Teton AGC-14 - History

Teton AGC-14 - History

Teton
(AGC-14: dp. 13,910 1. 459'2", b. 63'; dr. 24'; s. 16.4
k.; cpl. 633; a. 2 5'/, 8 40mm.; cl. Mount McKinley)

Teton (AGC-14) was laid down under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1363) as Water Witch on 9 November 1943 at Wilmington, N.C., by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Corp., launched on 5 February 1944 sponsored by Mrs. C. E. Shimp renamed Teton on 1 February 1944; acquired by the Navy on 18 October 1944; and commissioned the same day at Brooklyn, N.Y., Capt. Donald Rex Tallman in command.

Following shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay, the amphibious force flagship, escorted by Barr (APD-39), steamed south; transited the Panama Canal; proceeded, via the Mare Island Navy Yard, to Hawaii; and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 19 January 1945. Four days later, Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Commander, Amphibious Group 12, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, hoisted his flag as his staff came on board

Teton was attached to a convoy that got underway for the Philippines on 28 January. After stops at Eniwetok, Ulithi, and the Palaus, the force reached Leyte on 21 February. Teton next began rehearsals as flagship of Task Force 44 for the forthcoming assault against the Ryukyus. Commodore Clifford Greer Richardson, commanding Transport Squadron 14, and Major General John Hodge, commanding the XXIV Army Corps, embarked with their staffs. On 27 March Teton got underway as flagship of Task Unit 51.13.1 and arrived off Okinawa on 1 April, the day the assault began. She remained there for 72 days controlling the landing operations on the Hagushi beaches and then providing standby control of offensive and defensive air operations. On 11 June the ship got underway in a convoy bound for the Philippines.

Teton arrived at Subic Bay on the 15th of June and remained there until 17 August. When news of Japan's surrender arrived, Admiral Hall and his staff left the ship to transfer to Hansford (APA-106). Teton embarked Army forces for the occupation of Japan and proceeded to Honshu, arriving in Tokyo Bay on 29 August.

Teton stood out of Tokyo Bay on 25 September and headed for Guam to embark approximately 750 passengers for transportation to the United States. The ship reached San Francisco on 16 October, disembarked her passengers; and steamed west again three days later.

Teton continued duty with the "Magic-Carpet" Fleet, returning servicemen from Pacific bases to the United States until early 1946. She began inactivation at San Diego in March 1946 and was decommissioned there on 30 August 1946. Teton was struck from the Navy list on 1 June 1961 and sold for scrap in March 1962 to Union Minerals and Alloys Corp., New York N.Y.

Teton received one battle star for World War II service.


Teton AGC-14 - History

AGC-14
Displacement 13,910
Length 459'2"
Beam 63'
Draw 24'
Speed 16.4
Complement 633
Armament 2 5", 8 40mm
Class Mount McKinley

Teton (AGC-14) was laid down under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1363) as Water Witch on 9 November 1943 at Wilmington, N.C., by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Corp., launched on 5 February 1944 sponsored by Mrs. C. E. Shimp renamed Teton on 1 February 1944 acquired by the Navy on 18 October 1944 and commissioned the same day at Brooklyn, N.Y., Capt. Donald Rex Tallman in command.

Following shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay, the amphibious force flagship, escorted by Barr (APD-39), steamed south transited the Panama Canal proceeded, via the Mare Island Navy Yard, to Hawaii and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 19 January 1945. Four days later, Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Commander, Amphibious Group 12, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, hoisted his flag as his staff came on board

Teton was attached to a convoy that got underway for the Philippines on 28 January. After stops at Eniwetok, Ulithi, and the Palaus, the force reached Leyte on 21 February. Teton next began rehearsals as flagship of Task Force 44 for the forthcoming assault against the Ryukyus. Commodore Clifford Greer Richardson, commanding Transport Squadron 14, and Major General John Hodge, commanding the XXIV Army Corps, embarked with their staffs. On 27 March Teton got underway as flagship of Task Unit 51.13.1 and arrived off Okinawa on 1 April, the day the assault began. She remained there for 72 days controlling the landing operations on the Hagushi beaches and then providing standby control of offensive and defensive air operations. On 11 June the ship got underway in a convoy bound for the Philippines.

Teton arrived at Subic Bay on the 15th of June and remained there until 17 August. When news of Japan's surrender arrived, Admiral Hall and his staff left the ship to transfer to Hansford (APA-106). Teton embarked Army forces for the occupation of Japan and proceeded to Honshu, arriving in Tokyo Bay on 29 August.

Teton stood out of Tokyo Bay on 25 September and headed for Guam to embark approximately 750 passengers for transportation to the United States. The ship reached San Francisco on 16 October, disembarked her passengers and steamed west again three days later.


Teton AGC-14 - History

USS Teton , a 13,910-ton amphibious force flagship, was built at Wilmington, North Carolina. Launched as the S.S. Water Witch in early February 1944, she was soon renamed Teton and in October of that year was formally transferred to the Navy and placed in commission. The new ship went to the Pacific a few months later, arriving at Pearl Harbor in mid-January 1945. From March into June Teton was Rear Admiral John L. Hall's flagship during the Okinawa campaign, and continued to fly his flag until the Pacific War fighting ended mid-August 1945. Later in the month she carried occupation troops to Japan. Her next assignment was bringing service personnel home from the former war zone, work that kept her occupied until early 1946. Soon after that USS Teton began preparations for inactivation. She was decommissioned at the end of August 1946 and laid up at San Diego, California, where she remained until sold for scrapping in March 1962.

This page features all the views we have concerning USS Teton (AGC-14).

