USS Sperry

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Sperry AS-12

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Sperry
(AS-12: dp. 9,250; 1. 530'7; b. 73'4; dr. 22'6
(mean); s. 15.4 kt. (tl.); cpl. 1,307; a. 4 5; cl.
Fulton (AS-11) )

Sperry (AS-12) was laid down on 1 February 1941 by the Moore Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. at Oakland, Calif., launched on 17 December 1941, just 10 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; sponsored by Mrs. Robert B. Lea; and commissioned on 1 May 1942, Capt. R. H. Smith in command.

Sperry completed trials and shakedown training; and, on 2 August 1942, she reported for duty to the Commander, Submarines, Pacific, at Pearl Harbor. She remained at Oahu for almost three months, refitting seven submarines and making voyage repairs to four others. On 26 October, she weighed anchor and headed for Australia. After cautiously skirting the Solomon Islands and making a three-day stopover at Noumea, New Caledonia, the submarine tender reached Brisbane on 13 November. During her two-month stay "down under," Sperry refitted seven submarines and made a voyage repair on one. On 17 January 1943, she sailed for Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on the 31st. After 10 refits, 10 voyage repairs, and over four months at Pearl Harbor, Sperr11 got underway on 8 June. Steaming in company with Kern (AO=2) and Coast Guard cutter Taney, she reached Midway Island on 12 June. Her stay there was probably the busiest period in her career. During five months, she serviced 70 submarines, refitting 17 and making voyage repairs to 53. In mid-November, she joined Florikan (ASR-9) in a voyage back to Pearl Harbor, from the 12th to the 16th. She refitted eight submarines and accomplished voyage repairs on seven others between 15 November 1943 and 9 March 1944; then headed west once again.

Sperry's tour of duty at Majuro Atoll lasted from 15 March until 19 September. During her stay, the submarine tender accomplished 19 refits and two voyage repairs. In addition, her crew erected Camp Myrna, the first recuperation Camp for submarine crews in the central Pacific area, on Myrna Island.

On 19 September, she exited the lagoon with Litch field (DD-336) and headed for Pearl Harbor again. They reached Oahu on the 24th, but Sperry was underway again by 8 October as part of an 11-ship convoy. At Eniwetok, she parted company with the convoy; and, with Corbesier (DE-438), she continued on to the Marianas. The two ships arrived at Guam on 20 October to begin a four-month tour of duty during which she serviced 20 boats, 14 for refit and six for voyage repairs. Again, her crew constructed a submarine recuperation facility, Camp Dealey.

On 13 February 1945, Sperry' and Southard (DMS-10) departed Guam to return to the United States. The two ships reached Pearl Harbor on 22 February. Southard remained at Pearl Harbor but Sperry continued eastward on 1 March. The submarine tender entered Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 7 March and commenced an overhaul which lasted until 30 April. By 10 May, Sperry was back at Pearl Harbor where she completed one refit and three voyage repairs before sailing on 30 June for the Marianas. She was stationed at Guam from 11 July 1945 to 11 January 1946. During those six months, her stay in the Marianas was interrupted only once, in late November and early December, when she joined Blenny (SS-324) Blower (SS-325), Blueback (SS-326), Charr (SS-328), Redfish (SS-395), Sea Cat (SS-399), and Segundo (SS-398) in a training cruise. They visited Ulithi Atoll in the Carolines and Manus Island in the Admiralties before returning to Apra Harbor 10 days before Christmas.

Eleven days into the new year, Sperry weighed anchor at Apra and headed for Long Beach. She arrived at Terminal Island on 20 February and began an extensive overhaul which was completed in July of 1947. Unlike many of her sister ships, Sperry remained an active unit of the fleet, operating out of San Diego. She earned the coveted battle efficiency "E" three years in a row in 1948, 1949, and 1950. In 1949 she participated in Operation "Miki," a war game which simulated the recapture of an enemy-occupied Oahu; and, while returning to San Diego, she operated in support of the first publicized firings of missiles from submarines. Between 1950 and 1953, her pace was quickened by the hostilities in Korea as she serviced and supplied many of the submarines recommissioned for that conflict. In 1952, she made her only voyage to the western Pacific. She sailed via Pearl Harbor, where she stayed from 6 August until 21 September, and served at Chi Chi Jima in the Bonin Islands from 2 to 9 October. She returned to the west coast of the United States on 25 October.

In December of 1951, the battle lines in Korea were more or less stabilized along the 38th parallel and hostilities were slowly lessened over the next two years. This resulted in a gradual return to peacetime routine for Sperry. Over the ensuing 10 years, the submarine tender continued to operate out of San Diego, spending most of her time in port servicing the submarines of the fleet, but occasionally getting underway for training cruises along the west coast. Her area of operation extended from Mexico north to Canada. From April to September 1961, Sperry was at Long Beach Naval Shipyard being brought up to date by a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization overhaul. In mid-September, she returned to her duties as submarine tender at San Diego. Since then, she has continued to support submarines of the Pacific Fleet, again spending most of her time in port and departing occasionally for cruises along the west coast of North America and to Hawaii. As of November 1974, Sperry was still active.

A Personal Account

Captain Smith’s log should confirm the following incident:- Leaving Eniwetok and a ten ships convoy, we headed towards GUAM in the Marianas with the eleventh convoy ship the DE-438 (Corbesier). Periscopes were spotted, and all gun crews were ordered to their battle stations for a practice drill. A medical officer and I were stationed in the compartment behind the lower forward gun turret, watching ammunition being fed to the deck guns. Suddenly the forward hatch flew open and a man carrying a ticking shell was screaming for us to open the deck hatch–I started at the bottom and the officer the top, throwing the port hatch open the ticking shell went into the ocean then exploded, rocking the AS 12, AND THE SHELL CASING WAS HEARD TO HIT OUR HULL! Both of us sank to the deck watching the ammunition until the order came to cease firing. Davey Jones was deprived! The following day Captain Smith publicly rebuked the gunner, stating, ” if he ever repeated the incident he would take all his stripes, and make him a second class seaman”–the man was a first class gunners mate. When the crew of the INDIANAPOLIS was brought to Camp Dealey for their first real meal ashore, we were there to meet them, many men came over to me at that breakfast and, said, ” that could have been us.” I never received a thank you from Captain Smith. One marine later told me, ” you were just doing your duty.” There were many shooting at Camp Dealey and the surrounding areas. The enemy enjoyed sniping and machine gunning the camp and the neighboring marine flyers recreation beach. Upon arriving at Guam we had a front row seat to flame throwers clearing caves and marine planes bombing a radio tower at the tip of the island. The next four months the AS 12 remained at GUAM SERVICING ABOUT 20 Submarines–which could ‘not’ have occurred if that ticking shell had…… I went on to serve in three wars. During the Vietnam war, I was asked by the Newcastie County Special Weapons CD Defense, Delaware to handle all the radiation classes. The Commanding officer asked me what rank I wanted, and was granted a commission:-1st Lieutenant. I was teaching science when called. Alvyn