Historical Narrative of
U.S. Naval Armed Guard Center
Third Naval District
20 May 1941 to June 1945


Serial #401


Table of Contents

Necessity for Oceanic Shipping and Ship protection 1
Location of early receiving station, its complement and Naval command 2
First use by United States Navy 3
Problem of Rapid Expansion 4
Training program, Staff, and fund increases 5
Activity officially redesignated Armed Guard Center 6
Statistics on Armed Guard Crews assigned to merchant vessels, October 1943 7
Navy Cross awarded for Armed Guard heroism 8
Responsibilities of the Armed Guard Center
"Manual for Armed Guard Commanders"
Changes in Naval command 8
Armed Guard losses of ships and men 8
Physical Plant, Armed Guard Center 9-10
Operations Office 11
Incident of the SS Dunboyne 12
Organization of Armed Guard shipping schedule 13
Qualified personnel finally available 1942 14
Other Armed Guard pools 15
Maintenance of personnel "Jackets" 16
Personnel availability for Sea Duty 17
Advancements in rating as a complication in Sea Duty assignment 18


Office billeting 19
Total assignments made from this Armed Guard Center 20
Detail Office 21-22
Transportation Office 23-27
Captain's Administrative Office 28-30
Educational Office 31-33
Training 34-36
Historical Comment 37
WAVES 38-39
Discipline 40-42
Medical and Dental Officers 43-47
Supply and Commissary 48-50
Disbursing Office 51-52
Welfare and Recreation 53-60
Ship's Service 61-62


U.S. Naval Armed Guard Center
Third Naval District

APPENDIX A -- Armed Guard Training Plan of the Day
APPENDIX B -- Armed Guard Officer's Daily Schedule
APPENDIX C -- Plan Of The Day
APPENDIX D -- Charts (Sheets 1 to 5 inclusive)
Sheet #1--First Floor Plan
Sheet #2--First Floor Plan (cont'd)
Sheet #3--Second Floor Plan
Sheet #4--Second Floor Plan (cont'd)
Sheet #5--Upper and Lower Floor Plans


Historical Narrative of U.S. Naval Armed Guard Center
20 May 19041 to June 1945

  1. It is unlikely that in our time oceanic shipping will be superseded as the principal carrier of international cargo. While there may be differences due to the ingenuity of human inventiveness, the necessity of transporting cargo will remain and the mechanics of protecting ship and cargo in World War II, is worth preserving. The subject activity was an integral part of such mechanics.

  2. The physical plant consisted of the former Naval Reserve Armory, 51st and Second Avenue, Brooklyn, when commissioned as the Receiving Station, South Brooklyn, New York on 7 October 1940 under command of Lieut. Comdr. William J. Coakley (DVG) USNR. At the time of commissioning the crew consisted of five officers, one commissary steward, one pharmacist's mate, a yeoman, one ship's cook, a few petty officers and some non-rated men. Originally, it was intended that the plant be used as a receiving station for the accommodation of British sailors, under lend-lease; it was temporarily so used after expending an allotment of $90,000 from the Navy Department to expand the physical plant.

  3. On 18 November 1941, three weeks before Pearl Harbor, a draft of officers and men arrived who were to change the course of the station's wartime history. It consisted of 184 men and 23 officers out of the new Armed Guard School at Little Creek, Virginia, the Navy Dept. having anticipated the use of


    armed merchant vessels. On 19 November 1941, the Receiving Station, South Brooklyn, was designated as the Atlantic and Gulf Base for Armed Guard crews.

  1. Out of this humble beginning one of the largest single military commands was created. Space and facilities were always a problem because of a lack of timely information allowing for adequate planning. It could not possibly be anticipated to what extent the activity would grow. As a result, policies evolved from day to day experience. Despite these handicaps and a physical plant which was never at any time suitable or large enough, the activity never failed to supply a gun crew on time for a sailing of convoy.

  2. After Pearl Harbor it became apparent that Armed Guard men were not coming to the Station in sufficient numbers and upon request the Bureau sent five hundred men direct from the Navy Recruiting Station. Then the station functioned, among other things, as a "boot camp". After three weeks of "boot training" and an additional three weeks of Armed Guard training, these men were filtered into Armed Guard crews in the proportion of three inexperienced to seven experienced personnel.

    1. At that time, Armed Guard was only a collateral activity of the Station and crowded other activities in using the insufficient facilities of the Armory. By March 1942, operations had grown to such an extent that they overflowed onto the passageway of the bridge deck and other crannies. Also, it became


      apparent that not only space but staff personnel had to be enlarged.

    1. During the aforementioned period, the Station was operated with funds received from lend-lease. On 24 January 1942 these funds were withdrawn as the British were no longer at the Station. Therefore, in March 1942 there was allotted $15,000 from the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Supplies and accounts and Bureau of Ships. By this time the activity was carrying the accounts of nearly 6,000 officers and enlisted men, with approximately 2600 enlisted men quartered on the Station. The Commandant made a request to the Chief of Naval Operations on 18 May 1942 for additional facilities. The only immediate relief which ensued was the acquisition on 18 July 1942 of the USS Newton, the hulk of a wooden cargo ship which had been used as a Naval Reserve Armory Training Unit in Jersey City, N.J. and which was subsequently many times condemned as a fire hazard.

  1. At this time, the growth of the Armed Guard personnel had overshadowed other activities at the Station and the Commanding Officer requested the Bureau to house the Submarine-Chaser and Mine-Sweeper pools elsewhere in the district. Space was made available to them at Pier 9. There was also much confusion between the subject activity, the Receiving Station in Brooklyn, and Receiving Ship, Pier 92. As a result the Commanding Officer suggested to the Commandant that the name of the Station be changed and on 8 October 1942, James Forrestal, then Under-Secretary of the Navy redesignated it as the U.S. Naval Armed Guard Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.


