History of the USS Sanborn APA 193-from the Cruisebook
While the U.S.S. Sanborn (APA 193) is not the biggest, the fastest, or the fightingest ship in the fleet, those who sail her can look back with pride on her accomplishments as an auxiliary vessel in the amphibious forces of the United States Navy. Her parenthetical designation of (APA) identifies her as an attack transport, and as such she is a member of a class. Differing from the regular transport, she not only carries the assault troops for an invasion, but she puts them ashore with necessary equipment and supplies without benefit of special docking facilities. Like the amphibian she virtually is, she plows ahead within hailing distance of the enemy and disgorges her cargo of fighting men and equipment into her landing boats. These rugged little boats then shuttle back and forth to the beaches until every man, gun, truck, jeep, bulldozer and medical supply is ashore. As an amphibious attack vessel she leaves the naval fighting to more heavily armed ships of the line, but in an emergency, her well trained gun crews can throw up a fiery protective wall against enemy raiders.
She carries an organized unit of blue jackets known as the Beach Party. These men are trained to hit the beach with the first units to go ashore. There they clear the way for rapid unloading of succeeding waves of small boats. The Beach Party has its own medical unit who assist with the general evacuation of the wounded and look after casualties in their own group. Others in the party direct traffic on the beach and act in a liaison capacity between the beach and the ship. The crew left aboard the ship pour out vital cargo into the returning landing boats and stand by to clear the ship of any emergency. Radiomen sort out the meaningful from networks dense with communications while others make necessary interpretations, effect orders, and maintain the basic organization of the operation. After the assault phase of an invasion she may double as a hospital ship, replacing her cargo of offensive equipment with casualties from the beaches. When filled to capacity with wounded she may be ordered to a base back from the forward area for unloading. There she may draw a less essential assignment. Perhaps she will act as a cargo vessel to bring supplies to the front. The Sanborn's record is not atypical. In these various roles she has set a record of valiance and those of her company know she has met every test in keeping with the highest traditions of the American Navy.
Of "Victory" type design, she was constructed as an APA at the Kaiser Yards, Vancouver, Washington for the Maritime Commission. She left the ways in August,1944, and was commissioned in brief ceremonies on the third of October at Astoria, Oregon, with Commander Sidney Huguenin, USNR, in command. The exigency of the times into which she made her appearance called for an immediate transition from a new ship with inexperienced men to an old experienced one manned with seamen capable of doing a job. If she was to be of real assistance in this war there could be no delay in her preparation for battle. The European war was being decided on land and in the air, but in the Pacific arena, the problems were primarily naval. Island, after island were being taken back from the Japanese and the pace was accelerating. The elimination of the Japanese Navy had already begun. Surface and air blockades had been set effectively to cut off vital supplies and communication between enemy held islands. From the battles of the far South Pacific, up through the Marshal Islands, and to the Marianas, the pattern of victory was pointing the way to Japan proper. With each acquisition the need became greater for more ships, more supplies, and the supply lines became more extended. Men and material had to be rushed to the forward areas and landed on the beaches. The APA was designed for exactly that kind of job. So the Sanborn calmly, but swiftly, set out to become the kind of ship which was needed, realizing that within a very short time she would be in contact with the enemy.
October 14th she stood out from the dock at Astoria, where only a few hours before the last of her crew had come aboard. Many found themselves at sea for the first time, but from a nucleus of old hands an organization began to grow as the ship made her way carefully down the Columbia River and on to Seattle. After that short haul, things began smoothing out and with a few adjustments to armaments, compasses, and other equipment, she set course to San Francisco. She was there for only a few hours taking aboard landing craft. It was there for the first time that many of the men got an insight into the seriousness of the work ahead when it was learned that there could be no liberty or shore leave. She sailed from there to San Pedro for shakedown tests and provisioning, then on to San Diego for intensified training in amphibious landings.