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the digital images presented here, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 7 January 1945.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 76KB 740 x 625 pixels

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 7 January 1945.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 74KB 740 x 620 pixels

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 7 January 1945.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 56KB 740 x 625 pixels

Seen from nearly directly astern while off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 7 January 1945.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 55KB 740 x 625 pixels

At the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 11 January 1945.
White outlines mark recent alterations to the ship.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 86KB 740 x 625 pixels

Plan view amidships, from off the port side, at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 11 January 1945.
White outlines mark recent alterations to the ship.
Note modified LCP(L) landing craft on gravity davits forward of Teton 's bridge.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 125KB 740 x 635 pixels

Plan view aft, taken from off the port quarter at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 11 January 1945.
White outlines mark recent alterations to the ship.
Note mooring line, with rat guard, in the foreground.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 89KB 740 x 625 pixels

Flagship of Rear Admiral John L. Hall during the Okinawa operation. Probably photographed at an anchorage in the Ryukyu Islands, circa spring 1945.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 80KB 740 x 570 pixels

In Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, on 27 July 1945.
USS Catskill (LSV-1) is partially visible in the far right background.
Taken from on board an LCM landing craft by Photographer's Mate First Class R. Schuddekopf, assigned to Commander, Amphibious Group Twelve.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 81KB 740 x 600 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Jr., USN ,
Commander Task Force 55, Southern Attack Force

Briefing officers on board his flagship, USS Teton (AGC-14), on 21 March 1945, shortly before the commencement of the Okinawa operation.


Note - I've tried to select photos that show radio equipment and antenna installations

Estes Info and Photo Page

USS Adirondack AGC-15 1946
1945 Antenna Cable Plan pdf - (AGC-15,-16, 17)

USS Adirondack AGC-15 - postwar

USS Blue Ridge LCC-19

Modern Blue Ridge and Mount Whitney photos and video

USS Blue Ridge LCC-19 - 1971


Charles A. Robinson’s Rescues

Abstract: After the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, the US and other Allied nations came to Japan to accept the surrender and commence the Occupation of Japan. After the surrender ceremony, a group of three Jesuit Navy Chaplains serving on US Navy warships in Tokyo Bay, Charles A. Robinson, Paul L. O’Connor and Samuel H. Ray, made a daring trip from the newly claimed US Navy Base at Yokosuka to Sophia University in Tokyo to determine the fate of the Jesuits living and working at the university. The visit has joined the lore of Sophia University and is a prominent event in its documented history. This project will demonstrate that Robinson actually had a much deeper role in the life of Sophia University and also a critical role in freeing the first prisoners of war from the many POW camps in Japan.

Keywords: Jesuits, Navy Chaplains, Sophia University, World War II, USS Missouri, Surrender of Japan, Great Kanto Earthquake, Charles A. Robinson, Paul L. O’Connor, Samuel H. Ray

Introduction

Sophia University in Tokyo was the first Catholic university certified to operate in Japan.[1] One of the more memorable events in its 100-plus year history happened right after Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, when three Navy Jesuit chaplains visited the campus to provide emergency assistance and determine the fate of the faculty. This visit happened on 5 September 1945 and was led by a former faculty member, Charles Robinson, Society of Jesus (S.J.) (1896–1988), who had taught at Sophia during the 1920s. Robinson, the chaplain on the Battleship USS Missouri (BB63)[2], was accompanied by his relief, Paul O’Connor, S.J. (1909–1974), and Samuel Ray, S.J. (1894–1983), chaplain on the Seaplane Tender USS Hamlin (AV15).[3] While the Japanese had already surrendered, the Allied military forces had not yet moved troops into Tokyo, meaning that they would be making it without military protection, a potentially risky venture. They were not stopped by either of the Allied Occupation forces or Japanese officials, and Robinson still remembered the campus location, so they arrived without incident. They found the Jesuits at Sophia malnourished but alive. The campus and surrounding areas had been hit during the bombing raids, leaving severe damage to a couple of the campus buildings and the surrounding area a wasteland. The Jesuit churches in Japan and the Jesuits staffing them were in mostly similar straits. The food and clothing that the team brought helped alleviate the faculty’s suffering from malnutrition. They also provided the first chance in years to inform the Jesuits outside Japan, via letters written by two of the chaplains and another from Bruno Bitter (1898–1988), a prominent Jesuit at Sophia, of the status of the Japan mission. The letters were mailed from USS Missouri and addressed to Zacheus Maher, S.J. (1882–1963), the American assistant to the Superior General during World War II.[4] They informed him of the status of the church in Japan and expressed a strong desire for more Jesuits to expand their ability to carry on the mission.[5]

While this trip verified that the faculty members had survived the privations of the war without serious injury or imprisonment, it was not the first time Robinson had participated in disaster relief activities for Sophia University or in Japan. His tour of duty as a teacher at Sophia in the 1920s began soon after the Great Kanto Earthquake on 1 September 1923.[6] Then, decades later, he was involved in liberating the first prisoners of war from the camps in Japan at the end of World War II.[7] This project will provide the background of Robinson’s three rescues, using the word rescue in the broad meaning that he supported emergency relief and recovery activities following a disaster or war. Although the ongoing COVID-19 crisis limited the research that could be conducted for this project, the number of sources discovered, including Jesuit and US and Allied military sources, provides a sufficiently comprehensive story that goes beyond what has been collated to date into a single document.

Who was Charles Robinson, S.J.?

Charles Aloysius Robinson was born of parents from Northern Ireland in Brooklyn, NY, on 17 April 1896. From the earliest age, he exhibited an amazing ability to memorize facts, which helped him quickly learn foreign languages.[8] He went to Regis College in Denver,[9] completing the high school diploma requirements in 1912.[10] He then entered the Society of Jesus as a member of the Naples Province on 29 July 1912 at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri. He completed his novitiate and juniorate St. Stanislaus in 1916, then proceeded to Mount St. Michaels in Hillyard, Washington, to complete the philosophate.[11] He received his A.B. from Gonzaga University (in Spokane, Washington) in 1918, followed by his M.A. in Psychology and Philosophy on 19 June 1919, also from Gonzaga.[12] Soon afterward, he became a member of the newly created Missouri Province. He completed work at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Montreal and was ordained on 29 June 1922. His next assignment following his ordination was at the Ignatius College at Valkenburg, Holland, for a year of theology. It is after his return from Holland to the US that the essay continues below.

