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The USS Algol Shipwreck  New York and New Jersey's Wreck Valley

Historical and current New York and New Jersey Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers and fisherman.
 
The USS Algol  (AKA-54) was launched by the Moore Dry Dock Co., of Oakland, California, on February 17, 1943, for the maritime commission and christened as the James Baines. On November 27, of that same year the James Baines was transferred to the Navy and placed in partial commission.  On December 3, the ship was converted into an auxiliary cargo attack vessel, and re-named the U.S.S. Algol. The vessel was re-named after the star that forms the head of Medusa in the Peresius constellation. In ancient Greek mythology, the Medusa was a fearsome creature with the power to turn anyone who looked upon her into stone. The Medusa's head was topped with coiling snakes instead of hair. The star Algol is also called Demon Star. This was the origin of her nickname the Steamin Demon. The Algol was 459'2; long, had a 63' beam and displaced 6,830 tons. She was powered by a single screw double reduction turbine to a top speed of 16.5 knots. Built as an attack cargo vessel the Algol was designed to assist in an amphibious invasion by carrying tanks, trucks and artillery to troops assaulting beachheads. The Algol also carried 24 landing crafts which were used to ferry equipment and attendant personnel from the vessel's five cargo holds to the beach. These landing craft were also used to evacuate wounded men from the invasion area. Her armament consisted of one 5; mount, four double 40MM mounts, and six double 20MM mounts. In addition each of her 14 LCVP boats had two 30 caliber machine guns and the 8 LCM boats had two 50 caliber machine guns. The Algol was massive and had eight decks bringing her height to nearly 100 feet. She was manned by 44 officers, 30 petty officers and 350 enlisted men.


Photo above: Gauges in the Algol's engine room. Photo courtesy Brandon http://downtoolong.com

The Algol was fully commissioned on July 21, 1944, with Lieutenant Commander A.T.Jones in command. On January 13, 1945, the Algol landed reinforcements from the25th infantry division in the Lingayen Gulf. On January 29, she landed assault troops in the Zambales, of Luzon. In April of the same year, the Algol participated in the Okinawa invasion. According to a history of the Algol compiled by her crew To everyone's amazement the trip was uneventful except for rough weather. When daylight came on Easter Sunday we could hear the rumble of the pre-invasion bombardment laid down by our Battlewagon's, Cruisers, and Destroyers. Our boat officers and crews who lead in some of the first few waves returned to the ship shortly before noon and reported the invasion was proceeding according to plan;. Her crew also reported that on April 6, the first large Kamikaze attack took place, ;we had the pleasure of seeing several sons of heaven join their ancestors;. After  Okinawa the Algol returned to San Diego. She had participated in three amphibious invasions without having a single man wounded, without losing any landing craft and without any damage to the ship. The Algol then proceeded to transport cargo and passengers between Chinese, Philippine, Alaskan and west coast ports.

On March 2, 1946, the Steamin Demon was underway from Eniwetok, Kwajalein, Guamand Saipan. The Algol was carrying 47 Japanese POW's. Thirteen of the prisoners had already been tried, seven of which were to be hanged. According to her crewmembers history sheet ;the trip was uneventful except for a tidal wave and typhoon scare in Saipan;. The final paragraph of the crew's World War IIhistory reads as follows. This history may seem brief, and unexciting, but it covers some 110,979 miles of steaming, some in smooth water, some in rought. The Algol was inactivated on November 26, 1947, only to return toactive service on February 18, 1948. She returned to the Mediterranean then returned to the Pacific. On August 30, 1950, the Algol transported reinforcements and supplies to the Marines in Korea. On September 17, she participated in the invasion of Inchon. She also took part in the Wonsan invasion in October of 1950, and the Chinnampo evacuation on December 4, 1950.The Algol continued as part of the Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet until placed out of commission on January 2, 1958. During her service the USS Algol had received not only two World War II battle stars but five Korean battle stars.

