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USS Half Moon (AVP-26): Wikis

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USS Half Moon (AVP-26)
USS Half Moon (AVP-26) off Houghton, Washington, on her commissioning day, 15 June 1943
Career (United States)
Name: USS Half Moon
Namesake: Half Moon Bay, on the coast of California south of San Francisco
Builder: Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, Washington
Laid down: 10 March 1942
Launched: 12 July 1942
Sponsored by: Mrs. T. A. Gray
Commissioned: 15 June 1943
Decommissioned: 4 September 1946
Reclassified: From seaplane tender, AVP-26, to motor torpedo boat tender, AGP-6, in March 1943, then back to seaplane tender, AVP-26, on 1 May 1943
Honors and
awards:
Two battle stars for her World War II service
Fate: Loaned to U.S. Coast Guard 30 July 1948
Permanently transferred to Coast Guard 26 September 1966
Notes: Served as U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Half Moon (WAVP-378), later WHEC-378, 1948-1969
Decommissioned by Coast Guard July 1969
Sold for scrapping May 1970
General characteristics
Class and type: Barnegat-class seaplane tender, converted during construction from a motor torpedo boat tender
Displacement: 1,766 tons (light)
2,750 tons (full load)
Length: 310 ft 9 in (94.72 m)
Beam: 41 ft 2 in (12.55 m)
Draft: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
Installed power: 6,000 horsepower (4.48 megawatts)
Propulsion: Diesel engines, two shafts
Speed: 18 knots
Complement: 215 (ship's company)
367 (including aviation unit)
Sensors and
processing systems:
Radar; sonar
Armament: 2 x 5-inch (127-millimeter) guns
4 x quad 20-millimeter antiaircraft guns
2 x depth charge tracks
Aviation facilities: Supplies, spare parts, repairs, and berthing for one seaplane squadron; 80,000 U.S. gallons (302,833 liters) aviation fuel

USS Half Moon (AVP-26) was a seaplane tender that served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946.

Contents

Construction and early deployment

Half Moon was laid down as a small seaplane tender (AVP-26) on 10 March 1942 by Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington, and was launched as such on 12 July 1942, sponsored by Mrs. T. A. Gray. In March 1943 she was selected for conversion into a motor torpedo boat tender and redesignated AGP-6, but she was so close to completion as a seaplane tender that it soon was decided to convert seaplane tender USS Oyster Bay (AVP-28) into a motor torpedo boat tender instead; Oyster Bay was designated AGP-6 and became USS Oyster Bay (AGP-6). Half Moon, meanwhile, was again classified as a seaplane tender, again designated AVP-26 on 1 May 1943 and commissioned as such on 15 June 1943 with Commander W. O. Gallery in command.

Half Moon spent her first months in shakedown training off California, and was then assigned to the United States Pacific Fleet. Departing San Diego, California, on 25 August 1943, she embarked a United States Marine Corps air group at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and steamed into Vila Harbor, New Hebrides, on 14 September 1943. She then sailed to Brisbane, Australia.

The New Guinea campaign and the "Black Cats"

From Brisbane, Half Moon moved to Namoai Bay, on Sariba Island, New Guinea, arriving on 6 October 1943. At Namoai Bay Half Moon began her tending duties. Her embarked squadron, flying Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats, conducted night antishipping strikes in the New Guinea area. With the support of seaplane tenders like Half Moon these missions, called '"Black Cat" strikes, achieved important results in the destruction of Japanese transports.

Half Moon departed for Brisbane on 21 December 1943, remained there until 10 February 1944, and then steamed into a succession of New Guinea ports on the way to her new operating base, Finschafen, New Guinea. There she resumed her support of seaplane operations in the New Guinea theater.

After tending seaplanes on air-sea rescue missions from Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, in May 1944, Half Moon spent several months substituting for transports in the Pacific area, stopping at Brisbane, Manus Island, Milne Bay, and other ports. She took up "Black Cat" operations again on 25 August 1944 from Middelburg and later Morotai.

The Philippines campaign

Steaming out of Morotai on 6 October 1944, Half Moon joined a small convoy en route to Leyte Gulf to assist in the developing operations for the recapture of the Philippine Islands. The convoy arrived at Leyte Gulf on 21 October 1944, and Half Moon immediately steamed down the eastern coast of Leyte in search of a proper anchorage for her seaplane operations.

