Official Facts About the Chase
The USS Samuel Chase, Commanding Officer, Commander Roger C. Heimer, was attached to the command of the Commander U.S. Amphibious Force, Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Jr., USN, who had his headquarters aboard the ship.
CHASE PROCEEDS On July 6, at 1657, the Chase, moored since July 1, at Bassin de Vieux, Algiers, combat loaded, started heaving around to take position in cruising disposition 1 for NCF1 convoy proceeding in accordance with ComAmphForNAW Operation Order 2-43 in Operation "HUSKY"--the invasion of the Italian Island of Sicily on "D" Day, July 10, at "H" hour 0245. Aboard at the time of sailing were 157 officers of the U. S. Army and U.S. Navy and 1102 enlisted personnel of both services who would be landed at our objective.
UNITS IN TRANSPORT GROUP Other units in the Transport Group (81.2) were; Section (81.2.1), with Captain Harwood, USCG, aboard the Dickman, HMS Prince Leopold, and HMS Prince Charles; Section (81.2.2) with Captain Edgar, ComdrTransDivThree in the Barnett, with the Lyon, Oberon, and Monrovia aboard which was the Commander of the Western Naval Task Force, Vice Admiral Hewitt, USN; and Section (81.2.3) under Captain Cierdorff aboard the Stanton, with the Thurston, Betelgeuse, and Chase.
SMALL CRAFT AND OTHERS Additionally there were the LST Group (81.3) of fifteen LST's under Commander Wright; the LCI Group (81.14) of twenty LCI's under Captain Leppert; the Support Group (61.5) under Captain Thebaud in the Boise, with the Savannah. The screen under Captain Madeira comprised the Nelson (F), McLanahan, Murphy, Glennon, Maddox, Shubrick, Gherardi, Butler, Herndon, Jeffers, Dallas, Bernadou and Cole. The Control Group (81.7) under Lt. Comdr. Lowther; the Salvage Group (81.9) under Lieutenant Huff; the Sweeper Group (81.6) under Lt. Comdr. Karris; and the Reserve transports (80.6.1) the Orizaba and Chateau Thierry under Captain Reed.
APPROACH IS BEGUN On July 9, at 1912, after zigzagging at various speeds, the convoy began an approach disposition. The approach disposition was led by the Savannah and then the ships in the order in which they would face the beaches. Ahead of the Chase was the Lyon, while astern followed the Betelgeuse, Thurston, and Stanton.
PARATROOPS FLY OVERHEAD -- TO TAKE AIRFIELD While in the approach formation heading toward Sicily, flares were observed dead ahead, at about 2230, approximately 25 miles away. Radar reported IFF reception from planes in this area. Following this, ack-ack fire and bomb bursts were observed. The bombing caused fires inland which silhouetted the outer shore line. At midnight, while the Chase was at General Quarters, planes carrying previously arranged recognition lights passed low on her port side. These planes were bearing paratroops which were to take Ponte Olivio airfield, five and one-half miles to the north of Gela.
BOATS LOWERED The Chase, arrived in the "Dime" Transport area at 0037, July 10, stopped engines, and after setting Condition Four, lowered her boats. Twenty-one boats of the first three boat divisions were lowered by 0115, eight scheduled to the Thurston and thirteen to the Stanton. Several of the Chase boats were to land with the fourth wave of these two ships, while the balance were delayed due to the condition of the sea and other difficulties. As a result, they were forced to proceed without a control vessel to the beach. The wave commanders recorded their waves landing on Green-2 at 0420 and 0515. The transports in the area were illuminated several times by searchlight prior to H hour or 0245. Heavy gunfire was observed at H hour and after, including machine-gun fire and medium artillery, most of it being concentrated near Gela. Shortly after H hour, the Savannah and the Boise combined to knock out at least one searchlight. The remainder of the Chase boats were placed in the water at 0430 and the unloading of Army personnel and equipment was begun. The unloading was continued as boats became available on their return from the beach.
ENEMY PLANES SINK SHIP At 0430, enemy planes began dropping light bombs and flares in the transport area. The USS Maddox was sunk at this time far out in the patrolling area, its commander and executive officer being reported missing. At 0545, friendly planes began patrolling the area. It was reported that the Maddox had been hit by a dive bomber. The Chase maintained its position in the transport area while unloading. By 0848 the disembarkation of U.S. Army officers and enlisted men and beach party -- who were not members of vehicles or unloading crews -- had been completed.