    1. On 2 July 1943 a formal inspection of the Station was conducted by Captain G. B. Stewart, U.S.N. (Ret) General Inspector of the Bureau of Personnel. His report reflected conditions prevailing at the Station during that period. He noted that the subject had grown from a limited and minor project into a large, varied and important one. He complimented the center on its initiative, resourcefulness, and self-reliance in overcoming handicaps of time and space. He recommended that training be considered a feature of limited special application at the center because of the brief periods during which individuals or groups were attached. He made further recommendations for improving transportation and adding required space.

  1. On 15 October 1943 the Commanding Officer addressed a memorandum to the District Personnel Officer, in which he summarized the current operations at the Station. He indicated that he was in military command of approximately 1550 officers and 40,000 enlisted men, assigned to more than 1650 merchant vessels. He stated that the ship's company included 79 officers and 1,066 men, 128 of whom were petty officers. He set forth that he signed about 3,000 officer fitness reports, reviewed over 150 Summary Courts Martial a month and an equal number of deck courts; that there was a daily average of more than 3,000 men at the Center, consuming more than 110,000 rations per month and receiving issues of special Armed Guard clothing to the figure of nearly $300,000. per month as well as purchasing


    clothing at the rate of $93,500 per month.

  1. On 27 November 1943 at the Recreational Center, Haverstraw, New York, the highest honor ever won by a member of the Armed Guard Center (Atlantic), the Navy Cross was presented to Ensign (now Lieut. (jg) John S. Arnold II, DVS) USNR for extraordinary heroism. The medal was presented by Commodore E. G. Reinicke, Port Director of the District and the citation read by Captain Patterson, who also awarded Mr. Arnold the Purple Heart for burns received when his tanker burned and sank as the result of the action of two enemy torpedoes.

    1. During March 1944 the Commanding Officer recapitulated the scope of the Station's activities in reply to a report made by the War Manpower Survey Board in January 1944, which recommended a reduction in Station personnel. He said there were 47,000 men and 2800 officers based at the Center. Monthly cash payments by Disbursing amounted to $2,500,000. Special clothing and small stores issue amounted to $750,000 per month. Returned special clothing to the amount of $225,000 was received each month and had to be recorded, sorted, inspected, cleaned, repaired, and made ready for re-issue. Each week about 1,000 men left the Center to go on leave, necessitating the issuance of leave papers, recording of leave with the storage and handling of a corresponding number of seabags, hammocks, and other gear. Trucks and passenger automobiles numbering 44 were in constant use transporting men and equipment, while five motor boats were in daily use.


      The Commissary Department fed almost 5,000 men daily. A training program, consisting of refresher courses in the various guns and fire control methods used in Armed Guard, was in continuous effect. An average of 300 prisoners had to be guarded and policed. About 2500 men were examined for advancement in rating and 1800 men were advanced each month. Almost 1,000 disciplinary cases a month were handled, with 200 or more summary courts martial and approximately the same number of deck courts sitting each month. About 25,000 items of clothing were handled at the Lucky Bag monthly and each month from 75 to 100 men were outfitted with a skeleton bag and bedding each month. The complete history of guns on the station, a 5"38, a 4"50, two 3"50 (dual purpose), 2"20 mm guns, a Mark I training device I (polaroid trainer), night vision room, loading machines, .30 caliber rifles, pistols, automatics, machine guns, had to be properly maintained. The medical department handled all the medical records for the 50,000 personnel assigned to the station and had a work load of 10,000 personnel served. Ship's Service store serviced 6,000 to 8,000 men daily and receipts in a day amounted to $9,000 and were averaging about $130,000, per month. The communications office handled communications to the extent of 200 per day. During the holiday season the post office handled over 300 sacks of mail per day.

    1. An effective aid to Armed Guard Commanders at sea was published about the middle of 1944 by the Center.


      General Instructions for Commanding Officers of Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships, which contained a compilation of orders, directives, sample forms for reports, exposition of methods, and general information to assist in the operation of an Armed Guard crew. It was distributed to all officers for their tour of duty in the Armed Guard. Corrections and additions to this invaluable manual were added in due course. It also assisted other Naval activities in expediting reports which might be required relative to Armed Guard personnel who had come within their jurisdiction. [Note - the original text referred to this document as "Manual for Armed Guard Commanders". The official title of this manual is as stated above. - HyperWar Editor]

    1. The sustained growth of Armed Guard continued until 1 November 1944 when the grand total of 59,062 officers and men was reached. Then the number steadily decreased because of the reduction of Armed Guard crews, and 1 June 1945 found 45,089 officers and men on the Center's muster rolls.

    2. The next administrative change at the Armed Guard Center occurred in April 1945, when Commander Coakley, after almost four years as the Commanding Officer was relieved by Commander Reinhard G. Moureau, USN, who had returned from an extended tour of duty in the South Pacific.

    3. As of 1 June 1945 there were 505 ships carrying Armed Guard crews from this Center which had been sunk either as a result of enemy action or through marine disaster. Seventy-six officers and 1,330 enlisted men were dead or missing as a result. An additional 412 officers and 7,679 enlisted men survived sinkings. The so-called "Battle of the Atlantic" in which Armed Guard crews


      from Brooklyn were active participants was pronounced "won" many times after the submarine menace was brought under control in 1943, but the survivor record showed that Armed Guard duty did not become "safe" even after the actual cessation of hostilities in Europe. A ship was torpedoed after the signing of the peace, and ships were in danger from mines all up and down the coast of Europe and North America. Men from the Armed Guard Center participated in every major amphibious operation from the large invasion of Africa to the landings in the Philippines.

  1. Physical Plant

    The premises on which the Armed Guard Shore operations were conducted was a perfect example of the necessity of the guiding Navy motto "Do the best you can with what you have." The chief difficulty faced was the lack of space. The drill deck was used for as long as a year and a half after Pearl Harbor by various activities during the day and for quartering at night. Because of the presence of 1,763 triple deck bunks it was known as "the Jungle." Congestion was great, ventilation inadequate and restful sleep impossible. The addition of the USS Newton provided some relief for those men who remained on board but not for the six hundred men who remained jammed into the space on the main deck. There was no real relief until the summer of 1943, when barracks "B" was completed at a cost of $127,258. This was a 2-story wooden structure behind the main Armory building near the waterfront. This increased the Station's


    bunk capacity by 3200.

