by the Office of NOAA Corps Operations
Record of Rear Admiral William M. Gibson,
of the 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. NARRATIVE "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.]
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
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,
12. Junius T. Jarman, Lieutenant, USC&GS, Cartography
13. E.E. Stohsner, Lieutenant, USC&GS, Hydrography,
14. Lorin Woodcock, Lieutenant (jg), USC&GS, Hydrography,
Wire Drag (joined ship after Funafuti.)
15. E.E. Anderson, Jr., Lieutenant (jg), Gunnery Officer,
16. William B. Sears, Ensign, USNR, Hydrography.
17. William W. Thompson, Lieutenant (jg), Communications
18. Dan W. McMurphy, Ensign, USNR, Courts & Boards,
19. Breed Mounger, Lieutenant (jg), USNR, Hydrography.
20. Clarkson W. Pinkham, Ensign, USNR, Hydrography.
21. Raymond Dondero, Ensign, USNR, Engineer (joined
after April 1.)
"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
"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
"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.
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