This is the biography of a ship; her history.  To me such a biography consists of a history of the men that run her, the ports she visits, the seas she crosses and the storms she masters. The men come from all walks of life, and the ports she visits are many and varied. There is so much of interest that I find it difficult to be concise. As on all ships “the Cassie” had good men and bad men, the strong and the weak, the riffraff and the cultured, but they all learned to mix in work and play with little conflict, there is no better place to learn yourself and how to mix than aboard a ship on a long trip. One thing I’ve found in all good sailors, is their ability to tell a story and to tell it well, it may be full of holes, but it is guaranteed not to bore its listeners.

The U.S.S. Cassiopeia AK 75 spent her time during the war months, carrying cargo among the islands in the South Pacific. She was one of the many “Liberties” taken over completely by the Navy to serve during the wartime emergency. The “Fighting Sixbits”, as she was so aptly dubbed by her crew during the invasion of the Philippines, hauled supplies ranging from bombs and hi-test gas to Australian hard candy and ping pong balls. She was built at one of the large west coast shipyards, Richmond California and commissioned on December 8, 1942. She left the states for a tour of duty lasting 31 months, when the ship again returned to San Francisco Bay for conversion and overhaul. She was a clumsy looking ship with her high straight sides; slow moving, 10 knots; and dull gray in color. It was one of the first “K” ships in the Pacific and out of her class of ten ships, one of the few lucky enough to return unscathed. Of the other ten, two were sunk, one damaged by bombs, and three damaged having to return to the states for repairs.

The “Cassie” was at Guadalcanal and the Russels when the Japs were still dropping bombs. She was the first large cargo ship to enter the Green Islands directly after they were taken--this load consisted of bombs, ammunition and hi-test gasoline.

She did a superb job on the Philippine Island invasion at Leyte in October of 1944, crediting her record with seven Jap planes and many assists. It was here that the ships doctor, Lt. M. J. O’Grady, MC received the Bronze Star for the brave duties he performed tending the wounded men while in an open boat under enemy fire. On this trip the 10,000 ton cargo vessel moved in CB’s and their airfield equipment.

Other trips of supply took her to the Russels, Guadalcanal, Tulagi, Bougainville. It was here that the crew saw the fine memorial service, given by the Australians in honor of President Roosevelt. Then to New Zealand where ten of her crew found themselves ten lovely brides and entire crew found treatment deserving of the Crown Prince himself, also here she mourned the death of the Navy’s able leader, Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, and celebrated V-E Day. Other island included Emirau, Treasury, The New Georgia group, and finally Honolulu, Hawaii where she picked up her last cargo, carrying it back to the states. Once again she was in San Francisco Bay, this time for overhaul and conversion, being here on V-J Day and when General Wainwright returned from the Japanese Prison Camps.

The Skipper during the full 31 months length of the duty was commander W.E Carlson of San Francisco, a former skipper of Swedish Schooners. He was the type of man you felt proud to introduce to your closest relations as the skipper of your ship; a handsome, blue eyed, powerfully built, seafaring man with a booming voice you could hear all over the main deck. The Captain was a leader, admired by his crew for his knowledge of men, his coolness in times of stress, and his uncanny ability to handle the ship through any type of weather--he handled the ship as ably as an Indian guides his canoe. Many of the original officers were part of the merchant marine group that signed over with the Navy when the war broke out and did a commendable job.

The Cassiopeia's last trip was under the guidance of an new skipper, Commander Brooke of Atlanta, Georgia. He came to the ship from a destroyer fleet in the Caribbean. On this trip the "Cassie" sailed with nearly a full new crew, many of them green, just out of boot school. G.E.Turner BM1c, is now the only plank member remaining aboard. On the way south, she eluded a hurricane off the coast of Central America, she had to stop for two days in Colon, Panama for minor engine repairs. then into the Caribbean and Atlantic for her first trip on the East coast. On her second day out of Colon, she set an engine speed record for herself, and went through her last maneuvers. Then into Hampton Roads, Norfolk, Va. and up the James River where she was decommissioned and turned over to the War Shipping Administration. Although her duty was not heroic or romantic, and she wears her four ribbons and three stars, she and her men performed with a faithful loyalty through all the monotony and inconveniences deserving of a place of valor in the war's destructive history, and though her name and her owner will change, the sailors and the officers that worked on her will never forget the name Cassiopeia. Their life aboard her all becomes a part of their history and the history of the ship, one of the many that did their small part in a great event. May she carry on with her fine tradition of load carrying in her new position.


Copy 23 Jan. 1998-by David A Friederich