One potentially formative event happened while he was at Mount St. Michaels. The Spanish Flu hit the community at Hillyard, Washington, in November 1918. Around 80 members fell ill, with over half of them confined to bed. There is no record whether Robinson got sick, but at a minimum, he would have witnessed the results of a pandemic.

Robinson’s First Rescue

On Saturday, 1 September 1923, roughly two minutes before noon, Tokyo and its surrounding regions were struck by a massive earthquake with a magnitude of over seven. It was a disaster that came to be known as the Great Kanto Earthquake. Mark J. McNeal, S.J. (1874–1934), one of the Jesuits then teaching at Sophia, maintained a record of what he experienced and witnessed, here is a portion.

1 st – At 11:53:44 this morning, towards the close of our noon examinations, I felt the strongest earthquake shock I had ever experienced. I went out and saw that our Academic Building was a wreck and learned that the water mains were broken and saw fires starting up all over town. I baptized conditionally an old lady who had been struck by a falling house…All electricity and gas were stopped. Many refugees from fire or earthquake camped for the night in our garden.

2 nd – I went with Fr. [Father] Keel to the American Embassy, which was wiped out, and to the Swiss Embassy, and learned that rail and wireless connections were broken. To the Church of the Sacred Heart and learned from the pastor that three Catholic churches in Tokyo were destroyed…Fire raged all day and all night and came to within two blocks of our place a little after midnight and then turned back…

4 th – Fr. Eylenbosch returned from Shizuoka walked all night from Yokohama said no city existed there anymore streets full of corpses…

October 3rd-A notable shock during the night brought down a big piece of our tower which had remained standing after the great earthquake…

What We Had – Three and a half acres of terra firma in the heart of a city of about 3,000,000 inhabitants two Japanese dormitory buildings, an old western style residence used for offices, chapel and library a three-story brick academic building containing twelve large classrooms, two large halls, a students’ library and offices, erected in 1914 for $60,000 a reinforced concrete faculty building, finished June, 1923, for about $50,000 and capable of accommodating a faculty of twenty members.

What We Have – Three and a half acres of terra infirma in the heart of a desert in which 75,000 people are camping out, 500 are unsheltered and the rest sharing quarters with their friends. The academic building is all gone except the first floor, and that is full of cracks. The faculty building has cracks in every wall, big holes around the foundation and leaks everywhere. The library and chapel building has plaster down and chimney broken. One Japanese dormitory building is full of refugees, the other is being used for classrooms, which are unheated and badly lighted.[13]

The damage to the tower is apparent from these two photos of the Red Brick Building. The scope of the death and destruction brought about by the earthquake was unparalleled in Tokyo’s history up to that point.

Robinson was in Denver when the earthquake happened. Having been ordained on 29 June 1922, he had just completed his last year of theology studies at Valkenburg, Holland. Along with expanding his knowledge of theology, he had learned German there, which he would need for his upcoming transfer to Sophia University in Tokyo and its German-administered faculty. No orders or other paperwork listing his planned transfer date have been found. However, a notice was published on 1 September 1923 (the date of the earthquake) in the Japanese Catholic periodical Katorikku Taimusu, stating that Robinson would be coming to Sophia to teach commerce.[14] It is therefore assumed that he was slated to go to Sophia, and, after he heard the news about the earthquake, he either contacted or was instructed by his superiors to go to Tokyo immediately and assist the Jesuits there with recovery efforts. He was able to respond quickly, and a week or so later he was embarked on the first ship out of Seattle headed for Tokyo, the President Jackson, bringing emergency supplies with him. The ship arrived at Yokohama, Japan, on Sunday, 23 September. He was met by someone named Mr. Jillard of Nippon Electric Company (no known connection to Sophia University or the Catholic Church), who drove him to Sophia’s campus in Tokyo.[15] As had been previously planned, Robinson stayed on for the 1924/25 school year as a member of the Sophia faculty, teaching English, Economics, and Accounting. He continued teaching English there for the next two academic years. He remained on the faculty at Sophia for the 1927/28 school year,[16] but he spent it at St. Louis University, and also visited Hot Springs, North Carolina, to accomplish his tertianship.[17] After this, he transferred to Marquette University for the 1928/29 school year to teach Philosophy & Religion.

His Prewar Years in America

His year of teaching at Marquette was followed by a transfer to St. Louis University for what would become his longest teaching position, lasting from 1929 to 1943.[18] He taught Philosophy and Psychology. In 1931, he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Gregorian University in Rome. In addition to teaching, he served as the Jesuit representative to the National Committee on Education by Radio from 1930 to the early 1940s, pursuing the use of radio for education and spreading Jesuit teaching.[19] St. Louis University was one of the earliest schools to establish a radio station and began broadcasting the first regular religious radio program,[20] so he was at the ideal school to help develop the policies that would guide the use of this still mostly untapped resource. While his efforts to improve education continued into the 1940s, America could not continue to remain apart from the war taking place on both ends of the Eurasian continent.

Figure 4. Education by Radio Membership List. From National Committee on Education by Radio, December 1937.

His Next Rescue

The US finally became embroiled in World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As was the case with so many American men during those years, Robinson left what he was doing to join the war effort. He joined the Navy, getting his commission in September 1943 and joining the roughly 60 Jesuits who served during that war as chaplains in the US Navy.[21] He was assigned to the Pacific Theater through the end of the war. His first Navy assignments at the beginning of 1944 were at shore stations in Oahu, Hawaii, at the Naval Hospital at Aiea Heights and Naval Air Station at Ford Island. He then departed Hawaii in February 1945 for the Battleship USS Missouri (BB63), the last of the Iowa-class battleships to be commissioned by the US Navy.[22]

Figure 5. USS Missouri (BB-63), anchored in Sagami Bay or Tokyo Bay, Japan, with other units of the U.S. Third Fleet, 30 August 1945. Mt. Fuji is faintly visible in the distance. Missouri is flying Admiral William F. Halsey's four-star flag. From Naval History and Heritage Command.

