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Combat Loaded

Across the Pacific on the USS Tate

By Thomas E. Crew

Publication Year: 2007

The first authoritative history of any of the more than 350 attack transports or attack cargo ships of World War II, Combat Loaded: Across the Pacific on the USS Tate contains gripping combat narratives alongside the sometimes heartwarming, sometimes tragic details of daily life on board the ships of Transport Squadron 17 during the waning days of World War II. Author Thomas E. Crew interviewed over fifty veterans of the Tate, including all her surviving officers. Crew weaves a rich tapestry of voices, combining it with extensive analysis of the Tate’s daily action reports and ship’s logs, accented by lively letters of the period from private collections—including previously unpublished accounts of the last days of famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Crew also presents a rare unit-level perspective of joint operations involving the infantry fighting ashore and the navy transports that sustained them with their vital combat cargo. The resulting richly illustrated work presents perhaps the most comprehensive account to date of the experiences and courageous contributions of those who served on amphibious transports during World War II.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Front Matter

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Figures and Maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xv-xxii

One of the traditions of my baby-boomer childhood was my father giving me a navy haircut while I sat on a wooden bench in our basement. In the short time it took to buzzcut my brother and me, Dad often treated us to a story about his World War II service in the Pacific. Hanging on the wall near where we lost our hair was a framed shellback certificate...

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1. Mobilization: Awaken a Sleeping Giant

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pp. 1-13

Illuminated only by starlight, the attack cargo ship Tate steamed across an uncommonly calm sea during the early hours of April 16, 1945. The clear, moonless night sky sparkled with the constellations Tate’s captain knew so well. After two world wars, Lt. Cdr. Rupert E. Lyon, an expert navigator and decorated warrior, viewed the stars as friendly lighthouses in the sky...

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2. Across the Pacific: Gold Bars on Your Shoulders

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pp. 14-25

On November 25, 1944, Capt. R. N. S. Baker, aide to the commandant of the Sixth Naval District, placed the USS Tate into commission at Charleston, South Carolina. In their dress blue uniforms, Tate’s crew stood in formation for the brief but impressive ceremony, as Lt. Cdr. William Jordan became the ship’s first commanding officer. Family...

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3. The Philippines: This Is No Goddamned Drill!

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pp. 26-34

On February 7, 1945, Tate entered the enormous anchorage of the lagoon at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Passing the partially submerged hulk of a Japanese ship reminded those on deck of their potential fate. As a forward staging area, the lagoon was cluttered with the silhouettes of almost every class of ship, including many transports. Here Tate...

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4. Kerama Retto: Ours to Hold It High

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pp. 35-51

On March 23, 1945, the Western Islands Attack Group was zigzagging toward its destiny in the Ryukyu Islands. Only 350 miles southeast of Japan’s main islands, the Ryukyus were considered part of Japan and not an occupied territory or colony. These islands would be the first part of the Japanese homeland to be invaded. Japanese resistance was...

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5. Okinawa: For Those in Peril on the Sea!

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pp. 52-66

The international date line runs north to south roughly through the middle of the sparsely inhabited Central Pacific Ocean. By convention, each new day is born at midnight in remote darkness along this line. As the first rays of sunlight crossed the line on April 1, 1945, they gave birth to the holiest of Christian holidays, Easter Sunday, a date set...

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6. In Floating Reserve: We Slept at Our Guns

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pp. 67-76

The morning of April 3, 1945, brought a new and tragic awareness to the crew of Tate. They wore a somber communal expression that only a fellow combat veteran could appreciate. As one of the ship’s veterans recalled, “There was a lot of activity in the ship’s laundry that day.” The question on everyone’s mind was surely “Why were we spared?” Was it...

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7. Combat Loaded: The Entire Beach Seemed to Be on Fire

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pp. 77-93

Emerging from a protective blanket of smoke, Tate and the rest of Transport Squadron 17 steamed from the Hagushi anchorage at 0440 on April 16, 1945. Finally free of the smothering layer of smoke, the ships formed into three columns before heading up the west coast of Okinawa. Under the control of the squadron flagship, Chilton, the ships...

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8. Ie Shima: Forge a Ring of Steel

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pp. 94-113

The most vulnerable time for a transport is the period that encompasses the early phases of an amphibious operation. Its decks are cluttered with debarking troops, equipment, and ammunition. Landing craft are circling in the assembly areas as support ships execute their naval gunfire missions, restricting the ship’s maneuverability. An invasion is run...

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9. Crossing the Line: Peace-Lovin’ Civilian

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pp. 114-122

As Tate lay anchored in the Hagushi anchorage on April 21, 1945, the crew began preparations for departing Okinawa. Tate’s role in Operation Iceberg was now complete. The ship would return to a secure area to resupply, embark troops, and load cargo for its next mission. Spending one last long night with the men sleeping at their guns, the ship...

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10. The Golden Gate: A Virgin Visits Frisco

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pp. 123-134

Along with the battle damage to the number five cargo hold, Tate had developed a significant leak in the packing around its propeller shaft that required attention in a stateside shipyard. Just two hours after finishing the unloading of its cargo in Guam, the ship was under way, moving away from the war at fifteen knots toward the United States...

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11. Chinese Odyssey: Mighty Sick of the Pacific

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pp. 135-156

Cutting through the waves of the Central Pacific, Tate was steaming toward Ulithi to join Transport Squadron 17, bound for Okinawa. Sailing alone, the ship was still under orders to zigzag as protection against submarines. Arriving the next day, Tate dropped anchor in Ulithi’s northern anchorage. On the morning of August 28, 1945, as the crew...

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12. Magic Carpet: Now He’s Waiting for Me

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pp. 157-168

As Tate’s convoy steamed south on the morning of November 23, 1945, the crew hoped it was the last time they would transit the unfriendly waters of the Yellow Sea. As a reminder of what they were leaving behind, the ship went to general quarters after sighting floating mines. In a now routine manner, the gun crews ran to their battle...

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Epilogue: You May Never Know

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pp. 169-178

Seaman 1st Class John J. Toombs’s train pulled into his hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, late at night. Throwing his seabag over his shoulder, he walked to his home, which was just a few blocks from the station. On his uniform Toombs wore the five service decorations Tate had earned: the World War II Victory ribbon, the American Campaign ribbon...

Appendix A. USS Tate (AKA-70) Organization

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pp. 179-181

Appendix B. Josephine Goes to Sea on the USS Tate

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pp. 182-185

Appendix C. Index of World War II Attack Cargo Ships (AKA)

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pp. 186-192


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pp. 193-211


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pp. 213-221


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pp. 223-232

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444903
E-ISBN-10: 1603444904
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585445561
Print-ISBN-10: 1585445568

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 33 b&w photos. 1 line art. 11 maps. 7 tables.
Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Tate (Ship).
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, American.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Pacific Ocean.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Transportation -- United States.
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