1944: This Ship Performed a Vital Transportation Role During World War II and Its Aftermath

December 16, 1944

The transport ship USS Queens (APA-103), which had been named after one of New York City’s five boroughs, was commissioned for service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Captain John J. Mockrish of the U.S. Navy Reserve became the first commanding officer of this vessel.

After a period of testing and training in the Chesapeake Bay, the newly commissioned Queens undertook her maiden voyage in January 1945. She carried 47 officers and 512 enlisted men to Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal, and then transported more than twice as many troops deep into the war’s Pacific Theater.

Queens took part in the Battle of Iwo Jima, using her state-of-the-art landing craft to safely transport critically needed troops and supplies onto the island. Queens also played a key role in carrying servicemen wounded in the battle to medical facilities in Guam.

In addition, Queens took part in the Allied occupation of Japan as the first ship to bring American forces to the Japanese naval base at Sasebo. Queens also served in Operation Magic Carpet, a global post-World War II operation in which millions of U.S. military personnel were brought back home. Queens alone took more than 3,000 servicemen from the Pacific Theater to the United States.

The ship’s brief but eventful naval service came to an end when she was decommissioned in June 1946. In the next several decades that followed, however, Queens continued to thrive in other capacities and under other names.

This ship was purchased by American Export Lines in 1948 and renamed Excambion, carrying passengers and cargo on a regular sailing route between New York and several Mediterranean ports. In 1959, the ship became part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet. She was loaned to the Texas Maritime Academy in 1965 – and under her new name USTS Texas Clipper – served as a merchant marine training ship. She remained in this role until 2007, when she was sunk as an artificial reef 14.8 nautical miles (27.4 kilometers) off South Padre Island, Texas.   

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the ship originally known as USS Queens (APA-103), please check out https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/USSQueensbrochure1.pdf and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Queens_(APA-103)

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