Built by North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, North Carolina. Built under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1356) as Marco Polo,
a cargo ship. On November 10, 1943 renamed Mount Hood. Launched November 28, 1943 sponsored by Mrs. A. J. Reynolds.
Acquired by the Navy on loan-charter basis on January 28, 1944. Converted as the lead ship in the Mount Hood-class ammunition ship (Type C2-S-AJ1) by Norfolk Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company at Norfolk, Virginia, and at the Norfolk Navy Yard. Painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 18F. Commissioned July 1, 1944 with Comdr. Harold A. Turner in command.
The ship had an abbreviated fitting out and shakedown cruise in the Chesapeake Bay area before
assignment to ComServFor, Atlantic Fleet on August 5, 1944. Loaded with cargo at Norfolk. Departed on
Assigned to TG 29.6, she departed August 21, 1944 transiting the Panama Canal by August 27 and steamed independently across the Pacific via Finschafen before anchoring at Seeadler
Harbor on September 22, 1944. Assigned to ComSoWesPac to provide ammunition and explosives for vessels.
On November 10, 1944 while anchor in Seeadler
Harbor off Manus. At 8:55am, her cargo of explosives accidentally detonated in a massive blast. Aboard, the entire crew was killed, except for eighteen men who were ashore on a mail pickup detail. The explosion damaged twenty other vessels. Damage and casualties were also inflicted on ships anchored as far as 2000 yards away. USS
Argonne was hit by 221 pieces of debris and
1,300 pounds of wreckage during the search for survivors. In total, 45 dead, 327 missing and 371 injured.
Steve Nazzise adds:
"A troop transport ship
called the Chateau Thieery was
tied up and ready to depart about 300 yards from the Mt. Hood when
She was one of the troop transports bringing the PT Boaters back home along
with other troops from the battle fields of the Pacific."
AEN1C Michael Kunz., CASU 49 adds:
"I was there on a Navy transport ship when the Hood blew up. we were at anchor about a mile from where the Hood was. We all ran for cover and waited about three minutes and then the oil came raining down on us. We were never told what had caused the explosion."
The explosion destroyed the entire ship. The largest piece of wreckage recovered was only 10' x 16'. Underwater, divers discovered a trench roughly 1000' x 200' and roughly 40' deep created by the explosion.
Navy Historical Center USS Mount Hood (AE-11)
Navy Historical Center USS Mount Hood (AE-11) Explosion, 11 November 1944
USS Mount Hood explosion and official investigation
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February 2, 2016