical triple expansion, 2 screws

CM Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
3 AROOSTOOK 19 Nov 17 William Cramp & Sons -- 26 Mar 07 7 Dec 17
4 SHAWMUT 9 Nov 17 William Cramp & Sons -- 29 Jan 07 7 Dec 17

CM Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
3 AROOSTOOK 10 Mar 31 5 Feb 43 31 Jan 43 USCG 2 Oct 47
4 SHAWMUT 11 Jul 46 13 Nov 46 12 Jul 46 MC/R 12 Aug 65

Class Notes:
S.S. MASSACHUSETTS, BUNKER HILL, and OLD COLONY were built in 1907 as package freighters for the Maine Steamship Co., a subsidiary of J. Pierpont Morgan's New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. They ran between New York, Boston, and Portland, Maine and competed for freight service on the "outside route" around Cape Cod with Charles W. Morse's "flyers" HARVARD and YALE. OLD COLONY was turbine propelled like Morse's ships while MASSACHUSETTS and BUNKER HILL had reciprocating engines. As freighters the three ships carried immense cargoes but were costly to run because of their fuel consumption at high speed. They passed in 1911 to the Eastern Steamship Corp., and in 1912 they were sent back to their builder, Cramp's, for the addition of passenger accommodations. Cramp also converted MASSACHUSETTS and BUNKER HILL to oil fuel but OLD COLONY remained coal fired. The first two then ran on the line's Boston and New York passenger service while OLD COLONY ran on its Portland and New York passenger service. The company went into receivership in 1914, and its financial prospects only improved when in 1917 it sold six of its steamers including MASSACHUSETTS, BUNKER HILL, and OLD COLONY to the Government. OLD COLONY (ID-1254) was transferred on 31 May 18 to the British who were still converting her to a minelayer when the war ended in November 1918; she was scrapped in 1922. For more on YALE see USS GREYHOUND (IX-106).

In early October 1917 the Navy was looking for ships suitable for use as fast sea going mine planters. These vessels needed to be able to cross the Atlantic and be capable of keeping the sea in any but very severe weather. A speed of 18 knots was necessary. Removal of superstructures and hurricane decks would probably be necessary. The ships had to be in good, not merely passable, condition as there would be constant activity and few repair facilities at their operating base. On 29 Oct 17 SecNav approved a plan for the mine force that had been recommended by the General Board, and on 30 Oct 17 the Naval Districts Section of CNO's office was directed to take immediate steps to requisition the steamers MASSACHUSETTS and BUNKER HILL to be taken over for conversion to mine planters as soon as enough material was ready to proceed with the conversion expeditiously. Names were assigned on 8 Nov 17 to 8 mine planters including SHAWMUT and AROOSTOOK for MASSACHUSETTS and BUNKER HILL respectively and were promulgated in General Order No. 343 of 15 Nov 17. It took 6 days to remove the entire superstructure joiner work on each of these two ships, and their conversions lasted until June 1918 when both ships sailed for Inverness, Scotland, to participate in the laying of the North Sea Mine Barrage. They returned to Hampton Roads on 27 Dec 18.

SHAWMUT was designated temporarily as an aviation tender on 27 Jan 19 and she and AROOSTOOK were modified in April 1919 to support the transatlantic flight that was completed by the seaplane NC-4 in May 1919. They received tanks for 5,000 gallons of gasoline and accommodations and equipment for the men who serviced the seaplanes. AROOSTOOK supported the departure of the aircraft from Trespassey Bay, Newfoundland, SHAWMUT was at Lisbon to support the completion of the transatlantic flight there, and AROOSTOOK greeted NC-4 at Plymouth, England, and brought the dismantled aircraft back to the United States. AROOSTOOK was then assigned to the Mine Detachment, Pacific Fleet, and moved to the Pacific in the summer of 1919 but by 4 Sep 19 she had again been assigned temporarily as an aircraft tender. By September 1919 SHAWMUT had been fitted to support both seaplanes (heavier than air) and kite balloons (lighter than air), with spare parts for heavier-than-air on one side of her mine deck, material for lighter-than-air on the other side, and the after magazine and a large storeroom used to carry the chemicals for producing hydrogen gas. Two large tanks on her stern, probably for aviation gasoline, displaced her after guns (1-5" and 1-3"). AROOSTOOK may have been similarly modified at Mare Island in February 1920 when she permanently landed her after guns. The ships remained in aviation duty until SHAWMUT (later OGLALA) returned to the mine force at the end of 1921 after being replaced by WRIGHT and AROOSTOOK was decommissioned without replacement but "with a view to recommissioning" in 1931. Their aviation assignment being temporary, they were designated minelayers (CM 3-4) when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20.

