1945 Journey Home

This is a Veteran's Day Story of troops returning home from the Pacific after World War II.

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1945 Journey Home                                     November 10th to 26th, 1945

Google Earth path of USS Wayne's Journey Home

Homeward path of USS Wayne at noon each day.

In November of 1945 the world was picking up the pieces after the global conflict of World War II. The year of 1945 must have been surreal to live in and survive with the war involving all who lived on this planet. January found the Allied Forces in Europe pushing to the Rhine after the Battle of the Bulge with Soviet Troops laying siege to Budapest. In the Pacific, B-29s bombed Japan, American forces landed at Luzon in the Philippines as our naval forces bore the attacks of kamikaze aircraft, starting their last defense of the Japanese homeland.

Spring of 45' brought news of places like Auschwitz, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the loss of President Roosevelt and finally, at the start of summer, the partial relief at one minute past midnight on June 8th that the War in Europe was over. The focus changed to the Pacific with the European forces not knowing if their future included a move to that theatre of operations. The winds of August brought new unimaginable destruction from the skies as the world entered the atomic age bringing the war to an end and allowing peace to return. Occupation forces were formed for Europe and Japan to establish new governments and start the rebuilding of the war torn countries.

As the year came to an end, the troops from all over the world started their slow journeys home to the countries and loved ones they had left years before. This is a story of one transport ship's return full of troops from the Pacific that included a 22 year old Army soldier, my father. This is the story of his departure from the Philippines on November 10th, 1945 and arriving at San Pedro, California on November 26th. The men and women on this ship would spend Veteran's Day on the open ocean just a day out of port, experience November 19th twice as they passed over the International Date Line, celebrate that crossing and reclaimed the physical day they lost years before as they entered the war. They had hoped to be home for Thanksgiving but were still 4 days off the western shore of the United States when the feast was served on the high seas. Thanksgiving must have been a wonderful day that year regardless where you were or what was on the table.  They must have been Thankful to have survived. Thankful to be on the Journey Home!

Timeline of World War II, 1945

Dedicated to the Veterans of World War II and my father, Loyal D Dowler Jr.

A child born in 1945 at the end of World War II is now past retirement age. Considering that many of the men and women that served during World War II were at least 18 years of age when entering the service, the youngest would now be in their late eighties. By January of 1946, most of our troops had made this trip back home by ship, literally crowding the ports on both coasts by the tens of thousands each week.

Today there are only a few that wait to make that final voyage home. My father made that last passage on December 11th, 2002 with many of his fellow veterans traveling before and since that time. We celebrate and remember their courage, sacrifice and commitment to freedom this and every Veterans Day. May God bless all our Veterans, both past and present!

The Fore 'N Aft Newspaper

The information on this web page was based on a publication called The Fore 'N Aft Newspaper that was printed on November 24th, 1945 on the USS Wayne (APA-54). It is 9 legal size pages and a snap shot of history, recording the trip and world events for the men and women who traveled home that month and for us now. The document is only the beginning of this story with the end limited only by your curiosity as you visit this page.

Google Earth is a fantastic tool which was used to produce some of the images you will see here. For those who have the application, to help your exploration I've saved the Journey Waypoints for downloading. Once you import the file into Google Earth, you can zoom in on the Philippine Islands and other points of interest that they traveled. If you don't have the software, just click on the link and download it! The base model is free and will put the Earth, Sky, Moon and Mars at your fingertips.

The Fore 'N Aft Newspaper link above allows you to download the scanned image of the paper. The links below provide information and links to support the news clips in the newspaper. Please stay as long as you wish and pass the link on to others who may find interest in this topic!

 

The Officers, Crew and Troops listed in the Fore 'N Aft and on the voyage.

