American Florence
Military Cemetery

A Video Tribute

 

D. M. Giangreco Bibliography
The Planned Invasion
of Japan

Declassified USS Harry Lee Tarawa After Action Report December 6, 1943

 

 

The U.S.S. Harry Lee

Biography of an Attack Transport Ship in WWII

The USS Harry Lee
The USS Harry Lee under way

  The U.S.S. Harry Lee was built as the passenger ship Exochorda by the New York Shipbuilding Company, Camden, New Jersey in 1931 and operated in the Mediterranean area for American Export Lines.

  The ship was acquired by the Navy on October 30, 1940. She was converted at Tietjen and Lang Dry Dock Company, Hoboken, N.J., and commissioned the Harry Lee (AP17) on December 27, 1940, with Captain R. P. Hinrichs in command. The Harry Lee was reclassified APA-10, on February 1, 1943. after she underwent further wartime modifications.

Mitsubishi Zero fighter
Japanese Zero

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a lightweight fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Service (IJNAS) from 1940 to 1945. The origin of its official designation was that "A" signified a fighter and "6" for the sixth model built by Mitsubishi ("M"). The A6M was usually referred to by the Allies as the "Zero"as well as other codenames and nicknames, including "Zeke", "Hamp" and "Hap".

Vital Statistics

  • Displacement: 9,989 tons
  • Length: 475' 4"
  • Beam: 61' 6"
  • Draft: 25' 4"
  • Armament as AP17:
          4 x 40 mm guns

  • Speed: 16 knots
  • Complement: 453
  • Armament as APA10:
         4 x 40 mm guns
         one 6" gun mounted forward
         one 6" gun mounted aft
  •  

    Commissioned Service

    The Marines - The Few, The
                Proud The USS Harry Lee spent the first few months of her commissioned service transporting Marine combat units to the Caribbean for training exercises, helping to build the amphibious teams which were to find such great success in the later stages of World War II.

    After a stay at Norfolk, the transport was assigned in July to the Iceland route, carrying troops and supplies to that country from Norfolk and New York. After making two such passages, she returned to Boston on December 22, 1941, to take part in additional training exercises.

    With America then in the war, the Harry Lee spent the next 18 months in amphibious maneuvers in the Caribbean area. During this time training exercises were carried out in landing craft and boat control procedures, all of which bore fruit in the dangerous months to come.

    Mediterranean Fleet Service

    Returning to Boston on April 6, 1943, the Harry Lee was designated for use in the upcoming offensive in the Mediterranean, and sailed June 8, 1943, for Algeria. She anchored at Oran on June 22, 1943 to prepare for the landing and she found herself off the southwest coast of Sicily on July 10, 1943, with Vice Admiral Hewitt's Western Naval Task Force. During these giant invasions the Harry Lee debarked her troops through the heavy surf at Scoglitti and withstood several Axis air attacks before retiring two days later.

    Pacific Fleet Service

    1943

    U.S.S. Harry Lee,
                Attack Transport Ship After the success of the Sicilian operation, the transport returned German prisoners of war to the United States, arriving at Norfolk on August 3, 1943. It was then decided that her amphibious prowess was needed in the Pacific and she sailed August 24, 1943 for Wellington, New Zealand, via the Panama Canal and San Francisco, arriving October 12, 1943.

    At Wellington, the Harry Lee loaded Marines in preparation for the big push of the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She proceeded to Efate, New Hebrides, NoveF4F Wildcatmber 1-7, 1943, and for the next few weeks held amphibious practice landings in preparation for the landings on Tarawa. The transport departed for Tarawa on November 13, 1943, and arrived offshore on November 20, 1943. There she launched her Marines onto the bloody beaches, under threat of submarine attack and air attack. In action between November 20 and November 30, she buried 12 United States Marines at sea. The Harry Lee then sailed on November 30th for Pearl Harbor. (See the declassified after action report below.)

    1944

    The Harry Lee participated in rehearsal landings in Hawaiian waters after her arrival at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1943, the second anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and sailed January 23, 1944 for the invasion of the Marshall Islands, next step on the island road to Japan.

