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(AP-168: dp. 13,910; l. 459'2"; b. 63'0"; dr. 23'0"; s. 16.5 k.; cpl. 276; trp. 1,575; a. 1 5", 4 3"; cl. LaSalle; T. C2-S-B1)
War Hawk was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1154) on 24 December 1942 at Oakland, Calif., by the Moore Dry Dock Co.; launched on 3 April 1943; sponsored by Miss Jeanette Thomson; acquired by the Navy under a bareboat charter on 9 March 1944; designated AP-168; and commissioned at San Francisco, Calif., on the same day, Comdr. S. H. Thompson, USNR, in command.
War Hawk got underway for Hawaii on 21 April and, upon her arrival at Pearl Harbor on the 27th, joined the 5th Fleet Amphibious Force. Assigned initially to Transport Division (TransDiv) 18, the transport conducted practice landings in the Hawaiian Islands before sailing on 30 May to participate in the initial phase of Operation "Forager," the conquest of the Marianas. After pausing at Eniwetok Atoll enroute, the ship arrived off Saipan on 15 June. War Hawk landed troops and equipment of the 2d Marine Division at Saipan during daylight and retired from the battle area each evening. During her sojourn off the beachheads, she helped to ward off two air attacks before embarking 11 badly wounded Japanese prisoners of war and getting underway for Hawaii on 23 June.
After embarking elements of the Army 77th Infantry Division at Pearl Harbor, War Hawk participated in the final phase of "Forager," landing her troops at Guam between 21 and 29 July, before sailing for Pearl Harbor on the latter date. She spent a month at Oahu, conducting further practice landings, before she took on board the men of the Army's 96th Infantry Division for transport to Yap. However, the invasion of that island was cancelled while the transport was steaming toward the Carolines, and she was routed via Eniwetok to Manus in the Admiralties.
On 14 October, the transport got underway for the Philippines to take part in the initial landings on Leyte. After she had put her troops ashore there, she sailed for Dutch New Guinea to pick up a field hospital unit for passage to Leyte. She subsequently returned south to Cape Gloucester, New Britain, to embark troops of the Army's 40th Infantry Division. She travelled thence to Manus and New Guinea before returning to Seeadler Harbor on 10 December. On New Year's Eve, 1944, War Hawk got underway for Luzon.
The warship arrived off the beaches of Lingayen Gulf on 9 January 1945, D day, to find that the Japanese were determined to use all their forces available against the invading American forces; every weapon from kamikazes to suicide motorboats. At 0410 on 10 January 1945, War Hawk suddenly shuddered heavily as a Japanese suicide motorboat, laden with explosives and going full-throttle, crashed into her port side, tearing a 25-foot hole in number three hold killing 61 men. The ship lay without power as an engine room began to flood, and repair crews, below decks in stifling heat with only dim emergency lights and with little, if any, ventilation, worked to restore power and to patch the gash in the ship's side.
Meanwhile, War Hawk's gunners fought to repel the Japanese air attacks. The transport then gamely disembarked her remaining troops and began unloading her embarked mechanized equipment. Christened the "sitting duck" by her crew, War Hawk remained off Lingayen until 11 January, when she began her creeping trek to Leyte Gulf. On the 13th, while en route, her gunners splashed a kamikaze dead ahead of the ship. Before it crashed in a ball of fire, the plane, trailing gasoline and flames, liberally sprinkled burning gasoline on the bow of the transport but did not succeed in starting any serious fires.
Despite nightly air raids, San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, seemed peaceful in comparison to the hectic and dangerous Lingayen Gulf area. Temporary repairs effected at San Pedro Bay enabled the ship to get underway for Manus, where she arrived on 30 January and entered the floating drydock there. On 22 February, War Hawk headed for home and passed beneath the Golden Gate bridge on 19 March, entering her builder's yard soon thereafter for extensive repairs and a major overhaul.
After getting underway for San Diego on 29 May, War Hawk embarked troops there and loaded cargo for the Marianas and proceeded to Guam where she discharged her passengers and cargo. Following her return to San Francisco, she reloaded with naval replacements and got underway for Leyte Gulf, via Eniwetok and Ulithi. En route, the ship received the welcome news that Japan, twice struck by atomic bombs and hammered by task forces off her very doorstep, accepted the unconditional surrender terms of the Potsdam Declaration on 15 August 1945.
Disembarking her troops and unloading her cargo at Leyte and at Samar, War Hawk returned home on "Magic-Carpet" duties with 1,800 discharged sailors On 6 September, the ship departed Ulithi with Convoy UE-129 on the first leg of the 17-day voyage to the west coast of the United States and arrived at San Francisco on 23 September. "Welcome Home" signs and blaring bands were very much in evidence. During her brief west coast stay, from 23 September to 5 October, the first draft of demobilized members of War Hawk crew left the ship.
