Built in 1921 as Buckeye State for the US Shipping Board by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Sparrows Point, MD. In 1922 renamed President Taft and purchased by the Dollar Line in 1923. Transferred in 1938 from the Dollar Line to American President Lines.
Received by the Army from the owners at San Francisco in June. Immediately put into service from San Francisco to Manila (via Honolulu and Guam) and completed two trips as well as sailing intermediate voyages to Hawaii and Alaska as President Taft.
Hurriedly converted in September to carry more troops and renamed Willard A. Holbrook in honor of Major General Williard Ames Holbrook (former Chief of Cavalry).
During her third trip Manila in late November/early December, the Willard A. Holbrook was informed via radio that war had begun and proceeded instead to Darwin, Australia.
She departed Brisbane in February for Melbourne and Fremantle before sailing north for Bombay and Colombo. From there the Willard A. Holbrook returned to Adelaide (with stops at Sydney and Wellington) before proceeding to Los Angeles in June. After ungoing repairs at San Francisco, she departed in November for a voyage calling at Hawaii, Noumea, Fiji, Guadalcanal, and Efate before returning to San Francisco in February 1943.
After returning to San Francisco in February, the Willard A. Holbrook would make three more trips to Australia before the end of 1943.
Underwent major voyage repairs at San Francisco during January before sailing to Guadalcanal and Auckland. In April she departed from Seattle for a voyage calling at Honolulu, Funafuti, Finschhafen, Milne Bay, Townsville and Hollandia before returning in November only to leave almost immediately for another trip to the Southwest Pacific.
The Willard A. Holbrook was selected in February for conversion to a hospital ship. She sailed to New Orleans (via the Panama Canal)
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