STALEMATE II: The Western Carolines Operation
Immediately following the capture of the Marianas, the Western Carolines operation was planned to gain control of the last link dividing our Central from our Southwest Pacific Force, which had been operating independently since 1942. Control of the Western Carolines group would give the Allied forces a direct line of advance westward to the eastern approaches of the Philippines and the Formosa-China coasts. Every major command in the Pacific area participated in the operation, with an estimated force of 800 vessels, 1,600 aircraft, and 250,000 Navy, Marine, and Army personnel.
Preparations at Seeadler Harbor and Eniwetok
As early as 29 May 1944, Commander Third Fleet was directed to initiate planning and preparations for seizing the islands in the Palau group. Observers were sent to the Marianas to profit by any lessons that campaign might teach. Admiral Halsey, commanding the Third Fleet, was designated Commander Western Pacific Task Forces and given additional responsibility for emergency support of the Southwest Pacific Forces under Vice Admiral T.C. Kinkaid, employed in the capture of Morotai. Vice Admiral T.S. Wilkinson, commanding the Third Amphibious Force, was named Joint Expeditionary Force Commander (Task Force 31) to conduct landing operations. Major General J.C. Smith, USMC, Commander Third Amphibious Corps, was named Commanding General, Expeditionary Troops (Task Force 36). Vice Admiral Mark A. Mitscher provided air support with his Fast Carrier Task Force 38. Because the seizure of Saipan had proved more difficult and time consuming than had been estimated, and the consequent deployment of forces had been delayed, the original STALEMATE order of May 1944 was
canceled and a new plan known as STALEMATE II was issued on 7 July. By this plan, 15 September 1944 was designated as D-day, when initial landings would be made simultaneously on Peleliu Island in the Palau group by the Central Pacific Forces, and on Morotai Island, 480 miles to the southwest, by the Southwest Pacific Forces.
Seeadler Harbor, Manus. On 30 July 1944, representatives of Central Pacific Forces, headed by Commodore A.G. Quynn, met at Naval Base Manus, Admiralty Islands, with representatives of Commander Seventh Fleet, Commander Southwest Pacific Forces, and Naval Base Manus to discuss logistic support of Third Fleet units using Manus as a base in the Western Carolines operation. As a result, Captain S.B. Ogden was ordered to Manus as Commander Service Squadron Ten representative, bringing with him units necessary to service Third Fleet vessels. He left Kwajalein in the Marshalls on the Argonne, Commander T.H. Escott, on 21 August and reached Seeadler Harbor on the 27th to set up his mobile base, using the Argonne as his flagship.
Commander Third Fleet's logistic plan for Operation STALEMATE II, covering the capture of Peleliu,. Ngesebus, Anguar, and Ulithi required that there should be available in Seeadler Harbor one 90,000-ton floating drydock, one 1,000-ton floating drydock, one destroyer tender, one repair ship, two 3,000-ton floating drydocks, and four floating workshops--two for hulls, two for machinery repairs, Besides these, there were added from time to time two destroyer tenders, one repair ship for internal combustion engines, four station tankers, one repair ship, two covered lighters, one water and one fuel oil barge, and two pontoon cranes.
Captain Ogden's responsibility, as Representative "A" of Commander Service Squadron Ten in charge of his Seeadler detachment, was to administer its activities in rendering logistic support. An example was the requirement that 24 oilers be present there for the striking forces, and the further requirement that the Area Petroleum Office of ComServPac effect delivery of 4,150,000 barrels of fuel oil at Manus in equal amounts throughout September. On 20 August 12 oilers left Eniwetok for Seeadler, carrying approximately 1,200,000 barrels of naval special, 84,000 barrels of Diesel oil, and 4,500,000 gallons of aviation gasoline. Commander ServRon Ten at Eniwetok immediately began preparations to send the second contingent of oilers, which left on the 27th and reached Seeadler the 31st. Captain Ogden handled the assignment of the tankers and apportioned delivery of fuel and petroleum products. He similarly administered the supply of fresh and frozen foods, dry provisions, dry stores, ammunition, fresh water, medical
items, fleet freight, aviation supplies, and last but not least, repair facilities.
