Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Life Aboard the Blue and Floyd B Parks

Albert "Al" Paul Dagutis was my husband's uncle. He served in the Navy during World War II and I told the first part of his military service history a few days ago. This is the rest of his military story.

After serving on the USS Harry Lee, which supported the North African and Sicily invasions before joining the Pacific Fleet in time to participate in the Gilibert Islands Operation, Al was transferred off the ship sometime after 16 Dec 1943 and traveled back to New York City to prepare a new ship for commissioning into the U.S. Navy, a Sumner-class destroyer, the USS Blue (DD-744).

USS Blue (DD-744) ; photograph courtesy of the National Archives and
Records Administration

He was one of 355 men and 19 officers aboard the ship on 20 March 1944 when she was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn. In April the Blue went to the Caribbean for a month-long shake down cruise, returning to New York for alterations.

She left the yard on 6 July 1944 and joined another destroyer, a destroyer-escort, and the aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger, in Norfolk. Together, the ships steamed to Pearl Harbor. Upon reaching Pearl, the Blue joined Task Force 58 (which was temporarily called Task Force 38 when Admiral Halsey was present as commander of the Third Fleet). The task was composed of the newest and fastest ships in the Navy and included the Hornet, Wasp, Intrepid, Bunker Hill, Essex, Lexington, Franklin, Randolph, and Ticonderoga; the battleships New Jersey, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Alabama, Washington, and South Dakota; plus dozens of cruisers; and more than one hundred destroyers. It must have been a fearsome sight!

USS Blue (DD-744) at the New York Navy Yard;
photograph courtesy of the National Archives and Records
Administration

The opening shots of the Philippines campaign in September 1944 were the Blue's first combat experience. The Blue spent a month in Philippine waters before being detached from the task force to perform several special duty runs to Guam, Eniwetok, Saipan, and Ulithi, a West Caroline island, which became the fleet's main anchorage during this period.

In October 1944, the Blue joined eight other destroyers and became part of Destroyer Squadron 61, known as Desron 61. The squadron steamed to the Philippines supporting the countless airstrikes aimed at Luzon and Formosa. On 19 December the Blue was caught in a violent typhoon, which sunk three other destroyers -- the Hull, Spence and Monaghan. She retreated to Ulithi to make repairs.

USS Blue (DD-744) at the New York Navy Yard; photograph
courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Ready for action by early January 1945, the Blue rejoined Third Fleet in time for its daring thrust into the South China Sea. After steaming through the Bashi Channel, they began striking shipping and military installations along the French Indo-China coast. Those strikes were followed by air attacks on Hong Kong and Canton, but further operations were halted by another typhoon. Again, the Blue was damaged, worse than previously, and returned to Ulithi for repairs. These repairs took about two weeks. The Blue rejoined Task Force 58 to support the invasion of Iwo Jima.

Here deck logs describe some of the fighting:

"Tuesday, 9 Jan 1945: Our troops land on Luzon -- we hit Luzon with our carrier plans -- one of the Jap Zekes (fighter) runs over us and is splashed by a Hellcat -- on our way to the China Sea through the Straits of Luzon which is 25 miles wide -- Jap plane coming towards our force splashes.

Friday, 12 Jan 1945: Our carrier planes make strikes against French Indo China. They sink a convoy of 4 DEs, 1 large transport & 4 attack transports -- also they are after a convoy of 6 DDs, 6 transports, 1 light cruiser but as yet we haven't the results. No dope on later convoy. Flash! We lost track of Jap convoy

Our carrier planes sunk 41 Jap ships and damaged 21 -- 120,000 tons sunk -- 70,000 damaged."


World War II era USS Blue deck logs; images courtesy of USSBlue744.com

Yet there was time for fun when in Ulithi:

"Went ashore on one of the islands on a beer party -- had four cans -- went coconut hunting with a few boys -- seen a movie at night."

But Al is last mentioned as being on the ship on the 10 February 1945 muster rolls. I believed he was transferred off the ship at that time and sent back to the U.S. to prepare another ship for commissioning.

He was present at the commissioning of another destroyer on 31 July 1945, the USS Floyd B Parks (DD-884), a Gearing-class destroyer, which was built in Orange, Texas, by the Consolidated Steel Corporation. She arrived at San Diego, her home port, on 16 November 1945 and sailed to the Far East four days later to join the war effort. However, Albert Paul Dagutis was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy on 28 November 1945 so I do not believe he was on the Floyd B Parks when she sailed toward her post-war occupation experience.

