USS Sperry AS-12

My Tour of duty

30 June 1981 - 30 September 1982

NOTE:   The information found here was taken from the official Cruise Book I received before I left the command.

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USS Sperry AS-12 USS Sperry AS-12
Ship's Patch USS Sperry AS-12

NOTE:   The ship was decommisioned before my enlistment was up and I spent the last four months on the USS Dixon AS-37.

AS 12

Displacement: 16,000 t. (full load)
Length: 529' 6"
Beam: 73'4"
Draft: 24'
Speed: 17 k.
Complement: 1,050
Armament: 2 5"
Class: AS-11 FULTON

1 May 1942 - 30 September 1982

The submarine tender USS SPERRY (AS - 12) was christened December 17, 1941, at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California. Mrs. Helen Sperry Lea, the ship's sponsor, was the daughter of Elmer Ambrose Sperry, inventor of more than 400 marine, aeronautical and navigational aids, and pioneer in shipboard electrical equipment. The then Governor of California, Gulbert L. Olson, also took part in the ceremonies.

On that day, the Secretary of the Navy sent a brief radio message to all Navy yards stating, "The Navy at Hawaii is undaunted; the Marines still hold Wake. Will you meet their challenge? Rear Admiral Wilhelm Friedell, Commandant of Mare island, replied, "The SPERRY is one answer, Mr. Secretary, Mare Island will give you many more."

Thus, the SPERRY earned the distinction of being the first Navy ship to be launched after 'Pearl Harbor'. SPERRY was commissioned on May 1, 1942, and delivered at that time to Captain R. H. SMITH, her first commanding officer.

Following trials and shakedown training the SPERRY reported to Commander Submarine Force U. S. Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor on August 2, 1942, to commence a long record of service in World War II.

Primary mission of the SPERRY, that of serving submarines, was first realized August 13 when the famed USS TRIGGER was repaired and refitted between war patrols. She crossed the Equator on October 30 and after a short stay in the New Hebrides, proceeded to Brisbane, Australia, where she refitted eight submarines. Captain Smith was relieved in January 1943 and soon after lost his life in a plane crash. SPERRY departed for Pearl Harbor after accomplishing ten voyage repairs and ten refittings to the active Pacific Fleet submarines during a four month period.

On June 8, 1943, SPERRY and the USS KERN (AOG 2) , escorted by the Coast Guard Cutter TANEY, got underway for Midway Island where she would see the busiest five months in her history. By November she had serviced 70 submarines including 17 refittings and 53 voyage repairs, completely exhausting her supplies and spare parts. She then returned to Pearl Harbor for a refitting of her own.

SPERRY completed eight refittings and seven voyage repairs between November 15, 1943 and March 9, 1944, at which time she departed Pearl Harbor for Majuro Atoll. She was the first submarine tender to be stationed in this area where she completed 19 refittings and two voyage repairs.

Departure from routine came when SPERRY crewmen were assigned to construct the first submarine recuperation camp in the Central Pacific, Camp Myrna. Quonset huts, mess, recreation halls, softball diamonds and a fresh water distillery made up the camp.

Once more SPERRY got underway from Pearl Harbor, with the USS LITCHFIELD (DD 336) as escort, but this time remained only long enough to pick up a convoy of 11 ships and guide them to Eniwetok. SPERRY then proceeded, unescorted, to Guam where she again claimed the distinction of being the first sub-tender to service that island base. While at Guam, she completed 14 refittings, six voyage repairs and constructed the submarine rest center, Camp Dealy.

SPERRY left Guam on February 12, 1945 for her first return to the United States. By-passing Pearl Harbor, she proceeded directly to Mare Island, docking March 7 to begin two months of extensive repairs and complete overhaul.

On April 28 she cruised south to San Diego, conducting standardization and fuel economy exercise enroute. After a brief stay in that area she departed for Pearl Harbor and arrived there May 25. Prior to her June 30 departure for Guam, she completed one refit and three voyage repairs. Reaching Guam on July 11, SPERRY'S repair force accomplished 15 voyage repairs through October 1.

The end of hostilities with Japan in September 1945 did not terminate the tender's services to submarines. (The war's end saw SPERRY brandishing three awards from her superstructure; the American Theatre, Asiatic-Pacific and Victory.) SPERRY left Guam an November 28, 1945, in company with units of Submarine Squadron Three, for an 18-day training cruise. The subs made extensive practice attacks on the tender, firing exercise torpedoes and executing numerous day and night approaches. During this cruise SPERRY dropped anchor off Ulithi Atoll.

SPERRY steamed southeast from Ulithi and on December 4 crossed the equator. One hundred and sixty-six men had previously been initiated as 'Shellbacks' but 735 "lowly pollywogs", including the commanding officer, were initiated in traditional ceremonies of Neptunus Rex. Accompanying submarines followed traditions and "crossed the line' submerged.

