Friday, October 10, 2014

Ship repairs after the October storm, 1944

One of the early projects that the USS Hector tackled at Ulithi was the salvaging of the Landing Craft Tank, LCT-1052. My dad, Frank Dolan, who was a weldor and certified diver on Hector, likely would have participated in recovering and restoring this vessel, which work was begun on this date in 1944.

The lagoon at Ulithi Atoll provided a natural harbor, which was soon to become home to over 600 ships. The northern and southern ends of the lagoon offered the smoothest water for anchorage. However, the lagoon had a serious drawback: It could not provide adequate shelter in stormy weather. The 40 islands surrounding it were barely above sea level, and they offered only slight protection from high winds.

USS LCT-1290, sister ship to LST-1052, beached at Ulithi
in 1944, and repaired by Hector
October was the middle of typhoon season in this part of the Pacific. On the morning of Tuesday, October 3, 1944, word came of an impending typhoon passing about 150 miles north of Ulithi. That evening Ulithi's lagoon was hit by 8-12 foot waves, which were enough to drown the engines of the LCT-1052, causing her to drift and then to sink. Her 14 crew members were rescued, but tragically her commanding officer was lost. Another LCT (LCT-1290) and several LCMs (Landing Craft Mechanized) were also damaged by the storm.*

A week later on today's date in 1944, Hector went to work salvaging the LCT-1052. Hector's diving squad patched leaks, sealed tanks, and by using compressed air was able to float the vessel enough to be towed. By attaching Hector's anchor chain to the LCT's stern, she was able to raise the LCT to a point where, with assistance from the USS Enoree, it was brought alongside and hoisted clear of the water. Hector's crews then went to work making the LCT-1052 watertight. Finally, they repaired and replaced all equipment, putting the vessel back into operation by December 7.

The bow of USS LCT-1052, victim of a typhoon near Ulithi, October 3, 1944,
recovered by USS Hector and returned to operation in December.

Of course, this extensive repair job was just one of many for Hector during October. The largest, by far, was the work done on the battle damaged cruiser, USS Houston, which was started on the 27th.

*According to Hector's War Diary for October, "Salvaged LCTs 1052, 1290 and several LCMs which had been stranded in recent storm.”

Sources: USS Hector AR7- Ship’s Log (WWII); USS Hector War Diary, October 1944; USS Aldebaran War Diary, October 1944

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