1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
The USNS General Walker
The USNS General Nelson M. Walker, seen here during her Vietnam service.
photo from the Vietnam Grafitti Project website
The US Naval Ship General Nelson M. Walker was
one of three ships that took the US Army's 4th Infantry Division
to Vietnam in 1966. On July 21, 1966 the 1st Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment sailed on the Walker from
Tacoma, Washington and sixteen days later, on August 6, 1966, landed at Qui Nhon, Republic of South Vietnam.
The Regulars who sailed on the Walker are affectionately known as the "Boat People" and the "Walker Babies".
The USNS General Nelson M.
Walker began life on February 21, 1944, as a troop transport for
the United States Navy.
The ship was originally named the Admiral H.T. Mayo, and was in service with the Navy from 1945-1946.
In 1946 the "Mayo" was transferred to the United States Army and became part of the Army Transport Service.
Renamed the USAT (United States Army Transport) General Nelson M. Walker, the ship was in service with the Army from 1946-1950.
In 1950 she was re-classified as a U.S. Naval Ship and became part of the Military Sea Transport Service (MSTS).
The "Walker" served as such from 1950-1959 and then again from 1965-1968.
Specifications of the USS Admiral H.T. Mayo:
Displacement 9,676 t.(lt) 20,120 t.(fl)
Length 608' 11"
Beam 75' 6"
Draft 26' 11"
Speed 19 kts.
Cargo Capacity 106,000 cu. ft.
four single 5"/38 cal. dual purpose gun mounts
four twin 40mm AA gun mounts
fourteen twin 20mm AA gun mounts
NSFO 25,600 Bbls
Diesel 350 Bbls
two General Electric turbo-electric engines
four Combustion Engineering D-type boilers, 600psi 840°
Ships Service Generators:
four 500Kw 450V A.C.
four 200Kw 120V/240V D.C.
two propellers, 18,000shp
NavSource Naval History
Photographic History Of The U.S. Navy
History of the USNS General Nelson M. Walker
Admiral H. T. Mayo (AP-125) was laid down on 21
February 1944 at Alameda, Calif., by the Bethlehem Steel Corp.,
under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 683) launched on 26 November 1944, sponsored by Mrs. George Mayo
and commissioned at Alameda on 24 April 1945, Capt. Roger C. Heimer, USCG, in command.
After fitting out, loading supplies and carrying out her shakedown cruise out of San Diego, Admiral H. T. Mayo sailed for European waters
on 24 May 1945, bound for Le Harve, France. Transiting the Panama Canal between 31 May and 2 June, the transport reached her destination
on 12 June. There she embarked 5,819 released American military prisoners (RAMPs) and men being rotated home to the United States,
and sailed for Boston, reaching that port on 27 June. She sailed thence for Marseilles, France, and there embarked 4,888 Quartermaster
and Engineer troops. Delayed for repairs at that French port Admiral H. T. Mayo did not sail for the Pacific until 10 July 1945.
She transited the Panama Canal on 21-22 July, and, sailing via Eniwetok, in the Marshalls, and Ulithi, in the Carolines
(spending a 16-day layover at the latter place), reached her destination, Okinawa, m the Ryukyus, on 1 September.
Eight days later, on 9 September 1945, Admiral H. T. Mayo departed Okinawa with 5,014 passengers, officers and enlisted men of the Navy,
Coast Guard and Marine Corps, being transferred to the United States for discharge or reassignment under the "point" system.
Reaching San Francisco on 27 September 1945, on the first of her postwar "Magic Carpet" voyages, the transport there disembarked her passengers,
and, following an availability, sailed for the Far East on 18 October. Reaching Tokyo, Japan, on 29 October and Manila, Philippine Islands,
on 4 November, she embarked returning veterans at those two ports and ultimately arrived back at San Francisco on 22 November.
Admiral H. T. Mayo sailed for Korean waters on 5 December and arrived at her destination, Jinsen (now Inchon), Korea on 19 December.
