Mar 17

The Life & Service of a World War 2 Mine Warfare Sailor. Part 8

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 12:01 AM

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The previous blog left off at the end of June with my grandfather’s ship, the USS Sway (AM-120), operating in Italy and preparing to return to combat after undergoing refitting and repairs. In my search of naval records I was unable to find any entries for the ship’s war journal for the month of July. The ship’s history, however, shows the month was spent traveling back and forth between Italy and Tunisia. This entry will pick up in August 1944 with the Sway in Naples, Italy and unless otherwise noted the entries will be from the ship’s war diary as my grandfather stopped keeping a daily journal when he joined the ship in May.

August 1-5, 1944
Anchored in Naples Harbor

 August 6, 1944
Anchored in Naples Harbor until 1830. Commencing 1830 underway on practice operation escorting LST convoy, part of force landing troops on beaches south of Salerno, Italy.

 August 7, 1944
Escort for LST convoy, part of practice operation landing troops on beaches south of Salerno, Italy. 1200 standing by awaiting orders connection convoying of ships taking part in practice operation. 2100 Returning to Naples anchorage.

August 8-11, 1944
Anchored Naples Harbor.

Day’s Operations: 1630 underway with convoy SM-1A from Naples Harbor. Convoy commodore in LCI-952. Escort CommDiv 18 is in Sway. Proceeding in accordance with sortie plan of Op plan 4-44 of NCWTF and Op Plan 1-44 Delta Group Western Task Force. Convoy consists of LST’s, with YMS’s, PC’s, Sway, Symbol, and HMS Liddesdale for escorts. 

This entry shows some the variety of ship’s that was used in Operation Dragoon. From the home website of the Landing Craft Infantry National Association “The Landing Craft, Infantry (Large) – LCI(L) – was a large beaching craft intended to transport and deliver fighting troops, typically a company of infantry or marines, to a hostile shore once a beachhead was secured. The LCI was an important vessel and widely used for amphibious warfare in World War II.

The LCI carried passengers but could not transport vehicles. LCIs were 158 feet long and 23 feet 3 inches wide at the middle. With a crew of 24-60 sailors the LCIs carried 200 soldiers who descended from ramps on each side of the craft during landings. LCIs were not originally designed for cross-ocean journeys but did so out of necessity and urgency during the war. They sailed from shipyards in the United States to the European and Pacific Theatres. The flat-bottom hulls were designed for beaching, which meant the men aboard felt every wave and many endured constant seasickness. The hull, or skin, was made of a quarter-inch steel plate. LCIs were propelled using two sets of quad General Motors 6-cylinder diesel engines (8 engines total).” (1)

Troops from USS LCI(L)-30 reach the beach in the second wave of the invasion of Sarmi, Dutch New Guinea
(U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

The Landing Ship Tank (LST) was another amphibious landing craft used in Operation Dragoon. Unlike the LCI it could carry both troops and vehicles. From the website of the US LST Association: “The Landing Ship, Tank (L.S.T.), was a wartime vessel created by the Allies during World War II. At that time it was the largest ship among the many that made up the newly created Amphibious Forces. It supported amphibious operations (ship to shore) by carrying tanks, mechanized vehicles, supplies, cargo, smaller landing craft, and most notably—landing troops directly onto enemy shores. They were designed to land on virtually any type of shore that had a gradually sloped beach due to their specially designed hull and flat bottom.” The LST also saw action again during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. (2)

Aerial view of the USS LST-60 underway
(U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

The YMS or Auxillary Motor Minesweeper, also known as a Yard Mine Sweeper, were a class of wooden hulled mine sweepers originally developed to protect naval bases from mine laying attempts. Even though they were not intended to see service overseas they also saw action in both theaters and proved a versatile vessel that served the U.S. Navy until 1969. (3)

Port bow view of YMS-471 underway at sea
(U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

The Patrol Craft (PC) was developed as an antisubmarine craft to help protect transatlantic convoys. Thirty-five were converted for use in support of amphibious landing operations. These were redesignated Patrol Craft Control (PCC). It is not known which of the PC types is referenced here. (4)

From the starboard wing of the bridge, the skipper of a U.S. Navy PC boat checks his station with the convoy he is escorting
(U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

The USS Symbol (AM-123) was an Auk class minesweeper and sister ship to my grandfather’s ship the Sway. 