After being decommissioned, the Algol was moth balled in the James River Reserve Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia. According to Bill Figley from the New Jersey Department Of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, in 1983, the late Senator Edwin B. Forsythe petitioned the U.S. Maritime Administration to release a surplus Liberty Ship to New Jersey for use as an artificial reef. When a suitable Liberty Ship could not be obtained the Algol was substituted. On June 11, 1991, the Algol was towed from the James River Fleet to Willmington, North Carolina, where she was prepared by Eagle Island Marine to be sunk as a reef. The Algol's towers, and funnel were burned off soher relief on the ocean floor would not cause a hazard to navigation. She wasalso cleaned of all possible pollutants and all floatable material. All 22 fuel tanks were cleaned and all of her hydraulic lines were removed. Eagle Island Marine also removed machinery, portholes and other valuable metals that could be sold to help defray the project's expenses. On November 18, 1991, the Algol was towed from North Carolina to New Jersey's Shark River artificial reefsight.


At6:00 AM  Thursday, November 21, 1991, an unusually warm morning for this time of year, a group of divers boarded Captain Pat DeFeis charter dive boat Rebel, out of Sheepshead Bay, Long Island, New York. The Rebel is a 42 foot aluminum crew boat that was converted into a dive boat. She is fast and we cruised at over 20 knots toward Shark River Inlet, NJ, to begin what would be the Steamin Demon's last day afloat. At Shark River alarge group of the USS Algol's crew had arrived from all over the country. They came to participate in the ceremonies and witness their beloved Algol's scuttling.  During the press conference speeches I overheard a conversation between one of the Algol's crew members and my dive buddy Hank Garvin, the crewmen explained how he was present at the christening when the Algol was born and now he wanted to be there when she died. Hank quickly expressed his feelings and replied that the Algol is really just beginning a new life as an artificial reef. A life much more suitable than sitting in mothballs in a reserve fleet or being cut up for scrap. The crew managreed as he boarded one of the small armada of pleasure craft, to witness the sinking of the Steamin Demon.

The Rebel now cruised out of Shark River Inlet and headed toward the Shark River Artificial Reef site. The Algol was already stern anchored on location, 14miles offshore. Bill Figley had informed me that the sinking would be accomplished with explosives at approximately 12:30 PM. The charges would be strategically placed in her stern so that the vessel would sink upright in 120feet of water. At 12:29 PM the explosives were detonated. The Algol started to settle to her stern. Captain Billy DeCoursey who was operating the Rebel stayed busy the entire time, maneuvering our boat in and around other vessels, in the6 to 8 foot seas. The Algol seemed to be sinking quite slowly, but as soon as her stern was awash, she went down like a rock, with air pockets causing water to be spouted out of her stern. The entire sinking took only 14 minutes. Allwho witnessed the event were moved not only by the excitement but by the pure magnitude of the event. As air was still escaping from the wreck the Rebel positioned herself over the Algol and dropped it's grapple. Captain Kevin Brennan of the dive boat Sea Lion from New Jersey, was the next boat to drop it's grapple into the new wreck and as our anchor broke free and we drifted back he called over jokingly to inform us that because we had a New York based boat and this was a New Jersey wreck, the Algol had let a Jersey dive boat hook into her first. Latter as the press boats headed back to shore for a planned party and festivities we began to suit up. Our goal was not only to film and photograph the Algol's sinking today but to be among the first divers to explore her on the bottom.

Hank Garvin was the first diver from the Rebel to descend to the wreck. He secured our anchor to the wreck's port side. The next group of divers consisted of Captain Steve Bielenda, who was filming an episode of the Dive Wreck Valley show for the MSG Cable Network, Photographer, Jozef Koppelman, Bradley Golden, Terry Murphy, Billy DeCoursey and myself. We found the Algol to be sitting on a 45 degree angle on her port side. She was on a clean sand bottom in 120 feet of water.  The wreck was an awesome sight, and although all of her portholes and other large items had been removed prior to her sinking we found lots of small souvenirs like brass cage lamps, name tags, and valves. We were anchored just ahead of the forward boom tower. From here we made our way forward to the bow and then headed astern to her pilot house. After filming her exterior Steve, Joe and I swam down into one of her cargo bays, then forward through a corridor. I thought to myself, the only thing that would have made this wreck better is if it had landed upright. Because of her 45 degree list, penetration into the wreck was very disorienting. But then again how could I even think of complaining, I was having a great dive with visibility being 40 to 50 feet. We found ourselves gliding over brass cage lamps and alarm bells. Then we reached a dead end. We were at bulkhead #66, the sign on the wall told us so. The sign next to it said to ;Leave Area Immediately When Alarm Sounds;. None of us had heard an alarm but because of our bottom time it was time to exit anyway. One of the things I found so amazing about this wreck was that the ship looked so clean, almost as if it had just been freshly painted.
 
