Practicing the Art of War: Episode 9: Shipping Out

©2022 Tom Parks All Rights Reserved

For Clarification…

In this narrative there is a ship named the “Argentina” and there is a port in Newfoundland, Canada named “Argentia“.

In those two words, the difference of that second “n” has been the cause of much confusion online and in my research. For a while… a LONG while, I thought the convoy which took my father to England had gone by way of Argentina. I couldn’t understand it… It made no sense… Yet, there are sources online that firmly attest to that.

After much reading and cross-referencing, I finally got it straightened out. I am writing this so, hopefully, you can avoid any of the considerable consternation I endured during my early reading on this subject.

I must point out that, even as I write this, spell check continues to insist that there may be a problem with the word, “Argentia“. Every time I write it, spell check politely but persistently hints that, perhaps, I meant to write, “Argentina”?

In this narrative, ArgenTINA is the ship and ArgenTIA is the port in Newfoundland.

Argentia, Newfoundland and the two Dildos

During World War II, Argentia was home to a U.S. Naval Station which opened in 1941. Two years prior to my father’s arrival there, President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met at the station for three days to “discuss war strategies and logistics once the U.S. joined in the war“. – Wikipedia/Naval Station Argentia

Just to be clear… This meeting about how America was going to wage the war took place four months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Argentia is on Placentia Bay on the southeastern coast of Newfoundland. For reference, the port is about sixty miles southwest of the small village of Dildo and the nearby, and even smaller, village of South Dildo. From my online research, the slightly more than 1200 residents of Dildo seem quite proud of their town which, by the way, is home to the Dildo Brewing Company.

I assume the 200 residents of South Dildo migrated there when the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Dildo became just too much to bear.

When I looked online, I was not surprised to find out there were several explanations for the origin of the town’s name… There would almost have to be.

A Bit of Luck

2nd Lt. Thomas A. Parks, Jr and the B-17 aircrews of the Martin Provisional Group sailed for England in late August of 1943.

The information I got from my father about the crossing was sketchy at best. He remembered the year and the month and that the convoy landed in Greenock, Scotland.

The only other information he provided was, during the voyage, he played a lot of craps and won more than he lost, but that was it. That was all the information I had. For all I knew, the convoy could have stopped in South America on the way.

Fortunately, the Royal Navy came to my rescue.

During WWII, the British Admiralty kept a daily war diary. In it they recorded, among other things, orders and communications related to troop dispositions and movements. The diary was declassified in 2012 and I stumbled upon it in online at

My Admiralty War Diary research at Fold3 also led me to a war diary for the Norfolk Naval Operating Base as well as the ship’s logs from two American Navy vessels that served as escorts for the convoy that carried my father to Scotland.

Another bit of luck occurred while I was doing an online search for the word string, “Martin Provisional Group“. That search led me to a book called, 388th Anthology: Tales of the 388th Bombardment Group (H) 1942-45 authored by Richard Singer.

The book is a compilation of individual stories written by airmen who served with the 388th Bomb Group during WWII.

The story from the anthology containing, “Martin Provisional Group” was written by James Warner, the co-pilot on 2nd Lt. Richard Obenschain’s crew. Remarkably, not only were Warner and Obenschain both in the Martin Provisional Group… 2nd Lt. Obenschain was a friend of 2nd Lt. Parks. Growing up, I heard both my parents mention his unusual last name many times. More than likely, my father knew James Warner as well.

The Obenschain crew, January 1944, Knettishall, England. Pilot, Richard Obenschain (2nd from right) Co-pilot, James Warner (3rd from left)

After arriving in England, the Obenschain crew was assigned to the 388th Bomb Group at Knettishall and the Parks crew was assigned to the 96th Bomb Group at Snetterton Heath. The two tiny English villages were only twelve miles apart (six as a B-17 flies). It would have been very easy for the men to continue the friendship that had developed during crew training in Washington state and their travels to England.

To my delight, in his contribution to the anthology, Warner revealed the name, of the embarkation camp to which the Martin Provisional Group was assigned before going overseas, “Camp Patrick Henry“, as well as the name of the ship on which the group sailed… the “S.S. Cristobal”.

