Before leaving Wellington the heavy cruisers CHICAGO & SALT LAKE CITY both launched their Curtis Floatplanes. One of the aircraft flew across Cook Strait and landed on Kenepuru Sound opposite The Portage. No reason for the flight is known but at the time the Marlborough Sounds were being looked at as a possible Fleet anchorage, so probably the opportunity was taken to make use of the aircraft off these cruisers for a quick aerial reconnaissance of the whole area.
Many of the above vessels suffered damage during the landings at Guadalcanal from the Japanese forces and the transport GEORGE F ELLIOT was sunk.
George F Elliott(AP-13)
Secrecy was important to the war effort and US servicemen were warned not to divulge any information relative to ships, movements or operations. One who did mention casually to his girlfriend a departure date for practice landing was tried by a US Navy Court-martial and received a severe sentence. The Wellington Harbourmaster, Captain P S Peterson, refused to attend the regular Harbour Board meetings because of questions from Board members about ship movements.
After the bulk of the division had sailed for Guadalcanal, the next arrivals were on the BLOEMFONTEIN which arrived on 3rd August 1942. Most of these men sailed for the Solomon Islands on 26 August on FULLER which had returned after the initial landings.
Major camps in Wellington were established at MacKay's Crossing, Pauatahanui, Judgeford, Paremata, TitahiBay, Trentham, Waterloo, Hutt Park, Gracefield, Stokes Valley, Kaiwharra, Anderson Park, Oriental Bay BoatHarbour, Central Park, Hataitai, Johnsonville and Takapu Road.
After the landings in Guadalcanal by the 1st Marine Division the supply of material obtained in New Zealandwas carried out by USS ROAMER (AF-19), USS TALAMANCA (AF-15), CYGNUS (AF-23), DELPHINUS (AF-24), TAURUS (AF-25). They were joined by a number of small New Zealand ships which were requisitioned by the New Zealand Government.
October 1942 saw the arrival in Wellington on the first of many visits by USS PRESIDENT JACKSON (AP-37), USS PRESIDENT HAYES (AP-39), USS PRESIDENT ADAMS (AP-38) and USS CRESCENT CITY (AP-40). These fours vessels were regular visitors to Wellington and Auckland until 1944 and during this time often carried New Zealand servicemen. They were all C3-AP & C type vessels as were POLK, MONROE and DELBRASIL
During the later part of 1942, almost every ship calling at Wellington had on board LCVP and LCN landing craft which became a very common sight on Wellington Harbour during the build up to the departure of the 2nd Marine Division.
Men of the 2nd Marine Division began arriving in Wellington in November 1942 on MATSONIA, MORMACPORT, BRASTAGI, AGUIPRINCE, PRESIDENT MONROE and WELTEVREDEN.
Typical of many troop transports, the MORMACPORT was a C3 type merchant ship converted to troop carrying by the installation of three-high steel bunks in the 'tween decks, with very basic toilet and washing facilities housed in wooden erections on deck. There were limited galley facilities and fresh water supplies were really inadequate for the 2000 men they were designed to carry. The anti-aircraft armament was supplemented by the anti-aircraft guns the troops carried.
The French liner ILE DE FRANCE arrived on 26 December 1942 with 9000 troops on board but they were only allowed ashore for a route march as they sailed for Bombay the following day.
The Liberty ship PETER H BURNETT bought cargo to Wellington from United States on 30 December 1942 and then proceeded to Australia to load wool. She left Newcastle for San Francisco on 21 January 1943 and was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-21 south of Lord Howe Island the following day. This was one of I-21's successes. On 18 January she sank the Union Company KALINGO 110 miles from Sydney en-route to New Plymouth, 21 hours later the American tanker MOBILEUBE was damaged and shortly afterwards the Australian IRON KNIGHT was sunk. The activity of the Japanese submarines continued until June 1943 and 11 ships were sunk off the Australian east coast including Union Company's LIMERICK, the Australian Hospital Ship CENTAUR with heavy loss of life and the US Tank Landing ship LST-469 which had sailed from Wellington a few days earlier.
The heavy cruiser LOUISVILLE (CA-28) arrived in Wellington on 17 March 1943 from Havannah Harbour, New Hebrides for crew leave and repairs remaining until 3 April. Apart from visit by SALT LAKE CITY and CHICAGO the previous year, this was the only visit by major warships during the war period although a large number of destroyers made regular calls.
A strange convey arrived on 22 April 1943 consisting of 5 Landing Ship Tank (LST). They were the first to arrive in New Zealand and sailed some days later for Australia to be followed the next month by another 9.
