Serpens II AK-266 - History

Serpens II AK-266 - History

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Serpens II

(AK-266: dp. 11,540 (f.); 1. 455'; b. 62'; dr. 29'; cl.
Alchiba; T. N3-S-A2)

The second Serpens (AK-266), an N3-S-A2 cargo ship built under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 2520) and originally named Northern Yeoman, was laid down on 16 October 1944 by McCloskey and Co., Tampa, Fla., launched as William Lester on 17 June 1945; sponsored by Miss Ann McCarty; and delivered to the Maritime Commission on 30 June 1945.

Initially operated by the Waterman SS Co., William Lester served as an Army ship prior to being transferred to the Navy on 12 June 1951. Renamed Serpens (AK 266), the ship was loaned to the Republic of Korea on the same day as her acquisition by the Navy and served that country until returned to the Navy in 1960. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 February 1960, and she was sold for scrapping to the Hong Kong Rolling Mills, Ltd., Hong Kong, B.C.C., on 27 June of the same year.

What Really Happened On The Deadliest Single Day In Coast Guard History?

The sinking of the ammunition ship USS Serpens in January 1945 was the single deadliest day in the history of the Coast Guard. The gigantic explosion, which killed 250 sailors and almost vaporized the ship, was blamed on an accident involving the ship’s explosive cargo. Now, new allegations push the theory that the ship was actually attacked by a Japanese submarine—and that U.S. Navy officials were covering this up as late as 2003.

On the night of January 29th, 1945 the island of Guadalcanal was wracked by a truly massive explosion. The USS Serpens, whose crew had been handling a cargo of anti-submarine depth charges, exploded with the explosive force of 600 tons of explosives.

Serpens, a Liberty wartime transport ship 424 feet long and displacing 14,250 tons, practically disappeared in the blink of an eye. The ship, save for a section of the bow, disappeared from the face of the earth. Along with it went 193 Coast Guardsmen, 56 U.S. Army soldiers, and a U.S Public Health Service surgeon .

One sailor who responded to the explosion stated :

“. as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects. The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating. This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete.”

The U.S. Navy would ultimately chalk up the incident to an accidental detonation of the ship’s cargo: 3,399 unfused bombs, each containing 350 pounds of high-explosive Torpex. That adds up to 1,189,650 pounds of high explosive, or 594 tons. As the Coast Guard states , “By 1949, the U.S. Navy officially closed the case deciding that the loss was not due to enemy action but an “accident intrinsic to the loading process.”

Now, 74 years later, a son of one of the lost crew members of the Serpens is lobbying for the Pentagon to reconsider the official explanation. Backing him up are some curious facts, allegations, and discrepancies, as reported recently by the The Sarasota Herald-Tribune . Here are some highlights from that story:

  • Amazingly, there were two survivors of the ship explosion, both of whom survived in the remaining bow section of the ship. One of them reported that a Japanese submarine had been tracking the Serpens before the explosion.
  • Two explosions were heard by nearby military personnel. The second explosion was the detonation of the million plus pounds of high explosives aboard the ship. According to the submarine theory, the first explosion was a torpedo which then set off a huge “secondary” explosion of the ship’s cargo.
  • A majority of the Court of Inquiry convened to look into the accident believed that the ship had been the victim of enemy action—yet the Navy still insisted the cause of the explosion had been an accident.
  • Japanese radio propaganda actually announced the explosion before Japan could have plausibly learned about it from the Americans, suggesting a submarine reported the attack back to Tokyo.
  • Veering into sinister territory: the Navy Judge Advocate General’s conclusions on the Serpens’ sinking, dated 1949, “were checked out of the National Archives Records Administration in 2003 by the Navy JAG’s office and never returned.”

And as that story notes, the man who’s been pushing for this—the son of a Coast Guardsman who died about the Serpens—isn’t just some guy. Here’s his background:

After pressing Florida politicians and pursuing government records with Freedom of Information Act requests, Robert Breen of Venice has discovered curious gaps in the Serpens’ obituary.

And at 76, the retired Central Intelligence Agency senior finance officer and certified fraud investigator wonders if he’s onto one of the last coverups of World War II.

So why would the U.S. Navy cover up the incident? By 1945 Guadalcanal was thousands of miles behind friendly lines and was part of the logistics chain supporting the Allies’ advance on Japan itself. Anti-torpedo nets were supposed to be strung along Lunga Point to protect ships like the Serpens, but were often less than 100 percent reliable.

The death of 250 military personnel far from the front line would have been a major embarrassment to the Navy.


This snake, Serpens, that Ophiuchus holds (the snake-handler, who represents the healer Asclepius), is found on the symbol of medicine worldwide, the caduceus. The staff of Aesculapius was a single snake wrapped around a staff (often confused with the staff of Mercury or Hermes which has two snakes and is said to represent commerce). [See picture of the Rod of Asclepius]. Serpens is the only constellation divided into two separate pieces.

“Ophiuchus means ‘he who holds the serpent‘ and that is how he is depicted. The struggle will last forever, since they wage it on equal terms with equal powers”. [Manilius, Astronomica, 1st century AD, book 1, p.31]

Serpens and serpent comes from Latin serpere, to creep, from the Indo-European root *serp ‘To crawl, creep’. Derivatives: serpent, serpigo (a spreading skin eruption or disease, such as ringworm, from Latin serpere, to crawl), herpes, herpetology (these words from Greek herpeton, ‘crawling animal’, from herpein, to crawl, creep). [Pokorny serp– 912. Watkins

The word serpens is a synonym for snake Wikipedia explains:

“Serpent is a word of Latin origin (serpens, serpentis) that is normally substituted for ‘snake’ in a specifically mythic or religious context, in order to distinguish such creatures from the field of biology”.

The Bible interchanges the words dragon and serpent liberally. Draco, the dragon, is usually portrayed with feet and believed to be the ‘Old Serpent’, the tempter of Eve in the Garden.

“The snake (serpens) takes its name because it creeps (serpere) by secret approaches it crawls not with open steps but by tiny thrusts of its scales. But those animals that support themselves on four feet, like the lizard and the newt, are not snakes, but are called reptiles (reptile). Snakes are also reptiles, because they crawl (repere) on their stomach and breast. Of these animals there are as many poisons as there are kinds, as many varieties of danger as there are of appearance, and as many causes of pain as there are colors.” [The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, 7th century AD, p.255.]

This snake, Serpens, that Ophiuchus the snake-handler holds, or the snake that Asclepius has wrapped around his rod, is likely to be the kundalini snake because it is a single snake, and because kundalini represents the life-force the balanced flow of this energy is critical to health and harmony. The kundalini energy or ‘serpent power’ resides at the base of the spine and is represented symbolically as a snake coiled up upon itself, in three and a half circles like a true snake or serpent (unlike Draco which is a four-footed dragon). Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning either ‘coiled up’ or ‘coiling like a snake’. The cultivation and management of this life-force has been the aim of the physician-priests, witch-doctors, and shamans who used drumming, trance, chanting, hallucinogenics etc. to facilitate intuitive diagnostics and cure illnesses. The adjacent constellation Ophiuchus is identified with Aesculapius, the snake-handler, snake-charmer, or doctor.

“One called Ophiuchus holds apart the serpent which with its mighty spirals [gyris] and twisted body encircles his own, that so he may untie its knots and back that winds in loops. But, bending its supple neck, the serpent looks back and returns and the other’s hands slide over the loosened coils. The struggle will last for ever, since they wage it on level terms with equal powers” [Manilius, Astronomica, 1st century AD. book 1, p.31].

Varro says Proserpina (Greek Persephone, the daughter of Ceres who became the goddess of the underworld when Pluto carried her away and made her his wife) received her name because she, like a serpens ‘creeper’, but this derivation has been disputed by etymologists:

“From the fact that the Moon is wont to be under the lands as well as over them, Ennius’s Epicharmus calls her Proserpina [Greek Persephone]. Proserpina received her name because she, like a serpens ‘creeper,’ moves widely now to the right, now to the left. Serpere ‘to creep’ and proserpere ‘to creep forward’ meant the same thing, as Plautus means in what he writes: Like a forward-creeping beast”. [Varro: On The Latin Language, p. 65-66.]

“Proserpina, because from her the fruits ‘spread forth’ (proserpere).” [The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, 7th century AD, p.187.]

Snakes were seen as having the properties of different poisons according to their species: Isidore says of Mercury “he holds a staff with which he separates serpents, that is, poisons” [p.186.], and: “Of these animals there are as many poisons as there are kinds, as many varieties of danger as there are of appearance, and as many causes of pain as there are colors” [p.255.]

