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

28 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

  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?

  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 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

  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

  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.

  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.


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