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Saw American Victory in that panorama link of the new Mackinaw at Fraser Shipyard.
She has a lot of history associated with her and I thought I'd dig this out.

5-15-2001
River Passages
With updated info/edits

Sister ships are distinguished veterans of World War II
When originally launched almost 70 years ago, Lee A. Tregurtha and American Victory were born into a world torn by war.

Launched June 25, 1942 at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. of Sparrows Point, Md., Lee A. Tregurtha was the lead ship in a class of five steam-powered tankers designated as T3-S-A1s or the "T3s."

Originally named Samoset, the ship became Mobiloil before her launching. Just over four months later her sister ship Marquette was launched on Halloween at the same yard. Both were approximately 502 feet long.

The ships were intended for the civilian merchant fleet, but instead became auxiliary oilers in the U.S. Navy. Mobiloil became USS Chiwawa (AO-68) and Marquette, USS Neshanic (AO-71). Each was equipped with one five-inch naval gun, four three-inch guns and eight 40-millimeter antiaircraft guns.

Both served the fleet with distinction.

Neshanic served in several of the most bitter campaigns in the Pacific Theater, including the Solomons, Aleutians, Marshall Islands, Kwajalein, Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

On June 18, 1944, while refueling a destroyer escort during the Saipan invasion, a Japanese bomb hit the ship. Neshanic suffered minor damage and 33 men were injured, but gun crews exacted some revenge by shooting down two Japanese planes.

By war's end, Neshanic had earned nine battle stars.

Meanwhile, Chiwawa braved the U-boat dangers in the Atlantic, making several convoy crossings to Europe and Africa. She also supported the invasion of Southern France.

Later in the war, she ended up in the Pacific and was one of the ships present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese signed the formal surrender document aboard USS Missouri (BB-63).

Chiwawa received two battle stars for her service

After the war, Chiwawa went into service for the Cities Service Oil Co. while Neshanic became Gulfoil for the Gulf Oil Co. in 1947.

View attachment 72108

Chiwawa in service for Cities Service Oil Co. Note her original appearance as a T3. (US Navy photo.)

In dense fog on the morning of August 7, 1958, Gulfoil collided with the tanker S.E. Graham near Newport, R.I. S.E. Graham was carrying 900,000 gallons of gasoline and the collision resulted in an explosion and firestorm. Gulfoil was in ballast, but an empty cargo tank on board still contained gasoline fumes. That tank detonated as well, adding to the conflagration.

The fires on board both ships burned into the following day when the fire on Gulfoil was extinguished around 11 a.m. by firefighters from the U.S. Navy. S.E. Graham was extinguished later in the day. As a result of the accident, 15 Gulfoil crewmen were dead, including the master.

Declared a constructive total loss, Gulfoil was towed to the Maryland Drydock Co. in Baltimore.

Seeking new tonnage for its Lakes fleet, in 1960, the Pioneer Steamship Co. of Cleveland bought the bargain-priced wreck and drydock workers began the task of converting the vessel into a Great Lakes bulk freighter.

Approximately 282 feet of the tanker's scorched midsection was cut away and scrapped. The remaining T-3 bow and stern were mated to a new 510-foot midbody built overseas at Verholme United Shipyards in Rotterdam. The cabins and machinery, in a comparative sense, had only been lightly damaged in the fire and were refurbished. In adapting the ship for Great Lakes use, the pilothouse was moved to the bow of the ship.

The vessel, renamed Pioneer Challenger at a christening in Baltimore, entered service July 1, 1961 as a full-sized 730-foot laker. She entered the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

In 1962, in part because of the expenses incurred with the construction of the new ship, Pioneer went out of business, liquidated and sold the ship to the Columbia Transportation Division of the Oglebay Norton Co. which renamed her Middletown. She then settled down into service for her new owners.

Middletown was converted to a self-unloader in 1982 to more efficiently handle cargo without the assistance of shoreside unloading equipment.

Considered by some to be an unlucky ship after her previous scrapes with disaster, the ship's reputation was further blemished when Middletown was rocked by an explosion in September 1986. Methane gas from a bad coal cargo had seeped from the cargo hold into the boiler room and ignited. The chief engineer and an assistant engineer died from their subsequent injuries.

