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Zelima (AF-49)

1946-1976

A minor planet in a solar system discovered on 12 May 1907 by August Kopff, a German astronomer.

(AF-49: displacement 15,500 (full load); length 459'2"; beam 63'0"; draft 28'0"; speed 16.0 knots; armament none (authorized but not installed); complement 292; class Alstede; type R2-S-BU1)

Golden Rocket was laid down on 5 December 1944 at Oakland, Calif., by the Moore Drydock Co. under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1212) ; launched on 2 March 1945; sponsored by Mrs. John W. Greenslade; and delivered to the War Shipping Administration (WSA) on 16 July 1945. She was operated by the United Fruit Co. under a contract with the WSA for almost a year. Turned over to the Navy in the summer of 1946, she was renamed Zelima; converted to a stores ship (AF-49) at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard; and commissioned there on 27 July 1946, Cmdr. Earl H. Pope in command.

With her home port at San Francisco, Zelima spent her first four years of active service carrying provisions and other supplies from the west coast to Japan and other points in the Pacific occupied by American forces. On the return voyages, she often carried servicemen returning home after service in the Far East. The eruption of hostilities in Korea during the summer of 1950 brought an increase in workload for all ships in the Pacific Fleet Service Force, and Zelima proved to be no exception. She saw constant duty in the combat zone carrying thousands of tons of food and other supplies to the ships of the Seventh Fleet operating off the Korean coast as well as to Army men and Marine Corps units ashore and to Air Force squadrons flying daily sorties from the islands surrounding the Korean peninsula.

With the winding down of the Korean conflict in 1953, Zelima resumed her peacetime chores of supplying the American bases spread throughout the Pacific Ocean. However, periodic crises brought her back into potentially dangerous situations. During the waning months of 1958, when the Chinese Communists brought their guns to bear on the Nationalist Chinese-held, offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu, Zelima replenished units of the Seventh Fleet patrolling the Taiwan Strait and delivered badly needed supplies to Americans stationed on Taiwan itself. Later, in the fall of 1961, she operated off the coast of Vietnam servicing fleet units sent there as a result of an intensification of guerrilla activity in that strife-torn land. A year later, she moved across the Pacific to the western coast of Panama where, between 25 October and 16 November 1962, she conducted underway replenishments of ships headed toward the Panama Canal on their way to join the "quarantine" of Cuba imposed by President John F. Kennedy in his successful gesture to secure the removal of Soviet missiles from that island.  Serving as a "floating supermarket," Zelima at one point replenished 28 ships in 72 hours.

The spring of 1963 saw her return to the Far East and, more specifically, to the waters off troubled Vietnam. Though American involvement remained small at that time, further intensified guerrilla activity in that country brought increasing numbers of American servicemen to Vietnam and warships to their support. Zelima provided logistic support to the latter. Following that visit in April and May, she resumed her normal routine for about 16 months. After the Gulf of Tonkin incident spurred an even more rapid acceleration in American involvement, Zelima's visits to the combat zone around the Indochinese peninsula became more regularized and frequent. By the latter 1960's, she made two, sometimes as many as three or four, replenishment visits per year to the ports and coastal waters of Vietnam bringing supplies to both ships at sea and men ashore. Her last tour of duty off the Vietnamese coast came in May and June of 1969. Following a couple of months of active service, Zelima was decommissioned at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 30 April 1970.

Turned over to the Maritime Administration (MarAd) custody for berthing in its National Defense Reserve Fleet group at Suisun Bay, Calif., on 3 June 1970, Zelima was placed on permanent transfer to MarAd on 1 September 1971. A Board of Inspection and Survey found Zelima and three other storeships (12-14 January 1976) unfit for further service and recommended that they be stricken from the Naval Vessel Register (NVR). Consequently, Zelima was stricken from the NVR on 1 June 1976. Along with ex-Pictor (AF-54) and ex-Procyon (AF-61), she was acquired by Levin Metals Corp., San Jose, Calif., on 25 November 1981, for "operation in the fisheries of the United States."

Zelima earned one battle star during the Korean conflict and six battle stars for her service in the Vietnam War.

Raymond A. Mann and Robert J. Cressman

21 December 2015

Published:Thu Dec 24 10:48:09 EST 2015