I recently learned that many of us truly do not know exactly what Grandpa did during WWII. It seems Grandpa did not talk much about it. Over the years his heroism and service to our country became a mystery and lost in time.
The following slides will allow me to share the story with you and many will contain images of some of the documents I obtained that show what he did and where he was. I have also included historical information about some of the events he was a part of and what his ship did in those battles.
The story begins December 14, 1942. Grandpa began his journey at the Naval Reserve Station in Manhattan. He was described on paper as being 5’10” weighing 158 pounds with a “Ruddy” complexion.
He enlisted for a duration of 2 years as a F3c (Fireman Third Class) Classification V-6. The rate of F3c would not last long. The classification of V-6 is simply one of twelve classifications given to reservists to describe the type of rate they will hold. V-6 is “General Service and Specialists”.
Some of this information is seen here on an original enlistment document.
Since he was under the age of 21 Grandpa needed permission from his parent of guardian to enlist. His father was in Iceland on a construction job and could not sign anything. Therefore, sister Henrietta Kappel signed all the necessary documentation to allow Grandpa to enlist. She also became his principal beneficiary on all life insurance Documents. Grandpa left the Naval Reserve station with a payment of $54.00 for his enlistment.
On January 8, 1943 Grandpa was called to active duty. He was transferred to the Naval Training Station (Boot Camp) in Great Lakes Ill. He began there on January 9, 1943 and would remain there until April 15, 1943. LEFT: Transfer paperwork from Naval Reserve Station to Naval Training Station BELOW: Test Scores
Once he finished boot camp he was off to a service school to learn his rate or job. Instead of going to school for his rate of F3c Grandpa was transferred to a different service school. He would become a MoMM (Motor Machinist Mate). As a MoMM Grandpa would have had the responsibility of maintaining and operating machinery for the propulsion of ships and any other machinery on the ship. The top half of the document on the left shows his arrival at Boot Camp and apparently qualifying him for a 50 yard swim. The bottom half shows his transfer to his service school. He would be learning about Diesel Propulsion at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Ill. He was officially transferred on April 15, 1943 and began the school on April 19, 1943.
On June 12, 1943 Grandpa completed his service school. He graduated 38 th in his class of 127 and qualified as a MoMM2c (Second Class). His final mark of 87.182 and his test scores can be seen on the right. Below is his official change in rate. His reservist classification remained a V-6. As of June 12, 1943 Grandpa was now a MoMM2c and off to yet another school.
After his service school Grandpa was then transferred to a destroyer base in San Diego, California for a more detailed course on diesel propulsion. This time he would study the diesel engines on the Landing craft. Based on his leave sheet he was put on leave for a brief period from June 15, 1943-June 24, 1943 before he officially began this new school. It is this school that we begin to see more details of what Grandpa really did during the war. Here he would learn more about the engines on a landing craft. A landing craft, sometimes referred to as a Higgins boat can be seen below.
On June 26, 1943 at 11:53 Am Grandpa arrived in San Diego, California for his course in internal combustion for landing crafts. He would remain in this school for four weeks until he completed it on July 24, 1943. He was ranked 50 out of 75 in his class and scored a 78.50 on his final test as seen on the right.
After completing his course in the engines of the landing craft it was time for Grandpa to learn everything he would need to know about this type of boat. Based on the future events that Grandpa encountered this school would become the knowledge base for Grandpas experience while out at sea. He was transferred to landing craft school on July 24, 1943. He reported on the same day due to the fact that the school was in the same location he has been in since June 26 th .
So what exactly is a landing craft? As stated earlier a landing craft was also known as a Higgins Boat. It was most popularly depicted in Saving Private Ryan and other D-Day movies as the small boats that carried men ashore during an invasion. These boats were carried by attack transport ships and hung off the sides of the Ship much like a life boat on a cruise ship. At the beginning of the war the landing crafts had a slightly different design but acted in the same way. They were originally manned by a crew of 4. A driver, 2 gunners, and a MoMM to monitor the engine. Eventually, by the time Grandpa entered the war they realized the crewmember operating the engine could just man the second gun while the invasion is taking place. When the invasion began the 3 crewmembers would lower the boat into the water with a pulley system. Once in the water a cargo net was lowered into the water and the platoon of up to 36 would climb down the cargo net and enter the boat. The large numbers of landing crafts would then proceed to the hostile beach under heavy fire. Once at the beach the door on the bow would drop and the men would charge out. The landing crafts would return to the anchored ship to pick up another wave of men to continue the invasion or to continuously resupply the troops. These boats were not well armored and only made of plywood. They would travel at a speed of 9 knots. This was to become Grandpas life in many historic battles in the Pacific theatre.
