Office of Naval Records and History
Ships' Histories Section
HISTORY OF USS HARRIS (APA 2)
Attack Transports like USS HARRIS (APA 2) played one of the most important roles in amphibious operations in World War II. USS HARRIS amassed an outstanding war record, having participated successful amphibious operations, for which she earned 10 Battle Stars.
HARRIS was built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at Sparrows Point, Maryland. She was launched in 1920 and christened the PINE TREE STATE. She was completed in 1921 and operated in the Merchant Marine Service for the United States.
In 1922 she-was renamed SS PRESIDENT GRANT. During the ensuing years, the PRESIDENT GRANT operated between Seattle, Washington, and the Orient as a unit of a fleet of President liners, operated by the Admiral Orient Line, later reincorporated under the- name of American Mail Line, of Seattle. The ship completed over 40 voyages from the West Coast to the Orient and various ports in the Philippine Islands. During an average voyage, the ship put in at Kobe, Nagoya, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila. Such a voyage usually took approximately six weeks.
During her years of service in the Merchant Service, the PRESIDENT GRANT was capable of making 20 knots-a factor which contributed materially to her holding many speed records "between the West Coast and the Orient. For many years the PRESIDENT GRANT was known as the "Blue Ribbon Ship of the Pacific". She was painted white with a black hull and a gold band around her. She was famous as winner of a race between the PRESIDENT GRANT and the EMPRESS OF RUSSIA.
In 1937, she weathered the greatest typhoon ever recorded in history. The wind reached a velocity of 167' miles per hour. Her barometer dropped so low that it now rests in a museum. Although thirty-five ships were lost, the PRESIDENT GRANT came through safely.
This period of Trans-Pacific operation ceased with the maritime strike of 1936-1937. During the following three years the vessel lay idle in Seattle. In 1940 the United States Navy acquired her from the U. S. Maritime Commission for conversion to an attack transport.
On 8 August 1940, SS PRESIDENT GRANT was placed in drydock at Todds Seattle Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation. She was commissioned USA Naval Vessel on 19 August 1940, and was re-named USS HARRIS in honor of the late Colonel John Harris, USMC. Colonel Harris was Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps during the early days of the Civil War. He also took an active
part in the Florida Indian Wars (18~6-18~7) during which time he. served with a mounted detachment of Marines. Colonel Harris also saw service in Mexico as part of an occupying force stationed in that country shortly after the Mexican War pending certain negotiations incident to the cessation of hostilities.
USS HARRIS' first commanding officer was Lieutenant Commander A. M. Van Eaton, USN, who took command upon commissioning. He was relieved on 16 October by Captain 0. M. Forster, USN.
On 5 November 1940, USS HARRIS was placed in full commission at Seattle, Washington. On 7 December HARRIS was operating In waters off San Diego, California- Three voyages to Pearl Harbor followed during December 1341 and January 1911-2. From February to 13 April 1941, HARRIS operated out of San Diego as a troop training ship. On 13 April she sailed for Pago Pago, Samoa with troops of the Seventh Defense Fleet Marine Force embarked. On 29 May 19~2, HARRIS sailed in convoy, transporting troops to Uvea, Wallis Islands. The task group arrived there on 31 May 1942 and during the following .three days, unloaded troops and cargo for the defense of the New Caledonia area. Landings on the beaches were made difficult by the tide changes and steep beaches.USS HARRIS sailed for the West Coast of the United States again upon completion of that operation and operated around Monterey Bay, California, training troops in amphibious warfare.
On 22 August 1942, HARRIS sailed in company with Transport Division Six from San Diego to Norfolk, Virginia. "While approaching Hampton Roads, Virginia, the convoy commander ordered all ships to form into a single column. HARRIS was on the starboard beam of USS HENRY T. ALLEN, and while swinging hard left to drop into column astern of the HARRY T. ALLEN, USS ALGORAB .collided head on into the port side of HARRIS just abaft the bridge. Severe damage resulted and HARRIS proceeded independently into Norfolk Navy Yard for temporary repairs. She sailed on to Baltimore, Maryland, after effecting- temporary repairs and entered drydock where all repairs were completed by 14 October. HARRIS then sailed for Norfolk where troops were loaded in preparation for the first amphibious assault at Safi, French Morocco.
