I have been unable to find the Armed Guard crew list for the ship. My dad, Raymond Herbert Boettcher, was a plank owner for it when commissioned in New Orleans, June 1945. I have pictures and would like to identify some of the guys if possible.
Thank you for your inquiry. Without realizing it, you have hit upon a element in the history of the U.S. Navy Armed Guard that is only rarely noted. The Armed Guard served only on merchant ships, NOT on commissioned naval vessels, so he was not an Armed Guard sailor when he served in USS OKALA. I was able to find an instance of your father’s Armed Guard service, in a voyage aboard SS COLLIS P. HUNTINGTON departing New York on or about Feb. 16, 1943, arriving London April 18, and returning to New York arriving May 4, 1943. Your father was one of a crew of 31 Armed Guard sailors and had the rating of gunners mate 3rd class. He is described as 21 years old, 5’11” and 150 lbs. There may have been other voyages that I did not find. But there is no question that he served in the Armed Guard.
To expand on my statement above, late in the war it was increasingly common for Armed Guard sailors to be assigned “to the fleet,” i.e., to be assigned to commissioned U.S. Navy warships where their experience and training as gunners was invaluable. However, at that point the men were no longer considered to be in the Armed Guard; they were simply U.S. Navy sailors. So there is no Armed Guard crew list for USS OKALA, only a general crew list, which includes your father.
I found Raymond H. Boettcher, gunner’s mate 3rd class, in the muster rolls for USS OKALA, ARST-2, dated June 28, 1945, the date of the ship’s commissioning in New Orleans. At that time, he was one of 178 enlisted men in the crew; a roster of the ship’s officers must exist somewhere, but it was not with the muster roll of enlisted men that I found. (The ship would have had as many as 41 officers.) Your father also appears on a subsequent muster roll, dated October 1, 1945, reflecting his promotion to gunner’s mate 2nd class. A list of the names of the enlisted men as found on the muster rolls for USS OKALA as of June 28, 1945, follows below.
USS OKALA was constructed by the Jeffersonville Boat & Machine Company ("JeffBoat"), Jeffersonville, Indiana, with keel-laying on December 1, 1944. She was build originally as LST 1099, a tank landing ship, then designated as a salvage craft tender and named OKALA later in December. She was launched February 8, 1945, and made a voyage down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans in June 1945. She was commissioned June 28, 1945, with LT. Louis Silver in command. After a month-long shakedown cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, OKALA transited the Panama Canal and steamed to Buckner Bay in Okinawa, arriving September 27. She was based there until transfer to Yokosuka, Japan, in late November 1945. She sailed to Seattle on March 25, 1946, where she was decommissioned on August 4, 1946, and struck from the Naval Register on October 15, 1946. She was sold to the Columbia River Packing Association on July 25, 1947, ultimate fate unknown. See http://shipbuildinghistory.com/shipyards/small/jeffboat.htm.
Weighing 4,100 tons, she was 328 feet long, 50 feet at her beam (greatest width), with a draft (depth of the ship under water) of 11 feet. She was powered by two Diesel engines and had a speed of 11 knots.
