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Pathfinder: Recollections of Those Who Served 1942 - 1971

Compiled by the Office of NOAA Corps Operations

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Recollections of Commander Ernst E. Stohsner,
of the Wartime Experiences of the U.S.S. 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 another.

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 board."

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