The next chain of events happened fairly quick. Once Grandpa completed landing craft School he was transferred to the Naval Receiving Station in Treasure Island, San Francisco, California on August 26, 1943. This island is located mid span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge and became a Naval Base during World War II. He would remain here for almost a month doing jobs around the base simply waiting to get his ship assignment. On September 20, 1943 he was be sent to Noumea, New Caledonia. This is an island in the middle of the Pacific, East of Australia. Grandpa has now arrived in the Pacific and will be meeting up with his ship. Seven days later on September 27, 1943 Grandpa would board his ship, APA-7 The USS Fuller.
The USS Fuller was a Heywood Class attack transport. There were many of these ships built strictly for WWII. They were mostly passenger and freight cargo ships that were converted into military transport vessels. The attack transports were all named after presidents, signers of the Declaration of Independence, distinguished Generals and Admirals, famous women, and historic places. The Fuller was named after Major General Ben Hebard Fuller who graduated the Naval Academy in 1889 and became the commander of the Marine Corp. The Fuller would deliver its troops to the beach and then remain anchored in hostile territory to continue to deliver supplies or reinforcements as the battles progressed. The Fuller was 507’ long and traveled at a speed of 16 knots. She was operated by 43 Officers and 337 Enlisted members. She was able to accommodate 60 Officers and 818 Enlisted troops to put onto the beaches.
The first battle Grandpa would participate in was the invasion of Bougainville Island. Part of the Solomon Islands chain this island was important for the Allies to capture because it provided support for the rest of the Japanese Occupied Solomon Islands with Naval bases and airfields. The invasion began November 1, 1943 and the Fuller was right in the heart of it. They loaded up the Higgins boats and put Marines on the island at Empress Augusta Bay. They did this under heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The Fuller moved out and headed to Tulagi Island to resupply and load more Marines. On November 8, 1943 the Fuller was underway again back towards Empress Augusta Bay. This next invasion was known as Echelon 2A (some readings refer to it as 3). On this invasion they were able to easily unload onto the island until numerous planes moved in towards the Fuller. Most of the planes were taken care of but numerous Japanese dive bombers appeared from the clouds moving towards the Fuller. One dropped a bomb right off the bow and shrapnel from the bomb damaged the ship and killed a sailor. The final dive bomber was more destructive. Its bomb dropped into the ships crew compartment and exploded killing 7 men and wounding approximately 30. The damage control team aboard the ship made quick repairs to get the ship back to Tulagi again. Further repairs were made before the Fuller continued her duties. The men would again return to Bougainville island for the 6 th Echelon on November 19 th .
On November 12, 1943 Grandpa supplied himself with clothing and other necessities.
The Fuller was now headed to Auckland, New Zealand. This was not the Fullers first time in New Zealand but would be Grandpas first and last while in the service. The ship was running on temporary repairs from Tulagi and was waiting for the repairs it needed until things calmed down in Bougainville. Once the repairs were made the Fuller was back to the Solomon Island chain to continue supplying the Marines. On Christmas day of 1943 the Marines in Bougainville were replaced with Army units. Later in the day the men aboard the Fuller were notified that they were going to be heading back to the United States for some time. Grandpa and the Fuller were headed back to San Francisco and arrived in the harbor on January 17, 1944.
Grandpa was officially put on Leave from February 19, 1944-March 8, 1944 while the Fuller received a full overhaul to make much needed repairs and updating. I do not have any details on what Grandpa did or where he went during these dates but he did return to the Fuller and continued his service in March of 1944. Half of the men aboard the fuller were transferred to other ships. The Navy felt the need to spread out the experienced sailors throughout the Navy meaning the Fuller had to train these new Sailors for what was to come. Once the overhaul was complete the Fuller sailed to San Diego for training on what would become larger invasions than what they did in the Solomons. From San Diego the Fuller sailed to Pearl Harbor for more training where they encountered more ships and men then they had seen to date. On May 29, 1944 the Fuller was leaving Pearl Harbor and Headed to Saipan Island in the Mariana Island chain where Grandpa was to fight in his second battle of his war.
