Thursday, June 5, 2014

Underway for Eniwetok | Service Squadron Ten

On today's date in 1944, the day before the Allied invasion of Normandy, my Dad, Frank Dolan, was sailing from Pearl Harbor. Resupplied and with a fresh coat of camouflage paint, Dad's ship, USS Hector, sailed with a task unit of 4 other ships* for Eniwetok, codenamed "Babacoote." It was on its way to join its mobile service squadron, transferring there from Majuro. Crossing the International Dateline on the 9th, Hector arrived safely at Eniwetok Harbor on the 13th, reporting to the recently commissioned Service Squadron 10 of Task Force 38.

Navy service squadrons—composed of repair ships, floating drydocks, and other floating equipment—supported fleet combat units in the Pacific. During the war they allowed the Navy to operate across the ocean for extended periods of time. Service Squadron 10 (ServRon 10) provided for major naval bases relatively near the Navy's ongoing operations against the Japanese. The Squadron's vital work allowed ships to remain on duty for a year or more without the need to return to a major repair base stateside.

Eniwetok had been in Allied hands since their victorious invasion in February. The atoll now offered the Americans a strategic airfield and harbor from which to launch attacks on Japanese strongholds in the Mariana Islands further north. As a major forward operating base for the Navy and the Marines, there was a lot of work for a repair ship like Hector. Already, hundreds of Allied ships were anchored in the lagoon when Hector arrived. Many of these would be participating in the invasion of Saipan within a couple of days. At its peak in July, more than 520 ships were present in the lagoon.

Marianas Invasion Force assembled in the lagoon at Eniwetok Atoll, June 1944

For 3 1/2 months, Hector supported Task Force 38, the main striking force of the United States Navy through the latter half of the Pacific War. During that time, she repaired numerous ships alongside and in the harbor. Then, September 30th, Hector sailed for Ulithi.

Service Squadron 10 was commissioned at Pearl Harbor on January 15, 1944. It was based first at Majuro (February-May 1944), then Eniwetok (June-September 1944), Ulithi (October 1944-April 1945), and Leyte-Samar, P.I. (May-August 1945). At the height of its activities, the squadron controlled 609 vessels at 5 fleet anchorages.

Service Squadron 10 was designed to be a mobile base, furnishing logistic support, including general stores, provisions, fuel, ammunition, maintenance, repair, salvage, and such other services as required in the support of an advanced major fleet anchorage in the Central Pacific Area. It was directed to furnish similar logistic support to Navy and Marine shore-based units not otherwise provided for in the area. And, wherever possible, it provided services and supplies vital to any of our allied armed forces.

In addition to the Hector, an arresting array of additional repair ships and tenders also were present at Eniwetok. These included the repair ship Ajax; destroyer tenders Piedmont, Cascade, and Markab; repair ship landing craft Egeria; floating drydocks ARD-13 and ARD-15; mobile floating drydock AFD-15; and floating workshop YR-30.

At Eniwetok, before leaving for Ulithi, Hector's welding shop crew posed
for this photograph. Metalsmith, 1st Class Frank Dolan is center, second row.

*Task Unit 17.7.12, was comprised of USS Hector, escort aircraft carriers USS Natoma Bay and Manila Bay, and the destroyers USS Halligan and Haraden.

Sources: USS Hector War Diary, June 1944; Beans, Bullets and Black Oil, Chapter 10: "Service Squadron Ten Organizing at Pearl," Worrall Reed Carter

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