(Freighter: dp. 19,419; 1. 490'0"; b. 57'2"; dr. 31'6" (mean); s. 10.15k.; cpl. 97; a. 1 5", 1 3")
Arizonan—a steel-hulled, twin-screw cargo vessel—was completed in early 1903 at San Francisco, Calif., by Union Iron Works. The ship operated under the house flag of the American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. from 1903 to 1917, and received a defensive armament and a Navy Armed Guard detachment to man it.
In the summer of 1918, plans were made to have the ship manned by the Navy for the Army account. The Commandant of the 5th Naval District was authorized to fit out the ship for operation by the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) as long as the turnover could be accomplished without delaying the loading of the ship's next consignment of cargo. Accordingly, Arizonan—designated Id. No. 4542A—was taken over by the Navy on 10 August 1918 and was commissioned on 14 August as she lay at an Army pier in Norfolk, Va., Lt. Comdr. Henry R. Patterson, USNRF, in command.
Two days later, the ship moved to Newport News, Va., where she took on cargo—including 50 trucks as deck load—earmarked for the American Expeditionary Force in France. Underway on the morning of 30 August, she crossed the Atlantic in convoy and, after a brief stopover at Gibraltar on 17 and 18 September, reached Marseilles late in the afternoon of 21 September and, over the ensuing days, discharged her cargo.
Departing Marseilles on 18 October, Arizonan returned to Newport News in ballast, reaching the C&O piers on the evening of 7 November. Four days later, on the same day upon which the Armistice was signed, Arizonan moved out into the stream, opposite the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. yards. After a drydocking and repairs, the ship sailed for New York on the afternoon of 18 November.
Undergoing further repairs and alterations first at the Shewan and later at the Morse Drydock company yard, Arizonan was taken in hand for conversion to a troop transport, her armament being removed at the latter yard. Reassigned to the Cruiser Transport Force on 14 December 1918, Arizonan remained at the Morse yard until late in January 1919 before shifting to one of the Army's major terminals, Bush Terminals, Brooklyn, N.Y., to load additional gear in line with her recent metamorphosis to a troopship. Subsequently underway on the afternoon of 26 February 1919, the ship reached Bassens, France—a northeastern suburb of Bordeaux where the American Army had built a port facility during the war—on the evening of 12 March. Indicative of the precautions taken against any mines which might still be in French waters, the ship streamed paravanes soon after sighting the European coast the previous day.
Over the ensuing months, Arizonan conducted four more round-trip voyages to France, departing from Bush Terminals for the outwardbound voyages and concluding the last at Hoboken, N.J. During her first run (26 February to 3 April), she unloaded cargo at Bassens and brought on board returning "doughboys" at Paulliac; during the second (12 April to 20 May), the ship embarked troops at Bordeaux; and the third (7 June to 6 July) found the ship embarking troops at St. Nazaire for the voyage homeward-bound from "over there."
Arizonan left Brooklyn on 11 July 1919 for the fourth in this series of shuttle runs to Europe. Four days out, she encountered the disabled Edward Luckenbach (Id. No. 1662) and towed that Naval Overseas Transportation Service cargo ship 425 miles back toward Boston. Coast Guard cutter Ossipee joined them on the afternoon of the 17th. On the morning of the 19th, she took over the towing duty from Arizonan, freeing the latter to continue on her voyage. Arizonan ultimately made port at St. Nazaire on the morning of the 30th.
Completing her loading of return cargo by 19 August— accomplished with an interesting labor force: French stevedores and German prisoners of war—Arizonan embarked a comparatively small group of passengers 14 Army officers, six field clerks, and four enlisted men, and got underway that morning for the United States on her final voyage under the auspices of the Cruiser Transport Force.
Reaching Hoboken on 2 September, the troopship finished discharging cargo and disembarking her passengers by the 11th and shifted to the Shewan's yard later that day. She moved thence to Hoboken on the afternoon of the 17th. Over the ensuing days, workmen removed and dismantled the trappings of a troopship, and—as the ship lay moored alongside the transport Pretoria at pier 9, Army Docks, Hoboken—she was decommissioned on 29 September 1919. Her name was struck from the Navy list that same day.
Returned to her prewar owner, the American-Hawaiian Steamship Co., Arizonan operated under the flag of that company through the mid-1920's. Transferred to Japanese ownership sometime during 1927 and 1928, her documentary trail runs cold soon thereafter, suggesting that the ship may have been cut up for scrap
Arizonan, photographed before World War I. (NH 64589)