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Richard M. Blatchford, born 17 August 1859 at Fort Hamilton, N.Y., served on the American frontier in Dakota Territory, Kansas, and Arizona. Following two tours of duty in Puerto Rico he served both in the field and in garrison in the Philippines from 1901-04. After frontier and border patrol assignments, General Blatchford sailed for France in July 1917 and during World War I was commanding general of the Line of Communications, A.E.F. Following his return to the United States he served in Panama, Ohio, California, and Washington, retiring from active service 1 December 1922. He died 31 August 1934 at San Francisco, Calif.
General R. M. Blatchford (AP-153) was launched 27 August 1944 under a Maritime Commission contract by the Kaiser Co., Richmond, Calif.; sponsored by Mrs. William Anderson of San Francisco; acquired and simultaneously commissioned 26 January 1945, Comdr. Allen H Guthrie in command.
General R. M. Blatchford sailed from San Francisco 12 March 1945 with over 3000 fighting men and debarked them at Manila 13 April, returning to San Francisco 22 May to off-load 2000 troops taken on board at Biak and Finschhafen. She sailed 30 May for France via the Panama Canel [sic; Canal], touched at Le Havre 20 June, and debarked more than 3,000 returning troops at Boston 1 July. Five days later the transport sailed to redeploy troops from the European to the Pacific theater, embarking 3000 soldiers at Leghorn, Italy, and bringing them safely to Luzon and Manila in August 1945. General R. M. Blatchford embarked more than 1,000 troops and casualties at San Pedro, Philippine Islands, and put in at Seattle 30 September 1945.
Continuing her Magic-Carpet assignments, the ship sailed from Seattle 16 October with 2,800 rotation troops and debarked them at Nagoya, Japan, where 3,000 homeward veterans were loaded and put ashore at San Francisco 20 November. From 28 November 1945-7 May 1946 three more round-trip voyages from Seattle to the Far East were made, the transport bringing near-capacity loads of troops to and from Nagoya, Yokohama, and Shanghai and mooring at San Francisco 7 May 1946 with completion of these duties.
On 9 May General R. M. Blatchford departed for Norfolk, Va., via the Panama Canal and moored at that port 24 May. She was decommissioned at Baltimore, Md., on 12 June 1946 and returned to the Maritime Commission for operations as an Army transport. She was reacquired by the Navy on 1 March 1950 for operations by a Civil Service crew under the MSTS, transported thousands of troops from the West Coast in support of United Nations Forces in Korea.
On 11 February 1961 she sailed from New York for two and a half years overseas service in the United Nations Congo sealift. Earning her the nickname of "Ambassador Ship," her crew cemented goodwill relations for the United States in the best traditions of the People-to-People Program while helping to keep the peace in the Congo. The veteran transport traveled 174,000 nautical miles in ferrying 36,809 passengers to and from the Congo, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Malaya, and Indonesia. She circumnavigated the African continent several times and criss-crossed the Indian Ocean repeatedly while rotating United Nations soldiers, doctors, nurses and technicians assigned to the Congo. General R. M. Blatchford arrived New York on 11 August 1963 with high praise from her government and United Nations Secretary General U Thant who said, "The ship and her devoted master and crew have been a mainstay of the United Nations Operations in the Congo, and they have never failed us even when their duties must have seemed arduous and incessant."
She continued to operate in the Atlantic supporting U.S. Forces in Europe until transferred to the Pacific in 1965 to carry troops to
Vietnam. She continued this vital task until overhauled at San Francisco in January 1967 and entering ready reserve status.
General R. M. Blatchford received two battle stars for service during the Korean war.
William Lendrum Mitchell, born in 1879 in Nice, France, enlisted in the Army as a private in 1898 and served in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. After return to the United States, he led in the precarious construction of a telegraph network in Alaska, and then pioneered in U.S. Army aviation. He rapidly rose in rank, and, when he commanded the U.S. air forces in France in World War I, he was promoted Brigadier General. After the war, General "Billy" Mitchell was made Director of Military Aviation in the U.S. Army and argued violently for a large, independent air force. His caustic-public criticism of military and naval leaders led to his court-martial in 1926. After resignation, General Mitchell remained a bitter critic of Army and government policy. He died in 1936.
(AP-114; dp. 11,450 (lt); 622'7"; b. 75'6"; dr. 25'6" s. 20.6 k; cpl. 452; trp. 5,289; a. 4 5", 16 1.1", 20 20mm.; cl. General John Pope; T. P2-S2-R2)
General William Mitchell (AP-114) was launched 31 October 1943 under a Maritime Commission contract by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J.; sponsored by Mrs. William Mitchell, the namesake's widow; acquired 15 January 1944 and commissioned 4 days later, Captain Henry Coyle, USCG, in command.
From 3 March-2p August 1944 General William Mitchell made five round trip transport voyages out of Norfolk and New York to Casablanca and Liverpool, carrying fighting men to the North African theater and participating in the buildup prior to the Allied invasion of Northern France. On the return leg of these frequent voyages, she carried casualties and rotation troops home to the United States, insuring a steady flow of men and equipment between America and war-torn Europe.
During the autumn of 1944 and through the spring of 1945, General William Mitchell called twice at Bombay, India, as she redeployed and rotated troops in the China-Burma-India theater. On the first of these voyages she sailed from New York via Panama and Australia, putting in at Bombay 7 October and embarking veterans for passage to Australia and America, and finally mooring at San Diego 17 November 1944. Her second passage to India took her from San Pedro via Tasmania to embark Allied troops and Italian prisoners of war at Bombay; she subsequently off-loaded the POW's at Melbourne and returned to San Pedro 3 March 1945.
The ship then brought troops from San Francisco to Espiritu Santo, Guadalcanal, Manus, and Leyte as the European war neared conclusion and the Pacific theater gained priority, General William Mitchell sailed to Leghorn and Naples, Italy, to transport seasoned fighting men and redeploy them for the anticipated assault on Japan's homeland. These troops debarked at Ulithi and the Philippines in the summer of 1945, and the ship returned to San Francisco 6 December 1945 at war's end filled with homeward-bound warriors.
As part of the "Magic-Carpet" fleet, this busy transport carried bluejackets from San Francisco to the Philippines, returning servicemen from Hollandia to Seattle, and troops from the Philippines and Guam to San Francisco, through the spring of 1946. Subsequently, from April 1946 until 1949 General Mitchell sailed from West Coast ports and shuttled troops and supplies to and from Japan, China, Guam, and Hawaii. She underwent alterations for peacetime service at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in March 1947 and then returned to San Francisco and her transpacific schedule.
In October 1949 she was transferred to MSTS and in 1950 continued her West Coast-Orient travels. In that year, too, two round trip voyages from New Orleans and New York were made to Bremerhaven to rotate and supply troops in Europe. She made an around-the-world cruise out of New York in the summer of 1951, visiting Germany, North Africa, Ceylon, Indochina, Korea, and Japan before mooring at San Francisco 26 September 1951.
General William Mitchell continued to transport men and material from West Coast ports to Japan and Korea, supporting the
United Nations forces in the latter country. Her frequent shuttle runs followed this pattern with the addition of numerous calls at
Formosa and Pacific Islands until returned to the Maritime Administration 1 December 1966. General William Mitchell entered
the National Defense Reserve Fleet and is berthed in Suisan Bay, Calif.