USS Asterion (AK-100)

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USS Asterion (AK-100, AK-63, WAK-123) was a Q-ship of the United States Navy named for Asterion, a star in the constellation Canes Venatici.

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Civilian merchant ship

Evelyn, a steel-hulled, single-screw steamer, was laid down on 17 January 1912, by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, launched on 9 May 1912; and delivered to the A.H. Bull Steamship Line on 11 June 1912.

For the next 30 years, Evelyn operated between ports on the eastern seaboard of the United States and the West Indies, carrying passengers and freight. During World War I, she was inspected in the 3d Naval District on 9 January 1918, for possible naval service and was assigned the identification number Id. No. 2228. However, she was not actually taken over. Remaining a merchantman, she received a Navy armed guard detachment who protected her between 31 January and 11 November 1918.

World War II

Q-ship

Evelyn pursued her prosaic calling under the house flag of the Bull Line through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In a dispatch dated 31 January, 1942, the Chief of Naval Operations ordered that Evelyn and Carolyn "be given a preliminary conversion to AK (cargo ship) in the shortest possible time." A 12 February letter from the Chief of the Bureau of Ships made it known that the conversion and outfitting of the vessels was desired "by 1 March 1942."

Acquired by the navy from the Bull Line early in 1942, Evelyn was renamed Asterion and classified as the cargo ship AK-100. That designation, however, was strictly a cover, for Asterion, like her sister ship Atik (AK-101) (the former SS Carolyn) was in fact a Q-ship. While this ruse de guerre had worked moderately well in World War I, it was at best a stop-gap measure adopted in the hope of ending a rash of sinkings of merchantmen in American coastal waters. Given a main battery, machine guns and depth charge gear hidden in concealed positions, Asterion was placed in commission at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in early March 1942, Lieutenant Commander Glen W. Legwen, Jr., in command. While on patrol, she would answer friendly requests for identification as the SS Evelyn, but if enemy ships should challenge, she would reply as SS Generalife of Spanish Registry, callsign EAOQ.

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