    1. The need for office space was always acute. Several minor alterations, such as partitioned offices were accomplished using civilian labor. As the end of 1942 an attempt was made to remedy this shortage of space through construction of a penthouse atop the east end of the Armory barracks wings adjoining each end of the bridge. The cost $83,000.

    2. A gun shed, built late in 1942 near the waterfront at a cost of $20,334, and a Polaroid Trainer building adjoining at and constructed a year later for $10,000, improved the training facilities available. Other space, notably a garbage disposal building and storehouse which was leased from the City of New York for $50 per month in December 1942 and a warehouse and garage on 53rd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues rented for $125 monthly in January 1943, were converted to naval use.

  1. In the summer of 1943 the personnel on board began regularly to exceed the amount of available space and it was impossible to estimate the actual total of personnel which would be transient, thus making possible the construction of additional barracks. Therefore, in August, the Receiving Barracks at Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn and Lido Beach Receiving Station, Long Island, were utilized during emergencies with as many as 1600 men being berthed off the Station at various times. Subsequently the old Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit car barn on 52nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues was leased on 1 August 1943


    at a rental of $250 per month. An alteration of the premises was financed out of a fund of $51,000, and it was completed and occupied by 1 April 1944. The lower deck, housing a post office, building lounge, visitors lounge, telephone center, two ships service stores and class rooms for communications personnel was ready 1 June 1944. The completion of the barracks raised to more than 6,000 the number of enlisted men that could be housed aboard.

    All maintenance and repairs on the Station were conducted by ships company under the First Lieutenant through five sub-divisions namely, boiler rooms, electrical shop, machine shop, carpenter shop, and ship fitters shop.


  1. The driving cog in the machinery which provided Armed Guard crews at the Center was the Operations Office. The early operation was very informal as illustrated by the manner in which the first gun crew of WW II was assigned on 2 December 1942 out of the original complement from Little Creek, Virginia mentioned previously. It is fitting to mention that the honor of being the first officer to command an Armed Guard crew went to Ensign Rufus T. Brinn USNR. Ensign Brinn's assignment is an illustration of how the men were chosen in the initial stages. He was a volunteer. The crew was selected out of a file index of cards, one of which was made for each man reporting on board. At the time the routine consisted of a check-off at the Supply Office


    for special clothing, Educational Office for study courses, Master at Arms for crew check-off, Morale Office for comfort kits, Sick Bay for medical abstracts, AG Pay Office for partial pay cards and then Operations for orders.

  1. Gun Crew I-E left from Boston on the SS Dunboyne and sailed to Halifax. They dashed for Iceland in convoy, sailing a northern route so that most of the trip could be made in darkness or semi-darkness. Off Reykjavik, a storm broke up the convoy and left their ship and five others with only a trawler for escort. They kept together for six days and finally made rendezvous with the balance of the convoy, only to find that the escorting cruiser had been ordered to leave for another more important assignment. The convoy proceeded to Murmansk by a far northern route, taking advantage of the midwinter all-day darkness of Arctic waters. As they approached their destination, they became stuck in the ice of the Barents Sea, with the temperature 10 below zero -- on warm days. Three of the ships were able to break out; planes destroyed the other two; and a submarine torpedoed one of the remaining three. It was April when the last two fought off ice and the enemy and went into Murmansk. Gun crew I-E shot down two planes and assisted in knocking down a third.

  2. One of the early problems faced by Operations was that the number of officers to be assigned to ships on a given day could not be accurately predicted. In the beginning this hit


    or miss operation met all contingencies; but by June 1943 the shipping program had so grown that planned operations were essential. The solution was an arrangement with the Port Director whereby the Port Director notified Operations by 1500 each day as to its estimated personnel requirements for the following day. This estimate was broken down into ratings and specialists. To the estimate, an arbitrary addition of 100 men was made, and then in the morning a sufficient number of men plus standbys was summoned to the bridge. The standbys were of diverse rates to fill any contingency and they went through the regular check-off list. Likewise, several officers were kept in a state of readiness, so that in an emergency a crew could be made up and be en route to the destination within 30 minutes from receipt of order.

  1. About the middle of 1942 the backlog of experienced men had been built up and it was possible to make up a crew on a basis of 70% experienced and 30% inexperienced. It was also possible to calibrate officers on an experienced basis, plus grades received in scholarship, gunnery, and leadership at the Shelton and Gulfport Schools.

  2. Operations received orders from Port Directors in the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Naval Districts for Armed Guard Personnel. Armed Guard pools were maintained from time to time in Iceland, Londonderry, Oran, and Port Said. Men for these pools were furnished from this Center.


  1. The Operations Office inaugurated a system which paid dividends in time saved and confusion averted. When information was received and a crew had been mustered and assigned, "onionskins" giving the names of the men, name of the ship, date to leave, etc., were circulated to all departments which had to take action, in advance of the check-off routine. In this way, the cast amount of paper work involved in assigning a crew to a ship could be done efficiently. Each man's jacket was extracted from the files and an entry was made that he was assigned to the particular ship. Sick Bay made up medical abstracts. Disbursing got their pay accounts together and issued partial pay cards, checked and double-checked for accuracy. The Supply Office obtained every man's signature for foul weather gear issued, filling the receipt for withdrawal when the man returned to the station and turned in his gear.

