USS VESUVIUS AE 15

STORIES OF AN AMMUNITION SHIP TOLD BY HER CREWS

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AE15 USS VESUVIUS

 

 

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WWII  KOREA  VIETNAM

 

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WWII

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FLEET LOGISTICS AFLOAT 

 

WWII PACIFIC


 

Combat histories of the war in the Pacific contain stirring accounts of the fast carriers, of aerial combat, of battleships and cruiser actions and of bloody amphibious landings. Rarely mentioned, if ever, is fleet logistics support, the lifeline that made all the essentials: munitions, fuel, food, stores and repair facilities ---- readily available to the fleet

In his foreword to the book, "Beans, Bullets and Black Oil," then-secretary of the Navy, Daniel A. Kimble wrote, "Victory is won or lost in battle, but all military history shows that adequate logistic support is essential to the winning of battles.

"In World War II, logistic support of the fleet in the Pacific became a problem of such magnitude and diversity, as well as vital necessity, that all operations against Japan hinge upon it.

To support our fleet, we formed floating mobile service squadrons and other logistic support groups. These floating organizations remained near the fighting fleet, supplying food, ammunition and other necessities.

"This support enabled the fleet to keep unrelenting pressure upon the enemy by obviating the return of the fleet to home bases."

SERVICE FORCES PACIFIC

Rear Admiral William L. Calhoun was in command of Base Force Pearl Harbor, later called Service Force Pacific, at the time of the Japanese attack. In 1941, the Base Force was composed of four squadrons with 51 ships of all types assigned.

Calhoun, soon promoted to vice admiral, continued as commander of Service Force Pacific until 1945, Calhoun can be regarded as the architect of the fleet service organization that was so effective in servicing ships of the 3rd and 5th fleets.

Seventh fleet ships, "MacArthurs's Navy" and Southwest Pacific bases were supported by Service Force 7th fleet based in Australia.

By July 1945, Service Force Pacific had expanded to five service squadrons, or ServRons, with 2,930 ships of all types assigned. Personnel totaled 30,369 officers and 425,945 enlisted men, approximately one-sixth of the entire naval force at the peak of the war.

ServRon 2 included hospital ships, repair ships and various tugs.

ServRon 6 had the duty of remaining constantly near the strike forces as they moved steadily toward Japan.

ServRon 8 hauled supplies from the West Coast ports to the forward areas where ServRon 10 (which had absorbed ServRon 4) took over, providing fleet support in the anchorages.

ServRon 12, nicknamed "Harbor Stretchers," was responsible for increasing depths in channels and harbors where the fleet would anchor.

FLEET LOGISTIC SUPPORT CHAIN

Established 5 December 1944, ServRon 6 was assigned the task of providing at-sea support to the 3rd and 5th fleets during specific operations.

Commanded by Rear Admiral Donald B. Beary in USS Detroit (CL-8), ServRon 6 was the first underway replenishment group to include ammunition (AE) and stores (AK and AF) ships along with fleet tankers (AOs). In addition, the squadron had its own protective screen of some 20 destroyers, destroyer escorts and escort aircraft carriers.

Fleet tankers had always accompanied strike forces and the concept of at-sea replenishment was not new, however, transferring munitions and stores while underway had never before been required. When strike forces depleted their stores or munitions, they would return to an anchorage or base.

The concept of replenishing warships with munitions and stores while underway was a product of American ingenuity. This daring and innovative concept, never before attempted by any navy, was born of the need to provide the fleet with the ability to maintain an aggressive, around-the-clock offensive against Japan.

On paper, the scheme was simple: position two ships on a parallel course 50 feet apart, match their speeds, rig lines between ships for cargo transfer and commence replenishment operations.

However, in actual practice, the task became a bit more complicated when sea state, mismatch of ship size and maneuvering ability. and most important, synchronizing the operations of two winch operators to hoist cargo out of the hold and transfer it across 50 feet of open water, are added.

In the replenishment area, the fleet tankers generally formed the first service line, steaming abreast, at about 1,500 to 2,000 yards apart. Ammunition and stores ships then took their positions in the second service line, approximately 2,000 yards astern of the line of tankers. Warships would approach from astern, taking position abreast of the AE, AF or AK. Position lines were put over and secured, cargo winch lines rigged and a communications link established between the two bridges.

