USASOS TRANSHIPMENT PORT CAIRNS
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
Cairns was identified as a major transhipment port to handle much of the war supplies arriving in north Queensland from the USA. Initial plans for the Transhipment Port facilities were quite large, including about 2 kilometres of wharves, 12 wharf stores buildings, over 40 warehouses and drainage, sewerage and camp facilities for approximately 40,000 US troops. In addition various roads and a railway siding were required. The nearby Smith's Creek was to be dredged to a depth of 8.5 metres at low tide and a large turning basin was to be provided.
The Project was downgraded after only 250 metres of wharves had been completed and seven large warehouse built. The roadway to the wharves was built of reinforced concrete and today is part of Aumuller Street. Preliminary work commenced on the Transhipment Port Project in May 1943 and in June 1943 USASOS approved construction of the Project at a cost of $10 Million USD. US Army Engineer Regiments and US Navy Seabees were assisted through the Allied Works Council by the Queensland Main Roads Commission MRC and the Civil Constructional Corps (CCC).
A CCC Camp was established at the corner of Aumuller Street and Hartley Street by the MRC. The warehouses and camps were located on the land between Mulgrave Road and Smith's Creek and bounded by Lyons Street and Fearnley Street. There was a Lyons Street Camp (200 men) and a Hannam Street Camp (40 Officers and 1,000 Enlisted Men).
As mentioned earlier, the size of the Project was downgraded at the time that the Japanese had been pushed back and US forces started to leave Cairns to establish bases closer to the battle fields. The Project was eventually cancelled. The US Navy temporarily took over six of the igloos at the Transhipment site plus the Transhipment shed at the new wharf after the US Army abandoned the site. Australian military units also started to use the facilities. For example a memo dated 27 April 1944, advised HQ 17 Aust L of C Sub Area that they could take over 7 warehouses of the Transhipment Project of 35,200 sq ft each, warehouse numbers 15, 16, 21, 22, 24, 27 and 28 along with a number of other locations. Official control of the whole Transhipment Project site was not handed over to the Australian Military authorities until March 1945. A memo dated 16 April 1944 mentions a temporary camp at Aumuller Street which at that time was occupied by approximately 800 African American service troops and was expected to be the last camp to be abandoned by the Americans.
USASOS Transhipment Port Cairns
Remains of the USASOS Transhipment Port Cairns on 1 August 1952
Some of the slabs from the igloos can still be seen off Aumuller Street
Queensland WWII Historic Places - Cairns Transshipment Port Project
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"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 5 January 2023
This page last updated 06 January 2023