Field Agencies of Op-30
ONE PRINCIPAL source of the difficulties which plagued the establishment of advance bases at Borabora, Samoa, the Fijis, and elsewhere in the South Pacific, was the improper assembly and loading of matériel at seaboard. This was probably the most striking conclusion which emerged from the informal investigation of Operation BOBCAT. The other major lesson, the necessity that improved equipment be made available, was also understood in Washington, and its implications were given effect in the programs for LIONS, CUBS, and ACORNS discussed in the previous chapter.
Responsibility for bad assembly and loading was divided. Many of the superficially sound directives of CNO were incapable of accomplishment within the time table and other circumstances which attended the sailing of the convoys. However, some of the failings might have been avoided had the personnel at seaboard been better acquainted with the special plans, policies and matériel involved in advance base movements.
In the Navy Department cognizance of advance base matters was shared by several agencies, but the primary mission of one of them, Op-30, was the making of overall policy and the coordination of the pertinent activity of the others. In the field, responsibility was similarly divided. The Bureaus directed the work of several
organizations, such as the Depots at Davisville, R.I., and Port Hueneme, Calif., which were controlled by BuDocks. Many other Naval and non-Naval agencies were also concerned. For most of them advance base work was only one element, even if an important one, in their over-loaded program. Hence, responsible officers did not have the time to master the special problems and policy, even if they possessed the requisite technical knowledge and information which, in fact, were often lacking. Often they were not able and did [sic: did not(?)] have the authority to make proper prompt decisions on questions to which an immediate answer was required. It became clear the Op-30 should have representatives in the field with primary responsibility for advance bases. Theirs would be a parallel mission of supervision and coordination.
This need was early recognized in Washington and resulted in the establishment of several field agencies. The first organizations were the Base Service Units, commonly abbreviated as BSU's. The directive which brought them into being was promulgated on 15 April 1942.
1. In order to coordinate properly the assembly of advance base material for shipment from loading ports, it is considered necessary to form units composed of personnel familiar with advanced base plans, and with expert knowledge of technical materials, for assignment to the depots. Each unit will be ... under a line officer and will be directed to report to the commandant of the district ... The function of the Base Service Unit will be to work with the Officer-in-CHarge of the advanced base depot or naval supply depot ... in an advisory capacity i order that the proper assemblage of material may be assured. The custody of, and responsibility for, the material will be retained by the officer-in-charge of the depot. It will sometimes be necessary for the Office of the Chief of
Naval Operations to communicate directly with the officers-in-charge of the base service units.
2. The base service unit will assist the officer-in-charge of the depot in inspecting for completeness the material delivered to the depot, the assembly and the preparation of it for shipment, and will assist the port director, or other officer designated as loading officer, in determining the order of loading and in planning the cargoes consistent with the availability of key items and approved plans to meet the changing requirements of activities at specified advanced bases.
The directive further specified the personnel complements of the several BSU's. While they varied slightly, they initially included, in each case, thirteen officers and approximately fifty men. The officers ranged in rank from commander to warrant and were divided among the Line, the Supply, and the Civil Engineering Corps. The enlisted men included petty officers and seamen scattered among the Seamen, Artificers, Special and Aviation Branches. A small number of both officers and men were to be taken from the complement of the advance base unit being assembled and were to accompany the material they had prepared for shipment. The BSU's were designated East, Gulf, and West Coast. The East Coast unit had its main officer at NSD, Norfolk and a branch at ABD, Davisville. The Gulf and West Coast units were smiliarly divided between New Orleans and Gulfport, Oakland and Hueneme.1
In practice, the functions performed varied with the particular BSU, but approximated those described in the foregoing directive. The variations were the result of the differing work loads, the varied organizational arrangements in the several ports, the ingenuity and force of the individual officer-in-charge, and other partly fortuitous circumstances. Since the broad character and purpose of the
units is well described in the initial directive, and an account of their operation is included in the histories of the Naval Districts in which they were situated, little further detail is required here.