She sailed thence for Japan, reaching Nagoya on Christmas Day 1945. The transport departed that port on 29 December, and, routed via Pearl Harbor,
and diverted from her original destination, Seattle, reached "Frisco" on 11 January 1946. Following voyage repairs Admiral H. T. Mayo sailed for
Okinawa on 10 February, and reached her destination on Washington's Birthday. She brought back returning veterans to Seattle on 10 March,
and rounded out her "Magic Carpet" service with a round-trip voyage between Yokohama, Japan, and Seattle, reaching the latter port on 23 April 1946.
Admiral H. T. Mayo cleared Seattle on 25 April, and, after stopping briefly at San Pedro until the 28th, pushed on for Panama. Transiting the canal
between 4 and 6 May, the transport arrived at the New York Naval Shipyard, on 10 May 1946 where she was decommissioned on 26 May 1946
and turned over to the War Shipping Administration, for further delivery to the Army. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 9 June 1946.
Assigned to the Army Transport Service, the ship was renamed General Nelson M. Walker,to honor Brigadier General Nelson M. Walker (1891-1944)
who had been killed in action at Normandy on 10 July 1944. The ship underwent repairs and conversion at the Todd Shipyard's Erie Basin
until September 1946, after which time she sailed for the west coast of the United States to base on Seattle.
USAT Nelson M. Walker operated from that port into mid-1948, carrying troops to such ports and islands as Honolulu, Guam, Saipan, Okinawa,
Yokohama, Jinsen, and Manila. In July 1948, she entered the Todd Shipyard at San Pedro for a Safety at Sea conversion and partial conversion
as a dependent carrier. This entailed the installation of cabin space for 217 passengers, two lounges, and a children's playroom, well-stocked with toys
and a ship's store, whose foremost item offered for consumption by passengers was a "weird and wonderful concoction" known as "Coca Cola."
Following this face-lifting, General Nelson M. Walker returned to service on 7 December 1948 to resume her transpacific voyages.
She followed a triangular route over the next two years sailing between San Francisco, Yokohama, and Okinawa, soon acquiring a reputation
for speed and comfort, two attributes frequently put to the test in Far Eastern waters where typhoons were common. With the newly organized
Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS), General Nelson M. Walker's operations were soon confined to serve Okinawa exclusively,
the regularity of her appearance on that run earning her the affectionate title of the "Okinawa Express." She represented to many the last connecting link
between their new domicile and CONLUS, the new term which had begun to appear in military jargon in writing up travel orders
and standing for "Continental Limits of the United States."
Her 27th voyage as USAT Nelson M. Walker was her last under the banner of the old Army Transport Service, and on 1 March 1950
she became USNS (United States Naval Ship) Nelson M. Walker (T-AP-125). She sailed on her maiden voyage as an MSTS transport
on 27 March 1950, when she departed San Francisco for Buckner Bay, Okinawa, resuming her run as the "Okinawa Express." On 28 April 1950,
the ship was reinstated on the Naval Vessel Register. The outbreak of hostilities in Korea on 27 June 1950 occurred while General Nelson M. Walker
was returning from her second Far Eastern voyage as an MSTS ship. She sailed for Okinawa on 6 July with Army and Air Force men
and their dependents embarked, and, ten days later, after being battered briefly by a pair of typhoons disembarked her passengers among whom
were included key Air Force B-29 personnel, needed in the new Korean theater of war.
As the United States began shipping men and material to support the United Nations operations in Korea, General Nelson M. Walker's schedule
was altered accordingly; where it had once been her major port of embarkation/disembarkation, Okinawa was less frequented than it had been.
