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The History of The USS Mauna Loa II - History

The History of The USS Mauna Loa II - History


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Mauna Loa II

(AE-8: dp. 14,225; 1. 459'; b. 63'; dr. 26'5" ; cpl. 281; s. 15.3 k.; a. 1 5", 4 3", 8 20mm.; el. Mauna Loa, T. C2 Cargo (mod.))

The second Mauna Loa (AE-8) was laid down by Tampa Shipbuilding Co., Tampa, Fla., 10 December 1942; launched 14 April 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Robert E. Friend; and commissioned 27 October 1943, Comdr. George D. Kartin in command.

After shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay, Mauna Loa loaded on 5,600 tons of ammunition at Norfolk and departed Hampton Roads, Va., 19 December with a stopover at San Francisco for 2 days, arriving Pearl Harbor 17 January 1944. Assigned to the service force, on 1 February she continued on to the Marshalls escorted by Manlove (DE-36), reaching Majuro 7 days later to begin rearming the fleet.

On 9 February a near disaster occurred while Mauna Loa was supplying Pennsylvania (BB-38) with gunpowder. With the men on Mauna Loa moving the powder containers over faster than they could be removed to the magazines of the battleship, the cans gradually piled up to more than a hundred on Pennsylvania's forward deck. At 1635 a flash of flame leaped out across her deck, accompanied by a dull boom--one of the cans, bad exploded!

Grains of burning powder were hurled about, many of them steaking (lawn Mauna Loa's open hold. Without a moment's hesitation, Boatswain F. B. Wilson seized a hose and turned it on the burning can. This stream of water checked the fire until Pennsylvania's men could get the can over the side before it ignited the others. Two of Pennsylvania's men suffered broken legs and the man handling the powder can was blinded. Courageous performance of their duties under such hazardous conditions had become mere routine to the officers and men of the ammunition ship.

On 2 March Mauna Loa sailed for the west coast, via Pearl Harbor, arriving San Francisco the 21st to replenish her cargo of ammunition. She got underway 10 April again for the South Pacific, her destination being the New Hebrides. She reached Espiritu Santo 28 April for a month of operations, then proceeded to Eniwetok, Marshalls. where from 13 June to 23 July she supported the Marianas operation.

After a return trip to San Francisco, on 8 September Mauna Loa entered the Kossol Passage, Palaus, in company with Shasta (AE-6) and McCoy Reynolds (DE-440). She then began a 24-hour-a-day rearming of the 3d Fleet, while swept mines exploded all around the anchorage. After an unidentified plane strafed her during the night of 19 September while Portland (CA-33) was alongside, night operations were halted.

By November she was en route to the Carolines, arriving Ulithi the 30th. Mauna Loa remained there until the beginning of the Okinawa campaign. On 13 March 1945 she departed Ulithi with TG 50.8 for 5 successful months on the "line," as it came to be termed, replenishing some 99 ships underway. The Japanese capitulation 14 August found her at San Pedro, Philippines.

Mauna Loa departed San Pedro for the west coast 4 October, arriving Tiburon, Calif., the 21st. She moved up to Bremerton, Wash., 12 November. She then entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet at San Diego 15 May 1946 and decommissioned 2 June 1947.

Mauna Loa recommissioned 31 January 1955 ' Capt. Elgin B. Hurlbert in command, and departed San Diego 16 March for the east coast. After docking at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for alterations, she began refresher training out of Newport, R.I., 8 September; then served out of Earle, N.J., through the end of the year.

On 5 January 1956 Mauna Loa departed Earle with Mine Division 81 for Europe, arriving Naples, Italy, the 24th. The ammunition ship operated with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean until 28 May when she steamed from Tangiers for home. She reached York-town, Ila., 13 June for supply duty along the east coast from Gravesend Bay to Norfolk into September 1957.

On 27 September she again got underway from Earle for another tour in the Mediterranean until her return to Norfolk 17 November for 2d Fleet operations, From 1 February to 27 June 1958 Mauna Loa made a third visit to the Mediterranean, returning to New York 7 July. She shifted to Beaumont, Tex., 15 September for inactivation and 16 December again decommissioned this time entering the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Orange, Tex.

After temporarily joining the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia 12 November 1960, Mauna Loa was reacquired and recommissioned the third time 27 November 1961,.Capt. Vernon P. O'Neil in command. She sailed from Philadelphia 8 October for her home port, Bayonne, N.J.