On 24 Jun 27 the Bureau of Navigation informed SecNav that there had been frequent confusion in the service when referring to USS SHAWMUT and USS CHAUMONT. The Bureau recommended changing the name SHAWMUT to SHAWNEE. SecNav approved the change on 30 Jun 27 and on 2 Jul 27 the Bureau of Navigation informed CNO and the other bureaus that it would take effect on 1 Aug 27. BuNav soon learned, however, that the Coast Guard already had a SHAWMUT, and the name change was cancelled on 22 Jul 27. President Coolidge was then taking his vacation in the Black Hills of the Dakotas, and BuNav obtained from the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution a list of names of Indian tribes that had lived there, including the Oglalas. SecNav took up the matter with the President, and on 20 Oct 27 BuNav formally recommended the name OGLALA. SecNav approved this name on 24 Oct 27 and it became effective on 1 Jan 28.

SHAWMUT/OGLALA landed the fuel tanks on her stern and reinstalled her after guns around the time she returned to mine force duty in 1921 as flagship of Mine Squadron 1 in the Atlantic. By July 1929 her original eight single-ended cylindrical boilers had been replaced with two Bureau-modified Yarrow boilers, a type only fitted in the destroyer CUSHING (DD-55) and possibly taken out of her. By July 1931 these had been replaced with two White-Forster destroyer boilers and she had lost one of her smokestacks. She transferred her 5" gun and her after 3" gun ashore at Pearl Harbor on 25 Sep 32. During 1931 she became flagship of Minecraft, Battle Force.

During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 41 OGLALA was moored outboard of light cruiser HELENA (CL-50) at Ten Ten dock, and she soon sank alongside the dock as a result of shock damage from a torpedo hit on the cruiser. Placed in commission in ordinary on 29 Dec 41 she was finally drydocked after refloating on 3 Jul 42 and Pearl Harbor was directed to carry out the work needed to enable her to proceed to Mare Island under her own power. OGLALA left Pearl Harbor on 23 Dec 42 with a temporary armament of 1-3”/23 gun and arrived at San Francisco on 1 Jan 43. Her repair work was assigned to the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. at San Pedro and began on 1 Apr 43. On the same day CominCh directed that she be converted to an internal combustion engine repair ship (ARG), reflecting an urgent need for such tenders in the fleet because of all the diesel-engined craft then entering the force. SecNav on 21 May 43 approved the reclassification of the ship to ARG-1, to be effective on 15 Jun 43. Shops and repair equipment were installed on the mine deck and stowage facilities for spare parts were provided. The ship was also given a third boiler and an updated topsides configuration and armament. She was placed back in full commission on 28 Feb 44 and departed for the Southwest Pacific on 31 Mar 44. She served at Hollandia, New Guinea, from July to December 1944 and at Leyte Gulf from December 1944 to September 1945. Decommissioned in July 1946, she was retained in the Maritime Administration reserve fleet until 1965. OGLALA's World War II reconstruction and career are described and illustrated in much more detail in Warship International, No. 1, 2000.

