Service Squadron Ten Main Body Moves to Ulithi
The first convoy to leave Eniwetok on 4 October was made up of repair ships, ungainly but valuable concrete stores ships, station tankers, oil and gas barges, and ammunition barges. The Vestal, repair ship, towed the concrete Chromite and an ammunition barge. Captain J.B. Good, commanding the Vestal, was task-unit commander. In his war diary he reported that the tugs had some difficulty in collecting and making up tows for delivery to the towing ships. Bad weather delayed the start, and though most vessels cleared the harbor, two station tankers, the tug Turkey, and two oil barges because of rain squalls and zero visibility remained in port overnight, joining next morning.
Reduction to Minimum at Eniwetok--Improvement in Salvaging
Captain Goode's worries about his assorted charges had only commenced, for next day a working party had to be sent to the covered lighter YF-254 to shift ammunition and put her on an even keel. Water, 2 feet deep, was found in her, so when the Turkey joined she was directed to pump out the bilges and repair some leaks in the barge. By 5 p.m. al the ships had taken their assigned positions in the convoy organization and things seemed pretty well under control, the least for the time being. Next day the towing bridle of the Liberty tanker Gazelle carried away. Captain Goode reduced convoy speed to 4 knots, while the retriever tugs YTB-372 and 384 helped the Gazelle reassemble her tow. The following day the fuel-oil barge YO-76 developed engine trouble. The old tanker Malvern, Lieutenant H.C. Pollock, had a steering casualty, dropped out of position astern, and did not regain her place until next day. The Vestal sent a repair party to the Malvern by tug. Another retriever brought patients over from the Chromite for medical attention.
Again the Malvern developed steering trouble, but this time regained position by steering by hand. On the 11th the flagship gave a subchaser water and provisions. After having ministered to the ailments of others, the Vestal herself encountered towing-engine difficulties, hoisted the breakdown signal, dropped out of formation, overcame her troubles, and later rejoined to assume the guide once more. Two days later, the 13th, the tug YTB-372 picked up a medical officer and chief pharmacist's mate from the Vestal to give medical aid to a patient on a fuel-oil barge. Later he was brought to the flagship. The breakdown of this same busy tug on the 13th was the last of the disquieting incidents to beset this heterogeneous group of 25 units. Captain Goode must have breathed a sigh of relief finally to sight Ulithi and anchor on the 15th inside the lagoon. In spite of all set-backs the voyage was made without loss, at a speed of about 5 knots.
The Second Convoy. Another towing group of miscellaneous types, all valuable to Squadron Ten, left Eniwetok 5 October, and included 2 floating drydocks. Commander W.L. Travis in the ARD-13 was convoy commander. On the 6th, pursuant to orders form high authority, the docks were ordered to return to Eniwetok. As they had been loaded with boats and hooked up with the usual difficulties, the order caused some disappointment. Nevertheless, back they went, the convoy proceeding with Commander J.E. Dow, commanding the cargo ship Megrez, as officer in tactical command of 23 units: 3 concrete ships, the Corundum with spare parts, Trefoil with general stores, Silica with fresh, frozen, and dry provisions, and medical items; an ammunition barge; maintenance barge; boat pool tender; sludge-removal barge; radio and radar equipment barge; floating workshop; 2 station tankers, the Giraffe and Quiros; water and gasoline barges; and the barracks ship Orvetta, Lieutenant Commander G.L. Armstrong. The Orvetta had been recompartmented to provide office space for activities the flagship could not accommodate. She was towed by the War Shipping Administration tug Watch Hill. Another fine tug of this type, the Mobile Point, towed the concrete Corundum and barge YC-1006. The two tugs had brought tows out to Eniwetok, and permission to use them was given by Rear Admiral Hoover, Commander Task Force 57. Another WSA tug, Cubits Gap, had brought out the floating dock ARD-25, Lieutenant Commander Otto Knudsen, and was routed forward to Guam for the use of Service Squadron Twelve, Commodore Fiske. The dock carried in her basin the suction dredge Point Loma and dredge Benson. The barracks barge Sea Hag, made fast to this tow, was for use at Guam.