Days and nights were spent in making simulated attacks on the beaches off Coronado. Boat crews and officers spent long hours in the small landing craft coordinating and timing group maneuvers. Coxswains became skilled in putting their craft onto the beach through turbulent seas and learned how to retract their boats through mountainous waves which sometimes splintered the protective "splashboards." The beach parties went through invasion practices learning how to clear the beaches of underwater obstacles and how to direct the landing of boats. They learned to dig in and how to care for, and evacuate the wounded against that day when the beach would be raked with fire. In the meantime, the ship's crew were learning the ropes on deck, becoming more skillful in handling lines and equipment, and cutting down the time required for getting boats into the water and away from the ship.
In November the Sanborn reported for duty, still somewhat new in appearance but ready for work. In Port Hueneme, California she loaded the Thirty-Fourth Special C.B. Battalion, and took on a cargo of cement, lumber and vehicles and set out to sea in company with five other APAs bound for Honolulu. December found the Sanborn well on the way to the war. The C.B.s were unloaded at Honolulu and quickly replaced by Army troops brought aboard in Pearl Harbor for a new program of practice landings in the Hawaiian Islands. Equipment and men were tested daily. Errors were made and equipment failed in many instances. Vicious weather, coral beaches, and unfamiliar maneuvers with a newly formed organization of ships operating in strange waters tested everyone from top to bottom.
On the twenty-sixth day of December, the Sanborn, in company with three other APAs was underway for Kahului, Maui, Territory Hawaii to load Landing Team Three, Twenty-Fifth Regiment, Fourth Marine Division, after having spent Christmas Night returning to Honolulu from a two day training exercise for beach parties. These troops were to be her first invasion bound passengers. Loading was completed on the twenty-eighth and she returned to Honolulu Harbor. She was now a part of the 5th Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet, under Commander Amphibious Forces, Vice Admiral R. K. Turner. This force was in turn part of the 5th Fleet under the command of Admiral R. A. Spruance. Still further in the organization, she was in Task Group 53.2, and as a part of that unit she spent the month of January at training exercises in the vicinity of Maui, T. H. By then she was slowly but surely becoming shipshape. After reporting back to Honolulu, the Task Force headed for Eniwetok on the 28th, bound for the first time toward the real battle area.
During the month of January the ship found many new problems aside from the tactical and material aspects of warfare. With 2,000 men aboard, every available foot of space was taken up by troops and supplies, yet a semblance of home life was required for those aboard. So time schedules were adjusted, and the ship's routine altered, to fit the needs of the passengers and crew. The preparation of meals and the cleaning routine were changed to take care of many more men than usual. Troops not only had to eat and sleep as comfortably as possible, they also had to shower and shave, have their clothing washed, and get hair cuts. Proper medical attention under these crowded conditions was essential. Beyond these necessities other extras were also provided including opportunities for religious worship, physical activity, books to read, cigarettes to smoke, and a place to relax, even if it was under a boat for a card game, or atop a ventilator for a sunbath. Cigarette lighters, candy, gum, razor blades, stationery and innumerable cups of coffee all are materials of war and, as such, they were provided. This same month troops and crew consumed more than 9 tons of beef, 16 tons of potatoes, 14 tons of fresh oranges, proportionately large quantities of eggs, butter, milk, beans, and canned and fresh vegetables. Provisions of all kinds consumed in a day averaged approximately 4 tons. Reports from troops testify to the quality of the food and its preparation. The ship's store, a seven by ten foot cubicle, operated for the convenience of the crew and passengers, sold more than twenty-one hundred dollars worth of merchandise one day.
At Eniwetok the Sanborn took on fuel and more provisions then left for Saipan. Except for the occasional periods when the ship shuddered to the thunder and clatter of gunfire during drills, the trip was uneventful. Daily exercises for meeting emergencies and maintenance of an eternal vigilance kept all hands from forgetting the nature of an otherwise peaceful voyage. Only subtly worried expressions of men as they sat around cleaning their firearms presaged participation in one of the bloodiest battles of history. Upon arrival at Saipan no time was lost in completing logistics and rehearsing the landing to be made at Iwo Jima. lwo Jima was slated to be the next island wrested from the Japanese. The island's geographical position made it a very important stepping stone from the B-29 bases on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam and on to Tokyo. From lwo, we would be able to send up fighter protection for these raiders, and to offer them a refuge as an emergency landing field. At the same time we would have control of the airways and seaways, completing the upward swing to Japan.
