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Alcona-AK-157

Alcona

A county in eastern Michigan fronting on the western shore of Lake Huron.

(AK-157: dp. 7,125 (tl.), 1. 338'6", b. 50'0", dr. 21'1" (lim.); s. 11.5 k.; cpL 85, a. 13", 6 20mm.; cl. Alamosa; T. C1-M-AVI)

Alcona (AK-157) was laid down as the unnamed Maritime Commission contract hull (MC hull 2102) on 27 November 1943 at Richmond, Calif., by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Co.; named Alcona by the Navy and designated AK-157 on 25 February 1944; launched on 9 May 1944 and sponsored by Mrs. Morris Chamberlain of Oakland, Calif., transferred there by the Maritime Commission to the Navy on 15 September 1944, and commissioned the same day, Lt. Lester J. Lavine, USNR, in command. Alcona then shifted to the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., to be fitted out.

Following shakedown training out of San Pedro, Calif., Alcona reported by despatch, for duty with Service Squadron 7 on 22 October 1944 the same day that she sailed for San Francisco. Arriving there on the 23d, the cargo ship took on board cargo and got underway on the last day of October to commence operations supplying American advanced bases in New Guinea and later, in the Philippines—operations which would keep her occupied for the rest of the war.

Pausing briefly at Pearl Harbor on 10 and 11 November, Alcona then continued, via Finschhafen, New Guinea, to Manus where she arrived on 29 November. After discharging her cargo, Alcona then proceeded via Hollandia, New Guinea, to Mios Woendi, in the Padaido Islands, where she spent Christmas before getting underway on 27 December for Australia.

Alcona reached Brisbane, Australia, on 4 January 1945 and loaded cargo there until the 10th when she weighed anchor to head for the advanced base at Milne Bay, New Guinea. Upon emptying her hold there and at Finschhafen,the cargo ship then proceeded to Torokina, Bougainville, in the Solomons to pick up a mine unit for transportation to the Philippines. Arriving at Cane Torokina on 27 January, the ship got underway, via Hollandia, for Leyte the following morning and arrived at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 12 February.

Underway for Manus on the 24th Alcona arrived in the Admiralties on 3 March and loaded cargo there before getting underway for Brisbane on the 11th. Although a typhoon hindered the ship's passage, she reached her destination without mishap on the 18th. Subseauently, Alcona returned to the Philippines and entered Manila Bav on 24 April. En route back, she touched at Seeadler Harbor, Manus, and Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, before reaching Hollandia to reload. Upon arrival back in the Philippines, Alcona discharged her cargo into tank landing craft (LCT's) off the former American naval base at Cavite. After discharging more cargo at Subic Bay on 17 May, at Guiuan Samar, the same day, and at San Pedro Bay, Alcora visited Brisbane for the third time in mid-June.

Alcona had transported another consignment of cargo to the Philippines by mid-July and had completed her task at Subic Bay by 8 August, two days after the first atomic bomb had been dropped on the city of Hiroshima. Underway for Samar on the 12th, Alcona arrived three days later and was Iying at anchor off Samar the dav that Japan capitulated 15 August 1945.

Alcona conducted another voyage from Brisbane to the Philippines and then, after undergoing repairs in the advanced base sectional floating drydock ABSD—5, proceeded to Samar on 12 November. The cargo ship remained there until she sailed for Panama on l9January 1946. Reaching Balboa on 3 March, Alcona entered the Panama Canal that afternoon and reached Cristobal on the Atlantic side of the isthmus, at 2340. Underway for Norfolk on the morning of 7 March, Alcona proceeded toward her destination until rerouted to New York on the 12th. She anchored in Gravesend Bay, N.Y., on the 16th but got underway for Bayonne, N.J., 10 days later. The cargo ship reached the wharf at the naval base annex there that afternoon.

After discharging cargo brought from the Pacific and loading new cargo, Alcona got underway for Norfolk on the morning of 13 April and anchored in Hampton Roads the following morning. Underwav at 1405 on the 19th, the ship reached Pier 4, Berth 42, Naomi Operating Base (NOB), Norfolk, Va., at 1445 to discharge cargo. Securing from alI cargo operations on the afternoon of the 24th, she steamed out into Hampton Roads and anchored until the morning of 1 May, when she got underway for Boston, Mass.

Initially, it had been planned to decommission Alcona at Norfolk so that she might be returned to the War Shipping Administration and laid up in the James River to await further disposition. However, on 18 April 1946, Capt. Richard H. Cruzen, prospective commanding officer of an Arctic exercise, co enamed "Nanook" requested that Alcona be assigned to his task force. The approval of his request prolonged the ship's naval career and, on 27 ADriI the Chief of Naval Operations ordered her assigned to "Nanook."

A7cona arrived at Boston shortlv yefore noon on 3 May and moored alongside the destroyer, Willard Keith (DI) 775). Five days later, Capt. Robert J. Esslinger (who had won a Navy Cross in Kearny (DD-432) and a Silver Star for command of Sproston (DD-577) off Okinawa in 1945) relieved Lt. Comdr. H. D. Byington USNR, in command.

Initially, "Nanook" had been conceived as a small operation involving only' an ice-strengthened rescue tug (ATR) and an icebreaker. Later, however, as the scope of operations expanded to encompass the establishment of advanced weather stations in the Canadian Arctic and in Greenland, it became evident that an increased lift capability was called for.