USS Serpens AK 97 Commemorative Website - Sailors Page

Late in the evening on January 29th 1945, the USS Serpens AK 97 was anchored off Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Perry L. Stinson, enlisted men were ashore performing administrative functions. While the remaining compliment was loading depth charges the USS Serpens suddenly exploded, leaving only the bow of the ship visible.




George L Dickerson

George L. Dickerson STM1 USCGR

George L. Dickerson served aboard the USS Serpens as a Steward's Mate 1st Class. The enclosed photograph is of George's Sister, Dorothy. Their mother's name was Lena Dickerson, and their father was George Logan Dickerson her was from Madisonville KY


This photograph was donated by Mrs. Stacie

WT3 Fred O. Royer Jr. USCGR
WT3 Fred O. Royer Jr. USCGR

RM3 Fred O. Royer Jr. USCGR
Fred enlisted in the Coast Guard in Marinette Wisconsin. Although he lived in a small city a few miles from Marinette named Peshtigo WI. That is where he attended High School. Fred was mild mannered man and it was always a pleasure to be around him. When the Serpens exploded it was like the world had ended for my family. They kept trying to console one another but it did not work. He was (is) truly missed.

These pictures were donated by Fred's nephew, Terrance J. Barrett.

WT3 Fred O. Royer Jr. USCGR WT3 Fred O. Royer Jr. USCGR WT3 Fred O. Royer Jr. USCGR WT3 Fred O. Royer Jr. USCGR WT3 Fred O. Royer Jr. USCGR


John Lewis McCaw
WT3 John Lewis Mccaw

WT3 John Lewis Mccaw was born in Durango Colorado March 21, 1925. John had 5 brothers and a sister. One of his brothers, Herbert Leslie died in the invasion of Okinawa. John was a Water Tender 3rd Class and died on the USS Serpens on January 29th 1945.

This picture was donated from John's nephew, Michael Mccaw.

Anthony Cambria S2 USCG

Anthony Cambria S2 USCG was born in 1924 or early 1925, the second of Francesco and Serafina Cambria's two sons. Francesco was a veteran of World War I. Serafina died in 1926, when her younger son was about 18 months old. When World War II broke out, older son Joseph Cambria joined the Army and saw extensive combat in Europe.

Anthony was exempt from military service because Francesco had previously lost his wife and his only other child was already serving. However, Anthony wanted to answer our country's call to duty and enlisted in the Coast Guard in April, 1943, in spite of his father's and brother's pleads that he stay out of harm's way and not enlist. Little else is known of his service, except that he died in the Serpens explosion on January 29, 1945.

Clarence W. Day S2 USCGR

Clarence W. Day S2 USCGR, from Westfield, Indiana. Clarence W. Day was born on 12/5/22 in Portland, Oregon. When he was 2 years old he and his older sister Sally and younger brother Charles were removed from their biological parents home and put in an orphanage where they were put up for adoption.

Older sister Sally was adopted by a different couple and Clarence and Charles were adopted by a couple who owned a big farm and were needed as farm hands. Their adoptive mother had several miscarriages and due to poor health was unable to bear children. After adoption they were moved to Mt. Gilead, Ohio and in 1931 they moved to Indiana. There he grew up on a big farm.

While in high school Clarence took piano lessons where he learned quickly and excelled at piano, organ and 120 bass accordian. Clarence loved music, drama, and of course the ladies. He was quite the ladies man. He was in a high school play called "What A Life". He also worked at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis working on a bull float machine that dispensed concrete for roads. In 1942 he graduated from Westfield High School in Westfield, Indiana. Immediately after graduation he joined the U.S. Coast Guard where he was stationed aboard the USS Serpens and never saw any of his family again.

Pictures donated by his younger brother Charles Boyer.

David Fielding Lewis SC3 USCGR

David Fielding Lewis SC3 USCGR from California, Born November 3, 1920. Only child of Leland and Elizabeth Lewis, married Annette Father of Marie Butler, and David Leland Lewis.

Photos donated from Marie Butler


Ely Gamsu S1 USCGR

Ely Gamsu S1 USCGR


Ely Gamsu S1 USCGR from Brooklyn, NY. Son of Jacob and Beatrice Gamsu. Ely was a weight lifter, guitar player and a boxer for the Coast Guard, training under Gene Tunney, a pro boxer and a Navy officer during the war, and likely Jack Dempsey on the East Coast on Manhattan Beach . He was the youngest of 4 children and adored by all of his siblings. Ely was the son of Jacob and Beatrice Gamsu. He was the youngest of 4 children. His brother Mickey served in the Aleutians. Brothers-in-law William Brody (Minnie Gamsu) was a Military Policeman at the Miami Air Terminal and George Faber (Esther Gamsu) served at Fort Meade. He married Roberta shortly before shipping out to the Pacific. Both of his sisters named children after him, understandably his family never quite got over his loss.

