USS Menkar (AK-123)
USS Menkar (AK-123) underway, date and location unknown. Note dazzle camouflage scheme.
|Ordered:||as a type (EC2-S-C1) hull, MCE hull 1218, SS John White|
|Builder:||St. Johns River Shipbuilding Company, Jacksonville, Florida|
|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|
|Out of service:||15 April 1946|
|Refit:||converted for Naval Service at Dade Drydock Co., Miami, FL., 22 January 1944|
|Struck:||1 May 1946|
|Fate:||sold for scrapping, 8 May 1962, to Union Minerals and Alloys Corp.|
|General characteristics |
|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)|
|Speed:||12.5 kn (23.2 km/h; 14.4 mph)|
USS Menkar (AK-123) was a 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.
- 1 Built in Jacksonville, Florida
- 2 World War II operations
- 3 Post-war LORAN installations
- 4 Post-war decommissioning
- 5 Military awards and honors
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Built in Jacksonville, Florida
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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)
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- Photo gallery of Menkar at NavSource Naval History