View attachment 72109

Upbound in the St. Clair River on a beautiful June morning in 2000, the steamer Middletown shows her classic T-3 tanker lines. Note the change in color on her midsection which reveals the area where she was modified with a new hull section for Great Lakes service.

When the Oglebay Norton Marine fleet was dissolved in 2006, the ship was sold in June of that year to American Steamship Company, which renamed her American Victory. While not a true Victory ship, the vessel's new name pays homage to her wartime service and participation in World War II. Although she was partially repainted in ASC colors and continued trading for the new company following the sale, she remained in layup for the 2009-10 shipping season due to the poor economy.

Meanwhile, also in 1960, the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co. had purchased Chiwawa and started a similar rebuilding process to that of Gulfoil at the American Shipbuilding Co. in Lorain, Ohio, using a German-built midsection from Schlieker-Werft of Hamburg.

As Walter A. Sterling, she entered service in July 1961, two weeks after Pioneer Challenger.

Cleveland-Cliffs lengthened the Sterling 96 feet in 1976 to 826 feet in length, making her the largest steamship ever to sail the Great Lakes. She was converted to a self-unloader in 1978.

On April 6, 1983, Walter A. Sterling hit an underwater obstruction while downbound in the St. Mary's River. She immediately began taking on significant quantities of water and was intentionally grounded to prevent her sinking. Reports indicate that she had 18 feet of water in her forward compartments and was listing to port.

She was lightered, temporarily repaired and refloated which allowed her to proceed to Ohio for further unloading and permanent repairs.

In 1985, following the decision of Cleveland-Cliffs to exit the shipping business, Walter A. Sterling was sold to the Ford Motor Co. Fleet, along with fleetmate Edward B. Greene. Walter A. Sterling became William Clay Ford, while Edward B. Greene was renamed Benson Ford. In 1989, the two ships were sold again, this time to the Lakes Shipping Co., a division of Interlake Steamship Co., at which time the Clay became Lee A. Tregurtha and the Benson, Kaye E. Barker.

View attachment 72110

Lee A. Tregurtha, seen here locking through the Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie in August 2000, proudly wears her World War II battle ribbons and former official Navy number on the side of her pilothouse, just to the right of the stairs in the center of the photo.

View attachment 72112

Ribbons enlarged.

View attachment 72111

Lee A. Tregurtha exiting the lock downbound.

After accumulating many hundreds of thousands of miles of service on her original World War II-era steam turbine plant, Lee A. Tregurtha was repowered in 2006 with a pair of modern, fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Bergen six-cylinder diesels, each rated at 4,020 horsepower. The engines were coupled to a gear reduction set which then turns the ship's new five-blade controllable-pitch propeller. (With the conversion, the Tregurtha passed the title of largest steamship to her fleetmate, Charles M. Beeghly, at 806 feet in length. Charles M. Beeghly has since been repowered to diesel, which then makes Great Lakes Fleet's John G. Munson -- at 768 feet -- the longest steamship. The Munson is just slightly larger than the AAA-class vessels such as her fleetmates Arthur M. Anderson, Philip R. Clarke and Cason J. Callaway, all at 767 feet. Munson is also two feet wider in beam.)

Today, both Lee A. Tregurtha and American Victory are used in iron ore and coal transportation, a far cry from their original use as tankers, but in a more peaceful setting. Hopefully, better economic times will see American Victory return to service rather than meet an unfitting and disrespectful end as either a barge or a scrap candidate.

If you see these ladies sail by, tip your hats as they are veterans and truly are survivors.

For more information on these fine ships' WW II service visit:
USS Chiwawa:
http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/c8/chiwawa.htm
http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/19/19068.htm

USS Neshanic:
http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/n3/neshanic.htm
http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/19/19071.htm
 

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More pictures by me from my files:

View attachment 72135

On a muggy summer day, SS Middletown displays an impressive burst of smoke from her stack as the steam plant winds up following departure from the McLouth Stone Dock in Marine City.

