REPORT OF CONVOY FSS1
1. The convoy, consisting of the following ships, departed Bizerte according to schedule, commencing at 1230, 4 Septembers DD Blankney, SCs 508, 498, 676 , 666, 639; YMS 43; LCIs 87, 319, 324, 349; Resolute, Intent (towing oil barge), YTs 165, 197, 186, 210; LCTs 218, 216, 209, 25, 20, 415, 200, 201, 33, 32, 30, 290, 413, 27, 35, 34, 125, 340, 29, 221, 152, 211, 342, 550, 624, 584, 578, 552, 15, 364, 195, 219, 244, 277; LCFs 3, 5, 8; LCGs 1, 5, 20, 6, 7; LCR 141, and two LCNs towed by YTs 197 and 210. The only interruption encountered during the departure was when a hospital ship insisted on breaking through the convoy; however, all vessels departed according to schedule and the convoy cruising disposition was formed at approximately 1615.
2. During the first night strong northwesterly winds were encountered which necessitated slowing the convoy to four knots and allowing for about ten degrees leeway going through the swept channel. The following day the convoy continued on expected courses arriving at scheduled points on time. During the night of 5 September, it was necessary to make three course changes during the dark of the moon. A northerly breeze sprang up which accelerated the expected speed of the convoy so that during a squall at the time of a change of course certain units became separated from the convoy as follows: LCTs 244, 125, 584, 364, 195, 624; LCGs 6, 7; LCFs 5, 8; YT 186; Intent (with oil barge) and Resolute.
3. The rest of the convoy arrived at Castellammare Bay at daylight and found conditions very unsatisfactory due to a strong northerly breeze which was blowing directly into the bay, and a ground swell in the anchor area which was exceedingly high making fueling at this point impossible. The YMS 43 reported that she had struck a submerged object during the night causing a hole in her hull and that immediate repairs should be effected. This vessel was ordered to Palermo to effect necessary repairs and return to the convoy. The Destroyer Blankney and two SCs were despatched to round-up the stragglers. It was decided that the convoy would probably fuel better at sea away from the ground swell, and perhaps, if necessary, find a lee off Palermo where fueling could be done throughout the night. For this reason the convoy got underway at 0800 and steamed out to sea. At the entrance of Castellammare Bay, the tug Intent with the oil barge and the YT-186 joined the convoy reporting that the tow line had parted during the night and the Destroyer Blankney reported that other vessels of the convoy were in Carini Bay. At 1230 the YMS-34 arrived with the oil tanker Empire Fay and since it was necessary to fuel as soon as possible, and as the wind had started to abate, it was decided that the long trip back into Castellammare Bay would take too much time before fueling could be commenced and that an anchorage in Carini Bay from which the stragglers had just come would be more logical. The convoy therefore put into Carini Bay with the YMS-34 making a sweep ahead. Fueling commenced at 1545. At 2000 all LCTs had been refueled, the LCGs, LCFs, and LCR stating they did not require refueling.
4. The LCT Group Commander reported at 1600 that the LCT-244 had encountered engine difficulties and had proceeded to Palermo. The
vessel previously thought to be the LCT-244 was actually an LCT sent from Palermo to pick up gravel. At 1900, the YMS-34 was despatched to Palermo to bring back the LCT-244 and if necessary make arrangements for a relief for the YMS-43. The LCTs 551 and 549, who had departed from Palermo, joined the convoy at Carini Bay.
5. The following morning the YMS-36 arrived from Palermo as relief for the YMS-43 and brought back the LCT-244. At 0600, 7 September, the convoy made preparations for getting underway. Arrangements were made for the YMS-34 to convoy the oil tanker Empire Fay and the oil barge back to Palermo. At 0700, the convoy cruising disposition was formed and a course was set to intercept the convoy route. About one hour out of Carini Bay the LCT-216 developed engine trouble caused by water in the fuel which she had taken on from the oil tanker Empire Fay, and in order to maintain the speed of the convoy the Resolute was detailed to tow the LCT-216 until repairs could be effected. At 1100 she proceeded under her own power.
6. The vessels remained in good formation throughout the day and night and arrived at the position to detach the LCTs destined for the southern task force without incidence, At the time of the detachment, at approximately 1400, 8 September, the convoy was attacked by three enemy aircraft (probably JU-88's) who attacked the convoy from a high altitude. Two bombs fell near the Blankney, one on each side, and two bombs fell on the starboard side of the LCI-87, one striking so close that it deluged the bridge with water, broke water pipes, light bulbs, fixtures, threw the mercury out of the gyro and broke spring mountings in it rendering that compass useless. The force knocked the Magnesyn Compass from the mast, threw the standard compass out of its bowl and in general left the ship in a dazed condition. However, no serious internal damage could be discovered other than a probably slight bent rudder which made steering more difficult than usual. It is believed that the bomb caused less serious damage than might have been expected inasmuch as it probably fell at an angle away from the ship so that its path in the water was away from the hull rather then towards it. The Blankney signalled that she had made a call for help. The attack lasted only a few minutes. The YMS-36 and the LCTs 15, 364, 195, 219, 244, and 277 were detached and given their position and instructions as to course, destination, and time of arrival.
