Appendices - Hirohito's War
OIL, RAW MATERIALS, AND LOGISTICS: ‘JUST START SWINGING’
America’s T-2 Tanker: Whereas the US was fortunate in Japan’s strategic oversight with regard to oil, American war planners were quick to understand the importance of oil supply if they were to sustain their Pacific fleet in its advance toward Japan. With the importance of oil already in the forefront of their strategic thinking, in the late 1930s the US Maritime Commission (MarCom) formalized a design known as T-2 that could be used as America’s medium sized ‘National Defense Tanker’. The design was based on two ships, SS Mobilfuel and SS Mobilube, built in 1938-9 by Bethlehem Steel for Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, (the merged name of Standard Oil and Vacuum Oil that changed its name to Mobil in the mid-1960s and is now known as ExxonMobil).
MarCom approved the design that differed from previous Mobil ships by incorporating more powerful steam turbine engines to produce a top speed of 16 knots. As the T-2s were planned as ships that could be ‘militarized’ to serve as fleet auxiliaries in the event of war, Marcom underwrote any additional costs of the T-2s naval features over and above normal commercial specifications. 501ft long with a beam of 68ft, T-2s had a dead weight of 15,850 tons. Built by Bethlehem-Sparrows Shipyard in Maryland, the first six T-2s were taken over by the US Navy after Pearl Harbor and were named as the Kennebec Class.
An upgrade to the T-2 design, the T-2A, was made prior to the order of five tankers in 1940 from Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock of Chester. 25ft was added to the length and deadweight was increased by 450 tons. The Navy at the outbreak of the war requisitioned the five tankers in this Mattaponi Class.
The next iteration of the T-2, the T2-SE-AI, (523ft, 68ft beam, 16,613 tons deadweight) became the standard model of the class with 444 built out of a total of 525 tankers. Its nine sets of tanks could carry 141,200 barrels of oil product. The T2-SE-AI was the ship that kept the American advance moving during the Pacific War. As the war with Japan began, MarCom placed huge orders with Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Co. of Mobile (97), the Kaiser Company’s shipyard in Portland Oregon (136), the Marinship Corp. of Sausalito (across the bay from San Francisco) (27), and Sun Shipbuilding (184). Over the cause of the war production time from the laying down of a keel to fitting out and launch was reduced from 70 days to a record 33 for the SS Huntington Hills built by Marinship.