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M. S. Bloemfontein

May 25 2009 at 10:56 AM
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Jacques Jansen van Vuuren  (no login)

 
I've been following the career of the motorship Bloemfontein.(named after my home town in South Africa) She was built in 1934 as a passenger/cargo liner for the Holland Africa Line, making regular sailings from Europe to Southern Africa. I have record of voyages on this run up to March 1939 but after that things got blurry. She was reported somewhere to be working in the East Indies during 1940 and I know that she was leased to the U.S. Army sometime towards the end of 1941.
On December 3rd 1942, the Bloemfontein left San Diego with 4000 Marines on board bound for Espritu Santo. The voyage was apparently less than memorable but what I found amusing is that the Marines from VMD-154, in their newsletter of April 2000 referred to her as a "converted ice breaker"! Fact is that she had a Maierform bow - built for improved speed and seaworthiness but not for breaking ice.
My questions follow:
1. It is not likely that her voyages to South Africa ended in March 1939. Has anyone got any information about her career from that date onwards?
2. The website ww2pacific.com places her in the company of the "Pensacola Convoy",at sea and passing through the Phoenix Islands on December 7th 1941. If the Pensacola Convoy were on their way to Manila, what were they doing so far south?
Regards,
Jacques.

 
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Nelson
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BLOEMFONTEIN and the Pensacola convoy

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May 25 2009, 4:14 PM 

Jacques,

The short version of events is this:

MS BLOEMFONTEIN was part of a convoy of eight vessels sailing for Manila ("Plum"), escorted by heavy cruiser USS PENSACOLA (CA 24). These ships consisted of two naval transports, two U.S. Army transports, three chartered merchantmen (including BLOEMFONTEIN), and the former gunboat NIAGARA (PG 52), now an auxiliary. The army transports and one navy transport carried four battalions of field artillery, standard armament 48 modernized French 75mm guns, as well as 48 non-organic (without gun crews), high-speeded British 75mm guns (M1917AI), a number of A-24 dive bombers, and a great many USAAF personnel, all intended to augment the Philippines garrison. The second navy transport carried replacements and naval supplies for various navy and marine insular outposts in the mid-Pacific Ocean and in the Philippines. The merchant vessels were transporting military gear of various kinds and a substantial amount of drummed gasoline and lubricants.

What became known as the Pensacola convoy sailed from the Hawaiian Islands on November 29, 1941; it was in mid-ocean when receiving word of the air attack on Pearl Harbor. After some indecision, the convoy was diverted to Australia. It arrived at Suva in the Fiji Islands on December 13 and departed there, minus NIAGARA, the following day. The convoy, now additionally escorted by Australian warships, arrived Brisbane on December 22.

BLOEMFONTEIN and a few other vessels originally with the Pensacola convoy stood out from Brisbane in late December and reached Darwin on January 1, 1942. She left Darwin on January 5, carrying air force personnel, one artillery unit--2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery (formerly Texas National Guard, now federalized)--its 12 organic artillery pieces, and either 45 or 48 non-organic 75mm guns (original records differ). BLOEMFONTEIN arrived Soerabaja on January 11, 1942. The artillery battalion was sent to Singosari Airfield in the mountains near Malang, there both to defend the airfield and to otherwise assist the 19th Bombardment Group (B-17 aircraft). Eventually the battalion, after seeing some combat, was captured with other Allied soldiery and put into PW camp, suffering an appreciable number of deaths therefrom by war's end.

Nelson

 
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Jacques
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Re: BLOEMFONTEIN and the Pensacola convoy

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May 25 2009, 5:39 PM 

Thanks Nelson,
This confirms that she did make it all the way to Surabaya but the question remains:If the Pensacola Convoy was making for Manila, why the detour via the Phoenix Islands? Surely going this far south would have added days,if not weeks to the voyage?
Regards,
Jacques

 
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Felix
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Re: BLOEMFONTEIN and the Pensacola convoy

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May 25 2009, 7:15 PM 

That answer would go to the root of the question, why were they diverted in the first place? I think Nelson described the voyage fairly. From Hawaii, by way of Suva to Brisbane. The Phoenix Island would lie more or less in the path enroute to Suva. The reasoning behind the diversion order seems unclear. Perhaps they expected submarine or raiding activity between Hawaii and the Philipines.

