USS Merak (AF-21)
|USA and UK|
|Builder:||Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation|
|Launched:||23 April 1932|
|Acquired:||by bareboat charter, 20 March 1942|
|Commissioned:||8 May 1942|
|Decommissioned:||21 June 1946|
|Class and type:||Navy: Mizar-class stores ship|
|Type:||civilian: passenger & cargo liner|
|Displacement:||7,068 t.(lt) 11,880 t.(fl)|
|Length:||447 ft 10 in (136.50 m)|
|Beam:||60 ft 4 in (18.39 m)|
|Draft:||24 ft 6 in (7.47 m)|
|Installed power:||11,000 shp|
|Propulsion:||turbo-electric transmission, twin screws|
|Speed:||19 knots (35 km/h) (max)|
|Capacity:||2,615 tonnes deadweight (DWT)|
|Armament:||one single 5"/38 dual purpose gun mount, four single 3"/50 dual purpose gun mounts, eight 20mm guns|
USS Merak (AF-21) was United Fruit Company cargo and passenger liner Veragua that served as a United States Navy Mizar-class stores ship in World War II. In peacetime before and after the war she carried fruit and passengers; in war she supplied troops and ships in the field. She was the US Navy's second USS Merak.
Building and pre-war service
Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation of Quincy, Massachusetts built the ship, the last vessel of this series, as SS Veragua for United Fruit Company with launch on 23 April 1932. She was one of six UFC sister ships driven by turbo-electric transmission. Veragua was delivered in August and made her maiden voyage on the 11th of that month to Havana. Kingston. Cristobal, and Port Limon. United Fruit placed Veragua on express liner services between Central America and New York.
On 2 February 1940 naval historian Samuel E. Morison and his Harvard Columbus Expedition returned to New York aboard Veragua after retracing the voyages of Christopher Columbus since the previous August.
The US Navy bareboat chartered her through the Maritime Commission on 20 March 1942. Todd Pacific Shipyards of Galveston, Texas converted her for Navy use and she was renamed Merak and commissioned on 8 May 1942, commanded by Cmdr L.E. Divoll.
North Atlantic duties
Shakedown training began on her maiden Navy voyage to Charleston, South Carolina. By 20 March 1943 she completed 10 voyages in convoy from east coast ports to Caribbean islands. She then made one supply voyage to Reykjavík, Iceland, arriving on 10 April. She then made two short deliveries to Cuba before making her first transatlantic crossing in July, delivering men, mail, and stores in Algeria, North Africa. Between further Caribbean trips, Merak voyaged to both Sicily and Scotland before the end of 1943.
She continued Caribbean sailings and transatlantic voyages until February 1945, including four crossings from Bayonne, New Jersey, to Italian ports. After a brief drydocking she supplied ships and bases from Iceland to Trinidad. On her last voyage to Reykjavík, on 14 July 1946 a blizzard blew her ashore while anchored at Argentia, Newfoundland. She was freed by tugs and completed her voyage. She then made two more trips to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad before being released by the Navy.
On 21 June 1946 Merak was decommissioned at New York and returned to United Fruit, which reinstated her pre-war name Veragua.
Military awards and honors
Merak’s crew were awarded the following medals:
- American Campaign Medal
- Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
Post-war civilian service
In 1958 United Fruit transferred Veragua and her sisters Quirigua and Talamanca to its British subsidiary Elders and Fyffes, which changed Veragua's name to SS Sinaloa. She was scrapped in Ghent, Belgium in 1965.
- Pacific Marine Review (1932). "New Turbo-Electric Steamship Antigua". Consolidated 1932 issues (July 1932). 'Official Organ: Pacific American Steamship Association/Shipowners' Association of the Pacific Coast. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
- Pacific Marine Review (1932). "American Shipbuilding—Veragua Delivered". Consolidated 1932 issues (September 1932). 'Official Organ: Pacific American Steamship Association/Shipowners' Association of the Pacific Coast. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
- Coombe, Ian. "Elders & Fyffes". Merchant Navy Nostalgia. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- "Samuel E. Morison's Columbus Expedition Reaches United States After Five Months of Following Explorer's Courses". The Harvard Crimson. The Harvard Crimson. February 2, 1940. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive - AF-21 Merak