After our bottom time was exhausted we ascended up the Rebel's anchor line, about half way up we felt the anchor line go slack for a minute, then it went tight again. When we finally reached the surface Captain Pat asked if we were on the wreck when the huge burst of air escaped. He went on to explain that the bubbles ran the entire length of the wreck and the volume was so great that they came two feet over the ocean's surface. A diver from the Sea Lion ascended shortly after and shouted that the wreck had shifted. I couldn't believe or understand how a 459 foot ship could suddenly shift 45 degrees. Joel Silverstein, editor of the Sub Aqua Journal, was sent in not only to pull the hook, but to confirm the Algol's final resting position. When Joel surfaced he told us that the Algol had righted itself and was now sitting perfectly upright and level just as if she was ready to sail again. Steve Bielenda's first comments were that his and my own video along with Joe Koppelman's photos would be unique, and the only film record of the Algol in her original position, on a45 degree list.

Back aboard the Rebel, Pat Defeis, Steve, Hank and I analyzed what may have happened. First the Algol landed on her port side. Her starboard side was buoyant from all the trapped air inside. During our dive to the wreck the Algol was purging small amounts of air through many open fittings and ports. Apparently when she had lost enough air to make her starboard side negatively buoyant the vessel started to shift. Once shifted the Algol righted herself on her flat bottom and in doing so dumped any remaining air pockets through her open cargo holds. Since we had been anchored to her port side down by the sand, when the vessel righted itself our anchor line became slack as the port side raised. I would never have believed it if I hadn't been there! We were allquite thankful that this huge ship had waited for us to depart, before changing positions. Could you imagine being deep inside the wreck when she shifted a full 45 degrees or getting caught and forced upward by the huge burst of bubbles. We had missed the awesome and possibly disastrous event by only a few minutes.

The USS Algol's size and profile will attract not only an abundance and wide variety of marine life but sport divers and fishermen by the thousands. The New Jersey Department and Fish and Wild Life is to be commended for their dedication and commitment to New Jersey's artificial reef program. The Algol may be the newest and certainly the largest but if I know Bill Figley she will not be the last vessel to be sunk as an artificial reef in an area known as Wreck Valley. It should be noted that penetration into any shipwreck should only be attempted by divers with proper training, experience and equipment.

Wreck Valley series video tapes of the USS Algol's sinking our first expedition, as well as the USS Algol Helm Recovery Show are available for only $19.95 from Aqua Explorers, Inc. Po Box 116, East Rockaway, N.Y. 11518, (516) 868-2658. For information on diving the wreck of the USS Algol contact the Eastern Dive Boat Association, Captain Steve Bielenda, President, Po Box 888, Miller Place, NY11764 or call the dive boat Rebel direct at (718) 897-2885.

Remember penetration into any shipwreck should only be done by those with proper training, experience and wreck diving equipment.

AlgolHelm Recovery:
Hank Garvin and I had finished our second dive of the day. We were both just starting a rather long decompression hang at thirty feet, and were impatiently waiting for a lift bag to ascend. The water just below the twenty foot thermocline was slightly murky making horizontal visibility only ten feet or so. Then suddenly a white blur raced past us on its way to the surface. We hoped for the best but could not clearly see what was attached to the bag. The up line was clearly visible below the thermocline. Hank swam out on the loose end of my tether line reel to take a closer look. When he returned I could clearly see the smile on his face. Our project was finally complete. 

