USS Admiral R. E. Coontz (AP-122)

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Admiral R. E. Coontz (AP-122) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 680) on 15 January 1943 at Alameda, Calif., by the Bethlehem Steel Corp.; launched on 22 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Edwin Kokko, daughter of Admiral Coontz; and commissioned on 21 November 1944, Capt. Montford R. Tawes, USNR, in command.

Following shakedown training out of San Pedro, Calif., the transport embarked troops at San Francisco and sailed for the western Pacific on 3 January 1945. After pausing briefly at Pearl Harbor she reached Ulithi, in the Western Carolines, on 23 January and served there as station ship until 19 March when she headed homeward. Admiral R. E. Coontz made one additional voyage from San Francisco to Ulithi. On her return she touched at San Francisco and San Diego, transited the Panama Canal, and pushed on across the Atlantic to France. She embarked troops for transfer to the Pacific theater; cleared Marseilles on 21 July; and reached Pearl Harbor on 12 August. Underway soon again, she paused at Eniwetok, Saipan, and Guam en route to Ulithi which she reached on 28 August, almost a fortnight after Japan capitulated.

Leaving the Western Carolines on 12 September, Admiral R. E. Coontz sailed for Okinawa, whence she sailed on 27 September for the west coast of the United States. Making port at Bremerton, Wash., the transport embarked occupation troops before getting underway for Japan on 24 October. After disembarking troops at Nagasaki on 6 November and at Nagoya two days later, Admiral R. E. Coontz then made two round-trip voyages between Yokohama and Seattle. She then proceeded to Okinawa to embark passengers for the return voyage to the United States. Sailing for Hawaii, the transport embarked more troops at Pearl Harbor and reached New York City on 11 March 1945.

She entered the Todd Shipyard, Brooklyn, N.Y., on 17 March 1946 and was decommissioned there on the 25th. Stricken from the Navy list in April 1946 and turned over to the War Department, the ship underwent a period of repairs and alterations and was renamed General Alexander M. Patch, honoring General Alexander McCarrell Patch, commander of the 7th Army in the invasion of Southern France in 1944.

In the Army Transport Service, General Alexander M. Patch carried troops and cargo between Europe and the United States from 1946 to 1950. Reacquired by the Navy on 3 March 1950, the ship operated for the next two decades as USNS Alexander M. Patch (T-AP-122) with the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS), later renamed the Military Sealift Command (MSC). From 1950 to 1965 the ship conducted 123 round-trip voyages between Bremerhaven and New York, with an additional 16 voyages to the Mediterranean. Among her passengers was Mrs. Alexander M. Patch, the widow of the general for whom the ship had been named.

Among her operations was the embarkation of over 1,500 refugees during the Suez Crisis in November 1956. The transport took them from Suda Bay, Crete—where they had been brought from Alexandria, Egypt, and Haifa, Israel, by American warships—to Naples. Late in 1961, during the international tensions spawned by the Soviets' closure of access to West Berlin, General Alexander M. Patch participated in the massive lift of American troops to Europe.

In August 1965, growing American involvement in the Vietnam War prompted the transfer of MSTS ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific. General Alexander M. Patch commenced her first Vietnam voyage at New York on 15 August. Steaming via Charleston, S.C., and Long Beach, Calif., the transport reached Qui Nhon, South Vietnam, on 16 September. Returning—via Cam Ranh Bay, Vung Tau, and Okinawa—to San Francisco on 2 October, the ship conducted one more voyage to Vietnam in 1965, reaching Vung Tau on 9 November. Clearing Vung Tau later that day, she returned to New York by way of Penang, Malaysia; Rota, Spain; and Bremerhaven.

For the first six months of 1966, General Alexander M. Patch operated between New York and Bremerhaven. The Vietnam War once again compelled MSTS to switch some of its transports to the Pacific. General Alexander M. Patch and her sistership, General William 0. Darby (T-AP-127), embarked of the Army's 196th Light Infantry Brigade at Boston and departed on 15 July. Transiting the Panama Canal, the two transports reached Vung Tau, South Vietnam, on 13 August, ending the longest (12,358 nautical miles) point-to-point troop lift in the 17 years that MSTS had been in operation. Before the year was out, General Alexander M. Patch conducted two troop lifts of ROK (Republic of Korea) troops from Pusan to South Vietnam.

Placed in reserve in New York's upper bay along with three of her sisterships by the summer of 1967, General Alexander M. Patch was transferred to the custody of the Maritime Administration on 26 May 1970 and placed in reserve in the James River. She remained in the James River berthing area of the National Defense Reserve Fleet until August 20, 1990, when she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register; she was sold for scrap June 4, 2001.[1]

References

  1. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships [1]
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