USS New Kent (APA-217) was a Haskell-class attack transport built and used by the US Navy in World War II. She was a Victory ship design, VC2-S-AP5. She was named after New Kent County, Virginia, USA.
The New Kent was outfitted at the Naval Supply Depot, Oakland, California. The ship remained in the San Francisco Bay area until 8 December 1944 at which time she left the area, proceeding to San Pedro and later San Diego where she completed a shakedown period and engaged in amphibious training.
On 20 January 1945 the New Kent left San Diego with the January replacements for the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing and cargo destined for Majuro and Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. The New Kent arrived at Pearl Harbor on 26 January and departed on 30 January en-route for Majuro escorted by PO-825. While underway, the escort in attempting to regain proper station, rammed the New Kent amidships sustaining severe damage to herself but was able to proceed under her own power to Pearl Harbor. The New Kent proceeded to Majuro arriving on 6 February and left 7 February arriving at Kwajalein the following day.
After delivering her troops and cargo the New Kent left Kwajalein on 10 February, arriving at Guadalcanal on 13 February. From this time until 15 March the ship was engaged in combat loading troops and equipment of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division and in rehearsal exercises in the Guadalcanal-Russell Islands area preparing for the invasion of Okinawa.
On 15 March the New Kent departed the Guadalcanal area, and after a short stop at Ulithi, arrived off the western beaches of Okinawa on the morning of L-Day, 1 April. Landing her troops that afternoon, the New Kent sent a beach party ashore the next day and then remained in the transport area, subject to frequent enemy air attack, until departing in convoy for Pearl Harbor on 7 April. After stopping en-route at Guam, the convoy reached Pearl Harbor on 23 April.
The New Kent remained in the Hawaiian Islands for one month, engaged in amphibious training exercises off Hawaii and in air-submarine exercises off Nihoa until 29 May. She then loaded and sailed for San Francisco arriving there on 4 June and then sailed up the coast arriving at Seattle 6 June. She then proceeded to the Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington arriving on 8 June. Repairs were to be made to the ship however because of a strike in the yards, little work was accomplished and the ship was moved to Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington where the ship underwent overhaul until 26 June.
On 26 June the New Kent loaded general cargo and Army Casual troops at Seattle and departed for Honolulu arriving there on 3 July. The ship then sailed for San Francisco on 5 July with 300 Japanese prisoners of war along with Army and Navy Casual personnel, arriving on 11 July. While at San Francisco the New Kent had her berthing compartments enlarged to accommodate more troops.
The New Kent sailed for Leyte on 28 July, with Army casual troops and cargo, stopping en-route at Eniwetok and Ulithi, arriving at San Pedro Bay, Leyte on 17 August. While at sea word had been received that Japan had accepted terms of surrender. The New Kent remained in the Philippines for a little more than a month transporting Army troops to various positions on Luzon.
On 23 August she sailed for Manila arriving there 25 August and on 29 August the ship proceeded to Subic Bay, returning the same day. On 9 September the New Kent sailed in convoy from Manila for Lingayen Gulf and arrived at Aringay Point, Lingayen Gulf the next day. During the period between 10-16 September, the ship was combat loaded with troops and equipment of the 3rd Battalion, 136th Regiment, 33rd Infantry Division, 6th Army and attached units and engaged in rehearsal and training exercises in connection with the forthcoming landing at Wakayama, Honshū, Japan.
The New Kent, in company with other transports, left Lingayen Gulf on 20 September for Wakayama, Japan, where it arrived during the early morning of 25 September. Unloading it’s occupation troops the next day the New Kent then sailed for Subic Bay the same afternoon, arriving 1 October, and then proceeding the same day for Leyte, arriving 3 October.
The New Kent departed Leyte on 7 October and arrived in Davao Gulf on the following day. She moved to Talomo Bay, Davao Gulf on 9 October and departed 15 October, having embarked the 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry RCT, 24th Infantry Division and attached units bound for Okayama, Japan. The convoy arrived off Hiro-wan, Japan on 21 October, and the troops and cargo were discharged during the next two days. During the week spent in Japan, sightseeing parties from the ship visited the nearby large Japanese naval base at Kure as well as the site where the first atomic bomb was dropped at Hiroshima.
The New Kent together with the USS Sibley (APA 206) sailed on 27 October for Manus, Admiralty Islands, arriving there on 3 November. There she embarked 2000 passengers for her first Magic Carpet voyage, to bring the troops home to San Pedro, California, leaving on 5 November. En-route the destination was changed to San Diego, at which port the ship arrived 19 November.
On 26 November, Commander C. F. Swanson, USN, relieved Commander J.E. Baker, USNR, as commanding officer. The New Kent sailed from San Diego on 5 December for Guam, Marianas Islands to make it’s second Magic Carpet run. The ship's destination was again changed, this time to Saipan, Marianas Islands, at which port the ship docked 21 December. After loading 1,980 passengers, the ship sailed for San Pedro, California, destination changed en-route to San Francisco, where the ship arrived on New Year’s Day, 1946. Christmas and New Year’s were celebrated aboard ship with special programs for all hands including a Roman Catholic mass, Christmas carols, Christmas gifts distributed by Santa Claus, and a turkey dinner.