The night of February 18th, the Sanborn steamed silently with hundreds of other attacking vessels toward lwo Jima. Not long after midnight, flashes of gunfire lit the sky in the direction of the island. A little later the rumble of shooting from the big guns could be heard as the battleships intermittently opened up on the defenses there. Mt. Suribachi came into view at 0629, rising ominously through a haze of smoke and early morning mist. At 0700 the transports commenced debarkation of the assault troops. As soon as the boats were loaded with men and equipment they began circling off the sides of the ship forming waves for the run to the line of departure. Except for the whirl and roll of a crippled plane as it plunged toward the rocky cliffs one saw little to indicate the lethal character of the assault. The debarkation proceeded very much in the same manner as in the practice landings off Maui a few weeks before.
Battleships, cruisers and aircraft carriers which for four days had been shelling and bombing this fortress island were still pounding away. A few minutes before H hour this bombardment increased in intensity as they launched a rolling barrage, starting at the water's edge and sweeping across the island on schedule to coincide with the arrival of the first assault wave. The first seven waves consisted of amphibious tractors debarked from LSTs. Most of the waves assigned to Blue Beach were guided in by officers and boat crews in LCVPs from the Sanborn. Soon after these waves were ashore it became evident the battle would be long and fierce. Much of the equipment loaded into boats did not reach the beach at all that day due to the intensity of the battle and treacherous conditions on the beach. In fact, one wave consisting of several boat loads of priority cargo did not reach the beach until five days later. As the battle intensified, the first tractors ashore faltered in an irregular pattern up and across the slope of the island. Our lines moved inland slowly from the beach while a mad scramble went on there among the debris of wrecked equipment and piles of hurriedly unloaded supplies. Japanese mortar shells plopped into the water making huge fountains of white spray among the LSTs and landing boats. Fortunately, only a few found their mark. Almost all vehicles made the beach, but many of them became casualties soon after reaching the embankment of loose volcanic sand. Ten Sanborn boats eventually succumbed to the incline of the beach and the surf. All of these boats were lost, without exception, because they could not be unloaded quickly enough to permit retraction before they were swamped by high breakers crashing over the stern sheets. Only one boat, an LCM, suffered a hit. Three Marines were killed and ten others wounded as the boat rushed in for the melee on the beach.
By mid morning of D-day, hurriedly constructed casualty stations were sending wounded men in large numbers offshore to the Hospital LSTs. By late afternoon the capacities of these small ships had been reached and the Sanborn was ordered to take position near the line of departure to receive casualties from the LSTs. Deck hands, corpsmen, and all available personnel cooperated in hoisting aboard 150 casualties in less than two hours. With the help of Marine medical companies aboard, the ship's medical staff undertook the care of the flood of wounded. Physical facilities of the ship, however, were soon overtaxed, and relief was ordered. The Sanborn rejoined the transport group and retired for the night. Two casualties died during the night and were buried at sea.
On the second day of the assault the weather had deteriorated and the wind and sea were much heavier. The Sanborn's beach party which had landed on D-day suffered severe casualties and lost practically all their equipment. Those who returned told by tired and strained expressions of the ordeal ashore. As finally determined the casualty list was as follows: Lieutenant John B. Warren, Jr., Harry RowelI Homans, S2c, John Wesley Paugh, S2c, and Byron Alfred Dary, PhM3c, were killed in action.(see additional information below) Jennings James Lemonies, RM3c, Lawrence John Nowak, RM3c, and Dan Taravello, MoMM3c were listed as missing in action. Lieutenant Commander Edward L. Richards, the Beachmaster, and Conrad Charles Picou, SM3c suffered severe wounds and were evacuated. John L. LeFebvre, PhM2c, William D. Maroney, BM1c, Joseph G. Negroni, Cox, Joe B. Peeples, F2c, and Francis Sarnowski, PhM3c were injured but returned to duty. Those wounded in action now wear the Purple Heart award. William D. Maroney, who took charge after the officers were lost, has subsequently been awarded the Silver Star Medal for "distinguishing himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity in action from February 19, to February 27, 1945, as a member of a beach party during the assault and capture of Iwo Jima Island." The Beach Party doctor, Lt. (jg) George E. Collentine, MC, has been awarded a letter of commendation from Commander 5th Fleet for "excellent service in the line of his profession as the Medical Officer of a beach party from 18 February to 20 February 1945, during the assault and capture of lwo Jima."
