USS Black Hawk, a 5690-ton (displacement) destroyer tender, was built in 1913 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the 6381 gross ton commercial freighter Santa Catalina. She was purchased by the Navy in December 1917 and, following conversion work, placed in commission in mid-May 1918 as USS Black Hawk (ID # 2140). In June 1918 the ship steamed across the Atlantic to Inverness, Scotland, to begin World War I duty as flagship and tender to forces engaged in laying the North Sea mine barrage. When fighting ended in November she began supporting the effort to sweep up those thousands of mines. For nearly all of 1919, until the barrage was declared cleared, Black Hawk was based at Kirkwall, Orkney Islands. She returned to the U.S. in November 1919 and was then stationed at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as tender for destroyers in reserve.
In 1920 Black Hawk was further refitted as a destroyer tender, receiving the designation AD-9 in November. Following a year and a half with the Atlantic Fleet's destroyer force, in June 1922 she again crossed the Atlantic, bound for the Far East by way of the Suez Canal. She spent nearly twenty years as part of the Asiatic Fleet, maintaining destroyers and other smaller ships operating in Philippine and Chinese waters. Black Hawk was sent to the Dutch East Indies as war with Japan approached in late 1941. As Japan's victorious offensive swept southwards she was pulled back to Australia, where she remained until late May 1942.