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HISTORY OF THE U.S.S. HAMUL (AD-20)


From the Holy Lands to the modern battlefields of Korea, the destroyer tender USS HAMUL (AD-20) has sailed the seven seas, at first as a vessel of our modern Merchant Marine and later as an important unit of our modern Navy.

Built at Kearney, New Jersey, by the Federal Ship Building and Dry-dock Company for the U.S. Maritime Commission, she was originally "laid down" as the SS Sea Panther, hull number 164, during the summer of 1939. The ship was completed in May of 1940 at a cost of $2,500,000.

Statistics show her to have a registered length of 492 feet, beam of 70 feet, depth of 29.2 feet, and a displacement of 8,560 tons. Powered by a two stage double reduction geared De Laval Turbine, she delivered 9,350 shaft horsepower to a four-bladed bronze propeller 21 feet 8 inches in diameter.

From the date of completion the ship was operated by the Lykes Brothers Steamship Company of New Orleans, Louisiana, as the "Doctor Lykes" of Tampa, Florida operated the ship for approximately a year. Available records show that during this period she made two trips to the orient. The first cruise was from October 1940, to January 1941, Yokkaichi and Osaka, Japan, and thence homeward through Manila, Cagayua and Honolulu to New York. Sailing from Port Arthur, Texas, in February 1941, she arrived in Yokohama on 22 March. Electrical trouble had developed in the anchor windlass motor and repairs were affected while in Yokohama.

Having been commissioned by the Navy Department, the wartime record of the HAMUL started as a cargo ship, followed by service as a destroyer tender and the same duty in the forward areas of the Pacific. Even in the early days of the war, the ship accomplished a variety of tasks in addition to the primary task of tending destroyers.

Renaming was in order when the ship was commissioned and around this fact revolves a favorite l egend of the ship: the legend of the misspelled name. It is said the HAMUL is the only ship in the United States Navy with an incorrectly spelled name. As the story is told, she was named in honor of "HAMAL", the star. Whether the legend is based on fact or fiction is not known, but the fact that she served as an AK (AK-30) for the Navy, which is customarily given names of stars, lends some support to the idea.

As the AK-30, the HAMUL rendered logistical support to the initial occupation of Iceland. This voyage was eventful in that the convoy, of which the HAMUL was a unit, was completely dispersed by a storm. Steaming alone, she proceeded to Boston for a special assignment.

In late December 1941, and the early part of January 1942, the HAMUL operated in the Boston area as an experimental ship for the General Electric Company for the purpose of determining the effectiveness of night camouflage by dark illumination. By varying the intensity of the lights, the ship was blended into the night sky very effectively. Although results were apparently remarkable in these tests, practical considerations doubtless precluded further development or service installations.

HAMUL's next assignment took her into the Pacific to Bora Bora Island in the Society group. After loading at Boston, Quonset, Rhode Island, Norfolk, and Charleston, in January of 1942, USS HAMUL headed a convoy of two transports and three cargo vessels with men and materials to establish a base at Bora Bora. This operation was slow and tedious as lighters and piers had to be constructed before the supplies, guns and heavy construction equipment could be sent ashore. However, toward the middle of April, HAMUL completed discharging cargo and was detached. She proceeded back to the States via Autofogasta and Tocopilla, Chile, where approximately 10,000 tons of nitrate were loaded for delivery to Mobile, Alabama

After discharging the nitrate in late May 1942, the HAMUL was ordered to the Alabama Dry-dock and Ship Building Company to be converted to a destroyer tender. On 18 December 1942, the HAMUL was again placed in full commission, but as the AD-20. She departed Mobile on 7 January 1943, and reported to New Orleans and then Norfolk for additional work and outfitting.

Early in February the HAMUL relieved the USS DENEBULA (AD-12) as Commander Destroyer Atlantic Fleet's flagship in Casco Bay, Maine. For six weeks she tended both new construction DD's and other ships in the area for a refresher training. This period combined a heavy workload with flagship routine, under extremely adverse weather conditions. It was during this stay at Casco Bay that a crack developed on the boat deck. During the extremely cold weather, the deck split open near frame 70. The defect was repaired by a weld, as there was apparently no other structural damage.

The HAMUL's next mission was tending new destroyer escorts in Bermuda as Flagship of the Destroyer-Escort Shakedown Task Group. Arriving in Bermuda on 12 April 1943, she tended a total of 348 destroyer escorts during the ensuing nineteen months, plus many other various types of vessels of many nationalities. She also helped remove the "booby-traps" from the first German submarine that was captured during the war. In November 1944, the ALTAIR (AD-11) relieved the HAMUL.

