A northern constellation east of Cancer.
(AKA-60: dp. 6,556; l. 459'3"; b. 63'; dr. 25'9"; s. 16.4 k.; cpl. 404; a. 1 5", 8 40mm., cl. Andromeda)
Leo (AKA-60) was laid down 17 March 1944 by Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J., under Maritime Commission contract; launched 29 July 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Ogden Mills, wife of the former Secretary of the Treasury; acquired by the Navy 29 August 1944; and commissioned 30 August 1944, Comdr. T. E. Healey in command.
After shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, the new attack cargo ship departed Norfolk for Hawaii 13 October 1944, arriving Pearl Harbor 4 November. After a month of training off Maui, Hawaii, Leo steamed for Port Hueneme, Calif., arrived 12 December, loaded cargo, and returned to Pearl Harbor Christmas Eve.
After a month of intensive amphibious training, Leo steamed 27 January 1945 for the assault on Iwo Jima with Amphibious TF 51 under Vice Admiral Turner. After brief calls at Eniwetok and Saipan, the ship arrived off the beaches of Iwo early morning, D-Day, 19 February. Debarking her troops the first hour, Leo then offloaded her high-priority cargo of trucks, fresh water, and ammunition into boats alongside. For the next 9 days, with interruptions only for night retirement, the ship evacuated casualties and continued sending crucial war material ashore. Mission accomplished, she sailed 28 February for Kwajelein Atoll and arrived a week later.
Steaming to the Marianas from Kwajelein, the ship prepared for the Okinawa landing. She departed Saipan 27 March with Rear Admiral Wright’s Demonstration Force for simulated landings on the southeastern beaches of Okinawa. Arriving at dawn 1 April, the demonstration group received more attention from Japanese aircraft than did the actual landing group.
About 0550 1 April a Japanese suicide plane crashed Hinsdale (APA-120), killing 24 and wounding 21. Completing her mission, Leo sent all her LCVPs to Hinsdale to pick up survivors, after which she retired for night steaming. The next 3 days Leo moved in and out from the southeast beaches as a decoy, drawing fire from the shore. She was detached from Admiral Wright’s group 4 April and steamed for transport area “Baker” and an actual landing off the northern beaches of Okinawa. Arriving the next day, she transferred Hinsdale survivors to a hospital ship and commenced offloading cargo.
Gunfire from the ship’s starboard 40mm. mount splashed a low-flying Japanese aircraft as it swooped down on the formation the afternoon of 6 April. Despite constant air raid, Leo offloaded all cargo by 14 April and steamed that afternoon for Ulithi, towing Hinsdale. They arrived 23 April. She departed for Saipan 25 April and through the rest of the war transported cargo between the Marianas and the Solomons. She completed two voyages from Saipan via Guam to Guadalcanal and Tulagi.
Departing Guam 26 August, she steamed for Manila, arrived 1 September, and loaded troops and equipment of the 43d Division, 8th Army, designated for occupation duty in Japan. Arriving 15 September off Yokosuka, Leo debarked the Army troops, loaded troops and equipment of the 6th Marine Division, rode out a typhoon until the 18th, and departed next day for Tsingtao, China. She arrived Tsingtao, which was headquarters for U.S. naval forces in the western Pacific after World War II, and had put the marines ashore by 18 October.
Leo steamed for Manila and arrived 23 October. After a fast cargo run to Haiphong, French Indochina, Leo departed the Orient 10 November and arrived Puget Sound 15 days later. Until the outbreak of the Korean War Leo operated with the Naval Transportation Service in the Pacific.
After the North Koreans invaded South Korea Leo steamed from San Francisco for Sasebo, Japan, with ammunition for the 7th Fleet. She arrived Japan 19 September 1950 and supplied ammunition to ships deploying to Korean waters. The AKA steamed for Korea 9 November with ammunition, stores, and mail for the ships engaged in the siege of Wonsan. Departing 14 November, she returned to Sasebo for 10 days and then left for San Francisco 19 December.
She was again underway for Sasebo 9 January 1951, and she spent that year operating between Japan and Korea. She arrived Sasebo 27 January, rearmed ships there, then steamed for Korea 10 March and replenished ships at Pusan, Pohang, and Wonsan.
Because of the buildup of heavy combatants off Korea and the logistical demands attendant to keeping them on the line, Leo operated between Sasebo and various rendezvous points in the Sea of Japan for the next 9 months. Logistical problems diminished as Leo and her sister ships perfected night underway replenishment techniques. By 25 January 1952, when Leo departed Sasebo for San Francisco, the logistics team was able to replenish a fast carrier task force in only 9 hours.
Upon arrival San Francisco 9 February, Leo underwent overhaul and then steamed to Alaska on a cargo run during July and August. Between 7 October and 8 December she carried cargo from Oakland to Eniwetok.
As a unit of MSTS the ship made three more voyages to the Orient plus another run to Alaska during the next 2 years. Leo steamed from Oakland to Long Beach 15 October 1954 where she decommissioned 11 February 1955 and transferred to the Pacific Reserve Fleet, San Diego. Subsequently transferred to the Maritime Commission, her name was struck from the Navy list 1 July 1960. She entered the National Defense Reserve Fleet and into 1969 has been berthed at the Suisan Bay, Calif.
Leo received two battle stars for World War II service and five battle stars for Korean service.