Anchoring in Hinamangan Bay, Half Moon came under air attack on 23 October 1944, and soon realized that her anchorage was a rendezvous point for Japanese planes attacking Leyte. Late on 24 October 1944 the radar aboard Half Moon began to pick up two large surface units converging and it was soon clear that she was to be a witness to the last engagement between battlelines of surface ships, the Battle of Surigao Strait, one of several actions making up the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf of 23 October 1944-26 October 1944. Half Moon cautiously slipped out from behind Oabugan Grande Island and was given permission to proceed up the coast of Leyte between, but well to the west of, the two fleets. She watched the spectacle of Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's battleships, cruisers, and destroyers pounding the Japanese ships, and after the battle returned to Hinamangan Bay. Another fierce air attack, however, soon convinced the captain of Half Moon that San Pedro Bay, further north, offered a more hospitable base for operation.

Half Moon weathered two severe storms, on 29 October 1944 and 8 November 1944, and operated with her seaplanes in Leyte Gulf until 27 December 1944. She was then designated as part of the support convoy for the Mindoro landing, and departed for Mangarin Bay on 27 December 1944. The convoy, known as "Uncle plus 15", encountered some of the most prolonged and determined air attacks of the World War II as the Japanese strove mightily to prevent American reinforcements from reaching Mindoro. Air cover provided by land-based aircraft stopped only some of the Japanese attackers. Suicide planes (kamikazes), bombs, and strafing hit many ships. Liberty Ship SS John Burke, loaded with ammunition, exploded, leaving virtually no trace after a kamikaze hit, tanker USS Porcupine (IX-126) and motor torpedo boat tender USS Orestes (AGP-10) were severely damaged, and other ships also suffered hits.

Nevertheless the convoy drove through, giving the Japanese planes a hot time with concentrated antiaircraft fire. During the convoy's three-day voyage, gunners on Half Moon and the other ships were at their stations around the clock, Half Moon accounting for at least two and possibly four of the attacking aircraft.

The convoy arrived at Mindoro on 30 December 1944. Air attacks continued. On 4 January 1945 during one of these a large bomb skipped over Half Moon's fantail, falling to explode. Half Moon remained in Mangarin Bay tending seaplanes until returning to Leyte Gulf on 17 February 1945.

Following the victorious Philippine invasion, Half Moon moved to Manus and Humboldt Bay. While in dry dock at Manus a sole Japanese aircraft launched a torpedo at the ship, striking the dry dock and destroying its mess hall. There was no damage to the Half Moon and only one injury, a crew member who fell off the the top of the dock while fishing. The following day Tokyo Rose reported the Half Moon sunk.

On 30 May 1945, she got underway for the Philippines again, arriving at Tawi Tawi in the Sulu Archipelago on 11 June 1945. She supported seaplane antisubmarine searches from Tawi Tawi Bay until early August 1945, and then carried out the same mission from Mangarin Bay, Mindoro.

Half Moon received two battle stars for her World War II service.

Post-World War II career

Following Japan's surrender on 15 August 1945, Half Moon proceeded to Subic Bay on Luzon in the Philippines, and from there got underway for Okinawa on 30 August 1945. On the afternoon of 31 August 1945 signs of a storm were evident and by 1 September 1945 Half Moon was engulfed in a raging typhoon, with winds up to 120 knots (222 kilometers per hour) and barometer readings of 27.32 inches (925 millibars). Smart seamanship allowed her to weather the storm, and she arrived safely at Okinawa on 4 September 1945.

Half Moon departed Okinawa for Manila on 1 October 1945, operated in that area for about a month, and departed Manila on 7 November 1945 for deactivation. She arrived at Seattle, Washington, on 1 December 1945, steamed to San Diego on 12 April 1946, decommissioned there on 4 September 1946, and was placed in reserve.

United States Coast Guard career

USCGC Half Moon (WAVP-378), later WHEC-378, sometime between 1948 and the Coast Guard's 1967 adoption of the "racing stripe" markings on its ships.

Half Moon was refitted and loaned to the United States Coast Guard in September 1948. In Coast Guard service she became the cutter USCGC Half Moon (WAVP-378), later WHEC-378. Based at Staten Island, New York, USCGC Half Moon served primarily on ocean station duty in the Atlantic Ocean, serving also as a search-and-rescue ship and in law enforcement operations. She eventually was reclassified as a High Endurance Cutter and redesignated WHEC-378 in 1966, and was transferred permanently to the Coast Guard later that year. She served for several months on a combat tour off Vietnam in 1967 during the Vietnam War.

USCGC Half Moon was decommissioned in July 1969 and was sold for scrap in May 1970.

References

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