The Coast Guard Manned USS Serpens AK-97 Commemorative Website
The USS SERPENS AK-97 was a United States Coast Guard manned World War II cargo [Liberty] ship. Late in the evening on January 29, 1945 the Serpens was anchored off Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands hurriedly loaded depth charges (350 pound Torpex Depth Bombs, MK 54's), preparing for the Battle of Okinawa. While the Commanding Officer, Perry L. Stinson, and Lt. John R. Clark, and six enlisted men were ashore, the "Sea Serpens" suddenly exploded. 193 Coast Guard crewmen, 56 Army stevedores from the US Army 231st Company 492nd Port Battalion, and
Dr. Harry Levin,
a US Public Health Service physician were killed in the explosion. This event remains the single largest loss of life in the history of the United States Coast Guard. This website is set in place to honor the men fallen in the tragic loss of the USS Serpens, and all those who served aboard her.
The incident was attributed to enemy action but a court of inquiry later determined that the cause of the explosion could not be established from the remaining evidence and by 1949, the Navy noted that the loss was not due to enemy action but due to an "accident intrinsic to the loading process." The dead were initially buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Cemetery at Guadalcanal. Their remains were later exhumed and taken to Arlington National Cemetery where they were interred on 15 June 1949. A large monument in their honor was erected over the grave site and dedicated on 16 November 1950.
Be on the lookout. We are looking for the family of SN1 James Victor Cote. This picture is taken from the 1944 Auckland, New Zealand Christmas Party. Any and all information would be greatly appreciated. Contact the webmaster Michael Zumbach if you have any information.
Auckland Christmas Party.
USS Serpens AK-97 Disaster - The largest loss in USCG History
The force of the explosion was so great that it killed a U.S. Army soldier who was ashore. Only two sailors aboard survived the incident. The cause of the explosion was never completely determined. The loss of the USS SERPENS AK-97 was the largest single disaster ever suffered by the United States Coast Guard. This website has been created to honor the men that served on the USS SERPENS AK-97 and all veterans that served during World War II. My Grandfather, the Supply Officer LTJG William Carber was that transferred off the Serpens ten days before the ship exploded and sank. I was told this story when I was much younger, this site continues to be my tribute to all that served aboard the ship.
US Coast Guard Manned USS Serpens AK-97 Explosion - An Eyewitness Account
Eyewitness Account: "As we headed our personnel boat shoreward the sound and concussion of the explosion suddenly reached us, and, as we turned, we witnessed the awe-inspiring death drams unfold before us. As the report of screeching shells filled the air and the flash of tracers continued, the water splashed throughout the harbor as the shells hit. We headed our boat in the direction of the smoke and as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects. The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating. This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete."
The Long Blue Line Disrupted: USS Serpens (AK-97) and the Largest Loss of Life in US Coast Guard History
The story of USS Serpens (AK-97)is an important chapter in Coast Guard history - the most tragic loss of life in the more than 220 years of Coast Guard service to the United States. Contained within these pages is the official ship's War Diary along with some 200 personal letters sent from Serpens' crew to their friends and loved ones waiting for them to return home. On 29 January 1945, while sitting off Guadalcanal, Serpens exploded. Of the roughly 250 crew and Army stevedores on board at the time, only two Coastguardsmen survived. While this is the story of ship and crew, the final chapter still needs to be written - the awarding of the Purple Heart. It was awarded, the two who survived and several families of those killed received them, and then through misstep or miscommunication, the medal was rescinded. This is not acceptable.
To to order a copy of the book, or purchase the challenge coins, contact the author, Robert Breen directly at 941.234.6132 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.