Two medium size and two large harbor tugs were retrievers for this convoy. Two of them went into action when the barge YP-688 on the 9th broke loose from the Silica in the middle of the night. The war diary of the Megrez, flagship, recorded it: "At 2348 (11:48 p.m.) stopped engine; rest of convoy well clear and proceeding on course . . . Ship's force was aided by two retrievers in remaking tow. It was found the tow was parted because a shackle carried away. The shackle used was too light for the load placed on it, but the principal trouble was that the tow was hooked up improperly. The bridle was on the loaded (drag) end of the lighter, causing a constant yawing which certainly did not help the shackle. It is felt that if the tug which made up this part of the tow had used better judgement the incident would not have occurred."
Admirable restraint was displayed by the war diarist of the Megez in writing such a fine understatement. Here was the flagship of the convoy delayed by this happening, and her men required to work more than 31/2 hours at night in the middle of the ocean--sitting ducks for torpedo practice by an enemy submarine. The tow was not remade until 3:35 a.m. on the 10th,and the flagship could not overtake the convoy and resume guide position until 10 o'clock that morning. The present writer is sympathetic toward the author of the war diary and toward the men who made the repairs and by reading between the lines feels that at the time the tow was reshackled the salty seagoing language and paint-peeling invective probably used, somewhat compensated for the restraint necessary to compose the "official" language required by teh diary.
The convoy reached Ulithi 14 October without further mishap, making a speed of advance of about 6 knots.
The Third Convoy. In the towing convoy of 12 October, affectionately known to Squadron Ten Staff as the "Third Fleet," Commander F.W. Parsons was convoy commander, and his flagship was his command, the battle-damage repair ship Nestor. The salvage vessel Extractor, Lieutenant (j.g.) L.C. Oaks, had retriever duty, and 3 destroyers were assigned as escorts. The little armada was made up of 14 tows which, with their towing ships, numbered 35 units; 3 floating drydocks; 2 ammunition barges; 1 energizing barge equipped to revitalize fuzes of antiaircraft ammunition; 1 lighter with boat pool gear; 1 gasoline barge; 4lighters with various types of freight; 1 hotel barracks barge; 5 LCI's each towing 1 high-speed target sled; 2 degaussing vessels, also each towing a sled. The precious floating docks, because of their size, importance, and poor maneuvering qualities, were entrusted only to fleet tugs. The ARD-13, Lieutenant Commander W.L. Travis, with 12 LCM's, 12
LCVP's, and 3 lighters in her capacious basin, was towed by the tug Hitchiti, Lieutenant H.A. Guthrie, and had the 1,500-ton covered lighter YF-788towing astern. The ARD-15, Lieutenant Commander W.E. Kellar, towing the YF-786, was towed by the tug Arapaho, Lieutenant A.H. Gunn. The dock carried 1 seaplane wrecking derrick, 2 pontoon barges, 1 50-foot motor launch, and 6 LCM's. The convoy arrived without serious mishap at Ulithi 21 October, having made an approximate speed of 6 knots.
Equipment for the new mobile based not brought by these three convoys came forward in smaller groups as tows could be arranged. The unforgettable feature of transferring Service Squadron Ten's activities was that no losses of personnel or equipment resulted. Admiral Nimitz was gratified by this accomplishment. Certain precautions had been taken to diversify the types of equipment in each convoy, to prevent endangering all of any one kind at the same time. In spite of all safeguards used, the amount of damage from typhoon and enemy could have been heavy. Exactly why the enemy allowed all that equipment to proceed nearly 1,400 miles at an average of less than 6 knots may never be known. Some of our naval aviators who viewed these ambling armadas from the air advanced the theory that any Japanese who observed one would suspect a trap, believing that the drydocks and other questionable looking pieces of equipment were in reality different forms of mystery ships or other secret offensive machines. Whatever the truth, all got through to safety.
