Santa Maria—a steel‐hulled, twin‐screw passenger and cargo steamship—was built in 1928 at Haverton Hill‐on‐Tees, England, by the Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.; owned and operated by Grace Steamship Co.(Grace Lines); renamed Barnett and designated AP‐11 by the Navy on 29 July 1940 in anticipation of her acquisition; purchased by the Navy on 9 August 1940; converted for naval service at Hoboken, N.J., by the Todd‐Shipyards Corp.; and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 25 September 1940, Capt. Lyell S. Pamperin in command.
Assigned to Train Squadron 3, Train, Atlantic Fleet, Barnett departed New York City early in October, bound for the West Indies. Over the next three months, the ship trained marines in landing force operations in the area of the Culebra and Vieques Islands near Puerto Rico, and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She returned to Norfolk, Va., in late December for an extensive overhaul. Out of the yard on 3 April 1941, Barnett spent the next eight months conducting landing operations and gunnery exercises in the Charleston, Norfolk, and Lynnhaven Roads operating areas.
Following repairs and alterations at the Norfolk Navy Yard between 7 and 19 December 1941, Barnett shifted to Hampton Roads to load stores and to calibrate her new wartime equipment—degaussing and radio direction finding gear. The transport got underway for New York City on 2 January 1942, arriving in Brooklyn the following day. After a short trip to the Chesapeake Bay between 9 and 18 January, to practice landing operations with soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 1st Division, she spent the next month embarking troops and loading stores and equipment for transportation overseas.
Barnett joined a convoy heading for Britain on 19 February and, after a brief stop at Halifax on the 21st, arrived at Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 2 March. After disembarking troops and unloading stores, the transport crossed the Irish Sea to Gourock, Scotland, on the 7th and anchored in the River Clyde. There, she embarked Canadian troops, American refugees, and contract workers for transportation to North America. Barnett stood down the Firth of Clyde on 14 March but, owing to poor visibility and a congested shipping channel, ran down and sank the small coastal steamer Perelle. The crew was promptly rescued and turned over to a British escort. Barnett then proceeded across the Atlantic, arriving in Brooklyn on the 25th after an uneventful voyage. The transport moved to Robins Drydock and Shipbuilding Co. the next day to undergo repairs to her degaussing system, and to received 20‐millimeter guns in place of her old .50‐caliber battery.
On 9 April, Barnett sailed from New York for the Panama Canal Zone bound ultimately for the Tonga Islands. Transferred to Transport Division (TransDiv) 10, Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet, after passing through the Panama Canal on the 19th, the troop transport zig‐zagged all the way to Nukualofa, Tongatabu, which she reached on 8 May. There, she disembarked her passengers—Army officers and enlisted men—before preparing for a return trip home. On 15 May, Barnett embarked 1,360 survivors from USS Lexington (CV‐2) sunk on 8 May during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and carried them to San Diego, where she arrived on 2 June.
Steaming north to San Francisco on the 5th, the ship received hurried main engine repairs in the navy yard before embarking 2,026 marines and equipment earmarked for the United States' first offensive landing operation in the Pacific War—the invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomons. Barnett sailed on 22 June, crossed the International Date Line on 6 July, and moored at Wellington, New Zealand, on the 11th. The ship's crew spent the next week laboriously rearranging supplies and equipment for combat operations. Underway on 22 July, the transport steamed to Koro in the Fiji Islands in company with Chicago (CA‐29), Salt Lake City (CA‐25), HMAS Australia, HMAS Canberra, HMAS Hobart, nine destroyers, and 11 other transports. Joined by additional convoy elements on the 26th, Barnett and the other transports conducted landing rehearsals for Operation "Watchtower."
One of 15 attack transports and troopships assigned to Transport Group "X‐Ray," Barnett proceeded to the Solomon Islands, arriving in the transport area off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, in the early morning of 7 August. At 0800, after accompanying cruisers and destroyers had softened up the beachhead, the transport began landing troops and equipment from all holds. All troops succeeded in getting ashore on "Red Beach" by 1045, but small Japanese aircraft raids twice interrupted the unloading of supplies and equipment that afternoon, delaying the transports departure. Around mid‐day on 8 August, however, 23 Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 land attack planes, from the 4th and Misawa Kokutais, attacked the ships off Lunga Point.