“The snake’s venom is associated with the chemicals of plants and fungi that have the power to either heal, poison, or provide expanded consciousness (and even the elixir of life and immortality) through divine intoxication. Because of its herbal knowledge and entheogenic association the snake was often considered one of the wisest animals, being (close to the) divine”.

It was believed that snakes had the ability to discover health-giving medicinal herbs. Herbs have chemical properties and this attribute in snakes of being able to search out herbs might be related to their ability to smell out the chemicals in the herbs. They have what is called a Jacobson’s organ in their mouths that functions as a chemical receptor, a snake flicks out its tongue to taste the air and when the tongue is withdrawn into the mouth, the forks of the tongue are placed into the Jacobson’s organ where the chemical (molecules) is identified [ ].

Ophiuchus is the snake-holder who holds this snake, Serpens, and represents the healer Asclepius. According to Hyginus (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 14.), one day Asclepius killed a snake, but to his surprise a second snake carrying an herb in its mouth crawled into the room. It gave the herb to the first snake, which immediately recovered. This was how Asclepius learned how to raise people from the dead, by making use of this same herb which had the same resuscitating effect upon men [ ].

“The serpent was placed in heaven and for this reason certain writers have identified Ophiuchus with Aesculapius. According to other accounts the serpent is one of those that would have slain Hercules in his cradle.” [Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology, Vivian E. Robson, 1923].

A similar story is told about the seer Polyeidus (or Polyidus) who was locked in a Old Cretan vault with the corpse of Glaucus and ordered to resuscitate it. A snake soon crawled toward the body, but Polyeidus killed the snake. Another snake came into the room bearing an herb and laid this over the dead snake, which at once revived. Polyeidus then placed the same herb over the body of Glaucus, who immediately came to life.

Serpens is from Latin serpere, and Greek herpeton, ‘crawling animal’, from herpein, to crawl or creep, Sanskrit herpo ‘creep’. With all this evidence of snakes association with herbs is it not likely that Greek herp- might be related to the word herb? Snake venom has different chemical properties according to the species of snake, as have the various species of herbs.

Drugs made of various chemicals and herbs are called medicines. ‘Medusa’ the Gorgon, represented by the star Algol, whose head Perseus carries, is related to the word ‘medicine’. Medusa has serpents for hair that might ultimately represent herbs and chemicals.

Ophiuchus, the snake holder, is the adjoining constellation that holds this serpent, and his name means serpent-holder (ophis, serpent + okhos, holder). The Greeks knew Serpens as Ophis which comes from the Indo-European root *angwhi-, ‘Snake, eel’. Derivatives: ophidian, ophiolite, ophite (a green rock), ophicleide (‘serpent-keys’, a musical instrument of the bugle family), ophiology, Ophiuchus (the adjoining constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent-Holder), ophiuroid, (these words from Greek ophis, snake, serpent). 2. Taboo deformation or separate root *eghi- echino-, echinus, from Greek ekhinos, hedgehog (< ‘snake-eater’), echidna (from Gk. ekhidna ‘snake, viper,’ from ekhis ‘snake’). [Pokorny angw – 43. Watkins] The term ophiasis means a winding bald patch on the head, or a form of leprosy in which the patient sheds his skin like a snake.

There might be a connection between the two words sophia and ophis

“The image of the serpent as the embodiment of the wisdom transmitted by Sophia (from sophos, meaning ‘wisdom’) was an emblem used by gnosticism, especially those sects that the more orthodox characterized as ‘Ophites‘ (‘Serpent People’)”

“.. sophos, the Greek for wisdom and Sophia, the Virgin of Light, may be traced to is ophis, the ‘light of ophis,’ the Serpent” [The Lost Language of Symbolism, Harold Bayley, p.219.]

“the Greeks call the Marsians ‘Oscians,’ as if it were ophskoi, because they had many serpents, and ophis means ‘serpent.’ They are also said to be invulnerable to the sorcery of spells. Like the Umbrians they inhabit the region of the Apennine mountains” [The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, 7th century AD, p.196-197.]

On a fragment from the 3rd century Porphyry, On Images, fragment 8, (c. 232 AD – c. 304):

“Of the sun’s healing power Asclepius [Ophiuchus] is the symbol, and to him they have given the staff as a sign of the support and rest of the sick, and the serpent is wound round it, as significant of his preservation of body and soul: for the animal is most full of spirit, and shuffles off the weakness of the body. It seems also to have a great faculty for healing: for it found the remedy for giving clear sight, and is said in a legend to know a certain plant which restores life.”

A dragon is sometimes used (in the West) as a national emblem of China, possibly because dragons were featured on flags of China. I have seen where some see this dragon as represented by the constellation Draco, the Dragon. However, it might be that this serpent is a more likely representation. In Allen’s book Star Names (p.375 online), he notes that a Christian missionary, Edkins, said “The twenty-two stars in the Serpent (Serpens) are named after the states into which China was formerly divided.”

[Picture from Lana Rings’ website] Ophiuchus might be the fetus (foetus) attached to the umbilicus cord (Serpens). Ophiuchus is depicted holding a snake, the snake is represented by the constellation Serpens. Ophiuchus from Greek Ophiukhos, literally ‘holding a serpent’, from Greek opis, the Greek word for ‘serpent’, + Greek ek ein, ‘to hold, keep, have’. In a discussion on this linguist website there is a suggestion that there might be a relationship between Greek ophis and *omphi-. [Omphi from the Indo-European root *nobh-. Related words ‘umbilicus‘, ‘omphallus‘, ‘navel‘, ‘nave‘, the hub of a wheel]. The constellation Ophiuchus is identified with Asclepius, who was cut from his mother’s womb as a foetus. The long tube-like shape of a snake bears a resemblance to an umbilical cord. When the snake is curled up it might appear to be like the nave or hub of a wheel. The womb is represented by Delphinus

Fixed stars in Serpens
Star 1900 2000 R A Decl 1950 Lat Mag Sp
iota 15SCO48 17SCO11 234 49 48 +19 49 48 +38 06 39 4.49 A2
delta 16SCO58 18SCO21 233 06 09 +10 42 12 +28 53 04 5.16 A9
rho 18SCO08 19SCO31 237 16 00 +21 07 37 +40 00 24 4.88 K5
kappa 18SCO24 19SCO47 236 37 18 +18 17 41 +37 07 02 4.28 M1
beta 18SCO34 19SCO57 235 58 11 +15 34 37 +34 19 56 3.74 A0
Unukalhai alpha 20SCO40 22SCO05 235 27 03 +06 34 53 +25 30 44 2.75 K2
gamma 21SCO23 22SCO46 238 32 08 +15 49 24 +35 13 02 3.86 F5
epsilon 22SCO57 24SCO20 237 04 50 +04 37 36 +24 00 39 3.75 A6
mu 24SCO33 25SCO56 236 45 07 -03 16 43 +16 14 40 3.63 A0
xi 23SAG10 24SAG33 263 40 49 -15 22 08 +07 56 31 3.64 A5
omicron 24SAG01 25SAG24 264 39 02 -12 51 01 +10 29 49 4.39 A2
eta 04CAP18 05CAP41 274 40 50 -02 54 48 +20 27 05 3.42 G8
Alya theta 14CAP22 15CAP45 283 26 00 +04 08 13 +26 52 59 4.50 A5

from Star Names, 1889, Richard H. Allen

Southward winding from the Northern Wain (Ursa Major),

Shoots to remoter spheres its glittering train.

Serpens, the Serpent, is le Serpent in France, il Serpente in Italy, and dieSchlange in Germany, probably is very ancient, and always has been shown as grasped by the hands of Ophiuchus at its pair of stars delta, epsilon, and at nu, and tau – Ophiuchi. The head is marked by the noticeable group iota, kappa, gamma, phi, nu, rho, and the eight little stars all lettered tau, and consecutively numbered, 10° south from the Crown and 20° due east from Arcturus the figure line thence winding southwards 15° to Libra, and turning to the southeast and northeast along the western edge of the Milky Way, terminating at its star theta, 8° south of the tail of the Eagle (Aquila) and west of that constellation’s delta.

Of the four stellar Snakes this preeminently is the Serpent, its stars originally being combined with those of Ophiuchus, although Manilius wrote

Serpentem Graiis Ophiuchus nomine dictus dividit

but it now is catalogued separately, and occasionally divided into Caput and Cauda on either side of the Serpent-holder.