Reducing at Eniwetok. On 8 October Commodore W.R. Carter, and his staff in the destroyer-tender flagship Prairie, Captain O.A. Kneeland, with the Cascade, Captain H.K. Gates, and the merchant ammunition ship Plymouth Victory sailed for Ulithi. The chief staff officer, Captain E.E. Duvall, with six officers remained at Eniwetok in the destroyer tender Markab to dispatch convoys and administer Squadron Ten affairs for a short period, then rejoin the main body at Ulithi. Officers of this staff represented the departments of small craft, maintenance, fuel, operations, and personnel, with one assistant for small craft, a boatswain. Many requests, problems, and duties beset this skeleton staff. TheMarkab's communications division was well nigh swamped with radio and visual traffic incident to servicing fleet units present; almost as much as that borne by the Prairie, recently gone forward. Near the end of the stay at Eniwetok a review was made of messages received from both naval and merchant ships. The following extracts show something of the daily routine of a service squadron representative:
Moments in the Life of a Service Squadron Ten Representative
HAVE OFFICERS FOR TRANSPORTATION X NO BOAT AVAILABLE X
WHERE CAN WE GET WATER X LUBE OIL X DIESEL FUEL X
REQUEST BOILER REPAIRS X
IMPERATIVE WE OBTAIN WATER X AUXILIARY CIRCULATOR BROKEN DOWN X
REQUEST ASSISTANCE OF REFRIGERATOR MAN X
REQUEST YOU DESIGNATE SOMEONE TO PAY US X
REPAIRS NEEDED BY RADIO RECEIVER AND TUBE TESTER X
WHERE CAN WE OBTAIN FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS GROUND COFFEE X BEACH ADVISES ALL THEIR SUPPLY IN BEANS X
REQUEST CRANE BARGE REMOVE BULWARKS X
OUR ENGINES ARE STOPPED X CAN'T MANEUVER X SEND TUG X
MSG JOSEPH LEATHERS CK3C X HELLO JOE X COME OVER IF POSSIBLE X SIGNED JOSHUA LEWIS
WHO ISSUES REGISTERED PUBLICATIONS X
ANCHOR WINDLASS NEEDS REPAIRS X
ALEXANDER HAMILTON TO MARKAB X HAVING TROUBLE WITH ICE BOX X REQUEST SERVICES REFRIGERATION TECHNICIAN X
TEMPERATURE MY REFRIGERATORS WITH FIVE MONTHS SUPPLY IS NOW THIRTY THREE DEGREES X
TO SQUADRON TEN REP MUST TRANSFER MY COLD STORAGE AT ONCE X
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON YOUR MEAT CAN BE TRANSFERRED TO YF THREE EIGHT FIVE NOW ALONGSIDE ZEUS DISPATCH ONE LOVE CHARLIE MIKE (LCM) TO MARKAB TO PICK UP TARPAULIN X
GO TO MERCHANT WITH INITIALS ABLE HOW (ALEXANDER HAMILTON) LOAD FROZEN MEAT AND FISH FOR DELIVERY YF THREE EIGHT FIVE X HAVING WORKING PARTY THIRTY MEN READY DASH LOVE CHARLIE MIKE WILL PICK THEM UP X EMERGENCY TRANSFER OF FROZEN MEAT WHICH WILL SPOIL IF NOT MOVED X
MASTER VESSEL UNLOADING FROZEN MEAT ADVISED WORK WILL NOT BE COMPLETED BY MIDNIGHT X ARRANGE TO RELIEVE CREW MIDNIGHT TO TRANSFER MEAT BEFORE LOSS OCCURS X
MY COLD STORAGE IS GETTING ALONG FINE X SIGNED MASTER X
DID YOU PUT ALL MY MEAT IN YOUR REFRIGERATOR FOR RITZ CALRTON (A HOTEL BARGE) X
MEAT BEING TRANSFERRED INTO REFRIGERATOR BARGE YF THREE EIGHT FIVE X
WHEN CAN I GET MY MEAT BACK X
WE CAN LEND YOU A BOAT BUT CANNOT FURNISH WORKING PARTY X
DESIRE BOAT AT 0830 X SIGNED MASTER X
