What Really Happened to the Serpens?

Jan. 29, 2020 will be the 75th anniversary of the largest loss of life in Coast Guard history, the explosion of USS Serpens (AK-97). We have already discussed this incident, but now there is a effort to look again at the cause of this loss.

Foxtrotalpha reports there may be reason to believe that the ship was torpedoed rather than having been destroyed by an ammunition loading accident.

I considered that it might have been an attack carried out by Kaiten, submarine launched manned suicide torpedoes. They were being used at that time to attack shipping in forward bases. Kaiten might have made an attack on a protected harbor easier, but the link in this paragraph provides a listing of operations that seems to preclude that possibility. That in spite of the fact that there were about 20 Kaiten capable Japanese submarines operational at the time of the sinking.

6 thoughts on “What Really Happened to the Serpens?

  1. Hm… although it is possible that a Kaiten could be responsible, I find it unlikely as Kaiten torpedoes were notoriously unreliable and rarely reached their targets.

    • No evidence to suggest that it was a Kaiten, just that other Kaiten operations were attacking ships in port during this period. We had other ammunition handling explosions including Port Chicago and at least one other in WWII in addition to the Serpens.

  2. In 1945 USS South Dakota (BB-57) suffered an explosion in Turret 2 during ammunition loading at a forward base as well. Every day of late WWII there were millions and millions of bombs, rockets, shells, propellant, and ammunition being handled. Accidents are bound to happen, just from the law of averages…

  3. Does anyone know if there will be a 75th anniversary commemoration ceremony for the those who died on 25 Jan 1945 on the Serpens? An elderly friend of mine missed the 50th ceremony at Arlington [he thinks it was there] for his older brother & other Coast Guardsmen who died in the explosion.
    COL John Tilford, 812 336 5574, johntilford@comcast.net

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