Two months earlier Hank and I had made our first trip to the USS Algol since she had been scuttled as an artificial reef back in November of 1991. Over the winter we had corresponded with two of the Algol's crew members Rollie  Broell and Stanley Simmons. The two crew members had toured the vessel just prior to her sinking and informed me that the auxiliary helm had not been removed, prior to her sinking. Hank and I were going to look for the helm, our plans were to recover it, while filming the entire operation for one of the Dive Wreck Valley Cable television episodes. Stan and Rollie provided a wealth of information and had also sent detailed three dimensional blue prints of the Algol, which we had studied prior to descending. On that first trip we packed a few tools but had really just planned to locate the auxiliary steering room and take a good lookat how the helm was attached, little did we know that this would be the beginning of an artifact ordeal. Captain Bill Reddan anchored the Jeaniee II just behind the wrecks pilothouse. Visibility was at least 60 feet and their was little current. Hank and I started to swim towards the stern. With in a few minutes we had located the first door way which lead down a stair case to the second deck. We then located a floor hatch, Hank took his time and cut back some loose wires hanging from the ceiling then descended through the small square hole which would lead directly into the auxiliary steering room. I was amazed at the amount of silt that had accumulated on the floor of this room in only five months. The silt had to be six inches thick!. The square hatch was the only way into the room and immediate entry was blocked by some pipes that were hung by wire to a ceiling beam. We could have squeezed past this obstruction but it is always better to clear the entry so that exiting the room after the silt has risen will be unhampered. Hank quickly cut through the wire and we both headed for the starboard side of the ship. Then I heard him yell ;its here, its here;The helm was there, right where we were told it would be. This particular helm had two wheels, both wheels had embossed writing on the hubs that read ;Webster Brinkley Co. Seattle USA.; Hank and I were like kids in a candy store. We had accomplished our plan with time to spare. On the way out we casually picked up a cage lamp and a few brass tags. These would be mailed to Stan and Rollie as a small token of our appreciation. Back onboard the Jeannie II we planned for our next trip. The salvage would be relatively easy. We decided to take the wheels off the helm stand rather then unbolting the entire stand from the floor because we didn't think the entire helm and stand would fit up through the square deck hatch. In fact we had so much confidence that we were planning other projects for the second dive of the next trip.

Two weeks latter we were aboard Steve Bielenda's charter dive boat Wahoo. Captain Janet anchored us directly over the hole and we descended for the second time. Within minutes we were in the hole with a wheel puller mounted onto the forward helm wheel. Hank cranked down on the wrench then we both pulled, nothing happened. I took a closer look and saw a allen screw on the helm wheels hub that we had missed on our first dive. No problem I had brought allen wrenches on the boat and would tackle this small obstacle on the second dive. After descending into the room again the allen screw would not budge and I couldn't get any torque on the wrench because of its position between the wheel and helm stand.  No problem I now knew the correct allen key size and would simply make one more trip to the Algol.

Another two weeks past, we had been blown out of one trip due to weather and another due to mechanical difficulties. Hank and I were once again on our way to the Algol. This time we were aboard Captain Pat DeFeis charter dive boat REBEL. Again we were very confident that this would be the last dive. I entered the room first, I hovered over the silt but not as high as the ceiling, due to the hanging wires, and chance of entanglement. I had brought a ratchet wrench attached to a twelve inch extension bar and a allen key socket. This would surely remove the only obstacle, a little allen screw. Unfortunately sometime between when I sized the screw and brought the sample allen key to the store to purchase the socket I had mixed up the sizes. The tool with me was to small. Hank approached me and I showed him the problem. His eyes did not look very happy when he learned of the mistake I had made. 

A week latter I was aboard Captain George Hoffman's dive boat SEA LION out of Brielle New Jersey. This time I had a full set of the allen key socket tools. Captain Kevin Brennen anchored the SEA LION directly over the hole. With in three minutes of jumping in the allen screw was out. Things were going like clockwork. I also removed the allen screw from the second wheel. Then I mounted the wheel puller onto the hub. With an adjustable wrench the wheel puller was tightened. I smacked the puller and the hub with a sledge hammer in hopes of shocking the hub free from the shaft, but it didn't budge. My second dive accomplished nothing more then tightening up on the puller. In fact the puller was now on so tight that I could not get it off when it was time to leave.