The Greeks knew it as OphisOphioukhou, or simply as Ophis, and familiarly as Erpeton and Egkhelus (eel), respectively the Serpent and the Eel the Latins, occasionally as Anguilla, Anguis, and Coluber but universally as Serpens, often qualified as the SerpentofAesculapius, Caesius, Glaucus, Laocoon, and ofOphiuchus and as SerpensHerculeus, Lernaeus, and Sagarinus

The 1515 Almagest and the AlfonsineTables of 1521 had SerpensAlangue, thus combining their corrupted Latin with their equally corrupted Arabic, as often is the case with those works. It also was DracoLesbius and Tiberinus, and, perhaps, Ovid’s and Vergil’s LucidusAnguis

In the astronomy of Arabia it was AlHayyah, the Snake, — Chilmead’s Alhafa but before that country was influenced by Greece there was a very different constellation here, AlRaudah, the Pasture the stars beta and gamma, with gamma and beta Herculis, forming the NasakShamiyy, the Northern Boundary while delta, alpha, and epsilon Serpentis, with delta, epsilon, zeta, and eta Ophiuchi, were the NasakYamaniyy, the Southern Boundary. The enclosed sheep were shown by the stars now in the ClubofHercules, guarded on the west by the ShepherdandhisDog, the stars alpha in Ophiuchus and Hercules

To the Hebrews, as to most nations, this was a Serpent from the earliest times, and, Renan said, may have been the one referred to in the BookofJob, xxvi, 13 but Delitzsch, who renders the original words as the “Fugitive Dragon,” and others with him, consider our Draco to be the constellation intended, as probably more ancient and widely known from its ever visible circumpolar position.

The biblical school made it the serpent seducer of Eve, while in our day imaginative observers find another heavenly Cross in the stars of the head, one that belongs to Saint Andrew or Saint Patrick.

Serpens shared with Ophiuchus the Euphratean title of Nutsirda, the Image of the Serpent and is supposed to have been one of the representatives of divinity to the Ophites, the Hivites of Old Testament times.

The comparatively void space between nu and epsilon was the Chinese TienShiYuen, the Enclosure of the Heavenly Market.

USS Serpens: The Coast Guard?s Greatest Loss

USS Serpens crew?s caskets arrive at Arlington National Cemetery from Guadalcanal in 1949. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Published Jan 27, 2018 5:39 PM by William H. Thiesen

&ldquoI felt and saw two flashes after which only the bow of the ship was visible. The rest had disintegrated and the bow sank soon afterwards.&rdquo &ndash Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson, USS Serpens commanding officer

The quote above refers to the Coast Guard-manned USS Serpens. Nearly 73 years ago on January 29, 1945, a catastrophic explosion destroyed the transport. In terms of lives lost, the destruction of the Serpens ranks as the single largest disaster ever recorded in Coast Guard history.

In March 1943, an EC-2 class &ldquoLiberty Ship&rdquo was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract as &ldquoHull #739&rdquo by the California Shipbuilding Corporation of Wilmington, California. It was launched less than a month later as the SS Benjamin N. Cardozo. Two weeks later it was transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated AK-97. The transport was 442 feet in length, displaced 14,250 tons and had a top speed of 11 knots. For defense it carried one 5-inch gun, one 3-inch gun, two 40mm and six 20mm anti-aircraft cannons. Its crew consisted of 19 officers and 188 enlisted men. In late May, the Navy renamed the transport Serpens, after a constellation in the Northern Hemisphere, and commissioned the vessel in San Diego under the command of Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Magnus Johnson.

Following a shakedown cruise off Southern California, Serpens loaded general cargo at Alameda, California, and, on June 24, set sail to support combat operations in the Southwest Pacific. It steamed between the supply hub of New Zealand and various Pacific islands, such as Tonga, Vitu Levu, Tutuila, Penrhyn, Bora Bora, Aitutaki, and Tongatabu. In early December, Serpens moved its operations into the southern Solomons, re-supplying bases and units on Florida Island, Banika Island, Guadalcanal and Bougainville. In February 1944, its crew was ordered back to New Zealand for dry-dock and, for another four months, they delivered materials to bases in the New Hebrides and Solomons.

In late July 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson assumed command from Johnson. From that time into the fall of 1944, Serpens resumed operations carrying general cargo and rolling stock between ports and anchorages within the Solomon Islands. In mid-November, it loaded repairable military vehicles from the Russell Islands and Guadalcanal and sailed for New Zealand. After offloading in New Zealand, three of its holds were converted for ammunition stowage. Late in December 1944, Serpens commenced loading at Wellington, completed loading at Auckland, New Zealand, and returned to the Solomons in mid-January 1945.

Monday, January 29, found Serpens anchored off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. Lunga Point had served as the primary loading area for Guadalcanal since the U.S. military&rsquos first offensive of World War II began there in August 1942. Serpens&rsquos commanding officer, a junior officer and six enlisted men went ashore while the rest of the crew loaded depth charges into the holds or performed their usual shipboard duties. Late in the day, in the blink of an eye, the explosive cargo stowed in Serpens&rsquos holds detonated. An enlisted man aboard a nearby Navy personnel boat gave the following eyewitness account:

&ldquoAs we headed our personnel boat shoreward, the sound and concussion of the explosion suddenly reached us and, as we turned, we witnessed the awe-inspiring death drams unfold before us. As the report of screeching shells filled the air and the flash of tracers continued, the water splashed throughout the harbor as the shells hit. We headed our boat in the direction of the smoke and, as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects. The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating. This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete.&rdquo

After the explosion, only the bow of the ship remained. The rest of Serpens had disintegrated, and the bow sank soon after the cataclysm. Killed in the explosion were 197 Coast Guard officers and enlisted men, 51 U.S. Army stevedores, and surgeon Harry Levin, a U.S. Public Health Service physician. Only two men on board Serpens survived&ndashSeaman 1/c Kelsie Kemp and Seaman 1/c George Kennedy, who had been located in the boatswain&rsquos locker. Both men were injured, but were later rescued from the wreckage and survived. In addition, a soldier who was ashore at Lunga Point was killed by flying shrapnel. Only two Coast Guardsmen&rsquos bodies were recovered intact and later identified out of the nearly 250 men killed in the explosion.

At first, the loss of Serpens was attributed to enemy action and three Purple Heart Medals were issued to the two survivors and posthumously to Levin. However, a court of inquiry later determined that the cause of the explosion could not be established from surviving evidence. By 1949, the U.S. Navy officially closed the case deciding that the loss was not due to enemy action but an &ldquoaccident intrinsic to the loading process.&rdquo

Today, all that remains of the Serpens is the bow section sitting upside down on the sea floor off Lunga Point. The dead were initially buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Cemetery at Guadalcanal. The crew&rsquos mortal remains were later exhumed and shipped to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. On June 15, 1949, Serpens&rsquos Coast Guardsmen were interred on Arlington Cemetery&rsquos Coast Guard Hill. A monument to the Serpens listing all of the lost crewmembers was erected over the gravesite and dedicated on November 16, 1950.

This blog is part of a series honoring the long blue line of Coast Guard men and women who served before us. Stay tuned as we highlight the customs, traditions, history and heritage of the Coast Guard.

William H. Thiesen, Ph.D. is Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.

Serpens II AK-266 - History

We present XMM-Newton X-ray observations of the Serpens star formation region with >200 young stars detected in three 30 arcmin diameter EPIC fields. Spitzer infrared maps of this region revealed dense dust and numerous previously unknown pre-main sequence (PMS) stars, diverse in both mass and age. However, most studies have focused on the dense Serpens Core. Here we examine a much larger region of the extended cloud. Young stars are strong X-ray emitters throughout their PMS evolution, from embedded protostars to older dust-free (and hence infrared-faint) PMS stars. X-ray emission thus provides an excellent method of tracing the entire PMS population and investigating the star formation history of this regions and the processes controlling the fragmentation and formation of stars. Comparison of the X-ray coronal properties and optical and IR photometry helps classify the X-ray sources. For the brightest sources, we use the X-ray spectrum to derive coronal temperatures, and estimate N(H). We find

100 candidate diskless (class III) stars spread over a much larger area than the class I/II sources and use this older population to constrain the evolutionary history of Serpens. This research was funded by NASA grants supporting XMM-Newton Projects 040282 and 050324.

Coast Guard-Manned Naval Vessels in World War II

Section I of the act to create the Coast Guard, signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson Jan. 28, 1915, stated that: "The Coast Guard . shall constitute a part of the military forces of the United States and . operate as a part of the Navy, subject to the orders of the secretary of the Navy, in time of war or when the president shall so direct." The act did not specify the smaller service's duties when a part of the Navy, but during World War I, its cutters became patrol and escort vessels, six of the larger ships escorting convoys in the war zone. Cutters in home waters became training ships for naval personnel as well, and many of their erstwhile officers and men served in small naval vessels, armed yachts and the like.

