SS President Grant-Circa 1942

SS President Grant-Circa 1942

Bob Burns
Bob Burns

January 21st, 2012, 3:45 am #1

I am looking for a photograph for the Armed Guard Unit, SS PRESIDENT GRANT circa November 1942.

She was a passenger-cargo vessel, displacing 21,000 tons, speed 14 knots. The vessel was owned by the American President Lines operating under a bare boat charter issued to the Maritime Commission and chartered by the War Shipping Administration. She was built in 1920-21, class XAP, DWT. 13050, and she was severally damaged when she ran aground on ULAMA reef near Sydney, Feb. 22, 1944.

"She was one of the three transports escorted by the HMS Leander as part of convoy F.P.1 from Auckland to Noumea; departing 0801 Nov 3 and arriving 1700 Nov 6, 1942."

There were at least four, similar vessels named the SS PRESIENT GRANT yet I am not sure which one traveled with the F.P.1. convoy of November 3-6, 1942 from NZ to NC, maybe someone on this forum knows and may have a photograph of this vessel.

Thanks,
Bob
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Warren
Warren

January 21st, 2012, 7:57 pm #2

There are deatails and a photo of PRESIDENT GRANT herehttp://www.pacificwrecks.com/ships/usn/ ... grant.html
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Nelson
Nelson

January 22nd, 2012, 8:21 am #3

Clicking on the URL appearing in the previous post, one reads among other things:

> Prior to the start of the war, [SS President Grant] departed San Francisco on November 9, 1941, under the command of Captain W. S. Tyrrell, stopping briefly at Honolulu, Hawaii, and then arrived at Manila on December 6th, the day before the Japanese attack on the Philippines. >

Indeed President Grant was part of the last USN cruiser-escorted convoy to make it safely through to the Philippines before the outbreak of war, and all of the merchant ships--the others being SS John Lykes, SS Cape Fairweather, SS American Leader, and SS Doña Nati--were still at Manila when the war suddenly erupted. The convoy, escorted by the light cruiser Boise (CL 47), left Oahu on November 18, 1941, and unlike the larger Pensacola convoy that followed it, the Boise convoy sailed directly west through the Mandates. On two successive nights, November 27 and 28, 1941, the convoy was shadowed and mildly challenged by one or two (not clear if the same ship on both nights) IJN training cruisers of the Katori class (2 x 2 140mm/50cal main guns), likely either or both Katori and Kashima (but definitely not Kashii, which was then in the south). On the 29th, the convoy passed 20 nm from Guam, but did not stop there; on December 4, Boise at least reached Manila Bay. The above website claims President Grant arrived there two days later, which may or may not be true, but it was common prewar practice for the escort to release the convoy to independent sailing once reaching the safe waters of the Philippines or the northern NEI.

Three of the vessels--American Leader, Cape Fairweather, and John Lykes--were brand new or at least rather recently built U.S. Maritime Commission C1-B merchant ships, powered either by steam geared turbines or diesel engines. In addition to President Grant's loss after running aground in 1944, two other ships that had taken part in the convoy would suffer grievous damage or loss not long in the future. Convoy escort Boise would go aground in the waters of NEI on January 21, 1942, suffering heavy bottom damage, which resulted in the almost immediate relief of her captain, Stephen Boutwell Robinson, and the warship's withdrawal from the campaign in the SW Pacific. SS American Leader would fall prey in the South Atlantic to the German raider Michel on September 10, 1942. After being transferred to the IJA, her crewmen would find themselves prisoners of war in the same camp that held members of 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, captured on Java, and a few crewmen from heavy cruiser Houston (CA 30).

Not a few naval historians whose expertise covers this period of the war consider that the interference--although that is almost certainly exaggerated--by the IJN while the convoy was still east of Guam heavily impacted on the revised route of the immediately following Pensacola convoy, south and west through Torres Strait and then north through the NEI to Manila Bay. IF war had not started on December 7-8, 1941, that round-about and far longer route could not have long been sustained. The American and Philippine armies were still woefully underequipped and time was critical if they were to be brought up to armed strength before war broke out.....and time of course ran out.

