- Update: 22 November 2011
Ships -- The Ghost Fleet
While the Army at sea was
apparently treated somewhat as a curiosity by the press during the
war years the public did have reminders. The very famous and
emotional story of the Four Chaplains was from a transport,
mistakenly called the USAT Dorchester
though the ship was actually allocated,
torpedoed in the North Atlantic on February 3, 1943. Anyone
unfamiliar with this story can visit The Chapel
of Four Chaplains page
and read the story. I remember it best from advertising use -- not in
the sense of today, but the interesting type during the war where the
company or product pitch was subdued and wrapped in a patriotic or
inspirational theme. That in itself is an interesting line of
research into the period.
Army ships and Watercraft of World War II
by David H. Grover; Published: Annapolis, Md. by the Naval Institute
Press, 1987 (ISBN: 0870217666).
out of print, rarely in libraries except for the largest reference
types, but sometimes on the market as a used book. My copy was
around $100 years ago.
States Army In World War II
or "Green Books" dealing extensively with transport ships
in their general discussion are not common in libraries. The U.S.
Army Center of Military History now has downloadable
copies of the volumes. A few are HTML and readable without
download. The download sizes tend to run between ten and twenty
megabytes. Of particular interest are some of the volumes never
popular in public libraries, the ones not dealing with campaigns and
battles (more meat, less "bang"), such as The
Technical Services important in the Army ship context.
Transportation Corps: Responsibilities, Organization, and Operations
by Chester Wardlow. (1951, 1980; 454 pp., tables, charts,
illustrations, appendixes, bibliographical note, glossaries, index).
CMH Pub 10-19, GPO S/N 008-029-00050-4. A
discussion of the transportation task, the functions and
organization of the Corps, and its operating problems in the zone of
Transportation Corps: Movements, Training, and Supply
by Chester Wardlow. (1956, 1978, 1990; 564 pp., tables, charts,
illustrations, bibliographical note, glossaries, index). CMH Pub
10-20, GPO S/N 008-029-00051-2. Troop
and supply movements within the zone of interior and to overseas
commands, the organization and training of personnel, and the
development, procurement, and distribution of Corps materiel.
hard copy sets of the "Green Books" or digital copies of
other valuable references may be available in the libraries of the
military historical centers:
Naval Historical and
Heritage Command (NHHC), formerly the Naval Historical Center
(NHC) has some Army ship information and a small collection of
photos. For the large number of Army ships that went into the Navy
the official histories in Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
(DANFS) usually only mentions the fact the ship was acquired from
Army or transferred to Army regardless of prominence of the Army
Army Center of Military History (CMH)
responsible for the "The
and has other valuable history available on site or for download.
Mark H. Goldberg: Author of a series,
based on ship types, will include information on many ships taken
over for war service. These books are the American Merchant Marine
History Series published by The American Merchant Marine Museum,
Kings Point, N.Y.
20 April 2001 Mr. Goldberg wrote:
am now working on a book about the P2 and C4 type troopships...of
which many worked directly as USATs... Would it be possible for you
to make note of my project on your page and ask anyone with
experience with these vessels to share them with me?
have not seen this book as of 2009. Some of his books
on specific types of WW II vintage may be of interest.
Charles Dana Gibson: The Army's Navy
series deals with the long history of the Army's involvement with
extensive coverage of the Civil War. Gibson is perhaps the expert on
operations and is actively writing on the subject. One is worth
reading for a view on problems of a land based service sending
essentially coastal and harbor craft into oceanic operations:
The ordeal of Convoy NY 119
: a detailed accounting of one of the strangest World War II convoys
ever to cross the North Atlantic; Ensign Press, Camden, ME, 1992. An
earlier edition, 1973, was published by South Street Seaport Museum,
There are still Army transport
vessels. They are little known, but apparently that was the case back
when the world was at war and the great Army fleet got little notice.
They plug along doing those necessary jobs without a great deal of
publicity and recognition. They carried cargo, troops and fought in
Vietnam. They are prepared to support rapid deployment today. I
suspect even other soldiers are often surprised to find exactly what
an 88K does. I wonder if they are still the only troops with
authorized footgear of "tennis shoes" or today's
equivalent. Today's fleet is limited in scope, but still interesting.
