USS Murzim (AK-95)
|Builder:||California Shipbuilding Company|
|Laid down:||as SS Brigham Young 10 July 1942|
|Launched:||17 August 1942|
|Acquired:||8 April 1943|
|Commissioned:||14 May 1943|
|Decommissioned:||7 June 1946|
|Renamed:||Murzim 17 March 1943|
|Struck:||23 June 1947|
|1 battle star|
|Fate:||Maritime Commission 5 August 1947|
|Status:||National Defense Reserve Fleet 1969|
|Class and type:||Crater-class cargo ship|
|Length:||441 ft 6 in (134.57 m)|
|Beam:||56 ft 11 in (17.35 m)|
|Draft:||28 ft 4 in (8.64 m)|
|Armament:||1 x 5", 1 x 3", 8 x 20mm.|
The USS Murzim (AK-95) was an ammo station ship working in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, named after Murzim, the star in constellation Canis Major. The auxiliary ship Murzim was manned by United States Coast Guard personnel, supplying ships with a variety of ammunition.
In light of the Mount Hood tragedy, which involved the complete explosion of another ammunition ship, the USS Mount Hood, it became clear that those on the Murzim and other ammo ships were running the risk of nearly instantaneous death by catastrophic explosion at every moment of their stint in the Pacific Theater. Nevertheless, the crew worked even under the threat of air attack warnings, transferring their cargo to other fighting ships.
Originally named SS Brigham Young, she was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract by the California Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, California on 10 July 1942 and launched 17 August 1942 as a liberty ship. She was renamed Murzim on 17 March 1943 and was acquired by the Navy under bareboat charter from the Maritime Commission on 8 April 1943.
She was then converted for use as a naval cargo ship by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Drydock Corporation in Los Angeles, California and commissioned 14 May 1943 with Lieutenant J. E. King, USCGR, in command and Lieutenant Rodney W. Norman, USCGR, serving as communications officer. Another seaman on the Murzim was Alex Haley, who would later gain fame as the writer of Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Her crew bears distinction for being the only US Navy ship crew in wartime to be ordered to "abandon ship" while at dockside due to an onboard fire while fully loaded with ammunition. The fire was controlled, averting catastrophe.
For almost two months the Murzim operated along the west coast of the United States under the 11th Naval District; thence, after loading general cargo, she departed from San Francisco 8 July 1943 and arrived at New Caledonia on 5 August. She then began cargo shuttle runs among American bases in the South Pacific and during the next year, she delivered supplies from ports in Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia to the New Hebrides, the Fiji Islands, and the Solomon Islands. She carried out several voyages between Nouméa and Guadalcanal, and in the spring of 1944 she extended her runs northward along the Solomon chain to Bougainville, New Georgia, Green Island, and the Russells.
In mid-June she sailed from the Solomons via New Guinea to the Admiralties where she discharged cargo at Manus. After steaming to Australia for a cargo of ammunition, she returned to New Guinea 24 August. For almost two months, Murzim supplied antiaircraft ammunition to ships at Hollandia preparing for the invasion of the Philippines. After filling her holds with ammunition from Brisbane and Sydney Australia, she sailed without escort for the Philippines 24 October. Arriving Leyte Gulf 29 October, she began duty as an ammo station ship.
During the next 3 months she supplied ships from cruisers to LSTs with a variety of ammunition which ranged from 6-inch to 20 mm. Despite numerous air alerts, her crew carried out the dangerous business of transferring ammunition to ships alongside. During an enemy air attack 27 November, her 20 mm guns splashed a Japanese plane attacking the cargo ship from starboard. By eyewitness account, the small plane of a type used for photographic reconnaissance was on a downward sloping path toward a broadside collision with the Murzim’s midsection. At nearly the last moment the plane was hit by a foredeck gun and changed course by pitching upward, rolling over on its side, careening over the ship and plunging into the water to port. A small craft was sent out look for wreckage and survivors. The only thing found was a single wheel assembly, the tire still intact and displaying the Goodyear trademark, this latter fact being widely remarked among the crew.
Between 27 January 1945 and 4 February, Murzim steamed in convoy to Manus where she replenished her holds with ammunition. Thence, after joining a convoy at Hollandia, she returned to Leyte 22 March and resumed ammo station duty in Leyte Gulf. During the closing weeks of the war against Japan, she delivered cargo to Manus and cruised to the Philippines with additional supplies of ammunition.
Following the Japanese surrender, the Murzim was authorized for use in atomic tests in the Marshalls, and was ordered to transfer to joint Task Force 1, 25 February 1946. However, she was assigned to the 14th Naval District for inactivation 11 March and she decommissioned at Pearl Harbor 7 June. She remained at Pearl Harbor until March 1947 when she was towed to San Francisco. Her name was struck from the Navy List 23 June. The Murzim was transferred to the Maritime Commission 5 August 1947, and entered the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay where she remained berthed into 1969.
The Murzim received one battle star for World War II service.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- Interview with crew member Rodney W. Norman in Au Train, Michigan, June 11, 2013.