From 1924 to 1926, 25 of the Navy's older destroyers were transferred to the Coast Guard for prohibition-enforcement duties, and when a number of the oldest were returned for disposal, the Coast Guard received six flush-deckers - the Navy's most modern at the time. All had been sent back to the Navy by early 1934, but the Coast Guard's success in operating them seemingly made manning such ships in wartime a logical Coast Guard responsibility.

The war nears U.S.
As the United States neared involvement in World War II, however, the number of old destroyers in reserve had diminished markedly. Many of the flush-deckers had been recommissioned by the Navy for service on neutrality patrol, and 50 steamed to Canadian ports for transfer to Britain under the destroyers-for-bases agreement of 1940.

Thus, the first Coast Guardsmen to serve aboard naval vessels were ordered to much larger ships. On June 3, 1941, almost five months before the Coast Guard was transferred to the Navy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that permitted some 2,100 officers and men to crew four transports and to serve in 22 similar ships with naval crews. Most of those assigned to the latter were surfmen from lifeboat stations who were to serve in the landing craft carried by the larger vessels and to instruct others in their use.

The four transports were manned principally by sailors from cutters, especially the 10 250-foot Lake-class vessels that had been transferred to the Royal Navy by Lend-Lease a few weeks earlier, and by some of the more than 6,700 men who entered the Coast Guard under special temporary three-year enlistments in 1939 and 1941.

CG-manned transports
The first three transports to be commissioned, the USSs Leonard Wood, Joseph T. Dickman and Hunter Liggett, were turbine-powered 535-footers of World War I design, while the USS Wakefield, commissioned on June 15, had been launched as the liner Manhattan in 1931. At 705-feet long, the Wakefield was the largest ship ever manned by the Coast Guard and one of the fastest. Geared turbines drove it at 20 knots sustained speed.

All immediately began naval training. Active service for the Wood, Dickman and Wakefield came during the autumn of 1941 when, together with three Navy-manned transports, they embarked some 20,000 British troops at Halifax, Nova Scotia, for transportation to the Near East by way of the Cape of Good Hope.

Arriving at Cape Town on Dec. 8, they were diverted to Bombay and Singapore because of Japan's belligerence. The Wakefield had discharged its troops at Singapore and was refueling there on Jan. 30, 1942, when Japanese bombers attacked waterfront facilities. A bomb exploded in its sick bay, killing five men and wounding 15 nonetheless, the ship embarked approximately 500 women and children and took them to Bombay where the ship was repaired sufficiently to steam to New York. Upon their return to the United States, the Wood and the Dickman underwent further conversion to enable them to conduct assault landings.

The Liggett was similarly refitted, but the Wakefield seemed to have been thought unsuitable for this purpose, so it did not receive the extra davits for small landing craft that distinguished the vessels classified as attack transports (APA) in 1943.

Attack transports
Six more APAs of the Maritime Commission C-3 type, were manned by the Coast Guard upon commissioning in 1942 and 1943. One or more of these vessels participated in every major amphibious operation carried out by the United States during World War II, unlike the transports (AP), which were limited to non-combat service, carrying personnel and cargoes between the ports of the United States and its allies.

1st American offensive of WWII

The Coast Guard was represented in the first American offensive of the war - the invasion of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands on Aug. 7, 1942, by the Liggett and by landing craft crews in 18 of the 22 Navy-manned transports participating.

The landings were enlivened by Japanese bombers, one of which crashed into a nearby transport, causing a fire that resulted in its loss. As partial recompense, the Liggett's gunners claimed four aircraft shot down. On the morning of Aug. 9, the Liggett joined other vessels in picking up survivors from the heavy cruisers - three American and one Australian - sunk in the Battle of Savo Island.

Meanwhile, a detachment of its men had been sent ashore to establish an operating base at Lunga Point, and on Sept. 27 one of them, Signalman 1/c Douglas A. Munro, was fatally wounded while his landing craft was aiding in the evacuation of trapped Marines. Munro became the Coast Guard's only Medal of Honor recipient.

The Liggett continued to support the advance in the Solomon Islands, ending its combat service with the Bougainville invasion in November 1943. The Liggett then ferried battle casualties to San Francisco and after overhaul spent the remainder of the war as an amphibious-training ship operating out of San Diego.

The Wood and the Dickman had longer combat careers. Both had important roles in Operation Torch - landing troops in the vicinity of Casablanca, Morocco - in November 1942 and in the Sicily invasion in July 1943. Thereafter, their ways parted, the Wood headed west to participate in the amphibious operations associated with the naval thrust across the central Pacific - Makin, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Palau, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf and Mindoro - while the Dickman disembarked troops at Salerno, Normandy and Southern France, before going to the Pacific to take part in the Okinawa invasion that practically ended the Allied advance in 1945.

The first of the smaller attack transports, the Arthur Middleton, seemed likely to have the shortest career, for while landing troops at Amchitka in the Aleutians on Jan. 12, 1943, it was forced aground by a williwaw. Finally refloated almost three months later, the Middleton was towed back to the United States for repairs. Thereafter, the ship redeemed itself by participating in seven amphibious operations: Tarawa, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf and Okinawa.

Its sister ship, the Samuel Chase, began with Operation Torch, putting troops ashore at Algiers, and followed with the Sicily, Salerno, Normandy and Southern France invasions before going to the Pacific in 1945.

The four other Coast Guard-manned attack transports were ready for service early in 1944. One of them, the USS Bayfield, landed its troops on Utah Beach, Normandy, on D-Day and spent 19 days there, sending supplies ashore and providing medical treatment for battle casualties. It had similar functions at the invasion of southern France and then went to the Pacific to take part in the conquest of Iwo Jima, Japan.

Heavy losses for the USS Callaway
The USS Callaway landed troops of the 4th Marine Division at Roi-Namur, Kwajalein, and followed with the Emirau, Saipan, Palau and Leyte invasions. En route to Lingayen Gulf in January 1945, its task force came under repeated kamikaze attack, and one Japanese fighter crashed into the Callaway's superstructure just abaft the navigation bridge.

Twenty Coast Guard sailors and 11 Navy men, members of the transport division commander's staff, died or suffered fatal injury in the resulting blaze, which rendered four landing craft useless. Nonetheless, the Callaway kept its place in the formation and landed troops on schedule. After repairs at Ulithi, the embarked troops were assigned to the floating reserve at Iwo Jima, the attack transport's last invasion.

The USS Cambria landed troops at Majuro in the Marshall Islands in January 1944, without opposition, and then at Eniwetok, Saipan, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf and Okinawa. It emerged from all unscathed - unlike its sister, the USS Cavalier, which began its combat career at Saipan, took part in the Leyte invasion, and while landing troops at Lingayen Gulf, sustained casualties from shore fire. The ship was supporting Army forces on Luzon when, on Jan. 30, 1945, a Japanese torpedo crippled it. The Cavalier was towed to Leyte and then to Pearl Harbor. Hostilities ended before the ship was ready for sea again.

The attack transports were not the only Coast Guard-manned participants in most of these assault landings. Beginning in 1943, five of the somewhat smaller C-2 type vessels were commissioned as attack cargo ships (AKA) with Coast Guard crews. Although these, too, transported soldiers and Marines, they devoted a greater portion of their cargo space to the supplies and gear necessary to support the troops engaged in various amphibious operations. They spent more of their time between invasions shuttling supplies among island bases in their capacity as cargo ships.

The first two, the USSs Aquarius and Centaurus, began together at Kwajalein the latter then helped to seize Aitape in New Guinea, while the Aquarius transported garrison troops in the Southwest Pacific. Both took part in the Saipan, Guam and Pelelieu invasions, and while the Centaurus returned to the United States for overhaul, the Aquarius went on to Leyte and Lingayen Gulf. Both the Aquarius and the Centaurus were in the Okinawa assault force, as were their sisters: the USS Cepheus - a veteran of the Southern France invasion - and the USSs Sheliak and Theenim, for both of which Okinawa was the first combat operation.

Landing craft
While attack transports and attack cargo ships could carry troops to the invasion beaches, they had to debark them into small landing craft to be ferried ashore. By early 1943, ocean-going vessels capable of beaching themselves and retracting after landing troops and equipment were leaving builders' yards in sufficient number that the Navy sought Coast Guard assistance in manning units of the two most important, and most numerous, types.

These were the LST - landing ship, tank - and the LCI(L) - landing craft, infantry, large. Unlike the larger amphibious-force ships, these unglamorous vessels did not receive names, but their contribution to the Allied offensives in almost every theater of operations was invaluable. And while the larger ships were exposed to enemy bomber and kamikaze attacks, occasionally becoming targets for shore batteries, only their landing craft crews could expect to come under fire in the course of almost every invasion.