  2. There were always practically unsolvable problems connected with the assignment of men to ships. The first one of these which cropped up early in the center's operation was that of determining the availability of men for ships. For one reason or another (whether it be medical or disciplinary or Welfare), a man might be unavailable for assignment. In the early days all personnel cards were given to Ship Assignment. Then, when a particular man's turn came, it would be found that he could not be shipped out, creating confusion and uncertainty. Finding such a man after the crew had been made up, orders


    written, and lists typed, required so many changes in paper work in the various departments that it became one of the greatest crosses the Armed Guard Office had to bear. After many months of struggling with this hopelessly inadequate system a change was instituted. An interviewing officer was assigned in the Detail Office to question every man who came aboard in an attempt to weed out all those not immediately available for sea duty. Thereafter, only the cards of men immediately available reach the ship assignment officer on the bridge.

  1. Another problem in connection with ship assignments was that of men in the process of advancing in rate. It very often was discovered that a man had been advanced in rate, after an assignment was made, which necessitated canceling the assignment. This problem was not solved.

  2. Operations also kept other divisions posted on changes in the constant flux of personnel on the station, such as notifying the commissary department as to the number of hands it might anticipate feeding. Officers were handled by the Operations Office in a manner similar to that for enlisted men, in that the check-off system was used. Arrangements were made for billeting officers at the Henry Hudson Hotel, 57th St. at 9th Avenue while awaiting assignment. This proved to be a good arrangement because it (1) was easier to locate officers in an emergency; and (2) the government saved the rental allowance which was then


    no longer paid to unmarried officers. It further facilitated the problem of transporting gear, since it all moved from a central location. Previously officers had been paid $3.50 per diem and stopped at any location they desired.

    1. Operations kept a file on every officer in its Officers' Information Section, which readily disclosed the said Officer's location.

  1. Originally Operations were conducted by Lt. Comdr. C.W. Young as Officer-in-Charge of Armed Guard. The following table shows the men assigned by the Armed Guard Center Atlantic to ships from January 1942 thru May 1945.

Month 1942 1943 1944 1945
January 671 3,719 5,212 5,790
February 684 3374 5,613 4,333
March 661 3989 5,715 4,778
April 742 4169 4,155 5,449
May 1,503 4796 4,508 4,293
June 1,780 4429 5,888
July 2,149 4950 5,769
August 2,175 5345 7,093
September 2,727 5139 6,255
October 2,696 5901 6,818
November 2,752 5872 5,346
December 3,670 6953 5,664
TOTAL 22,210 58,636 68,054  



  1. In the beginning all the routine matters pertaining to handling of enlisted men were performed in typical Navy fashion by the Master at Arms. However, it was found that there were too many activities on the Staff, which at that time included the Submarine Chaser Pool, Mine Sweeping Pool, Ship's Company, and Communication Liaison Pool. Therefore, the commanding officer had a conference at which the Detail Office was created. The executive officer, Mr. Young, made the analogy between the center and a large commercial hotel with a daily turnover of hundreds of people, which had to keep account of rooms and future addresses. It was decided that the new Detail Office, first set up on a lower deck, would check in all men who came aboard in the manner of a hotel desk. Thus when a man reported aboard, a card (showing his Division and bunk number) was made up on him and filed. The various pools at the center each had a desk in the Detail Office with easy access to the files.

    1. The Detail Office also took over the usual duties of the Master at Arms such as mustering (twice daily), liberty, billeting, leave, and gear handling.

  2. The file cards of the men who came aboard for Armed Guard duty were kept in a classification known as Ship Assignment file.

    1. A bug was found in this system in that men whose cards


      were in the Ship Assignment file were not always ready to go to sea, the typical reasons being that they were awaiting disciplinary action, undergoing medical or dental treatment, or awaiting leave. This resulted in a further refinement or breakdown of the Detail Office known as the Interviewing and Classification Section. This section interviewed each man as to availability for immediate assignment. The result of that interview was the creation of 26 sections in the Armed Guard Division, a few of which were "Ready-to-Ship-Out" Section, "Survivors", "Medical and Dental Holds", men whose records were not on staff, witnesses and those held for investigation, men to be transferred out of the Armed Guard to the Fleet, or assigned to training duties. Under this system when a man's card reached Ship Assignment there was no question that he was ready to ship out. It is interesting to note that the Lost and Found Department installed under the Detail Office succeeded in recovering gear at the rate of 85% effecting a savings per month of approximately $25,000.


  1. In the initial stages of operation, transportation at the center was handled as a collateral duty of the Welfare and Recreation Office. There were no vehicles and American Women's Voluntary Services drivers using private cars gave their services. By April 1942, a station wagon service was inaugurated and arrangements were made with the Red Cross and the U.S. Army


    (Emergency) Ambulance Corps to each supply an ambulance on a staggered schedule.

  1. In March 1943 a full time Transportation Officer was assigned and his equipment included 8 trucks, 4 station wagons, and 3 launches, all operated by Navy personnel. By memorandum from Commander Young, Transportation on 23 March 1944 took jurisdiction of all boats and crews, placing all transportation facilities under one department.

  2. The mechanics of handling transportation were typical of all Navy bases and stations. The volume of transportation handled in a single day is shown in the record for 10 November 1944. There were 2,140 officers and men transported from the station by motor vehicles, and 670 by launches; there were 115 truck, bus and station wagon mileage trips involved and 7 by launches; total truck, bus and station wagon mileage was 1,752 miles, while launches were busy 11 hours. At that time the equipment comprised five 50-foot launches and 53 motor vehicles. Included were two 10-ton tractor-trailer units, three 3-1/2 ton transportation trucks, thirteen smaller trucks, ten station wagons, three buses and other vehicles.

  3. During the calendar year of 1944 a total of 324,176 men and their gear were transported. By 1 June 1945, the equipment included 56 vehicles and 5 launches. The vehicles were 10 station wagons, 9 1-1/2 ton trucks, 5 panel trucks, 4 dump trucks, 3 buses, 3 tractor-trailer units (7-1/2 ton), 3 milk wagons, 1 1/2-ton pickup,


    1 5-ton autocar, and 1 refrigerator autocar. Eleven other vehicles were assigned to other departments and maintained by transportation.

