USS Bootes (AK-99) was a Crater-class cargo ship commissioned by the U.S. Navy for service in World War II. She was responsible for delivering troops, goods and equipment to locations in the war zone.
SS Thomas Oliver Larkin was laid down on 24 April 1943 at Wilmington, California, by the California Shipbuilding Corp. under a Maritime Commission contract (MCE hull 1656); launched on 16 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. H. Toulain; renamed Bootes and designated AK-99 on 27 May 1943; delivered to the Navy on 29 May 1943; and commissioned on 15 July 1943, Lt. Comdr. Howard P. Bacon, USNR, in command.
After conversion and outfitting at San Diego, California, Bootes got underway for the New Hebrides Islands on 28 August. She arrived at Espiritu Santo on 2 October and remained there nine days. On the 11th, the cargo ship stood out of Segond Channel on her way to Melbourne, Australia. She entered Melbourne harbor on 20 October and began a week-long sojourn. Bootes embarked upon the voyage back to the United States on 27 October and arrived in San Francisco, California, on 24 November. The ship loaded cargo at San Francisco and, on 13 December, laid in a course for Australia. She reached Australia in mid-January 1944 and, by 6 February, was operating between Australian ports and various locations on the eastern coast of New Guinea.
During her operations between Australia and the coast of eastern New Guinea, Bootes took part in her only amphibious assault of the war. On 23 April, the day after the initial landings at Aitape, on the northeastern coast of New Guinea, she arrived off the invasion beaches there. The ship carried cargo and equipment for reinforcements belonging to the Army's 127th Regiment, 32d Infantry Division. She remained there for three days but saw no action.
In fact the only enemy air reaction came a little before midnight on the 27th when three Japanese aircraft scored a single torpedo hit on Etamin (AK-93). When Bootes departed Aitape on 29 April, she had Etamin in tow for Langemak Bay located just to the south of Finschhafen on the Huon Peninsula of eastern New Guinea.
From there, the cargo ship continued on to Brisbane, Australia, where she arrived on 28 May. About a month later, she returned to the New Guinea coast to begin service as an ammunition issue ship at various locations on the island. Early in September, Bootes moved to Seeadler Harbor, Manus, where she resumed duty issuing ammunition to ships of the U.S. 7th Fleet. The cargo ship served at Seeadler Harbor from 7 September until 20 October, at which time she set sail for Australia. She arrived at Brisbane on the 28th and remained there until 14 November.
On that day, Bootes put to sea bound ultimately for Leyte in the Philippines. She made stops on the New Guinea coast and, during the transit from New Guinea to Leyte, saw action against several Japanese air attacks. The cargo ship claimed two kills during those attacks while suffering no damage herself. She arrived safely at Leyte on 6 December and began a six-month tour of duty as an ammunition issue ship.
Bootes concluded her assignment at Leyte on 12 June 1945 when she put to sea for Manus. She stopped at Seeadler Harbor from 22 June to 16 July before continuing on to Australia. The cargo ship arrived in Brisbane on the 22d and remained there for a month. On 23 August, she got underway for the Philippines. Bootes entered Leyte Gulf on 3 September and stayed there until late November. She embarked upon the voyage back to the United States on 27 November and reached Pearl Harbor in mid-December.
Bootes was decommissioned at Pearl Harbor on 22 April 1946. She was towed to San Francisco, California, in the spring of 1947, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 August 1947. The ship was returned to the Maritime Commission on 11 September 1947, and she was berthed with the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, California. Final disposition: she was scrapped in 1973.