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HMS Reaper and its Legacy

Updated on October 19, 2015
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HMS Reaper 1944
HMS Reaper 1944
HMS Reaper 1944 | Source

HMS Reaper in Wartime Service

The Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Company laid down the ship that would become the HMS REAPER on June 5, 1943. The ship was to be the US Navy escort carrier USS WINJAH. Within the month the decision was made to transfer the ship when completed to the Royal Navy as a Lend Lease agreement. The ship was launched on November 22, 1943. Royal Navy Captain J.F.H. Sawyer took command of the HMS REAPER on February 18, 1944. On February 21 she was commissioned as the HMS REAPER (D82).[i]

On May 25, 1944 Able Seaman Thomas J. Holland died from injuries. The HMS REAPER began its maiden voyage in June. Its mission was to ferry aircraft to the Gibraltar. After offloading the aircraft the REAPER sailed to Norfolk. There 36 F4U Corsairs and personnel of 1849 & 1850 NAC boarded the REAPER. It sailed as an escort with convoy MKF 034 from September 10 to September 14 and with convoy GUS 056 from October 28 to November 15.[ii] On December 9 the REAPER collided with the Dutch Troopship TEGELBURG.[iii] On May 9, 1945 Steward Lewis Clarkson died of an illness. [iv]

On July 19, 1945 the REAPER sailed on its most famous voyage. At Cherbourg, France it took on 40 airframes. These were 39 German aircraft and one P-51 Mustang. The REAPER docked at pier 14 in New York Harbor on July 31st.

[i] Royal Navy Research Archive (http://www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk/ESCORT/REAPER.htm#.VT7I89JVhBc)

[ii] Naval History Net (http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-05CVE-Reaper.htm)

[iii] Royal Navy Research Archive (http://www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk/ESCORT/REAPER.htm#.VT7I89JVhBc)

[iv] Royal Navy Research Archive (http://www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk/ESCORT/REAPER.htm#.VT7I89JVhBc)

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The SS South Africa Star, formerly the HMS Reaper.
The SS South Africa Star, formerly the HMS Reaper.
The SS South Africa Star, formerly the HMS Reaper. | Source

Postwar Service

The REAPER was ferrying Avengers, Corsairs, and passengers to Sydney, Australia when the war ended. After unloading its planes and passengers the ship underwent some “deficit rectification”. Leading Seaman Hilary Cope died from unspecified causes on September 18th. On September 28, 1945 the REAPER left for Hong Kong. Its mission was to deliver relief supplies and to pick up former Prisoners of War (POWs) and civilian internees and bring them to Australia. On its next voyage it took New Zealand military personnel from Australia to New Zealand and in New Zealand picked up 203 British POWs and civilians and took them back to the United Kingdom. Its voyage to the UK involved stops in Singapore and Bermuda. When it stopped in Bermuda it dropped off Admiral Sir Ralph Leatham who assumed his post as the new Governor of Bermuda. The Royal Navy decommissioned the HMS REAPER on May 13, 1946 and returned it to the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Navy sold her to the Blue Star Line, Ltd. on February 12, 1947. The Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation converted the ship for merchant service. It served as the merchant ship SS SOUTH AFRICA STAR from 1948 until 1967. Nichimen Jitsugyo K.K. purchased the ship and in May 1967 scrapped it in Nikara, Japan.[i]

[i] Navsource (http://www.navsource.org/archives/03/054.htm)

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The Junkers Ju-388 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper.  In deep storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility, May 1998.  It is the sole surviving Ju-388.A Bucker Bu-181 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998.  It still has its T2 number 4611 on its fuselage.  The HMS Reaper brought 2 Bu-181s to the U.S.. The Tank Ta-152 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper at the Paul E. Garber Facility.  It is the last Ta-152.  The Fw-190F brought over on the HMS Reaper.  Fully restored and on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010.  The surviving Ar-234 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper.  Fully restored and on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010.The He-219 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper, currently under restoration.  The Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010.Me-262 at the National Air & Space Museum.  One of the Me-262s brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper.
The Junkers Ju-388 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper.  In deep storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility, May 1998.  It is the sole surviving Ju-388.
The Junkers Ju-388 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper. In deep storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility, May 1998. It is the sole surviving Ju-388. | Source
A Bucker Bu-181 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998.  It still has its T2 number 4611 on its fuselage.  The HMS Reaper brought 2 Bu-181s to the U.S..
A Bucker Bu-181 at the Paul E. Garber facility, May 1998. It still has its T2 number 4611 on its fuselage. The HMS Reaper brought 2 Bu-181s to the U.S.. | Source
The Tank Ta-152 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper at the Paul E. Garber Facility.  It is the last Ta-152.
The Tank Ta-152 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper at the Paul E. Garber Facility. It is the last Ta-152. | Source
The Fw-190F brought over on the HMS Reaper.  Fully restored and on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010.
The Fw-190F brought over on the HMS Reaper. Fully restored and on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010. | Source
The surviving Ar-234 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper.  Fully restored and on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010.
The surviving Ar-234 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper. Fully restored and on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010. | Source
The He-219 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper, currently under restoration.  The Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010.
The He-219 brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper, currently under restoration. The Udvar-Hazy Center, June 2010. | Source
Me-262 at the National Air & Space Museum.  One of the Me-262s brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper.
Me-262 at the National Air & Space Museum. One of the Me-262s brought to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper. | Source

HMS Reaper's Legacy

The lasting legacy of the REAPER is the surviving Luftwaffe aircraft it brought to the United States. Most of these surviving aircraft belong to the Smithsonian. Some of them have been restored to mint condition and are on display, some aircraft are undergoing restoration, and other aircraft are in storage in various states of disrepair. The other surviving aircraft are at the Air Force Museum in Ohio or other aviation museums in the United States.

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    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 2 years ago

      That's a good observation.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      The ship had a short but colourful history. She may not have seen much action but she helped men who had seen and done so much to get home to their loved ones

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      The ship had a short but colourful history. She may not have seen much action but she helped men who had seen and done so much to get home to their loved ones