The first Fresno (Id. No. 3063) retained the name she carried at the time of her being taken over from the U.S. Shipping Board in 1918. The second Fresno (CL 121) was named for the city in California. The third Fresno (LST 1182) was named for the city and county of the same name in California.
(Cargo ship: displacement 12,600; length 416'6"; beam 53'; draft 26'5"; speed 10 knots; complement 99; armament 1 4-inch, 1 3-inch)
The single-screw cargo ship Fresno was completed on 15 June 1918 at Oakland, Calif., by the Moore Shipbuilding Co.; and chartered by the U.S. Navy the same day. Given the identification number (Id.No.) 3063, Fresno was commissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., one week later, on 22 June 1918, Lt. Cmdr. Gustaf W. Anderson, USNRF, in command.
|Fresno runs her builders’ trials on 20 June 1918, two days before she was turned over to the U.S. Navy. Note disruptive camouflage pattern and lack of armament at this time. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 96111) ;|
Refitted and refurnished “in accordance with navy practice,” Fresno, assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service,loaded a full cargo of flour and Navy stores at Mare Island Navy Yard, and sailed on 27 June 1918 for New York. After coaling at Port Costa en route, the cargo ship transited the Panama Canal on 19 July, and reached New York on the last day of July. On 5 August, Fresno sailed for Norfolk, arriving later the same day.
At 8:20 a.m. on 6 August 1918, Fresno stood out of Hampton Roads with mercantile convoy HH-65, consisting of 28 ships – 16 British, two French, one Italian, one Norwegian, and seven American (an eighth U.S. vessel, the freighter Jason, delayed by engine trouble, did not clear port until after noon). At 2 p.m. on 7 August, Jason, two miles in the rear of the convoy, sighted a submarine. Her naval armed guard crew under CBM C. T. Wetmore, USNRF, manned their stern chaser and quickly opened fire.
Paul Jones (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 10), part of the convoy’s escort, went to battle stations as well and sped to the scene to investigate. The “enemy” proved to be O-6 (Submarine No. 67), that had been covering the junction of two convoys and had mistakenly followed HH-65 in the hazy conditions prevailing that morning. Although O-6’s sailors counted at least seven hits on her conning tower, the boat had suffered no casualties to her crew in the “exceedingly efficient gunnery work of the merchant vessel in question…” Fresno and her convoy mates experienced no more drama for the remainder of the voyage.
Having discharged her cargo at Le Havre, Fresno got underway for England on 10 September 1918. After loading ballast and 1,000 tons of cargo at Devonport, she sailed for Tompkinsville, Staten Island, N.Y., on 14 September. On 29 September, while about 127 miles east of Atlantic City, N.J., Fresno rescued the survivors of a wrecked seaplane, with whom she made port later that day.
Fresno reached New York on 30 September 1918. Proceeding to the north side of Pier 2, Morse shipyards, arriving there on 15 October, she received a drydocking, a general overhaul, alteration to her hatches to permit the loading of locomotives, and the removal of her guns. Emerging from yard hands on 20 October, the ship arrived at Pier 5, Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, N.Y., to begin loading 6,288 tons of cargo for her next transatlantic voyage.
Delayed from sailing with that convoy slated to depart on 1 November 1918, Fresno was assigned to one that sailed for France on 3 November. She reached St. Nazaire on 23 November, within a fortnight of the armistice that stilled the guns of The Great War. After discharging that which she had brought over from the United States, the ship loaded “Naval batteries and army return cargo.” She cleared St. Nazaire for Philadelphia three days before Christmas [22 December] and reached her destination on 8 January 1919.
Her four holds filled with army supplies, Fresno sailed in convoy on 11 February 1919, once more setting course for St. Nazaire, and arrived at her destination on the 26th. After discharging the stores brought from Philadelphia, the ship loaded 1,000 tons of army return cargo, and sailed for the United States on 14 March. Concluding her voyage at Hampton Roads on 4 April, she emptied her holds there, then loaded railroad flat cars and bales of hay, and sailed for France on 26 April.
Reaching La Pallice on 11 May 1919, Fresno discharged part of her cargo there, then steamed to St. Nazaire to put the remainder ashore before she loaded 5,000 tons of naval ordnance material. Shifting to Barry Roads to coal ship, she sailed for New York on 12 July, arriving two weeks later, on 26 July.
Surveyed and placed in line for demobilization on 29 July 1919, Fresno was decommissioned on 4 August 1919 and returned to the Shipping Board the same day at Shewan’s Drydock.
The ship that had transported some 26,288 tons of cargo to European ports was ultimately scrapped at Baltimore, Md., in 1938.
Robert J. Cressman