This is the story of the USS Fremont and her crew. She sails no more, decommissioned, sold, scrapped, and lost to all her crewmembers; however, she still lives on in our hearts and in our memories. She is a constant reminder of the days when we were young, and our lives still stretched out before us. Why does a sailor fondly remember his ship? Surely, a sailor knows that his ship is nothing but a skin of metal riveted and welded over a skeletal frame. However, the feelings of a sailor go much deeper than the physical make-up of his ship. A sailor views his ship as a home, a workplace, transportation to exotic ports-of-call, but most of all a community of shipmates sharing the greatest adventure of their lives.
A special thanks to former crewmember Bob Allen for providing me the basis for this story of the USS Fremont. I will include additional information about the story of our ship as it is received. Personal memories about your time on Fremont are most welcome.
So now, let the story and adventure that is Fremont begin!!!!
Tony Yebba ~o|--}
Built for service with the Maritime Commission as SS Sea Corsair, the transport was launched and sponsored by Mrs. W. R. Guest at the Ingalls Ship Building Corporation, Pascagoula, Mississippi 31 March 1943. She was acquired by the U.S. Navy and put in partial commission on 30 May 1943 as the USS Fremont APA-8. All Attack Transport ships built at that time were named after State Counties. Fremont was named after Counties in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Iowa. Her first Commanding Officer, Lt. Commander James H. Budd, USNR, sailed her to Baltimore, Maryland. On 11 June 1943 Fremont arrived at Bethlehem Steel's Key Highway Yards, and was decommissioned. Fremont was to be refitted for duty as a relief flagship.
On 23 November 1943 the ship was placed in full commission as USS Fremont APA-44 with Captain Clarence V. Conlan, USN as her first commanding officer. Mrs. Mary Casey, the wife of LTJG William R. Casey the ship's Dental Officer was a sponsor of the USS Fremont at the re-commissioning ceremony. Four days later the ship departed Baltimore, Maryland and arrived 28 November at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia.
On 9 December Fremont moved to Hampton Roads, Virginia. Her orders were to conduct her shakedown cruise with the Amphibious Training Command in the Chesapeake Bay from 11 to 17 December. Shakedown completed, Fremont docked at the Navy Yard, Portsmouth for post shakedown repairs. On 22 December she proceeded to United Nations Dock B, Norfolk Virginia to load troops and supplies.
Flying the flag of Commander Transport Division 11, Fremont conducted several practice landing operations off Cove Point, Maryland between 22 to 27 December. The operations were conducted in order to train both ship's crew and troops embarked aboard her.
On 28 January 1944 with her training period nearly over, the ship moved from United Nations Dock B to Pier 3 Naval Operating Base (NOB) Norfolk, and loaded general stores, and supplies. On 1 February Fremont was transferred to Commander Service Forces Atlantic, Commander Transport Division 7. From 2 to 9 February, the ship again underwent general repairs and alterations. Fremont had her shakedown cruise from 13 to 16 February in the Chesapeake Bay to test her repairs. Fremont returned to NOB Norfolk where Construction Battalion 117 was embarked.
Fremont, acting as guide for Task Group 29.81, which consisted of USS Funston, USS O'Hara, and USS Cavalier escorted by the destroyer USS Evans and destroyer escort USS Thomason, steamed out of Norfolk on 26 February en route to the Panama Canal.
Clearing the Canal on 2 March Fremont headed out to sea as the guide for Task Group 29.81 en route to Pearl Harbor. The task group consisted of the same ships leaving Norfolk with the exception of USS Thomason, which left the convoy at the Panama Canal.
Upon arrival at Pearl Harbor on 16 March, embarking of troops and unloading of cargo commenced immediately. The following day Rear Admiral W. H. P. Blandy, USN, made an informal inspection of the ship. Five days later Navy Ship Planners started planning for the conversion necessary to equip Fremont as a flagship for Admiral Blandy. Work commenced immediately.
Practice landing operations were conducted in Moalaia Bay, Maui Hawaiian Islands, from 19 to 24 May with Rear Admiral W. H. P. Blandy, Commander Group 1 5th Amphibious Forces Pacific, and Major General R. E. Smith, Commander 27th Infantry Division aboard. Fremont returned to Pearl Harbor on 24 May. The ship was given another informal inspection by Vice Admiral Turner and Rear Admiral Delaney on 26 May.
With her bow on a heading to the Marianas, Fremont got underway with Rear Admiral Blandy and his staff aboard. Also aboard were Major General Smith and Brigadier General R.F. Kerman and detached units of the 27th Division, 165th Infantry, 105th Field Artillery, 102nd Medical, and 152nd Engineers. Major General Smith announced to the ship's company and troops the nature and objectives of the Marianas operation in which they were to soon take part. Various drills were held daily in preparation for the coming operation.
The Fremont dropped anchor in berth V-9, Kwajalein Atoll on 9 June. The following day she was refueled from the USS Mascon. Group One got underway on 11 June with Rear Admiral Blandy in tactical command afloat aboard Fremont. Destroyers USS Sigourney, USS Saufley, USS Pringle, USS Waller, and destroyer escorts USS Dioneand, USS Vanfield escorted Fremont to Saipan. A submarine contact was made by the USS Saufley and after dropping depth charges and oil slick was observed on the water. What follows is a personal observation of Robert O. Bingham, Cosxwain 1944, "I was aboard the Fremont on the 11th of June 1944, and was on watch. I was steering the ship, when General Quarters sounded. Destroyers were going back and forth, dropping depth charges. They gave the engine room orders for full speed ahead, and I was given orders for "Full Right Rudder". I was told that as we turned right, a torpedo had missed us by a very small margin. I have thought about this for 54 years. Can anyone verify this?" This story has been verified by Frank "Rawhide" Bridgwater who remembered the torpedo and made this personal observation about the event. "It was our first mission, on the way to Saipan, and I saw the torpedo coming through the water headed straight for us, when the ship veered out of its' path. I remembered thinking that we were going to be hit before we had even been in our first battle."
