Tuesday, March 19, 2013

USS Hyperion (AK-107)

Figure 1:  USS Hyperion (AK-107) moored pier side, date and location unknown. Photograph courtesy of David Nixon. Click on photograph for larger image.

Originally built as the Liberty Ship SS Christopher C. Andrews by the Permanente Metals Corporation at Richmond, California, the 4,023-ton vessel was acquired by the US Navy 10 July 1943 and re-named USS Hyperion (AK-107), after a Greek god. Hyperion was commissioned on 25 August 1943 and was considered part of the Crater class of cargo ships then entering the Navy. The ship was approximately 441 feet long and 56 feet wide, had a top speed of 12.5 knots, and had a crew of 206 officers and men. Hyperion was armed with one 5-inch gun, one 3-inch gun, two single 40-mm guns, and six single 20-mm guns, and could carry roughly 7,750 tons of cargo.
Hyperion was assigned to the US Navy’s Pacific theater of operations and her first assignment was to tow the gasoline barge YOG-85 to the large American naval base at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. Hyperion left the west coast with her barge in tow on 18 September 1943. During this remarkable journey that was plagued by terrible weather, the tow line with the barge parted twice, lightning struck the ship’s mainmast, and a crewman was lost in rough seas. Although some emergency flares were spotted by the ship, the crewman was never found. Hyperion finally steamed into Espiritu Santo harbor with her barge and her cargo on 30 October, 42 days after leaving the United States.
During the next six months, Hyperion sailed to different parts of the Solomon Islands, delivering valuable supplies (such as gasoline, diesel oil, rolling stock, and foodstuffs) to the American troops fighting there. On 5 April 1944, Hyperion left the Solomon Islands with 45 passengers in addition to her usual cargo of oil and supplies. On 10 April, she arrived at Emirau Island in the Bismarck Archipelago off the northeastern coast of New Guinea. Emirau Island was occupied by the Allies only three weeks prior to her arrival, so for safety reasons Hyperion discharged cargo by day and steamed out of the harbor at night. After completing her mission at Emirau Island, the cargo ship returned to her critical work of delivering badly needed supplies to various Allied staging areas around the Pacific, such as New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, New Zealand, and the Bismarck Archipelago.  
During the fall of 1944, as the war in the Pacific progressed from one island group to another, the massive Battle of Leyte Gulf took place off the coast of the Philippines. After leaving Espiritu Santo on 22 September 1944, Hyperion picked up cargo at Tulagi in the Solomon Islands and was assigned to Admiral Daniel Barbey’s massive Task Force 78. Hyperion steamed into Leyte Gulf as part of a 33-ship convoy on 29 October, only three days after the Battle of Leyte Gulf ended. During the next few days, Hyperion went to “general quarters” 87 times, fought off 37 Japanese air attacks, and her gunners shot down two enemy planes.  
After her mission was completed in the Philippines, Hyperion carried cargo between New Zealand and New Caledonia. In late April 1945, Hyperion brought 6,500 tons of Army engineering equipment from Noumea, New Caledonia, to Okinawa, which was still in the midst of a major battle between the United States and Japan. On 8 May, Hyperion arrived at Okinawa. During the 18 days that it took to unload her cargo, the crew on board the ship observed naval bombardments of Japanese positions on Okinawa, survived two naval battles, and fought off countless kamikaze suicide plane attacks. During one such attack, Hyperion was anchored less than 500 yards away from USS New Mexico (BB-40) when two suicide planes damaged the battleship on 12 May.   
As the war in the Pacific came to an end, Hyperion sailed to San Francisco, California, on 4 August 1945, ending two years of continuous service in the Pacific. She had steamed approximately 75,225 nautical miles, carried 150,000 tons of cargo, transported more than 1,000 passengers, made 62 voyages to 29 islands and 37 ports, and fought in the Battles of Leyte Gulf and Okinawa. Hyperion crossed the equator six times and the International Date Line four times (even celebrating two Fourths of July in 1944).
Hyperion arrived at San Francisco on 24 August 1945. After completing some minor repairs, she sailed to the east coast via the Panama Canal. The veteran cargo ship reached Norfolk, Virginia, on 24 October 1945 and was decommissioned on 16 November. Hyperion was placed in the Maritime Commission National Defense Reserve Fleet and was berthed in the James River, Virginia, until she was sold for scrapping on 11 August 1961. USS Hyperion received three battle stars for her service during World War II.