This is the story of our ship. We who were aboard her think of her as a female. Generally she was a lady; but, as at least three spirits of dead Japanese pilots and their crews will testify, she could also be a hellcat. There were even times when we got irritated and she seemed a floosie to us, but now that it is all over, I guess she was a lady most of the time.
All ships have personalities. It's hard to decide whether the personality of a vessel stems from the Captain, the Crew, or the ship itself. In the case of the U.S.S. MOUNTRAIL, we like to think that, what began as an inanimate pile of steel plate at a Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California, developed into a spirited, wide-beamed lady through the efforts of sweat, (thank God, not blood) of every man who sailed on her, regardless of his race, rate, or rank.
It seems sort of disrespectful to speak of her in the past tense, but I know that wherever she is today she isn't alive and vibrant with the life and activity that walked her decks from November 16, 1944, to September 2, 1945. She can't be because there isn't a war on now, and she was designed to live and breathe in the forefront of war. A specialized Pacific type of conflict, which bore an American trademark; Amphibious warfare.
Our ship possibly wasn't the best in the United States Navy, and she certainly wasn't the most beautiful; but we think that she could outshoot, outhaul, and outwork any other female in her class.
The Navy Department assigned her a letter designation followed by a number. You could see it on the Bow: "A P A 213." The "A P A" stood for Auxiliary Personnel Assault Transport, while the numbers designated her as the two hundred and thirteenth ship of her class.
Shortly after she went into commission she became a mother, by adopting twenty-six lusty offspring. These youngsters were the landing craft carried aboard. They were not stepchildren, however, because the Lady was designed to carry these boats as her main battery in the battle against the Nips. After the night of April the 2nd the Gunnery Officer insisted that our five-inch gun on the stern deserved to also be considered a part of the Main Battery, and even the most biased Coxswain aboard was inclined to agree with him. The boat crews lowered their boats in a personal sort of way, and felt that in them they would be able to make a beachhead anywhere, anytime. Load their craft with the 77th Division, they used to boast, and they would tackle the shores of hell.
We'll try to be honest in our story because we want to remember the lady as she was. Nevertheless, we all earnestly hope that this breed of predatory female shall never have to prowl the seas again. Why! Take our word for it, the Pacific War wasn't any fun.