Entire companies of beaching craft, on the other hand, could claim the distinction of being in the forefront of the battle in every opposed landing. Initially, the Coast Guard was to provide crews for 61 LSTs which were flat-bottomed ships, 328 feet long, fitted with ballast tanks that could be pumped out to reduce their draft by five feet when beaching, and with bow doors that opened so that vehicles could be driven off the tank deck. Changes in production schedules reduced the Coast Guard's responsibility to 37 of the early LSTs, 13 of which served with Navy flotillas in the European theater, while 24 went to the Pacific.

Beginning with the landings in Tunis in July 1943 and those at Fischhafen, New Guinea, two months later, one or more Coast Guard-manned LSTs participated in almost every amphibious operation involving American forces, and several landed British or Commonwealth troops, as at Taranto, Normandy and Borneo. Thirty-six more LSTs, composing the 29th Flotilla, were commissioned by Coast Guard crews in 1944 and took part in the Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Japan, landings in 1945, while three others completed their training too late for World War II service.

The landings
LST participation in an invasion was rarely a simple beaching, landing of equipment and men, and retracting. Invasion convoys were often subjected to air attack while in passage, and after an LST's initial beaching, it was usually ordered to go alongside a larger vessel offshore to embark another cargo to be landed on the beach. This sequence was often repeated a number of times in the course of a single amphibious operation. In fact, the Coast Guard-manned LST 792 was said to have been beached 90 times during its 13-month World War II career.

Nor was beaching always a simple evolution - beach gradients sometimes did not permit a close approach before the LST grounded, necessitating the use of pontoon causeways, brought to the scene by the LST, between ship and shore. In addition, beaching on coral reefs in the Pacific was likely to be especially tricky, because the landing ship might find itself impaled on a coral head when it came time to retract. For example, the Coast Guard-manned LST 203 had to be abandoned after broaching on a coral reef in the Ellice Islands Oct. 1, 1943.

Also, two other Coast Guard LSTs were lost: LST 69 was one of six destroyed by explosion and fire while loading ammunition in Pearl Harbor May 21, 1944 - none of its crew died in the catastrophe, but 13 were seriously injured - and Japanese bombers damaged the LST 167 irreparably during the Vella Lavella invasion Sept. 25, 1943. The latter's casualty list - seven men killed, 23 wounded, of whom three died of their wounds, and five men missing - was the largest suffered by a Coast Guard-manned landing ship or craft.

The LCI(L)s were 160-foot vessels with a ramp on each side of the bow that could be lowered to permit infantrymen to debark after beaching. Faster and more maneuverable than the LSTs, they were uncomfortable at sea with almost 200 soldiers aboard, and their small crews which included 24 officers and men, needed careful training to lower and raise the heavy ramps safely. The Coast Guard-manned bobtail flotilla of 24 LCI(L)s received its baptism of fire in the Sicily invasion July 9, 1943, the first major operation for ships of this type.

They emerged unscathed from the Sicily landings and the subsequent Salerno invasion, but the Coast Guard flotilla lost the LCI(L)s 85, 91 and 92 to mines at Normandy June 6, 1944, and the LCI(L) 93 had to be abandoned after 10 direct hits by a German shore battery.

The LCI(L) 83 was also abandoned when it struck a mine almost two weeks later, but when the ebbing tide exposed the hole, its men were able to patch it well enough so that the ship could return to England for repair.

Other duties in the Pacific
The 20 surviving Coast Guard LCI(L)s sailed to the United States in the autumn of 1944, and after overhaul and training with four replacement vessels, went to the Pacific, where 13 of them added the Okinawa campaign to their battle records.

Their beaching capability was not needed there, most of the troops having been landed before the Coast Guard-manned vessels joined the invasion force, so they were used in a variety of other duties, making smoke frequently to screen larger ships from Japanese air attack. Eight of the LCI(L) 90's men were burned seriously, one fatally, when a kamikaze crashed into the conning station June 13, 1945, but the ship survived, making off under its own power.

Since its cutters had been serving as convoy escorts almost from the beginning of the United States involvement in World War II, it was to be expected that the Coast Guard should provide crews for some of the myriad escort vessels built for the Navy during the war. First of these were eight corvettes, 208-foot vessels built in Canada and commissioned between November 1942 and August 1943. All were principally employed escorting coastal convoys between New York and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It was rather monotonous duty enlivened by an occasional sonar contact and more frequently by rough weather, in which the little ships justified their reputation for seaworthiness - and for lack of sea kindliness.
Meanwhile, the Navy had begun a major program of destroyer-escort building, which ultimately produced some 500 ships. Thirty of these DEs, all of the 306-foot-long, Fairbanks Morse-diesel type with reduction gears, were commissioned by Coast Guard crews during the autumn of 1943.

Following shakedown cruises and antisubmarine-warfare training, all were assigned to transatlantic-escort duty, taking convoys from the American East Coast to ports in the United Kingdom and to the Mediterranean. While the threat of U-boats and, to a lesser degree, German air attack posed the greatest danger, the sea itself could also be considered an enemy. Sea conditions in the North Atlantic during the winter were among the most severe encountered anywhere, and the DEs were notoriously lively in a seaway. "I never questioned the seaworthiness of those ships (after the first winter storm)," said the USS Pettit's commanding officer. "I think everyone on board, however, wondered if they could hang in, or literally hold on, for the 14-day trips."

Hold on they did, while their ship escorted 24 convoys across the Atlantic. One of the Coast Guard-manned DEs, the USS Leopold, was lost, sunk by an acoustic torpedo while it was attacking a submarine 400 miles south of Iceland during the night of March 9, 1944. Despite heavy seas, the USS Joyce closed its stricken sister, but it had to turn away repeatedly to elude torpedoes. The Joyce finally picked up 28 survivors 171 men, including all of the Leopold's officers, died with their ship.

The Leopold's assailant escaped, but its division mates Joyce and Peterson, together with a Navy DE, avenged the Leopold a few weeks later. The first picked up 31 survivors from a blazing tanker April 16, and soon afterward its sonarmen detected a submerged submarine. The Joyce's depth charges forced the U-550 to the surface the three DEs opened fire and the Navy ship rammed the U-boat, whereupon it was scuttled by its own men.

War casualty
The USS Menges became the next torpedo victim. It detected a submarine nearing its convoy May 3, 1944 and steered to attack, only to have its stern blown off by the U-371's acoustic torpedo. Thirty-one of its men were killed and 25 wounded, but its commanding officer refused to order the ship abandoned. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard-manned USS Pride and other escort vessels tracked the U-371 relentlessly. The submarine surfaced the next day and damaged a French DE with another acoustic torpedo before being scuttled by its crew. Towed back to New York, the Menges had its stern replaced with that of another torpedo-damaged DE and returned to service in the autumn of 1944.

Together with its division mates Moseley, Pride and Lowe, the Menges spent two weeks during the spring of 1945 in search of a U-boat reported to be operating off Newfoundland. The Lowe made the initial depth charge attack March 18, and the other ships followed with hedgehog and depth charge patterns. Postwar analysis indicated that the Lowe had destroyed the U-866. Thereafter, the four DEs joined naval vessels in countering the final German U-boat offensive in the western Atlantic.

Most of the Coast Guard-manned DEs continued to escort convoys to and from Europe or Africa until the war ended in May 1945. Then, after overhaul and further training, 23 of the ships were ordered to the Pacific. Only the six sent to Adak in the Aleutians had any opportunity for active service before Japan's surrender, however they escorted convoys in the North Pacific and served with the 9th Fleet in its campaign against the Kurile Islands.

The apparently insatiable demand for anti-submarine vessels in 1942 led the Navy to utilize merchant shipyards for their construction. These yards were not thought capable of building ships such as DEs to naval standards, so the British River-class frigate design, similar to the DEs, was modified for American construction techniques. Shipyards in California and on the Great Lakes received contracts for 69 of these ships in 1942 ultimately, 96 were built, 21 of which were transferred to the Royal Navy. They were laid down as gunboats (PG) and later redesignated frigates (PF) - the frequently used term patrol frigate is erroneous, based on the mistaken assumption that each letter in the designation must stand for a word.

Actually, PF simply indicated that frigates were vessels of the patrol type, as opposed to the DEs, which, built to naval standards and most carrying torpedo tubes, were destroyer type ships. The frigate program was plagued by delays only 12 had been completed before the end of 1943, by which time more than 200 DEs were in commission and the Allies were winning the Battle of the Atlantic. Thus, the Coast Guard was made responsible for manning 75 of the no longer essential frigates. Only two Canadian-built River-class vessels had Navy crews. After the frigates were completed, their entry into service was often delayed by alignment problems with their triple-expansion reciprocating engines. Some had their main engines rebuilt after failing trials or during post-shakedown availability.