I hope this information is useful. Let me know if you have additional questions.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website www.armed-guard.com
MUSTER ROLL OF THE CREW, USS OKALA, JUNE 28, 1945
Clarence A Anderson Robert A Andrews Donald F Andringa Dewey E Arnold Floyd A Atkinson Earl W Barber Roy G Baty Walter P Black Raymond H Boettcher Louis R Boldt Robert W Boyer Junior Marcus W Boyle Willis E Braden William B Brewer Albert S Brezinski Kenneth L Brigle Randolph Brooks Edward S Byrne Albert C Cabella Cloyd R Carter Jordan Chandler Prentice Cole William W Combs Nicholas Connolly George H Coulter Anthony Cugno Gerald H Cunningham Harold H Davison Loren A Deal Arthur E Deckelman Herbert H Deitch Albert F Deloskey Richard J Dennis Joseph M Dibiase Walter P Doe Earl B Donaven Kenneth W Dotson Max E Dumbauld Thomas I Dunlap Louis E Earlewine Charles J Eder Arthur L Ellison Albert S Fadel Richard J Engleman Joseph F Ferguson Burdett E Finley James E Ford Philip L Gervais Edward Gill Clyde W Golden Charles U S Grant Patrick H Green Neil A Gregerson Carroll E Hammond Clarence A Hammond Jack R Hampton John L Hance Douglas D Hardy George G Harris James M Harris Junior Robert A Harvey Gerald F Hawkins John T Hayes Albert A Heubert Junior William T Hilderbrand Henry C Hill Frederick C Hoagboon Norman C Hogue John M Homoki Ronald E Herren John Indiveri John J Jacobson Charles C Jacoby Frank C Jagos Carey T Jarman Charlie Jenkins Jodie Jessie William R Johns Harry W Johnson Hawthorne B Johnson Edward Jones Thomas J Jones John Kachmarik Junior Claude Katchner Joseph Korcz Thaddeus Kowalski William R Kuechle Francis J Leake Eugene C Leeper Harry Levitt Barney A Lewis Edgar E Lewis Joseph D Lukas George W Lynch Irvin E Makin Michael Mancuso James M Martin Joseph B Massey James E Mathis Nick Matthews James W McDonal William C McElligatt M C McKay Ernest D Merlo Stanley J Milbut Clyde B Milhouse Orval D Millette Richard R Mosher Richard H Mussen Grover R Neal Roy N Nelson Robert F Novak James H Peoples Lloyd G Peters Marvin W Peters Caryl P Peterson Charles Petishnok William O Phillips Carl D Pierce Leonard W Pike Joseph C Piotroski Joseph E Pitts Junior Francis T Presson Daniel E Prosser Junior Earl V Razor George S Ridgely Edwin A Roberts William H Root Junior Leslie Sandford Fred J Schaefer Harold A Schaefer Frederick W Schimel Douglas M Schrawger Lawrence W Semlar Edward G Senecal Paul C Shultz Irwin Silverstein Paul Sirianni Charles E Smith Harry L Smith Borney W Spencer Hervey L Stephenson Robert H Stewart Eugene E Surratt Richard Sutton James C Swearingen Leonard Swinger Percy L Taylor Michael Terlizzi Junior James D Thomas Louis H Thomas John F Tochterman Philip A Truesdale Eugene L Turner Robert G Turngren George Vakula Leonard Vanderhoek Frank Vcelka Jesse Venegaz Clement A Verville Raymond F Vierra Charles B Wald Robert L Wallace William C Wallace Buckner A Wallingford Albert R Ward Edmund R Ward Frederick E Waters Senior Obie Weddle Benjamin J Wegerzyn John S Wheeland Wallace Wheeler Robert D Whitaker Ernest T Whitsell Junior Ralph T Wilson Richard C Wilson Irving J Wohlstein William S Wray
FYI, the muster rolls were found on Ancestry (www.ancestry.com), a subscription website widely used for genealogical research. Ancestry often offers short-term subscriptions with an introductory period that is free of charge. You may wish to establish such a subscription and make the same search for your father as I did, finding the same muster rolls. (Search under “Military.”) Then cancel your introductory subscription before the end date and avoid any charges. See the Ancestry home page for subscription information.
I am eternally grateful for the information. I will begin to search for pictures matching names. I am glad there is still people like yourself continuing to keep the Navy WW II heroes alive in our hearts.
Is there nothing I can do online to find the crew list? I would appreciate anyone whose father served on the USS Okala to send me their name and a picture of their father at those times. That would be great! I would try to match it up with those I have.
The term comes from those who were first aboard because they built their ship, plank by plank. My Dad says it was 'not' official' Navy term but more like 'scuttlebutt', another term from early days of wooden ships. My Dad was part of the crew when it was commissioned, therefore, first aboard, i.e. plank owner. Dad says it gives you something like 'senior status' on the ship.