Rough Crossing on the Maurice Rose
USNS General Maurice Rose (T-AP-126)
I was on the bank of the Delaware River yesterday (Note - I did not write down the day, this would be on or before December 2, 2006 given the visit for the Army Navy Game), down by the old ferry site that used to run between National Park New Jersey to the Philly Navy Yard across the way, bringing workers from that town to the Yard. I was there because of a fire boat I had seen moments earlier. Spraying its hoses into the air in the celebratory manner of these boats during special events, something that gave rise to make my Dad's phrase of "like a fireboat" whenever a baby or misbehaving puppy would go off in like manner. It drew my attention so that I noticed the tail end of a carrier going up the river, and led me and my Mom to chase it from the Park to the landing.
We were there watching the ship through a small pair of binoculars and wondering what it was doing here when a man and his wife drove up for similar purpose. We soon began talking as we peered at the helicopter dock landing ship. We speculated about what would become of the ship, assuming she was there to be scrapped or sunk as a reef as was the fate of the most recent carrier brought to the now closed Philly Navy Yard. He had worked at the yard, as had his father, who previously had been a coal miner in one of the towns now slated to receive the Delaware dredge sludge in its old mine shafts. After a time, this story, his brush with the sea, came up. The quotes are, of course, paraphrases from memory. But it went something like this...
"I always wonder where the ship I was on is now, the General Maurice Rose. I sailed in her to and from Germany when I was in the Army. She was run by the merchant marine. On the way back in 1955 there were some terrible storms. The sailors said that it was the worst they had ever seen. It was so bad they would not let us out on deck. This was bad for me, as I get worried in the bath tube, ha ha."
"The ship was rolling way over. Guys were getting sick everywhere. And the cooks, they serve us hot dogs and sauerkraut! Guys were walking around with paper bags. It was bad."
"And my detail was latrine duty, cleaning the cans. The ship was rolling so badly, the water was flying OUT of the cans! And I get into trouble because they aren't clean enough! How are you supposed to clean in that?"
"It got to the point where the ship would roll so far over on her side I would worry she wasn't going to come back up. The sailors said she was taking water through her stacks, she rolled over so far."
"It got so bad they had to shut down the engines. We went about six miles in 24 hours. It took us seventeen days to cross and get to New York. The trip was only supposed to take seven days. Thats how bad it was. Wonder where she is now?"
Eventually the carrier docked at the pier where they now dock cruise ships, and the Army veteran and I parted company. Sadly I did not get his name. But I did do a little research on his old ship, and this is what I found.
"USS Admiral Hugh Rodman, a 9,676-ton (light displacement) transport, was built by the Maritime Commission to its P2-SE2-R1 design as an Admiral W. S. Benson-class troop transport and was commissioned in July 1945. She was on her shakedown cruise off California when the Japanese surrender ended World War II. Between August 1945 and March 1946 she made five voyages from the U. S. west coast to the western Pacific, carrying occupation troops and relief personnel for veterans returning home. Admiral Hugh Rodman then transited to New York, where in May 1946 she was decommissioned and transferred to the Army.
The Army assumed formal ownership of the ship in February 1947 and renamed her General Maurice Rose. Between May 1947 and the end of 1948 she was converted to a peacetime transport, with military features, including armament, removed. The Rose served with the Army Transportation Service until, in March 1950, all Army transports were turned over to the newly created Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS). Ownership passed back to the Navy, but the ship retained her Army name.
As a civilian-manned MSTS transport, USNS General Maurice Rose spent most of her career on the route between New York and Bremerhaven, West Germany, supporting U. S. military forces in Europe. Following the abortive Hungarian revolution of 1957, she made three voyages from Bremerhaven carrying Hungarian refugees to New York. During these years, the ship also deployed to the Mediterranean 17 times to assist Sixth Fleet operations. Between August and October 1965 the Rose steamed from New York to the Far East to support U. S. forces in Vietnam. A second such trip was made between September 1966 and January 1967. Then, following an overhaul, the transport was laid up in ready reserve at the Caven Point (New Jersey) Army Depot in New York harbor. Never reactivated, General Maurice Rose was transferred to the permanent custody of the Maritime Admininstration in July 1971 and moved to that agency's James River Reserve Fleet, in Virginia. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in August 1990 and sold by the Maritime Administration in June 1997 for scrapping at Brownsville, Texas." Source Navy Historical Center website http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-g/ap126.htm
I also managed to find out what ship we had been watching, which was the USS Wasp LHD-1 . My Mom also heard on the news that far from being scrapped she was coming to Philly for the Navy Game. Thats good.
USNS General Maurice Rose, (1950-2000), USAT General Maurice Rose (1947-1950), USS Admiral Hugh Rodman (1945-1947), T-AP-126, AP-126, Troop Transport, WWII, Cold War, Vietnam
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