Banshee is a female spirt of Irish and Scottish folklore.
The second Banshee was named to commemorate the service of the first ship of that name in the Civil War.
(IX 178: displacement 14,400; length 446'0"; beam 58'2"; draft 25'6" (mean); speed 10 knots; complement 70; armament 1 4", 1 3", 8 20 millimeter, 4 .50 caliber machine guns)
Harold Walker a steel hulled, single screw tanker built at Philadelphia by the William Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding & Engine Co. for the Pan American Petroleum and Transport Co.--was inspected by the Navy on 10 May 1917 for possible use as an oiler. Though assigned the identification number (Id. No.) 4530, she was not taken over for service during World War I. Working out of Los Angeles, Calif., Harold Walker served her first owner into the early 1930's, when she appears to have been sold to the Pan American Foreign Corporation of Wilmington, Del. She changed owners again in 1935 and became known as W. C. Fairbanks working for the Pure Oil Co. out of Baltimore, Md. Still later acquired by the Sinclair Oil Co., of New York City, that firm owned her when the United States entered World War II in December 1941. Contemporary registers continued to show her affiliated with Sinclair into 1943. Loaned to the Soviet Union under lend lease, she flew the red flag until returned to the American War Shipping Administration (WSA) late in 1944. W. C. Fairbanks was then operated by the Los Angeles Tanker Operators, Inc., for the WSA until allocated to the United States Navy in August 1944 for use as a mobile storage facility and shuttle tanker with the 7th Fleet Service Force. The ship was renamed Banshee and designated IX 178 on 22 August 1944. Delivered to the 7th Fleet upon her arrival in the southwestern Pacific theater, the tanker was accepted by the Navy from the WSA Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 13 December 1944 and commissioned on Christmas morning 1944, Lt. Comdr. Frank H. Lemon in command.
After undergoing repairs, conversion, and provisioning, Banshee carried out a short "shakedown" cruise in Milne Bay before loading a cargo of drummed lube oil and wooden floats. Underway early on 4 January 1945, the ship stood northwestward, hugging the coast of New Guinea, and anchored at Humboldt Bay shortly before noon on the 8th. After loading more oil from the tanker SS Tuolomne Meadows, Banshee got underway on the 14th for Finschhafen, New Guinea. Despite engineering difficulties that compelled her to stop twice during the voyage, she reached Finschafen on the morning of the 18th. After transferring her oil cargo to the Norwegian merchant tanker, SS Brajara, Banshee returned to Humboldt Bay on the 25th.
The ship received and discharged fuel oil at Humboldt Bay for two months before receiving orders to shift her base of operations to Morotai, in the Molucca Islands. After repairs to her engines and auxiliary power plant, she departed Humboldt Bay at noon on 25 March and headed for the Schoeten Islands. She arrived at Biak on the 27th and joined a convoy that got underway for Morotai the following day. Anchoring in Morotai's Cape Gila anchorage on 31 March, Banshee served as station tanker there well into June as part of 7th Fleet's Service Squadron (ServRon) 9. On 28 June Banshee cleared Morotai in convoy with Task Group (TG) 78.2 bound for Borneo.
Reaching Balikpapan on the morning of 3 July, Banshee moored alongside the oiler Chepachet (AO 78) and commenced discharging her cargo of fuel oil. Completing the evolution on 4 July, Banshee put to sea with another convoy to return to Morotai where she served as station tanker from 7 to 19 July. The tanker then received brief repairs alongside the repair ship Culebra Island (ARG 7) before delivering a cargo of fuel oil to the Australian oiler Bishopdale between 21 to 23 July. Underway for Biak on the 24th, Banshee loaded a cargo of drummed oils and compounds on 27 July at Mios Woendi, Padaido Islands, before discharging a black fuel oil cargo there to Villalobos (IX 145) on the 28th. Back at sea early on the 29th, Banshee steamed for the Philippines. She touched at Biak for routing instructions en route and reached San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 4 August to await further orders.
When those orders came, they sent her to Guiuan Roadstead near Samar where Banshee discharged a cargo of drummed oil before loading a cargo of black fuel oil at San Pedro Bay, for transport to Luzon. Anchoring in Manila Bay near midday on 18 August, Banshee began deliveries of fuel oil to naval vessels the following day. Banshee carried out this task into November. By that time, her almost three decades of service at sea had taken their toll. Considering repairs to her defective cargo pump to be uneconomical, ServRon 7's commander recommended that the ship be surveyed. As a result, on 11 November, Banshee transferred her cargo to the oiler Winooski (AO 38) and moved to Subic Bay. There, a board found her to be unable to make the long transpacific voyage back to the United States under her own power. In accordance with the board's recommendations, Banshee was decommissioned at Subic on 5 February 1946 and turned over to WSA representatives there. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 25 February 1946, and the ship resumed her original name, W. C. Fairbanks which was carried on merchant shipping registers into 1948. The venerable tanker was ultimately sold to a Chinese firm, the Asia Development Corporation, and delivered to her purchaser on 3 March 1948 as a “scrap hull.” Presumably, she was later broken up for scrap.
Banshee (IX 178) earned one battle star for her World War II service.
Robert J. Cressman
6 March 2006