  1. Transportation conducted its own maintenance and repaired not only its own vehicles but those of Seagate Hospital and from time to time those of Com3 Transportation. The center maintained its own garage with a separate painting shop, staffed on 1 June 1945 with 15 men and 5 men, respectively.


  3. This office was established early in 1943 and had custody of all officer records including those transferred, dead, missing or otherwise detached. It prepared all fitness reports for commanding officer's signature. Fitness reports were often a problem because Armed Guard officers were scattered over the globe. The problem was solved by the use of a standard commentary paragraph which could be adapted to an officer's record. The Fitness Report Committee, (the Captain's Administrative Officer; the Assistant Administrative Officer and the Commanding Officer) evaluated the duties performed by each officer since his last report. Filed in each jacket were reports by Port Directors, Masters' letters of recommendation or censure, reports from Army Transport Commanders where Armed Guard Officers came under their surveillance, correspondence from Naval Liaison Officers and commendations or citations received by officers


    from high naval or military authority. All of this was considered. Most of the officers fell into a middle classification. If no adverse report appeared in their jackets, they were marked 3.5; the commentary paragraph then read, "Ensign  Doe  is an officer of good personal and military character. He has performed his duties as Commander of Naval gun crews on armed merchant vessels in a satisfactory manner. This officer is recommended for promotion to the rank of Lieut. (jg) when officers of similar length of service are promoted, and is recommended as suitable material for eventual appointment to permanent commissioned rank in the regular Navy." The only change in the manner of promulgating the reports came when the Navy changed the fitness report form. This removed the necessity for putting in a numerical grade.

  1. The office also handled matters relating to officer's qualifications, separation from service, requests for changes in duty, Bureau transfer orders, disciplinary charges against officers, officer promotions and paper work in connection with all foregoing facts. It also handled all official mail and all matters pertaining to awards, decorations and commendations for officers and men.

  2. All survivor matters which concerned men returned to this Center were supervised by this office. In particular, records concerning ships sunk and officers and men lost were handled by the Assistant Administrative Officer, including a


    heavy volume of correspondence with the families of men whose ship had been lost. Survivors were interviewed by the Survivor's Board, consisting of a chaplain, a medical officer, and the Welfare and Recreation Officer, the Armed Guard Personnel Officer, and the Captain's Administrative officer; the information obtained was used in compiling reports for forwarding to the Bureau of Naval Personnel and in advising the next of kin of casualties. Survivors were handled expeditiously by the Center, a special routing slip given them for pay, clothing and other assistance granting them priority to go to the head of the line instead of waiting turn. They were given good leaves, as much as 30 days in some cases, and were usually sent to rest camps at either Haverstraw, New York, or Deland, Florida for two weeks before being sent out again. Men who were obviously nervous or upset were transferred to other duty for which they expressed a desire. Oddly enough, there were more survivors during the month of April 1945, than in any previous month of the station's operation. This did not include August 1944, when the survivors received were the result of ships scuttled at the Normandy beachhead for the purpose of military expediency. The total number of survivors to 1 June 1945 was 8,091 officers and men.

    1. The Captain's Administrative Office also made up the monthly report of status of each officer attached to the station, both Ship's Company and Armed Guard. This report covered as


      many as 75 pages and contained at times more than 50,000 items.


  1. Education always being of paramount concern in the Navy, the Educational Office was set up on 27 April 1942. The major difficulty was advancement.

    1. In the early days, advancement was relatively easy, because of the lack of petty officers and scanty indoctrination of Armed Guard Officers in procedure of the Navy system. It was found that they were advancing men for meritorious conduct or excellent service and not for the prime requisite of leadership. Navy methods were stressed by Lt. Cecil M. Amdur, DVS, USNR, Educational Officer in lectures which were repeated from time to time.

  2. The Armed guard was never bound by complement restrictions and therefore, men were encouraged to advance as rapidly as possible.

    1. Until November 1942, the vast majority of Armed Guard crew members were Seamen second class. On that date, the Bureau of Naval Personnel ordered that all men with clear records be advanced automatically to Seamen first class upon assignment to an Armed Guard Unit. This complicated and reversed the educational procedure, making it necessary for Armed Guard commanders to determine fitness for promotion already granted on a probationary basis. Each man going to sea for the first time had to be given the regular progress tests and examinations for seaman first class. Only men who failed to make a conscientious effort to


      qualify for their new rate were reduced to Seaman second class and then only upon recommendation by the Armed Guard Commander. To distinguish between those men who had completed qualifications for Seaman first class and those who had received advancement automatically and not passed the examinations, S1/c(P) and S1/c(L) designations were adopted, the initials standing for "probationary" and "legitimate". Only S1/c(L) were eligible to strike for petty officer rating.

    1. A system was developed in the early days y which Armed Guard Commanders were enabled to grant petty officer 3/c ratings through shipboard examinations of men who had previously earned the S1/c(L) designation. The only rates which could be gained in this manner were Gunner's Mate 3/c, Coxswain, Signalman 3/c, and Radioman 3/c. These were the only rates used by the Armed Guard. For petty officer first and second class, qualifications could be completed aboard ship and a recommendation obtained from the officer in charge, but advancements were made only upon the man's return to the Armed Guard Center where comprehensive examinations were taken before an examining board.

    2. Effective 16 February 1944, the above system was changed insofar as petty officer third class ratings were concerned. Strikers continued to complete all qualifications aboard ship plus a recommendation for advancement from their officers, but confirmation examinations became mandatory. Two alternatives were open to an officer recommending the advancement of a member


      of his crew from S1/c(L) to PO3/c. The officer could request that a man be advanced immediately in a provisional status effective upon receipt of the communication at the Armed Guard Center. A man promoted in this fashion was required to take a confirmation upon his next return to the station, and min the event he failed this test, was to be reduced to Seaman 1/c for incompetence. In view of the risk of receiving an entry of incompetence in his record, few men and officers desired this method. The vast majority preferred the other alternative under which promotion was made only after successful completion of the confirmation examination of the Armed Guard Center. This method meant a delay, but did not entail the risk of an unfavorable entry. On extended voyages, however, the confirmation examination could be given by any examining board of officers any place in the world. The recommendations of these boards were accepted for promotion purposes.