The first frigates
The California-built frigates were ready first. Eighteen of them reported to the 7th Fleet in the Southwest Pacific in 1944, where they were joined by four of their Great Lakes sisters. For the remainder of the year, they escorted convoys, made anti-submarine patrols, and occasionally provided fire support for American and Australian troops advancing westward along the northern coast of New Guinea and landing on islands offshore.

The USSs Bisbee and Gallup put rangers ashore on islands in the approaches to Leyte Gulf at the beginning of the Philippines invasion, and eight of their sister ships were among the escorts that brought the first reinforcement convoys to Leyte. The frigates were detached for duty elsewhere early in 1945 when faster steam-powered DEs with more effective armament joined the 7th Fleet. The remaining 12 California-built ships performed training and patrol duties in Alaskan waters and the eastern Pacific.

Most of the Great Lakes frigates served in the Atlantic, a number escorting convoys to and from the Mediterranean. Several operated temporarily with task groups investigating reported U-boat activity, and on one such mission the USS Moberly shared credit with a Navy DE for the destruction of the U-853 off Narragansett Bay in May 1945. By that time, many of the frigates were being converted for weather-patrol duty, for which they were quite suitable because of their endurance and sea kindliness - they were much more comfortable in a seaway than DEs. The conversion involved the replacement of the after three-inch gun by a small deckhouse for inflating weather balloons. Forty-four of the ships were so fitted, manning weather stations in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Those serving in the Atlantic after VE Day had their decks and bridge structures painted bright yellow to make them more readily visible to aircraft on transatlantic flights, a form of reverse camouflage that did little for the ships' appearance.

World War II nears an end
As the war in Europe neared its end, many of the escort vessels flying American colors were clearly superfluous. Twenty-eight of the frigates were made available for Lend-Lease transfer to the then Soviet Union in the spring of 1945. During pre-transfer overhauls, these ships had their most sophisticated equipment replaced by more primitive gear, after which they steamed to Cold Bay, Alaska. There the Coast Guard crews spent several weeks training their Russian replacements. The frigates hoisted their Soviet flags in July and August of 1945.

Smallest of the Navy's escort vessels manned by Coast Guardsmen were 10 submarine chasers - four of the 173-foot steel PCs and six of the 110-foot wooden SCs. Despite their size, several had more impressive records than many of the larger vessels. Thus, the PC 469 engaged the U-154 in a five-hour battle in the Caribbean Sea in November 1942, damaging the enemy and emerging unscathed.

It went on to serve as control vessel at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, sinking two suicide motor boats and driving off a third in May 1945 and shooting down two Japanese aircraft six weeks later. The PCs 545 and 556 took part in the Sicily and Southern France invasions, and the first was at Anzio as well, sinking an enemy motor torpedo boat. The SCs all served with the Greenland Patrol.

Coast Guard's non-combat missions
Most of the foregoing ships could be considered combat vessels, although many of them never fired a shot in anger. Coast Guardsmen, however, manned numerous naval vessels that were not intended to engage in combat, performing instead essential, if less spectacular, logistical services.

Twenty-two transports were the largest of these, of which the Wakefield has already been mentioned. The ship was almost lost to fire in September 1942 while in a New York-bound convoy. Naval escorts removed its passengers and crew and placed a salvage detail aboard. Towed to Halifax, it was declared a constructive total loss, but it was completely rebuilt in Boston and recommissioned by a Coast Guard crew in February 1944.

The Wakefield spent the remainder of the war transporting troops in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.
Eleven of the transports were of the P-2 type, more than 600-feet long, while nine were 523-foot C-4s. All commissioned in 1944 or 1945, most had busy careers, crossing the oceans repeatedly with thousands of troops embarked, often without escort because their speed - 20 knots for the P-2s and 17 knots for the C-4s - was thought to make it difficult for an enemy submarine to get a torpedo-firing solution. The General William Mitchell may serve as an example of these ships' service: In some 20 months, this P-2 transport made 10 transoceanic voyages, traversing more than 165,000 miles and carrying more than 80,000 passengers.

The Coast Guard also provided crews for 16 of the Navy's cargo ships, all but one of which, the smaller USS Enceladus, were of the Liberty type built in large numbers during the war. These 11-knot cargo carriers served in the Pacific. The USSs Alberio and the Eridanus plied between San Francisco and the Southwest Pacific, while most of the others spent their entire wartime careers shuttling supplies and men among island bases. Some took part in invasions despite their auxiliary designation.

The USS Etamin was part of the Aitape assault force in April 1944, and while anchored off the north coast of New Guinea on the night of April 27, it was struck by a Japanese aerial torpedo. Several men were burned in gasoline fires, and when the ship began to settle, the cargo ship was abandoned, apparently without loss of life. Two bodies were found later in the hold that the torpedo had hit. Too badly damaged to justify repair, the Etamin was decommissioned to become a storage hulk at Cairns, Australia.

Its sister, the USS Serpens, veteran of 19 months of Southwest Pacific service, exploded and sank Jan. 29, 1945, while loading depth charges in Lunga Roads off Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. There were only two survivors from the 198 men of the crew who were aboard at the time, and 57 members of an Army stevedore unit died in the explosion the commanding officer and seven others were ashore when their ship sank.

The Serpens disaster, which was not attributed to enemy action, resulted in the Coast Guard's greatest loss of life in World War II. The USS Pontus, a converted LST serving as a motor torpedo-boat tender, and 18 small gasoline tankers, most of which were commissioned in 1944, completed the roster of Coast Guard-manned naval auxiliaries. The latter - 10-knot, 220-foot ships - supplied gasoline and lube oil to combat vessels operating in the Pacific and to advanced bases.

Occasionally, they became combatants themselves, as when the USS Calamus shot a Japanese aircraft down at Okinawa. Its sister, the USS Sheepscot, was the only loss, capsizing on June 6, 1945, after running aground in heavy weather off Iwo Jima.

The Coast Guard also provided crews for many smaller naval vessels, among them the converted yacht USS Amethyst and numerous district craft, including a number of the patrol boats better known as yippees from their YP designation. Most had been fishing boats originally a few were 110-foot wooden submarine chasers built during World War I.

In all, the Coast Guard manned 351 naval vessels in the course of World War II, those so employed numbering 48,622 at the war's end. ADM Russell R. Waesche, the Coast Guard commandant, hoped that naval crews might replace his service's personnel aboard these ships when the Coast Guard was returned to Treasury Department control on Jan. 1, 1946.

The Navy, however, was facing its own demobilization problems, so the Coast Guardsmen ultimately decommissioned most of the vessels in which they were serving.

The last may have been the frigate USS El Paso, which had been a weather ship off Leyte. According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, its ensign and commission pennant were hauled down on July 18, 1946. Nineteen other frigates, also fitted as weather ships, were decommissioned several weeks later, but had been lent to the Coast Guard in 1946 and so were no longer naval vessels.

During the period between Japan's surrender and their pre-inactivation overhauls, most of these ships performed a variety of duties. Transports and cargo ships took part in Operation Magic Carpet, returning military personnel to the United States, while frigates continued to patrol weather stations in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Some LSTs and DEs were assigned duties associated with the occupation of Japan, as were several of the LCIs - sisters of the last shuttled personnel and cargoes among Pacific atolls.

DEs also searched Pacific islands for isolated Japanese garrisons or survivors of wartime airplane crashes, and a few had to make a weather patrol before returning home, hardly a pleasant experience for the crews of those rough-riding ships.

Coast Guard's contribution
The Coast Guard-manned naval vessels made an important contribution to the Allied victory in World War II, their performance comparing favorably with that of their counterparts with naval crews. It must be noted, however, that they composed only a small proportion of the Navy's amphibious, escort and auxiliary forces.

Moreover, most of their men were reservists, whose experience with the Coast Guard was limited to a few weeks of recruit training they probably would have served as effectively had their uniforms' right sleeves not borne the Coast Guard shield.

The Coast Guard's most significant influence leading to these ships' successes was perhaps that of the commanding officers who commissioned them. Transports, cargo ships, LSTs, destroyer escorts and frigates were all commanded initially by regular officers of command rank, and their ships' effectiveness depended to a considerable extent on their own ability.

Many of the smaller vessels' commanding officers had been warrant or petty officers until they were promoted temporarily to commissioned rank their years of experience in the pre-war Coast Guard enabled them to meet the challenges of command.

