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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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George G. Henry

 

A former name retained.

 

(ID-1560: dp. 13,179 (n.); l. 435'; b. 56'; dr. 26'6"; s. 11 k.; cpl. 59; a. 1 5"; 1 3")

 

George G. Henry was built in 1917 by the Union Iron Works of San Francisco; chartered by the Navy from the Los Angeles Petroleum Transportation Co., 23 August 1918; and commissioned at New York the same day, Lt. Comdr. Henry F. Weeden, USNRF, in command.

 

Assigned to NOTS, George G. Henry departed New York 29 August 1918 with aviation gasoline and Army medical stores which she delivered at Le Havre, France, then touched Spithead and Plymouth, England, on returning to New York.

 

In the mid-Atlantic on the morning of 29 September, the tanker spotted a German submarine off her port beam and opened fire on U-152 some 5,000 yards away, then raced away at flank speed, maneuvering radically to evade the enemy shells; nevertheless, a hit which destroyed her aftermagazine enveloped her stern in flames, and left only two powder charges for her afterdeck gun. As the crew worked to control the fires, the tanker sheered to bring her forward gun to bear on the pursuer, keeping the U-boat just out of range with well-placed salvos, and dropped six smoke screens that hid her from the enemy for some 20 minutes.

 

The U-boat soon passed to the weather side of the smoke and renewed the action. Shrapnel hit the tanker, inflicting minor injuries on 14 men. Two shells which had survived the explosion of the after magazine were fired from the tanker's after gun at 10:15 a.m.; and ten minutes later the submarine gave up the chase. Credit for her survival was shared by her gunners and her engine room force under Ens. George F. Thompson, USNRF, who, despite flames and dense, acrid smoke, stayed at the posts to maintain speed throughout the running fight.

 

Having escaped one danger, George G. Henry encountered another before reaching New York. Shortly after midnight of 3 October 1918, about 110 miles east of Cape Sable, she made an emergency turn to avoid an oncoming convoy; but, before she could swerve to safety, a red light and mast headlight came close under her port bow and the tanker cut into Navy collier Herman Frasch forward of the poop deck and below the water line. Within minutes Herman Frasch's bow rose high out of the water, fell back crushing down on George G. Henry's port rail, hung suspended for a moment, then slid off and sank. The tanker lowered life rafts and boats and swept the sea with her searchlights looking for survivors. By dawn 65 members of the ill-fated collier's crew had been hauled from the sea to safety.

 

George G. Henry arrived at New York on 6 October for repairs and sailed on 11 November with gasoline and quartermaster supplies which were unloaded at Le Havre, and Rouen, France. She returned by way of England to New York on 21 December 1918, then made three transatlantic voyages from Avondale, La., with cargoes of gasoline and military stores delivered to the French ports of Paulliac, Furth, Blaye, Le Havre, and Rouen. She returned to New York 5 May 1919; was overhauled in the Shewans Dry Dock; decommissioned and was returned to her owner 21 May 1919.

 

George G. Henry continued operations under her original owner until 1982 when she was acquired by the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey. In July 1940, due to passage of the Neutrality Act, she transferred to Panamanian registry and operated by the Panama Transport Co. On 15 December 1941 she was time-chartered by the U.S. Navy to visit Balikpapan and Surabaya, N.E.I.; and Port Darwin and Fremantle, Australia. On 14 April 1942 while off Melbourne, Australia, George G. Henry reverted back to Standard Oil Co. ownership; and the next day was taken over by the U.S. Navy on a bareboat basis and placed in commission, Lt. Comdr. Jens G. Olsen, USNR, in command.

 

On 20 April, erroneous word was received to name the ship Victor. She sailed for Sydney, Australia, 22 April for conversion to a naval oiler, arriving 25 April to learn her correct name to be Victoria. Conversion completed November 1942, Victoria (AO-46) (q.v.) was placed in service, Lt. Comdr. Jens G. Olsen, USNR, in command.