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U.S.S. Serpens (AK-97)
A Historic Image Gallery


We hope that you enjoy this gallery of historic photographs of the Coast Guard-Manned Auxiliary Cargo Ship U.S.S. Serpens (AK-97)

Unless otherwise noted, the following are official U.S. Coast Guard images.


A photo of the USS Serpens

"The USS SERPENS, a cargo ship manned by a Coast Guard crew, has been lost as the result of enemy action, somewhere in the South Pacific, the Navy Department has announced.  The SERPENS served as a provision ship for American forces in the New Zealand, New Caledonia and Guadalcanal areas between August 1943 and December 1944.  Next of kin of all casualties have been notified."; photo is dated 14 July 1944, Photo No. 4088; photo by Arthur C. Hagendorn, Jr., PH3.

The photo was taken while the Serpens was at the anchorage for fleet provisioning in Purvis Bay, Solomon Islands.  Note the caption is incorrect, the Navy ruled that she was not destroyed by enemy action but rather by accident.

A broadside view of the Serpens, provided by Michael Zumbach

No caption/date/photo number; photographer unknown.

Photo provided courtesty of Michael Zumbach.  

A photo of the Serpens cartoon representation

No caption; 27 January 1944; no photo number; artist was Woodie Wood.

A photo of an original cartoon now in possession of the Coast Guard's Historical Art Program.  The cartoon was drawn by Serpen's crewman Woodie Wood in January 1944.

A photo of the Serpens crew

"USS Serpens (AK-97), commissioned May 28, 1943 (12 PM) [at the] Destroyer Base, San Diego, Calfornia."; 28 May 1943; no photo number; photographer unknown.

The commissioning ceremony of the USS Serpens on 28 May 1944 in San Diego.  View is from forward, looking aft.

Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens officers

No caption/date/photo number; photographer unknown.

The officers of the USS Serpens, date unknown.  LCDR Magnus J. Johnson, USCGR, the commanding officer, is in the back row, third from the right.

Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens officers

"FRONT ROW: (L to R) -- Dr. Schweigert, USPHS; LT(jg) Banach; LT(jg) Auble.

SECOND ROW: (L to R) -- ?; LT(jg) D. Palma; LT Elliott; Warrant Palmer; LT(jg) Brown.

STANDING: (L to R) -- LT(jg) Kotkas; LT(jg) Ellison; ?; LT(jg) Carber; LT Aiken."; no date/photo number; photographer unknown.

Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens officers

"(Left to right): Lt. George Aiken III, XO, Serpens, Lt. Cmdr. M. J. Johnson, CO, Serpens, Lt. Di Palma, Gunnery Officer, Serpens, Lt. (j.g.) James D. Ellison, Navigator, Serpens.  U.S.O. dance, Aukland, New Zealand.  Hostesses are unidentified."; 1943; no photo number; photographer unknown.

Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens crew

"Dance given for the 'Serpens' crew in New Zealand by the local USO in Wellington, N.Z. (1943?) only clear recognition of persons is Lt. George Aiken III (son of Sen. Aiken of Connecticut) dancing with the lady in white (right center).  Lt. Aiken was lost with the Serpens in 1944 off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal.";1943; no photo number; photographer unknown.

Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens crew

No caption/date; Photo No. 80; photographer unknown.

Unidentified Serpen's crewmen.  Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens

"Looking aft towards the 5" 50 gun, at sea, South Pacific Theatre, 1943-1944."; Photo No. 76; photographer unknown.

Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens crew

No caption/date; Photo No. 84; photographer unknown.

Unidentified Serpen's crewmen.  Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens crew

No caption/date; Photo No. 72; photographer unknown.

Unidentified Serpen's crewmen.  Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

 

A photo of the Serpens crew

"I believe this man's name Sutherland (he survived the loss of the Serpens, AK-97), as I saw him a number of years later in California."; no date; Photo No. 83; photographer unknown.

Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens crew

No caption/date; Photo No. 88; photographer unknown.

Unidentified Serpen's crewmen.  Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens crew

No caption/date; Photo No. 79; photographer unknown.

Unidentified Serpen's crewmen.  Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens

No caption/date; Photo No. 74; photographer unknown.

Note the LCVP.  Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens crew

No caption/date; Photo No. 70; photographer unknown.

Unidentified Serpen's crewmen.  Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

The Coast Guardsman in the middle is apparently Carpenter's Mate Leonard B. Rogers, USCG.  He was identified by his son, Mr. Charles Rogers.  See the drawing below.

A photo of the Serpens crew

No caption/date; Photo No. 69; photographer unknown.

Unidentified Serpen's crewmen.  Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens crew

"Part of crew U.S.S. Serpens, AK-97, 1943: Story - Grainey - Creegon - Woods."; Photo No. 7/12; photographer unknown.

Photo provided courtesy of CAPT James D. Ellison, USCG (Ret.), who served aboard Serpens.

A photo of the Serpens memorial dedication

"USS SERPENS MONUMENT DEDICATION SCENE: Vice Admiral Merlin O'Neill, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, delivers a dedication address prior to the unveiling of an octagonal monument in Arlington National Cemetery in memory of the 250 men who lost their lives in the USS SERPENS disaster off Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal, on January 29, 1945.  

The dedication took place on the grave site November 16, 1950, with chaplains of Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant faiths participating. 

Directly behind the speaker are (left to right): Rear Admiral Alfred C. Richmond, Assistant Commandant of the Coast Guard; Lieutenant Colonel  James B. Murphy, U.S. Army; Commander Joshua L. Goldberg, U.S. Navy, and Captain Paul G. Linaweaver, U.S. Navy.

A Coast Guard color guard from the USCGC DUANE stands at the extreme right, with a platoon from the ship in the background (center).  The U.S. Army color guard is at the left."; File Date: November 1950; Photo No. 917446-3 (?); photographer unknown.

A photo of the USS Serpens memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

No caption/date/photo number; photographer unknown.

The octagon-shaped Serpens' memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  An official caption of a similar photo noted: "USS SERPENS MONUMENT: Erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the USS SERPENS disaster during World War II, this monument was dedicated November 16, 1950, at Arlington National Cemetery.

Of Georgia granite, the octagon is inscribed with the names of the 250 men who perished on the night of January 29, 1945, when the ship was destroyed off Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal.  This largest single disaster suffered by the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II claimed the lives of 199 Coast Guardsmen, 50 Army personnel, and one U.S. Public Health Service employee.

The monument is located on the grave site, where a mass recommital [sic] of the dead was accomplished in June 1949."

A drawing of the USS Serpens

A pen and ink sketch of the USS Serpens.  According to former Serpens' crewman Leonard B. Rogers, the artist, Robert C. Pettes, spent a couple of days sketching the Serpens from a nearby hilltop while the ship was tied up in New Caledonia.  Pettes dated the drawing 9/23/43.  

Mr. Rogers son, Charles P. Rogers, graciously donated a copy of the drawing to the USCG Historian's Office.  He noted that "the picture took a few days to draw and he [Pettes] started [drawing] at one end [of the ship] and drew it to the other.  Note that in the course of that time the wind changed directions and the flags are blowing in different directions."

Fortunately, Mr. Rogers' father was transferred before the Serpens was lost.


Last Modified 11/17/2014