Tuesday, April 18, 2017

APc-48...(Part VI)...




[Editor's note: This article is presented as part of an expansion of thought for the original "APc-48" series...The book length publication will include a discussion of members involved in other wartime support missions, and how their duties, and their lives were intertwined...]

Having been the fortunate participant in a series of interviews conducted with former S/Sgt B. Earl Young (and also the unfortunate recipient of several of his correctional lectures intended for my benefit), the readers here might expect my knowledge of conditions and amenities on the island of Attu during WWII to be more broadbased, with detailed information concerning the problems which faced those stationed there, and the innovations developed in overcoming them...Alas, this author's young ears were somewhat blocked by his active imagination, which was more attuned to what items in the Sergeant's footlocker (brought home on a slow, stomach-churning troopship ride before the youngster was even conceived) could be best employed during the neighborhood wargames in which the future writer was involved...

The lamentable result of this early inattention became the scanty memories of what should have been important at the time, and a hazy recollection of tales of survival in a cold, unforgiving climate, in which those assigned to defend the island against a possible return by attacking Japanese soldiers lived many of their off-duty hours just trying to find the entrance to their Quonset huts in the snowdrifts often covering their living quarters...For those unfamiliar with these structures, they were originally a mass-produced, pre-fabricated building, more intended as a temporary shelter against weather than a permanent place of residence...Sgt. Young recalled the housings as being approximately 20 X 50 feet in dimension, with a half-round covering providing walls and roof...Of corrugated steel construction, insulation was almost non-existent, until the inhabitants created an inner structure to which they could attach whatever cold-blocking materials that were available to them...

They soon learned that stacking their barracks bags, footlockers, storage boxes, firewood or anything available against the inside walls, and bringing their cots, chairs, tables and other comfort amenities closer to the center, and thus nearer the only two provided space heaters, lessened the discomfort to a somewhat survivable level...The fuel used for these rudimentary heaters was whatever burned well and was immediately available, freight pallets being a common source, and if memory serves this writer, the innovative GI's soon learned to convert the stoves to burn kerosene and diesel fuel...The smoke and fumes generated were routed through a sheet iron chimney straight through the Quonset ceilings and rudimentarily sealed against the inevitable leakage...

The smoke from the outside was also a convenient method of locating one's living quarters when trudging home from the day's work details, or the mess halls as snow drifts often completely covered the buildings, and soldiers outdoors were many times at knee-level with the heater exhaust...When snow drifted high enough to block the entryways, entrance and exit to and from these buildings was accomplished through stairwells constructed by the occupants outside the end doors...Covered with corrugated sheet iron on top and on the sides, and topped with a flag to identify the occupants, they could be opened in times of no snow (said by Sgt. Young to irregularly occur during times of the midnight sun) by removing panels, but also extended some thirty feet above floor level for use during periods of incessantly inclement weather when snow covered the buildings...

The Quonset hut derived its name from its original point of manufacture, that is Quonset Point, an area inside Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center, RI, although they were manufactured elsewhere, under contract in many locations throughout the US and Canada, to satisfy military demand...Over 150,000 were manufactured during the course of the war, and some are still in use today around the world...The rounded shape allowed better chances of survival in high winds as no flat surface was presented against gale-force air currents other than the ends, which were faced with plywood sheets...Some insulation was factory installed, but more was always needed...


The huts were placed with the rounded sides facing the prevailing winds...It was not uncommon in the Aleutians to experience wind velocities exceeding 100 MPH in sub-zero conditions, although similar units placed in the South Pacific regions often weathered even higher winds during typhoon seasons...During these times, the huts, which were not anchored to the ground, rocked back and forth causing the inhabitants to push against the windward walls in an attempt to prevent rolling over...The flat, exposed end walls were often reinforced with sandbags, fuel drums, sacks of aggregate or stacks of PSP (Perforated Steel Planking) which had been lashed together, providing some wind protection and further temperature insulation... Period photos of South Pacific structures often show Quonset huts nestled in groves of palm trees, not only for concealment from enemy aircraft, but for wind protection during recurring gales...

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Carrying it...

I've been carrying a handgun with me since I can remember...Admittedly, with age that number is becoming increasingly dimmer along with my memory, so let's just say I've been carrying a gun since it became legal to do so...I've carried in my pocket, in my boot, stuck in my belt, I even had a little North American mini-revolver stuck inside a cowboy hat once...Although I've sold many a fanny pack when I was in the biz, I never used one; it's just not my style, sorry...

The cheapest ones that actually work are the ballistic nylon holsters, and although they're popular and I sold plenty, I don't like them for a variety of reasons...The first being that the nylon acts like sandpaper against a nice blued finish, and premature wear to the finish will occur with repeated presentations...Stainless steel is more impervious to damage, but the user will wind up with shiny spots instead...I keep one in my truck between the seats, where friction and velcro hold it in place...The only gun I use it with is my hard-chromed Gold Cup, and I only use it when I travel to a place of perceived danger, like anywhere inside the Houston city limits, for instance...

Something seldom understood about the nylon holsters with a steel belt clip is that the clip is only used when the holster is worn inside the pants...They're sold with the clip installed for right-handed users when worn inside the waistband...There is also a sewn-on nylon loop for belt use, but this requires at least five seconds of extra time for correct wear...

I've sold many in which the buyer claimed it was for a left-handed user...They were invariably lazy and wished to just clip it on outside the pants...I always explained the correct use, telling the buyer that if the user really needed the gun in a hurry, he (or she) would likely pull the holster off along with the gun, possibly even resulting in an embarrassing moment in which the user found his or her pants at half-mast...

