Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sailing for Saipan, 1945

On today’s date in 1945, Hector steamed toward the new Navy base at Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, where she will be stationed with Service Division 103 of Service Squadron Ten. Taking a standard zigzagging course, the ship passed Guam the next morning and the islands of Aguijan and Tinian that same afternoon. That evening she entered Tanapag Harbor at Saipan, Dad’s new home for the balance of the war and beyond.

The plan for a Navy base on the island called for the establishment of a mobile repair facility sufficient to maintain and repair hulls and engines of smaller boats. In the harbor, ServDiv 103 was assigned to repair countless vessels that would be sent there. Many of these boats and ships were essential for ongoing and future amphibious operations against Japan. Before the development of the base on Saipan, Navy Seabees had to upgrade and expand waterfront facilities at Tanapag Harbor for the arrival of Dad’s division and the ships that would need to be serviced and repaired. They dredged the entrance channel and cleared it of coral heads in order to develop the inner harbor.

LST'S, LCI'S, small boats, and other vessels at Tanapag Harbor carried much of the
transport required by the escalating action in the Pacific by May 1945. The work
assigned to Hector’s crews for repairing and maintaining these vessels was daunting. 
SourceThe U.S. Army in World War II:  The War in the Pacific

Seabees also constructed a shore base of Quonset huts and other metal buildings with access roads and utilities. Medical facilities were built, including a hospital for casualties from the Iwo Jima and Okinawa Campaigns. And, of course, airfields for long-range bombers were also created on Saipan as they were on the neighboring islands of Tinian and Guam. Work on the Saipan facilities was ongoing when Dad arrived in Tanapag Harbor on this date. 

A key factor in the success of the Okinawa Campaign was the Navy’s ability to ship personnel and materiel where needed. Of course, a mobile maintenance force, like the service division of which the USS Hector was a member at Saipan, helped to make the operation possible.

Hector will spend the rest of the war stationed in Tanapag Harbor, but that is still a long and difficult five months into the future. After Japan’s surrender, Hector will remain here on station until January 21, 1946.

Sources: USS Hector War Diary, April 1945; Building the Navy's Bases in World War II: History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946, Department of the Navy; Beans, Bullets and Black Oil, Worrall Reed Carter; The U.S. Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific, Philip A Crowl; Victory in the Pacific, Samuel Eliot Morrison

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