On 16 June at 0200 (-10 time zone), star shells were seen over Saipan and during the forenoon a great deal of wreckage was observed. This was presumed to be from Task Force 58's strike of 14-15 June. Enemy survivors were picked up in the water by the screen vessels. At 1251 Commander Task Force 58 ordered Fremont to proceed to the transport area and land her troops on Blue Beach. The debarking of troops started at 1820 and continued until ordered to retire by Commander Task Force 58. Fremont returned the next day to land more troops.
Fremont remained in the retirement area from the evening of 17 June to 1630 19 June. She returned to the transport area on 20 June to continue disembarking troops. The 20th of June also saw the ship's first beach party go ashore, and the first casualties delivered aboard. Throughout the afternoon and night, cargo was unloaded into LST 127. After four more days in the retirement area, Fremont returned and completed unloading on the 25th and 26th of June. During this same period, additional casualties were delivered aboard, the beach party re-embarked, and fuel and water was transferred to various ships.
With the Officer in Tactical Command aboard, Fremont proceeded to Aniwetok, Marshall Islands, arriving there at 1240 30 June. Fremont left the Marshall Islands unescorted on 6 July for Pearl Harbor. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 12 July. On 25 July, the rails were manned and honors rendered for the Commander in Chief, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who along with the presidential party, arrived at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Baltimore.
Army troops were embarked on Fremont 11 August. On the following day, the ship acting as guide for a formation of Transport Divisions 20, 26, and 32; accompanied by Carrier Divisions 25 and 27; and escorted by destroyers and PC's steamed out of Pearl Harbor. On 22 August, Fremont located at Latitude 00000 Longitude 164E bound South for the equator and for the South Pacific inititated all of its pollywogs into the "Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep". The formation arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands on 24 August.
From 28 August to 5 September, the ship took part in landing rehearsals off Cape Esperance Guadalcanal. By 8 September Fremont was loaded and underway for Palau Islands in company with Transport Divisions 20, 26, and 32. At this time both crew and the troops were informed of the forthcoming operations against the Jap held Palau Islands.
Fremont arrived off the Palau Islands on 15 September and operated off Babelthuap Island to divert the enemy's attention from the forces landing on Peleliu Island. The following day she steamed off Angaur Island and a number of small calibre shells landed in the water close off her starboard bow. On 17 September she participated in the landing operation on Angaur Island, debarking troops and vehicles on 18 September. What follows is an observation of Bob Perz a SGT attached to the 81st Division Field Artillery; "I was a member of the 81st Div. arriving on Anguar September 17, 1944. The ships compliment treated us very well and we ate good on our 30 day trip from Honolulu with a training stop at Guadacanel. The person who operated the landing craft at dusk on Sept. 17, 1944 placed us neatly on Anguar with only 6 inches of water to walk through. Many fond memories of Fremont". This operation continued through the next day, and on the 20th, Major General Julian Smith USMC came aboard for transportation to the next objective, Ulithi.
The next day, 21 September, Fremont departed form the Palau Islands, steaming as formation guide in company with Transport Division 32, LCI units 1 and 2, and 5 LST's. The formation arrived off Ulithi Islands on 23 September. Unopposed operations were conducted and Major General Smith left the ship.
As part of Task Group 32.18, she left Ulithi en route to Hollandia, New Guinea arriving there on 28 September. Fremont left Hollandia on October 1 bound for Manus Island, one of the Admiralty Islands. The Fremont arrived at Manus Island the following day, and the flag of Rear Admiral W.N. Fecheteler replaced the flag of Rear Admiral Blandy's. Fremont was now assigned Commander Amphibious Group 8.7th Amphibious Force, Task Force 78.
Army troops were embarked aboard the ship, and landing rehersals were conducted. Fremont left Manus on 12 October in company with Transport Division 26 and 32, and the USS Gambier Bay en route to Leyte Island the Phlippines. The ship rendezvoused on 15 October with the rest of Task Force 78, with Rear Admiral D. E. Barbey, in tactical command aboard the USS Blue Ridge. Early in the morning of 20 October, Fremont entered Leyte Gulf, Leyte Island and proceeded to the transport area and debarked her troops.
Fremont remained at Leyte as Administrative Senior Officer Present Afloat from 20 October to 18 November. During this period general quarters was sounded 123 times and the crew spent a total of 171 hours and 15 minutes at there GQ stations. This equates to 7 days 3 hours and 15 minutes. Fremont was subjected to numerous attacks by Kamikaze planes but was never hit. However, on 24 October, a small caliber shell exploded on the flag bridge and injured seven men. What follows is a personal account of RM 2(c) John Martin's experiences while on the bridge at Leyte . "Captain Conlan was the right man for the time and the job. I remember a day at Leyte, my GQ station was on the bridge, monitoring TBS radio, and radar notified the bridge that 50-60 Bogies were approaching and would be over the landing area and the nearby ships in 10 to 15 minutes. We had been under air attacks a lot for the past few days and I was not looking forward to another. The Captain however had a different view of things. His remark was "fifty or sixty, well by God we should get one out of that many". At that time we did not have a Japanese rising sun painted on our smoke stack. Kinda gave all of us in sound of his voice a somewhat better attitude as well." What follows is a personal account of Frank "Rawhide" Bridgewater experiences concerning an incident while at Leyte. "A kamikaze plan hit the USS Calloway the ship next to us. The plane must have hit the ship's magazine because the ship exploded. We sent landing boats out to pick up the survivors." What follows is a personal account of Art Bauman's experiences concerning an incident while at Leyte. "Since I had a machinist mate rate, I was called upon to assist in the various landings as we did not have enough motor machinist mates. This part was not at all fun, making the landings, watching other boats getting blown out of the water, or seeing the marines or army troops get mowed down after we dropped them off. I remember very well one day up at Leyte when the Jap fleet was moving in on us, the ship pulled anchor and started out to sea. We pulled alongside wanting to be picked up, but we were given the command "Away All Boats". We floated around for three days without food or water."
