by McLaren, Robert T
MAINE MARITIME ACADEMY
Senator Ralph Leavitt of Portland, Maine, prompted the creation of the Maine Maritime Academy by an act of the 90th Maine Legislature on 21 March 1941. The first class of 29 students reported on 9 October 1941. Rear Admiral Douglas Dismukes, a veteran of WWI, came out of retirement to head the fledgling school. The classes met on the campus of the former Eastern State School, and the students were lodged at Castine's Pentagoet Inn. The first training ship was the coastal schooner Mattie out of Camden, Maine.
World War Two required a rapid build-up of deck and engineering Merchant Marine officers. The new academy met that challenge and by the end of the war had graduated 384 officers. During the war, the cadets made their training cruises on Long Island Sound on various steam ships that were on loan from the Maritime Commission. In 1954, the former Hospital Ship Comfort (AH-6) became the TS The State of Maine.
The C1-B cargo ship was built under a Maritime Commission contract in 1943 by Consolidated Steel Corporation at Wilmington, California. The ship was converted to a hospital ship at San Pedro, California, by Bethlehem Steel and commissioned 5 May 1944. The 417-ft ship sailed from San Pedro 21 June 1944 for Australia with a Navy crew and Army medical personnel.
The ship operated in the South Pacific, evacuated wounded from Leyte and transported patients back to San Pedro. The hospital ship stood off Okinawa from 2 to 9 April, and received wounded for evacuation to Guam. She returned to Okinawa 23 April. Six-days later, she was struck by a Japanese suicide plane. The ship was badly damaged, 28 ship personnel were killed including six nurses and 48 others were wounded. Temporary repairs were made at Guam and the ship sailed to Los Angeles, California, arriving 28 May. After repairs, the ship became a stationary hospital ship at Subie Bay from 5 September to 11 October 1945. Following a voyage to Okinawa, she sailed for the US, arriving at San Pedro 11 December 1945. She made another voyage to the Far East between 1 January and 4 March 1946, and was decommissioned at San Francisco on 19 April 1946. The hospital ship Comfort received two battle stars for WWII service.
In 1962, the Academy received another WWII training ship with a historical background - the 493-ft USS Ancon (AP-66), built in 1938 by the Bethlehem Steel Company at Quincy, Massachusetts. On 7 August 1942, she was transferred from the US Army and became the Flag Ship of the Atlantic Transport Division Nine. The Ancon took part in the landings at Fedhala, French Morocco, and then returned to Norfolk. On 29 February, she was reclassified to AGC-4. Ancon participated in the Salerno, Italy, landings in September 1943. She steamed to England, arrived 11 November 1943 and started preparation for the invasion of Europe. Ancon served as flag ship for R/Adm. J.L. Hall, Commander of TF-124 (Omaha Beach Force) from 6 to 27 June 1944.
The Ancon returned to Charleston, South Carolina, for repairs and departed in December to serve as flag ship for R/Adm. J. Right during the invasion of Okinawa, 1 April 1945. She then served as press release ship for the landings on Iwo Jima and the surrender and occupation operations at Tokyo. She remained there until 30 November 1945. She returned to the United States in December 1945 and, on 5 February 1946, was placed out of commission in reserve and returned to the Army the same day. Ancon received five battle stars for her WWII activities.
In 1973, the troop transport MSTS Upshur (T-AP-198) classed as (P2-S1-DN3) became State of Maine. The third of the Barrett class with MSTS Geiger being the second, they were constructed by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey. All three were for the American President Lines deluxe passenger service. With the Korean War outbreak, it was decided by the Government to convert the ships to troop transports. Their dimensions were 533-ft 9-in in length over-all, beam 73-ft, normal shaft power 12,500. The conversion provided accommodations for 392 passengers in 93 state rooms and approximately 1500 troops. The State of Maine was retired in 1994 and the Academy used the Patriot State from the Massachusetts Academy for their 1995 summer cruise. The Upshur became a vessel for fire training by the Coast Guard at Mobile, Alabama. In 1997, the ex-USNS Tanner (TAGS-40) was delivered to the Academy and became the State of Maine. She was built in 1990 and has a length of 500-ft, a beam of 72-ft and draft of 30-ft. She has a complement of 288 including 200 cadets and is driven by a 8000-hp diesel, and is a near sister ship to the TS Golden Bear.
McLaren, Robert T "SCHOOL SHIPS OF THE Maritime Academies". Sea Classics. Dec 2005. FindArticles.com. 27 Jun. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4442/is_200512/ai_n16057672