Sperry (AS-12) keel was laid down on 1 February 1941 by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard Vallejo, CA. Launched on 17 December 1941, just 10 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; sponsored by Mrs. Robert B. Lea; and commissioned on 1 May 1942, Capt. R. H. Smith in command. Sperry completed trials and shakedown training and on 2 August 1942 she reported for duty to the Commander Submarines Pacific at Pearl Harbor. Just days after Pearl Harbor was bombed, the Secretary of the Navy sent the following Radio Gram to all Navy Yards: To the Management and Workmen: “The Navy at Hawaii is undaunted; the Marines still hold at Wake. Will you meet their challenge?”
Just ten days after the attack – as the Sperry slid down the ways, the Commandant of Mare Island Navy Yard sent back his reply: “The Sperry has one answer, Mr. Secretary; Mare Island will give you many more.”
She remained at Oahu for almost three months, refitting seven submarines and making voyage repairs to four others. On 26 October, she weighed anchor and headed for Australia. After cautiously skirting the Solomon Islands and making a three-day stopover at Noumea, New Caledonia, the submarine tender reached Brisbane on 13 November. During her two-month stay “down under,” Sperry refitted seven submarines and made a voyage repair on one. On 17 January 1943, she sailed for Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on the 31st. After 10 refits, 10 voyage repairs, and over four months at Pearl Harbor, Sperry got underway on 8 June.
Steaming in company with Kern (AOG-2) and Coast Guard cutter, Taney, she reached Midway Island on 12 June. Her stay there was probably the busiest period in her career. During five months, she serviced 70 submarines, refitting 17 and making voyage repairs to 53. In mid-November, she joined Florikan (ASR-9) in a voyage back to Pearl Harbor, from the 12th to the 16th. She refitted eight submarines and accomplished voyage repairs on seven others between 15 November 1943 and 9 March 1944; then headed west once again. Sperry’s tour of duty at Majuro Atoll lasted from 15 March until 19 September.
During her stay, the submarine tender accomplished 19 refits and two voyage repairs. In addition, her crew erected Camp Myrna, the first recuperation camp for submarine crews in the central Pacific area, on Myrna Island. On 19 September, she exited the lagoon with Litchfield (DD-336) and headed for Pearl Harbor again. They reached Oahu on the 24th, but Sperry was underway again by 8 October as part of an 11-ship convoy.
At Eniwetok, she parted company with the convoy; and, with Corbesier (DE-438), she continued on to the Marianas. The two ships arrived at Guam on 20 October to begin a four-month tour of duty during which she serviced 20 boats, 14 for refit and six for voyage repairs. Again, her crew constructed a submarine recuperation facility, Camp Dealey. On 13 February 1945, Sperry and Southard (DMS-10) departed Guam to return to the United States. The two ships reached Pearl Harbor on 22 February. Southard remained at Pearl Harbor but Sperry continued eastward on 1 March.
The submarine tender entered Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 7 March and commenced an overhaul which lasted until 30 April.
By 10 May, Sperry was back at Pearl Harbor where she completed one refit and three voyage repairs before sailing on 30 June for the Marianas. She was stationed at Guam from 11 July 1945 to 11 January 1946. During those six months, her stay in the Marianas was interrupted only once, in late November and early December, when she joined Blend (SS-324), Blower (SS-325), Bluebook (SS-326), Charr (SS-328), Reddish (SS-395), Sea Cat (SS-399), and Segued (SS-398) in a training cruise. They visited Ulithi Atoll in the Carolines and Manus Island in the Admiralties before returning to Apra Harbor 10 days before Christmas.
Eleven days into the new year of 1946, Sperry weighed anchor at Apra and headed for California. After swing from the same buoy with the Nerus at Chula Vista, Sperry moved to Long Beach. She arrived at Terminal Island and began an extensive overhaul which was completed in July of 1947. Unlike many of her sister ships, Sperry remained an active unit of the fleet, operating out of San Diego. She earned the coveted battle efficiency “E” three years in a row in 1948, 1949, and 1950. In 1949, She participated in Operation “Miki,” a war game which simulated the recapture of an enemy-occupied Oahu; and, while returning to San Diego, she operated in support of the first publicized firings of missiles from submarines.
Between 1950 and 1953, her pace was quickened by the hostilities in Korea as she serviced and supplied many of the submarines re-commissioned for that conflict. In 1952, she made her only voyage to the western Pacific. She sailed via Pearl Harbor, where she stayed from 6 August until 21 September, and served at Chi Chi Jima in the Bonin Islands from 2 to 9 October. She returned to the west coast of the United States on 25 October. In December of 1951, the battle lines in Korea were more or less stabilized along the 38th parallel and hostilities were slowly lessened over the next two years. This resulted in a gradual return to peacetime routine for Sperry. Over the ensuing 10 years, the submarine tender continued to operate out of San Diego, spending most of her time in port servicing the submarines of the fleet, but occasionally getting underway for training cruises along the west coast.
The Sperry’s area of operation extended from Mexico north to Canada. From April to September 1961, Sperry was at Long Beach Naval Shipyard being brought up to date by a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization overhaul. In mid-September, she returned to her duties as submarine tender at San Diego.
U.S.S. Sperry (AS-12) and the Columbia River.
On June 12, 1967, at a spot 3/4 mile west of the town of Stella where today’s Washington State Highway 4 (then U.S. Highway 830) begins to rise and makes a sharp turn to the right, the Navy submarine tender U.S.S. Sperry (AS-12) had a mishap and took out half of the Washington road.
From the Walla Walla Union Bulletin, Tuesday, June 13, 1967, p.3.
Sub Tender Rams Highway Near Stella, Wash.
AP: “Traffic ground to a halt on U.S. Highway 830 about 10 miles west of Longview Monday, when the submarine Tender USS Sperry plowed into the highway breaking pavement and knocking down power and telephone lines. The 530-foot Sperry was making its way down the Columbia River enroute from the Portland Rose Festival to San Diego when its pilot lost steerage, the 13th Naval District headquarters said.
Witnesses said sirens were screeching and the ships public address system was blaring an alert to the crew as the vessel sliced through the muddy bank near the little town of Stella and came to rest after chopping out half the pavement.
The Navy said the Sperry was aground for about two hours before backing off and proceeding down the river. The ship was not visibly damaged, the Navy said. The Sperry, stationed in San Diego, was commanded by Capt. Michael M. Elliott, Manlius, N.Y.. A civilian river pilot was aboard at the time of the mishap.”
The Navy claimed “no visable damage” to the Sperry, but accounts of the incident from crew members that were aboard at the time were that the Sperry did indeed suffer damage to her bow and was taking on water. The Sperry made it’s way to the Bremerton ship yard where an approximate 3′ x 4′ hole was repaired before the Sperry returned to her home port of San Diego, CA.
Since then, the Sperry has continued to support submarines of the Pacific Fleet, again spending most of her time in port and departing occasionally for cruises along the west coast of North America and to Hawaii. As of November 1974, Sperry was still active.