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522' 8" x 62' x 32' 3"
Built by New York Shipbuilding Corporation for the U.S. Shipping Board as Hull 246. Laid down May 22, 1919 as Emergency Fleet Corporation Design 1095 passenger/cargo design (502 type) for use in World War I but the war ended before completion for the United States Shipping Board (USSB). Launched July 31, 1920 as Granite State. Commissioned March 7, 1921 to Pacific Mail Steamship Company. The vessel has a maximum speed of 8 knots with a range of 6,000 miles and cargo capacity of 150,000 cubic feet.
Granite State departed New York transiting the Panama Canal before reaching her home port of San Francisco for passenger and cargo capacity of 150,000 cubic feet. Used for service from San Francisco with ports of call at Honolulu, Manila, Saigon, Singapore and Calcutta then return. On April 4, 1921 departed on her first voyage.
During 1923 purchased by Dollar Steamship Lines and renamed President Polk for worldwide shipping service. In 1938 transferred to American President Lines. In 1940 renamed President Taylor and renovated to accommodate 128 passengers.
On December 6, 1941 requisitioned by the War Shipping Administration (WSA) and converted into a military transport for the U. S. Army operated by her civilian operator American President Lines. During December 1941 at San Francisco hastily converted into a troop transport capable of carrying 1,873 personnel plus cargo.
On December 27, 1941 departs San Francisco on her first military voyage to Honolulu arriving January 7, 1942 then returns to San Francisco on January 21, 1942.
On January 31, 1942 under the command of Captain A. W. Aitken embarked roughly 1,100 U. S. Army personnel including two companies of infantry plus two battalions of coast artillery plus equipment bound for Canton.
On February 14, 1942 at 6:20pm accidentally ran aground off the west of Canton Island due to a navigational error when escort USS Porter (DD-356) Captain did not want the ship far from shore due to the threat of Japanese submarines. For the remainder of the month, difficult sea conditions hampered efforts to tow the vessel or unload cargo until the end of the month.
Afterwards, efforts were undertaken to free the vessel, first by USCG Cutter Taney with fleet tug Seminole. Later, joining the efforts was fleet tug Navajo and repair ship Argonne with salvage expert Lt. Commander Curtiss flown to Canton Airfield to direct the effort. By March 10, 1942 some progress was made, but the overall effort was reported as unfavorable. By April 2, 1942 the U. S. Navy abandoned all salvage efforts. Afterwards, American President Lines was paid $1,260,960 as compensation for the loss of the ship.
The shipwreck of USS President Taylor remained upright and visible until 1954. In 1952 the shipwreck was sold to North Coast Corporation. During 1954 the vessel was scrapped with most wreckage removed.
Erik Andal mentions:
"My grandfather, Frank Dyer, served on Canton Island as a USN Seabee. He went aboard the beached USS President Taylor. I recall him telling me he didn't know why it was beached, but one day he walked/swam to it and remembered that there was water inside the ship. He recovered the log book. When he died a couple years ago the log book was given to me. I gave it to the Maritime Museum in San Francisco."
Charles Martin recalls:
"On numerous occasions I visited Canton Island while in the U.S. Navy, between 1946 through 1948. There was a ship beached at the end of the island. I often wondered what it's name was and what happen to it apparently during the war."
"Troopships of WWII" Charles Roland, 1947 (page 238).
Thanks to Erik Andal and Charles Martin for additional information
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