    1. By the time the number of men assigned to the Armed Guard Center reached the 50,000 mark in 1944, the Educational Office was giving an average of 1500 examinations monthly. By arrangements with various port directors, copies of examinations prepared at the Armed Guard Center were made available at these ports, where the tests were given and the papers forwarded to the station for correcting and marking. In 50% of the cases, a passing mark was achieved in the confirmation examination and the advancement was effected.


    1. Effective 24 February 1945, upon receipt of Bureau of Personnel Circular Letter, Pers-67-oz, P17-2/MM, the procedures and requirements for advancements in rating in the Armed Guard were changed somewhat. Under the new regulations there was no longer any automatic advancement to Seamen 1/c. There was no advancement to Chief Petty Officer for Armed Guard personnel. All PO1/c who served in the Armed Guard more than nine months were to be transferred out of the Armed Guard; three months of sea duty and examination by the Armed Guard Center were made conditions precedent to advancement to PO 1/c.

  1. The Educational Officer also interviewed the candidates for commissions or for admission to the V12, V7 and V5 programs, final selections being made by a four-officer board. As a result, some 350 candidates were granted commissions and 300 additional men went into the V12 program.


  3. The Armed Guard personnel were never on station long enough to make possible a complete training program. Officers were assigned from Sections A to E, depending on their experience, the last section including those officers who were most experienced.

    1. Instruction in non-gunnery subjects was always limited due to lack of classroom facilities and it was many months before there were enough officers available to serve as lecturers. From the beginning, all signalmen and radiomen on the station


      awaiting ship assignment were given brush-up instructions, plus tests proving each man's fitness to hold his rating. When space became available outdoors, masts, yardarms, and halyards were erected, and signalmen drilled daily on flag hoists. Even after a new building, Barracks E, was adapted in 1944, only two small classrooms became available for use by enlisted men. Classes given to all Armed Guard men as of October 1944 included first aid, A to N, naval courtesy, ship's nomenclature, chemical warfare, conduct, seamanship, emergency drill, and aircraft recognition. Petty officers were lectured on the responsibilities of their rating, and selected seaman were taught the operation and repair of sound-powered battle phones.

    1. Instruction given to officers covered the following subjects: responsibilities of an Armed Guard Officer, disciplinary and legal problems, sex hygiene, first aid, education and advancement in rating, censorship, chemical warfare, aircraft recognition, watch, quarter and station bill, religious problems, seamanship and Armed Guard equipment. When time permitted, fledgling officers spent one full day at the office of the Port Director, New York, undergoing special instruction. Groups of officers also were sent upon occasion to various activities within the district, including the Anti-Aircraft Range at Lido Beach, L.I., and Bomb Disposal, Fire Fighting, Barrage Balloon, and DeGaussing.

  1. By the time the center was a year old, all new men


    on board had received specialized gunnery training at Little Creek, Virginia or Gulf Port, Mississippi and the instruction at the center was in the nature of a refresher course. A new gun shed containing 3"50, 4"50 guns with loading machines, the 20 mm Oerlikon gun and 5"50 loading machines were available for the purpose.

  1. The interest of the Chief of Naval Personnel was expressed in a memorandum to the commanding officer on 27 October 1942 in which it was stated that a flexible program of instruction be carried out, that round table conference be held among officers so that they could exchange experiences with respect to anti-submarine and anti-aircraft tactics; also that Armed Guard center compile and distribute information on relations between Navy crews and the crews of the merchant vessels to which they were assigned.

    1. It further suggested that whenever possible, life boat drills including lowering, handling, rowing and sailing should be conducted. Further stated that enlisted men should be taught and review "A to N Semaphor and Morsigs."

    2. In reply to memorandum, Commander Oakley confirmed that the directives were being carried out but pointed out that the difficulty of a fluid program in view of the transient nature of the Station.


  2. It seems that a great many difficulties encountered


    by the Armed Guard Center might be avoided in a future conflict by a well integrated program on these statistics. This should consist of an adequate plant with all training facilities found to be necessary from experience. All personnel should report directly from the recruiting station to Armed Guard Center. Personnel should be kept at the same center continuously and have refresher instruction from time to time.


  1. To determine whether the WAVES fulfilled the broad purpose in mind when recruiting them, namely substituting woman for man per individual at the Armed Guard Center, the type of operation at the Station must be considered. Operations went around the clock seven days a week and it was necessary that some personnel stand by at all times. It was patently impossible to have women handling night assignments, not only from the standpoint of fatigue, but from considerations of modesty. As has been stated above, the main deck was used for sleeping accommodations, described by the crew as "The Jungle."

  2. Assignment of WAVES began on 29 August 1943 when three WAVE officers reported aboard. On 1 November, three WAVE storekeepers reported and were attached to the Supply Department. Thereafter, on 25 February 1944, thirty-six WAVES of miscellaneous rates came aboard and in May the number was increased


    radically so that the complement of the station included 418 WAVES in every department except the lower deck which was out of bounds. At the end of May, a survey of Department Heads was taken on the subject of general efficiency of the WAVES. The consensus was that they lacked experience and the necessary physical strength in the Supply Department. Various theories were expressed as the underlying reasons. It was generally agreed that the women were incapable of working under pressure, although the statistics showed that of the thirty girls who volunteered to work the 1700-0100 shift, only three requested relief in a period exceeding one year.


  1. This subject is instructive because of the peculiar type of operation in Armed Guard, where persons nominally attached to the Center were away from station as long as a year. It was found on June 1945, after nearly 4 years of operation that despite constant revision and streamlining, disciplinary matters still occupied a great deal of the commanding officer's time. Daily, excepting Sunday, there was an average of 35 men up for Captain's mast. During 1944, more than 5000 Summary Court Martials were held on station. In August 1944, trial by a general court martial was made mandatory for missing ship. This resulted in reduction of summary courts martial from 300


    to 200 per month. This was affected through a publicity campaign in which posters were used.