The fate of AROOSTOOK was very different. On 30 Apr 41 CNO's War Plans Division recommended that, because the growing demand for ocean tonnage was making it difficult to procure proper ships for conversion to naval auxiliaries, the brand new Auxiliary Vessels Board determine the best use that could be made of the two ships still in reserve at Puget Sound, AROOSTOOK and PROMETHEUS (AR-3). On 7 May 41 the Board noted that AROOSTOOK was in much worse condition than PROMETHEUS despite having been laid up much later and that extensive hull and superstructure repairs would be required in addition to reboilering with available destroyer boilers. Most importantly, the Board was unable to reach any decision as to the type of auxiliary into which she should be converted and asked BuShips for further study of costs and possible uses. On 16 May 41 the Board noted that there was an urgent need for a small cargo carrier (AK) to augment the present service of supply to Alaskan and Pacific Island bases and that Puget Sound said that AROOSTOOK could be refitted for this duty for a reasonable cost. The Board therefore recommended the conversion and BuShips accordingly assigned the number AK-44 on 20 May 41. On 20 Jun 41, however, BuShips strongly recommended that AROOSTOOK be converted into some type other than an AK because of her light construction and age and the small amount of cargo, about 600 tons, that she could carry. On 31 Jul 41 BuShips indicated that the work to be done on AROOSTOOK had been materially simplified and anticipated her continued primary assignment as a minelayer. However she instead was offered to the Maritime Commission, and after the MC told the Navy on 26 Aug 41 that it could find no satisfactory use for the ship the Auxiliary Vessels Board on 6 Sep 41 recommended that nothing be done beyond laying her up. On 5 Nov 41 the Board rejected a proposal from Com-13 that she be reconditioned as a coastal minelayer. As of late 1942 she was anchored in Sinclair Inlet serving as a floating base for Army anti-aircraft guns. Based on a recommendation from Puget Sound, SecNav on 31 Oct 42 placed her on the list of vessels to be scrapped. On 12 Jan 43 OpNav authorized Puget Sound to proceed with the disposal of AROOSTOOK on the basis of transfer of the hull to the Army. This transfer took place through the War Shipping Administration on 31 Jan 43 and the ship was stricken on 5 Feb 43.

AROOSTOOK's story, however, was not yet over. According to newspaper articles from early 1947 the War Department soon transferred the ship to the Metals Reserve Corporation, a subsidiary of the Reconstruction Finance Corp., which offered her for sale as scrap. Dulien Steel Products won her by agreeing to demolish the hull and pay Metals Reserve $3 a gross ton for the 2300 tons of metallic scrap expected to be salvaged. The hull was then afloat in Lake Washington, Seattle, and Dulien wanted to demolish her right away but the Coast Guard advised that it could not be completed at that point because of lack of room. The company tried without success to find moorings elsewhere on the Pacific Coast. (CNO on 9 Feb 45 directed investigating her possible use as a barge for transporting piles or other cargo.) In May 1946 Dulien paid Metals Reserve $6,900 in full settlement. But the hulk remained afloat, and the mobster Tony Cornero Stralla got hold of her. She was licensed for Pacific coastal trading but was instead moored just outside the three mile limit as a gambling ship. In January 1947 a court ordered Stralla's gambling barge BUNKER HILL, also known as LUX, turned over to the Coast Guard. The confiscated gambling equipment included about 36,000 silver dollars. The Coast Guard delivered the hulk to the Maritime Commission at Suisun Bay on 24 Jul 47 and the MC delivered her to her buyer, the Basalt Rock Co., on 17 Oct 47. This time the scrapping took place promptly.

Ship Notes:
CM Name Notes
3 AROOSTOOK Ex merc. BUNKER HILL (ID-1256, completed Jun 07). Comm 7 Jan 18 in SD19. To AK-44 20 May 41. From Navy to USCG (possibly initially Army) 31 Jan 43. From USCG to MC at Suisun Bay 24 Jul 47. To buyer 15 Oct 47, scrapped by 15 Dec 47.
4 SHAWMUT Ex merc. MASSACHUSETTS (ID-1255, completed Apr 07). Comm 7 Jan 18 in SD19. Renamed OGLALA 1 Jan 28. To ARG-1 15 Jun 43. To MC 11 Jul on MC card. To buyer 2 Sep 65, scrapped by 24 Feb 66.

Page Notes:
CM        1917
Compiled:        08 Sep 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012