The big ship returned to Apra Harbor, Guam, on December 15, 1945, where 50 underprivileged children of Guam later were quest aboard for SPERRY'S first peacetime Christmas celebration. She got underway on January 11, 1946, to return to San Diego, California.

The Chief of Naval Operations awarded the coveted Battle Efficiency 'E' to SPERRY in July 1948 and again in 1949. The ship then prepared for participation in Operation Miki, a Pacific Fleet-wide exercise. The maneuver, largest peacetime operation in the history of the Navy at that time, was composed of over 90 ships; included was the carrier Valley Forge, flagships Eldorado and Mount McKinley, cruiser Helena, as well as scores of destroyers and auxiliary vessels. In addition, some 10,000 soldiers took part in the exercise which took place on and near the island of Oahu, T.H.

On the return cruise to San Diego the tender took part in exercises which marked one of the first publicized firings of guided missiles from the submarines Carp and Carbonero.

The outbreak of war in Korea, in 1950, saw the recommissioning of many submarines which had been "mothballed' since 1945. SPERRY increased her pace in maintaining and supplying submarines with material and personnel. The 1950 'E' was also awarded to SPERRY, for the third consecutive year, an accomplishment not realized often by other Navy ships.

In December of 1951, the battle lines in Korea were more or less stabilized along the 38th parallel and hostilities were slowly lessened over the next two years. This resulted in a gradual return to peacetime routine for SPERRY. Over the ensuing 10 years, the submarine tender continued to operate out of San Diego, spending most of her time in port servicing the submarines of the fleet, but occasionally getting underway for training cruises along the west coast. Her area of operation extended from Mexico north to Canada. From April to September 1961 SPERRY was at Long Beach Naval Shipyard being brought up to date by a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization overhaul. In mid-September, she returned to her duties as submarine tender at San Diego. Sperry completed an additional major yard overhaul on 24 June 1965. Since then, she has continued to support submarines of the Pacific Fleet, again spending most of her time in port and departing occasionally for cruises along the west coast of North America and to Hawaii.

In June of 1979 the Secretary of the Navy awarded SPERRY the Meritorious Unit Commendation for meritorious service in support of the units of Submarine Group FIVE, Submarine Development Group ONE and Submarine Squadron THREE from 1 April 1978 to 1 December 1978. Once again in 1980 SPERRY was awarded the coveted Battle Efficiency 'E" for fiscal year 1980

On 1 May 1982 Sperry celebrated her fourtieth anniversary of service to the fleet. Sperry's long history can be summed in her motto 'service is our business'. Sperry's many conspicuous achievements are a testimonial of a proud ship and many proud crews who steadfastly adhered to this motto.

After Decommissioning: September 30, 1982 Sperry earned the distinction of being the first Navy ship to be launched after "Pearl Harbor" on December 17, 1941 at the beginning of World War II and achieved many successes in a career spanning some forty years. During those years she earned a reputation of excellence that is a standard by which other submarine tenders and even war ships of the line would aspire to. Her gallant career came to an end on September 30, 1982. The Sperry swung from a buoy in the Sinclair Inlet of Puget Sound in Washington State for several years after decommissioning, and during that time she was cannibalized for any and all parts and equipment that could be salvaged. Word is that the U.S.S. Cod SS-224 among others was allowed to take several things from the Sperry to enhance their display at Cleveland, Ohio on the shore of Lake Erie. On March 10 1998 at 09:30 ex-Sperry left Mooring G at the Navy Inactive Maintenance Facility Bremerton, Washington being towed by USNS SUIOX to the RESERVE FLEET at Suisun Bay, which is just east of Vallejo and Mare Island, to be scrapped. It is rather ironic that the Sperry will meet her demise only about ten miles from where she started such a gallant career.

Sperry arrived in Suisun Bay around March 23 1998. As of 12/28/2001, according to the Naval Vessel Register AS12 Sperry is still berthed at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. See here:

26 October 1942 - 2 March 1946    ASIATIC CAMPAIGN MEDAL
1 October 1947 - 30 September 1948    BATTLE EFFICIENCY 'E'
1 October 1948 - 30 September 1949    BATTLE EFFICIENCY 'E'
1 October 1949 - 30 September 1950    BATTLE EFFICIENCY 'E'
27 June 1950 - 27 July 1954    NATIONAL DEFENSE MEDAL
1 January 1967 - 15 August 1974    NATIONAL DEFENSE MEDAL
1 April 1978 - 01 December 1978    MERITORIOUS UNIT COMMENDATION
1 October 1979 - 30 September 1980    BATTLE EFFICIENCY 'E'

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This page was last updated on 3 March 2013