History of the USNS General Maurice Rose

(1950-2000), USAT General Maurice Rose (1947-1950), USS Admiral Hugh Rodman (1945-1947), T-AP-126, AP-126, Troop Transport, WWII, Cold War, Vietnam

     Per the Navy Historical Center website, the USS Admiral Hugh Rodman, a 9,676-ton (light displacement) transport, was built by the Maritime Commission to its P2-SE2-R1 design as an Admiral W. S. Benson-class troop transport and was commissioned in July 1945. Her namesake, Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman (1851-1940), was with Dewey in the Spanish American war and commanded US forces with the English under Beatty in WWI.

     The Admiral Rodman was on her shakedown cruise off California when the Japanese surrender ended World War II. She then took part in the occupation of Japan between August 1945 and March 1946 when she made five voyages from the U. S. west coast to the western Pacific, carrying occupation troops and relief personnel for veterans returning home. USS Admiral Hugh Rodman AP-126 then transited to New York, where in May 1946 she was decommissioned and transferred to the Army.

     The Army assumed formal ownership of the ship in February 1947 and renamed her USAT General Maurice Rose. Between May 1947 and the end of 1948 she was converted to a peacetime transport, with military features, including armament, removed.

     In this guise, the Rose carried thousands of servicemen returning from the war and occupation, or on their way to join our forces in Europe.

     Many of these men have vivid memories of the passage, and the rough seas the ship often encountered.

     Joe Merill, was one such man, "I took this ship from Brooklyn to Hamburg in November. We also hit a storm and lost mileage for three days." John Lee shared that his "father and mother were on that rough seas trip on the Maurice Rose. He was returning to the states with his war bride my mother. He always talked about how rough it was."

     Others were too young to remember the storms as the ship carried not only soldiers but, for some, their families. Sue Foss "was a few months old when my mother, dad, an Army officer, and brother sailed back from Bremerhaven to the States in late 1947. My dad was supposed to report at Ft. Adams on January 2, 1948. The name of the Rose was written on one of mother's snapshots."

     By February 13, 1950, the Rose was already making its 18th return passage from Europe. This information comes from the front page of a newspaper printed on the ship, at least during that cruise, named the Daily Herald. This was a hand drawn and penned mimeographed affair similar to an old school newspaper that ships sometimes made. A copy of the image may be found here. The paper is no longer for sale.

The Daily Herald formerly for sale here, printed USS Gen. Maurice Rose, Feb. 1950

     The Rose served with the Army Transportation Service, supporting the occupation of Europe, until, in March 1950, all Army transports were turned over to the newly created Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS). Ownership passed back to the Navy, but the ship retained her Army name.

     As a civilian-manned MSTS transport, USNS General Maurice Rose spent most of her career on the route between New York and Bremerhaven, West Germany, supporting U. S. military forces in Europe.

     Heavy seas were the norm on the route, as related by Patty Adkisson, "We were on our way home to Texas after my dad's tour of Duty in Frankfurt. Our Dad was with us, but pulled duty in the hole with prisoners. He was not too happy about that due to the fact that he was so thrilled to be sailing on a first class ship -- finally. He was Capt.Wm.F. Patterson, Army JAG. We sailed in December 1949 from Bremerhaven, Germany to New York. We too hit a storm to end all storms. Lasted the whole 7 (sic. Presumably 17 given the 10 days in next sentence) days we were at sea. Took us 10 days from point a to point b. The whole ship was sick !! Being 10 at the time, we kids had a great time with pillows sliding up and down the hallways as the ship rocked and rolled with the waves. Quick trip to the head every now and then and we were good to go. We all watched a LOT of movies. I have a cute picture of my grandson wearing the sailor hat that we bought on the ship. I wore it the whole time we were on the ship, and then some."

     In addition to the soldiers and their families who were passengers, the Rose was also home to her crew. After the 1950 hand over these were merchant mariners, a civilian body that had manned our convoys during WWII and died in the tens of thousands to submarine and air attack. One of these men manning the Rose was Robert Decker, a former Coast Guardsman. "I was a merchant marine sailor back around 1951 and sailed twice on the Rose from New York to South Hampton England and Bremerhaven, Germany. We took displaced persons one way and troops the other. I still have an old news paper, with news of the day with location and distance to port, printed on 20 April 1951. The head line is MacArthur policy. The master of the ship was C. J. Powers. The paper is looking pretty old like me today. I always liked that ship. It was a smooth sailing ship. I don't remember any rough crossings as described by others, nothing like the seas I had seen on weather patrol off Iceland and Greenland in the Coast Guard, where heavy seas came over the bow."