Except for two nights the ship retired to avoid possible enemy bombers and suicide planes. After the first day, boat crews and ship's crew alike fought the weather. Craft coming alongside suffered damage, fenders were lost, and mooring lines were reduced to rope ends. But in spite of the difficulty, all calls for equipment were met, and fuel, water and provisions were furnished to all the landing craft that got alongside. On the twenty-eighth day of February the Sanborn was ordered to be completely unloaded and ready to proceed to Saipan. She finished unloading in less than nine hours and left for Saipan carrying 232 of the 376 casualties handled during the entire period. At Saipan she was ordered to Guam, where the casualties were transfered to Army and Navy hospitals. She departed Guam that evening for Saipan, arriving there on the seventh of March.
There was no time to relax. Within two days time she had become a part of Task Group 51.2 under Rear Admiral Jerrauld Wright and had embarked personnel and equipment of the First Battalion, Second Marines. In less than two weeks she was conducting rehearsals off the coast of Tinian in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa. The primary mission of this transport group was to conduct a demonstration "landing" off the southern beaches of Okinawa coincident with the main landing on the western beaches. The group, however, was to be prepared to make an assault on any of a considerable number of beaches on the main island or smaller islands of Okinawa Gunto, or to land in reserve on any of the Okinawa beaches. High winds and seas persisted throughout the training period interfering with the logistic operations and the exercises of the boat group and Marine boat teams. In less than a month the Sanborn had completed one invasion and had begun preparations for another.
The first day of April found her off Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Shortly before dawn the islands came into sight. While the tractor and transport groups were joining for the final approach to the transport area, word was received that enemy aircraft were attacking vessels of the gunfire support group near the beach. At 0546 a violent explosion was seen, and it was later learned that this was caused by a suicide plane crashing on an LST nearby. Four minutes later an explosion was seen at the water line, port side of the U.S.S. Hinsdale, Division Flag and leader of the column of which Sanborn was the third ship. This explosion was caused by another suicide plane coming in so swiftly and so low in the darkness that the explosion was thought to have been caused by a torpedo. The Hinsdale dropped out of formation, listing heavily to port, with a gaping hole in her side, as the Sanborn and other ships moved by and into position for disembarking troops in accordance with the original plan. H-hour, which was set at 0930, was met on time. The demonstration run was uneventful with everything going as planned. Shortly after dawn the next morning, while the ships were returning to the transport area for a repetition of the demonstration, an enemy plane flew overhead. No air cover was present at the time and the plane was not sighted until directly over the Sanborn. A few rounds of fire went up from the Sanborn and nearby ships as the plane, with its ominous rising-sun symbols, flew rather leisurely through the gunfire and disappeared into the clouds before the arrival of the air patrol. The demonstration was conducted again without other incident. The boats feinted runs within a few hundred yards of the beach close behind barrages from battleships and attacking rocket-firing planes.