On 15 January 1962 the ammunition ship got underway from Norfolk for shakedown off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into late February. For the next 7 years Mauna Loa continued a pattern of upkeep and supply service along the east coast out of Norfolk and Earle, interspersed with training cruises and exercises in the Caribbean.

She departed Bayonne 9 October 1967 for a new and vital mission, supply operations off South Vietnam. She transited the Panama Canal the 16th on her way to the Pacific, and soon thereafter arrived off the troubled Southeast Asian area to begin service to the fleet fighting to repel Communist aggression. She continues this, important duty into 1969.

Mauna Loa received three battle stars for World War II service.


MAUNA LOA AE 8

This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.

    Lassen Class Ammunition Ship
    Keel Laid December 10 1942 as Maritime Commission (C2) hull
    Launched April 14 1943

Naval Covers

This section lists active links to the pages displaying covers associated with the ship. There should be a separate set of pages for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Covers should be presented in chronological order (or as best as can be determined).

Since a ship may have many covers, they may be split among many pages so it doesn't take forever for the pages to load. Each page link should be accompanied by a date range for covers on that page.

Postmarks

This section lists examples of the postmarks used by the ship. There should be a separate set of postmarks for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Within each set, the postmarks should be listed in order of their classification type. If more than one postmark has the same classification, then they should be further sorted by date of earliest known usage.

A postmark should not be included unless accompanied by a close-up image and/or an image of a cover showing that postmark. Date ranges MUST be based ONLY ON COVERS IN THE MUSEUM and are expected to change as more covers are added.
 
>>> If you have a better example for any of the postmarks, please feel free to replace the existing example.

Postmark Type
---
Killer Bar Text

Post office established November 1 1943 - Disestablished April 4 1947

Post office reestablished February 28 1955 - Disestablished September 29 1958

Post office reestablished 1961 - Disestablished December 11 1970

Locy Type
LDPS 2(n) Dec 11, 1970

Other Information

MAUNA LOA earned 3 Battle Stars for WWII
* Western Caroline Islands operation
Capture and occupation of southern Palau Islands, September 6 to October 14 1944
* Okinawa Gunto operation
5th and 3d Fleet operations in support of Okinawa Gunto operation, March 16 to June 11 1945
* 3rd Fleet operations against Japan
July 10 to August 3 1945

Earned 3 Campaign ribbons for Vietnam service
* Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase III
November 29 to December 18 1967
December 30 1967 to January 17 1968
January 29 1968
* Tet Counteroffensive
January 30 to February 9 1968
February 17-29 1968
March 9-16 1968
* Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase IV
April 5-11 1968

Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons.
American Campaign Medal - Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (3) - World War II Victory Medal - National Defense Service Medal - Vietnam Service Medal (3) - Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

NAMESAKE - Named for a 13,680‑foot volcano in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, island of Hawaii

If you have images or information to add to this page, then either contact the Curator or edit this page yourself and add it. See Editing Ship Pages for detailed information on editing this page.


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Career [ edit | edit source ]

After completion, West Conob was inspected by the 12th Naval District of the United States Navy for possible naval service and was assigned the identification number of 4033. Had she been commissioned, she would have been known as USS West Conob (ID-4033), but the Navy neither took over the ship nor commissioned her. Δ]

Little information on the first years of West Conob ' s career is found in sources. But it is known that she was operated by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company on $3 routes. ΐ] The ship departed Los Angeles on her maiden voyage to Hong Kong, making her way to San Francisco. West Conob departed from there on 13 June 1919 for Honolulu, where she arrived eight days later. After refueling at Honolulu, she headed to Hong Kong, and from there, retraced her route to return to San Francisco. ⎙] Details of later voyages are not available, but by mid-April 1921, West Conob had completed two circumnavigations without needing to stop for repairs. At that time, the USSB allocated West Conob for service to Genoa. Α] [Note 2]

In December 1925, West Conob was allocated to Swayne & Hoyt Lines for service to the east coast of South America. Α] By mid-1926, West Conob was sailing for Swayne & Hoyt's American-Australian-Orient Line when she was reported in the Los Angeles Times as sailing to New Zealand with 350,000 square feet (33,000 m 2 ) of wallboard. ⎚] ⎛]