Contribution by nephew Dr. Les Brody.

LT. William Cleveland Carber USCG

LTJG. William Cleveland Carber USCG was the Supply Officer on the USS Serpens until January 18th 1945; and transfered off the ship 11 days before it exploded and sank. W.C. Carber was my Grandfather and went on to retire from the Coast Guard in 1951 as a Lieutenant Commander. He never got over the loss of his shipmates, and it is in his memory this site is possible.


Walter P. Lambert S1 USCGR

Walter P. Lambert S1 USCGR Shirley, MA

These pictures were donated from Mr. Walter F. Biadasz USCGR SC 2C who served aboard the USS Sterope AK 96.

Mr. Biadasz lost his best friend, Walter P. Lambert S1 USCGR aboard the Serpens.

Lovel R. Crook S2 USCGR

Lovel R. Crook S2 USCGR Denver, CO

Donated by Mr. Walter F. Biadasz USCGR SC 2C
William Cowhey and R. Joseph Bielinski
William Cowhey S1 USCGR and R. Joseph Bielinski S1 USCGR Both from Brooklyn, NY

Donated by Mr. Walter F. Biadasz USCGR SC 2C
William Cowhey S1 USCGR
William Cowhey S1 USCGR Brooklyn, NY

Donated by Mr. Walter F. Biadasz USCGR SC 2C
Leo H. Burke S2 USCGR
Leo H. Burke S2 USCGR South Boston, MA

Donated by Mr. Walter F. Biadasz USCGR SC 2C

Warren Granger SC3 USCGR

Warren Granger SC3 USCGR

Warren Granger SC3 USCGR Loreauville, Louisiana

Warren Granger, born on January 5, 1921 in Loreauville, Louisiana, was the seventh of ten children (five boys and five girls) born to Alfred and Sidonia Gonsoulin Granger.  He enlisted in the Coast Guard in July, 1942 and received basic training in Algiers, Louisiana.  After basic he was assigned to Marineland (about 15 miles from St. Augustine, Florida) and Oakland, California before shipping out as a Ship’s Cook 3rd Class on the USS Serpens in September, 1944. Granger lost his life on January 29, 1945 when the Serpens, anchored off of Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal exploded while loading cargo. He was reported missing in action until his death was confirmed on April 12, 1945.  Granger loved baseball, animals, the land and his Catholic faith.  Had he survived to return home to Loreauville, he probably would have joined Alfred Granger and Sons General Merchandise, the family business and farming operation.

(Submitted by Alfred “Benny” Granger Jr., brother and fellow Coast Guardsman of Warren Granger and Ed Granger, nephew)

A Sailor's Story - Warren's Granger (Adobe Acrobat File)

Raymond Earl Hubacher QM3 USCGR

Raymond Earl Hubacher QM3 USCGR - Sterling, Ohio

He was born August 1, 1916 in Creston, Ohio and later moved to Sterling, Ohio where he graduated High School. He worked as a farm hand for a few years and during this time he felt called to be a Missionary. He entered Moody Bible Institute in Chicago where he completed three years of study. He was called to the service of his country in July of 1942 and joined the United States Coast Guard. After completion of basic training he was assigned to the USS Serpens. He served on the Serpens until his death January 29, 1945 when the Serpens exploded while anchored off Guadalcanal. Raymond's brother John Hubacher, who also wanted to join the ministry before the war, joined the US Marines and was assigned to the 4th Separate Wire Platoon, attached to the 3rd Marine Division. He landed on Yellow Beach, Iwo Jima and was killed during a mortar attack, March 1, 1945, a month after his brother Raymond. Strangely enough, John never received news that his brother Ray had been killed but the two brothers did have a short rendezvous on Guadalcanal shortly before their deaths. They were the only boys in their family.

Submitted by Ray's Sister, Norma Lagomarsino

Lt. Vincent DiPalma

Lt. Vincent DiPalma, Weapons Officer - Sterling, Ohio

Born: 1913, Norfolk, VA
Died: 1997, Townsend, MA
Education: US Merchant Marine Academy, Fitchburg State Teacher’s College, Fitchburg, MA
Married: Josephine Cataldo, Everette, MA
Children: one son, Louis DiPalma

Vincent joined the US Merchant marine after graduation and served until WW II started. He joined the USCG at the start of the war serving as crew and commander of several ships. From the stories he told his service aboard the USS Serpens was much like a college fraternity. He loved his crewmates as though they were brothers. I know he served aboard a buoy tender in the Pacific and an ice breaker in the North Atlantic. I am still investigating the names of the ships. After the war he worked as a vocational school teacher in the auto shop for 30 years. He finally had to retire as a result of back injuries he suffered during the war. (The explosion of the Serpens, Vincent stated that he saw a torpedo strike the Serpens.)

He died in 1997 and was buried with full military honors.

I would like to add he was my best friend. He was the best man I ever knew and I miss him terribly. I am sure he would have lived longer but the grief of losing his best friends on the Serpens followed him throughout his life.

Submitted by Vincent's son, Louis DiPalma

USCGR SC 2C George Henshaw
USCGR SC 2C George Henshaw, Albany, NY

George "the Moose" Henshaw. George's parents were George Mercer Henshaw from Bedford England and Rhoda Harriette Berrington Henshaw from Kettering England.  They immigrated to the US in 1914 and 1919.  George Arthur Henshaw was born 17 May 1922 in Albany NY.  Two years later his only sibling was born, Robert Henshaw on 3 Sep 1924.  George was a first generation American. 

Not much more is known about his early life except that when he was 7-years-old he and his family went on "holiday" to England and visited family.  There is a picture of George and Robert standing in front of a large canon somewhere in England.  Not only did they have family in England but also Australia and Pittsburgh PA, from one end of the world to the other!

Sometime before May 1943 (launching of the USS Serpens) George enlisted in the US Coast Guard Reserve.  He was the ship's cook.  We know the rest of the story.  He died at age 22.  George and his brother never had any children.

Donated by Terry Nadeo, daughter of Patricia Henshaw Nadeo.


USCGR Lieutenant (j.g.) James Ellison



USCGR Lieutenant James Ellison - Navigator and eventually the Executive Officer of the USS Serpens.


USCGR S2 Nolan R. Lego Jr

USCGR S2 Nolan R. Lego Jr - Harrisburg, PA

Born and raised in Harrisburg, PA. Son of Blanche M Lego and Nolan R. Lego Sr.

Donated by Lawrence Cook Jr.


  Harry Marvin Levin SURGEON USPHS

PHS Serial No. 3435

Rank:Passed Assistant Surgeon (Reserve)

Date of Rank: 15 March 1943

History of Assignments:

1. Called to Extended Active Duty:  15 March 1943 under Personnel Order Com.J1.#551, U.S. Coast Guard, Detailed to U.S. Navy

2. Coast Guard Office, 13th Naval District, Seattle, Washington: 30 March 1943.

3. Coast Guard Tillamook Bay, Garibaldi, Oregon: 26 May 1946.

4. Coast Guard San Pedro, California: 7 January 1944.

5. Coast Guard Office 12th Naval District, San Francisco, California (Sea Duty): 11 August 1944.

6. Assigned to USS Serpens (AK-97): 15 August 1944.


Award History

1. Awarded Purple Heart, Posthumously.

Jean Pierre Dessaint Gray

S1 USCGR Jean Pierre Dessaint Gray

Jean Pierre was known as Pete. Pete was from Los Angeles California. Paul Gray was his father and Marie Tapley and "Niz" were his sisters.

Donated by Niece Linda Kambeitz

Jean's letter to home from Recruit Training (Boot Camp) - Catalina Island California

Jean Pierre Dessaint Gray
  S1 USCGR Jean Pierre Dessaint Gray's Biography
Emilio Gonzales
  Emelio C Gonzales S2 USCGR

Emelio was born March 9, 1923, and raised in Los Angeles, California.  He was the eldest son of Socorro and Patrocinio Gonzales.  He was survived by his parents, Socorro and Patrocinio, wife Trini, and sisters, Rachel, Aurora, and Amelia. His brother, Roberto and sister Lupita predeceased him.  Emelio was the first generation of Gonzales's born in the United States and proudly served his country and gave the ultimate sacrifice of his life.  To this date, in 2009, his entire family is so proud of him and many of his family members have followed in his footsteps by serving in various branches of the military (Air force, Army, and Marines).  We will never forget our hero Emelio!


Donated by: Nadine Terrones Deville 
The Kiley Brothers
  Ralph Dana Kiley S1 USCG was born March 16, 1922 in Salem, Massachusetts. Like his brother, he grew up on the family farm on Lowell Street and attended the West School and Peabody High School. He left his position at Munroe & Arnold-Merritt Express, Inc. in Salem when in the fall of 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. Ralph’s service record included being stations on special guard duty at Brooklyn Navy Yard and at bases at several other locations. In May, 1944, he received his orders to go overseas. While the ship was being loaded with ammunition, two days before the explosion, Ralph had written a letter to his mother saying that "he was well and everything was quiet." Ralphs brother Roger died a few days later during the battle for Iwo Jima.


Text submitted by Krista Monastiero

Photo of Ralph with his brother Corporal Roger Kiley USMCR - donated by the Peabody Historical Society

Ervin John Wandersee

Ervin John Wandersee, Radioman 3rd Class

Ervin John Wandersee was born Sept 17,1923 in Chicago. About 6 months after his parents immigranted from Pomerania, Germany.

Ervin John Wandersee, served aboard the USS Serpens radionman 3rd class. Prior to the explosion, he was offered a choice of another promotion or a leave stateside. He chose the leave. Once home, he heard of the Serpens fatality over the radio. Later, he visited the parents of a fellow seaman who had perished. The Coast Guard then routed him to a desk job at the Personnel Separation Center in St. Louis, MO.,
where he servered until discharged in march of 1946.
Donated by Ervin's Daughter, Claudia Wandersee Rabaut

Ervin John Wandersee
  Ervin John Wandersee, Radioman 3rd Class and shipmates.
Ervin John Wandersee
  Ervin John Wandersee, Radioman 3rd Class on deck with some of the tools of the trade.
Ervin John Wandersee
  Ervin John Wandersee
Ervin John Wandersee
  Ervin John Wandersee, Radioman 3rd Class and shipmate
Ervin John Wandersee
  Ervin John Wandersee, Radioman 3rd Class and a Shipmate
Ervin John Wandersee
  Ervin John Wandersee, Radioman 3rd Class Manning the 20mm anti-aircraft cannon.
Ervin John Wandersee  

Charles Edward Craft USCGR S1 was born December 21, 1921, at Mammoth, West Virginia, the third of five children born to James Alexander and Clarice Hunter Craft. His siblings included a brother James and three sisters Louise, Ernestine, and Norma. The Craft family later moved to Charleston.

Charles attended Midway Junior High School in Kanawha County and later worked at the Point Lick Mine at Campbell’s Creek along with his father. An accomplished mandolin and fiddle player, Charles also played and sang in a pick-up country band, as did his brother “Junior.”

Provide by the West Virginia  Archives and History


Robert A. Easterday USCG MOMM3C Robert A. Easterday USCG MOMM3C Robert A. Easterday USCG MOMM3C Robert A. Easterday USCG MOMM3C Robert A. Easterday USCG MOMM3C Robert A. Easterday USCG MOMM3C Robert A. Easterday USCG MOMM3C



Robert A. Easterday USCG MOMM3C -


Donated by Mary K. (Easterday) Pilkington - Niece

Frank Gretz

Frank Jerome Gretz - Coast Guard Reserve Seaman 1st class

Birth Date 23 Feb. 1921
Whitaker, Pennsyvania
Enlisted on 23 July 1942
Assigned to USS Serpens 10-10-44
Survived by His wife Helen Gretz (now deceased)
Son Frank J Gretz Jr.
Grand children Dawn Gretz and James Gretz
Great Grand children Garrett Gretz, Landon Sharoky and Emma Gretz


Ginger - USS Serpens' loyal mascot

John Clifford Daly S1c. Service # 638-02.

John was born in Minnesota. April 1923 to John and Selma Daly. He was the oldest son, where was 3 other brothers and 5 sisters.

John tried to join the Army and Navy but was rejected. The USGCR enlisted him on 21 Nov 1942.

Dontated by, Don Carruth - Nephew


Gerald C. Breen F2 USCGR


Fireman Gerald C. Breen USCGR

Photgraph dontated by Gerald's son - Robert Breen



Ginger - USS Serpens' loyal mascot



MOMM1 Hugo Riccardi and LtJg Carber (Christmas New Zealand 1943)


Harold M. McGuckin Jr SK3 USCGR



Harold M. McGuckin Jr SK3 USCGR


Walter J Limbacher Jr. SK3 USCGR



Walter J. Limbacher Jr. SK3 USCGR


Lee H Diehl S1 USCGR



Lee H. Diehl S1 USCGR


Walter J Limbacher Jr. SK3 USCGR



Billy L. Boyd SK1 USCG


James D Selaya S1 USCGR
James D Selaya S1 USCGR
James D Selaya S1 USCGR



James D Selaya S1 USCGR

He was born and raised in Anaheim, California and graduated from Anaheim High School in 1942. (Charles E. Graeber, class of 1940, was also on the ship.) From an Anaheim High memorial : "Selaya, who was called Jim or Jimmy by his family and friends, was captain of the B Football Team, ran track for three years and was the school’s feather weight boxing champion."


Ginger - USS Serpens' loyal mascot



Ginger - the USS Serpens AK 97 Loyal Mascot