 
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Nelson
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Pensacola convoy and the southern route

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May 25 2009, 7:17 PM 

Jacques,

In the months and weeks before the coming of war in the Pacific, the U.S. ran a number of escorted convoys to Manila in order to reinforce its army and navy elements there, but primarily the army's garrison in the Philippines. The U.S. Army fervently hoped for war to be delayed long enough so that it could build up sufficient reinforcements in order to mount a fierce defense, at least of the Island of Luzon.

The U.S. Navy had the final word in the routing of these cruiser-escorted convoys (though with consultation with the army, to be sure), and in so doing attempted not to display predictable habits in their sailings. Some convoys were routed directly west, past the U.S. possession of Guam in the Marianas Islands. For example, the convoy just prior to the Pensacola convoy, escorted by light cruiser USS BOISE (CL 47), ran the Mandates gauntlet, arriving just before the outbreak of war. But as time approached that ignition point, other convoys and more and more merchantmen sailing independently were sent by the southern route: SW and W to and through Torres Strait between Cape York, Australia, and Papua New Guinea, continuing west, and lastly north to Manila Bay. The Pensacola convoy was slated to take that southern route, thus its presence among the Phoenix Islands, and it was not that much of a stretch to be diverted to Brisbane (with the approval of the Australians, of course, but one assumes that was readily given, considering the speed and proximity of the Japanese advance).

Nelson

 
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Peter Kik
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Re: M. S. Bloemfontein

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May 28 2009, 12:50 PM 

 Hi Jacques,

Some more info on Bloemfontein. Maybe you know the site's and if you are from SA you may be able to read it as well. Bloemfontein sailed for the VNS, Verenigde Nederlandse Scheepvaartmaatschappij. VNS no longer exsist, but is now part of Nedloyd. On http://www.vns-voe.nl/  (the website of former VNS personel) you can find some info on Bloemfontein: http://www.vns-voe.nl/M01geschvan/msbloemfontein.html

Some more picture on http://www.arendnet.com/Bloemfontein.htm on the first picture ther is some technical explanation of her bow-design, the 'maijer bow'.

Most information on her sailings during the war you find on www.convoyweb.org.uk . I pasted it into this post. 

Departure

Convoy

Arrival

Wellington, Feb 12, 1941

Independent

Los Angeles, Oct 31, 1941

San Francisco, Oct 31, 1941

Independent

 

Los Angeles, Nov 11, 1941

Independent

San Francisco, Nov 12, 1941

San Francisco, Nov 21, 1941

Independent

 

Honolulu, Nov 28, 1941

Independent

Darwin, Jan 5, 1942

Darwin, Jan 7, 1942

Escorted

Sourabaya, Jan 11, 1942

Sourabaya, Jan 28, 1942

Independent

Wellington, Feb 11, 1942

 

Independent

San Francisco, Mar 4, 1942

San Francisco, Apr 26, 1942

Independent

Papeete, May 18, 1942

Papeete, May 29, 1942

Independent

Balboa, Jun 10, 1942

Cristobal, Jun 17, 1942

Escorted

Norfolk, Jun 23, 1942

Norfolk, Jul 6, 1942

LW.101 (Norfolk, Va - Wellington)

Wellington, Aug 2, 1942

Wellington, Aug 14, 1942

Independent

San Francisco, Aug 31, 1942

San Francisco, Oct 1, 1942

Independent

 

Auckland, Oct 29, 1942

Independent

 

San Francisco, Nov 21, 1942

Independent

 

San Francisco, Dec 3, 1942

Escorted

Noumea, Dec 21, 1942

Noumea, Dec 28, 1942

not reported

Espiritu Santo, Dec 30, 1942

Espiritu Santo, Jan 4, 1943

not reported

Auckland, Jan 8, 1943

Auckland, Jan 9, 1943

not reported

San Francisco, Jan 25, 1943

San Francisco, Feb 18, 1943

Independent

Auckland, Mar 11, 1943

Auckland, Mar 16, 1943

Independent

Noumea, Mar 20, 1943

Noumea, Mar 21, 1943

Independent

 