On 18 November, Fremont left Leyte to join Task Unit 79.15.1, which put into Hollandia on the 22 November. Two days later she was assigned to Transport Division 26. On 1 December the buoy to which Fremont was moored became adrift and she made preparations for getting underway as she was imperiled by a one fathom shoal nearby. LCVP's and LCM's in the vicinity were able to hold the ship off the shoal until tugs could get to the ship and push her to safety.
On 12 December 1944, Fremont got underway from Hollandia en route Sansapor, New Guinea as part of Task Unit 76.4.17, arriving 14 December. From 14 to 30 December the ship loaded cargo and equipment, conducted landing rehearsals, and helped bring down one enemy plane. On 30 December, Fremont got underway from Sansapor as part of Task Group 78.5 on her way to Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippine Islands.
The Task Group steamed through Surigao Strait on the night of 4 January 1945. On 8 January the formation was attacked by enemy planes. During this attack a Kamikaze crashed into an escort carrier astern of Fremont and one crashed into another ship off her starboard beam. Fremont arrived Lingayen Gulf, Luzon the following morning and disembarked her troops. On 11 January Fremont steamed toward Leyte as a member of Task Group 79.14.4 arriving there on 14 January.
Rear Admiral Fechteler transferred his flag from the ship to Leyte Island on 16 January and the following day Commodore D. W. Loomis came aboard and the Fremont became flagship of Transport Squardron 11. The ship then left Leyte bound for Ulithi arriving 23 January. Fremont got underway on 6 February for Guam, Marianas Islands arriving 2 days later. While in Guam Fremont loaded cargo and embarked units of the 3rd Marine Division. On 17 February she steamed away from Guam in company with Task Group 51.5 en route to a designated area off Iwo Jima. Fremont arrived on 19 February and remained in this area until 22 February. When Transport Division 31, with Fremont as guide, steamed its way to the transport area off Iwo Jima. On the 24th she commenced disembarking troops and unloading cargo. Due to heavy surf and inclement weather the ship was not completely unloaded until 6 March.
During the morning of 6 March the ship sustained several near misses by small caliber shell fire and late in the afternoon she departed for Saipan as part of Task Unit 51.29.10. Two days later a B-29 was seen crashing into the sea approximately 1 mile away, off Fremont's port quarter. Fremont left formation in order to render aid to the stricken plane. DD 475 also proceeded to the scene to pick up survivors. What follows is a personal observation by Tom Komodowski a Firecontrolman 1/c, "The saddest incident was the ditching of the B-29 whose fuselage broke in half. After many desperate efforts at trying to signal survivors in the floating wrekage and ourselves unescorted by anti-submarine protection, we were compelled to sink the plane midst many anguished and heart rending emotions." Fremont dropped anchor at Saipan on 9 March and remained there long enough to transfer to the beach casualties and prisoners of war from Iwo Jima. Steaming in company with Transport Divisions 31 and 32, Fremont left Siapan for Guam.
On 11 March, Fremont arrived at Guam, departing the next day for Tulagi Florida Islands. Fremont dropped anchor in Gavutu Bay, Florida Islands on 18 March. Two days later Fremont got underway for Noumea, New Caledonia. On 23 March, a flare-back in Number 2 boiler caused a hole in the rear wall of the combustion chamber. However, the ship proceeded to dock and loaded cargo and equipment of the 81st Infantry Division.
On 5 April Fremont went to Isle Nou Island repair dock for boiler repairs. Six days later she went to her anchorage at Dumbea Bay, Naoumea.
Fremont conducted a landing rehearsal from 17 to 19 April. On 3 May, Fremont as part of Transport Squadron 1, loaded with cargo and Army equipment, left Noumea bound for Manus. The ship passed through Vitiaz Strait between New Guinea and New Britain. On 9 May, Fremont dropped anchor at Manus. On 10 May, she embarked a draft of Navy enlisted personnel and got underway to Leyte Island, arriving there on 16 May. Here the Navy draft was disembarked and Army equipment unloaded.
On 5 June, Fremont steamed out of Leyte alone bound for Pearl Harbor flying the flag of Rear Admiral R. O. Davis, Commander Amphibious Groups 13. Fremont dropped anchor in Pearl on 19 June and Commander Alexander L. Stuart, USNR assumed command from Captain Clarence V. Conlan, USN. Captain Louis A. Reinken, USN assumed command of Fremont on 18 July.
San Francisco bound, Fremont steamed out of Pearl Harbor on 20 July, loaded with Navy enlisted, officers, and prisoners bound for the United States. Fremont pulled in San Francisco on 26 July and disembarked her navy passengers and prisoners. The following day, her ammunition unloaded, Fremont proceeded to the San Francisco Bethlehem Steel Ship Yard for general overhaul and repair. Beginning 27 July Fremont became the flagship of Rear Admiral R. P. Briscoe, Commander Amphibious Group 14 for three days. From 7 August to 4 October the ship was in drydock. From 5 to 7 October, Fremont had her shakedown cruise. On 9 October Fremont got underway -- destination Pearl Harbor.
