USAT Meigs

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Usat meigs.jpg
SS West Lewark, later USAT Meigs
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svgUnited States
  • West Lewark (1921–22)
  • USAT Meigs (1922–42)
Ordered: Before September 1919
Builder: Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co
Laid down: 30 July 1920
Launched: 24 February 1921
Completed: June 1921
Acquired: by US Army 1922
Out of service: 19 February 1942
Renamed: 1922
Fate: Sunk by Japanese air attack, 1942
General characteristics
Tonnage: 7,358  GRT, 5,310  NRT [1]
Displacement: 11,358 tons
Length: 430.7 ft (131.3 m) [1]
Beam: 54.3 ft (16.6 m) [1]
Draft: 26.2 ft (8.0 m) [1]
Installed power: 422 NHP [1]
Propulsion: 3-cylinder triple-expansion steam engine, [1] single screw
Sensors and
processing systems:
wireless direction finding

The USAT Meigs (sometimes incorrectly called USS Meigs) was a United States Army transport ship that was built in 1921 and sunk in Darwin Harbour in the first Japanese air raid against the Australia mainland on 19 February 1942.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

Darwin, Northern Territory City in the Northern Territory, Australia

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia, situated on the Timor Sea. It is the largest city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, with a population of 145,916. It is the smallest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities, and acts as the Top End's regional centre.



The ship's keel was laid 30 July 1920 [2] by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company (later Todd Pacific Shipyards) at San Pedro, California [3] and completed in 1921 for the United States Shipping Board as West Lewark. She had a steel hull, measured 7,358  GRT (also cited as 11,358 DWT), [3] 430.7 ft (131.3 m), 54.3 ft (16.6 m) beam and 26.2 ft (8.0 m) depth. [1] [4] The ship's construction was canceled in 1919 but she was then completed to a larger and different design than the originally planned Design 1013 [5] and launched 24 February 1921. [6] She was evaluated for naval use with a temporary designation of IX-4490. [7] [8]

Todd Pacific Shipyards, Los Angeles Division

Todd Pacific Shipyards, Los Angeles Division was a shipyard in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California. Before applying its last corporate name, the shipyard had been called Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company and Todd Shipyards, Los Angeles Division. Under those three names, the San Pedro yard built at least 130 ships from 1917 to 1989.

United States Shipping Board

The United States Shipping Board (USSB) was established as an emergency agency by the Shipping Act, September 7, 1916.

Hull (watercraft) watertight body of a ship or boat

A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. The hull may open at the top, or it may be fully or partially covered with a deck. Atop the deck may be a deckhouse and other superstructures, such as a funnel, derrick, or mast. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.

Peacetime service

After delivery the ship was operated by the Williams, Diamond & Company, Pacific Coast shippers for the Pacific Coast-European trade. [9] Cargo handling equipment had been designed in light of the fact that many ports lacked sufficient handling equipment ashore to enable efficient cargo operations and initial service demonstrated increased efficiency. [10] West Lewark and sister ship, West Faralon were placed in the company's Pacific Coast-European trade with West Lewark making an initial port call at Glasgow, Scotland. [10] In 1922 the Army acquired the ship and renamed her Meigs. [5]

USAT Meigs was one of the small fleet the Army maintained during the inter-war years and operated in the Pacific [4] as a freight and animal transport. [11] In 1939, with USAT Ludington, Meigs was one of only two Army owned freight transports. [11] Included in the requirement to transport army goods and personal possessions of personnel changing duty stations to the Pacific was transport of cavalry and personal horses of officers with occasional mention of the ship transporting notable horses or owners transferring between Pacific and continental postings. [12] [13] In July 1938 Meigs found an oil slick along the course of the lost Pan American flying boat Hawaii Clipper about 500 miles from Manila, took samples and stood by for further investigation. [14]

Pan American World Airways 1927-2017 airline in the United States, former primary international carrier

Pan American World Airways, originally founded as Pan American Airways and commonly known as Pan Am, was the principal and largest international air carrier and unofficial flag carrier of the United States from 1927 until its collapse on December 4, 1991. It was founded in 1927 as a scheduled air mail and passenger service operating between Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba. The airline is credited for many innovations that shaped the international airline industry, including the widespread use of jet aircraft, jumbo jets, and computerized reservation systems. It was also a founding member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline industry association.

