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USNS Pvt Leonard C Brostrom (T-AK 255) before her heavy lift conversion.

USNS Pvt Leonard C Brostrom (T-AK 255) before her heavy lift conversion.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Design: MC C4-S-B1
Displacement (tons): 8,569 light, 22,094 full
Dimensions (feet): 520' oa, 503' wl x 72' e/wl x 33' max nav
Armament: none
Accommodations: 14 officers, 43 unlicensed
Speed (kts.): 17
Propulsion (HP): 9,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (465psi/750deg), 1 screw

255PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM3 Aug 1950Sun SB & DD5 Dec 194210 May 194330 Aug 1950

AKNameTInact/CustStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
255PVT LEONARD C BROSTROMT29 May 1980/C1982?8 Jun 1982MA/S--

Class Notes:
The C4-class ships were the largest seagoing cargo ships built by the Maritime Commission during World War II. The design was originally developed for the American-Hawaiian SS Co. in 1941 but was taken over by the Maritime Commission in late 1941. The first C4's ordered were 30 Navy troop transports from Kaiser (see the AP 130 class) and 50 Army ships from the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock in Chester, Pa. When ordered in February 1942 the Sun ships were to be tank-carrying cargo ships with ramp discharge facilities (C4-S-B1). Frequent design changes followed, in which both inboard and outboard ramps were proposed and facilities for 547 troops were added. In September 1943 all but the first, hull 735 (MARINE EAGLE), were redesigned as cargo ships with facilities for about 2,400 Army troops (C4-S-B2) and only minimal cargo. By early 1944 the Sun yard was needed to build T2 tankers and the orders for the last 30 of its C4's were transferred to Kaiser. Hulls 743-748 were then delivered incomplete to the Navy for conversion to hospital ships (AH 12-17), and hulls 750-754 (including MARINE FIDDLER, hull 753) were completed as combination cargo/transport vessels (C4-S-B5). During the war MARINE EAGLE was operated on ordinary cargo services by the American-Hawaiian SS Co. After the war she passed to the War Shipping Administration to carry Army personnel in transit until released in March 1946. In 1947 she was taken over by the Army and renamed PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM for a Medal of Honor recipient.

On 23 December 1949 Commander MSTS wrote to the Army's Chief of Transportation that it had been brought to his attention that USAT PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM, which was erroneously listed as an "aircraft cargo ship" along with the future AKV 3-7, would be withdrawn from Army service about 20 December 1949 and placed in a standby status. This vessel was a C4-S-B1 design, the only C4 actually completed as originally intended for use as a tank carrier. Four hatches were 30' x 20', one was 27.5' x 20' and one was 18' x 18'. The ship had a cubic capacity of over 726,000 cu. ft. (bale) at 22,000 tons displacement. The greater displacement made the BROSTROM less economical to operate in general cargo service as compared with a Victory cargo ship having a capacity of 453,000 cu. ft. (bale) at 15,000 tons displacement. It was understood that the BROSTROM had been used by the Army Transportation Service on special missions involving the movement of combat equipment. Such special services could be handled in the future by MSTS with AKA's (Attack Cargo Ships). He concluded that the BROSTROM should be added to the list of ships which were not required by MSTS. In early January the Army responded that it was preparing the paperwork to declare the vessel surplus to the needs of the Army and to transfer title back to the MC.

The acquisition and reactivation of additional ships for MSTS following the outbreak of the Korean War led to the appearance of BROSTROM among six cargo ships (T-AK 251-256) requested by Commander MSTS on 21 July 1950 with a comment that BROSTROM (AK 255) could also be classified as T-AKM 1 (Cargo Ship, Mechanized) as she was fitted to carry tanks. On 24 July Commander MSTS authorized his regional deputy commanders to accept custody of the six cargo ships from MA and activate them the soonest practicable. AK 255 was among 18 Maritime Admininstration ships to be transferred to the Navy for which names, classification, and hull numbers were approved on 31 Jul 1950.