From there it was just a matter of looking for references to the Cristobal in the Admiralty War Diary during late August and early September, 1943.

There were plenty.

August 9th to 11th – Camp Patrick Henry

The Martin Provisional Group had boarded a train and left the overseas processing center in Topeka, Kansas sometime between the 7th and the 9th of August, 1943. They were headed for Camp Patrick Henry near Newport News, Virginia.

Patrick Henry had opened late the previous year as a staging center for troops headed to the European Theater of Operations. By the end of 1944 over 750,000 American servicemen and women would pass through its gates headed overseas.

It is most likely the Martin Provisional Group arrived at Patrick Henry sometime between the 9th and the 11th of August.

2nd Lt. Parks wrote his mother from the camp on Thursday, the 12th to update her on his travels:

“When we finished processing at Topeka, we left for the port of embarkation. That’s where I’m writing from now. All I can tell you is that it’s on the eastern seaboard.” 2nd Lt. Thomas A. Parks, Jr, – Letter to Mrs. Virginia Parks – August 12, 1943

At home, in Accokeek, Maryland, my grandmother had no way of knowing that her only child was just 140 miles away. Camp Patrick Henry was her son’s closest posting since he joined the Army Air Force eighteen months earlier. The last time she had seen him was during his leave in early May.

Lt. Parks mentions in the same letter that he is in a hurry to send it because he is afraid if he doesn’t get it posted, she won’t hear from him until he gets to wherever it is they are sending him. He was right, it would be almost a month before he wrote to her again.

Friday – August 13th – Admiralty War Diary

On Friday the 13th, the Admiralty orders His Majesty’s Ships, Dart, Erne, Whimbrel, Clare, Banff, and Fishguard to escort duty for convoy “UT-1” sailing for Scotland a week later on August 20th. In these original orders, the vessels to be escorted are the troopships, S.S. Monticello, S.S. Cristobal, and S.S. Argentina plus two tankers, the S.S. Canyon Creek and the Esso Harrisburg.

Camp Patrick Henry

The troops at Patrick Henry have been assigned to the camp for a length of time loosely defined by the Army as, “from when you got here until whenever we tell you you’re leaving”. That meant they were were now actively engaged the Army’s favorite pastime, “hurry up and wait”. Currently, they were deep in the waiting portion of the game.

From this day onward, for operational security, the troops going overseas were restricted to the base and unable to send mail or make phone calls. Until they sailed, their daily routine would revolve around eating, sleeping, gossiping, grousing, and gambling. This routine would turn out to be perfect practice for the routine they would adopt once aboard the troopships… With one notable addition… Vomiting.

Sunday – August 15th – Camp Patrick Henry

At Patrick Henry that Sunday morning, there would have been church services to attend during which earnest military chaplains would speak fervently of duty to God and Country while solemnly assuring their young congregants that, in this great endeavor, He was on their side.

Church would have been followed by lunch and an afternoon round of gossiping, grousing, and wild speculation.

Monday – August 16th – Norfolk Naval Operating Base War Diary

On Monday evening there was an incident at the Norfolk Naval Base involving one of the two tankers assigned to convoy UT-1. According to the Norfolk NOB War Diary, it could have been very bad:

“At 2000 (8pm), the SS Canyon Creek, while being docked at berth 33, ripped a 15 foot hole above the water line in the port quarter of the MATAGORDA which was tied up at berth 35. This incident came very near being a disaster. The sea plane tender, MATAGORDA, was struck on her depth charge storage and the impact caused several of the depth charges to tumble onto the deck. The S.S. Canyon Creek, an oil tanker, due to the collision, spilled gasoline onto the deck of the MATAGORDA. Providentially, there were no worse results than the damage directly caused by the contact. The MATAGORDA is now undergoing repair at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth.”

USS Matagorda

Gasoline and depth charges on the deck… I imagine someone in authority had a pointed and extremely one-sided conversation with the Captain of the Canyon Creek.

Interestingly, the Matagorda’s ship’s log calmly reports that the collision happened twenty minutes earlier and created a hole five feet larger than what was reported in the Norfolk NOB War Diary .

