by the Office of NOAA Corps Operations
History of the USS Pathfinder
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.
PATHFINDER underway in Pacific. Note gun-tubs fore and aft.
Saw Pacific service from 1942 to 1945. Ship endured over
50 bombing raids and was crashed by a kamikaze at Okinawa
It was said, "The road to Tokyo was paved with PATHFINDER
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 inland
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
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 Bay), California.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 1945.
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.
earned two campaign or battle stars for taking part in two major amphibious
operations in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of action.
of Southern British Solomons. 7 April to June 1943.
2. Assault and Occupation of Okinawa Gunto. 5 January to 30 June 1945.
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