In October 1927, the Los Angeles Times reported on the impending sale of West Conob and 18 other Swayne & Holt ships to a San Francisco financier. ⎚] The ship later became a part of the fleet of the Oceanic and Oriental Navigation Company, a joint venture between Oceanic-Matson, a subsidiary of Matson Navigation Company, and the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, established to take over operation of transpacific routes that had been managed for the USSB by Swayne & Holt Lines. ⎜] [Note 3] Some time after March 1928, ⎝] the ship was renamed Golden Eagle, the name under which she operated for the next six years. Γ] Golden Eagle was sailing for Oceanic and Oriental from Los Angeles to Australia in March 1930, when the Los Angeles Times reported that she had sailed with 6,700 long tons (6,800 t) of case oil and 200 long tons (200 t) of general merchandise. Ώ]

In March 1934, Matson began a new "sugar, molasses and pineapple service" from Hawaii to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and either Philadelphia or New York, featuring Golden Eagle and three other cargo ships. ⎞] [Note 4] In May, after returning from New York on her first voyage in the new service, Golden Eagle entered drydock at Los Angeles for general repairs and repainting. She emerged in Matson livery and with the new name of Mauna Loa. ⎟] She sailed on her maiden voyage under her new name to Honolulu with 4,500 long tons (4,600 t) of general cargo in late May. ⎠] Mauna Loa continued on the Hawaii–California–Philadelphia/New York service, occasionally making extra voyages from Los Angeles to Honolulu when dictated by cargo bookings. One such extra voyage occurred in February 1936 when she carried almost a full load of building materials for family dwellings in Hawaii. ⎡]

In August 1936, Mauna Loa diverted to respond to a distress call issued by the windjammer Pacific Queen some 700 nautical miles (1,300 km) southwest of Los Angeles. Pacific Queen had sailed from San Diego in July with a crew of 32—most of whom were Sea Scouts—and had been missing for two weeks. Mauna Loa ' s crew provided required supplies for the sailing vessel and her radioed messages prompted the United States Coast Guard to recall all of its vessels actively searching for Pacific Queen. ⎢]

On 18 November 1941, the War Department chartered Mauna Loa and seven other ships to carry supplies to the Philippines. Δ] ⎣] Even though details of the charters were deemed confidential, the names of all eight ships were published in the Los Angeles Times two days later. ⎣] [Note 5]


World War II

Less than three weeks after Mauna Loa ' s charter, the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into World War II. Mauna Loa ' s movements over the next three months are unknown, but by mid-February 1942, she had made her way to Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. [24]

Japanese forces—advancing down the Malay Barrier, the notional Allied line of defense that ran down the Malayan Peninsula through Singapore and the southernmost islands of the Dutch East Indies—had reached the island of Timor by mid February. In order to prevent the fall of that island to the Japanese, which would give them a base within 400 miles (640 km) of Darwin, the Allies assembled a joint American-Australian force to reinforce the Australian Sparrow Force and Royal Dutch East Indies Army forces defending Timor. [25]

The American cruiser Houston and destroyer Peary, and the Australian sloops Swan and Warrego, led Mauna Loa and three other civilian ships out of Darwin Harbour at about 03:00 on 15 February heading for Koepang with relief intended for Timor. [26] Mauna Loa, loaded with 500 men, [24] and United States Army transport ship Meigs carried an Australian infantry battalion and an antitank unit between them. [25] [Note 6] The British refrigerated cargo ship Tulagi and the American cargo ship Portmar carried the 148th Field Artillery Regiment of the Idaho National Guard between them. [25] [27] [Note 7]

The ships were spotted by a Japanese Kawanishi H6K "Mavis" four-engined flying boat that tailed the convoy at 10,000 feet (3,000 m). [25] When Captain Albert H. Rooks of Houston requested air cover for the convoy, [28] a lone Curtiss P-40 responded and engaged the Mavis, with each plane managing to shoot down the other. [29] At around 09:00 the next day, another Mavis began trailing the convoy and at 11:00, 36 land-based Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" twin-engine bombers and ten seaplanes attacked in two waves. [30] Houston, the primary target of the bombers, unleashed all of her available antiaircraft fire with neither bombs nor Houston ' s fire being effective. [30] In the second wave, from the southwest and after the ships had scattered, Houston shot down seven of forty-four planes and repelled the attacking aircraft. [24] [30] Houston ' s 900 rounds fired in the 45-minute attack resembled a "sheet of flame", according to witnesses. [24] [25] The only casualties during the attack were from one near miss on Mauna Loa 1 crewman and 1 passenger were killed and 18 men were wounded in the attack. [24] The convoy was ordered back to Darwin when word that Koepang had fallen to the Japanese was received she arrived back in Darwin on 18 February. [26]

