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USNS Marine Fiddler (T-AK 267) on 8 March 1953 before her heavy lift conversion.
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Class: MARINE FIDDLER (AK 267, C4-S-B5)
Design: MC C4-S-B5
Displacement (tons): 8,229 light, 22,094 full
Dimensions (feet): 520' oa, 503' wl x 72' e/wl x 33' max nav
Accommodations: 14 officers, 43 unlicensed
Speed (kts.): 17
Propulsion (HP): 9,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (465psi/750deg), 1 screw
|267||MARINE FIDDLER||10 Dec 1952||Sun SB & DD||15 Dec 1944||15 May 1945||10 Dec 1952|
|267||MARINE FIDDLER||T||14 Sep 1973/C||31 Mar 1986||26 Oct 1989||MA/T||28 Aug 2003|
On 14 January 1952 MARAD agreed to make available to MSTS under general agency operation the C4-S-B5 cargo ship MARINE FIDDLER. MARAD undertook the repair and activation of the ship subject to an agreement with MSTS that MSTS would reimburse all costs incurred. The vessel was removed from the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet on 7 February 1952 but subsequently returned to layup on 27 March pending the acquisition of a new boiler. 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 selected cargo ships for use as heavy lift ships (approximately 150 ton capacity). Following discussions with MARAD, Commander MSTS decided that the conversion of new MARINER class ships for this purpose was not feasible. Instead he proposed to convert 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 from MARAD and requested that upon transfer it be assigned to MSTS as USNS MARINE FIDDLER (T-AK 267). 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. To meet their responsibilities in this regard MSTS at that time had to rely solely on foreign flag ships as no suitable shipping was available under US registry, a highly undesirable situation. He therefore requested that the ship be transferred to the Navy upon completion of activation, then estimated to be on 15 October 1952. On 11 October 1952 SECNAV responded to MARAD's concerns over military competition with the merchant marine by explaining that design plans for the heavy lift conversion of MARINE FIDDLER were being developed and were scheduled for completion in early 1953. If transferred as previously requested the ship would be placed in interim operation to familiarize technical and operational personnel with the ship until plans and materials became available for the conversion. On 6 November 1952 MARAD agreed to the transfer, and the ship was accepted by the Navy at San Francisco on 11 December 1952 and placed in MSTS service. Before their heavy lift conversions PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM, designed as an Army tank carrier (C4-S-B1), had between the forward and after superstructures four kingpost pairs serving three oversized hatches while MARINE FIDDLER, designed as a more general cargo ship (C4-S-B5), had five kingpost pairs serving four smaller hatches. BROSTROM's forecastle extended well aft of the forward deckhouse (it was shortened during the conversion) while MARINE FIDDLER's stopped at it. MARINE FIDDLER also had a single level bridge compared to the two levels in BROSTROM and a single mast forward of the bridge instead of a kingpost pair.
MARINE FIDDLER was converted to a heavy lift ship by Bethlehem Steel Co., 56th St. Yard, Brooklyn, completing on 29 March 1954. (PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM was converted in the same yard at about the same time.) In addition to her two 150-ton booms MARINE FIDDLER retained ten 10-ton and four 6-ton booms. Of these, two 5-ton booms served hold 1 forward of the bridge, two 10-ton booms served hold 2, one 150-ton and four 100-ton booms served hold 3, the same outfit served hold 4, and two 5-ton booms served hold 5. She carried components for a portable nuclear power plant for Camp Century, "City Under the Ice," from Buffalo, N.Y. to Thule AFB, Greenland in 1960 and carried them back to the U.S. in 1964, and in April 1964 she carried the French bathyscaphe ARCHIMEDES from Toulon, France, to San Juan, P.R., for use in oceanographic research operations in the Puerto Rico Trench. MARINE FIDDLER was one of the dry cargo ships declared excess to military needs as of March 1973 in the drawdown in Southeast Asia and the reduction in FY 1974 cargo shipping requirements worldwide. In view of the fact that she was a heavy lift ship in good material condition she was recommended for retention in the NDRF unlike most of the other World War II-vintage ships releasted at this time and designated for scrapping. MARINE FIDDLER was inactivated after her return from intra-theater operations in Europe in July 1973 and laid up in the James River National Defense Reserve Fleet. By 29 July 1987 she was a candidate for scrapping with the proceeds to be applied to obtaining a replacement for the reserve fleet, but a peregrine falcon nest and nestlings were discovered onboard. As peregrine falcons were an endangered species and the Fish and Wildlife Service believed there was a chance that the breeding adult peregrines might return, MARAD decided to retain the ship and minimize human activity on and near her. In May 1988 it was confirmed that there were four live peregrine falcon chicks, approximately one week old, in the nest on the ship. On 3 November 1998 the Fish and Wildlife Service certified that the ship was no longer being used by the peregrines and released MARAD from its pledge of 29 July 1987 to retain the ship. She was towed from Newport News, Va. on 30 October 2003 to be dismantled at Bay Bridge Enterprises in Chesapeake, Va.
|267||MARINE FIDDLER||753||FY 1953. Completed 31 Aug 1945, in SBRF from 23 May 1946 except for two short (2-month) periods of operation by the American President Lines in 1952. To MA custody in JRRF 14 Sep 1973, title transferred from the Navy to MA 11 October 1989 and accepted on 26 October 1989. On prolonged hold in JRRF because the vessel had become a nesting site for the endangered peregrine falcon (restriction lifted 3 Nov 1998). Moved to scrapping facility Nov 2003. BU completed 13 Nov 2004.|
Compiled: 7 Aug 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021