My office has been engaged in chronicling the history of NOAA Corps
and its ancestor organizations. In doing so, the theme of kinship of NOAA
Corps with the Naval community is encountered time and again. In particular,
our kinship with the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command is striking.
As such, on the occasion of the Change of Command and Relieving Ceremony
of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command on board the USNS PATHFINDER
(T-AGS 60), it is appropriate to share an outstanding example of that kinship
and cooperation. The example that I have in mind is the saga of the USS
PATHFINDER (AGS-1), also known as the USC&GSS PATHFINDER (OSS 30.)
I directed my staff to compile personal histories, official accounts,
and non-official published accounts of the PATHFINDER (this was the second
C&GS ship of that name; and, the vessel on which I served my first
sea duty) for compilation into a volume which I could share with our fellow
officers, scientists, technicians, and vessel operators of the Naval Meteorology
and Oceanography Command (NMOC). This resulting compendium of PATHFINDER
lore is primarily directed towards the WWII exploits of the USS PATHFINDER,
but it also traces the career of the vessel through to its final decommissioning.
My wish is that the USNS PATHFINDER have as an illustrious career as
its namesake. May the name PATHFINDER always evoke images of cooperation
between our organizations, thoughts of perils shared and hard work accomplished
together, and a reminder of our similar heritage.
My congratulations are extended to Rear Admiral Paul G. Gaffney on
the assumption of command of NMOC. Likewise, I congratulate Rear
Admiral John E. Chubb for his conclusion of a successful tour of
duty as the outgoing Commanding Officer of NMOC and wish him well
in his retirement.
Rear Admiral Sigmund R. Petersen, NOAA
Director, NOAA Corps Operations
he PATHFINDER has been a respected ship name within the United
States Coast and Geodetic Survey and today's National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration for close to a century. This name
was meant to convey the spirit of the vessel and its work.
The first PATHFINDER was built at Crescent Shipyard in Elizabethport,
New Jersey, and launched December 7, 1898. It was a three-deck steel
vessel with fifteen water-tight compartments, was 196 feet 3 inches
overall, 33 feet 6 inches beam, drew 13 feet when fully loaded,
and was powered by 4500 feet of canvas and a triple-expansion steam
engine capable of 1,173 horsepower. The vessel cruised between 11
and 13 knots. This vessel had been designed for operating in the
On June 1, 1899, the PATHFINDER sailed from the shipyard with a
Coast and Geodetic Survey officer in command and a crew of 65 Navy
enlisted personnel. The ship proceeded to the West Coast via the
Straits of Magellan and arrived in San Francisco on September 17
after many port calls along the way. Its first work was in the Hawaiian
Islands in the winter of 1899-1900. The 1900 and 1901 working seasons
were spent in the Aleutians, but because of the urgent need for
up-to-date charts in the recently acquired Philippine Islands, the
PATHFINDER was ordered to Manila following the 1901 field season.
The ship sailed directly to the Philippines from Dutch Harbor, Alaska,
which must have been quite a surprise to the crew. The first PATHFINDER
spent most of the next 40 years charting the waters of the Philippines
until it was finally lost as a result of a Japanese bombing raid
in late 1941. At that time, it was sailing under the name RESEARCH,
which it had been named after a period of inactivity in the 1930's.
The second PATHFINDER was under construction at Lake Washington
Shipyards in Seattle, Washington, at the outbreak of WWII. The keel
was laid on February 20, 1941, and the ship launched on January
11, 1942. Shortly after launching the ship was transferred to the
Navy for wartime use. The second PATHFINDER was 229 feet in overall
length, 39 feet in breadth, had a loaded draft of 15 feet, and displaced
1,900 tons when fully loaded. It was single screw, steam turbine
powered, and capable of generating 2000 shaft horsepower with a
maximum speed of 15 knots.
The PATHFINDER was commissioned on August 31, 1942, and served
in the Pacific war from Guadalcanal to Tokyo Bay. Following the
war, the vessel was returned to the United States Coast and Geodetic
Survey where it served until 1971 conducting surveys off Alaska,
Hawaii, and the West Coast of the United States. The following are
personal accounts and historical compilations of the illustrious
career of the second PATHFINDER.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
RECOLLECTIONS OF CAPTAIN LORIN WOODCOCK, USC&GS
WARTIME EXPERIENCES OF THE USS PATHFINDER
At the beginning of WWII, Lorin Woodcock was a young C&GS officer
with not quite a year's service. He joined the PATHFINDER at Funafuti
in the Ellice Islands and served on the ship throughout the remainder
of its first tour of duty in the South Pacific. Following the war,
he returned to the C&GS and retired in 1968.
THE U.S.S. PATHFINDER AND WORLD WAR II
"When World War II broke out, the PATHFINDER was still in a Lake Washington
shipyard, being constructed by the Coast Survey for survey duty in
Alaska. It immediately became apparent to the Navy that the war in
the Pacific would take place in very sketchily charted waters, and
that the PATHFINDER would be a very valuable asset to our Navy. So,
the Navy took her over right in the shipyard, fitted her with guns,
depth-charges, and a printing press for printing charts on the spot,
gave her a number AGS1, and sent her out to the South Pacific. She
had a Navy crew aboard, and her officer complement contained a nucleus
of men experienced in hydrographic surveying and chart construction,
who had been transferred to the Navy from the Coast Survey.
"After a brief training period in San Francisco Bay, the PATHFINDER
left the states, bound for the South Pacific. Her first job was
at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands. Our occupation forces had sneaked
in here under the noses of the Japs, and the PATHFINDER joined them
as unobtrusively as possible. Her highly secret mission was to find,
chart, buoy, and blast out if necessary, a deep water passage into
the lagoon, and lay out sufficient anchorages to repair damaged
ships and serve as a staging area for future invasions.
"In spite of bad weather and an inexperienced crew, the job was
done in the allotted time of four weeks, and the charts were printed
before the Japs had prepared any organized action on our foot-hold
there. The PATHFINDER sailed on then to Noumea, New Caledonia, arriving
there in January, 1943.
"On the second of February, she sailed again, this time to survey
Tulagi and Gavutu harbors in the Solomons. On the way to Guadalcanal
she formed a part of the escort for a convoy carrying supplies to
our hard-fighting Marines. With the convoy safely delivered, the
PATHFINDER sailed the few remaining miles to Tulagi Harbor and started
surveying operations. Her assigned task was a complete hydrographic
and wire-drag survey of Tulagi and Gavutu Harbors and approaches
for the purpose of charting any sunken wrecks and dangers to navigation,
and to enlarge the available anchorage area. This job was accomplished
very expeditiously under the most trying conditions. The field parties
spent as much as 11 hours a day in the field, and spent the nights
alternating between working on boat sheets and survey records, and
manning battle stations while from one to a half dozen Jap bombers
droned about overhead, spattering bombs here and there, sometimes
"The next job was an inshore survey along the coast of Guadalcanal,
from Point Cruz to Berande Point. The job consisted of building
and locating beacons, hydrography and wire-drag. At this period
all supplies were landed on Guadalcanal by lighter, and the purpose
of the survey was to provide anchorages as close to shore as possible,
thereby expediting unloading operations. While engaged on this job,
the PATHFINDER participated in a surprise daylight air-raid by about
150 Jap planes. With half her crew out on field parties she accounted
for two dive-bombers, and after the action, rendered invaluable
medical aid to injured personnel from the AARON WARD, a destroyer
which took a bomb in her engine room during the action and later
sunk. During this action Captain Thomas was credited by his crew
with saving the ship. He turned the right way at the right time
and the bomb fell where the ship would have been.
"While this job was in progress the ship's drafting room turned
out a chart of Sandfly Passage, using existing hydrographic information
and aerial photographs. It's purpose was to provide a rapid escape
route for PT boats making their nightly attacks on the 'Tokyo Express.'
"With the completion of this job, the PATHFINDER returned south
to Espiritu Santo Island in the New Hebrides Islands, where survey
operations were carried on without the interference of enemy action.
An area off Bogaeio Island at the entrance to Segond Channel was
surveyed and charted, for the installation of a degaussing station.
An area in Segond Channel was wire-dragged for the location of a
floating cruiser drydock. An extensive inshore survey of Segond
Channel was made for the location of piers and docks. Turtle and
Pallikulo Bays were surveyed and charted to provide anchorage and
staging areas. A portion of Pallikulo Bay was dragged to 90 feet
for a floating battleship drydock. A portion of Undine Bay on the
north shore of Efate Island was surveyed to provide a closer approach
to the airfields by tankers. Fila Harbor on Efate was surveyed and
wire-dragged, to enlarge the safe anchorage area for units of the
fleet engaged in training activities.
"The next job was a two week's tour of duty in Sydney, Australia
for the purpose of rest, rehabilitation and recreation. Civilization
proved much too alluring for the accomplishment of the first purpose,
but the other two were accomplished with sufficient vigor and enthusiasm
to more than atone for the omission.
"The PATHFINDER then returned to the job, reported to the Commander
of Advanced Naval Bases, Solomons, and was assigned the task of
surveying the Russell Islands. This base was to become a tremendous
staging point for army equipment and troops, and was the biggest
single job undertaken by the PATHFINDER.
"In the middle of the Russell Islands job, the PATHFINDER was called
upon by Commander Third Amphibious Force for several emergency rush
jobs. The first of these was a survey of Manning Straits. It was
thought that Manning Straits would provide a good route for task
forces, and a detached party was sent to conduct the survey. Hathorn
Sound on Northern New Georgia was surveyed to provide anchorages
to serve the growing base and airfields. Vovobe Cove on Kolombangara
was completely charted. Rendova Harbor was charted to meet the needs
of the new base on Rendova Island. While engaged on this job, the
PATHFINDER was called upon to send a party immediately to
Cape Torokina, Bougainville. During the invasion there at least
one transport had run aground on an uncharted reef, and two others
had very narrowly escaped hitting reefs. The assigned mission was
to locate, buoy and chart all off-shore reefs. Operations were carried
on amidst falling bombs and shells, but eventually were concluded
with no serious misfortunes.
"Another detached party was sent on the invasion of Treasury Islands,
and made a complete survey of Blanche Harbor.
"Then finally back to the Russell Islands. That job was finally
completed and then the PATHFINDER made another trip to Sydney. However,
part of the crew and officers had to stay behind to participate
in the invasion of Green Islands. This party landed with the first
wave of troops and had started surveying before the shooting had
gotten well started. A complete chart of the lagoon and entrances
was made, and the rapid development of the base was thereby greatly
aided. This party also participated in a reconnaissance raid on
Green Islands, and determined minimum depths in the two entrance
channels prior to the actual invasion.
"The next job was in the form of another detached party to Emirau
Island in the St. Matthias Group. This party landed with the invasion
forces and gathered data for charts necessary for the development
of the base.
"Before the return of this party, the PATHFINDER had started a
survey of Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralty Islands. The entrances
and anchorage areas were wire-dragged, and a section of the harbor
was dragged to 90 feet for a floating battleship drydock. This base
eventually became the main staging area and supply point for the
Philippine invasion, and its development was materially speeded
when satisfactory charts became available. In the same area, Ponam
Island and approaches were surveyed, to make possible the servicing
of an air-strip to be built on Ponam Island.
"The PATHFINDER then returned to New Caledonia and commenced surveys
improving the existing charts of Havannah Passage leading to Noumea.
The wire-dragged channel was widened near it's beginning, and a
channel through Woodin Passage was wire-dragged, thus shortening
the route appreciably. A survey was made of Burai Bay, New Caledonia,
to determine it's feasibility as a staging area. Lifu-Uvea Passage
in the Loyalty Islands was surveyed to definitely determine its
safety for navigation, and Patteson Passage in the New Hebrides
was surveyed for the same reason. Finally, in October, 1944 the
PATHFINDER sailed for Pearl Harbor, and then on to San Francisco
for a much needed and well earned repair and overhaul period. During
this time all but one of the remaining Coast Survey officers were
detached, and he left after seeing her safely out to her working
This history has been prepared very hastily and entirely from memory.
The facts as stated are true to the best of my memory. The ship
received several letters of commendation during her tour of duty
in the South Pacific, and copies are attached of the ones I have.
Prepared by Captain Lorin Woodcock."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
REAR ADMIRAL WILLIAM M. GIBSON, USC&GS
WARTIME EXPERIENCES OF THE U.S.S. PATHFINDER
Rear Admiral William M. Gibson served as Navigation Officer and then
Executive Officer of the U.S.S. PATHFINDER. He then served as Executive
Officer of the U.S.S. OCEANOGRAPHER and ended the war in command of
the U.S.S. HYDROGRAPHER. He entered on duty with the commissioned
corps of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey on September
2, 1924, and retired in 1958. Prior to WWII he served on numerous
ships and field parties of the Coast and Geodetic Survey on the East
Coast, West Coast, Alaska, and the Philippines. At the beginning of
WWII, he was Executive Officer on the USC&GSS PIONEER, a former
Navy minesweeper that had been loaned to the Survey following WWI.
In 1941, the PIONEER was operating in the Aleutians, but its field
season was shortened by one month as the Navy required the vessel
back in preparation for war.
"Three ships, the PIONEER, GUIDE, and DISCOVERER were decommissioned
after removal of all Coast & Geodetic Survey equipment. They were
turned over to Merrit, Chapman, and Scott for use in sweeping mines
in the Caribbean Sea. By this time war had been declared. There was
no time for any leave of absence except when officers were given continental
assignment. The Navy gave in lieu of the PIONEER a beautiful yacht
formerly owned by Mr. Fleishman and built in Sweden of Krupp steel.
They gave in lieu of the GUIDE a small yacht called the ANDRADITE.
"We worked like beavers getting the new PIONEER ready for Prince
William Sound in Alaska, and when ready the Navy took her back!
An officer came down to the dock at Treasure Island and took the
ship with a skeleton crew 'to do escort work from Panama north.'
"We had to get off the ship in a hurry and we were standing on
the dock as it left. A bar pilot that we knew struck up a conversation.
He had been taken into the Navy too. The refresher course at Treasure
Island was being given to college graduates who had been through
the 90 day courses back east. They were at Treasure Island for practical
courses before assignment to ships. Why didn't we tie in with the
school? They were desperate for instructors!
"We were transferred to the Navy by Presidential Order, but we
had to pass a physical examination at the 12th Naval District in
San Francisco. Two rows of doctors were sitting at desks and as
we walked by (in the raw) they all asked questions and made notes.
Of course we all passed! Commander Lyman Graham and Lt. Charles
Thomas were assigned to teach seamanship. I was assigned the Navigation
School and Lieuts. Chovan and Stohsner were assigned to the Post
Office. That lasted 3 months!
"Not having ever studied Navigation I had to go through Dutton's
Navigation ahead of the class! And I had to take the class of about
30 officers out on a tug boat to teach them to pilot. I was just
getting to like the work when my orders came along with the orders
for the others - all to go to Seattle for the commissioning of the
PATHFINDER and to serve thereon. The student officers liked my teaching
and asked the Captain of the school to keep me. In the meantime
I had driven to Seattle accompanied by the family. Orders canceling
my assignment to the PATHFINDER were issued and arrived at Treasure
Island a few days after I had left. So I suppose they canceled the
"They were cutting a large hole in the PATHFINDER's side to accommodate
a printing press. Other photolithographic equipment was installed
and the ship soon readied for sea trials. Two 3-inch AA guns were
installed on the bow and 20mm guns scattered about the ship. When
the ship put to sea, the plumbing did not work right. We were deluged
with water all the way to San Francisco from the toilets and the
propeller was singing refrains. The propeller was considered a submarine
hazard and arrangements made for dry docking. While in San Francisco
we got the service of Lt. Vincent of the Coast & Geodetic Survey
( who had been given a Navy commission) to work on the fathometers.
Navy technicians had no knowledge of Coast & Geodetic Survey
fathometers. [Vincent had been a Chief Radio Operator and electronic
technician on Coast & Geodetic Survey ships for many years.
He had been a co-inventor of the Radio Sonobuoy, originally used
by the C&GS with Radio-Acoustic Ranging Navigation.]
"At last the toilets had been vented; the fathometers performed
O.K.; and the propeller made reasonably quiet. We sailed out the
Golden Gate, past the picket boat that didn't like our bow wave,
and into the war. My leave that was canceled totaled 72 calendar
days. This was regarded as necessary to the country in time of war
and was an accumulation since 1938 when ordered to the New York
office to take charge. Perhaps some time I would get the leave back.
1. Bascom Thomas, Commander USNR, Lawyer in civilian life, Commanding
2. Harry A. Mason, Lieutenant Commander, Executive Officer, from
Merchant Marine, a strict disciplinarian.
3. William M. Gibson, Lieutenant Commander, USC&GS, Navigator
and Chief Survey Officer, Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Coast &
Geodetic Survey, President of Summary Court Martial.
4. James Walls, Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander USNR, Steamboat
Inspection Service, U.S. Coast Guard.
5. James E. Baker, Lieutenant, USNR, Asst. Chief Engineer, Civil
Service rating of Chief Engineer, U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey.
