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Hilo (PG-58)


A city on the island of Hawaii, Territory of Hawaii. 

(PG-58; displacement 2,350; length 278'11"; beam 38'3"; draft 17'; speed 14 knots; complement 116; armament 1 3-inch)

The yacht Caroline was built in 1931 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works. Renamed Moana, the vessel was acquired by the Navy from William B. Leeds on 28 November 1941. Converted to Navy use at Craig Shipbuilding Co., Long Beach, Calif., she was commissioned as Hilo (PG-58) on 11 June 1942, Lt. Cmdr. Frank A. Munroe, Jr., USNR, in command.

One of the first ships to be used as a motor torpedo boat tender, Hilo departed Long Beach to load supplies at San Diego 19 June 1942 and sailed for Pearl Harbor on 28 June. The ship arrived at Pearl Harbor on 5 July, and was immediately sent to Palmyra Island to tend a torpedo boat squadron there. Hilo remained in the vicinity fueling and providing supplies to the boats then under training until returning to Pearl Harbor on 4 October. She was soon underway, however, steaming by way of Palmyra to Canton Island, in the Phoenix Group, where she arrived on 29 October. There she embarked passengers and proceeded to Funafuti, arriving on 2 November.

The ship remained at Funafuti until 25 November 1942, tending torpedo boats and engaging in rescue operations as American forces prepared for the coming assault on the Gilberts and Marshalls. Hilo and other units from Funafuti rescued the gallant Rickenbacker party after their 21-day ordeal in rubber boats 12 November. She next sailed for Noumea, New Caledonia, arriving 2 December, and from there escorted four PT boats to Cairns, Queensland, Australia, where she moored 11 December.

Hilo was then sent to set up the first motor torpedo boat base in New Guinea, at Milne Bay, arriving 17 December 1942. Commencing operations soon after their arrival, Hilo's boats contributed to the hard-fought Buna-Gona campaign in New Guinea as allied forces began their return to the Philippines. The boats fired at Japanese ashore, destroyed barges loaded with men and supplies, and even fought submarines in support of the troops ashore. During that period, 13 January 1943, her designation was changed to AGP-2.

During February 1943 Hilo explored the coast for a suitable advance PT boat base, and by the 28th had established one at Kana Kope. The torpedo boats stationed there with Hilo soon had a chance to fight, as Japanese efforts to reinforce their Lae and Salamaua garrisons led to the Battle of the Bismarck Sea 2-4 March 1943. The tender remained at Kana Kope until late April, when she began to move up the New Guinea coast to various anchorages. As Hilo's torpedo boats continued to take part in the successful New Guinea campaign, Hilo herself underwent many air raids and endured extremes of climate and disease before being relieved 20 October 1943. The tender sailed to Sidney, Australia, arriving 13 November, and sailed again 9 February 1944 for Milne Bay.

Hilo again took up her tending duties in the New Guinea area and was transferred to Talasea, New Britain, 26 March 1944. She remained there until 4 June tending two squadrons of torpedo boats, after which she shifted her operations to Mios Woendi and became a command ship for torpedo boat operations in the 7th Fleet her tender equipment removed. There the ship remained until 6 November.

With the invasion of the Philippines and the events it precipitated then underway, Hilo sailed to Leyte Gulf, arriving 12 November 1944. During the next months the ships in the Gulf were under almost constant air attack. Hilo was nearly hit 26 November as suicide planes attacked San Juanico Straits, but the suicide plane crashed some 250 yards ahead of the tender. Hilo's gunners scored several kills during this period. Commander, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons, 7th Fleet, shifted to Cyrene (AGP-13) on 16 January, and for the next nine months Hilo was occupied with passenger voyages to various islands, including Mios Woendi and the Palaus. She departed Samar Island 26 October 1945 for the United States via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor. She arrived 1 December 1945, decommissioned 3 March 1946 and was sold by the War Shipping Administration to Pillsbury & Martingnoni, San Francisco, Calif.

Hilo received four battle stars for her service in World War II.

Published: Wed Jun 01 10:06:32 EDT 2016