San Francisco, Apr 18, 1943

Independent

Noumea, May 13, 1943

Noumea, May 17, 1943

Independent

Auckland, May 20, 1943

Auckland, May 21, 1943

Independent

Wellington, May 24, 1943

Wellington, May 29, 1943

Independent

San Francisco, Jun 16, 1943

San Francisco, Jun 28, 1943

Independent

Tonga, Jul 16, 1943

Tonga, Jul 20, 1943

Independent

Noumea, Jul 24, 1943

Noumea, Jul 29, 1943

Independent

Norfolk Island, Jul 31, 1943

Norfolk Island, Jul 31, 1943

Independent

Wellington, Aug 3, 1943

Wellington, Aug 7, 1943

Independent

San Francisco, Aug 24, 1943

San Francisco, Oct 3, 1943

Independent

Espiritu Santo, Oct 26, 1943

Espiritu Santo, Nov 6, 1943

not reported

Noumea, Nov 8, 1943

Noumea, Nov 8, 1943

not reported

Suva, Nov 11, 1943

Suva, Nov 13, 1943

not reported

San Francisco, Nov 27, 1943

San Francisco, Dec 12, 1943

not reported

Port Hueneme, Dec 14, 1943

Port Hueneme, Dec 16, 1943

Independent

San Francisco, Dec 17, 1943

San Francisco, Dec 20, 1943

not reported

Espiritu Santo, Jan 4, 1944

San Francisco, Feb 28, 1944

Independent

Pearl Harbor, Mar 5, 1944

Pearl Harbor, Mar 12, 1944

Independent

San Francisco, Mar 18, 1944

San Francisco, Mar 30, 1944

Independent

Noumea, Apr 15, 1944

Noumea, Apr 29, 1944

Independent

San Francisco, May 6, 1944

San Francisco, May 16, 1944

Independent

Port Hueneme, May 17, 1944

Port Hueneme, May 20, 1944

Independent

San Francisco, May 21, 1944

San Francisco, May 23, 1944

Independent

Morobe, Jun 11, 1944

Morobe, Jun 13, 1944

Independent

Langemak Bay, Jun 14, 1944

Langemak Bay, Jun 14, 1944

NA.24/1 (Langemak Bay - Seeadler)

Seeadler, Jun 15, 1944

Seeadler, Jun 26, 1944

AN.27A (Seeadler - Milne Bay)

Milne Bay, Jun 29, 1944

Milne Bay, Jul 2, 1944

Independent

Sydney NSW, Jul 9, 1944

Sydney NSW, Jul 12, 1944

Independent

San Francisco, Jul 30, 1944

San Francisco, Aug 11, 1944

Independent

San Diego, Aug 13, 1944

San Diego, Aug 14, 1944

Independent

Pearl Harbor, Aug 20, 1944

Pearl Harbor, Aug 22, 1944

Independent

 

Eniwetok, Oct 8, 1944

Independent

Pearl Harbor, Oct 14, 1944

Pearl Harbor, Oct 17, 1944

Independent

San Francisco, Oct 23, 1944

San Francisco, Nov 5, 1944

Independent

San Diego, Nov 6, 1944

San Diego, Nov 11, 1944

Independent

Pearl Harbor, Nov 17, 1944

Pearl Harbor, Nov 20, 1944

Independent

Eniwetok, Nov 27, 1944

Eniwetok, Dec 3, 1944

Independent

Guam, Dec 9, 1944

 

Independent

Saipan, Dec 9, 1944

Saipan, Dec 9, 1944

Independent

 

Guam, Dec 16, 1944

Independent

Eniwetok, Dec 21, 1944

Eniwetok, Dec 22, 1944

Independent

San Francisco, Jan 3, 1945

San Francisco, Jan 7, 1945

Independent

Port Townsend, Jan 9, 1945

Port Angeles, Feb 1, 1945

Independent

Pearl Harbor, Feb 9, 1945

Pearl Harbor, Feb 14, 1945

Independent

Port Townsend, Feb 21, 1945

Port Townsend, Mar 17, 1945

Independent

Pearl Harbor, Mar 23, 1945

Pearl Harbor, Mar 29, 1945

Independent

Eniwetok, Apr 6, 1945

Eniwetok, Apr 16, 1945

Independent

Saipan, Apr 20, 1945

Saipan, Apr 21, 1945

Independent

Iwo Jima, Apr 23, 1945

Iwo Jima, Apr 26, 1945

Escorted

Manus, May 2, 1945

Manus, May 3, 1945

Independent

Guadalcanal, May 6, 1945

Tulagi, May 10, 1945

Independent

Kossol Roads, May 16, 1945

Kossol Roads, May 17, 1945

Independent

 

Tacloban, May 21, 1945

Independent

Batangas, May 24, 1945

Batangas, May 28, 1945

Independent

 