    She arrived off Kwajalein on January 31, 1944. She effectively carried out her role in this complicated operation by landing troops on two small islands in the atoll; they met little opposition. The Harry Lee remained off Kwajalein until departing for Funafuti on February 5, 1944. From there she sailed to Noumea on February 24, 1944 and by March 14, 1944, she was anchored off Guadalcanal to load troops and continue her amphibious preparation.

    Navy Recruiting Poster, World War I era After carrying troops to Bougainville and New Guinea in April, the Harry Lee sailed to Aitape, New Guinea, under Rear Admiral Barbey for the Hollandia operation. She arrived April, 23, 1944, after the initial assault, unloaded her troops, and proceeded to bring reinforcements from other points in New Guinea to the landing area. This accomplished, the transport arrived in Espirtu Santo on May 11, 1944.

    The Harry Lee was next to take part in the invasion of the Marianas. After landing operations conducted around Guadalcanal the ship sailed to Kwajalein and got underway in convoy for Guam on June 12, 1944. During this gigantic operation, in which troops were projected over 1,000 miles of ocean from the nearest advance base, the Harry Lee was held in reserve for the Guam landings. She arrived off Agat, Guam, on July 21, 1944 and debarked her troops. The transport then remained offshore loading and relanding troops for tactical purposes until July 25, 1944, when she steamed with her fellow transports to Eniwetok. They arrived on July 29, 1944, and two days later sailed for Pearl Harbor.

    Arriving Pearl Harbor on August 7, 1944, the Harry Lee set course for California and a much-needed overhaul. She arrived San Pedro on August 18, 1944 and remained in California until departing on October 21, 1944, with troops for Seeadler Harbor, Manus. Until December 31, 1944, the ship conducted practice landings in New Guinea and the Solomons for the upcoming invasion of Luzon, in the Philippines, and departed the last day of 1944 for Lingayan Gulf. Enroute, Japanese planes attacked the task force savagely with suicide planes and bombers, but the Harry Lee by effective gunfire and luck escaped damage.

    1945

    She entered Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945, and began landing troops under constant air alert. That night the transports retired off the beaches under smoke screens, returning the next day to resume the dangerous job of landing supplies. Harry Lee sailed on January 10, 1945, for Leyte Gulf, anchoring there on January 14, 1945.

    With troops ashore at Lingayen, the Harry Lee departed on January 19, 1945 for Ulithi, northeast of Palau and southwest of Guam, and arrived two days later. The ship went to Ulithi to take on fresh water as there was a larg desalinization plant there. She soon was back in action, however, sailing on February 17, 1945, for Iwo Jima and her last amphibious operation of the war. The transport arrived via Guam on February 22, 1945, three days after the landings , and after sending a reconnaissance unit ashore on February 24, 1945, disembarked her troops. The ship remained off Iwo Jima until March 6, 1945, acting as a hospital evacuation vessel. She then sailed with casualties to Saipan from March 6-9, 1945.


    This photo of the USS Harry Lee was provided to me by Sherry Troupe who told me she found it at a flee market. She collects old WWII memorabilia, found our website and forwarded it to me. One email I received thought this picture was taken after the war because of the large hull numbers. He said that during the war hull numbers were kept small. A subsequent email from Mr. Cruce Lansford stated that the photo was, in fact, taken after the war in San Francisco harbor.  He said the ship was unloading boats to leave them there and go to Brooklyn to decommission.  He states in his email, "I was on the forward deck where the boat was hoisted. A boat came out and took pictures then sold them to us."  Click the image for a larger view. More images are in a catalog at the end of the website under Further Resources.


    Harry Lee spent the rest of her time in the Pacific transporting troops and supplies, as the American thrust at Japan neared its final phase. She touched at Tulagi, Noumea, New Guinea, Manus and the Philippines, bringing reinforcements and vitally needed supplies. The ship was at Leyte Gulf on July 20, 1945, when ordered back to the United States and she arrived for a brief stay on August 8, 1945. It was during this time that news of Japan's surrender Surrender aboard Missouriurireached the veteran transport. The surrender was signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Septebmer 2, 1945, as shown in the photo at the right.

    The Planned Invasion of Japan

    For a description of what might have happened if the invasion of Japan had taken place, see An Invasion Not Found in History Books, by James Martin Davis, reprinted from the Omaha World Herald, November, 1987.

