Pt. 13: Call To Duty

After only a month of advanced amphibious training at Ft. Pierce, the commanding officer of the Amphibious Training Base sent a troop movement order to Joe McDevitt. If you have never seen a US Navy troop order circa 1943, the cover letter  of that important document reads as follows:





FR25-6/P16-4/00/MM                                                                                   15 February, 1944

Serial: 485



From:           Commanding Officer

To:                Lt. (jg) Joseph B. MCDEVITT, D-V(G), USNR

Subject:       Orders – Troop Movement

    1.               The following are hereby detached from their present duty with the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base, Fort Pierce, Florida and any other such duties which may have been assigned them, and when directed, Lt. (jg) Joseph B. MCDEVITT USNR will take charge of Twenty-Five (25) Four (4) man boat crews and Two (2) Five (5) man boat crews and Fifteen (15) other Enlisted Personnel and proceed immediately with Ensign Orville W. Terry (Asst. Commander), Ensign Francis W. Toon (Asst. Commander),  Ensign Charles R. Reeves, Ensign Harry W. Stauffacher, Ensign James O. Smith jr., Ensign Willard W. Trask, Ensign Merle H. Tigerman, Ensign Leon S. Eckman, Ensign Paul S. Kemner, Ensign Jesse Schwartz, Ensign Samuel W. Seidel, Ensign Alton R. Swift to New York Navy Yard. Upon arrival you will report to the Commandant New York Navy Yard for further transfer to the USS LEON, in whatever port she may be, for duty.

2.              This is a troop movement and the Disbursing Officer, U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Base, Fort Pierce, Florida is hereby authorized and directed to furnish the necessary transportation , subsistence and baggage transfers for the proper execution of these orders.

3.               The Disbursing Officer is hereby authorized and directed to close out the pay accounts of the men in your charge and deliver them to the Personnel Office.

4.               The records and accounts of the men in your charge are handed you herewith for safe delivery to their new Commanding Officer.

5.               These orders are of a restricted nature and should not be divulged to any unauthorized persons.


Attached to these orders was a complete listing of the 125 enlisted personnel who would operate and maintain 26 landing craft, including twenty-four LCVPs and two LCMs. We used that list earlier to help identify some of the sailors pictured in the Irwin Goldstein family collection (see blog posts dated March 7, March 16, and June 3, 2017.) We will try to identify more of those young heroes in future posts.

The list of fifteen officers named above will also be used in forthcoming stories to help identify officers and share pictures from the more recent Toon Family album.

If you recognize pictures or names of any of these young men, please contact us!

One final note. On precisely the same date that these orders were sent to Joe McDevitt in Florida (February 15, 1944), personnel at New York’s naval shipyard snapped the official file photo of the ship that would be home for McDevitt’s boat group for two years. She was a brand spanking new attack transport: USS LEON APA 48.

Leon Shipyard Picture

Notice to Amphibious Forces, United States Pacific Fleet: Reinforcement is on the way.




Pt. 11: Last Letter From Ensign Red Toon, Little Creek, Virginia, 1943

The postmark on this envelope is so faded that we cannot determine the date it was mailed. But the letter was written on a Saturday and Sunday, probably some time in October or November of 1943. This is our last letter written by Red before he completed his amphibious training at Little Creek, Virginia. Then on to advanced training at Ft. Pierce FL.

Amphibious Training Base

Little Creek, Virginia


Has seemed like Sunday here for some reason. Had inspections this morning and not too much to do all day except stand-by. Scuttle-butt has it that the big papers tomorrow will carry articles about this force and this base. You might look if you get a chance.

Tomorrow a large force of reporters etc. from magazines such as Life are to be on hand along with newsreel photographers to further advertise amphibious. Our Flotilla is supposed to put on some sort of exhibition for them. We got an Excellent on both our Personnel, officers and men, and barracks on this morning’s inspection so our Flot. Comm. Mr. Miller is in great spirits. Have an engineering class tonight & there’s a show on here at the base that I’d like to see. Maybe it can be worked or worked out.

Listen you dope, you know I don’t care how much you spend for clothes, in fact it pleases me to know that you are giving yourself something for yourself.


What a day! It’s now about 11 P. M. & I’ve really been on the go for a change. Got up at six with a slight cold and a very sore throat. The press it seems was here in force. Life magazine took pictures in color for some sort of big show & we had to march for them, run the obstacle course (enlisted only) & also run a ship to shore.

At noon we were given the glad tidings that we had finally officially taken over our boats & it was the duty of the engineering department to see that they were ready to go to sea in the morning! It also was the duty of the Duty Officer to see that this was done. I’m the Duty Officer!! What a life. I’ve been running all over everywhere ever since. I had finished checking my boats at about eight tonight & left the docks for my watch here at H – 3 when I received the news that the dock watch was to refuel all  the boats. The dock watch is made up of three officers and twelve men. The twelve men had never had a foot in a boat before. Well to cut a long story short we’ve finally managed to scrape up enough fellows to run the “shuttle” from our pier to the refueling pier, about a half-mile away, so we will get it done – maybe. Am I ever P. O.’d though.

I wondered this afternoon how in the world the engineering officers of the other two groups could get their work done so soon & get out of here…& now tonight I find that a good half of our boats won’t run. I’ve been down on the docks most of the night trying to get them going and finally decided to get another boat & tow them over. At least they’ll be fueled. I expect to be up all night but don’t have to go to sea tomorrow with the rest of the outfit so I can catch up then. There are sure a lot of simple details that make this a sort of a pain, but it’s also kinda exciting and therefore fun.

Isn’t it a beautiful night! I was wondering a while ago if maybe you weren’t somewhere looking at the same moon.

Pay day tomorrow.

Got a letter from H. holen (sp?), he expects to be a private in the Army any day now. He may be at that.

Won’t have room in this for Loratta’s letter so I’ll just have to tease you a little and hang on to it—besides it was addressed to me—three typewritten pages too. She says if that baby isn’t red headed I should do some checking on you. How is she now? How much does she weigh & does she laugh much? Did she laugh or yell the other night when we were talking?

Gee Honey it’s swell to hear you & her. I love you both so very very much.

                                                                                                                          All my love,


                                                                                                                     Dad?? (Loretta says)

This is the second letter in which Red complains about fellow officers who aren’t meeting his expectations. He doesn’t cut them much slack, does he? What is it he told Norma in the previous letter…”A fellow told me today that in some of the other groups the Assistants got quite a lot of liberty. I don’t see how they do it unless they just fail to take care of their job which is I’m afraid what happens too often. That always makes me hot. We’ve got too dam many people that can’t yet realize there’s such a thing as one’s duty to his country and fellow man…”

The buck always stops somewhere, and—on that particular day back in 1943—if the dock crew didn’t know how to refuel the boats, then Engineering Assistant, Duty Officer, and former high school science teacher Red Toon would darn well make sure the boats were refueled, even if he had to stay up all night.

Whose boat group would you choose?