The ship’s log does not mention gasoline or depth charges or providential intercession.

Equal Treatment – A Quick Digression

While looking through the Norfolk NOB War Diary for the month my father arrived in Hampton Roads, I came across a couple of entries related to the struggles for equality by certain segments of American society. Struggles which, almost 80 years later, are still ongoing.

“The Norfolk Navy Yard increased its force of twenty policewomen by an additional ten. These women are taking the place of men and their duties include, patrolling regular beats and standing guard duty at gates and buildings. They are slated to take over traffic duties and man radio patrol cars. At Police Headquarters they serve as Desk Sergeants and fill various other jobs.” August 2, 1943 – Norfolk Naval Operating Base War Diary

This is just another positive example of how World War II was rapidly turning traditional male/female roles on their head.

So many men left for war, employers were forced to hire women to fill positions traditionally held by men. And, even though the women were not paid as much the men they replaced and were largely let go as soon as the men returned from war, that small taste of financial and personal freedom was heady stuff and significantly quickened the pace of the women’s movement.

On the other hand, an entry from the same diary later that month indicates that race relations in America were continuing at their maddening, one-step-forward-three-steps-back pace.

As a reminder, during WWII, all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces were segregated. However, in 1942, due to growing manpower shortages, the Navy was forced to open their enlisted rates to all qualified personnel.

That progressive move led to this regressive entry in the NOB Diary:

“Lt. C.M. Dillon, D-V(S), USNR, under orders from BuPers (Bureau of Navy Personnel), called on the Commandant to discuss problems in connection with the future distribution of Negro personnel inducted into the Naval Service.” August 20, 1943 – Norfolk Naval Operating Base War Diary

It would be another five years before equal treatment and opportunity in the military was codified. On July 26th, 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 which stated that, “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.

And so, once again, one step forward.

Admiralty War Diary

On the same day the S.S. Canyon Creek bumped the USS Matagorda and, according to the NOB War Diary, nearly blew up the Norfolk Naval Base, the British Admiralty issued orders (below) for the twelve ships of convoy UT-1 to leave Hampton Roads, Virginia for Greenock, Scotland on the following Friday, the 20th of August.

Admiralty War Diary Convoy UT-1 – August 16, 1943

The ships were:

S.S. Cristobal (During WWII). This is the ship that would carry 2nd Lt. Parks and the men of the Martin Provisional Group
S.S. Argentina (1939)
S.S. Santa Paula (1932)
S.S. Monticello (1942) was eventually deleted from the UT-1 convoy and reassigned to a different convoy sailing out of New York City.
S.S. Canyon Creek
Esso Harrisburg
HMS Dart (1943)
HMS Erne
HMS Whimbrel
HMS Clare (1941)
HMS BANFF Copyright: © IWM. Original
HMS Fishguard
Tuesday – August 17th – Admiralty War Diary
British Admiralty War Diary – August 17, 1943The sailing dates is changed

On the 17th, for reasons that the War Diary does not explain, the largest ship in the convoy, the S.S. Monticello was deleted from UT-1 and ordered to replace the S.S. (John) Ericcson in a convoy labeled UGF 10 sailing out of New York City the following day.

The Admiralty also moved the sailing date for the UT-1 convoy from August 20th to the 21st. This change provided the troops at Camp Patrick Henry an additional 24 hours of rumor-filled lock down.

Wednesday – August 18th – Camp Patrick Henry

Eating, sleeping, gossiping, grousing, and gambling.

Thursday – August 19th – Camp Patrick Henry

Eating, sleeping, gossiping, grousing, and gambling.

Friday – August 20th – Hampton Roads

UT-1 would be the first large scale movement of American troops specifically intended for the much anticipated invasion of Europe that would take place in June of the following year.

And so, on Friday the 20th, 13,000 American servicemen and women boarded three ships whose combined pre-war passenger capacity was less than 1000. Their quarters were going to be pretty tight.

It is worth mentioning here, that, in December of the following year, my mother, then, 2nd Lt. Evelyn Cole and the Mobile Army Hospital to which she was assigned would sail aboard the legendary Queen Mary from New York City to the same Scottish port her future husband had sailed the previous year. For her crossing, that single ship carried 11,000 servicemen and women… There will be more on 2nd Lt. Cole’s crossing and experiences during World War II in future episodes.

