Ship: USS General Harry Taylor

The USNS General Harry Taylor

The USNS General Harry Taylor

The USS General Harry Taylor was built in 1943 by Kaiser Co. Inc in Richmond, California. She was named for the US Army Chief of Engineers Harry Taylor.

Like the Langfitt, she was originally a troop transport during the war. When the war was over, the Navy decommissioned her. But on March 1, 1950, the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) reactivated her to help transport refugees and troops from Europe, back to the Americas or elsewhere in the world.

In 1957, she carried thousands of Hungarian refugees to Australia during the Hungarian Revolution for a year, then was deactivated once again in 1958. In 1961 she was transferred to the US Air Force and renamed the USAFS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. In 1964, the Navy acquired her and she was designated T-AGM-10, as a Missile Range Instrumentation Ship, carrying out duties in both Atlantic and Pacific waters until 1993, when she was stricken from the Naval register.

In 1998, the movie “Virus”  shot some scenes aboard the ex-General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. The ship was supposed to be a Russian vessel known as the Akademik Vladislav Volkov.

On Wednesday, May 27, 2009, she was sunk off the coast of Florida, in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, used as an artificial reef. You can still see some of the Cyrillic lettering painted on the hull from the movie filming to this day.

The USS General Harry Taylor carried Janis Akerfelds and his family, minus his eldest two sons, to Berthoud, Colorado, USA on August 12, 1950 from Bremerhaven, Germany.

a diver explores the sunken General Hoyt Vandenburg

a diver explores the sunken General Hoyt Vandenburg


51 thoughts on “Ship: USS General Harry Taylor

  1. My name is Audris Zidermanis. I was born in Riga, Latvia. After WWII, I spent approximately seven years in D.P camps in Germany. I also came to the U.S. via USNS General Harry Taylor in 1950. Can you give me the name of your port of entry? Mine was New Orleans. We may have been on the ship at the same time.

    • Hi Audris!
      My family’s port of arrival was New York. It looks like the Harry Taylor made at least 4 trips to New York with Latvian refugees in 1950, landing on 20 Apr, 23 Aug, 23 Oct and 28 Dec. My family was on the 23 Aug trip. Do you know the date of your arrival?
      What DP camps were you in?

    • Hello! I was reviewing audio tapes from my late father, Gunars Valdis Pencis. He thought that the family came over on board the USS Hersey, but the information here seems to match exactly! They came from Bremerhaven Germany in 1950 into the port of New Orleans. They were then taken by train to Berthoud Colorado and then eventually to Colorado Springs. My grandmother, Elvira Alise Olga Pencis (Kalnins), still lives there today! Does anybody have the manifest or passenger list? I was looking into ordering a copy to confirm this arrival and ship information… Maybe they were on the USS Taylor!

      • My parents came over to New York on the USS Taylor and arrived on 1-27-1952. If you want a passenger list you can get one from for free

      • Used to be able to search on line for any ships manifest. cornered the market on everything related including ships manifests. I found the Taylor from January 1951 on line many years ago. The next time I went to look it had been taken off line (free) and reappeared in Ancestry (pay).

  2. In connection with my genealogical work I today found that a certain Prof. Nikolajs Vetra and his wife Helga – accompanied by 2 sons from her previous marriage – arrived at New York in 1951 by “General Harry Taylor”. They came from Germany, where hey maried after WW II – but both are of Latvian roots (Riga).

    • My mother’s name is also Helga and we (two brothers, two sisters) also came to the U.S., via “General Taylor, in1950. Our port of entry was New Orleans. My dad never made it out. Wes spent seven years in camps in the British Zone. I was also born in Riga.

      • This sounds identical to what my father has told me! Spent many years in the British zone and my dad and his brothers were split up at some point and sent to live in Belgium. My dad, Gunars, was born in Daugavpils, but they lived in Riga (on Krisjana Barona iela) when they fled. His mother is from Cesis. His father is from Valka. I took my dad “home” in 2012 and got to fill in a lot of blanks. But the travel to the states is still missing some things… Did you also go to Colorado when you got to New Orleans?

    • Peter,

      If you are still looking for genealogy info on Vetra I can offer some help if needed. They were my grandparents and one of the sons is my father Andris Veidemanis who lives in the Chicago area. They indeed are all Latvian however, if you are German and that came up in your search it may be because Helga was married to a Baltic German named von mensenkampff. He died in the war near Poznan in Poland. If your family is related to von Mensenkampff and are looking for more information then feel free to post a reply.


  3. After landing in New Orleans, we boarded a train to Dallas, TX. I would still like to find a list of the individuals that were transported from Germany, via General Taylor to New Orleans. I would like to think that some of them are still alive and could fill in some details in my own personal journey to the U.S.

