Type C2 ship

Type C2 ships were designed by the United States Maritime Commission (MARCOM) in 1937–38. They were all-purpose cargo ships with five holds, and U.S. shipyards built 173 of them from 1939 to 1945. Compared to ships built before 1939, the C2s were remarkable for their speed and fuel economy. Their design speed was 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h), but some could make 19 knots (35 km/h) on occasion. The first C2s were 459 feet (140 m) long, 63 feet (19 m) broad, and 40 feet (12 m) deep, with a 25-foot (8 m) draft. Later ships varied somewhat in size. Some, intended for specific trade routes, were built with significant modifications in length and capacity.[1]

USS Whiteside anchored in San Francisco Bay, circa 1948, a Type C2-S-B1 ship
Class overview
Name: Type C2 ship
Built: 1938–1945 (U.S. shipyards)
In service: 1938–c. 1970
In commission: 4 April 1941 (AF-11)
Completed: 173 (23 July 1938 – TBD)
Lost: 8 during hostilities
General characteristics
Tonnage: 5,443 DWT (AF-11)
Displacement: 13,910 tons (AF-11)
Length: 459 ft 0 in (139.90 m) (design)
Beam: 63 ft 0 in (19.20 m) (design)
Draft: 25 ft 0 in (7.62 m) (design)
Depth: 40 ft 0 in (12.19 m) (design)
  • two boilers, two turbines single propeller 6,000 shp (4,500 kW) (AF-11) or
  • diesel engines
  • 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h) (design)
  • 19 knots (35 km/h) (maximum)
Complement: 287 (AF-11)

In 1937, MARCOM distributed tentative designs for criticism by shipbuilders, ship owners, and naval architects. The final designs incorporated many changes suggested by these constituencies. The ships were to be reasonably fast but economical cargo ships which, with some government subsidies to operators, could compete with vessels of other nations. Building costs were to be minimized by standardization of design and equipment, and the ships were to have sufficient speed and stability that they could be used as naval auxiliaries in time of national emergency.

The basic specifications called for a five-hold steel cargo ship with raked stem and cruiser stern, complete shelter and second decks, and a third deck in Nos. 1–4 holds. Dimensions of the hatches were 20 ft × 30 ft (6 m × 9 m), except for No. 2, which was 20 ft × 50 ft (6 m × 15 m), allowing such cargo as locomotives, naval guns, long bars, etc. Ventilation to the holds was provided by hollow kingposts, which also served as cargo masts. Cargo handling gear consisted of fourteen 5-ton cargo booms, plus two 30-ton booms at Nos. 3 and 4 hatches.[2]

Living accommodations were much improved over previous designs, with crew accommodations amidships, officers quarters on the boat deck, and the captain's quarters on the bridge deck, along with the wheelhouse, chartroom, gyro and radio room.[2] Hot and cold running water was provided throughout.

Many of the ships such as SS Donald McKay were converted by the U.S. Navy for service during World War II. The commercial versions were operated by the government during the war. Beginning in late 1945, the commercial ships were sold to merchant shipping lines, with service until the early 1970s.

Ship in class

Notable incidents

  • Highflier a C2-S-B, exploded and sank in 1947.
  • Wild Rover a C2-S-B1, renamed Mormackite capsized in heavy seas and sank off Cape Henry on 7 October 1954. Survivors were attacked by sharks.[5]
  • USS Starlight, a C2-S-AJ1, on 26 December 1970 with a full load of 8,900 bombs, rockets, shells and mines bound for Da Nang, South Vietnam a bomb went off in rough seas. On 5 January 1970 she sank. 29 members of her crew died.[6]
  • USS Towner, a C2-S-AJ3, renamed SS Guam Bear wrecked and sank in 1967. She was in a collision outside Apra Harbor, Guam. A constructive total loss, the hulk was towed 2 nautical miles (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) off shore and scuttled.[7]
  • SS American Shipper, a C2-S-AJ5. Delivered December 1945. Sank in 1974 in the Balintang Channel, 400 miles (640 km) southeast of Hong Kong.[8][9]
  • SS Santa Elisa was torpedoed in 1942 and sank off Tunisia.
  • SS Santa Rita was torpedoed in 1942, sank in North Atlantic.
  • SS Louise Lykes was torpedoed and sank in the North Atlantic in 1943.
  • SS Shooting Star was torpedoed and sank in South Atlantic in 1943.
  • USS Pollux was wrecked and sank off Newfoundland in 1942.
  • USS Mount Hood exploded and sank in the Admiralty Islands in 1944.
  • SS Fairport was torpedoed and sank in the North Atlantic in 1942.
  • SS Santa Catalina was torpedoed and sank off Georgia 1943.
  • SS African Star was torpedoed and sank in the South Atlantic in 1942.
  • USS Starlight sank 5 January 1970 north of Midway Atoll

See also


  1. Pacific American Steamship Association; Shipowners Association of the Pacific Coast (February 1941). "New Type Exporter Steamers". Pacific Marine Review. San Francisco: J.S. Hines. 38 (2): 80. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  2. Pacific American Steamship Association; Shipowners Association of the Pacific Coast (January 1938). "Let's Start Rebuilding Our Merchant Marine in 1938". Pacific Marine Review. San Francisco: J.S. Hines. 35 (1): 20, 22–23. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  3. USS Southampton AKA-66
  4. SS American Scout
  5. Sea disaster CASE: GSAF 1954.10.07, October 7, 1954
  6. Starlight (AP-175)
  7. wrecksite.eu, Midnight
  8. shipbuildinghistory.com, C2 Cargo Ships
  9. American Shipper
  • Lane, Frederic C. Ships for Victory: A History of Shipbuilding under the U.S. Maritime Commission in World War II. ISBN 0-8018-6752-5.
  • Sawyer, L. A. & Mitchell, W. H. (1981). From America to United States: The History of the long-range Merchant Shipbuilding Programme of the United States Maritime Commission. London: World Ship Society.
  • United States Maritime Commission C2 Type Ships
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