By James Donahue
Navy’s auxiliary cargo attack ship, USS Algol, began life as the freighter James Baines when launched at Oakland, California
in 1943. But the 459-foot-long ship was chosen for a different role by the Navy, and converted for use as an all-purpose troop
and material carrier to assist in the war effort.
she was given the name Algol, the star that forms the head of Medusa in the Perseus constellation, or “the demon star,”
and because of her massive appearance with eight decks rising 100 feet in the air, the Algol became affectionately known among
the sailors and marines as the “steamin’ demon.”
Algol participated in the invasions of Lingayan Gulf and Okinawa in the Pacific Theater, at the end of World War II without
sustaining any damage or loss of life. She was not designed as a fighting ship but rather she ferried troops, artillery and
hardware. The Algol also carried eight LCM boats and had some mounted guns designed to fight off enemy aircraft.
ship continued on to serve during the Korean War. She was there for two more invasions, the first at Inchon and the second at Wonsan in the fall of 1950.
ship was decommissioned in 1958 after receiving two World War II battle stars and five stars for involvement in the Korean
Algol remained in mothballs until 1983 when the late Senator Edwin B. Forsythe petitioned the Maritime Administration for
a surplus ship to be used as part of an artificial reef program off the New Jersey coast.
sinking was arranged for on November 21, 1991. Former crew members came from all over the country to witness the event as
the Steamin’ Demon became a living artificial reef, a home to natural marine life.
ship rests upright in 120 feet of water, 14 miles off New Jersey’s Shark River Inlet.