202nd Field Artillery Battalion
United States Army  World War II

United States Army World War II

Convoy to the ETO

 

Atlantic Crossing: the Deuce-O-Deuce Ships Out

By Mark Mudge


After departing Camp Howze, Texas on 6 January 1944, the Deuce-O-Deuce traveled by train north through Chicago into Canada and then east to Camp Myles Standish outside of Boston, Massachussetts. From here the Battalion would depart for the European Theater of Operations.

The men of the 202nd Field Artillery Battalion boarded the BORINQUEN on 19 January 1944 in Boston Harbor.  Other troops on the ship included another field artillery battalion and a graves registration unit.   




BORINQUEN

The BORINQUEN was built in 1931 by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. in Quincy, Massachusetts.  It had an overall length of 429 feet, turbine propulsion/6,000 horsepower, 7,114 gross tons, top speed of 16 knots, and could carry 1,289 passengers and 35,700 cubic feet of cargo.  She was operated, prior to World War II, by Agwilines, Inc. of New York City.  According to some personnel of the 202nd Field Artillery Battalion, the BORINQUEN previously hauled bananas from Cuba.  Borinquen is a variation of Borikén, the indigenous Taíno name for Puerto Rico. There were two previous cargo ships of Spanish registry with the name BORINQUEN.

In January 1942, the BORINQUEN was allocated to the War Department for transporting Corps of Engineers personnel who were constructing overseas bases. She was operated under contract by her owners, Agwilines, Inc., who had 50 to 75 other vessels in government service.  During 1942 the BORINQUEN made trips to Iceland, England, and several locations in Africa.

The United States Army Transport (USAT) BORINQUEN began a series of sailings between New York and Algeria, North Africa in January 1943.  In September 1943, she began another series of voyages from New York and Boston to Belfast, Ireland, returning home from the last such trip in April 1944.

 

Commercially operated freight vessels required alterations before they could be used as troopships.  In addition to installing the necessary berths in cargo areas, required facilities included a troop galley and mess, toilets, hospital, ventilation and evaporators; plus other specialty quarters, offices, and rooms.  Some vessels also required extensive rehabilitation before alterations could be completed.

All World War II troopships were suitably armed.  The permanent armament was supplied and manned by the U.S. Naval Armed Guard. An Armed Guard complement usually consisted of one officer and 24 gunners, plus three communications men for a total of 28 Armed Guards. The armament usually consisted of one 5 inch stern gun, one 3 inch bow gun, and eight 20 mm machine guns.  The ships were also equipped with defensive features such as camouflage painting, degaussing coils (electromagnetic coils installed into the ship to counter German magnetic mines by altering the magnetic field of the steel ship), searchlights, and sea chest protection (sea chests are small underwater compartments within the plating that forms a ship's hull through which sea water is drawn in or discharged; the sea water may be used for cooling the machinery systems, for ballasting, or fire fighting).  Many troopships were also equipped with radar.

 

After several trips to Belfast in 1944, the BORINQUEN was locally operated between Southampton, England, and Le Havre, France, from January to August 1945.  Following this duty she went to Leghorn and Marseilles before returning to New York.  The BORINQUEN made three trips from New York to Marseilles and one to Le Havre, returning finally to New York in late January 1946.

 

In February 1946, the BORINQUEN was redelivered to the War Shipping Administration at New York as surplus to the needs of the Army.  She was simultaneously redelivered by WSA to the owners, Agwilines, Inc.

 

 

 

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                                                        Convoy UT.7

The 202nd, aboard the BORINQUEN, joined Convoy UT.7 which was formed the preceding day 
(18 January 1944)
at New York City.  The Convoy Identification Code UT.7 designated the route
(UT
=
United States to United Kingdom) and the chronological number (7). The return trip of this convoy would be designated TU.7 (reversed). 
There were more than 200 convoy routes in existence during the war, of which 94 routes were under attack by U-Boats.  Each convoy was known by two
or more letters designating the route, and a consecutive number added in chronological order.
 

Ships traveled in convoys for some measure of protection from U-Boats.  The ships traveled at 14 or 15 knots, which in itself was almost enough to escape submarine attack.  For even better protection, they were usually accompanied by destroyer escorts or other armed vessels.  So fast and well protected were the troop convoys that their crossings were almost completely uneventful.  Losses of ships sailing independently were three times higher than those in convoys.

The downside to convoys were the delays involved: waiting to assemble; taking a common, but often longer route; reducing speed to match the slowest ship; delays in unloading because of congestion. These delays cut cargo-carrying capacity by one-third.

When Convoy UT.7 left Boston it was to be composed of 30 U.S., British, Canadian, and French ships.  They transported troops, stores, mail, fuel, refrigerated food and aircraft.  Two British escort carriers, HMS TRUMPETER (D09) and HMS BEGUM (D38) were in the convoy.  The carriers performed anti-submarine duties in addition to ferrying aircraft to Europe.

