USS Venus (AK-135)

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Career (US) 100x35px
Ordered: as SS William Williams
EC2-S-C1 hull, MCE hull 263
Laid down: 5 July 1942
Launched: 21 August 1942
Acquired: 6 November 1943
Commissioned: 10 November 1943
Decommissioned: 4 December 1943
In service: 26 September 1944
Out of service: 18 April 1946
Struck: 19 February 1948
Fate: scrapped in August 1961, at Oakland, California
General characteristics
Displacement: 4,023 t.(lt) 11,565 t.(fl)
Length: 441 ft 6 in (134.57 m)
Beam: 56 ft 11 in (17.35 m)
Draught: 28 ft 4 in (8.64 m)
Propulsion: reciprocating steam engine, single shaft, 1,950shp
Speed: 12 kts.
Complement: 206
Armament: one 5"/38 dual purpose gun mount; two dual 40mm AA gun mounts; eight single 20mm AA gun mounts

The USS Venus (AK-135) was a Crater-class cargo ship in the service of the United States Navy in World War II. Originally liberty ship SS William Williams (named after William Williams a signer of the Declaration of Independence), it was taken over by the Navy after damaged by a torpedo attack and renamed after the planet Venus. It was the only ship of the Navy to bear this name.

SS William Williams was laid down on 5 July 1942 under a Maritime Commission contract (MCE hull 263) by Permanente Metals Corporation, Yard No. 2, Richmond, California; launched on 21 August; sponsored by Mrs. Paul S. Marrin; was delivered to her owners, the Isthmian Steamship Lines, on 8 September; and operated in the Pacific for the remainder of 1942 and into 1943.The ship was commanded by Captain William Robinson Freeman Sr. up until the time she was torpedoed. On 2 May 1943, while near Suva, Fiji Islands, William Williams was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-19, commanded by Lt. Takaichi Kinashi who, while commanding this I-boat, had torpedoed Wasp (CV-7), North Carolina (BB-55), and O’Brien (DD-415) with the same spread of torpedoes off Guadalcanal on 15 September 1942. At the time she was torpedoed, she was carrying lumber. Any other time, she would have been carrying munitions and shurly would have been lost. With quick thinking by Captain Freeman, he ordered an immediate abandonment of the ship by most of her crew but Captain Freeman stayed behind with a small crew to put out the fires. Captain Freeman also ordered the radio operator, "Sparks" as they were called, to send out a distress signal that they were sinking rapidly with the hope that the Japanese ship would intercept the message. Believing the ship would blow from a cargo of munitions or believing that the ship was sinking and seeing the crew so hastily leave the ship, the Japanese vessel cleared the area believing a fatal blow had been struck. After the fires were put out, the crew returned and the William Williams built steam to continue to port. A Navy tug was sent out to pull her in but if need be, the William Williams could have made it on her own. Captain Freeman received a commendation for saving the "William Williams".

The William Williams was towed to Fiji and thence to Auckland, New Zealand, where the Navy acquired the ship on 6 November 1943 from the War Shipping Administration under a bareboat charter. Enough repairs to make the ship seaworthy were effected, and she was commissioned as Venus on 10 November, Lt. Comdr. George H. L. Peet in command.

Towed from Auckland, Venus arrived at Sydney, Australia, where she was decommissioned and placed "in service" on 4 December. Docking and conversion work at the port were delayed due to higher priorities being assigned to other ships and labor troubles at the dockyards themselves. Once these obstacles were overcome, work proceeded apace — a difficult task because the conversion was accomplished in a foreign yard with non-standard materials. Designated AK-135, the ship was placed back in commission on 26 September 1944. On 4 October, she commenced her shakedown and soon loaded general cargo and dry provisions before she sailed for the Admiralties on 26 October.

She reached Manus four days later and discharged some of her cargo. There, she also received her main battery, a single 5-inch, dual-purpose gun. The ship witnessed an air raid on 9 November, but the attack was directed at another vicinity, and the cargo vessel did not participate in the action. The following day, Mount Hood (AE-11) blew up in a cataclysmic explosion while handling ammunition at Seeadler Harbor. All but a few of her crew (those who were ashore at the time) were killed in the blast which not only atomized the ammunition ship but severely damaged other ships nearby. Venus responded to this emergency by sending a boat to assist in medical operations with 30 units of blood plasma.