Following the Argonne to Seeadler on 27 August were the unclassified vessels Silver Cloud, Caribou, Arethusa, and Armadillo, the water barge YW-90, and the ocean tug Tern towing the concrete barge YO-186. The Caribou brought 65,000 barrels of fuel oil, the Silver Cloud 85,000 and the Arethusa 65,000; the Armadillo 24,000 barrels of Diesel oil and 1,770,000 gallons of aviation gasoline. YW-90 held 280,000 gallons of water, and the concrete YO-186 55,000 barrels. The fleet tug Tawasa towed in the floating drydock ARD-19, while the auxiliary ocean tug ATA-122 arrived towing the barges YF-681, filled with boatswain's stores of manila and wire line, blocks, tackle, mooring gear, etc., and YF-787 with general stores. Bringing in the drydock also meant bringing her in full, for while being towed from port to port her docking space furnished a wealth of cargo room for all sorts of equipment. On her trip from Eniwetok the ARD-19 carried the little harbor tug YTL-208, 2 pontoon crane barges, 20 LCM's, and 20 LCVP's. Except for the crane barges all these were self-propelled, but none could have made its way across the ocean under its own power. Most of Ogden's detachment was sent down from Kwajalein and Eniwetok. Crane barges, small tugs, and landing craft were vital necessities for supply services within a harbor, and had to go forward. We shall see later how the ARD's continued their usefulness as "moving vans" in the shifting of a service squadron westward.
The Forces. Some idea of the magnitude of STALEMATE II may be had by considering the tremendous forces involved, so far the greatest naval-military effort. Besides 14 battleships, new and old, 16 carriers, and 20 escort carriers, 22 cruisers, 136 destroyers, and 31 destroyer escorts, the attacking fleets included every manner and type of amphibious and supporting craft, large and small, to the grand total of 712 vessels. This without counting the various service ships as assigned, or the more than 400 units engaged in Operation INTERLUDE for the capture of Morotai simultaneously with the landings on Peleliu on 15 September.
The land-based forces, designated as Task Force 36, were composed of two parts--the Western Landing Force, or Third Amphibious Corps, and the Eastern Landing Force. The Western included the First Marine and 81st Infantry Divisions, the Eastern the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions. The Floating Reserve was the 7th Infantry Division, and the General Reserve was the Fifth Marine Division.
The First Marine Division was loaded in the Guadalcanal-Russells
area, and was jointed for final rehearsals late in August by the 81st Infantry Division. The latter had been mounted in Hawaii and moved to Guadalcanal in two convoys, the LST's and slower escorts leaving first, the transports following. The entire assault force sailed to the objective in two convoys on 4 and 8 September. The Eastern Landing Force of XXIVth Corps left Hawaii 15 September for Eniwetok to participate in Phase II, but when that portion of the plan was canceled except for the seizure of Ulithi it was sent on to Manus to prepare for Operation KING TWO, the Philippines. One regimental combat team of the 81st Infantry Division proved sufficient to secure Ulithi.
In his Operation Plan 14-44, Admiral Halsey prescribed that "all combatant and auxiliary ships will avail themselves of every opportunity to procure stores in advance of this operation to insure departure for operating areas" with ammunition, fuel, and fresh provisions to maximum authorized capacity, dry provisions not to exceed 120 days for ship's company and 60 days for embarked troops, and general stores, clothing, ship's stores stock, and medical stores for 120 days each.
Operational control of support shipping for the operation passed to Commander Third Fleet on the arrival of the vessels at Manus and Eniwetok, and such ships were given Third Fleet Task Group designations. Provision stores ships, general stores issue ships, and cargo ships carrying dry provisions used in support of fleet units, were fleet issue loaded. All fleet tankers were directed to load with half capacity cargoes of Diesel oil and aviation gasoline but with fuel oil to the maximum draft. Large ships were expected to furnish provisions to small ones when necessary. Since it seemed probable that rationing of fresh and frozen provisions would be unavoidable, cruisers, battleships, and carriers were provisioned on the basis of serving at least one complete dry ration every sixth day. The units designated for logistic support of the Third Fleet were the Fleet Oiler and Transport Group (Task Group 30.8) under Captain J.T. Acuff, and the Service Group (Task Group 30.9) under Commodore W.R. Carter of Service Squadron Ten, based principally at Manus and Eniwetok.
