"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
"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
"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
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
"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.
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
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 were killed.
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
"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 on D-day.
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.
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.
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.