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Bracken (APA-64)


A county in northeastern Kentucky established on 14 December 1796 to honor William Bracken, a pioneer settler. Its seat of government is Brooksville.

(APA-64: dp. 7,080 (lim.); l. 426'0"; b. 58'0"; dr. 16'0" (lim.); s. 16.9 k. (tl.); cpl. 320; trp. 849; a. 1 5", 8 40mm., 10 20 mm. ; cl. Gilliam; T. S4-SE2-BD1)

Bracken (APA-64) was laid down on 13 March 1944 under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1857) at Wilmington, Calif., by the Consolidated Steel Corp.; launched on 10 June 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Benjamin M. Le Febre; acquired by the Navy on 3 October 1944; and commissioned on 4 October 1944, Lt. Comdr. Charles S. Lee in command.

Following a brief shakedown cruise off San Diego, Bracken assumed the duties of training ship for crews of 22 other ships of her class. After the completion of that assignment on 31 March 1945, she began preparations for overseas duty. After completing repairs and loading provisions, the attack transport filled her holds with general cargo and embarked passengers bound for Hawaii. She got underway early in May and arrived in Pearl Harbor on the 19th.

Despite amphibious training off Maui, Bracken never had the opportunity to participate in an assault because she entered on active service very late in the war. The last opposed landing of the war, Okinawa, had been accomplished more than two months before she left the west coast. As a result, when Bracken departed Pearl Harbor at the end of the month, her assignment was to begin ferrying troops and cargo to various bases in the Pacific. She called at Midway, Hilo, and Nawiliwili in the Hawaiian group; Eniwetok, Marshall Islands; Ulithi, Caroline Islands; Okinawa; Saipan, Marianas; and at Leyte, Samar, and Cebu in the Philippine Islands.

After the Japanese capitulation in August, she embarked troops in the Philippines who were slated for occupation duty. Bracken transported them to Yokohama, Japan, where she arrived on 8 September, almost a week after the formal surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay. After disembarking the troops, the attack transport took on board former Allied prisoners of war for return passage to Manila, on the first leg of their repatriation journey. At Manila, Bracken embarked more occupation troops and set course for Otaru, Hokkaido, and Tientsin, China.

The ships of the "Magic Carpet" fleet carried veteran soldiers, Sailors, and Marines back to the United States. Bracken joined those ships in November and carried troops from Tientsin and Okinawa to Portland, Oreg. She returned to the Philippines to embark more veterans and, after transporting them to Honolulu in December, received special orders assigning her to Operation "Crossroads," the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.

In February 1946, Bracken was stripped at Pearl Harbor and radiation monitoring equipment was installed. With only a skeleton crew, the attack transport sailed for Bikini. Bracken took her place in the target area, less than 2,000 yards from ground zero. During Test "Able" on 1 July, she was not seriously damaged; and her crew reboarded her the following day to gather data. Test "Baker," which took place on 25 July, again resulted in little structural damage; but the level of radiation was very high. Although monitoring teams surveyed the ship, their time limit was only 30 minutes, and the crew was never allowed to reboard her. On 19 August, she was towed to Kwajalein for continued radiological monitoring and observation.

Decommissioned on 29 August 1946, Bracken remained under study until 10 March 1948, when she was sunk in deep water off Kwajalein Atoll. Her name was stricken from the Navy Register on 5 April 1948.

Mary Pat Walker

14 December 2005

Published: Fri Aug 25 07:27:00 EDT 2017