ENEMY PLANES STRAFE BEACH During the late morning and early afternoon, the two U.S. cruisers and the monitor HMS Abercrombie shelled shore installations. At 1345 and again at about 1530, FW190's and Me109's dropped light bombs and strafed the beach in "Tip and Run" raids coming from low and to the NW of Gela, attacking and then shooting away close to the hills. One LST was hit in another raid at 1835 and burned continuously during the night. It had been beached to unload equipment but had not made rapid progress. Its ammunition, exploding while burning endangered small boats and their personnel at the beach while they were unloading.
OUR PLANES ENDANGERED Friendly craft patrolled the skies till dusk, but drew much anti-aircraft fire from 2000 to dark from LCI's, LST's, and from Shore Installations. At about 2210, a dive glide bomber dropped a string of five 50# bombs from bow to stern of the Chase and was away before a shot could be fired. The last of the stick was 50 feet away from the starboard side of the fantail.
GLUT OF SUPPLIES ON BEACH -- OFFER TARGET By 0130 on the morning of July 11, there was a glut of supplies on the beach, necessitating Chase boats 22 of them -- to tie up alongside loaded until the beach was cleared, at 0600. Our boats crews were being forced to unload their own boats at the beach because there were no members of the shore party establishment to assist them, and apparently none to make proper disposition of supplies. Considerable delay was likewise caused by the beaches being mined forcing boats to concentrate their landing at only two of the beaches. Such concentration of supplies consequently offered a good target for divebombers and for strafing.
UNLOADING UNDER FIRE At 0655, four JU88's flew over the transport area, dropping sticks of bombs in a medium level attack. The nearest of these to the Chase was 75 yards off the port quarter. The USS Barnett was hit by a skip bomb which ended up in her partially unloaded No. 1 hold. A fire was started which was rapidly brought under control. Several casualties resulted.
NAVAL GUNS BOMBARD SHORE All during the morning of July 11, the cruisers, and at times U.S. destroyers, bombarded shore targets. It was understood that of an assault force of 60 Axis tanks, the naval gunfire accounted for 43. This bombardment kept up until the LST's could unload their tanks and other vehicles via pontoon piers. LST's and reserve LST's of the "Dime" attack force were unloaded by 2400 of July 11. On the morning of the 11th, at 0745, warning had been received that Axis planes were headed for the area, so the Chase got underway preparatory to maneuvering. However, information was received that Allied planes had intercepted the enemy mission and turned it back. So the' Chase anchored again. That afternoon, at 1450, a JU88 that was on reconnaissance at very high altitude, was fired upon. And at 1547, General Quarters was sounded when a flight of thirteen JU88's flew over the transport area, without radar warning, and dropped bombs in a medium level attack, One 10,000-ton liberty ship, with its cargo still intact, was hit abaft the foremast. A fire started and was not brought under control so the ship was abandoned at 1610. All available boats were despatched to pick up survivors of that vessel, the SS Robert Rowan. At 1645, four other JU88's dropped bombs about a mile to the north of the transport area. At 1702, the ROWAN exploded with terrific force and concussion, flame rising in a huge mass several hundred feet high and dense black smoke at least a thousand feet into the air. The oil then caught fire and burned fiercely, feeding a continual column of smoke into the air. This spread like a ceiling over the transport
area. The remaining ammunition continued to explode as the ship burned, leaving the mast and part of the superstructure above water. Then the destroyer McLanahan, in an effort to hasten the flames, began to fire into the bulk at 1915. A lone JU88 chose this time to come over the area but on being taken under fire reversed its course and left only to be engaged by Spitfires. At 2130, the Chase began heaving around and got underway. As dark closed in, enemy planes began dropping flares, which were followed by light bombs dropped by dive-bombing and low-flying planes. The combined flares and the still blazing liberty ship silhouetted the ships in the area. Presumably, the transports were the chief targets, for three sticks of bombs were observed to drop close to the Chase, the closest being 75 yards astern. At least one of the planes was identified as a ME110 when seen against the fire. One stick of bombs was right in line with the Boise but short and astern by 25 yards. A near miss on the Orizaba caused her to take water.
