Bingham (APA-225) was laid down on 22 September 1944 at Richmond, Calif., by the Permanente Metals Corp. under a Maritime Commission contract (M. C. Hull 573); launched on 20 November 1944; sponsored by Mrs. John V. Harrell; and commissioned at her builder's yard on 23 December 1944, Capt. Leon F. Brown, USNR, in command.
Following shakedown training off the coast of southern California, during which her crew "received intensive drilling in amphibious boat operations" off Oceanside and Coronado, the attack transport underwent availability at the Standard Shipbuilding Corp. dock, San Pedro, from 5 to 13 February 1945. She loaded supplies at Los Angeles and then proceeded to San Francisco, before heading thence to Port Chicago, Calif., to load ammunition for Hawaii. She arrived there late on the 22d; commenced loading the next morning; and, after taking on 2,900 tons of assorted ammunition as cargo, got underway for Hawaii on the afternoon of 28 February.
Steaming independently in worsening weather, Bingham encountered "very rough seas" which caused the ship to roll as much as 40 degrees to a side, "recovering very slowly." By late afternoon, the storm had wrenched eight life rafts loose from their moorings. Throughout the night of 1 March, Bingham constantly deviated from her "routed track in an effort to lessen the effects of the sea." The squally, rainy weather continued the next day, but Bingham had passed the worst of it. She made landfall off Oahu on the morning of 6 March, and PC 483 escorted her into Pearl Harbor where she moored at the Naval Ammunition Depot.
Her perilous voyage over and cargo delivered safely, Bingham enjoyed a brief respite at Pearl Harbor, taking on stores and fuel while sending ashore as many officers and men as possible to attend various training courses and schools. On the morning of 27 March, her tropical idyll came to an end, and she shifted to Honolulu Harbor. After embarking Army troops on the 28th, the ship sailed for the Marshalls on 29 March in convoy PD 355T and reached Eniwetok on the afternoon of 6 April.
The following day, in company with Lanier (APA-125) and Steele (DE-8), Bingham pushed on toward the Marianas. She and her consorts reached Saipan on the morning of the 10th. Two days later, having disembarked her troops there, Bingham got underway for Hawaii and reached Pearl Harbor on the 21st.
During the first half of May, Bingham took part in amphihious warfare training off Maui. Returning from these evolutions to Pearl Harbor on the 14th, she took on board the Navy's 74th Construction Battalion ("Seabees") between 15 and 20 May and sailed for the Marshall Islands on the 20th.
After steaming in convoy with Clement (APA-145), Lander (APA-178), and SS Robin Wentley with LeHardy (DE-20) and Enright (APD-66) as escort, Bingham dropped out of the convoy on the morning of the 22d because of a bad gasket leak in a high pressure steam line. While Enright stood by, Bingham made emergency repairs. By 1115, Bingham could get underway to overtake the convoy, and she and Enright had resumed their stations in the convoy by 1927. Arriving at Eniwetok on the afternoon of 28 May, Bingham refueled from Meredosia (IX-193) and got underway for Ulithi on 5 June. From there, she set sail for the Ryukyus with Task Unit (TU) 94.18.2 on 20 June.
At 0542 on 24 June, Bingham was detached from the task unit and directed to proceed to the eastern coast of Okinawa with SS White Swallow and Clermont (APA-143). The three ships entered Nakagusuku Wan shortly after 0800 and anchored about 3,000 yards off the town of Yonabaru, a place nearly destroyed by the recent fighting. Early that afternoon, Bingham began landing her "Seabees" and Army passengers. She went to general quarters at 2152, securing at 2233 when no enemy planes came near her. The next few days brought more of the same. Bingham continued disembarking passengers and discharging her varied cargo into tank landing craft and her own LSM's. To quote her war diary, "Unloading continued day and night except for interruptions for enemy air alerts on the nights of the 25, 27, and 29 June."
Unloading completed by late on the 28th, Bingham put to sea on 30 June in company with SS San Bruno and Kinzer (APD-91). After stopping briefly at Hagushi anchorage, she moved to Kerama Retto on 1 July and joined Ulithi-bound convoy OKU 10 which reached Ulithi on 5 July. Then, with 119 passengers, 21 of whom were hospital patients,Bingham sailed for the west coast on 6 July. Steaming independently, the attack transport entered San Francisco Bay on the 21st, moored at 1600, and started disembarking her passengers. Next came an overhaul conducted by the Matson Navigation Co. which lasted until early in August. Bingham then loaded supplies and cargo and stood out to sea on 9 August, bound for Hawaii.
