Western Pipe and Steel Company

Western Pipe and Steel Company

, a destroyer escort which won eleven battle stars during World War II, USS|Bayfield, an attack transport which received four battle stars in World War II, four in the Korean War and two in the Vietnam War, and HMS|Stalker|D91|6 which received six battle honours for service with the Royal Navy in World War II.

"Steel Artisan"One WPS ship with a particularly interesting and varied history was "Steel Artisan" (WPS Hull No. 62). The first Type C3 ship to be built by the company, she was destined to undergo two major conversions and serve in three different roles during her service life.

Launched in September 1941 under Maritime Commission contract, "Steel Artisan" had almost been completed as a standard Type C3 cargo ship when word came through that she was to be converted into one of the newly designed "Bogue" class escort aircraft carriers. The conversion was subsequently carried out and "Steel Artisan" briefly became USS|Barnes|CVE-7|6 before being transferred under lend lease to the Royal Navy who dubbed her HMS|Attacker|D02|6.

"Attacker" was to serve with distinction during the war, taking part in the invasion of Salerno and subsequently of Southern France. In 1944 she was transferred to the Pacific where she was part of the fleet that witnessed the surrender of the Japanese in August 1945. Shortly thereafter, "Attacker" sailed into Singapore to take the surrender of the Japanese garrison there.

After the war, "Attacker" was decommissioned and returned to the United States, where her flight deck was removed. Laid up for some years, she was eventually bought by Russian entrepreneur Alexander Vlasov whose company the Sitmar Line undertook another major conversion of the vessel, this time into an ocean liner.

Renamed "Fairsky" the ship was assigned to the migrant passenger route between Britain and Australia in 1958, a role she retained until the early 1970s when Sitmar lost the migrant contract. Subsequently, she was operated by Sitmar as a popular cruise ship.

In 1977 the ship was damaged in a collision and sold to a Philippine consortium, who planned yet another major conversion for the vessel, into a casino ship named "Philippine Tourist". The plans were dashed when the ship was tragically gutted by fire in 1978, after which the vessel was sold for scrap in 1980.

"Sea Wren"

Another WPS ship to undergo an interesting conversion was "Sea Wren" (WPS Hull No. 129). After serving during the war as attack transport USS|Goodhue|APA-107|6 (during which time she sustained casualties and damage from a Japanese kamikaze attack), the ship returned after the war to cargo service with a private company, operating under the name "Hawaiian Citizen".

In 1959, "Hawaiian Citizen" underwent a major conversion into a container ship, thus becoming the first all-containerized freighter operating on the West Coast of the United States. She was sold for scrap in 1981.

USS "Cascade"One WPS ship, the destroyer tender USS|Cascade|AD-16|6 (WPS Hull No. 63), has a minor connection with American literature and the Hollywood film industry. During the Second World War, Typhoon Cobra devastated an American fleet in the Pacific led by Admiral Halsey, killing 793 men and sinking three of the fleet's destroyers. In the aftermath, an inquiry chaired by Halsey heard allegations that the captain of one of the destroyers that sank, USS|Hull|DD-350|6, had been negligent in his command. The inquiry was held on board "Cascade". [Drury, Robert & Clavin, Tom (2006): "Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue", Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 0871139480, p. 3, p. 269.]

American novelist Herman Wouk later used this inquiry as the inspiration for his Pulitzer-prize winning fictional work "The Caine Mutiny". [Drury and Clavin, p. 286] The book was later turned into an Oscar-nominated film starring Humphrey Bogart.



* [http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/ DANFS Online] .
* [http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/ships-mc.html Maritime Commission ship types] - Hyperwar website.
* [http://www.coltoncompany.com/shipbldg/ussbldrs/wwii/merchantshipbuilders/westernpipesanfran.htm List of ships built by the Western Pipe & Steel Company] - Colton Company website.
*Mawdsley, Dean L. (2002): "Steel Ships and Iron Pipe: Western Pipe and Steel Company of California, the Company, the Yard, the Ships", Glencannon Press (for Associates of the National Maritime Museum Library), ISBN 1-889901-28-8.

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