On 19 October 1942, Captain Philips, USN, Commander Transport Division Seven, hoisted his flag in HARRIS. A training period followed and on 23 October she sailed for Safi. The force arrived in the transport area at 0030 on 8 November. She sent her first wave of troops over the side at 0500. During the late afternoon a German Messerschmidt with Spanish colors printed on the tail assembly circled the transport around and headed inland. Later, at 17:10, a similar plane flew directly over HARRIS at a low altitude and was fired on. The plane escaped with damage.
HARRIS was one of the first vessels to unload and her boats were sent to other transports to assist in unloading them. On 19 November, HARRIS returned to Norfolk where she underwent voyage repairs until I, December. After her North African duty, HARRIS loaded troops in Norfolk, Virginia and sailed for San Diego, California, arriving on 17 December 1942. The ship remained in that area throughout the month of January 1943 and sailed for San Francisco in April arriving on the 20th.
By 23 April, HARRIS was combat loaded with elements of the Seventh Infantry Division and sailed for the Alaskan area on 24 April 19~3. She arrived in Cold Bay, Alaska on 30 April and continued on the same day for landings on Attu Island. Due to adverse weather conditions the landings were called off several times. On II May, HARRIS arrived in the transport area and began unloading troops in very cold and foggy weather. No opposition was met and on 12 May she moved into the inner transport area in Massacre Bay to expedite unloading. From 16 May through 10 June 1943, she operated from various ports in the Adak-Dutch Harbor area transporting troops and naval personnel.
The Commanding officer of HARRIS was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal by the Commander North Pacific Force for the part played by the ship in the assault and occupation at Attu.
Returning to San Diego in June, HARRIS underwent voyage repairs and sailed for San Francisco on 3 July, where she loaded combat troops prior to getting underway on training exercises.
On 29 July, after training had been completed, HARRIS sailed for Kuluk Bay, Adak Island, Alaska. On 15 August, landings were made on Kiska Island and again no opposition was met. Unloading was completed by 20 August and the transport sailed for San Francisco where she arrived on the last day of the month.
HARRIS immediately loaded with miscellaneous supplies and Army troops, then sailed for Wellington, New Zealand. She crossed the Equator on 16 September after holding the appropriate ceremonies where 314 men were victims of the initiation into the Realm of Neptunis Rex. She arrived in Wellington on 30 September after a two-day stop in Noumea, New Caledonia. All troops and cargo were immediately unloaded.
Two days later, she was loaded with combat troops from the Second Marine Division, reinforced. During October HARRIS participated in tests and training for landings on coral beaches around the Fiji Islands. All these tests and training exorcises were in preparation for the coming Gilbert Islands: campaign.
Drills continued at Efate, New Hebrides until 20 November when HARRIS sailed as a part of Task Group 53.1 enroute to Tarawa Island. She arrived in the transport area on 21 November and at 0503 came under fire of enemy shore batteries, where, all missed and none were closer than 15 yards. The first waves drew heavy fire as they approached the beaches. HARRIS did not disembark her troops until 22 November. Debarkation was interrupted numerous times during the ensuing 36 hours as air attacks developed. Several casualties were received aboard in the early days of fighting and the more seriously wounded were immediately transferred to USS SOLACE on 24 November.
Because of difficulty in landing troops and cargo, unloading was not completed until 23 November. On I December HARRIS embarked the Sixth Regiment and Second Marine Division on December, sailed for Pearl Harbor. She arrived without incident on 14 December 1943 and effected minor, voyage repairs until 7 January 1944.
Training exercises were carried out until 22 January at which time she got underway for the assault on Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands. HARRIS transported the Seventh Infantry Division to Kwajalein, arriving on I February. Debarkation commenced immediately as the bombardment had been very 'effective. Casualties were received on board for the following 24 hours and were later transferred to USS RELIEF, a hospital ship. On 8 February the Seventh Division was re-embarked along with many casualties and prisoners of war for transportation to Pearl Harbor. The ship arrived on 15 February 1944. All troops were debarked on the l6th and HARRIS received passengers bound for the United States. She arrived at San Francisco on 22 February 1944.