I AM NOW READY TO RECEIVE MY COLD STORAGE X THANK YOU X SIGNED MASTER X
YOU REQUESTED BOAT AT 0830 AND ONE WAS SENT AT THAT TIME X
(Q. TO CAPTAIN OF ZEUS) DID ALEXANDER HAMILTON EVER GET HER MEAT BACK X
A. YES SHE FINALLY DID X IT WAS GETTING TOO SOFT TO BE OF ANY USE TO ME (END OF MEAT SEQUENCE) X
DO YOU HAVE FACILITIES FOR STRAIGHTENING AND REPAIRING STEEL CARGO BOOM ON LIBERTY SHIP X
DUE BURST STEAM LINE TO DECK MACHINERY UNABLE TO GET UNDERWAY X
DESIGNATE SOURCE FRESH PROVISIONS X
HAVE MEDIUM SIZE BOY ALONGSIDE WHO WANTS TEN TO TWELVE THOUSANDS GALLONS OF FUEL X ONLY HAVE SEVEN THOUSAND ON BOARD X REQUEST GIVE HIM WHAT I GOT AND FILL UP AGAIN X REQUEST PROVISION ASSIGNMENT X
WE NEED PROVISIONS X WATER X FUEL X REPAIRS X
FUEL?--WATER?--PROVISIONS?--PAY?--WATER, AFFIRMATIVE--PROVISIONS, NEGATIVE--PROVISIONS! PROVISIONS! PROVISIONS! !*#%!!''
On October Captain Duvall and his staff left Eniwetok in the Markab, leaving Lieutenant Commander N.H. Giesenhoff, commanding the drydock ARD-23 and some officers to assist, in charge of service matters. The logistic equipment directed by Geisenhoff, and later by his relief, Commander C. Lovelace, commanding officer of the internal-combustion-engine repair ship Oahu, included the battle-damage repair ship Zeus; three floating drydocks; four covered ammunition lighters; one refrigerated stores lighter; three fuel-oil barges; one water,one large gasoline, and one sludge-removal barge; four small harbor tugs; and one seaplane wrecking derrick. On the 22d the Markab arrived at Ulithi,
and Captain Duvall and his temporary staff resumed their respective duties with Commodore Carter in the flagship Prairie.
Ulithi. Ulithi, largest atoll in the Western Carolines, lies slightly south of a line joining Guam and the Palau group, and approximately midway (360 miles) between them. The atoll consists of some 30 islands dotting a reef which surrounds a lagoon 19 miles long from north to south, 5 to 10 miles wide from east to west, capable of use as a fleet anchorage. The northern and southern ends offered the smoothest water, but neither was a storm shelter. The islands are low and offer slight protection from high winds.
Captured charts, substantially correct, indicated that the lagoon was heavily mined in certain areas. Mine sweeping began 21 September. Next day a reconnaissance platoon landed unopposed on three of the principal islands of the group. Friendly natives reported that the Japanese had left at least a month before. Unfortunately the fire support for the landing wounded four natives, who were given medical treatment but later died. Among them was "Princess" Marie, daughter of the chief, or "king," of Ulithi, who died on board the transport Harris. She was buried with her ancestors on Mogmog Island.
During the next 2 days mine sweeping continued, and the discharge of 5,600 tons of cargo from the transports and LST's was completed, the former withdrawing on the 25th. Occupation was now completed, giving the fleet possession of a new harbor which in the months to come proved its value as a logistic base for operations farther west.
