Thursday, January 31, 2013

January's routine repairs

While the biggest and most critical jobs in January 1943 at Espiritu Santo were repairing battle damage to the Pensacola, MinneapolisAlchiba, and Achilles, Dad's ship, Vestal, still had numerous "routine not alongside repairs" to many other vessels. Maintaining the fighting and support vessels of the fleet was an ongoing, often round-the-clock work.

Throughout this month, various repair crews serviced an incredible number of vessels. The work was day in and day out, every day of the week. In relative order of routine work and service performed by the Vestal this month included Sumner, Sabine, Tangier, YMS-47, YMS-48, Honolulu, San Diego, Louisville, Saint Louis, Buchanan, Stack, Woodworth, YP-289, Enterprise, Columbia, Helena, Nashville, Patrol Squadron 72, Nassau, PC-477, Lang, Tryon, YAG-25, Columbia, Lamson, Drayton, Pyro, Crater, Vireo, Ellet, Anderson, Dehaven, Morris, YPU-76, Nicholas, Neosho, Platte, O'Bannon, YP-518, Solace, Rosewood, Whipstock, YAG-25, Russell, Meade, Thornton, Arided, YMS-46, YAG-27, Copahee, Lardner, Appleby, YMS-8, YP-517, and Sheldrake, in addition to work on the Shore Station and a Shore Station barge. Many of these ships are rarely mentioned in histories of the war in the Pacific, but all were vital to the success of the war effort.

Vestal's crew went to general quarters at least 4 times in January when enemy planes were spotted and some bombing occurred.  All in a month's work!

Source:  USS Vestal War Diary, January 1943

Monday, January 28, 2013

Routine repairs to Enterprise

In January through April of 1943, Dad's ship, Vestal, completed various repairs to the carrier Enterprise at Espiritu Santo. Dad had been previously assigned to repair this ship during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November. On this date in 1943, Enterprise was sent into the Coral Sea, to cover the landings of 4 transports full of men and supplies for Guadalcanal, part of the final push to drive the Japanese from the island. In her final engagement in the seas around Guadalcanal, Enterprise provided air cover for the heavy cruiser Chicago, torpedoed by land-based Japanese planes the evening of January 29. Late the next afternoon, another enemy strike materialized. In the attack, known as the Battle of Rennell Island, Enterprise's fighters downed 11 of the 12 enemy planes, unfortunately not before 4 more torpedoes had slammed into Chicago's hull, fatally wounding her.

Detached after the battle, the carrier returned to Espiritu Santo on February 1, and for the next 3 months operated out of that base, covering U.S. surface forces up to the Solomons. During that period, Enterprise will receive additional repairs and refitting by the Vestal.

USS Enterprise at Noumea, in November 1942, while the "Big E"
 was undergoing repairs after the Battle of Santa Cruz
Source: NavSource Online
Sources: USS Vestal War Diary, January 1943; USS Enterprise CV-6

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Defense of Life at Conception

Many people, including many Christians, are not aware of the Bible's clear commands regarding protecting human life from conception. One of the best biblical defenses of life beginning at conception can be found in a recent sermon by a former pastor in Georgia, Joe Morecraft. On this 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, it would be worth your time to listen to his "How To Defend From the Bible That Human Life Begins At Conception."

Friday, January 18, 2013

Work on the USS Alchiba

Between November 1942 and November 1943, my dad's repair ship, the USS Vestal, operated out of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. There it tackled 5,603 repair jobs on 279 ships and 24 shore facilities. In fact, there were so many battle-damaged ships to repair, that Dad could recall only a few in detail. Often when I asked him what he remembered about a particular ship which the Vestal worked on during that hectic year, his reply was, "It was just another ship." Many of the big cruisers, battleships, and carriers he remembered clearly. Others, like the Alchiba, a vitally important cargo vessel, was "just another ship" among so many others badly in need of urgent repairs.

The USS Alchiba was an attack cargo ship whose job it was to carry troops, heavy equipment, and supplies in support of amphibious assaults, and to provide fire support during those assaults. The ship's role was key to successful delivery and support of invasion troops.

