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  USS Lanikai (USS Hermes)

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USN 1918
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USN 1942

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Justin Taylan 2009
Ship History
Built by W. F. Stone, Oakland as a two masted wooden schooner. Launched in 1914 for the Williams-Diamond Company, agents for the trading company Jaluit-Gesellschaft of Hamburg, Germany.

Used as a copra trader ship in the Pacific. During April 1917, the ship was at port at Honolulu when the United States entered World War I and the ship was seized by the US Navy and commissioned as USS Hermes on April 1, 1918 with Lt. John T. Diggs as captain.

Originally intended as a submarine patrol vessel, Hermes performed this duty out of Honolulu during the summer of 1918. On 31 August she sailed on a cruise among the islands northwest of Hawaii, including Laysan and Wake, to search for survivors of shipwrecks, signs of enemy activity, and to conduct a survey on wildlife and birds for the US Biological Survey Commission. Decommissioned on January 16, 1919 and placed at the disposal of the Hawaiian territorial government for use as a tender to leper colonies. When the territorial government decided they could not afford her upkeep, Hermes was turned over to the Pacific Air Detachment, whom she served as a store ship and general auxiliary craft.

Sold on October 21, 1926 to the Lanikai Fish Company and renamed USS Lanikai. Next sold during 1929 to the Hawaiian Sea Products Company. Laid up in 1931 and sold in 1933 to Northrup Castle of Honolulu. Then sold in 1936 to Harry W. Crosby of Seattle, Washington. In 1937 she was sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios (MGM Studios) for use in making the film The Hurricane, starring Jon Hall and Dorothy Lamour. Following completion of the film she was used as the MGM yacht until sold on April 6, 1939 to E. M. Grim of Luzon Stevedoring Company, Manila, Philippines and departed for the Philippines.

Wartime History
On December 2, 1941 U. S. President Roosevelt ordered Admiral Harold R. Stark to "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." At the Cavite Navy Yard the ship was commissioned December 5, 1941 with Lt. Kemp Tolley in command.

The schooner patrolled approaches to Manila Bay and served as a dispatch vessel within the harbor and survived the Japanese air raid on Cavite on December 10. On Christmas Day, she assisted in the evacuation of Manila, carrying Army Officers and equipment to Corregidor. Hastily armed, the ship had two 30 caliber machine guns and a Spanish-American war era 3 pound gun mounted.

Manned by a crew of 18, plus twelve Filipinos:
Hilario Velarmino, Mario Pamero, Simplicio Gomez, Prudencio Tumbagahan, Crispin Malto Tipay, Armando Alcantara, Vicente Magtulis, Demetrio Taleon, Baldomero Belarmino, Santiago Reyes Profeta, Marciano Matos Pelarca, Crispin Guzman Almadin.

On December 26, Lanikai attempt to escape the Philippines carrying one Dutch and three American officers, Departed Mariveles Harbor, hiding in friendly coves during day and traveling at night. On February 3, 1942 off Surabaya, Java three Japanese aircraft bombs straddled the schooner. On 1 March, about 200 miles east of Christmas Island, a Japanese task force was sighted and evasive action was successful. On March, 18 after 82 days, Lanikai arrived at Fremantle.

After replenishment and repairs, she departed on April 4, to cruise along the northwest Australian and search for possible Japanese coast watchers. Lt. Comdr. Adair relieved Lt Comdr. Tolley of command of the vessel on 27 April and continued the search into mid-May. Lanikai was decommissioned at Fremantle on August 22, and transferred to the Royal Australian Navy, and renamed HMAS Lanikai. For the rest of the war, the ship helped maintain harbor defense.

At the end of the war, Lanikai was sent back to the Philippines, and returned to her previous owner at Manila in 1946, but the owner refused to accept her in such poor condition.

Sinking History
During a 1947 typhoon, Lanikai sank in Subic Bay off Nabasan wharf.

Discovered by Johan, from Baloy at 100' depth. Later, portions of wreckage were salvaged by divers led by Brian Homan on March 22-26, 2004. Recovered were port holes and the ship's wheel.

Several items from the ship including portholes, wheel and other artifacts are displayed at the Subic Bay Historical Center. Also recovered were a fire extinguisher, jar and lavatory.

Cruise of the Lanikai by Kemp Tolley

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Last Updated
December 22, 2020


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