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USS GOSPER



USS Gosper (APA 170)

USS GOSPER APA 170
Courtesy of John McCann, son of Commander Francis W. McCann, Commanding Officer


The following is from "A Brief History of the USS GOSPER (APA 170)"
 
The Gosper was built by the
OREGON SHIPBUILDING CORPORATION
Portland, Oregon.
COMMISSIONED 17 NOVEMBER 1944
Commissioning Officer
CAPTAIN A. R. PONTO, USN
Commanding Officer
Naval Station, Astoria, Oregon
COMMANDER F. W. McCANN, USN
Commanding Officer



A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE USS GOSPER (APA 170)

The Gosper's history as a commissioned ship of the U.S. Navy began on November 18th 1944.  On that date, in a simple but impressive ceremony, she was placed in commission by Captain A.R. Ponto, U.S.N., Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Station at Astoria, Oregon.  Commander Francis W. McCann, U.S.N., assumed command.  Built by the Oregon Shipbuilding company at Portland in 81 record breaking days, the Gosper was named for Gosper County in Southern Nebraska.

Following ten days of loading stores and supplies and making ready for sea, the Gosper, on November 29th, was reported to COTCPac as ready for duty and departed from Astoria for Seattle, Washington.  The crew was new and untried, as well as the ship herself, but both were destined to receive ample training before engaging in combat action.  On December 3rd, the Gosper sailed for San Francisco, arriving there on December 6th, and presently began to look like what she was meant to be, an attack transport.  For there she took aboard her full complement of 26 landing craft--24 LCV(P)'s and 2 of the larger LCM's.

The period from December 8th to December 21st was spent at San Pedro, conducting routine shakedown exercises, followed by two weeks of amphibious exercises at sea off San Diego in company with Task Unit 13.19.8.  On January 6th the Gosper was ordered to return to San Diego for post-shakedown availability, and upon completion of necessary alterations departed for San Francisco.

It was now time to work in earnest, and the Gosper for the first time loaded troop and cargo and set sail toward the war zone.  Her passengers consisted of 311 men and 34 officers of a Naval Aviation group; her destination Guadalcanal.  But the sea had other things in store for her.

Only a day out of San Francisco a severe storm was encountered, accompanied by extremely high seas, in the course of which one "P" boat and part of a hoisting davit were carried away.   Although the rough seas continued for another 24 hours, no further damage was suffered.  The Gosper, however, received new orders and course was set for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.   Passengers and cargo were discharged there, and the ship reloaded for the return trip to San Francisco, where repairs to her storm damage were to be made.  Passengers included 224 medical evacuees, forerunner of duty the Gosper was destined to see much later, together with 792 additional military personnel. This passage was an unusually rapid one for a ship of the Gosper's class, requiring 2 1/2 hours less than five days from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco, arriving in Frisco on February 8th 1945.

Repairs accomplished, the Gosper again loaded military personnel -- 224 officers and 207 enlisted men, and sailed for Pearl Harbor on February 21st, arriving February 27th after an uneventful cruise.

Now came the decision which was to shape the Gosper's career for the balance of the war.  The Navy decided to convert her for use as a casualty evacuation ship.  This conversion, which was accomplished at the Navy Yard in Pearl Harbor, involved alteration of several troop compartments for use as auxiliary sick bays, complete with operating facilities and all other necessary equipment.  Seventeen days were required for completion of this work and on March 18th the ship departed from Pearl Harbor bound for Eniwetok.  There further routing was received to Ulithi, where it was revealed that the Gosper was to take part in the Okinawa operation, with her particular task that of casualty evacuation ship at Kerama Retto, a small group of islands a few miles west of Okinawa itself.  This trip was uneventful with the exception of the passage through floating mine fields.

The Gosper arrived at Kerama Retto at 1100 on April 6th.  Just four hours and twenty-three minutes later at 1523, "Flash Red, Control Yellow" was received--warning that a Jap air raid could be expected momentarily. The training of the Gosper's crew in getting to battle stations was quickly put to good use--for at 1525 the ship's guns opened fire on an enemy plane approaching the anchorage from the south.  As AA fire became heavy, this plane swerved to the right and made a suicide crash on an LST [LST 447], which was instantly enveloped in flames and the crew was observed to be abandoning ship.

The Gosper was designed to receive casualties and her boats were sent to assist others arriving at the scene, and to direct casualty disposition.

At 1527 another Jap plane was observed headed into the West anchorage.  It was taken under fire by all ships able to bear, including the Gosper, and was shot down.

At 1528 a third enemy plane was seen diving into the West anchorage and passed from view behind the hills.  Almost immediately an explosion was heard and word was received that the plane had made a suicide crash on an ammunition ship anchored there.

At 1540 a fighter plane catapulted from one of our CVE's anchored in the harbor was fired upon and shot down by our own ships.  The pilot parachuted to safety, was picked up on one of the Gosper's boats and brought to the ship, where the medical staff found him to be uninjured.

During the lull that followed, the Gosper's crew remained at battle stations as further raids were expected.  It was 1840, however, before the next Jap plane was sighted, a "KATE," low on the water and obviously bent this time on suicide- crashing the Gosper.  At about 10,000 yards, after being hit repeatedly, this plane jettisoned its bomb, but kept coming straight in.  For the last 3,000 yards of its run it was under the concentrated fire of the entire starboard battery of 20MM's and 40MM's, and was finally shot down and crashed into the water 75 yards off the Gosper's starboard beam.  This "splash"  was claimed for the Gosper and officially confirmed.  The ship's bridge was promptly decorated with the silhouette of a Jap plane and a single Jap flag, indicating one enemy plane shot down.

Only one additional Jap plane was sighted during this particular raid, and this one was successful in making a suicide crash into another ammunition ship a few miles south of the Gosper.  All three ships hit during the afternoon were lost, and known losses of Jap planes were eight.