Fremont docked at berth S-21, Pearl Harbor on 15 October. That same day a fire broke out in her engine room. On 18 October, Fremont shifted into the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for repairs. After repairs were completed, she loaded personnel and on 4 December departed Pearl Harbor en route to San Francisco, arriving there on 10 December. What follows is a personal account of Frank "Rawhide" Bridgewater. "We sailed into San Francisco under the Golden Gate Bridge. All these small boats came out to meet us. They were blowing horns and whistles, and they had bands on board playing "Calilfornia Here I Come". Tugboats were shooting streams of water into the air. I can remember it like it was yesterday." The following is a personal account of S2c Paul Prentice. "Being just barely 17 when I came aboard, one of the first memorable adventures was being loaded on a bus and taken to Point Montera and introduced to the weapons aboard. We had the opportunity to learn how to load and fire all of the guns. I think (but this is a bit fuzzy after 56 yrs) I remember the main armament as being : 1.) a 5"51 (long gun) on the fantail;
2.) numerous twin 20mm's and some 50 caliburs on both sides and at two levels of the superstructure; and 3.) near the bow just aft of the rope locker, a quad 40mm on each side with the new Mark 14 (?) directors which I think were installed at Bethlehem Steel in Frisco in june of 45. Standing GQ, I was a second loader on the starboard quad 40mm. (meaning some one handed me a 4 shell clip (?) and I passed it on to the guy who dropped it into one of the
receivers).Then there was those first liberties in San Fransisco. Wonder how many guys
remember the Pepsicola Center (Frisco's stagedoor canteen where bunks were available for 50 cts, Free Pepsi, coffee, milk, donuts, and best of all, the free passes to stage shows, etc.), The Penny Arcades where the younger girls frequented, The Powel Street Bar (where I shouldn't have been), and those wonderful theaters where performers like Linda Darnel, Betty Grable, Danny
Kaye, Lou Carrilo, Jimmy Durante, and many others plus the big bands put on stage shows.Next came the embarking of troops and equipment. What a sight. It was nearly unbelievable that there could be enough space for so many troops and their equipment.As we put to sea, we went under the Golden Gate Bridge. The feelings (what have I gotten my self into?) were undescribable. Soon the California swells were to be experienced. (Lot's of seasick Boots and Marines for that first couple days). All the while, there were jobs to be done. At first there was the "busy work" of chipping and painting and then there were the watch assignments. To me , a kid from Kansas, standing watch during the daylight meant also seeing my first "wonders of the sea". Like the porpoises and the flying fish in the bow wave. Remember the beautiful blues and greens of the ocean? Occasionally when watching TV, I see those beautiful sights and oddly enough, I still recall the smell of the sea. Awesome.I bet no sailor ever forgot his first night-watch and the enormous responsibility he felt while many of the crew and 1200 troops slept. Before going on watch, there was the eye conditioning in the red light. Then reporting to the watch station on deck, the watch began. Except for an occasional voice in the head set, I felt like I was completely alone yet I was honored to be so entrusted. I also remember the moon was not up yet when I began my first night-watch and the ship was in total blackout. The sky was full of stars that just disappeared off the edge of the earth. As time went by, the moon came up and the horizon was once again clearly defined. When relieved from the watch, it was down to the galley for a quick cup of hot coffee and some times a cookie or donut was waiting for those going off watch. Then it was hit the sack because there was always the eight bells muster. To me, that's the life of a sailor and the best of my treasure-trove of remembrance.There was also the "Fremont Band". In the beginning, It wasn't very good although there were a couple really good musicians that were trying to get it organized. I tried out and tho my musical experience was limited to playing a baritone in highschool. I was given a trumpet (my excuse for being so bad was the very small mouth piece) but I did play 3rd chair. We only practiced a few times in off duty hours before I left the ship. Also, there was scored music for only a few songs. One was Java something or other. It went something like: "Javaaa - Javaaa- java-jjava-jing-jing-jing". I've often wondered if the fella's ever got the act together? In any event, those adventures are great to remember."Paul Prentice S2C 1st Div.
During the period from 16 December 1945 to 20 January 1946, Fremont made a cruise from San Francisco to Nagoya, Japan, via Pearl Harbor, returning to Seattle Washington where she disembarked returning veterans of the Pacific Campaigns. The following are some of MOMM3/C Robert Bronson's memories of the trip to Nagoya, Japan: "I think we were at least one of the first ships in Nagoya as we were (as U.S. sailors) a curiosity to the people. We picked up occupationally trained personell in Hawaii and were to bring combat troops back. I was in San Francisco (Bethlehem Steel) when Japan surrendered. We had been loading for the invasion (scuttlebutt) and immediately unloaded all the holds of cargo. Cement blocks replaced the weight along with refitting to carry troops. We left soon after and headed for Japan. I think it was December as when we arrived it was snowing and quite cold." The Fremont made two trips to the Philippine Islands to pick up war weary troops and return them to the States.
On 14 June, Captain Wayne A. McDowell, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Louis A. Reinken, USN. On 22 August, Captain Eugene M. Waldron, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Wayne A. McDowell, USN.
July through December, Fremont remained on the West Coast for training and repair purposes.
On 11 January 1947, Fremont left the West Coast with a load of lumber in her holds bound for the East Coast. She transited the Panama Canal from 19 to 21 January and dropped anchor at Norfolk Virginia on 26 January. While going through the canal Fremont picked up dependents bound for Norfolk Virginia. Fremont was to spend the rest of her career with Norfolk as her home port.
On 14 March, Commander Owen B. Murphy, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Eugene M. Waldron, USN. On 19 April, Captain Hugh P. Thomson, USN assumed command of Fremont from Commander Wayne A. McDowell, USN.
Fremont operated during training exercises in the area of Little Creek, Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay until 9 August when she got underway for a brief run to Bermuda, returning on the 13th. Her operations with the Second Fleet Amphibious Force took her to various ports in the Caribbean and along the East Coast. Among them were San Juan, Puerto Rico; Kingston Jamaica; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Argentia, Newfoundland; and several U. S. seaport cities.
Fremont put in at Norfolk on 21 March 1948 for an extensive overall and dry dock period. On 18 June, Captain Joe W. Stryker, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Hugh P. Thomson, USN.
