THE HISTORY OF THE U.S.S. NESHOBA APA 216
Her name. The U.S.S. Neshoba. Like most of her sister Attack Transports, she was named for a county in the United States. Neshoba County is located in the state of Mississippi, but the ship was built many miles away from there. One of the 130 ships of her class, the Neshoba was built by the Permanente Metals Corporation of Richmond, California, and launched on 7th of October 1944. She was commissioned as a ship of the United States Navy on November 16th, 1944 being sponsored by Mrs. Wendall E. Adams of Berkeley, California. and placed in command of Commander Martin J. Drury, USN. Commander Drury was later promoted to the rank of Captain. The conversion to an attack transport was made at Hunter's Point Ship Yard in San Francisco. The conversion consisted of installing Navy Radio and Radar equipment, armament, adding welin-davits for landing craft, and the landing craft. At the conclusion of this conversion, the Neshoba was a full-fledged, ready to APA.
From time immemorial, every Navy ship has had its shakedown cruise. The Neshoba was no exception. Her shake-down brought her from San Francisco to San Diego. It was during this coastal run that she attained her top speed of 19 knots. At San Diego, she was committed to Amphibious Training at which time the new boat crews got a feel of their craft. She acted as flagship .for Transport Squadron Thirteen whose commanding officer at that time was Commodore John G. Moyer, USN. The training was supposed to last a period of two weeks, but sudden changes in the Pacific Fleet organization made the Neshoba's entrance on the scene of action very imperative and the training was cut short. She proceeded to San Pedro, California, where final repairs and checkups took place.
Ten days were allotted for this work, then she loaded with a cargo of food at San Francisco and received her first set of combat sailing orders. Just what was in store for her, no one knew, since she was told merely to "Proceed Pearl Harbor". Upon arriving at Pearl Harbor, the cargo was dispatched and its place was taken by a new and decidedly different cargo. "Human Cargo" Seabees were taken aboard by the hundreds and the Neshoba was instructed to sail for the Philippine Islands, stopping off at Eniwetok. Ulithi, and Palau on the way. After twenty days at sea, new surroundings for most of the crew on board, the Neshoba arrived in Leyte Gulf on the 20th of February. The Seabees were taken off and brought into Samar Island. She then settled down for a long wait. She was to wait much longer than anyone had anticipated. While at Leyte Gulf, the Neshoba was designated as the flagship of Commander Transport Division Forty Two, Captain Edwin T. Short USN. Preparations were underway at this time for the eventual invasion and occupation of Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyus.
Combined with Transport Divisions Forty and Forty-one, they made up Transport Squadron Fourteen commanded by Commodore Richardson. USN. It was decided to hold extensive maneuvers in Leyte Gulf for the ships and troops scheduled to take part in the forthcoming operation. Transport Squadron Fourteen was to carry troops and equipment of the 96th Infantry Division to the assault, so these troops were made subject to the maneuvers in Leyte Gulf. Maneuvers were to last for six days, during which time, two "dry runs" were made on the island of Leyte. Everything worked out as planned, and the high command set the date for the invasion of Okinawa on April 1st, Philippine time. Transport Squadrons Thirteen and Fourteen got underway from Leyte Gulf on 27 March for the four-day trip north to Okinawa.
Boats from the Neshoba were assigned to take in the first six waves of assault troops. Since the landings were virtually unopposed, no casualties were inflicted on the crew and upon completion of the unloading phase, many transports were ordered by Admiral Turner to return to Pearl Harbor. Captain Short, aboard the Neshoba, was named O.T.C. of fifteen ships in convoy, which left Okinawa on the 5th of April and proceeded to Pearl, via Guam. At Guam she was loaded with ninety Japanese prisoners of war and sailed from Guam with her convoy on 10th April bound for Pearl. Captain Short was relieved as CTD 42 by Captain Andrew R. Mack, USN. He continued as OTC for the remainder of the trip.
The convoy arrived on time at Pearl Harbor on 22nd of April and many of the ships received sailing orders for the United States. The Neshoba was not among the lucky ones. Instead, she was ordered by AdComPhibspac to take part in training maneuvers at Maui. OTC for the training schedule was ComTransRon 19. It was during these practice runs that the Neshoba achieved the remarkable record of lowering all her boats into the water in the record time of nine minutes. Upon conclusion of these maneuvers, she proceeded back to Pearl Harbor where the wonderful orders read. "REPORT SAN FRANCISCO FOR LOADING". With very little delay, she was on her way early the next day. The 24th of May saw the Neshoba passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. Most of the crew had enough leave to go home for a few days. and when they returned from their refreshers, the 216 were ready to sail again. This time, it was Okinawa with a load of Naval Ship Repair Unit personnel. The first leg of the trip carried her all the way to Eniwetok Island non-stop. Due to unloading difficulties in Okinawa, ships were held at all ports in the Pacific to wait their turn to go there. The Neshoba was held for three weeks at Eniwetok.
The extreme July heat did not set too well with those on board, so at every opportunity recreation parties were held ashore for the officers and men. On the 9th of July she sailed in convoy to Ulithi, then to Okinawa. This trip to Okinawa did not find the same peaceful conditions as prevailed on D-Day. The Japanese Air Force composed of the Kamikaze Corps was in full swing at the time and there was that air of uneasiness about the ship during our entire five-day stay there. She was under several air raids, which did not come near the berth, but nevertheless all hands were relieved when her orders came to depart on 29th of July. Once again, it was convoy duty for the 216, but one of a very different nature. She was not in a convoy of ships of her type, but was the mother ship to upwards of seventy craft, ranging in size from LST's down to Ocean Tugs. Captain Mack was the guiding hand of this convoy as it set out on that bright, clear July morning bound for Saipan. During the trip, a small, but very annoying typhoon was encountered which caused many gray hair to be sprouted on various officials of the ship. But, all ships, craft, and what have you, weathered the storm, and we sailed into Saipan harbor on the 6th of August.
