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, Lt. John R. Clark, and enlisted men (CCS, USCGR Stanley Jones, St3e, USCGR Richard Figgs, Flc, USCGR Morris Houseknecht, Seaman.1.C, USCGC William E. Hughes, Seaman.1.C. USCGR, Robert J. Smart, Seaman.2.C. USCGR, Fidel O. Carmana) 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.
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, William Cleveland Carber was a United States Coast Guard Officer that transferred off the Serpens nine 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."
Visit the "New Documents" page for the complete Naval Inquiry Report