The original USS HERMITAGE (AP-54)

The original USS HERMITAGE (AP-54) was launched in 1925 as the Italian passenger liner SS Conte Biancamano. After Italy declared war on the United States, she was interned at Balboa, (Panama) Canal Zone, seized by the United States and converted to a Naval Transport at the William Cramp and Sons shipyard in Philadelphia. She was commissioned on 14 August 1942. Her international radio call sign was November Echo Delta Bravo. She won the American Campaign Medal, the Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. The original HERMITAGE was decommissioned on 20 August 1946, returned to Italy on 29 November 1948, and scrapped in Italy in 1960.


Here are her specifications:
24,465 t.(lim)
66' 1"
26' 6" (lim)
20 kts.
Officers 47
Enlisted 863
Troop Accommodations
Officers 351
Enlisted 5,753
Largest Boom Capacity
7 t.
Cargo Capacity
non-refrigerated 90,000 Cu ft.

one single 5"/38 cal dual purpose gun mount
six single 3"/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts

Fuel Capacities
NSFO 28,500 Bbls
Diesel 750 Bbls

two Beardmore Co. (Scotland) steam turbines
nine Scotch boilers, 220psi 540°
double Main Reduction Gears

Ship's Service Generators
three turbo-drive 150Kw 110V D.C.
two turbo-drive 300Kw 120V/240V D.C.
twin propellers, 24,000shp



Embarking 5,600 army troops and sailors, on 2 November (1942), Hermitage departed New York with her skipper acting as convoy commodore. Six days later the North African invasion (Operation Torch) began, and Hermitage on 18-25 November debarked her passengers at Casablanca to participate in the momentous campaign.

Returning to Norfolk 11 December, Hermitage next headed for the Pacific with nearly 6,000 passengers embarked. After embarking and debarking passengers at Balboa, Noumea, Brisbane, Sydney, Pago Pago, and Honolulu, the former luxury liner put in at San Francisco 2 March 1943.

Hermitage's next swing westward, begun 27 March took her to Wellington, New Zealand; Melbourne; and Bombay. At Bombay she embarked some 707 Polish refugees, including nearly a hundred children, for a voyage back to California which ended 25 June.

In the next year Hermitage made three similar cruises through the South Pacific, with battle-bound marines, soldiers and sailors, civilians, and Chinese and Indian refugees among her diversified passengers. Hermitage reached New York 28 May from the South Pacific via Noumea, Goodenough Island, and the Panama Canal.


Departing New York 16 June 1944 with over 6,000 passengers, most of them bound for the invasion of Europe just begun at Normandy, Hermitage sailed to Liverpool and Belfast to debark the troops before returning to New York 12 July. From then until the end of the war she made 10 more such voyages, principally to Le Havre, to bring replacements to the European theater and transport wounded Allied soldiers and prisoners of war back to the States. VE Day, 8 May 1945, found Hermitage part of the celebration in Le Havre harbor as Allied ships greeted the end of six years of war with a cacophony of bells, whistles and sirens screaming through air illuminated by hundreds of signal flares and rockets.

War's end did not mean the end of Hermitage's duty as she continued to cross the Atlantic, this time bringing veterans home, through December. Departing New York 12 December, the well-traveled transport sailed to Nagoya, Japan, to embark some 6,000 homeward-bound veterans and return to Seattle 4 February 1946. Assigned to the San Francisco-Marianas run for Operation "Magic Carpet," the return of thousands of Pacific troops, she made three further voyages before decommissioning at San Francisco 20 August 1946.

While serving the Navy, the former luxury liner had sailed approximately 230,000 miles and transported 129,695 passengers, including American, British, Australian, French, and Netherlands fighting men as well as Chinese, American, Polish, and British civilians and German and Italian prisoners.

Hermitage was returned to the Italian Government in May 1947.

Source: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships



Photograph from the U.S. Naval Institute