    • My mother and I came to NYC in March 1952. We left from Bremerhaven. We hit bad weather. I was 6 and did not get sick but, oh boy, many of the other passengers! I recall 3 bunk beds 1 on top of the other. I’m glad to be in the USA but it would be interesting to know how different my life might have been had I stayed in Germany.

      • Fred, We went to the port of New York from Bremerhaven in 1952 and there was also very bad weather but I don’t know what month it was. I was 4 at the time and stayed in America for 57 years. I moved back to Germany 4 years ago and haven’t regretted it at all. My wife and I moved to a beautiful valley about an hour south of Stuttgart. My parents moved back after 25 years because my mom got stabbed in the neck for 2 dollars and their house got torched 2 weeks later. They lived in Detroit. I was pretty successful until 2008, when the economy went bad. I will never go back to the US unless to a funeral, when one of my siblings dies.

  4. Hello,
    My name is Vladimir Lipsky. I was born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia in 1941. My father was an officer in the Russian White army during the Russian revolution. My family fled from Czechoslovakia to southern Germany in April 1945 as the Soviet troops were overrunning Czechoslovakia and Hungary. My family (my 2 sisters and parents) lived in refugee camp in Germany (- Mayerhof in Passau – American zone) from 1945 to 1949.

    We were transported from the Mayerhof camp to Naples where we boarded the Harry Taylor troopship around 1st July 1949 and arrived in Sydney Australia on July 29, 1949.

    For me as an 8 year old boy, the journey on the Harry Taylor was like going to heaven.

    My e-mail address is If anyone would like to write to me and maybe we can share a few stories of those days – days which no one should relive again.

  5. We live in Rochester, New York. I met my wife in college on Long Island in the late 60’s. My wife, Lisa at the age of 23 months, her brother, Alex 5 years old and her parents arrived in NY harbor on January 22, 1951 aboard the General Harry Taylor after leaving from Bremerhaven 10 days earlier. We did find the entries on the ships manifest many years ago. It is not as easy to find today due to Ancestry acquiring most documents and so it becomes a little costly to find. We were able to board the ship as it was being cleaned of all contaminants at the Colonna Ship yards in Norfolk, prior to it being towed to Key West.
    We followed on line the ultimate sinking of the Hoyt S Vandenberg and we were on board a ship organized to transport many of the passengers and service men to observe the ship being put to rest on the bottom of the ocean in Key West. A very moving ceremony for those attending. A Navel Chaplain said a prayer as she slipped below the waves. She lies in 150 feet of water so it is an easy dive for recreational scuba diver. Numerous on line accounts and photos as well as many YouTube videos. This ship had a very remarkable history.

  6. I am Estonian. I came to USA on the Gen Taylor November 9,1949. 10 day trip from Bremerhaven. I always thought we landed in Jersey City harbor and took a train to Jenkintown,Pa. I was 5, recently an older boy at the time told me he landed in NYC. Still researching the ships dock site.

    • I am German. My mother and I came to the United States in March. 1952. I was 6 years old at the time. We left from Bremerhaven and docked in Manhattan.

  7. I just found an old roll of film. After getting it developed, I found photos of people on the USS General Harry Taylor. I would like to get these to the families of the people in them. Is there any place that I can post them that families of the passengers may find them?

    • Interesting!
      I’m not sure the best route to go with that… do you know a time period? Place? Are they official photos likely taken by the company of the ship or are they a passenger’s candid personal photos? You could post them publicly yourself and then advertise the fact on some genealogy sites… but in terms of an organization to contact.. depends on the answers above!

      • They are candid personal photos. One picture is of a lady standing in front of the name of the ship, that is how I know that information. The pictures look to be from late 1940’s early 1950’s.

      • I would be interested in viewing these photos. My parents and sister and I arrived from Bremerhaven, Germany to NY on Harry Taylor. My father was a POW, Corporal Polish Army. Mother in Forced Laborer Camp. Both were married at USAFE Military Base. We are listed on on ship manifest as Wiktor Kulkowski and Julianna Kulkowska, Danuta Z. and Wiktoria A. Kulkowska.
        Can be reached at

    • I would be very interested in the photos. My family arrived at Ellis Island on the USNS General Harry Taylor in 1951. I believe it was in January. My name at the time was Johanna Ptaschek.

      • My father Iwan Zowniriw came to the US on 10 Dec 1949 on the General Harry Taylor. He is Ukrainian but he manifest states that he was Polish. He sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany to New York City. He was 28 years old at that time.
        Thank you so much.
        Irene Bricker

    • Hi, I would be intrested in seeing the photos I am hopeing that my parents may be in one of them. If your sending them out please I would enjoy seeing them. Thank you

      • That wold be great to see if my mother or father was in them. Mom crossed in 1951, and dad crossed over in 1949!

      • If the pictures are from a crossing made in 1950, I maybe in those pictures. This would be very interesting!