On June 8, 1944 the Fuller arrived at Eniwetok Island, which is a small island in the Marshal Islands chain. Here the large number of ships for the invasion of Saipan assembled. There was battleships, carriers, cruisers, and destroyers. The men of the Fuller had never seen this many ships for an invasion before. On June 13, 1944 fifteen battleships began bombarding the island of Saipan to prepare for the invasion. On the morning of June 15 th the landings began on the south west portion of the island. While these landings were going on the Fuller was making a feint landing on the northern point of the island. This landing was made to draw some of the forces away from the main landing to be sure the main landing was a success. The feint landing wasn’t as much of a success as anticipated but it did occupy one entire infantry regiment. Once the main invasion commenced the Fuller was ordered south to the main landing area where she unloaded her boats and began landing Marines on the beach under heavy mortar and machine gun fire. Twenty minutes after the invasions began 8,000 Americans were fighting on the beach. At nighttime the Fuller loaded up boats in the area and left whatever boats were still near the beach along with its crew members. It is not clear if Grandpa was aboard one of the ships taken aboard or left on the beach. By the morning the Fuller returned and continued loading the boats left the night before. The Fuller would continue in Saipan until June 24, 1944. They transported prisoners back to Eniwetok and continued to reinforce Saipan with Marines and Army Units.
Battleships bombard Saipan Island while Higgins boats head in to land the marines.
Higgins boats await orders to begin the landings in Saipan.
The Fuller was then ordered to load troops of the 2 nd Marine Division in preparation for the invasion of Tinian island another island in the Mariana Chain. On the morning on July 24, 1944. The Fuller was once again ordered to take part in another feint invasion on the south-west part of the island near Tinian town while the main invasion took place further north. The island is only 3 miles south of Saipan allowing for artillery shelling from across the Saipan Strait along with Naval bombardment. The feint landing in Tinian was more of a success than the one in Saipan. The Japanese were pulled so far south that by the time the main invasion took place there were very limited defenses up north. The Fuller loaded up its boats and headed north to the main invasion site and sent her troops and cargo ashore. Capturing Tinian was extremely important for the Allies. It was needed for a launching site for an aerial assault on Japan. Six runways were built and 50,000 support troops were stationed here after the invasion was successful. The island would be the point of origin of the Enola Gay which took off on August 6, 1945 for the bombing of Hiroshima. On August 9, 1944 the Fuller transported casualties to the island of Espiritu Santo . They then continued on to Guadalcanal to participate in landing training exercises to prepare for the next battle.
On September 15, 1944 Grandpa was on his way to the island of Peleliu in the Pelau island chain. The battle of Peleliu, also known as Operation Stalemate II was planned to last only four days but would go on for over two months. It had an extremely high casualty rate. This island was needed to protect the liberation of the Philippines. By this time the Japanese realized by heavily arming the beaches they were only losing men and equipment to the bombardments. Instead they lightly armed the beaches and took well fortified positions inland. This island was considered extremely important to the Japanese National Defense. They defended Peleliu and the surrounding Pelau islands with 38,000 men and the US invaded with 47,561 men. Heavy Naval bombardments took place on September 12 th and were believed to have been a success. However, the Japanese remained in the inland position and were nearly unfazed by the bombardment. The Fuller helped deliver Marines to the southern part of the island due to the location of the airfield. The 1 st Marine division lost 1,749 men within the first five days. Of the large amount of defending Japanese forces only 202 lived and were taken prisoner on Peleliu. The Fuller completed its job in Peleliu and transported casualties to Hollandia and began training exercises for the next invasion.
First wave of Higgins boats make way towards Peleliu
On November 1, 1944 Grandpa received his endorsement to be promoted to MoMM1c (1 st Class). The “(T)” stands for temporary. This supposedly was popular during the war to fill vacancies in rate and ranks rather quickly.
The Fuller was now underway towards the Philippine islands on October 13, 1944. These islands were occupied by Japan for the past 3 years and the islands were a main source of rubber and main route to transport petroleum to Japan. The US under General Douglas Macarthur sought to liberate the Philippines. Taking Leyte Island first allowed Allied forces to be within striking distance of any of the other islands in the Philippine archipelago. On October 20, 1944 the Fuller was one of many ships that landed Army forces on Leyte island making this the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific to date. The Japanese were caught off guard making these landings easy in comparison with the previous three. Within two hours forces had moved two miles inland meeting very little Japanese resistance. Back on the Fuller there was some air attacks which were fought off by Allied planed a long with heavy anti-aircraft fire from the Fuller. The Fuller unloaded troops and cargo faster than usual and was underway back to Hollandia by Nightfall. On November 14, 1944 the Fuller returned to Leyte island in the middle of an air raid and off-loaded more troops and completed this in 5 hours and 26 minutes. On December 13, 1945 Grandpa was officially held beyond enlistment.