On “Mighty Mo” Robinson served as the Ship’s Chaplain under the Senior Chaplain, Methodist Commander Roland W. Faulk (1907–1995). He remained the Ship’s Chaplain until he was relieved by another Jesuit, Paul L. O’Connor (1909–1974), near the end of August 1945.[23] From this point on, he was assigned duties that leveraged his unique knowledge and experience, becoming part of a group of three Navy chaplains who were the first to go ashore in Japan after the war.[24]

Figure 6. Photo of conference for terms of surrender as it opens. L to R, on the Japanese side, Capt. H. Yoshida, Capt. T. Ohmae, Rear Adm. I. Yokoyama, Lt. Gen. T. Kawabe, Mr. Ko. Okazaki, Maj. Gen. M. Amano, and Lt. Col. M. Matsuda on the American side, Maj. Gen. L. J. Whitlock, Maj. Gen. R. J. Marshall, Rear Adm. F. P. Sherman, Lt. Gen. R. K. Sutherland, Maj. Gen. S. J. Chamberlin, Maj. Gen. C. A. Willoughby and Brig. Gen. D. R. Hutchinson. From Dept. of Army, Center of Military History. Reports of General MacArthur: MacArthur in Japan: The Occupation: Military Phase Volume 1 Supplement, CMH Pub 13–4.

Following the loss of Okinawa in June 1945, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August, and the declaration of war by the Soviet Union, Japan capitulated on 14 August. The cessation of hostilities was announced the next day at noon by a recording of the Emperor broadcast by radio to all Japanese people in Japan and military forces overseas, which brought the fighting to an end. A group of Japanese government representatives was sent to the Philippines to coordinate the surrender met with Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) and his staff. His staff instructed them regarding the measures to implement in preparation for the occupation, including disarming their military forces in Japan. At this meeting, MacArthur’s staff indicated that they wanted the occupation force’s main body to arrive in Japan on 25 August. However, this ended up being delayed by five days due to requests from the Japanese Government for more time to complete pre-arrival demobilization and a typhoon that passed through on 26 August.

The first Allied Navy ships began arriving at Sagami Bay outside Tokyo Bay, on 27 August.

Figure 7. Warships of the U.S. Third Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet in Sagami Bay, 28 August 1945, preparing for the formal Japanese surrender a few days later. From Naval History and Heritage Command.

The advanced party of the American ground forces landed at Atsugi Airbase, south of Tokyo, on 28 August, while the fleet elements of the occupying force entered Tokyo Bay on the 29th. Having faced increasing numbers of suicide attacks by Japanese military forces in 1945, Allied military personnel weren’t sure they could trust that the Japanese had truly surrendered. Although the Allies were concerned about acts of revenge upon their arrival, they found the Japanese military forces had carried through on their agreement to demobilize their weapons and other defensive systems. Allied ships and landing forces enjoyed a peaceful arrival in Tokyo Bay.[25]

Figure 8. The advance party at Atsugi Airfield, 28 August 1945. Col. Charles P. Tench is met by Lt. Gen. Arisue Seizo. From Dept. of Army, Center of Military History. Reports of General MacArthur: MacArthur in Japan: The Occupation: Military Phase Volume 1 Supplement, CMH Pub 13–4.

While the Japanese had cooperated in demobilizing their military forces in Japan, they still had a large number of Allied and other prisoners of war (POW) scattered in camps throughout Japan. The US estimated that there were 36,000 POWs in Japan, with 8,000 of them being Americans. Throughout the countries that Japan had conquered during the war, they had mistreated many of their POWs.[26] For this reason, the Allied commanders focused on quickly securing the safety of the surviving POWs in Japan. Following Japan’s surrender, Allied air forces focused some of their intelligence-gathering efforts on locating the POW camps and providing emergency rations pending the occupation forces’ arrival.[27] The dire situation of the POWs was emphasized for Allied naval commanders the day they arrived in Sagami Bay by a fortuitous rendezvous with Private E.D. Campbell of the British Royal Army Service Corps, and J.W. Wynn of the British Royal Marines. The TG 30.6 report describes how seriously their information was received:

There had been a fresh reminder of the ferocity and brutality with which the Japanese had waged war. On the evening of 27 August, two British prisoners of war hailed one of the Third Fleet’s picket boats in Tokyo Bay and were taken on board the San Juan, command ship of a specially constituted Allied Prisoner of War Rescue Group. Their harrowing tales of life in the prison camps and of the extremely poor physical condition of many of the prisoners prompted Halsey [Third Fleet Commander, Admiral William Halsey (1882–1959)] to order the rescue group to stand by for action on short notice.[28]

Their description of the appalling situation at the POW camps and precarious physical condition of many of the POWs reinforced the need to expedite the rescue efforts.[29]

Figure 9. Commander Harold E. Stassen, USNR (left), Flag Secretary to Commander, Third Fleet, Admiral William F. Halsey Accompanies Commodore Rodger W. Simpson, USN, Commander, Task Group 30.6 (right) , as they head for shore on a mission to rescue Allied prisoners of war at the Omori camp near Yokohama, Japan, circa 29-30 August 1945. Photograph was released for publication on 6 September 1945. From Naval History and Heritage Command.

