Figure 1: USS Oberon (AK-56) underway off Kearny, New Jersey, 15 June 1942. She is painted in the splotch patterns of Camouflage Measure 12 (Modified). Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1975. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Oberon (now AKA-14) underway off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 7 February 1944. Courtesy of Frank Jankowski, 1981. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Oberon (AKA-14) underway off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 7 February 1944. US Navy Bureau of Ships photograph now in the collections of the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Oberon (AKA-14) underway off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 7 February 1944. US Navy Bureau of Ships photograph now in the collections of the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Oberon (AKA-14) at anchor, circa the later 1940s. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Oberon (AKA-14) photographed circa the late 1940s or early 1950s, probably while entering San Diego Harbor, San Diego, California. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a star, the 7,391-ton USS Oberon (AK-56) was an Arcturus class attack cargo ship that was built by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corporation at Kearny, New Jersey. Originally laid down as the freighter S.S. Delabla, the ship was re-named Oberon on 16 February 1942 while still under construction and designated AK-56. But the ship was not formally acquired by the US Navy until she was completed on 15 June 1942 and was commissioned the same day. Oberon was approximately 459 feet long and 63 feet wide, had a top speed of 16.5 knots, and had a crew of 494 officers and men. The cargo ship had a heavy defensive armament of one 5-inch gun, four twin 40-mm anti-aircraft guns, and eighteen single 20-mm anti-aircraft guns. Oberon could also carry roughly 4,375 tons of cargo.
After a brief shakedown cruise, Oberon was assigned to a task force on 24 October 1942 that was bound for North Africa. Even though the task force was attacked by German aircraft and submarines (which managed to sink several cargo ships), Oberon reached her destination of Fedala, French Morocco, on 8 November 1942 and unloaded her vital supplies to the American troops on shore. Once this mission was completed, Oberon returned to the United States and reached Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 24 November.
In early 1943, Oberon transited the Panama Canal and was assigned to operations in the Pacific Ocean. While steaming into the Pacific, Oberon was re-classified an attack cargo ship and re-designated AKA-14 on 1 February 1943. After unloading cargo at New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific, Oberon returned to the east coast of the United States and arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, on 12 March 1943. After completing an overhaul, Oberon again crossed the Atlantic and entered the Mediterranean. The ship participated in the Allied invasion of Sicily, arriving off the coast of Gela, Sicily, on 10 July. Two months later, Oberon took part in the invasion of Salerno on mainland Italy. On 6 November, the ship assisted in the defense of convoy MKF-25A, which fought off a determined attack made by German aircraft. Oberon then delivered cargo to various ports in North Africa before being sent with a full load of supplies plus 120 US Army paratroopers to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Shortly after arriving at Belfast, a severe Atlantic storm damaged the ship to such an extent that she had to return to the United States for repairs.
After completing repairs at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Oberon was sent back to North Africa in April 1944. On 15 August, Oberon was part of the huge Allied amphibious assault force that invaded southern France. After delivering troops and valuable supplies to St. Tropez, France, Oberon made five additional trips to various ports in Italy and North Africa before being sent back to the United States in October.
Once again assigned to the Pacific Fleet, Oberon started 1945 by transiting the Panama Canal again and then continued on to the island of Leyte in the Philippines, arriving there on 21 February 1945. After that, the ship was part of the amphibious assault forces that attacked Kerama Retto in March and then Okinawa on 1 April, both objectives located near the Japanese home islands. Like all of the American warships off Okinawa, Oberon had to endure numerous assaults by Japanese kamikaze aircraft. Fortunately, Oberon’s gun crews were able to fight off all of these attacks and even managed to shoot down one of the Japanese planes. Oberon left Okinawa on 26 April to deliver supplies in the South Pacific and later received news of Japan’s surrender while steaming to the Philippines. Oberon then carried American occupation troops to Aomori on Honshu Island in Japan, arriving there on 25 September. After an additional trip to Yokohama, Japan, Oberon returned to the United States and arrived at San Francisco, California, in December 1945.
After the end of World War II, Oberon served with the Navy Transportation Service (NTS) carrying cargo and personnel between America’s west coast and US military bases in the Pacific. Incorporated into the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) on 1 October 1949 and re-designated T-AKA-14, Oberon went on to serve as an ammunition replenishment ship during the Korean War, which started in June 1950. Arriving at Sasebo, Japan, on 15 January 1951, Oberon remained in this area of operations for seven months. While at sea on 9 March, Oberon conducted her first transfer of ammunition to American aircraft carriers. She then spent several months transporting supplies from Sasebo to Wonsan, Korea. Oberon completed a second tour of duty off the cost of Korea during the first five months of 1952.