On March 2, 1949, USS FREMONT participated in a landing on the Island of Vieques, P.R. Between 800 - 900 marines were taken ashore. The Commanding Officer at that time was Captain Joe W. Stryker. The FREMONT was the flagship for COMTRANSDIV-22. This operation was commanded by RADM Gerald Wright, Commander Joint Expeditionary Force; LtGen K. E. Rodman, USMC, Commander Expeditionary Troops. Information taken off of a certificate given to all the crew members that were present during these operations. Information provided by: Tom Mislan, YNCS, USN (Ret)
On 27 May 1949, Captain Richard H. Phillips, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Joe W. Stryker, USN. In July, Fremont was awarded the Battle Efficiency Pennant and Navy "E". In December 1949 the Fremont acting as flagship for COMTRANSDIV-22 under the Command of Commodore (Captain) Hudson participated in cold weather exercises. The following is an account of the exercise as related by YNCS Tom Mislan: "The USS FREMONT served as COMTRANSDIV-22's Flagship. The Staff boarded the FREMONT for all operations at sea - and actually prepared the Op-Orders for the operations. The FREMONT during that period operated with the USS RANDALL (APA-224), USS BEXAR (APA-237), USS COLONIAL (LSD-20) - they were all part of COMTRANSDIV-22. The Commander at that time was Captain Hudson, with Captain Stryker as the CO of the FREMONT. I was a YN on the Staff. We spent much of 1948 and 1949 with the SIXTH Fleet and several landing on the island of Vieques. One monumental cruise was when we transported about 800 Marines from the 6th Div. to Labrador in December 1949 for cold weather exercises. While there we celebrated Christmas. My cousin, a Marine, was aboard at that time. When we got there, Porcupine Bay, we unloaded the Marines and started to unload their cold weather gear when we received orders to get underway as a severe snow storm was on the way. The snow storm was coming up the coast and was a bad one, with high winds - more of a blizzard type. We had to cancel all boating therefore unable to get the cold weather gear over to the Marines on the beach. We weighed anchor and went to a safe cove about 20 miles down the coast. The poor marines had to stay overnight in frigid weather without their cold weather gear. My cousin had some stories to tell about that. We did bring the Fremont back to the beach the next morning. The FREMONT was instrumental in training those Marines for the cold weather in Korea."
On March 8, 1950, USS FREMONT participated in the Amphibious Airborne Invasion of Island of Vieques, P.R.. The FREMONT offloaded approximately 800 plus troops on the beach. The FREMONT was the flagship for COMTRANSDIV -22. This force came under Lt.Gen. John R. Hodge, Commander Invasion Forces; RADM Jerald Wright, Commander, Naval Forces Invasion; Maj.Gen. R. W. Clarkson, Commander, Army Forces Invasion and Maj.Gen. Ralph Starley, (USAF) Commander Air Force Forces Invasion. Above information provided by: Tom Mislan, YNCS, USN (Ret)
On 27 May 1950, Commander Willliam O. Spears Jr., USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Richard H. Phillips, USN. On 19 April, Captain William C. Bryson, USN assumed command of Fremont from Commander William O. Spears Jr., USN.
In March, 1951, the Fremont joined the Sixth Fleet and served in the Mediterranean until 7 July 1951. As a result of the above service, the Fremont became eligible for the replica of the Navy Occupation Service Ribbon (Europe). While attached to the Sixth Fleet, she participated in amphibious landings on Malta and Crete.
The following is a recollection of life aboard the Fremont as provided by Ed Knuckey. At the time Ed was a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marines. "It was a pleasant surprise to receive your letter advising me that I was now on the roster of the USS Fremont and was even considered a shipmate. This puts me in the position of now having to confess that I was not a member of the ship's crew, but I did sail on that noble ship. Perhaps, I had better elaborate further.
It is necessary to give a brief historical background as a foundation for the following; My legal name is Arthur Edward Knuckey Jr., but I have been known from birth as Ted Knuckey Jr. I offer this since some one on the ships company might have remembered me, but this is doubtful, as I will explain.
I joined the U.S. Navy a few days past my 17th. birthday after being assured by a recruiting officer that I would be sent to school to become a veterinarian. This was in October of 1947, and a friend of mine had just completed this program while he was in the Army. They promised me that anything the army would offer that the navy would do better. It was only after being sent to hospital corps school that I became aware that the navy did not have such a program, but the personnel officer did promise that he would note my complaint and make sure that any sick sea horses would be referred to me for care.
It was thus that started me on my 3 year obligation as a hospital corpsman and upon my graduation from corps school in San Diego, Calif. I was offered my choice of a duty station. I requested to stay in California or be stationed in Texas so that I could continue to ride rodeos. Personnel said no problem and my orders were cut for Chelsea Naval Hospital, just outside of Boston, Mass.
(This is how I ended up on the East coast.)
In the middle of June, 1950 I was stationed at Quonset Point, Rhode Island and the Navy was discharging everyone 3 months early for the convenience of the government. I started making plans, packed my sea bag and waited for the orders. JUNE 25TH, 1950 Korea went to war. President Truman froze all enlistments for an additional year and I found myself on an air plane headed for Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. My orders were for an attachment to the U.S. Marine Corps. Then things happened fast. I was issued all Marine Corps uniforms and equipment. Told to ship my Navy gear home, but stated, I could keep my dress blues if I wanted to. (They then pointed out that it was not smart to walk around a Marine corps base in Navy blues. I agreed that sometimes it doesn't pay to stand out. I sent my blues home.) The only thing left that was Navy was the imprint on top of my paycheck. (Even my underwear was green.)
I then spent a couple of months in a field medical school, where we divided our time in learning how to apply our medical training to battlefield conditions and how to be a Marine. The conclusion brought about our assignments and I found myself attached to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines(Reinforced) of the 2nd Marine Division FMF. On February 14th, 1951 the unit was ordered to report to, Little Creek, Norfolk Virginia for Amphibious training.