  1. Disciplinary matters often commenced with placing a man's name on report while he was still away and for an offense committed thousands of miles from the Center. The Master at Arms was notified, the man's pay was stopped and he was apprehended upon his return. By that time,, all necessary papers had been drawn and if investigation was ordered at Mast, the disciplinary officer assumed charge. This often involved correspondence with the Armed Guard Officer at sea; therefore if the offense was minor and involved a long delay, the man was permitted to return to sea with settlement of the case to pend his next return to the station.

  2. Armed Guard officers were often required to attend mast for indoctrination in Mast offenses committed by their men, and the punishments awarded generally.

    1. The facilities for punishment were never adequate and were constantly criticized. For almost three years, the USS Newton was used as a brig with facilities for 350 persons. There were only eight solitary confining cells, which were located in the basement of the armory.

    2. The principal serious offense encountered in Armed Guard operations, committed by both officers and men, was homosexuality. Another major offense committed by officers was "inattention to duty" generally charged by Port Directors or officials


      Of the Armed Guard Inspection Service in ports where the crews and material were inspected. "Inattention to Duty" ranged from unsatisfactory inspection report to absence from ship.

    1. The average number of cases of officer discipline ranged between 10 and 18 per month.


  1. The Center always suffered from lack of adequate equipment and necessary medical personnel. Again, stressing the transitory nature of operation, the doctors and dentists were always working under pressure. In common with other activities, on station, this department found the space allotted inadequate.

  2. In November 1943, more than a year after this station began functioning as the Armed Guard Center, with more than 20,000 officers and men assigned to this station, the staff included but 18 corpsmen, one chief and 5 doctors.

    1. By the summer of 1944, the station had topped the 50,000 mark and an average of 300 men reported to sick bay each day. If confinement of longer than a week was needed, the man was transferred either to St. Albans or Brooklyn. Minor surgery was performed regularly but although equipment was available for major surgery, it was used only in emergency cases.

  3. This activity considered venereal disease to be a special problem and from commencement of operation, one staff physician was designated as the Venereal Control Officer, spending


    his entire time running a venereal clinic. Armed Guard officers were given lectures and the enlisted men were lectured and shown motion pictures.

  1. The dental staff never exceeded a maximum complement of eight (8) technicians. Four fully equipped dental operating rooms were achieved by February 1944 but there never was a time when an overload of work was not referred to the dental clinic at the Navy Yard, Brooklyn. All dental prostheses were sent off station. An average of 45 men required denture work each month. Because the Navy Yard had more of this type of work than it could handle, there was an average delay of 10 days before treatment could be started. The average result was that at least six weeks were consumed before a man requiring this type of work could put out to sea.

  2. In September 1944, 1351 men and officers were examined and an additional 1086 cases were treated in a total of 1664 sittings. 744 of these cases were completed, remedying the more important deficiencies. Completion of work always had to be postponed until a man next became available. This also made for a tremendous amount of paper work.

    1. The senior dental officer in June 1944 estimated that a complete dental service to accommodate the personnel of 50,000 would involve 35 dentists instead of the 8 on board. Space for such an expansion never became available.



  1. Supply statistics showed a steady expansion at the number of men attached to the Center increased. In October 1942 the total topped the $50,000 mark and one year later it was more than $100,000. In the record month of August 1944 $480,074 worth of special armed guard clothing was issued. As for daily meals, the daily average for 1944 was close to 5,000.

  2. The issue to each man consisted of three pairs of heavy socks, two sets of woolen underwear, two types of winter helmets, waterproof mittens, winter mittens, face mask, sea arctics, rubber boots, oilskins, goggles, winter jacket and trousers, and parka rain jacket and trousers. Officers also received a parka winter coat, which replaced a sheepskin formerly issued. Crews bound for Russia were issued the following additional items: felt socks and inner-soles, parka winter coat, six pairs of woolen socks and two pairs of woolen mittens, a winter sweater and scarf.

    1. Meeting survivor claims for lost gear was another important activity of the supply department. Every survivor returning to the station, whether or not a member of the Armed Guard, received a complete outfit of new gear. At the beginning all survivor claims had to be approved by the Navy Department, Washington, but in 1942 AlNav 216 empowered the commanding officer to approve losses of gear reimbursed in kind. AlNav 180


      of 5 November 1943 extended this power to cover gear losses resulting from accident aboard ship.

    1. Survivors' statistics were especially interesting because it was believed that more survivors were received at this activity than at any other station in the Navy. Through August 1944, a total of 6,311 officers and men who had lost their ships were reoutfitted, with the total value of each issue totaling nearly $13,000. The total number of survivors through March 1945 was 7,026 officers and enlisted men and to 1 June 1945 was 8,091 officers and enlisted men.

  1. In common with other activities in this station, Supply and Commissary was handicapped by lack of space and it was not until 1943 after more than two years of operation that space allotted to this activity could be called adequate. It was after almost two years that the Navy Department was persuaded to permit central supply department to make its own sundry purchases independently instead of through Navy Yard, Brooklyn. The Department was finally authorized by Bureau of Supplies and Accounts letter of 2 June 1943. This direct procurement method enabled the Center to obtain needed items quickly and was of valuable aid in the development of the Station. Previously, it had taken as long as six weeks for a single requisition to be filled and involved an additional transportation problem from the Navy Yard to the Armed Guard Center.



  1. Here again a problem peculiar to Armed Guard was encountered in that men disbursed throughout the world had to be paid. This problem was met through a partial pay card system devised by Commander W. W. Honacker, Supply Corps, USN and Lieut. Comdr. G. T. Brewton, SC, USN. Each officer and man attached to Armed Guard duty aboard ship could be paid by any U. S. Navy, Army Coast Guard or Marine Corps Paymaster or U.S. Consulate official on a card which he carried.