USS Symbol (AM-123) underway in the Pacific
(U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

HMS Liddesdale was a Hunt Class II Escort Destroyer of the Royal Navy. (5)

A port broadside view of the camouflaged British Type II Hunt-class destroyer HMS Liddesdale (L100) underway on 21 May 1942
(U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

August 13, 1944
Today’s operations: Underway with Convoy SM-1A enrote from Naples to Delta assault area, Operation DRAGOON. Passing through straits of Bonifacio in accordance with Ops Plan 4-44 Western Naval Task Force 1-44. Task Force 85. Test fired all automatic AA batteries. Acting as flagship for Commander Task Group 85.13.

For those who have not studied WW II in detail Operation Dragoon is often overlooked. The invasion of southern France in August 1944 was an effort to pull German forces away from the continued fighting that had been ongoing since the D-Day landings two months earlier. The Allies hoped to open a second front in France and divide German forces. The operation was on a much smaller scale than Overlord and met much lighter resistance, however, it did liberate southern France in a matter of weeks. Though considered a success it is felt by some to have prolonged the fighting around Normandy and Italy by drawing away resources and men.

August 14, 1944
Underway with convoy SM-1A from Naples to Delta Assault area, Operation DRAGOON in accordance with op plan 4-44. Western Naval Task Force Op Plan 1-44 Task Force 85. Acting as flagship for Commander Task Group 85.13.

The ship’s War Journal makes the following notes on the planned invasion.

1. Operation Dragoon was an amphibious operation combining United States assault troops with large French reinforcements, convoyed, and supported by Naval forces of the United States, Great Britain, France, Greece, Poland, and the Mediterranean Allied Air Force. It was designed to support Operation Overlord by exploiting the Rhone Valley while maximum pressure was being exerted on the Enemy in Northern France, Italy, and Russia.

2. Troops of the United States Army were to land on various beaches in the Cabalaire-Frejus area of the Southern coast of France. Once ashore it was expected the troops would advance rapidly, taking the ports of Marseilles and Toulon. The Navy was to support this advance from seaward helping to open these ports through mine sweeping and gunfire support.

3. The initial landings were supposed to take place in daylight about three hours after first light. It was expected that enemy float mines and moored mines beyond the 10 fathom curve would be encountered. The enemy was expected to employ various types of air weapons including mines, circling torpedoes, radio controlled bombs, and glider bombs. Submarines from the port of Toulon were expected to attack in force. It was further expected that underwater obstacles and resistance ashore would be encountered including bombardment of the ships and assault waves by major and minor caliber guns. In addition, the enemy was expected to have available and employ the following surface forces; 1 DD, 6 TB’s 7 Corvettes, 15 E-boats, 15 RS-Boats, 5 submarines. The enemy was believed capable of conducting 275 sorties daily of all types during a maximum effort which was expected to fall to 125 daily; and that a total of 1500 planes of all types were available within range of the assault area.

4. The entire operation was divided into various parts and portions of the entire assault area were assigned separate task forces. This vessel was assigned to Task Force 85, which was to operate in the Delta Assault area and was in the middle of the whole assault area.

5. This vessel was further assigned to Task Group 85.13 and Task Unit 85.13.1 in accordance with references (a) and (e).This unit 85.13.1 consisted of USS Sway (AM-120) and USS Symbol (AM-123). Symbol was to standby in the assault area as a relief flagship for the Task Force flagship USS Biscayne.

6. With CTG 85.13 embarked, this ship’s mission was to sortie from Naples and convoy a portion of the assault forces to the Transport Area of the Delta Assault Area off the coast of St. Tropez, France. It would then lie in the vicinity of Point Oboe 7 miles off the beach receiving reports of minesweepers in Delta assault area and assisting new tasks as ships become available.

7. The Doctrine was to press home the attack with relentless vigor in spite of all opposition. Under no circumstances was mine sweeping to halt or landings cease due to enemy air attacks, bombardment or losses.

The following day the invasion began, my next blog will begin there.

Enjoy the author’s earlier posts here:

https://www.navalhistory.org/2019/08/14/the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-1

https://www.navalhistory.org/2019/09/19/the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-2

https://www.navalhistory.org/2019/10/15/the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-3

https://www.navalhistory.org/2019/11/21/the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-4

https://www.navalhistory.org/2019/12/17/21-the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-5

https://www.navalhistory.org/2020/01/16/the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-6-sea-stories-part-1

Sources:

  1. http://usslci.org/facts/
  2. https://www.uslst.org/history
  3. http://www.navsource.org/archives/11/19idx.htm
  4. http://www.ww2pcsa.org/patrol-craft.html
  5. https://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/4657.html

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