USS Floyd B Parks (DD-884); photograph courtesy of the National Archives
and Records Administration

During World War II, Uncle Al served aboard four ships; those ships participated in some of the most memorable fighting in two theaters of operation: Sicilian Occupation (Scoglitti, 10-12 July 1943), Gilbert Islands Operation (Tarawa, 21-21 November 1943), The Volcanos-Bonin-Yap Raid (31 August-9 September 1944), Capture of the Southern Palaus (6 September-14 October 1944), Philippine Islands Raids (9-24 September 1944), Luzon Raids (5-6, 13-14, 18 November and 14-16 December 1944), Formosa Raids (3-4, 9, and 15 January 1945), and the Luzon Raids (6-7 January 1945, and the China Coast Raids (12-16 January 1945).

In my book that's a heck of a war!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

52 Ancestors #37: Life Aboard the Alcor and Harry Lee

Ancestor Name: DAGUTIS, Albert Paul

Albert Paul Dagutis was born on 18 March 1920 in West Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He was youngest of possibly thirteen children. His father died when he was five years old. Albert, known as "Al" by the family, was the only Dagutis sibling to graduate from high school, which he did in 1938. Four years later he joined the U.S. Navy on 14 February 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland.

He served on four ships during World War II and was discharged on 28 November 1945.

USS Alcor (AR-10)
Young Al joined the crew of the USS Alcor after basic training on 3 September 1942 as an F2c, which meant he was a fireman, someone who fired and tended boilers as well as operating, adjusting, and repairing pumps. At the time Al joined the ship, she was classified as a repair ship. The ship was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, responsible for repairing and making alterations to war ships. The ship was later re-designated a destroyer tender.

USS Alcor being assisted by Baltimore tugs in late 1941, a year prior
to Albert Dagutis joining the ship; photograph courtesy of the National
Archives and Records Administration

USS Harry Lee (AP-17, APA-10)
Al was transferred to the USS Harry Lee and first arrived on board on 5 November 1942. The ship was a troop transport when Al joined the ship. During his tour of duty it was re-designated an attack transport and assigned the hull number APA-10. For the first 18 months the Harry Lee took part in amphibious maneuvers in the Caribbean area carrying out many valuable experiments with landing craft and boat control procedures, all of which bore fruit in the dangerous months to come.

Al was promoted to F1c about the time the ship returned to Boston on 6 Apr 1943. Harry Lee was designated for use in the upcoming offensive in the Mediterranean, and sailed 8 June for Algeria. She anchored at Oran 22 June to prepare for the landing. In July the Harry Lee was off the southwest coast of Sicily with Vice Admiral Hewitt's Western Naval Task Force. During this giant invasion Harry Lee debarked her troops through the heavy surf at Scoglitti and withstood several Axis air attacks before retiring on 12 July.


USS Harry Lee in May 1943; photograph courtesy of the
National Archives and Records Administration

After the success of the Sicilian operation, the transport returned German prisoners of war to the United States, arriving in Norfolk on 3 August. It was then decided that her amphibious prowess was needed in the Pacific, and she sailed 24 August for Wellington, New Zealand, via the Panama Canal and San Francisco, California, arriving 12 October 1943. At Wellington Harry Lee loaded Marines in preparation for the big push of the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.

She proceeded to Efate, New Hebrides, during the first week in November and for the next few weeks held amphibious practice landings in preparation for the landings on Tarawa. The transport departed for Tarawa 13 November, and arrived offshore 20 November. There she launched her Marines onto the bloody beaches, under threat of submarine attack and air attack and sailed the next day for Pearl Harbor.

Harry Lee participated in rehearsal landings in Hawaiian waters after her arrival at Pearl Harbor 7 December 1943. Al likely left the ship at this time and traveled back to the U.S. to join his next ship, the USS Blue, prior to her commissioning on 20 March 1944.

Harry Lee earned seven battle stars during World War II, Albert Paul Dagutis served on board during two of those campaigns:
  • Sicilian Occupation: Scoglitti, 10-12 July 1943
  • Gilbert Islands Operation: Tarawa, 20-21 November 1943
To be continued...

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

_______________
Albert Paul Dagutis was the youngest son of Adam Peter and Cecelia (Klimasansluski) Dagutis and was born on 18 March 1920 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. His father died when he was five years old. His mother moved with several of her sons to Hamtramck, Michigan, in time for the 1930 census to be enumerated, but by 1935, they were back in West Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Albert was the only child to graduate from high school.  He enlisted in the Navy on 14 February 1942, just two short months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, at the age of 21. He served with the Navy as a Fireman until 20 November 1945 when he was discharged. He settled in Michigan where at least two of his brothers were living with their wives and children. According to my husband, he never owned a car and took the bus everywhere. He died in Traverse City, Michigan, on 16 February 1987, the year before my husband and I were married. So I never got to meet Uncle Al.

Crossing the Line Ceremony