     While the crew may not have thought the weather rough, the Rose certainly met foul weather to many of its passengers, such as Newell Johnson, USAF. "I too, crossed the Atlantic in December 1951, on the ship named "Maurice Rose". The storm we experienced was as bad as the 1955 storm (related below). We rolled and pitched and I seriously thought the ship was sinking. We sailed from New Jersey on December 20, 1951 and arrived in Bremerhaven Germany on 2 January 1952.

     Another Air Force serviceman who went to Europe on the Rose was Dick Bergman, USAF, who "shipped out on the USNS General Maurice Rose bound for Bremerhaven Germany. I sailed on the Rose in late October of 1953. The storms in the North Atlantic were bad that year. I recall having mess in the AM (Green Eggs) and watching the port hole go under the sea and back up to the sky over and over again. I was a young airman being deployed to Germany. We were to dock at Bremerhaven but were held off so mine sweepers could clear the area of WW2 mines that had been torn loose by the storms we had experienced on our trip. Many of the men aboard had experienced sea sickness on the crossing but I was used to the water after fishing for years with my father on a large lake in Michigan`s UP."

Shipboard, USS Gen. Maurice Rose, October 1953 (courtesy of Dick Bergman)

     Steve Lyons sailed on the Rose as well. "I returned to NY from Germany in February, 1954. It also took 15 days. I was touring the bridge and saw the bow of this ship go at least twenty feet under water. The bow itself was at least twenty stories tall! The hold where the enlisted men was awash in vomit. I was glad I had been in the 23rd class of Artillery OCS."

     Wendell J. Olson remembered a later voyage, "I was in the Army and aboard the Rose when the 1st Infantry returned to Ft. Riley Kansas, Sept 1955 in Operation Gyroscope. 2nd Bn 18th Inf Co. F. This was the second group departure from Germany (presumably in said operation). I recall the rough waters."

     An Army veteran whose name was not provided, also told the curator of a Rough Crossing he made on the Rose. "I sailed in her to and from Germany when I was in the Army. She was run by the merchant marine. On the way back in 1955 there were some terrible storms. The sailors said that it was the worst they had ever seen. It was so bad they would not let us out on deck. This was bad for me, as I get worried in the bath tube, ha ha."

     The soldier went on to say, "The ship was rolling way over. Guys were getting sick everywhere. And the cooks, they serve us hot dogs and sauerkraut! Guys were walking around with paper bags. It was bad. And my detail was latrine duty, cleaning the cans. The ship was rolling so badly, the water was flying OUT of the cans! And I get into trouble because they aren't clean enough!  How are you supposed to clean in that?"

     "It got to the point where the ship would roll so far over on her side I would worry she wasn't going to come back up. The sailors said she was taking water through her stacks, she rolled over so far."

     "It got so bad they had to shut down the engines. We went about six miles in 24 hours. It took us seventeen days to cross and get to New York. The trip was only supposed to take seven days. That's how bad it was."

     Following the abortive Hungarian revolution of 1957, the General Rose made three voyages from Bremerhaven carrying Hungarian refugees to New York. During these years, the ship also deployed to the Mediterranean 17 times to assist Sixth Fleet operations.

     Despite these important efforts, the primary duty of the Rose remained transporting troops and their families between America and Europe. One of the latter, Bill Douglas, "crossed the Atlantic aboard that ship, although not as a soldier. I was the son of a career Navy officer, and our family rode the Rose from the U.S. to my father's ultimate duty station, aboard the USS Springfield in its French Riviera home port of Villefranche. Our crossing was uneventful. The same wasn't true for friends of mine who came across soon afterwards on the USNT Upchurch. The crossing was so rough that the passengers renamed the ship on the spot as the USNT Up-Chuck."

     Another dependent, Trent Young, remembers "going with my father and the rest my family to Germany in 1958 aboard her. It was one of my greatest childhood memories. I treasure the certificate I got from that boat that says I was a great passenger on it."

     Not all journeys went as well. Merle Rouillard had a rougher journey on what may have been the Rose, when he "came back to the States, in February of 66 I think, from Bremerhaven to N.Y. I think it was the Rose, I was about 15 (9th grade). I have lots of memorabilia of my dad's days in the Army, but I just can't find anything about our voyage home. We had gone to Germany on the Patch and I have lots about it for some reason. I have visited web sites, but can't find anything about this situation. But on the way back, we went through a storm, a propeller shaft broke and the propeller went to the bottom and some of the bottom of the ship flooded. I remember the scene up on deck, we (pet owners) were the only ones allowed up top because we HAD to care for our animals. There were men scrambling all over, divers, cable running all over the deck, they were trying to hoist the shaft up and stop the flooding, a kitchen guy came on deck to throw the trash out and the wind caught it and it flew up on deck and stuck to the greasy cables, what a mess."