Back in Hampton Roads, on the 20th of August, 1943, the 13,000 troops sailing on convoy UT-1 were loaded onto trucks and buses along with all their gear for the fifty-mile journey to the port of Hampton Roads. There, the three troopships were loaded as follows:

S.S. Argentina6450 Troops
S.S. Santa Paula3336 Troops
S.S. Cristobal3214 Troops

The Martin Provisional Group was assigned to the smallest of the three ships… The S.S.Cristobal.

Built in 1939, the Cristobal was owned by the Panama Railway Company. Before the war, she had sailed as as a cargo ship capable of carrying two hundred passengers. For convoy UT-1, her retrofitted cargo holds would enable her to carry over three thousand more souls than her pre-war maximum.

Troops on the Cristobal were going to cross the North Atlantic sleeping in thousands bunks stacked in windowless cargo holds. And,… 2nd Lt. Parks and his friend, 2nd Lt. Nettles had smuggled two puppies aboard.

Saturday – August 21st – From HMS Dart

Sometime, well before dawn on the 21st, Convoy UT-1 slipped its moorings and departed Hampton Roads.

Aboard the troopships, the passengers were beginning a daily routine that would not vary in any appreciable way until the convoy reached its destination.

As they had been doing since they arrived at Camp Patrick Henry, the troops would mostly eat and sleep and talk. For the vast majority, this would be their first ocean voyage. They could go on deck for fresh air and sightseeing but, with a few brief exceptions, the scenery was always the same… Vast unchanging stretches of the rolling, cold, grey North Atlantic.

Before lunch on the first day, there were problems with the escorts.

HMS Erne, Clare, and Fishguard return to port

The first message from HMS Dart was sent to the Admiralty at 11:30 (211130Q) in the morning and the second at 6:31 (211831Q) in the evening. The first two numbers in the strings in parentheses indicate the day of the month, the next four digits are military time, and the “Q” indicates the time zone. It this instance, Quebec Time… The military designation for Eastern Standard Time… Which would have been the convoy’s local time at that moment.

For the rest of this narrative, I have translated military 24-hour time into the more familiar, civilian 12-hour am/pm format.

11:30am: The first message indicates that HMS Erne and HMS Clare are returning to port because of unspecified “defects“. The message further indicates the two ships expect to arrive back at Norfolk Naval Base at 10:30 that evening. That estimated return time would indicate the convoy was approximately nine hours into their voyage when the first “defects” were discovered.

I say, “first defects” because…

6:30pm: Seven hours after the first message, the HMS Dart sent a second message to the British Admiralty indicating that HMS Fishguard had also been declared”defective” and was returning to port. This left convoy UT-1 with just three escorts… Instead of the intended six.

All of this happened during daylight hours and could not have escaped the notice of the troops being transported. By dinner they would all have been aware that before the end of their first day at sea, half of the warships protecting them from predatory German submarines had turned around and headed home.

This turn of events would have provided much about which to gossip and speculate.

Sunday – August 22nd – From HMS Dart
UT-1 location 30+ hours into the voyage

8:51am: The Admiralty radios HMS Dart informing her that the necessary repairs have been performed on HMS Clare, she has sailed, and expects to rejoin convoy UT-1 two days hence, on the morning of the 25th.

That was the good news. The bad news… His Majesty’s Ships Erne and Fishguard would require extensive repairs and neither ship would rejoin the convoy. UT-1 is ordered to proceed to Naval Station Argentia in Newfoundland and wait there for reinforcements.

Noon: The Senior Officer of UT-1’s escort group radios the Admiralty from HMS Dart that the convoy is 159 miles out of Norfolk sailing NE for Placentia Bay in Newfoundland, Canada, 1200 miles away. He further informs the Admiralty that he expects the convoy to arrive at their moorings at Naval Station Argentia on Thursday, August 25th around six in the evening.

The escorts’ S.O. also mentions in this dispatch that the convoy has slowed down due to the lingering effects of a hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic. These “lingering effects” could not have been good news for any troops susceptible to seasickness.