One last coincidence and another couple of ifs: IF one or two mischievous Japanese training cruisers had not done such a good job in snooping out the Boise convoy on two successive nights (them excellent IJN night optics, don't ya know) and IF the Pensacola convoy as well had ploughed on through the Mandates, being in the middle of them when war visited Oahu and Luzon, my guess is that would have been seriously bad cess for the Pensacola convoy.

Nelson
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Nelson
Nelson

January 22nd, 2012, 9:29 am #4

To be sure, I should have mentioned as well another alumnus of the Boise convoy that enjoyed extraordinarily good luck a bit later on. SS Doña Nati was one of three sizable merchant ships that were successful blockade runners, getting various supplies and materiel from Australian ports to major islands of the Philippines south of Luzon. Leaving first, on February 16, 1942, ex-Pensacola convoy vessel Coast Farmer ran her cargo up to Gingoog Bay in northern Mindanao, followed two days later by Philippine registered Doña Nati, which reached Cebu City. The last was British registry Anhui, also getting to and back from Cebu City, All of them experienced wild adventures and hair-raising close calls in their undertakings. Other chartered vessels, such as Florence D. and Don Isidro, sunk or burned by IJN aircraft north of Darwin, and numerous interisland steamers, to which the goods had been transferred for the final run to Luzon, were far less lucky. Luck at last ran out for Coast Farmer, too, being torpedoed and sunk off the Australian coast just a few months later, on July 20, 1942.

Nelson
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Bob Burns
Bob Burns

January 22nd, 2012, 9:33 pm #5

There are deatails and a photo of PRESIDENT GRANT herehttp://www.pacificwrecks.com/ships/usn/ ... grant.html
Warren and Nelson- Thank you. I am still looking for details of convoy F.P.1 daily movements (Boschfontein, Tabinta, Pres. Grant, HMNZS Leander) War Diarys or deck logs, although as Nelson may agree these docs were destroyed by the military in the 50s for chartered merchant ships-Armed Guard ships (USAT's). I did acquire the U.S.S. Lamson War Diary for November 1942 which confirms her meeting up with the convoy on Nov. 5, a day prior to the convoys arrival Noumea, New Caledonia as anti-submarine escort.

I did acquire a copy of an Armed Guard Report, Fourteenth Naval District, Pearl Harbour, reporting on the SS President Grant movement Noumea, New Caledonia to Honolulu, T.H. (Nov. 9 to Nov. 28, 1942), dated Nov. 23, 1942 and signed by Lt. Harold H. Abrams (I believe he was a junior officer of the ship). It does contain a list of 22 Armed Guard personnel, by name aboard.

I also have a similar report copy describing the SS Tabinta and SS President Grant, movement, dated October 23, 1942. Excerpts from report-Underway from SF at 1500 hours October 1, 1942 with five other vessels and light cruiser as escort-This vessel carried the Commodore-Boschfontein broke down returned to port-convoy turned back to meet Boschfontein - Oct. 3 with the Boschfontein resume course to designation- Oct. 15 escort relieved by New Zealand cruiser (maybe HMNZS Leander?)-Oct. 22 moored at pier Auckland, New Zealand.
Unfortunately for me these documents cover the period before and after convoy F.P.1 took aboard the 214th CA (AA) and landed them on Noumea, NC.
Thanks,
Bob
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Nelson
Nelson

January 23rd, 2012, 6:28 pm #6

Bob,

To iterate what I've written in the past and what I know for certain, just so there is no error in understanding by any reader:

1. The deck logs of United States Army transports from the World War II period have been destroyed in their entirety.

2. The deck logs of U.S. Army transports from the 1920s and general interwar period may still be found--I THINK down at Archives I in Washington, DC--but they are sporadic. What they gots is what ya gets.

