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USAT Grommet Reefer in 1948 at Seattle.

USAT Grommet Reefer in 1948 at Seattle.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Design: MC R1-M-AV3 (refrigerated) ex C1-M-AV1
Displacement (tons): 3,277 light, 8,360 full
Dimensions (feet): 339' oa, 320' wl x 50' e/wl x 21'
Armament: none
Accommodations: 11 officers, 28 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 10
Propulsion (HP): 1,700
Machinery: Diesel, 1 screw

53GROMMET REEFER1 Mar 1950Walter Butler SB, Duluth1 Jan 194429 Jul 19441 Mar 1950

AFNameTInactStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
53GROMMET REEFERT--20 Oct 195315 Dec 1952Lost23 Jul 1953

Class Notes:
In mid-1943 the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the Maritime Commission to add to its building program a new type of coastal cargo ship to support the island-hopping campaign against Japan in the Southwest and Central Pacific, and ultimately over 200 of these small ocean-going diesel-propelled cargo ships of the Maritime Commission's C1-M-AV1 type and its refrigerated R1-M-AV3 variant were built. After World War II the Army began to acquire some of these ships for its post-war permanent fleet, and as of 31 August 1948 it had 21 of them excluding those in SCAJAP, of which four were fitted as small transports and five were reefers (BOWLINE REEFER, STAR REEFER, WALL AND CROWN, FLEMISH BEND, and PIER BEND). All were Army-owned except for one cargo C1-M-AV1 and all five R1-M-AV3s, which were under bareboat charter. GROMMET REEFER, which had been built as a C1-M-AV1 but converted to a reefer in 1945, was acquired a month later, also under bareboat charter. By 28 February 1950 the Army's holdings of these types had fallen to 12 ships, including four passenger (which became APC 116-119), six cargo (AK 245-250), and two refrigerated (AF 53 and the reacquired AF 44).

AF 53 was among the Army ships operating out of continental US ports that were to be acquired on 1 Mar 1950 for which Navy names, classification, and hull numbers were approved on 21 Feb 1950. She was duly acquired on 23 February 1950 effective 1 March 1950 and was assigned the status "Active, In service" in MSTS on 24 February 1950. She was shifted from the Northern Pacific to the Atlantic in February 1952.

On 13 December 1952 GROMMET REEFER anchored off the port of Leghorn, Italy, with a cargo of Christmas items for American forces in Italy and Austria. On 15 December 1952 a heavy gale caused her to drag her anchors, ground on rocks, and break in half. Before the bow broke away the entire crew managed to get to the stern section of the ship, which was impaled on a pinnacle of rock about 200 yards offshore. All of them were then brought ashore in a series of daring rescues, culminating in lifts by Navy helicopters from two approaching aircraft carriers. A retrospective from Sealift Magazine (April 1968, p. 23) reports that [The ship] "was carrying a cargo of Christmas turkeys and all the trimmings for United States servicemen stationed in Europe. After the wreck, the shore was strewn with turkeys, sausages, and choice meats. It's reported that the local citizenry enjoyed the unexpected food bonanza in spite of its slightly oily and salty taste, and that many of the neighborhood cafes featured turkey pizza specials."

Ship Notes:
53GROMMET REEFER2243FY 1950. Launched as KENNETH E GRUENNERT of the C1-M-AV1 type, completed 9 Dec 1944, renamed GROMMET REEFER 1945 and redesignated R1-M-AV3. Delivered to commercial operator at New Orleans 31 May 1945. To Army 23 Sep 1948. To MSTS 1 Mar 1950. Grounded and broke in half at Leghorn, Italy, on 15 Dec 1952. Early in 1953 her bow with some cargo was salved, followed later by the stern. Declared a constructive total loss 18 Mar 1953, sold 4 Jun 1953, and transferred to the MA and sale completed 23 Jul 1953.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 23 Jul 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021