The USS General H.F. Hodges (AP-144) was a General G.O. Squier-class transport ship named for General Harry Foote Hodges, a division commander in the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. The ship was sponsored by Mrs. Hodges Dickson while under construction at Kaiser Co. Inc. Yard 3 in Richmond, California. She launched on January 3, 1945, and was acquired by the U.S. Navy on April 6 of that year. She was put under command of Commander C.H. Hilton of the United States Coast Guard.
Service in World War II
After a month of shakedown training, the General H.F. Hodges set sail from San Francisco with 3,000 troops and a contingent of army nurses. She would make port at Hollandia, Manila, Leyte and Biak. Her first tour of duty ended when she returned to San Francisco on Independence Day. Her second and final wartime voyage began on July 8, when she left San Francisco and passed through the Panama Canal, where she first stopped at New York and then steamed out on August 5 for Naples for troop rotation. Her crew received news of Japan’s surrender en route.
After arriving in Boston from Naples on August 31, she made two more voyages through the Suez Canal to return U.S. military personnel home, ending her second post-war voyage on Christmas. After being decommissioned on May 13, 1946, the Hodges remained in the custody of the Maritime Commission until she was assigned to the Military Sea Transport Service on March 1, 1950. There, she provided troop support in Europe to deter Communist expansion and transport refugees from Bremerhaven, Germany to America.
She also participated in an amphibious military exercises in North Carolina in 1958, demonstrating the ease with which MSTS vessels could integrate into regular naval operations when necessary. On June 16 of that year, she returned to the Maritime Commission and became a part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet in New York.
The ship was sold to James River Transport, Inc. in 1967. After some rebuilding work, she was renamed the SS James and became active once more in February 1968, serving as a cargo ship until she was scrapped in Taiwan in 1979.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some auxiliary vessels also posed a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.