History of the USS PRESIDENT JACKSON
The USS President Jackson launched at Newport News, VA on the 25th of October 1939 as a passenger liner for the American President Lines, LTD., was commissioned by the Navy on 16 January 1942 after being converted at Portland, Oregon, to an Auxiliary Personnel Attack Transport the PA-37. Prior to her Navy adoption she made round the world voyages in the Merchant Marine.
Her gross tonnage is 9274, net tonnage 5170, deadweight tonnage 9937, full displacement load is 16,175 tons. Overall length is 492 feet. With a ships company complement of 500 enlisted men and over 50 officers, she can carry under combat conditions, 1800 troops plus the numerous supplies essential to modern landings on enemy held territory. The “PJ” as she is called by the men who know her, carries 32 landing craft – LCVPâ€™s and LCMâ€™s. Her defensive power is made up of 5 inch, 3 inch, 50mm, 40mm and numerous 20mm Anti Aircraft guns.
When the USS John Penn was sunk of Guadalcanal in late 1942, the Transport Division Flag was transferred to the “PJ”, where it remained for the duration of the war. She has commanded TransDiv2 and 32.
On the Black Sunday of 7 December 1941, the “PJ” was in Portland, Oregon undergoing completion of her reconversion to Navy standards. Work was quickly completed and after a landing force troop training period at the west coast beaches, she was sent out to join a handful of ships we then called the Pacific Fleet. Proudly she became the first ship to land combat troops in the first offensive amphibious expedition of World War Two when, on 7 August 1942, she landed Company “B” of the Second Marines on the beach at Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, forty minutes prior to the landings on Guadalcanal. For this she was awarded a plaque by the Marines – For Meritorious Deeds and Fine Hospitality Throughout the Solomons Campaign”.
On 1 February 1943 she was redesignated to APA-18. (APA STANDS FOR “Attack Personnel Auxiliary)
From Tulagi on, the President Jackson with her sister ships the President Hayes and the President Adams and with the USS Crescent City soon became known to our own forces and to the enemy as the Unholy Four.
Operating with other vessels of TF-31 the “PJ” landed elements of the 3rd Marine Division on Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville.
On 30 June 1943 she landed the 17nd U.S. Army combat Team and two Construction Battalion companyâ€™s on Rendova, then transported survivors of the MC CAULEY torpedoed by a submarine off Noumea on 1 November.
On 25 March 1944 she landed Army, Navy and CB’s on Emirau Island and in April with Transport Division Two she carried the Army 40th Division to New Britain and returned the 1st Marine Division to Russell Island in the Solomons.
With TF-53 in July she landed elements of the 3rd Marine Division on Guam. She then evacuated casualties to Pearl Harbor and the USA. On the 23rd of October she returned to duty with TF-32 in the Pacific.
While operating with TF-77 the “PJ” landed elements of the 25th Infantry Division in the reinforcement landings at Lingayen Gulf on 11 January 1945.
On 21 February, while operating with TF-51 she landed elements of the 3rd Marine division on Iwo Jima. On 6 March she departed Iwo Jima with 515 casualties for Saipan and Noumea.
On 7 May, 1945 with casualties and other passengers aboard she got under way for the United States.
On 14 June she departed San Francisco for two round trips to Manila before the cessation of hostilities which found her in dry dock in Seattle, WA. She then entered “Magic Carpet Duty”.
The “PJ” participated in practically every major invasion on the long road to Tokyo. These included Guadalcanal, Rendova, Munda, Vella La Vella, Bougainville, The Bismarck Archipelago Campaign, Guam, the Luzon, Philippines, invasion at Lingayen Gulf and Iwo Jima.
Although the “PJ” on several occasions has been under kamikaze suicide plane attacks, although she has often been followed for hundreds of miles by Japanese subs which fired their “tin fish” and missed. Through it all she lead a charmed life, never having suffered serious material damage and having but few personnel fatalities. The greatest threat to the career of the “PJ” came at Bougainville where a 500 pound bomb made a direct hit, glancing off the kingpost on the way down and finally landing on the upper deck. The bomb was a dud. Promptly it was thrown overboard by members of the crew.
She continued to operate with the Pacific Fleet until 1949 seeing service in both Japan and China.
On 22 October 1949 she was assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service and designated T-AP-18 on 22 October 1949.
On 7 February 1950 the “PJ” with cabin and troop passengers on board got underway from San Francisco to Norfolk, VA arriving on 23 February. She returned to San Francisco on 25 March and made trips to Manila and Pearl Harbor.
With the outbreak of the Korean Conflict the “PJ” reported to the Commander, Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet for operational control. Loading troops and equipment of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division San Diego she sailed on 14 August for Japan, arriving in Kobe on 29 August to prepare for the Inchon Invasion. Departing Kobe, 11 September with vessels of TG-90.2 she unloaded on the assault beaches of Inchon, serving as a casualty receiving ship, then evacuated casualties to Yokohama and San Francisco.
On 12 October 1950 she sailed from San Diego for Japan. She then called on San Francisco, Seattle, Alaska and Korea. After another run to Alaska in April 1952 she departed San Francisco carrying dependents from Pago Pago to Pearl Harbor.
Carrying a full load of passengers and cargo for Yokohama she got underway from San Francisco 25 January 1954 returning 23 February. She then made trips to Pearl Harbor and Alaska ending in San Francisco on 5 June. On 11 June she made a trip back to Yokohama and on 28 December she shifted to the Todd Shipyard, Alameda, CA for phase one inactivation She was placed out of commission and berthed at San Francisco on 6 July 1955. She was struck from the Navy List and transferred to the Maritime Commission on 1 October 1958.
The President Jackson earned 8 Battle Stars in World War 2 and 3 Battle Stars for her Korean Service and the Navy Unit Commendation.
To those who served on her the “PJ” was quite a lady.
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