USS Mount Hood (AE-11)

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Career (U.S.)
Name: USS Mount Hood (AE-11)
Namesake: Mount Hood
Builder: North Carolina Shipbuilding Co.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Laid down: 28 September 1943 as SS Marco Polo
Launched: 28 November 1943
Sponsored by: Mrs. A. J. Reynolds
Acquired: 28 January 1944
Commissioned: 1 July 1944
Struck: 11 December 1944
Fate: Exploded on 10 November 1944
General characteristics
Class & type: Mount Hood-class ammunition ship (Type C2-S-AJ1)
Displacement: 13,910 tons
Length: 459 ft 2 in (140 m)
Beam: 63 ft (19.2 m)
Draft: 28 ft 3 in (8.6 m)
Propulsion: Geared turbine
1 × shaft
6,000 shp (4.5 MW)
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h)
Capacity: 7,700 long tons (7,800 t) deadweight
Complement: 267 officers and enlisted
Armament: 1 × 5"/38 caliber gun mount
4 × 3"/50 caliber dual purpose gun mount
2 × twin 40 mm AA gun mounts
10 × 20 mm AA gun mounts
For other ships of the same name, see USS Mount Hood.

USS Mount Hood (AE-11) was the lead ship of her class of ammunition ships for the United States Navy in World War II. She was the first ship named after Mount Hood, a volcano in the Cascade Range in Oregon. Soon after 18 men who had left the ship for shore had reached the dock, the USS Mount Hood exploded in Seeadler Harbor at Manus Island on 10 November 1944 killing all men aboard, obliterating the ship itself, and sinking or severely damaging 22 smaller craft nearby.

History[edit]

Marco Polo was a cargo ship built under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1356), by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co., Wilmington, N.C.; renamed Mount Hood, 10 November 1943; launched 28 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. A. J. Reynolds; acquired by the Navy on loan-charter basis, 28 January 1944; converted by the Norfolk Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Norfolk, Virginia, and the Norfolk Navy Yard; and commissioned 1 July 1944, Comdr. Harold A. Turner in command.

Following an abbreviated fitting out and shakedown period in the Chesapeake Bay area, ammunition ship Mount Hood reported for duty to ComServFor, Atlantic Fleet, 5 August 1944. Assigned to carry her vital cargos to the Pacific, she put into Norfolk, where her holds were loaded. On 21 August, as a unit of TG 29.6, she departed for the Panama Canal, transited that system of locks and lakes on the 27th, and continued on, independently, toward what would be her ultimate destination, Manus in the Admiralty Islands. Proceeding via Finschafen, New Guinea, she arrived in Seeadler Harbor, 22 September, and, as a unit under ComSoWesPac, commenced dispensing ammunition and explosives to ships preparing for the Philippine offensive.

Disaster[edit]

At 08:30, 10 November 1944, a party consisting of communications officer, Lt. Lester H. Wallace, and 17 men left the ship and headed for shore. At 08:55, while walking on the beach, they saw a flash from the harbor, followed by two quick explosions. Scrambling into their boat, they headed back to the ship, only to turn around again shortly thereafter as "There was nothing but debris all around..."

The explosion of the USS Mount Hood. The smoke trails are left by fragments ejected by the explosion. The USS Mindanao (ARG-3), which lay about 300 m away, was heavily damaged by the explosion and 180 of her crewmen were killed or injured.

Mount Hood, anchored in about 35 feet (11 m) of water,[1] had exploded with an estimated 3,800 tons of ordnance material on board. The initial explosion caused flame and smoke to shoot up from amidships to more than masthead height. Within seconds, the bulk of her cargo detonated with a more intense explosion. Mushrooming smoke rose to 7,000 feet (2,100 m), obscuring the ship and the surrounding area for a radius of approximately 500 yards (500 m). Mount Hood's former position was revealed by a trench in the ocean floor 1,000 feet (300 m) long, 200 feet (60 m) wide, and 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 m) deep.[1] The largest remaining piece of the hull was found in the trench and measured no bigger than 16 by 10 feet (5 by 3 m). No other remains of Mount Hood were found except fragments of metal which had struck other ships in the harbor and a few tattered pages of a signal notebook found floating in the water several hundred yards away. No human remains were recovered of the 350 men aboard Mount Hood or small boats loading alongside at the time of the explosion.[1] The only survivors from the Mount Hood crew were a junior officer and five enlisted men who had left the ship a short time before the explosion. Two of the crew were being transferred to the base brig for trial by court martial; and the remainder of the party were picking up mail at the base post office. Charges against the prisoners were dropped following the explosion.[2]

The concussion and metal fragments hurled from the ship also caused casualties and damage to ships and small craft within 2,000 yards (1,800 m). The repair ship Mindanao, which was broadside-on to the blast, was the most seriously damaged. All personnel topside on Mindanao were killed outright, and dozens of men were killed or wounded below decks as numerous heavy fragments from Mount Hood penetrated the side plating. Eighty-two of Mindanao's crew died.[1] The damage to other vessels required more than 100,000 man-hours to repair, while 22 small boats and landing craft were sunk, destroyed, or damaged beyond repair; 371 sailors were injured from all ships in the harbor.

A board convened to examine evidence relating to the disaster was unable to ascertain the exact cause. After only a little over four months' service, Mount Hood was struck from the Naval Register on 11 December 1944.

List of ships damaged[edit]

The following ships were damaged by the explosion of Mount Hood:

In addition to the above ships, nine medium landing craft (LCM) and a pontoon barge moored alongside Mount Hood were also destroyed, and 13 small boats or landing craft were sunk or damaged beyond repair.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Gile, February 1963, p.89
  2. ^ Gile, February 1963, pp.89-90

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 2°01′42″S 147°21′18″E / 2.02833°S 147.355°E / -2.02833; 147.355