The replenishing ship would steam at 8 to 10 knots with the receiving ship keeping station on her. Normal transfer was over the port side, and only one large ship could be serviced at a time. Smaller ships were serviced to starboard, and it was not unusual to service two ships simultaneously. Of all the difficulties of replenishment operations while underway, transferring munitions was by far the most dangerous. Handling of munitions requires the utmost care at all times, but especially when the transfer is made between two ships while underway. Loaded with thousands of tons of live munitions, the AEs were literally floating bombs.

Five ammunition ships were assigned to ServRon 6: The USS Lassen (AE 3), USS Shasta (AE 6), USS Mauna Loa (AE 8), USS Wrangell (AE 12) and USS Vesuvius (AE 15). Even though the Vesuvius was the last Navy AE to arrive in the war zone, her crew distinguished itself during underway re-arming operations.

Commanded by Commander Flavius J. George (USNR), the Vesuvius was commissioned in January 1945 and joined the ServRon 6 at Ulithi Atoll in April. During her brief war service the Vesuvius and her crew successfully completed 121 at-sea re-arming operations in enemy waters, setting a record for total tonnage transferred while underway. That has not been equaled to this day.

RE-ARMING AT IWO JIMA

ServRon 6 AEs first saw action during the Iwo Jima campaign. On 21 February 1945, the Shasta demonstrated the feasibility of transferring munitions while underway, providing the fleet carriers Hornet with 32 tons of bombs in two hours, Bennington with 18.2 tons in one hour and Wasp with 14.2 tons, also, in one hour.

The fast carrier force was replenished again on 23 and 27 February and later on 3 March, before the AEs returned to Ulithi.

Both the USS Shasta and USS Wrangell returned to Iwo Jima two days after D-Day to re-arm the bombardment vessels.

OKINAWA CAMPAIGN

Re-arming support during the Okinawa campaign was principally made to the 5th fleet carriers. From 22 March to 27 May 1945 the five AEs, in a total of 106 days of at-sea re-arming operations, delivered 15,159 tons or a daily average of 143 tons. Regardless of the difficulties, the concept of rearming warships at sea had been proven.

As an example of the intense pressure under which the service squadron ships and their crews operated was the complicated and challenging station keeping situation that came about while the Vesuvius was re-arming the USS Bennington (CV-20 and USS Blue (DD 774).

The Bennington was to port with Blue to starboard. Outboard of Blue, a second destroyer was passing mail to Blue and to a third destroyer on her starboard. There were five ships in line, attached to one another, steaming at 10 knots.

Bennington had launched a CAP of fighter planes and the launches requires all five ships to maneuver and come about into the wind while Vesuvius continued re-arming operations.

This was a challenge in station-keeping that, to my knowledge, has never been duplicated.

However, it would not have been fair to say that re-arming operations were all work. Whenever a carrier was alongside, one could always count on being entertained by the ship's band and usually, the last cargo net that was returned before the ships disengaged would be loaded with tins of ice cream for that evenings well-earned dessert.

A second deployment to waters off Okinawa was cut short by the 4-7 June typhoon that battered the 5th fleet, halting all active combat operations.

The 5th fleet and ServRon 6 were trapped when the typhoon veered to the east leaving no choice but to head directly into the eye of the typhoon. Wind-gusts of more than 110 miles were reported with 80 - to 100- foot waves. Fortunately, all ships survived with minor damage.

3RD FLEET OPERATIONS OFF JAPAN

The full value of underway replenishment was demonstrated during 3rd Fleet operations off the coast of Japan, 20 July - 6 August 1945.

Back home, newscasters reported that the 3rd Fleet was operating under a strict news blackout and its location was a carefully guarded military secret. The fleet was, in fact, on a round-robin, round-the-clock offensive, bombing and shelling the Japanese home islands of Hokkaido and Honshu.

Meanwhile, ServRon 6 was steaming barely a day's journey off-shore, ready and waiting to satisfy the insatiable warships with fuel, stores and munitions, enabling the fleet to continue their battering offensive against the Japanese homeland. Crews worked long, hard hours, transferring stores and ordinance that was measured in hundreds of tons.