The ruse was effective as evidenced by the comparative lack of opposition met by our assault invaders on the western beaches. The Task Group, less certain vessels that were dispatched to Okinawa or Kerama Retto for unloading, operated for the next ten days in an area to the southwest of Okinawa, awaiting a call to land the troops carried. April 16 intelligence reported an attack of enemy surface forces imminent, and the group was ordered to retire. Two alarms that evening were occasioned by suspicious radar contacts, but no action developed. On the afternoon of 17 April the group was ordered to return to Saipan and to stand by there for orders. After lying at anchor for 7 weeks at Saipan awaiting developments for further invasions, the Sanborn was ordered to Tulagi, Florida Islands. This was the first trip the Sanborn made to cross the Equator. Much to-do was made over the Equator-crossing ceremonies, and crew and officers participated in the traditional and hilarious ordeal of initiation into the Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep. Many men got their first look at typical South Pacific Islands and native inhabitants when they reached the Solomons. These war swept islands were recovering from the effects of conflict and their palm lined beaches and verdant mountains were a pleasant and peaceful sight. >From Tulagi, a run even farther south was made to New Caledonia. Eleven days of comparative leisure was spent in this first foreign town of French Noumea. July 1 she loaded a cargo of miscellaneous war material and headed north again. In the Marianas she discharged her cargo, then hurriedly readied herself for her first return trip to the United States.
Upon arrival at San Francisco it was learned she would have less than 20 days to make necessary repairs and provision for a quick return to the Pacific, this time carrying the knockout forces to Japan itself. Unofficial V-J Day was heralded as a great day by those aboard the Sanborn although they knew it meant little to them since their new assignment called for an almost immediate departure. On the eighteenth, loaded with members of the Eighty-Sixth Division Field Artillery who had only recently returned from Europe, she set sail for Eniwetok, first stop on her way to Leyte, Philippine Islands. From Eniwetok, she proceeded to Ulithi in the Caroline Islands, and then a change of orders just out of Leyte sent her north through the San Bernardino Straits to Batangas on the island of Luzon. Nine months earlier a Jap fleet had steamed through those waters to its defeat off Samar. At Batangas she discharged troops and cargo and reported back to San Pedro Bay, Leyte for further orders. From Leyte she proceeded to Guiuan, Samar Island, then to Cebu, Cebu Island. This passage took her through Surigao Straits on the bottom of which lie the hulks of the other Jap fleet that tried to prevent our landings on Leyte.
Two days were spent in war torn Cebu taking aboard troops of the 77th Division with equipment for the occupation of Japan. With another APA and two attack cargo ships, the Sanborn shoved off on the last leg of her destined journey for Otaru, Hokkaido in northern Japan. After two days of easy sailing the task unit found it necessary to reverse course, and for eight days it maneuvered to elude typhoons which were sweeping the waters off the eastern coast of Japan. The Sanborn's anniversary of commissioning, October 3, was spent heading for an opening between storms to Tsugaru Strait and the Japanese Sea.
In retrospection, on that day, she counted coups to find that in her short and busy career she had sailed some 44,000 miles, visited some ten Western Pacific ports, and transported some 7,000 C.B., Marine, and Army troops. In a year of war she lost seven of the ship's company by enemy action and one by an accident. She found few material wounds to lick, and except for the loss of a few boats she had suffered no damage by enemy action. Her history read unspectacularly, but showed simply how a job could be done in the Navy.
Home once again the Sanborn will have completed her mission. There a successful career will be ended, and she will have reached her goal the goal which has been the destination of all ships since that eventful day in Pearl Harbor December 7th, 1941.
Transcribed by Ray Morris
Information below is from an email from John Holman:
My father was a corpsman with the 28th Regiment of the 5th Marine Division. He landed on green beach at the base of Mt. Suribachi. I think he was transported on the USS Dickens, but I haven't verified that. He was with the weapons company, and his platoon was attached to the 1st Battalion on 2.19. His unit started landing in the 6th wave.
Anyway, I've been doing research on corpsman who served on Iwo with the Marines and as I was reading the ship's history of the USS Sanborn I thought I saw a name I recognized - Byron Alfred Dary, PhM3c, who was a member of the Sanborn's beach party. He was not attached to the USMC.
Byron Alfred Dary was the recipient of a posthumous Navy Cross. Navsource indicated an individual award for a BM1c who was a recipient of the Silver Star. If I'm right, then I think Dary deserves to be there with him. I sent them an email.
Only 66 corpsman were recipients of the Navy Cross in WWII - that one was a crewman on an APA is significant historical item for the amphibs.
I'm going to try and get a picture of Dary.