From: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Hermitage I

Displacement 24,465
Length 555'
Beam 66'1"
Draw 27'
Speed 20 k
Complement 909
Armament 1 5", 6 3"

Hermitage (AP-54), ex-SS Gonte Biancamano, was launched in 1925 by the William Beardman & Co. Ltd., Glasgow; sailed as a luxury liner for Lloyd Triestino So. Anon. di Nav. of Italy, was- interned at Balboa, Canal Zone, when Italy declared war on the United States; converted to a transport by Cramp Shipbuilding Co., Philadelphia; and commissioned 14 August 1942, Captain Donald F. Patterson in command.

Embarking 5,600 army troops and sailors, on 2 November Hermitage departed New York with her skipper acting as convoy commodore. Six days later the North African invasion began, and Hermitage on 10-25 November debarked her passengers at Casablanca to participate in the momentous campaign. Returning to Norfolk 11 December, Hermitage next headed for the Pacific with nearly 6,000 passengers embarked. After embarking and debarking passengers at Balboa, Noumea, Brisbane, Sydney, Pago Pago, and Honolulu, the former luxury liner put in at San Francisco 2 March 1943.

Hermitage's next swing westward, begun 27 March took her to Wellington, New Zealand; Melbourne; and Bombay. At Bombay she embarked some 707 Polish refugees, including nearly a hundred children, for a voyage back to California which ended 25 June. In the next year Hermitage made three similar cruises through the South Pacific, with battle-bound marines, soldiers and sailors, civilians, and Chinese and Indian refugees among her diversified passengers. Hermitage reached New York 28 May from the South Pacific via Noumea, Goodenough Island, and the Panama Canal.

Departing New York 16 June 1944 with over 6,000 passengers, most of them bound for the invasion of Europe just begun at Normandy, Hermitage sailed to Liverpool and Belfast to debark the troops before returning to New York 12 July. From then until the end of the war she made 10 more such voyages, principally to Le Havre, to bring replacements to the European theater and transport wounded Allied soldiers and prisoners of war back to the States. V-E Day, 8 May 1945, found Hermitage part of the celebration in Le Havre harbor as Allied ships greeted the end of 6 years of war with a cacophony of bells, whistles and sirens screaming through air illuminated by hundreds of signal flares and rockets.

War's end did not mean the end of Hermitage's duty as she continued to cross the Atlantic, this time bringing veterans home through December. Departing New York 12 December, the well-traveled transport sailed to Nagoya, Japan to embark some 6,000 homeward bound veterans and return to Seattle 4 February 1946. Assigned to the San Francisco-Marianas run for Operation `'Magic Carpet," the return of thousands of Pacific troops, she made three further voyages before decommissioning at San Francisco 20 August 1946. While serving the Navy, the former luxury liner had sailed approximately 230,000 miles and transported 129,695 passengers, including American, British, Australian, French, and Netherlands fighting men as well as Chinese, American, Polish, and British civilians and German and Italian prisoners. Hermitage was returned to the Italian Government in May 1947.