(AP-145: displacement 9,950 (light); length 552'10"; beam 71'6"; draft 24'; speed 16 knots; complement 356; troop capacity 3,224; armament 4 5", 8 1.1", 16 20 millimeter; class General G. O. Squier; type C4-S-A1)
Harry Taylor, born on 26 June 1862 in Tilton, N.H., graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1884, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineerson 15 June 1884. In the years that followed, Taylor served in the field on various projects, including East Coast defenses and the Columbia River project. By 1916, he was Assistant Chief of Engineers in charge of the River and Harbor Division. At the start of America's participation in World War I, he sailed for France as Chief Engineer Officer, American Expeditionary Force. In this capacity he supervised the construction of railways, barracks, wharves, and shelters throughout France. Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Taylor returned to Washington and was named Major General, Chief of Engineers, on 19 June 1924. He retired on 26 June 1926 and died of pneumonia on 27 January 1930 in Washington, D.C.
The unnamed C4-S-A1-design transport was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC Hull No. 702) on 22 February 1943 at Richmond, Calif., by Kaiser Co., Inc., Yard 3; named General Harry Taylor (AP-145) on 2 October 1943; launched on 10 October 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Mamie M. McHugh; acquired by the Navy on 29 March 1944; placed in ferry commission on 1 April 1944 for transfer to Portland, Ore., for conversion to a transport by Kaiser Co., Inc., Vancouver, Wash.; decommissioned on 10 April 1944; and commissioned on 8 May 1944 at Portland, Captain James L. Wyatt in command.
Following shakedown off San Diego, General Harry Taylor sailed from San Francisco on 23 June 1944 with troop reinforcements for Milne Bay, New Guinea. After returning to San Francisco on 3 August with veterans of the Guadalcanal campaign embarked, she continued transport voyages between San Francisco and island bases in the western Pacific. During the next 10 months, she steamed to New Guinea, the Solomons, New Caledonia, the Marianas, the New Hebrides, the Palaus, and the Philippines, carrying troops and supplies, until 29 June 1945 when she departed San Francisco for duty in the Atlantic.
With the European war over, General Harry Taylor made two Magic Carpet voyages to Marseilles and back, carrying returning veterans of the fighting in that theater. Next she sailed twice to Karachi, India, via the Suez Canal. Returning to New York on 3 January 1946, the transport then began the first of four voyages to Bremerhaven, Germany, and Le Havre, France. She reached New York again on 21 May 1946 and decommissioned on 13 June at Baltimore. She was stricken from the Navy Register on 3 July 1946.
General Harry Taylor served for a time with the U.S. Army Transport Service, but was reacquired by the Navy on 1 March 1950 for use by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS). She was reinstated on the Navy List on 28 April 1950. Her early duties consisted mainly of carrying troops, dependents, and large numbers of European refugees.USNS General Harry Taylor (T-AP-145) operated in a typical year to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and in northern European waters. In 1957, she took part in the Hungarian Relief program, transporting several thousand refugees of the valiant but abortive Hungarian Revolution to Australia. She was placed in ready reserve on 19 September 1957; stricken from the Naval Register on 10 July 1958 and transferred back to the Maritime Administration the same day. Placed in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Beaumont, Tex. General Harry Taylor was then transferred to the U.S. Air Force on 15 July 1961 and was renamed General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (T-AGM-10) (q.v.) on 11 June 1963.
On 1 July 1964, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg was acquired by the Navy, one of ten such ships transferred from the Commander, Air Force Eastern Test Range, to MSTS. "Equipped with extremely accurate and discriminating radar and telemetry equipment," she tracked and analyzed "re-entry bodies in the terminal phase of ballistic missile test flights," carrying out those missile and spacecraft tracking duties in both Atlantic and Pacific waters.
Ultimately stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 29 April 1993, the ship was transferred to the Maritime Administration on 1 May 1999. Her projected transfer to the state of Florida, for use as an artificial reef, received approval on 13 February 2007.
Updated, Robert J. Cressman, 22 October 2007