The Commander of Task Group Thirty Point Six (TG 30.6), Commodore Rodger W. Simpson (1898–1964), had been tasked by Halsey to plan and execute the evacuation and medical support of POWs in Third Fleet’s area of responsibility. This area equated to the coastal area of roughly the northeastern half of Honshu. Embarked on the Light Cruiser USS San Juan (CL54), Commodore Simpson commenced preparations for this mission on the day of Japan’s surrender. MacArthur had already directed Eighth Army to prepare a plan for the rescue of POWs in Japan, but the information provided by the British POWs provided sufficient rationale to expedite rescue operations while Eighth Army forces were still flowing into Japan. The harrowing conditions at the POW camps convinced US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Chester Nimitz (1885–1966) to approve immediate commencement of rescue operations by naval forces following his arrival on the morning of 29 August. Upon entry into Tokyo Bay on the 29th, several Third Fleet ships were assigned to TG 30.6, including the High-Speed Transport Ships USS Gosselin (APD126) and USS Reeves (APD52) Destroyer USS Lansdowne (DD486) and amphibious landing craft from Amphibious Force Flagships USS Teton (AGC14) and USS Ancon (AGC4). The Hospital Ship USS Benevolence (AH13) and aircraft launched from the Light Aircraft Carrier USS Cowpens (CVL25) were also tasked to support the TG 30.6 rescue efforts. This group would expand significantly in subsequent days.[30]

While the forces that would execute the rescue and evacuation of POWs had spent time preparing for their mission, the rescue parties would also need interpreters to ensure that they could communicate effectively with the Japanese military guarding the POW camps. O’Connor had relieved him as the Ship’s Chaplain for USS Missouri. Having become fluent in Japanese while teaching at Sophia University from 1923 to 1926, he was assigned to TG 30.6 to assist Commodore Simpson with the rescue effort. The lack of interpreters available upon arrival Tokyo was a significant concern for Commodore Simpson, as documented in the Operation Plan “Spring-Em,” promulgated on 27 August. The landing party’s description included the following requirement: “Interpreters – when and if available.”[31] Robinson was embarked on USS Missouri, the flagship for Admiral Halsey, so all it took was a request from Commodore Simpson to his superior in command to satisfy his requirement for an interpreter. Robinson supported the first few days of rescue efforts.[32]

During the afternoon of 29 August, TG 30.6 transited to Northern Tokyo Bay. They anchored a few miles east of the Omori POW Camp Number 8, which intelligence had determined to be the headquarters for all POW camps in Tokyo. Landing craft from the task group ships were sent to begin recovery operations. Prisoners in the camp could see the craft heading their way, and they were ecstatic. A few of them even jumped in the water to escape the camp before the craft arrived.[33] In the words of one of them, Sergeant Frank Fujita, US Army,

I was so excited and so emotional that I just could not wait for the boats to get to us, so I jumped into the bay to swim out to meet them. Two or three others jumped in also and we started swimming out towards the on-coming PT boats, which turned out to be landing craft…The next thing I knew, two large hands had me by the head and were pulling me out of the water, and then another sailor helped lay me on the deck of the landing craft…As the boats pulled into the Omori docks, the whole camp was crowded at the little island’s edge, and from somewhere American, British and Dutch flags appeared and were being wildly waved.[34]

Figure 18. Northern Tokyo Bay Office of Special Services (OSS) Map, with markers at approximate locations of the POW camps cleared from 29-30 August 1945. From Japan Air Raids.org. Figure 19. Allied prisoners of war cheering their rescuers, waving flags of the United States, Great Britain and Holland, as the U.S. Navy arrives at the Omori prison camp, near Yokohama, Japan, on 29 August 1945. From Naval History and Heritage Command.

One would understand the elation of the POWs by learning one fact regarding the experience of the unit in which Sgt. Fujita served. Almost one-half of his unit of almost 550 soldiers did not survive captivity in Japan’s POW camps.[35]

While the prisoners were euphoric, the Japanese guards had a different idea. The description of events by Sgt. Fujita continues.

All the POWs in camp were whooping and yelling as the landing party came ashore and was met by our camp C.O. They no sooner had shaken hands when the Japanese camp commander and his staff came through the camp and walked up to the commodore and demanded to know what he was doing here and stated, “The war is not over yet!” The commodore told him that the war was over for him and that he was removing all the POWs from Omori immediately, and what was more, he had better be damn sure that all Allied POWs in the Tokyo area were at this very spot tomorrow morning because he was taking them out also.[36]

Figure 20. Commodore Rodger W. Simpson, USN, Commander Task Group 30.6, (center) and Chaplain Charles Robinson, USN (right) Questioning a Japanese soldier about a reported prisoner of war camp, in the Tokyo Area, 29-30 August 1945. From Naval History and Heritage Command.

The TG 30.6 report of the encounter notes that “the task unit was there to evacuate the men to the hospital ship and that their cooperation was required.”[37] Having a competent interpreter like Robinson present, who could communicate the US intent to the camp commander in appropriately diplomatic Japanese, would have been essential to securing their cooperation and understanding the rationale for expediting the release of POWs from all the camps.

The evacuation of the Omori camp proceeded into the night. The senior POW, Commander Maher, former gunnery officer on the light cruiser USS Houston (CA30) that had been sunk in the Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942,[38] assembled the POWs for guidance from TG 30.6. A radio was set up at the camp to communicate with the San Juan. Evacuation of the POWs in the worst condition was the priority, so they started with the 󈬂 litter cases” and continued with the “approximately 125 ambulatory cases.”[39] The USS Reeves reports the events as follows:

Anchored off Tokyo Harbor at 1715 in company with TG 30.6, LCVP’s [a type of amphibious landing craft] engaged in bringing out released POW’s to U.S.S. Benevolence (AH13) from Tokyo camps. Went alongside Benevolence at 2130 to receive ambulatory repatriates aboard. Received 149 repatriates aboard from Benevolence, first group of POW’s to be liberated from Tokyo area. Underway from alongside at 0010 and anchored in company with TG 30.6 at 0040. Remainder of day spent bringing out released POW’s from Tokyo camps with LCVP’s.[40]

Figure 21. Allied Prisoner of War Camp, Tokyo, Japan, 1945. Allied prisoners of war, freed from Japanese camps in the Tokyo area, are brought in small harbor craft to USS Benevolence (AH-13). An Allied Prisoner of War waves from the small harbor craft approaching the US Navy hospital ship. From Naval History and Heritage Command.

S gt. Fujita was one of the last out of the camp.

