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NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive

Contributed by Robert Guttman

USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240)
USAT Private John R. Towle (1946 - 1950)

International Radio Call Sign:
November - Sierra - Tango - Yankee

Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Precedence of awards is from left to right
National Defense Service Medal - Antarctic Service Medal

Greenville Victory Class Cargo Ship:
  • Laid down, 9 December 1944, as SS Appleton Victory, a Maritime Commission type (VC2-S-AP3) hull, under Maritime Commission contract, (MC hull 162) at Oregon Shipbuilding Corp., Portland, OR.
  • Launched, 19 January 1945
  • Delivered to the War Shipping Administration, 23 March 1945 for operation by American Mail Line
  • Acquired by the US Army Transportation Service (ATS), at New York, 20 June 1946
  • Renamed USAT Private John R. Towle, 31 October 1947
  • Decommissioned by the US Army and returned to the Maritime Commission
  • Acquired by the US Navy, 1 March 1950 and placed in service by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) as USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240)
  • Placed out of service, date unknown
  • Returned to the Maritime Administration, 25 August 1980, for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River Group, Lee Hall, VA.
  • Struck from the Naval Register, 31 July 1982
  • Final Disposition, trade-in exchange, 6 April 1982, to Keystone Shipping Co. for SS Chancellorsville, sold, 4 June 1982, to Andy Machinery Co.. for scrapping
    Displacement 15,589 t.(fl)
    Length 455' 3"
    Beam 62' 1"
    Draft 29' 2"
    Speed 15.5 kts.
    Complement 24
    Armament none
    Propulsion steam turbine, single screw, 8,500shp

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    Pvt John R Towle 15k
    John Roderick Towle (October 19, 1924 – September 21, 1944) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II. Towle joined the Army from his birth city of Cleveland, Ohio, and by September 21, 1944 was serving as a private in Company C, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. On that day, near Oosterhout in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden, Towle engaged a German force with his rocket launcher in an attempt to disable two enemy tanks and a half track. He was killed during the battle and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor six months later, on March 15, 1945. Towle, aged 19 at his death, was buried at Calvary Cemetery in his hometown of Cleveland.
    Medal of Honor citation:
    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 21 September 1944, near Oosterhout, Holland. The rifle company in which Pvt. Towle served as rocket launcher gunner was occupying a defensive position in the west sector of the recently established Nijmegen bridgehead when a strong enemy force of approximately 100 infantry supported by 2 tanks and a half-track formed for a counterattack. With full knowledge of the disastrous consequences resulting not only to his company but to the entire bridgehead by an enemy breakthrough, Pvt. Towle immediately and without orders left his foxhole and moved 200 yards in the face of intense small-arms fire to a position on an exposed dike roadbed. From this precarious position Pvt. Towle fired his rocket launcher at and hit both tanks to his immediate front. Armored skirting on both tanks prevented penetration by the projectiles, but both vehicles withdrew slightly damaged. Still under intense fire and fully exposed to the enemy, Pvt. Towle then engaged a nearby house which 9 Germans had entered and were using as a strongpoint and with 1 round killed all 9. Hurriedly replenishing his supply of ammunition, Pvt. Towle, motivated only by his high conception of duty which called for the destruction of the enemy at any cost, then rushed approximately 125 yards through grazing enemy fire to an exposed position from which he could engage the enemy half-track with his rocket launcher. While in a kneeling position preparatory to firing on the enemy vehicle, Pvt. Towle was mortally wounded by a mortar shell. By his heroic tenacity, at the price of his life, Pvt. Towle saved the lives of many of his comrades and was directly instrumental in breaking up the enemy counterattack.
    Bill Gonyo
    Pvt John R Towle 268k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) underway, date and location unknown. Photo courtesy Ted Stone. Robert Hurst
    Pvt John R Towle 73k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) ice moored at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, date unknown. Carl R Friberg Jr,
    First Officer USNS Pvt. John R. Towle
    Pvt John R. Towle 93k USNS Private. John R. Towle (T-AK-240) underway in the ice pack during Arctic resupply operations, under MSTS, to bases in Canada and Greenland to re-supply DEW Line stations, Summer 1957. In the background is the Coast Guard icebreaker USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281) and either USNS Alatna (T-AOG-81) or USNS Chattahoochie (T-AOG-82). Ron Carter USS San Marcos
    Pvt John R Towle 65k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) moored pierside at Bremerhaven, Germany in March, 1966. Photo Gerhard Mueller-Debus
    Pvt John R Towle 402k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) docked pierside at Vancouver, B.C., 28 April 1965.
    City of Vancouver Archives, Photo No. AM1506-S3-3-: CVA 447-5342, by Walter E Frost.
    Mike Green
    Pvt John R Towle 93k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) underway in pack ice near Antarctica, date unknown.
    US Navy photo from "All Hands" magazine, December 1973.
    Joe Radigan MACM USN Ret.
    Pvt John R Towle 496k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) moored pierside at Pireaus, Greece in 1977. Robert Guttman
    Pvt John R Towle
    167k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) entering a New Zealand port in 1976.
    © A. Duncan
    Gerhard Muller-debus
    Pvt John R Towle 748k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) entering the Port of Lyttelton, New Zealand in 1976. Photo from the Chris Howell collection with copyright
    Pvt John R Towle 885k USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240) moored pierside at Cashin Quay, Lyttelton, New Zealand in 1977.
    Photo by Peter Davey.
    Photo from the Chris Howell collection with copyright

    USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
    Crew Contact And Reunion Information
    U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation - Navy Log

    Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
    USNS Private John R. Towle
    MARAD Vessel History Database
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    Last Updated 14 June 2024