(APA-60: displacement 7,080 (limiting); length 426'0"; beam 58'0"; draft 16'0" (limiting); speed 16.9 knots (trial); complement 320; troops 849; armament 1 5", 8 40 millimeter, 10 20 millimeter; class Gilliam; type S4-SE2-BD1)
A county in western Nebraska with its seat at Harrisburg. The name is a shortened form of Nebraska's nickname, the "banner state."
The first Banner (APA 60) was laid down on 24 January 1944 under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1853) by Consolidated Steel Corp., at Wilmington, Calif.; launched on 3 May 1944; sponsored by Miss Grace Henley; acquired by the Navy on 15 September 1944; and commissioned on 16 September 1944, Lt. Comdr. James R. Pace in command.
Following shakedown and availability, the attack transport reported to San Francisco on 23 October 1944 for her first mission, the transportation of troops to Milne Bay and Hollandia,
New Guinea. Banner left the United States on 30 October and arrived at Milne Bay on 17 November. After discharging the troops, she began ferry service for passengers and cargo between Humboldt Bay and Cape Sansapor, New Guinea.
On 30 December, Banner departed Cape Sansapor, bound for Lingayen Gulf with Army troops for the invasion of Luzon. After unloading troops and cargo on 10 January, the attack transport proceeded via Leyte and Manus to Maffin Bay, New Guinea, where she again took on passengers and cargo bound for the Philippines. Engineering troubles caused Banner a two week delay in Humboldt Bay. She was underway again on St. Valentine's Day and finally discharged her passengers and supplies at Leyte on 20 February.
After extensive training and rehearsal landings with the 382d Infantry embarked, Banner departed Leyte in convoy on 27 March to land troops on Okinawa. She arrived at her assigned station in the transport area on 1 April and, for the next four days, she disembarked troops and unloaded cargo. In spite of enemy air activity, Banner sustained no casualties or damage, and left Okinawa on 5 April, bound for Pearl Harbor.
She carried out a two week availability at Hawaii and then continued on to San Francisco, where she arrived on 11 May. There, she embarked troops and loaded cargo before heading back into the war. The attack transport made stops at Eniwetok, Ulithi, Leyte, two ports in New Guinea, and at Manila before returning to San Francisco on 3 August.
During a three week stay in port there, Banner received engine and hull repairs at the Hurley Dry Docks in Oakland while her crew enjoyed a brief leave period. News of the Japanese capitulation reached the attack transport while under repairs. When she embarked on her next Pacific voyage on 27 August, carried occupation troops to Okinawa via Eniwetok and Ulithi. On 27 September, the attack transport departed Okinawa for the United States on the first of two voyages as part of the "Magic Carpet” fleet returning veterans to the United States. Banner returned to the Pacific after the second of these trips home, arriving at Guam in late December. However, there were no troops there eligible to return home, so the ship was designated as a target ship for Operation “Crossroads,” the nuclear tests held at Bikini Atoll in July 1946.
From Apra Harbor, Guam, Banner steamed to Terminal Island, Calif., for stripping, and then to Pearl Harbor for final preparations. She departed Pearl Harbor on 15 May 1946 and arrived at Bikini Atoll on the 28th. By 1 June, Banner was anchored in her assigned position in the target array. Her crew was transferred to Bottineau (APA 235) to observe the detonations on 1 and 25 July and to conduct surveys of damage following the blasts. Banner was decommissioned on 27 August 1946, but her hulk was kept for observations and tests until she grounded on Ennylabegan Island on 15 February 1948 and seriously damaged her hull. She was scuttled in deep water off Kwajalein Atoll on 16 February, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 12 March 1948.
Banner received two battle stars for her World War II service.
Raymond A. Mann
6 March 2006