On 29 July 1952 Commander MSTS wrote to CNO that the Department of the Navy Program Objectives for FY 1953 contained provision for the conversion by MSTS of two cargo ships for use as heavy lifts. This requirement grew out of American experience early in the Korean War, in which few Korean ports had adequate facilities to unload oversized cargoes, particularly railroad locomotives. To meet its responsibilities in this regard MSTS had to rely solely on foreign flag ships as no suitable shipping was available under US registry, which Commander MSTS described as a highly undesirable situation. He noted that military requirements for the movement of tanks, locomotives, and construction vehicles had been considerable during the previous two years and were expected to continue indefinitely. Following discussions with MARAD, he had decided that the conversion of new MARINER class ships for this purpose was not feasible, and instead he proposed to convert USNS PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM (T-AK 255) for heavy lift service. For the second ship he recommended that the Navy acquire the C4-S-B5 cargo ship MARINE FIDDLER (see AK 267) from MARAD. The C4 type ship was selected because its dimensions permitted the enlargement of cargo holds without the loss of required stability and hull strength while their machinery aft feature simplified the rigging arrangement by permitting the use of one centrally located mast and machinery compartment for the heavy lift booms. The technical unit of MSTS developed and prepared the contract plans and specifications for the conversions, and the work was awarded to the Bethlehem Steel Co. in September 1953.

PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM was converted to a heavy lift ship by Bethlehem's Brooklyn 56th St. yard while MARINE FIDDLER was converted at Bethlehem's Hoboken, N.J. yard. Each ship received a heavy structure amidships with two 150-ton booms designed and fabricated by Bethlehem, mostly by the 56th St. yard but with assistance from Hoboken, the 27th St. yard, Staten Island, Corsicana (Texas), and Bethlehem's wire rope division. BROSTROM also retained two 25-ton, eight 10-ton,and four 5-ton booms. The arrangement of both ships was completely changed between the forecastle and poop bulkheads, the ten cargo spaces in BROSTROM and sixteen in MARINE FIDDLER being replaced by four new cargo areas making up the new No. 3 and 4 holds. The 16-foot heavy lift machinery compartment was placed between these two holds. Hatches were increased in size from 36 by 20 feet to 75 by 35 feet and the two new holds measured 100 by 71 feet. The deck structure was reinforced to permit loading 120-ton locomotives internally, on the upper deck, and on the Nos. 3 and 4 hatch covers. As converted each ship could handle from 30 to 60 railroad locomotives up to 120 tons in weight and up to 58 feet in length.

PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM was delivered following conversion in late March 1954. During the 1960s and 1970s she carried such diverse cargoes as chemical weapons to Okinawa for Project Red Hat in 1963-64, a 101 long ton turbo-electric power plant, several 85 long ton diesel-electric locomotives, a 116 long ton turbine-generator car, and a 110 long ton IMODCO tanker mooring buoy from Yokohama to Taiwan. In July 1963 she was photographed (NHHC MSC collection) at NSO Seattle with a deck load of small combatants including PGM 61 and 63 on top of No. 3 hold and PGM 62 and PT 812 on top of No. 4 hold, the PGMs bound to Vietnam and the PT to South Korea. Outlasting MARINE FIDDLER in service by seven years (through no fault of the latter), BROSTROM was nominated by MSC on 7 Apr 1980 for retirement due to age and deteriorated material condition.

Ship Notes:
255PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM735Ex merc. MARINE EAGLE, completed 18 Sep 1943. Operated by American-Hawaiian SS Co. during WWII. To Olympia reserve fleet 29 Oct 1946. To Army 27 Mar 1948 and renamed. To Olympia reserve fleet 27 Jan 1950. To MSTS custody 3 Aug 1950. To MA custody 29 May 1980. Sold for scrapping under the MA Ship Exchange Program. To buyer 25 Oct 1982. (No strike found, she was still in the 1 April 1982 Naval Vessel Register but was shown in a later NVR as BU in October 1982.)

Page Notes:
Compiled: 7 Aug 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: Naval Institute Proceedings, June 1954, Professional Notes, note on heavy lift ships