Commodore Andrew R. Mack
By Pat D’Angelo
Commodore Andrew R. Mack typifies everyone's accepted opinion of what a seafaring man should look like.
Lines appearing on his face could only have been put there by blustering breezes of the Atlantic and Pacific.
You aren't surprised when the commodore admits that he is the third generation of the family to wear the blue and gold of our Navy.
(A grandfather was an Army colonel, however, and fought in the Civil War!)
Captain Mack (he is an acting commodore, as commander of Transport Division 42) received his commission at the Naval Academy just a week before the United States declared war on Germany in World War 1. He was immediately assigned to the flagship of the 6th Battle Squadron, the U.S.S. New York, in charge of a broadside gunnery division.
The fleet made no contact with the Kaiser's Navy, but the ship he served on was credited with 'sinking a German U-Boat in the treacherous channel of Scapa Flow, Scotland. The New York collided with U-Boat S3, cutting open the sub with her propellers.
He was transferred to the United States and ready to go over again on a destroyer at the armistice. Captain Mack attained the rank of lieutenant during that war.
Capt. Mack was then assigned to the battleship Kentucky as engineer officer and held that responsible post for three months before it was discovered that a mistake in orders incorrectly assigned him to that ship.
It seems a senior officer with the same initials was the one for the job, which proves the Army and Navy weren't strangers to humorous errors even then.
In 1920, Captain Mack joined the staff of Adm. Hilary Jones as communications officer, serving on the U.S.S. Connecticut and Utah.
Adm. Jones was the first to hold the title, commander in chief US fleet. Capt. Mack subsequently became flag lieutenant, and the venerable battleship that we met in Port Apra, Guam, the U.S.S. Pennsylvania, served as flagship.
Two years later, the commodore went aboard the battleship Wyoming as a turret officer. He then spent 2 1/2 years as commanding officer of the Torpedo School at Newport, R. I.
He was assigned to sea duty as executive of the U.S.S. Decatur, then was transferred to the destroyer McDermott, which served as torpedo school-ship, because of the commodore's previous experience in such work.
Capt. Mack took the course at Naval War College and remained as instructor for two years. In 1931 he was transferred to China as executive aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Truxton. While in China waters he also held the same position aboard the tender Blackhawk.
Later he was attached to the armored cruiser Rochester, station ship at Shanghai, China.
He returned to the States a year later to serve at the Staff Naval War College as assistant director. He was then assigned to the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Chester, as gunnery officer, making trips to the far east. There were dignitaries aboard among them Secretary of War George Dern who went as special representative of the President to the inauguration of Manuel Quezon, first president of the Philippine Commonwealth. The cruiser Chester did extensive traveling in South America, Panamanian, AJaskan, and Pacific waters.
In 1936, the cruiser had the honor of carrying to South America, in furtherance of our Good Neighbor Policy, the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Capt. Mack recalls that off the Brazilian coast the cruiser "hove to" for a try at the President's favorite sport-fishing.
He remembers the good-natured kidding that he received from the President by catching the largest fish that day.
While he was still aboard, the Chester flew the Navy "E" Pennant by winning the short range gunnery trophy with ease. The cruiser's .50 cal. machine gun crew also under command of Capt. Mack, attained the highest score then recorded, walking off with top honors in anti-aircraft firing.
The commodore was assigned to Boston Navy Yard as War Plans and Operations Officer on staff of Commandant, 1st Naval District. He received three letters of commendation; two from the Secretary of the Navy. the other from President Roosevelt, for a manual he wrote on "Cruiser Maneuvers and Battle Tactics."
In 1940. as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Erie. flagship of special service squadron, he cruised to South and Central American ports, and was also sent as delegate to inauguration of the President of Ecuador.
Then came Pearl Harbor and Capt. Mack in command of offshore patrol at Panama, operating with the cruiser and five destroyers. Within 16 days after war was declared, his patrol captured 36 Japanese prisoners from the Tuna fleet that
continuously fished off the Panama Canal and off Central America. Included among the catch were a commander and two lieutenant commanders of the Imperial Japanese Navy, posing as "fishermen," but in reality relaying vital information via radio sets aboard their fishing vessels.
When the German U-Boat toll was running rampant, he was put in charge of convoying troop and cargo vessels in the Carribean. Vessels carrying oil from Venezuela and bauxite from Brazil, were some of "must" cargo that had to get through to the Slates. While not convoying he was kept busy picking up survivors of submarine sinkings.
He matched wits with a Nazi wolf-pack four times in a 2 1/2-day running battle. The Erie didn't escape, however, and was finally torpedoed. Capt. Mack saved the cruiser by beaching her on the island of Curacao. Luckily the island boasted an Army hospital unit, which took care of and brought through, all the wounded who were severly burned. Six officers and one enlisted man had been killed by the torpedo.
March, 1943, found Capt. Mack in charge of a gigantic "secret force" that was to play an important part in whipping the Japs, for his force contained the tactical element of "surprise"-floating drydocks. Doubt existed among some of the top men in the Navy, among them engineers, whether such a cumbersome object could weather the uncertain waters of the Pacific and ever succeed. Capt. Mack didn't argue, but went ahead and proved it could be done. It enabled our warships to be repaired right on the spot, and back in action in the space of time that before was spent in returning to a State-side port.
Such a serious task wasn't without its lighter moments, as Capt. Mack discovered afterwards. The dry-dock was towed in ten sections and it looked like a veritable task force stretched out over the water. American planes spotting this strange sight reported them as
(1) "Aircraft Carriers,"
(2) "Aircraft Carriers in tow,"
(3) "Don't know what the hell they are!"
Captain Mack came aboard the Neshoba as commander of Transport Division 42, in time for staging, rehearsal, and finally actual invasion of Okinawa. (The saga of holding together an invasion fleet in the story of the Neshoba.)
The commodore was satisfied that at least one member of the Mack family. Ensign Robert B. Mack, was on hand in Tokyo Bay to witness the Japanese surrender.
Another son is in flight-training as a Naval Cadet at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Captain Mack holds the Order of Abonalderon from the President of Ecuador; the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, along with various other medals and campaign ribbons.
The History of the U.S.S. Neshoba. Cover: U.S.S. Neshoba. Anon. San Angelo, Tex.: Newsfoto Publishing Co., [1946?]. 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