"CHASE" UNLOADED FOR TWO DAYS The Chase started unloading at 0430 on July 10, and completed unloading at 0445 on July 12th. All the Chase cargo was unloaded by her boats in about 247 trips, in addition to two trips by LCT's and 21 trips by DUKWs. Between 2330 on July 11, and 0545 on July 12, the small craft unloaded for transfer from the Chase to the Army, twenty-six tons of flour. "During the unloading period," the official report states, "we unloaded 18 trips for the Oberon and several LCI's. Additional unloading was stopped for four hours on the morning of July 11, at the request of the beach-master, due to the fact that it was necessary to clear the beach."
CRAFT LOST AND SALVAGED On the first day the Chase lost one LCVP, even though during most of this time the cargo was removed by her own boats crews while at the beach. During the entire operation only five boats were lost. On the other hand, thirty-one boats were salvaged by the Chase crew in the specially equipped salvage boat (a converted LCM). Boats in need of repair were brought aboard immediately on their return and after repair again placed in the water. LCVP's from LST's were likewise repaired and serviced. Refueling was done from either side as boats were free, thus keeping tanks practically full.
CASUALTIES BROUGHT ABOARD Beginning at dawn of D day, the boats began bringing back wounded from the beach. As such boats came back they were hoisted to the rail and there the hospital corpsmen took the casualties to the sick bay for treatment. Boats were then lowered to continue unloading.
AN ME109 SHOT DOWN At 1740 on July 12, and again at 1745, an ME109 flew low into the transport area (at about deck level), headed into the beach, there dropping light bombs. On the second trip he was shot down, skidding and bursting into flames on the beach.
AIR BATTLES IN THREE DAYS Actually enemy planes were over the transport area for a very little while during the three days, offering few targets. Total ammunition expended was 100 rounds of 3"/50, 330 rounds of 40MM, and 2000 rounds of 20MM. In locating aircraft, the proximity to shore for SO radar and the drifting of the ship made it difficult to pick up aircraft echoes as against land echoes. As for IFF, this device did not work so well as it might have, since few of the friendly aircraft -- fighters particularly -- were so equipped. CINCMED D/T 111654 reported that 31 enemy aircraft were shot down by sorties flown from Malta, while Flying Fortresses did heavy damage at Catania and airdromes.
CONGRATULATIONS FROM CHIEFS In his 141000 of July, ComEightFleet, addressed ComAmphForNaw, sayings "General Eisenhower desires me to express his sincere congratulations and deep appreciation of the splendid manner in which the operation carried out." ComPhibNaw in his 141300 July, said to ComTransDivThree and the ships in his command: "I gratefully commend you, your commanding officers, officers and men for outstanding achievements in the attack on Sicily. The success and spread of your operations amply demonstrated fine leadership, sound organization and training, and loyal performance of duty by all hands."
"WELL DONE. CARRY ON." ComEightFleet,, in his 141541B of July, said to all ships and units of the Western Task Force: "Due to careful planning excellent seamanship, gunfire and engineering and a high standard of proficiency and devotion to duty by all hands, the most difficult and complicated task of landing our troops on hostile shores has been successfully accomplished. Informed reports of specially meritorious acts and accomplishments have been many. I consider that all from the task force commanders to the lowest rating have performed splendidly and are deserving of the highest praise. Well done. It is now our duty to support, maintain, and build up the forces which have been landed. Carry on."
SEA CONDITIONS FAR FROM IDEAL Sea conditions were far from ideal for an amphibious operation. On the afternoon of the 9th, a strong westerly wind had been blowing, creating a choppy and heavy sea. It was not until 2000 that the sea began to lose its chip as the wind quieted down. However, swells remained which continued through three p.m. of July 10. At this time, the wind again picked up from the west, quieting down somewhat after dark. The Chase completed hoisting all boats at 1835, on July 12, and at 1837 was underway. At 0545, on July 15, the convoy began forming a single column approaching Algiers, and entered swept channel at 0600. Transferred 89 casualties to the U.S. Army Hospital Ship ACADIA, these including 6 Italian prisoners of war. Moored at Algiers at 2134, July 16. A violent explosion of ammunition occurred at 1519 near Mole Louis Billiard and involved two liberty ships. At 1700, one burning ship which had not sunk was towed clear of the dock and harbor. Towards the end of the month, the Chase was moored at Mers-el-Kebir.