During late November and December of 1944, the HAMUL underwent an overhaul at the Navy Yard at Brooklyn, New York. She sailed from New York, 1 January 1945, proceeding via the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor and reported to Commander Destroyers, Pacific Fleet. On 1 February, after loading additional supplies and torpedoes, she was underway at Eniwetok, subsequently arriving at Saipan on 12 February.

At Saipan, under Commander Service Squadron Ten, Representative "B", the HAMUL tended all types of vessels, but the major effort was directed toward preparing amphibious craft for the invasion of Iwo Jima.

On 27 March 1945, the HAMUL departed Saipan to arrive in Ulithi the following day. Here work continued in making repairs on combatant ships to return them to service. On 6 May, the ship was underway from Ulithi.

Kerama Retto was in a "Flash Red" condition the morning of 10 May when the HAMUL arrived. There she began work, which never ceased during the many alerts to General Quarters. Most of the repair work here was to tend destroyers, destroyer minesweepers and mine layers that had been hit by Kamikaze planes and other enemy action while on picket duty in the Okinawa area. In July 1945, the HAMUL moved to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, to continue her work under Service Squadron 104. Here the ship had several "close calls" as Okinawa was a very active theater of war during this period. One Kamikaze dove on the HAMUL but missed her, hitting the USS CURTISS instead. It was thought that the pilot was killed while making his dive. Several times during her stay at Okinawa the HAMUL had to put to sea to "ride out" typhoons. On one of these occasions she left the disabled DD-694, USS INGRAHAM, at the buoy. While the HAMUL was at sea, the destroyer was struck by a Kamikaze.

The HAMUL remained at Buckner Bay at the close of the war until 18 February 1946. During this period she repaired ships that had suffered battle damage as well as those damaged during a severe typhoon. Homeward-bound in February, she picked up 400 troops from Saipan, as a unit in the "Magic Carpet", paused 10 days at Pearl Harbor, and thence to San Diego to discharge her passengers. Proceeding to Jacksonville, Florida, she then rested at anchor in the St. Johns River for five or six weeks.

Her useful life had been threatened upon two occasions since the close of World War II. Twice she had received orders to be decommissioned. In April 1946, she off-loaded her ammunition near Algiers, Louisiana, before proceeding to the Brown Shipyard, Houston, Texas, for a three month yard period. With orders for decommissioning, the HAMUL joined the 16th Fleet at Orange, Texas, in September 1946, with a crew of but 65 men. In November a decommissioning crew boarded to deliver the final blow of preparing the ship for a long rest.

However, as her life was fast ebbing, the need arose for a station ship in Plymouth, England. The HAMUL was selected for the assignment. Revitalized with a new crew of 250 men, she left Orange, Texas, in February 1947. On the way out, she was grounded on a mudflat in the river. As the "Doctor Lykes" she grounded once before off Tampa, Florida on 18 May 1940, and on 5 October of the same year was struck by a barge in tow of the tug "Douglas". No damage was apparent from either grounding and only minor damage was sustained by the collision.

After loading supplies at Norfolk, Virginia, the HAMUL sailed on 7 April for Plymouth, England, which was to become her homeport for the next three years. As a feature writer for the "New York Times" phrased it - "Pilgrims' Return". For it was from Plymouth, in 1620 that the hardy group sailed which was to settle Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The HAMUL's mission in England was in marked contrast to her wartime activity. With about one fourth of her wartime complement, she tended a few destroyers, furnished some logistical support to the headquarters of the Commander in Chief, Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic-Mediterranean in London and made operational cruises about once a quarter. Most of the operational trips were in the nature of "Good Will" visits to various ports-of-call.

She sailed to Le Havre in June, Belfast in September, and Amsterdam in November of 1947. During 1948 the HAMUL visited Glasgow in January, Bergen in April, Bremerhaven in May, Lisbon in June with the annual Midshipmen Cruise, Edinburgh in Augusts and Le Havre again in October. In December she was called upon to perform a special mission. Blankets were badly needed by the Arab Refugees from Palestine. The HAMUL left Plymouth for London where she loaded 50,000 blankets provided through United Nations Relief and steamed to the Eastern Mediterranean where the cargo was off-loaded at Beirut and Port Said. On the return trip to Plymouth in January 1949, she stopped in Algiers and Casablanca. In April the HAMUL left Plymouth for a yard period at Boston, returning once more to England in July. In August, however, she once more joined forces with the annual Midshipmen Cruise and went to Cherbourg. Returning again to France, she visited Brest in January 1950. During this period of three years a total of fifteen ports in twelve foreign countries has played host to the HAMUL.