If my explanation failed to satisfy, I always obligingly switched the clip over to the other side, and sent the customer off on his merry way...Occasionally a customer would return at some point, and sheepishly tell me I was right, asking me to return the clip to its original position (which is no mean feat due to the strength of the spring steel in the clip)...

For my own use, I've worn dozens, maybe even hundreds of different brands and styles of holsters...The most comfortable, and most satisfying holster material has always been leather for me...It looks better, it's more comfortable to wear, and it's easier on just about any gun's finish...Being in the business, I had many holsters traded in with a gun (I still don't know why anyone would do that), and consequently I might buy it for myself and wear it if I liked the style...I've worn many of the mass produced leather products with some (Galco, Safariland and Bianchi) being better quality than others (Don Hume, Tagua and Cebeci)...

A major concern for anyone who carries should always be security...Law enforcement officials will always carry in a holster with a retention device as a safeguard against losing a firearm to an attacker...Most police agencies also require a retention device on any holster carrying an off-duty firearm...I have much more experience along these lines with 1911 style guns which I carry only in Condition One, that is with a round in the firing chamber, hammer cocked, thumb safety on...

For those who must use, or feel safer with a retention device, the leather thumb break style with the leather strap between the hammer and the firing pin is the most commonly used...All mass-produced holsters for 1911's using a thumb break are designed for use with the small military Colt-style thumb safety...They work well with this style, but extreme caution should be used if the thumb safety is replaced with a larger, or differently positioned aftermarket safety...From personal experience with a Bianchi IWB holster, I found that constant carry can move the safety to the off position without the users knowledge...It never happened to me with the small standard safety, but consistently with an Ed Brown, Wilson Combat or McCormick extended safety...For this reason, I stopped wearing thumb break holsters entirely...

A custom leather maker can fashion a thumb break for safe use with a specific aftermarket safety, but prepare to spend extra money...William Tucker, one of the finest leathercrafters whom I have known personally, and one with much personal experience on duty as well as off, refused to build a thumb break holster for a 1911, regardless of the money...He prefers a custom fit for the gun itself, allowing friction force to be the retention device...

After many years now of carrying my own guns daily in Tucker (and now Tucker & Byrd) holsters, I agree whole-heartedly...These holsters also incorporate what Tucker calls a "fat-boy tab," which is just extra leather placed between the gun's safety and the wearer, assuring a cleaner shirt at the end of the day...I still wear one of his older designs regularly, without the tab, and I wish it could be retrofitted...It's the only regret I have concerning this holster after twenty years of use...Tucker also taught me the importance of using a gun belt as opposed to a pants belt for carry...

When he first entered my store to offer his products (mine was the first store in the area to stock a wide variety of Tucker leather), he noticed I wore wide western belts with the hook style fastener on a solid bronze buckle...He convinced me to try one of his thick, embossed belts with a proper frame-and-prong buckle...I ordered a complete carry rig at the same time, which I still use to this day, and I have never used another brand of belt or buckle since...I strongly recommend Tucker & Byrd products to anyone considering carry options in fine leather...Most recently I've been using Tucker & Byrd crossdraw holsters with success...

Another holster material in popular use is Kydex, one of the manmade materials developed in recent decades...It's a favorite among detectives who like a lightweight, easily carried, yet secure means of carry...Also popular among outdoorsmen for the same reason...Being a harder material, it must be carefully designed for inside the waistband use, or discomfort will quickly ensue...One of the more innovative and detail-oriented Kydex crafters is the firm of Poor Henry Designs...

Poor Henry is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Brice and Carrie, both of whom have been my friends for more years than any of us care to admit...Although Kydex manufacture is a relatively recent venture for both, they have each been involved for decades with carrying firearms, whether professionally, casually, defensively or in competition...Both are very familiar with the problems and/or advantages of practically any style of carry regardless of the size or type of handgun...

Earlier I mentioned wearing Tucker & Byrd crossdraw holsters, and I find I like them for the comfort of carrying my Kimber Ultra Carry...They ride high above the belt for comfort when sitting, and the tightly molded fit (not too tight though) is perfect for retention...However since growing my own layer of armor around my midsection, plus wearing it slightly more to the offside than is conducive to quick presentation, I find I lose a little time on the draw, especially if sitting in the driver's seat of one of my vehicles...Therefore I commissioned Brice to design a crossdraw holster for me, not for my Kimber, but my hard-chromed Gold Cup, the finish of which is impervious to wear from the Kydex...

After a short wait to tool up (since Poor Henry does not catalog a crossdraw yet), I was soon sent my requested item for evaluation...Miz Carrie's eye for fashion allowed her to take one glance at the leather jacket I was wearing that day, and perfectly matched the saddle tan color in a pebble-grain finish for the Kydex...The level of retention allowed by the snug fit to my Colt allowed a radical angle to be used for the gun while still providing the utmost security against accidental loss of the firearm...This angle allows a very easy draw, especially from a sitting position (as in the vehicle)...

When I received it, my only complaint was the belt loop, which was too narrow to accommodate the aforementioned thick Tucker gunbelts I wear...One phone call to Brice and another envelope in the mail solved that problem...Since this was a prototype, I have a few suggestions before it becomes a catalog item...I know Brice is waiting for this review, so I'll list them here...