Minor repairs were affected after which HARRIS returned to Pearl Harbor where she received 43 days availability and was immediately routed back to San Pedro, California. HARRIS returned to Pearl Harbor upon completion of the availability period
On 12 May, HARRIS began loading equipment of the Twenty" Seventh Infantry Division after which landing rehearsals were held in that vicinity. Upon completion, of the landing rehearsals, HARRIS sailed for Saipan where the Allied forces were preparing an assault landing.
USS HARRIS entered the transport area off Saipan 10 June 1944 and began debarking troops immediately. The ship retired during the nights of 17 and 18 June and completed discharging her cargo on 20 June. About 300 Army casualties were received on board for transfer back to Pearl Harbor.
Anchoring off Eniwetok on 30 June Captain M. E. Murphy, USN, relieved Commander A. M. Van Eaton as Commanding Officer of HARRIS.
HARRIS returned to Pearl Harbor and from 28 to 30 July, embarked elements of the 81st Infantry Division. Joint amphibious exercises were then held and on 12 August 1944, she sailed for Guadalcanal. More training exercises wore held off Cape Esperance during September. On 8 September HARRIS sailed for Palau Island. She arrived off Palau on 15 September and staged a demonstration landing to the east on Babelthuap Island. HARRIS retired that evening and returned the following day to await developments. Word was received that the landings would be made the following day and after the usual night retirement HARRIS moved in on the western side of Anguar and made a diversionary feint. The following day she stood off in readiness to commence debarkation. HARRIS was loaded with reserve troops this time however, and as they were not needed, most of them remained on board.
On 21 September HARRIS sailed for Ulithi Atoll where she arrived at 0500 on 23 September. All troops and equipment had been landed by noon the following day, as there was no opposition on the beaches. The complete Atoll was occupied in one day. Sailing from Ulithi on 25 September, HARRIS set course for Manus Island, via Hollandia, New Guinea. At Manus, HARRIS loaded elements of the First Cavalry Division from 7 to 9 October and on the 12th, sailed for Leyte Island for assault landings there. She arrived in Leyte Gulf on the morning of 20 October 1944.
While streaming paravanes during the night of 19 October, HARRIS discovered a mine attached to the port paravane. She was forced to leave the formation and take necessary action to dispose of the mine. In spite of this delay, she rejoined and unloaded her troops and equipment .so expeditiously that she met her commitments and was again one of the first ships to unload. HARRIS then got underway for Kossel Passage where she received about 100 survivors from ships lost during the Battle for Leyte Gulf on 25 October 1944. They were transported to Guam where they were given transportation to the West Coast.
At Guam personnel of the 77th Division were embarked for New Caledonia. However, enroute the orders were changed and the troops were taken to Leyte as reinforcements. The ship returned to Cape Torokina, Bougainville Island on 3 December. While anchored there she became flagship of Transport Squadron 13. Elements of the 37th Infantry Division wore loaded and on 18 December she sailed for the assault landings on Lingayen Gulf, Luzon Island.
On 8 January a. heavy air attack developed. HARRIS opened fire out could not ascertain whether her shells were77or inflicting damage on any of the enemy aircraft. On of the planes made a suicide dive on the USS KITKUN BAY.
On 9 January 1945, HARRIS arrived in the transport area and began debarking troops. About 70 casualties were received from USS COLUMBIA prior to departing the area. HARRIS sailed to Leyte Gulf where she loaded troops for the assault on Luzon, Philippine Islands. On 26 January she sailed for Luzon where a completely unopposed landing was made on LaPaz. HARRIS returned to Leyte Gulf on the 29th.
Preparations for the Okinawa campaign were commenced on 5 March when Headquarters personnel from the Seventh Infantry Division were embarked from IOtol8March at Leyte Gulf. On 25 March HARRIS sailed for Okinawa Jima arriving on I April 1945. At 1912 an air attack developed and a ship only 800 yards from HARRIS was hit by e. suicide plane. HARRIS completed unloading late in the afternoon of ") April and on 6 April, she sailed for Pearl Harbor via Saipan.