  8. I am German. I was 4 years old when my family left Bremerhaven on April 17, 1952. We arrived in NYC 10 days later. I was told that we went thru Ellis Island, but I don’t believe that we did. I think that we sailed into the Port of New York, processed in, then put on a train bound for Batesville, Indiana. Does anyone out there know for sure if we would have gone thru Ellis Island?

    • Follow this linkMost likely you did not. The Harry Taylor continued to ferry troops after the war then displaced persons, immigrants into New York harbor and docking at one of the traditional ports in the Hudson. One arrival I am familiar with was on January 22, 1951. It was not into Ellis Island. The ship you arrived on is a natural diving reef in Key West Florida. There was a name change to the Vandenberg and you will be able to learn much more by searching that name. Follow this link: Sent from my iPhone


    • My mother and I came on the same ship from Bremerhaven in March 1952. We did not come through Ellis. We landed on the west side of Manhattan.

      Fred Musch

      • My family came to New York in March 1952 on the General Taylor. Would love reply.

  9. My uncle, who was 10 years old at the time and grandmother who was 30 years old at that time, left Bremerhaven on the General Harry Taylor and ported in New York on October 23rd, 1950. They both are Lithuanian.

  10. My Russian parents, my younger sister Anne, and I came to New York from Bremerhaven on October 4, 1951 on the General Harry Taylor. (My mother’s father was Latvian but I never knew him. He died in Russia in 1938.) I remember our stormy voyage, which I found very exciting at age 6. Mama and Anne were sick for most of the trip. Papa had bronchitis. We were terribly excited when we saw the Statue of Liberty. I can remember how NY smelled and how the canned orange juice we were offered tasted (sour). It was nothing like Germany! Thank you for making this trip down memory lane possible.

    • Hello Ellen,
      I stumbled upon your post after wanting to get more information on the General Harry Taylor.

      My grandson, Kyle, is writing a report on immigration and I have information that I and my parents came to the USA on the same boat, as yourself, the “General Harry Taylor,” docking in New York on October 4th 1951 and leaving Bremerhaven Sept. 24, 1951. My parents had saved a ” A rememberance brochure” of their journey. I also have the last newspaper article written before their arrival date. Iwas 5 years old turning 6 That same month of October. I don,t member too much only bits and pieces of the trip. How old were you? So happy to meet another fellow passenger!

      Best Regards, Camilla

      • Hi, Camilla. How wonderful to hear from another passenger after all these years! I was six years old, nearly seven, so just a little older than you. My sister was two years younger and remembers nothing, unfortunately. I’d love to know more about the “remembrance brochure.” Are you in Canada or the U.S.? I’m in California now. My daughter lives in NY and just went yesterday to look at the apartment building we lived in during our first year there. It was quite a change from Celle, the small German town I grew up in! Where did you live in Germany?


      • Hi Ellen,
        Very happy to share with you again. The “remembrance brochure” was actually entitled “Zur Erinnerung an Unsere Reise nach U.S.A. Mit den USNS “General Harry Taylor” Von Bremerhaven nach New York. 24.9.1945 – 4.10.1945. The brochure is a diary of the first few days on board 9-24 thru 9-26 plus information conserning the ship and the officers in charge of the voyage. It was signed by Dr. Edwin Weisberger. I would be very happy to send you a copy.
        I also have the ship’s newspaper dated 10/3/51. (World current events).

        I live in the USA, Connecticut. I come from Mannheim, Germany. It’s a very large city south of Frankfurt.

        Regards, Camilla

    • I am the son of a Bulgarian immigrant. My father, Thomas, was 2 years old on board this same voyage. My Uncle and Grandparents were on this voyage as well. They settled in New York but soon after moved to Philadelphia where I am currently from. My grandparents both died before I was born and my father does not like to talk about his past. My grandfather was a high officer for the Bulgarian army and nearly escaped execution ordered by the Nazis. I know my Grandmother and Grandfather ended up meeting in a camp and was finally granted refuge. I do not want to provide my name since my family is the only ones in the United states who has this last name. I am just happy after 37 years finding someone who was on the same voyage. May peace be with you!

  11. Thank you all for your stories regarding The General Harry Taylor. My journey was in February 1957 from Bremerhaven to New York City (not Ellis Island). Took us 13 days as we tried to avoid two Atlantic Ocean winter storms. I was 8 years old and remember both my father and I being quite seasick, sitting outside to get fresh air whenever possible. Men and boys were separated from the women and girls for sleeping (bunk beds in large rooms). Arriving in the darkness of the night, it was amazing to see thousands of lights on the horizon …it was New York City. The smell and taste of salt water brings back many memories of the trip.

  12. My mother and I arrived in New York City from Bremerhaven aboard the USS General Harry Taylor on July 17, 1950. I was 5 years old, but I still remember the terrifying journey during a sea storm at night.


