Tuesday, October 23, 2012

USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67)

Figure 1:  USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67) moored at Norfolk, Virginia, 8 October 1942. US Navy photograph from the book US Amphibious Ships and Craft, by Norman Friedman. Click on photograph for larger image. 

Figure 2:  USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67) probably at the US Army Port of Embarkation Piers, Newport News, Virginia, 27 May 1943. US Army photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.  

Figure 3:  North Africa invasion, November 1942. US Navy ships off the Phosphate Pier at Safi, Morocco, on 10 November 1942. Beach "Red" is in the left background. Beach "Blue" is in the left center, with the harbor in the center and the town of Safi at right. Ships present are (from left to right center): USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67), USS Calvert (AP-65), USS Harris (AP-8), USS Lyon (AP-71) and USS Housatonic (AO-35). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4:  USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67) underway on 10 July 1943, the first day of the invasion of Sicily. A paravane is visible near the waterline about a third back from the bow. Photographed from USS Ancon (AGC-4). Note: the date 10 July 1943 is from the original caption. Because a full set of landing craft is embarked, it is possible that the photograph was taken earlier. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.  

Figure 5:  USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67). Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken during World War II, showing the ship in port. Copied from the book, Troopships of World War II, by Roland W. Charles. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.  

Figure 6:  USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67) photographed circa 1945. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1976. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.    

Figure 7:  Ex-USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67) as American Export Line's cargo liner SS Exemplar underway in the harbor at New York City, date unknown.  Courtesy of Gerhard Mueller-Debus. Click on photograph for larger image.

The 11,625-ton merchant steamship transport SS Exemplar was originally built by the Bethlehem Steel Company at Quincy, Massachusetts, and delivered to the American Export Lines on 1 August 1940. She served as a merchant transport with the American Export Lines until purchased by the War Shipping Administration and leased to Great Britain on 19 April 1941. The ship was placed into service by the British Ministry of War and re-named Empire Widgeon, but the transport was returned to the American War Shipping Administration on 17 April 1942 and leased back to her original owners, the American Export Lines, on 9 May 1942. However, due to the urgent need for military transports, the ship was acquired by the War Department three months later on 14 August 1942 and then given to the US Navy on 13 September 1942. The ship was commissioned on 17 September 1942 as the USS Dorothea L. Dix (AP-67), named after the famous American humanitarian and superintendent of female nurses during the Civil War, and was converted into an armed transport. The ship was approximately 473 feet long and 66 feet wide, had a top speed of 17 knots, and had a crew of 422 officers and men. Dorothea L. Dix was armed with four single 3-inch guns and two double 40-mm gun mounts. She could also carry roughly 1,550 troops plus 1,400 tons of cargo.
Dorothea L. Dix made her first voyage on 23 October 1942. She joined Task Force 34 for the invasion of French Morocco in North Africa. The ship landed Army troops and supply scout boats at Safi, French Morocco, from 8 to 12 November. Dorothea L. Dix returned to the United States and arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, on 24 November. From 12 December to 5 April 1943, the transport made two more trans-Atlantic voyages to Oran, Algeria, carrying US Army troops and nurses.
After completing amphibious exercises back at Norfolk, Dorothea L. Dix left on 8 June 1943 for Oran, arriving there on 22 June. On 5 July, the ship got underway for the invasion of Sicily, arriving off the coast of Scoglitti, Sicily, late on 9 July and unloading her troops and cargo early the next day under heavy air attacks. The transport embarked wounded and returned to Oran on 15 July. One week later, the ship was en route to New York, arriving there on 3 August. Another trip was made to Oran from 21 August to 21 September, after which the ship sailed on 8 October to Great Britain.
Dorothea L. Dix arrived at Gourock Bay, Scotland, on 17 October 1943 and sailed ten days later for Algiers. When the transport arrived there, she off-loaded the troops she was carrying and exchanged them for 243 survivors of the destroyer USS Beatty (DD-640), which was sunk by German aircraft off the coast of Algeria on 6 November 1943. The ship then went on to Oran to embark Army troops. Dorothea L. Dix unloaded cargo back at Gourock Bay from 24 to 30 November and then returned to New York, arriving there on 11 December. From 29 December to 10 March 1944, the transport carried troops on two voyages through U-boat infested waters from New York to Gourock Bay and Liverpool, England.   
On 23 March 1944, Dorothea L. Dix sailed from New York to Belfast, Northern Ireland, arriving there on 3 April. After some amphibious training, the ship was assigned to Temporary Transport Division 97 at Portland, England, on 5 June for the invasion of Normandy, France. The following day, 6 June 1944, Dorothea L. Dix participated in the bloody assault on the infamous “Omaha” Beach at Normandy.  After she unloaded all of her assault troops, Dorothea L. Dix carried wounded soldiers from the beachhead back to England the next day. Once she returned to England, the ship embarked troops and tanks and was sent to Naples, Italy, arriving there on 16 July.
Dorothea L. Dix left Naples on 13 August 1944 for the invasion of southern France two days later. After unloading tanks and troops during the landings, the ship continued to support this amphibious operation by shuttling French, British, Italian, as well as American troops from Italy to France over the next few months. Dorothea L. Dix eventually returned to New York on 8 November.
Dorothea L. Dix left New York on 18 December 1944 and, after transiting the Panama Canal, sailed on to San Francisco, California, arriving there on 4 January 1945. Two weeks later, the ship transported Army troops to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and returned to San Francisco on 2 February. After carrying more Army troops in the middle of winter to Attu in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska, Dorothea L. Dix left for Okinawa, reaching that destination on 1 May. After landing her troops on Okinawa, the ship embarked casualties and naval passengers and returned to San Francisco, arriving on 27 May.
From 10 June 1945 to 9 February 1946, Dorothea L. Dix served as a transport from San Francisco and other west coast ports to the Philippines, carrying Army replacements to the Pacific region and bringing back home veterans from the war. The ship returned to New York City on 29 March 1946 and was decommissioned there on 24 April 1946. Dorothea L. Dix was turned over to the Maritime Commission that same day. The ship was soon given back to her original owners, the American Export Lines, and was again re-named SS Exemplar. The veteran transport that participated in so many famous amphibious landings during her career was eventually sold for scrapping in December 1968.
Transports like Dorothea L. Dix received very little recognition during World War II, but the Allies could not have achieved final victory without them. They sailed through dangerous waters filled with German submarines, often in terrible weather, and they unloaded their precious cargo off hostile shores where enemy aircraft and artillery tried their best to sink them. Dorothea L. Dix received five battle stars for her service during World War II, an impressive number for a naval transport.