A week latter I was back aboard the SEA LION. Hank had taken off of work to join me. For the first time I left the video camera on the boat, this was going to be a serious working dive. The helm is in 120 feet of water, Hank and I were both using double 120 cubic foot Sheerwood tanks. I would go in first with a twelve pound sledge hammer and a wrench on a three foot bar. I would first try to free the wheel with this additional leverage and power. I also brought four hack saws, in case we had to cut through the shaft. Hank would join me in the hole 25 minutes latter and take over where I left off.  After trying the wheel puller one last time I decided to remove the helm stand cover. This was held in place by four bolts, which were quickly removed. Inside I found two pillow block bearings supported by four bolts. These bolts were also removed rather quickly. Hank was now also in the room. The twin helm wheels were now only held on by the chain drive. With a hack saw we tried to cut the chain, which was slightly thicker then a motor cycle link. Because the helm wheels created an obstruction I could only saw on an angle and could not get deeper then half way through the link.
 

On the surface we contemplated different strategies to cut the chain. We had not brought a bolt cutter aboard and were trying to devise a plan with the limited tools aboard the boat. Finally Captain Brennan came up with an idea. If we could turn the wheel and put a steel pin between the chain and the sprocket, directly under where we had cut. We could possibly force the chain to split by rotating the helm wheels, so that the pin would wedge the link upward. We did and with both Hank and I pulling on the Helm wheels for leverage it worked, only ten minutes into our second dive and the helm was free. A lift bag supported some of the weight as we manhandled the bulky helm to the staircase. It would be a close fit but we were confident that the wheel would fit through the hatch. Even so neither one of us wanted to be below in case the artifact got stuck and blocked the exit. We added air to the lift bag so the helm was just a little negatively buoyant. We then both ascended to the next deck and I held Hanks legs as he we headfirst back down to guide the helm through the hatch. It took a total of ten minutes to maneuver our prize out the first deck hatch. At this point we were rapidly running out of bottom time. The artifact was now rigged and in position to be sent up. Hank looked at his gauges then looked at me, I knew what he was saying and I signaled for him to leave it, I was already on my way out.  Due to our air, bottom time and required decompression, it was time to ascend. Even though we were with in a minute of sending our prize to the surface we both knew our limitations and would never push ourselfs past our own preset safety margins for any artifact. We did however have one last hope. Before our dive we had asked the SEA LION'S mate Mark Patterson to look in the hole before he pulled the hook. We were sure that Mark would send the bag up for us.  He did and this project, which had looked so simple in the beginning, was finally complete.

Latter that evening over dinner I told Hank that Rollie Broell and Stan Simmons had told me where their were two compasses and a telegraph on the wreck, but for some reason I don't think Hank was ready for another so called simple artifact recovery.

Algol Information from Capt. Steve Nagielwitz (Diversion II)

This 460 ft "Victory Ship", which saw action in three wars, was sunk as part of New Jersey's Artificial Reef Program. During her career in the US Navy, she earned many commendations and several nicknames; "the Steamin Demon" as the name Algol comes from the Demon Star in the constellation Perseus. She was also called the "USS Alcohol", because she carried booze during an early trip.

The Algol now provides underwater marine habitat for all manner of local sealife, and is one of our most requested dive sites. There is lots of structure and things to see on this fully intact and upright ship. Most divers can find a lot to see and do along her main decks at 100ft, or her bridge superstructure at 80 to 100 ft.

The Algol was a Navy transport ship that had a long and successful service career from World War II to the Cuban Missile Crisis. See below for the complete and official Navy history of the vessel. After lying in the mothball fleet at Norfolk for some twenty years, she was transferred to the New Jersey Artificial Reef Program and sunk perfectly upright with little fanfare, unlike the much-hyped ( and not much bigger ) Spiegel Grove in Florida, which was never completely straightened out.

This is the largest vessel yet used in the New Jersey Artificial Reef Program, and ranks as one of the largest vessels ever used as an artificial reef anywhere. She is also the largest vessel of any kind sunk in this region ( excluding the Andrea Doria, ) narrowly edging out the San Diego in tonnage.