The belt loop is attached to the holster with screws onto a flat surface molded into the holster...Another flat surface near the muzzle end with another Kydex belt loop installed upside down would allow two-point fastening to the belt, enhancing concealability by drawing the gun in for a closer profile...Then I would suggest adding a mirror image of the already existing flat surface to the opposite side allowing it to be transformed for inside the waistband use...

Overall fit and finish are superb, and I would expect nothing less from these two fine folks...Another of their innovative products is a Kydex wallet which I have been using as a credit card holder instead of fishing for my billfold as I've always done...My most often used credit cards are a perfect fit, easily presented and it fits in my shirt pocket for more convenience...I look forward to seeing the crossdraw holster grow in popularity again, and I know Poor Henry Designs will be a growing business as well...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

APc-48...(Part V)...



Knowing that APc-48 was part of APc-Flotilla Five, Group 15, Division 29 makes it slightly less work to trace its likely paths...As part of the New Georgia Campaign, Flotilla Five for APc's joined Flotilla Five for LST's (Landing Ship Tank), Flotilla Five for LCI(L)'s (Landing Craft Infantry Large), and Flotillas Five and Six for LCT(5)'s (Landing Craft Tank Mark 5), giving a total of 96 vessels under the command of RAdm George H. Hall's Landing Craft Flotillas, organized as part of the Southern Pacific Force...This group was further at the disposal and command of RAdm. RK Turner's Amphibious Force as part of Adm. Halsey's Third Fleet...In 1943 Third Fleet's operational area was the Southwest Pacific area centering on the Solomon Islands...Coincidentally, at the time of this writing, Third Fleet's operational area is the northern and east sections pf the Pacific, including the waters surrounding the small outpost island of Attu in the Aleutian chain where US Army S/Sgt. Young was stationed 75 years prior...

Along with the Solomon Islands, the New Georgia Islands framed  "the slot" where the Japanese pushed their barge convoys through in the dead of night, trying to keep their Army units already stationed on the many remote islands of the complex supplied with rations, fuel, ammunition and replacement soldiers...This night operation was also called the Tokyo Express; its derailment a major target of opportunity for any allied warships in the area...Sometimes escorted by Japanese destroyers or light cruisers, these barges were also hunted by PT boats which patrolled the slot in search of the slow moving barges...It was here that Lt. (jg) JF Kennedy's PT-109 was cut in half by a JIN destroyer in August 1943...

In June 1943 OperationToenails commenced to take control of the islands of New Georgia...At the time of these amphibious landings, Adm. Hall had available 69 of his landing craft, plus all 10 APc's which were assigned to him...This was the right time frame for APc-48's initial operations, and for this reason I believe it may have participated in the New Georgia landings...In this capacity, its assignment would likely have included ferrying small assault teams and their equipment to isolated beaches on the New Georgia islands for insertion with the mission of engaging Japanese defense positions...

Many Australian and New Zealander civilians and military members operated as coastwatchers on these small islands, and their need for replenishment of supplies would have been another reason for duty by the APc's...One of these was Arthur Reginald Evans who covertly maintained an observation post near the top of the volcano, Mount Veve, on the island of Kolombangara, an island easily identifiable at times of limited vision because of its almost perfectly round shape...10,000 Japanese soldiers were based on this island, making it incredibly dangerous for Evans to operate...Still he managed to relay the whereabouts of the stranded crew of PT-109 from the islander fishermen who found them to US Navy officials, thereby effecting their rescue...

Another of these coastwatchers was Donald G. Kennedy who maintained his base of operations at Segi Point on Rendova Island, under the very nose of Japanese General Sasaki, who knew of the enemy threat, and was determined to eliminate it...The general was unsuccessful, as Kennedy issued a call for help after the landing of Japanese reinforcements who had the intent to find and eliminate him... Days later, a Marine raiding party was inserted at night at Kennedy's position to provide protection for him and his small band of islanders as they worked to harass the Japanese efforts...This would have been another good opportunity for employment of the APc's, as this mission was one for which they were designed...Later, as the Japanese were distracted by heavy shelling of nearby Kolombangara Island, and as the invasion by Marine forces began on the main island of New Georgia, a survey crew and a unit of Seabees were surreptitiously inserted by night and directed by Kennedy to find and do the preliminary work for an airfield on Rendova...Their work was completed in two weeks...

As mentioned elsewhere, this is still guesswork since Navy records for details of individual vessels involved in the amphibious landings are unavailable at this time...


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Saturday, April 8, 2017

APc-48...(Part IV)...




Little is known of Lynch Shipbuilders, which completed and turned over to the US Navy APc-48...Wikipedia offers little, saying they were a California shipbuilder constructing tugs and cargo ships in San Diego...Tim Colton in his online source, ShipbuildingHistory, says the following:

"This yard had been idle for years when it was acquired and reactivated in 1940 by Martinolich Shipbuilding.  Martinolich got into difficulties early, however, and Frank Lynch, who had moved to San Diego from Idaho in 1926 and was in the lumber business, took over the yard in 1941.  The yard was at the foot of 28th Street, immediately adjacent to NASSCO, and Lynch sold it to NASSCO in 1948."

The site also lists a number of ships built by the company before being absorbed into NASSCO...References to Frank Lynch are as vague as his company, but research shows a book written by Richard W. Crawford titled, "The Way We Were in San Diego" telling of Frank C. Lynch, and his role in the lumber industry with particular regard to the huge log rafts assembled and floated downstream by the Benson Lumber Company for later milling...Quoting the book:

"Simon Benson profited from his log rafts until 1911, when he decided to sell his San Diego interests to his mill manager, O.J. Evenson, and San Diego investor, Frank C. Lynch. Evenson ran the mill until his retirement in 1936. Frank Lynch took over, but as World War II approached, the era of log rafts was ending.