During the latter part of 1950 and early 1951, General Nelson M. Walker operated between San Francisco and Japanese ports
frequenting Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Sasebo. By the time the ship reached Seattle on 20 January 1952, the transport had carried out 18 voyages
for MSTS. Entering the Todd Shipyard at Seattle the ship then underwent conversion to an "austerity trooper', increasing her cabin capacity
to 417 spaces and her troop capacity to 3 739 bunks. Gone were the cabin lounges, recreation halls, children's playroom, some crew's accommodations,
and storerooms. Shipboard equipment was modernized and an air conditioning unit was added to the enlarged hospital on board the transport.
Following this conversion, repairs, and drydocking, General Nelson M. Walker loaded provisions and stores at Smith Cove by the naval supply depot there,
and then shifted to berth 39, Seattle, whence she sailed on 14 April 1952 on her maiden voyage as an "austerity trooper." En route back to the west coast
after this troop lift to Yokohama, Pusan, Inchon, and Sasebo, the ship was informed that she would henceforth be employed taking United Nations' troops
to Korea. She reached San Francisco on 18 May, and sailed for Panama on the last day of May, with Puerto Rican enlisted men and Colombian officers
and men, Korean war veterans all, as well as United States Army troops slated to debark at Norfolk and 1,000 Army troops destined for La Pallice.
She touched at Rodman Naval Base, Balboa, Canal Zone, and there embarked 1,500 Puerto Rican soldiers for transportation to Bremerhaven.
Transiting the Panama Canal on 8 June, the troopship arrived at Cartegena, Colombia, on the 9th, pushing on later that same day for San Juan, Puerto Rico,
arriving on 11 June. Clearing port later the same day she pushed on for Norfolk, arriving there on 14 June and thence to La Pallice, France,
making port on 24 June. She then made one voyage to Bremerhaven Germany, before returning to the United States, touching at New York,
and then carried out a second trip to Bremerhaven before she proceeded into the Mediterranean basin, her only troop passengers
a small detachment of Dutch officers and men.
Reaching the Pireaus, the port for Athens, Greece, the transport took on board Greek troops on 28 July, before she sailed for Tzmir, Turkey,
arriving at that port the following morning. There she embarked Turkish troops, the advance party on the 29th and the main body on the 30th,
and sailed late on the latter day for the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the British Crown Colony of Aden. Fueling at Aden, General Nelson M. Walker
then proceeded on to Korea, arriving at Pusan on 21 August, her arrival greeted by various high-ranking military officers and United Nations
consular officials, as well as ranking members of South Korean President Syngman Rhee's cabinet. President Rhee later arrived and made a speech
welcoming the Greek and Turkish troops to Korea. The following day, the transport sailed for Sasebo, Yokohama, and San Francisco, reaching "Frisco"
on 5 September after an absence of some 95 days. Her odyssey had taken her through the Central Pacific, the Caribbean, the North Atlantic, the North Sea,
the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean Philippine and South China Seas, as well as the East China Sea, the fellow Sea, and the Northern Pacific,
steaming some 34,575 miles and carrying a total of 17,907 people. Significant in this voyage was the fact that that lift "brought together, within the close
and limited confines of a troopship, members of the Armed Forces of two nations (Greece and Turkey) whose traditional enmity extended
over the centuries." The voyage, however, had proved an unqualified success on all counts.
General Nelson M. Walker soon resumed her transpacific trips, making two more round-trip voyages to and from San Francisco and being in mid-voyage
on a third by the time the year 1952 was through. During 1953, the transport conducted eight voyages, a period of time highlighted by her bringing back
to the United States the first group of 328 returning American prisoners of war from the Korean conflict. Over the next few years, General Nelson M. Walker
maintained her regular schedule of voyages to Far Eastern ports, her ports of call including Kobe Sasebo, Inchon, Yokohama, Pusan, San Francisco,
San Diego, and, on one occasion, the island of Midway, through the end of 1955, and into 1956. Departing Monterey, Calif., on 10 January 1957,
the transport sailed for Panama. She transited the canal on 17-18 January, and continued on for Bremerhaven, making arrival there on 28 January.
