By: Howard C. Williams

Type: General Entry

Published: November 1, 1994

The USS Aulick, the first combatant ship constructed in the state of Texas, was launched on March 2, 1942, at Orange, after patriotic ceremonies marking the celebration of Texas Independence Day and the 106th anniversary of the founding of Orange. The ship was named after nineteenth-century naval commander John H. Aulick. A crowd of 6,000 people watched the launching of this $8.2 million war ship. The ship was commissioned on October 27, 1942, with Lt. O. P. Thomas as the first commander. The Aulick was 376 feet long and had a displacement of 2,050 tons. It carried 329 men, had a capacity of 35.2 knots, and was armed with five five-inch cannons and ten twenty-one-inch torpedo tubes.

Following shakedown and training, the Aulick joined the Pacific Fleet and Task Force 64 in the Coral Sea for support of the American landing on the Russell Islands. On March 9 she struck a coral reef off the southern tip of New Caledonia while making twenty knots and suffered extensive damage to her hull, propellers, and engines. After being repaired she served from January until May 1944 as a training vessel with the Fleet Operational Training Command. On June 22 she departed for the western Pacific, where she served as a screening vessel during the recapture of Guam, on August 4, 1944, and the seizure of the Palaus, in the southern Philippine Sea (September 6-October 14).

During the Leyte landings the Aulick was assigned to the northern fire-support group for shore bombardment, night harassing, and close fire support. From October 29 till November 25 she was assigned escort work and then returned to Leyte to join Task Group 77.2, Leyte Defense Force. On November 29, while on antisubmarine patrol in the east entrance of the Leyte Gulf, the Aulick was attacked by six kamikaze Japanese planes. One peeled off and dived toward the destroyer, dropped a bomb, then exploded on hitting the water twenty yards off the ship's bow. Another aircraft approached, struck the starboard side of the bridge with its wing tip, and exploded near the bow just above the main deck. The explosion set the number two gun and handling room on fire. Metal fragments killed several men on the bridge and flying bridge. Casualties were thirty-one men killed, sixty or more wounded, and one missing.

The Aulick spent January and February 1945 undergoing repairs. On April 10 she returned to the Philippines and served as an escort during the Mindanao landings. From May 3 until the end of the war she operated off Okinawa, where she served as a radar picket, fighter-director vessel, and air-sea rescue ship. On August 28 she joined the John D. Henley in rescuing twelve men from a disabled army bomber.

On September 10, 1945, the Aulick left Okinawa for New York. She participated in the presidential review in the Hudson River on October 27 and then steamed to Charleston Navy Yard, where she was placed out of commission in reserve on April 18, 1946. The Aulick was transferred on loan to the government of Greece on August 21, 1959. She was later returned to the United States, and her name was struck from the navy list on September 1, 1975. In April 1977 she was sold to the Greek navy, in which she was renamed the Sphendoni; she was still serving in 1990. For her action in the Pacific, the Aulick received five battle stars.

Orange Leader, March 2, 1942.
Time Periods:
  • World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Howard C. Williams, “Aulick,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994