Sinking

On 19 February 1942, the Japanese carrier striking force, consisting of aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, and Soryu under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, launched 189 planes to attack Darwin. [31] The carrier planes rendezvoused with 54 land-based bombers from Kendari and Ambon. [32]

At the time of the raid the Mauna Loa and Meigs had unloaded troops and moved to anchorages with the force's equipment and ammunition aboard with Neptuna and Zealandia unloading ammunition at the docks that were the first target of high altitude bombers. Both ships at the dock were hit with Neptuna exploding. After a second wave of bombers, concentrating on the airport, came waves of dive bombers that for two hours concentrated on ships in the harbor. [30]

During the attack, Mauna Loa quickly sank after she was hit by two bombs that landed in an open hatch. [33] None of her 37-man crew or 7 passengers was injured. [31] Along with Mauna Loa, two other American ships, destroyer Peary and Army transport Meigs, were sunk. In addition to the many other ships that were damaged, five Commonwealth ships were sunk, including two Australian passenger ships in use as troopships, Neptuna and Zealandia. The total death toll for the attack was around 250 of the total, 157 died on ships. [34]

What remains of Mauna Loa lies in Darwin Harbour at position Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found. at a depth of 60 feet (18 m), [35] [36] and is a dive site. [37] Military trucks, Bren Gun Carriers, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and many rounds of .303- and .50-caliber ammunition are among the pieces of Mauna Loa ' s cargo that still lie strewn about the wreck. [36] [37]


The Attack on Darwin – A Pictorial Record

On 19 February, 1942 a massed air raid on Darwin, Australia’s northern gateway was made by Japanese aircraft, the first major attack on Australian soil.

The American Destroyer USS PEARY in Darwin Harbour shortly before the Japanese raid.

This first attack was made by 81 carrier-borne aircraft, composing of an equal mixture of high level bombers, dive bombers and fighter aircraft.

The twisted remains of the main wharf at Darwin after the Japanese air raid on 19 February, 1942.

Darwin at this time was a busy war time port and the Australian Navy was well represented there at the time. Some of the Australian ships present were SWAN, WARREGO, PLATYPUS, KATOOMBA, DELORAINE, KANGAROO, KOALA, KARANGI, KARA KARA, KOOKABURRA, GUNBAR, TOLGA and TERKA. Two of the American ships in harbour were the USS PEARY and USS WILLIAM B PRESTON, the latter being a seaplane tender. There were four American transports and merchant ships – MEIGS, MAUNA LOA, PORTMAR and ADMIRAL HALSTEAD. Alongside the main wharf were the Australian merchant ships NEPTUNA and BAROSSA. NEPTUNA’s cargo included 200 tons of depth charges. Other merchant ships in harbour included the BRITISH MOTORIST, TULAGI and ZEALANDIA.

The Australian cargo ship NEPTUNA sunk alongside the main wharf at Darwin.

At approximately 0945 the first of the Japanese aircraft attacked 10 American Kittyhawk fighters that were returning to Darwin. These American fighters had earlier left Darwin at 0915 for Koepang but were returning to Darwin due to adverse weather. Four of these aircraft were shot down whilst a fifth was damaged and was able to return safely to Darwin with the other five Kittyhawks. All five were later destroyed as they attempted to take off when the Japanese arrived over Darwin.

HMAS DELORAINE during the Japanese raid on Darwin, with oil tanks of fire in tbe background

The Japanese fighters apparently opened the attack on Darwin as GUNBAR was attacked by fighter aircraft as it was passing through the boom gate at 0957. Nine fighters attacked GUNBAR and the ship was attacked 18 separate times. The first attack hit the ship’s Lewis gun rendering the ship defenceless and it was amazing that it survived. These attacks ceased at 1010.

USS PEARY blown up after being bombed by Japanese aircraft in Darwin 19/2/42

Only a minute or so after GUNBAR was attacked, the bombers dropped their first bombs from a height of 14,000 feet at targets in the harbour area. At 0958 bombs hit the wharf near the shore end, blowing a railway engine and trucks over the side. NEPTUNA and BAROSSA were soon on fire from direct hits and oil fires were soon billowing over the scene of destruction.

United States Transport MEIGS sunk in Darwin Harbour 19 February, 1942.

SWAN, WARREGO, PEARY and WILLIAM B PRESTON were soon underway and they were singled out for attention, these ships fought back with vigour. PEARY was soon hit by enemy bombs and was fatally wounded. SWAN was heavily damaged by a near miss and, in the harbour a number of the merchant ships were on fire including the ZEALANDIA, BRITISH MOTORIST, MAUNA LOA and MEIGS, all these merchant ships eventually sank as a result of their damage.

HMAS KATOOMBA high and dry in the floating dock with ship on fire in the baclaground Ships that received damage and casualties included PLATYPUS, SWAN, GUNBAR, KARA KARA, KOOKABURRA, COONGOOLA, the merchant ship ADMIRAL HALSTEAD, the hospital ship MANUNDA and USS WILLIAM B PRESTON.


Where Was Asbestos Used on U.S. Navy Ammunition Ships?

Countless veterans and civilian seamen and shipyard workers were exposed to asbestos.

Veterans who served on ammunition ships may have been exposed to asbestos while working with or in the vicinity of:

  • Pumps, valves, boilers, and turbines
  • Floor tiles and decking
  • Cement
  • Insulation
  • Gaskets and packing
  • Insulated gloves
  • Other equipment

Many veterans who handled asbestos materials often worked in tight spaces with poor ventilation, putting them at high risk for inhaling or ingesting the dangerous fibers. Those who served on ammunition ships but did not work directly with asbestos-containing materials still may have been exposed.


SS Mauna Loa

SS Mauna Loa was a steam-powered cargo ship of the Matson Navigation Company that was sunk in the bombing of Darwin in February 1942. She was christened SS West Conob in 1919 and renamed SS Golden Eagle in 1928. At the time of her completion in 1919, the ship was inspected by the United States Navy for possible use as USS West Conob (ID-4033) but was neither taken into the Navy nor commissioned.

West Conob was built in 1919 for the United States Shipping Board (USSB), part of the West series of ships—steel-hulled cargo ships built on the West Coast of the United States for the World War I war effort—and was the 14th ship built at Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in San Pedro, California. She initially sailed for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and had circumnavigated the globe twice by 1921. She began sailing to South America for Swayne & Hoyt Lines in 1925, and then, to Australia and New Zealand. When Swayne & Hoyt's operation was taken over by the Oceanic and Oriental Navigation Company a few years later, she sailed under the name Golden Eagle until 1934, when she was transferred to Oceanic and Oriental's parent, the Matson Navigation Company. Matson renamed her Mauna Loa, after the large shield volcano on the island of Hawaii, and put her into service between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland.

Shortly before the United States' entry into World War II, Mauna Loa was chartered by the United States Department of War to carry supplies to the Philippines. The ship was part of an aborted attempt to reinforce Allied forces under attack by the Japanese on Timor in mid-February 1942. After the return of her convoy to Darwin, Northern Territory, Mauna Loa was one of eight ships sunk in Darwin Harbour in the first Japanese bombing attack on the Australian mainland on 19 February. The remains of her wreck and her cargo are a dive site in the harbor.

The West ships were cargo ships of similar size and design built by several shipyards on the west coast of the United States for the USSB for emergency use during World War I. Some 40 West ships were built by Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company of Los Angeles, [4] all given names that began with the word West. [8] West Conob (Los Angeles Shipbuilding yard number 14) [4] was completed in May 1919. [4]

West Conob was 5,899 gross register tons (GRT), and was 410 feet 1 inch (124.99 m) long (between perpendiculars) and 54 feet 6 inches (16.61 m) abeam. [5] She had a steel hull and a deadweight tonnage of 8,600 DWT. [4] [6] Sources do not give West Conob ' s other hull characteristics, but West Grama, a sister ship also built at Los Angeles Shipbuilding had a displacement of 12,225 t with a mean draft of 24 feet 2 inches (7.37 m), and a hold 29 feet 9 inches (9.07 m) deep. [9]

West Conob ' s power plant consisted of a single triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine with cylinders of 28½, 47, and 78 inches (72, 120, and 200 cm) with a 48-inch (120 cm) stroke. She was outfitted with three Foster water-tube boilers, each with a heating area of 4,150 square feet (386 m 2 ) and containing 52 4-inch (10 cm) and 827 2-inch (5.1 cm) tubes. [10] Her boilers were heated by mechanical oil burners fed by two pumps, each 6 by 4 by 6 inches (15 × 10 × 15 cm) with a capacity of 30 U.S. gallons (110 L) per minute. [11] Fully loaded, the ship could hold 6,359 barrels (1,011.0 m 3 ) of fuel oil. West Conob ' s single screw propeller was 17 feet 1 inch (5.21 m) in diameter with a 15-foot-3-inch (4.65 m) pitch and a developed area of 102 square feet (9.5 m 2 ). [10] [Note 1] The ship was designed to travel at 11 knots (20 km/h), [10] and averaged 11.1 knots (20.6 km/h) during her first voyage in June 1919. [12]

After completion, West Conob was inspected by the 12th Naval District of the United States Navy for possible naval service and was assigned the identification number of 4033. Had she been commissioned, she would have been known as USS West Conob (ID-4033), but the Navy neither took over the ship nor commissioned her. [6]

Little information on the first years of West Conob ' s career is found in sources. But it is known that she was operated by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company on Pacific routes. [2] The ship departed Los Angeles on her maiden voyage to Hong Kong, making her way to San Francisco. West Conob departed from there on 13 June 1919 for Honolulu, where she arrived eight days later. After refueling at Honolulu, she headed to Hong Kong, and from there, retraced her route to return to San Francisco. [13] Details of later voyages are not available, but by mid-April 1921, West Conob had completed two circumnavigations without needing to stop for repairs. At that time, the USSB allocated West Conob for service to Genoa. [3] [Note 2]

In December 1925, West Conob was allocated to Swayne & Hoyt Lines for service to the east coast of South America. [3] By mid-1926, West Conob was sailing for Swayne & Hoyt's American-Australian-Orient Line when the Los Angeles Times reported her steaming to New Zealand with 350,000 square feet (33,000 m 2 ) of wallboard. [14] [15]

In October 1927, the Los Angeles Times reported on the impending sale of West Conob and 18 other Swayne & Holt ships to a San Francisco financier. [14] The ship later became a part of the fleet of the Oceanic and Oriental Navigation Company, a joint venture between Oceanic-Matson, a subsidiary of Matson Navigation Company, and the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, established to take over operation of transpacific routes that had been managed for the USSB by Swayne & Holt Lines. [16] [Note 3] On 3 April 1928 it was reported that eight ships acquired by Matson were renamed—Dewey, West Carmona, West Cajoot, West Calera, West Conob, West Elcajon, West Nivaria, and West Togus becoming Golden State, Golden Fleece, Golden Bear, Golden Harvest, Golden Eagle, Golden Kauri, Golden Coast, and Golden Forrest, respectively. [17] The ship operated under the name Golden Eagle for the next six years. [5] Golden Eagle was sailing for Oceanic and Oriental from Los Angeles to Australia in March 1930, when the Los Angeles Times reported that she had sailed with 6,700 long tons (6,800 t) of case oil and 200 long tons (200 t) of general merchandise. [1]

In March 1934, Matson began a new "sugar, molasses and pineapple service" from Hawaii to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and either Philadelphia or New York, employing Golden Eagle and three other cargo ships. [18] [Note 4] In May, after returning from New York on her first voyage in the new service, Golden Eagle entered drydock at Los Angeles for general repairs and repainting. She emerged in Matson livery and with the new name of Mauna Loa. [19] She sailed on her maiden voyage under her new name to Honolulu with 4,500 long tons (4,600 t) of general cargo in late May. [20] Mauna Loa continued on the Hawaii–California–Philadelphia/New York service, occasionally making extra voyages from Los Angeles to Honolulu when dictated by cargo bookings. One such extra voyage occurred in February 1936 when she carried almost a full load of building materials for family dwellings in Hawaii. [21]

