The movement of guano (for fertiliser use) between the Chincha Islands off Peru and the United States during the 1860's marked the beginning of the Grace Line. By the 1890's the company was using steamships between New York and South American west coast ports, requiring their passage round Cape Horn. By 1916 the route gained a passenger service between New York & Valparaiso, Chile. Competition during the 1920's from the Pacific Steam Navigation Company and the Chilean Line led to the Grace Line placing an order in 1928 for two diesel powered passenger vessels to bring improvements to the South American service.
The order was placed with the Furness Shipbuilding Company in Haverton-on-Tees, England for two 8,100 ton vessels each powered by two 4,000hp Sulzer diesel engines which could achieve a maximum speed of 16 knots for their complement of 157 first class passengers, later increased to 172. Although built with two funnels, the forward funnel was a dummy. The ships were delivered in 1928, named the Santa Barbara (2nd to carry this name) and the Santa Maria (1st of this name). They were the first large motor passenger ships to sail under the U.S. flag. 1930 saw the addition of the Santa Clara, a slightly larger version of the Santa Barbara, but generally similar in many respects apart from the turboelectric propulsion system which provided a cruising speed of 18 knots. The introduction this new ship led to a tightening of the schedules, which required the Santa Barbara & Santa Maria to operate at their maximum speed for much of the time in order to maintain the schedules.
For the 1931/32 sailings the Santa Barbara & Santa Maria worked the route between New York and Valparaiso calling at Havana, Cristobal, Balboa, Buenaventura, Guayaquil, Talara, Salaverry, Callao, Pisco, Mollendo, Arica, Iquique, Tocopilla, Antofagasta, Chañaral & Coquimbo.
For the 1932 sailings the ports of call were New York, Cristobal, Balboa, Talara, Callao, Mollendo, Arica, Tocopilla, Antofagasta, Chañaral & Valparaiso and returning via Chañaral, Antofagasta, Tocopilla, Callao, Talara, Buenaventura, Balboa, Cristobal, Havana & New York.
Sailings in the latter half of 1935 called at New York, Havana, Kingston, Cristobal, Balboa, Buenaventura, Manta/Bahia, Guayaquil, Talara, Paita, Salaverry, Callao, Mollendo, Arica, Tocopilla, Antofagasta, Chañaral, Coquimbo, Valparaiso.
For the period November 1938 to September 1939 the route was New York, Havana, Cristobal, Balboa, Buenaventura, Guayaquil, Talara, Salaverry, Callao, Mollendo, Arica, Iquique, Tocopilla, Antofagasta, Chañaral, Coquimbo, Valparaiso & San Antonio.
The arrival of World War Two brought to an end a decade of very similar service for these two ships, in 1940 both were sold to the US Navy for further use as transports. In these roles the two ships would visit very different theatres of war.
Santa Barbara, USS McCawley AP10, later APA4
The Santa Barbara was sold to the US Navy during July 1940 and was quickly renamed McCawley (AP-10), the second to carry this name, after Charles G McCawley, the 8th Commandant of the US Marine Corps. The ship was commissioned on September 11th 1940. Following this the McCawley participated in amphibious warfare exercises resulting in modifications to the ship to better suit her for these purposes.
The ship sailed for Iceland on February 19th 1942, returning to New York by March 25th 1942, then sailing to Norfolk, Virginia. The ship then sailed immediately for Wellington, New Zealand via the Panama Canal, en-route discharging marine aviators at Pago Pago on May 8th 1942. On arrival at Wellington the McCawley became the flagship of Rear Admiral RK Turner. The ship was involved in the invasion of Guadalcanal commencing August 7th 1942, with landings at Tulagi & Lunga Point. The ship was successful in shooting down enemy aircraft on August 8th 1942, by the next day all the cargo had been unloaded, then sailing for Noumea. For the next five months or so the McCawley would be in the same theatre of operations as her sister ship, the Barnett.
It was back to Guadalcanal on September 18th 1942 with supplies and reinforcements, returning the same day with wounded and prisoners of war. More reinforcements and cargo were delivered on October 9th 1942. Again the ship returned with wounded and prisoners of war to Noumea.
On November 8th 1942 the McCawley departed Nouméa once again for Guadalcanal, arriving at Lunga Point on November 12th 1942. Unloading commenced despite torpedo bomber attacks, but reports of Japanese ship movements from Truk caused the transports to cease their activity and move to Espiritu Santo. Whilst here the naval ships that had been protecting the transports engaged the Japanese Navy in the naval Battle of Guadalcanal during the period November 12th - 15th 1942 with considerable casualties being sustained by both sides.
The McCawley left Noumea on November 24th 1942 for Wellington, New Zealand for overhaul.
From Wellington the McCawley reached New Caledonia on January 10th 1943 with the 1st Marine Raiders and the 3rd Parachute Battalion. These units were discharged and Army troops and construction equipment were loaded and delivered to Guadalcanal.
The McCawley was redesignated attack transport APA-4 on February 1st 1943. Despite the change in designation the McCawley continued to supply Guadalcanal until mid-June 1943 when preparations began for the campaign in New Georgia and the central Solomons. On June 30th 1943 the ship was at Rendova Island unloading supplies. Once this was complete the transports moved off during the early afternoon and came under air attack in the Blanche Channel. The results were mixed, four aircraft were brought down by McCawley's gunners, but fifteen crew were killed and the ship lost all power when a torpedo struck the engine room. A salvage crew remained with the ship as the USS Libra (AKA-12) took the McCawley under tow under the protection of destroyers USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) and USS McCalla (DD-488). With the ship getting lower in the water the crew were taken off, then dive bombers unsuccessfully strafed the ship, losing three aircraft to the ships guns. With the ship now very low in the water the salvage crew were removed. About ninety minutes later friendly torpedo boats fired on the McCawley, mistaking it for an enemy vessel. The torpedos found their mark and the ship sank very quickly in about a 1,000 feet water.
