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U. S. Navy Auxiliary Ships
1946-1980 Supplement

To access the ship listings click on this photograph or click "Enter".

The new fast combat support ship USS Sacramento (AOE-1) with the equally new combat store ship Mars (AFS-1) and the oil-stained FRAM-II destroyer Walke (DD-723) alongside, probably during pre-deployment training for a Westpac cruise that started on 27 November 1964. Walke has a highline over amidships while Mars has only a phone and distance line over forward and may be breaking away. Sacramento was nearly as large as an Iowa-class battleship and had half of the propulsion plant of one, the incomplete Kentucky (BB-66). Photo no. USN 1105513 released 24 December 1964.


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First draft complete, updates in progress.

This is a supplement to the auxiliary ships portion of the Shipscribe site that takes the entire portion into 1980 and carries the portion relating to "combat logistics ships" (underway replenishment ships, currently the AKE, AO, and AOE types) up to the present. A list of later auxiliary ship classes of other types (but not their ships) up to the present is also provided. Work on this supplement began in July 2021 and the last photo pages were posted on 28 October 2023, although changes and updates are expected.

The Navy added a new generation of auxiliary ships to the fleet during the 1950s and early 1960s, but fiscal constraints largely caused by the increasing intensity of the Vietnam War brought auxiliary ship procurement to a near stop by the end of the 1960s. It also added many World War II-era ships to the auxiliary fleet in the 1950s and 1960s, many for the new Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS, see below), but this ended in 1969 with Marshfield (AK 282), a Victory ship converted to transport fleet ballistic missiles. Only a few new auxiliary ships were added during the 1970s, some because of concern within OSD over the aging of the force rather than because the Navy asked for them. This supplement concludes with Fiscal Year 1979 procurement at the end of this slow period plus the FY 1980 ships of legacy types. When acquisitions began to pick up in Fiscal 1980 the types procured, including the T-AGOS (1-3) type first funded in FY 1980, were quite different, and beginning in the mid-1990s the Navy began to move away altogether from operating its own auxiliary ship force as it had in World War II, relying instead on the civilian-manned Military Sealift Command (MSC, ex MSTS) and on contract shipping. By 2021 the only auxiliary ships in full Navy commission were the two LCC-19 command ships, two AS-39 class submarine tenders (both at Guam), three of the new Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) type, and for the legal record Pueblo (AGER 2).

As does the main site, this supplement provides for each ship its name and classification, technical specifications, and procurement history, along with dates of and other relevant data on construction, commissioning, and disposal. Most career details, notably operational history, are outside the scope of this work. Ships are listed by type using standard U. S. Navy classifications (AD: Destroyer Tender, etc.) and class. To proceed to the ship class pages, click "Enter" above or click on the photograph at the top of this page to access the main ship type page. The Quick Links Menu is an alphabetical listing of ship types in this supplement with direct links to them.

Ship designs were managed and numbered by the Ship Characteristics Board (SCB, to c1971), Ship Acquisition and Improvement Council (SAIC, c1971-72), and the Ship Acquisition and Improvement Panel (SAIP, c1972-76). From 1974 design requirements were disseminated as Top Level Requirements (TLR). In 1963 for Fiscal Year 1965 and later the SCB replaced its numeric sequence of SCB numbers with block numbers (700 = auxiliaries) followed by a two digit suffix denoting the fiscal year under which the ship was to be built (concept work having began earlier). In effect, this new numbering scheme changed the focus of the SCB from design and development to procurement and budget compliance, and concept-only designs ceased to receive numbers. The assignment of design numbers stopped in 1979. Click here for a listing of all U.S. Navy Ship Characteristics Board (SCB) numbers and those of its successors, 1946-1979.

