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routing instructions for independent sailings

February 5 2012 at 8:50 AM
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Nelson  (no login)
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Response to Re: The Way of Torres


Yesterday I promised,

> I cannot review the independent sailers' routing instructions right now, but will do so soon. >

Well, I kept the attempt part of the promise, but virtually all of my records on the routing of the independent sailers are back home, and I am not. There is only one exception, but it is a neat one.

To set the stage, during the initially small transpacific convoys escorted by USN cruisers, the gal didn't always go home from the dance with the guy what brung her. To provide some examples:

USS Chester (CA 27) escorted USAT Tasker H. Bliss and USAT Willard A. Holbrook to Manila and escorted them back to Oahu; USS Louisville (CA 28) did precisely likewise with USAT Hugh L. Scott and SS President Coolidge. But in an earlier voyage, USS Astoria (CA 34) had escorted out USS Guadalupe (AO 32) and SS President Coolidge and brought back USS Henderson (AP 1), while USS Phoenix (CL 46) had escorted out SS President Pierce and escorted Guadalupe back, at least part of the way, until the oiler split off for the coast of southern California. In yet another pattern, as reported previously, USS Portland (CA 33), escorted USAT Liberty to Manila, but went home alone, while Liberty sailed south and farther west to her destruction. What, you may ask, do these escorted convoys have to do with the independent sailers?

In late October 1941, 14th Naval District ordered the independent sailer, SS Gertrude Kellogg, carrying military cargo, to depart from Honolulu and take the southern route, passing through five positions, the last being Lat. 12º30'S, Long. 149º00'E. Thereupon she was to steam to Port Moresby, New Guinea, take on a pilot to transit Torres Strait, and then proceed by the usual route north to Manila Bay. By this time, the vast majority of independently sailing American merchantmen were going to the Philippine Islands via Torres Strait. Most if not all Philippine registry merchant vessels flew U.S. colors while on the high seas, but when they did, they had to obey American maritime regs, which as this time were directing them to sail to Manila Bay through Torres Strait. SS Don Jose, carrying the two Canadian rifle battalions' trucks and Bren carriers to Hong Kong was no exception to the rule, and she took the long route around to Manila, thus lagging well behind the directly transpacific troop convoy. Through that unfortunate circumstance, the Canadian soldiers were thus deprived of their vehicles during the coming fight.

Back to SS Gertrude Kellogg: Specifically because of the threat by German raiders, Admiral Thomas Hart, CinCAF, ordered USS Boise (CL 47), which had arrived at Manila with a convoy on December 4, 1941, to depart for Cebu on December 6, 1941, and to rendezvous with Gertrude Kellogg near that island and escort her home. Of course such never happened, and when war suddenly arrived, Boise was press-ganged for service with the U.S. Asiatic Fleet.


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