The Algol is completely intact, upright, and huge. It would take several trips to fully explore it, without doing any penetrations. A good dive can be had on this wreck at almost any depth you want, from the top of the superstructure at 70 ft to the main deck at 110 ft to the sand at 140 ft. Since its sinking, currents have scoured out a hole around the hull that is significantly deeper than the 125 ft of the surrounding area. The bow was completely undercut for 20 to30 ft - you could squeeze under it at a depth of perhaps 150 ft if you wanted. Depth to the sand is somewhat less at the other end, but the rudder and propeller are gone, so it's not as interesting as it could be. The cargo holds are also quite deep, but are filling up with silt.

Since it is sunk as an artificial reef, considerable effort was put into cleaning and opening up the Algol before it was sunk. All windows and doors are removed, as well as the cargo hold hatches. As a consequence, there are many areas that can be penetrated easily, including much of the superstructure and the cargo holds. Because of its multi-level nature, the Algol is often used for advanced training dives.



No part of either the hull or the superstructure has even begun to collapse yet - even catwalks and railings are solidly in place. The superstructure is like a large three story building. The smokestack has been removed, leaving an ugly teardrop shaped scar which can be used to orient yourself. The fat end of the teardrop points toward the bow, and the narrow end points toward the stern. At the bow and stern, paired tubs for anti-aircraft guns are still evident. There is a large hole into the hold in the port-side hull near the sand below the superstructure, where a hull plate has fallen away.

Current at wreck level can be anything from slight to very strong, and is also very changeable. I have seen it reverse 180 degrees between the first dive and the second . Current at the surface is not usually a problem. There is generally a thermocline between 80 and 100 ft.

Algol ( AKA-54 ) was laid down on 10 December 1942 at Oakland, Calif., by the Moore Dry Dock Co. under a Maritime Commission contract ( MC hull 1153 ) as SS James Barnes; launched on 17 February 1943; sponsored by Mrs. J. A. McKeown; renamed Algol on 30 August 1943; placed in reduced commission on 27 November 1943 for the voyage to the Willamette Shipyard in Portland, Oregon.; decommissioned there on 3 December 1943; converted to an attack cargo ship; and placed in full commission on 21 July 1944, Lt. Comdr. Axton T. Jones, USNR, in command.

Algol completed shakedown training along the California coast by 3 September. She then put into Oakland and began loading cargo. She departed Oakland on 4 October bound for the western Pacific. Steaming via Eniwetok Atoll, she arrived at Saipan in the Marianas late in October. After unloading her cargo at Saipan Algol got underway for New Guinea on 31 October. The attack cargo ship put into Hollandia on 6 November and remained there two days before pushing on to Noumea, New Caledonia, where she stopped between 24 November and 17 December. On 17 December, Algol headed for Guadalcanal where she participated in landing exercises in preparation for the assault on Luzon at Lingayen Gulf. At the end of the year, she moved up to the staging area at Manus in the Admiralty Islands.
 

On 2 January 1945, the attack cargo ship put to sea as an element of Task Unit (TU) 78.11.7. Along the way, many reports came in of submarines, torpedoes, and unidentified aircraft. However, no verified attacks occurred. Algol and her colleagues arrived safely in Lingayen Gulf on 11 January. Her boats and boat crews went immediately to help unload SS President Monroe. The attack transport began her own unloading the following day. She completed cargo operations on 13 January and got underway for Leyte on the 15th. During that voyage, she also towed SS President Monroe which had suffered a main propulsion plant casualty. The two ships arrived in San Pedro Bay on 20 January. There, she immediately began loading for a second invasion of Luzon. When she arrived off the coast of Zambales province on the western coast of Luzon just north of Subic Bay she and the other ships found things very peaceful. And so it was. The entire area was in the friendly hands of Filipino guerrillas. The pre-landing bombardment was canceled, and troops and cargo moved ashore easily.

