Tuesday, April 23, 2013

USS Zeilin (AP-9, APA-3)

Figure 1:   USS Zeilin (AP-9) at Todd Seattle Dry Docks, Seattle, Washington, 12 January 1942. This ship and USS Harris (AP-8) retained the split superstructure with which they were originally completed. The break between the bridge and funnel contained a small hatch served by two kingposts. This area was filled in with additional superstructure during civilian service in the 1920s or 1930s in the other units of this class acquired by the Navy. AP-8 and AP-9 also retained merchant-style boat davits for nearly the entire war. US National Archives, Photo No. 19-N-26584, a US Navy Bureau of Ships photograph now in the collections of the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image. 

Figure 2:  USS Zeilin (APA-3) at anchor after her initial conversion to an attack transport in November 1942. She is shown here without radar and with ocean liner-style davits. The big boat forward with the curved bow is a 45 ft. LCM(2); nested in it is an LCV. The boats in davits are ramp-less Higgins LCPLs. US Navy photograph from US Amphibious Ships and Craft, by Norman Freidman.  Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3:  USS Zeilin (APA-3) at anchor after her initial conversion to an attack transport in November 1942. Photograph is from US Amphibious Ships and Craft, by Norman Freidman. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4:  Attu Invasion, May 1943. Soldiers pull an ammunition cart along the beach at Massacre Bay, Attu, Aleutian Islands, 12 May 1943. One of the LCVPs in the background is from USS Zeilin (APA-3). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5:   Attu Invasion, May 1943. Soldiers unload landing craft on the beach at Massacre Bay, Attu, Aleutian Islands, on 13 May 1943. LCVPs in the foreground are from USS Zeilin (APA-3) and USS Heywood (APA-6). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6:  Kiska Operation, August 1943. Troops march up the beach at Adak, Aleutian Islands, during pre-invasion loading for the Kiska Operation, 13 August 1943. Photographed by Lt. Horace Bristol, USNR, of the Steichen photographic unit. LCM behind the soldiers is from USS Zeilin (APA-3). The battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) is in the far right distance. Note the troops' packs and M1 rifles. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.  

Figure 7:  USS Zeilin (APA-3) underway as part of the Guam amphibious invasion force, July 1944. Photograph was taken from USS Ringgold (DD-500). Courtesy Dwight Spayth collection. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8:  USS Zeilin (APA-3) in San Francisco Bay, California, circa late 1945. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1973. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after US Marine Corps Brigadier General Jacob Zeilin (1806-1880), the 21,900-ton USS Zeilin was originally built as the passenger-cargo liner SS Silver State by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia, and was completed in 1921. She was re-named SS President Jackson on 23 June 1922 and traveled during the 1920’s and 1930’s from America’s west coast to the Far East. The ship was originally owned by the Pacific Steamship Line, then the Admiral Orient Line, and finally served with the Dollar Line. SS President Jackson was acquired by the US Navy in July 1940 and was commissioned as the troop transport USS Zeilin (AP-9) on 3 January 1942. The ship, though, was re-designated an amphibious attack transport (APA-3) on 26 November 1942. Zeilin was approximately 535 feet long and 72 feet wide, had a top speed of 18 knots, and had a crew of 724 officers and men. The ship was armed with four single 3-inch guns, one quad 40-mm gun mount, one twin 40-mm gun mount, and ten twin 20-mm gun mounts. A large transport, Zeilin could carry roughly 1,675 troops as well as 2,000 tons of cargo.
During World War II, Zeilin was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific theater of operations. During 1942, Zeilin made a round-trip voyage to the south Pacific and then participated in the assault on the Solomon Islands and the subsequent battle for Guadalcanal. While off the coast of Guadalcanal, Zeilin was attacked by Japanese aircraft on 9 November 1942. During the attack, five enemy dive bombers dropped several bombs on Zeilin. Three of the bombs made damaging near misses, one of which bounced off the starboard side of the ship but exploded in the water some 20 to 25 feet below the surface. As a result of these explosions, Zeilin began to take on a substantial amount of water and suffered cracked plates and a broken propeller shaft. Though damaged and listing, the ship remained on station and continued to offload supplies to the troops on shore until later that month. On 26 November, she carried wounded troops to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, and then sailed via Tutuila, Samoa, back to the United States. Zeilin arrived at San Pedro, California, on 22 December and was overhauled to repair the damage sustained off Guadalcanal.
After the repairs were completed, Zeilin participated in operations in Alaskan waters, including the landings at Attu, Aleutian Islands, in May 1943 and Kiska, Aleutian Islands, in August 1943. From late 1943 to mid-1944, Zeilin carried troops and supplies for the invasions of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, and Guam in the Mariana Islands. On 30 July 1944, Zeilin left the Mariana Islands and headed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, arriving there on 7 August. She continued on to San Francisco, California, and docked there on 18 August. The ship then underwent a major overhaul which lasted until the final week in October.
Once that overhaul was completed, Zeilin returned to the Pacific war zone and arrived at New Guinea on 6 November 1944, where ships were gathering for the invasion of the Philippines. On 2 January 1945, Zeilin and the other ships in the invasion force headed for Luzon in the Philippines. Zeilin arrived off the coast of Luzon on 11 January, two days after the initial landings. Zeilin completed the disembarking of troops and the unloading of their supplies and equipment by the evening of 12 January. That night, Zeilin rendezvoused with a fast transport convoy that was headed for Leyte in the Philippines. The next morning, a single Japanese plane attacked the convoy. Dropping down suddenly from the clouds, a kamikaze aircraft suddenly spotted Zeilin and headed for her. Although Zeilin was firing every gun it had at the attacking plane, the kamikaze plummeted from the sky and smashed into the ship, causing a large explosion that started numerous fires. Damage topside was extensive at the point of impact. The superstructure deck was blown away, deck framing was bent and buckled, and several staterooms were completely destroyed. The plane’s engine pierced the superstructure deck and the outboard bulkhead and ended up in one of the landing boats. Worst of all, the attack cost the ship seven men killed, three missing (and presumed dead), and 30 injured. The damage, though extensive, was not fatal, and Zeilin continued on her way with the convoy.  
After making temporary repairs at Leyte, Zeilin got underway for the US Navy base at Ulithi in the Caroline Islands on 16 February 1945 and arrived there two days later. The ship participated briefly in the Iwo Jima campaign, making a voyage to that island from 9 to 16 March. Zeilin brought in reinforcements to Iwo Jima and, later that month, left the western Pacific to return to the United States for more permanent repairs. After spending five days in Hawaii (from 12 to 17 April), Zeilin continued on to San Francisco, where she arrived on 23 April.  
The Pacific war ended in August 1945, just as Zeilin completed her repairs and was returning to the combat zone. The ship spent the next few months on occupation duties in Japan and transported troops back to the United States, arriving in San Francisco on 14 November. The ship made numerous “shuttle” voyages along the west coast between the California ports of San Diego, San Francisco, and San Pedro, and then sailed to Bremerton and Seattle, Washington. This occupied Zeilin for the remainder of 1945 and January 1946. On 4 February, Zeilin left San Pedro and set her course for the east coast. After transiting the Panama Canal on 14 February, she continued her voyage and arrived at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 21 February.
On 19 April 1946, Zeilin was decommissioned at Portsmouth, Virginia. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 5 June. The ship was transferred to the Maritime Commission on 3 July 1946 and was sold for scrapping on 4 May 1948. USS Zeilin received eight battle stars for her service in World War II.