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USS Asterion operating as S.S. Evelyn on 12 May 1942
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        ASTERION (AK-63) & ATIK
Design:        Cargo, 1912
Displacement (tons):        3,628 light, 6,610 (full?)
Dimensions (feet):        328.2' oa x 46.1' e x 21.5'
Original Armament:        4-4"/50 (3 concealed?)
Later armaments:        3-4"/50 (2 concealed), 2-40mmS (concealed) 2-20mm (AK-63, 1943)
Complement:        141
Speed (kts.):        10
Propulsion (HP):        1,200
Machinery:        Triple expansion, 1 screw

Construction:
AK Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
63 ASTERION Feb 42 Newport News SB & DD -- 9 May 12 5 Mar 42
-- ATIK 12 Feb 42 Newport News SB & DD -- 3 Jul 12 5 Mar 42

Disposition:
AK Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
63 ASTERION 12 Jan 44 22 Jan 44 12 Jan 44 USCG 4 Mar 46
-- ATIK -- ? 27 Mar 42 Lost --

Class Notes:
FY 1943 (AK-63). CAROLYN and EVELYN were sister freighters built in 1912 for the A. H. Bull Steamship Lines, which they served until acquired by the Navy in early 1942. Following U.S. entry into World War II in December 1941 German submarines began to inflict serious damage on the U.S. merchant marine along the Atlantic seacoast. Somewhat in desperation the American government decided to try the use of submarine decoy ships or "Q-ships." The idea of using "Q-ships" during World War II reportedly originated with President Franklin D. Roosevelt during a meeting with the Navy leadership on 19 Jan 42. "Q-ships" appeared to be innocent merchant vessels but carried a heavy concealed gun battery with which they would engage an attacking submarine. The Navy ultimately deployed as "Q-ships" ATIK, ASTERION, EAGLE (AM-132), IRENE FORSYTE (IX-93) and BIG HORN (AO-45) in the Atlantic and ANACAPA (AG-49) in the Pacific. Priority was given to the first two of these, and a 31 Jan 42 dispatch from CNO stated that he desired that S.S. EVELYN and CAROLYN "be given a preliminary conversion to AK in the shortest possible time."

ATIK (ex CAROLYN) was acquired under bareboat charter from the Maritime Commission on 12 Feb 42 and ASTERION (ex EVELYN) was probably chartered around the same time. They were given "cover" AK hull numbers, AK-101 and 100 respectively, for their highly secret operations. Their original armaments, which also included six depth charge throwers, were installed at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard in late February 1942. ATIK was sunk in March 1942 by U-123 which had torpedoed her and then barely escaped being sunk by the "Q-ship" in the subsequent gun engagement. ASTERION performed eight "Q-ship" voyages along the East Coast in the Caribbean, the last of which ended at New York on 10 Jan 43.

ASTERION was given a real hull number, AK-63, on 25 Sep 42 and was purchased from WSA on 27 Sep 42. Two Mousetrap ASW rocket launchers were added on her forecastle and her depth charge stowage was enlarged during repairs by Bethlehem Steel Co., Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, N.Y. in October-November 1942. The old ship was assigned to the Bethlehem yard at Hoboken, N.J. for further repairs in January 1943 and then underwent extensive overhaul between May and September 1943 at the Atlantic Basin IW, Brooklyn, including reconstruction of her amidships deckhouse, further alterations to her armament, and stowage of over 18,000 flotation drums in her holds and elsewhere. On 4 Sep 43 VCNO directed the New York Navy Yard, which supervised this work, to make no further alterations to the ship, and on 14 Oct 43 CominCh decided that, since the Q-ship effort had achieved nothing ASTERION should be assigned to other duties.

The ship was inspected on 6 Nov 43 and was reported to have numerous deficiencies, some from age and long neglect while in merchant service and some from substandard work during the recent repair periods. A notable exception was the engineering plant, which was stated to be in excellent condition. The report stated that "operation of the special new features added to the deck house structures was demonstrated and found to be slow and cumbersome. Control is by hand winches and hand brakes. It took 1 min. 20 sec. to make the larger caliber ready and 1 min. 30 sec. for the smaller. This is unsatisfactory." (The Commandant, 3rd Naval District responded to this issue on 15 Dec 43, stating that much thought had been given to the design of the structure for this ship and for BIG HORN (AO-45) and tests at other times had proven that greater operating speed was attainable.) The report also noted that "the special projectors installed the length of this vessel are a new development in combating submarines." The Board was informed that actual tests had proved their value and strongly recommended that consideration be given to giving DE and other convoy escorts a similar system of projectors. The ship's armament at this time consisted of 3-4"/50 (one on the poop deck and two concealed, probably behind flaps under the forecastle), 2-40mm Bofors single mounts (concealed, one on each side of the amidships house, with 70 degrees elevation), 2-20mm on top of the bridge, one hedgehog Mark 10 concealed by the forward hatch, 24 twin hedgehog mortars (12 on each side of the ship), and 4 K guns for depth charges (26 carried).

On 16 Dec 43 ASTERION and BIG HORN were ordered to Boston, Mass to be transferred to the Coast Guard as weather ships, and on 24 Jan 44 jurisdiction over the maintenance of these ships plus NOURMAHAL (PG-72) was transferred to the Coast Guard. BuShips noted that the previous secret directives that had prohibited alterations and extensive repairs to BIG HORN and ASTERION without high level approval did not apply to those related to their use as weather ships. ASTERION made one weather patrol between 28 Mar 44 and 1 May 44 and departed Boston for a second on 10 May 44 but had to return because her main engine was wiping its bearings. Her engine was found to be in need of extensive repair, and in addition her maximum operational speed was only 7 or 8 knots while weather ships needed at least 10. In mid-June CNO ordered ASTERION and three other high maintenance weather ships, BIG HORN, MANHASSET, and NOURMAHAL taken off of weather duty, and on 20 Jul 44 the Coast Guard decommissioned ASTERION because of "age, condition of hull and machinery, and lack of speed." In March 1945 the Navy considered taking her back for use as dry cargo mobile storage (for which she would have been reclassified IX), but inspectors found that she was unsuitable for this use unless extensive work was done to refit her former cargo holds and hatches to handle and store cargo and the idea was abandoned in late April. (The newer BIG HORN was taken back for similar duty in February as IX-207.) ASTERION was towed on 6 Jul 45 from Boston to the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Md., where she was eventually disposed of by WSA.

Ship Notes:
AK Name Notes
63 ASTERION Ex merc. EVELYN (ID-2228, completed Jun 12). Assigned the "cover" designator AK-100, redesignated AK-63 25 Sep 42. BUSHIPS received no written acquisition directive for this ship and probably none for ATIK either. USCG ASTERION (WAK-123) 1944. Scrapped by 10 Sep 46.
-- ATIK Ex merc. CAROLYN (ID-1608, completed Jul 12). Assigned the "cover" designator AK-101. Sunk by U-123 off the U.S. east coast.

Page Notes:
AK        1942
Compiled:        10 Jan 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010