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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
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West Haven

 

(Freighter: dp. 12,191; l. 423'9"; b. 54'0"; dr. 24'1¼" (mean); dph. 29'9"; s. 11.0 k.; cpl. 86; a. 1 6", 1 6-pdr.)

 

West Haven—sometimes referred to as Westhavenwas a steel-hulled, single-screw freighter built as War Flame at Seattle, Wash., for the United States Shipping Board (USSB) and was launched by the Skinner and Eddy Corp. on 1 November 1917. The cargo ship was taken over by the Navy for operation with the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) ; renamed West Haven and assigned Id. No. 2159; and commissioned at New Orleans, La., on 18 June 1918, Lt. William M. Tonken, USNRF, in command.

 

Laden with general Army supplies, West Haven departed New Orleans on 3 July and steamed to Norfolk, Va., where she joined a convoy sailing for Europe. She arrived at Bordeaux, France, on 12 August 1918 and unloaded her cargo over the ensuing days. She departed Bordeaux on the 21st and reached New York on 5 September. After shifting to Philadelphia the same day, the vessel there took on board 5,125 tons of general Army supplies before leaving that port on 17 September and moving to Norfolk, whence she got underway on 23 September in a convoy bound for France.

 

After discharging her cargo at Brest, West Haven departed that French port on 3 November. While the ship was steaming home, the armistice was signed on 11 November 1918 ending World War I. However, the return of peace did not change the ship's duties, as there remained the postwar task of reconstructing Europe which had been devastated by the war.

 

Following a brief layover in New York, West Haven loaded 7,075 tons of general Army cargo at Baltimore and sailed on 5 December, bound for France. The ship made La Pallice on 2 January 1919, discharged her cargo over the ensuing days, picked up a return Army cargo, and sailed for Norfolk on the 26th. En route home, she ran low on fuel and was forced to reduce her speed to three and one-half knots. She finally reached Bermuda on 28 February.

 

After topping off her bunkers, West Haven arrived at Norfolk on 4 March to load cargo for her third and last voyage for NOTS. Between 28 March and 12 April, she transported 673 tons of general cargo to La Pallice before picking up 2,306 tons of return cargo and 375 tons of steel rail ballast and departing French waters on  17 May, bound for home.

 

Soon after arriving at New York on 8 June, the ship was placed in line for demobilization. She was accordingly decommissioned on 21 January 1919 and simultaneously struck from the Navy list and returned to the USSB. Sold to the Los Angeles Steamship Co. in 1929, the ship was renamed Marian Otis Chandler and operated under that name until she was purchased by the Matson Navigation Line in 1939 and given the name Onomea. Acquired by the British Ministry of War Transport in 1940 to alleviate the shipping shortage caused by sinkings at the hands of German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic, the ship was renamed Empire Leopard. Over two years later, the erstwhile NOTS freighter was steaming from Sydney, Nova Scotia, in Convoy SC-107, bound for the British Isles, when she was torpedoed and sunk by U-402 at 0803 on 2 November 1942, south of Greenland.