Upon her return to Leyte on 3 February, Algol spent about six weeks catching up on minor ship repairs, and her crew enjoyed more frequent liberty. By mid-March, however, it was time to get back in the war, and she began preparations for the assault on the Ryukyu Islands. On 27 March, the attack cargo ship departed Leyte with cargo and elements of the 184th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), 7th Infantry Division, embarked. She arrived off Okinawa early in the morning of 1 April and began unloading soon after the invasion started. That night instead of retiring with the other transports and cargo ships Algol moved into the inner transport area to serve as a tender for the landing craft.
 

The ship remained at Okinawa until 10 April at which time she shaped a course for Guam in company with TU 51.29.12. From Guam, Algol continued east to Hawaii and thence to San Diego, Calif., where she arrived on 4 May. A three-week availability followed. On 28 May, the attack cargo ship embarked upon a voyage to Hawaii, from which she returned to the west coast at San Francisco on 18 June. She put to sea once again on 6 July bound for the western Pacific. After stops at Eniwetok and Ulithi en route, the ship arrived at Kerama Retto off Okinawa on 9 September. From there, she moved down to the northern Solomons, arriving at Cape Torokina, Bougainville, on 4 October. There, she loaded cargo and equipment for Marine Air Group (MAG) 25 for transportation to China. Algol arrived in Tsingtao China, early in November, unloaded her cargo, and departed that port at the end of the third week in November.
 

For the next two years, she carried passengers and cargo between various points in China, Japan, the islands of the central and western Pacific as well as to and from ports on the west coast of the United States. In July 1947, she was placed in commission, in reserve, preparatory to decommissioning. However, during the inactivation process, the attack cargo ship was ordered back to active service. By late summer of 1949 she was back in full commission operating out of Little Creek Va., under Commander, Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet. Near the end of August, Algol embarked elements of the 7th Marine Division at Morehead City, N. C., and sailed for the Mediterranean Sea. After visiting a number of ports along the shores of that sea and conducting operations with American naval forces in the area, the attack cargo ship returned to Norfolk in February of 1950.

In August of 1950, just weeks after the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, she was transferred to the Pacific. The ship embarked elements of the 1st Marine Division at San Diego and set sail for Kobe, Japan, on 31 August. Algol arrived in Kobe on 16 September but put to sea again the following day to join in the Inchon invasion. The initial assault at Inchon had gone forward the day before Algol's arrival in Japan. Her mission, therefore was one of resupply and reinforcement. She remained at Inchon unloading, from 21 to 27 September. On the latter day, the attack cargo ship headed back to Japan.

Algol returned to Inchon on 8 October and embarked Headquarters Company, 1st Ordnance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, for what was to have been an amphibious assault at Wonsan on the northwestern coast of Korea. However, United Nations (UN) naval gunfire and air activity forced the North Koreans back from the coastal plain into the highlands. This enabled Republic of Korea forces ashore to move northward and occupy Wonsan themselves. UN troops, therefore, landed unopposed during the last week in October. Following that, the ship returned to Japan and remained there until early December.



At that time the Chinese communists intervened massively and sent the UN forces reeling southward. Algol went to Chinnampo where she assisted in the evacuation of UN boons during the first week in December. The following week, she moved to Inchon to help evacuate troops at that location. Those operations lasted until the beginning of the second seek in January of 1951. For the next two months, the attack cargo ship visited a number of ports in both Japan and Korea. Early in March, she participated in an amphibious feint at Chinnampo and then headed back to Japan. In late April and early May Algol visited Hong Kong. There, she embarked the British 28th Brigade and transported it to Inchon. After that mission, she returned to Japan where she conducted amphibious exercises until 17 June. On that day, the ship shaped a course back to the United States. She arrived in San Diego, Calif., on 30 June.


Between July 1951 and March 1952, she conducted training missions along the coast of southern California and between there and the Hawaiian Islands. She completed a yard period in Pearl Harbor in March 1952 and put to sea on her way to the Far East. She arrived in Japan late that month and took part in amphibious exercises off the island of Hokkaido. Algol visited Yokosuka early in April and, from there, moved to Hong Kong for a two-week port call. May brought a visit to Subic Bay in the Philippines followed by more training exercises at Otaru, Japan. Exercises with units of the 7th Fleet punctuated by visits to a number of Oriental ports occupied her time for most of the remainder of 1952. By December, the attack cargo ship was on her way back to the west coast. She arrived in Long Beach Calif., on 15 December 1952.