The really sick and bad off were taken aboard the landing craft first and taken to a hospital ship out in the bay. Then we others were taken, first come, first serve. Capt. Ince, Smitty and I…got on board just after midnight on the morning of 30 August 1945. We were taken to a big white ship that had a big red cross painted on the sides. It was the hospital ship SS Benevolence.[41]

While TG 30.6 rescued POWs at Omori Camp Number 8, they were told of a worse camp nearby, called the Shinagawa Hospital. Robinson was sent with the search party to locate and assess conditions at the hospital. Here is how he describes this mission.

I went in the first boat that left to seek the hospital camp at Shinagawa, which was 2 or 3 miles closer toward the center of the city. There were no electric lights working in that area, and we had no planes to help us. But with the aid of our own flashlights from the boat we managed to get there. The misery of this so called hospital camp was frightful. Most of the men had to be carried about 200 yards to the boats. About 2100, the chaplain of the USS San Juan came ashore here and reported to me for work. He was Fr. M. F. Forst. Everyone worked well until about 0400, Thursday, 30 August, when I inspected every barracks with my flash to see that we were not missing anybody. Then I returned in the last boat to the first camp at Omori, to check that camp, and returned with Commander Stassen to the USS San Juan about 0530.[42]

Figure 22. American and Japanese officers confer at Omori Allied Prisoner of War Camp, August 29, 1945, as prisoners are rescued by US Navy mercy parties, operating in the Tokyo and Yokohama areas. Commander Harold E. Stassen of the staff of Admiral William F. Halsey, can be seen at the left as LT Robinson (to the left of the Japanese officer) and other US Navy officers obtain information from Japanese prison officers. From Naval History and Heritage Command.

TG 30.6 reported that this “evacuation was completed at daybreak, a total of 707 POW was freed.”[43]

Following the rescue operations at Omori and Shinagawa that continued into the morning of 30 August, TG 30.6 continued rescuing prisoners that day at other waterfront camps. TG 30.6 described the efforts on the 30th as follows:

Information of additional camps was obtained during the night from the prisoners of war so that at dawn the landing craft were divided into two units, one of which proceeded to evacuate Kawasaki Camp number one, the Kawasaki Bunsho Camp and Tokyo sub camp number 3 in the adjoining area. The other unit proceeded to the Sumidagawa Camp deep in the Tokyo inner channels and evacuated the prisoners of war from that camp.[44]

For Robinson, there would be no rest, since following his 0530 return to USS San Juan, “I said Mass immediately with Fr. Forst’s assistance, and then left again about 0630 as navigator to find Kawasaki. We found it without mishap, and emptied three more camps in the vicinity that day.”[45] TG 30.6 noted that “The transfer of these prisoners of war to the Benevolence was completed at 2130 on 30 August, bringing the total to 1,496 who had been freed.”[46]

According to Robinson’s report, Saturday the 31st was another busy day, taking the rescue efforts to camps further north. “On Saturday, 31 August, civilian photographers and newspapermen were allowed to go ashore. Until that day, the Navy had not allowed them to accompany us. That day we worked north of Tokyo getting out women and men internees. Some of these had known me 20 years previously.”[47]

Figure 23. Screen shot from YouTube video (link below) showing two individuals talking at the entrance to a POW camp building. Liberation of American prisoners from Urawa prison camp in Saitama, Japan towards the end of World War II. The man to the right wearing khakis appears to be Robinson, while the man to the left appears to be a rabbi. Uploaded by CriticalPast.

On the same day, TG 30.6 was contacted by a representative to the Eighth Army to participate in a joint conference and bilaterally plan their rescue efforts. This meeting was held on 1 September. As the lead command for recovery of POWs, the Eighth Army took charge of the remainder of the rescue efforts in the Tokyo area. TG 30.6 would provide ships and other Navy assets to support recovery efforts as required by the Eighth Army. TG 30.6 would head to different locations to conduct rescue operations, starting at Hamamatsu and Nagoya.[48] There is no record of Robinson’s activities following the initial phase of POW rescue operations, other than being onboard USS Missouri during the Japanese surrender ceremony on 2 September. At some point, he returned to his role as interpreter for Commander Task Force 31, Admiral Oscar Badger (1890–1958).[49] Additionally, he must have been concerned for the people that he had worked with in Tokyo twenty years before. But before anything else, the surrender ceremony on 2 September onboard USS Missouri would take center stage, with Robinson and the rest of the crew angling for a good view.

Figure 24. USS Missouri (BB-63), anchored in Tokyo Bay, Japan, 2 September 1945, the day that Japanese surrender ceremonies were held on her deck. From Naval History and Heritage Command. Figure 25. Japanese representatives on board Missouri (BB-63) during the surrender ceremonies, 2 September 1945. Standing in front are: Foreign Minister Shigemitsu Mamoru (wearing top hat) and General Umezu Yoshijiro, Chief of the Army General Staff. Behind them are three representatives each of the Foreign Ministry, the Army and the Navy. From navsource.org. Figure 26. Spectators and photographers crowd Missouri's (BB-63) superstructure to witness the formal ceremonies marking Japan's surrender, 2 September 1945. From navsource.org.

Robinson Accomplishes Another Rescue in Support of Sophia University

Having supported the exhausting effort to free the first of the POWs at the camps in and around the Tokyo and Kanagawa areas, Robinson had to have been thinking about the Jesuits with whom he taught for three years in the 1920s. He likely heard about the bombing from the people he had just rescued from Urawa and may have inquired about his old worksite. He must have been worried about the campus’s condition and how his old faculty mates had weathered the storm of the war years.

By the beginning of September 1945, the Eighth Army had assumed responsibility for directing and carrying out the POW rescue operations throughout Japan. The Navy was now in a supporting role and USS Missouri was preparing to depart Japan on 6 September. Knowing that he would be leaving Japan soon, Robinson was able to gather some supplies and get two other Jesuits, his relief on USS Missouri, O’Connor, and the chaplain on the USS Hamlin, Ray, to accompany him on a daring trip to Yotsuya in Tokyo.[50] A letter written by O’Connor captures the atmosphere of the trip.

