Chapter XII
The Marshall Islands Campaign

The Truk Strike

For the FLINTLOCK, or Marshall Islands campaign the ships involved were those of the amphibious force with the attack, support, and garrison groups; those of the fast carrier striking groups, and a few assigned to the defense forces, a total of some 359 vessels of all types for combat work, except submarines. The principal part of the forces involved based at Pearl. About half the amphibious-force vessels came from San Diego and were replenished in the Hawaiian islands en route to the Marshalls. The large transports were at Lahaina roads, Maui, and the tractor groups (landing ships (tank) and landing craft (infantry), etc.) at Nawiliwili, Kauai. For the smaller craft (submarine chasers, mine sweepers, landing craft, tank, and mine layers) a 12-hour period was allowed for taking fuel from landing ships (tank) at sea while en route. At Lahaina Roads, fuel was supplied by the fleet oilers Tallulah, Millicoma, Caliente, Chikaskia, Kaskaskia, and Neosho, some of which had sailed from San Diego with the Northern Attack Force. At Nawiliwili, fueling of small craft was done from the landing ships (tank), which had such an enormous fuel supply, that it involved them in no shortage. Again while en route the transports and others needing it were fueled between the Hawaiian Islands and the Marshalls, the transports and larger ships taking fuel from the accompanying fleet oilers and the smaller Diesel-engine craft from the landing ships (tank). Food, ammunition, and stores, with such repairs as were necessary, were attended to at the last point of departure.

The battleships, the large carrier Bunker Hill, and the smaller carrier Monterey, Cruiser Division Five, and a few smaller vessels were at Funafuti. The rest of the carrier force based at Pearl, whence it sortied with service completed in all departments.

Pearl was 2,500 miles from Kwajalein Atoll, the main point of attack.


Map: Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands


The resistance expected might delay capture for a longer period than was anticipated, and there was also no telling but that the Japanese main fleet might give battle. Therefore, "fill with everything," was the order; and, on top of that, replenishing of fuel en route, adequate supply of fuel, ammunition, and provisions in the area for further replenishment subsequent to D-day. These services were stated in Spruance's logistic annex. Seventeen fleet oilers were used, before and after D-day. Of that number, three task groups of three each--Caliente, Pecos, and Tallulah; Ashtabula, Lackawanna, and Saugatuck; Cimarron, Kaskaskia, and Platte--were at sea in designated areas to care for the oiling after D-day, with eight extra tankers shuttling back and forth between Funafuti and these areas. The eight were the Millicoma, Neosho, Suamico, Neshanic, Chikaskia, Neches, Tappahannock, and Sabine. In addition there was a Liberty tanker at each of the two objectives, each with 50,000 barrels of fuel; and at Tarawa one slow tanker and a supply of Diesel oil in gasoline barges. At Funafuti 300,000 barrels in commercial tankers was available for reloading fleet oilers on 26 January, 200,000 in commercial tankers at the same place on 2 February, and 300,000 on 5 February. Each of the fleet oilers carried approximately 15,000 barrels of Diesel oil and 200,000 gallons of aviation gasoline. On the basis of estimated consumption it was planned to have from two to three loaded commercial tankers available until the operation was concluded.

What the operation might produce in fuel requirements was unknown, and the amounts scheduled were at best only estimates. The fuel paragraph of the operations plan begins with the words "Conserve fuel. The success of Flintlock requires large fuel supplies. The availability of fleet oilers is limited. In establishing the speed to maintain the required advance, and in prescribing the engineering condition to be employed, the conservation of fuel as well as the military situation will be considered." Only with fuel was there real concern at this stage of the war. It was finally clear that our fuel consumption was and would continue to be in excess of all earlier ideas, and that we were not yet quite fully geared to handle it under too continuous full-power steaming. Therefore the word of caution.

The other logistics concerned food. This would be distributed from one provision supply ship, fleet-issue loaded, available at Funafuti on 10 February, and a commercial solid load of refrigerated and frozen items in the United Fruit Company's Antigua on 25 February. These two were ordered to Majuro when it was decided early in February to use that atoll for the fleet anchorage.


Ammunition was available in barges at Tarawa and Funafuti for 5-inch and smaller guns. The ammunition ships Rainier, Mauna Loa, and Lassen had the supply for all other types of guns, large and small, and generally in sufficient quantities. The Sangay carried aircraft ammunition and bombs. All these ships were scheduled to be in Tarawa 1 February, and were diverted or ordered to Majuro.

The replacement of pilots and planes for the combat carriers would be from CVE's. There were also about 45 fighter planes available in the Ellice Islands.

Emergency repair facilities in Funafuti consisted of some of Captain Scull's squadron: Two destroyer tenders, two repair ships, one battle-damage-repair ship, one internal-combustion-engine repair ship, one floating drydock of 3,000 tons capacity, and one repair barge. These were 1,200 miles from Kwajalein, near which the damage was most likely to be inflicted. Pearl was 2,500 miles away, so the repair picture was not very bright. The answer was quickly found by the task-force commander himself: Use Majuro for the main fleet, with Service Squadron Ten to furnish service there, and Kwajalein with Service Squadron Four at that point to service cargo vessels, escorts, and small groups operating in that area. When the time came, the orders were issued accordingly.

Service Squadron Ten at Majuro

With the securing of Kwajalein and Majuro, Admiral Spruance took the Fast Carrier Force into the latter place on 4 February 1944, after giving Kwajalein a trial of a few days. Service Squadron Ten was ordered there with instructions to service the fleet immediately. Fortunately the squadron commander was in Majuro with the garrison group of transports he had temporarily commanded during the illness of the assigned commander, so he was able to get into immediate personal touch with Admiral Spruance and get preliminary and makeshift operations under way pending arrival of the squadron staff and the supporting vessels.

The battleship Washington, damaged in a night collision with the Indiana, was used as a temporary administrative center for the squadron while the protruding metal of her bow was being removed and bulkheads shored preparatory to her return to a navy yard. A number of officers were temporarily assigned to help with communications and operations, and the servicing of the fleet started. It was pretty ragged and hectic. There were not boats enough, nor tugs enough. When boats


Map: Majuro Atoll
Major Atoll


or tugs were available, there was often delay because of lack of knowledge of the anchorage and berths. Even when the position of a ship was given, as in such and such a berth, there was often no chart available by which the servicing craft could locate it. At night it was even worse.

All the boats of the transports present were commandeered, and these formed the beginning of Squadron Ten's fleet boat pool. This at its beginning included 50 boats--always a few were broken down--with an organization of 3 officers and 150 men. Commander Service Force at Pearl was urged to send boats by every possible vessel. This was done throughout the war by using tankers, cargo vessels, and any other craft which could carry them. Boats were available in the rear areas, but the problem was to find transportation means to get them to the squadron in sufficient numbers to make up for losses, and for the growing requirements of the constantly increasing fleet.

In this first servicing the ammunition was replenished by the ammunition carriers previously mentioned as diverted from Tarawa. There was shortage in a few items, some of which was made up by cannibalizing ships returning to Pearl for repair. The senior captain of the ammunition ships present was made temporary head of the "ammo" department, and the job was done, though not without confusion. Moving such ships about a crowded anchorage, especially in wartime, can be hazardous. Nevertheless, it was done. About the time the captain in charge got the hand of things and had some definite ideas of the berthing, his ship would sail, and the next senior captain would take over and have to start from scratch learning what had to be done, what was needed, and which came next.

The repairs made, except those by ship's company, were very meager as only the repair ship Vestal and the battle-damage-repair ship Phaon were available. They were fully occupied getting the Washington and Indiana ready to leave.

Food and fueling went better. While there was not enough fresh and frozen food available to meet the demand, and the cargo of the provision supply ship Bridge was quickly exhausted, no one went hungry. More fresh and frozen foods were due on 10 and 25 February. There was sufficient fuel in a sufficient number of oilers so it could be handled in the time available, though oiler crews got very little of their badly needed rest.

Meanwhile the Washington sailed, and the administration of Squadron Ten had to move to a temporary set-up on a tanker, with a landing ship (tank) alongside to furnish the quarters. This was for 4 days only.


