Re: Information about SS Christopher Gale 10/44-6/45
Posted by Ron Carlson on August 26, 2018, 11:55 pm, in reply to "Information about SS Christopher Gale 10/44-6/45"
I have found some information for you although not nearly as much as you might hope.
First, I was unable to find a record for your grandfather specifically. More about that later. However, I was able to find information about CHRISTOPHER GALE, at least in broad outline. Your grandfather presumably was involved in two consecutive voyages aboard CHRISTOPHER GALE between October 1944 and May 1945. Here is a summary of those two voyages.
First voyage: Departed Norfolk on or about October 26, 1944; the ship’s previous voyage had ended in Norfolk on October 17, 1944, following several months in the Mediterranean.
Arrived San Pedro, California, on or about November 20, 1944; this suggests that the ship transited the Panama Canal in early November.
Arrived Portland, Oregon, on or about December 2, 1944.
Departed Portland on an unspecified date to an unspecified destination.
Departed Honolulu, Hawaii, December 23, 1944.
Arrived Seattle January 2, 1945.
It is likely that there were no other ports of call between Portland and Honolulu. The sailing time from Portland to Honolulu would have taken at least nine days. Allowing for unloading cargo in Honolulu, and possibly loading additional cargo there for shipment to Seattle, the ship could easily have spent the period December 2-23 in transit to Honolulu and in handling cargo.
The record provides the names of the 41 men of the civilian merchant marine crew. Additionally, there is a notation that the ship carried an Armed Guard detachment of 28 men – but the record does not include the names of the Armed Guard unit. Therefore, I cannot verify that your grandfather was aboard CHRISTOPHER GALE for these voyages, but your information would suggest that was the case.
Second voyage: Departed Seattle on or about January 30, 1945.
Arrived San Francisco, May 11, 1945, from Iwo Jima.
The record contains no other meaningful dates. Obviously, a lot of detail about the ship’s whereabouts between January 30 and May 11 is unavailable in this record. In this case there is no notation that an Armed Guard unit was aboard but with the war still going on, one can surmise that such a crew was in fact on the ship.
I estimate the direct sailing distance from Iwo Jima to San Francisco as 4,800 nautical miles, which would take a Liberty ship at full speed 18-20 days to travel. Therefore, the ship would have departed Iwo Jima no later than about April 24. This would closely fit with your information that the ship was in Iwo Jima as of at least mid-April.
For your information, the information above concerning ports and dates of departure or arrival comes from searches of the subscription website Ancestry.com. This website is widely used for genealogical research, but I have found that it contains databases of the names of crew and passengers aboard ships that arrived at certain U.S. ports of entry following a foreign voyage. Ancestry.com, in my experience, often lacks information for the names of Armed Guard sailors for arrivals on the West Coast although it has much more comprehensive information for East Coast arrivals. But since I can search for a ship as easily as I can for the name of a crew member, I was able to find the ports and dates for CHRISTOPHER GALE even if I couldn’t find your grandfather’s name among the crew.
Of course this doesn’t give you the detail for which you are looking. If you want to pursue this further here is a suggestion. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a facility in College Park, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC, that has vast records on military subjects. What you need to obtain are the “vessel movement cards” for these two voyages of CHRISTOPHER GALE. These are handwritten index cards on which the ship’s officers recorded where the ship was on each day (not exact longitude/latitude but “at sea” if that was the case) and the dates of arrival at and departure from each port. I know for a fact that the College Park facility has these movement cards. If you live reasonably close to the DC area, you could go to the facility and research the information in person, without charge. If, as is more likely, you live at a distance from DC, you may be able to obtain the assistance of NARA staff to research the information. There would be a fee involved for research time, photocopying and mailing. You would have to provide the name of the ship and the beginning and end dates and ports for each voyage in which you are interested, all of which is above. Contact information is as follows:
Modern Military Records Unit (NWCTM)
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
I hope this information is useful
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website