The 15th of February we were transported en masse to the pier at Morehead City N.C. to be loaded for our trip to Norfolk. The Fremont was not there and the entire battalion was split between the USS Randall and the USS Marquette. This was my first contact with the Navy since my transfer and I was looking forward to finally being on a ship. (In my previous 3 years I did not have any sea duty.) The Marine corps band was on the dock and played what is known as "Shipping over music.~ as we ascended onto the ships. I heard the Marine Corps Hymn numerous times, but not a chord was played of "Anchors Aweigh." It was only a one night trip,and we sailed early in an attempt to miss a storm. It was a bad guess and we didn't make it. The storm found us and along about Cape Hatteras it really got rough. We were served the customary greasy military spaghetti just as we sailed and within a couple of hours the sea, the decks and the bulkheads had reclaimed the entire meal, plus several prior dining experiences. I was aboard the Randall and as I moved about the ship I found Marines in various positions with their head lower than their shoulders. Some were asking, "What had they done to deserve this," While others begged or prayed for a fast and merciful death. They were draped over any projection, the railings, the bunks, and the fixtures in the heads. There were a few just lying prostate on the decks claiming they were to weak to get into the already saturated canvas bunks. (I have often wondered how they ever got that ship cleaned up after we left.) We were aboard the Randall one more time, when it was utilized as a training vessel for a tactical landing at the Little Creek and Camp Pendleton beaches. It was a cold wet day, but since we were seven days into our bouncing around in landing crafts, sea sickness did not seem to be a problem. We were all glad to return to the warmth and dryness of the ship. It seemed even the discomfort of the overcrowded compartments was welcome as we dried oft. We completed our two weeks of climbing up and down cargo nets, practice assault landings, lectures on basic amphibious subjects, and living in oil stove heated quonset huts. We returned to Norfolk on March 2nd., for our ship assignments and preparations for our departure to the Med.
USS FREMONT APA-44
It was this scenario that brought me aboard the Fremont, but it was not without problems. All of our gear was transported to the ships without our presence. We were given liberty in Norfolk with orders to be aboard the designated ship before midnight. None of us had seen the Fremont prior to that time and were total strangers to the Norfolk base. This, however, was the last thing on my mind and I dismissed it as a minor problem that I would worry about later. We hadn't had liberty since a couple of weeks before we left Lejeune and I set out to find the elusive femme fatale that must be somewhere nearby. I soon found that not only was she elusive, but was probably non existent. I joined several of my brethren and when we gave up searching for feminine companionship, we made a camel-like attempt at storing up a supply of alcohol for what ever voyage was ahead.
I checked into the base at 11 PM, giving myself lots of time to find the ship. This was bad planning and no one seemed to know where it was I wandered from area to area after being given misdirections from several people who had had just as much if not more to drink than I. Finally a CPO headed me up a gangway and informed me that the Fremont was several ships out and the only way to get there was to board each ship in turn and cross over. (Not an easy task for a drunk landlubber.) I don't know if it was third, fifth or other, but I do know I was tired of saluting the OD and the fan tail by the time I got there. It was 15 minutes past midnight and I was taken to my assigned bunk and ordered to report for a Captain's Mast at 8 AM in the morning.
It was the 5th of March, 1951 and we were at sea when I took my place along the bulkhead with a long line of hung over marines. The line moved fast and I was soon before a marine officer who acknowledged that I was on the Naval base before midnight and it was unfortunate that I couldn't find the ship. He then told me that we would arrive in Gibraltar in ten days and I was restricted to the ship until we dropped anchor in that port. (This was the first time I had heard where we were going.) I accepted my fate and realized that I had only been abroad ship for 10 hours and I was already under restrictions. I soon learned that a Sgt. can overrule a Marine Officer when it comes to the daily net drills. Let me explain, We stopped every day and climbed down the cargo net into an M boat,took a ride and then returned to the ship via a climb up the net. I protested each time, explaining to the Sgt.in charge of my boat crew, that I couldn't leave the ship. He would point to the net and say, (Well never mind what he said, but it included serious bodily injury to delicate body parts, as well as something about swimming with the sharks.)
The days passed and I became accustomed to ship board life. The fact the Fremont had a casket tied down just outside the sick bay was a little disconcerting, but I believe it was empty when we left and still empty when we returned.
The complaints that I heard from my fellow travelers included, "Lack of air in the compartments, to having to stand up to eat and chase the trays from side to side as the ship rolled. Oh yes, there were comments about finding weevils in the biscuits and this from men who were use to living in a fox hole and eating the cold,(Not fit for human consumption,) "C" rations. The first few days out I saw them throw the biscuits in the garbage. The next few days they merely picked out the weevil and ate the biscuit. It wasn't long until they just wouldn't look and considered the weevil an extra protein and chomp away. (Marines are tough you know.) The eggs and milk on the ship was powered and we were warned that the Mediterranean area had Malta Fever, (Brucella,) and we could not eat or drink any dairy products. We also had the standard warnings about the water and this more or less forced us to reluctantly partake of the local alcohol beverages to quench our thirst. Some of my comrades found the local wines to be of superior quality and they had some difficult judging the acceptable quantity. We had a stretcher club of at least eight members who had to be brought back to the ship by being hoisted up in stokes stretchers. When we returned to the states, there wasn't any band and the only one on the docks to meet us was a milk truck. The vendor did a high volume business and I personally gulped down two quarts. I never knew milk could taste so good.
The fact that the milk man knew we were coming was not the only mystery of our movements. We never knew where we would go next or when we would get there. I remember that we would leave port and only when we were out to sea were we advised of our approximate arrival time and our destination. Several times we would stop in the ocean and a sea plane would land. Two marines with brief cases and side arms would be picked up and taken to the flag ship. It was only after they returned to the plane and departed that we were advised where our next stop would be. This was a poorly kept secret and any of the bar girls could tell us where we were going and the day and hour we would arrive. There were many anchor pools won on their information.
My other memories of the ship included "Doris Day" movies, inspections and lost laundry. Then there were the poker games. We were allowed to play penny ante and the officers would smile and look away as they noticed the stack of pennies on the decks. The game midships gave the penny a one dollar stack value and there were two games on the fantail with penny values of five dollars and ten dollars respectively. I heard that there was a high stakes game somewhere down deep in the bowels of the ship. My source said it took a guide or a map to find it and it was down several decks where trucks were stored and there was a basketball hoop where you could shoot baskets. The game was a table stakes, fifty dollar set down and there was also a crap game in the back of a truck. It was absolutely safe since you had to open a hatch and climb down a long ladder to enter the hold. In the event any officer entered, by the time he got to the bottom all he would see was a basketball game going on. I thanked him for the information, but on my pay of 98 dollars a month, I could only afford to lose at the one dollar game.