View attachment 72137

A detail view looking forward toward the foc'sle and pilothouse of Lee A. Tregurtha. Note the iron deckhand -- the hatch cover crane -- with the ship's name, in the middle of the photo.

View attachment 72138

Looking aft along the spar deck toward the self-unloading gear and after deckhouse of Lee A. Tregurtha. The iron deckhand is visible in the foreground.

View attachment 72139

Another view looking aft, after passing the downbound steamer Arthur M. Anderson of the US Steel fleet. Arthur M. Anderson is well known as the ship immediately behind Edmund Fitzgerald on the night of that famous ship's loss. Sorry, Tiger fans. Lakes Shipping is based in Cleveland.

View attachment 72136

The pilot boat from the Port Huron pilot office pulls away from upbound Lee A. Tregurtha.
 

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Very interesting River Passages. I would love to work on one of those ships, for about one week, just for the experience of doing it. I would do it without any pay involved. Thanks for posting it,

Jim
 

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Very interesting!!

I thought this might have included the "Cliffs Victory", one of my all time favorite ships, with a distinctive "amidships" engine room. I believe it started life as a Victory ship in WWII also, but I think it was scrapped in the 80's.

I was reading an article just the other day that showed that China is now requiring 428 Million tons of steel a year... nearly outstripping their capacity of 489M tons... and that is driving the cost of steel. I wonder if this will help spur activity of the big ships on the lakes and the shipment of ore from Superior.

Interesting too that Japan - little country about the size of the state of California, produces about 20% MORE steel than the entire USA.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
QUOTE(KMC @ Feb 15 2010, 04:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Very interesting!!

I thought this might have included the "Cliffs Victory", one of my all time favorite ships, with a distinctive "amidships" engine room. I believe it started life as a Victory ship in WWII also, but I think it was scrapped in the 80's.

Cliffs Victory was the first of the ocean ships converted for Great Lakes use in 1951. Unlike the Lee A. Tregurtha and American Victory, Cliffs Victory was a true Victory-class cargo ship, VC2-S-AP3 class, to be exact. The others were tankers, T3-S-A1 class. Totally different designs.

You are right. Cliffs Victory had an unusual design in that she had a cargo hold aft of her engineering spaces.

I have a story about Cliffs Victory that I partially wrote but didn't finish. It was within the context of other conversions, especially the C4-S-A4 class that were converted for service for Nicholson-Universal SS Co./Republic Steel. Right now the avatar I have is one of those ships, Thomas F. Patton from a beautiful painting by Bob McGreevy. Amazing ships. Known as "Detroit's Speed Queens." Would like to finish it and publish one of these days...
 

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Interesting stuff!


Maybe this would be better suited to another thread, but how about sharing some of your insights in how Great Lakes ships evolved into this form factor.

I like this photo, as the cruiser at left gives it scale...

View attachment 72253
 

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QUOTE(Away Point @ Feb 15 2010, 04:44 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Interesting stuff!


Maybe this would be better suited to another thread, but how about sharing some of your insights in how Great Lakes ships evolved into this form factor.

It's all about volumetric efficiency and getting as much "stuff" -- whether ore or coal -- in there.

Some more photos, by me.

View attachment 72254

This is the best I could do for my scale. Looking aft, starboard side, str. Lee A. Tregurtha. The boaters were behaving that day. Was kind of overcast even for a July 4. The best shot would have been the 26-footer that went under the bow of the ship that the pilot house crew lost sight of right in the middle of LSC. I was down in the engine room and cargo tunnels at that point.

View attachment 72255

How about this for a blind spot? Think about this when you cut in front of a thousand footer. View from the bridge of the M/V Paul R. Tregurtha, biggest ship on the lakes at 1,013 in length. First mate Mike LaCombe explains the blind spot from the pilot house is several HUNDRED feet long. Get in front of the bow and better hope the lookout up forward sees you...
 

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This is pure conjecture...

It seems at some point either it was realized that traditional "ship shaped" hulls didn't matter (or that the "penalty" is worthwhile tradeoff), and instead became little more than a big rectangle, with a simple radius replacing a sharp leading edge bow.

Whatever the reasons, it's huge!
 
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