General Douglas MacArthur landing on Leyte Island
On January 9, 1945 the Fuller unloaded its Higgins boats in the Lingayen Gulf at Luzon island for a second invasion of the Philippine islands. Due to heavy well aimed Naval bombardments the opposition was limited. Three total waves of Army troops landed at one minute intervals totally 175,000 troops. The Fuller remained anchored in the gulf all night unloading cargo while constant suicide aircraft attacked the ship. By the morning the Fuller and the rest of the ships were able to leave the gulf. While leaving the gulf the Fuller was supposed to lead the convoy of ships. However, due to a last minute change the USS DuPage wound up as the leader. Just over an hour after leaving the gulf an enemy aircraft was heading right towards the DuPage and directly hit the ship lighting it up in an explosion. All the Fuller could do was drop life jackets in the water to the few survivors. If there was not a last minute change in plans this would have been the Fuller. After the Philippines liberation Grandpa was ordered to wear the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two Bronze stars. This meant he participated in two campaigns in the Philippines. In February of 1945 the Fuller was off to the Caroline Islands to participate in training for the battle and invasion of Okinawa.
The first wave of troops approach Luzon Island, note the two crew members in the rear of the boat. That would be Grandpas position during all of these invasions.
On April 1, 1945 the battle of Okinawa began code named Operation Iceberg. The Allies planned to take Okinawa and use it as an airbase only 340 miles from mainland Japan. The kamikaze air attacks were going strong by this time and there were numerous attacks on Allied ships resulting in the largest number of casualties in the Pacific. The Japanese suffered a loss of 100,000 while the Allies suffered 50,000 casualties. Early in the morning the first wave of Army and Marines were sent ashore. The Fuller had a special unit of a Marine aviation unit that was to be put ashore at a specific point in the battle. This caused the Fuller to have to sit at a single position while the initial landings took place. This made the Fuller a sitting duck to enemy aircraft which they had to fight off. This position was held for eight days and nights. The worst attack came on April 6 th when numerous suicide aircrafts were attempting attacks on the Fuller. One in particular was making its way directly towards the Fuller but was shot down by the crew. Finally on the night of April 7 th the Fuller was to off load the special unit. They put the Marines ashore in record time.
Marine reinforcements coming ashore to Okinawa
On April 13, 1945 the Fuller arrived in Saipan but was ordered to again go home on April 15 th . The Fuller was now headed back to Pearl Harbor. While making good headway the orders changed and they got news that they would be headed back San Francisco. The Fuller arrived in Honolulu where they off-loaded casualties, Coast Guard, Marine and Navy personnel. Finally, on May 6, 1945 the Fuller sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge into the San Francisco Harbor. Grandpa would take a well deserved leave from May 7, 1945-May 22, 1945 while repairs were made to the ship. Upon his return there was a command change made the ship and on July 16, 1945 the ship would rejoin its fleet. Just like before the Fuller was off to San Diego for training exercises, this time without any troops. The Fuller loaded up with 66 Army officers, a Naval passenger detachment, and a cargo of lumber. On July 26, 1945 the Fuller was on its way back to Eniwetok in the Marshal Islands.
After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the surrender of Japan the Fuller was headed into Tokyo bay on September 13, 1945 where it unloaded at the Yokohama docks. This marked the first time in Japans history that the island nation had been occupied by a foreign power and Grandpa was a part of it. This was simply a transport assignment and not an invasion. Just like Japan, the Fuller headed to China on a transport assignment on October 3, 1945. Here 49 “high point” men were transferred for return to the United States. On December 13, 1945 Grandpa completed three full years in the Navy. He was transferred to a receiving station in Seattle Washington on December 29, 1945 to be discharged where he was then sent to Lido Beach, New York to the Naval Personnel Separation Center where he was finally granted his Honorable Discharge from the United States Navy on January 10, 1946.
Ribbons that were awarded to Grandpa from left to right: American Campaign Medal is awarded to service members performing either one year of consecutive duty between December 7, 1941 to March 2, 1946 within the continental borders of the United States, or performing 30 days consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days of duty outside the borders of the United States but within the American Theater of Operations. Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 7 stars is awarded to any member of the United States military who served in the Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945 denoting 7 battles. Philippine Liberation Medal with 2 stars is awarded to any service member, of both Philippine and allied militaries, who participated in the liberation of the Philippine Islands between the dates of October 17, 1944 and September 2, 1945 denoting 2 battles. Not shown is the victory ribbon he was awarded along with a good conduct medal he was awarded.