World War II in the Pacific
I have been researching the histories of a number of ships that have
been used as breakwater ships here at Powell River, BC for some time
now. There are ten ships being used at the present time on a floating
breakwater here, nine of which are WW II American concrete vessels.
In fact, your website links to some photographs that I had sent to
the gentleman in Sweden with the Ferro-concrete ship website.
The ships that are here are:
- YOGN 82 - concrete gasoline barge.
- Quartz IX150 - concrete barge used as store ship in the Pacific
- John Smeaton - concrete steamship
- Armand Considere - concrete steamship
- Emile N. Vidal - concrete steamship
- L.J. Vicat - concrete steamship
- Thaddeus Merriman - concrete steamship
- Henri Le Chatelier - concrete steamship
- P.M. Anderson - concrete steamship
- 375 ft. length overall
- 56 ft. breadth
- 38 ft. depth
- 28 ft. 6 in. draught
- 366 ft. length overall
- 54 ft. breadth
- 35 ft. depth
- 26 ft. 3 in. draught
- 420 ft. length overall
- 54 ft. breadth
- 35 ft. depth
As to the floating breakwater at the pulp and paper mill here, it's history goes back to 1930 when the company bought the stripped hulls of two US Pre-Dreadnought era cruisers, the USS Charleston (C-22) and USS Huron (formerly USS South Dakota ACR-9). Over the years a number of different ships were used, some steel, some wood until 1948 when the first concrete ships arrived. The concrete ships gradually replaced the other ships, their mass and less need for maintenance making them ideal for floating breakwaters. We have ten ships here today, nine WWII Maritime commission ships and one WWI USSB Emergency Fleet Corporation concrete ship, the Peralta, which is the oldest concrete ship still afloat. I believe that the ten ships that we have here are the only ones of their type still afloat.
There are numerous cases of the concrete ships being used as breakwaters. Of the 24 steamers built by McCloskey & Co. in Tampa, 2 were sunk as blockships at Normandy, 9 were sunk at Kiptopeke Bay on the east coast as a breakwater for a ferry dock, 7 are here still afloat, about 3 were sunk for use as piers, mostly in Oregon, I think, and the rest were lost or scuttled. The SeaBees sunk a few concrete ships as blockships at Iwo Jima for the landings there. The other use that various concrete ships were used for was as storage hulls, the concrete holds did not sweat like the holds in steel ships, so they were good for dry storage.
The concrete ships were towed here from all over, some from Puget Sound, some from Suisan Bay, Peralta was towed up from San Francisco and YOGN 82 from Pearl Harbor. All the WWII ships were used in the Pacific, most of them ending up as storeships for the Army. I have a few photos of the Quartz , the Lignite and the Silica in the Pacific during WWII. Here is the position of each ship and a brief history.
- POWELL RIVER HULKS - numbered South to North
- 1. YOGN 82
2. Henri Le Chatelier
6. Emile N. Vidal
7. John Smeaton
8. Thaddeus Merriman
10. Armand Considere
This vessel was an unpowered concrete barge of a type designed for the US Maritime Commission and intended for the transportation of oil between Texas and the North Eastern United States. The construction of a pipeline rendered them obsolete before they were delivered. The barges were taken over by the Navy and operated as YO and YOG type oil and gasoline barges in the Pacific. The Navy designation “YO” indicated a District or Yard Oiler, the addition of a “G” indicated that the barge held gasoline, and the “N” indicated that it was a non-self propelled vessel. These vessels were not considered important enough to be named other than by their letter and number designations.
A midship house on the barge held two small 45 HP diesel engines to power pumps, lighting, winches and the steering gear. Accommodations for twelve crew were in the poop.
- (more - from Leonard J.)
Hulks #2,4,6,7,8,9 and 10 – The McCloskey ships.
#2 – Henri Le Chatelier
Launched as M.H.Le Chatelier on January 30, 1944, McCloskey & Co. hull #11. A.H.Bull and Co. operated this ship in the sugar trade. Later she was turned over to the US Army and used as a store ship in the South Pacific. After the war she was laid up until 1948 when she was purchased for use in the Powell River breakwater.
Hulk #3 – Quartz • 366 ft. length overall • 54 ft. breadth • 35 ft. depth • 26 ft. draught
Built by Barret and Hilp at Belair Shipyard, San Francisco, California. Quartz was launched on December 4th, 1943 and was the 12th of 20 of this type of vessel, the B7 D1 barge, to be built for the US Maritime Commission. All were named after various minerals.
Like YOGN 82, the Quartz was an unpowered concrete barge. This type of barge was designed for the transport of bauxite, but as more self-propelled steel ships became available to carry this cargo, the B7 D1 barges were transferred to the military. Thirteen of them, including Quartz, were used in the South Pacific as floating warehouses. This was the use that many concrete vessels of various types were put to during the war, and they became to be known as the “Crockery Ships” or “Green Dragons”. They would be towed to advanced bases in the Pacific Theater and would be supplied by high speed store ships which would unload their cargoes on to the Crockery Ships and then immediately return to the US to load up again. The concrete ship would then divvy out her stores as required. They carried every conceivable type of wartime material.