Manila, Jun 1, 1945

Independent

Manus, Jun 7, 1945

Noumea, Jun 30, 1945

Independent

Hollandia, Jul 5, 1945

Hollandia, Jul 5, 1945

Escorted

Cebu, Jul 10, 1945

Cebu, Jul 11, 1945

Independent

Batangas, Jul 12, 1945

Batangas, Jul 13, 1945

Independent

Manila, Jul 14, 1945

Manila, Jul 24, 1945

Independent

Leyte, Jul 26, 1945

Tacloban, Jul 28, 1945

Independent

Ulithi, Jul 31, 1945

Ulithi, Jul 31, 1945

Independent

Pearl Harbor, Aug 12, 1945

Pearl Harbor, Aug 14, 1945

Independent

Balboa, Aug 27, 1945

Cristobal, Aug 28, 1945

Independent

New York, Sep 4, 1945

New York, Sep 19, 1945

Independent

Liverpool, Sep 27, 1945

Liverpool, Nov 17, 1945

Independent

Hampton Roads, Nov 27, 1945

Hampton Roads, Dec 10, 1945

Independent

Port Said, Dec 26, 1945

 

 



Peter

http://abbekerk.wordpress.com

 
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Nelson
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Re: MS BLOEMFONTEIN

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May 28 2009, 6:34 PM 

Peter,

The information on BLOEMFONTEIN is most useful, for certain. I'm able to speak only for the period just prewar and immediately after the commencement of hostilities, but the history has a couple of serious errors, IMO. Note that the week's voyage commencing November 21, 1941, has no destination given (although it's clear from the next line down that the destination was Honolulu). I think, however, that absence is the cause for the subsequent confusion. The Honolulu-to-Darwin voyage, specified as "Independent", is the double-error, as BLOEMFONTEIN was of course part of the Pensacola convoy, which did not sail to Darwin, but rather to Brisbane, arriving there December 22, 1941. Then we--or more to the point, I--get into murkier water.

I am in no manner an authority on maritime law, but before the outbreak of the actual shooting war, BLOEMFONTEIN was--I believe--under simple bare-boat charter to carry military equipment to Manila. With the subsequent outbreak of war and the convoy's diversion to Brisbane, the rules under which she sailed changed. The Americans wanted her to participate in a smaller convoy of fast ships from Brisbane to Manila Bay to succor the American forces fighting on Luzon, but the ship's captain protested and sought counsel from the government in Java. In consequence she sailed late from Brisbane, catching up with the smaller convoy after it had been diverted to Darwin on the order of Lt. Gen. George H. Brett, who thought the entire notion a suicide effort, given the IJN's command of sea and air around and over most of the Philippines. [Brett would be strongly criticized by some for this absolutely correct decision, and eventually would be shelved by the inimitable MacArthur as his air chief.]

After BLOEMFONTEIN had arrived at Darwin, there apparently was further argument about who and what could be unloaded there. Some have suggested that 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, intended with its organic armament, and the non-organic 45 or 48 British-style 75mm guns, to go to Luzon, was hijacked to Java for political purposes. I don't buy this theory at present, because if the Yanks really wanted to off-load this battalion at Darwin, they would have done so pronto, captain's protests or no. Also aboard BLOEMFONTEIN was a field artillery brigade headquarters of 100+ men, commanded by soon-to-be Colonel Albert Searle, around which a full brigade was to be built once this nucleus had reached Luzon. The idea that the battalion and the extra field guns were initially meant to defend Java is not true either, as the intention was to transship them to the Philippines by smaller coastal (inter-island) steamers--a notion the Americans were quickly disabused of once they had arrived in Java, only to learn those vessels were simply not available for such a forlorn-hope venture.

But back to BLOEMFONTEIN, the correct version of events is (a) in convoy, Honolulu to Brisbane; (b) partly independent, partly in convoy, Brisbane to Darwin; (c) in convoy, Darwin to Soerabaja. Thereafter--I THINK--she was fully leased to the United States, and no more appeals to or interventions by the Dutch government-in-exile.

I WELCOME corrections to any errors or misinterpretations in the account given above.

Nelson

 
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Jacques
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M.S. Bloemfontein

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May 28 2009, 8:14 PM 

Thanks Peter,
Your website information is very helpful.I found it interesting that up to 1943, around 50% of U.S.troops were transported by Dutch vessels - Is my understanding correct?
The convoy information, although incomplete shows that the Bloemfontein certainly got around - from Pearl Harbour shortly before the war to Java,the Solomons,the Philipines,the Marianas and even Iwo Jima before ending the war back in Pearl harbour on VJ Day.
The wartime picture show the Bloemfontein's forward armament.
Any idea on how she would have been armed?
Jacques

 
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Wynnum B Graham
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MS BLOEMFONTEIN

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May 29 2009, 10:04 AM 

Nelson, a bit extra as you ask
Disclaimer this is how I have it - I have read references in many different books, and not too many agree on very many things.