Alchiba was at Guadalcanal on September 18, 1942, unloading cargo to support U.S. Marines in their famous struggle for that island. She sailed back to New Caledonia in October for more supplies, returning to Guadalcanal on November 1. During November, Alchiba shuttled supplies and personnel to Guadalcanal. She was anchored off the coast of Guadalcanal on November 28 when 2 torpedoes from a Japanese midget submarine exploded on the vessel's port side. At that time, Alchiba was loaded with drums of gasoline and ammunition, and the resulting explosion was horrendous. The commanding officer wisely ordered the ship to run up on the beach, undoubtedly saving the ship. However, fire ravaged the ship for 5 days before it was finally brought under control.

Most of her cargo was saved, and temporary repairs were in progress when Alchiba was torpedoed again on December 7, by another enemy sub, striking her port side near the engine room. The blast killed 3 men, wounded 6 others, and caused considerable structural damage. Once the fires and flooding were controlled, salvage operations resumed, and the ship was able to get underway for Tulagi on December 27. On today's date in 1943, Alchiba moved to Espiritu Santo for further repair work by the repair ship, Vestal. After significant structural and mechanical repairs—a lot of it under waterwere completed by crews from my dad's ship, Alchiba sailed on May 6, for the West Coast for permanent repairs.

USS Alchiba on fire off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, November 1942
Source: NavSource Online

Through 1943-45, Alchiba continued work in the South Pacific, providing service and logistics support for the Allies. In 1946, at 10 years of age, Alchiba was decommissioned. The ship was sold in 1948 to the Netherlands where she saw new life as a merchant ship. In 1973, she was scrapped.

Alchiba won 3 Battle Stars for her WWII service. She also was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for her service at Guadalcanal from August through December 1942.

Sources: Vestal War Diary, January 1943; Wikipedia

Friday, January 11, 2013

Temporary repairs to the Minneapolis

After covering the landings of U.S. Marines on Guadalcanal and Tulagi from August 7-9, and landings on Lunga Point and Funafuti in September and October, the heavy cruiser USS Minneapolis opened the Battle of Tassafronga on November 29, 1942, when she fired upon ships from the Japanese fleet attempting to reinforce their troops on Guadalcanal. She sank the destroyer Takanami but took 2 torpedo hits to her bow and fireroom from other Japanese warships. Miraculously, she was kept afloat until reaching Tulagi. There her crew and and a Seabee unit were able to complete temporary repairs enabling her to sail to Espiritu Santo, where repair crews from my dad's ship, Vestal, could repair her hull and boilers for the trip to the states. The temporary repair work commenced on this date in 1943 and was completed on January 27.

Damaged Minneapolis in December 1942
Source: Wikipedia

The USS Minneapolis was launched in September of 1933. She saw distinguished service throughout the war in such action as the Battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, Tassafronga, Philippine Sea, Guam, and Surigao Strait. She had the distinction as serving as the flagship of Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid as he accepted the Japanese surrender of Korea in September, then patrolled the Yellow Sea, covering the landing of Marines in Korea and Northern China. After carrying veterans home to the West Coast at the end of the war, she was placed in reserve. The USS Minneapolis received 17 Battle Stars for her WWII service. She was decommissioned 1947, and sold for scrap in 1959.

Sources: USS Vestal War Diary, January 1943; Wikipedia

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Routine repairs to the USS Nashville

Another of the many ships Dad's ship Vestal worked on in January 1943 was the USS Nashville. Vestal completed various "routine not alongside repairs" from today's date through the 21st.

Launched in 1937, Nashville was a light cruiser, which by war's end had acquired quite a remarkable and distinguished history.

One of its first assignments was in September 1938. As war with Germany seemed inevitable, England secretly shipped onboard the Nashville $25,000,000 in British gold bullion for the United States. Then in the spring of the following year, the ship participated in a diplomatic mission, carrying American representatives to the Pan American Defense Conference Brazil. In June, she steamed for the Pacific via the Panama Canal to San Pedro, California for 2 years of operations. In February 1941, she and three other cruisers carried US Marines to Wake Island, and in May, she sailed from Pearl Harbor to Boston to escort a convoy carrying Marines to Iceland.

Source: NavSource Online
As the war  approached for the U.S., Nashville was based at Bermuda as part of the Neutrality Patrol in the Central Atlantic. After the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Nashville joined a convoy to escort escort troops and cargo to Iceland. She continued escort duty to in the Atlantic until February 1942.