ON BOARD THE VESUVIUS

Very early on 20 July, 3rd Fleet warships were on the horizon, hungry for shells, bombs and rockets. Operations commenced at 0530, with the light carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL 30) alongside. Loading operations continued uninterrupted until 1945 hours. After 14 long hours of back-breaking labor, the cargo handlers had transferred a staggering 569.4 tons of munitions.

With only six hours of rest, the fleet was back at 0350 the next morning. Re-arming operations commenced at 0500 with Lexington (CV 16) alongside. This day the whole crew pitched in to handle cargo. Bridge and engine room personnel coming off watch voluntarily relieved cargo handlers so they could grab a few hours of rest. When operations ceased 14 hours later, the holds were lighter by another 533.4 tons.

On the third day, the cargo handlers had to be literally dragged from their bunks. Aching muscles and near exhaustion made rising almost impossible. It was a case of the mind being willing, but the flesh being too weak to respond. Somehow the men rallied to the task, working another 12-hour day dispensing an additional 439 tons of munitions.

In 40 hours of grueling back-breaking labor, over a three-day period, the crew of the Vesuvius had successfully conducted 18 re-arming operations, transferring an astonishing 1,541.8 tons of munitions.

The effectiveness of ServRon 6 ships in servicing the 5th Fleet is reflected in the message received from Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey:

"Well done to all hands in Service Squadron Six for passing more beans, bombs, bogies and bug juice than has ever been done before in such a short time.

"Your untiring efforts have only been equaled by Task Force 38's enthusiasm in receiving them. This 'Big Blue Team" could not possibly continue without your well-planned operation.

"You boys have a direct hand in every bomb that we are able to drop on the Nips."

By the time the Vesuvius left the replenishment area, she had steamed for 14 days off Japan, her crew had completed 38 successful re-arming operations in seven days and had transferred 2,245.4 tons of munitions.

STAND DOWN

On 2 August 1945, ServRon 6 left the replenishment area en-route to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. The squadron ships were at anchor in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, replenishing their empty holds in preparation for the next deployment.

ServRon 6 had completed their secret at-sea replenishment task quietly and efficiently, their contribution to victory known only to the crews of the 3rd Fleet the squadron had replenished.

The Navy lost only one ammunition ship in the Pacific. On 10 November 1944, while at anchor at Manus Island, Admiralty Islands, the USS Mount Hood (AE-11) mysteriously exploded and disintegrated with a loss of all hands except two mail clerks and a boat crew who were ashore.

On 12 January 1945 while anchored at Ulithi, the USS Mazana (AE 9) sustained severe hull damage below the water line when a Japanese torpedo or midget sub exploded off her port side. Though repaired at Ulithi, Mazana was out of action for the coming months.

EPILOGUE

The end of the war did not diminish the need for logistic support. The heavy demand for munitions was replaced with increased demands for base supplies, stores, provisions and repairs. While fleet warships returned home, the ships and men of Service Force Pacific remained overseas to continue their job supplying the occupation forces.

When the ships of Service Force Pacific did return home months later, their arrivals went mostly unnoticed --no "Welcome Home" banners, no fanfare, no welcoming crowds. Except for their Navy hull markings, they looked just like any other merchant ship returning to port.


Mark Matyas,Sonarman,1st Class Petty Officer

 

 Mark Matyas' article above appeared in

MILITARY MAGAZINE 

The cover contains Vesuvius crew members.

Alan Moore, one of the crew members on the cover,

submitted both the article and photo.

 

 

WWII BOOK

 
FORWARD


NAVY DAY OCTOBER 27,1945 

 

Less than a year age, as green and inexperienced a crew as ever manned a Navy shoved off from New York to join the Pacific Fleet.

Due to the grim necessity of war, no time "was available to familiarize ourselves with the new technique of Re-Arming at Sea before we found ourselves "on the line" in support of the Okinawa invasi0n. But, while experience in transferring ammunition was lacking, the will to learn and excel was present and in short order we became an efficient and essential unit of the greatest Navy in history.

That the Vesuvius not only did its job but did it in an outstanding manner is an accomplishment for which every man aboard can feel justly proud. In all sincerity, I have never seen better team-work and spirit, or a crew I would be prouder to command.
     
