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Auriga (AK-98)


A constellation located between sister constellations Perseus and Gemini.

(AK-98: displacement 12,875; length 416'; beam 60'; draft 27'7"; speed 14.7 knots; complement 258; armament 1 5-inch, 1 3-inch, 8 20 millimeter; class Auriga; type C1B)

Alcoa Partner was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 493) on 9 June 1942 at Wilmington, Calif., by the Consolidated Steel Corp.; launched on 7 September 1942; sponsored by Dorothea Rasmussen Kunkel; acquired by the Navy on 16 March 1943; converted for naval service as a cargo ship by the Matson Navigation Co.; renamed Auriga on 29 March 1943 and designated AK-98; and placed in commission at San Francisco, Calif., on 1 April 1943, Lt. Cmdr. John G. Hart in command.

Upon her commissioning, the cargo ship was assigned to the Naval Transportation Service. When the conversion work had been completed, she got underway on 6 June 1943 for Port Hueneme, Calif., to load cargo and departed the west coast on 14 April, bound for the Fiji Islands. The vessel reached Viti Leyu, Fiji Islands, on 3 May and began discharging cargo. Unloading was completed on the 28th, and she then reversed her course and proceeded back to the west coast of the United States. Upon her arrival in San Francisco, the ship entered a shipyard for repair work which was completed by early July when Auriga moved to Alameda, Calif., to load equipment and supplies for transportation to New Caledonia.

The vessel put out to sea on 19 July 1943 and, upon her arrival at Noumea on 7 August, unloaded her cargo. She completed this task on 21 August and sailed once more for the Fijis. The ship touched at Suva on the 24th; discharged equipment and supplies; and, three days later, began the voyage back to the United States. She arrived at San Francisco on 13 September, reloaded her holds, and moved to San Diego. On 1 October she stood out to sea, bound for the Ellice Islands.

Auriga reached Funafuti on 16 October 1943 but, the next day, moved on to Wallis Island, Samoa, and remained there through 12 November. She then returned to Funafuti, where she carriedout cargo operations into January 1944. On the 17th, the vessel got underway for Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, and spent the next week unloading cargo despite frequent enemy bombing attacks. She departed the Gilberts on the 24th and headed for Hawaii.

The ship moored at Pearl Harbor on 1 February 1944 and unloaded all her cargo before entering the navy yard there for repairs and alterations. On the 22nd, Auriga moved to Honolulu for loading operations and got underway on the 29th for Eniwetok. She reached her destination on 11 March and began sending cargo and fresh water to various small craft. The ship took on Army equipment and got underway for Kwajalein on 8 April. The ship anchored off Kwajalein on the 10th and sailed two days later for Hawaii.

Shortly after returning to Pearl Harbor, Auriga was slated to take part in the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas. The vessel began taking on Army combat vehicles, ammunition, heavy artillery, and other supplies and embarked troops. On the morning of 1 June 1944, the ship sortied with Task Group (TG) 51.18. After a pause at Kwajalein to refuel, TG 58.18 arrived off Saipan on the 16th; and Auriga began debarking troops and equipment. The next day, the ship retired from Saipan and, during the next eight days, steamed with various task groups while awaiting orders to return to waters off that embattled island.

On 25 June 1944, Auriga touched at Saipan and began unloading operations. Despite enemy air harassment, she completed the process on the 28th and left the area. She anchored at Eniwetok and remained there nearly one month. The ship weighed anchor on the 27th and set a course for Pearl Harbor. After her arrival there on 3 August, the ship entered the navy yard for repairs and alterations.

On the 31st, Auriga sailed for Hilo, Hawaii, where she embarked Marines, combat equipment, and ammunition. The ship headed back toward Pearl Harbor on 6 September 1944 and got underway again on the 15th, bound for Eniwetok. After briefly touching there, the cargo ship was routed on to Manus Island, Admiralties, a staging point for the invasion of the Philippine Islands. She left Manus on 14 October and, six days later, anchored in Leyte Gulf and commenced discharging cargo ashore.

Still off the beachhead on 25 October 1944, Auriga underwent a Japanese air attack during which her commanding officer and four other crew members were wounded. The next day, she set course for Peleliu in the Palaus. After a one-day stop there, the vessel proceeded to Hollandia, New Guinea.

Following a brief period in port, Auriga was assigned to a reinforcement group bound for Biak, Schouten Islands. Upon her arrival there, she began loading a cargo of vehicles and Army Air Corps equipment. She got underway on 14 November 1944 to return to Leyte. The vessel arrived in Leyte Gulf four days later and began sending her cargo ashore. In spite of heavy enemy air activity, Auriga completed her task on the 19th and left that evening to return to Hollandia.

The attack cargo ship remained there for a week before being ordered to Aitape, New Guinea, to take on equipment, ammunition, and Army troops. She got underway on 28 December 1944 and set a course for the Philippine Islands and the invasion of Luzon. Auriga was assigned to TG 78.5 whose ships reached Lingayen Gulf on 9 January 1945 and began unloading operations shortly after their arrival. Three days later, her holds were empty,and she sailed for Leyte.

While at Leyte, the cargo vessel was ordered to begin preparations for another assault on Luzon in the San Felipe-San Narcisco area. Auriga got underway for this operation on 26 January 1945 and arrived off the west coast of Luzon on the 29th. The unopposed landing was completed on the 31st, and the ship returned to Leyte where she remained in upkeep into March.

On 13 March 1945, Auriga began taking on cargo, and she got underway on the 27th. She entered Ulithi Lagoon three days later, awaited further orders, and set sail on 7 April for Okinawa. The vessel anchored off Hagushi beach on the 11th and immediately encountered stiff enemy air opposition, but managed to discharge all of her passengers and cargo by the morning of the 17th. Two days later, she left Okinawa and returned to Ulithi.

The ship paused there to refuel and to embark passengers for transportation to the United States. She got underway for home on 25 April 1945, sailed into San Francisco Bay on 12 May, and shortly thereafter entered a shipyard for alterations and repairs. Her repairs and shakedown were completed on 26 June, and sheresumed cargo operations. The ship got underway on 8 July, shaped a course for the Marshalls, and during the next month delivered cargo to both Eniwetok and Kwajalein. Auriga was then routed to Espiritu Santo to pick up more cargo.

Upon reaching Espiritu Santo on 15 August 1945, the ship received word of the Japanese capitulation. She loaded supplies and equipment, got underway for Guam on the 23rd, and entered Apra Harbor on 1 September. There, she took on cargo to support occupation forces in Japan. After a brief stop at Iwo Jima, Auriga sailed to Japan.

The vessel reached Yokosuka on 12 October 1945 and began discharging supplies ashore. She later embarked Army and Navy personnel for transportation back to the United States. The ship left Japan on 27 November and proceeded to Pearl Harbor. She then sailed on to the Panama Canal Zone, transited the canal on 27 December, and continued on to the east coast of the United States. Auriga reached New York City on 3 January 1946; discharged her passengers, cargo, and ammunition; and began preparations for deactivation. She was decommissioned at the New York Naval Shipyard on 22 January 1946 and was returned to the Maritime Commission for disposal. Her name was stricken from the Navy list on 7 February 1946. She was sold later that year and was refitted for merchant service.

Auriga earned five battle stars for her World War II service.

Published: Wed Jun 01 14:42:46 EDT 2016