3. The deck logs of U.S. Army transports that were transferred for some finite wartime period to the U.S. Navy and thus became commissioned naval vessels, e.g., USS U.S. Grant (AP 29), USS Republic (AP 33), etc., survive for that period of naval "guardianship". Thus the sooner that naval service began and the later it ended, the longer the period a researcher may peruse the log contents.

4. The deck logs of American merchant vessels engaged in wartime shipping reverted to the ownership of the various commercial companies postwar. Virtually all of these companies went out of business, so draw your own conclusions, although some of these logs do survive in local and regional maritime museums or collections.

5. I cannot speak authoritatively on the war diaries of U.S. Army transports. I suspect all or the vast majority of them accompanied the deck logs to destruction. One should pursue the matter, however, for one never knows what luck he'll have.

In your prefatory statement, you did remind the readership that several ships of that period did bear the name President Grant or some variation thereon (e.g., U.S. Grant). By another of those coincidences I alluded to earlier in this thread, one of the vessels renamed SS President Grant in 1907 became USAT Republic in 1919 and again in 1931, and then a decade later, USS Republic (AP 33) of Pensacola convoy fame. In an oddly almost parallel backstory, SS Konig Wilhelm II, launched in 1907, was similarly taken over as a war prize by the United States in 1917 and became naval transport Madawaska. The army got her in 1922 and renamed her USAT U.S. Grant. She was commissioned USS U.S. Grant (AP 29) in June 1941, one month before USS Republic was. Now then, two ships launched in the early 1920s were christened Centennial State and Pine Tree State, the former soon becoming the Dollar Line's President Adams and the latter its President Grant....and it only gets better (= worse). In 1937, the Dollar Steamship Company went bust, and for all intents was taken over by the U.S. government and transformed into the American Presidents Line (APL). In 1940, SS President Grant passed into navy hands and commissioned USS Harris (AP 8), and thereupon SS President Adams was renamed SS President Grant. Although the website Warren recommended claims that President Grant (ex-President Adams) was also transferred to the U.S. Navy, that did not happen and she remained SS President Grant until she went to her destruction on Uluma Reef in 1944. Certainly President Ulysses S. Grant was the eponym for a lot of ships, quite an irony when you think about it, because when he left office in 1877, for most Americans one President Grant was more than enough. Ain't history FUN!

Nelson
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Bob Burns
Bob Burns

January 24th, 2012, 7:02 pm #7

Has anyone located a photograph of the PRESIDENT GRANT I am looking for? I only know of the Pacific Wrecks website photo circa 1943.

The 'Ship Movement Card' for the PRESIDENT GRANT has "P-10" typed on the bottom of the movement cards. For example: On the bottom of each card from left to right, it reads: "Name, No., Gross Tons, Speed, Built, ect... Info filled out reads in this order; "President Grant,P-10, Dwt. 13050, 14, 21... Owner-American President Lines (APL), and Operator-Army, Nationality-US, Home Port-SP 02413-1848 and radio call-KDRL." What does P-10 stand for?

Bob
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Nelson
Nelson

January 24th, 2012, 9:48 pm #8

> What does P-10 stand for? >

As "P-10" appears amidst data specific to President Grant (Dwt, etc.), is it an alphanumeric identifier for the ship bestowed by APL? We know it is not the construction class for this 1921-built ship, which would be a 502/522 class vessel (502 feet between perpendiculars; 522 feet, 8 inches length overall). A reasonable guess, but a guess nonetheless.

Nelson
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Bob Burns
Bob Burns

January 25th, 2012, 2:45 am #9

I do not know if the P-10 is related to APL in some way. You are right the Ship class is 502 (length of ship). A veteran of the 214th CA (AA) aboard one of the Dutch transports included in the FP1 Convoy (Tabinta and Boschfontein) November 3-6, 1942 and referred to the PRESIDENT GRANT as the "Smoker." When the USS Lamson on Nov. 5 was searching for the convoy, they spotted smoke at a distance, which turned out to be the PRESIDENT GRANT and the convoy. I am surprised she lasted as long as she did.