6. Samuel N. Davis, Lieutenant, USNR, Asst. Engineer, U.S. Coast
& Geodetic Survey, Civil Service.
7. Evan Kackley, Lieutenant, Medical Corps, USNR.
8. Robert E. Glaze, Ensign, USNR, Engineer Officer.
9. William K. Herman, Lieutenant, USNR, Supply Officer.
10. Walter J. Chovan, Lieutenant, USC&GS, Wire Drag and Hydrography.
11. Edwin Hicks, Lieutenant, USC&GS, Tides, Currents, Hydrography.
12. Junius T. Jarman, Lieutenant, USC&GS, Cartography and Hydrography.
13. E.E. Stohsner, Lieutenant, USC&GS, Hydrography, Wire Drag.
14. Lorin Woodcock, Lieutenant (jg), USC&GS, Hydrography, Wire
Drag (joined ship after Funafuti.)
15. E.E. Anderson, Jr., Lieutenant (jg), Gunnery Officer, Hydrography,
16. William B. Sears, Ensign, USNR, Hydrography.
17. William W. Thompson, Lieutenant (jg), Communications Officer.
18. Dan W. McMurphy, Ensign, USNR, Courts & Boards, Hydrography.
19. Breed Mounger, Lieutenant (jg), USNR, Hydrography.
20. Clarkson W. Pinkham, Ensign, USNR, Hydrography.
21. Raymond Dondero, Ensign, USNR, Engineer (joined after April
"Commander Bascom Thomas, a Naval Reserve Officer from Dallas,
Texas, was given command of the PATHFINDER when commissioned as
a Naval Ship in Lake Washington at Seattle. The ship had been altered
to conform to Navy Regulations during the construction. The Coast
& Geodetic Survey flag was run up and down immediately; and
the Navy Pennant run up.
"Each department head was responsible for his own work. The Navigator
was responsible for the charts and location of the entrance to the
harbors of the South Pacific and Honolulu. The Engineer Officer
(a Coast Guard Officer) was appointed from the Naval Reserve - Commander
Walls - and the Executive Officer was from the Merchant Marine.
"Five Coast & Geodetic Survey officers were transferred to
the Navy to serve under Navy Regulations for the duration of the
war. And various Naval Reserve Officers in lower ranks were assigned.
"Commander Bascom Thomas was an excellent Commanding Officer. Although
his knowledge of map making was deficient, his knowledge of Communications,
Naval Procedure, and Gunnery were excellent and he learned of the
map making as he progressed. He was firm, fair and dedicated.
"After 18 months were up he transferred his new Executive Officer
and Chief Survey Officer, and appointed Walter Chovan in his place.
Also he put Edgar Hicks in the plotting room and transferred Junius
Jarman to heavier duty. He had previously parted with his Coast
Guard Engineer and had put Sam Davis in that top spot. He had transferred
Ernst Stohsner to new construction; and Engineer James Davis had
been called home on account of the death of his wife. With his new
organization he was all set for another year of duty which he did
in commendable fashion. Details follow.
"The U.S.S. PATHFINDER zig zagged all the way to Pearl Harbor.
Everyone was wearing full regalia for war. When the Navigator was
taking star sights he found the regalia cumbersome to say the least.
A rendezvous was arranged for a PCS to meet us about 19 miles east
of Pearl Harbor. We never saw her and the captain wondered about
the navigation. We simply steamed on into Pearl Harbor without our
guide. Admiral Nimitz allowed one of the officers to telephone San
Francisco to check on the success of the operation on his son.
"The Staff wanted a reliable chart of Funafuti, Ellice Island.
The Fleet Transport that carried a regiment of Marines into the
atoll avoided many coral heads. Her draft was twenty feet and many
coral heads were reported. The Fleet Transport let the men off but
left hurriedly with only a part of the cargo unloaded.
"The PATHFINDER stopped for fuel at Christmas Island. A channel
had been dredged and we were the first ship to enter the harbor.
The Pilot assigned to the PATHFINDER got confused and was heading
for the beach when the Navigator spotted the real entrance in a
different position in time to save the ship.
"The cruise of the PATHFINDER to Funafuti crossing the Equator
was the occasion for celebrating. Neptune Rex came aboard. All hands
off duty joined in welcoming him aboard.
"A taste of the future was suddenly received about half way to
Funafuti. An unidentified hulk appeared. Later it was identified
as a cruiser. The cruiser had entombed in it 19 men. It had been
torpedoed but was going on her own steam.
"The last 5 days of the cruise were overcast and there was speculation
that the ship would miss the island. The Navy Pilot charts showed
a current of 2 knots flowing at a right angle to the course; that
was a possible set of 48 miles to the northwest. The speculation
increased as the time for arrival got near. The Navigator, to cover
his own apprehension, said to the Captain, "You come up to the bridge
at 1500 this afternoon and I will show you the 'conspicuous' tree
charted on the island." True to the words, the Captain arrived on
the bridge at 1500 in time to hear the lookout shout 'Land, Ho.
The Port Bow!'
"The entrance was at Le Buabua and the ship proceeded very gingerly
to anchorage about one half the distance to the main part of the
island. About 3 days later the sun was right to show the bottom
off the starboard quarter. Soundings showed the depth of 11 feet
and the PATHFINDER's draft was 14 feet.
"Captain Rickenbacker had been brought to Funafuti when he had
been rescued. Someone had immediately sent a case of Scotch whiskey
to him at Funafuti but Rickenbacker had left before the Scotch arrived.
Captain Good, Commandant of the Marine Corps, had sent his aide
out to the ship with one bottle to be used for medicinal purposes
on Christmas Eve, our first Christmas away from home.
"The PATHFINDER had been ordered to Funafuti in the Ellice Islands
to make charts, place beacons and buoys, lay out anchorages and
seaplane runways and find a deep water entrance to enable damaged
carriers or battleships and naval auxiliaries to enter. The time
limit was 3 weeks. It was the first or 'breaking in' job assigned
by Cincpac enroute to our south Pacific Area to report to ComSoPac.
"Because it was the first job there were certain apprehensions.
Funafuti had been charted about 1850 by a British vessel and later
used by whalers from New England. When looking for the Observation
Point used in the original survey, a native with bright red hair
stepped aside and saluted, saying 'me Forbes.' There had been a
deserter by the name of Forbes. This was his descendant.
"The ship's force welded superstructures on thoroughly drained
gasoline drums for channel and obstruction buoys for marking significant
coral heads. They also constructed a tall beacon of angle iron to
mount at a turning point of the channel. The beacon was placed on
two boats, catamaran fashion, and taken to the site.
"The deepest water in the entrances was found to lie in Te Ave
Fugea, a tortuous entrance at the southwest side. The channel was
blocked by a huge coral head with deep water on all sides. This
was a problem for the dynamite gang composed of 2 pharmacists, 2
seamen, and 2 officers. There was a great explosion that should
have notified the enemy 35 miles away of PATHFINDER activities.
The coral head went down to 30 feet and the spot was marked by white
water; a perfect landmark! The other entrance where the Troop Transport
crossed was recommended for dredging after the wire dragging showed
clearance of 19 feet.
"The location of the conspicuous tree, the beacon at the channel
turning point and a third PATHFINDER beacon in the vicinity of Te
Ave Fugea gave a plottable 3-point fix, but bearings on the same
points would not intersect in a point. There was something wrong!
After checking the field triangulation and finding nothing, the
culprit was finally run down. The British had constructed a perfect
projection and inadvertently turned it upside down for plotting.
In other words, the meridians inadvertently converged to the north
instead of to the south. This was in South Latitude. The position
of ships entering and anchoring in the atoll could be determined
by using our positions as shown on the chart, as long as they did
not stray outside of the area marked off for anchorages or use the
"This all took time and the ship was perilously low on fuel. The
one and only ship to enter the atoll while the PATHFINDER was there
was the inter-island steamer called the USS CAMANGO. She had ample
fuel to get back to Pago Pago. She agreed to furnish the PATHFINDER
some fuel oil; and the PATHFINDER went alongside her for that purpose.
Unfortunately, the Captain of the USS CAMANGO turned off the fuel
going to the PATHFINDER almost immediately and took back suction
on the hose. Later the Engineer was doubtful if the ship was any
"The tidal note on the chart was carefully considered. The island
lay in South Latitude and East Longitude. We had to give the time
of tide in terms of Navy time and West Longitude. The exact time
used was given on the chart.
"The anchorages were laid out, the beacons accurately determined,
the markers placed on coral heads, the channels buoyed, and the
range for entering and leaving via Te Ave Fugea in place and the
tidal note was on the chart. The Commanding Officer tested the charts
by having the PATHFINDER run at 13 knots in and out of the channel
and through the atoll. His assumption was that if we had no confidence
in our charts, how would others? This test was made just 4 weeks
after starting the job - one week over.
"The PATHFINDER laid a course for Pago Pago for fuel, arriving
in the morning, refueling during the day and by evening the ship
was headed for Noumea. The sea was too rough to run the printing
press, so the charts were actually printed in the Great Roads of
Noumea, while reporting to Admiral Halsey's staff. A copy was sent
to the Hydrographic Office for review. They reprinted the chart
showing 30 feet as the depth of Te Ave Bue Bue. Fortunately their
error was caught at once and they recalled all the charts they had
issued on Funafuti. There were 4 charts of Funafuti, the entrances
and anchorages, and sea plane area.
"The ship cruised up the east side of New Caledonia to Espiritu
Santo where a large convoy was being formed. Enemy submarines were
reported as awaiting the convoy to the north and west of Espiritu
Santo, New Hebrides. So the convoy passed around the east side to
avoid the submarines. Twice the convoy with PATHFINDER in the escort
turned back to Espiritu Santo. Then word was received that a large
enemy task force with a battleship, cruisers and destroyers was
"The Navy Code had been captured when the Japanese shot down a
plane, and the Japanese used the code to cover the evacuation of
troops from Guadalcanal.
"A most fortunate experience occurred when the convoy was to arrive
by daylight at Guadalcanal and it met another convoy going east
in the darkness. It was in this night that the New Zealand Corvette,
the KIWI, fought a Japanese submarine to the end, having forced
it on the beach and killed the Captain and other officers. A diver
found the Japanese Code on the wrecked submarine.
"Reporting for duty to the Commander of the Solomon Islands, the
ship was assigned the task of surveying and charting Tulagi Harbor
about fifteen miles from Guadalcanal. Tulagi Harbor was fairly large
and almost landlocked. There was a huge ammunition dump to the east
and the PATHFINDER anchored well inside the harbor - almost up to
the creek where the USS NIAGARA was moored with camouflage over
it to protect against bombing. The USS NIAGARA was supposed to provide
housing for the P.T. boat personnel. But due to the intense heat,
the P.T. boat personnel chose sleeping in the makeshift structures
at the P.T. Boat Base about a half mile to the south.
"The commander of the base at Tulagi ordered that no ship return
fire when the Japs bombed the base in the hope that they never saw
the ships and were concentrating their bombs on the base.
"A one kilometer base line was quickly measured and a weak expansion
made to locate such points as necessary for control. If there had
been any intention of more work to be done later, some additional
work would have been warranted to improve the accuracy of the base
line and the subsequent expansion.
"Later on orders were received to chart about 20 miles of the north
coast of Guadalcanal. Points had been cut in on the north coast
from Tulagi Harbor by observing over long distances on large targets.
Later again the OCEANOGRAPHER surveyed Indispensable Strait by using
the same control on a scale of 1/250,000. They extended the control
over that tremendous area.
"The ship's officers had never dreamed of so much expansion of
the one kilometer base line. It seemed like a hopeless undertaking
to select and measure another base line. There were no possible
places and time was pressing. Then there was the question always
in mind "Is this necessary to keep ships from going aground?" The
founding father of the Coast Survey would have answered the problem
differently, but in time of war, would he have?
"Shortly after the PATHFINDER's arrival we were initiated by the
Japanese bombers. One night in particular five bombs landed in the
harbor straddling the PATHFINDER. Discipline was broken and the
ship returned the fire against the high flying planes. One motor
torpedo boat was hit and the crews badly shaken up.
"In view of the frequency of the bombing, the PATHFINDER sought
a less conspicuous anchorage. Perhaps the Jap planes didn't see
the ship and only dropped bombs on the harbor in general. On another
night they bombed the ammunition dump to the east and set off explosions
and fires that lasted for several days. A Liberty Ship was unloading
ammunition with a group of stevedores that took to the jungles which
surrounded the base.
"About this time the Commander of the Solomon Islands asked for
a volunteer to locate Baruku Island on the map. The Task Force running
up the "Slot" each night laid their course 5 miles off the Island
and to their consternation found the island much closer than they
had thought. One officer accompanied by 2 men trained in Jiu Jitsu
went along, traveling on a Destroyer and LCT as far as the Russell
Islands, carrying a theodolite and a chronometer.
"They arrived at the Russell Islands headquarters during a bombing
raid which the island Commander watched outside his bomb
proof shelter. Arrangements were made for a motor torpedo boat to
take the party up to Baruku Island. Unfortunately, the officer in
charge of the motor torpedo boat was not the same officer, nor was
it the same boat, that had landed a Coast Watching party two weeks
before. At that time, the officer in charge had arranged that he
would be back with drinking water in about two weeks and that he
would signal his arrival with a long and two short flashes.
"When the survey party arrived off the part of the island where
it was thought the Coast Watchers had landed, the boat crew flashed
the regular ship to shore signal and waited for the answer that
never came. The motor torpedo boat cruised around the island flashing
the ship to shore signal in the belief that they had wrongly identified
the landing spot of the Coast Watchers. No answer came from the
beach. In desperation, the motor torpedo boat returned to the first
place opposite the beach and off a slight cove. A rubber boat was
put in the water with a theodolite and a chronometer in the custody
of the Chief Quartermaster. The officer started to shore with Bos'n
Mate rowing. When the party got within gunfire range, the officer
had the Chief Quartermaster call out in a loud voice, 'Navy men
from the USS PATHFINDER coming in.' It saved their lives! The Coast
Watchers were stationed along the beach with guns trained on the
small rubber raft waiting the signal to open fire. That was the
26th of March.
"One young Coast Watcher, not knowing the necessity for concentration,
talked incessantly of Lake Merritt and Oakland while the officer
was setting up the theodolite. [Bill Gibson was speaking of himself
as the officer setting up the theodolite in describing this episode
as he lived in Oakland, California, and ended up retiring to that
area.] Yes, there were Japs on the island too! They didn't move
around much. They hoped the Japs didn't either. They were out of
water and couldn't light a fire. They would have to be particularly
careful now that the Japs had seen our light.
"At any rate the observations were made and the party embarked
in their rubber raft in about 3 hours. The time was set during the
dark of the moon, and the moon was now rising and breaking through
the clouds. The observation party had taken a line on a tangent
between two points. They had observed three stars, one of which
was Dubhe in the constellation of the Dipper. For some reason, the
Dipper showing in 10 degrees south latitude was particularly comforting.
On the way back to the Russells, the P.T. Boat Skipper was very
conscious of the fluorescent wake of his boat. Airplanes could pick
up the wake and bomb them. The night before a Motor torpedo Boat
had opened fire on one of our planes when the plane dropped a bomb
near the boat.
"Upon arrival in the Russell Islands, it was found out that a motor
torpedo boat was to leave for Guadalcanal at 11 o'clock. This seemed
preferable transportation to the way the party had come by Destroyer
and LCT. The motor torpedo boat made 30 knots. Just at the time
of departure, General Patch and several of his staff came down to
the landing with the intention of riding down to Guadalcanal. He
asked the skipper about night running. The skipper launched into
a dissertation about danger from our planes, and told about the
necessity of firing on one of ours a few nights back. General Patch
exclaimed, "Was that you?" He then turned and walked away with his
staff! There was plenty of room on the boat going to Guadalcanal!
Another young skipper of another boat was being called on the 'carpet.'
He never divulged what he was going on the 'carpet' for, except
he said it was very serious. I surmised that it was he that fired
a torpedo at the flagship and sunk it when it strayed into the wrong
zone in the Invasion of Munda.
"At Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, a boat was ready to leave for Port
Purvis, so the party arrived there well ahead of schedule. There
it developed that the PATHFINDER was out, and while waiting on a
pier a Marine Officer by the name of Robert Earle [transferred from
the Coast and Geodetic Survey to the Marines at the beginning of
the war] invited the whole party (one officer and two men) to dinner.
The Chief Quartermaster declined because of his charge of caring
for the chronometer and guarding it against undue shocks.
"At 7:00 o'clock the PATHFINDER launch took them off to the ship,
and the officer and men tumbled into their bunks to get their first
sleep in three days. When they awoke, the staff had computed the
position of the observation point, and estimated the size of the
Island of Baruku from aerial photographs. The chronometer had lost
one second and the island was indicated to be several miles out
of position. At any rate, we never had any more complaints from
the Task Force about it being in the way while heading up the 'Slot'
for the nocturnal bombardment after the change of position.
