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.




USS COLBERT APA 145 and Typhoons Ida and Louise

I have been communicating recently with Dawn Jaminet, a daughter of WWII seaman, Paul Polson. Polson was stationed in the Pacific aboard the attack transport USS COLBERT APA 145. According to his discharge papers, Polson was a Coxswain Sv6 USNR, so I’m guessing he was in COLBERT’S boat group division.

We believe the (undated) picture below of Paul Polson was taken aboard his ship. What a handsome young guy!


Dawn and I exchanged some fascinating stories and documents about the COLBERT’S experiences in September and October, 1945. At the time, the ship was a member of CTD 59, an amphibious task force during occupation landings at Jinsen, South Korea, after the war’s end. My Dad’s ship, USS LEON APA 48, was also a member of that unit.

On September 17, 1945, COLBERT was struggling to ride out Typhoon Ida when she struck a Japanese mine. She was carrying a shipload of recently liberated American POWs and headed stateside.  Can you imagine? As if a typhoon wasn’t bad enough, she struck a mine… while carrying a ship load of just-freed POWs. Yikes!

The following picture—taken later when she finally got to a dry dock for repairs—shows the mine damage.


Mine_damage_to_the_USS_Colbert bLarge

Mine Damage to USS Colbert


I was familiar with the mine collision story. That very incident is described in the War History of the USS LEON and in my book ALL CAME HOME.  Also, in Spring 2016 I had located and talked with Dwight Huddle, a crewman from LEON who actually saw COLBERT strike the mine. His account is described at my blog post below (February 11, 2016)

The explosion flooded COLBERT’S engine compartment, killing three crewmen. But the crew managed to keep her afloat even though she had lost all power. The next day USS BUTTE towed her to Okinawa, probably to Buckner Bay. The following Minneapolis Star Journal newspaper account dated September 28, 1945, reported COLBERT’S story.



As COLBERT lay anchored in Buckner Bay awaiting repairs, another typhoon blew through on October 9 and 10. This one was the monster: Typhoon Louise, reportedly described by Samuel Elliot Morison as the most furious and lethal storm ever encountered by the U.S. Navy in its entire history.

In my next post I want to share with you an amazing letter written by a COLBERT crewman while her crew rode out Typhoon Louise… aboard a ship with no power. I have read numerous accounts written by typhoon survivors, but this letter is the most extraordinary narrative that I have ever read about two days of terror at sea during a typhoon. With Dawn’s permission, I will include this letter in my next post.