The U.S. Naval Armed Guard Voyage Report for the USAT Borinquen showed that the convoy had 14 escort ships which included 12 Destroyers (among them were the USS COWIE DD-632, USS DORAN DD-634, USS EARLE DD-635, USS BUTLER DD-636, USS GHERARDI DD-637,  USS SHUBRICK DD-639, and six others), one Battleship (USS ARKANSAS BB-33), and one Navy Tanker (USS KENNEBEC AO-36).  The Armed Guard crew was commanded by Lt.(jg) Donald Edward O’Brien, USNR.  He reported no contact or action with the enemy during the voyage.

A convoy traveling at 15 knots (15 nautical miles per hour) would make about 360 nautical miles each day.  A trip to the United Kingdom would take 9 or 10 days.


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Daily Progress Report of the Convoy
(
from the Deck Logs of the USS LYON (AP-71) Troop Transport)

Thursday, 20 JAN 1944    The Boston section completed joining convoy.  The following named ships joined up – USS STANTON, USAT EXCELSIOR, USAT GENERAL GEORGE W. GOETHALS, SS BORINQUEN, NS BRITANNIC, SS EXCHEQUER, and SS EXPLORER. Convoy Commodore now on USS STANTON, Capt. R.A. Dierdorff, USN. USS ARKANSAS is Task Force commander and convoy guide.   Zigzagging in accordance with plan #11.  Ceased zigzagging and resumed base course.  Weather-overcast.  Position at 1200 HRS  42o 09’N  62 o 24’W.  Speed 15 knots.

Friday, 21 JAN 1944    Escort composed of Task Force 69.  USS KENNEBEC proceeding ahead to fuel destroyers.  USS LYON commenced firing practice, exercising forward 3” guns, forward 40 MM and port 20 MM’s.  Ammunition expended: 40MM-90 rounds, 3”-5 rounds, 20 MM-376 rounds.  Zigzagging in accordance with plan #11.  Ceased zigzagging and resumed base course.  Weather-cloudy.  Position at 1200 HRS  40o 29’N  56 o 57’W.  Speed 15 knots. 

Saturday, 22 JAN 1944     Zigzagging in accordance with plan #11.  Ceased zigzagging and resumed base course.  More firing practice.  Weather-rain showers.  Moderate swells from the west.  Position at 1200 HRS  40o 40’N   49 o 35’W.  Speed 15 knots.

Sunday, 23 JAN 1944    Screen escort composed of Destroyer Divisions #30, #33, and #34. The destroyer USS BUTLER reported a man lost overboard.  An airplane, identified as a B-24, passes overhead.  Weather-cloudy with heavy seas and a fresh gale blowing from the West.  Position at 1200 HRS   44o 34’N   43 o 49’W.  Speed 15 knots.

Monday, 24 JAN 1944    Zigzagging in accordance with plan #11.  Ceased zigzagging and resumed base course.  Weather-cloudy with heavy seas. Ship rolling heavily.  Position at 1200 HRS  48o 33’N   37 o 46’W.  Speed 15 knots.

Tuesday, 25 JAN 1944    Destroyer escort picked up three ships bearing approximately 103 o(T).  Identified as friendly, passing well clear.Weather-rain squalls.  Rough beam sea.  Vessel rolling moderately.  Position at 1200 HRS  49o 38’N   29 o 45’W.  Speed 15 knots.

Wednesday, 26 JAN 1944    Another man lost overboard from a destroyer.  Weather-cloudy with strong winds from the south.  Rough sea.  Vessel rolling moderately.  Position at 1200 HRS  50o 35’N   21 o 03’W.  Speed 15 knots. 

Thursday, 27 JAN 1944    Various ships in convoy holding gunnery practice. Convoy UT.7, Division Five, USS SUSAN B. ANTHONY (AP-72) O.T.C. (Officer-in-Tactical-Command) under escort of destroyers Doran, Earle, Shubrick, and Gherardi broke off from convoy and left for separate destination (Bristol, England).   Weather-as before.  Ship rolling and pitching moderately.  Swells coming from the southwest.  Position at 1200 HRS  53o 11’N   12 o 36’W.  Speed 15 knots.

Friday, 28 JAN 1944    Altered course in columns #1 and #2 to fall in astern of leading columns.  USS STANTON is column guide.  Clyde section (Firth of Clyde, Scotland) forming into one column. Main body breaking off to the right and proceeding to the southeast.   Altacary Head Light abeam to starboard, distance 2.5 miles.  Breakdown in engine room, engines stopped. Degaussing gear cut off, breakdown flag hoisted.  Engines back in operation, but only able to maintain between seven and nine knots speed.  Other ships in convoy passing on starboard side. Stopped to make repairs 8 miles due south of Sanda Island (Scotland).  SS QUEEN MARY passed on port hand. Position at 1200 HRS  55o 30’N   06 o 47’W.  Speed 13 ½ to 15 knots.  (At this point, the main body of the convoy, including BORINQUEN, left the USS LYON and proceeded toward Belfast, Northern Ireland).


