Captain Edward J. Sweeney-APA 216 Neshoba
Passengers and crew need have no fear that the Neshoba is in unseaworthy hands. Twenty-eight years a sailor is the record of her new Captain, Edward J. Sweeney and as one looks at Captain Sweeney they can almost hear the sound of the sea as he recounts his life. His slight New England accent and the twinkle in his eyes, which have scanned the oceans of the world, add interest to his stories, which fascinate sailor and landlubber alike.
At eighteen he became an Apprentice Seaman in the Merchant Service. His first ship was the Andrea Luckenback of the Luckenback Steamship Company of New York. All ships on this line were named after members of the Luchenback family. For seven years the Captain stayed on the Andrea. The first three years were spent sailing between New York, Thames Haven. England, Rotterdam, Holland, and Hamburg. Germany. At Thames Haven they used to tie up at the well-known Kilbury docks, which during this war the Germans blew to bits.
Regardless of any sailing hazards the Captain stuck to the sea. Three times on his European voyages fires broke out upon the ship. They were grain or coal fires caused by spontaneous combustion and as the Captain puts it, "There was little we could do except keep all air away from the fire. Let the bulkheads cool and continue on our way."
The ship was finally assigned to the inter-coastal trade and carried her cargoes between the East and West coasts of the United States. "I was never one to stay aboard in port," the Captain states with a smile, and became familiar with all the port cities of the country.
It was with some regret that the Captain left the Andrea, and one can imagine how he must have felt when he learned that the ship on which he started as a Sea Faring man was sunk on Saint Patrick's Day 1943.
He stayed with the Luckenback line, a line with which he has over twenty-three years of service. In October 1932 the Captain fulfilled a Horatio Alger ambition for it was at this time that he made the final step and became the Mater of his own ship.
He Captained many well known vessels, among them the Florence Luckenback which became' a war casualty in March 1942.
Captain Sweeney joined the Naval Reserve in 1928 with rank of Lieutenant and was called to active duty as a Lt. Commander on the 29th of October 1941. His first duty was as First Lieutenant on the A.P.A. U.S.S. Harry Lee. It didn't take Pearl Harbor to convince Captain Sweeney that we had a dangerous enemy on the high seas for in carrying American troops to Iceland and Bermuda, the Harry Lee was attacked by U-boats. Captain Sweeney rates an A and a battle star on-his American Defense ribbon for participation in this hazardous task.
At last the U. S. was ready to strike back and Admiral Hewitt assembled a fleet of ships at Newport News, Va. to carry General George S. Patton's task force into the invasion of North Africa. The Harry Lee broke down and her crew was transferred to the U.S.S. Calvert, with Captain Sweeney taking the post of Executive Officer. Owing to the transfer the Calvert was two days late in sailing, but she caught up to the rest of the convoy. Passengers on this trip were untested in combat but destined to become one of our greatest divisions, the famed 2nd Armored or "Hell On Wheels."
Captain Sweeney recalls one incident that was different than the impending combat. A General was standing in the corridor as a seaman swabbed the passageway. "Move along buddy." said the seaman. The General turned in rage and spying a Navy Warrant Officer, asked, "Have these sailors no respect for rank?" "What's the matter with you?" said the warrant to the sailor. "Don't you know a Major when you see one?"
The Calvert landed her troops in Safia and the convoy received a letter of Commendation from General Patton.
Sicily was next on the invasion schedule and the Calvert took elements of the 45th Infantry "Thunderbird" Division. This Division was mainly from Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado, and contained many American Indians, among: them Lt. Ernest Childers, Medal of Honor winner. "Commando" Kelly was also in the 45th and General Cushing was a passenger on the Calvert, especially air attacks, and Captain Sweeney said they had many anxious moments, but the support they got from the big British Battleships-was very effective.
Coming home Captain Sweeney was now Commanding Officer of the Calvert, and winner .of the American Theatre ribbon with two battle stars. He picked up troops of the 4th Marine Division, and General Cumming and took them to the West Coast.
Proceeding to Pearl Harbor the Calvert loaded with the 27th Infantry "New York" Division, and Captain Sweeney brought his skill into Pacific Warfare. The 27th landed on Makin in the Gilbert Islands. The Captain's next passengers were the, now familiar, 4th Marines who were taken into battle in the Marshall Islands at Roi and Neru.
Again the 4th Marines and this time the (captain went into Saipan and Tinian. At Saipan the Captain says the "Going was really tough." The Japs had Mortar fire coming from the hills. It was hitting the water and the beaches and we lost two boats and six casualties. The combined fire power of the Pacific Fleet was behind us, though."
For his outstanding work at Saipan and the performance of his Ship Admiral Turner awarded Captain Sweeney the Bronze Star, and he won a third battle star on his Asiatic Pacific ribbon.
Captain Sweeney was then assigned to shore duty and for eight months held the post of Auxiliary Training Officer at Treasure Island being thankful for a chance to be with his wife.
But you canít keep a real sailor ashore and the Captain saw chances to go to China and Japan, so on October ??, Captain Sweeney took Command of the Neshoba. Have his years at Sea and His War experiences tired him? No, at 0400 the Capt. is up and ready to go. He already knows his ship from stem to stern, his junior Officers by name and at any time is apt to give a word of expert advice to some Seaman on how to better do his job. Captain Sweeney will probably stay in the Navy where there is always a use for men of his caliber and experience.
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