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USS Zebra (AKN-5) on 28 August 1945
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Class: ZEBRA (AKN-5)
Design: MC EC2-S-C1
Displacement (tons): 4,900 light, 14,550 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 441.5' oa, 416.0' wl/pp x 56.9' e x 28.4' lim.
Original Armament: 1-3"/50 9-20mm
Later armaments: 1-5"/38 4-40mmT 10-20mm (1945)
Complement: 254 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 12.5
Propulsion (HP): 2,500
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||1 Oct 43
||Permanente Metals #1
||18 Mar 43
||11 Apr 43
||27 Feb 44
||21 Jan 46
||7 Feb 46
||21 Jan 46
||28 Mar 72
FY 1943. This relatively new Liberty ship was damaged by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-11 on 11 Aug 43 near Noumea. According to the history later written by the ship, S.S. MATTHEW LYON limped into Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo, with a gaping hole in her port side and seemed destined for the scrap heap. Then, in answer to a request by an enterprising net officer, the damaged Liberty ship was taken over by the Navy from the War Shipping Administration and pressed into emergency service as a net cargo ship. CNO asked WSA on 28 Aug 43 to transfer the heavily damaged ship and assigned the name ZEBRA to IX-107 on 8 Sep 43, one day after the Auxiliary Vessels Board recommended her acquisition. So successful was the initial use of ZEBRA in the installation of nets in the New Hebrides area that it was decided to completely repair her and commission her as an AKN. On 7 Feb 44 CNO reclassified the ship AKN-5 effective 15 Feb 44 and authorized Commander, Service Squadron, South Pacific Force to put her in commission.
The day after her commissioning on 27 Feb 44, ZEBRA was drydocked in ABSD-1. There it was determined that the torpedo had caused sufficient damage to necessitate the construction of an entirely new number three hold. Two months were needed to complete this large job, and while it was being done the ship was reconfigured to accommodate a much larger crew, as was standard Navy practice, than had been needed to operate her as a merchant ship under WSA. After an additional fitting out period in Segond Channel, ZEBRA began operations as a net handling ship on 1 Jun 44. She proceeded to have a very active operational career in the Pacific that included two additional conversion periods, at Pearl Harbor in December 1944 and January 1945 and at Oakland, California, from May to July 1945.
Apparently the torpedo damage was never fully repaired. Because of her specially valuable configuration MATTHEW LYON (ex ZEBRA) was among the reserve fleet ships that were selected in 1954 by a MARAD-Navy planning group for repair under the Emergency Ship Repair Program. She was withdrawn from the James River Reserve Fleet on 17 Dec 54 and towed to the Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Baltimore for initial work. A survey of the ship both in drydock and afloat revealed that she was severely hogged and twisted, with a maximum vertical deflection of the bottom of 19 1/2" and a horizontal deflection of 18". MARAD recommended to the Navy that the ship be declared non-essential and disposed of as scrap, and while awaiting a reply returned the ship to the reserve fleet to minimize further custodial expenditures. The Navy, however, decided to retain the ship in the reserve fleet in its existing condition.
||Ex merc. MATTHEW LYON (completed 26 Apr 43). Placed in service as IX-107 1 Oct 43. To AKN-5 15 Feb 44. Converted at Espiritu Santo, New Caledonia. Merc. MATTHEW LYON 1946. Withdrawn for repairs while inactive 15 Dec 54 - 17 Jan 55 but repairs cancelled. To buyer 8 May 72.
Compiled: 24 Aug 2008
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2008