Repairing a screw propeller of USNS General Maurice Rose, from USN Sealift Command site

     Margit J. Monk was told a very sad Rose story by her Uncle, SFC Cyrille G. Desrosiers, of Greenville, NH, which also illustrates hidden capabilities of the ship. "My uncle who served in the US Army had traveled on this ship at least twice to and from assignment between the States and Germany. We have a brochure and photos of the ship, which certainly impressed us a people who had never seen anything other than the ships on the River Danube. Apparently, she was known for rough crossings of the North Atlantic. One story I remembered my Uncle telling me was that they crossed back to Germany in the early months of 1959. A pregnant woman went into labor off the coast of Newfoundland, and she was taken aboard the Maurice Rose because they had a medical facility on board. She had to undergo an emergency C-section, at which time the ship's engines were turned off to provide as much calm as possible. Twins were born to this woman, a boy and a girl. She named the boy Maurice and the girl Rose. However, they were born too early and did not survive. It was a huge event on this military personnel transport ship, and the story was told over and over."

     Also in 1959, Ralph Baker "traveled on the U.S.N.S. General Maurice Rose from Bremerhaven, Germany to New York, returning from a 31 month tour in southern France. When I boarded the Rose, as she was called, at the port in Germany it was my first time ever being near the ocean or a ship. I thought, 'surely this was the largest craft of any kind I have ever seen.' we moved out of the English channel some time in the night. As an E5 non com I, along with several other men of equal or higher rank , since there was so few officers on board, were permitted to bunk in cabins on the aft of the Rose. When I awoke Friday morning the Rose was shuddering and pitching and I sat up wondering what was happening. An E6 was bunking in the same cabin and he had traveled on ships before and he said 'you are in the Atlantic ocean." I can say it was a rude awakening from what I had gone to bed with last night! I went top side and what I thought yesterday was the largest craft I had ever seen looked today like a little chip floating on the face of the water. The USNS Rose looked awful small out there and the Atlantic looked awful big!

     Mr. Baker continued, "To keep the military on board somewhat occupied I and my cabin partner was assigned a bevy of security guards we had to post at various places throughout the ship, mostly at stairwells to observe seasick GIs mostly. It was during this time, after three years on duty, I was involved in an AWOL. In the middle of the Atlantic, on a ship, with the nearest land as one sailor said "a mile, straight down" we have an AWOL soldier. I probably would not have even reported the incident had I been able to find him but I feared he had become seasick and went topside and got too close to the edge and fell overboard. I learned another valuable lesson; one person cannot find another person on a ship if both persons are moving. Within 5-10 minutes after reporting to the officer of the day the incident the soldier was found walking on B deck. He indeed had become seasick and went topside but he was safe. I don't remember any of those I sailed with from Germany except one boxer who happened to have similar name as I. While my initials are WRB his was RWB. We were both Bakers, he an E4, I an E5."

     Mr. Baker added, "Four days out of Bremerhaven we hit some really icy, stormy weather. None of the troops were permitted above deck for some 2-2/12 days. It was really rough. A Russian trawler struck an ice berg and was sinking north of us. We were, according to naval personnel, about to divert to the S.O.S. when another ship reported being closer than we and they had diverted to the aid of the sinking ship. I had pretty well settled down from anxiety and fear before all this happened, then for the next several hours it was stressful."

     Mr. Baker continued, "We came into the harbor on Thursday evening, very late. We were not authorized to dock until the next morning, Friday, the 6th of February. This was the day my enlistment was supposed to have ended. This was my first time seeing even the lights of America since June 1956. I stood on the deck of Rose and looked at all the headlights zipping along on shore and wondered, what and how much has changed since. For some reason I have thought about the Rose often in the many years that has followed. Somewhere in my years following that trip on Rose I lost my little book on her and the papers I had detailing when she had been built, what her duty had been, etc, today, on the internet I looked her up. It made me, after all these years, a little sad to see the first words, 'scrapped in 2000.'"

     Mr. Baker concluded, "Just as I will always remember my first flight to Europe, I will always remember the Rose on the trip back. My military memories are some of my most cherished human experiences. The USNS Rose is one of them."

     Richard Sparta's "experience on the Rose was similar to what most other guys said. We pulled out of NY on May 5, 1961. The first several hours I remember sitting at the rear of the ship with a few other guys watching the NY skyline dissapear. The water was calm and I thought to my self this isn't going to be too bad. That changed during the night when I woke because of the ship rolling from side to side and the front of the ship crashing back into the water after being lifted by a wave. I learned quickly that the North Atlantic was not going to be a fun trip. I remember for several days we were not allowed on deck. There was a large space on the deck level where we all hung out during day. It was pretty scary actually looking up at the water. Finally after about 10 days the water started to calm, and we caught our first sight of England. We went thru the English Channel to Bremerhaven Germany where trains were waiting to take us to our final destination. Mine was Johnson Barracks in Furth. After 35 months I came home on the Upshaw, stopping at South Hampton England to pick up more people. As bad as it was I wouldn't hesitate to do it again."