In August 1941, Log Raft number 120 caught fire off the coast near Monterrey. The mystery of how a raft of wet logs could be destroyed at sea by fire was never solved. Lynch suggested wartime sabotage. He turned the wreckage over to the underwriters and then, blaming rising insurance rates, decided to terminate the Benson rafts, ending a unique chapter in San Diego history."

It is noted by this author that the "wartime sabotage" would have occurred months before the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the ensuing declaration of war...Whether this was the same Frank Lynch who bought the failing Martinolich Shipbuilding Co. yard is unclear, only the coincidence of the sudden infusion of cash, following an insurance payoff in another failing business, both on the docks of San Diego, and both dealing in large amounts of lumber, all in the same short time frame remains as circumstantial...

To further muddy the waters, Frank P. Lynch II (note the differing middle initial) was listed on a genealogy website as murdered in an unknown location on an unknown date, and buried in San Diego...His occupation is shown as pediatric surgeon...Other details are marked private, other than his wife's maiden name as Hawkins (later hyphenated as Hawkins-Lynch), and the submission of the posting by Brian Hawkins...

Delving further, Frank P. Lynch III, a pediatric surgeon, born 10/4/1940, died 6/2/2003, and is buried in a San Diego cemetery...Obituary information is sketchy, noting a rank of Colonel in the US Army...His privately placed grave marker (not VA supplied) lists the Congressional Medal of Honor and Silver Star as having been awarded, with service in Vietnam and Desert Storm...A search of CMoH records by this author shows no award of the Medal to this person...Find A Grave Memorial# 100738263 also suggests the Silver Star was actually an award of the Bronze Star...

A possibly misworded document found in the State Bar Court of California archives, involving the disbarment hearing of G. Paul Howes of San Diego, shows Frank Lynch Jr. listed as a cooperating incarcerated witness, with Frank Lynch III shown as paying for attendance at a trial involving alleged misconduct by Howes in 1994, but not being called as a witness...The miswording reference above calls into question Lynch III being listed as the father of Lynch Jr...


All this information may be entirely coincidental and unrelated, but the semi-shady reputations of some, the similarity in name, the interlocking dates and the locale may be nothing more than mere coincidence...What is known is that Lynch Shipbuilders, under contract to the US Navy, built APc-48 in its shipyard in San Diego, following which the ship had a longer life than either its parent builder, or many of its crew, having served faithfully under many captains...


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Friday, April 7, 2017

APc-48...(Part III)...



Seen from a distance in simplified terms, the problem of supply meeting demand seems soluble: Produce a needed product, and deliver it to a point of need...In times of peace, when supplies of raw materials are plentiful, and a workforce of substantial size is available, and when even needs can be prioritized on a more casual level, obstacles to delivery can be overcome from alternative means already in place...The problems become immediately exacerbated in times of war as the product is being purposely destroyed at the point of need, requiring an immediate replacement...When the replacement is being produced halfway around the planet, and delivery is necessary across two oceans at multiple points around the globe while the delivery service is being shot at by forces who do not wish the delivery completed, the problem suddenly becomes critical...At this time, a specialized team with the most boring of titles possible comes into play, the logisticians...

The term "logistics" itself did not even enter common English usage until recently, but was already accepted parlance in the French and German languages, as discussed by US Navy RAdm. Julius A. Furer in his written work, "Administration of the Navy Department in World War II"...He explains the official definition of logistics as applied for military purposes:
"Design and development, acquisition, storage, movement, distribution, maintenance, evacuation and disposition of matériel; induction, classification, training, assignment, separation, movement, evacuation and welfare of personnel; acquisition or construction, maintenance, operation, and disposition of facilities; and acquisition or furnishing of services. It comprises both planning (including determination of requirements) and implementation."
Sales professionals will always tell you that nothing moves anywhere until somebody, somewhere sells something...But when something must move, that same salesperson can't wave a magic wand, nor ask Scotty to beam it down; he instead turns it over to the logistics department...The Bureau of Labor Statistics (another title in dire need of a PR agent) defines this task as:
"Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain—the system that moves a product from supplier to consumer. They manage the entire life cycle of a product, which includes how a product is acquired, distributed, allocated, and delivered."
 Thus the title takes on an air of responsibility quite beyond that of a delivery boy...In recent years, the profession has renamed itself as Supply Chain Management, with educational institutes offering advanced degrees in the field...In the midst of WWII those charged with moving needed supplies to the front line were normally a little too busy to worry about what others were calling them, being more concerned with transporting military goods to those who were awaiting them, without getting themselves shot down, sunk or blown up...Some, like US Navy F1/C William V. Johnson, were involved in the business of transportation over water of the vital goods...Others, such as his brother-in-law, US Army S/Sgt Benjamin E. Young, were links in a different part of the same chain...

Sgt. Young was assigned his duty with the Army's Quartermaster Corps, charged with the distribution of scarce goods arriving by Army transport ship to soldiers, some of whom may have survived the trip there on the same vessel...That destination was the very furthest point west on a map of North American US flagged territory, the island of Attu in the Aleutian chain, and the closest part of America to the Japanese main islands...In an interview with this author, Sgt. Young related a lesson he had learned on Attu concerning volunteering...Recalling some of his first days after reaching the Camp Swift, Texas training center with a newly formed Quartermaster detachment, but long before he attained more experience resulting in more stripes being sewn to his jacket sleeve, he said he was waiting for his daily job assignment, when a senior NCO asked whether any of the new arrivals knew how to drive a truck...

