Computers are wonderful gadgets.

Perhaps the term gadgets might not be the best word. Should it be machines, systems or even devices?

Oh, well, which ever word one chooses, the computer is still a wonderful invention. It has added much to the world’s well-being in the 21st century.

The computer prompted this writer to seek information about a ship he was briefly stationed aboard during World War II. The ship was the APD 130, USS Cook. An APD is a destroyer escort that was converted into a small troop transport. The Cook  only displaced 1,450 tons and was a mere 306 feet in length. Yes, it was small compared with the ships of today, which approach 100,000 tons.

One can develop a sense of “closeness” to a ship. Perhaps this “closeness” is due to the ship offering a sailor a place to eat and sleep plus affording transportation to somewhere. Of course there’s work to perform on the sailor’s part in return for the ship’s “freebies.” 

Through the years, this writer often thought about the history of the USS Cook. This is where the computer played a major part in locating information about this ship. An abundance of information was found, more than can be included in this story.

The USS Cook had a most interesting and distinguished history from the time its keel was laid on May 7, 1944, at Bay City, MI. A month before the ship was launched on July 17, 1944, the decision was made to convert the vessel from a destroyer escort to a high-speed transport, capable of carrying 162 troops (12 officers and 150 enlisted men). This would be in addition to the ship’s complement of 204 individuals (12 officers and 192 enlisted personnel). Its top speed was 23.6 knots or slightly more than 27 miles per hour.

The armament on the USS Cook was one 5 inch/38 gun, six 40 millimeter weapons, six 20 millimeter weapons and two depth charge tracks.

One’s quarters were cramped - space was a premium. Hammocks were our bedding without mattresses. The sailor sleeping in the hammock above me was heavy and overweight. His hammock would sag, thus affording little space for me to sleep. Sleeping on my side was impossible.

Although the computer research indicated the ship could carry 162 troops, this was an over-statement. Fifty was more accurate.

The Cook was launched on Aug. 26, 1944, with Mrs. A.F. Cook of Robinette, W. VA. handling the honors. Mrs. Cook’s two sons were in the Marine Corps, and both were killed in 1942 in the Pacific War Theater. Second Lt. Andrew Ford Cook, 22,  was killed on Nov. 4, 1942, in the South Pacific on the island of Guadacanal in the Solomon Islands, while his brother, Sgt. Dallas H. Cook, 21,  was killed three months earlier on August 18, 1942, during a raid on the Japanese island of Makin in the Gilbert Islands in the Central Pacific. Both were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, which is only one step below the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The ship was commissioned on April 25, 1945, in New Orleans, LA. Two months  later the Cook sailed from Norfolk, VA. to San Diego, CA., arriving on July 2, 1945. On Sept. 20, 1945, it arrived in Tokyo, Japan, carrying underwater demolition teams. Its next stop was the Japanese island of Hokkaido. This occurred prior to the island being occupied by American troops on September 27, 1945. Later the Cook sailed home to San Diego via Guam, Eniwetok (Marshal Islands) and Pearl Harbor. She (ships are often referred to with feminine pronouns) arrived in San Diego on November 13, 1945, for repairs.

During January 1946, the Cook transported troops along the west coast. This was

when this writer was assigned to the ship. I boarded her at Terminal Island, San Pedro, CA. Later I would be assigned to the U.S. Naval Repair Base at San Diego. On May 31, 1946, the Cook was decommission and placed in the Reserve Fleet at the U.S. Naval Repair Base at San Diego.

While the Cook was being prepared for “moth-balling” at the Repair Base, I would often go down late in the afternoon to watch the crew prepare the ship for the Reserve Fleet. The memories of the large guy in the hammock above me would often be recalled. 

The Cook returned to active duty on Oct. 6, 1953, and  made a number of trips to Korea. In the 1960s, she participated in the Vietnam conflict. Her final decommissioning took place Nov. 15, 1969.

And now the sad part of this story, the U.S.S. Cook was sold for scrap on July 24, 1970, to the National Metal and Steel Corporation at Terminal Island, CA.  During these 26 years, she participated in three wars and ferried untold numbers of troops throughout the Pacific area.

For a while, she was my “home away from home.”

Dr. Stuart Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He occasionally writes for this newspaper.