Leon was an attack transport designed to deliver assault forces to the beaches of enemy-held strongholds. She was 492 ft. in length and 69.5 ft. at her beam. She could transport a fully reinforced regimental combat team plus supplies and equipment needed during those crucial first days of an assault plus 26 brand new boats for delivering troops and supplies to the beaches. Any beach, any time.
Leon was commissioned on February 12, 1944, Capt. Bruce Byron Adell commanding. The picture below—taken later when Leon was serving in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater—is the only one we have of Capt. Adell aboard Leon.
Adell’s first responsibility was to organize and begin training the ship’s new company of 51 officers and 524 sailors. This was no small task for several reasons.
Most of his new crew were young and right out of boot camp or training programs. Most were youngsters who had never been to sea. Remember Frank Tunney’s story? (See blog post dated May, 29, 2017. The minimum enlistment age for naval volunteers was 18 years. However, youngsters 16-17 years old were often able to earn acceptance.)
Furthermore, many of Leon’s crew had not yet reported for duty when she was commissioned and would not for some weeks. For example, Joe McDevitt’s boat group, her largest division, wouldn’t arrive from advanced amphibious training at Ft. Pierce, FL, until February 19. Other divisions, including the medical unit, would not report until Leon had left New York and arrived at Norfolk, VA.
Nevertheless, forming the men into a company and testing a new ship began immediately with a shakedown cruise in Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay. Its goal: to familiarize the men with their new vessel and to ensure all the ship’s systems were functional. Yard time followed in Norfolk to iron out the kinks, e.g., winches fixed, rigging changed, equipment recalibrated.
Countless personnel problems arose…all sorts of jurisdictional, administrative and chain-of-command issues. That was expected no doubt when 500+ men were thrown together and rushed to sea aboard a new ship. Red Toon described several problems in the boat group in a letter written during Leon’s shakedown cruise.
March 3, 1944
I’m still looking for a letter from you, why don’t you write two in one day and send one regular mail and one air mail so we can see what difference if any between time elapsed.
I don’t have too much to do with boat engineering right now, but sure feel sorry for Swift. Troubles can develop even with new boats and someone is continually yelling for and at him. There are some people who apparently feel that he should be able to wave a sort of magic wand and make these engines perform as the books would lead one to think they will. Too many people believe what they read is more important and more correct than what others have learned from experience.
We are all having our troubles. One of the biggest problems now seems to be getting orientated. We were led to believe many things that are apparently not true. For one thing we thought our “boss” was to be Mr. McDevitt & he himself, I’m sure, felt the same way. Now we find that another man is running the show. The pity of it all is that Joe knows his business & knows it well, the other man doesn’t. This other fellow however has been in an invasion, so he and his ribbons say, and to think that any of us “greenhorns” would know anything at all that he doesn’t is almost sacrilegious.
Just another “normal” situation, we spent several months of intensive work with our men getting them ready to do a certain job in a certain way only to have our work tossed lightly aside so someone else can have things his own way. His own way differing from ours because we have gone by a definite plan of instructions which he has been either too lazy to read or too stupid to assimilate.
We don’t mind too much ourselves but do hate it because of the men. Our crews are admittedly a tough bunch but also willing and capable as long as they feel that their officers are “on the ball” & are backing them up. Right now they are somewhat confused.
Well that “bitch” is out of my system so I feel better except for one thing. I’m very sure I’ll keep these shoulder boards & so will Joe keep his. It’s a long story and I’ll tell you about it someday but I’m sure you’ve guessed by reading between the lines what the situation is.
On reading this letter over I feel it very stilted and not at all warm and human and loving as much as I would like it to be. Blame it on the censor. I, like you, don’t quite relish someone else reading my mail but remember he won’t read yours.
All my love
Your husband Warren
Credit: picture from the Toon Family Collection