USS Mizar (AF-12)
|US and UK|
SS Quirigua (1932–41, 1946–58) USS Mizar (1941–46)SS Samala (1958–64)
|Owner:||United Fruit Company|
|Builder:||Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation|
|Acquired:||by bareboat charter, 2 June 1941|
|Decommissioned:||1 April 1946|
|Struck:||17 April 1946|
|Class and type:||Navy: Mizar-class stores ship|
|Type:||civilian: passenger & cargo liner|
|Displacement:||6,982 t.(lt) 11,880 t.(fl)|
|Length:||447 ft 10 in (136.50 m)|
|Beam:||60 ft (18 m)|
|Draft:||25 ft 2 in (7.67 m)|
|Installed power:||11,000 shp|
|Propulsion:||2 GE turbo-electric transmission,[clarification needed] twin screws. Four Babcock & Wilcox header-type boilers, 350 psi 660°, three turbo-drive 500 kW 120 / 240 V DC Ship's Service Generators|
|Speed:||17.5 kts. (max)|
|Capacity:||2,615 long tons deadweight (DWT)|
|Troops:||more than 100|
|Armament:||one single 5"/38 caliber gun, four 3"/50 caliber guns AA and anti submarine and up to eight Oerlikon 20 mm cannon anti-aircraft guns|
Building and pre-war service
Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation of Quincy, Massachusetts built the ship as SS Quirigua for United Fruit Company in 1932. She was one of six UFC sister ships driven by turbo-electric transmission. The United States Postal Service subsidised the building of the six ships, which served the USPS as mail boats.
United Fruit placed Quirigua on express liner services between Central America and New York. She normally carried up to 95 passengers to ports in Central America and then would return to the United States with passengers and a cargo of refrigerated bananas and miscellaneous cargo.
The US Navy bareboat chartered Quirigua through the Maritime Commission on 2 June 1941 under Public Law 101, 77th Congress and Executive Order 8771. Brewer's Drydock Co. of Staten Island, New York converted the ship for Navy service by adding one single 5"/38 caliber gun, four 3"/50 caliber guns for anti-aircraft (AA) and anti-submarine use and up to eight Oerlikon 20 mm cannon AA guns. She was renamed Mizar and commissioned into the US Navy on 14 June 1941, commanded by Cmdr E.D. Walbridge.
With some modification Mizar was able to carry a number of troops as well as her refrigerated stores. She was crewed by Merchant mariners plus a team of United States Navy Armed Guard sailors to man her guns. The Guards were assisted by the "civilian" crew and all took equal risk of being sunk by submarine or aircraft; but only the Armed Guard were judged eligible for G.I. Bill benefits.
Pacific Theater operations
Mizar was then modified with more berthing and more 20 mm AA guns before departing from Norfolk, Virginia, 10 June 1942 with task force TF 39, carrying some of the 1st US Marine Division who were to take part in the invasion of the Solomon Islands. The force transited the Panama Canal on its month-long voyage to Wellington, New Zealand.
Continuing in the southwest Pacific as part of Service Force, US 7th Fleet, she operated initially from Australian ports supporting the successful Australian and American campaign to stop the Japanese on New Guinea. Mizar made seven unescorted voyages to San Francisco, California, between 12 October 1942 and 9 February 1945 to get fresh meat, fruit, vegetables, dairy products and eggs to supply advanced bases and combatant ships. When not making these crossings of the Pacific Ocean she normally worked between Brisbane and Milne, New Guinea.
After the advance of US and Allied Forces in the Pacific she extended her Australian-based service to the Admiralty Islands in May 1944 and anchored in Leyte Gulf in the Philippines on 18 February 1945. She continued carrying men and supplies throughout these areas until 4 January 1946.
Steaming eastward she reached San Francisco 25 January but soon received orders to go to the US East Coast. Previewing a return to civilian status, en route she took bananas for the United Fruit Company from Quepos, Costa Rica to Charleston, South Carolina.
Mizar averaged over 5,000 miles a month in World War II and received four battle stars for her service. She was decommissioned as a naval vessel at Baltimore, Maryland and returned to the United Fruit Company on 1 April 1946, and struck from the Navy list of active ships on 17 April.
Post-war civilian service
United Fruit restored the ship's pre-war name Quirigua to her. In 1958 United Fruit transferred Quirigua and her sisters Talamanca and Veragua to its British subsidiary Elders and Fyffes. Quirigua was renamed SS Samala after an earlier Fyffes ship of the same name. She was scrapped in 1964.
Other Ships in the Mizar class
- USS Antigua (AF-17) former United Fruit passenger and refrigerated ship SS Antigua (launched March 1932). Taken over under indefinite time charter 28 December 41 and converted to Naval use by adding deck guns etc. by Maryland Dry Dock, Baltimore, Maryland (January 1942). Naval Acquisition directive cancelled 22 May 44 and continued operation with Merchant Marine crew till returned to United Fruit in 1946. Scrapped 1964 as SS Tortuga.
- USS Ariel (AF-22) former USS Dione, renamed 28 April 1942. Former United Fruit passenger and refrigerated ship SS Jamaica, ex SS Peten, ex SS Segovia (Launched February 1933). Converted by Todd Galveston Dry Dock, Galveston, Texas. Returned to United Fruit Company who renamed her SS Jamaica 1946. Broken up in 1969 as SS Blumenthal.
- USS Merak (AF-21) former United Fruit passenger and refrigerated ship SS Veragua (launched July 1932). Converted to Naval use by adding deck guns etc. by Todd Galveston Dry Dock, Galveston, Texas. Returned to United Fruit Company who named her SS Veragua in 1946. Scrapped 1964 as SS Sinaloa.
- USS Talamanca (AF-15) former United Fruit passenger and refrigerated ship SS Talamanca (launched Dec 1931). Taken over under indefinite time charter 16 December 1941 and converted to Naval use by adding deck guns etc. by Maryland DD, Baltimore, Md. (Dec 41-Jan 42). Acquired under bareboat charter 28 Jan 42. Returned to United Fruit who renamed her SS Talamanca in 1945. Scrapped 1964 as SS Sulaco.
- USS Tarazed (AF-13) former United Fruit passenger and refrigerated ship SS Chiriqui (launched March 1932). Converted to Naval use by adding deck guns etc. by Brewer DD, Staten Island New York., transferred back to United Fruit who renamed it SS Chiriqui in 1946. Scrapped 1969 as SS Blexen.
Other converted "reefer" ships
The older passenger and refrigerated ships acquired from United Fruit in 1942, USS Pastores (AF-16) and USS Calamares (AF-18) were built in 1912 and 1913 and were of a different class from USS Mizar. They had been requisitioned in World War I and then returned to United Fruit The converted "reefers" USS Uranus (AF-14), USS Roamer (AF-19) and USS Pontiac (AF-20) were former Danish refrigerated ships requisitioned by the US Maritime Commission in 1942.