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Villalobos

 

Ruy Lopez de Villalobos—a 16th century Spanish navigator and explorer—was given command of a force sent out by the Viceroy of Mexico to explore unknown islands in the southern seas of the Pacific. On 1 November 1542, Villalobos departed Mexico with five ships. In the course of his voyages, he discovered the Palaus, or the Western Caroline islands; and navigated the Philippine Archipelago, discovering them and naming them in honor of the reigning Spanish monarch, King Philip II. In 1546, the intrepid explorer died at Ambon, in what is now Indonesia.

 

II

 

(IX-145: dp. 4,398; 1. 400'0"; b. 52'1"; dr. 29'5"; s. 10.0 k.; cpl. 133; a. 1 4", 1 3", 8 20mm.)

 

The second Villalobos (IX-145)—a tanker built as William F. Herrin at Newport News, Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.—was launched on 4 February 1911. Initially sailing under the flag of the Associated Oil Co., the tanker was twice renamed prior to her Navy service—first as Colorado and then as Typhoon. On 19 October 1943, the Navy acquired the ship under a bareboat charter from the Maritime Commission's War Shipping Administration.

 

Although the Navy approved the name Villalobos for this venerable acquisition on 3 November 1943, subsequent records continued to refer to her as Typhoon. The war diary entries for Escort Division (CortDiv) 16; CortDiv 10; Commander, Central Pacific; and Task Group (TG) 51.6 all call the ship Typhoon through October 1944—11 months after the ship was ostensibly renamed. Documentary evidence for this ship's career is fragmentary at best, but as far as can be determined, she entered the war under her civilian name.

 

In any case, the ship sailed for the Pacific and soon supported Operation "Galvanic," the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She fueled escort and screening ships in December 1943 while anchored in the lagoon of recently secured Tarawa Atoll. She subsequently embarked service troops and was assigned to TG 51.7, the Northern Garrison Group, for Operation "Flintlock," the conquest of the Marshall Islands. In company with SS Titan and escorted by Sederstrom (DE-31), Typhoon supported the occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro and completed her tanker and transport duties for the conquest of the Marshalls by 8 February 1944.

 

Meanwhile, American planning for the recapture of Guam and the capture of Saipan had proceeded apace. Typhoon took part in these operations from 27 July to 9 August 1944. With TG 51.6, Typhoon continued to serve double duty as both tanker and transport. She commenced unloading at Apra Harbor, Guam, on 3 August and completed the task on the 6th.

 

The ship then served in the western Pacific for the remainder of August and through September. As an element of TG 31.5, Typhoon departed Ulithi on 24 October, bound for Eniwetok. For the rest of 1944, as American forces pressed relentlessly onward towards the Japanese homeland, she labored as station tanker in the Ulithi-Eniwetok area.

 

About this time, the name Villalobos finally caught up with the tanker. She was classified as IX-145 and commissioned. Attached to Service Squadron 9, Service Force, Pacific Fleet, she continued providing the "black gold" necessary for the smooth wartime operations of the Fleet.

 

Departing Hollandia, New Guinea, on 15 April 1945, the tanker proceeded for Mios Woendi, Padaido Group, Netherlands East Indies, and made port there on the 18th. Villalobos remained at Mios Woendi through the late spring and into the early summer, providing lubricants and other petroleum products for merchantmen, cargo vessels, and Australian corvettes—ships whose fuel requirements were light.

 

During the ship's sojourn at Mios Woendi, she received the welcome news that Germany had unconditionally surrendered. A little over three months later, on 15 August, the venerable tanker got underway for the Philippines as the war in the Pacific finally came to an end. Stopping at Morotai on 18 August, en route, she arrived at Zamboanga on 19 August, dropping anchor in Basilan Strait.

 

Villalobos remained anchored at Mindanao through November as station tanker, providing fuel for small American cargo and merchant vessels. Directed to proceed to Palawan, the ship—with Army tug YT-15 in tow—got underway on 7 November and made port at Puerto Princessa on 9 November. She then headed to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, and delivered her charge upon arrival.

 

Villalobos next reported to the Ship Repair Base, Manicani Island, off Samar. Soon after her arrival, a board of inspection and repairs convened, looked over the ship, and recommended that she be retained only until no longer needed. After lying off Manicani Island from 1 to 17 December, Villalobos steamed to Subic Bay and commenced preparations for going out of service.

 

Villalobos was decommissioned on 16 February 1946 and struck from the Navy list 10 days later. On 31 August 1948 in Manila, the Maritime Commission transferred the tanker to the Maritime Petroleum Society and Navigation Co., Genoa, Italy, for mercantile service.

 

The ship—as Typhoon—received three battle stars for her World War II service.