(Yacht: t. 150; l. 87'3"; b. 9'0"; s. 7 k.; cpl. 19; a. 1 3-pdr., 2.30 cal. mg.)
A village on Oahu, north of Honolulu.
Lanikai, a schooner-rigged diesel powered yacht built in 1914 at East Oakland, Calif., was taken over by the Navy at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands, under charter from Luzon Stevedoring Co., Inc., 5 December 1941; and commissioned the same day, Lt. Kemp Tolley in command.
Late in November 1941 it became apparent to the American Government that Japanese forces were tactically deposed for major operations in Southeast Asia, but her precise target was unknown. A large convoy was steaming south from Formosa Straits, and it was hoped that learning the destination of these ships might reveal Japan's intentions.
On 2 December, President Roosevelt ordered through Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. H. R. Stark, that Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet Adm. T. C. Hart "charter three small vessels to form a defensive information patrol...to observe and report by radio Japanese movements in the west China Sea and Gulf of Siam."
Lanikai, which had been seen by millions in the movie "Hurricane," was one of the small ships chartered to learn of Japan's intentions. Fitted out at Cavite, with the greatest dispatch, the schooner lay at the entrance of Manila Bay in the wee hours of 8 December (7 December east of the International Date Line) awaiting daylight to thread her way through the dangerous minefields which guarded the harbor. Tolley's orders read: "Patrol off the entrance of Camranh Bay and report the direction taken by the Japanese Fleet when it emerges." However, at 0300 word of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor arrived with orders to return to Manila.
In ensuing weeks, the schooner patrolled the approaches to Manila Bay and served as dispatch vessel within the harbor. On 10 December she survived the devastating Japanese air raid which destroyed Cavite Navy Yard. On Christmas Day, she assisted in the evacuation of Manila, carrying Army Officers and equipment to Corregidor.
As a result of plans and actions of Lt. Comdr. Charles Adair, Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Hart, approval was obtained for Lanikai to attempt to escape to the Netherlands East Indies. On the evening of 26 December, carrying as passengers one Dutch and three American officers, Lanikai, with her Filipino crew, got underway from Mariveles harbor, Luzon, "destination unknown." Heading generally south, hiding in friendly coves during daylight, and traveling principally at night, the schooner sailed from island to island as enemy forces spread across the East Indies with explosive speed. Heaven-sent storms covered her as she crossed the three large stretches of open water which lay between Luzon and Australia and offered no coves for daylight concealment. When, as happened all too often, enemy aircraft approached the lightly armed schooner, they were preoccupied for the most part, with bigger game; but, at Soerabaya, Java, 3 February 1942, three Japanese bombs straddled the schooner so close aboard that Lanikai crewmen put off in a skiff to pick up a large quantity of stunned fish.
In late February, under full sail despite heavy seas, Lanikai headed due south from Tjilatjap, Java. This course was taken to avoid enemy forces which might be searching the direct route from Java to Darwin, Australia. On 1 March, while about 200 miles east of Christmas Island, a large Japanese task force was sighted on the port bow. Evasive action by Lanikai was successful.
On 18 March, 82 days after departing Mariveles, the schooner arrived at Fremantle. After replenishment and repairs there, she got underway, 4 April, to cruise along the northwest Australian coast and search for possible Japanese coast watchers. Lt. Comdr. Adair relieved Lt Comdr. Tolley of command of the vessel 27 April and continued the search into mid-May. Lanikai decommissioned at Fremantle 22 August and was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy which she served on harbor defense throughout the war.
After peace returned, Lanikai was brought back to the Philippines for later return to her owner. However, while anchored in Leyte Gulf off Samar, Lanikai sank during a typhoon.
Lanikai received one battle star for World War II service.