Tuesday – August 24nd – From HMS Dart

After three uneventful days at sea, positions radioed to the Admiralty from UT-1 show the convoy and her escorts, Dart, Banff, and Whimbrel, 123 miles from Argentia with the HMS Clare about 200 miles behind and closing.

The Admiralty has been informed by the Canadian Navy that it can send His Majesty’s Canadian Ship St. Francis or Columbia to Argentia for convoy escort duty by the 28th. However, the Canadians are firm, the convoy can have one of these ships or the other… Not both.

Thursday – August 26th – USS Humboldt War Diary
Argentia, Newfoundland. The USS Humboldt docked at Argentia. Most of the other ships in convoy UT-1 would have spent their time in Newfoundland at anchor outside the small port.

10:29pm: The American seaplane tender, the USS Humboldt docks in Argentia. She has sailed up from Boston carrying aircraft parts and transporting naval personnel bound for other duty assignments in the European Theater of Operations.

In Argentia, the Humboldt will take on water and extra depth charges and join convoy UT-1 as an escort.

USS Humboldt

Friday – August 27th – S.S. Cristobal

The three troopships and the two tankers would have been at anchor outside Small Placentia Bay, the tiny harbor that served the Argentia Naval Station. From the deck of the Cristobal, 2nd Lt. Parks would have been able to see the comings and goings of the ships that were to escort convoy UT-1 as they arrived and were serviced and re-provisioned at the port.

Saturday – August 28th – More Reinforcements
HMCS St. Francis

By early in the morning of Saturday, the 28th, the promised Canadian ship, the HMCS St. Francis has arrived in Argentia, along with a second American ship. The previously mentioned USS Humboldt has been joined by the USS Matagorda… The same ship in which the S.S. Canyon Creek ripped a twenty-foot hole when they were both back in Norfolk just twelve days earlier… Awkward.

USS Matagorda joins convoy UT-1 in Argentia

And, finally, there was the surprise, last minute arrival of the previously impossible-to-repair-in-time, HMS Fishguard.

HMS Fishguard

Convoy UT-1 now consisted the following ships:

That meant the convoy now consisted of 13 ships. To some this number might be a problem but the military is not, generally, given to superstition. All the Admiralty knew was, they had assembled this thing and it was time to get it moving. However, I am pretty sure someone among those 13,000 passengers counted to 13… And then commented on it and then… Well, there would have been talk.

7:00am: The ships of UT-1 began making ready to sail.

1:30pm: The convoy clears St. Mary’s Light on the southeastern tip of Newfoundland and leaves the relatively protected waters of Placentia Bay. They are now sailing at 15 knots toward the northern tip of Ireland. For the next six days the convoy’s troopships and tankers will be prime targets for lurking German submarines.

As I said previous, I don’t have a lot of detailed personal information about what 2nd Lt. Parks and his friends and comrades in the Martin Provisional Group did and experienced during the crossing.

However, online, there is an excellent first person account of a troopship crossing in 1944 by the 100th Infantry which provides a general idea of what conditions may have been like aboard the S.S. Cristobal and the other two troopships in UT-1. It’s eye-opening.

Coincidentally, one of the ships mentioned in that account is the S.S. Monticello, the ship that was briefly assigned to UT-1 before being detached and reassigned to a different convoy.

Sunday – August 29th – USS Humboldt Ship’s Log

Throughout the crossing, the Humboldt shadows the convoy off the starboard flank of the S.S. Cristobal. The USS Matagorda is on the port side of the convoy about midway from front to back of the formation.

While on deck, the Cristobal’s optimistic passengers would have been reassured to see the HMS Humboldt, 1000 yards away, on station, ready to protect them from any submarine attack.

For the pessimists aboard the Christobal, the Humboldt’s presence would have been a bleak and constant reminder that there was a lurking, unseen enemy out there desperate to sink an American troopship… or two… or three.

According to the Humboldt’s log, the first full day at sea was uneventful. The ship’s General Quarters alarm was sounded at 8:09 in the evening but it was just a drill and after forty-eight minutes the crew was released from the exercise.

