USS Admiral H. T. Mayo (AP-125)
Admiral H. T. Mayo (AP-125) was laid down on 21 February 1944 at Alameda, California, by the Bethlehem Steel Corp., under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 683); launched on 26 November 1944; sponsored by Mrs. George Mayo; and commissioned at Alameda on 24 April 1945, Capt. Roger C. Heimer, USCG, in command.
After fitting out, loading supplies and carrying out her shakedown cruise out of San Diego, Admiral H. T. Mayo sailed for European waters on 24 May 1945, bound for Le Harve, France. Transiting the Panama Canal between 31 May and 2 June, the transport reached her destination on 12 June. There she embarked 5,819 released American military prisoners (RAMPs) and men being rotated home to the United States, and sailed for Boston, reaching that port on 27 June. She sailed thence for Marseilles, France, and there embarked 4,888 Quartermaster and Engineer troops. Delayed for repairs at that French port, Admiral H. T. Mayo did not sail for the Pacific until 10 July 1945. She transited the Panama Canal on 21–22 July, and, sailing via Eniwetok, in the Marshalls, and Ulithi, in the Carolines (spending a 16-day layover at the latter place), reached her destination, Okinawa, in the Ryukyus, on 1 September.
Eight days later, on 9 September 1945, Admiral H. T. Mayo departed Okinawa with 5,014 passengers, officers and enlisted men of the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps, being transferred to the United States for discharge or reassignment under the "point" system. Reaching San Francisco on 27 September
1945, on the first of her postwar "Magic Carpet" voyages, the transport there disembarked her passengers, and, following an availability, sailed for the Far East on 18 October. Reaching Tokyo, Japan, on 29 October and Manila, Philippine Islands, on 4 November, she embarked returning veterans at those two ports and ultimately arrived back at San Francisco on 22 November.
Admiral H. T. Mayo sailed for Korean waters on 5 December, and arrived at her destination, Jinsen (now Inchon), Korea, on 19 December. She sailed thence for Japan, reaching Nagoya on Christmas Day 1945. The transport departed that port on 29 December, and, routed via Pearl Harbor, and diverted from her original destination, Seattle, reached "Frisco" on 11 January
1946. Following voyage repairs, Admiral H. T. Mayo sailed for Okinawa on 10 February, and reached her destination on Wash ington's Birthday. She brought back returning veterans to Seattle on 10 March, and rounded out her "Magic Carpet" service with a round-trip voyage between Yokohama, Japan, and Seattle, reach ing the latter port on 23 April 1946.
Admiral H. T. Mayo cleared Seattle on 25 April, and, after stopping briefly at San Pedro until the 28th, pushed on for Panama. Transiting the canal between 4 and 6 May, the transport arrived at the New York Naval Shipyard, on 10 May 1946, where she was decommissioned on 26 May 1946 and turned over to the War Shipping Administration, for further delivery to the Army. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 9 June 1946.
Assigned to the Army Transport Service, the ship was renamed General Nelson M. Walker, to honor Brigadier General Nelson M. Walker (1891-1944) who had been killed in action at Normandy on 10 July 1944. The ship underwent repairs and conversion at the Todd Shipyard's Erie Basin until September 1946, after which time she sailed for the west coast of the United States to base on Seattle.
USAT Nelson M. Walker operated from that port into mid-1948, carrying troops to such ports and islands as Honolulu, Guam, Saipan, Okinawa, Yokohama, Jinsen, and Manila. In July, 1948, she entered the Todd Shipyard at San Pedro for a Safety at Sea conversion and partial conversion as a dependent carrier. This entailed the installation of cabin space for 217 passengers, two lounges, and a children's playroom, well-stocked with toys, and a ship's store, whose foremost item offered for consumption by passengers was a "weird and wonderful concoction" known as "Coca Cola."
Following this face-lifting, General Nelson M. Walker returned to service on 7 December 1948 to resume her transpacific voyages. She followed a triangular route over the next two years, sailing between San Francisco, Yokohama, and Okinawa, soon acquiring a reputation for speed and comfort, two attributes frequently put to the test in Far Eastern waters where typhoons were common. With the newly organized Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS), General Nelson M. Walker's operations were soon confined to serve Okinawa exclusively, the regularity of her appearance on that run earning her the affectionate title of the "Okinawa Express." She represented to many last connecting link between their new domicile and CONLUS, the new term which had begun to appear in military jargon in writing up travel orders and standing for "Continental Limits of the United States."
Her 27th voyage as USAT Nelson M. Walker was her last under the banner of the old Army Transport Service, and on 1 March 1950 she became USNS (United States Naval Ship) Nelson M. Walker (T-AP-125). She sailed on her maiden voyage as an MSTS transport on 27 March 1950, when she departed San Francisco for Buckner Bay, Okinawa, resuming her run as the "Okinawa Express." On 28 April 1950, the ship was reinstated on the Naval Vessel Register. The outbreak of hostilities in Korea on 27 June 1950 occurred while General Nelson M. Walker was returning from her second Far Eastern voyage as an MSTS ship. She sailed for Okinawa on 6 July, with Army and Air Force men and their dependents embarked, and, ten days later, after being battered briefly by a pair of typhoons, disembarked her passengers—among whom were included key Air Force B-29 personnel, needed in the new Korean theater of war.
As the United States began shipping men and material to support the United Nations operations in Korea, General Nelson M. Walker's schedule was altered accordingly; where it had once been her major port of embarkation/disembarkation, Okinawa was less frequented than it had been.
