Apr 16

The Life & Service of a World War 2 Mine Warfare Sailor. Part 9

Thursday, April 16, 2020 12:01 AM

By

When we left my grandfather’s ship, the USS Sway (AM-120), it was 14 August 1944. The Sway, an Auk class minesweeper, was off the coast of southern France preparing for Operation Dragoon. Dragoon was the invasion of southern France launched in August 1944 to relieve pressure on Allied Forces fighting in Normandy and Italy. It was hoped the Allies could cut off the Axis forces and defeat them more quickly. Dragoon is not as well known as many other operations of the war and is often criticized because it pulled Allied troops away from areas of heavier fighting and is thought by some to have prolonged the war.

Unless otherwise noted all entries come from the ship’s war journal. My grandfather stopped writing regularly per orders from the CO upon joining the Sway. He did however make a few notes on important events including one undated entry about Dragoon that is included.

The Ship’s War Journal picks up on 15 August 1944 with the first day of the invasion.

August 15, 1944.
Day’s operations. Arrived assault area with Delta group 0430. Took station in transport area acting as flagship for Commander Task Group 85.13. The operation proceeded according to plan. First wave on beach 0800. Preceded by heavy air and naval bombardment. Slight resistance on beach. Many red alerts. At 2040 went to dusk General Quarters alert. At 2055 12 or more enemy aircraft commenced an attack on shipping in immediate vicinity. The attack included radio controlled bombs. Due to low hanging clouds the enemy bombers were difficult to see. Heavy AA fire from all ships. At 2059 we opened fire on an ME-109 passing down starboard side altitude 3500 ft. No hits were observed. Fired 3″/50, starboard 20 MM and 40 MM batteries. No more planes were seen or fired upon during this attack. No shipping was hit. Acting as Commander flagship Task Group 85.13.

Invasion map. USS Sway was part of the Delta Assault Area neat Saint Tropez
(Courtesy of the Author)

 

Operation Dragoon Invasion Force
(Courtesy of the Author)

 

German ME-109
(Courtesy of the Author)

My Grandfather’s only entry about the Invasion described the ME-109 they fired on that first night.

San Tropez- Nothing doing
the first day of the invasion BB’s
kept on pounding the shore and
aircraft kept up a strong bombing.
We did nothing the first few
days except go to G.Q every
five minutes. One plane came over
the first night and we came pretty
close. The second day a D.C. came
in with survivors off a sub they
sunk. Those poor jerks don’t even
know that they have lost the
war. Almost every night till
we left at least 50 bombers
came over. We are credited
with two. Saw the usual
stuff, as dead bodies, mines,
ships sinking etc. Gets tiresome
after a while.

My grandfather’s journal entry mentions BB’s or battleships involved in the bombardment. Two battleships were part of the assault on the Delta assault area; USS Nevada (BB-36) and USS Texas (BB-35)

USS Nevada BB-36 bombarding San Tropez
(Courtesy of the Author)

 

USS Texas BB-35 ca. 1943
(Courtesy of the Author)

August 16, 1944
Day’s operations: Lying in area of point Charlie of Delta Beach Operation DRAGOON acting as flagship for Task Group 85.13. 2155 During evening alert sighted 3 JU-88’s flying at altitude of 3000 ft, over Tropez Harbor. Opened fire with 20 MM and 40 MM firing 1 round 20 MM and 2 rounds of 40 MM. Ceased fire due to extreme range. Enemy planes were engaged in bombing and mine laying. Mines reported dropped in bay of St. Tropez. No hits from bombs reported. Made smoke at dusk. 

German JU-88 fighter bomber
(Courtesy of the Author)

August 17, 1944
Days Operations: Lying to in Point A Delta Assault Beach Operation DRAGOON , acting as flagship for Task Group Commander 85.13. Red alerts during the day. Made Smoke during dusk period. Red alerts during this period but no planes observed. USS Charles F. Hughes DD-428 reported a glider bomb crashing near her. Heavy underwater explosions felt during the day from mines detonated in area of Camel Force.

Meteorological or sea information may have directly affected operations: Heavy electrical storm and thunder showers during evening twilight obscured viewing during bombing.