Believing that sitting inside a truck, and away from the never-ending, bone-chilling wind was preferable to any duty outdoors, he raised his hand along with some others... The "trucks" they were assigned turned out to be two wheeled handtrucks, to be used in offloading cases of goods from pallets deposited on the dock from a cargo truck, and then wheeled into a warehouse for storage...He said during this "truck driving" experience he wrenched his back picking up a case of soap, but did not report it, not wanting to be thought of as a slacker...This was a source of recurring pain for the remainder of his life...He often thought he had missed an opportunity for a small medical pension following his discharge, but instead accepted the valuable lesson learned about volunteering...He stated it was the last time he ever raised his hand for anything ever again...

The Quartermaster Corps was not only important, it was imperative to any forward progress advanced by the Army...Imagine for a moment the real-life counterpart to any battle scene ever depicted in any war movie ever produced by Hollywood...A battalion of combat-hardened soldiers seeks cover in bomb craters to return fire against an enemy ambush...Their officers direct machine-gun and mortar fire against known enemy emplacements...Their tank support units move up cautiously across a possible minefield...Soldiers reload their weapons with fresh magazines and ammo belts...Medics rush from one wounded infantryman to the next applying sulfa powder, morphine and bandages, while exhausted GI's drink from their canteens...The battalion slowly advances until the remaining enemy withdraws...

As the smoke clears, and the noise dies down, the tanks and armored troop carriers have halted, their fuel exhausted...Soldiers keep watch for a return by the enemy, some aiming empty rifles downrange because they shot up all their ammunition...They search through their field packs for a few K-ration scraps, and shake their nearly empty canteens...Medics are reduced to tearing strips of uniform from dead battle victims to use for bandages and tourniquets...Radios, mortar tubes and other weapons have been destroyed or damaged in battle, requiring immediate replacement...When the supplies and equipment they carried with them to the battlefield are gone, do the survivors turn around, and walk back to base to get more?...

No, they look behind them for arriving supply trucks loaded with replacement ammunition, fuel, water, food and medical items, allowing them to regroup and advance...An Army division on the move across country needs 500 to 700 tons of provisions brought to it's position daily to sustain the move forward...Rick Atkinson, in his book, "The Guns at Last Light" (the third volume of his Liberation Trilogy), said that one quarter of all Army personnel on European soil three months after the Normandy invasion in 1944 were attached to the Quartermaster Corps, whose only job was supplying the needs of the other 75%...At the same time, those QC troops had to draw from their own supplies to sustain themselves...

Without the guys behind the lines, the war would be over for the guys at the front at the end of the first day of battle...But without the air and sea transports making their endless loops across the oceans, the guys behind the lines would soon be sitting in empty warehouses...And if it weren't for the dedicated civilians at the home front producing the goods, their safety protected by that part of the military still on home soil, the transports would also be empty...


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Thursday, April 6, 2017

APc-48...(Part II)...




It's classification, and descriptive name alone tell much about its construction and purpose...Characterizing the APc-1 class of vessel as Small Coastal Transport recognizes first its size; at 103 feet bow to stern, and 21 feet wide at the beam, it most assuredly qualifies as "small" in comparison to the 800 foot battleships and 900 foot aircraft carriers of the day...Its 9 1/2 foot draft allowed it to navigate in the shallow littoral waters where no larger ship could even approach, making it well suited for resupplying coastwatchers who were reporting enemy activities among the remote Pacific islands, or delivering needed materials to otherwise inaccessible military outposts among the far-flung islands...As a "transport," it could move a contingent of fully equipped battle troops three times its own crew size of 21...Or it could ferry loads of fuel, ammunition, food and other needed supplies into coastal waters unapproachable by larger cargo ships...

Originally designed to accommodate four 20mm cannon in single mounts, they were later reduced to two cannon, one fore and one aft...This did not prevent enterprising crewmen from appropriating the occasional .50 Caliber Browning machine gun left unguarded by a careless armorer, and mounting it on their ship for use in sweeping a coastal jungle, or firing at any enemy scout planes...However the 20mm guns would be a better choice for anti-aircraft use with a supply of flak shells and the right altitude fuses...Even a reinforced enemy coastal gun emplacement could suffer considerable damage from AP or HE rounds...But the guns would have had more of a defensive purpose, as the unarmored APc's would not be the choice of rides for any inbound assault team...

APc is now listed as an inactive classification symbol by the US Navy, as its purpose has been largely supplanted by other vessels...Although the APc's were listed as transports by the Navy, I have a vague memory of my uncle telling briefly of repairing battle damage on a destroyer to get it back to a forward repair facility...They were truly multi-purpose vessels, although being wooden hulled, they would have been easy pickings for anything heavier than a Japanese Arisaka rifle...Of course not many Japanese could have dodged 20mm fire long enough to get close with a 7.7 mm infantry rifle, but a lucky shot from a hidden coastal position might have scored...

In a recent publication this author included some construction and crew details on APc-48 specifically...I'll reprint them here as they seem pertinent:

"APc-48 (Coastal Transport [small]) attached to APc Flotilla Five, was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater...This was a wooden-hulled boat approximately 100 feet in length, powered by a 400 HP diesel engine...Knowing my uncle's mechanical abilities, I'm sure it produced every pony in that herd...

