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Uranus (AF-14)


One of the more remote of the known major planets, discovered in 1781 by Sir William Herschel. The planet itself was named for the personification of heaven.

(AF-14: displacement 3,348 (full load); 1ength 269'6"; beam 39'6"; draft 16'; speed 12 knots; complement 93; armament 1 4-inch; class Uranus)

The refrigerated cargo vessel Helga, completed on 30 January 1933 at Elsinore, near Copenhagen, Denmark, by Helsingfors Shipbuilding Works, for J. Lauritzen, operated as Caravelle (1938—1940) and Marie (1940—1941), operating in the fruit trade between Denmark, and Central American republics. Becoming a ship without a country upon the fall of her homeland to the invading Germans in the spring of 1940, she was turned over to the War Shipping Administration (WSA) at noon on 2 August 1941 under an Executive Order dated 6 June 1941.

Acquired by the Navy from the U.S. Maritime Commission on 11 August 1941 at 11:00 a.m., under a bareboat charter, Marie soon entered the Robins Dry Dock Co. yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., for conversion to a naval stores ship. Renamed Uranus and classified AF-14, the ship was placed in commission at Brooklyn on 27 October 1941, Cmdr. Orrin J. Hewitt in command.

During the ship's subsequent shakedown period, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor; and the U.S. entered World War II in both oceans. Uranus departed Norfolk, Va., on 20 December 1941 and arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Christmas Eve. Five days later, she pushed on for Iceland.

Uranus served as a floating refrigerated storage vessel and provided stores and provisions to American forces in Iceland into the summer of 1943. During this time, her ports of call included Hvalfjordur, Budareyi, Seydisfjordur, Reykjavik, and Akureyi. In these inhospitable and unpredictable northern waters, the ship ran aground off Akureyi while on a coastwise passage at 0129 on 10 April 1943, coming to a stop on a sloping gravel beach which was reputedly once the fairway between two holes of a coastal golf course. After repeated attempts, with the assistance of the minesweeper Symbol (AM-123) and the venerable fleet tug Kewaydin (AT-24), the storeship was finally refloated on the 13th.

Following repairs, she departed Icelandic waters on 21 August 1943 with men and equipment from a Navy construction battalion on board but, due to contrary winds and currents, did not make port at her Davisville, R.I., destination until 3 September. After discharging passengers, the storeship proceeded on for New York, arriving three days later. She then pressed south for Norfolk, where she soon commenced a lengthy overhaul.

Uranus, now outfitted with a new refrigeration system, departed the east coast on 20 December 1943 and, five days later, reached a rendezvous with a convoy bound for the Pacific. Clearing the Panama Canal on the first day of 1944, the storeship headed on for Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on 3 January, proceeding independently, and reached Oahu on the 23rd.

She conducted two round-trip Pacific passages between San Francisco, Calif., and Pearl Harbor and Midway, before she sailed for Majuro in the Marshall Islands. For the remainder of the year 1944, Uranus conducted routine cargo and stores-carrying runs between Midway and Pearl Harbor to the west and San Pedro, Calif., to the east. Overhauled at San Francisco, Calif., in April 1945, the ship was based at this port for the remainder of the war in the Pacific. She subsequently participated in Magic Carpet operations to bring veterans back to the United States from the Pacific.

Decommissioned on 8 May 1946 at Norfolk, Uranus was delivered to the War Shipping Administration of the Maritime Commission on 9 May, and allocated, under a general agency agreement, to Dichmann, Wright, & Pugh, Inc.; she was stricken from the Navy Register on 21 May 1946.

Under [U.S.] Public Law 101, the vessel was returned by the Maritime Commission to her original owner, J. Lauritzen. Renamed Maria Dan, she operated in merchant service, transporting wood pulp from the Baltic to Great Britain into 1959. Sold to Chrisot M. Sarlis of Patras, Greece, in 1959, she was renamed Michael, and operated under Greek colors until ultimately sold for scrapping to Sveti Kajo, Split, Yugoslavia, in 1968.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

3 February 2021


Published: Thu Feb 04 12:44:11 EST 2021