Abrams, 1st Lt ANC Sara  Dowler, Loyal D Jr. Offley, Col Robert H.
Adler, Norbert P.  Duffey, CCS Thomas W.  Olsin, Wesley M. 
Albert, Merrill K  Duffy, Chief Commander “Father Steward  Paritz, Lee 
Ameen, Capt Ameen H. Fisher, T/3 James E. , Houston Texas Petty, Ralph E. 
Anderson, Arthur W. Fletcher, S/Sgt Kenneth E. , Portland OR Quale, Raymond L.
Arnold, Arlos E.  Fowler, Milt Repa, Sgt Robert O. , Racine, WI
Ashcraft, T/Sgt Eugene J. , Omaha, NE Garrett, Frank L. , Sellers, AL Salcedo, Joseph I. 
Baldwin, Dayton C, Geddes, Lt. Robert C  Schiltz, Lt. Hal W. 
Behme, Lt & Ensign Claude D Goldstein, Marty  Sekara, Freddie 
Berks, Louis R.  Haber, Bill  Smocer, A. V. 
Brady, T/Sgt Otas , Vilonia, Arkansas Hartman, O.W.  Spangler, Capt Nelson W. 
Burlingham, Warren C.  Hewett, Capt Chester J.  Spiotto, Major Anthony 
Cagle, Lawrence G  Holloway, Lawrence E.  Taylor, Major Henry 
Calhoun, Lt. John B.  Jackson, Glenn Thompson Jr., William H 
Cameron, Hugh C  Keldsen, Stanley  Tierney, S Sgt John V ***
Campbell, Capt Frank J.  Kohl, Lt Airthur L.  Tileston, W. Whitney 
Canner, T/5 M. C.  Landis, George  Tumlin, Chief Engineer Aarm C. 
Catalanotto, Frank, New Orleans LA Lawrence, Glenn Vickery, Major George S. 
Childs, Chaplain A.A. Mclean, Angus L.  Webster, William P. 
Clark, Danny  Merle, T/5 Joseph L. , Muskegon MI Wilkins, Lou
Collins, Worlie  Moline, Capt Carl W. Wilson, Clifton H 
DeWeerd, Richard Nelson Capt Teddy B.  Yancey, Captain Don A. 
Dougherty, Lt Comdr Wilson  Newell, Capt Bernard A.  Young, R W. 

 

The Tierney Collection

*** On November 10th, 2016, COPAMA received an email from Mark A Tierney, son of Staff Sergeant John V. Tierney who returned home on this same voyage of the USS Wayne (SS Afoundria). Mark's father had the same "Order of the Dragon" certificate from the International Dateline crossing and did a search on SS Afoundria to find this webpage.

The irony of that email exchange was it occurred on the same day our fathers set sail for home 61 years ago. Mark's email and the few exchanges after that caused me to add the names of the others listed in "The Fore and Aft" in case their descendants might also be looking for information about them.

Thank you Mark and the Tierney Family for the emails we exchanged and the documents you shared of your fathers service and return. The following are the documents from the Tierney Collection.

Letter 1 - Written by Tierney during a break in the battle for the Philippines on November 14th 1944.

Letter 2 - Repatriation Letter given to returning forces from A.J.Blank, Colonel, A.G.D., Adjutant General  (Amusing!)

Letter 3 - Staff Sergeant Tierney's "Thank You" letter from President Harry Truman.

 

Links on this page

The Journey  The Ship  The COPAMA website

 

The Document

It is a chore that children have done for their parents since the beginning of time. At some point the elderly no longer need or are able to stay in their home due to health, finances or countless other reasons. So in the summer of 2008 it became a task for my family and I to sort through all those items that make up the lives of a couple married for 60 years. The books, magazines, collectables, tools, furniture and household products that people once needed or treasured but are not useful to them anymore.

It was during a garage cleaning session that we found the old copy of Fore 'N Aft hidden in a drawer of a well-used desk, the last remnant of office furniture Dad had used in his home improvement business years before. As we read through the pages, one could only wonder why the document had spent all this time in such a place. Needless to say, it answered some of the questions we had asked ourselves over the years.

My father never spoke in too much detail about the War but that was not uncommon for that generation that had experienced so much death and destruction in their early lives that they just wanted to forget. At times he would remember something from the service and give us a glimpse of his time spent in Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Dutch New Guinea and the Philippine Islands. He was a driver and cook with the Headquarters of the 24th Infantry Division, the Taro men of the Hawaiian Division who were first to fight in the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. Dad talked about racing jeeps on the beach during training in Australia, arriving in 1943 as reinforcements to protect the nations of the South Pacific. He mused about making wine from whatever fruit they came across and spending more time in ships than his oldest brother who was in the Navy stationed in the Aleutian Islands.