Information concerning APc-48 in particular, or the APc-1 class it stemmed from, is sketchy at best, but I've uncovered several sources with some data...These ships were too small to be included in any naming convention with other craft such as destroyers, cruisers and larger vessels received, thus they were designated by class and number only...

Many companies, both established and newly minted, were awarded new government contracts to produce the designs, components, and provide production, assembly and testing of America's suddenly expanding wartime armament...An online authority, NavSource tells that APc-48 was originally laid down as a coastal minesweeper, AMc-190, in San Diego by Lynch Shipbuilders on 6/6/1942...At some point between then and its commissioning, it was re-designated as a Coastal Transport (small)...

Following its launch and sea trials, it was commissioned on 4/30/1943 under the command of Lt.(jg) Dwight D. Currie, USNR...The scant information available for its first commander shows he survived the war, only to die in Missouri in 1949 of unknown causes...

APc-48 joined the Asiatic Fleet as part of APc Flotilla Five, Group 15, Division 29, under the command of Lt. DV Horsburgh, USNR...Records indicate that Lt. Horsburgh  may have used APc-29 as a flagship for his flotilla, which saw combat service in the "Consolidation of the Solomon Islands Campaign" at approximately this same time...For this reason, I suspect APc-48 may have also been involved, possibly in a support role, although the record shows no campaign ribbon awarded to APc-48, as was attached to that of APc-29...

Lt. (jg) LL McCormick assumed command of APc-48 at an unknown date or location following its commissioning...I find no death records nor further service records for Lt. Horsburgh, nor Lt. McCormick...

From there, records of APc-48's wartime service are lost in NavSource, although two photos of it are shown underway with dates and locations unknown...It was decommissioned 4/1/1946 in San Francisco...From that point it served new owners in a variety of civilian uses as a freighter, whaling vessel and even a private yacht after it sank while docked, and was subsequently raised, salvaged and rebuilt...It outlived my uncle by at least 40 years as no further documentation for it is listed after 2009...

It's motive power was provided by an engine produced by the newly created (for the war) Cleveland Diesel Engine Division of General Motors Corporation...This company produced two-stroke diesel engines for various power generators, ships and even submarines, many of which engines are still in service well into the 21st century...

The particular engine installed in APc-48 was an 8 cylinder of almost 2,000 cubic inches of displacement, rated at 400 shaft horsepower...This same workhorse of an engine also powered two 30KW onboard generators providing 120 volt electrical service as needed...Fuel capacity was 14.5 barrels, plus however much more the crew could steal (sorry, I meant outsource), and stow aboard...

After the war, the Cleveland Division went on to produce many engines for both military and civilian applications, eventually being folded into GM's Electro-Motive Division, manufacturer of engines for mining service and rail locomotives...APc-48's armament was originally four 20mm cannons in single mounts installed for defensive purposes...It was common for enterprising crewmembers (such as my uncle) to heist and mount additional Browning .50 caliber machine guns  to supplement these...Anything larger would have added unwanted weight thereby reducing performance, and the heavier recoil would have been destructive to the lightly built hulls of these ships...

APc-48 was served by a contingent of three officers and 22 enlisted men, of whom my uncle was one...I've often thought that he would have gotten a chuckle from the military's differentiation between "men" and "officers" (he and I were both well aware of which group did the work, and which group took the credit)...In addition, it could carry up to 66 troops and their combat gear to and from assignments..."

One of my most commonly used sources for basic information, Wikipedia, has nearly nothing to offer about the small coastal transports, listing it mainly as a type of navy vessel...This is to be expected as the smaller, and more utilitarian ships rarely had more than a support role in combat operations...It's also understandable that it's difficult to raise any level of excitement over a ship which the Navy did not deem significant enough to bestow upon a heroic name, one which might raise the excitement of the war-bond buying public upon whom the government depended for funding to continue pressing the enemy toward its ultimate defeat...

APc-48's seaworthiness was proven as it journeyed from San Diego to the South Pacific for wartime duty in April 1943, and made the trip back to San Francisco in April 1946 where it was decommissioned...The timing seems right as my uncle's service began in 1943, and ended with his honorable discharge in the latter half of 1946...


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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

APc-48...(Part I)...




[Editor's note: This is the first of a planned series...Articles published here will be expanded in book form for more detail...]

The number of words, pages, articles, chapters and books which have been written concerning the war effort put forth by the United States leading up to, and spurred suddenly by the Japanese attack on US assets is incalculable...No few of those words, and a considerable amount of time has been expended here in this blog, and now transferred to the printed page...For my part, a mention in a discussion board by another member of a WWII logistics support unit named Service Squadron Ten, led to my research coinciding with the whereabouts of my uncle's service in the Pacific Theater...

Those who have read my previous articles on the subject of Ulithi Atoll, and its Japanese counterpart, will be familiar with some of the conclusions to which I have arrived...Deducing from the scant memories my cousins and I have of our uncle's brief mentions of his Pacific service, and from a saved envelope from a letter addressed to my Mom, we can now be certain that he served on a small coastal transport, designated as APc-48, of which very little information is recorded as to its assignments...A recollection that he spoke of being near Guam as part of a large operation, and the time-frame he was known to be in the Pacific Theater, leads me to think he was part of the enormous undertaking performed by Servron 10 at the time of its anchorage at Ulithi Atoll...