One more question; does the "FP1" Convoy designation mean anything? It appears on the movement cards.

Nelson, what do you do? Are you a history professor, publisher, Author?

By the way my veteran retired COl. Adams of the 214th CA(AA) still holds that there were dummy INJ AA gun (of singapore origin) emplaced around the Guadalcanal airfield-(Fighter Strip I)in January 1943.

Bob
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Nelson
Nelson

January 25th, 2012, 7:04 am #10

> I do not know if the P-10 is related to APL in some way. You are right the Ship class is 502 (length of ship). >

Post-WWI, in the early 1920s, pursuant to plans from the U.S. Shipping Board, two classes of merchant ships were built that would have a sizable impact on American shipping lines between the wars. There was, however, inconsistency in the manner in which they were designated: the longer 535 Class, which were 535 feet in length overall, AND the 502 or 522 Class, 502 feet in length between perpendiculars (LBP) and 522 feet in length overall (LOA). Why this confusing distinction in determining class length, I dunno. The shorter 502/522 Class were powered by old-fashioned triple expansion, reciprocating steam engines, whereas the longer 535 Class were powered by more modern geared steam turbines. There was a similar dichotomy in the WWII Liberty and Victory ships: the former powered by triple expansion engines, using either coal-fired (British) or oil-fired (American) boilers, and the latter by geared turbines or diesel engines. My point here is that the smoky ol' Centennial State/President Adams/President Grant may have been a coal-burner, but I'm not certain. It may have simply been her age and the state of her propulsion system.

> One more question; does the "FP1" Convoy designation mean anything? It appears on the movement cards. >

In the most general terms, the convoy coding included letters denoting origin and destination, e.g., see

http://www.netherlandsnavy.nl/Singapore.html

One problem is that in the SW Pacific and the Indian Ocean, there were numerous ports with identical first letters, e.g., B as in Batavia, Bombay, Brisbane; C as in Calcutta, Capetown, Ceylon/Colombo; D as in Darwin, Durban; M as in Malaya, Melbourne, Mombasa; S as in Singapore, Soerabaja, Sydney; etc., so substitute letters had to be devised for many of these origins and destinations. I THINK as time went on, although the double letter-cardinal number convoy designations persisted, the letters diverged from their actual names, so the route could not be as easily identified. That said, I don't know what FP-1 meant. Do you know if Auckland was the actual origin and Noumea was the final destination of this convoy?

> By the way my veteran retired COl. Adams of the 214th CA(AA) still holds that there were dummy INJ AA gun (of singapore origin) emplaced around the Guadalcanal airfield-(Fighter Strip I)in January 1943. >

Okay, but I don't think either the marines or the army strolled onto Henderson Field, to discover 40mm AA guns already emplaced there (Merillat's The Island and numerous other sources report only larger caliber AA guns--75mm--and MGs in place). The 40mm guns, apparently with their Indian gun crews, were brought in by the IJA rather later. I suppose some were captured in early 1943, put onto landing craft, and re-emplaced around Henderson. Sure as heck the guns in the photos that drew heated discussion awhile back were NOT British-made or captured from the Japanese. They were American-made pieces, without doubt.

> Are you a history professor, publisher, author? >

Not a history professor, but much of my professional life was in academia. In getting my B.S. (biology), I had a split major in mathematics and history. Have a Ph.D. in cell biology and electron microscopy (worked on the ultrastructure and biochemistry of cyanobacteria, a.k.a. blue-green algae). There is a connection between my past and present lives: blue-greens synthesize a unique (and weird) protein composed of only two amino acids, on which I wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay that won a prize and reinvigorated my writing career (longish story, won't bore). I've written two newspaper columns, numerous magazine articles, one book (so far), often coupling my writings with photography, as well as been an editor, deliver lectures on various topics, largely historical nowadays, etc. Militarily, I must stay constantly and sharply alert lest my lurking kitty kat ambush me. The little devil does give me lots of ideas, I'll give him that.

Nelson
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