Named after the woods in northeastern France near the Belgian border where the Allies launched a major World War I offensive in the autumn of 1918, the USS Argonne (AP-4, later designated AS-10 and AG-41) was one of 12 8,400-ton transports built at Hog Island, Pennsylvania. With its keel laid in November 1918 and originally named the United States Shipping Board (USSB) Sinsinawa, the U.S. Army launched the ship in February 1920 and accepted her delivery a few months later. The Army decided it did not need the ship and loaned it to the U.S. Navy, which commissioned her on November 8, 1921 as the transport USS Argonne and given the designation AP-4. The transport served in the Navy and selected as a submarine tender in 1924.
The transport was 448-feet long and 58 feet, 3 inches wide. Displacing 8,400 tons unloaded, she displaced 11,400 tons when loaded with a normal cargo. The ship’s company had 398 officers and enlisted men. Her armament had four 5-inch, four 3-inch, and two six-pounder guns. She could stow 1,568 tons of fuel that fed boilers driving two geared steam turbines. The engines generated enough power to two propellers to give the ship a maximum speed 15.5 knots. Her economical cruising speed was eight knots.
The Army formally transferred the ship to the Navy, which converted it to a submarine tender, commissioned her as the AS-10, and assigned the transport to support three submarines. The Argonne’s duties expanded to taking troops to Nicaragua in 1927 and sailing with the Fleet during the annual Fleet Problems.
The transport became the flagship for the Commander Base Force, U.S. Fleet. With that honor, her activities expanded to tending some of the Fleet’s smaller ships such as minesweepers and tugs. She also had to carry a photographic laboratory for photographing the triangulation of the Fleet’s exercises. She went with the Fleet to the Aleutians to survey the islands. The transport also helped withdrawing marines from Haiti in August 1934. The Navy reclassified her to AG-31 in 1940 to more closely what her duties had been since 1930.
The Argonne was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. She fired her 3-inch and 5-inch guns at the assaulting aircraft. Just after she arrived at Nouméa, New Caledonia in August 1942, she became the flagship for the new commander of the South Pacific, Vadm. Robert L. Ghormley, and later for his successor, Vadm. William F. Halsey. Halsey eventually had to transfer his headquarters ashore because the Argonne did not have enough space for his command.
In June 1943, she left Nouméa to assume salvage and repair at other South Pacific locations. The ship steamed to Majuro in the Marshall Islands in April 1944 to support operations in the central Pacific. While anchored at Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralty Islands on November 10, 1944, debris from the exploding ammunition ship Mount Hood fell on her and damaged her. One month later, an accidental depth charge explosion again inflicted more damage. Nevertheless, she stayed on duty. After the Leyte Landings in the Philippines in October 1944, she established a base of operations at Leyte and in the Marshall Islands.
After the Japanese surrendered in September 1945, the transport served in the occupation forces in Japan. After transporting the American troops home from the western Pacific, the Navy decommissioned her in July 1946 and transferred her to the Maritime Commission. Four years later, the government sold her for scrap.