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West Galeta


(Freighter: dp. 12,287; l. 423'9"; b. 54'0"; dph. 29'9"; dr. 24'1" (mean); s. 10.5 k.; cpl. 70; a. 12 rifles)


West Galeta—a steel-hulled, single-screw freighter built under a United States Shipping Board (USSB) contract was launched on 4 July 1918 at Los Angeles, Calif., by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.—and was taken over by the Navy for operation by the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) and assigned Id. No. 3330. After fitting out, West Galeta was commissioned on 4 September 1918 at the USNRF Training Center, San Pedro, Calif., Lt. Comdr. William H. Curtis, USNRF, in command.


West Galeta departed San Pedro on 8 September, bound for Chile. Less than a week out of port, she ran into a heavy storm with accompanying torrential rains and hurricane force winds that flooded some living compartments and caused minor damage to the entire ship. After effecting repairs en route, West Galeta arrived at Arica, Chile, on 3 October and shifted to the port of Mejillones on the 5th. There, she loaded a cargo of nitrates, completing that chore by the llth. She transited the Panama Canal on 24 October and arrived at New York City on 4 November, just a week before the armistice ended World War I.


Unloading the nitrates—an ingredient used in the making of explosives—West Galeta hoisted on board 4,112 tons of "general cargo" at New York that included a deck load of cars and trucks. Departing New York on 30 November, the ship ran into a heavy storm shortly after noon on 6 December. Waves battered the lashed-down automobiles and trucks as the ship rolled heavily and deeply in the gale.


West Galeta, steaming alone, labored through the heavy seas in her battle against Neptune's fury, the ship's deck cargo shifting each time she rolled. Although the crew had attempted to lash down the wheeled cargo, the waves that continued to pound the ship over the ensuing days frustrated and nullified much of that effort. By the morning of 8 December, some of the automobiles were in such bad shape that they had to be jettisoned over the side by that afternoon. Aft, the cargo was reported to be "smashed to pieces." Forward, as the ship's log noted, the cargo was "in bad shape." Eventually, by late on the afternoon of the 9th, the storm gave some sign of abating. The weary crew finally succeeded in corralling the cars and trucks on deck— but not before a total of six had been lost in the seas and the remainder badly damaged.


Although somewhat battered and soaked but still afloat, West Galeta steamed into the Verdon Roads anchorage on the evening of 15 December. Shifting to Bordeaux soon thereafter, the freighter unloaded and prepared to take on board 3,086 tons of "return Army cargo." She spent Christmas and New Year's at Bordeaux. An interesting highlight of her stay was the posting of armed guards on her holds on 27 December to stop looting by the stevedores.


Departing Bordeaux on 8 January 1919, West Galeta arrived at New York City on the 28th. There she unloaded, subsequently loaded 4,626 tons of locomotives and "general cargo," and departed on 17 February for her second voyage to France. Arriving at Quiberon on 3 March, the cargo vessel shifted to St. Nazaire soon thereafter and unloaded there.


West Galeta departed St. Nazaire with 643 tons of return Army cargo and 1,600 tons of ballast, on 29 March, but was forced to put in to Brest after one blade from her propeller worked itself loose and fell off not long out of St. Nazaire. The cargo vessel remained at Brest from 29 March to 9 April undergoing repairs. Once seaworthy, she departed Brest on 9 April and arrived at New York on the 27th.


After discharging her final NOTS cargo, West Galeta was decommissioned, struck from the Navy list, and simultaneously returned to the USSB on 9 May 1919. She remained in government hands, laid up, until abandoned due to age and deterioration, in 1933.