On 14 August, while the ship steamed westward, she received "conflicting radio reports that Japan had surrendered," or had not. "Finally, about 1700," her war diary records, "we received the announcement, confirmed by President Truman, that Japan had agreed to lay down her arms...." Bingham reached Pearl Harbor the following day but soon got underway for Eniwetok. Arriving there on the 25th, she fueled again from Meredosia and then pushed on for the Western Carolines on the 27th. She steamed in company with nine other attack transports, a destroyer escort, and two subchasers, and the convoy reached Ulithi on the last day of August.
On 8 September, Bingham sailed for her second visit to Okinawa, as the command ship of a 23 ship convoy (UOK 57). Bingham reached Buckner Bay on 11 September and moved in closer to the beach on the 12th, nearer to Awase, where her cargo was to be landed. During the morning of the 13th, she began disembarking her passengers and unloading her cargo. About 0600 on 16 September, however, the wind and seas began to rise "appreciably." Long swells rolled into Buckner Bay from the southeast, as a typhoon, thought to be slowly recurving northward, headed for Okinawa. Bingham put to sea "in accordance with the current typhoon plan." By the time she cleared Buckner Bay, her bow sliced into 20-foot waves, and the sea continued to rise as she doubled Okinawa's southern tip and labored on to westward.
By the next morning she deemed it safe to return to port, so she came about and headed for Buckner Bay, anchoring at 1900. After completing her cargo unloading on the 18th, Bingham shifted to the western side of the island and anchored off Machinato on the 19th. The next day, she took on board approximately 2,000 former Allied prisoners of war "recently liberated from camps in Japan" for passage to Manila. Bingham got underway at 0700 on the 21st; but, when SS Cape Diamond missed a planned rendezvous off Naha, the attack transport returned to Naha for the night. Bingham finally sailed for Manila at 1700 on the 22d, in company with Haskell (AKA-117) and Lough (DE-586). She moored in Manila harbor on 25 September; and, by 1900, the former prisoners of war all had disembarked, well on their way in returning home.
Bingham, however, had work yet to do. Shortly before midnight on the 25th, she began embarking some of the first 2,000 men she carried homeward in Operation "Magic Carpet." Having embarked her passengers, Bingham sailed for Hawaii the following morning, arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 10th, but got underway again the following day for the west coast. Bingham reached San Francisco on the 17th, and disembarked her passengers. The next day she shifted to the Bethlehem Steel's San Francisco yard for drydocking and alterations. Among the latter was the conversion of her number five hold to a 312 man troop compartment. A labor dispute, however, slowed the work and prompted her move from Pier 7 to Pier 922, where Bellerophon (ARL-311) tied up alongside on 30 October and completed the alterations.
Converted for "Magic Carpet" duty, Bingham embarked westbound passengers and sailed for the Philippines on 6 November. Reaching Samar on the 19th, she disembarked her passengers there, taking on board others bound for Manila. She then fueled from Whippet (IX-129) and put to sea again on 21 November. She reached Manila on the morning of the 23d.
Bingham then departed Manila on 29 November, with a "capacity load" of 2,010 passengers, eclectically composed of female Red Cross personnel, merchant marine officers, Army officers and enlisted men. Proceeding alone, she reached San Francisco on 16 December. Her passengers disembarked by 1000, she moved to Hunters Point, where she remained for the rest of December 1945, undergoing further alterations and repairs. During this period, all of her ammunition supply and all but two 20-millimenter guns were removed.
Bingham made one final round trip voyage to the Philippines and back as part of the "Magic Carpet" before sailing for the east coast of the United States on 28 March 1946. The attack transport reached Norfolk on 3 May and was decommissioned there on 17 June 1946. She was delivered to the War Shipping Administration the following day, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 3 July 1946. She was laid up in the James River as a Navy asset in Maritime Administration custody until title to her was transferred to the Maritime Administration in May 1975.
Bingham received one battle star for her World War II service.
Robert J. Cressman
6 February 2006