For the second time the ship was threatened with inactivation. On 19 June she received orders to proceed to the United States for decommissioning "as soon as practicable". This was, of course, a big disappointment to the men of the HAMUL to whom Plymouth had become "home". Some of them had married English girls and established homes in the area, and the HAMUL had become part of the community life of the city. In fact, she was not infrequently referred to as the "HMS HAMUL".

17 July 1950 was sort of an unofficial holiday in Plymouth. A great number of the people of Plymouth came ship-side to bid farewells, while others lined the shores of the Hamoaze and waved goodbye as the HAMUL sailed away from what had been her home. This voyage was different though, from any other she had ever made. Aboard were sixty wives, sixty children, as well as all the automobiles and household effects of ship's company. Officer's Country and Warrant Officer's Country had been vacated by their occupants to provide living accommodations for the families embarked. Gates had been provided at vital spots and the lifelines laced in an effort to make the ship safe for the children.

The families ate in the Wardroom and Warrant Officer's Mess at three sittings from food provide from the General Mess. The most serious casualty of the trip was a broken leg suffered by one of the children who slipped on the deck. After a ten day crossing, the passengers and cargo disembarked at Norfolk.

In the meantime, the war in Korea had started, so once more the HAMUL's "life" was saved, for she was needed in the Western Pacific. After a brief yard period at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, she departed on 11 September for San Diego, via the Panama Canal. After a week of loading, the HAMUL was once more underway on 2 October for West Pac. Enroute, she was diverted to Wake Island to provide supplies and serve as communications ship for the meeting between General Douglas Macarthur and President Truman. The HAMUL left Wake Island the Next day, 9 October, arriving at Sasebo, Japan on 23 October where she relieved the USS PIEDMONT after reporting to Commander Naval Forces Far East. While in the Far East, she served as flagship to Commander Destroyer Flotilla One. During her stay she tended 93 ships alongside, as well as many others in the area that had been operating off the Korean Coast.

While at Sasebo, the ship usually made a monthly operational trip off the Korean Coast. In February, the HAMUL visited the former Japanese Naval Base at Yokosuka, sailing via the Shimonoseki Straits from Sasebo. Again in April she went to Yokosuka where the USS BRYCE CANYON relieved the HAMUL. She departed Yokosuka 16 April for San Diego, where she arrived 30 April. Entering the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 12 May 1951, the ship underwent extensive overhaul and refitting.

The next cruise, which was the HAMUL's spring cruise, proved a real diversion. She made another trip to Sasebo and "Area George", and on her return trip to Yokosuka, made a three-day stop at Nagoya, Japan. Here, both the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Air Force turned out to give the ship a royal welcome, and the HAMUL added another port to her "good-will" list.

On 14 June 1952, the USS FRONTIER arrived in Yokosuka to relieve the HAMUL, and two days later she steamed out of the bay on her way to the States.

Her fifteen-day return voyage was broken by a stop in Pearl Harbor. After two days of restful liberty for the crew, she completed the journey and arrived in San Diego on 3 July. Shortly, she received Sailing Orders, and proceeded to her new homeport, Long Beach, California.

The HAMUL tended a few ships in the harbor, and had a brief yard period at Terminal Island Naval Shipyard.

After five happy months in Long Beach, sailing time came once again for the HAMUL she was ready. On 16 November, she plowed again into the broad Pacific and steamed west.

After fighting storms and rough seas practically all the way, she arrived at Sasebo, Japan on 1 December 1952 where she relieved the USS FRONTIER, and again assumed her duties as a destroyer tender. On 10 December, she left Sasebo and returned to Yokosuka. Not unlike Plymouth, England, Yokosuka, it seems, had become as much her home as any other port in the world.

The HAMUL then settled down to the routine of tending other ships. Alternating between Yokosuka and Sasebo, the ship managed to find time for a one day visit to Chinhae, Korea. Little else occurred to break the routine as all hands settled down to await the end of the HAMUL's third tour in West Pac.