In the lively account of our operations that follows, 'Our ''historians," Chief Quartermaster Gregory Haran, U.S.N.R., and Chief Yeoman John Segedin, U.S.N.R., imbue the Vesuvius with a definite personality, something all good ships, have

      She will remain a very real person to each of us until the day arrives when we no longer enjoy recounting our exploits in The War. And old salts being old salts, this will not come to pass for many, many, years.


  F. J. GEORGE, Commander, USNR.,

Commanding, USS. VESUVIUS (AE-15).

 

READ THE ENTIRE 20 PAGE BOOK AT,

WWII BOOK

 

VIEW THE PHOTO SECTION AT,  

WWII BOOK PHOTOS

 

VIEW WORLD WAR II SERVICE

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UNDERWAY REARMING OPERATIONS

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KOREAN CONFLICT

KOREAN CONFLICT 

LOG

 

 

November 15, 1951, USS Vesuvius was re-commissioned from lay-up in Orange Texas and sailed to Korea via Japan. The ship sailed from Inchon on the West Coast of Songjin on East Coast through mine field waters, Typhoons and Migs above Wonsan

 

June, 1952, rearmed 48 ships: CL’s, DD’s, MSO’s, LST’s and DE’s. The USS Buck DD-761 takes hits with 2 casualties.

 

June, 26, Ulsan Air Base to off loaded bombs, rockets, napalm, and other am­munition estimated at 180 tons in four barges. That Sunday at noon all hell broke loose. The place blew up and rail cars and barges went flying in the air. G.Q was sounded. We maimed our guns and steamed out of the stream pulling up anchor and dragging our motor whale boat still secured to the boom. Loaded eight North Korean prisoners under guard and steamed to Po-Hang overnight with all our deck cargo lights on so know U.S. ships would fire on us. At Po-Hang we off loaded the Koreans to an Army unit.

 

July, 1952, rearmed 31 ships.

 

July, 11, while steaming abeam of the USS Iowa BB­61at Wonsan she opened fire with her 16” guns we got the full shock wave from the blast.

 

August, 1952, we rearmed 50 ships The USS Thompson DMS-38 takes hits at Songlin North Korea.

 

September, 1952, reamed 40 ships. The USS Sarai an ocean tug hits a mine and sinks in the area of Wonsan. USS Barton DD 722 hits a mine amidships &. USS Cunningham DD752 was hit.

 

October, 1952, we rearmed 46 ships.

 

October, 14, while rearming the USS Toledo CA-133 they sounded G.Q. We had an emer­gency breakaway and manned our guns and steamed flank speed away from every­one. Word was that 4 MIGS were heading our way.

 

October, USS Toledo CA-133 takes hits (2KIA)

 

October l8, plane shot down in our area. We looked for the pilot but no luck. USS Lewis DDE-535 hit.

 

October22, a mine was sighted in our area.

 

November, 1952, rearmed 42 ships head­ing to Chongjin and Songjin North Korea to return. Hit very bad snow storm and heavy seas. Rearming called off Loose 2,000, 1,000 and 500 lb bombs on deck and in holds because they were banging into the sides of the ship.

 

December 1952, departed Japan for the States to pick up a TOP Secret Cargo.

 

April, 1953, returned to Japan and Korea loaded with 2,000 extra 3” rockets and 2,000, 1,000 and 500 pound bombs and napalm for Po-Hang Air Base and Pusan.

 

May, 1953, rearmed 28 ships, mostly carriers and CA’s, DD’s day and night and early morning & heavy air strikes in Woman and up North. Lots of ships taking hits from shore Batteries from Wonsan to Songjin North Korea.

 

June,, 1953, rearmed 32 ships. Lots of nights rearming and not much sleep. Emergency bomb run at Po-Hang.

 

July, 1953, reamed 38 ships and was sent to P0-Hang to pick up damaged helicopter which was loaded on main deck at # 5 hold.

 

July 27, 1953, Korean Truce signed. We were almost inside Woman Har­bor making a turn to head out to sea. And while backing down and going ahead. We just picked up headway and a mine popped up aft of our stern. What a hell of a way for us to end the war. It was a nice sunny day anyway!

