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Trinity (AO-13)

1920-1946 

A river in California.

(AO-13: displacement 16,800; 1ength 477'10"; beam 60'; draft 26'2" (mean); complement 107; armament 2 5-inch; class Patoka)

Trinity (AO-13) was laid down on 10 November 1919 at Newport News, Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.; launched on 3 July 1920; and commissioned on 4 September 1920, Cmdr. Harry M. Bostwick, USNRF, in command.

Following her shakedown, Trinity cleared Chesapeake Bay on 11 February 1921 for the Mediterranean. She arrived at Malta and delivered general stores for Pittsburgh (CA-4) before proceeding for Spalato, Dalmatia, with fuel oil for U.S. ships operating in the Adriatic. After a three-day layover at Spalato, she got underway on 8 March for Venice, where she arrived on the 12th. She eventually called at Pola, Italy, before making port at Brindizi to take on fuel oil and general supplies for the naval base at Constantinople, Turkey, and American naval forces operating in Turkish waters. Following the delivery of this cargo, Trinity sailed from Gibraltar on 4 April and arrived at Tompkinsville, Staten Island, N.Y., on the 17th. Subsequently based at Norfolk and assigned to the Naval Transportation Service, the oiler operated along the east coast and in the Caribbean until she was decommissioned on 22 December 1923 and laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

She remained there, inactive, until growing tension in both Europe and the Far East prompted the Navy to enlarge its building programs, and to recondition and recommission old ships. Accordingly, Trinity was re-commissioned at Philadelphia on 21 June 1938. She transported cargoes of oil from ports on the Gulf of Mexico to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Panama Canal Zone.

Transferred to the Pacific Fleet early in 1939, Trinity carried oil to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, for use by the Coast and Geodetic Survey. In the summer, she turned her attention to the Far East and conducted voyages from ports on the west coast of the United States and in the Netherlands East Indies to the Philippine Islands, delivering fuel oil to storage facilities such as those on Sangley Point, near Cavite. Late in 1940, the oiler was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet.

She departed Manila Bay on 28 February 1941 to commence the first of eight round-trip voyages from Manila, in that year, to ports in oil-rich Borneo and the Netherlands East Indies. As war clouds gathered on the horizon in the summer of 1941, an organization plan was drawn up which designated Trinity as part of the Manila-based Task Force 2.

At the end of the eighth voyage, Trinity arrived at Manila on 3 December 1941. On 8 December, she lay alongside the fuel docks at Sangley Point, discharging oil to the storage tanks ashore, when she received word from Adm. Thomas C. Hart, Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet, that "Japan has commenced hostilities, govern yourselves accordingly."

With Japanese air attacks expected momentarily, Adm. Hart decided to send the oilers Trinity and Pecos (AO-6), and the seaplane tender Langley (AV-3), south from Manila Bay. Later that day, those three valuable auxiliaries, shepherded by the destroyers Pope (DD-225) and John D. Ford (DD-228), departed in a hastily assembled convoy. Two days later, on 10 December, as those ships steamed toward Borneo, Japanese naval land attack planes from the Takao and First Kokutais nearly obliterated the Cavite Navy Yard, practically rendering it useless as a base for the Asiatic Fleet. Trinity had departed the area just in time.

The convoy reached Balikpapan, Borneo, on 14 December 1941 and Trinity now commenced her wartime operations with the hard-pressed Asiatic Fleet. After a one-month stay there fueling Allied warships, she steamed first to Koepang Bay, Timor, and then to Kebola Bay, at Amor Island, in the Netherlands East Indies. Standing out of Kebola Bay on 17 January 1942, Trinity set course for Australia, escorted by Alden (DD-211) and Edsall (DD-219). Shortly after 0630, a Japanese submarine fired three torpedoes at the oiler. All missed their target. Alden then searched for the enemy, made contact, and dropped a pattern of depth charges. In the resulting confusion, however, the destroyer lost contact with the enemy and abandoned the search.

