The USS Tatum was a Buckley-class destroyer escort built by the Consolidated Steel Corp between April and November 1943. After shakedown, she undertook a series of escort missions along the east coast of the United States to defend against U-boats that may have been crossed into the West Atlantic. Three transatlantic voyages between the US, England, and North Africa followed, starting on the 25th of March 1944. During the final one, she screened three escort carriers, the USS Kasaan Bay, USS Tulagi, and USS Mission Bay delivering planes for Casablanca. She returned to the US on the 17th of June for a 10-day reprieve only to set up again with USS Tulagi and USS Kassan Bay towards Bizerte. An enemy encounter occurred on the 23rd of July the same year when she was escorting the British carriers HMS Hunter and HMS Stalker, but despite dropping 130 depth charges on a U-boat, she failed to score a kill. From December 1944, she begun conversion to a high-speed transport, designated APD-81. Her conversion probably made her no safer to the crew. The dangerous mineral asbestos was still covering many areas of the interior, most notably parts that were susceptible to high levels of heat or at risk of corrosion: pipes, engine parts, electrical wiring, electronics, etc.