Clearing that Port on 5 February, she sailed via Dover, England, for New York, arriving on 14 February.
Two days after her arrival, on 16 February 1957, Commander MSTS, Atlantic, assumed administrative control of the ship, and she was placed
in ready reserve status. Records indicate that she was to be withdrawn from that inactive status on 5 June 1958, apparently to be inactivated
and turned over to the Maritime Administration (MarAd) for lay up, and that she was placed in MarAd's reserve fleet on 20 January 1959,
in the Hudson River berthing area (Jones Point), near New York City.
Reacquired by the Navy on 14 August 1965 and reinstated on the Naval Vessel Register on the same date, General Nelson M. Walker
was taken out of the National Defense Reserve Fleet in August 1965 and reactivated as part of the buildup of naval forces for the Vietnam War.
She was assigned to MSTS (Pacific) for trooplifts to Southeast Asia. On 1 February 1966, while returning from that area of the world,
she was summoned to stormy seas northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. SS Gainesville Victory, in attempting to aid the foundering Liberian-registry freighter
SS Rockport, had suffered casualties when a Lyle gun had exploded as she had attempted to get a line to Rockport. General Nelson M. Walker
provided medical advice, seas being too rough to permit transfer of a doctor, that sufficed until the ship could reach Midway where better medical facilities
were available. The transport stood by and, less than 12 hours after she had arrived on the scene, had rescued all 27 men from the sinking Rockport.
After operating with MSTS (Pacific) through the end of 1967, she was ultimately deactivated once again and placed in reserve at the
Caven Point Army Depot in New York harbor, in early 1968. General Nelson M. Walker was transferred to MarAd on 16 April 1970 and laid up
in the James River (Va.) berthing area. General Nelson M. Walker was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in January 1981;
she remained in the James River berthing area into 1987.
from: Navy History .com
A halftone reproduction
of a photograph of USS Admiral H.T. Mayo
(AP-125) circa 1945, probably in San Francisco Bay,
Copied from the book "Troopships of World War 11", By Roland W. Charles.
US Navy photo # NH 104637 from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center
courtesy of Robert Hurst
USS Admiral H.T. Mayo
(AP-125) coming alongside Pier 15 at Fort Mason, San Francisco,
CA. between September 1945
and January 1946 bringing servicemen home from the western Pacific. Many of her approximately 5,000 passengers are topsides
watching her arrival. Note the two 5"/38 guns on her stern; she had two more forward.
US Navy photo # NH 98759, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center, donation of BM1 Robert G. Tippins, USN Ret., 2003.
US Naval Historical Center
USAT General Nelson M.
Walker underway, circa 1947, location unknown.
Photo taken during the ship's service with the United States Army
US Navy photo # NH 57742 US Naval Historical Center
USNS General Nelson M.
Above graphic from NavSource:
Photographic History Of The U.S. Navy
The Vietnam Graffiti Project
The Vietnam Graffiti Project, a non-profit 501
( C ) ( 3 ) Virginia-based organization, was established in 1997
by Art and Lee Beltrone
of Keswick, VA to preserve historic Vietnam War artifacts they found aboard the troopship General Nelson M. Walker.
The grass roots volunteer project was formed to the assist the Maritime Administration with removal of artifacts, including graffiti-inscribed
berthing unit canvases, and transferal to museums throughout the country. Recipients included the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution,
museums of the military services, and state and local historical societies.
In 2005, the Walker was scrapped in Brownsville, Texas and project volunteers recovered hundreds of graffiti-marked canvases
and other artifacts for the VGPs Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam exhibit. The exhibit was developed in partnership
with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
The VGP continues to find and interview soldiers and Marines who went to Vietnam aboard the Walker and other troopships.
Audio interviews of troop passengers are conducted with assistance from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
Voyage stories are included in the Marking Time exhibit and will be shared with military history repositories.
