Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sailing for England

On October 7, 1943, 359th Fighter Group HQ personnel and the 368th Fighter Squadron, Howard Fogg's squadron, boarded the U.S.A.T. Argentina in New York Harbor.

The 369th Fighter Squardon boarded the Thurston and the 370th Fighter Squadron boarded the Sloterdyjk, once a Dutch motor vessel.

Image of the Argentina from a 1952 postcard

The U.S.A.T. Argentina (originally the Pennsylvania) was built in 1929 for the Panama-Pacific Line, sailing from New York to San Francisco via the Panama Canal. Following a remodel in 1938 she was re-christened the Argentina by the American Republics Line. After her refurbishment, the Argentina carried 475 passengers and 380 crew. She was Hull 329, with Official Number 229044, 613 feet long, 80 feet wide, and measured 20,614 gross tons, 33,000 tons when loaded.

Though she was set to sail on January 3, 1942 for South America, on December 27, 1941, the Argentina completed her last pre-war voyage when she arrived in New York. Approximately 200 passengers had booked passage and were in the Line’s offices completing baggage declarations when the Navy and Maritime Commission notified the steamship company to cancel the sailing – officials refused to discuss their actions.

On January 23, 1942, the Argentina departed from New York as the flagship of six troop carriers. She was then enlarged to hold 4,000 troops, and began Atlantic convoy duty.

She was double-loaded when the 359th boarded her on October 7, 1943, carrying nearly 7,000 men. Men were everywhere, on all the decks, and in the scuppers.

On October 17, 1943 the Argentina anchored in Liverpool Roadstead shortly after dark. On Monday the 18th, she sailed into the Mersey River and docked at the Mersey floating dock about 4:15 P.M. Debarkation of the men of the 359th began at 5:15 A.M. on Tuesday, October 19th.

By November, 1945, the Argentina had transported 175,592 service men to or from the ETO in fifty-six voyages. On January 26, 1946 she carried a different passenger list when 452 brides, 30 of them pregnant, 173 children, and a war groom sailed from Southampton, England for New York. Stormy seas forced them to arrive a day late, but on February 4,1946, the tired GI brides from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Malta were met by their husbands, a band, Mayor O’Dwyer, and 200 newsmen as this first “official war bride ship” pulled into harbor.

On May 6, 1946 the Argentina returned to civilian operations and in November was reconverted to liner service at Bethlehem Steel’s Shipyard. De-activated in 1958, the Argentina was ultimately sold to Peck Iron and Metals for scrap in 1964, then re-sold to Luna Bros. and scrapped in Kearny, New Jersey.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. But this caught my eye: "...the Argentina carried 475 passengers and 380 crew." There was almost as many crew as passengers?! I've never noticed that on manifests (or whatever they're called) before. Typo?

    Love the history!