The provisions stores ship Aldebaran, Captain E.E. Burgess, preceded Squadron Ten at this base, issuing fresh, frozen, and dry provisions, clothing, and ships stores to vessels of carrier groups until early morning of 3 October, when she ceased because of an impending typhoon. At 7:30 a.m. the Third Fleet stood out to sea to ride out the storm. Southwest and west winds blew from 35 to 55 knots, and large waves built up. At 8:35 p.m. the Aldebaran received an SOS distress signal, "We are sinking," from the LCT-1052, about 1,500 yards distant. With her engines drowned out, the LCT began to drift and the Aldebaran, which in the meanwhile had hoisted out a motor launch, maneuvered to go closer. The motor launch was first to reach the stricken craft but only just as the LCT went down. Fourteen of the crew were rescued, but her commanding officer, Ensign A.E. Smith, was lost.
Between 1 and 6 October because of the storm, the carrier Bunker Hill, unable to reprovision at Ulithi, was ordered to remain, and when the work was completed rejoin the task force at the next fueling rendezvous.
The uselessness of the port as a storm shelter was fully demonstrated by the typhoon which caused the loss of the LCT and many small craft from the boat pool, besides halting all service operations. The strategic position justified its acceptance with its shortcomings. Commander Service Squadron Ten had a complete program of typhoon procedures promulgated which required only a two-word signal to put into effect. This was done on two subsequent occasions.
Improvement in Salvaging. Anticipated enemy action manifested itself when on the evening of 13 October the cruiser Canberra was torpedoed while 85 mils off Formosa.She was taken in tow first by the Wichita, which was relieved by the fleet tug Munsee, commanded by Lieutenant Commander J.F. Pingley. The Munsee used 225 fathoms of 21/2-inch wire rope made fast to 60 fathoms of the cruiser's anchor chain. On the 14th the Houston was also torpedoed. She was under tow by the cruiser Boston on the 15th when the Munsee-Canberra tow joined up. Next day the group was attacked by Japanese torpedo planes which secured a second hit on the Houston. On the Canberra the salvage officer, Ensign P.S. Criblet, who had been placed on board by the Munsee, was drowned while diving in the forward engineroom to inspect repairs in preparation for pumping it out. Later, notwithstanding the anxious moments spent by the officers and crews of the damaged cruisers, apprehensive not only for the safety of ships at the moment but of possible future enemy attacks, time was taken out for the burial-at-sea services for Ensign Criblet. In devotion to his duty he had given his life.
On the 20th, the War Shipping Administration commercial leased tug Watch Hill, Captain De Puey, took a tow wire from the Munsee and the two tugs in tandem brought their charge safely to Ulithi on the 27th. The Houston also made it safely the same day. At once the repair ship Ajax moored alongside the Canberra to make repairs and insure her watertight integrity before she moved forward. Since her torpedoing, the cruiser had had only the barest minimum of water for cooking and drinking, part of which she received from the Boston while under way. By 10 November the repairs were completed and the Watch Hill towed her to Manus, where she entered the floating drydock ABSD-2.
As usual when a vessel left the theater of operations for home, the big cruiser was cannibalized--that is, equipment and articles scarce in the combat zone, and which she could spare, were removed. Sometimes gun mounts, more often food, ammunition, and spare parts, and always boats, if any, were taken. In this case, the main battery ammunition was left behind. Before the work of making a damaged ship ready for sea,
considerable time and effort had to be expended in clearing away wreckage, washing out oil, and in some cases removing bodies. Much cutting and welding was required. To assist the drydock's personnel, the repair ship Medusa supplied welders for temporary duty on the Canberra. She undocked on 6 January 1945, and on the 13th was under way from Manus to Pearl Harbor.