"The work laid out for the PATHFINDER was nearing completion. The
ships could enter and leave Tulagi Harbor and Gavutu Harbor with
assurance. And the surveys had been made relative to a point left
in Port Purvis by the USS SUMNER. The anchorages were laid out in
circles in Tulagi Harbor and along the coast of Guadalcanal. The
coast of Guadalcanal was made [delineated] relative to the baseline
on Gavutu causeway. A light was put on top of Beacon 'B' which could
be turned on by notification of the Marine Detachment at Koli Point.
(The Marines preferred the light to be normally off, because planes
bombing Henderson Field would take a crack at any light and did.)
Large convoys coming to Guadalcanal by night had the light to judge
their distance off shore and along the shore.
"All that was left was a few soundings parallel to the coast in
Sealark Passage. The PATHFINDER was asked to report the date of
completion. The dispatch was simple enough. Apparently the headquarters
had another job for us! An earlier dispatch had told us to expect
air attacks in force. There was pressure to take off leaving the
last few lines undone. A similar situation had occurred at Tonga
Tabu when a battleship hit an uncharted rock just outside an area
surveyed by the USS SUMNER. With this in mind, leaving the site
before completion of the work was turned down.
"As the PATHFINDER steamed on line toward Lunga Point, a group
of transports was met running east with the lines trailing in the
water, and without lifeboats of any kind. They were making flank
speed. Also, the cruisers of the Task Force were seen cruising out
of Tulagi Harbor where they had been fueling.
"When the ship was opposite Lunga Point the USS AARON WARD was
queried. They replied 'air attack imminent' by signal light. Surprisingly
the destroyer secured from General Quarters just as the first bomb
was dropped from the high flying planes. It hit the AARON WARD in
the boiler room. The destroyer had been escorting a large LST containing,
among other passengers, one by name of John F. Kennedy. The AARON
WARD lay dead in the water and was putting the wounded in a boat
while the PATHFINDER maneuvered rapidly to avoid the dive bombers.
The Captain was on the flying bridge, the Navigator watching the
conn and the 20mm guns on the bridge deck. The 20mm guns were more
effective than the 3-inch AA guns.
"The PATHFINDER was maneuvering rapidly running figure eights.
When the enemy planes went into their dive, the PATHFINDER was changing
course so rapidly that the enemy planes missed their target and
in turn were raked with 20mm gun fire or 3-inch anti-aircraft fire.
The only trouble was the PATHFINDER, with rapidly changing course,
could not hit the planes. However, four Zeros hit the water - two
by direct hits and two with assists from some other ship. The planes
that missed leveled off and then tried to strafe the ship launches
which were in the water. One boat was holed by gunfire while the
personnel dived deep overboard. The Zeros then flew over Tulagi
and strafed the installations. As they completed their strafing
runs they flew directly over the P.T. Boat Tender, the USS NIAGARA.
The NIAGARA had removed its camouflage and had a man painting zeros
on her smokestack as they were shot down. He got up to 16 zeros
that had been shot down. The planes, not knowing NIAGARA was there,
ran into heavy gunfire right after strafing Tulagi Harbor. The next
day the NIAGARA, with about one dozen motor torpedo boats steamed
out of Tulagi Harbor for Espiritu Santo when one lone Japanese plane
at high level dropped a bomb on her. She sank almost immediately
not having any compartmentation. All of the crew were saved. They
transferred to the torpedo boats.
"In the meantime, when the attack broke off, the AARON WARD, which
was dead in the water, was taken in tow by a fleet tug. The intention
was to get the ship over to the place at Tulagi Harbor vacated by
the NIAGARA in the creek in the shoal water. The men were shoring
up the compartments when the ship suddenly went down taking 80 men
"The PATHFINDER steering engine and rudder had been damaged by
a near miss. The Commanding Officer left his post on the flying
bridge and took the wheel to guide the ship after the steering engine
went out. His great strength was sufficient to guide the ship to
an anchorage off the coast of Guadalcanal. As the ship approached
the anchorage a high flying plane appeared overhead coming out of
the sun. The ship opened up on it, but the plane was quickly identified
as friendly and the firing belayed. It was the only friendly plane
that we had observed during the day.
"At the time of the attack the AARON WARD lowered a launch with
19 men on it. When the firing stopped Lieutenant Lorin Woodcock
in the motor whaleboat, who had found the AARON WARD casualties
on the beach, brought them off to the PATHFINDER. They were immediately
taken to the sick bay where they took up all the operating tables
plus the CPO mess table. Lt. Evan Kackley and his 3 pharmacy mates
worked on them all night and saved many lives. And Lt. Sam Davis
and his engineer worked throughout the night on the steering engine
in the terrible heat of the poop deck. At dawn he pronounced the
ship operational. It was important to get operational as soon as
possible because of the danger of additional bombing or from submarine
"At 0700 the wounded and dead were put ashore when a truck showed
up to take them to MOB 8. The sounding line was picked up that had
been interrupted on the preceding day and the whole day spent on
finishing the work.
"On the following day the ship departed for Espiritu Santo but
had to return to Tulagi to pick up about 50 survivors of the sinking
of the large tanker. [This was the USS KANAWHA which was sunk while
attempting to leave Tulagi Harbor during the bombing raid of April
7.] The Task Force had just gotten fuel and left hurriedly from
Tulagi when the bombing of April 7th happened. They kept clear of
the enemy raid and did not seem to be seen by them. A New Zealand
corvette was sunk with the tanker.
"The following date the PATHFINDER dropped anchor in Pallikula
Bay, Espiritu Santo, just as Eleanor Roosevelt landed and a lone
Japanese bomber dropped a bomb. The long days of hard work in the
field under a blistering sun and sleepless nights at General Quarters
in the sporadic bombing was about all that the men could stand.
However, the quiet of Pallikula Bay tended to give new life to the
crew, except the work went on as usual.
"In June 1943 the report on the charting of Pallikula Bay to the
Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, contained the following: 'PATHFINDER
personnel have shown a high degree of loyalty and devotion to duty,
but continuous operation in advance areas is making itself manifest
--- added is the requirement of learning a new type of work for
which they had no previous training. They deserve a great deal of
credit.' Almost by return mail came commendations for the officers
and men for their part in the action and for the accuracy of information
and excellent workmanship of the charts from Admiral Nimitz. Admiral
Halsey added that the work of the PATHFINDER would play an important
part in the successful prosecution of the war, and ordered the ship
to Sydney, Australia, for ten days recreation and for some supplies
and equipment. [This would be the first of two trips to Sydney.]
"The ship force were tired but orders were received to survey and
chart Pallikula and Turtle Bay and approaches which was done in
about 2 weeks time. Then Commander Boak [J.E. Boak, Commanding Officer
U.S. Naval Advanced Base, Espiritu Santo] assigned the job of finding
an anchorage for a large floating dry dock. The ship revised the
chart of Espiritu Santo somewhat and then proceeded south to Undine
Bay. Being open to the sea, the PATHFINDER stationed a launch one
mile out to give warning of any attack. Here the wire drag kept
hanging on a mine which was charted and marked as a buoyed danger.
"After Undine Bay was charted the officers of the ship were invited
aboard a carrier to hear Admiral Halsey talk. He predicted that
we would meet again in Tokyo but we would not be able to tell one
street from another on account of the destruction! (We had not heard
of the atomic bomb at that time; perhaps Halsey had.)
"When in Sydney, Australia, some needed supplies were obtained
and a much needed radar installed. The officers and crew were wined
and dined by the Aussies. They were a very hospitable people. When
it came to leave we missed only 4 men, 3 of which were delivered
to us at the entrance buoy. One man was delivered to us at Guadalcanal.
Three charts of Tulagi and two of Guadalcanal were made and printed
and published on board the ship.
"In Noumea, charts were completed and printed on the ship's return
from Australia. ComSoPac did not seem aware that the OCEANOGRAPHER
had no camera or printing press and her first three months of surveys
were unprocessed and on a scale of 1/10,000. Furthermore, the ship
had been aground, had bent her propeller, and was in poor morale.
Consequently the PATHFINDER had to compile the surveys on a scale
of 1/40,000 for printing on a scale of 1/80,000 before returning
to the combat areas. Upon return to the combat area the PATHFINDER
surveys proceeded very efficiently and seven charts were published
in a period of one month.
"While charting the Russell Islands for Commander of Naval Activities,
Solomon Islands, orders were received from Commander Third Amphibious
Corps to chart Manning Strait (1,200 square miles,) Vovoke Cove
on Kolambangara, Hathorn Sound, and Rendova Harbor on New Georgia
Island. The surveys of the Russell Islands were for staging a great
Invasion Armada, while Manning Straits was useful in the naval battles.
"The PATHFINDER was escorted up the 'Slot' to the north end of
New Georgia Island which had been captured by the U.S. Marines in
the Battle of Munda, New Georgia. Lieutenant Schoene was in charge
of the survey party for the OCEANOGRAPHER during the invasion of
Munda. The ship [PATHFINDER] anchored in the middle of Hathorn Sound.
The officers and crew laid out a baseline and took astronomic sights
for a position. The whole survey was based on this hasty beginning
as there was no connection with any other place on New Georgia.
No dangers were found in the harbor but the ship was bombed frequently
by the Japs whose Coast Watchers saw the ship coming in and reported
it as a heavy cruiser. Probably the closest to a hit was obtained
on the PATHFINDER here, but it did not explode - a dud. The C.B.'s
were building an airfield and got the brunt of the bombing. The
ship went to General Quarters with each bombing.
"An officer was sent ashore to look for a Chaplain to hold services
on board. A Catholic was contacted who turned him down. Then a preacher
was invited out to the ship to hold services inasmuch as some thought
each night might be our last. The ship went to 'condition red' in
the middle of the service and all hands went to their stations.
The preacher tried twice more to hold services and each time it
was similarly interrupted. He stayed all night and the next morning
reported his watch missing! The Captain picked up his Bible and
it fell open at the right page - the 'watch' page. During the scrambling
when the alarm sounded the preacher had closed the Bible on his
"The C.B.'s worked day and night, and had to have lights on for
the night work. They turned off the lights when the first bomb dropped.
They remained dark for about 15 minutes and then the lights came
on. By that time the Jap bombers, turned around and heading for
their base at Kavieng, dropped more bombs which delayed the C.B.'s
another 15 minutes.
"One of our duties at Hathorn Sound was to find a place where a
tanker could be moored with easy access from the sea. While this
was being surveyed, Manning Strait was surveyed by a party on a
YMS with Lieutenant Jarman in charge. He had been watched closely
by a reconnaissance airplane and they had given the only code they
had at the moment, admittedly outdated. The plane signalled back,
'We know it is outdated!' but kept right on the contact.
"The Vovoke Cove, Kolambangara Island, was done in a matter of
hours by a wire drag to 30-feet swinging around an anchored end.
The cove was almost circular. The problem then was to get the ship
over to Rendova Harbor without going back around the long island
of New Georgia. We had not run into any mines in Kula Gulf although
we could have because the high speed destroyer that planted them
did so in the dark and didn't know exactly where they were. That
was during the Battle of Kula Gulf. The PATHFINDER was the first
ship in the Kula Gulf after the battle. We took the chance and navigated
the Blackett Strait between the islands, with a minesweeper proceeding
ahead of us. We made it around to the south side of New Georgia
in a portion of one day whereas the trip back the long way would
have taken taken about 3 days.
"The PATHFINDER anchored in Rendova Harbor with a sigh of relief.
That evening Lieutenant Woodcock and a crew of men were sent to
Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, on a destroyer which stopped
about a mile at sea for him and his men to come aboard. Two large
transports had gone aground on uncharted rocks in the unloading
"Heretofore all the Task Forces bombarding the Japanese and supporting
the Bougainville offensive had to return to Tulagi Harbor for logistics.
By mooring a tanker in Hathorn Sound the destroyers and cruisers
could refuel before and after engagements without the long run down
to Tulagi. They could run lower on fuel than before and could even
chase the Japs right up to their base at Kavieng as did '30 Knot
Burke making 31 knots.' During the Battle of Bougainville, our ability
to hang on was made possible by refueling destroyers and cruisers
"But my orders were in Rendova directing me to proceed to Guadalcanal
and report as Executive Officer to the OCEANOGRAPHER. It was with
sincere regret that I left the PATHFINDER - my home away from home
for the last eighteen months. By this time the PATHFINDER was a
smoothly functioning unit of the fleet and well-known and respected.
"Many personnel changes had been made in the past few months. Lt.
Comdr. James Baker had been detached in Tulagi to go home as his
wife had passed away and his young daughter was alone. Commander
Walls, Chief Engineer, had been detached and sent to new construction
from Espiritu Santo on our way to Sydney, Australia. That left the
PATHFINDER with one Engineer Officer, Lt. Comdr. Sam Davis, who
was eminently capable; and Lt. Comdr. Harry Mason, Executive Officer,
was ordered to the States about April 15th and I was promoted to
Executive Officer at that time. Upon our return from Australia,
Lt. Comdr. E.E. Stohsner was sent to new construction, so we lost
two Engineer Officers, 1 Executive Officer, and a Survey Officer
in a short period of time. The loss of Lt. Comdr. E.E. Stohsner
without replacement was especially critical. Commander Stohsner
was particularly trained in wire drag work and a long time friend.
That left the captain, Lt. Comdr. Walter Chovan, Lt. Hicks, Lt.
Jarman, and Lt. Woodcock as Survey Officer; and Naval Reserve Officers
Pickhan, Thompson, Glaze, McMurphy, Anderson (the gunnery officer,)
and Dondero (a recent acquisition.)
"Cdr. W.M. Gibson had navigated the PATHFINDER from Seattle to
San Francisco to Pearl Harbor, and Australia, and acted as Chief
Survey Officer for all the time and as Executive Officer the last
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
RECOLLECTIONS OF CAPTAIN JUNIUS T. JARMAN, USC&GS
WARTIME EXPERIENCES OF THE USS PATHFINDER
Junius T. Jarman was a career officer with the United States Coast
and Geodetic Survey. He served as a civilian Junior Cartographic Engineer
in that organization from July 1, 1927, until April 30, 1930, when
he transferred to the Commissioned Officer Corps of the Coast and
Geodetic Survey. Prior to WWII he served on numerous C&GS ships
and field parties. By Executive Order he was transferred to the Navy
on March 2, 1942. Following the war he was transferred back to the
C&GS and served until retirement in 1964.
"My first Naval assignment was the temporary command of the YP-96
which operated in Puget Sound. In April 1942 I took this vessel to
the Tacoma Shipyard where it was overhauled and outfitted with Sound
Detection Gear. In May 1942, I was ordered to the U.S.S. EUCALYPTUS,
a net tender as Executive Officer. The first project that came to
this vessel was a plan to lay a Magnetic Submarine Detector Loop across
the mouth of Resurrection Bay, Alaska. The design and logistics were
handled by a Naval Officer temporarily assigned by Navy Personnel.
The actual laying and location of the cable was my job. The work was
completed in 8 days.
"My ship was in Kodiak, Alaska, preparing to lay the same type
of loop across the entrance to Kodiak Harbor when I received 'Urdet'
orders to report to the Hydrographic Office in Washington, D.C.
for two weeks instruction; then to the U.S.S. PATHFINDER in Seattle,
Washington. The PATHFINDER was a new USC&GS ship just completed
by the Lake Washington Shipyard. It was transferred to the Navy
in mid-1942. This ship was scheduled to operate in the South Pacific
as a Survey and Charting vessel. The Navy installed various types
of reproduction gear such as cameras, wirlers, etc.; a hole had
to be cut into the side of the ship to install a Harris Offset press
because it was too large to pass through the ship's companionways.
"My first assignment aboard the PATHFINDER was Chart Compilation
Officer, and then successively Navigation Officer, First Lieutenant,
and lastly as Executive Officer. In addition to the usual shipboard
duties, I planned, directed and executed hydrographic and wire drag
surveys. The work included astronomic azimuths, astronomic positions
and all other survey phases common to combined operations. The data
so produced were processed immediately and compiled into nautical
charts. Generally the charts came off the press about 6 to 8 days
after completion of the field work. They were then available to
all Naval and Allied shipping operating in the area.
"I was selected by the Commanding Officer of the PATHFINDER to
be the Officer-in-Charge of Advance Survey Parties at Manning Straits,
Blanche Harbor (Treasury Islands,) and Green Islands. These areas
were at or near the front lines, and survey information was needed
to facilitate combat operations.
"The Manning Straits survey was requested by Admiral Halsey, Commander
of the Third Fleet, as a result of the Battle of Savo Island. Prior
to that battle, a U.S. reconnaissance plane had spotted an enemy
Naval Task Force and noted its position. From the data available,
Intelligence estimated it would take this force, travelling at flank
speed, until at least 8 AM the following morning to reach Guadalcanal.
