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Banshee II (IX-178)


The second Banshee was named to commemorate the service of the first ship of that name in the Civil War.


(IX-178: displacement 14,400; length 446'0"; beam 58'2"; draft 25'6" (mean); speed 10 knots; complement 70; armament 1 4-inch, 1 3-inch, 8 20-millimeter, 4 .50 caliber machine guns)

Harold Walker, a steel-hulled, single-screw tanker built at Philadelphia, Pa., by the William Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding & Engine Co. for the Pan American Petroleum & Transport Co., was inspected by the Navy on 10 May 1917 for possible use as an oiler. Though assigned the identification number (Id. No.) 4530, the ship, completed in June 1917, was not taken over for service during the Great War.

Working out of Los Angeles, Calif., Harold Walker served her first owner into the early 1930's, when she appears to have been sold to the Pan American Foreign Corporation of Wilmington, Del. She changed owners again in 1935 and became known as W. C. Fairbanks working for the Pure Oil Co. out of Baltimore, Md. Still later acquired by the Sinclair Refining Co., Inc., of New York City, that firm owned her when the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, and transferred her to the War Shipping Administration (WSA) at Boston, Mass., at 1000 on 23 January 1942.

Loaned to the Soviet Union under lend lease, she was transferred at Los Angeles, Calif., at 1700 on 2 June 1943. Renamed Emba, she flew Soviet colors until returned to the WSA at Los Angeles a little over one year later, at 1400 on 22 June 1944. W. C. Fairbanks was then operated by Los Angeles Tanker Operators, Inc., for the WSA under a general agency agreement until allocated to the U.S. Navy in August 1944 for use as a mobile storage facility and shuttle tanker with the Seventh Fleet Service Force.

Renamed Banshee on 22 August 1944, she received the designation IX-178. Delivered to the Seventh Fleet upon her arrival in the southwestern Pacific theater, the tanker was accepted by the Navy from the WSA under a bareboat charter at Milne Bay, New Guinea, at 0900 on 13 December 1944 and commissioned on Christmas morning [25 December] 1944, Lt. Comdr. Frank H. Lemon in command.

Banshee II (IX-178)

As a photographer (kneeling atop the ammunition locker, upper center) documents the chaplain offering the invocation, and a small band stands ready (left) to contribute appropriate music, Banshee’s commissioning ceremony unfolds, the men aft grouped around the single 4-inch/50 caliber gun at the fantail. The commissioning pennant can be seen in the right foreground, ready to be broken at the main. (Banshee II (IX-178) Ship History File, History and Archives Division, Naval History and Heritage Command)

After undergoing repairs, conversion, and provisioning, Banshee carried out a short “shakedown” cruise in Milne Bay before loading a cargo of drummed lube oil and wooden floats. Underway early on 4 January 1945, the ship stood northwestward, hugging the coast of New Guinea, and anchored at Humboldt Bay shortly before noon on the 8th. After loading more oil from the tanker Tuolomne Meadows, Banshee got underway on the 14th for Finschhafen, New Guinea. Despite engineering difficulties that compelled her to stop twice during the voyage, she reached Finschafen on the morning of the 18th. After transferring her oil cargo to the Norwegian merchant tanker Brajara, Banshee returned to Humboldt Bay on the 25th.

The ship received and discharged fuel oil at Humboldt Bay for two months before receiving orders to shift her base of operations to Morotai, in the Molucca Islands. After repairs to her engines and auxiliary power plant, she departed Humboldt Bay at noon on 25 March 1945 and headed for the Schoeten Islands. She arrived at Biak on the 27th and joined a convoy that got underway for Morotai the following day. Anchoring in Morotai’s Cape Gila anchorage on 31 March, Banshee served as station tanker there well into June as part of the Seventh Fleet’s Service Squadron (ServRon) 9. On 28 June, Banshee cleared Morotai in convoy with Task Group 78.2, bound for Borneo.

Reaching Balikpapan on the morning of 3 July 1945, Banshee moored alongside the oiler Chepachet (AO-78) and commenced discharging her cargo of fuel oil. Completing the evolution on 4 July, Banshee put to sea with another convoy to return to Morotai where she served as station tanker from 7 to 19 July. The tanker then received brief repairs alongside the internal combustion engine repair ship Culebra Island (ARG-7) before delivering a cargo of fuel oil to the Australian oiler Bishopdale between 21 to 23 July. Underway for Biak on the 24th, Banshee loaded a cargo of drummed oils and compounds on 27 July at Mios Woendi, Padaido Islands, before discharging a black fuel oil cargo there to Villalobos (IX-145) on the 28th. Back at sea early on the 29th, Banshee steamed for the Philippines. She touched at Biak for routing instructions en route and reached San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 4 August to await further orders.

When those orders came, they sent her to Guiuan Roadstead near Samar where Banshee discharged a cargo of drummed oil before loading a cargo of black fuel oil at San Pedro Bay for transport to Luzon. Anchoring in Manila Bay near midday on 18 August 1945, Banshee began deliveries of fuel oil to naval vessels the following day. Banshee carried out this task into November.

By that time, her almost three decades of service at sea had taken their toll. Considering repairs to her defective cargo pump to be uneconomical, ServRon 7's commander recommended that the ship be surveyed. As a result, on 11 November 1945, Banshee transferred her cargo to the oiler Winooski (AO-38) and moved to Subic Bay, where a board adjudged her to be unable to make the long transpacific voyage back to the U.S. under her own power. In accordance with the board's recommendations, Banshee was decommissioned at Subic on 5 February 1946 and turned over to WSA representatives there. Her name was stricken from the Navy list on 25 February 1946, and the ship resumed her original name, W. C. Fairbanks.  

The venerable tanker was ultimately sold to the Asia Development Corp., Shanghai, China, on 29 January 1948 as one of a group of 15 vessels. She delivered to her purchaser on 3 March 1948 as a “scrap hull” and was broken up subsequently.

Banshee (IX-178) received one battle star for her participation in the Balikpapan operation (28 June-7 July 1945).

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

30 April 2020

Published: Mon May 11 13:53:43 EDT 2020