Certain general conditions are, however, worthy of mention. The somewhat anomalous position, as an adjunct to, but not a part of, the NSD's, might have led to difficulties had not thoroughly harmonious relations been established in each case. The problem of official custody of naval material and authority to execute custody and shipping papers was solved by an arrangement which gave some officers duty at both the BSU and the NSD through the device of additional duty. The amount and the character of the work performed varied among the units. The WCBSU had the greatest task and thus the greatest responsibility, since it was also the most remote from Washington. In particular, it did a great deal more testing of apparatus than the other units undertook. An excellent and thorough analysis of the procedures and the accomplishment of the several BSU's may be found in the memorandum reports of inspections made by officers attached to Op-30 in November and December 1942.2
The inspection of the BSU's left no doubt that they were ably fulfilling a vast and difficult mission. The increasing scope and complexity of advance base logistics dictated, however, a rearrangement in early 1943 of the field agencies of Op-30. By this time, there was need n the West Coast in particular that a
representative possess authority as well as responsibility. On 19 February, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations signed a directive establishing the Advance Base Officers Atlantic and Pacific, and reorganized the BSU's. The officers in charge were designated as Director, Advance Base Office, Atlantic (including the Gulf), and Pacific, and their titles officially shortened into DABOA and DABOP. Their duties were well explained in a directive of 8 June which slightly modified that of 19 February:
3. The Director of each of these offices is the coastal representative of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations for all advanced base matters and is authorized to act without reference to higher authority when immediate decisions are necessary or when established policies are controlling. These officers are, in effect, desks in the Office of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, physically separated therefrom for administrative decentralization and to expedite handling within their cognizance. They will perform the following duties:
(a) Through the District Commandants direct, control, and unify the effort of the various agencies dealing with advance base matters within the several districts, so as to effectuate the proper and speedy training of personnel and assembly, inspection, and preparation of material for shipment from the various coastal loading ports to the advance bases.
(b) By means of frequent conferences and joint action unify the effort in advance base matters of all special coastal representatives whom the Bureaus ... may appoint to decentralize the control of the supply of material and personnel.
(c) Confer with Naval District Commandants, Port Directors, Service Force Sub Commanders and others as may be appropriate and necessary to insure cooperative effort in the movement of material and personnel to the advance bases.
The directive further decreed that the directors should be line officers not below the rank of Captain, instructed the incumbents to make an immediate survey of the situation and needs on each coast and to make recommendations to VCNO in accord with the general principle that
a separate unit at each port where it was required should be an activity of its district subject to the guidance of the Director, A.B.O. DABOA and DABOP were to be situated in New York and San Francisco, respectively. Finally, it was directed that the Commanding Officer of each BSU should report to the Commandant of his district and to the Director, A.B.O. by letter and should perform such duties in connection with advance base matters as the Commandant desired, including:
Familiarizing himself with the approved advance base program.
Consulting with the heads of the Naval Supply and Advance Base Depots in his locality and assisting them to the extent permitted by his limited personnel in all matters pertaining to personnel and material for advance bases.
Assisting, if requested, the Port Director, or the designated loading officer, in formulating plans for loading cargo and embarking personnel for the advance base.
Keeping the Vice Chief of Naval Operations and the Director Advance Base Office informed as to the progress of advance base assemblies and shipments.3
The differences between the directives of February and June represented a clarification of lines of authority, particularly in the relations between the Commandants and the Director, Advance Base Office and the Commanding Officers of BSU's.
The reorganization of advance base field agencies was completed by a series of directives which dealt with BSU's and their responsibilities. B;y letters signed in May and June, several new BSU's were established and some of the old ones were redesignated. There came to be units located at, and named after, Boston, New York, Norfolk, New Orleans, Oakland, Port Hueneme, and Seattle.4 Still later, Davisville, R.I.
was added and New Orleans was disestablished. The actual office of DABOA was also moved first to Washington and then, after the end of the war in Europe, to New York, where it was combined with BSU, New York.5 The specific responsibilities of the BSU's and of the Commandants of the Naval Districts were also more clearly defined.
The commandant of the district in which the advance base components are being assembled and trained is the authority responsible for the overall efficiency with which all advance base personnel and matériel are assembled checked and embarked within his district....
The supply officer in command of the Naval Supply Depot ... will be responsible to the commandant for an up-to-date inventory of the material, its identification and assembly, inspection for proper marking and packing and, when required, its inspection for completeness of assembly and test for satisfactory operating condition.
The commanding officer of a base service unit is an assistant to the commandant in a position analogous to that of a port director. He is responsible to the commandant for the coordination of advance base activities within the district and the effective execution of the overall responsibilities assigned the commandant in paragraph 2. ...