Upon her arrival at Darwin, Trinity filled the depleted fuel bunkers of Holland (AS-3) and Otus (AS-20), the tenders to the Asiatic Fleet submarine forces operating in the Malay Barrier. When she had delivered that "liquid gold," orders came for Trinity, Otus, and Holland to accompany the destroyer tender Black Hawk (AD-9) and four destroyers on a voyage to the south coast of Java to establish a base there.

Dropping anchor at the congested port of Tjilatjap, she remained there a week before Vice Admiral William A. Glassford, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Southwest Pacific (ComSoWesPac) (formerly the Asiatic Fleet), dispatched her to Iran to obtain refined fuel oil to relieve the critical shortage in the war zone. Departing Tjilatjap on 17 February in company with Edsall, she proceeded independently after her escort was ordered back to port and arrived at Abadan, Iran, on 9 March.

The first U.S. warship in local memory to have visited that part of the world, Trinity gathered valuable intelligence material on local conditions in Iraq and Iran, including observations of the port-of-entry (Abadan) for war materials slated for use by the Soviet Union. She also collected oceanographic data on the Persian Gulf. After loading her vital cargo, she headed for Fremantle, Australia, on 17 March.

Unfortunately, Java fell even before Trinity arrived at her destination. Although Allied forces had been driven out of the Malay Barrier, they gathered in Australia to begin building for the long road back. ComSoWesPac retained Trinity for the Persian Gulf-Fremantle run, and she called at such varied ports-of-call as Basra, Iraq; Bahrein, Arabia; Diego Garcia, Chagos Archipelago; Bombay, India; and Geraldton and Albany, Australia; as well as the now-familiar ports of Abadan and Fremantle. On one occasion, in November 1942, the ship encountered a typhoon in which heavy seas, whipped by 70-knot winds, enveloped the ship and destroyed two motor whaleboats.

In 1943, with Papua New Guinea secured and the Buna-Gona campaign successfully resolved, Trinity moved her base to Milne Bay, New Guinea, where she arrived on 13 August 1943 and came under the control of Commander, Base Force, Seventh Fleet. Attached to that command for the remainder of the year, Trinity plied the Milne Bay-Brisbane route, while also touching at Cairns and Townsville, Australia. When anchored at Milne Bay, she provided oil for miscellaneous Allied ships. She subsequently moved north to commence operations in the Buna-Cape Cretin vicinity, an area in which she remained until early March 1944.

During the next few months, she proceeded back to Milne Bay and thence to Port Moresby before heading for Cairns and completing the round trip to Milne Bay on 24 July 1944. Operating out of the New Guinea area, she worked as shuttle tanker and harbor feeder, anchoring at such places as Manus in the Admiralties, Humboldt Bay and Hollandia on the north coast of New Guinea, and at Biak in the Schouten Islands.

By January 1945, as the war progressed steadily towards the Japanese homeland, Trinity continued her unglamourous but vital job of plying the triangular New Guinea-Shouten Islands-Admiralty Islands route, shuttling cargoes of oil needed to keep the warships of the Fleet in operation. Arriving at Leyte, Philippines, in May 1945, she returned to waters from which she had been driven so unceremoniously in those dark days of December 1941. For the remainder of her active service, she operated in the western Pacific through the end of the war and the early months of the occupation.

Trinity departed Samar on 12 January 1946, bound for home. After stops at Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, she arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, Calif., on 22 February and reported to Commandant, Twelfth Naval District.

Trinity remained there until decommissioned on 28 May 1946. Stricken from the Navy Register on 3 July 1946, she was delivered to the Maritime Commission's War Shipping Administration on 5 September 1946, and entered the Reserve Fleet berthing area at Suisun Bay, Calif. at noon the same day.

Acquired by the Hillcone Steamship Co., she was withdrawn from the Reserve Fleet at 10:00 a.m. on 9 December 1947 and delivered to her purchaser, who then sold the vessel to the Colonial Steamship Corp. on 6 February 1951, which renamed the former Navy tanker Seabeaver. Ultimately, the ship was sold to Pelivalle Compania Nav. S.A., on 29 July 1952, to operate under Panamanian registry.

Trinity received one battle star for her World War II service.

Robert J. Cressman

1 March 2017 

Published: Wed Mar 01 02:56:04 EST 2017