After Brisbane, PENSACOLA escorted some (only MEIGS and CHAUMONT of the original eight were in this convoy) ships to Torres Strait, turned back at Thursday Island, and escort duties were taken over by ;
Houston cruiser
Peary destroyer, four funnel.
Langley seaplane tender.
This convoy now goes to Darwin, having also been joined by BLOEMFONTEIN & HOLBROOK

Back to Brisbane - -
REPUBLIC went from Brisbane to Sydney, didnt go to north 26th Art Brigade HQ & 2nd Batt, 131st Field Artillery debarked REPUBLIC and embarked BLOEMFONTEIN.
The 147th and 148th Field Artillary Regiments were on HOLBROOK.

BLOEMFONTEIN & HOLBROOK departed Brisbane 28Dec41 independent of PENSACOLA, to take relief supplies to Philippines.
On reaching Torres Strait 01Jan42, orders were received to divert to Darwin, which they reached 03Jan42, escorted by HOUSTON.

Cheers, Wynnum.

 
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Nelson
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fleet movements in Australian waters

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May 29 2009, 6:23 PM 

Wynnum,

Thanks for yours, in which you preface your remarks with:

< I have read references in many different books, and not too many agree on very many things. >

Oh, too true. I fear I did not help either, in relying for a quick reference on Frank Fujita's 1993 FOO: A JAPANESE-AMERICAN PRISONER OF THE RISING SUN. Fujita was a sergeant with 2/131st F.A. and specifies January 1, 1942, for BLOEMFONTEIN's arrival at Darwin, whereas the deck logs for various warships indicate arrival there on January 5. More on dates as we continue. Before I go on, reliance must be placed on naval deck logs, because in one of the major tragedies of American archival history, the decision was made many years ago by some senior army officer to destroy the logs of all U.S. Army transports seeing service in WWII. That reality has been confirmed, sadly, by research specialists at both the U.S. National Archives and the Center for Military History.

< After Brisbane, PENSACOLA escorted some (only MEIGS and CHAUMONT of the original eight were in this convoy) ships to Torres Strait, turned back at Thursday Island, and escort duties were taken over by HOUSTON, PEARY, and LANGLEY. This convoy now goes to Darwin, having also been joined by BLOEMFONTEIN and HOLBROOK. >

Not according to PENSACOLA's deck log, which specifies only USS CHAUMONT and USAT HOLBROOK as the two vessels departing Brisbane on December 28, 1941 (and in addition to BLOEMFONTEIN, the two ships tapped to make the high speed--and likely suicidal--run to Manila Bay). MEIGS was NOT one of the vessels that went at that time to Darwin (and read below). On January 2, 1942, this small convoy was joined by BLOEMFONTEIN, apparently only after assurances had been made to the Dutch in Java that she would not be steaming to Manila Bay. EDSALL joined them on January 3, prior to passage through the minefield protecting the Goode Island anchorage. [I think a small island near Thursday Island, but the only Goode Island I can find in Australia is near Melbourne, so this log ID may be in error.]

HOUSTON's log for January 3, 1942, also confirms the convoy's consist as USS CHAUMONT, USAT HOLBROOK, and SS (sic) BLOEMFONTEIN. By the by, the log of no warship present reports the presence of destroyer PEARY or seaplane tender LANGLEY. Both warships were already at Darwin with the major portion of the Asiatic Fleet.

USAT MEIGS was a slow (10-knot) vessel and was therefore not selected for the run to Manila Bay. She eventually made her way to Darwin, became part of the armed convoy to reinforce Timor in February 1942, and was sunk by IJN aircraft in the devastating raid of February 19, having just returned from that unsuccessful attempt. She had been the subject of a strongly worded memo penned by the usually mild-mannered BGen Dwight Eisenhower, then deputy head of the U.S. Army's War Plans Division, who wished to know why in heaven's name the 27th Bombardment Group had been sent to Luzon on a fast transport, while their A-24 dive bombers followed on a slow boat (bad ol' MEIGS, of course part of the Pensacola convoy that never made it to Manila), when the crisis in the Far East suggested speed was of the essence in getting bomber aircraft to the Philippines. So, your source declaring that MEIGS was part of the smaller convoy to Darwin in late December 1941/early January 1942 is simply incorrect.