Four of the bombers approached Barnett and George F. Elliott (AP‐13), whose crews opened fire with all guns that would bear. One passed close aboard her starboard side, burning furiously from repeated 20‐millimeter hits, while a second Mitsubishi strafed Barnett’s deck with its machine guns. It then crossed the transport about seven feet above the signal bridge, inadvertently striking the signal mast and shearing off its left wing. As a result, the bomber plunged into the water on the port side of the ship. Scattered fragments lightly wounded two sailors. A third bomber came under heavy fire when it passed between the transport and George F. Elliott, crashing in flames about 1,500 yards to port. The fourth crashed George F. Elliott’s deck just abaft the bridge, starting numerous gasoline fires that forced her abandonment and led ultimately to her scuttling by destroyer Hull (DD‐350) later that day.
Following the attack, Barnett returned to “Red Beach” and continued unloading operations into the night. During the mid watch on 9 August, the transport’s sailors observed heavy gunfire to the northwest at 0148. Flares, tracers, and parachute flares also lit up the night sky to the northeast. The troopship and the other cargo carriers of Transport Group “X‐Ray” ceased discharging cargo and got underway in case they needed to clear the area. The night combat seen to the north, the disastrous Battle of Savo Island, resulted in the loss of three U.S. heavy cruisers and one Australian. Providentially, the Japanese withdrew toward Rabaul without continuing on to sink the defenseless transports.
In the morning, Barnett returned to “Red Beach” and finished unloading all marine supplies by 1300 that afternoon. She also took on board 860 survivors from the sunken Vincennes (CA‐44) and the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, as well as 17 Japanese prisoners. Departing Guadalcanal after noon on the 10th, the transport sailed for Nouméa, anchoring in Dumbea Bay, New Caledonia, on 13 August.
After transferring some survivors ashore, Barnett remained at Nouméa until joining a convoy for Tonga on 2 September. Arriving at Nukualofa harbor on the 5th, the transport disembarked the rest of her passengers before conducting repairs and routine upkeep. For the next three weeks, the ship underwent service inspections and “exercised at debarkation, landing boat tactical formations and exercises.” Sent to Wellington, New Zealand, on 26 September, the transport received minor repairs and the installation of additional 20‐millimeter guns between 1 and 9 October.
Departing Wellington on the 10th, the transport steamed to Tonga on the 14th, loaded elements of the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, and went on to Pago Pago, Tutuila, on 22 October. Joined there by three other transports, Barnett sailed to Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, and laid off the Tenaru River at 0530 on 4 November. Despite harassment from a Japanese 5‐inch gun inland, the reinforcements all disembarked by the following morning, and the ship departed the area. After stopping at Espiritu Santo on the 7th to resupply, she steamed to Nouméa on the 13th. There, the transport loaded cargo and embarked 540 troops and other passengers for Guadalcanal.
Barnett unloaded at Lunga Point on 26 November and, over the next three days, embarked 381 survivors from the four destroyers sunk during the 12 and 13 November night battle off Guadalcanal, as well as 94 wounded marines, 25 Japanese prisoners, and 31 Roman Catholic missionaries for evacuation. On the 28th, while the transport was still off Lunga Point, two torpedoes from Japanese submarine I‐16 passed down Barnett’s port side and struck Alchiba (AK‐23), which was forced to beach. Barnett quickly retired from the area and disembarked her passengers at Espiritu Santo on the 30th. She then took 866 Northampton (CA‐26) survivors on board on 2 December and got underway for the United States on the 4th, arriving at San Diego on 20 December.
Repair workers began to overhaul the transport’s engines on the 24th, continuing that work into the new year. A pair of twin 40‐millimeter mounts replaced her 5‐inch gun; and she was reclassified an attack transport and redesignated APA‐5 on 1 February 1943. Following inspections, Barnett was found unsuitable for continued operations in the South Pacific, mostly because of the region’s primitive port facilities. As shipping was desperately needed for accelerated amphibious operations in Europe, she departed San Diego for the Atlantic on the 19th, arriving at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 10 March.