Whenever possible, a representative photograph has been provided for each ship class whith more photos to be provided in the future on special photo pages. The photos are primarily from the U. S. Naval History and Heritage Command and from other Navy sources, although documentation on these and other photos, including photo numbers and dates, is not as complete as for the period up to 1945 because many of the originals have not been cataloged by NHHC or NARA. Unlike the other information on this site, all of which is copyright © by Stephen S. Roberts, all photographs that originated from U.S. Government collections or that have U.S. Government file numbers are believed to be in the public domain, and this site claims no rights to them and places no restrictions on their reproduction and use.

Two directives were added to SECNAVINST 5030.8A of 8 Feb 2011 and repeated in later editions: "Hyphens shall not be used in the hull number of any ship or craft," and "Periods shall not be used to separate any letters in a ship's name." These directives codified practices that had been in use since at least the early 1950s (though not in World War II) and are followed in this supplement.

The Establishment of the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS)

On 15 December 1948 Secretary of Defense James Forrestal issued a statement, "all military sea transport including Army transports would be placed under Navy command." On 12 July 1949 Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson issued a memorandum that spelled out the financing, purpose, and responsibilities of the new Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS). He directed that the titles to the Army's cargo and passenger ships be transferred to the Navy. The initial commander of MSTS, Rear Admiral William M. Callaghan (subsequently promoted to Vice Admiral), coordinated the transfer of the Naval Transportation Service (NTS) with its commander, Rear Admiral A. J. Wellings (re-assigned as Vice Commander MSTS), and Major General F. A. Heileman, the Chief of the Army Transportation Corps (ATS). The command opened for business on 1 October 1949 when NTS was dissolved and its assets and personnel were transferred to MSTS. The fleet initially consisted of 6 troop transports (AP 111-115 and 176), 3 attack transports (APA 18-19 and 30), 12 attack cargo ships (AKA 13-15, 19-20, 53, 55, 58-61, and 100), and 16 tankers (AO 36-37, 39, 41-43, 47, 54, 56-58, and 60-64). These ships were commissioned vessels in the U.S. Navy and manned by military crews, a category that MSTS stopped handling with the retirement of AP 112 in 1966. Also on 1 October 1949, 57 tankers of the Petroleum and Tanker Branch of the Chief of Naval Operations office (OP-422) joined the MSTS fleet. (These were AO 49-50, 65, 67, 73, 75-85, 87-88, 93-96, 101, 111-142, and AOG 68 and 76.) They were government-owned tankers known as U.S. Naval Tankers (USNT) but were contract operated by four commercial firms (Pacific Tankers, Inc. of San Francisco; American Pacific Steamship Co. of San Pedro; Tankers Company, Inc. of New York; and Marine Transport Lines, Inc. of New York), and had licensed civilian merchant mariners aboard.

While these Navy assets were quickly assimilated into MSTS, the transfer of Army assets took a while longer. On 1 March 1950, 72 ships of the ATS based in the continental United States were redesignated from United States Army Transports (USAT) to United States Naval Ships (USNS). Unlike the ships of the NTS, they possessed civilian merchant crews, directly employed by the government and known as civilian mariners. Names, classifications, and hull numbers were approved on 21 February 1950 for Army ships operating out of continental US ports that were to be acquired on 1 March 1950. These became AF 50-53; AK 237-249; AKL 15-17; AKV 3-7; AP 120-127, 134-135, 137-151, 153, 155-159, and 178-187; APC 116; ATA 239; LST 694 and 1010; and YO 242-243 (both at San Juan, P.R.). AP 178-179 and 184-186 had previously been APA 89-90, APH 2-3, and APH 1 respectively. By a separate directive dated 28 April 1950, AP 120/159, 178-179, and 184-186 and LST 694 and 1010, which had previously been stricken, were reinstated on the List of Naval Vessels. Besides these ships, 19 commercial cargo ships under contract shifted to MSTS operational control.