The trip was educational and for one thing I learned I was not the worlds best poker player. There was once when we stopped some where in the Mediterranean and told we could go swimming. The day was hot and a swim seemed in order. I was several feet away from the ship and when 1 looked up I saw marines and sailors along the railings. They were all armed with rifles and peering over the side. I asked the man next to me what that was all about and he replied,"Shark Watch!" I lost all interest in a swim and quickly returned to the ship.
Each and every liberty could be a story, but my education was increased by my first in Gibraltar. A friend and I were seated in a beer bar when a English sailor came in. He walked directly to our table, introduced himself, and asked if he could buy us a beer. We accepted and as we drank some ten or twelve of his shipmates came in, and he called them over to our table, introduced them and they pulled up a chair. We now were surrounded by the English Navy and our new found friend announced. "It is your turn to buy a round mate, I bought the last one."
My tour was for 123 days and by the end I was getting use to sleeping with my head on a life preserver and to heating shaving water in my helmet with a steam pipe. I don't remember meeting any sailors and it seemed they stayed away from us. In fact I didn't see any of them in any of the poker games.
We were there because of problems in the near and far East. Iran took over a British oil company. Iran's premier was assassinated and the country was defiant. England was moving aggressively and we knew then that we were on the brink of World War Three. (Not much has changed.) In spite of the serious nature of our presence, My tour was a pleasant memory, which I have carried for life.
I know of the Fremont's history and we were just one of many marine battalions that she carried to their duties. I was on board from March 5th to July 6th, 1951. To the crew of the Fremont I would like to express my appreciation and say, "Thanks for the ride," to all concerned.
On 19 July 1951, Captain Joseph W. Leverton, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain William C. Byrson, USN.
During the latter part of August, the Fremont took part in Cadet-Midshipmen (CANID VI). As part of the exercise, She made amphibious landings at Little Creek, Virginia. Upon completion, the cadets were returned to West Point.
On 1 May 1952 Fremont again joined the Sixth Fleet and served in the Mediterranean Area as flagship of the Amphibious Task Element, Sixth Fleet, with COMTTANSCIV22 embarked until 8 October 1952. While in the Mediterranean Fremont's ports of call included: Messina, Sciliy; Gibraltar; Piraeus, Greece; Malta; Nice, France; Gulf Juan, France; Oran and Algeirs, Algeiria; Bari, Italy; Genoa, Italy; Marseille, France; and Fmagusta, Cyprus. On 28 July, Captain Harold M. Heming, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Joseph W. Liverton, USN. In November a collision occured between a civilian tanker and a USN APD. The Fremont had the duty of taking on the injured and dead personnel. The following is the personal observation of ENFN Paul J. Wells: "I was aboard the Fremont the night of the collision between the USS RUCHAMKIN APD 88 and a civilian tanker .We were the flag ship and if my memory serves me corectly we had very rough weather that night and the APD 88 had some army personel aboard .We were two hundred miles from Norfolk and the trip back with the wounded was sad." The following is another personal observation of the collision of the USS Ruchamkin by BMC Andy Knopf. Andy was an SN at the time. "I woke up and was told to go to my boat that was on No. 2 boat davit. We lowered the LCVP into the water and I went over to, and alongside, the Ruchamkin. We moored on the port side just aft of the hole left in its hull by the collision. The water was smooth and there was only a sliver of moon showing. Divers were already in the water and swimming into the opening in the hull searching for survivors. I think the divers were from the Ruchamkin's UDT Team.There was about a ten foot piece of jagged steel sticking out of the port side and there were bodies hanging from it.I heard that after the tanker backed out of the Ruchamkin it started to steam away. The tanker did not answer its radio and the Capt. shouted to the signal bridge to get on the light and tell that tanker to stop its screw. The order was given to load the five inch 38 and to stand by to fire a round across their bow.The tanker stopped their screw and came up on their radio.We made a few trips from the Ruchamkin to the Fremont carrying the injured and dead. We were hoisted aboard but there were still other boats operating in the area.After the other boats were recovered we headed for port. The port side troop head and shower were used as a morgue. That's how I remember that night."
On 18 July 1953, Captain William W. Wilborne, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Harold M. Heming, USN.From 20 September 1953 to 25 January 1954 Fremont served the Mediterranean area as Flagship of the Amphibious Task Element of the Sixth Fleet. She participated in "Operation Weldfast", a combined NATO maneuver.
Upon returning to the States, Fremont underwent repair in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard from February to April 1954 and then proceeded to Newport, Rhode island for underway training. En route to Newport the ship experienced a casualty to it's low pressure turbine and proceeded to the New York Naval Shipyard for repairs. The following is a recollection of Lee R. Boatwright's about this incident: "When the engine room breakdown occurred off the New Jersey coast, we headed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As we entered New York harbor, someone back in Norfolk reminded us that the Radar antenna would not clear the Brooklyn Bridge. We then went to Bayonne, New Jersey to have it removed. When that was completed we proceeded to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I remember some great liberty in New York during that repair time". After repairs and completion of underway training at Newport, Fremont returned to Norfolk, Virginia 3 July 1954.