Harbor communication facilities on these were poor, and this was a setback for a few days. However, most of the heaviest servicing had been accomplished, and with the arrival of Ten's flagship, the destroyer tender Prairie, on 13 February with the members of the staff from Pearl, a real start was made. Spruance was off for the first Truk strike, and Commander Service Squadron Ten had promised him that when he returned he would get logistic services with more system, order, and greater dispatch. The promise was fulfilled.

On 12 February Spruance sortied for Truk, which was a part of Operation CATCHPOLE, the capture of Eniwetok, taking with him Admiral Mitscher's entire carrier force, consisting of 6 battleships, 5 large and 4 small carriers, 5 heavy cruisers, 4 cruisers, and 28 destroyers. To fuel this force a task unit of 5 fleet oilers, the Cimmarron, Kaskaskia, Guadalupe, Platte, and Sabine, escorted by 2 cruisers, 1 destroyer and 2 destroyer escorts, was sent from Majuro on 11 February. The first fueling, for the run-in, took place 14 February approximately 640 miles northeast of Truk. After this the oilers put into Kwajalein and refilled from commercial tankers there. After the raid the next fueling rendezvous was about 500 miles northeast of Truk on 19 February. Then the whole oiler group left for Majuro.

After the fueling on 19 February Admiral Mitscher with reorganized task groups made the raid and photographic reconnaissance of 21-22 February on the Marianas, topping off his destroyers from heavy ships before the run-in, at a point about 430 miles north of the previous fueling from the fleet oilers on the 19th. After the raid, retiring eastward he again fueled his destroyers from heavy ships on 24 February and proceeded to Majuro.

The only battle damage received in these raids was to the carrier Intrepid at Truk, caused by an aerial torpedo. She was able to proceed under her own power, steering by propellers only, to Kwajalein, and thence to a navy yard. Truk, as naval men knew, was the pivotal base for the Japanese mandated islands, and the enemy's principal Central Pacific base for operations as well as a key supply point and staging base for units bound to the South and Central Pacific. It was generally thought to be a Gibraltar, though Admiral F.C. Sherman, in his book "Combat Command," considered it overrated. When the news was broadcast that our task force was striking it, sinking ships and shooting down planes, not only the Navy Department and others at home were thrilled, but also Service Squadron Ten, waiting at Majuro. Thrilled and relieved was the squadron commander who alone knew where the strike was to be


and had thought of many disagreeable things which could happen during the attack.

Meanwhile the Service Squadron Ten flagship Prairie, Captain O.A. Kneeland, had reached Majuro with the staff. It consisted of only 16 officers at that time and of those the supply officer was in San Diego fitting out and loading the first six of the 3,l000-ton capacity concrete barges which later proved so useful. The starting organization of Ten immediately had the duties of port director thrust upon its operations department. The survey ship Bowditch, Captain J.H. Seyfried, made a complete survey of the anchorage, producing charts with numbered berths and establishing better navigational aids. A splendid job was done very rapidly and charts were turned out by the hundred so that all ships, tugs, barges, and boats could have them.

As fast as he could, Vice Admiral Calhoun, Commander Service Force, sent forward the service craft to Squadron Ten. The floating drydock ARD-13, Lieutenant Commander W.L. Travis, the high-speed transport APD-16, the repair ship Ajax, Captain J.L. Brown, 2 tugs, 2 yard oilers, a YP refrigerator, and six 500-ton ammunition barges were the early arrivals. Then came the destroyer tender Markab, Captain L.B. Farrel, repair ship Hector, Captain J.W. Long, and the Argonne, Captain H.A. Houser, with others following later.

The staff was called together, the work pointed out, the methods just used to replenish the fleet, with their good and bad features, and the tasks to come discussed in detail. Finally came the adoption of a motto by the squadron: "If we've got it, you can have it." This was meant to be literally true. It did not mean "if we have it to spare." More than once the squadron gave of its own in living up to its motto. Several guns were dismounted from Squadron Ten ships to be remounted as replacements of battle-damaged pieces on the combatant vessels of the striking groups. During the Marianas campaign every pair of socks in the storerooms of Ten's ships was sent to the fighting units. For some 3 weeks or more the messes of Ten, including the squadron commander's own, ate some sort of "colored putty" for butter. All the real butter had gone to the fast carrier groups. The staff was instructed that if something unheard of was requested, the answer was to be" We'll get it for you as soon as possible." With the full realization that its work was just beginning, and would grow in degree and broaden in scope to points beyond anything visualized at the moment, the staff began preparing for Spruance's return from Truk.