Four months later, on 1 July 1950, the ATS offices and assets based at Bremerhaven, Germany; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Balboa, Panama; Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii; and Tokyo, Japan joined the growing fleet. Names, classifications, and hull numbers were approved on 7 June 1950 for 31 Army and two MARAD-owned ships then operating under Army overseas commands that were to be transferred to the Navy on 1 July 1950. These became AF 44 (ex MARAD); AK 250; AKL 18-32; AOG 2, 4-5, 36, and 77 (ex MARAD); APC 117-118; ATA 240, LST 742, 802, 883, 898, 975, and 1048; YO 244; and YTB 746. All were from the Army's Far East Command except AK 250 and AKL 26-28 (Hawaii); AKL 23, ATA 240, LST 802 and LST 898 (Guam); AKL 21 (Panama); and AKL 25, YO 244, and YTB 746 (San Juan). AF 44, the AOGs except AOG 77, and the LSTs had previously been stricken and were reinstated on the List of Naval Vessels effective on the date of their transfer to the Navy. The five SCAJAP ships that had been AK 180, 187, 188, 198, and 200 were also restored to the List of Naval Vessels on 1 July 1950 although not reassigned to MSTS until 1 April 1951.

Names, classifications, and hull numbers were approved on 31 July 1950 for 18 Maritime Admiminstration ships to be transferred to the Navy. These became AP 110, 116, 119, 154, and 188-195 and AK 251-256. Of these AP 110, 116, 119, and 154 had previously been stricken and were reinstated on the List of Naval Vessels effective on the date of their transfer to the Navy. AP 110, 119, 154, and 189-192 and AK 251-255 were ex-Army ships that had recently been transferred by the Army to MARAD for layup.

Names, classifications, and hull numbers were approved on 7 September 1950 for three Maritime Administration ships then in layup and one Army ship that were to be transferred to the Navy. These became AOG 78-80 and APC 119.

The last portion of the Army's fleet, ten ships stationed in Alaska joined on 1 November 1950, completing the initial Military Sea Transportation Service fleet. These transfers had been put off until after the summer operating season. Classifications and hull numbers were approved on 31 October 1950 for Army vessels and service craft in Alaska that MSTS and the Army's Chief of Transportation mutually agreed would be transferred on 1 November 1950. These became AKL 33-36, ATA 241-244, and LSU 1362 and 1460. The LSUs had previously been stricken and were reinstated on the List of Naval Vessels. This directive also included two small boats and ten non-self propelled barges and lighters.

The prefix "T" for MSTS/MSC ships originated in a letter of 1 December 1949 from Commander MSTS to CNO in which MSTS recommended classification symbols and numbers for a group of Army ships operating out of the continental United States that was scheduled for transfer to the Navy in the immediate future (1 March 1950). The classification symbol for these ships included the prefix "T", meaning "assigned to MSTS." MSTS also recommended that the same identifications be extended to former Naval Transportation Service ships, both commissioned and noncommissioned, while they were assigned to MSTS. However inasmuch as the prefix "T" was to be used for purposes of identification, it was not to appear as part of the classification symbol in the listing of MSTS ships in the Naval Vessels Register (NVR) or Ship Data U.S. Naval Vessels (the Ships Data Book), the information to be provided in those publications by status codes. CNO approved these recommendations on 27 December 1949. This practice continues to this day, though the prefix "T" is no longer used for commissioned vessels. On 22 February 1950 CNO approved the assignment of the status "Active, in service" for all noncommissioned vessels assigned to MSTS.

On 1 January 1966 the Military Air Transportation Service (MATS) was redesignated the Military Airlift Command (MAC) when the Navy announced the inactivation or reassignment of the transport squadrons it was contributing to that force. DOD formally relieved the Navy from MAC responsibilities as of 1 July 1967. On 1 August 1970 the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) was similarly redesignated the Military Sealift Command (MSC). Vice Adm. Arthur R. Gralla, then commander of MSC, noted that "Airlift and sealift are the two basic sources of global mobility for our Armed Forces and they operate as a team in moving and supporting defense forces worldwide." MAC became the Air Mobility Command (AMC) in 1992 but MSC remains active as such in 2023.

This entire site, including all its pages, is copyright © Stephen S. Roberts, 2001-2023 or later as indicated.

Page made 9 July 2021