During the ship's stay at Manus, several cases of diphtheria developed on board, and all hands were restricted to the ship. On 28 November, Venus sailed for Dutch New Guinea, arrived at Hollandia the following day, and stayed until Christmas Eve, when she headed for Aitape — arriving there on Christmas Day. On 27 December 1944, the cargo vessel got underway for Cape Sansapor, where she supplied LST’s attached to Task Group (TG) 77.5, which later took part in the landings at Lingayen Gulf. Proceeding to Morotai upon completion of these revictualling operations, she unloaded the remainder of her cargo and fueled various small craft of the Royal Australian Navy.

On 4 January 1945, during Venus’ stay at Morotai, Japanese aircraft conducted a bombing raid on the nearby land base, but the planes were driven off by antiaircraft fire and night fighters. Six days later, Venus, her holds empty, sailed with five other ships to Hollandia, where she took on board passengers. While proceeding thence to Australia, she encountered heavy gales but arrived safely at Brisbane on 23 January.

The ship underwent repairs soon after she arrived while concurrently loading equipment of the 109th Fleet Hospital unit and of the 544th Construction Battalion (CB or "Seabees") for transport to the Philippine Islands. She departed Brisbane on 4 February, proceeded via Manus and Hollandia, and joined a convoy off the Dutch New Guinea coast. The Allied ships arrived at Guiuan Roadstead off Samar on 27 February. Part of the Seabee unit soon went ashore to begin building the hospital, while the remainder stayed on board to unload equipment and stores. Eventually, as more Seabees could be accommodated ashore, the job of unloading passed on to Venus’ crew. Despite the lack of barges and experienced stevedores, Venus succeeded in unloading all equipment and supplies earmarked for the hospital unit before she joined a southbound convoy on 8 April, got underway for the Admiralties, and arrived at Manus one week later.

Proceeding thence to Emirau, Venus loaded the remnants of the 77th Construction Battalion and their equipment, accomplishing this on 25 April before getting underway for Brisbane to load more of the 77th Battalion's equipment. Besides the full load of cargo, Venus also accommodated 600 passengers, and additional galley and bunking facilities were set up on deck beneath makeshift shelters to take care of these men. The cargo vessel then headed north for the Philippines, via Milne Bay, and arrived at Manila on 13 June to commence offloading and to disembark her passengers. Five days later, the ship shifted to a berth alongside a sunken Japanese cargo ship.

With the erstwhile enemy freighter serving as a dock, Venus offloaded the remainder of her cargo — experiencing two air raid alerts during her stay at Manila — and completed these operations by 30 June. She then pressed southward for the Admiralties and loaded 1,500 tons of bombs for transport to Bougainville in the Solomons. The installation of a gyro compass delayed her sailing until 25 July, but the ship arrived at Empress Augusta Bay on 29 July.

Eleven days later, Venus departed Torokina, Bougainville, bound for the New Hebrides and arrived at Espiritu Santo on 11 August. She loaded material for drydock ABSD-1, loading from lighters in Pallikulo Bay. Due to poor loading conditions, the job was not completed until 7 September, when she was ready to sail for the Philippine Islands. During her stay at Espiritu Santo, word arrived that Japan had surrendered; and, for the first time since commissioning, the ship could sail at night without having to "darken ship."

Venus arrived at Samar on 20 September and discharged her cargo before moving on to Subic Bay. She sailed from Cebu on 15 December, bound for the Hawaiian Islands, and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 16 March. Decommissioned on 18 April 1946, the ship was subsequently towed by Hitchiti (ATF-103) to the west coast, departing Pearl Harbor on 5 December 1947 and arriving at San Francisco on 13 December.

Declared surplus to Navy needs, the ship was struck from the Navy list on 19 February 1948. Stripped for disposal, she was returned to the Maritime Commission on the 27th and was placed in the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, California. The ship was scrapped at Oakland, California, in August 1961.

Venus received one battle star for her service during World War II as William Williams. Her crew were eligible for the following medals:

  • Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive SS William Williams, 2 May 1943)
  • American Campaign Medal
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (1)
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Philippine Liberation Medal


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