As a Navy Reservist who entered active service in the fall of 1943, near his 19th birthday, he would have completed basic training, followed by selected advanced training based on his aptitude and the needs of the Navy at that time...Being naturally gifted at understanding, repairing and rebuilding anything mechanical, he received first a rating as a Machinist Mate, later specializing as a Motor Machinist Mate 2C (a rate used in WWII, but discontinued for modern Navy use)...


I have spoken of my Mom in other articles, sometimes prodding her in the ribs for having thrown out nothing in the past century, with the exception of my baseball cards, which I'm sure caused her to grow tired of picking up from the floor and returning to the shoebox in which I stored them...It's my guess they went into the trash can one day with the potato peelings and newspapers after she carefully clipped any useful coupons...But only recently was a stash of wartime letters found by her in some forgotten boxes, including letters sent from her brother in the Pacific...I first discovered and examined one empty envelope upon which the return address indicated he had been promoted to Fireman 1st Class...


For those readers unfamiliar with naval nomenclature, the term "fireman" is not one who rushes into burning buildings to save innocent trapped lives, but rather a Navy crewmen assigned as part of the Engine Room Force aboard warships...The term originated in the days of coal burning steam ships whose fires had to be kept burning by shoveling coal by hand into the furnaces below the boilers...At the time of my uncle's service, coal burners were a part of naval history, replaced with steam turbines in the larger ships, and diesel engines as in the case of the small coastal transports...The fireman's job on these ships was maintaining the temperature level and fuel delivery on the oil-burning steam turbines, or maintaining the fuel pumps and fuel delivery system on the diesel powered vessels...

This author was the first family member in over 70 years to realize his possible promotion, as he was reluctant to speak at all of his Navy service, and he never spoke of the new rate after returning home...It should also be noted that his gravemarker identifies him as MoMM2c (Motor Machinist Mate 2nd Class), leaving unexplained how, when or if his promotion to F1/C took place, and whether the rate change became permanent...

Like many veterans of that, and other wars before and since, he preferred to put memories of war behind him, and concentrate on either the future, or present day occurrences, or even more pleasant memories from pre-war days...It is my guess that the promotion meant little to him, as he was a Reservist with no intention of making the Navy his career following his release from wartime service...The uprate would have meant a very few dollars extra for a single sailor with no place to spend it on the wide, blue sea...In addition, he knew that, for him, it was only a temporary rate hike, and the joy of having so far survived a harrowing experience in unfriendly seas probably pushed it to the rear of his priorities...

Only the envelope remains from this letter, but much can be learned even from it...Postal markings from this or any other era are collectible to some, and are valued for their uniqueness, as well as their place in history...The franking on this particular cover is marked not with a glued-on stamp, but embossed on the envelope as "US Postage Via Air Mail," and features a depiction of the type of single-engine high-wing aircraft such as that flown by Charles Lindbergh and other airmail pioneers...It's marked at 6¢ which was the US Postal airmail concession rate for servicepersons during WWII, and available for purchase as stationery in military post offices, or post and base exchanges...

Even the addition of the words "Air Mail" have significance in history as the term was approved by the Universal Postal Union Congress, an international group sanctioned by the members' own nations..."Air Mail" was approved as the wording to differentiate it from surface-bound (and slower) mail service in the English speaking countries of the world...At this time, the whining French, desirous of any look-at-me attention, insisted on the words "Par Avion" on any air-delivered mail...This was a time between world conflicts, and since no other nation was currently engaged in saving France from another beatdown by a bullying nation, it was decided to allow this concession for international air mail, hence the reason "Par Avion" is found on many older envelopes...

The cancellation is marked with the generic US Navy postal stamping without reference to FPO number, and dated June 4, 1945, which would be toward the end of the Pacific War, but still in the time period of some of the heaviest fighting, as the Japanese had been forced back to their home islands, and knew invasion by the Allied forces was imminent...On that date, the US Marines 6th Division occupied Oroku Peninsula on the Japanese island of Okinawa, near the end of what was referred to afterward by the surviving Japanese population as the "violent rain of steel"...This 82 day battle lasted from April 1, 1945 to June 22, 1945, during some of the heaviest and most desperate defensive action seen yet by the Japanese...

If APc-48 was active in those waters it could have had a support mission in Operation Ten-Go, in which the JIN finally committed its largest and most feared weapon, the huge battleship Yamato, to combat, resulting in its sinking before it ever got near Okinawa...The Japanese fuel reserves being nearly exhausted, the plan was to have the Yamato beach itself on the Okinawa coast, and provide support fire with its huge 18" rifles for the Japanese Army's infantry...

The JIN Command committed the Yamato, the cruiser Yahagi, and eight destroyers, almost the entire remaining surface strength of the Combined Fleet, together with Kamikaze units to battle to the death the invading Allied forces...Against them Admiral Spruance assigned six US Navy battleships, seven cruisers, and 21 destroyers as a contingency force to intercept the JIN battle group after learning of the impending mission from decoding of Japanese messages...The battle never occurred as American dive bombers and torpedo planes from Admiral Mark Mitscher's Fast Carrier Attack Fleet found and engaged the Japanese fleet, sending the Yamato to the bottom of the sea, at the cost of ten American aircraft and 12 lives...The JIN, in addition to the Yamato itself, lost all of 2,488 experienced combat crewmen and officers, not even counting the other ships and crews sunk...Less than 300 Japanese sailors survived the Yamato's destruction...

