Built by Permanente Metals Corporation, Yard No. 2, Richmond, California as EC2 class "Liberty Ship" Maritime Commission contract (MCE hull 439). Laid down November 3, 1942. Launched December 12, 1942 renamed USS Celeno (AK-76). Named with a variant spelling of the star Celaeno in the constellation Pleiades, the only ship of the U. S. Navy to bear this name. Commissioned January 2, 1943 and assigned to Captain Lieutenant Commander N. E. Lanphere, USNR.
On January 10, 1943 departed San Francisco loaded with cargo bound for Nouméa on New Caledonia and arrived on February 1. Afterwards, moved cargo from New Zealand to Nouméa, Tulagi and Guadalcanal.
June 16, 1943 Air Raid
While unloading cargo on on June 16, 1943 at Guadalcanal, the ship was caught by Japanese air raid. Dive bombers scored three near misses, then hit Celeno’s stern, putting her 5" gun out of operation. Her men stood to the remaining guns, and aided in downing at least three enemy planes and damaging several others. A second direct hit set two of Celeno’s holds on fire, and another near miss sent her deck cargo of diesel oil and gasoline flaming. With her rudder jammed from the first hit, Celeno circled, as her crew determined to save her. Skillful damage control and superb seamanship beached her safely on Lunga Point after the attack. Fifteen of her crew were killed and 19 wounded in the attack.
Afterwards, towed to Purvis Bay off Florida Island for immediate repairs. Afterward, proceeded to Espiritu Santo for further repairs then across the Pacific to San Francisco for full repairs. Afterwards, returned to the South Pacific by January 1944.
As the seizure of bases in the Admiralty Islands began, Celeno brought troops and cargo to Manus through the spring of 1944, and continued to operate throughout the Solomons, Bismarcks, and Marianas. She sailed to Australia and New Zealand, then made a cargo run to newly secured Iwo Jima. Returning to Nouméa, Celeno performed rear-area support for the Okinawa operation by voyages to Eniwetok and Ulithi, en route to Okinawa itself, where she arrived 18 June. She returned to Ulithi 3 July, and resumed cargo operations throughout the South Pacific.
In November 1945, Celeno sailed to Iwo Jima to embark troops for transportation to Saipan, where she picked up another group of men bound for the west coast.
Decommissioned at San Francisco March 1, 1946. Transferred to the Maritime Commission.
In total, Celeno received three battle stars for her World War II service.
USS-Serpens.org via Wayback Machine January 19, 2012
Liberty Ships built by the United States Maritime Commission in World War II
- 0439 - Redfield Proctor - AK 76 Celeno
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October 6, 2020