At the end of the War, the 24th became one of the designated groups to become the occupation force in Japan. They offered to train my dad as an aircraft mechanic if he went with the group but he chose to go home to the family he left behind and was assigned to the Twenty-Eighth Replacement Depot pending transport back to the states. As luck would have it, his mates that volunteered to go to Japan weren't needed and beat him back home. On November 7th his Movement Orders came down that assigned him to Group RK 396-31 to depart on or about November 10th back home.

I'm not sure which port they left from; the editorial section on page 2 of the newspaper thanks "Captain Carl W. Moline for bringing the good ship Afoundria to Leyte.." The paper holds a lot of little bits of information when you read it from cover to cover. Here's just a few of the facts it contains.;

  • The nautical sightings at noon each day are recorded and include the miles traveled since the start of the journey.

  • The original arrival point on the west coast was San Francisco and the front page of the paper shows the SS Afoundria steaming under the Golden Gate Bridge. Using the line tool of Google Earth, it runs straight from the first days waypoint to San Francisco, then turns south toward San Pedro on Nov 21st.

  • There was an emergency appendectomy performed on T/5 Malcom Canner during a storm.

  • The menu for Thanksgiving dinner was published and gives us an idea what they had for their holiday meal.

  • The "World Wide News" on page 8 gives us the statistics of the troops returning on both coasts on November 24th, 1945. 16,000 Pacific Veterans returned to the west coast on 28 ships and 15,000 European Veterans to the east coast on 22 ships. It also notes labor disputes in the U.S., the Nazi war trials in Nuremberg, Germany and civil unrest in Greece.

  • The ship had to out maneuver a whale in its path as it neared the west coast.

The Journey

  Start of the Journey   Crossing the 180 Meridian   Thanksgiving Day 1945   Last Day at Sea

Start of Journey Crossing the 180 Meridian Thanksgiving 1945 Last Day at Sea

 

Years ago, HBO aired a Mini-Series "Band of Brothers" that has become a regular replay around Veterans Day and Memorial Day. It showed the struggle and sacrifice of the men of "Easy Company" during the preparation and operations of "D-Day" and their battles as they pushed into the Rhine Land. A few years later, HBO released "The Pacific" which followed the stories of three marines as they fought in the various battles to retake the Pacific. Both series, executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, are excellent. Perhaps the many returning home stories would be a great subject for a follow-up movie.

This journey began in one of the ports in the Philippines, presumably the port of Leyte depicted on the first map. From this harbor, it would appear that they sailed north past Capul and San Antonio Islands then east to the open ocean. One can only imagine the joy they must have felt as the islands they had fought for and lived on for the past months slipped over the horizon that first day.

Many times during the campaigns that combined to become the battle for the Pacific Theatre, they had loaded up and sailed off to the next landing, not knowing their fate or where they'd be at the battles end. This time was different. They were headed home and the engine crews had the ships propeller running at higher speeds to shorten the time spent on the ocean. No more zigzag maneuvers to thwart the menace of the enemy submarines. No more large convoys with smoke screens and beach landings.

I wonder how they spent their first full day at sea, Veterans Day 1945. What the temperatures were in this part of the Pacific as the northern hemisphere slipped from late fall into winter. Their closest approach to Tokyo would have been on the morning of the 15th at about 680 Km and to the North Pole on the 21st when their northern most latitude was equal to that of northern Detroit.

It looks like their crossing of the International Date Line (180 degree antemeridian) occurred in the wee hours of their 10th day at sea. Of course it was November 19th which was 48 hours long for them. While I doubt their first crossing to the west with the threat of enemy attack was very eventful, this one did have the ceremony of the Golden Dragon. We still have Dad's certificate and guess it must have been one great celebration.

The feast of Thanksgiving was on November 22nd and the menu that's posted in the Fore 'N Aft, must have made them homesick. This day would have been a time to witness, what they did for entertainment before Satellite TV and the NFL games we watch today. I would think that any and all the extra short and long band radios were tuned to try to listen to the transmissions of the radio stations off the West Coast.