The Gosper began her grim business of receiving and treating casualties, which were received intermittently from 1600 to midnight.  Total casualties as a result of this raid were 111, including one officer and one enlisted man of the Gosper's own crew, who were seriously injured when a 20MM shell from another ship struck the flying bridge.

The Gosper remained at Kerama Retto until April 17th.  During this period 494 casualties were received and treated, 350 of which were stretcher cases.  Many uninjured survivors of other ships were also taken aboard for temporary care.  Enemy air raids in the immediate vicinity were frequent, and in this 11 day period the Gosper's crew was at general quarters on 30 occasions for a total time of 33 hours and 21 minutes.

From Kerama Retto, the Gosper went to Hagushi Beaches, the original landing area on Okinawa, where she joined a convoy of Ulithi.  Only a brief stop was made at that port and the ship proceeded alone to Guam, where all ambulatory and stretcher patients were transferred to Naval Hospitals.

Saipan was the Gosper's next stop.  1015 Army combat personnel were loaded and the ship joined a convoy bound for Okinawa.  She arrived at Hagushi Beaches on May 1st and disembarked her passengers.  The ship which had relieved the Gosper as a casualty receiving ship [USS PINKNEY (AH-2)] at Kerama Retto, had been seriously damaged by a suicide plane, hit shortly after the Gosper's departure.  Consequently orders were received for the Gosper to proceed back to that station, where she arrived and resumed her humanitarian duties on May 2nd.  During the month of May a total of 417 patients were received and treated, mostly casualties from various Naval vessels hit by suicide planes.  The general quarters alarm was sounded 53 times that month as air raids in the immediate vicinity were a frequent occurrence only three days in the month being completely free from air attack.  Total time spent at battle stations in May amounted to 71 hours and 30 minutes.  Numerous ships in the vicinity took suicide hits, but the Gosper's luck held and she escaped unscathed.

The month of June saw the Gosper still at anchor at Kerama Retto.  443 patients were received on board during the month, more than in May, although the frequency and intensity of air raids in the vicinity of the ship showed a marked decrease.  13 days were entirely free of raids.  General quarters was sounded 34 times, and total time at battle stations was 24 hours and 50 minutes.

In early July, Naval operations in the Kerama Retto area were curtailed, the Okinawa campaign having reached its final victorious stages.  On July 10th, the Gosper proceeded to Buckner Bay, on the east side of Okinawa, and five days later joined a convoy to Ulithi and then to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco.

At Pearl Harbor, Commander Francis W. McCann, Commanding Officer of the Gosper since her commissioning, was detached due to ill health and command was assumed by Lieutenant Commander Andrew Hutchinson, USNR.   Captain Hutchinson had also been with the ship since commissioning as Executive Officer.

Upon arrival in San Francisco, the Gosper went into repair for nearly two weeks, and all hands enjoyed their first leaves, in most cases, since the commissioning of the ship, nine months before.  The Japanese surrender was announced and the Gosper's record of combat ended, but not her usefulness, for there was still much transport work to be accomplished.

Army troops were the Gosper's next passengers, and with them, she sailed on August 26th for the Philippine Islands, anchoring in Manila Harbor on September 15th.  The troops were discharged, the Gosper loaded for the return trip to the United States with probably her most interesting passengers to date--a large group of American, British and
Canadians who had been prisoners of the Japanese for long periods, some since late in 1941.  She was selected for this duty due to her extensive medical facilities.

On the 21st of September, at 1800, after leaving the San Bernardino Straits in the Philippines, a native was seen clinging to an overturned outrigger off the port bow.  A hurricane had been raging off the coast and apparently accounted for his unfortunate position.  The Gosper swung about and rescued the native from the mountainous waves.  He had been exposed for 7 hours and suffered from exhaustion.  Our "extra" passenger was partly responsible for our stop at Ulithi Atoll.

Ulithi gave the Gosper more work in the form of 17 Naval officers, 1 Marine officer, 158 enlisted Naval men, and 24 Marine enlisted personnel.  These men were awaiting the first transportation to the states.

At 0700, on the 4th of October, the Gosper, now nearly fully loaded, arrived at Pearl Harbor to refuel and take on more Naval passengers.  At 1830 the following morning she left enroute to San Francisco.

On the 6th of October a radio dispatch was received changing the ship's destination to Seattle, due to lack of yard availability in Frisco.

The 11th of October, at 2125, docking at Esquimalt on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Gosper disembarked the British and Canadian passengers, amid cheers, whistles and toots from the local factories.

The following morning the Gosper docked in Seattle and disembarked the remaining passengers and some of her own crew, leaving for discharges.  That evening the Gosper left for Everett, Washington for an 11 day yard availability.  There the crew was granted five day leaves in two shifts and plenty of liberty in the small but sociable town of Everett.

The 23rd the Gosper left Everett for Seattle Harbor where she lay at anchor awaiting orders, Lieutenant Commander Andrew Hutchinson, acting Commanding Officer, was detached, and Commander Francis W. McCann assumed command once again.  The return of Captain McCann was welcomed throughout the ship.

On the 26th of October, the Gosper left Seattle for Bremerton, Washington, to load supplies and passengers for a trip to Pearl Harbor.  In the late afternoon of the 26th she left Bremerton and set out to sea with 193 Naval enlisted men as passengers.  Late on the 27th the Gosper ran into a storm and was forced to change its course to ride it out.  The faithful ship weathered the storm and on the 29th was able to resume her former course enroute to Pearl.

Thus we leave the history of the Gosper to those who make it, the officers and men, ready to go anywhere as long as their country needs them.

The Gosper was commissioned on 18 November 1944 and scrapped after the war 1946 at James River, VA.


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