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Naval History and Heritage Command

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(AK-48: dp. 1,930 (It.); l. 299'1"; b. 43'6"; dr. 14'; s. 12 k.; cpl. 156; a. 1 4", 1 3", 2 .50 cal. mg.)

A constellation in the skies of the Northern Hemisphere named for the winged horse which, according to Greek mythlogy, was borne from the body of Medusa at her death.

Pegasus (AK-48) was built in 1939 as SS Rita Maersk by Helsingors, Jernskibs, og Maskinbyggeri A/A, Helsingor, Denmark. Following the outbreak of war in Europe, she sailed to the United States where she operated under charter from the Maritime Commission as Rita Maersk and later as Larwin. After completing two cruises, she was laid up at Boston until 18 September 1941 when she was acquired by the Navy from the Maritime Commission. Renamed Pegasus 15 October 1941, the cargo ship was converted for Navy use by Sullivan Dry Dock and Repair Corp., New York, N.Y., and commissioned at New York 3 December 1941, Lt. Comdr. William Fly in command.

Following an abbreviated shakedown, Pegasus loaded military cargo including 600 depth charges and sailed in convoy for Iceland 27 December. Despite fierce seas and the menace of German U-boats, she reached Reykjavik early in January 1942. There, raging winter storms driven by winds in excess of 100 knots imperiled the ship and her cargo, and she did not return to the East Coast until late February.

On 24 March Pegasus joined her second Iceland-bound convoy, and during the spring and summer months of 1942 she completed three round trips to Iceland and back. Her holds and decks carried supplies for the Allied effort in the North Atlantic. Although she escaped the German submarines, she saw several merchantmen, including two on 31 August, fall prey to torpedo attacks.

Pegasus returned to Boston 11 October; and, after completing repairs to her main engine, she sailed 16 November to begin extended operations in the Caribbean. Laden with dynamite and SeaBee construction material, she arrived St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, 11 December. She continued to New Orleans, La., a week later and loaded construction supplies for Puerto Rico. Between 18 January 1943 and mid-May she made four runs to Puerto Rico and back; thence, during June and July she hauled Navy cargo to Cristobal, Canal Zone. Ordered to New York, she loaded ammunition and military stores and transported them to Cuba early in September.

The busy cargo ship resumed her cargo shuttle runs between the Gulf Coast and ports in the Caribbean and the Canal Zone in October. During the next ten months she hauled thousands of tons of war material to American bases in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. While en route to San Juan in mid-May 1944, she sustained extensive damage to her cargo after a fire broke out in her fire room. She discharged cargo at Key West and quickly resumed duty.

Pegasus returned to the Canal Zone in July, and on the 22d, she transited the Canal with a cargo of Navy supplies for bases at Balboa. Yet another assignment sent her to the Canal Zone 17 August; thence, she sailed for Guantanamo 23 August. On the 25th her engine failed. She drifted for almost two days until taken in tow by ATR-21. Following temporary repairs in Cuba, she reached Norfolk, Va., 17 September for a threemonth overhaul. She resumed duty 30 December with a run to Puerto Rico where she encountered a severe tropical storm. While returning to Norfolk via the Florida coast, she encountered another storm off Cape Hatteras early in February 1945. She sustained further damage to her engine, but reached Norfolk at reduced speed 3 February.

During the next two months Pegasus underwent extensive overhaul. On 5 April she was assigned to Service Squadron 10 for duty in the western Pacific as a dry cargo station ship. She departed Norfolk 18 April, transited the Canal 27 April, and steamed via San Diego to Pearl Harbor. She was reclassified IX-222 on 15 May. Between 7 and 20 June, she was towed to Eniwetok by ATA-198; thence she sailed 25 June for the Philippines. Steaming via Ulithi, she arrived Leyte Gulf 18 July.

Pegasus supplied ships of the Pacific Fleet during the closing weeks of the war as well as after the Japanese surrender. She operated in Leyte Gulf for the rest of the year and into 1946 and discharged thousands of tons of ships' stores. She departed the Philippines in February and sailed for the West Coast, arriving San Francisco 4 March. Pegasus decommissioned at San Francisco 19 April 1946 and was returned to WSA the same day. Her name was struck from the Naval Register 1 May 1946.

Published: Thu Jan 08 15:08:36 EST 2015