HARRIS was directed to the West Coast for a short availability following the Okinawa campaign. Captain George L. Burne, USNR, relieved Captain M. E. Murphy as commanding officer in May 1945
The ship sailed for Okinawa Jima again with Army Air Force personnel on 29 May and in August when hostilities ceased; HARRIS was enroute to Ulithi Lagoon. She then sailed for Cebu City, P. I. where American. Occupation forces were embarked for Japan. HARRIS arrived in Tokyo Bay two days after the peace .was signed and discharged her troops on the docks at Yokohama. She then returned to Cebu where she embarked troops of the 77th Division and transported them to Hokkaido, Japan on 5 October 1945.
A third occupation voyage was accomplished in October and November, when a Construction Battalion was transported to Tientsin China via Okinawa.
HARRIS returned to San Francisco and on 14 January 1946, sailed for the Canal Zone. 0n 25 January 1946, after transiting the Canal for Boston via Norfolk and arrived on 2 February 1946. She was placed out of commission on 16 April 1946 and stricken from the National Vessel Register on 19 July 1946.
During her war career, USS HARRIS earned the following Battle Stars on the European-African-Middle Eastern Area Service Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Area Service Medal
1 Star Aleutians Operation
Attu Occupation May 11-13 1943
1 Star Gilbert Island Operation
20 November to 8 December 1943
1 Star Marshall Islands Operation
Occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls 31 January to 8 February 1944
1 Star Marianas Operation
Capture and Occupation of Saipan 16 June to 22 June 1944
1 Star Western Caroline Islands Operation
Capture and Occupation of Southern Pelau Islands 6 September to 14 October 1944
1 Star Leyte Operation
Lingayen Gulf Landing 9 January 1945
1 Star Okinawa Gunto Operation
Assault and Occupation of Okinawa Gunto 1 April to 6 April 1945
1 Star Manila Bay-Biscol Operations
Zambales-Subic Bay 29-30 January 1945
USS Harris APA-2 (Deck Log/Burial at Sea/Tarawa)
·Monday, 22 November 1943
2130 On 2100 fathoms of water, Lat - 1°-10 North Long 172 54 East, The bodies of the below named men, who died as a result of wounds suffered in action against the enemy, were buried at sea this date. Services were read by Chaplain RILEY, Lt. (jg) ChC-USNR.
HILL, Otho (none), 446171, P.f.c., Co B, 2nd Amph. Tractor Bn., 2nd Marine F.M.F. Rgt., U.S.M.C.
DAVIS, James A 486402, Pvt., Co. F., 2nd Bn., 8th Marine Rgt., 2nd Marine Div., F.M.F., USMC.
DE BRETAGNE, Hugo J, 347476, C.P.L. U.S.M.C. (all available data found).
THAXTON, J. D., 492688, P.F.C., Co.J, 3rd Bn., 8th Rgt., U.S.M.C.
note: (De Bretagne and Thaxton were also reported as being buried at sea the following day, Tuesday, 23 November, 1943, at 0415 hrs.)
· Tuesday, 23 November 1943.
1119 The body of BROWN, K L Capt., Co. A, 1st Bn., 10th Reg. U.S.M.C. who died of wounds received in action was buried at sea in 2350 fathoms of water in Lat 01°-33 N. Long 174°-11 E. Services were ready by Chaplain RILEY, Lt.(jg) ChC USNR.
1905 The body of DANIELS, Preston Miller (*), PFC, (I.D. No. unknown), Co. B, 1st Bn., 2nd Reg. USMC who died of wounds received in action was buried at sea in 2000 fathoms of water in Lat 1°-28 N, Long. 173°-36 E.
USS HARRIS earned eligibility for the Navy Occupation Service Medal for the periods from 4-16 September 1945 and from 9-15 October 1945. She also earned dual eligibility for the Naval Occupation Service Medal and the China Service Medal for the period from 28 October to 15 December 1945.
|Overall Length||535 feet|
Compiled March 1952
Supplied to this website by Brian Morris-Nephew of Aldon Pinky Morris.