Re: Information of my father's service
Posted by Ron Carlson on April 13, 2019, 12:07 am, in reply to "Information of my father's service"
Edited by board administrator April 13, 2019, 12:11 am
Thank you for your inquiry. I have found records of your father on two voyages while he was in the Armed Guard, one aboard JOHN T. HOLT, the other aboard GEORGE WASHINGTON, plus other information of interest.
JOHN T. HOLT was a Liberty ship, one of more than 2,700 virtually identical ships, the largest single class of ships ever built, and the most common U.S. merchant ship utilized in World War II. On the voyage in which your father participated, JOHN T. HOLT departed New York 01/12/45 in convoy HX-332, consisting of 48 merchant ships plus escorting warships. She arrived Liverpool 01/28/45, then departed Liverpool 02/06/45 in convoy ON-283 (58 merchant ships), arriving New York 02/27/45. Joseph S. Majeski was a seaman first class (S 1/c) and was one of 27 Armed Guard crew under the command of LT. Morton A. Johnson. The record includes your fatherís serial number (military ID number) of 712-78-67. More about that later
In convoy HX-332, the Norwegian tanker SOLōR was torpedoed by U-825 one day out of Liverpool. Four crewmen were killed and the ship was abandoned. When she remained afloat the crew reboarded, the ship was taken under tow and beached nearby. Part of her cargo of diesel oil and gliders was unloaded until the ship began to break apart and was abandoned as a total loss. Another ship, RUBEN DARIO, was also torpedoed the same day by U-825 but was able to continue to port. Whether your father observed either attack I do not know of course. There were no attacks on convoy ON-283.
JOHN T. HOLT was constructed in 40 days at the Bethlehem Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore between 06/30/43 and 08/09/43. She survived the war and was scrapped in 1962 in Philadelphia. See http://shipbuildinghistory.com/shipyards/emergencylarge/bethfairfield.htm and scroll to hull no. 2206. Also see http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/LibShipsJo.html#JohnS and scroll to the name of the ship. The ship was named after John T. Holt (1838-1910), a famous ship captain from Baltimore.
Your father was aboard the troop transport USAT GEORGE WASHINGTON on a voyage from New York to Le Havre and Cherbourg, France and return to New York in June-July 1945. (USAT, not SSAT, means U.S. Army Transport.) The ship departed New York on 06/15/45; this was after Germany had surrendered in early May 1945. I cannot determine to which French port she sailed first; the two cities are about 70 miles apart by sea, about a four-hour sail at the speed of GEORGE WASHINGTON. She departed France 06/26/45 and arrived New York 07/05/45. She was not in convoy at any time in this voyage as the war in Europe was over.
Your father was part of a crew of 49 Armed Guard sailors and officers under the command of LT. Vooris G. Teneyck. This crew was much larger than that aboard JOHN T. HOLT because, as a troop ship, GEORGE WASHINGTON would have had many more defensive weapons and therefore a larger Armed Guard crew to man them. (Likewise she had a much larger merchant marine crew, 337 men, befitting a large troopship; by contrast a Liberty ship generally had a merchant crew of about 45.) I cannot determine what military unit(s) was/were aboard for the return voyage but the ship typically carried about 5,000 troops.
GEORGE WASHINGTON had a long history at sea, having originally been constructed in 1908 as a passenger liner for a German shipping company and the third-largest ship in the world at the time. She was seized by the U.S. in 1917 as America joined World War I. She served as a transport in both world wars, also serving as a passenger liner 1921-1931 for a U.S. shipping company. She twice carried President Woodrow Wilson to and from France in 1918 and 1919 to attend the Paris Peace Conference ending World War I. She was scrapped in 1951 after being damaged by fire. See http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/22/22019.htm and https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/OnlineLibrary/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-g/id3018.htm for a detailed history of the ship and many photographs, most of them prior to World War II.
You mention that your father was also aboard SAMUEL NELSON. I can find no record of his time in that ship but on the other hand I know that my sources are not comprehensive so I am sure your information is correct. SAMUEL NELSON was also a Liberty ship, constructed by the California Shipbuilding Company (ďCalshipĒ), Los Angeles, CA, in 51 days between 09/27 and 11/17/42. She survived the war and was scrapped in 1964 in Kearny, NJ. See http://shipbuildinghistory.com/shipyards/emergencylarge/kcalifornia.htm and scroll to hull no. 87. Also see http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/LibShipsS.html#SamuG and scroll to the name of the ship. Samuel Nelson, after whom the ship was named, 1792-1873, was a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1845-1872.
FYI, the information above concerning individual voyages comes from Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com), a subscription website often used for genealogical research. I have found that Ancestry.com has databases listing the names of crewmen and passengers aboard merchant ships that arrived in certain U.S. ports of entry following a foreign voyage. The records for New York are particularly extensive. Information above about convoys comes from ConvoyWeb (http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/), an excellent source of convoy and ship movement information.
From your information your father later served aboard USS YORKTOWN, an aircraft carrier, and USS BARATARIA, which was a seaplane tender. It was not unusual for Armed Guard sailors to be transferred to the fleet (i.e., transferred to warships) late in the war where their training as gunners made them invaluable. Once transferred they would no longer have technically been in the Armed Guard. I find it interesting that your father ended his service as an electricianís mate rather than as, say, a gunnerís mate.
I donít know how extensive your documentation is on your fatherís service. If you do not already have it, you can request a copy of your fatherís complete service record, which may contain additional information of interest. See this page from the Armed Guard website: http://armed-guard.com/searchmil.html; specifically see section II.A.1 - Records of Individuals - U.S. Military. You will have to contact the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis to request your fatherís records, providing as much identifying information as you have. Your fatherís serial number, noted above, will be important information for this purpose. There will be a charge for searching, photocopying and mailing the records but you may find the cost well worth it.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website