USS Menkar (AK-123)

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USS Menkar (AK-123).jpg
Career (US)
Ordered: as SS John White
EC2-S-C1 hull, MCE hull 1218
Laid down: 17 November 1943
Launched: 31 December 1943
Acquired: 17 January 1944
Commissioned: 18 January 1944
Decommissioned: 22 January 1944
In service: 2 June 1944
for the U.S. Coast Guard
Out of service: 15 April 1946
Struck: date unknown
Fate: scrapped in 1964
General characteristics
Displacement: 4,023 t.(lt) 11,565 t.(fl)
Length: 441 ft 6 in (134.57 m)
Beam: 56 ft 11 in (17.35 m)
Draught: 28 ft 4 in (8.64 m)
Propulsion: reciprocating steam engine, single shaft, 1,950shp
Speed: 12 kts.
Complement: US Navy 282; US Coast Guard 16 officers, 8 CPOs, 164 enlisted men, 1 Public Health Service doctor; US Coast Guard Passengers 25 officers, 315 men
Armament: one 5"/38 dual purpose gun mount; two dual 40mm AA gun mounts; eight single 20mm AA gun mounts

USS Menkar (AK-123) was an Crater-class cargo ship commissioned by the U.S. Navy for service in World War II, named after Menkar, the alpha star in constellation Cetus. She was responsible for delivering troops, goods and equipment to locations in the war zone.

Menkar (AK 123) was laid down as SS John White under Maritime Commission contract by St. Johns River Shipbuilding Co., Jacksonville, Florida, 17 November 1943; launched 31 December 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Cora E. Owens; acquired as Menkar by the Navy from the War Shipping Administration (WSA) under bareboat charter 17 January 1944; commissioned the next day, Lt. Comdr. Edward G. Gummer, USNR, in command, to be ferried to Miami, Florida, where she decommissioned 22 January for conversion by Dade Drydock Co.; and commissioned 2 June 1944.

World War II operations[edit]

Menkar sailed for Norfolk, Virginia, 20 June and, following shakedown, was temporarily assigned to NTS. In late July she loaded on supplies at Norfolk and got underway for the Panama Canal Zone, via Guantanamo, Cuba, arriving 11 August for duty with the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Transferred to Coast Guard operation[edit]

In October 1944 Menkar was transferred to the Coast Guard for Long Range Navigation (LORAN) work. Construction of stations for LORAN, a navigational system for ships and planes based on the transmission of radio wave pulses, had only begun in the Pacific Ocean a year before; and a cargo ship was needed to transport material and equipment.

Establishing the first Pacific LORAN station[edit]

On 31 October Menkar, Lt. Comdr. Niels P. Thompsen, USCG, now in command, reached Saipan, Marianas, to unload cargo for the first LORAN station in the Marianas chain. On 11 November she anchored in Apra Harbor and unloaded supplies for the Guam station. She then continued on to Ulithi, Carolines, arriving 13 December. The Marianas stations proved invaluable in the amphibious assault on Iwo Jima in February 1945 and in the bombing attacks on Japan begun in March of that year.

Establishing additional LORAN stations[edit]

On 5 March 1945 Menkar was off Angaur, Palaus, with materials to set up a fixed station. Four days later she was anchored at Pulo Anna, Palaus, unloading her cargo. By the end of March she had supplied the other two stations of the Palau Mortal chain.

Menkar shoots down a Japanese Oscar[edit]

The cargo ship next helped tighten the LORAN network around Japan with the construction of the Iwo Jima Tokyo Okinawa chain. Menkar reached Kangoku Iwa off Iwo Jima 20 April, just 2 months after the U.S. Marines had first landed. Three days later she departed for Ike Shima, arriving 10 May. In the next 4 days she fought off intermittent Japanese air raids while discharging supplies at Okinawa. She continued on to Katchin Wan Harbor, Okinawa, where she again was harassed by enemy planes. On 18 May Menkar retaliated by shooting down an "Oscar" diving directly at the ship.

End-of-war operations[edit]

Before construction of the third station at O Shima began, Menkar steamed for the west coast, via Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, arriving Seattle, Washington, 5 August. She remained there through the Japanese surrender 15 August.

Post-war LORAN installations[edit]

On 14 September she departed Seattle for Pearl Harbor, embarking 307 passengers on arrival the 24th. She again embarked LORAN units and got underway 9 October for the Marianas, stopping in the Gilberts and the Marshalls before anchoring at Guam 26 October.

With the construction of a China Sea LORAN chain planned soon after the cessation of hostilities, she continued on to the East China Sea for LORAN duty into the next year. When the project was abandoned, Menkar returned to San Francisco, California, 3 March 1946.

Post-war decommissioning[edit]

On 15 April she decommissioned and was delivered to WSA for service under the Maritime Commission as SS John White. She was struck from the Navy List (date unknown) and scrapped in 1964 at Oakland, California.

Military awards and honors[edit]

Menkar's crew was eligible for the following medals:

  • American Campaign Medal
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Asia clasp)

References[edit]

External links[edit]