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Saugatuck

 

A river in Connecticut.

 

(AO-75: dp. 5,782 (It.); l. 523'6"; b. 68'; dr. 29'11"; s. 15 k.; cpl. 251; a. 1 5", 4 3", 4 40mm., 12 20mm.; cl. Suamico; T. T2-SE-A1)

 

Saugatuck (AO-75) was laid down under Maritime Commission contract as Newton (MC hull 335) on 20 August 1942 by the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Chester, Pa.; renamed Saugatuck on 16 September 1942; launched on 7 December 1942; sponsored by Mrs. A. MacLachlan; delivered to the Navy on 21 December 1942; converted at the Bethlehem Steel Co., Key Highway Plant, Baltimore, Md.; and commissioned on 19 February 1943, Lt. Comdr. Ben Koerner, USNR, in command.

 

Following shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, Saugatuck departed Norfolk for the Netherlands West Indies and the Panama Canal. On 30 April, she transited the canal; and, the next day, headed for the South Pacific. Diverted en route, she was ordered first to Pearl Harbor, thence to San Pedro, Calif. During the summer and fall, she carried fuels and lubricants to Espiritu Santo and Funafuti. In December, she assumed duties as station oiler at Espiritu Santo. Late in January 1944, she put to sea to rendezvous with, and refuel, fleet units engaged in the Marshalls' campaign; and, by 5 February, she had begun fueling ships in Majuro Lagoon.

 

A week later, Saugatuck returned to Funafuti to receive more cargo. By June, she had completed three shuttle runs to Majuro: one from the Ellice Islands, one from California, and one from Hawaii. On 16 June, she moved into the Marianas.

 

For two days, she refueled ships of the Saipan assault force; then, late in the afternoon of the 18th, the refueling area was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The oilers were the targets. Saugatuck underwent three attacks during which she was peppered by shrapnel and strafing bullets. She lost only one of her crew during the 15-minute engagement, and within the hour, resumed refueling operations.

 

On the 19th, the Battle of the Philippine Sea raged to the west. On the 20th, Saugatuck was detached from TU 16.7.5 and ordered back to the Marshalls. On the 25th and 26th, ATR-46 performed necessary repairs to her hull and equipment; and, into July, Saugatuck refueled ships at Eniwetok. On the 15th, she got underway back toward the Marianas. From the 18th to the 26th, she operated off Guam. On the 26th, she transferred her remnant cargo to Marias; and, on the 29th, she returned to Eniwetok.

 

Three weeks later, Saugatuck moved further west; and, at the end of August, she commenced operations out of Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralties. From that base, north of New Guinea, she supported the units engaged in the assault and occupation of the Palaus in September, and of Leyte in October. She then shifted her base to Ulithi, whence she sortied to refuel units of the fast carrier force as it struck Japanese installations and shipping in the Philippines, Indo-China, Formosa, and Ryukyus during November and December; as it supported the Lingayen assault force in January 1945; and as it hit the Japanese home islands in February. In March, Saugatuck moved into the Volcano Islands where she fueled ships supporting Marine units fighting on Iwo Jima. In April, she got underway for the United States.

 

Saugatuck arrived at Los Angeles on the 22d; underwent repairs and alterations there at the Bethlehem Steel Co. docks; and headed west again in late June. On 12 July, she returned to Ulithi and, after a run to Leyte, commenced carrying fuel to the Ryukyus. On 4 August, she arrived off Okinawa. On the 10th, she moved into Buckner Bay and remained there until the day after the mid-August cessation of hostilities. She then commenced refueling operations in support of the minesweeping effort in the East China Sea, the occupation of Japan, and the repatriation of Allied and Japanese prisoners of war.

 

On 8 November, the oiler headed back to the United States to await inactivation. She was decommissioned at San Francisco on 19 March 1946 and returned to the Maritime Commission the following October. Less than two years later, however, on 22 January 1948, she was reacquired by the Navy for operation by a civilian crew for the Naval Transportation Service.

 

Assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service on its establishment in October 1949, she remained in the Pacific until early 1950 when she extended her range to the Caribbean and Atlantic. With the outbreak of war in Korea, the ship became primarily engaged in shuttling fuel from the west coast and the Persian Gulf to Japan and, in December 1950, to Korea.

 

The spring and summer of 1952 saw her operating in the Caribbean and along the east coast on a schedule which, after a run to Seattle in early fall, was continued into the spring of 1953. She then resumed operations in the Pacific. In 1955, she commenced a varied schedule under which she has carried petroleum products from the world's major oil ports to United States Naval bases and depots in both hemispheres. She continues in this service, into 1974, under the auspices of the Military Sealift Command.

 

Saugatuck earned seven battle stars for her World War II services.