On 1 May 1953, the HAMUL was relieved by the USS FRONTIER at Yokosuka and with her happy crew busily making out customs declarations; she pointed her bow toward Long Beach. After a two day visit in Hawaii, the ship continued, and, on 19 May, arrived home.

A few ships were tended there and on 28 July 1953, the HAMUL headed for San Francisco, and underwent a two-month overhaul at Hunter's Point. Upon completion of the overhaul, the ship loaded ammunition, stores and provisions and pointed her bow toward San Diego, where two weeks were spent with the Underway Training Element.

Arriving in Long Beach for a final month in her homeport, the HAMUL moored to the Net Pier at the Naval Station. Commander Destroyer Flotilla One rejoined the ship and all hands made preparations for another trip to West Pac.

On 13 November 1953, the HAMUL again said farewell to the States and set out on her voyage to Yokosuka, Japan. Unlike the crossing in 1952, the HAMUL this time enjoyed good weather and a very pleasant trip. All hands took advantage of the weather to accomplish much needed ship's force work. With the ship all shined up and an eager crew anticipating liberty in Japan, the HAMUL arrived in Yokosuka on 29 November 1953 and relieved the USS FRONTIER. The seven months spent in the Far East were made more interesting by numerous cruises to Japanese ports. Included were two cruises to Sasebo, two cruises to Nagoya, one each to Kobe and Nagasaki.

On 27 June 1954, the HAMUL, having been relieved by the USS FRONTIER, set out for the United States via Pearl Harbor. The trip was uneventful and all hands welcomed the sight of their homeport ( Long Beach ) and families on arrival 14 July 1954.

Shortly after her return to Long Beach she sailed to Alameda and off loaded ammunition at Port Chicago prior to a period in dry dock in San Francisco. The Hamul returned to Long Beach later that year.

The HAMUL tended numerous ships in Long Beach Harbor, where she remained, except for a cruise to San Diego and two days of Inter-ship Exercises. She spent her first Christmas in the United States since 1947. While in foreign ports she had been host to many foreign children. This time she played host to the children of her crew.

On 4 January 1955 the HAMUL again departed for West Pac. She relieved the USS FRONTIER and except for short cruises to Hong Kong and Kobe, remained in Yokosuka during the entire tour.

She was relieved on 22 June 1955 by the USS FRONTIER and departed for Long Beach via Pearl Harbor. After arrival in Long Beach she again assumed her primary mission of repairing destroyers. The HAMUL departed from Long Beach on 5 March 1957, in company with the USS SHEA (DM-30) and arrived in Pearl Harbor on 11 March after exercises enroute with the SHEA. After two days in Hawaii the ship was underway for Yokosuka, Japan; however, on 22 March a diversion was ordered to conduct a search for a downed C-97 Air Force plane. The Commanding Officer of the HAMUL acted as Surface Search and Rescue Coordinator of the ten ships ordered into the search area.

Unhappily, after six long days and nights of searching in rough to very rough seas, which proved fruitless, the operation was concluded. No trace of the plane or any survivors of the sixty-seven persons on board was ever discovered.

Because of the delay caused by this diversion, the HAMUL relieved the USS FRONTIER at sea to enable her to arrive at Long Beach on Schedule. The HAMUL arrived in Yokosuka, Japan on 30 March and at once became the flagship of Commander Destroyer Flotilla, Western Pacific.

After spending 4 April through 12 April at Kobe, the flagship returned to Yokosuka for an eight week period of destroyer overhauls and then interrupted this routine in mid-June by a rest and recreation trip to Hong Kong, Keelung and Koashiung, Formosa and Buckner Bay, Okinawa.

Between overhauls of destroyers, the HAMUL had a highly successful athletic season in the Far East in bowling, tennis, golf, softball, and particularly baseball, capturing the trophy in that sport.

On 3 October 1957 the HAMUL arrived back in Long Beach, and stayed there with few exceptions until 21 August 1958. On that date, she again set sail for Yokosuka, stopping at Pearl Harbor for two days. The HAMUL arrived in Yokosuka on schedule, but had to leave shortly to ride out a typhoon, which caused quite a bit of damage to the ship. The ship then proceeded to Subic Bay, Philippine Islands.

The HAMUL departed from Subic Bay after tending destroyer's for a period of one month and proceeded to Buckner Bay, Okinawa where she spent another month tending destroyers. From Okinawa the HAMUL was ordered back to Yokosuka, Japan and remained there for a month. From Yokosuka, Japan the HAMUL was ordered to Koashiung, Taiwan to assume the duties as station ship and while in this capacity she was called upon to perform a variety of duties in addition to tending destroyers.

