Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hector's belated return home | Epilogue

Following Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945, my dad, Frank Dolan, a crewman on the repair ship USS Hector, continued his work in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan. The war now over, the myriad returning ships had to be repaired and readied to return to ports in U.S. and for service elsewhere in the Pacific. Dad remembered that many of these repairs were to ships damaged at Okinawa. Hector will have to wait until the new year for her return voyage.

On November 1, 1945, Dad received another promotion. His rating was changed from M1c to CMAA or Chief Metalsmith. It was an “acting appointment,” since, all Chief Petty Officers were acting appointments for 1 year until made permanent.

Finally, on this date in 1946, Hector steamed away from Saipan for the United States. The ship’s log for that date reads simply but poignantly, “Homebound.”

On February 3, Hector arrived in San Pedro, California. The ship went into drydock for a complete overhaul. She stayed on there to make repairs to ships. At some point while stationed at San Pedro during this period, Dad made a trip to his home near San Diego. This was the first time in nearly 2 years that he had seen his family.

On September 26, Dad was transferred from Hector for discharge at the rank of Chief Metalsmith. His formal discharge came on December 16, 1946, just twelve days short of his 24th birthday. His departure from the Navy came 5 years since he had been thrust into the war with Japan’s surprise attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor.

The USS Hector continued in active service decades after the war ended and long after other triumphant ships of WWII, like Dad's previous ship, the USS Vestal, were retired or recycled. After serving as a repair ship on the West Coast, Hector sailed for her first WestPac cruise in May 1947. With the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950, Hector again saw service during conflict. After the Korean War, she operated out of Long Beach, California, in support America’s far-flung Pacific and Asian defenses that included Vietnam. Finally, she was decommissioned in 1987, and sold as scrap in 1994. 

There are a thousand new questions I would love to ask Dad about his Pacific War experiences, but that opportunity ceased when he passed from us to his eternal reward. The foregoing blog posts over the past few years will have to suffice as the best record I could muster of his Pacific War experience, 1941-1945.

Frank Dolan, at home, days after discharge, December 1946

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