August was a busy month at Eniwetok. The provisions stores ship Arctic had arrived 30 July and during the first part of August discharged her cargo of 1,600 tons of fresh and frozen provisions. She was the first ship to arrive whose cargo was made up in 5-ton issue units. She returned to Pearl for reloading and reached Manus 20 September, just in time to replenish vessels which had taken part in the initial phase of STALEMATE.
On 10 August the provision ship Aldebaran reached Eniwetok, discharged
1,670 tons of fresh and frozen provisions and 1,083 tons of dry provisions before sailing back to Pearl and the west coast on the 16th. By 25 September she was back at Manus. Also arriving at Eniwetok 10 August was the cargo ship Azimech with a load of 4,591 tons, of which 4,000 were dry provisions. Between 11 and 23 August she issued 3,978 tons of dry provisions. Between 11 and 23 August she issued 3,978 tons of dry provisions to 65 ships; 262 tons of canteen stores to 44 ships; 55 tons of clothing and small stores to 27 ships; and 26 tons of medical supplies to 93 vessels. On 25 August she sailed for San Francisco to reload.
During this same period the Antiqua reported issuing 1,770 tons of fresh and frozen foods to 55 ships, averaging 322 tons a day. The Bridge arrived at Eniwetok 19 August and by the 24th had issued 890 tons of fresh, frozen, and dry provisions, an average of 245 tons a day. She returned to Pearl for reloading and entered Eniwetok again, 21 September. The Boreas brought from Pearl 2,770 tons of fresh and frozen provisions, 460 tons of dry provisions, and 100 tons of ship's store stock, clothing, and small stores. Between her arrival 26 August and her departure for Pearl 2 September she unloaded a total of 555 tons of cargo every day. She was back again 10 October with fresh supplies. The Navy cargo ship Ascella received a general fleet issue of dry stores at the Naval Supply Depot Oakland and on 15 August anchored at Eniwetok to begin issuing to Task Force 38. She remained until 16 September, then went to Pearl for replenishment.
The administration and distribution of the food by Service Squadron Ten, particularly the fresh and frozen food, posed numerous problems, and called for the greatest mixture of diplomacy, humility, and tough firmness. There never was enough fresh and frozen food to satisfy anyone--not even those who got the most. Often there was a shortage of some item, bringing forth an immediate complaint which had to be dealt with, sometimes by substitution bribery. This was at a time when the squadron commander was having to disperse his staff, already small, to make up detachments at Saipan, Guam, and Seeadler faster than Calhoun could send him replacements.
Commander Service Squadron Ten at Eniwetok reported on 9 September that all fresh and frozen food had been exhausted late in August and no more was expected for general distribution until early October. On that date the commander of a Marine unit requested much-needed fresh vegetables and meat for his forces but had to be content with a supply of emergency B rations for them as they departed for Palau.
The concrete IX's Silica and Carmita at Eniwetok were used to issue
fresh, frozen, and dry provisions when activity was at its height. A resupply, however, did come into Eniwetok before Carter expected it. On 25 September when the amphibious forces of the XXIVth Corps, intended for Phase 2 of STALEMATE II, came in for replenishment, the Bridge, Antigua, and Cheleb were on hand. The Bridge issued 885 tons of fresh and frozen provisions and 570 tons of dry provisions to 121 ships in 2 days, the Antigua 994 tons of fresh and frozen provisions to 110 ships during the same period, and the Cheleb 450 tons of dry provisions to 96 ships of the Amphibious Task Force 31.
