(CMC-6: dp. 6,150; l. 353'; b. 57'; dr. 17'; s. 12 k.; cpl. 278; a. 2 3", 4.50 cal. mg., 2.30 cal. mg.; cl. Keokuk)
A town in Iowa named for a leader of the Sauk Indians born in Illinois about 1780. His name has been translated as "one who moves about alert" and as "Running Fox." His career was distinguished by opposition to Sauk participation in the Black Hawk War and by skillful diplomacy in negotiations with agents of the Federal Government and leaders of other tribes. He died in 1848 in Kansas.
The second Keokuk (CMC-6), formerly Columbia Heights, was launched 1914 by William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, Pa.; she was acquired by the Navy 28 July 1941 on a Maritime Commission bare boat charter; re-classified AN-5 on 15 August 1941; and commissioned 28 February 1942, Lt. Comdr. L. Brennan, USNR, in command.
Keokuk cleared Delaware Bay 7 March 1942 and arrived Norfolk the same day to commence service as a net layer. She operated out of Norfolk and Key West for 2 months before she was reclassified CM-8 on 18 May 1942. Based at Yorktown, Va., mine depot that summer, Keokuk engaged in high priority mine laying along the Atlantic coast.
As the war in Europe intensified, the mine layer made preparations for service in the Mediterranean. Departing Brooklyn, N.Y., 13 November, Keokuk crossed the submarine-infested Atlantic and arrived Casablanca 1 December. She remained in North African waters for 7 weeks, laying mines off the harbor of Casablanca. She sailed 20 January 1943 with convoy GUS-3, arriving New York 7 February. Following repairs at Hoboken, N.J., Keokuk sailed 1 March to commence net-laying exercises out of Melville, R.I.
During April and May, the mine layer operated with the mine warfare school at Yorktown, Va.; then sailed to Brooklyn to joint a convoy bound for Algeria. Keokuk departed Brooklyn 13 June, arriving Oran, Algeria, 4 July. Two days later she steamed toward Gela, Sicily, to lay antisubmarine minefields prior to the landings there. During these operations, on 11 July, Keokuk was attacked by six enemy planes; but antiaircraft fire drove the raiders off. After the successful conclusion of the Sicilian campaign, she operated out of Algeria until sailing for Norfolk 7 October.
Upon completion of a short overhaul, Keokuk converted to a net layer and, reclassified AKN-4, departed Norfolk 23 November to meet another enemy in the Pacific. She arrived Tarawa 3 February 1944 after a month's stay at Pearl Harbor, and immediately commenced net laying operations in the Marshall Islands. She continued this service until 12 April when she cleared Eniwetok to load new net at San Francisco. Keokuk returned Kwajalein 9 June, and departed 2 days later to engage in the amphibious assault on Saipan. She arrived in Saipan waters 19 June and began laying antisubmarine net off Tanapag Harbor.
Following the Saipan campaign the net-cargo ship operated out of Eniwetok until 17 July when she once again sailed for San Francisco. Upon her return to Guadalcanal 1 September, Keokuk readied herself for the assault on Peleliu, needed as a base for the subsequent and invasion in the Philippines. She arrived off Kossol Passage 17 September and continued net laying operations for 1 month before arriving Manus 17 October. The next day Keokuk sailed for San Francisco to undergo repair and overhaul.
The net-cargo ship returned Eniwetok 6 February 1945 as the raging war was approaching its climax. Keokuk departed Guam 16 February, bound for the Japanese-held volcano fortress, Iwo Jima. She commenced net laying operations 4 days later, as she played her key role in this courageous undertaking. On 21 February just prior to sunset while cruising in formation with a group of LST's, an enemy "Jill" dived out of the clouds and hit Keokuk on the starboard side, knocking out most of the starboard 20mm. battery. The fires were extinguished by 1850; the ship had 17 killed and 44 wounded in the action.
Upon completion of repairs at Leyte, the net-cargo ship sailed 19 March toward the last great hurdle-Okinawa. Keokuk arrived off Kerama Retto 26 March to lay antisubmarine nets prior to the invasion. With the invasion well under way, she cleared the battle area 4 April, arriving Saipan 10 April. Then after a 2-month overhaul at Pearl Harbor, Keokuk returned Eniwetok 2 July to unload net material. As the war entered its final month, she sailed from Ulithi 25 July, and, after a stop at Pearl Harbor, arrived San Francisco 10 September. The veteran ship remained there until she decommissioned 5 December 1945. She was transferred to the WSA 1 July 1946 and sold to the West India Fruit & S.S. Co. 7 March 1947.
Keokuk received five battle stars for World War II service