    1. The card permitted payment of everything due except 10% additional sea pay for officers and 20% for enlisted men. Cards gave the name of the holder, his rank or rate, his gross pay including allowances, all deductions, and the owner's fingerprint and signature. The date of issue was stamped on each card, plus the expiration date one year after its issuance. In addition to explicit instructions to paymasters, the card also had blank spaces where payments were to be recorded, including the name and station of the paymaster, the amount paid and date of payment.

    2. These cards were issued upon assignment to a ship and were returned to the Center on detachment. Upon surrender of the card, all moneys due were paid over. The officer or petty officer in charge of Armed Guard on board the merchant ship was furnished with a batch of pay receipts. The Disbursing Officer in the foreign port who made the payment sent a record of it


      to the Center where entry was made on the proper card. The lists from these foreign disbursing officers were known as lists of advice and their handling swelled the Armed Guard Disbursing Office until on 1 June 1945 it included 7 officers and 217 enlisted personnel.

    1. The only fault in this system was the continual loss of cards, either by marine disaster or carelessness. This was corrected by permitting foreign disbursing officers to issue new cards on affidavit, but pay was withheld until verification was made on the amount.

    2. Another complication, which was the source of much annoyance and delay, was the failure of men to signify before the cards were made up that they wished to make allotments and allowances. This was corrected by a rule requiring that such matters be done before a partial pay card was issued.

  1. In addition to Armed Guard disbursing, there was a second office to take care of the needs of ships company. This was known as Ships Company Disbursing Office and functioned independently.

    1. The total disbursements for 1944 exceeded $21,000,000, the high annual mark.


  2. Welfare and Recreation was a tremendous project at the Center. This is apparent from the statistics already shown for ships company and transients. Originally the welfare fund


    was met by an appropriation of the Navy Department (which also furnished recreational gear for shipboard use) plus receipt of a percentage of ship's service profits. When station operation reached its zenith, these profits amounted to as high as $8,000 per month and the Navy Department allotment was discontinued. These large profits made possible such expenditures as $2,000 for an electric organ and the installation and improvement of bowling alleys on the lower deck at the cost of $6,000. Each crew received free recreational gear.

  1. There was a vast comprehensive athletic and social program for both men and women. There were the usual motion picture programs and stage shows. A very fine library was maintained on Station and also provision was made for issue of libraries to gun crews.

  2. Features peculiar to this station were the maintenance of a safe deposit cage for checking money and valuables twenty-four hours a day, making travel arrangements and issuing plane schedules, making loans available to men in emergencies through the tremendous accumulated welfare fund, and giving free legal advice.

  3. Where it was not advisable to use welfare money for a loan, arrangements were made for loans through Navy Relief of American Red Cross. Arrangements were also made to repay steamship companies who had lost money through inadvertence of merchant skippers and gun crews where the former had permitted


    the latter to make purchase on the strength of a partial pay card, a practice which was not permitted.

    1. This activity assisted the Red Cross and made arrangements for all religious services.

  1. The newspaper known as the Pointer was published every two weeks. It contained current news of Armed Guard activities and was distributed widely.

  2. It operated a telephone center where long distance calls were expedited and printed and distributed a station handbook advising the various activities on recreational matter to be found in this tremendous plant.

  3. It also made available thirteen pool tables and a swimming pool and provided a writing lounge and area where men could enjoy peace and quiet, while reading magazines and newspapers, listen to the radio and play checkers and cards. It also provided a pistol range.

    1. It maintained an orchestra which gave concerts and played at dances.

  4. It supplied each man with a complete recreational kit and gave setting-up exercises and swimming classes. A separate lounge was set up for the WAVES and a beauty parlor for the exclusive use of the WAVES was opened in this area, although operated by civilian employees under the jurisdiction of ship's service. In October 1944, a WAVE officers' lounge with head and locker facilities was opened. Special cultural activities were


    arranged for the women including Spanish classes, Arts and Crafts, tap dancing, and movies. Instructors were WAVE officers, WAVE Specialists and men officers. Swimming and bowling groups used the Y.W.C.A. and Receiving Station facilities. Sunday hiking and picnic groups were scheduled. The women also played softball and basketball.


  1. It is unnecessary to comment at any full length on Ships Service. Its growth can be demonstrated by the following figures on total sales volume:

  2.   1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
    January - - - $4,025 $56,936 $132,889 $230,000
    February - - - 2,818 59,499 129,823 214,000
    March - - - 3,069 63,966 151,570 227,000
    April - - - 4,763 83,211 160,780 198,000
    May - - - 10,038 86,282 157,901 215,800
    June - - - 11,384 82,373 146,982  
    July - - - 13,195 86,916 133,212  
    August - - - 19,440 95,993 160,447  
    September - - - 33,577 90,331 197,000  
    October - - - 44,824 115,839 205,000  
    November - - - 45,264 133,991 261,000  
    December $1,896 49,406 179,278 266,000  
      $1,896 $241,803 $1,134,415 $2,101,604  
  3. Ships Service operated two stores of the general store


    type and other activities including tailor shop, barber, beauty shops, laundry and dry cleaning services.

    1. AUDIT Board --- By order of the Commanding Officer on 30 April 1942, a Board of Audit was established to review monthly the financial position of the Ship's Service department, count cash on hand, take inventory of stock on hand, and make recommendations regarding the operation of these activities. Subsequently, similar monthly audits were undertaken for the Officers' Mess Fund and the Officers' Wine Mess. The board always consisted of at least three officers, one of them usually an accountant. All three members had other responsibilities as well. The Audit Board made separate monthly reports to the Commanding Officer on each of the four activities within its domain. Its work served as a check on those departments handling funds and provided a valuable disinterested viewpoint in administering these activities. Its recommendations to the Commanding Officer usually were approved, with the result that many reforms were instituted.


Transcribed and formatted by Rick Pitz, for the HyperWar Foundation