In the Houston's war diary for 14 October, Captain W.W. Behrens reported that to cover the withdrawal of the damaged Canberra, the scheduled movements of Task Force 38 were changed. Task Group 38.2 launched a dawn fighter sweep against Formosan airfields, and during the afternoon the ,i>Houston was sent to reinforce Task Group 38.1, which was giving close cover to the Canberra and the ships assisting her.That task group about 4:30 p.m. launched aircraft to intercept a large group of bogies (unidentified planes) coming in from the northwest, about 90 miles distant. When our fighter planes returned and landed on their carriers just before sunset they believed they had broken up the raid. Later, at 6:36 p.m. (sunset was at 6:22 p.m.), several low-flying aircraft were detected by radar, coming in from far ahead. Meantime several other planes were seen on both sides of the Houston. At 8:41 p.m. [sic--6:41 p.m.?] she was struck by a torpedo on the starboard side near frame 74. All propulsive and steering power was lost, and the ship listed 16 degrees to starboard, her after engineroom flooded beyond control and abandoned.
Towing the Houston
At 8 o'clock the destroyer Cowell, Commander T.H. Copeman, in response to a request for a ship to remove excess personnel, with superb seamanship, came along the port side, but rough seas made the procedure too dangerous and she was ordered away. Excess personnel were put over the side in rafts and picked up by the Cowell, Boyd, and Grayson. At 8:30 p.m. the serious buckling in the waist of the ship threatened to break her in two,, so the commanding officer gave the order to abandon ship, which was begun in cool and orderly fashion. Half an hour later further information indicated she might be saved, and all remaining personnel were ordered to stay aboard. In the meantime 743 men and 33 officers were picked up by 6 destroyers, 48 officers and 152 men remaining aboard. At 9:20 p.m. the cruiser Boston approached, made ready to tow, and by 11:50 p.m. was under way at 3 knots. On the morning of the 15th the Houston's draft was 34feet forward and 30 feet 4 inches aft
The Houston -- what holds her up?
instead of her normal maximum mean draft of 25 feet. At 8 p.m. of the 15th both the Houston and Canberra tows were only 220 miles from Formosa.
During the morning watch next day the Houston had an electrical fire in the after steering stations, which cut off power from her anchor engine. This delayed passing the tow to the tug Pawnee, Lieutenant H.C. Kramer, which had come up shortly after 6 a.m. However, by 10:36 a.m. the latter's wire was secured to the cruiser's port anchor chain, and by 11 a.m. the tug began slowly building up to towing speed. At 1:40 p.m. the task group commander warned of approaching enemy aircraft. The Houston brought all available men topside and manned as many 20-mm and 40-mm guns as possible, officers manning some of the guns. An enemy aircraft was sighted coming in from nearly dead astern, low to the water. The 3 supporting cruisers and 5 destroyers circled the tow at high speed and when they could bear, joined the Houston in opening fire on the oncoming Japanese plane.Though hit repeatedly by the cruiser's automatic weapons, the enemy succeeded in dropping his torpedo, which struck the already crippled cruiser near the stern on the starboard side, wrecking the whole after part of the hangar, which was opened to the sea, breaking the aviation gasoline tanks and starting a raging fire which took half an hour to extinguish. A second plane attacked the Santa Fe, and a third was shot down. It was learned later that our air support had destroyed all but these 3 of a very large raid, reported to have been made up of 60 to 90 planes of all types, which, had it broken through, would have finished off the 2 cruisers.
In the midst of these disturbing events, while Captain Behrens was struggling desperately with one-fourth a crew to keep his ship from sinking, the towing vessel Pawnee sent the Houston the encouraging message, "We'll hold on," and continued to make the usual 5 knots, in the right direction. This simple message might properly take its place among other immortal words uttered or signaled duringthe heat of a sea fight--"I have not yet begun to fight!" "Don't give up the ship!"--for here was a relatively small service unit, the fleet tug,giving heart to a crippled cruiser, the little Pawnee applauding the courage of the hard-hit big fellow with "We'll hold on!" as much as to say: "You'll make it. We're betting on you!"
Hold on the tug did, until 21 October, when she was detached to other duty. After this the tow consisted of the fleet tug Zuni, Lieutenant R.E. Chance, and the salvage vessel Current,Lieutenant J.B.DUffy, towing in tandem. On the 18th the oiler Pecos gave the Pawnee 875 barrels
The Reno hard hit and barely afloat.
of Diesel fuel, and the Munsee was fueled at the same time by the Kennebago, believed to be the first time fleet tugs had been fueled at sea while towing. On the 27th additional tugs nosed the Houston through Mugai Channel into relative safety of Ulithi lagoon, where Commander Service Squadron Ten assigned the repair ship Hector, Commander J.W. Long, to make the cruiser seaworthy for her voyage to Manus and then home. Thus ended a 1,250-mile trip on the end of a towline. The gallant Houston had been brought to safety from under the shadow of Formosa.
Admiral Halsey sent an enthusiastic "Well done!" to all concerned in the salvage. In another Halsey report are the words:" Just after the strikes on Formosa and Luzon, the torpedoing of Canberra on the 13th and the Houston on the 14th, there was a tremendous Japanese campaign of falsehood, claiming the destruction of virtually all the Third Fleet. This propaganda program may have been inspired by a feeling of necessity to reassure the Japanese people concerning the 'impregnability' of the Empire, or it may have had a seeming basis of truth in the minds of the authorities; erroneous conclusions probably stemmed from exaggerated claims of returning pilots." Whatever the basis of this propaganda, it was evident that our ability to recover quickly from most types of damage or at least to avoid total destruction, misled the Japanese in their estimates, and was particularly exemplified in the saving of the Canberra and Houston, as well as in that of the Reno on 4 November.
On 3 November the Reno, Captain R.C. Alexander, operating with Rear Admiral F.C. Sherman's Task Group 38.3 east of the Philippines, received a torpedo hit shortly before midnight on the port side, aft. Next day the fleet tug Zuni began towing her toward Ulithi. by only the most courageous determination on the part of the captains, officers, and crews of both the cruisers and towing vessels alike did the three tows somehow reach port notwithstanding sinking condition and attendant adversities. Two weeks after the arrival of the Canberra and Houston, the Zuni brought <>Reno in to Ulithi on 11 November. Squadron Ten's forces pumped all of them out, shored up bulkheads, restored some interior communications, water systems, etc., and made structural repairs enough to enable the three to be towed safely to Seeadler.
Temporary repairs were most extensive in the case of the Houston, which remained at Ulithi 48 days. The Canberra stayed 14 and the Reno 39 days. By 19 December all three had left Ulithi by separate tows, with extra tugs or large mine sweepers accompanying, and with PBM Mariners furnishing air cover. By mid-February all were under way for rear areas and eventually home ports, at a speed of 17 knots.
The work of making these cruisers seaworthy and operative, so they might proceed under their own power, testifies to the wisdom of having a large floating drydock available, and to the skill of the repair forces of the detachment at Seeadler, Captain Ogden coordinated all such activities until 11 December 1944, when he moved forward to Kossol Roads in Palau, being relieved as Commander Task Unit 30.9.1 by Captain Paul B. Koonce, commanding the destroyer tender Sierra, who remained at Manus until 15 February 1945.
The saving of these cruisers, not discounting the military protection afforded by their escorts, may be attributed to the effectiveness of the logistic support from floating bases. The advance of such bases as the action moved westward, and the presence, at the time, of units of Service Squadron Ten at Ulithi, relatively nearby, made it possible to operate fleet tugs and rescue vessels near the combat areas, in readiness to tow damaged ships away from further danger or complete loss, to that base for total repairs or for temporary work to enable onward routing to home yards. The Japanese were slow to recognize the effectiveness of this.
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