(AP-175: dp. 13,910; l. 459'2"; b. 63'; dr. 23'; s. 16.5 k.; cpl. 360; trp. 1,375; a. 1 5", 4 3", 12 20mm.; cl. Storm King; T. C2-S-AJ1)
Starlight (AP-175) was laid down on 9 October 1943 as SS Starlight (MC hull 1358) by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co., Wilmington, N.C.; launched on 23 December 1943; sponsored by Mrs. M. T. Solomon; acquired by the Navy from the War Shipping Administration on a bareboat charter; converted into an auxiliary transport by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co., Staten Island, N.Y.; and commissioned on 15 February 1944, Comdr. W. O. Britton, USNR, in command.
Starlight, as an auxiliary transport, was assigned to the Naval Transportation Service for duty. Sea trials were held in Long Island Sound; and she sailed to Hampton Roads, Va., to begin her shakedown cruise. She remained there from 12 May to 5 June when she weighed anchor for the Panama Canal and the Hawaiian Islands. The transport arrived at Pearl Harbor on 26 June and was assigned to Transport Division (TransDiv) 38.
The 305th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) of the 77th Infantry Division was combat loaded on board on 1 July and TransDiv 38 sailed for Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, the next day. There, it joined other units of Task Group (TG) 53.2, Assault Group Four, for the amphibious assault on Guam, Mariana Islands. The task group sortied on the 17th and, four days later, landed the assault troops on the beaches. Starlight remained in the combat area until 29 July. She was loaded with Marine Corps combat casualties for evacuation, and sailed, via Eniwetok, for Pearl Harbor.
Starlight arrived at Pearl Harbor on 10 August. After a few repairs were made and the ship was provisioned, RCT 32 of the 7th Infantry Division was embarked for amphibious assault training. On 17 September, the transport sailed for the invasion of Yap, Caroline Islands, but these orders were cancelled when two days out of port. Her new orders routed the ship, via the Marshall and Admiralty Islands, to the Philippines. As a unit of Attack Group Able, Starlight landed troops on the Dulag beachhead on 20 October as the Leyte invasion began. When all troops had been disembarked from TransDiv 38, it sailed for Hollandia, New Guinea, as part of a “turn around” resupply operation. Starlight returned to Leyte on 18 November with replacements for combat casualties which were unloaded in eight hours, under enemy air attack. The transport splashed two enemy aircraft before steaming to Manus and Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, for amphibious training of the 145th RCT, 37th Infantry Division.
Starlight returned to Manus on 21 December 1944 and sortied late in the month with TG 79.1 for Luzon. She landed troops on Binmaley Beach, Lingayen, on 9 January 1945 and remained there for three days during which she shot down two more Japanese planes. The ship returned to New Guinea on the 22d; loaded troops of the 41st Infantry Division for Mindoro; and landed them safely on 29 January. She then sailed for Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, and Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, to embark elements of Marine Air Group (MAG) 33 for delivery to Okinawa.
She embarked some elements at both ports and departed the Solomons on 14 March for Manus, Ulithi, and Peleliu. As a unit of Amphibious Group 4, TF 53, she reached Okinawa on 11 April and unloaded her cargo at Hagushi Beach and Nago Wan. During the next week, she had splashed two more Japanese planes. The ship returned to Ulithi on 24 April and was ordered to proceed to San Francisco for an overhaul.
Starlight was at San Francisco from 12 April to 11 July when she sailed for Manila with elements of the 780th Field Artillery and the 554th Signal Depot Co. embarked. After making calls at Eniwetok and Ulithi, the troops were unloaded at Manila during the first week of August. The troop transport was steaming to Pearl Harbor when she received news of the Japanese surrender.
The troopship was then used to shuttle troops between Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and Sasebo, Japan, until routed to the west coast in mid-December 1945. Starlight arrived at San Pedro, Calif., on 2 January 1946; loaded marines; and disembarked them at Tientsin, China, on 9 February. Through June, she made two more voyages from the west coast to the Far East. On 5 July, Starlight stood out of San Francisco en route to the east coast and inactivation.
Starlight arrived at Norfolk on 20 July; decommissioned on 12 August; was returned to the Maritime Commission on 14 August; and struck from the Navy list on 28 August 1946.
Starlight received four battle stars for World War II service.