Later that spring, Nashville found herself in the carrier task force that delivered the Doolittle Raid on the mainland of Japan. In May, she was back defending Alaska and the Aleutians from Japanese invasion. Nashville continued to patrol the North Pacific and participated in the attack on the Japanese force on Kiska in the Aleutians in August, inflicting heavy damage on enemy shore installations. By November, Nashville was operating in the Pacific and escorted troop ships in the Guadalcanal Campaign.

In January 1943, Nashville, along with Helena and Saint Louis, attacked the Japanese air base at Munda. It was during this period that the ship stopped for a week and a half for repairs from the Vestal in Espiritu Santo. Then for the next several months Nashville made several attacks during the fighting in the Solomons. While shelling the airfield on Kolombangara on May 12, she suffered an explosion in one of her gun turrets, killing 18 and injuring 17. After a stop at Espiritu Santo, the ship sailed for the West Coast for repairs and refitting.

Source: NavSource Online

Back in action in August 1943-1944, Nashville joined a carrier task force for attacks on Marcus and Wake Islands. In October, Nashville shelled targets on New Guinea and then supported Allied landings in the New Guinea Campaign of 1944.

Source: NavSource Online
In April of that year, Nashville served as the combat flagship for General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, in amphibious operations against the Japanese. As part of the assault force in May, she sustained damage while repelling a Japanese air attack, requiring repairs again at Espiritu Santo. Nashville again carried MacArthur to the invasion of the Dutch East Indies in September. Then October 20, 1944, MacArthur departed the Nashville for his famous "I have returned" walk onto the beach on Leyte.

In December of that year, while on operations in the Philippines, Nashville was hit by a kamikaze. 133 sailors were killed and 190 wounded. The damaged sustained required another trip to the West Coast for extensive repairs. She returned to the Philippines in May 1945, and took up her duties again as a flagship and in protecting the carrier force. She was operating in Indochina when the war ended.

With Allied victory over Japan achieved, in November 1945, Nashville sailed back and forth to the West Coast with returning servicemen. Decommissioned in June, she remained in reserve until 1950. She was sold to the Chilean navy in 1951, and served until 1985, when she was sold for scrap.

The USS Nashville earned 10 Battle Stars for her WWII service.

Sources: USS Vestal War Diary, January 1943; Naval Historical Center

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Repairs to HMNZS Achilles

Vestal's many repair jobs weren't restricted only to U.S. ships. On this date in 1943, my dad's ship, USS Vestal, began repairs to the New Zealand cruiser, HMNZS Achilles, which was part of the US Task Force at Espiritu Santo. While providing naval gunfire support off Guadalcanal, Achilles was badly damaged, having taken shrapnel and collision damage in addition to a direct hit on her after turret.

Not all repair jobs went smoothly. Apparently, the condition of the Achilles was such that, while coming alongside, it damaged the Vestal on its starboard main and second deck levels.

Temporary repairs were completed by the 31st. Achilles was sent to the UK for permanent refitting.

HMNZS Achilles
Source: Naval HIstory Homepage

Achilles was built for the Royal Navy in 1933, and commissioned into the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy in 1941. After her war service in the Atlantic and Pacific, Achilles was returned to the Royal Navy in England. She was recommissioned in the Indian Navy in 1948. Achilles was scrapped in 1978.

Sources: Naval History Homepage; Vestal War Diary, January 1943

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Free at last

On today's date in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order emancipating all slaves in the Confederate States of America. From this moment on the war will be a crusade to free slaves.

First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln
Francis Bicknell Carpenter, 1864

Most Americans have been schooled to think of the Civil War as having been fought over slavery. But that was not the case, at least at the beginning of that great conflict. Even after more than a year into the War Between the States, the abolition of slavery was not a key political or military objective of the Union, nor of President Lincoln himself. Many people, North and South, opposed slavery but did not favor emancipation. They were willing to let slavery die on its own over time. They were not willing to let the slavery issue bring on a war.

Lincoln felt differently. While he had personal and moral convictions about the institution of slavery, his political views were conflicted. In his first inaugural address in 1861, he stated:
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
However, in his second inaugural speech, 4 bloody years later, Lincoln clearly stated his belief that slavery had been "the cause of the war."