The American Task Force composed of the QUINCY, ASTORIA, VINCENNES,
plus the Australian cruiser CANBERRA moved behind Savo Island and
anchored. All hands except those on duty turned in for a good night's
rest before the expected battle the following morning. The enemy
task force arrived about 2 AM instead of the predicted time of 8
AM. The Japanese force knew the exact location of the American ships
which meant there was a Japanese Coast Watcher on either Savo Island
or Florida Island. The enemy fleet rounded Savo Island, turned on
their search lights and blew the American ships out of the water
before they knew what hit them. The enemy fleet did not tarry. They
rounded Savo Island at high speed and returned in the direction
from which they came.
"Because the arrival of the enemy fleet was about 6 hours earlier
than expected, Intelligence figured the Japanese must know of an
uncharted short cut. An inspection of area charts revealed Manning
Strait, although unsurveyed, might possibly be the short cut from
Truk to Guadalcanal. This was the thinking which caused the request
for the survey.
"The survey party, operating from a YMS, surveyed and charted a
passage through Manning Strait, there-to-fore not known to exist
and which was used successfully by our ships. The usual survey methods
could not be used because Choiseul Island on one side of the strait
was enemy occupied, and Intelligence was unsure about enemy presence
on Santa Isabel to the east. Using ingenious methods, an accurate
survey was made of the Strait without having to land. The survey
of some 600 square miles was completed in 10 days and the resulting
chart was ready for distribution in 8 days.
"I expected some trouble from Japanese planes while making this
survey, but nothing developed. Our Marines were making a diversionary
attack on Japanese installations on Choiseul Island while the main
American force was taking Treasury Islands, and later, Bougainville;
also our Air Force controlled the air space which probably explains
why we saw no enemy planes.
"One afternoon we did spend an anxious 15 minutes because of our
own planes. A Navy PBY was spotted flying high and escorted by 6
P-38's. As was customary, we turned our search light on the P-38's
and gave the recognition signal. The P-38's immediately left their
escort positions and flew at high speed to the West where they had
the sun at their backs. They then started what appeared to be a
strafing run on our vessel. All the while we were frantically signaling
the recognition signal, but they kept coming. Finally in desperation
we turned our search light on the PBY. Almost immediately, the P-38's
broke ranks and returned to their escort duties. This type of situation
was not unusual in the early days of the War. The Army desperately
needed pilots and they were sending them into combat before they
had thoroughly mastered the Morse code. The P-38's had voice contact
with the PBY and the Navy pilot called off the strafing run as soon
as our recognition was received.
"I no sooner returned to the PATHFINDER from surveying Manning
Strait when I was detached once more in charge of the advance survey
group to proceed to Blanche Harbor, Treasury Islands, to survey
the Harbor there and its approaches. Our forces were in control
of the Harbor, but the area was not secured. Japanese Forces still
held Choiseul Island and Bougainville which made it too dangerous
for a large ship such as the PATHFINDER to make this survey. The
small group with me, operating from a very small APC attracted very
little attention. We did endure several night bombing raids with
very little resulting damage. This survey was completed and the
resulting chart was ready for distribution in 12 days.
"After returning to the PATHFINDER from Blanche Harbor, I managed
to remain aboard over Xmas, but I was detached on January 15, 1944
to lead an Advanced Survey Party composed of 4 Officers and 17 men.
This group proceeded to Guadalcanal from Noumea, New Caledonia.
Upon arrival, we were attached to Naval Advance Base Unit 11. This
was something new and the name was abbreviated thus: NABU-11. It
was a group of men and officers trained and organized to land with
combat trooops and immediately begin functioning as a Naval Base.
I learned my group was a part of the attack force scheduled to take
Green Islands, a small coral atoll about 50 miles north of Bougainville
and opposite New Ireland.
"The survey of Green Islands was requested because the Commander
of the Third Fleet desired fighter plane protection for the bombers
engaged with daily activity over Rabaul, Kavienge and Bougainville.
The distance from the Russel Islands and Guadalcanal was too far
for fighter escorts to remain over the target area for the duration
of a raid because they did not have the necessary fuel capacity
even with wing tanks. The planned runway on Green Islands was also
to furnish fighter support for a scheduled attack on the Japanese
Base at Kavienge. Meanwhile, MacArthur's success in by-passing strongly
held bases on New Guinea, plus the heavy casualties to be expected
from attacking a strong base such as Kavienge, negated that attack.
The decision to negate the Kavienge attack came after our forces
had taken Green Islands. The Green Island fighter base, however,
was directly responsible for reducing casualties during the bombing
raids on the three nearby Japanese bases.
"Not much was known about Green Islands at this time except vessels
entering the lagoon at Nissan Atoll used the South Passage with
a reported depth of 18 feet, coral bottom. It was suspected the
atoll was being used by the Japanese as a Barge Station in the supply
lines to Rabaul and Bougainville. Our Air Force activity prevented
enemy surface vessels from supplying the bases of Kavienge, Rabaul
and Bougainville. The only way the Japanese could safely supply
these bases was to use submarines or barges which operated only
at night. During daylight hours the barges were hid at convenient
'way' stations such as the one at Green Islands.
"The suspicion the enemy were using Green Islands as a barge station
was verified by the findings of a reconnaissance force composed
of Officers and technicians from NABU-11, Officers from a Seabee
Unit, several Officers from an LST squadron, several Air Force Officers,
and about 300 New Zealand combat troops. Two Officers and 5 men
from my advance survey party were a part of this force. The reconnaissance
force landed on the atoll at mid-night on January 31, 1944, (D-15
days,) and departed 24 hours later at mid-night. The entire force
lost only 5 men killed and about 10 wounded during the 24 hour stay.
It was estimated the enemy force stationed on the atoll was not
over 500 men, most of them belonging to a Japanese Naval Supply
Corps. My group investigated Middle and South Channels into the
lagoon for least depth, ran a few exploratory lines in an east-west
direction across the lagoon, and ran several sounding lines, north-south
direction, along the shoreline to assist in locating LST landing
sites. We also obtained 24 hours of tidal data to assist in estimating
the tidal stage on 'D' day.
"'D' day for assaulting Nissan Atoll was February 15, 1944. Our
forces met with very little resistance on 'D' day and the atoll
was secure within a week. The estimate of 500 enemy troops was pretty
accurate; we found between 400 and 500 Japanese on the atoll. They
were true Japanese in that not one of them surrendered, and all
"Pinapel Island, the next largest island in the Green Island group
was never searched thoroughly. It is possible some of the enemy
troops may have escaped to this island since it is separated from
Nissan Atoll by less than half a mile of water. My group spent one
day making a hydrographic survey of Pinapel Island Lagoon. This
island was not very important to the High Command in the Green Island
Caper. We did discover one side of the lagoon was shallow and offered
an excellent spot to beach a damaged or sinking vessel.
"My small group remained at Green Islands from 'D' day, February
15, 1944 to near the middle of March 1944. During this period, a
complete hydrographic survey was made of Nissan Atoll, all shoals
and channels were buoyed, two permanent tide stations were established,
and party members acted as Pilots in getting supply vessels through
South Channel. The commander of NABU-11 seemed to rely rather heavily
on my group for assistance in establishing the Naval Base. The base
demolition squad was turned over to me and I was told to use it
as I saw fit. I had this squad reduce all dangerous coral heads,
and pointed out high spots in the entrance channels that needed
reducing. Two members of NABU-11 were given instruction and training
in piloting supply vessels into Nissan Atoll through South Entrance
Channel. Another of the base unit was instructed in how to obtain
data from the tide staffs and interpret it.
"My party returned to the PATHFINDER on March 25, 1944. The ship
was at Noumea, New Caledonia. I learned the entire complement of
the PATHFINDER had enjoyed 10 days of rest and relaxation while
my party was struggling at Green Islands. I requested the same treatment
for my group and the ship's Commanding Officer turned me down which
I thought was most unfair.
"As a result of activities at Green Islands, I received a letter
of appreciation from the Commander of NABU-11 for the rapid survey
of Nissan and Pinapel Atolls plus the assistance rendered in establishing
the Naval Base. A letter of Commendation was also received for the
hydrographic and tidal data gathered on D-15 day, and used successfully
"The PATHFINDER surveyed Seadler Harbor, Admiralty Islands in the
spring and summer of 1944. This harbor was the main staging area
for the assault on the Philippines. Seadler Harbor is full of coral
heads which were located and buoyed. In August 1944, Lifu-Uvea Passage
was surveyed using the PATHFINDER as the sounding vessel. This extensive
passage was often used by ships heading for Noumea, New Caledonia
from Hawaii. Several new shoals were discovered, but none were a
danger to navigation. The survey was completed in less than three
weeks and the resulting chart became available in one week.
"In September 1944, the PATHFINDER received orders to return to
San Francisco for much needed repairs. Prior to the departure of
the ship from the South Pacific, the Commanding Officer reported
by letter to the various South Pacific Commanders on the ship's
activities for the two year period just ending.
"... Just before Xmas 1944, repairs and overhaul were complete
and the PATHFINDER departed San Francisco for the Central Pacific
with me as Executive Officer. The ship arrived at Guam late in January
and was assigned an anchorage in Guam Harbor. In about a week, an
assignment was received.
"Navigators on planes based at Saipan and making daily bombing
raids on Tokyo reported seeing discolored water about 300 miles
northwest of Guam. Almost immediately, orders were received to proceed
to the spot, investigate, and locate. We found the shoal to be rather
extensive in area, reasonably flat on top with a depth of 8 fathoms
over it. It was thought to be of volcanic origin. The weather was
inclement with very rough seas, and the Captain was having trouble
maintaining his position. Finally he moved over the shoal area and
anchored. Thereafter the PATHFINDER claimed the distinction of having
anchored closer to Tokyo than any other Navy ship. The spot was
named PATHFINDER shoal. A good location was obtained, using LORAN
'C', and astronomic sights with a dead reckoning position as a check.
"As a result of my survey work away from the PATHFINDER plus other
activities, I was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, and authorized
to wear the Combat 'V'...."
Oddly, Junius Jarman did not mention the Japanese bombing attack
of Tulagi on April 7, 1943, in the main body of his personal memoir.
However, in an Appendix he refers to a September 1961 Saturday
Evening Post article entitled "The Adventure That Made a President."
This article recounted the experiences of President John F. Kennedy
in the South Pacific during WWII. On April 7, 1943, then Lt. (j.g.)
Kennedy was a passenger on LST 449 on the last leg of a trip that
was destined to end with his taking command of a PT boat at Guadalcanal.
Both the PATHFINDER and LST 449 were attacked by Japanese dive-bombers.
The PATHFINDER shot down two Japanese planes. Jarman was in command
of the forward anti-aircraft guns on the PATHFINDER although he
took no credit for directing the kills. However, "During this raid,
I was on the PATHFINDER which was alongside the destroyer AARON
WARD, and just ahead of the LST 449. I happened to be looking back
at Kennedy's ship while four dive bombers were attacking it. There
were so many exploding bombs along with the resulting water spouts
that I could not see the LST." The AARON WARD was hit and put her
wounded over in small boats which the PATHFINDER picked up and cared
for overnight. In the Saturday Evening Post article, the
PATHFINDER is not named and is referred to as a minesweeper.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
COMMANDER ERNST E. STOHSNER, USC&GS
WARTIME EXPERIENCES OF THE USS PATHFINDER
At the beginning of WWII, Lieutenant Ernst E. Stohsner was serving
on the USC&GSS PIONEER with Bill Gibson and Lorin Woodcock. Following
the return of the PIONEER to the Navy, Lt. Stohsner was assigned to
duty with the Navy on March 16, 1942, and reported to the Commandant
of the Twelfth Naval District and was assigned to Treasure Island
and performed minor duties until June 11, 1942, when he was assigned
to the PATHFINDER which was still under construction. Lt. Stohsner
subsequently spent the next fifteen months with the PATHFINDER and
then was attached to the USS BOWDITCH for the duration of the war.
Following the war, he retired on a medical disability as a Commander,
USC&GS, in 1947 after eighteen years of service.
June 15, 1942 to August 31, 1942
"Assigned to the Supervisor Shipbuilding, Lake Washington Shipyards,
Houghton, Washington, for duty in connection with the conversion,
outfitting, and transfer of the USS PATHFINDER. The PATHFINDER was
placed in full commission August 31, 1942. During this period my
duties were quite varied but all connected with outfitting this
vessel. The Supply Officer did not report until about the commissioning
date. I was detailed to substitute for him in the obtaining and
transferring of supplies and equipment. This entailed the preparation
of 'allowance lists' prior to requisitioning and procuring. As the
greater part of the necessary supplies and equipment was being transferred
from the Coiast and Geodetic Survey, my knowledge of its inventory
methods aided greatly in converting from one accounting system to
August 31, 1942 to September 22, 1943
"On board USS PATHFINDER. The itinerary of the vessel during this
period follows: Upon commissioning, trial runs in Puget Sound, then
shakedown cruise to San Francisco, arriving end of September. After
several weeks additional conversion and repairs, sailed from the
States early in November. Arrived Funafuti Atoll, Ellice Islands,
early December, surveyed for, compiled, and printed anchorage charts
of this atoll. Arrived vicinity Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, about
February first, proceeded with surveys necessary to compile and
print anchorage charts of selected sheltered areas off Florida and
Guadalcanal Islands. End of April proceeded to New Hebrides Islands
and continued similar operations at a number of existing and proposed
anchorages in this group. I was detached from this vessel at Espiritu
Santo Island, New Hebrides, on September 22, 1943. During this last
period the vessel spent two weeks in August at Sydney, Australia,
for repairs of the ship and recreation of the personnel.
"My survey duties during this period included everything in combined
operations with a large amount of wire drag and baseline measurement.
Training Navy personnel for survey work was a major and laborious
task. There were six Coast and Geodetic officers on board during
this time and I was fifth in rank. The planning and direction of
the survey work was therefore mostly done by the senior survey officers
and I served as a field officer. The experience in small boats and
ashore under the conditions of war filled out my previous experience
in the Coast and Geodetic Survey and proved valuable on my next
assignment. [Assignment to the USS BOWDITCH in assignments ranging
from Assistant Horizontal Control Officer to Senior Survey Officer,
as well as Officer-in-Charge of two detached mobile hydrographic
units which accompanied amphibious operations at Kwajalein.]
"My ship's duties from the time of commissioning until about the
first of May were First Division Officer, and my battle station
was the two forward 20mm anti-aircraft guns. I had attended a six
day course at the Anti-Aircraft Training Center, Point Montara,
California, early in November which covered the operation of this
gun. About the first of May I assumed the duties of Navigator and
my battle station was then Officer of the Deck. Additional duties
were Watch Officer and Educational Officer.
"One of the many unforgettable experiences during this period was
a heavy enemy air attack one afternoon early in April. The ship
was doing hydrography between Florida and Guadalcanal Islands at
the time. I had the wire drag out and was on the thirty-foot guide
launch about two miles east of the ship. Our first knowledge of
the actual attack was a geyser of water next to the PATHFINDER caused
by the near-miss of a dive bomber. A number of planes pealed out
of the sun at the same time attacking craft in the vicinity of the
PATHFINDER. One of these escaped fire from the ships and came directly
towards us and commenced strafing. All personnel topside dove over
the side. The recorder, dragmaster, and myself were at the plotting
table below and did not have time to get out. Six machine gun slugs
hit the launch up forward within a few feet of us. The PATHFINDER
escaped damage although two bombs hit close aboard. She was given
credit for shooting down two dive bombers.
"At the end of May the officers and men of the PATHFINDER were
commended for their excellent performance of duty in forward areas
by the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet. Attention was called
to the excellent workmanship indicated in the charts produced on
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
RECOLLECTIONS OF HENRY V. OHEIM,
WARTIME EXPERIENCES OF THE USS PATHFINDER
The following account was written as an official report to the Director
of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey by Henry V. Oheim,
who in 1946 was a draftsman in the Baltimore Engineering Field Office
of the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Mr. Oheim had been a Naval Reserve
Officer assigned to the PATHFINDER in November, 1943, and remained
attached to the ship for the duration of the war. As such, he accompanied
the ship on its second wartime cruise and provided information concerning
its work in the latter stages of WWII and post-war work.
CRUISES OF THE SURVEY SHIP
November 7, 1943 to December 24, 1945
Lieutenant (j.g.) H. V. Oheim, USNR
FIRST CRUISE OF THE U.S.S. PATHFINDER
November 7, 1943 to October 21, 1944
"Bascom H. Thomas, Capt., USNR, Commanding
"Walter J. Chovan, Lieutenant Commander, U.S.C.& G.S.,
"On November 7, 1943, the PATHFINDER was engaged in surveying the
waters of Rendova Island, one of the islands of the New Georgia
Group. The survey of Rendova consisted of triangulation, hydrography,
wire drag, beacon building and setting buoys. While engaged in this
survey, an advance party left the ship for the Bougainville invasion
to make a survey of Empress Augusta Bay. This party was under the
direction of Lieutenant E. E. Anderson, U.S.N.R. and Lieutenant
(j.g.) Lorin Woodcock, U.S.C.& G.S. The survey of Rendova was
finished in the latter part of November, 1943 and the ship got underway
for the Russell Islands where she was to chart the waters of Sunlight
Channel, Renard Sound, and various other bays of this group of islands.