During the latter part of 1950 and early 1951, General Nelson M. Walker operated between San Francisco and Japanese ports, frequenting Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Sasebo. By the time the ship reached Seattle on 20 January 1952, the transport had carried out 18 voyages for MSTS. Entering the Todd Shipyard at Seattle, the ship then underwent conversion to an "austerity trooper", increasing her cabin capacity to 417 spaces and her troop capacity to 3,739 bunks. Gone were the cabin lounges, recreation halls, children's playroom, some crew's accommodations, and storerooms. Shipboard equipment was modernized and an air conditioning unit was added to the enlarged hospital on board the transport.
Following this conversion, repairs, and drydocking, General Nelson M. Walker loaded provisions and stores at Smith Cove by the naval supply depot there, and then shifted to berth 39, Seattle, whence she sailed on 14 April 1952 on her maiden voyage as an "austerity trooper." En route back to the west coast after this troop lift to Yokohama, Pusan, Inchon, and Sasebo, the ship was informed that she would henceforth be employed taking United Nations' troops to Korea. She reached San Francisco on 18 May, and sailed for Panama on the last day of May, with Puerto Rican enlisted men and Colombian officers and men, Korean war veterans all, as well as United States Army troops slated to debark at Norfolk and 1,000 Army troops destined for La Pallice. She touched at Rodman Naval Base, Balboa, Canal Zone, and there embarked 1,500 Puerto Rican soldiers for transportation to Bremerhaven.
Transiting the Panama Canal on 8 June, the troopship arrived at Cartegena, Colombia, on the 9th, pushing on later that same day for San Juan, Puerto Rico, arriving on 11 June. Clearing port later the same day she pushed on for Norfolk, arriving there on 14 June, and thence to La Pallice, France, making port on 24 June. She then made one voyage to Bremerhaven, Germany, before returning to the United States, touching at New York, and then carried out a second trip to Bremerhaven before she proceeded into the Mediterranean basin, her only troop passengers a small detachment of Dutch officers and men.
Reaching the Piraeus, the port for Athens, Greece, the transport took on board Greek troops, on 28 July, before she sailed for Izmir, Turkey, arriving at that port the following morning. There she embarked Turkish troops, the advance party on the 29th and the main body on the 30th, and sailed late on the latter day for the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the British Crown Colony of Aden. Fueling at Aden, General Nelson M. Walker then proceeded on to Korea, arriving at Pusan on 21 August, her arrival greeted by various high-ranking military officers and United Nations consular officials, as well as ranking members of South Korean President Syngman Rhee's cabinet. President Rhee later arrived and made a speech welcoming the Greek and Turkish troops to Korea. The following day, the transport sailed for Sasebo, Yokohama, and San Francisco, reaching "Frisco" on 5 September after an absence of some 95 days. Her odyssey had taken her through the Central Pacific, the Caribbean, the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Philippine and South China Seas, as well as the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the Northern Pacific, steaming some 34,575 miles and carrying a total of 17,907 people. Significant in this voyage was the fact that that lift "brought together, within the close and limited confines of a troopship, members of the Armed Forces of two nations (Greece and Turkey) whose traditional enmity extended over the centuries." The voyage, however, had proved an unqualified success on all counts.
General Nelson M. Walker soon resumed her transpacific trips, making two more round-trip voyages to and from San Francisco and being in mid-voyage on a third by the time the year 1952 was through. During 1953, the transport conducted eight voyages, a period of time highlighted by her bringing back to the United States the first group of 328 returning American prisoners of war from the Korean conflict. Over the next few years, General Nelson M. Walker maintained her regular schedule of voyages to Far Eastern ports, her ports of call including Kobe, Sasebo, Inchon, Yokohama, Pusan, San Francisco, San Diego, and, on one occasion, the island of Midway, through the end of 1955, and into 1956. Departing Monterey, Calif., on 10 January 1957, the transport sailed for Panama. She transited the canal arrival there on 28 January. Clearing that port on 5 February, she sailed via Dover, England, for New York, arriving on 14 February.
Two days after her arrival, on 16 February 1957, Commander, MSTS, Atlantic, assumed administrative control of the ship, and she was placed in ready reserve status. Records indicate that she was to be withdrawn from that inactive status on 5 June 1958, apparently to be inactivated and turned over to the Maritime Administration (MarAd) for lay up, and that she was placed in MarAd's reserve fleet on 20 January 1959, in the Hudson River berthing area (Jones Point), near New York City.
Reacquired by the Navy on 14 August 1965 and reinstated on the Naval Vessel Register on the same date, General Nelson M. Walker was taken out of the National Defense Reserve Fleet in August 1965 and reactivated as part of the buildup of naval forces for the Vietnam War. She was assigned to MSTS (Pacific) for troop-lifts to southeast Asia. On 1 February 1966, while returning from that area of the world, she was summoned to stormy seas northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. SS Gainesville Victory, in attempting to aid the foundering Liberian-registry freighter SS Rockport, had suffered casualties when a Lyle gun had exploded as she had attempted to get a line to Rockport. General Nelson M. Walker provided medical advice, seas being too rough to permit transfer of a doctor, that sufficed until the ship could reach Midway where better medical facilities were available. The transport stood by and, less than 12 hours after she had arrived on the scene, had rescued all 27 men from the sinking Rockport. After operating with MSTS (Pacific) through the end of 1967, she was ultimately deactivated once again and placed in reserve at the Caven Point Army Depot in New York harbor, in early 1968. General Nelson M. Walker was transferred to Mar Ad on 16 April 1970 and laid up in the James River (Va.) berthing area. General Nelson M. Walker was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in January 1981; she remained in the James River berthing area into 1987.