In 1999 I spent a dampish
October morning looking at traffic leaving the Chesapeake for the
Atlantic from my motel balcony in Virginia Beach. I saw a line of
small Navy vessels that looked a bit odd. When I got my glasses on
them I realized they were not
Navy. They were some of the newer landing craft that are much more
ship like. I then noticed the Army insignia and realized I was seeing
Army vessels at sea. They were all flying a brilliant red flag with
some sort of gold device that I realized had to be that of the
Transportation Corps. These were probably operating out of Fort
am removing links in most of the text below as they are dead links
and attempting to keep up with Army (and to a large degree any
military service) links has become a near full time job. For some
reason our military has a need to reconfigure its historical and
informational web sites on a near routine basis (Cover and deception?
Evasion? One wonders!) that has simply made long term references
outside (sometimes even within the historical centers) useless. Even
Google is full of dead links to organizations known as active. The
services have been subject to much reorganization as the focus has
shifted to "terrorism" at the expense of much else.
Computer systems have been consolidated under, in some cases external
commands, for both efficiency and security at the expense of some
more "historical professional" content. Some I knew as
highly professional have become slick PR sites with flash at the
expense of content. Happily CMH has improved, though NHHC has become
a mess in my opinion. Readers might search on terms found below to
find information that may have been relocated.
Office of the
Chief of Transportation (OCOT)
The starting point for
official information on today's Army transport vessels is the page of
the Office of the Chief of Transportation (OCOT). There one can find
information on a career as an "Army sailor" and, happily,
evidence that the Army is not
neglecting history and information about the current ships. Even the
LCUs have names. It is possible for a person who likes boats and salt
water and a desire to be associated with them to find a career in the
Army. I suspect you may still have to be prepared for those, even
within Army, amazed to find you are something like a
Watercraft Operator, Watercraft
Engineer, Marine Deck Officer or a Marine Engineering Officer. For
details see OCOT's Marine Qualification Division page. People in the
career field operate a variety of vessels.
I mentioned the Army is
treating its vessels a bit more like Navy. One comment about why the
grand history of the Army's former fleet was so neglected was that
the Army in general (not those living with them) treated the vessels
as "trucks." One usually does not name and do a history of
a truck. Why is a vessel different? I'll start with something a
former MSC Captain mentioned in writing about lack of respect among
some of the "space" people for the Range ships supporting
the space program: "For some reason there's a jealousy on the
part of those who don't know ships, and have no feel for them...even
those who have trusted their lives with sailing on them." A ship
is a home and a community in an often hostile
environment. It has characteristic smells and often life like sounds,
vibrations and movements. Many could recognize a vessel if put aboard
under way even if blindfolded. They do have a kind of "life."
There is evidence that the Army is recognizing some of this.
The Army appears to be
treating its current vessels with more respect. Self deploying
vessels fall under policy explained in the memorandum
titled "Letter of Instruction for the US Army Vessel Naming
I hope continues giving these vessels historical place. Army's
"Registry of Army Vessel Names" is significant in this
respect. It is apparently undergoing revision at this time (1/2003)
and Sections II - VI that contain the names and biographical
backgrounds are not now available.
Those interested in details of
today's watercraft organization can read FM
55-50 on line. Chapter two, Organizations
and Equipment, is of particular interest. The organization for
the smaller craft probably has a direct tie back to Transportation
Corps organization into the Second World War period. What cannot be
determined is how well the organization for the Army's current
larger, Class A vessels (particularly "A2 - fully ocean
capable"), correspond to the operation of the transports, "F"
and "Y" type vessels of the 1940s.
Of course, the Corps of
Engineers has its fleet of waterway and harbor maintenance vessels.
They are reasonably well known to the public familiar with navigable
waters. The Engineers continued this domestic work and also did
similar work overseas during the war years. Some of the Engineer's
vessels also operated overseas and in combat areas in roles much like
those at home and performing other duties unique to war and combat.
1998, 2000 by Ramon
Permission is given for
use and distribution of the text and my photographs, provided
copyright and this notice are maintained. If used in a web site
concerning these ships I would appreciate notification, if for no
other reason than to perhaps link to the site. All commercial rights
to my photographs and text are reserved. Any photographs taken by
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