    Bibliography of the Planned Invasion

    Noted military historian D. M. Giangreco has graciously provided the USS Harry Lee website with an excellent bibliography and Internet links to articles and lectures on the topic of the planned U.S. invasion of Japan and it's probable consequences for U.S. servicemen. Mr. Giangreco has published a paper specifically dealing with how valuable troop transport ships like the USS Harry Lee were to the war's successful conclusion.

    The ship reached Manila on September 16, 1945, and aided in the occupation of Japan, and after loading troops at various points in the Philippines arrived Tokyo Bay on October 13, 1945. Assigned to Operation Magic Carpet, and the huge job of bringing American veterans home from the Pacific, the Harry Lee arrived in San Francisco on November 4, 1945, and made another round trip to the Philippines and back, arriving January 20, 1946.

    1946

    From San Francisco she sailed January 23, 1946, for New York, via Norfolk. The ship arrived February 9, 1946, and decommissioned at Brooklyn Navy Yard on May 9, 1946. After a period in Reserve Fleet, she was sold to Turkey in April 1948. Renamed the Tarsus, she burned in the Bosporus after a rare three ship collision in December, 1960.


    Further USS Harry Lee Resources

    The U.S.S. Harry Lee Pamphlet

    USS Harry Lee
                    pamphlet published November 2, 1945 For more information about this fine ship and her crew look at the other USS Harry Lee web site especially for veterans who served aboard the USS Harry Lee.

    The pamphlet at the left was published on November 2, 1945 and contains many interesting facts about the ship. The pamphlet has been scanned into an Adobe Acrobat portable document file, (size 512 Mb), and can be viewed on your computer. Follow this link to download the file:

    http://files.me.com/stevewaszak/r66yvs

    If you cannot download the file email me with your address and I will endeavor to mail you the file on a CD ROM disk.

    Declassified Tarawa After Action Report 1943

    Dated December 6, 1943, the U.S.S. Harry Lee declassified Tarawa After Action Report was graciously provided by Patrick L. Smith of Saxton, Pennsylvania. It was submitted to CINCPAC and describes in the cold, detached prose of that era the action of the U.S.S. Harry Lee during the Tarawa invasion.

    Diaries and Memoirs of Servicemen

    The Adventures of a Landing Craft Coxswain is the very interesting story of Sterling Funck who served aboard the USS Harry Lee in WWII written by his grandson Christian A. Funck.

    The diary of Alvan Fisher, a serving member of the crew during 1941 and 1942, was graciously provided to me for this website by his son, Alvan Fisher, Jr. You can read the diary as a Word document (165 kb).

    The personal navy log of A. A. Maronta, a pharmacist's mate serving aboard the USS Harry Lee, has been graciously provided by his son, Mike Maronta. You can read this personal navy log as an Adobe Acrobat Reader portable document file (4.8 Mb).

    The Six Long Years - autobiographical observations of a sailor who served on a destroyer in the Pacific during the time the USS Harry Lee was in commission.

    National Archives Photographs

    A gentleman from Falls Church, Virginia, provided me with copies of photographs released by the National Archives of the U.S.S. Harry Lee, (AP 17, reclassified APA 10 on February 1, 1943).  The photographs span the time between 1941 and 1945. You view a small catalog of these photographs here. Click on the thumbnail images to view the larger scanned images.

    Commanding Officers of the USS Harry Lee

    Robert Paul Hinrichs USNA 1911 Captain Dec 12, 1940
    Joseph G. Pomeroy   Commander Feb 1943
    James W. Whitfield USNA 1919 Capt:RAdm Mar 1943
    Dwight Merle Agnew USNA 1926 Capt:RAdm No date
           

    USNA stands for United States Naval Academy and the year was the year that officer graduated from the Naval Academy. This information on commanding officers was kindly provided by Wolfgang Hechler.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The USS Harry Lee received seven battle stars
    for her World War II service to our nation.

    The USS Harry Lee at Brooklyn Navy Yard

    The USS Harry Lee in the Todd Shipyard, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1946

      Historical research material for this article was provided by the National Archives and Jim Kirkwood, WT3/C, (Water Tender, 3rd class), "B" Division, (fire room division), a veteran of WWII naval service aboard the U.S.S. Harry Lee, who was interviewed by me at his home in Seattle, Washington, in 1996. Photos of Jim during his service aboard the USS Harry Lee can be viewed here.

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