War Hawk stood out of the Golden Gate on 5 October, bound for China. Calling at Pearl Harbor and Buckner Bay, Okinawa, en route, the transport arrived at Shanghai, China, on 8 November before getting under on the 12th for Taku with Chinese Nationalist government officials embarked. She arrived at her destination late on the 12th and lay offshore after an uneventful passage. Prospects for the crew to enjoy liberty in North China ports were not good, however, as local tensions between the communists and Nationalists jockeying for control in the formerly Japanese-occupied territories had frequently erupted into bloodshed.
En route to the west coast of the United States once more, War Hawk called at Manila from 26 to 28 November before getting underway for San Francisco on that day with homeward-bound Army veterans. On 16 December, the transport reached Los Angeles, Calif. War Hawk subsequently conducted three voyages between the west coast and the Orient into the summer of 1946, calling at such ports as Shanghai, Taku, Tsingtao, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Hong Kong, as well as pausing at Pearl Harbor and Midway while enroute.
Decommissioned on 12 August 1946, at Seattle, Wash., War Hawk was returned to the Maritime Commission on 13 August at Olympia, Wash. Struck from the Navy list on 8 October 1946, the transport was converted for mercantile service and was subsequently acquired by the Waterman Steamship Corp., of Mobile, Ala., which operated her on freight and cargo-carrying duties until 1954. Acquired that year by the Ocean Transportation Co., Inc., of New York, the erstwhile transport was Ocean Dinny. She retained this name while serving with Ocean Clippers, Inc., of New York, until 1966, when she acquired her third name, Overseas Dinny, and served with new owners, the Overseas Carrier Corp., until she was dropped from the American Shipping Board Register in 1970.
War Hawk received three battle stars for her World War II service.
In general the history is reasonably correct by my memory expect for a few exceptions:
After disembarking troops at Leyte as we left our anchorage we, "the War Hawk" rammed into the stern of the USS Tennessee's causing considerable damage to our forward compartment "flooded". No damage I believe to the Tennessee except maybe we scratched her blister. Our bow had a big bite in it but the ship was completely serviceable and we continued on duty.
When the Kamikaze boat struck us at Luzon I was asleep on the starboard side of number five hatch on deck as were a number of my close shipmates. I do not recall a shudder as I was asleep. The ship heeled way over on the starboard side and then rolled back and finally settled down. We did not at first know what had happened but heard the emergency generator running and realized something had occurred. Of course we soon found out what it was.
The history as given suggest[s] that we were then engaged by suicide planes and I do not recall that. However when we were underway again they surely tried for us. I take issue with the facts about the one that landed off of our bow. I was sitting on hatch number four "aft of the superstructure" with others when we spotted a plane high above us and someone said "that doesn't look like one of ours" It surely was not and dived on us. I did not hear any gunfire but the Kamikaze hit the water off of the port bow.
Now I was not forward on the ship and did not see the plane hit the water and grant that the superstructure was between me and the forward guns, but [w]e were not at battle station, so no guns were manned on the aft end of the ship and I see not reason for any to be manned forward. There was not time to get to battle station before the plane hit the water. Battle station was called after the kamikaze hit the water.
About ten years ago the War Hawk people had a first reunion in Las Vegas Nevada that I attended. There have been a couple more since that I have not gone to.
It is interesting how folk[s] get a different slant on events. I discussed the "kamikaze off of the port bow: with others and some agreed with me and some did not. I think time cause us to gloss things up a tad.
The War Hawk was temporarily assigned to APA service and was equipped with four LCM's and eight LCVP landing boats. We had no davits to load and unload the boats but were handled by the ships cargo booms. I want to add that our ships deck divisions were first class at this function. We never had an accident in either the ships function or the boat crews handling skills while I served on that ship.
Another "different slant" is about machine guns on the landing craft. Some of my shipmates saw to[o] many war movies after the war. They "remember" two guns on each boat. Uh uh! No guns on the War Hawk's boats. The gun postilions on the stern were closed in with plywood covers. At the Saipan landing we were armed with a single 30.06 bolt action Springfield rifle. Un-needed, we had all the fire cover we needed by the support craft. On later landings we had no guns on the boats at all except what the troops were toting or left behind.
Both my ship and my brothers ship had a collision with a US battleship. In my case with the USS Tennessee. In my brother case his ship was the DD-554 the USS Franks and they were rammed by the BB-63 the USS New Jersey, the captain of the Franks was killed on the bridge.
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