USS Bellatrix (AF-62)
Bellatrix replenishing Coral Sea and Duncan in 1962
as SS Fleetwood, |
R2-S-BV1 hull, MC hull 1207
|Laid down:||16 October 1944|
|Launched:||4 December 1944|
|Commissioned:||18 November 1961|
|Decommissioned:||30 September 1968|
|Struck:||30 September 1968|
|Fate:||scrapped in 1969|
|Displacement:||14,180 tons (fl)|
|Length:||460 ft (140 m)|
|Beam:||63 ft (19 m)|
|Draught:||26 ft 7 in (8.10 m)|
|Propulsion:||cross-compound turbines, single propeller|
|Armament:||one 3"/50 gun mount|
USS Bellatrix (AF-62) was an Alstede-class stores ship acquired by the U.S. Navy. Her task was to carry stores, refrigerated items, and equipment to ships in the fleet, and to remote stations and staging areas.
A pre-commissioning diverse commercial life
Fleetwood was laid down on 16 October 1944 at Oakland, California, by the Moore Dry Dock Company under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1207); launched on 4 December 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Agatha Bittman; and delivered to the Maritime Commission on 21 June 1945. The Maritime Commission then turned her over to the United Fruit Co. that operated her in the North Atlantic Ocean under contract until October 1946. She then was transferred by the Maritime Commission to the Pacific Far East Line, and carried out numerous cargo runs to ports throughout the Pacific Ocean, including some in Alaskan waters. After April 1958, she served the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) though the Far East Line continued to operate her. Transferred to the Navy on 22 August 1961, Fleetwood entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to begin conversion to a Navy stores ship. On 13 October 1961, she was renamed Bellatrix and designated AF-62. On 18 November 1961, she was commissioned at her conversion yard, Comdr. Nathan E. Dozier in command.
Supporting ships engaged in nuclear testing
Following outfitting and shakedown training out of San Diego, California, Bellatrix departed her homeport, San Francisco, California, on 3 March 1962 for her first deployment to the western Pacific. She steamed by way of Christmas Island where she provided logistics support for units of Joint Task Force (JTF) 8, then conducting nuclear tests. She spent the remainder of the deployment cruising the western Pacific re-supplying Navy ships by both underway and in-port replenishments. During that time, she visited such ports as Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan, Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Bellatrix returned to San Francisco in June and began an overhaul.
Vietnam operations support
That deployment set the pattern for the remainder of her Navy career. Bellatrix spent the next six years voyaging to the western Pacific to supply the ships of the U.S. 7th Fleet. After August 1964, she concentrated upon the fleet operating off the coast of Vietnam to support the American effort to bolster the defenses of the South Vietnamese Republic against the attacks of communist North Vietnam. Bellatrix alternated between brief periods on the West Coast of the United States and longer periods off the coast of Vietnam until September 1968.
During preparations for her to receive an overhaul late in the summer of 1968, the Navy decided to decommission Bellatrix. Accordingly, on 30 September 1968, she was decommissioned at Hunters Point, California, and her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register that same day.
Military awards and honors
Bellatrix (AF-62) earned five battle stars during the Vietnam conflict:
- Vietnam Defense
- Vietnamese Counteroffensive
- Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase II
- Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase III
- Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase IV
Her crew was eligible for the following medals and citations:
- National Defense Service Medal
- Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (3-Quemoy-Matsu, 7-Vietnam)
- Vietnam Service Medal (5)
- Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation (5)
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Photo gallery of Bellatrix at NavSource Naval History