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

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