During this survey, a second advance party left the ship bound for
the Treasury Islands to survey Blanche Harbor. The party was under
the direction of Lieutenant Commander Junius T. Jarman, U.S.C.&
G.S., Lieutenant C.W. Pinkham, USNR, and Ensign H.V. Oheim, U.S.N.R.
This survey was run by an APC and an LCVP. The PATHFINDER remained
in the Russell Islands until after Christmas of 1943 and then got
underway for Noumea, New Caledonia. During January, 1944, the ship
widened the wire drag area through the eastern portion of Havanna
Passage that was originally done by the OCEANOGRAPHER. At this time
a third advance party left the ship bound for the Green Islands
under the direction of Lieutenant Commander Junius T. Jarman, U.S.C.&
G.S., Lieutenant (j.g.) Lorin Woodcock, U.S.C.&G.S., and Lieutenant
(j.g.) William B. Sears, U.S.N.R. Lieutenant Commander Jarman received
the Bronze Star medal for his participation in this Survey. After
finishing the wire drag of Havanna Passage, the ship received orders
to proceed to Sydney, Australia, for ten days recreation.
"After the recreation in Sydney, the PATHFINDER returned to New
Caledonia where she received orders for another advance party, this
one bound for Emirau in the St. Mathias Islands. This party was
under the direction of Lieutenant Commander Walter J. Chovan, U.S.C.&
G.S.; Lieutenant C.W. Pinkham, USNR; Ensign C. W. Crawford, USNR;
and Ensign Henry V. Oheim, USNR. While this party was away from
the ship, the PATHFINDER proceeded to the Admiralty Islands to run
a survey of Seeadler Harbor.
"Upon the completion of the Emirau survey, and the Admiralty Island
survey, the ship proceeded to Purvis Bay, Tulagi, for minor repairs
and then proceeded to Noumea, New Caledonia. Once more survey operations
were begun and parties were sent out to survey Woodin Passage from
Havanna Passage to Amedee Lighthouse. Several other minor surveys
were completed on the northwest coast of New Caledonia. At this
time, the ship heard rumors that its days in the South Pacific were
numbered. After the completion of the New Caledonia surveys, the
ship moved over into the Loyalty Islands and surveyed the passage
between Lifu Island and Uvea Atoll.
"The survey of the Loyalty Islands was completed in September 1944,
and the ship moved up into the New Hebrides Islands and surveyed
the passage between Maewo and Pentecost Islands. It was here that
the rumors heard at New Caledonia became reality and the ship received
orders to San Francisco for repairs. The ship weighed anchor on
October 1, 1944, for the United States and finally arrived in San
Francisco on October 21, 1944.
SECOND CRUISE OF THE U.S.S. PATHFINDER
December 18, 1944 to December 24, 1945
"Bascom H. Thomas, Captain, USNR, Commanding
"Junius T. Jarman, Commander, U. S. C. & G. S., Executive Officer
"The PATHFINDER began its second cruise on December 18, 1944,
when she sailed from San Francisco Bay bound for Pearl Harbor, Oahu,
T.H. After a rough but uneventful trip, the PATHFINDER put into
Pearl Harbor on December 26, 1944, to await her next survey assignment.
During this time, the war had moved north of the Solomons and New
Guinea and west of the Caroline, Marshall, and Marianas Islands,
so the PATHFINDER knew that her next important operation would be
in the Western Pacific. While at Pearl Harbor, Captain Bascom H.
Thomas was relieved of command by Lieutenant Commander Francis L.
DuBois, USNR. On January 20, 1945, the ship got underway for Guam
via Eniwetok. After a brief stay at Guam, during which Commander
Junius T. Jarman, U.S.C.& G.S., was relieved as Executive Officer
by Lieutenant Lacon H. Carlock, USNR, we received orders to find
and locate a shoal that lay somewhere northwest of Saipan. After
several days of searching, the Soundman reported that he had made
contact with the shoal on the sonar equipment. Within a few minutes,
bottom was sighted and the fathometer recorded a depth of forty-five
feet in mid-ocean. Engines were stopped and the anchor was let go.
While the ship rode at anchor that night, the shoal was accurately
located by celestial and Loran fixes. The next morning launches
were put over and soundings were taken, thereby locating and establishing
the depth of water over "PATHFINDER REEF".
"When the ship returned to Guam, she received orders to report
to the Command at Ulithi in the Caroline Islands for further assignment.
It was finally learned that the next job was to be Casiguran Bay
and Sound on the northeast coast of Luzon in the Philippines. This
area was still in the hands of the Japanese. The PATHFINDER sailed
from Ulithi to Casiguran Bay via Leyte, accompanied by an escort
vessel and two submarine chasers. On March 13, 1945, a landing party
was put ashore to scout the beaches. They had the element of surprise
and the Japs went back into the hills leaving behind their machine
guns and ammunition. The next day, survey operations were started
and the triangulation signals were erected. The concrete monuments
that were set up by the U.S.C.& G.S. on Motiong and Dilalongan
Points in 1929 were found and served as a base line for the triangulation
scheme. After the control had been established, hydrography and
wire drag was started. It was during the wire drag operations that
the submarine chasers were put into use for dragging the large area
of the Sound.
"The survey of Casiguran Bay went very smoothly and such conditions
made working a pleasure. One afternoon, one of the officers in charge
of triangulation reported seeing a Japanese twin-engine bomber,
know as a "Betty", at the lower end of the Sound. That night, the
ship was attacked by two Japanese dive bombers. The first of the
planes made a bombing run, dropping two bombs about thirty yards
off the port bow. The second plane came in from the bow to make
a strafing run, but by this time the ship was at general quarters
and the guns were manned. The starboard three-inch gun opened fire
on the plane placing two bursts under the belly of the Jap causing
him to pull out of his dive smoking, and he took off over the mountains.
About three nights after the bombing incident, the ship was fired
on from the beach by machine guns but the fire was not returned
and the ship moved anchorage under the cover of darkness. The survey
was completed by the first of April and the chart was printed by
the fifth, so the ship got underway for Leyte and then to Ulithi.
"After a three weeks rest, the PATHFINDER received orders to Okinawa
to made a survey of the western side of the island. The trip from
Ulithi to Okinawa was very uneventful and it was one of the few
times that the PATHFINDER was ever escorted. The ship anchored in
Hagushi anchorage on May 1st and on May 4th moved up into Nago Wan
to begin a survey of Toguchi. On May 6th as the ship was coming
to anchor in the lee of Sesoko Island, two Kamikaze planes roared
out of the sky. The first plane crashed in the port side of the
20 mm. gun platform causing little damage to the ship but killing
one man. The ship immediately went to general quarters and the three
inch battery drove off the second plane which went over Ie Shima
and crashed an LST. For the next thirty days, the gunnery activity
of the PATHFINDER at night far exceeded the survey activity during
the day and the ship went to general quarters nearly one hundred
times during this period. It was soon decided that the ship would
be safer under the protection of the anti-aircraft batteries of
Hagushi anchorage so a party was established on the beach of Nago
Wan to run the survey from there.
"After several months of continuous survey, rumors were heard that
Japan was suing for peace. On August 10, 1945, this rumor became
a reality, ending the war in the Pacific. These orders were to proceed
to Yokosuka Naval Base in Tokyo Bay which was the last leg of a
long journey in the Pacific. The PATHFINDER sailed from Hagushi,
Okinawa on October 11, 1945, and arrived at Yokosuka on October
14, 1945. After running several minor surveys in the Tokyo Bay area,
the last of which was to sound the channel from Tokyo Bay to the
docks of Tokyo proper, the ship received orders to return to Seattle,
Washington for decommissioning and to be returned to the Coast and
Geodetic Survey. On December 5, 1945, the PATHFINDER sailed from
Tokyo Bay bound for Seattle, Washington, to be honorably discharged
from the United States Navy.
April 4, 1946
Henry V. Oheim, Lieut.(j.g.)USNR
Engineering Draftsman, SP-6
Baltimore Field Office
Coast and Geodetic Survey
Respectfully forwarded to The Director - April 5, 1946
Commander Fred. L. Peacock, C&GS
Officer in Charge
Baltimore Field Office
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
ORDINARY SEAMAN ROBERT LINCOLN
SERVICE ON THE USC&GSS PATHFINDER IN 1967
Mr. Roger Lincoln of Wasilla, Alaska, served on the USC&GSS PATHFINDER
during the summer of 1967 as a young man just out of high school.
His account details his experience as an ordinary seaman on the PATHFINDER
and his perspective on the work of the ship. His view of life on the
PATHFINDER during an Alaska field season would probably be shared
by the majority of those who served in the deck department of the
PATHFINDER for the duration of its post-war career as a survey vessel.
"During the summer of 1967 I took a job with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic
Survey. I needed a job for the summer until I was to go into the Marines
in October. I went to Anchorage and applied for any job I could get
for the summer with the civil service. Just as I got home I received
a call offering me a job as an ordinary seaman on the OSS PATHFINDER,
an oceanographic research ship, based in Kodiak. Later I found the
ship was affectionately known as the 'PIGFINDER.' I accepted the offer
of employment, flew to Kodiak the next day, and reported aboard the
ship. I was accompanied by five other new hires.
"As it was late in the evening the quartermaster gave us some blankets
and told us to find an empty bunk, known as a 'rack,' and get some
sleep until morning. About one in the morning I was suddenly awakened.
There was loud singing and shouting. Then there was the sound of
bodies bouncing off the bulkheads. It seems the crew was coming
back from a night in the town of Kodiak. They were for the most
part quite drunk. They introduced themselves to me and told me to
get a good night's sleep. Right!!
"The job was very physical in nature. The ship was recharting the
shoreline and ocean bottom off of Shelikof Strait, Kodiak and the
Aleutian Islands to update the charts due to the changes after the
"Much of my job was loading and unloading equipment from the ship
to small boats for the scientists and surveyors. The rest of the
time was spent scrubbing decks and general ship maintenance.
"Most of the maintenance was chipping paint. Chipping paint seems
to be an ancient time consuming tradition of the sea. It's primary
purpose apparently is to keep sailors busy so they don't get bored.
First the paint is chipped away from any rust spots with a chipping
hammer and a wire brush. After that a coat of red colored rust inhibitor
known as 'red death' is applied. After that a coat of green called
'green death' is applied. After they are dry a coat of paint is
applied to match the color scheme of the vessel. As there seemed
to be an endless supply of paint it did no good to try to use it
"Many times I went ashore to work as a porter for the scientific
crews. After the equipment was set up we could go beach combing.
We found hundreds of glass Japanese fishing floats. Sometimes we
found Russian ones. They were made of iron. I still have a few of
"The bos'n was an old sailor named 'Chief Scott'. He was a kindly
old man and took a liking to those of us that worked hard and tried.
When weather was too bad to be above decks he would take us below
and give us practical seamanship lessons. He taught to tie knots
and to handle small boats. Of course he told us old sea stories.
We liked him and he liked us. It is unbelievable how many kinds
of knots he knew. After he accepted us it was OK to call him 'Scottie.'
"Another old bos'n told us how he was on a freighter in Manila
in the 1930's. He told us of tying up next to a small ship and looking
at it with disdain. He commented that he hoped he would never be
found working on a ship like that. It was the PATHFINDER. [The PATHFINDER
that Mr. Lincoln served on was not launched until 1942. The PATHFINDER
referred to was the old PATHFINDER which served in the Philippine
Islands for forty years before being lost due to hostile action
"After a few weeks I was assigned as helmsman. This meant I was
to steer the ship. It was interesting because I was on the bridge
with the captain and other officers. I usually knew what was happening.
It takes some practice to learn to steer without wandering all over
the ocean. Once in the middle of the night I turned hard right to
avoid a large log floating dead ahead. Of course the ship heeled
over to starboard. Many of the crew were thrown out of their racks
and onto the deck. They expressed their extreme displeasure to me
the next morning. I then learned that it is best to go ahead and
ram a floating log rather than face the wrath of sailors who have
had their sleep disturbed.
"We hit a few storms off the Aleutians. The ship would roll way
over on its side and take green water over the bow. sometimes the
water would come over the flying bridge. The flying bridge is the
open bridge one deck above the command bridge. During extreme weather
everyone was required to stay inside. No one was allowed on deck
for fear of being swept overboard. Often times most of the crew
would be seasick. I only got seasick a little bit. Now I seem to
get seasick all the time.
"Sometimes the North Pacific was calm as a lake. It was very beautiful.
For a few days in the month of August the earth passed through a
meteor shower. At night from the flying bridge we could watch hundreds
of meteors burning through the sky. I've never seen anything like
"Once a sailor fell overboard. The ship was stopped and we were
preparing to lower a skiff to take some supplies ashore. As he stepped
into the skiff the ship rolled and he fell into the water. The water
was about 34 degrees. He was paralyzed by the cold. He couldn't
call for help and he couldn't swim because of the cold shock. Fortunately
he was wearing a life jacket. He was pulled out of the water in
a short time and other than being cold he was OK. To this day I
believe in wearing a life jacket when I am around the water.
"The ship was tied up to the pier with a big 4 inch rope called
a hawser. The rope is too big to throw ashore so it must be pulled
ashore with a smaller rope called a heaving line. At the end of
the heaving line is a baseball sized knot called a monkey fist.
It is wrapped around a steel weight so it can be thrown ashore to
someone on the dock. The ship is then winched in by capstans mounted
on the deck. One sailor insisted on his right to throw the heaving
line ashore. He threw the monkey fist with all his strength. Unfortunately
he forgot about the motor launch just over his head. The monkey
fist hit the keel, bounced back, and knocked the sailor unconscious.
He never heard the end of it.
"It was interesting to visit some of the normally inaccessible
places ashore. One place was Karluk and its old Orthodox Church.
One of the older native women gave us a tour of the church. She
explained everything and told how the icons had been brought to
Alaska from old Russia. It was like stepping several hundred years
back in time. We visited old abandoned canneries. We went ashore
on Augustine Island and visited the volcano. I have been on the
Barren Islands and the Shumagin Islands.
"Often we saw seals and whales. We could feed the seals hot dogs
from small boats. The whales were impressive. Killer whales used
to come out of the water alongside our boats. The whales were longer
than our 16 foot boat. We were assured by the biologists that no
one had ever been known to have been attacked by a killer whale.
The usual retort was, "If someone has been attacked, who would know
"We had fun with seagulls. They were everywhere. We used to take
two pieces of meat and tie them together with about three feet of
string. It was fun to watch the gulls fight over it. Another trick
was to pour tabasco sauce over a piece of meat and throw it to the
gulls. The gulls would squawk and beat their wings against the water
as they tried to drink.
"Sometimes we anchored at night in a secluded cove that was protected
from the wind. We dropped crab pots over the stern and in the morning
had fresh crab for breakfast.
"The cooks were Filipinos. All meals had rice and pineapple served
somewhere. I got so sick of rice and pineapple I swore I would never
eat them again. Even today when I eat rice and pineapple I remember
"Once I was on a small boat that got lost in the fog. We were charting
the ocean bottom. A sudden fog bank rolled in and we were not able
to see. We radioed the PATHFINDER and asked them if they could pick
us up on radar. They couldn't. They sounded the ships horn. We couldn't
hear. We began to worry. Being run down by a passing freighter was
a possibility. Another possibility was running on the rocks along
the coastline. After several hours the fog suddenly lifted and we
found we had drifted within a few hundred yards of the ship. It
felt really good to see it sitting there right in front of us.
"At the end of the summer I left the ship in Homer and returned
to Wasilla. The summer of 1967 was one of the most interesting I
have ever had."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
In July of 1971, I transferred my commission as a Lieutenant in the
Navy to NOAA Corps. Because I had spent over five years in the Navy,
I was allowed to leave the NOAA Corps training class early and report
to my first NOAA Ship, the PATHFINDER.
REAR ADMIRAL WILLIAM L. STUBBLEFIELD, NOAA
DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NOAA CORPS OPERATIONS
THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE NOAA SHIP PATHFINDER
Getting to the PATHFINDER was quite an experience in itself as
I had to fly to Homer, Alaska, via Seattle and Anchorage. Landing
in Homer in mid-August, I was greeted by a fine Alaska summer day
as I stepped down the ladder from the small plane. Commander Sid
Miller, executive officer of the PATHFINDER and Lt.(j.g.) Bob Roush
were there to pick me up and drive me to the ship. We passed the
Salty Dawg Saloon, a well-known Homer landmark, and were soon at
the ship. Within a short time the PATHFINDER got underway for its
working grounds on the west side of Cook Inlet in the Kamishak Bay
Upon arrival in the working grounds, I was assigned to the survey
launch of Officer-in-Charge, Lieutenant Don Nortrup. At eight o'clock
in the morning, amidst much hustle and bustle, the survey boats
were put over; and I commenced my first real day's work in NOAA.