APc-48 would have been far too small to engage any of these warships, and its only role, if any, would have been rescue of downed flyers, quick repair at sea for a crippled warship, or relay of signals from ship to ship...If present for support duty, it would have stood by with a flotilla of gunboats, other transports and a destroyer escort for fast dispatch for repair or rescue, all at a distance from which the battle might have been heard, but not seen...

The mailing address and return address on the envelope are of particular interest, and revealing in themselves...Neither is handwritten, but rather typed...At this late date, the recipient cannot remember whether the originally enclosed letter was handwritten or typed, and it is now lost to time...It would have been composed and written before the postmarked date, as military mail was passed and handed off more than once before it reached a Fleet Post Office (FPO) located on one of the larger ships where it would have been stamped...

This is significant in that during this time in American history, many young men growing up in the rural areas in the Depression era were limited in the skills they could pick up in the formal education opportunities of the time...Many, such as my uncle, and his siblings, often worked the fields when the public schools were open, and may have missed many opportunities to improve their handwriting, as well as their grammar and composition...However, having parents who were very well aware of the importance of education in their future lives, he and his siblings had no problem with either reading or writing in the English language, as evidenced by the many letters written back and forth, found stashed away by my mother...

In his heavily researched and annotated historical account of a particular sortie by a small Navy gunboat, "The Heart of Hell," author Mitch Weiss went into considerable detail concerning letter writing and mail delivery between Navy personnel and those at home...He explained that equipment space was very limited on any naval vessel, and especially so on the smaller Landing Craft.Infantry (LCI) ships that he wrote of, and even more so on the smaller APc's...

The LCI's were slightly larger, and minimally more spacious that the APc's, but the accommodations would have been similar in each...Any equipment taken on board only adds to the ship's deadweight, and decreases the availability for additional needed rations, clothing, medical supplies, spare parts, fuel or ammunition...Therefore, the only typewriter on board these craft would have been assigned to the care of the ship's Signalman, who was responsible for decoding and typing all incoming signal and radio messages for action by the ship's officers...The Signalman was one of the busiest of all crewmen as he was required to decipher and interpret all incoming messages, whether by radio, Morse or semaphore flags, transferring them to paper and routing them to the proper officer...These duties were expected to be performed regardless of time of day, sea conditions, weather considerations or in combat or not...But during lulls in action, they often sought extra activity, if for no other reason than to pass time during lulls in action...

The Signalman also was able to garner favor, and sometimes a little pocket change, from the enlisted personnel aboard who had limited handwriting ability, and needed their outgoing mail typed for easier reading by the recipients...During idle time, the Signalman was usually kept busy transferring thought to paper for many of the crewmembers, and thus was generally thought highly of by the crew...Following the completion of any letters, they were placed in the addressed envelopes, and handed off unsealed to the shipboard military censor...This duty was almost always assigned to a junior officer who was tasked with reading all outgoing mail, and razoring out any mention of combat activity, new assignments or any identifying wordage concerning missions which might have been of value to the enemy...

The often quoted war adage, "loose lips sink ships" was not only catchy, but a deadly reminder that the enemy could be found on the home front as well as across battle lines on the war front...Many eyes and ears were open for the slightest hint of where or when a single soldier or sailor had been, or was expected to be shortly...These were not necessarily dedicated enemy agents, but at times paid informants, reimbursed in money or goods for the transference of military intelligence gathered from well-meaning, but clueless braggarts...

Other gatherers may have had family members in these foreign enemy countries, whose safety may have depended on the passing of any gathered information...Even others may have only wanted to brag of what they know, looking for recognition in their otherwise dull existences...Regardless of the circumstances of how the information was passed, it was vital to the nation's interest to use every means by which to prevent tipping off the enemy...Thus was the reason for assigning a censor to outgoing mail...

Following this often unpleasant, but necessary part of his duty, the censor then placed the letter in the pre-addressed envelope, sealed it, and added it to the outgoing mail...To indicate to other FPO handlers that procedure had been followed according to regulation, he then stamped the envelope with his censor stamp...In the case of this particular envelope the stamp read "Passed By Naval Censor"...The stamp also contained the initials of the responsible officer, in this instance unintelligible, but resembling "RH"...It was important from that point that the addresses be legible for proper delivery, this being another desired result from the typing...On this particular envelope, numerous typographical errors and overstrikes are evident, including the misspelling of the terminal city as "Huston," instead of Houston, but nothing that would have delayed delivery...Several other handwritten letters have now become known also with the same misspelling of Houston, indicating that my uncle was deemed trustworthy enough by the Signalman to be allowed use of the treasured typewriter himself...


This single piece of mail, together with fading memories from family letters and conversations lead to the conclusion that the wartime service of Naval Reservist, William V. Johnson was mostly centered on the Small Coastal Transport, APc-48...One of the smallest of the Navy's ocean-going vessels, it was still charged with the same overall mission as every other US Navy craft afloat, to seek out and destroy a deadly, and merciless enemy bent on subjugating as much of the world's population as possible, including the United States...


Not wishing to present the officers and men of APc-48 as having participated in any combat action without having documented evidence, my conclusions are merely conjecture, and not solicitation for unearned battle citation...It is to be remembered by the reader that, until documentation can be produced which can pinpoint the service areas and duties assigned to APc-48, this author's guesswork is merely that, guesswork...But it was indeed a warship, sent with its crew in harm's way to the Pacific Theater to right an egregious wrong during World War Two...


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