To complete cruiser PENSACOLA's role in all of this, she returned immediately to Brisbane, January 3-7, 1942, and turned around there at once as well, en route to Pearl Harbor on the 7th.

< REPUBLIC went from Brisbane to Sydney, didn't go to north. 26th Arty Brigade HQ & 2nd Batt, 131st Field Artillery debarked REPUBLIC and embarked BLOEMFONTEIN. The 147th and 148th Field Artillery Regiments were on HOLBROOK. >

Correct for the most part. USS (formerly USAT) REPUBLIC went into drydock on Cockatoo Island, Sydney, January 2-7, 1942, to remove extensive marine growth, as the antifouling paint she had previously was either (or both) of poor quality or inexpertly applied. She was back in San Francisco, via Wellington, on February 7. For the newcomer to this forum, 148th F.A. Regiment was less its 2nd Battalion, that having in essence been replaced by 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, soon to be on the sharp end in Java.

< BLOEMFONTEIN & HOLBROOK departed Brisbane 28Dec41 independent of PENSACOLA, to take relief supplies to Philippines. >

Again, true of only HOLBROOK, BLOEMFONTEIN having belatedly joined on January 2, 1942, the convoy escorted from the outset by PENSACOLA. And again, add naval transport CHAUMONT, which carried the naval cargo and a lot of personnel as replacements for the Asiatic Fleet, to that intended fast convoy. [But given that most of the fleet was already at Darwin, it is doubtful that in the end she would have made the run to Manila Bay.] CHAUMONT, too, soon passed out of the picture. After spending 17 days in Darwin, unloading cargo and transferring drafts of replacements to many Asiatic Fleet units, including the newly "recruited" MARECHAL JOFFRE, she stood out on January 18, 1942, en route to Brisbane, Sydney, and Wellington. She arrived Balboa on the Pacific end of the Panama Canal on March 19.

< On reaching Torres Strait 01Jan42, orders were received to divert to Darwin, which they reached 03Jan42, escorted by HOUSTON. >

The order to divert had been issued by LtGen Brett on December 31, 1941, and apparently reached the convoy the following day. The convoy escort by HOUSTON did not begin until after anchorage at Thursday (or Goode??) Island on January 3, 1942, when she relieved PENSACOLA of that task. The HOUSTON leg of the convoy did not reach Darwin until January 5. Do NOT read Goode Island as a correction, as PENSACOLA's log may have erred in that identification.

Finally, BOISE's deck log is of interest, as she escorted the Soerabaja-bound convoy, which included BLOEMFONTEIN. She arrived Darwin on January 6, 1942, and with warships MARBLEHEAD, BARKER, BULMER, PARROT, POPE, and STEWART stood out of that port on January 8. MARBLEHEAD, BULMER, and STEWART left the convoy before it entered Lombok Strait. At the entrance to Soerabaja harbor on January 11, the convoy met JOHN D. FORD and PILLSBURY. BOISE did not linger there after taking aboard RAdm William Glassford as task force commander, but departed at once with FORD and PILLSBURY providing A/S protection. The destroyers she had arrived with clearly needed to replenish their fuel bunkers.

These various logs must be treated as the most reliable primary source documents. I regret not using them at once, rather than cutting corners for the sake of time in using the Fujita book for that one date--i.e., the convoy reached Darwin on January 5, 1942, and BLOEMFONTEIN did NOT depart for Soerabaja on that date.

Nelson

 
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Dang it (x 2)!

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May 29 2009, 6:45 PM 

Wynnum,

Never trust ANYONE is the wisest counsel. (1) USS CHAUMONT stood out of Darwin on January 23, 1942, NOT January 18, for return to Brisbane. (2) And 'twas USS POPE that left the Soerabaja-bound convoy along with MARBLEHEAD and BULMER on January 9, 1942, before the convoy entered Lombok Strait, nicht USS STEWART. The errors were mine, and sorry 'bout dat.