  13. My parents, brother and I [age 14] left Bremerhafen on the USS General Harry Taylor on Jan. 18, 1957, arriving 10 days later at New York Harbor. The men were separated in the forward part of the ship were my dad and I occupied bunks, four above one another, on the lowest of the 7 decks. The food was great, with an ice cream bar for dessert each night, but we disliked the soft white bread. It stormed on 2 days and as the bow went up and down 12 feet most of us got sea sick. When you set your food tray on the table it slid down to the other end as you sat down, only a small lip at the edge preventing a spill to the deck. I took a very quick shower because as the ship rolled sideways the water turned from cold to steaming hot most of the time. One night we enjoyed the movie Spencer Mountain with German subtitles in a room so crowded room that all had to stand. The ship arrived at 9 pm and we were greeted by the city’s lit up skyline. We were disembarked the next morning and met by a German speaking friend of our sponsor who took us to the famous Stadtler Hotel. Our gracious sponsor had arranged for him to show us the sights of Manhatten during a 2 day stay. We were overawed and I especially remember looking down from the Empire State building and people on the sidewalk below appearing the size of ants. On leaving by train we could not believe the contrast in the apparent poverty evident from the poor houses as we traveled for about 10 miles to the outskirts of the city. I made a scan of a good color postcard of the ship as a remembrance.

  14. Hello All
    My Father and Mother both came to the U.S on the General harry taylor. My father is Lithuanian from a small town near Kaunas. and my mother is from Perjamosch Rumania. Maiden name of Frank. at 17 yrs. Old dad was taken to Leipzig Germany to work in forced labor milling 88mm shells from 1942 to 45 until the US Entered and took Leipzig. He was fortunate to be in the American zone after that battle. Dad served 4 yrs. in the US Army Labor service battalion engineers Baltic which led the way to being offered to come to the US. Dad came to the US IN 1949 On the Harry Taylor with his best friend Louis Prasmantas. They worked together onboard helping passengers. Mom stayed at least a step ahead of the Russians as they retreated into Germany and Austria, she spent some time in Dachau also. She departed on the ship in 1951 Out of Bremerhaven and on to Cincinnati Ohio to her Aunt Rechtenwald, to work and make money so they could get the rest of the family here which they did. Dad just recently passed away July 2015, and Mom Nov 5th 2015.
    So many stories to tell that they passed down! I would love to share pictures or stories with anyone here,
    I have been in contact with my Dad before he passed with the Zwangsarbiet museum in Leipzig and they chose dads story for the leaflet you receive when you enter the museum. God bless all of you here and thank you for sharing your stories.

  15. My father, Drago Jakovac, came to the US in 1950 aboard the Taylor, arriving in New Orleans. Part of his passage was paid for by helping paint the ship. He was in a DP camp in the Villach area of Austria from 1944-1950. I am interested in finding out more about the DP camps — especially where to access records.

    • My father, mother, sister and I also came to the United States on the Taylor, docking in New Orleans in October, 1950. My mother scrubbed floors and my father peeled potatoes and perhaps also helped paint the ship to cover the cost. We came from Austria and went from DP camp to DP camp until we finally made it to Bremerhaven and left for the United States. They were put on a bus and sent to Culver City, California.

  16. My family came on the USS Harry Taylor from Bremerhaven, Germany at the end of November or first week of December 1951 arriving in New Orleans, Louisiana. From there we went by train to Los Angeles, CA. Trying to find exact date of arrival in New Orleans.

    • I was on the USS Harry Taylor at the same time your family was. Instead of going to Los Angeles, we went by train to Dallas, TX. I am not sure, but I think that the ship arrived in New Orleans around November. Do you have any additional information regarding this arrival. Thanks

      • It was great to hear that other individuals were on the General Tyler that docked in New Orleans in 1950. I am Latvian – fled the Communists from Riga in 1944. We landed in Germany (British Zone) and there lived in several D.P. camps until 1950. The last camp was Emden. In 1950 we sailed from Bremenhaven. In New Orleans we boarded a train and were taken to Dallas, TX. Is there any information if possibly others were on the train and thus live in this part of the U.S. Thanks

  17. Very interesting reading these comments. I came here looking for info on this ship. As a child of a U.S. Army serviceman I travelled with my family to Germany on the Harry Taylor in September 1956. The omnipresent inescapable grey paint smell made me sick before we even left New York port. The “treatment” for seasickness was a diet of saltine crackers and Coca Cola syrup. I recall the lounge facility, which was a room with some sofas, some paperback books, and a piano – pretty basic. In rough weather, the engine made a hell of a banging noise – my father said this was when the propeller came out of the water. I remember too the challenge of trying to keep the shower water at some reasonable temperature. Sometimes the radio man would pipe in a BBC program to the lounge. Today, I would pay good money to experience again that Atlantic crossing, exactly as it was then.

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