The Charles F Hughes may be the ship my grandfather reported bringing in survivors from a German U-boat. Though it is not credited with sinking a U-boat it is credited with beaching two German E boats and sinking a third. E boats were not submarines but German patrol boats similar to the U.S. PT Boat. (1)

USS Charles F. Hughes (DD-428)
(Courtesy of the Author)

The Glider bomb mentioned was likely a German Henschel HS-293. These were radio controlled rocket powered anti ship bombs. Several vessels were reported damaged or sunk by them during Operation Dragoon. (2)

Henschel HS-293 Glider bomb
(Courtesy of the Author)

August 18, 1944
Days Operations: 00- Lying to between point C and point A Delta Assault Area Operation DRAGOON, conducting sonar and radar watch. During the day anchored in Bay of Tropez, getting underway and making smoke at dusk and moving out to night station. Air raid at 2100. One JU-88 overhead. Merchant ships and shore batteries fired on friendly P-38’s and Beaufighters. ne JU-88 flew overhead when it was out of range shore stations reported one JU-88 in the area. Warning system is somewhat confused. 

Orders received and decisions reached:
Received orders dissolving Task Group 85.13 under Op plan 4-44. We are now under Task Group 80.10 and Task Force 80 attached to Western Naval Task Force. Operating as Flag Ship Mine Division 18. 

Lockheed P-38H-5-LO in flight (S/N 42-67079) with Red Surround Insignia
(U.S. Air Force)

August 19, 1944
Day’s Operations: Lying to between points C and A Delta Assault area, operation DRAGOON, conducting radar and sonar watch. Anchored in Bay of Tropez during day moving out at dusk to night station making smoke to cover ships in the bay. Some unidentified planes in the area and red alerts. No bombing in our vicinity. Serving as flag ship Commander Mine Division 18.

August 20, 1944
Day’s Operations:00-1230 lying to Gulf of Tropez conducing ant E-boat and submarine patrol. Anchored in Gulf of Tropez in the afternoon. Underway at dusk to make smoke and take night station. At 2045 a plane was observed at 242*Tat about 250 ft. Flying on a course 350*T. Anti-Aircraft batteries at the end of the bay commenced firing all barrages were behind the target. The pane reversed its course. All ships ad shore batteries were firing as it came within range. It was identified as a JU-88 and we opened fire with the 3″/50 and starboard 40 MM at a short range of approximately 3200 yds. The Ju-88 was flying on a course of approximately 150*T taking violent evasive action. No hits were observed. Acting as flagship for Commander Mine Division 18.

Orders received and decisions reached.
Verbal orders from CTG 80.10 assigning Mine Division 18 to Task Group 85 for temporary duty maintaining Gulf of Tropez.

Pertinent remarks not included in action report.
The Anti-aircraft fire of all batteries was extremely poor. Whole we were behind the target our fire was the only fire close enough to the target to cause him to break away and leave the area.

As previously mentioned, the German E boat was a patrol craft similar to the U.S. PT Boats. “E” was an Allied designation for the enemy. The German designation was Schnellboot, or S-Boot, meaning “fast boat”. The most popular, the S-100 class, were very seaworthy, heavily armed and capable of sustaining 43.5 knots (80.6 km/h; 50.1 mph), briefly accelerating to 48 knots (89 km/h; 55 mph). These craft were 35 m (114 ft 10 in) long and 5.1 m (16 ft 9 in) in beam. Their diesel engines provided a range of 700 to 750 nmi (810–860 mi; 1,300–1,390 km), substantially greater than the gasoline-fueled American PT boats and British Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs). (3)

German E-boat
(Courtesy of the Author)

August 21, 1944.
Day’s Operations: 0000-0800 lying to in area of point Charlie, Delta Assault Beach Operation DRAGOON, conducting radar and sonar watch. Anchored in Gulf of Tropez. Underway at disk making smoke to cover merchant ships in the Gulf and proceeding to night station. 2130- On night station patrolling between SS and SR conducting anti E-boat and submarine patrols. Acting as Flagship for Commander Mine Division eighteen.

Pertinent comments not included in action report:
USS Threat (AM124) and USS Swift (AM122) reported to Commander Mine Division 18 for duty. All Mine Division 18 now in Gulf of Tropez assigned to maintain Delta Area, Operation Dragoon.

The Sway remained off the coast of southern France as part of Operation Dragoon until September when it returned to Tunisia for maintenance and refitting. The ship did not see any more combat action as part of the operation but remained on station for mine sweeping, E-Boat and sub patrol duties.

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

https://www.navalhistory.org/2020/03/17/the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-8

Sources:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Charles_F._Hughes

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henschel_Hs_293

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-boat