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AE-11 Mount Hood / AE-12 Wrangell

Eight Maritime Commission C2-SA-J1 type merchants were converted to ammunition ships with 7,700 ton cargo capacity. All entered service in 1944-45. The Mount Hood (AE-11) was the only casualty of the class, having exploded catastrophically in Manus Harbor on 10 November 1944.

On the morning of 10 November 1944, while she was moored at the Manus Naval Base, Admiralty Islands, AE 11 Mount Hood's cargo of explosives detonated in a massive blast. The AE 11 Mount Hood was a merchant acquired by USN on 28 January 1944 and converted to ammunition ship. The ship was utterly destroyed by the accident, which killed all those on board her. At 0830 on 10 November 1944, a party consisting of Lt. Lester A. Wallace, USNR, the communications officer, and 17 men left the ship and headed for shore. At 0855, while walking on the beach, they saw a flash from the harbor, followed by two quick explosions. Scrambling into their boat, they headed back to the ship, only to turn around again shortly thereafter as "There was nothing but debris all around..."

Mount Hood, anchored in about 19 fathoms of water, had exploded with an estimated 3,800 tons of ordnance materiel on board. The initial explosion caused flame and smoke to shoot up from amidships to more than masthead height. Within seconds, the bulk of her cargo was set off with a more intense explosion. Mushrooming smoke rose to 7,000 feet, obscuring the ship and the surrounding area for a radius of approximately 500 yards. The force of the explosion blasted a trough in the harbor floor longer than the length of a football field and 50 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet deep; some fragments landed more than 2,000 yards from where Mount Hood lay. Investigators found no fragment of the ship on the ocean floor larger than 16 by 10 feet.

The concussion and metal fragments caused casualties and varying degrees of damage to ships and small craft within 2,000 yards. The cataclysmic blast damaged nearby escort carriers Petrof Bay (CVE-80) and Saginaw Bay (CVE-82); destroyer Young (DD-580); destroyer escorts Kyne (DE-744), Lyman (DE-302), Walter C. Wann (DE-412), and Oberrender (DE-344); high speed transport Talbot (APD-7); destroyer tender Piedmont (AD-17); miscellaneous auxiliary Argonne (AG-31); cargo ship Aries (AK-51); attack cargo ship Alhena (AKA-9); oiler Cacapon (AO-52); internal combustion engine repair ships Cebu (ARG-6) and Mindanao (ARG-3) (the latter suffering 23 dead and 174 injured); salvage ship Preserver (ARS-8); fleet tug Potawatomi (ATF-109); motor minesweepers YMS-1, YMS-39, YMS-49, YMS-52, YMS-71, YMS-81, YMS-140, YMS-238, YMS-243, YMS-286, YMS-293, YMS-319, YMS-335, YMS-340, YMS-341, and YMS-342; unclassified auxiliary Abarenda (IX-131), covered lighter YF-681, and fuel oil barge YO-77. In addition to the aforementioned ships, nine medium landing craft (LCM) and a pontoon barge moored alongside Mount Hood were also destroyed; 13 small boats or landing craft were sunk or damaged beyond repair, 33 were damaged but repairable. Casualties amounted to 45 known dead, 327 missing and 371 injured, including the crew of Mount Hood, of whom only those ashore survived. The damage to other vessels required more than 100,000 manhours to repair -- an estimated 48,000 concerning Mindanao alone.

The board convened to examine evidence relating to the disaster proved unable to ascertain the exact cause.

After the loss of the Mount Hood, in some accountings this class was renamed after the second unit. Wrangell (AE-12) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1375) as SS Midnight on February 1944 at Wilmington, N.C., by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 14 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. G. T. Cambell; delivered to the Navy, incomplete, on 28 May 1944; moved to Hampton Roads, Va.; converted to an ammunition ship by the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.; and commissioned on 10 October 1944 at the Norfolk Navy Yard.



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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:33:55 ZULU