Finally, the surfmen assigned to vessels manned by the Navy, to serve in landing craft and as mentors for landing craft crews while the Navy was learning the techniques of amphibious warfare, must not be forgotten. Their contribution to victory was second to none, far out of proportion to their numbers.

Is the Navy trying to cover up a WWII explosion that killed 250?

Was crew failure or a Japanese torpedo responsible for the destruction of the USS Serpens in 1945? Former CIA accountant and Venice resident Robert Breen wants to know what killed his father.

VENICE &mdash Packed with 600 tons of ammo and explosives, the USS Serpens died in a flash beneath a full moon at 11:18 p.m. on Jan. 29, 1945.

The blast was so violent it rained shrapnel and debris on the island of Guadalcanal a mile away, killed a soldier onshore, knocked everyone standing within that radius off their feet, and flung one sailor into another vessel moored 650 yards away. That ship, the USS YP 514, had its bow and crow's nest demolished, and counted 14 injuries as &ldquomissiles&rdquo and &ldquoscreeching shells&rdquo continued to explode and turn night into day.

Witnesses said the calamity generated an 8-foot tidal wave, and that the ground shock rippled five miles out. Some said the sky drizzled oil for up to two hours. When bystanders regained their senses, the 100-ton barge that had been transferring bombs onto the Serpens had vanished, and all that was left of the 441-foot cargo ship was its sinking bow, keel up.

Miraculously, two sailors who had been asleep in a forward hold survived. Few other bodies were recovered intact. When the counting was done, 193 Coast Guard crewmen, who had been manning the Navy ship, were gone &mdash along with 56 Army stevedores and an onboard civilian doctor. It was, in short, the most catastrophic single-event loss of life in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Four years later, in what Arlington National Cemetery describes as &ldquothe largest group burial&rdquo ever hosted, the remains of the 250 casualties from that disaster were retrieved from Guadalcanal, placed in 52 flag-draped coffins, and laid to rest in 28 graves.

According to the Navy, which conducted the investigation, the Serpens blew up during the accidental mishandling of bombs, torpedoes and depth charges. But the son of a crew member isn't buying it.

After pressing Florida politicians and pursuing government records with Freedom of Information Act requests, Robert Breen of Venice has discovered curious gaps in the Serpens' obituary. And at 76, the retired Central Intelligence Agency senior finance officer and certified fraud investigator wonders if he's onto one of the last coverups of World War II.

Alongside 249 other names, &ldquoGerald C. Breen F2 USCGR&rdquo is engraved into the octagonal granite marker dedicated to the USS Serpens in Arlington. As a 29-year-old reserve fireman, Gerald Breen was one of a quarter million Coast Guardsmen deployed in the Second World War. According to the letters he wrote home, the Boston native had it made.

&ldquoThey ate like kings because it was a supply ship. It was like they had Thanksgiving dinner every Sunday,&rdquo says Gerald Breen's only child, who has no memory of his father. &ldquoThey even had bathtubs.&rdquo

Commissioned in 1943, the Navy cargo ship spent much of her short life in the South Pacific ferrying supplies to Allied forces. Gerald Breen, who enlisted the same year, joined the Serpens in October 1944. In November, the ship was modified in New Zealand to carry ordnance.

When it reached the Solomon Islands in January 1945, the Serpens' load included 3,399 unfused bombs, each containing 350 pounds of high-explosive Torpex. The vessel anchored a mile off Lunga Point, on the north shore of Guadalcanal.

Two years earlier, Guadalcanal was the site of the Allies' first major land victory over Japan, a bloody affair that took six months to resolve. By early 1945, the front lines had swept more than 2,500 miles to the west. The U.S. fleet had fought its way to the Japanese doorstep, reloading and mobilizing for the invasion of Iwo Jima.

On the evening the Serpens was destroyed, eight of its crew, including Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson, had gone ashore. Eyewitnesses remember hearing two consecutive explosions, the second of which expelled the fireball that vaporized the ship. The Navy was responsible for perimeter security.

An only child raised by his widowed mother, Robert Breen had an aptitude for crunching numbers. After college, in 1966, he answered a Boston Globe want ad soliciting government accountants for an unnamed employer. It would be Breen's entrée into the CIA, where he would climb the ladder into the Agency's Office of Logistics, its Commercial Systems Audit Division, the Office of Finance and the Office of Inspector General. Foreign assignments included posts in Paris, Rome, and Iran.

As Breen built a career pursuing efficiency and accountability, something his mother said about Dad's death nagged him for much of his adult life.

Mom was officially notified by the USCG of her husband's death on April 9, 1945, in a letter stating that Gerald Breen was killed when &ldquothe vessel . was torpedoed by the enemy.&rdquo But she told her son she understood that none of the Serpens' crew received the Purple Heart, awarded to military personnel killed or wounded during hostilities, because the explosion had subsequently been ruled accidental.

Things got more curious in 1995, when Breen attended a 50-year anniversary memorial service in Arlington for the crew. That's where he learned that seven of those aboard the Serpens had in fact received Purple Hearts.

Furthermore, on the eve of that anniversary, one of those survivors, Kelsie Kemp, told a Virginia newspaper the ship had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine that had been detected shadowing the Serpens prior to the explosion. And in a most puzzling twist, Kemp also remembered seeing a Japanese weather plane beforehand, and that deck gunners were ordered to hold their fire.

&ldquoThat little plane came out buzzing like a skeeter and we couldn't do anything,&rdquo recalled Kemp, since deceased. &ldquoThere's probably a picture of me in Japan looking up with my mouth gaping open.&rdquo

Both Kemp and fellow survivor George Kennedy were among the seven who received Purple Hearts.

Last year, Douglas Campbell, a retired naval intelligence officer, military historian and author, was conducting research at on an unrelated WWII matter when he got sidetracked by the Serpens disaster. He'd never heard of it. Fascinated, he began Googling more recent developments. And he discovered the fierce tenacity of Robert Breen, who launched his quest for answers in 2012.

In the fall 2018 issue of its newsletter, &ldquoThe Quarterdeck Log,&rdquo the Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association revisited the greatest tragedy in USCG history with a four-page spread on the Serpens sinking and its aftermath. Specifically, it focused on documents Robert Breen had acquired through FOIA requests and with the assistance of then-U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Highlights included a report filed by the Serpens' commanding officer, Perry Stinson, just two days after the explosion: &ldquoI am unable to state whether the explosion which destroyed the ship was due to enemy action and the explosion of the depth charges constituting its cargo or to the explosion of the cargo alone.&rdquo

Stinson's uncertainty was challenged by a Navy report dated March 21, 1945: &ldquoIt is believed that the original blast was caused by enemy action, probably by an enemy submarine, since Tokyo radio boasted of the explosion before they possibly could have learned about it from us.&rdquo

That finding augmented the March 1, 1945, Navy Department Communique No. 583, which announced the Serpens &ldquohas been lost in the South Pacific Area as a result of enemy action.&rdquo

And then there's an undated document emerging from the Navy Court of Inquiry hearings from 1945. It was endorsed by four U.S. commands, including three within the Pacific Fleet and another from the South Pacific Area and Force.

&ldquoThere is a possibility that the explosion was due to rough handling and the court could not reach an agreement on probable cause,&rdquo it states. &ldquoThe majority of the court blamed it on enemy action, while a minority report blamed it on rough handling.

&ldquoThere was, however, absolutely no evidence of rough handling and the minority report was obviously based on the bad reputation which Torpex has.&rdquo

But by time the Coast Guard conducted official burial ceremonies at Arlington in 1949, and for reasons unknown, the minority report had prevailed. The USCG's appeals for media coverage stated the explosion was &ldquodetermined (to be) not the result of enemy action.&rdquo

Why the about-face? Breen went searching for the evidence that figured into Navy Judge Advocate General's conclusions on the Serpens in 1949. He also wanted to know who those board members were.

Breen discovered the records had been checked out of the National Archives Records Administration in 2003 by the Navy JAG's office and never returned. Furthermore, Breen's appeals to JAG for the name of the ship that attempted to hunt down the Japanese submarine, as well as its logs, were unsuccessful.

Campbell was intrigued. &ldquoIt cannot be explained,&rdquo he says, of why only a handful of selected members of the Serpens were awarded Purple Hearts. &ldquoBased on the findings of 1945, they would've all been automatically nominated for the Purple Heart.&rdquo

Alternately, if Purple Hearts were wrongly awarded, they should be revoked and returned.

Breen suspects the Navy blamed the explosion on crew failure rather than enemy activity in order to insulate itself from charges it failed to provide adequate security. Although stringing anti-torpedo netting around anchored vessels was a standard precaution during the war, they were not 100% fail-safe. But there are no records indicating whether or not those measures were taken with the Serpens.