November 25th brought the near approach to the coast line and perhaps they saw commercial fishing vessels and other troop transports moving up and down coast. A whale was in their path as reported by the paper and the ship maneuvered to pass it and continue to port. The 12:00 noon sighting on the day of arrival puts them off the coast and at 16:00 they made port, the end of their water journey. From there they boarded trains and other modes of ground transportation to their final destinations. They were issued winter coats and and my dad said he nearly froze on the way home, having grown accustomed to the heat of the tropics for over two years.

 

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The Ship

USS Wayne 1   USS Wayne 2

USS Wayne   APA-54   Attack Transport

You may have noticed that Fore 'N Aft names the ship, the SS Afoundria and all the documents, including the 180 Meridian Certificate indicate that as the ships name. The reason being that was her name when the keel was laid in the shipyard at Gulf Shipbuilding Corp in Chickasaw, Alabama in 1942. Originally built as a commercial transport ship, she was converted into a military transport and renamed the USS Wayne (AP-99), later fitted with armament and reclassified an attack transport (APA-54). The photos above show her with the latter hull number and the prominent gun turret on the bow.

The name change back to Afoundria may have been a little pre-mature for these final crossings of the Pacific and wishful thinking from the sailors that wanted to get back to being normal seafarers. This may also help explain the obvious discrepancies with the ships where-abouts from October 1945 to January 1946. She was decommissioned and reverted back to the original name of Afoundria. In 1947 she was sold to another company and renamed Beauregard which it retained until it was scrapped in Taiwan in May 1977. If anyone has information that explains the difference between what is written on the various USS Wayne websites and the Fore 'N Aft Newspaper, please send me a note. I'm afraid there are very few of the crew members still living that could tell her tale and resolve the discrepancy.

USS Wayne Links

 

http://www.historycentral.com/navy/APA/Wayne.html

http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wayne.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Wayne_(APA-54)

http://www.rpadden.com/054/wayne.htm

http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/03/03054.htm

http://www.hullnumber.com/APA-54


Foot Note

 

The story ends with the veterans traveling home by the various forms of ground transportation at that time. Although my father turned down the opportunity to train as an aircraft mechanic by remaining in the 24th Infantry, he worked for North American Aviation at CMH from 1952 to 1955 as a Top Frame Mechanic on the F-86 Saber. He told me he fabricated the cockpit right exterior panel that started from the gun port panel to some position where it terminated aft. It included the kick panel step on the right side and at least one access panel. I have tried to find information on the aircraft serial numbers that were produced at CMH during that period of time in hope of finding one and seeing the panel he might have built.

I know that during his time at NAA, he moved to the retro-fit/modification line to add extra equipment after the aircraft came off the production line. I was born in 1953 so it's understandable that aluminum and zinc-chromate were part of my destiny. He quit due to the feast or famine world of military contractors and became a carpenter in the booming residential building industry. He retired as a union carpenter in 1985 after building and supervising the construction of several local government buildings, schools and recreation centers. The Carpenter's Union provided a nice triangular wooden case for the the flag that adorned his coffin.

While his was only one of the many hundreds of thousands of returning home stories, had he not saved his copy of Fore N' Aft, the experience and history of that oceanic crossing would have been lost forever. I hope you've found something to treasure from the information posted here. Thank you for spending some time here remembering their history!

 

The COPAMA Website

Just like the content of the Fore 'N Aft was wasted for years in that garage desk drawer, without a forum to share it with, this information would be lost. As webmaster of the Central Ohio Professional Aviation Maintenance Association it is my pleasure to post this page and it's contents for all to see. It will stay here for a while for visitors around the world. If the COPAMA site becomes pressed on resources, I'll work to find a more permanent location for its home. While you're here, please visit our home page to learn more about our chapter and the great things we're doing to promote safety, professionalism and education in the field of Aviation Maintenance.

With the help of our tremendous sponsors, we annually raise money for the COPAMA Scholarship Fund which provides support for student AMTs to help pay their Testing fees for A&P certification. This currently amounts to around $975.00 per student to complete the General, Airframe and Powerplant exams. Since our incorporation in 2002, we have raised almost $100,000 to support these students and other youth related aviation experiences here in Central Ohio.

Thank you for visiting COPAMA.org. 
Lowell D Dowler
COPAMA Board Member & Webmaster
mail@copama.org

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