 

Our CO, M.K.Clementson received the Bronze Star Medal from Vice Adm. J. J. Clark.

 

September 23, 1953 Vesuvius is now CTF-92 and on September27 the Vesuvius is now COMSIRDlV 31 with a two star Admiral on board.

 

October, 1953, we steam off South and in December head back to the States

 

April, 1954, through August 1954, we headed back and forth from Japan to Korea for rearming south of Pusan and Po-Hang

 

THIS LOG WAS KEPT BY JOSEPH (SANDY) SANPHILIPO, BOATSWAIN MATE SEAMAN

 

SANDY ALSO CONTRIBUTED THESE            

 

COMMENDATIONS

 

 

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VIETNAM

VIETNAM WAR

 

    My hats off to all the valiant men who served aboard the Vesuvius during her involvement in three major wars.  I guess WWII was a war, Korea was a conflict turned war and then there is Vietnam.  So many of the men and women who served there came back to an isolated society.  Even today many still prefer to keep their service and participation secret.

 

    The last two tales I have to relate I will roll into one and let them rest wherever they lay.

    One of my duties as Captains driver was to pick up AWOL's, and deliver some to the brig at Treasure Island when we were stateside.  Dubious tasks in either case.  Once we had a sailor go on leave when we returned to Port Chicago and while home, he was killed in a car accident.  After his personal effects were gather and placed in his sea-bag my job was to take them to the Oakland Supply Depot and turn them over to the military authorities who were responsible for returning his items to his family.

 

    As I reached my location I took the sea-bag over my arm and walked into this hangar like building.  In this dimly lit building I saw 6 men working at 3 long tables sorting personal belongings.  Perhaps I was naive but I asked them what they were doing.  The gentleman in charge explained they were gathering the last effects of MIA's and killed servicemen to be sent home.  If I'm lying I'm dying.....in racks as high as 20 feet and as long as a 100 I estimated there had to be at least 5,000 mixed duffel and sea-bags stacked one on top of another awaiting disposal.  On the table top in front of me was a photo of a young woman and child.  Another table held a photo of what appeared to be parents.  My heart sank as it hit me like a ton of bricks just what this "war" was costing us.  Only after having seen the recent photos of the flag draped coffins in the aircraft in Iraq did it dawn on me to tell this.  Here before my eyes! at the time were the final remains of men of honor who died serving our country.

                                                                                                                                 

    The first greeting I received as I left the gate in Port Chicago in California to come home was an upturned finger of a hippie and the comment "baby killer."  Sure I knew our country was divided but it hurt me thinking I had done what my country wanted and this was my thanks.  I boarded a train in San Francisco to return to Emporia, Kansas in my dress blue uniform with ribbons proudly attached.  I couldn't find sleep on the Santa Fe Chief as we crossed the mountains and plains and I remember our 2AM arrival in Dodge City, Kansas while a freezing drizzle fell.  I was sitting just behind the baggage car as the train came to a halt.  No one was on the platform as the steam rose and ice covered the sign on the depot.  I heard sounds of the doors opening in the car just ahead of us and watched in silent horror as a flag draped coffin was rolled with a shove.  It hit a stanchion and shuddered to a halt as the ice started to form on the flag.  And no one was there to greet their son home.  A tear rolled down my cheek as I realized there wasn't a thing I could do.  37 years later I remember that day as if it was yesterday.

 

May God prevent Iraq from becoming another Vietnam with 58,000 lives lost!!!!

 

 ROGER KORTH, STOREKEEPER, 3rd CLASS PETTY OFFICER, APRIL 24, 2004

 

 

 

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COMMENDATIONS

 

 JAMES STRINGFELLOW 1st CLASS P.O.

BOATSWAIN MATE, "1st" DIV

CONTRIBUTED THIS ARTICLE

 

STARS AND STRIPES

 

 

BREMERNTON SUN NEWS

 

LARRY HIGHTOWER, 2ND CLASS

BOILERMAN, "B" DIV.

CONTRIBUTED THIS ARTICLE

 

 

SHIP'S ITINERARY 

 

JAMES MC FADDEN, 2ND CLASS

 

MACHINIST MATE 

 

 CONTRIBUTED THIS ARTICLE

      

 

 

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