Santa Maria, USS Barnet AP11, later APA5
The Santa Maria was purchased by the US Navy on August 11th 1940 and commissioned on September 25th 1940. The following three months were involved in training exercises in the Culebra-Vieques Islands area. Between January 1941 and early April 1941 the ship underwent overhaul at Norfolk, Virginia. The rest of the year was spent in further exercises, some of which took place at New River, North Carolina.
On February 19th 1942 the Barnett sailed from New York as part of convoy AT 12 bound for the United Kingdom. It returned west in convoy TA 12 returning to New York. On April 9th 1942 the Barnett embarked troops bound for the southwest Pacific, passing through the Panama Canal on 18 April 1942, reaching Wellington, New Zealand, on May 22nd 1942. From Wellington the Barnett sailed to Noumea and on to San Diego after picking up survivors from the crew of the USS Lexington following its engagement in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
From San Diego the Barnett sailed north to San Francisco and embarked Marines and cargo bound for Guadalcanal, departing on June 23rd 1942 with convoy PW 2095, arrival in Wellington was during early July. At Wellington the cargo was rearranged to provide better access to the most urgently required supplies. The ship sailed on July 22nd 1942 for Koro Island, Fiji for a practice landing exercise. After five days here it was on to Guadalcanal for the landing on August 7th 1942. The next day a crashing Mitsubishi G4M bomber damaged the Barnett, which then sailed on August 9th 1942 for Nouméa carrying survivors of ships sunk at the Battle of Savo Island. By November 1942 the Barnett was operating between Tulagi and Guadalcanal moving troops and supplies.
From February 1st 1943 the Barnett was reclassified APA-5. Convoy UGF 8A sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, on May 10th 1943 with the Barnett bound for Oran, Algeria, arriving on May 23rd 1943. The Barnett became part of the fleet used to invade Sicily, sailing on July 5th 1943 with convoy NCF 1 to Gela, Sicily, arriving just after midnight on July 10th 1943. After unloading of the troops the Barnett moved offshore and sustained a bomb hit during an air attack on July 11th 1943. The bomb killed seven Army personnel and injured thirty five, putting a hole in the hull leading to flooding. Control of the list stopped the flooding, allowing the ship to sail with convoy CNF1 to Algiers for repairs, arriving July 15th 1943.
After repair the Barnett sailed from Oran on September 5th 1943 with convoy SNF 1 in support of the Salerno landings, arriving on September 9th 1943. For the next six weeks the Barnett supported the Allied forces in Italy, making several round trips to Naples. The Barnett left the Mediterranean theatre in late November, departing Oran in convoy MKF 26 and arriving Liverpool on December 9th 1943.
Eleven days later the Barnett sailed for New York with convoy UC 8, arriving in New York on January 2nd 1944. Barnett returned across the north Atlantic with convoy UT 8 on February 11th 1944 as part of the D-Day build up, arriving England on February 23rd 1944. By mid August the ship was at Naples, sailing on August 13th 1944 in support of the invasion of southern France.
From April through September 1945 the Barnett was in the Pacific, initially supporting the invasion of Okinawa at the beginning of April 1945.
Decommissioning took place at the end of April 1946 and transferred to the Maritime Commission/War Shipping Administration on July 3rd 1946 for disposal.
On April 13th 1948 the Barnett was sold to Flotta Lauro, receiving a brief refit in Baltimore, presumably to make it seaworthy for delivery to Genoa, Italy. The ship was intended for the emigrant traffic between Europe & Australia. After arrival at Genoa a substantial nine month long rebuild took place. Externally the refit included a new raked bow, two new funnels with raked tops and extensions to the superstructure fore & aft. The interior was gutted and rebuilt to accommodate 187 first class and 868 tourist class passengers. The refit was completed by May 1949 with the ship renamed the Surriento.
The first voyage left Genoa May 22nd 1949 to Fremantle, Melbourne & Sydney, returning on June 28th 1949 to Singapore, Columbo and Genoa. The second voyage from Genoa started on August 12th 1949, returning on 3rd Oct 1949. The voyage of July 26th 1950 from Sydney to Genoa included Djakarta in order to pickup Dutch nationals returning to Holland following the recent independence of Indonesia. The arrival of new ships on the Australia run in 1951 allowed the Surriento to move to the Naples - Venezuela service, refitted in 1952 to accommodate 119 first and 994 tourist. Commencing March 19th 1953 the Surriento returned to the Genoa - Australia run for the next three years. On the voyage arriving at Fremantle on September 22nd 1956 the ship was stopped for safety violations, receiving heavy fines. It docked at Sydney on October 3rd and returned the next day to Genoa.
A further refit in 1959 included an enlarged superstructure, streamlining, one funnel and improved amenities, including air conditioning for the 1,080 tourist class passengers on the service between Italy and Central America/Carribean. The Surriento worked this serviced from 1960 to 1965, when it was briefly chartered to ZIM Lines for work between Haifa & Marseilles. The charter ended in the middle of 1966 and with no further work available the ship was laid up before being sent for scrap in La Spezia, Italy late in September 1966.
Built: Furness Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Haverton Hill
Page added April 18th 2010