Monday – August 30th – USS Humboldt Ship’s Log

10:06am: Aboard the Cristobal, any passengers on deck might have heard the Humboldt’s General Quarters alarm sound and shortly afterward seen the British ship’s gunners engage in some firing practice. General Quarters drills and gunnery practice were a routine part of daily life on all the escorts sailing with UT-1.

However… It wasn’t always a drill.

A little after lunch that same day, passengers aboard the Cristobal would have, once again, heard the General Quarters alarm and then witnessed the American seaplane tender make some dramatic and unusual maneuvers.

1:30pm: The cause of the commotion on the Humboldt was Seaman 2nd Class, George Anthony Landre, Jr, a passenger being transported to his next duty assignment. Seaman 2nd Class Landre had, somehow, managed to fall off the deck of the USS Humboldt and tumble into the U-boat infested and bone chillingly cold waters of the North Atlantic.

As Seaman Landre struggled with his new circumstances, the Humboldt’s crew was called to General Quarters, a series of sharp maneuvers were executed, engines were stopped, and lines were thrown to the 19-year-old red-head from Chicago. George was hauled back aboard uninjured and, just sixteen minutes after declaring “Man Overboard”, the Humboldt was headed back to its escort position in the convoy.

For observers on the Cristobal, it would have been just what they needed… Something new and different about which to gossip and speculate.

Convoy UT-1’s general route across the North Atlantic after leaving Argentia and the approximate spot where Seaman Landre went overboard.
Tuesday – August 31st – USS Matagorda & Humboldt Ship’s Logs

The morning of the 31st is mostly quiet. The convoy continues sailing at 15 knots performing a defensive zig-zag pattern to provide some protection from marauding submarines.

In the late afternoon, the day got busier.

4:19pm: The USS Matagorda’s radar reports a disappearing contact two miles astern.

4:20pm: One minute later, the Matagorda sounds battle stations.

4:22pm: Two minutes later, the Matagorda sonar reports a sound contact at a range of 600 yards.

4:26pm: Six minutes after sounding Battle Stations, the Matagorda drops four depth charges in what the ship’s log entry breathlessly describes as an “urgent attack“. The entry closes with the perfunctory notation that the results of the attack were “negative”.

Later that evening, off the S.S. Cristobal’s flank, it was the USS Humboldt’s turn.

9:28pm: The Humboldt’s sonar reports a sound contact at a range of 1500 yards. General Quarters are sounded and the ship maneuvers to attack.

9:41pm: Humboldt drops five depth charges. The sonar contact is lost.

10:10pm: Humboldt changes course to investigate a radar contact at a range of seven miles. The contact turns out to be their fellow escort ship, HMS Banff.

10:29pm: The ship is secured from General Quarters and everyone not on duty or too adrenaline buzzed from the General Quarters alarm goes to bed for the night.

Wednesday – September 1st – USS Humboldt & USS Matagorda Ship’s Logs

The convoy continues to zig-zag at a speed of 15 knots.

On the escorts Humboldt and Matagorda, it is a day of General Quarters drills. The Humboldt adds a session of gunnery practice..

Thursday – September 2nd – USS Humboldt & USS Matagorda Ship’s Logs

Thursday was very much like the previous day with General Quarters drills and gunnery practice on both American ships.

From my research, it is quite clear that the Matagorda’s C.O., Commander A. W. Wheelock, was quite fond of sounding the General Quarters alarm very early in the day. For the previous five mornings in a row the crew of the Matagorda had to hit the deck running at 5:30, 5:10, 5:04, 5:11, and 4:51. This routine of early morning General Quarters drills continued until the Matagorda was in port.

Conversely, aboard the Humboldt, Commander T. B. Neblett never sounded General Quarters before 10 in the morning unless there was some kind of actual perceived threat.

I’m not making any judgement here about this difference in approach to crew training and command and I am certainly not implying that one officer was better than the other. All I’m saying is, during this particular crossing, I think the crew of the Humboldt probably got a better night’s sleep.

Friday – September 3rd – USS Humboldt Ship’s Log

At the beginning of their seventh day at sea since leaving Newfoundland, the convoy was now about 100 miles off the northern coast of Ireland. For German U-boat captains, this area was widely known as a very target-rich environment.

