The USS General W.M. Black (AP-135), a Squier-class transport ship, was built by Kaiser Company, Inc., of Richmond, California. Her launch date was July 23, 1943, and her commission followed on February 24, 1944. Her commanding officer was Captain J. P. Murray, USCG.
Service in World War II and Korea
The General W.M. Black stayed busy transporting troops during her commission. During her first deployment on March 26, she delivered 3,500 Army men to Pearl Harbor from San Francisco. On her return to San Francisco she brought almost 500 troops back with her. On her next voyage from San Francisco, she transported 3,500 fighting men to Guadalcanal and New Caledonia. The return trip saw her bring 2,700 troops from Balboa in Canal Zone, arriving June 8 at New Orleans. Her next deployment took her to Kingston, Jamaica. She brought 2,400 troops back to Norfolk.
July 28 marked the beginning of a series of transatlantic deployments for the General W.M. Black, 13 in all. On her first deployment she delivered 2,700 troops to Naples. On her return trip, she sailed with 3,000 returning veterans and casualties. Between September 1944 and August 1945 she completed 10 more deployments, transporting troops between the United States and ports in the United Kingdom, North Africa, France and Germany. She also brought the injured back to American ports and delivered German POWs to the U. S.
On August 31, 1945, the General W.M. Black, assigned to the Magic-Carpet fleet, departed for India. On her return to Boston, she brought 3,000 troops home from the South Pacific. Completing one more round trip in November through December, on January 5, 1946, she arrived at New York. On February 28, she was taken out of commission and returned to the Army for transport duties.
On March 1, 1950, she was reassigned to the Navy, attached to MSTS. She was assigned to the Atlantic off New York and then transferred to San Francisco. Providing transport to the Orient from 1950 to 1953, she ferried over 65,000 fighting men to help in the fight against communist forces in Korea. Once hostilities calmed, she began transporting troops to and from Japan, Alaska and Korea. She participated in Operation Mona Lisa in the Bering Sea in June 1955, delivering fighting men and supplies.
After reaching San Francisco, she was decommissioned on August 26, 1955. She remained at Suisun Bay, California, until she was purchased by the Central Gulf Steamship Company in 1967. The company rebuilt her as a cargo ship and renamed her the SS Green Forest; she served in this capacity until being scrapped in 1980. For service in the Korean War, the USS General W.M. Black was awarded six battle stars.
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.