We set out to work in one of the old wooden survey launches for
Outer Bruin Bay. As the tide was predicted to be favorable for running
shoreline, Lt. Nortrup headed for the shore. Within half an hour,
Lt. Nortrup taught me that one of the primary jobs of a NOAA survey
launch is to find rocks such that unsuspecting mariners do not find
them with disastrous consequences. The way that he taught me this
lesson was to have the survey launch run aground on a rock during
an ebbing tide (contrary to predictions.) As a consequence, I spent
my first day of hydrography hung up on the same rock that we had
just discovered. However, we did have plenty of time to get the
position of that rock. In the late afternoon the tide had risen
sufficiently for us to be pulled off the rock. Captain Herb Lippold,
commanding officer of the PATHFINDER, took the ship as close as
he safely could to our boat, then took a ship's boat and carried
a line to us from the ship. While passing the line to us, he passed
on the sad news that the PATHFINDER had been ordered back to Seattle
to be laid up and our survey season was ending. He returned to the
ship and commenced pulling us off the rock.
After a day or so of removing tide gauges, visual signals, and
electronic navigation shore stations, the ship got underway and
laid a course from Cook Inlet to Cape Spencer and the Inside Passage.
The PATHFINDER's reputation as a lucky ship proved unfounded when
crossing the Gulf of Alaska as we had an extremely rough transit.
As Captain Lippold said concerning that stretch of ocean, " I never
had a smooth crossing of the Gulf"; and even the PATHFINDER, on
what was to be her final homecoming, could not beat the odds. After
about two days of pitching, rolling, and yawing the ship entered
the calm waters of Cross Sound and proceeded down the Inside Passage.
As I was new to the ship and stood watch only as an observer, I
was able to enjoy much of the magnificent scenery of the Inside
Passage on the way south to Seattle. However, having spent over
five years in the Navy prior to entering NOAA Corps, I was able
to recognize and admire excellent seamanship. Early one morning,
while still dark and transiting the north side of Vancouver Island,
Captain Lippold came to the bridge. Within a few minutes of his
arrival on the bridge, the helmsman began having difficulty steering.
Captain Lippold calmly took the conn and ordered "Hard Left" and
we proceeded to crab through Race Passage in the dark, an area notorious
for its strong currents. After passing the dangerous area, the captain
returned the conn to the officer-of-the-deck and retired for the
remainder of the night without saying another word. A few hours
later we passed through Seymour Narrows, another area of difficult
tides and currents.
The next day, we were at Seattle and beginning the transit of the
Lake Washington Ship Canal on the final leg of the PATHFINDER's
trip home to the Pacific Marine Center on Lake Union. We called
the operator of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks from Shilshole Bay,
and we were assured that the constricted passage leading to the
locks was clear. We proceeded into the canal; and, just before the
Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge, we saw a large Coast Guard
cutter coming out. Without missing a heartbeat, Captain Lippold
once again took the conn and ordered "Full astern" followed by "Full
ahead. Hard left." The PATHFINDER was a single screw steamship with
manual engine room controls so Chief Engineer Ray Schmitz and his
"snipes" were earning their pay as a succession of "Full astern"
and "Full ahead" commands were given. The ship was spun around in
an area having only a ship length or two distance across to maneuver
within. Captain Lippold went to the left to be able to gauge the
location of the bow relative to a bridge pier. He didn't go to the
right, which was the more natural direction with a single-screw
vessel, because there was a shoal area on the south side of the
channel which was difficult to judge one's distance from. I was
on the bow of the PATHFINDER during this remarkable ship-handling
display listening to the orders and hearing the jingle of the engine
order telegraph. After getting turned about, we headed back to Shilshole
Bay and returned to the canal after the Coast Guard vessel had cleared.
Within an hour we were tied up at Pacific Marine Center. Needless
to say, I was extremely impressed with the shiphandling skills of
my "new" colleagues. Captain Lippold, who had sailed on the PATHFINDER
as a brand-new ensign in 1951, brought her home to stay.
Never again did the PATHFINDER sail on a charting mission. The sturdy
survey vessel that had served for 30 years in war and peace was
deactivated on September 10, 1971. The ship was stripped of all
usable equipment over the next few months and then purchased by
General Auto Wrecking of Ballard, Washington. Not all of the PATHFINDER
was scrapped in 1972 as the house was removed and was serving as
an office on a pier on the Duwamish River in 1979. Perhaps that
small part of the PATHFINDER is still there filled with memories
of the South Pacific and a quarter century of work charting the
waterways of Alaska.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
NOAA CORPS HISTORY
WARTIME EXPERIENCES OF THE USS PATHFINDER
The following account of the wartime experiences of the USS PATHFINDER
has been compiled by the Office of NOAA Corps Operations of the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This account has been excerpted
from a larger effort directed towards chronicling the history of the
NOAA Corps and its predecessor organizations which include the Commissioned
Corps of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Coast and Geodetic Survey,
the Coast Survey, and the Survey of the Coast dating back to 1807.
FIGHTING WITH A SEXTANT
No half-breeds the hydrographers and chartmakers of the Southwest
and West Pacific. Because the war in the Pacific occurred in such
poorly charted waters, it readily became apparent to the Navy that
it would require the services of a cadre of hydrographers to rapidly
survey areas of tactical and strategic interest. Officers of the Coast
and Geodetic Survey provided the nucleus of that cadre and compiled
an enviable record of accomplishments from the Solomons to the Aleutians.
The ships they served on included the venerable HYDROGRAPHER and OCEANOGRAPHER,
the brand new PATHFINDER, the BOWDITCH, and even the ROCKY MOUNT,
Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner's amphibious command ship. Of the
survey ships, the most illustrious of all was the PATHFINDER of which
it was said, "The road to Tokyo was paved with PATHFINDER charts."
The men who served on these ships literally fought the war with
sextants, shooting millions of horizontal angles for three-point
fixes while operating fathometers or heaving the lead. Anchorages
were wire-dragged, invasion beaches surveyed before the U. S. Marines
or Army landed, tide information determined and provided to amphibious
planners, tactical operating areas delineated, passages blasted
through coral reefs, and charts printed and distributed to fleet
units either in anticipation of amphibious operations or to expedite
the establishment of supply and refitting bases. This work was not
without its hazards as the PATHFINDER alone was subjected to over
50 enemy bombing raids, shot down 2 Japanese torpedo bombers, and
was crashed by a kamikaze at Okinawa. Numerous clandestine operations
were carried out from these vessels as well as from smaller craft
attached to the hydrographic units.
The PATHFINDER was in a Lake Washington, Seattle shipyard under construction
as the sister ship to the USC&GSS EXPLORER at the outbreak of
WWII. She was launched in 1942 with a champagne bottle broken across
the bow by Eleanor Roosevelt Boettiger, the 14-year-old granddaughter
of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Navy immediately took
her over, designated her AGS1, fit her out with anti-aircraft guns,
depth charges, and a Navy crew and sent her out to Funafuti, Ellice
Islands, to survey the harbor and help clear obstructions as this
base was used as a staging area during the Guadalcanal-Solomon Islands
campaign. When the PATHFINDER first sailed, the captain was Captain
B. H. Thomas, USNR, while many of the other officers were on loan
to the Navy from the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Bill Gibson was Navigator/Operations
Office; Junius "Jerry" Jarman was data processing and chart production
officer; and numerous junior officers acquired survey data and were
boat OIC's. These included Ernie Stohsner, C. "Lon" Schoene, Walter
Chovan, and Edgar Hicks among others.
Following the Funafuti survey, the ship moved down to Noumea, New
Caledonia. While there Ernie Stohsner was strolling through Noumea
and ran into his friend Lorin Woodcock directing a group of SeaBees
constructing a brig. This wasn't a very productive way for a C&GS
hydrographer to be spending his time so, as Schoene was being transferred
to the OCEANOGRAPHER, permission was asked for Woodcock to join
the PATHFINDER. Permission was granted and Woodcock joined the ship
for the next 2 years. On February 2 the PATHFINDER sailed as an
escort vessel for a group of transports bound for Guadalcanal to
resupply Marine and Army units engaged there. After delivering the
convoy, the ship proceeded to Tulagi Harbor and commenced surveying
operations. According to Woodcock, the survey "was accomplished
very expeditiously under the most trying conditions. The field parties
spent as much as 11 hours a day in the field, and spent the nights
alternating between working on boat sheets and survey records, and
manning battle stations while from one to a half dozen Jap bombers
droned about overhead, spattering bombs here and there, sometimes
Having finished Tulagi, the next job entailed inshore hydrography
off the coast of Guadalcanal from Point Cruz to Berande Point. At
this time all supplies were landed on Guadalcanal by lighter, and
the purpose of the survey was to determine anchorage areas as close
inshore as possible to expedite unloading operations. While conducting
this survey, the PATHFINDER had perhaps her finest hour. On April
7, 1943, no fewer than 187 Japanese planes attacked Tulagi Harbor.
During this action, the PATHFINDER shot down two enemy dive bombers,
assisted with two others, and sustained two near misses which necessitated
minor repairs to the ship's rudder. Bill Gibson "was at the bridge
conn during the action keeping the ship on figure eight courses
at flank speed, and specifying targets to the bridge gun crews as
the rapidly swinging ship brought them into the various gun sectors."
On one occasion the ship was in a hard right turn and a bomb fell
close aboard to port right where the ship would have been had it
remained on a straight course.
During this action, much of the ship's complement was out in survey
launches either wire dragging or conducting sounding lines. Ernie
Stohsner described his experience:
"The ship was out doing hydrography between Florida and Guadalcanal
Islands at the time. I had the wire drag out and was on the 30-foot
guide launch about two miles east of the ship. Our first knowledge
of the actual attack was a geyser of water next to the PATHFINDER
caused by the near-miss of a dive bomber. A number of planes pealed
out of the sun at the same time attacking aircraft in the vicinity
of the PATHFINDER. One of these escaped fire from the ships and
came directly towards us and commenced strafing. All personnel topside
dove over the side. The recorder, dragmaster, and myself were at
the plotting table below and did not have time to get out. Six machine
gun slugs hit the launch up forward within a few feet of us...."
The PATHFINDER and its crew were not done for the day. Following
the attack, the PATHFINDER maneuvered to assist the stricken destroyer
AARON WARD which was doomed to soon sink. In describing the role
of the PATHFINDER, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief
of the Pacific Fleet, stated as follows:
"The performance of PATHFINDER on 7 April is noteworthy. Preceding
the attack this vessel was conducting survey operations off Berande
Point, Guadalcanal. Despite warning of approaching planes and the
departure of most of our large ships from the area, her personnel
continued hydrography until enemy planes were near. Leaving her
ship boats with one quarter of the crew at their assigned survey
duties, the commanding officer then went to maximum speed and maneuvered
close aboard AARON WARD. Two planes dived on her and were shot down.
Her boats brought off wounded from AARON WARD who were cared for
on board during the night. Early next morning these men were disembarked
for hospitalization and at 0700, 8 April local time 'the ship resumed
its survey operations.' It is a pleasure to report on the efficient
and business like conduct of duty under fire of this USC&GS
ship operating under my command."
During this attack, Lorin Woodcock was out on a survey launch and
observed two planes collide overhead. Two parachutes wafted down
and Woodcock directed his launch to the closest chute. Fortunately
for him, LST 449 beat him to the downed pilot who was Japanese and
commenced shooting at his would be captors. As Woodcock and his
crew had neglected to carry their standard issue weapons with them,
they would have been in quite a pickle if they had pulled that pilot
out of the water. As Captain Woodcock said during an interview,
"I fought the war with a sextant. I sure was lucky that time." As
a footnote to history, President-to-be John F. Kennedy was a junior
officer on LST 449. Jerry Jarman was in charge of the forward anti-aircraft
guns on the PATHFINDER as it pulled up to the AARON WARD and recalled
"looking back at Kennedy's ship while four dive bombers were attacking
it. There were so many exploding bombs along with the resulting
water spouts that I could not see the LST."
The PATHFINDER, as well as being a combat survey ship, made many
innovations and markedly increased the efficiency of chart production
and chart distribution in the forward areas. Prior to sailing from
the U.S., the Navy outfitted the PATHFINDER with printing press,
photographic equipment, and all equipment necessary for printing
charts in the field. The compilation and publishing of charts aboard
ship was never done prior to WWII. A major obstacle to accomplishing
this was that no one on board had ever worked in a printing plant.
Through the efforts of Jerry Jarman, who read every available textbook
on cartography and printing, the PATHFINDER became the first vessel
to ever publish Hydrographic Office charts for distribution to fleet
units. This bypassed the time-consuming step of sending the data
back to the United States for verification, compilation, and final
Jarman, as well as devising the system that ended up producing
charts, was also a field hydrographer and went on numerous clandestine
operations in enemy-held waters including Manning Straits, Blanche
Harbor in the Treasury Islands, and Green Islands. He provided insight
into the requirements for combat tactical hydrographic surveys in
a discussion of the Manning Straits survey. This survey was conducted
as a direct result of the United States' naval defeat at the Battle
of Savo Island. According to Jarman, "Prior to that battle, a U.S.
reconnaissance plane had spotted an enemy Naval Task Force and noted
its position. From the data available, Intelligence estimated it
would take this force, travelling at flank speed, until at least
8 AM the following morning to reach Guadalcanal." The Japanese arrived
instead at 2 AM and decimated a sleepy American Task Force behind
Savo Island and then withdrew. "Because the arrival of the enemy
fleet was about six hours earlier than expected, Intelligence figured
the Japanese must know of an uncharted shortcut. An inspection of
area charts revealed Manning Strait, although unsurveyed, might
possibly be the shortcut from Truk to Guadalcanal." This thinking
caused Admiral "Bull" Halsey to request the survey which resulted
in finding an unknown (to the Americans) passage through Manning
Strait which was used successfully by American vessels.
In the Green Islands operation, Junius Jarman was attached to Naval
Advance Base Unit 11, a unit trained and organized to land with
combat troops and immediately begin functioning as a naval base.
Jarman's job was to lead an Advance Survey Party of four officers
and seventeen men. A reconnaissance force of approximately 400 men
including two officers and five men from Jarman's survey party landed
on Nissan Atoll on January 31, 1944, (D-15) at midnight and "departed
twenty-four hours later.... The entire force lost only five men
killed and about ten wounded during the twenty-four hour stay....
My group investigated Middle and South Channels into the lagoon
for least depth, ran a few exploratory lines in an east-west direction
across the lagoon, and ran several sounding lines , north-south
direction, along the shoreline to assist in locating LST landing
sites. We also obtained 24 hours of tidal data to assist in estimating
the tidal stage on D day.
"D day for assaulting Nissan Atoll was February 15, 1944. Our forces
met with very little resistance on D day and the atoll was secure
within a week.... we found between 400 and 500 Japanese on the Atoll.
They were true Japanese in that not one of them surrendered, and
all were killed.... My small group remained at Green Islands from
D day to near the middle of March, 1944. During this period, a complete
hydrographic survey was made of Nissan Atoll, all shoals and channels
were buoyed, two permanent tide stations were established, and party
members acted as Pilots in getting supply vessels through South
Channel.... The base demolition squad was turned over to me and
I was told to use it as I saw fit. I had this squad reduce all dangerous
coral heads, and pointed out high spots in the entrance channels
that needed reducing."
The PATHFINDER continued on its illustrious career. Its largest
single job was of Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralty Islands. The
ship accomplished this work in the spring and summer of 1944. This
particular survey was for a very large base which became the staging
area for the invasion of the Philippines. In October 1944 the PATHFINDER
returned to the United States for repairs. On its first wartime
cruise, this ship developed the methodology for forward area chart
production for immediate distribution to fleet operating units,
completed 20 major survey projects, compiled 41 H.O. Field Charts,
and published 62,077 copies for distribution. The ship completed
another 10 miscellaneous projects and published approximately 20,000
copies of the resulting charts. The hydrographers of the PATHFINDER
had expanded tactical fleet operating areas, developed port areas
for major staging bases, and established safe channels through the
myriad islands of the southwest Pacific, The value of this work
to United States naval operations during the PATHFINDER's first
cruise was recognized by Admiral Chester Nimitz as follows:
"The officers and men of the PATHFINDER are commended for their
excellent performance of survey duty in forward areas. It is especially
noted that PATHFINDER charts indicate accuracy of information and
Admiral William F."Bull" Halsey also commended the ship as follows:
"The charts produced on board the PATHFINDER indicate excellent
workmanship. The men and officers are to be commended on their precision
work carried on in a forward area over a considerable length of
time. Their efforts have been most helpful to ships required to
operate in waters previously so inadequately charted."
Perhaps the most fitting tribute for this cruise was stated by
the ship's commanding officer, Captain Bascom H. Thomas, who upon
concluding his report of activities of the ship from first arriving
in the South Pacific to September 22, 1944, wrote : "U.S.S. PATHFINDER
arrived in the South Pacific a new ship with an untrained crew.
No one aboard except the six U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Officers
had ever had any experience in hydrographic surveying and they had
none in planning and laying out of surveys, chart compilation and
publication, or the establishing of aids to navigation such as beacons
and buoys. The Commanding Officer was the only officer who had any
experience in Navy organization, operations and procedure other
than short training courses. A majority of the crew had never been
to sea. There have been few breaches of discipline and none of a
serious nature. All hands have worked diligently and faithfully
to establish the PATHFINDER's unequalled record. They merit the
utmost credit for the results."
