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USNS <I>Marine Fiddler</I> (T-AK 267) on 8 March 1953 before her heavy lift conversion.

USNS Marine Fiddler (T-AK 267) on 8 March 1953 before her heavy lift conversion.
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Class: MARINE FIDDLER (T-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
Armament: none
Accommodations: 14 officers, 43 unlicensed
Speed (kts.): 17
Propulsion (HP): 9,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (465psi/750deg), 1 screw

Construction:
AKNameAcqBuilderKeelLaunchSvc
267MARINE FIDDLER10 Dec 1952Sun SB & DD15 Dec 194415 May 194510 Dec 1952

Disposition:
AKNameTInact/CustStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
267MARINE FIDDLERT14 Sep 1973/C31 Mar 198626 Oct 1989MA/T28 Aug 2003

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. For more background on the C4's see the AK 255 and AP 193 classes. MARINE FIDDLER was among the last five of the twenty C4's built by the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock in Chester, Pa., which were completed at the end of the war as combination cargo/transport vessels (C4-S-B5). Four of these five ships were sold commercial in 1951 leaving only MARINE FIDDLER in the MARAD reserve fleet.

On 14 January 1952 MARAD agreed to make available to MSTS under general agency operation the C4-S-B5 cargo ship MARINE FIDDLER. MARAD began 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 had decided that the conversion of new MARINER class ships for this purpose was not feasible, and he instead proposed to convert PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM (T-AK 255) for heavy lift service. For the second ship he recommended that MARINE FIDDLER, instead of being assigned for general agency operation, be transferred to the Navy and assigned to MSTS as USNS MARINE FIDDLER (T-AK 267) for conversion to a heavy lift ship upon completion of her activation by MARAD, 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 combination cargo/transport vessel (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. (For the background and many details of this conversion, see the page for PVT LEONARD C BROSTROM which was converted at the same time under the same contract.) 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.

During her heavy lift service, MARINE FIDDLER 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. In April 1963 she was photographed (NHHC MSC collection) at NSO Seattle with PGM 59 and 60 on top of No. 3 hold bound to Vietnam. 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.

Ship Notes:
AKNameMCNotes
267MARINE FIDDLER753Completed 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.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 7 Aug 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021