On 26 January 1945 Admiral Spruance relieved Admiral Halsey, so it was again the Fifth Fleet, its first new big job the taking of Iwo Jima. The forces involved were large, the vessels numerous. Vice Admiral Mitscher's Fast Carrier Force numbered 8 battleships, 11 large and 5 small carriers, 6 heavy and 12 light cruisers, and 79 destroyers. Vice Admiral Turner's Expeditionary Force consisted of 7 old battleships, 11 escort carriers, 8 heavy and 6 light cruisers, 42 destroyers, 20 destroyer escort, 16 destroyer mine vessels, 2 seaplane tenders, 43 attack transports, 4 communications flagships, 16 attack cargo transports, 3 landing ships (dock), 1 landing ship (vehicle), 2 fleet and 2 rescue tugs, 31 landing ships (medium), 76 LCI's of all types, 2 battle-damage and landing-craft repair vessels, and 44 patrol craft escorts, submarine chasers, and motor mine sweepers. Vice Admiral Hoover rounded out the armada with his 3 heavy cruisers, 15 destroyers, 12 destroyer escorts, 16 mine sweepers, and numerous small craft, a grand total of more than 540 vessels large and small, not counting more than 260 large and small service vessels, which of course had to service themselves besides supplying the fleet.
Fifth Fleet Relieves Third--Forces and Vessels--Logistics Prescribed--Logistics Support Group--Service Squadron Six--Service Squadron Ten Still Busy
Logistics for this armada were supplied by three agencies: at sea by Commander Logistics Support Group (ComServRon Six) whose supplies were mostly obtained from the other two before sailing; in port by Commander Service Squadron Ten and Commander Forward Area Central Pacific. Much of the hard-earned experience gained in previous campaigns, all the factors known and suspected affecting the undertaking, were laid out in detail in a logistic annex of the general operation plan.
The principal instructions were outlined therein for the employment of Logistic Support Group vessels of various types. Such instructions are condensed as follows: (a) Fleet oilers--specifying Eniwetok as a reloading point until otherwise directed by Commander Fifth Fleet and directing that after D-plus-4 day a minimum of six fleet oilers be maintained in the assigned operating area; (b) ammunition ships--requiring that a minimum number of ammunition ships be maintained at sea consistent with replacements and that moderate stocks of replacement ammunition be maintained in certain vessels in company to augment number of sides (loading spaces) available to fleet units; (c) replacement transport (CVE's)--requiring complete discharge of planes from one carrier at a time to expedite return for reloading, and consolidation of relief pilots and aircraft personnel from departing transport carriers with those remaining in the area; (d) dry and refrigerated provisions ships--requiring that issues from provision ships be expedited and ships return to port for reloading, and transfer maximum amount of provisions from oilers to ships to utilize maximum sides of provision transfer; (e) general stores and aviation supply ships--normal supply to be in port, but limited supply of general stores to be maintained in ships of Logistic Support Group, and if available that ships accompany that group for limited supply to forces at sea; (f) medical stores--standard stock of medical packs be maintained on oilers and other appropriate vessels; (g) personnel--requiring distribution of replacement enlisted personnel from pool aboard vessels of Logistic Support Group in accordance with instructions of Commander Service Force Pacific; (h) towing and salvage ships--directed that movements be accomplished as required by Commander Fifth Fleet.
In addition, the annex outlined the tasks of Commander Service Squadron Ten. Some of these were: Give direct support to units of Central Pacific Task Forces in all ports where Commander Service Squadron Ten was represented; maintain prescribed stock levels of all logistic materials; provide routine upkeep and battle-damage repair facilities; maintain at forward area ports the sources of replenishment and expedite reloading and departure of units of the Logistic Support Group that return to these ports; keep all agencies informed, such as Commander Central Pacific Task Forces(Spruance), Commander Logistic Support Group (Beary), Commander Forward Area Central Pacific (Hoover), Commander Service Force Pacific Fleet (Calhoun).
Commander Forward Area was required in part as follows: Maintain established supply levels at bases in the forward area; exercise general
supervision over logistic support agencies within his area, including loading and routing of replacement CVE's; inform Commander Fifth Fleet, Commander Logistic Support Group, and major task force commanders of the movement of logistic ships into the combat area.
This annex was vague in some places, so self-evident in others as to be redundant, and its prescribed responsibilities at time over-lapped. Nevertheless, as many of our people would be entirely new to the area and studying the plan as a first experience on such a tremendous scale, it had to be all-inclusive, even at the price of vagueness to some and redundancy to others.
The Logistic Support Group, while not new, was to undertake some added services, and had a new commanding office. Some measures had to be available in case the operation did not work out as well as was hoped. There was also a towing and salvage plan, with tugs and salvage vessels available at strategic points in the Marshalls, in the Marianas under Service Squadron Ten and under Service Squadron Twelve, which had a small group, four fleet tugs with the Logistic Support Group and, with the Joint Expeditionary Force three salvage vessels, two fleet tugs, and two rescue tugs. All were held ready for instant duty and replacement of other vessels.
The replenishment scheme for the Fast Carrier Force was not less comprehensive and detailed. Filled chock-ablock with everything before sailing by Service Squadron Ten, the replenishment of the force at sea was to conform with the program of strikes carried out. There were five outlines of these: A basic plan and four alternates, with a replenishment scheme adapted to each of the five, complete as to the date and area.
Replenishment for the Joint Expeditionary Force was available from Service Squadron Ten's representative at Eniwetok for units staging through that port. Facilities at Saipan and Guam were administered by Commander Forward Area Central Pacific, and Service Squadron Ten's representatives--Captain Rhoads at Saipan, Captain House at Guam. Fire-support ships equipped to do so were expected to replenish at sea to determine the possibilities of this method of supply.
Fleet oilers were initially located, on D-minus-20 day, 15 at Eniwetok, 12 at Ulithi; on D-minus-10 day, 6 at Saipan. Of these, 27 were assigned to the Logistic Support Group; the 6 to Admiral Hoover, Commander Forward Area, for local operations but available to the support group for fleet support if needed. All the oilers were to service groups staging through until required to proceed to sea.
Rear Admiral D.B. Beary's Logistic Support Group was organized in
2 task groups, each of 3 sections: Train, screen, and escort. Group A was designated 50.8.10, its flagship the Detroit, Captain D. Curry, Jr. The train, under Captain F.S. Gibson, included 15 oilers, 4 fleet tugs, and 1 escort carrier. Commander H.H. Love commanded the screen 50.8.14, of 2 destroyers and 12 destroyer escorts, while Commander H.D. Riley was in command of the escort carrier, consisting of 1 escort carrier and 2 destroyers. Task Group B, 50.8.16, under Captain H.F. MacComsey, included Captain V. Bailey's train of 12 oilers, 3 escort carriers, 2 ammunition ships, 1 general supply vessel, all with the designation 50.8.17. Screen, 50.8.22, under Captain J.R. Pahl, had 5 destroyers, 6 destroyer escorts, and 4 destroyer transports. Carrier Escort 50.8.23, Captain F.T. Ward, Jr., commanding, numbered 1 escort carrier and 2 destroyers. Besides these there were the 6 oilers in reserve at Saipan, or as it later worked out, at Ulithi. Task Force 58 sailed from Ulithi on 10 February to give Tokyo a mauling preliminary to the Iwo landings. This was the first air strike against Tokyo Bay by the carriers since the raid Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle had flown off the carrier Hornet in April 1942. Task Group A rendezvoused with the Fast Carrier Force 13 February about 10 a.m. and finished the refueling job about noon next day. The Bougainville transferred replacement planes and pilots to the force, was rushed back to Guam for a new load, and was back on the 19th with replacements for the losses in the Tokyo raid.
One oiler, the Patuxent, had a serious fire and explosion, with considerable resultant damage, on the 16th. She was sent to Saipan.
Task Group B joined Task Group A on the 18th in latitude 19° N., longitude 140° E. On the 19th the Logistic Support Group 50.8 rendezvoused with Fast Carrier Task Groups 58.1, 58.2, and 58.5 in latitude 23&Ddeg; N., longitude 140° E., and replenished them. The same day the Neosho was ordered to Iwo Jima to fuel ships there. Next day rendezvous was made with Task Group 58.3 and 58.4 in latitude 23° N., longitude 140° E., and these two groups were replenished, including planes. Three oilers went to Iwo Jima to fuel vessels there, and after discharging remaining cargo to three others, were ordered to Ulithi to refill. The Attu was sent to Guam to reload with planes and aviation supplies.
On the 21st of February the fleet tug Ute was sent with the destroyer Thorn to the aid of the escort carrier Bismarck Sea, damaged off Iwo, but it was no use. She was on fire, and was destroyed by internal explosion. Later, on 4 March, the tugs Sioux and Molala went to assist destroyers Yarnall and Ringgold and towed them to Ulithi. Task Group 50.8 demonstrated the feasibility of transferring ammunition at sea. The
Load of powder midway between the Shasta and the cruiser Vicksburg at sea.
Shasta rearmed some of the carriers, giving the Hornet 64,000 pounds of bombs in 2 hours, 36,400 pounds to the Bennington in 1 hour, and 28,300 to the Wasp in 1 hour. These missiles ranged in size from 100 to 2,000 pounds. It was a valuable advance and pointed the way for future improvement in fleet logistics.
The Fast Carrier Force was replenished 23 and 27 February, and most of it again on 3 March, when the Logistic Support Group headed back to Ulithi. From 12 February to 3 March this support group furnished replenishment, sending tankers back to Ulithi for refilling, oilers to Iwo to refuel ships there, ordering escort carriers to and from Guam to bring plane replacements, dispatching tugs to assist damaged vessels, and generally broadening its ability and utility in at-sea support.
Meanwhile Service Squadron Ten, as Task Group 50.9, under Commodore W.R. Carter, with main base at Ulithi and detachments at Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, and Leyte Gulf, was composed of some 250 auxiliary vessels of all kinds which formed a floating supply and repair base, including drydocking. It supplied practically every form of service such as would be available at a navy yard or supply depot on the continent. Moreover, its work was not confined to the current operation, as was that of most of the other task groups. Squadron Ten's chore was continuous from the day it started in Majuro and was always increasing in scope and amount as the war progressed. At times of specific operations such as Iwo Jima, the load usually became extra heavy. By the time of the Iwo operation it had grown considerably and some organizational changes had taken place.
Part of the extra load requirements were services to the amphibious groups at the staging points. In the Iwo Jima operation all but a small part of the Joint Expeditionary Force started from the Hawaiian Islands, thus presenting a logistic problem for the long voyage, and for maintaining the force at the objective, thousands of miles from permanent major supply bases. Facilities at Saipan and Guam had not been sufficiently developed to render more than a small part of the required services. Staging points and resupply channels therefore had to be established from floating facilities, though all ships were crammed as full as possible with 120 day's supplies for themselves, 60 for embarked troops, and ammunition, fuel, and fresh stores to maximum capacity.
Some of the transports were not designed for the endurance required, and special measures had to be taken to carry extra quantities in passageways and wherever else space could be found. This was not good, as it not only cluttered up the spaces but made orderly accounting and inventory
practically impossible, while also permitting some deterioration. Eniwetok and Saipan were selected as the main staging points on the 4,000-mile voyage, with Guam and Ulithi also utilized. Responsibility for the logistics was assigned to Commander Service Squadron Ten, who sent a representative to Pearl Harbor several weeks in advance of the operation for conferences with the Logistic Section of Commander Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet. A week was spent in determining fueling, watering, and provisioning schedules, and anchorage plans for the staging points. Estimates were made of facilities needed to accomplish the logistic requirements within the time available. Fueling, watering, and provisioning plans specified working parties and boats required, the commands furnishing them, and the order in which vessels of the task groups would receive such services. The supplying ships, by types, were spotted in locations facilitating servicing and minimizing back-tracking of ships. Anchorages were allotted in blocks, group commanders assigning individual berths.
When Task Force 51 left Pearl Harbor, an Amphibious Force Pacific representative flew to Eniwetok, taking with him the latest available information concerning movements, and there final detailed schedules were arranged, assigning ships by types for services from specified vessels at specific berths. These schedules, issued in sufficient quantity to give one to each vessel, were delivered to group commanders immediately upon arrival, first at Eniwetok, then at Saipan.
To assist ships and boats of the boat pool to locate them, each logistic ship hung a large sign over the side bearing the name of the ship and its berth number. At night fresh-provision ships displayed three green vertical lights, dry-provision ships three red ones. Ships awaiting service were directed to keep their mow numbers illuminated at night until serviced. Because of the speed with which ships had to be serviced to complete the task within the time limit permitted, it was realized during the initial planning at Pearl that it would be impossible to invoice provisions in the usual manner, so the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts permitted red tape to be cut and provisions taken on as gain in inventory.
At Eniwetok all ships received both fresh and dry provisions, all except the LST's were fueled, and the smaller craft received water. At Saipan all small craft again received fuel, water, and fresh provisions, but the LST's took no fuel. Large noncombatant ships received no logistic services except a few provisions after the other craft had been serviced. Carriers, fire-support vessels, and escorts were topped off with fuel while under way. Provisions both dry and fresh were issued by the unit system,
except to headquarters ships, attack cargo and attack transport ships, and landing ships (dock), which were allowed to requisition whatever they needed. The units of fresh and dry provisions were well balanced and pleased the ships drawing them. The dry-provision units contained considerable fruit juices, which were welcome.
Because of the large number of ships requiring fuel and water in a very short space of time at the staging points, speedy servicing meant a large number of distributing facilities as well as a large quantity of fuel and water. At Eniwetok five oilers were spotted in berths convenient to anchorages of the transport groups. Destroyers and other ships using black oil also fueled from these oilers. Six fuel facilities were set up for Diesel-burning craft. All tankers were equipped to fuel on both sides simultaneously. The LST and smaller types received water, and all except those LST's with "side carry" loads got it by going alongside the supplying vessels. Two self-propelled water barges cared for the LST's at anchor.
At Saipan because of the small harbor the servicing was difficult, so dispersals were resorted to, with LSM's and Mine Group vessels serviced at Tinian, a few miles south. LST's got water and provisions at their berths in the outer harbor of Saipan, water from self-propelled barges, and provisions from Service Squadron Ten delivered by LCM's from the transports. In the outer harbor LCI's went alongside fuel, water, and provision ships. The small craft received their services before the Task Force arrived, and took anchorages at two points in inner and outer harbors. Vessels other than those named were not scheduled for logistics at Saipan, but six oilers were available offshore for fueling at sea such destroyers,l destroyer escorts, and escort carriers as required it. Ammunition expended in practice en route from Pearl was replenished by four LCT's, largely loaded from the naval magazine at Saipan. Services at staging points went very smoothly and were completed in three-fourths of the time allotted.
At Eniwetok some 30 ships of Admiral Turner's force required voyage repairs involving 1,500 man-hours of work. Captain C. Lovelace of the repair ship Oahu was ComServRonTen's representative, and as a result of the work done all ships were able to proceed on schedule except one submarine chaser for which no spare shaft and propeller were available. Admiral Turner reported "The speed and comparative ease with which this extremely large number of ships received logistics at both staging points proved the desirability of early conferences between representatives of the Force requiring services and the Force supplying them.
Furthermore, it revealed the necessity of arranging and distributing comprehensive anchorage plans and logistic schedules well in advance of the operation. Finally, it reflected credit upon Service Squadron Ten, which did a thorough and energetic job throughout both staging periods."
Considerable additional repair work was done at Saipan because Squadron Ten had supplementary facilities there. Captain F.A. Rhoads, Representative B of Squadron Ten, had the destroyer tender Hamul, one Diesel repair ship, one battle-damage repair ship, one 3,50-ton and one 1,500-ton floating drydock for repair work, and the submarine tender Fulton also lent a hand. Ten ships were drydocked and about thirty worked upon for more than 10,000 man-hours. Such a splendid job was done on this armada that all but three were able to leave on schedule.
Logistics at or near Iwo were provided by several sources. Rear Admiral Beary sent oilers frequently. Besides fuel these carried limited quantities of many other things; Provisions, candy, tobacco, clothing, and medical units, and some ammunition, mail, and exchange personnel.
Knowing that Iwo would be strenuously defended, preparations for a large expenditure of bombardment ammunition were made, which was wise. The ammunition ships Shasta and Wrangell, with the auxiliary ammunition ship Lakewood Victory, were sent to the objective 2 days after D-day for resupply of our bombardment vessels. In addition to this, Turner had loaded his Task Force 51 vessels with all they could carry of every conceivable use, including 4,800rounds of 8-inch high capacity in 8 transports; 2,800 rounds in 14 LST's; 32,000 rounds of 4.2 mortar (20 percent of which was smoke) in 10 LST's; and 180 depth charges in 2 transports. Sixteen LCM's carried by the landing ship (dock) Bellegrove were loaded with ammunition at Saipan, taken from 8 of the LST's there. Besides all this, 18 LCM's carried by the Ashland each carried 500 rounds of 5-inch .38 caliber antiaircraft, not obtained from the LST's.
Between D-minus-1 day to the end at about D-plus-35 day, the ammunition actually expended totaled 14,650 tons; 2,400 rounds of 16-inch, weighing 2,280 tons; 5,700 rounds of 14-inch, 3,640 tons; 1,400 rounds of 12-inch, 520 tons; 8-inch high capacity, 11,700 rounds, 2,020 tons; 8,400 rounds of 6-inch high capacity, 440 tons; 152,000 rounds 5-inch high capacity, 4,160 tons; 17,700 rounds 5-inch star, 300 tons; 12,000 rounds 5-inch, 270 tons; 10,000rounds 4-inch, 145tons; and 70,000 rounds 4.2 mortar, 875 tons.
This rocky little island of Iwo, less than 5 miles long and little more than 2 at its widest point, sustained bombardment by more than 30 percent greater expenditure of ammunition than Saipan, where 10,960 tons
were fired. This is in addition to the bombs and rockets used by the Fast Carrier Force on the same targets. As has already been mentioned, a captured note of a Japanese general on Saipan said that if it were not for the naval bombardment his troops could give the Americans a good fight, but with it they could not. That was on an island 30 miles long and wide than Iwo is long. Is it any wonder that the Japanese general at Iwo thought he had set his defenses beyond any such bombardment? Yet he was hit with a total of 30 percent more, concentrated on an area about one-fifteenth as large. Aside from the direct damage, the bombardment was numbing, stupefying. It kept the defenders so suppressed that our Marines made many advances to positions where they could blast in or burn out the enemy from their caves. The Japanese was far from helpless, for he took a heavy toll in Marine lives, but he did not have the impregnability he thought he had. General Kuribayashi, commanding Iwo, said in a dispatch to Tokyo: "I am not afraid of the fighting power of only three American Marine Divisions if there is no bombardment from aircraft and warships. This is the only reason why we have such miserable situations."
Smoke or fog oil was used on nine different nights in the transport areas. The total expenditure was about 90,000 gallons of fog oil and about 9,000 smoke pots and floats. The supply presented no logistic difficulty.
Admiral Turner's ingenuity and initiative were again evident at Iwo, where he introduced a new type of logistic vessel, the small craft tender, later designated APB, a self-propelled barracks ship. The writer regards this as a misnomer. These vessels, two at Iwo, were LST's converted to meet the needs of the many small craft with insufficient endurance for long voyages and long period at objectives. The small craft had suffered many hardships and had previously had to beg or go short, or not be considered worth taking on the expedition. These new tenders carried about 225 tons each of frozen and dry provisions, 120,000 gallons of water, about 235,000 gallons of fuel, and had berthing facilities for 40 transient officers and 300 men, a sick bay for 14 patients, and messing arrangements for 750 men on a round-the-clock basis. The ships serviced by these tenders at Iwo were destroyers, destroyer escorts, destroyer mine sweepers, landing ships, mine layers, patrol and landing craft, mine sweepers, submarine chasers, and rescue tugs. From D to D-plus-15 day, 54 vessels were refueled and rewatered and 76 reprovisioned.
Perhaps the best thing of all was the way the tenders mothered the landing boats and their crews. Many of these were caught at the beach
when their own ships moved out of sight. Many were temporarily disabled, some lost. These tenders berthed a total of 2,500 officers and men, and fed 4,000 on a scale of 1 man, 1 day. It was a great help to a tired and hungry boat crew to have a place to eat and sleep. The tenders did not carry landing-craft spares or repair facilities. The principal part of the maintenance and repair work at Iwo was done by 3 landing ships (dock), 3 repair ships, 1 Diesel repair ship, and 1 landing-craft repair ship. The job was no small one, totaling work on 30 landing ships (tank), 24 landing ships (medium), 42 landing craft (infantry), 18 landing craft (tank), 3 destroyers, 5 attack transports, 1 net ship, and numerous landing boats. It has been said that every small boat used in landing on beaches had sustained damage of some sort, many of them more than once. The LSD's worked 24 hours a day on repairs. The divers of the repair ships practically lived in diving suits from sunrise to 10 or 11 o'clock at night clearing propellers and doing underwater repair and salvage work.
Meanwhile the logistic work of Service Squadron Ten at Ulithi, Saipan, Guam, Eniwetok, Kossol Roads, and Leyte was going steadily on. The amounts of repairs and the hours worked would have caused peacetime navy yards to throw up their hands in despair. As a matter of fact it was reported that one wartime yard complained that Service Squadron Ten was taking away its work. It is not easy to describe the repair job without going into detail hardly appropriate here. Suffice it that for February it varied form such big jobs as rebuilding 60 feet of flight deck on the carrier Randolph in 18 days and new bows on blasted ships, to replacing guns and electrical equipment. In that month 52 vessels were repaired in floating drydocks.
Fuel and other issues were no less amazing--4,100,000 barrels of black oil, 595,000 barrels of Diesel oil, 33,775,000 gallons of aviation gasoline, and 6,703,000 gallons of motor gas; approximately 28,000 tons of all types of ammunition; 38 tons of clothing; more than 10,000 tons of fleet freight; more than 7,000 tons of ship supplies of rope, canvas, fenders, cleaning gear, hardware; approximately 1,000 tons of candy; toilet articles; stationery; ship's service canteen items; and approximately 14,500 tons of fresh, frozen, and dry provisions.
The logistic work of Service Squadron Ten at Leyte should perhaps be briefly explained. While that was an area under the cognizance of the Seventh Fleet, which at that time did not come under the direct command of Admiral Nimitz, it was nevertheless a matter of brothers-in-arms cooperation to give support wherever possible. Therefore, because
of shortage of the necessary service vessels in the Service Force Seventh Fleet, a detachment of Service Squadron Ten was sent to Leyte to help out. In it was a floating drydock of 3,500 tons and another smaller one, as the shore-base development planned for the area was not far enough advanced to meet the requirements. Later, when the Third and Fifth Fleets based there, Service Squadron Ten moved in with a large detachment to take care of the logistics without drawing upon the shore base for anything except the occasional use of the battleship drydock at Samar.
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