General Stores. Several general stores issue ships were available at Eniwetok during replenishment of the Third Fleet preceding STALEMATE. The Talita issued stores from 24 July to 15 August, when she left for reloading at Noumea and Espiritu Santo, returning to Eniwetok 24 September. The Luna brought in general stores 21 August, discharged, and sailed 6 September to reload at Noumea and Espiritu, whence she proceeded to Manus and later in October to Ulithi. The concrete IX's Trefoil and Quartz were used to issue general stores at Eniwetok, maintaining continuous supplies at the anchorage while one or more of the general issue ships retired to their source of supply for refilling.
The Castor reached Manus 18 September, remaining there until 17 October supplying general stores to ships returning for replenishment. Then she went to Ulithi. The Volans and Antares furnished general stores to Third Fleet ships staging through the South Pacific area in August. The former went to Manus 5 October and thence to Ulithi 24 October, but the Antares remained in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area to resupply ships withdrawing from Palau after D-day. General stores for the Southwest Pacific operations were available from both shore points and several general stores ships. The Pollux was one such ship which, during August and September, put in at bases in the Southwest Pacific area.
Aviation Spare Parts. The Aviation Supply Depot at Manus Shore Base was one of the principal sources of aviation spare parts. The other was the Fortune, which arrived at Seeadler Harbor from Kwajalein 17 September and remained until 2 October to supply carriers and other vessels returning from combat. Spare parts were also to be had at the Aviation Supply Depots at Roi, Espiritu Santo, and Guadalcanal.
Our pace against the enemy was rapidly increasing. Ships which had participated in the Marianas had to be speedily overhauled and replenished.
Repair and Maintenance
A great number went to Eniwetok, where Service Squadron Ten was in readiness. Others proceeded to bases in the South Pacific--Tulagi, Guadalcanal, or Espiritu Santo--while additional ones were serviced at Manus, Saipan, Guam, Kwajalein, and Pearl. Still others, especially landing craft, needing some work, came from new construction at home.
The STALEMATE operation plan provided that all major bases in the South and Central Pacific areas would be used during and subsequent to the operation. At Espiritu Santo was the ABSD-1, the 90,000-ton floating drydock for repairing battleships and large carriers. After the collision between the Tennessee and California en route to Espiritu on 23 August, the latter entered the dock for repairs. The Tennessee, less seriously damaged, moored in Segond Channel with the repair ship Aristaeus alongside for assistance. As facilities were already taxed by a heavy repair schedule, workmen were brought in from other South Pacific bases, so that the Tennessee was made ready in a week, the California within 2 weeks. The 18,000-ton floating drydock YFD-21 was also at Espiritu for servicing cruisers and escort carriers. Other facilities included the 1,000-ton drydock AFD-14, the 3,500-ton ARD-5, and three floating workshops--YR-47, YRD(H)-1 for hulls, and YRD(M)-1 for machinery.
The Mindanao, a repair ship for internal combustion engines, was at Espiritu during August and until 13 September, when she proceeded to Manus for duty with ComServRon Ten. On 28 August the Briareus reached Espiritu Santo to assist the disabled California, after whose departure she went to Manus, arriving there 26 September. Besides all this, shore facilities were available in the form of a Ship Repair Unit and one for boat repairs. The latter reported intense activity during August, with 24 hours a day being worked on two 12-hour shifts.
In the Tulagi-Purvis Bay region as many as 255 ships were present at once, with ship movements averaging 122 daily during the last week of August. Here were the 3,500-ton floating drydock ARD-14, the 1,000-ton dock AFD-13, and the floating workshop YR-46, augmented later by the destroyer tender Dixie and the battle-damage repair ship Oceanus, both of which were at Purvis Bay until 10 September. The latter went to Manus 14 September and thence to Kossol, the Dixie eventually reaching Ulithi 30 September. The heavy-hull repair ship Jason stayed at Tulagi until 11 September and then reported to Squadron Ten at Manus. The repair ship Prometheus was anchored at Iron Bottom Bay, Florida Island, during August and early September giving steam, electricity, and dental services to naval and merchant vessels, leaving for
Manus 12 September, remaining there from the 16th to the 25th, when she proceeded to Kossol Passage.