Flying boat aircraft equipped with a boat hull for operation from water

A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water, that usually has no type of landing gear to allow operation on land. It differs from a floatplane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage. Flying boats were some of the largest aircraft of the first half of the 20th century, exceeded in size only by bombers developed during World War II. Their advantage lay in using water instead of expensive land-based runways, making them the basis for international airlines in the interwar period. They were also commonly used for maritime patrol and air-sea rescue.

<i>Hawaii Clipper</i>

Hawaii Clipper was one of three Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boats. It disappeared with six passengers and nine crew en route from Guam to Manila, on July 28, 1938.

War service

Shortly before the US entry into the World War II the ship was given the tentative Navy hull number AK-34 under an agreement that Navy would take over, commission and crew Army transports operating in area of potential naval opposition. The reality of war resulted in a December 1941 Presidential order suspending that agreement and the hull number is listed by Navy as "not used." [5]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

USAT Meigs was part of the Pensacola Convoy attempting to reinforce the Philippines in the early stages of the Pacific War and held at Fiji when it was evident the Japanese were already invading the Philippines. Despite a military decision to bring the convoy back to Hawaii or the West Coast a presidential decision routed the ships to Australia to attempt Philippine support from there. [15] She returned to Darwin after being part of an abortive convoy that departed 15 February escorted by USS Houston and smaller escorts bound to reinforce Portuguese Timor. [16]

The Pensacola Convoy is a colloquialism for a United States military shipping convoy that took place in late 1941 as the Pacific War began. The name was derived from that of its primary escort ship, the heavy cruiser USS Pensacola. Pensacola was officially designated Task Group 15.5 and Army sources may use the term Republic convoy for the senior convoy vessel. The convoy, dispatched in peacetime, was intended to reinforce the United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE), created to defend the U.S. Commonwealth of the Philippines and commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, with artillery, aircraft, munitions and fuel, as the threat of war with the Empire of Japan loomed. After war broke out, and Japanese forces attacked the Philippines, the convoy was diverted to Brisbane, Australia.

Philippines Republic in Southeast Asia

The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.

Pacific War theatre of war in the Second World War

The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. It was fought over a vast area that included the Pacific Ocean and islands, the South West Pacific, South-East Asia, and in China.

On 19 February 1942 Japanese planes attacked Darwin's land and shipping targets in two waves. [17] The Meigs, one of six ships sunk, with one of its crew of 66 killed after being struck by a number of bombs and aerial torpedoes. [18]


Although the superstructure of the wreck was salvaged after the war by Fujita Salvage of Osaka, Japan, the cargo of munitions, railway rails, Bren gun carriers and trucks intended for Allied forces in Portuguese Timor remains. The Meigs is now a dive site, where the remnants of the cargo are as visible as the remains of the vessel itself. It lies in 18 metres (59 ft) [19] of water at coordinates 12°29.26′S130°49.10′E / 12.48767°S 130.81833°E / -12.48767; 130.81833 Coordinates: 12°29.26′S130°49.10′E / 12.48767°S 130.81833°E / -12.48767; 130.81833 , [20] and due to the large tidal movements creating strong currents and poor visibility, is only divable around neap tides.


The name USS Meigs is incorrectly applied to the USAT Meigs and also, properly, to the USS General M. C. Meigs (AP-116), which served in the Korean War.

There was also a small Quartermaster Corps passenger and freight steamer built in 1892 by John H. Dialogue & Son, Camden New Jersey, and serving in the early 20th century named General Meigs. [21] [22]

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See also