Quartz served at many bases including Ewenetok, Guam, Leyte, Majuro and Ulithi. After the end of the war, she participated in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll as part of the support group. The Quartz specialized in the handling of clothing and general stores.
#4 – P.M.Anderson
Launched in May 1944, McCloskey & Co. hull #18. This ship apparently made only one wartime trip, to Manila and back to San Francisco, where she was laid up until purchased in 1956 by the Powell River Co. for use as a breakwater, first at Teakerne Arm and then at the mill.
Hulk #5 – Peralta
Ferro-concrete ships were an experiment that was justified by the fact that they only require about 1/3 of the steel needed to build a similarly sized steel ship. This was a key consideration during wartime steel shortages. The concrete ship’s proponents also claimed that they could be built faster and cheaper than steel ships, a claim that proved to be incorrect. In fact, they were as expensive to build and took as long, if not longer to build and were also much heavier than steel ships of the same size. This limited the weight of cargo that they could carry and made them expensive to operate by comparison. Of the 38 concrete ships that contracts were issued for, only 12 were completed, the war having ended before most of them were launched.
The Peralta never sailed under her own power. She was laid up at San Francisco until 1924 when she was sold to the Portland Cement Co. and her propulsion machinery was removed. Her hull was resold and was equipped as a fish reduction plant and was towed to Alaska. In 1934, she returned to Richmond, California where she operated as a sardine processing plant until the sardines disappeared in 1945. In 1948, she was moved to Antioch, California where she remained until 1958. Shortly after this she was purchased for use in the Powell River breakwater.
The Peralta is the last of the First World War concrete steamers afloat and as such is the oldest concrete ship afloat in the world.
#6 – Emile N.Vidal
Launched on September 24, 1944, McCloskey & Co. hull #24. This ship was delivered to the Army the day after launching and was used as a store ship in the South Pacific. After the war she was steaming to the Orient when she lost her propeller and had to be towed back to the US. She was converted to a barge in 1947 and the was sold to the Powell River Co. who then sold her to the Pennsalt Chemical Corp. who used her as a storage hull at Portland, Oregon. In the 1960’s she was repurchased for use in the breakwater.
#7 – John Smeaton
Launched November 28, 1943, McCloskey & Co. hull # 8.
This ship was operated by A.H.Bull and Co. and was placed in the sugar trade, her last trip being from Cuba to Seattle carrying 4100 tons of sugar. She was then transferred to the Army and was used as a store ship in the South Pacific. After the war, she was sold to the PR Co., the first of the concrete ships to join the breakwater.
#8 – Thaddeus Merriman
Launched September 24, 1944, McCloskey & Co. hull #23. This ship was delivered to the Army in November and was used as a store ship in the South Pacific. The PR CO purchased her in 1950.
#9 – L.J.Vicat
Launched January 30, 1944, McCloskey & Co. hull #12. Lykes Bros. Co operated this ship. Later she was transferred to the Army for use as a store ship. The PR CO purchased her in 1948. The Vicat's bell is at the Evans Lake Forest Education Centre and used as the camp's dinner bell. -- Bill
#10 – Armand Considere
Launched in May, 1944, McCloskey & Co. hull #16. This ship was delivered to the Army on September 12, 1944, and like the rest, was used as a store ship in the South Pacific. After the war, she voyaged to Japan. The PR Co purchased her in 1948.
John Campbell Nov 2001
I was fortunate enough to tour Iwo Jima today and was impressed by the size of the concrete ships and depth of the concrete. I am also amazed that they were able to be towed all the way out here with how rough the seas can get and once again the thickness of the concrete.
Subject: YOGN 82
Hi. I just viewed your website on Concrete Ship Hulks and found it interesting you mentioned the YOGN 82 because in 1957-1958 I was in charge of the pumping operations aboard her on Midway Island. We would pump aviation gas to the Fuel Farm, Sometimes up to 14 hours at a time. You mentioned the midship house had two 45 hp diesel engines, This might help you in your research. The midship house had two 225 hp GM 671's and the pumps were in a forward section of the midship house, separated by a bulkhead in there own room. The pumps were two screw type pumps that pulled the gas from the main manifold that was connected to the bottom of the separate tanks. Back aft was an engine room that had two Cummins diesel engine generators ,A switch board and several other pieces of equipment .bilge pumps. blowers, etc. In the stern was the steering room with all the steering gear and a diesel engine used to power the steering gear. Hope this helps you with your research. I have quite a few photos, That I can share with you if they would help. Let me know. ------ Here are several photos of the YOGN 82 from April,1957 to March 1958. Hope the photos give you a better idea of what she looked like compared to the way she looks today at the Powell River Breakwater. Any questions about the YOGN 82 I can help you with let me know.
Leonard J., Sept 2010
YOGN 82, Midway, 1957
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