7. At 1630, the convoy was again attacked by enemy aircraft. Bombs were dropped at the rear of the convoy and one plane attempted to strafe the convoy from a low altitude--approximately seventy-five feet. A call for help was sent out and the planes departed. One bomb struck alongside the LCT-624 (British) apparently exploding under the hull, breaking the vessels back and throwing a large amount of the cargo, consisting of gasoline tins, into the sea. The tug Resolute pulled alongside and took off officers and crew, all of whom had survived the explosion without injury except for minor scratches. Shortly after the crew had been taken off, fire broke out forward and quickly spread aft, and within one-half hour the vessel had sunk. The Blankney signalled that she would report the loss of LCT-624 by visual signal when she joined Convoy FSS2.
8. Sextant angles taken on the Isles of Capri and D'Ischia showed that the convoy passed one-half mile north of the turning point set for the approach disposition at 1800. A careful plot of sextant angle positions indicated there was a northerly set of approximately one-half knot an hour in this vicinity. At 1800 the destroyer Blankney departed to join Convoy FSS2, and the convoy took up the approach disposition.
9. The LCT-25 was experiencing engine difficulties and the tugs Resolute and Intent were ordered to be ready to take her in tow if it became necessary. The two LCTs astern of her were ordered to take positions ahead.
10. At approximately 2015, a low flying bomber was seen proceeding in an easterly direction, approximately two hundred feet above the water, well on the beam of the convoy. Machine gun fire from an SC or PC in that vicinity was seen to bring the plane down. Only five tracer shots were noticed before the plane caught fire. At 2030, the two LCNs were detached and proceeded on ahead to carry out their mission of establishing navigational reference points for the Southern Attack Force. At 2100, the convoy had another attack by a single bomber whose bombs exploded on the starboard side of the LCI-87 at approximately seventy-five yards. At approximately 2200, another single bomber attacked the convoy and two heavy bombs fell approximately one hundred yards on the pert beam of the LCI-87, one of them appeared to have delayed action as it exploded at an appreciable instant after the splash of the bomb was seen on the water.
11. At 0100, when just north of "QUEEN" reference vessel LCGs 6 and 7, and LCTs 549 and 551 were detached and ordered to proceed one-half mile north and await arrival of the Ranger Convoy.
12. The convoy arrived on time ana the fourth wave of LCTs and Salvage Group arrived at reference vessel "LOVE" according to schedule. From this point on the control of the vessels under the command of the Convoy Commander ceased, and were taken over by each Wave Commander.
13. For future reference the following suggestions are made with regard to handling LCT convoys:
(1) The speed advance should be estimated at about four knots since, although, these vessels can make six knots without any great difficulty, there is usually one among the large number who is having engine difficulties and cannot make the higher speed. A strong breeze from ahead will slew the convoy down to approximately three to four knots, and, if great care is not taken, the convoy will become separated.
(2) Communication is one of the great problems in handling this type of convoy, particularly where radio silence is mandatory. Improvement has been made with the installation of sets of flags aboard some of these vessels, but it is recommended that each vessel should have at least one complete set. Signals for course changes have to be
sent down the line by semaphore and as happened on one night several vessels did not receive the course changes for the night even though these signals had been sent out two hours prior to sun-set. In order to make sure that every vessel has received the signals, the convoy commander should swing around the convoy before dark and cheek the stern vessels of each column to see that night changes of course have been received. Changes of course at night present a great difficulty in handling this type of vessel, particularly where the crew is small and the usual care in standing watches is probably not as strictly carried out as are on larger vessels. It is noted that during the night vessels are apt to lag behind and in case of a squall they become separated from the convoy. If possible no changes of course at night should be made. In mixed convoys extracts from MERSIGS should be used rather than extracts from Auxiliary Signal. Book as the British are not familiar with the latter, nor are they acquainted with the significance of our flags.
(3) It is further believed that convoy commanders should have radar installed on headquarters ships in order that they can keep good tract of their charges. Dependence upon SCs and other escort craft to do this work does not seem to prove satisfactory as in the case of this convoy off the northwest tip of Sicily. The two SCs specifically charged with the duties of keeping the stragglers checked and notifying the convoy commander in case of any flagrant straggling proved to be of little assistance.
14. In general the Convoy Commander was very much pleased with the excellent cooperation shown by the LCT personnel. They did a remarkably fine piece of work in having the whole convoy, with the exception of the sunk LCT-624, arrive intact at the transport area after a rather trying experience with the weather and enemy bombers. It is felt that they deserve great credit for their determination to make the operation a success.
M. H. IMLAY
Commander, U.S. Coast Guard.