Nelson

 
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Jacques
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Pensacola Convoy and the Southern Route

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May 30 2009, 12:02 PM 

Nelson,
Please let's look at this significant piece of history again:
1. Seen in hindsight, the decision not to run the Mandates gauntlet was indeed a wise one but we still need to know how this decision was arrived at. I really don't think that the Navy chose to go south in order "not to display predictable sailing habits" as you suggest but rather because of imminent danger. The southern route wasn't merely an alternative route but a detour of several thousand miles (with serious logistical challenges), intended to keep the convoy well clear of Japanese controlled territory. A conclusion that one can draw from this is that the Navy had excellent intelligence, they knew that the "ignition point" was imminent and they were certain that to take the direct westerly route would have resulted in the convoy being attacked and wiped out.
2. We have to question the value of lone cruisers as escort vessels. Surely submarines would have been the greatest danger to a convoy (well proven during WW1 and the war raging in the Atlantic at the time). The Pensacola had no submarine fighting capability and being only lightly armoured, was herself vulnerable to attack.
Regards,
Jacques

 
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Nelson
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prewar American convoy escorts

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May 30 2009, 1:01 PM 

Jacques,

Until the time of the Boise convoy just preceding the Pensacola convoy, when that earlier one was challenged by one or two units of the IJN in the Marianas, the danger to American westbound convoys was not considered to be submarines--or even the IJN at all--but German raiders, which had made their appearance in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Such raiders carried a heavy punch, witness the sinking of HMAS SYDNEY and the loss of her entire crew.

Of course as time progressed, the concern about the Japanese navy grew substantially, but the onset of the cruiser-escorted convoys was due to the threat of raiders, which is why most convoys--not all, as in the case of BOISE--were escorted by heavy cruisers.

The USN had finite resources in the Pacific Ocean and although it had suggested, and at times demanded, that such escorts be provided, on the other hand it resented the need to convoy so frequently, such that one or two heavy cruisers were always away on such duty, and not involved in the hard fleet training that senior officers knew was necessary.

Despite the undeclared war in which the USN found itself in the Atlantic, and thus the threat of German retaliation elsewhere, the need for antisubmarine protection was not considered a strong one, as no U-boats had then appeared in the Pacific. Thus the need for destroyers was small, and given the short legs of such escort vessels, a fleet oiler would have had to accompany each convoy, and those were in short supply, indeed considerably fewer than the cruisers which in the end had to do the job.

Now having written that--and the danger from raiders is not hypothesis, but documented in correspondence at the time--I do think the increasingly frequent use of the southern route was almost certainly due to the danger from the IJN, and BOISE would have reported the mild confrontation she had had. But as far as a specific threat unique to the Pensacola convoy--that certain danger lurked o'er the horizon BEFORE the unexpected air attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines--I know of none. Remember that virtually everybody knew war was coming; few outside the intelligence sections thought it would come so soon. You know what they say about hope springs eternal.

I shall be away for several days, so this will be it for awhile.

Nelson

 
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Jacques
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Pre- war Convoy Escorts

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May 30 2009, 2:53 PM 

Thanks Nelson,
I have not even considered the (very real) threat from German surface raiders. Have a good trip and be sure to take the safest route!
Regards,
Jacques

 
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Jan Visser
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Re: M. S. Bloemfontein

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June 1 2009, 12:22 PM 

Hi Jacques,

The "Bloemfontein" was originally built for the Holland - Africa Line of the VNS. In September, 1939, the VNS decided to redeploy her and the "Klipfontein", "Jagersfontein" and "Boschfontein" in the Java - Pacific Line (eastbound from the East Indies to America's West Coast). This line was operated by the Rotterdamsche Lloyd and the Stoomvaart Maatschappij "Nederland", which chartered the VNS ships. The decision to redeploy these valuable ships was in part caused by the increased risk to shipping due to mines, submarines, aircraft etc. in European waters.

After May, 1940 (when Germany conquered the Netherlands), Bloemfontein continued to be deployed in the Java - Pacific Line. She was part of the first Dutch convoy, when she and the ships "Marnix van St. Aldegonde", "Zaandam", "Mapia" and "Polyphemus" were escorted by the Dutch cruiser Hr.Ms. "Tromp" from a position west of Api Island to a positions five days beyond the Gilbert Islands. This voyage started January 1, 1941.

Bloemfontein continued to sail in this line until the outbreak of the Pacific War. She was converted to a troop transport in San Francisco and made her first voyage as such on April 13, 1942. She was deployed by the US War Shipping Administration.

There is scant mention of her in secondary sources, so she appears to have had an uneventful career.

 
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Jan Visser
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Re: M.S. Bloemfontein

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June 1 2009, 3:34 PM 

Hi Jacques,

The book L.L. von Münching "De Nederlandse Koopvaardijvloot in de Tweede Wereldoorlog", volume 2 has a list of armaments for Dutch merchant ships dated late 1942/early 1943 (Appendix 1 of that book, pp. 235-239).