The troopship General Nelson M. Walker transported soldiers and Marines to Vietnam from West Coast ports like Tacoma,
San Francisco and San Diego. Voyages of over 5,000 miles, lasted from 18 to 23 days.
Enlisted men, most in their late teens, slept on canvas bunks in the ships lower-level, crowded berthing compartments.
It was here where the graffiti was created, mostly on outbound voyages, but sometimes on a return voyage.
Officers were quartered in smaller and more comfortable rooms on the upper, main deck. Virtually no graffiti was left in these areas.
Voyages caused homesickness, seasickness, anxiety and boredom. Some men found ways to relax and share humor.
Lifeboat drills, classes, church services, movies, music, reading and talking to fellow soldiers helped pass the time.
The closer the men got to Vietnam the hotter it
became aboard ship, especially in the lower-level compartments
where there was little air circulation.
Open portholes in troop compartments above the waterline provided some fresh air to those berthing areas.
Crowded conditions aboard ship created delays that lasted hours. The slogan hurry up and wait was never more meaningful.
Long lines formed for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the ships mess halls. Seemingly endless lines formed to reach the ships store
where candy, cigarettes and other personal items could be purchased.
The ship often stopped at Okinawa for fuel and supplies. Troops usually were granted a short period of liberty, or leave,
before continuing to Vietnam, just days away.
Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam
is the Vietnam Graffiti Projects national touring exhibit,
featuring artifacts from the troopship General Nelson M. Walker.
Included in the exhibit is an original
eight-person berthing (bunk) unit recovered from the ship.
It is outfitted with original bedding and bright, orange-colored life vests found on the Walker when the vessel was scrapped in 2005.
Historic graffiti-inscribed berthing canvases are included for wall display, and personal stories of soldiers and Marines
who made voyages from late 1965 to the end of 1967 can be heard at audio stations.
Canvases with graffiti representing states where the exhibit appears are used whenever available.
Small artifacts include personal items left behind by soldiers and Marines on their way to Vietnam.
Ship safety objects and cleaning supplies are exhibited to interpret the voyage experience.
The VGPs Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam traveling exhibit opened in 2007 at the United States Navy Memorial, Washington, DC,
and has since appeared at venues throughout the nation. Two traveling exhibit units, each featuring an original eight-person berthing (bunk) unit,
graffiti-inscribed canvases and artifacts, are currently touring the country.
Source: the Vietnam Grafitti Project website
Part of the exhibit from Marking
Time: Voyage to Vietnam
Photo from the Vietnam Grafitti Project website
An eight person berthing unit from the
Photo from the Vietnam Grafitti Project website
Grafitti inscribed berthing canvas from
Photo from the Vietnam Grafitti Project website
Life preserver from the
Photo from the Vietnam Grafitti Project website
LT Robert Babcock and Company B 1/22
Infantry prepare to board the Walker
for the trip to Vietnam July 21, 1966
Photo courtesy of Bob Babcock
First Aid kit from the Walker -
First Aid kit from the Walker -
Contents of First Aid kit from the Walker
This kit is in the collection
Photos by Michael Belis
The rust streaked GENERAL NELSON M.
WALKER is freed from layup and is shown under tow on the James
as she heads for the breakers at Brownsville, TX.
Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2005.
The Walker joined the Maritime Administration's
James River, Virginia, reserve fleet in April 1970 and was
formally transferred to the
Maritime Administration in July 1971. The transport was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in January 1981 to clear the way
for transfer to a private organization for operation as a hospital ship, but the transfer did not materialize. In December 1994 the Navy passed
full ownership of the ship to the Maritime Administration, which put her on indefinite hold for possible use in civil emergencies. The hold was lifted
in September 1998 and the ship was ready for disposal by June 2001. In January 2005, nearly a half-century after completion, General Nelson M. Walker
was towed out of the James River Reserve Fleet en route to All Star Metals, Brownsville, Texas where she was broken up for scrap.
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