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Counties in Georgia, Montana, Nebraska, and Texas.


(APA-79: displacement 6,800 (full load); length 426'; beam 58'; draft 15'6"; speed 18 knots (maximum), 13.5 knots (economical); complement 377; armament 1 5", 8 40 millimeter, 10 20 millimeter; class Gilliam, Type: S4-SE2-BD1)


Dawson (APA-79) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC Hull 1872) on 29 August 1944 at Wilmington, California, by the Consolidated Steel Corporation; launched on 27 November 1944; and sponsored by Mrs. Preston Hotchkis.  Sea trials on 27 January 1945 having revealed excessive vibration in Dawson’s forward main propulsion unit, however, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations directed that the ship not be accepted until the builder had corrected the defects.  Upon successful completion of her sea trials on 2 February 1945, the Navy accepted the ship the following day, and she was commissioned at San Pedro, California, on 4 February 1945, Lieutenant Commander Richard S. Cass, DE-V(G) USNR, in command.

After fitting out, Dawson reported for her shakedown on 15 February 1945. Upon completion of that training, on 26 March 1945, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet (ComInCh) directed that Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (CinCPac), make the ship available for one lift from the rear areas to the forward areas of the Southwest Pacific theater. Dawson sailed from San Francisco, California, on 3 April 1945 for the New Hebrides, and arrived at Espiritu Santo on 18 April to discharge passengers and cargo. She sailed for the Solomons on 21 April, and reached Tulagi the following day. She moved thence to Noumea, New Caledonia (29 April-3 May); while she was there, CinCPac made the ship available to Commander, 7th Fleet, until 30 June, who believed she could be “most usefully employed” in that theater. Consequently, Dawson called at Brisbane, Australia (6-14 May) and Humboldt Bay, New Guinea (20-21 May). Proceeding thence to the Philippines, the attack transport touched at San Pedro Bay, Leyte (25-28 May) and Subic Bay (30 May-9 June) (during which time, on 7 June, Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, made her available to Com7thFlt until 30 July) before proceeding to Manus, in the Admiralties, where she embarked the men and equipment of the 21st Construction Battalion (Special) (15-18 June). Dawson returned to Subic Bay in convoy HM-6(T) on 29 June, and remained there until 9 July, at which point she took departure for New Guinea. Pausing at Humboldt Bay (14-19 July), the ship returned to the Philippines on 26 July, making Manila Bay on that date in convoy HM-14(T). On 31 July, she sailed for the Marshalls, making Eniwetok on 10 August. Departing the following day, she was en route to the Hawaiian Islands when Japan accepted the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration.

Dawson arrived at Pearl Harbor on 18 August 1945, four days after V-J Day, and sailed for Saipan with the 98th Construction Battalion embarked, on 1 September. Pausing in the Marianas only briefly (13-16 September), the attack transport continued on for Japan, reaching Sasebo on 22 September to begin a four-day stay. Returning to Manila on 1 October, she remained there for eight days, after which she sailed for Sasebo in a convoy of other APAs, making arrival on 14 October. Dawson departed Sasebo for the Marianas on 22 October 1945; on that day, Commander, Transport Squadron 22, to which unit the ship was assigned, estimated that Dawson would be ready for Magic Carpet duty the following day, but suggested the need for a 21-day availability. Assigned to Task Group (TG) 16.12, on 22 October, earmarked to transport returning Army personnel between the Marianas and Los Angeles, she embarked Army Air Force troops at Saipan following her arrival on 27 October, and sailed for the west coast of the United States on 1 November.  Debarking her passengers at San Francisco on 14 November and embarking replacement naval personnel for transportation to Guam, Dawson sailed to return to the Marianas on 30 November, arriving at Guam four days before Christmas of 1945. While en route, on 9 December 1945, CNO directed that Dawson report to Commandant, 14th Naval District (Com14), “for special tests.”

Sailing for San Francisco on New Year’s Day 1946, Dawson reached the west coast on 17 January and debarked her navy passengers. While she was en route, her ultimate fate was decided, when Commander, Western Sea Frontier (CWSF), indicated on 3 January 1946 that she was “to be used as a target.” Detached from TG 16.12 on 23 January 1946 and released for post-war disposition, Dawson was released from Magic Carpet on 25 January 1946 and directed to report to CWSF for stripping, upon completion of which she was to report to Com14 for “berthing and transfer to Joint Task Force [JTF] 1 as directed by CinCPac.” Accordingly, Dawson reported to CWSF on 26 January.  Proceeding from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor, she ultimately reached Bikini Atoll on 31 May 1946 to participate in Operation Crossroads.

Designated as a target vessel, assigned to Transportation Division 92 of Task Unit (TU) 1.2.6 (“merchant-type unit”) Dawson lay moored in berth 158, 853 yards northwest of “ground zero.” Her crew was evacuated to the attack transport Henrico (APA-45) during the forenoon watch on 30 June 1946. Shot Able, at 0900 on 1 July 1946, apparently caused fires on board the ship, which were reported by the salvage vessel Clamp (ARS-33) the next morning.  The rescue tug ATR-87 extinguished the fires, and by later in the day (2 July), Dawson’s commanding officer and two inspection teams, and a radiological monitor from the hospital ship Haven (AH-12) boarded the ship 15 minutes into the first dog watch. Opened and declared radiologically safe, Dawson was boarded by the remainder of her crew the following morning, and she shifted to berth 159 on 7 July. Her crew carried out routine duties until the morning of 24 July, when all but a small securing team transferred once more to Henrico. During the mid watch on 25 July, the day of Shot Baker, that party transferred to the attack transport George Clymer (APA-27). Dawson sustained superficial physical damage as the result of the atomic blast that occurred at 0835 on 25 July 1946, but heavy radiological contamination from the shallow underwater detonation 1,225 yards away compelled her crew to remain in Henrico. They were transferred to the attack transport Rockbridge (APA-228) on 13 August.

Recommended to be towed to Kwajalein “for use in [a] long term radiological research program,” Dawson was taken in tow by tug Achomawi (ATF-148) on 19 August 1946, and reached Kwajalein on 24 August.  Decommissioned on 28 August 1946, the ship remained at Kwajalein, retained there for radiological study, into the spring of 1948. Ultimately, heavy cruiser Helena (CA-75) sank Dawson in gunnery exercises off Kwajalein on 18 April 1948 at 08º47'N, 167º20'E, and the attack transport was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 April 1948.

21 October 2005