Antaeus (AS-21) on 25 June 1943
|Namesake:||The son of Neptune, the god of the sea in Roman mythology|
|Ordered:||as SS Saint John (date unknown)|
|Launched:||9 January 1932 |
|Acquired:||by the Navy, 24 April 1941|
|Commissioned:||17 May 1941 as USS Antaeus (AS-21)|
|Decommissioned:||29 April 1946 as USS Rescue (AH-18)|
|Reclassified:||AG-67, 15 September 1943; USS Rescue (AH-18), 18 January 1945|
|Refit:||Converted to a Hospital Ship at New York Navy Yard|
|Struck:||15 August 1946|
|two battle stars for her World War II service|
|Fate:||transferred to the U.S. Maritime Commission for disposal, 29 June 1946|
|Notes:||scrapped in 1959|
|Type:||commercial passenger liner|
|Propulsion:||geared turbine, twin screws, 13,000hp|
|Complement:||440 as a hospital ship|
|Armament:||one 4 in (100 mm) gun mount aft; two 3 in (76 mm) gun mounts forward; upgraded to one 4 in (100 mm) gun mount aft; four 3 in (76 mm) gun mounts, two forward, two aft|
USS Antaeus (AS-21/AG-67) – was a commercial passenger liner acquired by the U.S. Navy during World War II. She operated as SS Saint John from 1932 to 1941 before she was acquired by the U.S. Navy and renamed Antaeus. From 1941 to 1943, she was employed as a submarine tender; she was later redesignated AG-67 and used as a transport for troops from 1943 to 1944. In 1945, she was converted to a hospital ship, renamed USS Rescue (AH-18), and served in the Pacific War. Decommissioned in 1946, she was sold for scrap in 1958.
SS St. John was built in 1932 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia and was operated as a passenger liner by the Eastern Steamship Lines. St. John, along with her sister ship the SS Acadia, entered coastal service for New York-Yarmouth-Halifax or Saint John. From 1938-1940 the vessel also ran in New York-Bermuda or Nassau service. In 1939, the vessel was chartered to the United States Lines for one voyage to carry American construction workers to air base projects in Bermuda. Acquired by the Navy on 24 April 1941 the ship was renamed Antaeus (AS-21) and commissioned on 17 May 1941, Comdr. R. S. Morse in command.
World War II service
Operations as USS Antaeus
Following her commissioning, the submarine tender operated in the Caribbean. She took part in training exercises and made repairs to the American submarines patrolling in those waters. Antaeus finished this task in September 1943, when she was assigned to transport duties and was redesignated AG-67. The ship then began shuttling troops to points in the Caribbean, the Panama Canal Zone, and to Argentia, Newfoundland, from bases at New York City and Davisville, Rhode Island.
Conversion to hospital ship USS Rescue
Antaeus entered the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, on 28 December 1944. There, she underwent conversion to a hospital ship. On 18 January 1945, the vessel was renamed Rescue and redesignated (AH-18). Following a period of sea trials, the new hospital ship got underway for the Pacific Ocean theater of action.
She arrived off Okinawa on 13 June, embarked men wounded in the fighting ashore, survived unscathed despite almost constant Japanese air attack against Allied shipping in the area, and safely delivered her patients to a hospital on Guam.
With a bed capacity of 792 and a complement of 440, Rescue provided hospital services, consultation, preventative medicine, and casualty evacuation.
After a short upkeep period, Rescue joined the U.S. 3d Fleet on 5 July. She supported 3d Fleet ships conducting carrier strikes and bombardment of the Japanese home islands. The ship would rendezvous with the combatant vessels and take on casualties by breeches buoy both at night and under battle conditions. Upon the conclusion of World War II, Rescue sailed into Tokyo Bay with the 3d Fleet and began the medical screening of Allied prisoners of war and shuttling them from various prison camps to the base at Yokohama.
In late September, the ship arrived at Guam where she discharged a few former prisoners whose home had been on that island. Rescue then proceeded to San Francisco, California. She was decommissioned on 29 June 1946 and was transferred to the U.S. Maritime Administration.
She was stricken from the Navy List on 15 August 1946. The vessel was subsequently refitted as a merchant ship and saw service as such from 1946 into 1958, in which year she was scrapped.
Honors and awards
Rescue earned two battle stars for her World War II service:
- Okinawa Gunto operation
- 3d Fleet operations against Japan
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- HISTORY OF USS RESCUE (AH 18) (EX USS ANTAEUS AS-21, AG-67) (November 1952) (U.S. Navy. NAVAL HISTORY DIVISION. SHIPS' HISTORIES SECTION)
- NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive - AS-21 / AG-67 Antaeus - AH-18 Rescue