The PATHFINDER left shipyard in San Francisco and returned to the
western Pacific on December 18, 1944, under the command of Commander
Francis L. Dubois, USNR. Jerry Jarman was now executive officer
and the only C&GS officer on board although he was detached
upon arrival at Guam. The Coast and Geodetic Survey connection continued
though, as Ensign Henry V. Oheim, USNR, of the Baltimore Field Office
and Lieutenant Commander Samuel N. Davis, USNR, the chief engineer
and engineer on C&GS ships since 1919 remained with the ship
for the duration of the war.
The ship arrived at Guam in late January 1945 and then proceeded
to an area reported as discolored water about 350 miles north of
Guam. Here, in the course of surveying what even to this day is
named Pathfinder Reef, the PATHFINDER gained the distinction of
being the American vessel that anchored the closest to Japan since
the beginning of hostilities. In late March, the PATHFINDER was
sent to the east coast of Luzon, Philippine Islands, and helped
liberate the village of Casiguran. On March 13, 1945, a landing
party was put ashore from the PATHFINDER which surprised the Japanese
who deserted their machine gun emplacements and fled into the surrounding
hills. On March 28th the ship was bombed by two Japanese dive bombers;
but, once again, its luck held out. The first plane dropped two
bombs about 30 yards off the port bow. By this time the ship was
at general quarters and the starboard 3-inch gun hit the second
plane causing it to pull out of its dive smoking. The plane was
last seen proceeding over the mountains to the west.
Finishing the Luzon job, the ship sailed to Ulithi anchorage where
it stayed for 3 weeks prior to departing for Okinawa. On May 1 she
sailed into Hagushi Anchorage, Okinawa. May 6 the PATHFINDER's luck
was sorely tested at Suicide Slot, Sesoko; the ship was attacked
by two kamikaze planes. The first managed to crash the after port
40-mm gun platform, killing one crewman. Fortunately, the 500-pound
bomb the plane was carrying did not detonate or,in all probability,
the ship would have been sunk with much greater loss of life. The
ship fought off the second kamikaze which veered off and crashed
into an LST at Ie Shima. From her arrival at Okinawa until cessation
of hostilities, the PATHFINDER went to general quarters 170 times;
those sent ashore for work at Nago Wan endured foxhole watches,
sniper fire, and mortar bombardment. As Henry Oheim wrote of this
period, "... the gunnery activity of the PATHFINDER at night far
exceeded the survey activity during the day...." But not one more
PATHFINDER crewman was scratched. On August 10, with hints of peace
coming to the great fleet at Hagushi Anchorage, a great barrage
of firepower was unleashed in celebration which the PATHFINDER was
there to witness. The end had come at last. In spite of surviving
over 50 bombing attacks, being declared sunk at least six times
by Tokyo Rose, and having surveyed many western Pacific islands,
anchorages, passages, and operating areas in advance of the fleet,
the PATHFINDER was there for the victory.
October 13, 1945, found the PATHFINDER at Yokosuka Naval Base in
Tokyo Bay. The ship wound up its Navy career conducting a series
of surveys in the Tokyo Bay area. She left Japan on December 5,
1945, and arrived in Seattle, Washington, on December 24. On January
31, 1946, she was decommissioned and thence returned to commission
as the Coast and Geodetic Survey Ship PATHFINDER on August 22, 1946.
She served as a survey ship in Alaskan, Hawaiian, and Pacific Coast
waters for the next 25 years, and was deactivated in December 1971.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
NAVY HISTORY OF USS PATHFINDER (AGS-1)
The following is a history of the WWII experiences of the USS PATHFINDER
which was compiled by the Office of Naval Records and History, Ships'
History Branch, Navy Department. The original document was dated 11-20-47
with a revision of 7 June 1950.
A sea-going arm of the U.S. Navy's Hydrographic Office, the survey
ship PATHFINDER spent the war years in paving the way for amphibious
invasion. With a team of skilled geographers operating her valuable
equipment, she charted and calculated all the way from the early,
dark days in the Solomons to the dark hours before the dawn at Okinawa.
PATHFINDER data relayed to fleet navigators in map form, made the
rugged oceanic road to Tokyo a little more easy to follow.
31 August 1942 the new, 229-foot PATHFINDER was acquired from the
Coast and Geodetic Survey and armed and outfitted for Naval service;
on 31 August 1942 the USS PATHFINDER (AGS-1) was placed in commission
as a full-fledged fleet survey vessel. Captain Bascom H. Thomas,
USNR, the PATHFINDER's first skipper, put his new command through
her nautical paces during subsequent shakedown in the Puget Sound
area of Washington.
Minor repairs and realignments were begun soon after PATHFINDER's
20 September arrival in San Francisco. Loaded with stores and provisions
she steamed out of the Bay 10 November 1942 and set course for Pearl
Harbor. Eight days were consumed in travelling the 2,091 miles from
the West Coast harbor to the Hawaiian bastion, and another ten days
within Pearl Harbor itself. On 28 November the PATHFINDER shoved
off and, with a pause at Palmyra to the south, she reached Funa
Futi in the Ellice Islands 26 December 1942.
War in the Southwest Pacific centered around the U.S. long range
plan to break the Japanese grip on the dangerous New Guinea -New
Britain-Solomon Islands arc; for nearly two years the PATHFINDER
plowed throughout that theater as the bitter land-air-sea conflict
raged about her. An isolated reef, an uncharted harbor, a lonely
stretch of enemy held coastline -- all presented a different species
of nut to crack.
On several occasions, notably at Bougainville, Treasury Island,
Green Island, Emirau and Guam, advance PATHFINDER parties were sent
ashore under the noses of the Japanese to work in close cooperation
with Allied amphibious elements in laying out harbor charts or surveying
During most of 1943 Captain Thomas' ship operated in the Solomons
and neighboring groups, the Russells, Admiralties, Loyalties, and
New Caledonia, with an eleven day breather at Sydney, Australia
in August. USS PATHFINDER, although essentially a non-combatant,
experienced some fifty bombing raids while working close to the
front lines, also showed that she could retaliate when on the defensive;
at Goadalcanal on 7 jApril 1943 her anti-aircraft gunners bagged
two Nip planes which ventured within range.
There was another period of liberty and relaxation at Sydney in
March 1944, then approximately three months of scientific probing
around New Guinea. Out of Espiritu Santo the PATHFINDER sailed at
the end of September 1944, with the thanks of all U.S. men-of-war
in the Southwest Pacific and written commendations from Admirals
Nimitz, Kinkaid, and Halsey. Pearl Harbor was reached on the 11th
of October, departure taken on the 14th, the PATHFINDER's uneventful
voyage home ended 21 October 1944 at Alameda (inside San Francisco
Veteran PATHFINDER headed back to the war zone on 18 December 1944,
the superstructure of the Golden Gate Bridge vanishing amidst a
downpour of California sunshine. By this time the tide of battle
had swept northward and engulfed the Philippines. Guadalcanal was
a recreation center and weeds were growing over the battlefields
of Saipan and Tarawa, but need for the PATHFINDER rose progressively
as U.S. forces pressed deeper into unfamiliar territory.
On 26 December 1944 the PATHFINDER stood into Pearl Harbor and
remained there for almost a month. Four days before continuing west
on the long cross-Pacific trek the vessel had to change in command,
Captain Thomas being relieved by Commander Francis L. DuBois, USNR,
on 16 January 1945.
Via Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands (where she stopped 29-31
January 1945), the PATHFINDER sailed onward to reach Guam 4 February.
Roughly 350 miles northwest of Guam, Pathfinder Reef was discovered
and duly charted for posterity. Further assignment took the ship
to remote Casiguran Bay on embattle Luqon Island in the Philippines.
On 13 March 1945 armed forces effected a landing in that region
-- the first on the eastern coast of Luzon -- and liberated the
village of Casiguran.
Such was the nature of the place that it seemed to the PATHFINDER
crew that, except for the lack of mail, Casiguran would be an ideal
spot in which to spend the war's remaining days. This idea was promptly
shelved, however, when on 28 March the ship was assailed by two
enemy aircraft. Luck prevailed again, and the vulnerable survey
vessel escaped damage.
One month after the initial beachhead was established on Okinawa
Jima, on 1 May 1945, the PATHFINDER churned into Hagushi Anchorage
(situated about one-third of the way up Okinawa's Japanward side.)
Okinawa was the scene of many firsts for the ship, most lamentable
of which occurred on 6 May 1945 at 'Suicide Slot,' Sesoko; a Japanese
Kamikaze plane crash-dived into PATHFINDER's after gun platform
killing one man, starting fires and setting off ready ammunition.
Emergency parties quickly brought the flames under control, kept
PATHFINDER free of serious harm.
Between her arrival at Okinawa and the final cessation of hostilities
the ship was at General Quarters 170 times, and there were moments,
particularly at Nago Wan, when it appeared as if the PATHFINDER's
run of luck would run out. It never did, even for those who were
sent ashore at Nago and underwent the hazards of a fox hole watch,
snipers and mortar fire. August 15th brought the long-awaited 'cease
all offensive operations' message to a non-combatant who had seen
enough of combat.
October 13th 1945 found the PATHFINDER lolling around her anchor
at Yokosuka Naval Base, Tokyo Bay; the ship wound up her U.S. Naval
Career with a series of surveys among the Empire's home islands
in coordination with the Allied occupation. Her last path found
and findings interpreted, USS PATHFINDER left Yokosuka 5 December
Touching at Pearl Harbor on 16 December, the ship steamed northeast
to Seattle and arrive 24 December 1945. Berthed at Seattle, Washington
the survey ship was placed out of commission on 31 January 1946.
On the 22nd of August 1946 she was transferred to the Interior Department
[Commerce] and in October 1946 the PATHFINDER was returned to duty
with the Coast and Geodetic Survey.
USS PATHFINDER earned two campaign or battle stars for taking part
in two major amphibious operations in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater
1. Consolidation of Southern British Solomons. 7 April to June
2. Assault and Occupation of Okinawa Gunto. 5 January to 30 June
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
PUGET SOUND MARITIME HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The following historical account of the Ship PATHFINDER is reproduced
through the kindness of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society
(PSMHS), a non-profit organization devoted to capturing the MARITIME
history of the United States Pacific Northwest. The Coast and Geodetic
Survey conducted pioneering surveys in the Puget Sound region in the
1850's and has home-ported ships in the Seattle area since the early
1900's. This account of the PATHFINDER was published in the official
publication of the PSMHS, SEACHEST Vol. 16.3, pp. 103-113,
The author of this article is Rear Admiral Harold J. Seaborg, NOAA
(Ret.), who first was associated with the PATHFINDER in 1946 while
refitting it after it was returned to the Coast and Geodetic Survey
by the Navy. Subsequently, he served as Commanding Officer of the
PATHFINDER in 1963 and 1964. Rear Admiral Seaborg entered on duty
in 1929 with the C&GS and commanded five C&GS vessels during
his career. He served as the first Director of the Pacific Marine
Center in Seattle, Washington, from where he retired in 1967.
PATHFINDER - THE CHRONICLE OF A SURVEY SHIP
The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Ship PATHFINDER was built by the
Lake Washington Shipyards in accordance with specifications and contract
plans prepared in the office of the Coast and Geodetic Survey Headquarters,
Washington, D.C. The awarded contract, dated September 25, 1940, was
for the sum of $1,267,000. Subsequent changes in the specifications
reduced the cost of the completed vessel to $1,265,448, a rather small
cost reduction, but a saving when compared to large overruns of some
of the present day similar contracts. The contract period was 720
days, from October 4, 1940, to September 23, 1942. The vessel was
completed on August 31, 1942, ahead of time, but the urgency of the
war effort may have contributed to the earlier completion. The USC&GSS
EXPLORER had been build by the same shipyard a year earlier, but PATHFINDER
was increased in size and had other modifications.
REAR ADMIRAL HAROLD J. SEABORG, NOAA (Ret.)
PATHFINDER's keel was laid at Houghton, Washington, on February 20,
1941, and the ship was launched on January 11, 1942. The ships sponsor
was Miss Eleanor Roosevelt Boettiger, granddaughter of President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt. Soon after launching, a request was channeled through
the Department of Commerce by the Navy for the transfer of the ship
for wartime use, the Coast and Geodetic Survey being an agency under
Commerce. The transfer was approved and armament and other naval features
were installed concurrently with the completion of the vessel under
the prime contract.
This survey ship was an all steel vessel, 229 feet in overall length,
breadth of 39 feet, depth of 23 feet, and with a loaded mean draft
of 15 feet. She was a single screw, with double reduction gear, steam
turbine powered vessel developing 2000 shaft horsepower with a full
load displacement of 1900 tons. Steam was provided by two watertube
boilers. Auxiliaries were two turbine driven main generators and a
diesel generator for emergency use. She developed full power when
reversing. Her maximum speed was 15 knots with a cruising range of
9000 miles and with a fuel oil capacity of 110,000 gallons.
Her main and upper decks were the length of the ship. The lower
deck was forward and abaft the machinery spaces, and the superstructure
deck went aft about three-quarters of the ship's length from the
bow. The bridge deck with the compass deck atop were placed forward
of midships on the superstructure deck. A small poop deck was raised
some 3 feet above the upper deck and carried the double wheel auxiliary
steering station. All outside steel plated decks were covered with
calked wooden planking. She carried two masts with funnel between
and her hull was divided by eight watertight bulkheads, some of
which had watertight doors. In accordance with the original specifications
four 30 foot diesel powered wood sounding launches, two 24 foot
gasoline powered whaleboats and several 16 foot skiffs were installed.
In the beginning these small boats served as the life saving equipment
in addition to several life floats.
PATHFINDER was designed to accommodate 19 officers and 68 crew.
However, the conversion involved extensive changes in the arrangements
as the crew was more than doubled. Another addition was the installation
of a chart reproduction plant with a capacity of 5000 copies of
small charts per hour. This would provide for the issuance of nautical
charts directly in the field upon completion of hydrographic surveys.
The most modern of special instruments and equiment for hydrographic
surveying and navigation were installed. This included echo-sounding
fathometers, electric powered sounding machines for wire casts and
various rangefinders. Also installed was a Sperry gyrocompass system
complete with master compass, steering and bearing repeaters and
gyropilot for steering sounding lines. The magnetic compass was
standard U.S. Navy equipment. Radio equipment included several code
radio transmitters, a ship-to-shore radio telephone and a radio
direction finder. In addition, there was radio telephone equipment
designed for use by detached parties from the ship. A two way local
speaker communication between the pilothouse and various parts of
the ship became part of the equipment. Also installed was a fire
control system operated from the bridge deck area to automatically
close watertight doors and activate carbon dioxide (CO2)
in the various closed compartments. An electric submerged log installed
inside the hull was provided for measuring distances the ship traveled
On August 31, 1942, PATHFINDER was placed in commission as a full
fledged Navy fleet survey ship designated USS PATHFINDER (AGS-1).
She now was ready for wartime duty. After a short shakedown cruise
in Puget Sound, PATHFINDER sailed for San Francisco, arriving September
20. Upon completion of minor repairs, stores and provisions were
loaded and the ship steamed out of San Francisco Bay on November
10, 1942, setting course for Pearl Harbor. PATHFINDER departed Pearl
Harbor on November 28 on the first of her two long wartime cruises.
It should be noted that during the time when the ship was with the
Navy seven experienced C&GS officers were aboard initially in
a transfer status. This immediately brought a wealth of survey knowledge
to a ship on a special mission. Later the number of C&GS officers
The U.S. long range war plan in the southwest Pacific was to break
the Japanese hold on the New Guinea-New Britain-Solomon Island arc.
This was to be the area of PATHFINDER's operation for nearly two
years. Her mission was to provide charts for the ever-expanding
Allied amphibious operations; surveying uncharted harbors, lonely
stretches of coastline and inland channels. It was necessary to
send small parties ashore in the furtherance of these surveys, sometimes
going into enemy held territory.
PATHFINDER's first cruise took her to the Solomons and neighboring
island groups. While working close to the front lines, the ship,
although essentially non-combatant, experienced some fifty bombing
raids and on April 7, 1943, her anti-aircraft gunners shot down
two Japanese planes. In August, 1943 and in March, 1944, she was
at Sydney, Australia for short periods of liberty and relaxation.
She surveyed as far north as New Guinea before departing the war
area for home at the end of September, 1944. PATHINDER ended her
first cruise at Alameda, California, on October 21, 1944.
PATHFINDER headed back to the war zone for her second cruise on
December 18, 1944. By this time our forces had swept northward and
the scene of conflict had shifted to the Philippine Islands area.
After several way point stops, Guam was reached on February 4, 1945.
While in this area, Pathfinder Reef, some 350 miles northwest of
Guam, was discovered and duly charted. On March 28, 1945, she was
attacked by two enemy planes while surveying along the eastern coast
of Luzon in the Philippines but once again escaped damage. She was
not so lucky on May 6, 1945, when along the Japanese side of Okinawa
a Japanese Kamikaze plane crashed into PATHFINDER's after gun platform
killing one man and setting fire to the ship, which was quickly
brought under control. The mainmast was clipped off during this
engagement. Upon contact with the ship the plane slid off the stern
into the sea.