9:22am: The USS Humboldt is still sailing 1000 yards off the S.S. Cristobal’s starboard flank when she gets a submarine sound contact at a distance of 3800 yards. Commander Neblett sounds General Quarters, and immediately begins maneuvering for an attack on a German predator.

9:46am: Twenty-four minutes after going to General Quarters, the Humboldt drops five depth charges set to explode at 50 and 100 feet underwater. The contact is lost.

9:50am: Four minutes later, they regain the contact, now at a distance of 1000 yards. Humboldt begins maneuvering for a second attack.

9:56am: Perhaps reasoning that, after the first attack, the U-boat captain, seeking safety, would have taken his sub deeper, Commander Neblett orders five depth charges set to explode at a depth of 200 feet and drops them on the fleeing enemy.

10:05am: Nine minutes later, the Humboldt begins steering to resume it’s escort position in the convoy.

10:23am: The last entry for this incident reads, “Secured from General Quarters… Contact identified as fish.”

Later that afternoon, the Humboldt crew got another quick adrenaline rush…

2:55pm: An aircraft is sighted.

2:57pm: General Quarters are sounded.

3:10pm: The USS Humboldt secures from General Quarters after the aircraft is identified as a British Patrol bomber.

6:15pm: The five ships and eight escorts of convoy UT-1 pass another convoy consisting of forty-nine ships and six escorts.

I am only guessing but, the relatively high proportion of escorts to ships in UT-1 may have had something to do with the very large contingent of American troops the convoy was carrying. However, as I said, that is just a guess.

A little over an hour after passing the larger convoy, the USS Humboldt and the USS Matagorda are ordered to detach from convoy UT-1 and proceed, respectively, to the ports of Barry Roads and Pembroke in Wales.

Convoy UT-1 is 180 miles from their final destination. They are entering the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland and it is a short sail to the entrance of the Firth of Clyde which will take them all the way to the Scottish port of Greenock.

In 10 hours, they will be safe.

Saturday- September 4th – The Admiralty War Diary
Greenock, Scotland

9:06am: Thirteen days after leaving Hampton Roads, Virginia, the troopships of UT-1 are reported securely docked in Greenock, Scotland.

The coastal village of Greenock is well over 300 years old. The spot has been known as a safe anchorage for over 800 years. From the deck of the S.S. Cristobal, the calm blue waters of the Firth, the old village, and the surrounding green hills would have been a welcome sight.

As the Americans disembark, this will be the first time any of them have stood on solid ground in almost two weeks.

The Martin Provisional Group was almost immediately put on a train headed south for Combat Crew Replacement Center #11 at a former RAF base near the village of Bovingdon just northwest of London.

For 2nd Lt. Thomas A. Parks, Jr, and the B-17 crews of the Martin Provisional Group, the three weeks at Bovingdon in early and mid-September, 1943 would be remembered years later as a golden time. They hadn’t been assigned to Bomb Groups yet so, even though there were a lot of classes and lectures, there were also a few dances and a rare pass to London, but, most importantly, during that time, there were no combat missions and none of them were dying.

By the last week in September, all of that would change.

Coming Soon: Practicing the Art of War: Episode 10: Everything They Taught You is Wrong

Author: Tom Parks

After 35 years of stand-up comedy and acting, I have retired to play golf and write for the sheer pleasure of it. With no schedules to keep, I am left with an abundance of time to follow both interests and distractions wherever they lead me. Life is pretty swell.

2 thoughts on “Practicing the Art of War: Episode 9: Shipping Out”

  1. Terrific accounting of a convoy crossing; to think SO MANY Americans experienced this part of getting to the War Zone. So common at the time, so alien today.
    I’ve encountered the “Argentia” thing before, somehow I always picture a little Canadian town where everyone speaks Spanish… Its one of life’s modern frustrations how our computers always try to “correct” little details to make them wrong. Especially any kind of technical writing with acronyms or foreign words sprinkled in its a bear to keep accurate. Add to that the normal human problem of keeping similar sounding (but very different!) details straight.

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