Campbell, however, isn't sure if an intentional whitewash was in play.

&ldquoI've got to go with incompetence,&rdquo he says from his home in Southern Pines, North Carolina. &ldquoI just don't totally believe they purposefully destroyed Navy records to hide anything. I think there would be a lot of other things they wouldn't have wanted out that did get out.&rdquo

Campbell remembers requesting information from JAG about an American sub sunk by friendly fire in the Caribbean during the war. He received the findings of the Navy's board of investigation and its subsequent formal board of inquiry. A year later, however, Campbell was contacted by another researcher looking into the same accident, only to be informed by JAG it couldn't find the records.

&ldquoAfter they sent me my copies,&rdquo Campbell says, &ldquothey evidently misplaced the originals.&rdquo

Campbell and Breen are collaborating on a fuller accounting &mdash &ldquoThe Long Blue Line Disrupted: USS Serpens (AK-97) and the Largest Loss of Life in U.S. Coast Guard History&rdquo &mdash which they intend to publish by the end of the year, and in time for January's 75th anniversary. It is incomplete, as neither were able to obtain Japanese records of relevant submarine activity.

The book will also include a cautiously crafted foreword by retired Coast Guard Admiral and former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security James Loy. His statement avoids the controversy, but he declares &ldquothe Serpens story is a significant part of (the USCG) legacy and deserves to be told wide and far.&rdquo

Breen is also circulating a petition encouraging the USCG to convene a new investigation for the purposes of awarding Purple Hearts to all the victims of the explosion, including his father.

Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association President Stephen Petersen has written Breen a letter expressing &ldquoour unqualified endorsement of your efforts.&rdquo As Petersen told the Herald-Tribune, 75 years in limbo is long enough. &ldquoThey should've gotten these medals from the very beginning. And we shouldn't have to beg for them.&rdquo

The USCG did not comment on Breen's lobbying campaign.

The co-authors will also travel to Guadalcanal in September, where a team of divers, including two of Breen's sons, hope to retrieve photos of what little remains of the Serpens.

&ldquoI'm not saying this was definitely a coverup,&rdquo Breen says. &ldquoBut it has all the indications that someone doesn't want the truth out there.&rdquo

5 things Maverick would actually be doing after 32 years of service

Posted On February 05, 2020 19:00:37

The poster for Top Gun 2 has officially been released to let audiences know that Day 1 of principle photography has begun. Awesome. I just want to be that guy and point out that, after 32 years of being in the Navy, is Maverick still only a captain. Why? How?

While he’s still got nothing on Gen. Vessey’s 46 years of service, the average time it takes to make Admiral is 23 years — and that’s taking into account only the 2.24% of ensigns who stay in that long. I guess his need for speed is really that strong.

Here’s our take on what a real-world Maverick would be (or should be) doing after all this time.

But I can’t help but feel like we’ve seen this film somewhere before…

Stuck in Training Command

The most obvious and likely scenario will reverse the roles as we know them: the former rambunctious student is now an underappreciated teacher who has to mentor someone just as rebellious and talented as he once was.

He’ll probably hold fast to his old gotta-be-the-best mentality before he finally accepts the fact that his time has passed and his new calling is to impart all of his knowledge onto a quirky, young, Latina pilot that nobody believes in. Chances are high that this is what the film is going to be about — according to rumors, anyway.

He would need to fight the urge to go inverted, though…

Commercial airline pilot

The most common scenario is that, after so many years, he’d just say, “screw it,” retire, and look for employment in the civilian sector. I’m just saying, it’s hard to scoff at a potential 3k a year when he’d otherwise make 9k by staying in.

Maybe Maverick feels like hanging it all up and making some serious bank by flying red-eyes between San Diego and Seattle-Tacoma International. It could be a heart-felt story about a once-badass Navy aviator having to cope with a dull civilian life.

Basically another role reversal if Maverick became Gene Hackman’s character from The Firm.

Corporate lobbyist in Washington

One of the complaints many people have about the freshly-released teaser poster is that Maverick is seemingly about to board an F-18 Super Hornet instead of the F-35C Lightning II. Personally, I have no dog in this fight — maybe this all the work of Pete Mitchell (formerly known as Maverick) cozying up to politicians who want to keep the Super Hornet in production.

Top Gun 2 could shape up to be a politician thriller along the lines of Thank You For Smoking or something that wouldn’t get unofficially scrapped before the series arc could finish.

So it’d be ‘Jack Reacher’… but without the action.

Old drunk at the bar

A place Maverick frequented in the original Top Gun was that bar outside of Miramar. But what if Maverick could never really leave that bar — just like so many veterans before him? Night after night, generation after generation, Maverick sat in the bar reminiscing. Now, he’s become that washed-up old guy who tells uninterested sailors about that time he “totally” fought the Soviets without starting an international incident.

It’d be just like Cocktail or Cheers — except it wouldn’t be a romantic comedy. It’d be a serious drama about an old vet who just wants someone to talk to.

Unapologetic clothing line owner

Just like nearly every high-profile veteran that leaves the service, he could start his own veteran-owned military clothing company. He only sells jean shorts, body oil, and sunglasses. For obvious reasons, selling t-shirts is completely out of the question.

It could be a movie about Maverick and Iceman making YouTube shorts, sharing memes, and, eventually, trying to make their own movie about beach volleyball players during the zombie apocalypse…

More links we like


Serpens II AK-266 - History

14,250 Tons
441' 6" x 56' 11" x 27' 7"
1 x 5"/38 gun
2 x 40mm guns
6 x 20mm guns

Sinking History
On January 29, 1945 anchored off Lunga Point on Guadalcanal while loaded with depth charges. Late in the evening, the ship suddenly exploded and sank. Killed in the blast were 193 U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) crewmen, 56 U.S. Army stevedores and a Public Health Service physician. The force of the explosion was so great that it also killed a U.S. Army soldier ashore. The cause of the explosion was never determined and the loss of the Serpens was the largest single disaster ever suffered by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

Robert Brock adds:
"A ship anchored off Lunga Point on Guadalcanal exploded one night and covered the beach area and inland for several meters with debris. An article was in 'Ripleys Believe-it-or not' several years ago in which it stated that one man survived the blast and was blown through a porthole. I helped recover bodies the next day. Many of the casualties were stevedores from Fiji."

Fate of the Crew
Only two of the crew survived the explosion and sinking: Seaman 1st Class Kelsie Kemp and Seaman 1st Class George Kennedy. Both earned the Purple Heart for injuries sustained.

Eight other crew were ashore at the time of the explosion. The ship's commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Perry Stinson, another officer plus six crewmen were ashore on administrative duty.

During 1994, this shipwreck was first identified by Ewan Stevenson. The bow is upside down off Lunga Point.

Recovery of Remains
Afterwards, the remains of 250 of the crew were recovered and buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Cemetery on Guadalcanal. Postwar the remains were exhumed and transported to the United States. On

On June 15, 1949, the remains were reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) in section 34 in 52 caskets and 28 graves. A crowd of 1,500 people attended the reinterment service officiated by Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains.

On November 16, 1950 the USS Serpens Memorial was dedicated with the names of each person killed and the unveiling was attended by roughly 100 relatives and several hundred others with Vice Admiral Merlin O'Neill, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard giving a brief address that included the statement: "We cannot undo the past, but we can ensure that these men shall be respected and honored forever."

Kemp passed away on October 1, 2015 at age 90. He is buried at Lawrence Stephens Farm Cemetery in Barren Springs, VA.

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Water Serpents, by Gustav Klimt

Klimt returned to the theme of 'sensual women in water' in two works know as Water Serpents I and Water Serpents II. Water Serpents I is not an oil painting, and its pale, unusual colouring is in part dictated by the medium used. It does not differ much from the preliminary drawings that Klimt used for reference, apart from the addition of the gold paint, and the green and gold-leaf thread entangled around the women's bodies. The unambiguously lesbian embrace of his models would perhaps have been unacceptable had it been presented as a straight portrait. However, by renaming the work and giving it an allegorical theme and by adding the fish-like serpent behind the bodies and adorning every surface with gold and pattern, Klimt was able to show the painting to Vienna without fear of censorship.

The basic genres of Klimt's art remained unchanged up to the time of his death - portraits, landscapes, and allegories. In his last period, however, these familiar genres were treated with greater expression of feelings and the picutures became less abstract. Human types were no longer disguised in the context of myth or fairy tale. They appeared before the viewer in unvarnished reality. In a later painting, Women Friends, Klimt portrayed lesbianism much more openly. A naked young girl with parted lips rests her head against her lover, who holds a wrap, partly covering their nudity.


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