The Wreck of the Liberty Ship
"SS James Longstreet"
SS James Longstreet (Hull Number 112) was a Liberty Ship built in the United States during World War II
at a cost of $1,833,400. She was named after the Confederate general James Longstreet.
Name: SS James Longstreet
Builder: Todd Houston Shipbuilding Corporation, Houston, Texas
Laid down: 3 December 1941
Launched: 2 April 1942
Out of service: Damaged by grounding in 1943 and written off
Fate: Acquired by the Navy in 1944
Sunk and used as a target until 1971
Class and type: Liberty ship
type EC2-S-C1, standard
Tonnage: 7,000 tons deadweight
Length: 441 ft 6 in (135 m)
Beam: 56 ft 10.75 in (17.3419 m)
Draft: 27 ft 9.25 in (8.4645 m)
Propulsion: 2 × oil-fired boilers
1 × triple-expansion steam engine, 2,500 horsepower (1,900 kW)
1 × screw propeller
Speed: 11.5 knots (21.3 km/h)
Capacity: 10,800 long tons deadweight (DWT)
Armament: Stern-mounted 4"/50 caliber (102 mm) gun for use against surfaced submarines
variety of anti-aircraft guns
She was laid down on 3 December 1941, then launched on 2 April 1942. She ran aground in a gale in 1943 and was declared a total loss. Instead of being scrapped, she was acquired by the US Navy in June 1944 and used as a target ship for early air to surface guided missiles. Whilst under tow to and from the target areas, she once ran aground and on another occasion broke her anchor chain and drifted for ten days before being recovered. She was then sunk and used for further experiments using missiles, before then being used for live ammunition target practice by Naval jets from nearby South Weymouth Naval Air Station and the Air Force from nearby Otis Air Force Base until 1971. The ship is also referred to as the "target ship".
The remains of the James Longstreet lie approximately three and a half miles off Eastham, Massachusetts in 20 to 25 feet (6.1 to 7.6 m) of water. The site is off limits to divers due to unexploded ordinance (this is statement still exists on nautical charts and in many references, but has been opened to boaters and divers, as you will see, quite some time ago).
Radio room of the the SS James Longstreet.
A postcard showing the "Target Ship" while the hull was relatively intact and above the waterline.
A side-scan sonar image of the wreckage.
Sunset over the target ship. By this point the hull has
been almost cut in two by target practice.
Years of target practice and turbulent New England seas have taken
their toll on the Liberty Ship SS James Longstreet.
This is all that was left above the waterline in 2001. Since then the entire wreck has eroded below the surface Cape Cod Bay.
The SS James Longstreet in September, 2010
After spending time shore-diving Massachusetts during the fall, I came across information about the wreck of the Liberty Ship
"SS James Longstreet." This vessel has had a long and somewhat dubious history. After being grounded twice, it was used
by the U.S. Navy as proving ground for early tests of air to surface missiles and later as a live munitions target for Navy pilots stationed
at the South Weymouth Naval Air Station and Air Force pilots stationed at Otis Air Base. This activity earned the vessel the
nickname the "Target Ship. For many years the surrounding area was off limits to civilians because of unexploded munitions surrounding
the wreck. The wreck also stood for decades as part of the Cape Cod Bay skyline. The years of bombardment, along with the often relentless seas,
has broken this 417' vessel into a vast field of wreckage, which currently all lays beneath the ocean's surface.
The following is my trip, two miles offshore, aboard an inflatable DiveYak (dive-kayak) to explore the final resting place of this WWII veteran.
Geared up and ready to go with this "mobile dive platform."
The beach where I launched.
A long slow motor to the dive spot, two miles offshore.
Buoy marking the navigation hazard.
Diving from a kayak requires you to put on your equipment in the water.
A Channeled Whelk.
Large steel vent pipes.
Looking up through the floor beams.
The outer hull fragments make a perfect place for plant life.
Juvenile fish were EVERYWHERE.
A large steel vent pipe.
The amount of biological material suspended in the water column is absolutely amazing.
The sea life created by this "artifical reef" is thriving.
What appears to be one of the boilers.
Part of the intact hull.
Many steel beams which made up the infrastructure of the ship are readily identifiable.