The internal-combustion-engine repair ship Tutuila reached Purvis Bay from Eniwetok 8 August and remained there until after the Palau engagement. The Cebu was at Guadalcanal in late August, servicing vessels staging in that area, and on 10 September arrived at Manus, where she based for several months. The destroyer tender Whitney, after being at Espiritu Santo from 10 to 23 August, reached Guadalcanal on the 29th, repaired several vessels of Task Force 32, and left 10 September for Manus. She also furnished dental work for 346 men during August, September, and October.
Shore repair facilities in they Solomons area included a large boat maintenance unit (Turner City), and Landing Craft Repair Units 1 (Carter City) and 2, respectively, at Tulagi-Purvis Bay and Renard Sound. The Tulagi unit reported that in September it repaired 383 ships, including 4 battleships, 1 large carrier, 2 heavy cruisers, 0 destroyers, and 16 destroyer escorts. Turner City repaired literally hundreds of landing craft.
In the Central Pacific area, by far the greatest activity centered about Service Squadron Ten at Eniwetok. On 1 August the ships included four destroyer tenders, four repair ships of different types, one battle-damage repair ship, two 3,500-ton floating drydocks, two others of 1,000 tons each, and one floating workshop. Activity here reached its peak in the middle of the month. On 16 August 401 ships were in the port. This number gradually diminished as large fleet units, especially Task Force 38, were replenished and sent forward. On 1 September 249 ships were in port. During this period all the floating equipment was still at Eniwetok except for the Tutuila, which reported 8 August to the Service Force South Pacific at Purvis Bay. Meanwhile the floating dock ARD-23 had arrived at Eniwetok 7 August. During that month the Ajax reported services or repairs to 9 battleships; 1 large carrier, 1 light carrier, and 1 escort carrier; 15 light cruisers and 5 heavy cruisers; 3 destroyers; 26 destroyer escorts; 7 motor mine sweepers; 5 large mine sweepers; and 47 miscellaneous smaller craft. In the midst of this servicing of ships for STALEMATE an epidemic of dysentery broke out on board, grew steadily worse, and it was feared the whole anchorage might be infected. Consequently the Ajax was sent to Kwajalein to stay until her quarantine could be lifted. One hundred ninety-five of a crew of approximately 1,100 were affected and 2 deaths reported. The ship returned to Eniwetok 21 October and went back into full service at Ulithi in November.
The Prairie performed tender service for destroyers at Eniwetok, and
in addition overhauled the main engine and auxiliaries of the barracks ship Orvetta while moored alongside during the entire month of September.
Until 5 September the destroyer tender Piedmont was busy at Eniwetok, then sailed for Seeadler Harbor to become part of Task Group 30.9.
Limited repair facilities for STALEMATE forces were available at Kwajalein from Squadron Ten. Several 1,000-ton floating drydocks were used chiefly for repairs to small craft.
At Kwajalein, Captain H.A. Houser assumed Ogden's duties, using the Luzon, a gasoline - and Diesel-engine repair ship, as flagship. She stayed at Kwajalein until 2 September effecting repairs, assisting in the maintenance work done by the 1,00-ton floating drydock AFD-17, and delivering fuel, water, and stores. On the 4th she arrived at Eniwetok and thence proceeded to Guam, where Captain House became ComServRon Ten representative. Lieutenant J.B. Koeller, in the Gazelle, assumed Houser's duties at Kwajalein. Other repair services in the Central Pacific were available at Guam, Saipan, Tarawa, and Majuro, but were somewhat more limited than those described.
Southwest Pacific forces participating in the Morotai landings had access to the fleet anchorage at Seeadler Harbor, Manus, where a large ship-repair shore base capable of hull and engine work on all classes had recently been put into operation at the naval station. A mobile amphibious repair base for maintenance and repair of hulls and engines of landing ships and landing craft was set up in September 1944 as Floating Repair Unit 3. Drydocks, also shared by Third Fleet ships, included one of 90,000 tons, two of 3,500 tons each, one of 1,000 tons, one hull floating workshop, and one machinery floating workshop. On 4 September two more floating drydock-workshops were added to the Manus facilities. In addition, there were the repair services of the destroyer tender Whitney and the repair ship Medusa.