The cargo ship Vega arrived with a load of pontoons and fittings so


stowed that, as they were unloaded, pontoon barges could be constructed by the ship, with her special detail of Seabees trained for this purpose. Twenty barges were completed and put into service by Squadron Ten in 21 consecutive days--before the shore-based barge-construction unit had completed a single one. Most of the barges were propelled by large outboard engines. These twelve 100-ton cargo, six 50-ton cargo, and two 10-ton crane barges were all put to very hard service. Not only did they carry ammunition and stores of all kinds, but they were used as drydocks for boats, as camels (buffers) between ships, to ferry planes and liberty parties, and one even as a light-ship. The crews of these barges built cabins of dunnage lumber and pieces of tarpaulin or scraps of canvas on the sterns and practically lived in the, scrounging their meals wherever they could during those early days when everyone was overworked, underfed, and underslept, and often miles away from the regular berthing place when there was any time for a shore relaxation.

While the fleet was on the Truk strike, the staff of Squadron Ten prepared an information bulletin giving a schedule of fueling, provisioning, and ammunitioning. It gave destroyer assignments alongside tenders, anchorage berths, and special berths for ships firing antiaircraft target practice at sleeves or drones. It told where and how to make contact with any of the departments of Ten when it was necessary to deal with something not mentioned in the bulletin; and it named the recreation beaches and the forbidden islands. Thereafter on entering the anchorage, ships were met by patrol vessels and supplied with bulletins and anchorage charts, the latter continuously revised and kept up to date.

A floating fleet post office was established on LST-119 until one could be established by the Island Commander, Captain Vernon Grant. Two coastal transports were used for distribution of mail and for ferrying of personnel among the ships.

Arrivals of ARD-13, the first floating drydock to be sent into the Central Pacific drive, and the smaller AFD-16 were events of considerable importance at Majuro. The ARD had an 85-percent green crew which had never operated the dock and had never been to sea, so a period of intensified training in phraseology, station duties, and some seamanship was carried out. Eight days after her arrival the first vessel, a destroyer, was efficiently docked. AFD-16, which had lost its commanding officer by illness, was put under the same command as ARD-13 (Lieutenant Commander Travis) for operation and was located beside ARD-13. This proved fortunate, for by operating them as a team the


Small floating drydock
Small floating drydock


efficiency of both docks increased. The record of ARD-13 from this time to the end of the war was splendid and illustrated one of the many phases of winning.

High-speed mine sweepers, for towing, and sea-sled targets were procured from Pearl, and target practice arrangements were made for the ships of the fleet. Planes for towing sleeves were obtained and three firing positions established for that practice.

A fleet motion-picture exchange was established on board the Prairie. While this does not sound very important compared to the serious matters of sinking ships, killing, destroying enemy installations, and the vexing problems of fuel, food, ammunition, etc., that had to be solved, it was nevertheless a vital factor in keeping up morale. The men were spending long periods aboard ship, with very infrequent mail and very limited opportunities for diversion and recreation. Though the situation did not always permit of showing movies, even an infrequent display contributed materially.

With the return of the fleet from the Truk-Marianas strikes, Squadron Ten went to work servicing it. It was far from perfection, but there was some system and a general knowledge, on the part of those both giving and receiving the services, of the when and how of it. Admiral Spruance was pleased, and while he saw the work was imperfect he realized it would improve as more experience, study, and equipment were applied. He was so well satisfied that he said he saw no reason for the Fast Carriers Force going to Pearl any more. It never again returned there during the war. Individual vessels were sent back for repairs from time to time, but the force as such remained in the advanced areas and received its servicing from Squadron Ten as it repeatedly struck and advanced, to the consternation and confounding of the enemy.

