Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Naval History Division • Washington

USS Phaon (ARB-3)

A mythical boatman at Mitylene, who carried Aphrodite across the sea without accepting payment for which she gave him youth and beauty.

(ARB-3: dp. 3,960; l. 328'0"; b. 30'0"; dr. 11'2"; s. 11 k.; cpl. 251; a. 1 3", 8 40mm.; cl. Aristaeus)


Phaon (ARB-3), a battle damage repair ship, was laid down by the Tampa (Florida) Shipbuilding Co. in September 1942; launched 30 January 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Marion D. Calabreeze; and commissioned 5 August 1943, Lt. George Fay Watson, USNR, in command.

ARB-3, an ex-LST, had heavier armament, greater deck facilities for cargo handling, a much longer superstructure deck, and last and most important the tank deck was covered with lathes, grinders, drills, metal cutters, welding machines and other shop equipment not found on an LST.

After shakedown to New Orleans and final fitting out there, she sailed 3 September via Guantanamo Bay and the Panama Canal for Samoa, anchoring in Pago Pago Harbor 13 October. From Samoa Phaon moved to Funafuti in the Ellice Islands arriving there shortly after the occupation of that island on 18 October. There, she repaired LCT's, pontoon barges, and PT boats. She restored many craft used in the invasion of Tarawa, Gilbert Islands.

From Funafuti Phaon advanced westward to Majuro in the Marshall Islands, arriving 6 February 1944, shortly after the invasion. Here, in the same harbor with one of the mightiest fleets ever assembled, Phaon worked on minelayers, tankers minesweepers, destroyers and small boats (LCVP's an LCM's).

On 18 March 1944, Phaon weighed anchor again, proceeded via Kwajalein to Eniwetok in the Marshalls, arriving 23 March for repair work on small boats, LCT's and Yard Minesweepers.

On 9 June 1944 Phaon left Eniwetok arriving 15 June at Saipan for the invasion by our troops. There, on "D"-day plus three, destroyer Phelps came alongside for repairs and many other ships thereafter. As metalsmiths, mechanics and carpenters from Phaon swarmed over phelps repairing the damaged boiler, blower, deck and bulkheads, the sturdy warship still very much in the fight, blasted away at enemy troops and pillboxes.

On 24 June, during an air raid by Japanese "Betties," Phaon suffered a near miss on the starboard side. The damage to the ship was not very serious but the shrapnel fragments killed two of her men and injured eleven others. That day she worked on a PCS and two LCI's, also repairing other small craft in preparation for the invasion of Tinian. On 24 July the morning of the Tinian invasion, destroyer Norman Scott came alongside with numerous dead and wounded officers and men. She had suffered several direct hits from a Japanese six-inch shore battery and her bridge was practically torn away. While Phaon's medical department cared for the wounded, her repair department patched up the ship, enabling Scott to pull away two days later.

The securing of Saipan by no means ended Phaon's work there. Saipan was her last invasion, but she prepared and repaired ships for Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Philippines. During the month between the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Phaon worked on 96 different ships. After VJ Day, her work was still far from finished and she continued repairing and overhauling the ships that needed it.

On 28 December 1945 Phaon was ordered back to the United States. In 29 months away she had completed approximately 2,000 repair jobs, on almost everything from small boats to battleships.

She was placed in reserve in January 1947, berthed at San Diego, struck from the Navy List 1 July 1961, and sold 8 July 1962 to Zidell Explorations Inc. of Portland, Ore.

Phaon received three battle stars for World War II service.


Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation