Originally built as a civilian passenger-cargo ship at Newport News, Virginia during 1939-1941, the USS President Hayes (AP-39) displaced 16,000 tons. The Navy took possession in July 1941 and commissioned her on December 15.
She soon went to the Pacific to evacuate non-essential personnel from the Hawaiian Islands to the American west coast. The ship also conducted amphibious exercises. The President Hayes left for the south Pacific in July and was part of the invasion fleet that put Marines and supplies ashore on Tulagi in August. She constantly supported the American mission on Guadalcanal until the Japanese left that island in February 1943. The Navy then reclassified her to an attack transport and assigned the new hull number APA-20.
The transport’s service at sea continued through 1943 and into 1944. In addition to her duties carrying supplies and men, she also landed troops on Rendova Island in the Solomons in July 1943, Bougainville in November 1943, and Emirau in the Bismarck Archipelago in March 1944. She served in the central Pacific, the Philippines, and was part of the invasion forces at Guam in July 1944 and Leyte in October. In 1945, her service included the Okinawa campaign and providing transportation for supplies and men. After the Japanese surrendered 1n September 1945, she supported the occupation of Japan and brought American veterans home as part of Operation “Magic Carpet.”
From early 1946 until the Navy decommissioned her in June 1949, the President Hayes carried American service personnel and their dependents around the Pacific. The Navy transferred her from the Navy’s Pacific Reserve Fleet to the Maritime Administration in October 1958 and stayed in “mothballs” until the government sold her for scrap in February 1973.