According to this list, Bloemfontein was armed with:

1 x 4-inch low-angle.
2 x Oerlikon 20 mm
2 double Merlin machineguns.
1 x Lewis machinegun.

When exactly she received this armament, I can't say (my guess would be late 1941).


    
This message has been edited by Visje1981 on Jun 1, 2009 3:35 PM


 
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Jacques
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M. S. Bloemfontein

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June 6 2009, 9:18 AM 

Thanks Jan,
I certainly have a lot of information now but I will always be hungry for more. First of all I have to congratulate your countrymen on the historic win over England last night.(Cricket is not the focus of this Forum, I know but I had to get it in!)
I've somehow missed out on the earlier discussion on the topic of the Bloemfontein (November 2008)and I do feel a bit of an idiot! I suppose one has to check the new postings and responses every day or you will lose out. The information thrown about in this Forum is substantial but I am concerned that the value might be lost unless you come up with a way of indexing it all. Fairly often threads are abandoned without all avenues explored and questions answered. Does this make sense or is it just me?

Back to the boring ol' Bloemfontein. One might describe her career as uneventful (as you did) because she saw out the war without any incident (that we know of) and reverted back to her trade for another 15 years before being scrapped in 1959.

What I find remarkable is the distance she covered throughout the Pacific during the war, visiting almost every area of conflict and yet coming out unscathed. The Bloemfontein (along with her master, officers and crew) were typical of many Koopvaardij vessels during WW2 which performed reliably and delivered what was required of them - with little or no recognition?
Regards,
Jacques

 
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Nelson
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exciting career of JAGERSFONTEIN

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June 6 2009, 12:51 PM 

Jacques,

Some diff between the wartime careers of BLOEMFONTEIN and JAGERSFONTEIN. The latter ship carried the first (I think) contingent of flyers for the American Volunteer Group (AVG or Flying Tigers) during July 1941 (n.b., these men did not see combat until after war began in the Pacific five months later). Not officially escorting her, but "encountering" her on the dark ocean and always lurking nearby, were not one but two U.S. heavy cruisers: SALT LAKE CITY (CA 25) and NORTHAMPTON (CA 26), officially steaming on a courtesy visit to Brisbane, Port Moresby, and Rabaul, and thus these ships took the southern route. Somewhere in the vicinity of Torres Strait they "encountered" the Dutch cruiser JAVA, which proceeded along with JAGERSFONTEIN to Java (I think Soerabaja). I'm not certain how far this escort continued, but she went on to Rangoon to disembark the P-40 pilots.

JAGERSFONTEIN was entering Honolulu Harbor on December 7, 1941, as the first wave of Japanese aircraft hit nearby Pearl Harbor. Unbidden, she opened fire on the second wave, and later her crew (and some passengers, too) donated blood to help the badly wounded.

Six months+ later--in late June 1942--she was torpedoed and sunk by U-107 while carrying Dutch civilians and 86 U.S. Army officers to Europe. I think there was a U.S. Navy armed guard aboard, manning the various deck guns. The survivors were rescued by the Swiss merchant vessel ST. CERGUE/CERQUE. Unlike the then-current American management of BLOEMFONTEIN, BOSCHFONTEIN, and KLIPFONTEIN, I'm not aware of the precise status of JAGERSFONTEIN, and hope someone can fill in that blank.

Nelson

 
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Kit
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status of MS JAGERSFONTEIN

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June 7 2009, 8:48 AM 

Nelson,

After a bit of surfing, I found this DANFS item on USS BERNADOU (DD-153), the destroyer that took aboard the gunners and American army officers traveling on MS JAGERSFONTEIN before her sinking.

http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/b5/bernadou-i.htm

It reads in part, "She [BERNADOU] conducted antisubmarine warfare exercises on 26 June 1942, but news of U-107's sinking of SS JAEGERSFONTEIN cut them short. On 27 June, BERNADOU arrived on the scene and took 86 United States Army officers and 13 British and Dutch gunners from SS ST. CERGUE, which had reached the scene of the tragedy first. After taking the survivors on board, she returned to Hamilton, Bermuda, arriving the next day."

My conclusion from the Dutch and British gunners assigned to her, rather than a USN armed guard, is that, unlike the three other modern Dutch merchant ships you named, JAGERSFONTEIN was never under the control of the U.S. War Shipping Administration.

Kit

 
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Jacques
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It's just me!

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June 7 2009, 1:02 PM 

Sorry Jan,
The "search" button works just fine. I will use it in future.
Regards,
Jacques

 
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