By June 1943, marine units in the Wellington Area were at full strength and fit. They were practising landings on the beaches of the Kapiti coast. Four ships, CRESCENT CITY, GEORGE CLYMER, HUNTER LIGGETT and AMERICAN LEGION were anchored just south of Kapiti Island conducting full scale landing exercises on 20 June. The landings included of live firing from shore, New Zealand warships HMNZS RATA and Fairmiles 400 and 403 patrolling to seaward as a submarine screen and RNZAF Kittyhawk aircraft from Woodbourne, Vincent aircraft from Rongotai and Harvard aircraft from Ohakea. The weather deteriorated with a gale, on-shore north westerly wind. Overnight a LCM broached and sank. 9 men were reported to have lost their lives although unconfirmed reports say the loss of life was much higher. In March 2009 Kathy Butcher supplied the following information. Her grandfather, H C Winfrey, was the only officer on the landing craft and was lost in the accident. The landing craft ran ashore onto a sand bank and was being towed back to the AMERICAN LEGION. The commanding officer of the ship said they were to remain on board the landing craft even though the seas were very rough. A large wave washed some of the men overboard and according to reports 13 men died. The landing craft did not sink.
Other training areas used in 1943 were at Port Underwood and on the Mahia Peninsula.
Click on the following link to see video clips of training exercises on Wellington Harbour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQY-fVMAHiE
At midday on 1st November 1943, Wellington Harbour, which had been full of ships earlier that morning, was virtually empty. A whole division of marines had departed. They were part of Operation Galvanic – the invasion of Tarawa – and formed the Southern group of a convoy which consisted of 18 attack transports, 11 attack cargo ships, 7 merchant cargo ships, 38 LST's and 2 dock landing ships. They had between them 35,000 troops of the 2nd Marine Division and 27th Army Division. The supporting ships were made up of 13 battleships, 8 heavy cruisers, 4 light cruisers, 4 aircraft carriers, 4 light carriers, 4 jeep carriers, 1 carrier transport, 56 destroyers, 14 destroyer escorts, 3 minesweepers and 10 submarines.
The following ships embarked the bulk of the Division in Wellington:-
MONROVIA (APA-13), SHERIDAN (APA-51), HEYWOOD (APA-6), DOYEN (APA-1), VIRGO (AKA-20), LA SALLE (AP-102), ZEILIN (APA-3), ARTHUR MIDDLETON (APA-25), WILLIAM P BIDDLE (APA-8), HARRY LEE (APA-10), THUBAN (AKA-19), HARRIS (APA-2), ORMSBY (APA-49), J FRANKLIN BELL (APA-16), FELAND (APA-11) and BELLATRIX (AKA-3). They were escorted from Wellington by destroyers BAILEY (DD-492), FRAZIER (DD-607), GANSEVOORT (DD-608), MEADE (DD-602), RUSSELL (DD-414) and ANDERSON (DD-411).
For the next few months Wellington continued to be used as a stores base and the floating dock was used continuously for repairs as were facilities in Auckland and occasionally Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. By the end of February 1944 Wellington had nearly returned to normal.
Abbreviations used to describe ships are:-
AF Store Ship
AK Cargo Ship
AKA Attack Cargo Ship
APA Attack Transport
APH Transport fitted for evacuation of wounded
CA Heavy Cruiser
The island nature of so much of the Pacific war gave rise to a whole array of landing craft. Most of the different types were at Wellington and some at Auckland. The troop carrying vessels ranged from small craft like the LCP or the LVT, which could crawl right up on the beach to the 200 man LCI.
LVP - Landing Craft - Personnel
LVT - Landing Vehicle Tracked
The LCVP was big enough to carry a jeep as well as men, while the LCM and the LCT conveyed bulldozers, medium tanks and heavy trucks ashore.
LCVP - Landing Craft Vehicle & Personnel
LCM Landing Craft Mechanised
All of these vessels were drawfed by the ocean going vessels, the LST and LSD. One of the most effective work horses, the LST carrried everything from troops and tanks to cargo and landing craft. The biggest of all the vessels was the LSD which had space for troops, landing craft up to LCT in size and could double as a repair ship. It is unknown if any LSD's called at New Zealand although the first one built ASHLAND (LSD-1) was on its way to Wellington in 1943 when it was diverted to Efate. It had on board the first Sherman tanks to be used bu the marines in action.
LST - Landing Ship Tank
LSD - Landing Ship Dock
This image drawn to scale of the craft dipicted above.