Originally built in 1921 as the passenger ship, Pine Tree State, and was then re-named President Grant in 1922. She operated to the Orient for American Orient Line, later American Mail Line, and was one of America's fastest and best Pacific liners until the introduction of newer ships in the thirties. President Grant was laid up by the 1936-37 Maritime strike, and lay at Seattle.
Taken over by the Navy from the Maritime commission on 17 July. Converted to a troopship at Todd's Seattle yard, she was renamed Harris and commissioned on 19 August. Harris spent the first few months of her commissioned service carrying troops to Pearl Harbor and acting as a troop training ship at San Diego.
She sailed on 13 April for the South Pacific, carrying Marines to occupy strategic points outside the Japanese perimeter of conquest. Her task group arrived at Wallis Island on 31 May and unloaded troops for the defense of the New Caledonia area. Harris then returned to the United States and operated out of Monterey Bay, CA, in amphibious training. On 22 August, she sailed from San Diego for Norfolk. After suffering collision damage which required drydocking until 14 October, Harris loaded troops at Norfolk to begin training for landings in North Africa. She departed 23 October with the Southern Attack Force, and acted as flagship for the transport force. Harris arrived offshore early on 8 November and after Bernadou and Cole boldly entered the harbor with raider forces, debarked her Army troops to consolidate the landing. One of the first transports to complete disembarkation, Harris returned to Norfolk on 13 November. She got underway again on 5 December with combat troops for the Pacific, arriving at San Diego on 17 December. There she trained and was redesignated APA-21.
She sailed from San Francisco for Alaska on 24 April to take part in the recapture of Attu. Harris arrived at Cold Harbor on 30 April and four days later shaped course for the barren Aleutian Island. She skillfully debarked her troops during the assault 11 May and then remained in the Adak-Dutch Harbor area until 10 June, when she returned to San Diego. After training off California, Harris and other ships of the Northern Pacific Force sailed 29 July for the occupation of another Aleutian Island, Kiska. Landings were made without opposition on 15 August, as the Japanese had evacuated under cover of fog. Harris completed her unloading by 21 August and returned to San Francisco on 31 August. Harris sailed 8 September for New Zealand via Noumea. Arriving Wellington on 30 September, she loaded Marines and trained out of Wellington and Efate, New Hebrides, until 13 November. Harris then sailed with the Southern Attack Force for the invasion of Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, as the Navy began its resistless push across Micronesia to Japan. Harris arrived the day after the initial landings on 20 November. Despite fire from shore batteries she discharged her troops and cargo during the days that followed. She remained off the island caring for casualties and unloading until 2 December, when she sailed for Pearl Harbor. Arriving Pearl Harbor 14 December, Harris took part in amphibious drills for the invasion of the Marshalls.
She sailed 22 January and arrived off Kwajalein on 31 January. After a week of bloody fighting, assault troops and casualties were re-embarked on board Harris on 8 February and arrived Pearl Harbor 15 February. Harris sailed to San Pedro for needed repairs, and returned to Pearl Harbor 9 May. She immediately began loading troops and equipment for another Pacific operation, the invasion of the Marianas. She arrived off Saipan 16 June, one day after the initial landings, and remained in the transport area until 20 June. With the Marianas won, Harris sailed for Eniwetok, arriving there on 24 June. The veteran transport returned to the Hawaiian Islands and the Solomons 21 July to 8 September, in order to prepare for the next assault. She then sailed from Guadalcanal for the invasion of the Palaus, wanted as staging bases for later air attacks. Harris conducted a diversionary landing 15 September on Babelthuap while the main forces stormed Peleliu, and after standing ready with her reserve troops for several days, sailed for Ulithi. Arriving 23 September, Harris put her troops ashore to occupy this atoll, ideal for a fleet anchorage, and departed 2 days later for Manus. The invasion of the Philippines followed. Harris embarked elements of the 1st Cavalry Division and sailed for Leyte Gulf on 12 October. After having to leave the formation temporarily to free her paravane from a dangerous live mine, Harris regained position and unloaded her troops and cargo on 20 October. Following the decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf, Harris took on board survivors off Samar between heavy Japanese forces and light U.S. carriers and destroyers. She departed 28 October, arriving Guam three days later, and returned to Leyte Gulf with reinforcements. Harris then sailed for Guadalcanal and Bouganville for additional troops and spent December in landing exercises in Huon Gulf.
Harris departed Manus 31 December 1944 to rendezvous with the assault forces steaming toward Lingayen Gulf. The convoys encountered some of the heaviest air attacks of the war en route, and Harris's gunner were busy, especially 8 to 9 January 1945, the days immediately preceding the assault. She debarked her troops under heavy smoke screen, and departed for Leyte Gulf. Here she embarked more landing forces that she soon landed at La Paz without opposition as the invasion of Luzon gathered momentum. She returned to Leyte Gulf on 1 February. Loading again, Harris prepared to take part in the invasion of Okinawa. She sailed 27 March and arrived offshore for the initial landings 1 April, a member of Bear Admiral Hall's Southern Attack Force. Fierce enemy suicide attacks soon developed, and Harris's gunners fought off numerous attacks as ships around her were hit. She completed her unloading under these hazardous conditions by 3 April and departed for Pearl Harbor 6 April. Harris then continued to San Francisco, arriving 30 April, but soon returned to the fighting, bringing fresh troops to Okinawa on 28 May. After another round trip from Pearl Harbor to Okinawa, the ship arrived Ulithi on 10 August, having narrowly missed the great August typhoon. Assigned to assist in carrying occupation troops to Japan, Harris sailed to the Philippines on 17 August, and arrived Tokyo Bay on 8 September. After disembarking her troops, Harris made another voyage to Samar for occupation troops and finally departing Japan on 12 October. The ship made its final occupation voyage to Taku, Bar, China, helping to stabilize the volatile situation there, and sailed 16 November for Guam and the West Coast.
Harris transited the Panama Canal, arrived Boston 2 February and was decommissioned 16 April.
She was sold to American Ship Breakers, Inc. on 20 July and scrapped.
These specifications and ship histories are adapted from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (US Naval Historical Center) and from various other sources. These summaries may not reflect the most recent information concerning the ships' status or operations. If you find an error or discrepancy, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our online crossing submission form.