USS General W. H. Gordon (AP-117)
USNS General W. H. Gordon (T-AP-117)
in San Francisco Bay, October 1967
|Name:||USS General W. H. Gordon|
|Namesake:||General Walter Henry Gordon, US Army|
|Builder:||Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock|
|Laid down:||2 November 1943|
|Launched:||7 May 1944|
|Sponsored by:||Mrs Leslie J. McNair|
|Reclassified:||T-AP-117 (November 1951)|
|Struck:||Three times: 1946, 1958 and March 1986|
|Four service stars for Korean War service and two for the Vietnam War|
|Fate:||Scrapped 1987, Taiwan|
|Class and type:||General John Pope-class transport|
|Displacement:||11,450 tons (lt)|
|Tons burthen:||20,175 tons fully laden|
|Length:||622 feet 7 inches (189.76 m)|
|Beam:||75 feet 6 inches (23.01 m)|
|Draft:||25 feet 6 inches (7.77 m)|
|Installed power:||17,000 shp|
|Propulsion:||2 steam turbines, reduction gearing, twin screw|
|Speed:||20.6 to 21 knots (38.2 to 38.9 km/h) (sources vary)|
|Armament:||4 x single 5"/38 caliber dual purpose guns, 4 x quad 1.1" guns, replaced by 20 x single 20mm guns|
USS General W. H. Gordon (AP-117) was a troop transport that served with the United States Navy in World War II. After the war, she was transferred to the US Army and served as USAT General W. H. Gordon. With the outbreak of the Korean War, she was reacquired by the Navy as a civilian-manned Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) vessel, and redesignated USNS General W. H. Gordon (T-AP-117). She served again under the same designation in the Vietnam War.
General W. H. Gordon was launched under Maritime Commission contract by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Kearny, New Jersey, 7 May 1944; and commissioned, after being acquired by the Navy, 29 June 1944, Captain R. E. Wood, USCG, in command.
World War II
Following her shakedown cruise in Chesapeake Bay, General W. H. Gordon proceeded to Boston and sailed 5 September in convoy for France. She arrived Cherbourg with troop reinforcements 15 September and returned to New York via Plymouth 30 September 1944.
Subsequently, the transport made 12 voyages to various European and African ports in support of the accelerating Allied effort against the Axis. She carried supplies, troops, and took large numbers of German prisoners of war to the United States.
General W. H. Gordon sailed to Panama from France 5 August 1945, bringing replacement troops for the Pacific campaigns. She stopped at Ulithi and Manila to debark troops and steamed into San Francisco Bay 25 September 1945.
The war over, the veteran transport sailed again 13 October with over 4,000 occupation troops for Japan and Korea. After one more voyage to Japan, the ship returned to San Francisco 29 January 1946 and decommissioned at Oakland 11 March. She was then stricken from the Naval Vessel Register, and transferred to the War Shipping Administration (WSA). Subsequently she was put to use by the Army Transport Service, as USAT General W. H. Gordon.
General W. H. Gordon was one of two ships of her class chartered by WSA to the American President Lines (APL) in mid-1946 for postwar operation as troopships, the other being General M. C. Meigs. A design designated P2-S2-R10 was prepared, probably for the full conversion of these two ships to passenger liners, but the project was not carried out.
While in civilian service the ship appears to have been painted in APL colors but retained the name General W. H. Gordon. She made numerous calls at Shanghai, China. In September 1949 the ship also evacuated 1220 people of 34 different nationalities when the Communists took over the city in 1949. In March 1950, at Tientsin, China, she embarked hundreds of foreigners again as well as the U.S. Consul General from Shanghai, who a few days earlier had hauled down his flag, the last flying over a diplomatic post on the Chinese mainland.
In November 1951, upon expiration of APL's charter, she was taken into the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS), reinstated on the Naval Vessel Register and placed in service as a civilian-manned Navy transport. USNS General W. H. Gordon (T-AP-117) departed San Francisco in December 1951 on the first of many trans-Pacific voyages in support of Korean War operations.
She was modernized at Portland, Oregon, between June and December 1953, with her World War II vintage lifeboats and davits being replaced and eight new empty positions for 3 in (76 mm)/50 twin gun mounts fitted, presumably for service as a regular Navy armed transport if required. However, the need for large troop transports declined, and General W. H. Gordon was inactive between October 1954 and March 1955. Transferred to the Atlantic in late 1956, she was laid up in the Maritime Administration's Hudson River reserve fleet in June 1957 and a year later stricken from the Naval Vessel Register.
In May 1961 the Navy reacquired General W. H. Gordon from the Maritime Administration, reinstated her on the Naval Vessel Register and returned her to MSTS service. She spent the next several years carrying troops between New York and Bremerhaven, West Germany.
In March to April 1963 General W. H. Gordon made a one time voyage under contract to the UN. I was happy to be aboard. We sailed from New York in a blizzard, crossed the N. Atlantic, into the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, bound for Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika. Our mission was to transport Indian troops who were fighting with UN forces back to their home country. Additional troops were embarked in Mombassa, Kenya. The voyage to Bombay took six days. After disembarking the troops there we sailed, empty all the way back to Bayonne, New Jersey.
In 1965 the transport went to the Pacific to support the expanding Vietnam War, making numerous voyages between the U.S. West Coast and Southeast Asia. On 21 July 1966 she departed from Tacoma Washington with elements of the 4th Infantry Division from Ft. Lewis Washington arriving at Qui Nhon Harbor on 6 August 1966. Following disembarkation, the unit was transported to a base camp at the foot of Dragon Mountain near Pleiku, central highlands, later renamed Camp Enari. She was also credited with participating in the Vietnamese Counteroffensive and the Tet Counteroffensive between December 1967 and March 1968.
General W. H. Gordon was laid up in the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet on the James River, Virginia in April 1970, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in March 1986 and sold for scrapping in April 1987.
General W. H. Gordon received four service stars for her Korean War service and two for the Vietnam War.
- General W. H. Gordon AP-117 - DANFS Online.
- USS General W. H. Gordon (AP-117), Navsource Online.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
- Frank Diköter, The Tragedy of Liberation, 2013