Attack transport ships were among the many vessels Dad's repair ship, Vestal, worked on while at Nuku'alofa Harbor in Tongatabu in 1942. In fact, there were several attack transports at Tonga, including the Barnett, Hunter Liggett, Neville, President Jackson, Crescent City, American Legion, Heywood, and Zeilin. Each saw action in "Operation Watchtower" or the Guadalcanal Campaign from August 1942 through February 1943.
In the early 1940s, the U.S. Navy expanded to meet the threat of war. A number of civilian passenger ships and freighters were converted to military transports. Some were outfitted to handle landing craft for amphibious assaults, and in 1942, these became a separate category of warship, the attack transport.
The USS Barnett was one of these attack transports. Launched in 1928 as a passenger steamer, it was purchased by the Navy and recommissioned in 1940. Following the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, Barnett transported survivors to the states. On her return trip, she carried men of the 1st Marines, eventually headed to the Battle of Guadalcanal in late July, arriving on August 7. In the battle on the 8th, the ship was damaged by a crashing enemy bomber. On the 9th, Barnett sailed with 860 survivors of ships sunk at the Battle of Savo Island. It was today's date in 1942, that she stopped at Tonga for repairs by the Vestal, completing repairs on the 26th. She was back for additional repairs from October 15-21. Later in October, after transporting Marines from Tonga to Guadalcanal, Barnett spent the month of November 1942 shuttling troops and supplies between Tulagi and Guadalcanal.
The USS Barnett will serve with distinction until war's end, earning 7 Battle Stars for her service. In 1946, Barnett was struck from the Naval Vessel Register, then sold and refitted for merchant service in 1948.
|USS Barnett in 1943|
Source: NavSource Online