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Various Ships in the Convoy

HMS BEGUM (D38) was a US-built escort carrier that was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1943.  It usually carried 24 Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers for anti-submarine duty.  According to The Report of Proceedings filed by BEGUM’s captain, John Egerton Broome, upon completion of  Convoy UT.7’s voyage…it carried an additional 36 Corsair fighter aircraft of the 1837th and 1838th Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm Squadrons. The aircraft had been loaded earlier at Norfolk, Virginia.  They had taxied through the streets, with wings folded, from NAS Norfolk to the docks.   Also onboard BEGUM was 68 tons of stores, 194 service and 45 civilian passengers, in addition to her crew of 646.  The captain stated in his report that, “The Atlantic crossing was without incident and made in good time.”

 

 

 

 

 

USS BOGUE (CV-9) was an escort carrier which usually had 24 aircraft and was assigned to anti-submarine duty in the North Atlantic.  BOGUE had a break from regular duty in January and February of 1944 when she carried a cargo of Army fighter planes to Glasgow, Scotland. USS BOGUE was commanded by Capt. J. B. Dunn, USN who was the acting Commodore for Convoy UT.7 during the New York to Boston segment.


A fleet oiler, USS KENNEBEC (AO-36), carried fuel oil, kerosene, diesel oil, and aviation gasoline to support the convoy.

USS KENNEBEC

 

 

 

USS ARKANSAS (BB-33) was a Wyoming-class battleship, was the convoy guide.  It was commanded by Capt. F. G. Richards, USN.  On 3 June 1944, USS Arkansas sailed for the French coast to support the Allied invasion of Normandy. The ship entered the Baie de la Seine on 6 June, and took up a position 4,000 yards off "Omaha" beach. At 0552, Arkansas's guns opened fire. Two years later, on 1 July 1946, the obsolete USS Arkansas was to have been sunk via atomic bomb as part of the airburst nuclear test ABLE, but survived. On 25 July 1946, the venerable battleship was sunk by the underwater nuclear test BAKER at Bikini Atoll.

 

SS SEATRAIN TEXAS Rail Car Carrier. Had earned a niche in history in July 1942 when she transported a full load of military cargo including 250 Sherman tanks (the first Allied tanks that could stand up to the German Mark IV Panzers) to Egypt. She sailed alone to Capetown, South Africa, and then up to the southern end of the Suez Canal, and delivered her cargo in time for the tanks to play a decisive role in the crucial battle of El Alamein.

 



SS SEATRAIN TEXAS


HMCS PRINCE DAVID (F89) was a Canadian Armed Merchant Cruiser which had recently been converted to a Troop Landing Ship and could carry eight 20-ton landing craft. The ship had been ordered to New York where they loaded and transported some 437 American soldiers to England. On arrival in Clydebank, Scotland, the ship undertook a final fitting with more radar and communications equipment in preparation for the eventual invasion of France.  HMCS PRINCE DAVID would later participate in the D-Day landings.

USS SUSAN B. ANTHONY (AP-72) Troop Transport.  Later struck a mine and sank off the coast of Normandy, France on 7 June 1944 (the day after D-Day).

USS LYON (AP-71) Troop Transport.  In Convoy UT.7, LYON was transporting 120 officers, 1883 enlisted men, and 1 Red Cross worker from the Army Air Corps to Scotland.


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The BORINQUEN arrived at the docks of Belfast, Northern Ireland on 29 January 1944. The remaining ships in Convoy UT.7 continued on to the Firth of Clyde, Scotland.  


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 Sources

 

Capt. Walter W. Jaffee, The Victory Ships: From A (Aberdeen Victory) to Z (Zanesville Victory), (Palo Alto, CA: The Glencannon Press, 2006).

 

Roland W. Charles,  Troopships of World War II, (Washington, DC: The Army Transportation Association, 1947).

 

John Niesel, Howitzers, Grasshoppers, and the Holy Right Hand, (Ft. Collins, CO: Framing History, 2008)

 

Grover, David H., U.S. Army Ships and Watercraft of World War II, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1987)

 

Sawyer, L. A., Victory Ships and Tankers; The History of the “Victory” Type Cargo Ships Built in the USA During World War II, (Cambridge, MA: Cornell Maritime Press, Inc., 1974)

 

HMS BEGUM: Report on Proceedings During Passage of Convoy UT 7 From NY – Clyde UK.  (On file in the National Archives of the United Kingdom)  Catalog Reference: ADM 217/378

 

U.S. Naval Deck Logs of USS LYON (AP71) For the period of 18 JAN 1944 to to 29 JAN 1944. (On file in the National Archives and Records Administration).

 

U.S. Naval Armed Guard Voyage Report for USAT BORINQUEN -Boston to Belfast, January 1944 (On file in the National Archives and Records Administration) 

 

Convoy Web - The Website for Merchant Ships during WW2

http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/index.html

 

American Merchant Marine at War   

http://usmm.org/

 

Nav Source Naval History

http://www.navsource.org/

 

SHIPSCRIBE

http://www.shipscribe.com/usnaux/type.html

 

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships - Online

http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/

 

www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk








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