Military Sea Transportation Service
US Navy

Looking for more information from military/civilian personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.

Army Transportation Service

Military Sea Transportation

Troop Ships

Container Cargo

USNS Comet

Related Links

Military Sea Transportation Service

MSTS Headquarters, Bremerhaven

The MSTS mission - a troop ship pulls away from the pier at Bremerhaven in 1958,
as it begins its voyage back to the States with US service members and their
dependents returning from a tour of duty in Europe.
In 1949 (Oct 1), the Military Sea Transportation Service became the single managing agency for the Department of Defense's ocean transportation needs. The command assumed responsibility for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all military services as well as for other government agencies. Prior to that, four separate government agencies (including the Army Transportation Service) controlled sea transportation.

The MSTS Area office, originally set up in Heidelberg in 1949, was moved to London in 1951.

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Jan 3, 1950)
Operations offices for the Military Sea Transportation Service will be established at Bremerhaven Port of Embarkation, Trieste and in the London-Southampton area to provide for the movement of U.S. military and civilian personnel and cargo by surface vessel between Europe and the U.S.

Capt. John M. Will, USN, of Perth Amboy, N. J. has been named MSTS representative for Europe, and is directing the organization of the service on the Continent and in Great Britain. He is making his headquarters in Heidelberg in order to maintain closer liaison with the EUCOM transportation division, which has been handling the sea and land transportation of EUCOM personnel.

Within the next few months, MSTS will take over the operation of Army transports.

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, March 7, 1950)
72 seagoing transports of the US Army Transportation Corps have been transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service. 42 of the ships that operate in the Atlantic were handed over to the Navy in a ceremony on the transport General Alexander M. Patch at the Brooklyn Army Base, while the remaining 30 that operate in the Pacific were transferred in ceremonies at San Francisco and Seattle.

The transfer affected only the Army's deep-water operations and did not include the port of embarkation mission, which remain's an Army responsibility along with other shoreside functions of the Army's Transportation Corps.

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, May 19, 1965)
The Military Sea Transportation Service is in the process of streamlinining its Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Command operations.

As of July 1, the MSTS area headquarters in Europe will be moved to Bremerhaven, Germany. (Headquarters has been located in London since 1951.) In addition, an MSTS Office will be established at Rota, Spain, to replace the closing Naples office, and a new office will open at Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Commander of the new MSTS setup in Bremerheven is Capt J. M. Seymour.

After the reorganization, the Eastern Atlantic sub-area at Bremerhaven will have under its direct control Rotterdam; St. Nazaire, France; and London. The Mediterranean sub-area is headquartered at Leghorn (Livorno), Italy and will include the new Rota office. The command also has a representative at Frankfurt, Germany.

MSTS at Bremerhaven will have a headquarters staff of 50 and will consist of a personnel and administration section, chief of staff, chief of operations, vessel operations section, cargo operations section and passenger operations section.

Most of the cargo and passengers handled by the MSTS in Europe go through the port of Bremerhaven. Over a recent 6-month period, 67,000 total passengers and 100,000 tons of cargo were handled at Bremerhaven.

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Nov 18, 1967)
15 MSTS ships per month are loaded at US east coast ports with supplies for the war effort in Southeast Asia. These ships cross the Atlantic and sail through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal enroute to Vietnam.

The Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean section of the MSTS command (at Bremerhaven) assumes operational control of these ships after they reach midway in the Atlantic. Their movements are directed by the US Navy's European Command Center in London until the ships enter the AOR of the Pacific MSTS command.

The MSTS at Bremerhaven extends over some 20 million square miles of land and sea and includes 60 ports in 25 countries. Between July and September (1967), 80,000 tons of supplies and military equipment was brought to Europe by MSTS ships for US forces and their dependents.

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Oct 20, 1969)
MSTSELM today has an area of responsibility that extends from the Atlantic coast of Europe to Burma, and from the North Pole to the equator. It encompasses 20 million square miles of land and sea and includes some 60 ports in 25 nations.

MSTSELM, which includes a sub-area commander in Leghorn, Italy and MSTS offices in Rotterdam and London, is commanded by Capt Gerald W. Rahill. The command also has representatives in 15 locations throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East who serve MSTS on a part-time basis whenever ocean transportation of DoD cargo is involved.

The bulk of military cargo coming into Europe moves through the Northern Europe ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Bremerhaven, Bremen and Hamburg and into the inner regions by truck, rail and barge.

Cargo to the United Kingdom moves primarily through London and Felixstowe on container services.

The Mediterranean area still lags in facilities for container service but is moving to a greater use of container service as improvements come about.

Among some of the dramamtic changes in services provided by MSTS in the most recent years ships is the addition to the MSTS fleet of the USNS Admiral Wm. M. Callaghan, an early RO/RO cargo ship and the first of its type especially constructed for MSTS operations. She is chartered by the command for support of US forces in Europe. (Admiral Callaghan was the first commander of the MSTS.)

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Oct 20, 1969)
MSTS Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (MSTSELM) was located in London (as of 1951). A liaison office was set up at Heidelberg in January 1951. The office was located near the main headquarters of the US military command in Europe (at Campbell Barracks).