According to Civil War author, Michael R. Bradley, Lincoln was on the right track about slavery being a major cause of the war, at least in part. Many believe that all other causes or contributing factors to the rebellion could have been mitigated. However, extremist views on both sides destroyed all hope of reaching consensus about a process to bring the institution of slavery to an end, facts Lincoln alluded to in his second inaugural address.

To the extent that Lincoln was right about slavery being a major cause of the war, he was wrong about it being a motivation for Northerners and Southerners to fight each other.

At the time of the war, few Southerners actually owned slaves—less than 10 percent. Only the rich could afford slaves, and few, if any Southern soldiers were willing to risk their lives for the advantage of the wealthy class. For the Confederate soldier, the loss of slaves meant nothing to him.

On the other side of the battle lines, most of those soldiers were fighting to preserve the Union, not to free slaves. They were in agreement with Lincoln's previous sentiments, expressed in an open letter to Horace Greeley on August 22, 1862:
My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it—if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it—and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save this Union.*
Now, many of these same brave soldiers felt betrayed and insulted, their cause to preserve the Union now supplanted by Lincoln's expanded goal for saving it. It is true—a sad truth—that 19th century white men of both sides of the conflict held long-standing convictions about their supremacy over the black race. Northern soldiers certainly did not see themselves as the Lord's mighty army bringing freedom to the captive Negro. This was not why they had joined to fight in the Union cause.

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was about to change that. Interestingly, it only affected territory under the Union's actual control. Those slaves in territory Lincoln actually controlled, he left enslaved. Furthermore, slaveholders in Northern states continued to own slaves after Lincoln's order. The political value of emancipation was what was important to Lincoln.

The true nature of the proclamation was not lost on the Union army commanders. They ordered only slaves of Confederate owners to be pressed into labor for the Union army. Slaves of "loyal" men were left in place, under the authority of their masters. It was now illegal to help slaves of loyal owners run away or to prevent any loyal slaveholders from reclaiming their slaves. According to Bradley, "Rosecrans and his subordinates perceived the Emancipation Proclamation not to be a means of freeing slaves so much as a device by which their labor could be denied to the Confederate armed forces and their supporters. Slaves were not seen so much as human beings to be supported and cherished as brothers but as an economic commodity... to be denied an enemy."

For my Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes, serving on this date in the Confederate Army of Tennessee in the midst of the Battle of Murfreesboro, Lincoln's Proclamation had little impact. Even in the areas in which the army operated in the months ahead, Lincoln's order did little to affect the Confederates. However, many Southerners had been thinking already about how to resolve the slavery issue. One novel idea soon would be put forward by the commander of Great Grandfather's division, Patrick Cleburne: Why not enlist black men to fight for their liberation on the side of the Confederacy? It would be a controversial proposal, and not seriously considered again until the South's near defeat.

On the other hand, the Union army already was utilizing freed slaves as laborers, then as soldiers. By May 1863, the U.S. government established the Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the swelling numbers of black soldiers within its ranks. By the end of the war, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) will serve as U.S. soldiers and another 19,000 in the service of the Navy.

Lincoln’s Proclamation didn't actually outlaw slavery. Neither did it make the freed slaves citizens of the United States. What it did accomplish was to make the destruction of slavery an explicit goal of the war in addition to reuniting the severed Union through military force and occupation. Also, by making the abolishment of slavery a war goal, Lincoln's executive order had the effect of turning foreign opinion in favor of the Union. That shift doomed the Confederacy's hopes of gaining official recognition from European countries, particularly Britain, which had abolished slavery 30 years earlier.

* Actually, Lincoln had an even more concise war aim in 1864: My enemies pretend that I am now carrying on this war for the sole purpose of abolition. So long as I am President it shall be for the sole purpose of restoring the Union. Pretty clear. The rest of the quote adds: But no human power can subdue this rebellion without the use of the emancipation policy, and every other policy calculated to weaken the moral and physical forces of the rebellion. Apparently, these words are inscribed in stone in the interior walls of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The quote is also contained in Lincoln's collected works.

Sources: Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley; National Archives websiteThe Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 7: 1863-1865 (Kindle Edition)