The responsibility for insuring that material arrives at ports for overseas shipment complete, in a good operating condition and properly marked and packed for overseas shipment rests with the procuring Bureau ...
This directive was somewhat clarified a year later by a letter which repeated its essence and added that the C.O. of a BSU should be attached to the Commandant's staff and "provided with all the necessary authority to give him access at all times to all depots ... for personal observation of advanced base activities therein and for consultation with the Commanding Officers thereof or their representatives. It is desired that visits of this nature ... be frequent and thorough to insure complete familiarity with the status ... of all advanced material and
personnel and to assist in the solution of problems that may arise ...6
In total, there was established by these directives machinery which was consistent with the overall organization of the Shore Establishment of the Navy, yet gave CNO, through Op-30, effective control of advance base operations on both coasts. DABOP and DABOA and the BSU's were, on paper, agencies of the Commandants. But since they were assigned to the staffs of the Commandants to carry out certain responsibilities not hitherto functions of those staffs, and since they were give specific authority to communicate directly with CNO, in practice they represented and owed allegiance much more to OP-30 than to the Commandants. Some of the tasks which they performed will appear in other connections in subsequent chapters. As has already been suggested, the West Coast units were more important than those in the East. After the establishment of Commander Western Sea Frontier as a major logistics agency in November 1944, both the West Coast BSU's and DABOP were all fitted into his organization. Their connections with Washington then became somewhat modified. Yet the basic missions of CNO and of ComWesSeaFron, who was also a Deputy CNO, were complementary and the system remained a means of ensuring in the field the fulfillment of the plans and policies of CominCh and CNO.
Field agencies of CNO, in nature different form the BSU's and Advance Base Offices, but similar to the ACORN Training Detachment at Hueneme, were the tactical training centers established at Lido Beach
on Long Island, at Camp Allen, near Norfolk, and San Bruno, near San Francisco. These activities, unlike the ACORN Detachment, were directly under the control of CNO. This training was designed to remedy a serious weakness in the program for LIONS, CUBS, and other advance base units. One element in that program, it will be remembered, was the training of personnel for their specialized duties. Prior to shipment overseas, the units were assembled and commissioned, much in the manner of ships. Upon the Commanding Officer fell the responsibility for organizing the component parts into an integrated and efficient whole. These officers and some of their staffs were ordinarily detailed for preliminary temporary duty in CNO to familiarize them with the plans, policies, equipment, and purposes o their units. The training of their units, as units, was then their own task, which was carried on under considerable handicaps. In some measure, the units were interlopers at the activities in which they were assigned living and messing quarters. Only such special equipment and training facilities as happened to exist in the neighborhood and were not already overburdened were available. because of lack of experience, no doctrine had been developed. It was to obviate these weaknesses that the new activities were created.
Camp Allen was designated as a "Red Line," later called Tactical Training activity, in the late spring of 1943 by the Commandant of the Fifth Naval District at the request of CNO. San Bruno was established in June as the U.S. Naval Advance Base Personnel Depot, San Bruno, California, by a circular letter form the Secretary of the Navy. The Advance Base Assembly and training Unit, Lido Beach, was created as a
part of the Naval Training Center there by the Bureau of Personnel at the request of CNO in the autumn.7 In November 1944, Camp Allen was decommissioned, after having well carried out its mission. San Bruno was redesignated Camp Terry B. Thompson in June 1945 as a well-earned, if scanty, recognition of Captain Thompson's work as head of the Base Development and Maintenance Section of Op-30. Working himself literally to death, he was responsible more than any other man for the accomplishment which is recorded in these pages.8
Even after the establishment of these units, tactical training remained, at first, rather hit or miss. Experience was necessary to eliminate deficiencies. Early in 1944, a small detachment of Marines, experienced in amphibious operations, wa obtained as instructors. Later in January, a uniform syllabus was put into effect.