MSTSELM headquarters was moved to Bremerhaven in 1965.

Troop Ships
US Army TC / MSTS Troopships 1940s & 1950s

USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey (T-AP-121) (Jim Gibson)

USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123)

USNS General William O. Darby (T-AP-127)
Some of the troopships (more accurately: P-type passenger ships) that sailed back and forth between the ZI and Bremerhaven transporting troops and dependents:

USNS General Alexander M. Patch T-AP-122
USNS General Simon B. Buckner T-AP-123
USNS General Maurice Rose T-AP-126
USNS General William O. Darby T-AP-127

From 1946 to 1950, the transports served as part of the Army Transport Service.

In 1950, the ships were transferred back to the US Navy and assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service.

Other ships were added to the regular Atlantic service at a later date:

USNS Geiger T-AP-197
USNS Upshur T-AP-198

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, March 6, 1948)
The US Army transport General Simon B. Buckner is the first of a new fleet of Transportation Corps vessels to provide a "deluxe" passenger service to overseas bases for the US armed forces. These troop ships will complete the normal 14-day run across the Atlantic in under nine days. The General Buckner, with 1,375 passengers, left the New York Port of Embarkation (at Brooklyn) on March 4 and is expected to arrive at Bremerhaven on March 11 or 12.

The Buckner was formerly known as the transport Admiral E. W. Eberle. The ship was converted for its new role at a cost of $4.5 million. The Buckner is one of ten TC vessels (1) that make up the TC fleet - five of the transports are earmarked for Atlantic service, the others wil be used in the Pacific.

Troop accomodations consist of compartments four-bunks high.

Dependent quarters consist of two, three, four and six-bunk cabins, most with connecting baths. Some of the cabins have settee berths, the upper berth folding into the ceiling.

Troops and dependents have separate dining areas.

The transports are also equipped with a playroom and playpens on the top deck, as well as nurseries.

(1) Looking at the information provided on Wikipedia ( it appears that only 8 of the ships actually entered into service as part of the Army Transport Service (T-AP-120 thru T-AP-127). Only four of these (the Patch, Buckner, Rose and Darby) were part of the regular Atlantic passenger service in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Continue with Troopships in the 1960s

(Source: Email from Jim Gibson, Jim Gibson, 34th Hospital Train - see email)
This is the ship (USNS General Gaffey - above) I went to Germany on the last of February and first of March 1955.

Keep up the good work your doing. I enjoy it. Jim

MSTS Troopships 1960s
(Source: STARS & STRIPES, July 14, 1966)
On July 13, 1966 the Defense Department announced that all transatlantic travel of troops and dependents on ships of the Military Sea Transportation Service would end on July 21, 1966. (It was also announced that Trans-Pacific service would also be stopped - on Aug 15.)

Bremerhaven officials reported that port calls for servicemen and US Forces families due to return to the US aboard MSTS ships would be rescheduled for air transportation. Affected were passengers scheduled to leave Bremerhaven aboard the transports Buckner on July 31, the Geiger on Aug 6, the Rose on Aug 13 and the Geiger on Aug 30. Passengers scheduled to leave Bremerhaven on the Rose on July 17 would not be affected.

The DoD announcement also stated that the current MSTS fleet of 15 transports would be cut to 8 in the next 12 months. All but one of the trans-Atlantic service ships would be used to support Vietnam operations. The four Atlantic-run ships to be used to support military operations in SE Asia are the Patch, Darby, Buckner and Geiger. The ships are required to move more combat and support troops to Vietnam during the current buildup.

(In June, sailings of the Patch and Darby were cancelled and passengers were given a new port call for air travel from Rhine-Main.)

MSTS ships generally carry 400 to 450 cabin-class passengers and some 1,000 servicement in troop compartments.

Cargo runs by MSTS and MSTS-chartered ships are not affected by this announcement and will continue in the Atlantic and Pacific areas.

(A subsequent article in the S&S, identified the Upshur, Darby, Buckner, Rose, Patch and Geiger as the former Atlantic-run transports that would be sent to the Pacific to support operations in VN. In 1965, these six trans-Atlantic service transports carried 200,000 troops and dependents between New York and northern European ports - Southampton and Bremerhaven.)

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Jan 24, 1970)
The Military Sea Transportation Service has announced that eight of its troopships (including the Rose, Patch, Darby and Buckner) are being inactivated by the end of June 1970.

All eight played important roles in the past 25 years carrying troops, dependents, refugees and war brides between Europe, the US and the Far East. During the US military buildup in Vietnam, the troopships were taken off their normal trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific runs and carried two-thirds of the troops from the US to Vietnam combat.

Six of the eight (including the four former trans-Atlantic vessels) are now moored in New York and will be transferred to the Maritime Administration reserve fleet at James River, Va. (The other two are now in San Francisco and they will be taken to the reserve fleet at Suisun Bay, Calif.)

The only remaining troophips in the MSTS fleet are the Geiger, Upshur (both former trans-Atlantic vessels) and Barrett.

Related Links: