The MULIPHEN is named for a star in the constellation Cani Major. MULIPHEN AKA-61 was laid down under Maritime Commission contract 13 May 1944 by Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J.; launched 26 August 1944; sponsored by Mrs. John Hancock; acquired by the Navy 21 October 1944; and commissioned pier side Brooklyn Naval Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. on 23 October 1944, Lt Comdr. Walter W. Wiliamson in command. Statistics: displacement-7,360 tons; length-459'2"; bredth-63"; draft-26'4"; class-Andromeda; type-C2-S-BI. The MULIPHEN is built to carry a main battery of 24 boats. Using these boats and her cargo booms the ships crew loads and unloads cargo and personnel and transports them in an amphibious operation.
Following a shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, Muliphen sailed 1 December 1944 to operate with the Key West, Florida, Sound School. On 14 December, she steamed for the Pacific where she joined Transport Division 45, Fifth Amphibious Force, US Pacific Fleet off Pearl Harbor. While on maneuvers enroute to Maui Island, T.H. the ship rammed the USS SHOSHONE, the ship ahead in the column, resulting in several bent frames in the bow. She continues training exercises until on the 14th she was forced to make repairs to her bow. She then sailed to prepare for the invasion of Iwo Jima at Eniwetok, arriving 5 February 1945. Muliphen arrived off Iwo Jima 19 February, unloaded until 4 March, then retired to Saipan. (Click here to visit map)
She departed 27 March for the invasion of Okinawa, took part in a feint landing 1 April, and repeated the feint the following day. She participated in operations just outside of the range of shore installations in an effort to draw the Japanese away from the real landing areas. The MULIPHEN fired her first shot at the enemy when a dive bomber crossed formation slightly ahead. The plane was shaken up by the fire from the transports, and retired without dropping its bombs. Okinawa saw the "Mule" land 3,800 tons of combat cargo in support of the landing.
At Iwo Jima her boats hit the beach with units of the 4th Marine Division, the 23rd CB's and the 223rd Signal Radar Maintenance Battalion, U.S. Army, truly a combined operation. Eleven of the MULIPHEN's landing craft were lost in putting these troops and supplies ashore. In spite of this she landed 1,413 tons of vehicles, food, ammunition, and gasoline while sustaining attack by Kamikaze planes and shore batteries
Held in reserve off Okinawa until 10 April, she sailed then for Saipan and cargo duty between the Marianas and Solomons. She arrived Manila 18 September with a cargo of underwater demolition gear, and spent the next 3 months carrying occupation troops to Japan from the Philippines, until sailing for Seattle 24 November.
Shortly after the war, MULIPHEN was assigned to the Naval Transportation Service and began a four year tour of carrying cargo and passengers among various Pacific islands and the West Coast of the United States. Included in her voyages was the 1946 re-supply expedition to the Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4 at Point Barrow, Alaska, the northern most town in the United States.
The year 1947 was a very busy year for the "MULE". She was reassigned to the Point Borrow Supply Expedition which meant that she would return to the cold waters of Alaska for the re-supplying of ports such as Wainwright and Skull Cliffin addition to Point Borrow. In these areas the ice pack withdraws from the beach approximately five to ten miles once a year for a brief two weeks in August. The supply vessels attempt to sail in and discharge and sail out prior to the closing off of these installations again by the ice packs. Needless to say that the MULIPHEN, despite many perils, came through and delivered her cargo. After her part in the in the expedition was completed, the "Mule" was sent west to Attu, at the end of the Aleutian Chain, to bring back material that would no longer be needed because the island was being closed down. The principal part of the load was 4,000 tons of ammunition, most of which had been on the island since 1945. Attu has geographical features with such cheerful names as Massacre Bay and Murder Point. At the time MULIPHEN was there, there was only one tree on the island, and that had been homemade by Army Engineers. The "Mule" spent 13 days there and only seeing the sun two or three days. Muliphen returned to the Puget Sound area and offloaded at Bangor, Washington, which was just an ammunition depot in those pre-FBM submarine times. The "Mule" then sailed for Mare Island, Vallejo, California for two weeks of "restricted availability" (minor repairs or alterations), then sailed to San Diego for refresher training. For the remainder of 1947 and the first half of 1948 she carried cargo between Pearl Harbor, Guam and the West Coast. The Muliphen entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington on 27 May 1948 for an overhaul that lasted until 5 August 1948. She then went back to cargo runs to Pearl, Guam, Saipan, Kwajalein, and various other Pacific coast ports. She was assigned to the Naval Transportation Service all of this time until the Military Sea Transportation Service was established.
In 1950 the "Mighty Mule" changed her home port to Norfolk, Virginia, joined the Atlantic Amphibious Force. While on the East coast the "MULE" participated in the amphibious landing in Beruit,Lebanon, Filming of the Academy Award winning film," The Longest Day", Exercise Checkmate II, MEDLANDEK 5-63, MEDLANK 1-63, FAIRGAME II.
In the early months of 1961 the Muliphen under the command of Capt. Thomas F. Saunders Jr. was underway from anchorage to sea in the Thimble Shoals Channel in a heavy fog, when it collided with a Greek collier ship named Chios. The Muliphen's damage was confined to her port bow. The bowswain's locker and a storeroom for the electrical equipment was ripped into. Above decks, an antiaircraft gun tub was crumpled. No one was below decks in the crushed compartments when the collision occurred. The Mule then tied up to the piers at N.O.B. for repairs.
While on active duty in the Mediterranean the Cuban crisis erupted and the situation put an added burden on the 6th Fleet. The MULIPHEN was pressed into two large scale amphibious assaults in preparation for extended deployment. The first was on a beachhead at Bomba, Libya, and the second at Porto Scudo, Sardinia. Coupled with five independent training exercises the two amphibious assaults kept the MULIPHEN crew and Marines busy and razor sharp for action. In June of 1964 the MULIPHEN with a compliment of 3rd Class Midshipman from the Naval Academy boarded for a repeat of a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, Virginia with a full compliment of Marines and equipment. She made seven landings in four days and was excellent training for the middies.
During the fall and winter months of 1965 the "MIGHTY MULE" would undergo a change brought on by its new Captain, Leonard M. Nearman (an "Airdale"); after many months of sketching, and engineering the MULIPHEN would be the first AKA to have a Portable Cargo Platform. On April 12, 1966 "Flight Quarters" was sounded and the final testing and approval began. The MULIPHEN Gators were greeted by a HU-4 Detachment one helicopter as she approached the "Mule" at anchorage. The VH-446A helo BuNo. 152492 piloted by Lt. W.C. Fury and Lt. M.J. Prait hovered with apparent ease over the cargo platform as she dispatched dummy cargo, light freight, and personnel during the 50 minute test and evaluation period. Captain Nearman also took an active part in the initial demonstration. While the quarterdeck bonged "Muliphen Departing" he was lifted by sling into the cabin of the helicopter and took the controls for a short period of time while inspecting the installation from the air. The successful demonstration of the cargo platform strikes a progressive blow for flexibility, mobility, and versatility among Atlantic Fleet APA's and AKA's of twenty year vintage. This project was financed through the ship's funds and constructed by ship personnel. It was a completely "in house" proposition. The platform itself encompasses an area of 600 sq.ft. and can be set up and disassembled in the time it takes of conduct the assault phase of a landing. The platform is not and was not used for a helicopter landing, only designed for receiving cargo and emergency medical evacuations.
The year 1967 opened with the MULIPHEN in the Bethlehem Steel Yards, Baltimore, MD, undergoing a three month overhaul. Upon completion in early April. She was once again assigned to COMPHIBRON 4.
The new year 1968 found the "MULE" in San Juan, Puerto Rico on her normal Caribbean deployment. 3 September 1968 was a memorable day for the "MIGHTY MULE" for she performed burial at sea of P. R. PINCHING, HMC.
The USS MULIPHEN AKA-61 was re-classified as an LKA on January 1, 1969. Following an announcement in May 1970, “The Mighty Mule” was decommissioned Monday 28 August 1970 at Norfolk Naval Base, Pier 12 then under the command of Commander J.C. Blake and turned over to Captain R.B. Cowdrey skipper of the Naval Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility, Norfolk. The USS Muliphen LKA/AKA-61 boasted the longest continuous active duty vessel in the United States Navy. She was stricken from the naval reserve records on 01/01/77 and on 10/28/88 was disposed of by transfer to other Government Agencies, States, Schools, Sea Scouts, etc.
On 2 November 1988 the "Mighty Mule" was towed to Fort Pierce, FL inlet to be prepared for her final resting place off the shore as an artificial reef for fish. The Fort Pierce Sport Fishing Club made the arrangements. On 20 January 1989 she was scuttled, landing at about a 35-degree list to port side. She is located about 12 miles off shore between St. Lucie and Ft. Pierce Inlets. The coordinates are GPS N27.24.48-W80.00.91; Loran 43206.4-61958.0 in about 120 ft. of water to her upper deck.
The MULIPHEN earned two battle stars on the Asiatic Pacific Area Service Medal for the following operations: