Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To Tongatabu, 1942

On August 12, 1942, after months of repairing battle-damaged ships at Pearl Harbor following the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, my dad's repair ship, the USS Vestal, receives orders for the South Pacific ("Secret Operating Order No. 40-42"). It leaves Pearl for Suva Harbor, Fiji, and then on to Tongatabu (or "Tongatapu" as it is now known), in the Tonga Islands, 70 years ago today. It is in the task unit, which includes the cargo ship Seminole, and is escorted by the destroyer Meredith. Vestal will spend 60 days at Tongatabu, completing 963 repair jobs for 58 ships, including the carrier Saratoga and battleships South Dakota and South Carolina.

The occupation of the Tongan island came less than a month after the launching of "Operation Watchtower," the invasion of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. In the months ahead, the Japanese will skillfully and ferociously contest the U.S. and her Australian and New Zealand allies.

The Pacific Theater in 1942
Source: Wikipedia

Sources: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. 7; Naval Historical Center homepage

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