In June 1944, a carefully compiled and comprehensive Manual of Training for Advance Base Units and Training Activities was published by Op-30 for the guidance of all concerned. This supplemented the Manual of Advance Base Development and Maintenance, which had been published in the previous July. Together, they indicated as well as could any printed instructions the purpose and methods of advance base tactical training.9
Although the first few pages of the training manual indicate clearly its nature and scope, the best brief description is perhaps
contained in a memorandum from DABOP in January 1945:
2. One of the present day requirements is that every person must undergo tactical training as soon as he comes under the cognizance of CNO at Advance Based assembly depots. This is the planned final phase of training prior to movement overseas, and supplements the basic and technical training provided by BuPers at training stations, trade schools and officer training centers. The CNO tactical training is intended to prepare the advanced base personnel individually, and as organized groups, for their mission at advanced bases overseas. It is e concerned with the personal, morale, professional and tactical phases of the organizations and covers the following: military drills, combat instructions, guard duty and security watches, elementary seamanship ship and plane identification, experience in field conditions, first aid medical instructions, fire fighting, swimming, naval discipline, chemical warfare, air raid and bomb disposal, small arms and machine guns, bayonet drill, obstacle course, infantry pack, hand grenade, calisthenics, hand-to-hand combat, athletics, and organizational indoctrination. A landing problem, or simulated one, and a better problem and special training for officers are included.
3. Extra technical training in functional components is provided to supplement the technical training presumed to have been completed through BuPers training schedules. The amount of such extra training depends on the time available after the completion of the tactical program. In the case of radiomen, the training in their specialty is simultaneous with the tactical training in order to "keep the hand in all the time."
4. In the training of ACORNS, GroPacs, Amphibious groups, and Seabees, special training also is provided peculiar to their missions. This includes besides combat phases the rapid landing operations, handling and repair of amphibious craft, stevedoring, pontoons, and technical training in equipment; and is given to most of the personnel as additional to their own individual jobs.
5. For LIONS, CUBS, P.T. Bases, and a miscellany of small groups at San bruno, the tactical training is supplemented. to the extent made possible by the time element, in specialty training. Parties of men have been sent on temporary duty to various other activities for training, such as Harbor Entrance Control Post, Radio Material School, Hunters Point 9repairs), NSA, Alameda (Repairs), NSD, Oakland, Camp Parks Schools), Hueneme and Coronado (Boat Handling), Albany (Boat Repair), Degaussing School, and Water Distilling School at Oakland Airport. Some have taken a course in boat engines in Berkeley. Tiburon has been used for seamanship and pontoon work. Some men had worked on Greyhound bus engines. Training for gunners mates and torpedomen at Mare Island,
Alameda, and Key Port has been provided through SubOrdComServPac. The medical personnel have been farmed out to various hospitals.10
Not even by the end of the war was the training problem wholly solved. Even in the spring of 1945, CNO and ComWesSeaFron carried on an extensive discussion of the defects of San Bruno. Some of the difficulties were the result of the general shortage of naval personnel at that time and the consequent inability of BuPers and other personnel agencies to deliver on time the full personnel allowed. Training was seriously handicapped because units were never complete at the beginning. Generally overloaded conditions on the West Coast affected San Bruno and last minute changes in schedule, which continued to occur, always had a bad influence on training and morale.
The considerable success which was achieved was due in part to trips of inspection made by members of the Op-30 staff and to the replacement of ineffective commanding and staff officers by more qualified men. Proper personnel was as important here as elsewhere in the field service. Proper personnel was as important here as elsewhere in the naval service. And here again experience counted too. not only were some of the more effective staff officers men who had returned after advance base experience, but Commander Kenneth F. Horne, who in 1941 had been on the staff of one of the Destroyer Repair Units destined for the United Kingdom, served as executive Officer at Camp Allen and later as Officer-in-Charge of one of the subordinate units at San Bruno.
The proper use of qualified personnel was one secret of advance base success. At the outbreak of war, the only experienced officers were those who had taken part in the preparation of the United
Kingdom bases. It has been noted that they devised the training program for the original LIONS and CUBS. It also deserves note that several of this small group were spotted at crucial points in the advance base system. Commander W. J. Slattery supervised the GOLDRUSH project in Washington. Commander J. V. Carney was O-in-C, East Coast BAse Service Unit, as well as of the aviation training detachment at Norfolk, during most of 1942. Commander (later Captain) M. B. Gurney held the same position on the West Coast until his duties with the ACORN Training Detachment, Hueneme, became a full-time job. The investment in the United Kingdom base continued to earn dividends throughout the war.
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