Ships of Pearl Harbor: USS Antares
Named for the brightest star in the Scorpius constellation, USS Antares (AG-10, later re-designated AKS-3) was laid down in 1918 and commissioned into the US Navy on February 23, 1922.
Once she sailed out as a member of the United States Navy, Antares joined the Fleet Train, becoming its flagship within a year. Even after being incorporated into the Fleet Base Force, Antares served as fleet target repair and photographic ship in the Atlantic, assisting with gunnery training during the 1920s.
For much of her service, the seas were calm and the world struggled to maintain peace. She rotated between East Coast ports, gathering oceanographic data and plotting landmarks to help complete compass calibration charts. In addition to helping the Hydrographic Office compile data of the waters off Culebra, Puerto Rico. Antares also participated in fleet maneuvers off Cuba.
During the mid-1930s, USS Antares served as a supply ship for the Special Service Squadron and as a Mobile Base for the Fleet Marine Force before being ordered to the West Coast as part of the Base Force in June of 1938. For the next three years, she operated between Pearl Harbor and ports up and down the West Coast.
Spotting the Enemy
In the morning hours of December 7th, 1941, USS Antares was stationed at the entrance to the harbor. In tow, she had a 510-ton steel barge picked up from a recent trip from the islands of Canton and Palmyra. The plan was to transfer the barge to a tug and continue into the harbor, but when the rendezvous vessel was nowhere to be found at the scheduled time, Antares changed course and turned to the east.
Coming around, her watch called out an unusual object 1,500 yards on her starboard quarter. Nearby was the destroyer USS Ward (DD-139), which was tasked with patrolling the harbor entrance. Ward moved to the object and discovered it to be a Japanese midget submarine, which she immediately attacked and sunk.
Though Antares didn’t sink the submarine and prevent its entrance into the harbor, her watch was responsible for spotting it. Had the Japanese vessel gone unnoticed, it may have been able to take an active part in the attack on Pearl Harbor and caused further damage.
Not long after Antares spotted the tug, Keosanqua (AT-38), explosions began to be seen coming from Pearl Harbor. From the harbor’s entrance, her crew spotted Japanese planes flying in and dropping bombs on the harbor. Within minutes, the Japanese warplanes strafed Antares, dropping bombs nearby. Since she was unarmed and couldn’t defend herself, Captain Lawrence C. Grannis ordered his crew to pass the steel barge to Keosanqua before ordering Antares to the waters between the entrances to Pearl Harbor and Honolulu Harbor. At 10:54 AM, she was granted permission to enter Honolulu Harbor.
USS Antares and the War in the Pacific
Having survived the attack undamaged, USS Antares was able to continue service as the United States entered World War II. Before joining the action, however, she underwent modifications and was provided main and secondary batteries in order to prevent being caught defenseless again.
For USS Antares, the first few years of the war involved ferrying stores across the American-controlled islands in the Pacific. In March of 1943, she also assisted with the salvage of USS Delphinus (AF-24), which had run aground on the reef off New Caledonia.
On June 28th, 1945, while en route from Saipan to Pearl Harbor, a Japanese submarine fired on Antares, but by turning hard to port, she was able to outmaneuver the torpedo and zig-zagged erratically to prevent being hit by a second torpedo. The submarine persisted against Antares and her crew fought back, but it wasn’t until her calls for help were answered that the Japanese vessel was forced to retreat. After YMS-568 and the destroyer USS Sproston (DD-577) arrived, Antares was finally out of danger from what was determined to have been two Japanese submarines.
USS Antares continued her trek to Pearl Harbor before shipping out for Ulithi and Okinawa, arriving as the war was coming to an end. On August 2nd, 1946, Antares was decommissioned from service, and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on September 25th. Within a year, she was sold for scrap.
For her service in the war, USS Antares was awarded two battle stars.