Training and amphibious exercises-broken only by a repair period at the Todd Shipyard at Alameda, Calif., that summer-filled her time throughout the year 1953 and into the second month of 1954. On 19 February 1954, Algol departed the west coast bound for Japan. She entered port at Yokosuka on 9 March. In April, the ship participated in exercises at Iwo Jima, and June brought another series of exercises at Okinawa. The usual round of port visits and exercises followed. Early in August, she concluded a two-week visit at Hong Kong and headed-via Subic Bay-to Tourane and Haiphong in North Vietnam. At those ports, the attack cargo ship embarked non-communist refugees and carried them south to Saigon in South Vietnam. This operation, "Passage to Freedom," came on the heels of the defeat of the French by the Viet Minh and the division of the Vietnamese portion of Indochina into the communist north and the republican south. She made three voyages between the north and the south by 12 September at which time she headed back to Yokosuka. On 21 September, Algol shaped a course back to the United States. She entered San Francisco, Calif., on 7 October 1954.

Later that month, she moved south to her new home port, San Diego. Normal west coast operations, including a series of amphibious exercises, carried her through the remainder of 1954 and well into 1955. In August 1955, the attack cargo ship entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for a regular overhaul. She completed repairs in November and, after refresher training out of San Diego, resumed normal operations out of her home port. That occupation lasted a little more than two years. On 2 January 1958, she was decommissioned and assigned to the Bremerton Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet.

Algol was recommissioned on 17 November 1961 at the Northwest Marine Iron Works at Portland, Oregon., Capt. F. L. Edwards in command. After shakedown training out of San Diego, the attack cargo ship departed that port on 12 January 1962 on her way to duty with the Atlantic Fleet. She was assigned to Amphibious Group (PhibGru) 2, Amphibious Squadron (PhibRon) 4, Atlantic Fleet, and spent most of 1962 operating in the West Indies. Notable among her assignments in the fall of 1962 was as a support unit for the "quarantine" of Cuba imposed by President John F. Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Algol spent the remaining seven years of her Navy career operating primarily along the east coast of the United States and in the West Indies. That duty consisted almost solely of amphibious warfare training in conjunction with marines. The only break in that schedule of operations came at the end of the summer of 1964. At that time, the attack cargo ship deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to participate in the massive amphibious exercise Operation "Steel Pike I." By early 1965, she returned to more familiar waters and spent the remaining years of her career operating along the eastern seaboard and in the West Indies. During that period, on 1 January 1969, the attack cargo ship was redesignated an amphibious cargo ship and was assigned the hull designation LKA-54. Algol was decommissioned on 23 July 1970 and was transferred to the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet at James River, Va. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 January 1977. As of the beginning of 1984 the ship is still berthed at James River.

Algol earned two battle stars during World War II and five battle stars for service in the Korean conflict.

In 1983, the late Senator Edwin B. Forsythe petitioned the U.S. Maritime Administration to release a surplus Liberty Ship to New Jersey for use as an artificial reef. When a suitable Liberty Ship could not be obtained the Algol was substituted. On June 11, 1991, the Algol was towed from the James River Fleet to Willmington, North Carolina, where she was prepared by Eagle Island Marine to be sunk as a reef. The Algol's towers, and funnel were burned off so her relief on the ocean floor would not cause a hazard to navigation. She was also cleaned of all possible pollutants and all floatable material. All 22 fuel tanks were cleaned and all of her hydraulic lines were removed. Eagle Island Marine also removed machinery, portholes and other valuable metals that could be sold to help defray the project's expenses. On November 18, 1991, the Algol was towed from North Carolina to New Jersey's Shark River artificial reef sight, and sunk.

Underwater photo by Herb Segars.

USS Algol. Courtesy Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection.

Hank Garvin and Dan Berg with aft helm recovered from the USS Algol. Wreck Valley Collection.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 
 

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