USNS Schuyler Otis Bland (T-AK-277)

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United States
Name: Schuyler Otis Bland
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp
Laid down: 9 May 1950
Launched: 30 January 1951
Acquired: by the US Navy 4 August 1961
In service: 28 August 1961
Out of service: 1979
Fate: sold for scrap 28 November 1979
General characteristics
Type: Turbine Cargo Vessel
Tonnage: 561,000 Cu ft.
Displacement: 10,500 Tons light; 15,910 Tons loaded
Length: 478 ft. 145,70 m overall; 454 ft. 137,20 m loaded waterline length
Beam: 66 ft.
Draft: 27 ft.
Propulsion: Steam Turbine powered, 1 gearbox and 1 fixed pitch propeller
Speed: 18.5 kts.
Crew: 50

USNS Schuyler Otis Bland also known as SS Schuyler Otis Bland is the only ship of the series C3-S-DX1 (Freedom-class).

Schuyler Otis Bland was laid down, 9 May 1950, as a Maritime Commission type (C3-S-DX1), under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 2918), at Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, MS.[1]

Schuyler Otis Bland was a prototype of the series C3-S-DX1 and what was to have been the "Bland class" of cargo ships, but Maritime Administration designers conceived of the even more modern "Mariner class" following her construction.[2] Following the acquisition of MARCOM by United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) in 1950, the design was done as a C3-S-7. She was launched January 30, 1951, and delivered to the Maritime Commission July 25, 1951.

Schuyler Otis Bland was first assigned to the American President Lines under bareboat charter.[2] She completed two round-the-world voyages before being transferred to the Waterman Steamship Corporation under a General Agency Agreement.[2] On July 25, 1952, the C-3 cargo ship went into the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Mobile, Ala.[2]

In 1957, Schuyler Otis Bland was acquired by the US Navy for operation by American Mail Lines.[1] The American Mail Line had acquired her to replace the SS Washington Mail, which had foundered in a violent North Pacific storm.[2] In October 1959, after more than two years with American Mail, she entered the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Olympia, Wash.[2]

On August 4, 1961, USNS Schuyler Otis Bland was delivered to the Navy, and on August 28, assigned to the Military Sea Transport Service (MSTS) and placed in service as USNS Schuyler Otis Bland (T-AK-277).[1][2] USNS Schuyler Otis Bland departed San Francisco on September 28, 1961, to carry cargo to Bangkok, Saigon, Manila, Kaohsiung, and other Pacific ports, beginning over a decade of service supplying military logistic requirements throughout the world.[2]


On August 1, 1970, the Military Sea Transportation Service became Military Sealift Command.[2] Schuyler Otis Bland was placed out of service in 1979 while at Guam.[1] She was struck from the Naval Register, and transferred to MARAD for disposal. On November 28, 1979, she was sold for scrap to China Dismantled Vessel Trading Corporation, Kaohsiung, China for the price of $814,533.50[1]

Logbook and Okinawa controversy[edit]

Michelle Gatz holds the re-discovered logbook of the USNS Schuyler Otis Bland in 2012

The Bland was a civilian-owned ship regularly employed by the U.S. Navy to transport defoliants incognito and that was able to bypass customs inspections of military vessels entering foreign ports.[3] The logbook of USNS Schuyler Otis Bland was re-discovered by Michelle Gatz in 2012 and shows that the ship was carrying classified cargo that was offloaded under armed guard at White Beach, a U.S. Navy port on Okinawa’s east coast on April 25, 1962.[3] Three months prior to its arrival at Okinawa, the Bland had traveled to South Vietnam to deliver one of the Pentagon’s first shipments of defoliants. The account in the ship's logbook states the classified cargo was labeled "agriculture products."[3] The ship's cargo was documented to include herbicide Agents Pink and Purple for covert tests in Southeast Asia.[4] The experiments, believed to have taken place under the auspices of Project AGILE — a classified program to research unconventional warfare techniques.[3] The implications of the ship's log re-discovery are profound.

The cargo is now believed by researchers to be biological or chemical anti-crop agents effective against rice from Fort Detrick for use in trials and research-related activities on Okinawa or in the CIA-linked Special Forces counterinsurgency training area operating on Okinawa at the time.[3] After departing Okinawa in spring 1962, Bland sailed to the Panama Canal Zone where, the Panamanian government asserts, the U.S. tested agents in the early 1960s.[3] In May 1962, the Army Special Forces counter-insurgency school which was moved from Vietnam opened in Okinawa.[5] According to Army Field Manual FM 31-15,"Operations Against Irregular Forces", May 1961,

Terrain and the dispositions and tactics of guerrilla forces furnish excellent opportunity for the employment of chemical and biological agents and riot control agents. Operations against irregular forces should evaluate the feasibility of chemical and biological operations to assist in mission accomplishment."[6]

The late author Sheldon H. Harris in his book "Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover Up" wrote the test program, which began in fall 1962 was aimed at both human, animal, and plant reaction to Biological Warfare. It is known that tests were undertaken in Japan’s satellite province of Okinawa.[7]

Sheldon H. Harris continued;

The Okinawa anti-crop research project may lend some insight to the larger projects Project 112 sponsored. BW experts in Okinawa and “at several sites in the Midwest and south:”conducted in 1961 “field tests” for wheat rust and rice blast disease. These tests met with “partial success” in the gathering of data, and led, therefore, to a significant increase in research dollars in fiscal year 1962 to conduct additional research in these areas. The money was devoted largely to developing “technical advice on the conduct of defoliation and anti-crop activities in Southeast Asia.” By the end of fiscal year 1962, the Chemical Corps had let or were negotiating contracts for over one thousand chemical defoliants. The Okinawa tests evidently were fruitful.(Harris, 2002)[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Schuyler Otis Bland Class Cargo Ship". Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER". Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Agent Orange 'tested in Okinawa' Japan times Thursday, May 17, 2012". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  4. ^ "Operation Ranch Hand: The Air Force and Herbicides in Southeast Asia, 1961-1971. Buckingham, William A. p.30" (PDF). Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Little Known CIA Training Camp of Texas By Logan Hawkes". Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "Operations Against Irregular Forces, Army Field Manual FM 31-15, May 1961". Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Harris, Sheldon H. 2002 "Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American cover up" p. 232