On Wednesday 5 Sept., Fr. S. H. Ray of the New Orleans Province, now attached to the USS Hamlin, Fr. Charles Robinson, whom I relieved on board this ship and attached at that time as interpreter for Admiral Badger’s staff, and myself got hold of a jeep from the Yokasuka [sic] Naval Base and made our way into Tokyo to visit our men at the University there. We had doubts about our ability to complete the trip as the military had only gone as far as Yokahama [sic] and reportedly were guarding the entrances to Tokyo and excluding all personnel. But the fathers at the University must have been praying for our appearance, for though stopped a number of times, we managed to bring in our load of food and clothing.[51]

Today we cannot know how Robinson connived his way past these checkpoints. Having participated in operations rescuing POWs, he likely used a similar rationale for his trip to Yotsuya.

From a few perspectives, this was a mission that only Robinson could carry out. Along with having been to several locations around Tokyo and Kawasaki in the previous few days to free POWs, he was fluent in Japanese, and he had learned his way around Tokyo and its environs when he taught at Sophia in the 1920s. Without Robinson’s experience and persistence, this trip would not have been successful. Indeed, O’Connor’s letter later notes that they “made it only because Fr. Robinson knows the language. There may be some Jesuits in the army of occupation to help them out. But so far none have shown up, as we were the first ones to reach them.”[52] The occupying forces had just begun to arrive in Japan, there were numerous POW camps to be liberated, and the big cities had been devastated. Support for a Catholic University in Tokyo in early September 1945 would not have been a priority for the other military authorities, but it was for Robinson.

Figure 28. The three Navy chaplains and the Jesuits they met at Sophia University on 5 September 1945. From Sophia University Archives.

Upon arrival at the campus, they found a situation that both concerned and relieved them. O’Connor’s letter continued:

And very welcome we were, too. None of the Jesuits had starved to death or been killed, but all of them were suffering from malnutrition, subsisting especially during the past few months on soy beans, rice, and some few scraps of meat that occasionally they were able to get. We could stay only a few hours as we had to make the long trip back to the ships and be aboard before night fall, but the following is some information I was able to gather from the Fathers in Tokyo… In the University of Tokyo, the old building was completely destroyed by an incendiary bomb, but luckily the Fathers were able to stop the fire from doing much damage to the main building adjacent to it, though two classrooms are fire blackened and a corner of the roof slightly burned. This loss they look upon as providential, for a month later another incendiary bomb ignited houses to the rear of the University and a gale swept the fire through the entire district. Because of the fire break presented by the old demolished building the main building was saved. So the building now stands in the center of a completely burned out section.[53]

Figure 29. Sophia University and area immediately north of campus following the bombing in April 1945.

The damage to the campus was severe, but they had saved the newest building from severe damage and preserved some of the library’s contents. However, the area immediately surrounding the campus was flattened.

The visit allowed them to learn the destruction that had been visited upon the other Catholic churches throughout Japan. As described by O’Connor:

Personal injuries from the bombings were slight…Throughout the mission our churches at the following stations were destroyed Okayama, Kure, Fukuyama, Hiroshima. All together, 80 Catholic places, (schools, convents, churches) were burned out in the whole of Japan. Enemy aliens were interned, but the German, Japanese and Swiss priests were allowed to continue work. During the past year the German Jesuits, according to their reports, were under constant surveillance and heckling by the Japanese Government… The situation right now of the Jesuits in Tokyo is not an enviable one. (And they report that the Jesuits in the country districts have suffered more from lack of food than they have.) The food we gave them will last them for about a week. We have notified the Red Cross but I doubt if that organization can do much for them, so many people in Tokyo have not even a roof over their heads.[54]

The physical toll upon the Catholic mission in Japan paralleled the damage suffered in all the big cities nationwide. Yet this was not the worst thing they would learn about the destruction meted out to Japan.

They were also to hear a first-hand account of the devastation that resulted from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Fr. Lasalle, superior at Nagatsuka and, if I am not mistaken, the superior of the entire mission, received cuts and bruises from the atomic bomb at Hiroshima only 8 kilometres [equivalent to approximately 5 miles] from the Novitiate at Nagatsuka. Fr. Schiffer, ordained last year, and at the time of the bombing stationed at Nagatsuka where the philosophate and theologate have been located for the sake of safety, was cut by glass splinters. He was present in Tokyo when we arrived and described the effect of the atomic bomb as first a blinding flash, as of magnesium fire, then a terrific and awesome pressure from above that blew out all windows and scattered furniture as in a doll’s house shaken by hand, then silence absolute and complete for about eight seconds, and finally the rumble and roar of houses collapsing in the city. He says that as far as he can figure out the bomb itself made absolutely no noise, but admits that the noise may have been lost in the roar of buildings toppling. Our buildings were not greatly damaged by it, aside from windows and furniture and a weakening of some walls. The fathers made their way into town and gave what help they could, which was not much, for the entire city was wiped out. Some of the living casualties were taken to the novitiate and treated, but all those burned by the bomb later died, even though, as happened to one man, only one finger was burned.[55]

The destruction described here makes the survival of everyone at his facility more miraculous.

For all of the damage at all of the Catholic facilities, the spirits of the Jesuits on that day was a sign of their continued devotion to their mission. O’Connor’s letter continued,

when we asked them what we could do for them their first request was not for food but for manpower. They wanted, if it were at all possible, American scholastics to teach English and to wield influence among the intellectual group in the country who are going to rebuild Japan. They fear greatly an influx of Protestantism, because since the war the Japanese people admire secretly American efficiency, and this they associate with Protestantism. The German Jesuits also greatly fear that they will not be allowed to remain in Japan. So they need man power and, as one of them put it, “to whom should we look but to America.” This primary request of theirs was all the more appealing because they did not ask first for food and I saw how hungry they were, so hungry in fact, that, though we had brought some K rations for our own lunch along with the boxes of food for them, we ended up by slipping the K rations in with the boxes and refusing their touching invitation to lunch. Their first request was for their missionary work.[56]

The German Jesuits recognized their tenuous status as citizens of a former enemy nation, so they hoped that American Jesuits could carry on the mission to convert Japanese into Catholicism.