Following four weeks of inspections and alterations to her interior spaces, Barnett loaded stores and equipment for an exercise in Chesapeake Bay. She embarked troops of the 45th Infantry Division on 9 April and landed them at Cedar Point, Md., on the 12th. After returning to Norfolk on the 17th, the ship spent the remainder of the month preparing to deploy to the Mediterranean.
Underway on 10 May, Barnett zigzagged in convoy across the Atlantic, passing Gibraltar on the 22d and mooring at Mers‐el‐Kebir, Algeria, on 23 May. After transporting troops on to Algiers in mid‐June, the ship embarked Army troops and equipment on 5 July in preparation for Operation “Husky,” the invasion of Sicily. Sailing in company with Savannah (CL‐42), Boise (CL‐47), nine destroyers, and 11 other transports, Barnett arrived off Gela, Sicily, in the early morning of 10 July. While disembarking Army troops, her crew observed flares, searchlights, and shore bombardments light up the beach during the assault.
On the morning of the 11th, while the transport unloaded stores and equipment into waiting LCTs, a flight of six German Heinkel He‐111 twin‐engine bombers attacked the anchorage. A single bomb burst close aboard Barnett’s port bow, ripping through the hull plating and starting a fire in the upper and lower between decks. A fire‐fighting team from Hopi (AT‐71) helped put out the blaze and temporarily repaired the damage. Seven soldiers died, and another 35 suffered wounds in the explosion and fire. That evening, two other attacks, carried out by Junkers Ju‐88 bombers, sank the ammunition‐laden freighter Robert Rowan before being driven off by antiaircraft fire. The transport embarked Army casualties from the battle ashore on 12 July and turned west for Algeria, arriving at Algiers on the 15th.
After transferring wounded to Acadia (AD‐42), Barnett underwent a week of repairs to her damaged bow. The transport then spent six weeks conducting three landing exercises along the North African coast in preparation for the landings at Anzio in southern Italy. On 3 September, she embarked 1,398 troops from the 36th Infantry Division at Mers‐el‐Kebir. The ship moved to the convoy anchorage on the 5th, and then got underway with 19 warships and 21 other transports for Operation “Avalanche.”
The convoy zig‐zagged back and forth, making several emergency turns to avoid suspected U‐boat contacts, and arrived in the Gulf of Salerno late in the evening on 8 September. Barnett unloaded her troops on the 9th and, despite a succession of night German air raids, finished unloading all the equipment she carried on the 10th. Heading back to Oran that evening, she moored at Mers‐el‐Kebir on the 14th.
Over the next eight weeks, the transport made three more trips from Algeria to Naples, carrying troops, equipment, and supplies for the Italian campaign. Barnett delivered to Naples 1,011 signal, police, and ordnance specialists on 6 October, 1,247 men from the 1st Armored Division on 28 October, and 1,383 service force troops on 13 November. On the 19th, after mooring “port side to bottom of capsized Italian Hospital Ship Sicilia,” the transport embarked Commonwealth troops for transfer back to Britain. Following a brief stop at Mers‐el‐Kebir, she arrived at Gourock, Scotland, on 9 December in a convoy of 26 British and American transports. Barnett then joined a transatlantic convoy of 17 merchantmen and 5 other transports on the 18th and, with escort carrier HMS Searcher providing air cover, she arrived in Norfolk on 2 January 1944.
Barnett commenced a navy yard overhaul the following day, receiving hull repairs in drydock and the installation of more 20‐millimeter antiaircraft guns, bringing her armament establishment up to four 3‐inch, four 40‐millimeter, and 18 20‐millimeter guns. On 2 February, the transport sailed to New York where she embarked troops and loaded equipment, before setting sail for Britain on the 11th. After an uneventful crossing, she arrived at Gourock, Scotland, on 26 February. For the next three months, Barnett helped prepare for Operation “Neptune”—the invasion of Normandy. She shuttled troops between Gourock and Plymouth, England; conducted several landing exercises in Start Bay; and finally anchored in Tor Bay on 27 May.