After spending Christmas Eve and Christmas in Koashiung the HAMUL proceeded back to Subic Bay were she stayed for approximately fifteen days. From Subic Bay the HAMUL was ordered back to Koashiung where she again assumed the duties as station ship.

After three more weeks in Koashiung the HAMUL departed for a well-deserved change of scenery and proceeded to Hong Kong, B.C.C. for a week of R & R. From Hong Kong the HAMUL departed for her third tour of duty in Subic Bay, P.I. On 4 March 1959, HAMUL departed for her homeport of Long Beach, California, via Pearl Harbor where she spent one and a half days. After seven months tour in the Far East the HAMUL arrived at her destination, Long Beach, California on 26 March 1959

Shortly after returning home the aging queen of the service fleet completed a major overhaul in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. In her first months at home the HAMUL baseball team victoriously proved to be the number one fleet team of the 11th Naval District and over $3,400 was given by the crew to the Navy Relief drive surpassing last year's figure which had placed her second in the Pacific Fleet.

From March 1959 until early fall of the same year the HAMUL was busily engaged in carrying out her primary function, tending destroyers. She then deployed for six weeks to Pearl Harbor, working to assist local commands in bringing the destroyers up to proper operational readiness. She returned to her home port of Long Beach for the Christmas Holiday period.

Then on 6 February 1960 the HAMUL said farewell to Long Beach as she began a trip to the orient that was to keep her away from home until the following September. Her first stop was Pearl Harbor where she again tended destroyers and provided the setting for much of the footage for the "Wackiest Ship in the Army", a Columbia Pictures production starring Jack Lemmon and Ricky Nelson. She departed Pearl for more western points on 29 March 1960

The HAMUL arrived in Subic Bay of the Philippines in April. She tended destroyers there before proceeding on to her first stop in Japan, Iwakuni. In Iwakuni she provided services for destroyers, an LST, a Submarine, and an ATF. She also conducted an Open House for the Japanese on Armed Forces Day.

Her next stop was Kobe, Japan, where she provided tender services for numerous ships, exchanged visits with British warships in port, and laid a foundation of friendship that will long be remembered and which led to Kobe becoming her "home away from home" on this deployment. She took time out for a week's rest and recreation in Hong Kong before returning to Kobe for another eight-week period. Her new commanding officer, Captain F. W. Silk, USN, assumed command in Kobe on 2 July 1960 and immediately began an extensive people-to-people emphasis.

As a result the HAMUL played host to Japanese ship builders, dental professional groups, numerous orphanages, and the Kobe American Colony. From Kobe she went to Yokosuka for week before beginning her long trip back to Long Beach.

This 1960 deployment was considered by all concerned as an outstanding success. For the first time in her twenty years of existence the HAMUL was awarded the "Big E" for battle efficiency among ships of her class. She became the largest per capita contributor to the Navy Relief in the entire Pacific Fleet by donating over $5,100.00 to this year's drive. And she established a very commendable relationship with the people of every port in which she stopped.

So it was, that, proudly wearing the laurels of the most efficient small tender and the most generous ship in the Pacific Fleet, the HAMUL returned home to Long Beach on 9 September 1960, not for a rest, but to continue performing her basic mission tending destroyers in the area.

She remained in Long Beach, doing her job the next seven months. In January 1961 of this period the USS HAMUL became the first ship of the US Navy to host a Navy Premiere of a Hollywood Movie. Jack Lemmon, Ricky Nelson, Felicia Farr, Ernie Kovacs, Edie Adams, and John Lund were among those from Hollywood who joined the officers and men of the USS HAMUL for the Navy Premiere of "The Wackiest Ship in the Army".

In the same month the HAMUL became the Flagship of the Commander, Destroyer Flotilla Three. 25 March 1961 saw the HAMUL embarked on her 1961 Guest Cruise with some 500 people, families and guests of the HAMUL personnel, embarked for a day at sea. On 27 March 1961 the HAMUL left Long Beach for a week at sea, and, uppermost in the minds of the men of the HAMUL, a visit to Ensenada, Mexico.

On June 8 1962 the ship was retired from service at the U.S. Naval Station Long Beach CA ending a 21 year history.

Submitted by Art Small

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