The first 3 weeks of March were spent in consolidating gains. This gave the fleet opportunity for considerable overhaul and target practice, and time to harass Squadron Ten for things wanted but not yet available. In many ways this was advantageous because it revealed shortcomings at a period when there was time to start something remedial. Several vessels were added to the squadron about this time, including old merchant-marine tankers. The Gargoyle was commissioned by the squadron commander as the Arethusa, the Osmond and the Quiros, the Standard Arrow and the Signal, and the Polonaise as the Manileno. Several others came later.

Late in February the food situation did not seem quite so good as it should have been. The squadron commander indicated this in a letter


to Commander Service Force dated 28 February 1944, giving his estimate of minimum space requirements for 10 days' provisions for 150,000 men as:

Type of provisions Ratio of issue Pounds Long tons Cubic feet
Dry 62%     5,360,850 2,393 155,555
Chilled 241/2% 2,118,400 946 84,140
Frozen 131/2% 1,167,300 521 44,285

At the time, the Prairie was the only storage at Majuro. Her capacity was 67,934 cubic feet, or only about one-fourth of the total. However, some refrigerator barges, steel and concrete, had been promised. These would make up the total required, and it was mainly to hasten their arrival that the letter was sent. The figure of 150,000 men used as a basis for the estimate was exceeded in a very short time by the rapid growth of the fleet in the advanced areas. More space was, of course, necessary, and was forthcoming.

Late spring of 1944 saw the first of the "crockery" ships come into Majuro. They were the Trefoil and the Quartz, large concrete barges with power plants for refrigeration, lighting, and windlass, but not for movie power. They had a capacity of 3,000 tons of general naval stores, including food, clothing, canteen, tools, material (not including heavy metal), and boatswain's stores. Later barges included ordnance items, electronics parts, and Diesel-engine spares. These barges were extremely useful, since they came at a time when there was a shortage of hulls, but they were so fragile that a bump by a good-sized boat would crack a side. One was lost on a reef in a storm. A steel hull would have been salvaged.

Service Squadron Four, Funafuti to Kwajalein

On 23-24 February 1944, after the capture of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls, tows were dispatched from Funafuti to Kwajalein using the Diesel-engine repair ship Luzon, two fleet tugs, a rescue tug, three ocean tugs of old type, two commercial tugs, and the Navy oiler Sepulga. These vessels hauled an assortment of 500-ton barges, yard oil craft, pontoon cranes, pontoon barges, and small harbor-type tugs. In the excitement and fascination of strikes and other actual combat operations the importance of such an uninspiring movement as this might easily be overlooked. These were not merely barges as such. These were


The concrete stores barge Quartz, one of the many of this type construction
The concrete stores barge Quartz, one of the many of this type construction.


some of the storehouses, yard cranes, workshops, and facilities which rendered the services that enabled the combat ships to make the strikes. The distance to Kwajalein was more than 1,200 miles and the speed of advance was slow--about 4 knots--but this vital equipment had to get through to be used against the enemy. It did.

After the tows reached Kwajalein, Squadron Four was short-lived. On 17 March 1944 it was absorbed into the new Squadron Ten. Captain Scull became Chief of Staff to Rear Admiral Hoover, Commander Forward Area, Central Pacific, and Captain S.B. Ogden in the Cascade became representative "A" of Commander Service Squadron Ten in command of the Kwajalein and Roi detachment. Squadron Four had been very much worth while. Commander Service Force Pacific stated: "Compared to the size and accomplishments of Squadron Ten and its various detachments as the war progressed to the Western Pacific, the scope of Squadron Four's operations was small, and its assigned equipment seemed limited indeed, but many capable officers received practical experience while serving therein and went on to responsible duties in Squadron Ten and other commands."

Though only a few large vessels and not many destroyers, smaller ships, and aircraft were serviced at Funafuti, that location was the scene of logistic support of naval forces from floating equipment only. No shoreside facilities such as cranes, workshops, and storehouses, generally associated with navy yards or bases, were present there. Scull relied solely upon his mobile units, and later this type of servicing was rendered to all classes of naval vessels, with more appropriate supporting equipment and in locations as yet not visualized.


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