In August 1936, Mauna Loa diverted to respond to a distress call issued by the windjammer Pacific Queen some 700 nautical miles (1,300 km) southwest of Los Angeles. Pacific Queen had sailed from San Diego in July with a crew of 32—most of whom were Sea Scouts—and had been missing for two weeks. Mauna Loa ' s crew provided required supplies for the sailing vessel and her radioed messages prompted the United States Coast Guard to recall all of its vessels actively searching for Pacific Queen. [22]

On 18 November 1941, the War Department chartered Mauna Loa and seven other ships to carry supplies to the Philippines. [6] [23] Even though details of the charters were deemed confidential, the names of all eight ships were published in the Los Angeles Times two days later. [23] [Note 5]

Less than three weeks after Mauna Loa ' s charter, the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into World War II. Mauna Loa, sailing independently from the US, was diverted in the days after the Pearl Harbor attack to Sydney, Australia, arriving on December 29th. There she was offloaded the 214 vehicles, several barrels of aviation gasoline, subsistence supplies and ammunition she was carrying. She was then relocated to Darwin, Northern Territory, arriving on January 19th, 1942. She was considered for use as a blockade runner for an operation to the Philippines, but was not selected. She was selected later for the Timor reinforcement convoy. [24]

Japanese forces advancing south from the Malayan Peninsula had reached Timor by mid-February thus breaching the Malay Barrier that had been a priority defense line. [25] In order to prevent Timor's fall, which would give the Japanese a base within 400 miles (640 km) of Darwin, the Americans and Australians reinforced the Australian Sparrow Force and Royal Dutch East Indies Army forces defending the island. [26]

The American cruiser Houston and destroyer Peary, and the Australian sloops Swan and Warrego, led Mauna Loa and three other civilian ships out of Darwin Harbour at about 03:00 on 15 February heading for Koepang with relief intended for Timor. [27] Mauna Loa, loaded with 500 men, [28] and United States Army transport ship Meigs carried an Australian infantry battalion and an antitank unit between them. [26] [Note 6] The British refrigerated cargo ship Tulagi and the American cargo ship Portmar carried the 148th Field Artillery Regiment of the Idaho National Guard between them. [26] [29] [Note 7]

The ships were spotted by a Japanese Kawanishi H6K "Mavis" four-engined flying boat that tailed the convoy at 10,000 feet (3,000 m). [26] When Captain Albert H. Rooks of Houston requested air cover for the convoy, [30] a lone Curtiss P-40 responded and engaged the Mavis, with each plane managing to shoot down the other. [31] At around 09:00 the next day, another Mavis began trailing the convoy and at 11:00, 36 land-based Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" twin-engine bombers and ten seaplanes attacked in two waves. [32] Houston, the primary target of the bombers, unleashed all of her available antiaircraft fire with neither bombs nor Houston ' s fire being effective. [32] In the second wave, from the southwest and after the ships had scattered, Houston shot down seven of forty-four planes and repelled the attacking aircraft. [28] [32] Houston ' s 900 rounds fired in the 45-minute attack resembled a "sheet of flame", according to witnesses. [28] [26] The only casualties during the attack were from one near miss on Mauna Loa one crewman and one passenger were killed and 18 men were wounded in the attack. [28] The convoy was ordered back to Darwin when word that Koepang had fallen to the Japanese was received she arrived back in Darwin on 18 February. [27]

Sinking

On 19 February 1942, the Japanese carrier striking force, consisting of aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, and Soryu under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, launched 189 planes to attack Darwin. [33] The carrier planes rendezvoused with 54 land-based bombers from Kendari and Ambon. [34]

At the time of the raid the Mauna Loa and Meigs had unloaded troops and moved to anchorages with the force's equipment and ammunition aboard with Neptuna and Zealandia unloading ammunition at the docks that were the first target of high altitude bombers. Both ships at the dock were hit with Neptuna exploding. After a second wave of bombers, concentrating on the airport, came waves of dive bombers that for two hours concentrated on ships in the harbor. [32]

During the attack, Mauna Loa quickly sank after she was hit by two bombs that landed in an open hatch. [35] None of her 37-man crew or seven passengers was injured. [33] Along with Mauna Loa, two other American ships, destroyer Peary and Army transport Meigs, were sunk. In addition to the many other ships that were damaged, five Commonwealth ships were sunk, including two Australian passenger ships in use as troopships, Neptuna and Zealandia. The total death toll for the attack was around 250 of the total, 157 died on ships. [36]


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