     Similar sentiment was shared by self proclaimed "US Army brat" Edward E. Smith who "rode the ship from New York to Germany in February 1962 and the North Atlantic and the English Channel was terrible. I do not know what kept us from sinking. The waves were so high and hit the ship so hard, it would rattle your teeth. I remember on several occasions we went down at such and angle, the propellers would come out of the water, and turn and that ship would just rock so hard. I remember it so well. I live just a few miles from where the ROSE came to spend her last days, at the James River Reserve Fleet. My regret was I did not know that or believe me I would have taken a last trip out to see her. Thanks for letting me tell my story,and to all who sailed on her god bless you all. I met and still have good buddies that made that same trip with me."

     The Rose met rough seas again just a few months later, as told by Chester Wright. "I was on board an ďMSTS ROSEĒ in July or August 1962. I boarded the ship at NY Harbor and 10 days later stepped on ground again in Bremen, Germany. It was rather uneventful until about the fifth day, (about the middle of the trip). I donít think we rolled over far enough to take on water through the stacks, as you depict in your story, but for 2 days or so, GIís were vomiting everywhere, and we too were banned from going to the deck. I think many guys found religion on that trip. It was my honor to serve in the United States Army. That is why I enlisted. But for any American Soldier who never took that ride through the English Channel, and stood on the deck while the ship was being navigated through the Weser River to Bremen, Iím sorry to say, it was indeed your loss. Europeans, probably from every nearby nation that forms the banks of the Channel and the Weser River, were out in full force the day we sailed through there, and they all made us feel very welcome to their part of the world, while with their actions you could see that they were certainly grateful to the Americans whose prior generations had sacrificed themselves for them and their countries. I doubt that an American could go anywhere in the world today, in 2007, and get that kind of welcome now. How soon some forget! Me? I will never forget!"

     John J. Keegan also sailed the Channel on the Rose. "I road that great vessel from Brooklyn, NY to Bremerhaven, FRG in June 1963. Long 8 days until we saw the white cliffs of Dover; I was in berthing with the NCOs, cramped, and right over the screws. I had received some second degree burns (water burns from an exploding radiator) just before we shipped out of Ft. Dix, NJ and the time I spent up on deck were painful with sea spray not mixing with my healing burns. Never the less it was a great time in my 24 year Army career that often look back on.

     World events pulled the Rose away from the Atlantic soon after. Between August and October 1965 the Rose steamed from New York to the Far East to support U. S. forces in Vietnam. A second such trip was made between September 1966 and January 1967. During one such voyage the ship carried much of the Third Brigade, 9th Infantry Division, which boarded in mid-December 1966 and arrived at Vung Tau late on December 31 to debark in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 1967 for train transport inland.

     Following an overhaul, the transport was laid up in ready reserve at the Caven Point (New Jersey) Army Depot in New York harbor. Never reactivated, General Maurice Rose was transferred to the permanent custody of the Maritime Administration in July 1971 and moved to that agency's James River Reserve Fleet, in Virginia. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in August 1990 and sold by the Maritime Administration in June 1997 for scrapping at Brownsville, Texas."

     In 2000 the General Maurice Rose was broken up for scrap and is no more. She leaves behind, however, thousands of memories and a legacy of having supported the defense of Freedom around the globe through four decades. That freedom continues to thrive today thanks to the efforts of her builders, her crews, and the passengers she carried.

----- Curator

LINKS

Back To Justin United States Navy Unit History Exhibit

Pictures of the Maurice Rose, on Pic Search, Use Back Key To Return

Pictures of the Maurice Rose, also link to short history, and elsewhere on that page, a pictorial tribute to General Rose, 3rd Armored Division Site, Use Back Key To Return

Maurice Rose Wheelhouse, circa 1960, being visited by school children, (large image alone), Use Back Key To Return

Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, biography from USS Admiral Hugh Rodman Commissioning pamphlet, Use Back Key To Return

The Ship that took many of us to Viet Nam, site dedicated to the Rose as related to the 3rd Bde, 9th Infantry, Use Back Key To Return

Rough Crossing on the Maurice Rose, Navy Anecdotes, Justin Naval Oral History Collection

Biography of Dick Bergman, Sr. Airman, Det#3, 136th CSS, Camp Pieri, Germany & 6912th RSM, Manhattan AFB, USA, USAF, Cold War

Biography of Richard Sparta, Johnson Barracks, Furth, Germany, US Army, Cold War

Rough Crossing on the Maurice Rose, Navy Anecdotes, Justin Naval Oral History Collection

Please Share your Stories! E-mail the Curator to share or discuss or with any questions!

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http://justinmuseum.com/oralbio/usnsmauricerosetap126.html

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