The port of Sydney, Australia, had facilities for major and minor repairs on all types of naval vessels, Brisbane commercial facilities for general ship repair and docking of medium-size craft, and Cairns equipment for handling ships of destroyer size and smaller, through destroyers could not be drydocked. The repair base at Milne Bay could also handle vessels up to and including destroyers, while Finschhafen had a mobile amphibious repair unit, a PT base, and a 1,000-ton capacity drydock under Army operational control.
Floating Repair Unit 1 based at Madang-Alexishafen, and was composed
New Guinea (and small part of Australia)
of a 3,500-ton drydock, several AFD's of 1,000 tons, and hull and machinery workshops. Repair ships included the Rigel, Midas, Culebra Island, Achilles, and Remus. At Hollandia there were a destroyer-repair base and Floating Repair Unit 2, with a 3,500-ton drydock, 1,000-ton drydock, and several tenders and repair ships. Woendi had an advanced PT base, with floating equipment of several tenders and tugs. Boat-repair units were at Green Island, New Georgia, Torokina, and Treasury Island.
Before D-day the campaign opened with a diversionary strike against the Volcano and Bonin Islands from 31 August to 2 September by Task Group 38.4 under Rear Admiral R.E. Davison, afterward striking Yap on 6-8 September. Simultaneously Task Groups 38.1-2-3 conducted preliminary bombardment and air attacks against the principal Palau Islands, then turned their attention to Mindanao in the Philippines on 9 and 10 September. Air bases in this area were the closest which could be considered threats to the coming campaign. From Yap, Task Group 38.4 took over further neutralization of Palau targets 10 September, after the three task groups had launched the Mindanao raids. These three groups struck the Visayas--Leyte, Samar, and smaller islands--12 to 14 September.
The Visayas strikes disclosed such Japanese weakness in this area that last-minute changes were made in the 7 July operation plans. Yap was to be bypassed, and Ulithi seized as soon as possible to provide a fleet anchorage. Seizure of the Leyte-Samar area, originally scheduled for 20 December, was moved up to 20 October.
On 13 September Task Group 38.1 was detached to cover the Morotai assault, with D-day only 2 days away. Landings were effected with little or no enemy resistance, so by the afternoon of the 16th the group retired to join the other two. All three rendezvoused on the 18th, proceeded to Luzon, and conducted diversionary strikes on the 21st and 22d. Returning, they struck the Visayas again on the 24th and retired to replenishment bases. Meantime Task Group 38.4 had been covering the Palau area.
Notwithstanding the last-minute changes in operation plans, all land-based forces for Palau got under way on schedule. The leader of the assault forces, the First Marine Division, landed on Peleliu Island 15 September. Despite stiff opposition, the airfield was captured by the second day. On the 17th, operations were initiated against Anguar Island. After it was in hand, landings were made at Ulithi 23 September. Though our naval and gunfire support groups were alerted, only one regimental combat team of the 81st Infantry Division was needed
because the Japanese had previously evacuated the atoll.
Logistic Support in STALEMATE II was the largest operation attempted thus far in the Pacific war. As already indicated, every effort had been made to avoid errors noted in the Marianas operation. Much preliminary planning had to be done, with last-minute changes inevitable, for logistic support of the fleet was becoming increasingly complex, since emphasis was being placed on the mobility of the striking and covering forces whose primary task was to exploit enemy weaknesses and to seek opportunities to engage a major portion of his fleet.
The general concept of the operation provided that combat forces of the Third Fleet should cover the movements of the Joint Expeditionary, or assault, Force. The logistics for these two had to be undertaken independently, though both used Manus and Eniwetok for resupply.
The three major commands which provided logistic support to STALEMATE II were Commander Service Force Pacific, Commander Air Force Pacific, and Commander South Pacific Force. General MacArthur, as Commander in Chief of Southwest Pacific, was to furnish limited support if necessary. Actually he had his own "show" to run with the Morotai landings, to which naval support was given by Admiral Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet.
No attempt will be made to describe in detail the amount and variety of supplies issued and services performed within busy Seeadler Harbor in support of the fleet, but examples of several units can be given, the parts they played related to give type pictures.
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