Figure 1: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) at Oran, Algeria, on 5 July 1943, just before departing for the invasion of Sicily. Photographed from USS Ancon (AGC-4). Note personnel boat passing by in the foreground. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) in port, date and location unknown. An inclining experiment demonstrated that she had virtually no reserve of stability, so she was stripped of her attack transport fittings, to be employed only as a point-to-point transport. The 20-mm anti-aircraft gun tubs around her funnel were a late addition that presumably contributed heavily to her stability problems. US Navy photograph from the book US Amphibious Ships and Craft, by Norman Friedman. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) underway, 14 September 1942. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) near the New York Navy Yard on 14 September 1942. Photo No. 19-N-34066, courtesy US National Archives, RG-19-LCM. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) photographed at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia, on 7 October 1942. Photo No. 19-N-35860, courtesy US National Archives, RG-19-LCM. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia, on 7 October 1942. Photo No. 19-N-35861, courtesy US National Archives, RG-19-LCM. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) near the New York Navy Yard on 23 April 1943. The ship has been re-armed, with the two forward 3-inch guns being lowered and a 40-mm twin mount being added between them on a raised platform. Photo No. 19-N-44037, courtesy US National Archives, RG-19-LCM. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) near the Norfolk Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia, on 13 May 1943. The ship has been re-armed, losing her 4-inch gun aft and receiving two 40-mm twin mounts on raised platforms, one at each end. Photo No. 19-N-47645, courtesy US National Archives, RG-19-LCM. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72) photographed near the Boston lightship by a blimp from the Naval Air Station, South Weymouth, Massachusetts, on 1 May 1944. The ship has lost all her landing craft and is now being used as a regular transport. Photo Number unknown, courtesy US National Archives, RG-19-LCM. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after the famous American feminist and suffragette, the 8,193-ton Susan B. Anthony was a passenger steamer built in 1930 by the New York Shipbuilding Company at Camden, New Jersey, and was originally named S.S. Santa Clara and owned by the Grace Steamship Company. The ship was acquired by the US Navy on 7 August 1942 and renamed USS Susan B. Anthony (AP-72). She was converted into a military troop ship at Bethlehem Steel’s New York shipyard and was commissioned on 7 September 1942. Susan B. Anthony was approximately 505 feet long and 63 feet wide, had a top speed of 18 knots, and had a crew of 450 officers and men. The ship was originally armed with one 5-inch gun and four single 3-inch guns, but this was later changed in 1943 to four single 3-inch guns, 2 40-mm guns, and 20 20-mm guns.
Roughly a month after being commissioned, Susan B. Anthony began her duties as a troop ship for the US Navy. From October 1942 to June of 1943, she participated in the invasion of Morocco and the subsequent buildup of Allied forces in North Africa. Susan B. Anthony shuttled troops and supplies between the United States and North Africa, making four round-trip voyages. On 25 June 1943, the ship went to Oran, Algeria, and prepared for the Allied invasion of Sicily.
Susan B. Anthony reached the coast of Sicily on 9 July 1943 and anchored near the town of Scoglitti. During the early hours of the following day, troops and equipment left the ship and hit the enemy beaches. By 0435 hours, the ships in the invasion force were attacked by enemy aircraft. Several bombs exploded next to Susan B. Anthony, but the ship only sustained some minor damage from bomb fragments. By 0600 hours, the ship moved towards an inshore anchorage, but had to withdraw after coming under fire from enemy shore batteries. Roughly an hour later, Susan B. Anthony was able to enter the anchorage and send her salvage crew to aid some disabled landing craft.
During the next two days, air attacks forced Susan B. Anthony’s crew to remain at battle stations. Shortly after 2200 hours on 11 July, a twin-engine plane spotted Susan B. Anthony and began its bombing run. Fortunately, when the plane was approximately 1,500 yards away from the ship, the gunners on board the troop transport were able to shoot down the attacking aircraft. Ten minutes later, another enemy plane was shot down by the ship’s gunners.
On 12 July 1943, Susan B. Anthony left Sicily and returned to Oran. A few days later, she left Oran and steamed back to the United States, arriving at New York City on 3 August. For the next ten months, Susan B. Anthony made round-trip voyages from the United States to England, Iceland, Ireland, and Scotland in preparation for the Allied invasion of Normandy, France.
During the early morning hours of 7 June 1944, a day after the first Allied amphibious landings on D-Day, Susan B. Anthony was moving through what she thought was a swept channel off the coast of Normandy. Suddenly, the ship struck a mine which exploded under her number four hold. Susan B. Anthony lost all power and her rudder went hard left and remained stuck in that position. By 0805 hours, holds number four and five were flooding badly and the ship took on an eight degree list to starboard. In an effort to correct the list, the commanding officer, Commander T. L. Gray, USNR, ordered the troops on board the ship to move to the port side. This human ballast soon brought the transport back on an even keel.
At 0822 hours, the fleet tug USS Pinto (AT-90) came alongside Susan B. Anthony and prepared to tow the troop ship to shallow water. But fires erupted in her engine and fire rooms and soon Susan B. Anthony began to sink more rapidly. At this point, the commanding officer concluded that the troop transport was going to go down and gave the order to abandon ship. With Pinto and two destroyers alongside the sinking ship, all of the troops were evacuated without the use of rafts or lifeboats. Susan B. Anthony’s crew left shortly after all of the troops was evacuated. By 0905 hours, the ship’s main deck was awash and she was listing badly. The last member of the salvage crew left the ship at about 1000 hours, followed by Commander Gray. At 1010, Susan B. Anthony slipped beneath the waves. Fortunately, nobody was killed during the entire event and few of the 45 wounded were seriously injured. Susan B. Anthony received three battle stars for her service during World War II and her demise proved just how dangerous amphibious operations could be for a former civilian passenger steamer.