Teton AGC-14 - History

United States Maritime Commission C2 Type Ships

The C2 types were designed by the United States Maritime Commission in 1937-38 They were all-purpose cargo ships with 5 holds. 173 were built between 1940 and 1945. The first C2's were 459 feet long, 63 feet broad, 40 feet depth, 25 foot draft. Speed 15.5 knots. Later ships varied in size. The configurations were:

C2 (19 ships built 6,100 Gross tons)

C2-F (7 ships built 6,440 Gross tons)

C2-G (2 ships built 8,380 Gross tons)

C2-S (5 ships built 7,101 Gross tons)

C2-S-A1 (4 ships built by 6,555 Gross tons)

C2-S1-A1 (3 ships built 7,486 Gross tons used C3 turbine with 9,350 shp, 20 knots)

C2-S-AJ1 (64 ships built 8,335 Gross tons)

C2-S-AJ2 (5 ships built 8,290 Gross tons)

C2-S-AJ3 (32 ships built 8,160 Gross tons)

C2-S-AJ4 (6 ships built 8,328 Gross tons)

C2-S-AJ5 (10 ships built 8,295 Gross tons)

C2-S-E1 (30 ships built 6,190 Gross tons)

C2-SU (3 ships built 7,780 Gross tons)

C2-S-B1 (R) (6 turbine refrigerated ships built 7,989 Gross tons)

C2-S-B1 (32 ships built by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock, Kearny NJ and 81 by Moore Drydock, Oakland CA, 10 ships built by Consolidated Steel Corporation, Wilmington CA, 6,230 Gross tons)

C2-S1-DG2 (3 ships built 8,610 Gross tons)

C2-T (3 ships built)

The first C2's completed were the motor vessel SS Donald McKay , launched June 1939 at the Sun Yards in Chester, Pennsylvania and the steam turbine Challenge built by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock, Kearny, New Jersey. Many of the early C2's were named after Clipper ships, including Flying Cloud, Glory of the Seas, Wea Witch, and Westward Ho.

Maritime Commission Ships

Photograph and Cross Section of C2 Freighter (C2-S-B1 type)

In this post-war photo the Company markings were digitally removed. Original photo from Merchant ships of World War II - A Post War Album , Victor Young, Shropshire, England:Shipping Books, 1996

Cross section is from From America to United States: The History of the long-range Merchant shipbuilding Programme of the Unites States Maritime Commission (1937-1952 ) Part 2, L.A. Sawyer and W.H.Mitchell London: World Ship Society, 1981

If you would like photocopies of our information about a ship, please send a donation (Minimum $25 US payable to T. Horodysky) to support our research and Web Site to:

T. Horodysky
usmm.org
27 Westbrook Way
Eugene, OR 97405

We have listed only the names used by U.S. Maritime Commission or U.S. Navy during 1939 to 1946. Some ships had additional names which are not given here. If a ship has had more than one name, the entry is under the first name used. Use the search command in your browser to help find a particular ship's name.


Teton AGC-14 - History

Anthony DeSalle of Beaver Falls, PA served aboard the USS Teton (AGC-14) during WW II. He was an able bodied Seaman, manning the rails, swabbing decks, pulling lines, working the gun stations during combat, and doing just about whatever job was sent his way to keep the amphibious flagship of Rear Admiral Hall afloat.

We had met Anthony DeSalle before, although we did not know it until he showed up for his interview on a gray but warm December day in 2012. We first met a few years ago during the Spring on the steps of the National World War II Memorial in Washington DC. That’s where Tony (as his friends call him) first told us about his service aboard the USS Teton in the Pacific, the Kamikaze attacks they endured, and the incredible destruction he saw–first hand–at Hiroshima.

At 88, Tony’s memory is as sharp as ever. That made our interview interesting, or course, but what really struck us is the emotional thoughtfulness by which Tony remembers his wartime experiences. “It was sad to me to see what the Japanese people brought upon themselves,” he confides to us. “The people didn’t deserve what their military leaders did to them. I felt bad for them it was horrible. A lot of guys didn’t feel that way, but I did.”


Landing craft, personnel (large)

Landing craft, personnel (large) (LCPL) was a landing craft used by the U.S. Navy in World War II and for about 25 years thereafter. Along with the LCVP and LCM, it was a mainstay of the amphibious Navy in World War II.

During the 1930s Higgins Industries had developed a workboat, dubbed the 'Eureka' model, designed to work in the swamps and marshes of south Louisiana. The shallow-draft boat could operate in only eighteen inches (45 cm) of water, running through vegetation and over logs and debris without fouling its propeller. It could also run right up on shore and extract itself without damage. As part of his sales demonstrations, Higgins often had the boats run up on the Lake Ponchartrain seawall.

The "headlog" - a solid block of pine at the bow - was the strongest part of the boat, enabling it to run at full speed over floating obstacles, sandbars, and right up on to the beach without damaging the hull.

A deep vee hull forward led to a reverse-curve section amidships and two flat planing sections aft, flanking a semi-tunnel that protected the propeller and shaft. Aerated water flowing under the forefoot of the boat created less friction when the boat was moving and allowed for faster speeds and maneuverability. Because of the reverse curve, objects in the water would be pushed away from the boat at a point between the bow and amidships (including the aerated water—only solid water reached the propeller). This allowed continuous high-speed running and cut down on damage to the propeller, as floating objects seldom came near it. The flat sections aft, on either side of the shaft tunnel, actually had a catamaran/planing effect which added to the hull speed.

All of these features contributed to the boat's successful adaptation as a landing craft. The Navy named it the LCPL, or Landing Craft, Personnel, Large. Some were converted to close-in fire support vessels using cannon or unguided rockets.


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