Barnett embarked troops of the 2d Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division’s 8th Infantry, and got underway on 5 June for Baie de la Seine, France. Arriving off “Utah” Beach the morning of 6 June, Barnett disembarked troops and unloaded equipment while Nevada (BB‐36) and HMS Black Prince provided fire support for the troops going ashore. The transport then carried casualties back to England that evening and moored at Falmouth on the 7th. Needed for Operation “Dragoon,” the planned invasion of southern France, the ship loaded troops at Gourock in late June and sailed for Naples on 4 July, arriving there on the 16th.
Barnett loaded equipment late that month, and then embarked troops on 9 August, before sailing for southern France on the 13th. The troops disembarked on the Riviera without incident, and she returned to Naples on the 17th. Over the next six weeks, the transport conducted three similar trips to southern France, carrying American and Free French troops from Naples to Cavalaire, St. Tropez, and Marseille.
Shortly thereafter, the crew received word Barnett was needed for the massive amphibious operations planned in the Pacific. She joined a convoy sailing from Marseille to Oran on 20 October and then set course for Norfolk, where she arrived on 8 November. Following a five‐week overhaul, Barnett steamed to Newport, R.I., on 15 December to embark troops and load cargo. Sailing south, she transited the Panama Canal on the 28th and arrived at Long Beach, Calif., on 6 January 1945. The transport then got underway on the 18th for the southern Pacific, stopping at Espiritu Santo between 3 and 7 February before anchoring off Guadalcanal on the 9th.
Barnett joined Transport Group “Baker,” consisting of 22 ships in TG 53.2, for several weeks of amphibious training in the Solomon Islands. After embarking elements of the 1st Marine Division, she set out on 15 March for Ulithi, the staging area for the invasion of Okinawa. The task group arrived at Ulithi Atoll on the 21st, joining the several hundred Navy, merchant marine, and Royal Navy ships anchored in the lagoon. After six days at the atoll, Barnett stood out for the Ryukyu Islands and Operation “Iceberg,” arriving off Okinawa on 1 April.
The transport unloaded troops and equipment at the Hagushi beaches that day and provided boats and personnel to unload other ships in the transport area for the next week. Numerous air alerts and suicide‐plane attacks kept the crew busy; Barnett’s antiaircraft fire helped shoot down one Japanese plane on 3 April while a friendly fire incident damaged her superstructure and destroyed a cargo crane on the 6th.
Ordered to the west coast for much needed repairs, Barnett sailed first to Saipan, then to Pearl Harbor, before arriving at Seattle on 5 May. There, the transport embarked 1,163 Army officers and men and then sailed for San Francisco on 26 May. After a brief stop to load equipment, she set course for Hawaii on the 31st and moored in Honolulu harbor on 7 June. Quickly disembarking troops there, she moved to Pearl Harbor on the 11th. She embarked 1,308 troops and loaded cargo there and steamed west for the Philippines on 22 June. After stops at Eniwetok on 30 June, and Ulithi on the 5th, the ship disembarked troops and cargo in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, between 10 and 12 July. Barnett then transported casualties back to the west coast in early August, arriving at San Diego on the 8th. The ship was receiving voyage repairs, when news of the Japanese capitulation arrived on 15 August.
On 4 September, Barnett embarked occupation troops and set sail for the Philippines. Arriving at Samar on the 26th, the transport then ferried men and equipment between Pacific ports on “Magic Carpet” duty until 9 January 1946 when she returned to San Francisco. The ship then sailed for the east coast, arriving at the Boston Naval Shipyard on 28 January. Following inspections, she received orders on 14 March to prepare for deactivation. Barnett was decommissioned at Boston on 30 April 1946, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 21 May 1946. Transferred to the War Shipping Administration on 3 July for disposal, she was finally sold to Achille Lauro Ltd. On 13 April 1948 and was refitted for merchant service.
Barnett (APA‐5) earned seven battle stars in World War II.
See also Barnett-I.