Passengers were taken aboard. Army and Navy dischargees to be exact, and 8th of" August, the Neshoba was told to take to the Pacific. • Original orders read to proceed at lop speed to San Francisco, but through some change of administrative orders, the Neshoba was told to change course and head for Pearl Harbor. This order was reluctantly carried out, and once more the sun rose over our stern. But not for long. because once again, administration got an idea and passed it down to operations. Further orders added to by-pass San Francisco and report to the Thirteenth Naval District. Seattle, Washington. The arrival at Seattle was heralded by a shore-based ovation, which made every man aboard feel just a little better. Following the debarkation of the passengers, the ship was brought over to the Bremerton Navy Yard for montorvoyage repairs, the yard workers concentrating mostly on the boilers, which were in dire, need of attention. Temporary repairs took one week after which, the headquarters detachment of the 97th Infantry Division was embarked at Pier Forty- two.
The commanding general aboard was Brigadier General Partridge, USN. The 216 once again put out to sea with original orders to carry her passengers to Leyte Island in the Philippines. By now, this Pacific run was an old story to the crew of the Neshoba. A stop at Pearl Harbor was ordered and the 216 made her reappearance there on September 17, 1945. Since there were only seven hundred army passengers on board the Navy found it very convenient to embark an additional seven hundred men; sailors, marines, and Seabees. These people were bound for Guam, we left Pearl on September 20th. A three-day stopover at Guam was concluded, and the ship received her orders to continue with the 97th Infantry on to Yokohama, Japan.
All hands, officers and men, lined the rails to observe the slow entrance into Tokyo Bay. The troops were disembarked in due time and once again, the Neshoba lay at dock, her holds and compartments empty, waiting to receive more passengers. It was during the brief stay in Yokohama that the 216 was assigned to Task Group 16.12, popularly known in the Navy as "The Magic Carpet". Commanded by Rear Admiral Kendall, USN in Pearl Harbor, the "Magic Carpet" fleet has the specific duty of moving eligible dischargees from overseas to the United States.
In Navy lingo, this known as "Good Duty", the remaining units of the Forty-Third Division were embarked at Pier Four in Yokohama, and our sailing orders directed us to carry these men to San Francisco over the shortest possible route. The Captain and the Commodore jointly agreed on taking the Great Northern Route, which roughly is about 4,700 miles from Yokohama to San Francisco, it cuts off about 2.000 miles from the southern route.
Upon arriving in Frisco and debarking troops we headed for Mare Island Navy Yard for minor repairs.
Captain Drury and Lieut. Comdr. Davis were relieved of duty by Captain E. J. Sweeney, USNR. and Lt. D. M. Newbern as the executive officer, later promoted to Lieut. Comdr. This was a sad day for the crew and officers as they gathered to hear the ceremonies of their departure. The Neshoba at this time was in dry dock, its first time, and only five short days were taken in the repairs, once more she was ready for the sea and this time it was to be non-stop to Guam. On this trip the crew awaited a fine dinner for the first birthday of the ship, but it so happened that we crossed the date line gaining a day and skipping the 15th of November, so the anniversary was celebrated on the 16th. We arrived the 23rd at Guam. With Marines aboard she headed from Guam to China. With the escort of the U.S.S. Haverfield. D.E.393 to clear mines in the Yellow Sea, this was one of the most unpleasant trips ever made, none of the crew were used to cold weather and that's just what we had most of the trip. November 30th the hook dropped in the Yellow Sea about 20 miles from the coast and liberty was granted for all hands. I don't think I have to tell anything about the liberty in Teintsin. that should be left up to anyone who went ashore there; but which ever one of you does tell about it don't forget D-D's, The French Basaar, St. Ann's. Little Club or the Balalika. (Those are just a few of the well-known places to this crew.) After a short stay in China the orders read once more for statewide and on December 5th we were underway for San Diego. California.
Christmas and New Year's were spent tied up at the Destroyer Base in Diego, awaiting more orders and passengers. They both came, we headed for Guam the 11th of January and arrived the 26th, debarking troops. A very short stay in Guam brought us back to the blue Pacific with orders for Frisco. By this time every one was hoping that she would be put out of active service and on March 13th final word came through. With a new paint job, sealing of guns, compartments and everything ready for the old storeroom, the Neshoba, commonly known as the "Mighty N". left Mare Island for Stockton, California. She is to be a "Mother Ship" for five other ships tied together. For just how long no one knows but if there is another war shortly she will be in it. This time with a new crew and officers who I'm sure will be just as ready, willing, and cooperative as the last one, she will once more do her duty. She has had a very short life in this Navy but a very interesting one, especially to those of us who were the reserves during this World War II.
By Charles W. Smallwood SK3/C and Clifford Mackin RM2/C
The History of the U.S.S. Neshoba. Cover: U.S.S. Neshoba. Anon. San Angelo, Tex.: Newsfoto Publishing Co., . 58 leaves, embossed blue hardcover with title and silhouette of APA 216, 20.5 x 27 cm, photos, ports., map, roster. Dornbusch 1950: 954, Smith: 7631