During the final stages of the conflict in the Okinawa area, PATHFINDER
was at general quarters 170 times. Japan's wartime radio broadcaster,
Tokyo Rose, reported the ship sunk at least on six different occasions.
The ship continued her charting activities in support of the advancing
Allied Forces. On August 15 the long-awaited word "Cease all offensive
operations" was indeed welcome news. PATHFINDER's last survey duty
during World War II was among the Japanese home islands in coordination
with the Allied occupation. She departed Yokosuka Naval Base, Tokyo
Bay on December 5, 1945, arriving at Seattle, Washington on December
24, and was placed out of commission on January 31, 1946. For her
excellent work in helping to survey the road to Tokyo, she was awarded
two campaign or battle stars and received the written commendations
of Admirals Nimitz, Kinkaid and Halsey.
Upon completion of necessary repairs and restoration for peacetime
survey duty, PATHFINDER was returned to the Commerce Department
and on August 23, 1946, was recommissioned as a unit of the Coast
and Geodetic Survey ship fleet. A shakedown cruise to Bristol Bay,
Alaska, was made soon thereafter and then she returned to Seattle
in the early fall to close out a shortened 1946 field season. She
later was to be designated Ocean Survey Ship 30 and carry the legend
OSS 30 on her bow. She was berthed at the south end of Lake Union
at leased facilities along with other units of the Survey fleet.
During the field seasons 1947 through 1950, PATHFINDER continued
surveys in the Bristol Bay area. Previous charts were largely based
on hydrography extended beyond the visual range of the shoreline
by dead reckoning lines. Dead reckoning at its best is far from
exact, as too many variables such as currents and imperfect steering
can only be estimated. However, such areas as Nushagak and Kvichak
Bays and Ports Heiden and Moller were covered by modern type surveys.
Shoran equipment, a special type of radar, was used extensively
in the hydrographic surveys of Bristol Bay. Fuel, provisions and
other supplies were obtained at Dutch Harbor, the field base of
operations when working the Bristol Bay area.
Shoran (Short Range Navigation) gives quite accurate determination
of position. Developed during W.W.II to control the position of
aircraft in flight, Shoran was adapted by the Coast and Geodetic
Survey in 1945 for the positioning of sounding vessels. Shortly
thereafter Shoran became the standard control system for hydrographic
surveys ranging as far as 100 miles offshore under favorable conditions.
The position of a sounding vessel is obtained by measuring the elapsed
time between a transmitted radio pulse and the return signal from
two fixed stations, usually ashore. The two times are converted
to distances for plotting purposes. The line of sight limitation
was reduced by placing, when possible, shore stations on high land
points. This equipment worked very well in such an area as Bristol
Bay where weather conditions often precluded visual sights upon
shore signals for location of the sounding vessel, either ship or
launch. Shoran required trained electronic technicians to keep the
equipment in proper adjustment and calibration. Survey operations
in the Bristol Bay area were generally hampered by the large tidal
range and extensive shoal water areas. However, Shoran has accuracy
limitations when within several miles of the land stations. Thus,
the close to shore hydrography was usually accomplished by launches,
traditionally using sextant fixes upon established hydrographic
signals along the shoreline. During hydrographic sounding it was
necessary to have a series of tide stations or gages in operation
which were referenced to an established standard station somewhere
in the general working area to establish the tidal datum plane.
The first use of aerial photographs for map and chart making began
before W.W.II. By 1949 the Coast and Geodetic Survey had developed
its own program of preparing shoreline manuscripts based on aerial
photography. When possible, manuscripts were prepared at Headquarters,
using special plotting equipment to provide shoreline and other
topographic features ahead of operations in the field. In Alaska,
in some instances, only preliminary manuscripts could be furnished
because of insufficient information. The field parties would then
have to inspect photographs and apply the missing information by
other means. The general use of manuscripts signaled the end of
topography by hand-drawn plane table methods. In the ensuing years,
PATHFINDER used these manuscripts whenever available.
All topographic surveys and manuscripts, and in turn hydrography,
are controlled by a basic scheme of triangulation. These schemes
consist of a series of marked land stations whose positions are
precisely determined by instrumentation. Special geodetic parties
working as independent units provide this basic control. However,
ship parties are usually required to extend or breakdown the previously
established primary control to provide a greater density of stations.
When working on a combined project where ship and launches were
programmed to do hydrography, a survey ship such as PATHFINDER would
anchor in a protected area as close to the general working area
as possible. Launch and other small boat parties would then be dispatched
to work ashore or close into shore. The ship might then weigh anchor
and do hydrography at the outer limits of the project, returning
to pick up the small boat parties.
During the 1951 field season three survey ships were engaged in
a project to tie established geodetic control points along the eatern
shore of the Bering Sea to the off-lying islands. PATHFINDER coordinated
the project, assisted by EXPLORER and PIONEER. The concept was to
measure distances between mainland stations and stations on the
off-lying islands by means of Shoran and a second electronic system
known as Electronic Position Indicator (EPI). With a beginning in
1944, select Coast Survey personnel devised the EPI system which
combined the best features of Shoran and Loran. Loran (Long Range
Navigation) was another electronic system used in navigation and
developed during W.W.II. The EPI system had a greater range than
Shoran as the transmitted pulses followed the curvature of the earth
rather than line of sight. The use of EPI, as in Shoran, requires
the placing of shore stations at previously determined land points.
The usable range is something like 250 miles, but under favorable
conditions can be used to 500 miles.
Previously, the Bering Sea islands such as St. Lawrence and the
Pribilofs had been surveyed using independent datums derived from
astronomic positions. The 1951 work was to establish a common datum
with the mainland to the outer reaches of the Bering Sea. The lines
to be measured ranged between 100 and 500 miles and these lengths
would be involved in the triangulation computations. The successful
completion of this project provided for future homogeneous hydrographic
surveys for an improved charting program.
PATHFINDER was able to utilize this improved control during the
field seasons of 1952 through 1954 in the completion of hydrographic
surveys in the general area of the Pribilof Islands. Economically,
the field season in this area began about May 1st and ended sometime
in September. During the 1954 season Mount Shishaldin on the Alaska
Peninsula was observed in eruption at a distance of eighty miles.
Hydrographic surveys were made along the north coast of the Alaska
Peninsula during the seasons of 1955 through 1958. In 1959 the ship's
working area shifted to Cook Inlet and this continued into 1960.
Part of 1960 was devoted to the occupation of oceanographic stations
in the northern Pacific wherein the properties of sea water were
recorded and studied by means of sea water samples. Bottom samples
were also obtained.
However, PATHFINDER was assigned a new project in the Hawaiian
Islands in 1962. Her primary mission was to update nautical charts
by a program of new hydrographic surveys. Because of much better
weather conditions the working season began earlier in the year.
Departure from Seattle was in early February for her working base
in Honolulu. Upon completion of a special survey at Christmas Island
in mid-Pacific she began a systematic resurvey of close-in areas
around Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Prior offshore surveys were considered
adequate. A return to Seattle was made in June followed by a second
cruise to the Hawaiian Islands. Tracklines or sounding lines were
run between the west coast, usually Cape Flattery, and the Islands
on every trip across the Pacific and return. Loran A and C provided
the prime control on these long line surveys, with adequate checks
by astronomic sights. This program provided additional charting
information in open ocean areas. The ship averaged some 10,000 to
15,000 nautical miles each year in deep-sea hydrography. This program
also applied to Alaska work.
The Hawaiian Island surveys continued the first half of the 1963
field season. In early July PATHFINDER departed Seattle to conduct
a cable route survey between Guam and the east coast of Luzon Island,
the Philippines. This survey was at the request of International
Telephone and Telegraph Company. A replenishment stop was made at
Midway Island and later at Manila Harbor and the Naval Base at Subic
Bay. This was the first and only return of PATHFINDER to the western
Pacific, an area of her W.W.II exploits. While in Manila Harbor
several pre-arranged meetings were held with the top officers of
the Philippine Coast and Geodetic Survey. Philippine personnel had
been in a training status for a number of years and when the country
was granted its independence in 1946 the Philippine Survey cam into
being. The new survey had several of its own vessels as the small
U.S. Coast Survey fleet in the Philippines was lost during W.W.II.
Upon completion of the cable route survey, the ship returned to
her basic project in the Hawaiian Islands, arriving in Seattle in
early October. She was berthed for the first time at the newly completed
ship base on the eastern shore of Lake Union. For the remainder
of her service time the Pacific Marine Center Ship Base was to be
her home, along with other Coast and Geodetic Survey vessels, later
to become the NOAA fleet.
The Hawaiian Islands work continued in 1964 but was interrupted
by the need for surveys following the March 28 Alaska earthquake.
The ship arrived at Kodiak by direct passage on April 8 and, upon
taking provisions and fuel, departed for Seward in Resurrection
Bay. A desolate scene greeted PATHFINDER. Huge sections of the built-up
waterfront had slid into the Bay, leaving a tangled mass of railroad
rails and pier sections hanging over the water's edge. Inshore,
overturned railroad cars, fuel storage tanks, trucks and automobiles
were a jumbled mess. PATHFINDER found anchorage in the upper bay.
Sufficient triangulation control was recovered for the topographic
plane table surveys for shoreline and signals and in turn the hydrographic
surveys. Aerial photographs were not available and sextant angles
were taken to position the launches and ship during hydrography.
It was necessary to fall back on these time honored methods of surveying
when the more modern approach was not possible. The survey of upper
Resurrection Bay was completed by mid-April and in early June a
temporary chart was issued showing considerable bottom changes in
this earthquake stricken area.
PATHFINDER next surveyed the principal shipping lanes in Cook Inlet
north to Anchorage and also made a detailed survey of the Anchorage
waterfront. These surveys proved no significant charting changes
in these areas. Local hydrographic surveys at Homer and Seldovia
revealed no bottom changes, but shoreline piers and structures had
been damaged. For the remainder of the 1964 season a new project,
the re-survey of Kamishak Bay in lower Cook Inlet, was begun. This
area required more detailed surveys at a larger scale. This work
was continued in 1965.
During the 1965 season, when working at the entrance to Cook Inlet,
PATHFINDER personnel became interested in the Alaska Christian School,
an orphanage some 10 miles out of Homer. The ship began making a
twice yearly call at Homer to bring the children down to the ship
for a tour and a dessert treat in the wardroom. She indeed became
a "foster mother," donating fresh fruit, candy, toys and clothing
to the orphanage.
At the beginning of the 1965 season, two of the original launches
were replaced with modern-type Navy equipment. These 30 foot launches
had more space forward to accommodate increased instrumentation
needed when using electronic control. Later, the remaining two original
launches were replaced. Original wooden whaleboats were also replaced
with a modern type of reinforced plastic design. Also, 1965 saw
the first use of a data logger system, wherein hydrographic surveying
elements are logged into a punched paper tape for use in plotting
surveys on an automatic plotter housed ahsore at Pacific Marine
Center. This system was to save many man hours of tedious hand plotting.
The first half of the 1966 field season found PATHFINDER resuming
her hydrographic project in the Hawaiian Islands. By early June
the ship was at Homer, Kachemak Bay, Alaska, extending triangulation
control in that area to check any relative movement of the land
mass resulting from the 1964 Alaska earthquake. No significant changes
were found. The main project in Kamishak Bay was then resumed and
continued for the remainder of the season.
During the winter lay-up period, personnel of the Survey Fleet
would be engaged in multiple activities. Deck, engine-room and electronic
departments effected maintenance and minor repairs. Junior Commissioned
Officers replotted hydrographic surveys to produce what was commonly
known as the "smooth sheet." Also, triangulation, tide, current
and other survey records were prepared in systematic form for transmission
to Headquarters. The Operations Officer was responsible for the
completion of all survey records.
A board composed of the Executive Officer, Chief Bosun and Chief
Engineer prepared in draft form any necessary repair and maintenance
items which the ship's complement was unable to perform. Usually
the Commanding Officer would then prepare the specifications for
outside ship repairs for submission to Headquarters for approval
and funding. Invitation to bid would then be submitted to various
shipyards, with delivery of the ship to the successful bidder for
haulout the first part of the new year. During all of this time
a program of the taking of accumulated annual leave for all hands
However, with the advent of Pacific Marine Center and Ship Base
in 1964, a staff of qualified personnel ashore began to assist in
and coordinate ship repairs and, to some extent, the processing
of survey records. When funding was available PATHFINDER and other
ships were thus able to spend more time in the field.
During the early months of 1967 PATHFINDER was engaged in a combined
project along the coast of Southern California. Loran B, a navigation
and ship position electronic control system, was installed and used
on this project with a great deal of success. Operations shifted
to Kamishak Bay during May and continued as the main Alaska project.
Some work was also done at Montague and Middleton Islands. In June
a temporary platform was built over the poop deck for the use of
a leased helicopter. This was to provide ship-to-shore transportation
for a shoreline triangulation project in Shelikof Strait. This was
the last season that Shoran was used. The equipment was old and
obsolete, and replacement units and parts were not readily available.
PATHFINDER did not make an early cruise in the 1968 season. She
arrived at Kodiak in early May and her main effort was again in
Kamishak Bay with some work in Kodiak Harbor. On her return from
the Cook Inlet area she began a project in Clarence Strait in S.E.
A new electronic control system for ship and launch hydrography,
Raydist DR-S, was used by PATHFINDER, replacing Shoran. Raydist,
prodeuced commercially, was adapted and refined by the Coast Survey,
providing more accurate and reliable positioning of vessels in open
water. This equipment has a range in excess of 200 nautical miles
and required two shore based stations which were, however, automatic
in operation and only required an occasional visit by trained personnel.
Portable units were develped for launch use and several sounding
units could operate simultaneously.
The 1969 season followed the pattern of 1968, but in early 1970
PATHFINDER returned to the Hawaiian Islands before resuming her
main projects in Cook Inlet and Clarence Strait. In 1971 more of
the same in Cook Inlet and S.E. Alaska. This was to be her last
season, as she was deactivated on September 10, 1971, upon return
to Seattle. PATHFINDER had put in nearly 30 years of faithful service
but her age and a tight budget precluded any further work as a survey
All usable equipment and instruments, including radio and electronic
survey gear, spare parts and supplies of all types, were removed
and transferred to other ship units or stored for future use. Deactivation
was completed December 23, 1971. PATHFINDER's career ended when
the General Auto Wrecking Co. of Ballard purchased the stripped
ship, and she was scrapped at their yard in 1972.
PATHFINDER always seemed to be a happy ship. After W.W.II many
of her crew, enjoying a special Civil Service status as shipboard
personnel with seagoing rates, remained on the ship year after year.
Her last Chief Bosun spent some 15-odd years aboard. Some of the
personnel in the Engineering, Radio-Electronic and Steward Departments
had similar years of duty. There was more movement with the Commissioned
Officers of the Survey, who usually were assigned for two year tour
of duty as ship and survey officers, thus wearing two hats. The
commanding officer was also the Chief of Party.
Several mementos of her service have been salvaged and preserved
in the Seattle area. The double wheel auxiliary steering stand once
located on the poop deck and the standard magnetic compass and binnacle
are now on display at the Pacific Marine Center headquarters on
Lake Union. In the lobby of Capitan's Table restaurant, Elliott
Avenue in Seattle, mounted on two panels are some twenty assorted
steam, air, lube oil and water guages from the engine room of PATHFINDER.
The author completed a scale model of the ship in April 1983, which
is presently on display in the Marine Room of Edmonds Museum, Edmonds-South
Snohomish County Historical Society, Edmonds, Washington.
During the last years of her gallant service, PATHFINDER found
herself under new direction. In July 1965, the Coast and Geodetic
Survey merged with the U.S. Weather Bureau to become Environmental
Science Services Administration (ESSA) still within Commerce. Then
in October 1971, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) was formed bringing together the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries
and ESSA along with several other government agencies. The legend
of the 90 year old Coast and Geodetic Survey was to be no more.
Her functions were taken over by the National Ocean Survey under
NOAA. For those who served on her and knew her well, PATHFINDER
will always remain a Coast and Geodetic Survey Ship.
Rear Admiral Seaborg, then a Lieutenant, served on a small C&GS
staff when PATHFINDER was returned by Navy in 1946. Also, he served
as Commanding Officer in 1963 and 1964.
1. U.S.C.&G.S. Special Publication No. 143, Hydrographic Manual,
Revised 1942 Edition.
2. Office of Naval Records and History, History of USS PATHFINDER
(AGS-1), Revised 7 June 1950.
3. The Journal, C&GS, June 1953, No. 5.
4. U.S.C.&G.S. Publication 20-2, Hydrographic Manual, 1960 Edition.
5. NOAA Publication, January 1972 issue.
6. Marine Digest, May 26, 1973; May 1, 1982.
7. Various Annual Reports, Coast & Geodetic Survey.