On 10 June, Captain Charles Crighton, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain William W. Wilborne, USN. On 12 July, Captain William T. Nelson, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Charles Crighton, USN. On 20 July Fremont proceeded to Morehead City, North Carolina to load marines and equipment of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and proceeded to Vieques, Puerto Rico. During the summer of 1954, she remained in the Vieques area providing the Marine Units with logistic and training assistance.The following is a story provided by EN2/c Vic Keranen: "I was ordered to the USS Fremont from the Naval School Salvage and found myself assigned to A division. Shortly after my arrival, as we were leaving NOB Norfolk, a "senior person" approached me on the fantail. On the portside there, a bulky package resided under a coarse and heavily painted canvas cover. That canvas was old, looked like it had been undisturbed for years, and gray and black paint had steadily accumulated on that canvas. The old canvas was as stiff and unyielding as cheap sheet metal. At least, it would not rust. A division was always short handed. The information conveyed to me by the "senior person" ran something like the following. "See that thing on the fantail?" Yes, I replied, "What is it?" "It's yours!" came the fascinating answer. "It's a smoke generator and we've never seen it used." Wow! That was interesting news. I had never seen a smoke generator much less have one handed to me. This clearly was a machine that promise all kinds of fun. On a destroyer, we used special burners to plug into the boiler front to produce a dense black smoke from the stacks. The oily residue the burners produced was hated by all hands, and contaminated boilers, decks and sea surface. This smoke generator was a complete unknown to me, and more interesting was the revelation this machine was "mine"! My machine. I clearly had to become better acquainted with my new responsibility-toy. I started to struggle with that coarse heavily painted canvas. Some 3rd division hands jumped in to help. While the fantail was special territory of 3rd division that generator had remained hidden under a canvas cover they had probably painted many times. It seemed clear to me that they were as curious about this peculiar machine as I was. With the canvas removed and put aside, the machine was visible, probably for the first time in many years. What we saw was a Rube Goldberg collection of pipes, 50 gallon drums, a small boiler and air cooled engine. This collection was crowned by two long pipes lined with multiple small drill holes. The long pipes were bent to beautifully match the curve of the stern rail. Those pipes I chose to name "emitters" in the absence of an owner's manual or operator's instructions. It was just me and "my" new machine. Checking the small engine was simple and straight forward. Fuel was plentiful, for we carried gasoline for our emergency pumps. The engine started with surprising ease. The machine had attracted a group of idle hands as I warmed it up. They watched with interest as I played with pipe valves and throttle. The machine clearly drew a mix of oil and water from the drums, burned it in the boiler, and forced the products of combustion out through my "emitters". The generator was soon producing a fine white smoke as we proceeded down the main channel leaving Chesapeake Bay. That lovely white smoke was rapidly increasing in volume and density as we moved along. I had the impression that with just a little more time I'd find the settings to get maximum results. We now had layed a 300 meter trail along the channel and I thought we could triple the results we were now displaying. In my judgment, we were not near full capacity. There was a problem. My smoke trail had caught the attention of the bridge watch. The messenger from the bridge arrived too soon. In felt that we could reach maximum output in just a few more minutes, and then we'd really see what the generator was capable of. The messenger was bearing advice for me from the captain. It seems the captain had expressed the desire that we secure the smoke generator, and further that we do so in a timely manner. The captain seemed to feel that laying a smoke screen in a major shipping channel was NOT acceptable or standard navigational practice. Now those were not the precise words conveyed by the messenger but I can assure you they reflect the gist of the message. It seemed likely to me that I would soon receive an invitation to one of the captains little soirees held "at the mast" and the only excuse I could think of was "spontaneous combustion". That might not explain the running engine, but it could cover the smoke! The funny thing is that I heard no more of the incident. Never again did I light off "my machine" but I did know it would work. In a post script, in a rare live fire event, the 5inch gun crew fired over the port rail. The muzzle blast shredded that old paint reinforced cover over my machine. That is how my machine received a new canvas cover. The following observation is provided by SM2 Kenneth Sapp: "I was on the Fremont when they made the movie "Away all Boats". I think the ship they used to film on was the USS Olmstead or one of her class. If you see the movie the Fremont can be seen in the background of several scenes. It was filmed off the island of Vieques". Another recollection of the filming of "Away all Boats" is provided by GM3 Joe Montgomery: "We were operating with our "Sister Ship" at the time, the USS Randle APA-224 (The USS Randle was used as the USS Belinda APA-22 in the movie). I was able to get a glimpse of the sail boat that was used in the movie. Also, I was one ot the coxswains that hit the beach with the Marines". The ship returned to Norfolk on 2 September 1954. During this operation and until 7 February 1955 Fremont served as the flagship for CONTRANSDIV 22.
The following is a personal account of an incident involving the Fremont as witnessed by Van Gardner: "On 12 Sept 1954 I was an FT2 on the USS Mississippi EAG-128 anchored at Hampton Roads next to the USS Fremont. Here is a Quote from a letter I wrote my wife that night. "We had quite a bit of excitement here today. An Arab ship rammed the Fremont right next to us and tore a big hole in both of them. I don't think anyone got hurt though. I don't see how it happened because it was a beautiful day and not a cloud in the sky".
The following is SM2 Ken Sapp's rememberance of the same incident: "We had just got out of shipyard, and was returning from a shakedown cruise and had anchored out overnight waiting for a pier (this was in N.O.B. in Norfolk). I had liberty and since it was Sunday morning, I had slept in. I was in the mess hall for brunch when I heard the siren and five blasts and I knew that was signal for collission. I made it up the first flight of stairs and was in time to see the other ship as it tore down the side of the Fremont, ripping the side and raising a cloud of dust. It continued this until a beam tore their anchor off. We steamed back into the shipyard at Portsmouth, where we underwent repairs". The following is Lee Boatwright's rememberance of the same incident: "My recollection of the collision with the merchant ship is that we were returning to Norfolk from Hurricane anchorage in Chesapeake Bay. The collision occurred about noon on a Sunday. The merchant ship lost steering and struck the side of the Fremont. A large hole was made in the compartment next to my sleeping quarters, just above the water line. Part of that ship's anchor was left hanging there. We went to a private shipyard in South Norfolk for repairs, which lasted several weeks." The following is Joe Montgomery's rememberance of the same incident: "I was in my rack when the collision occurred. However, the collision occurred on port side of the ship and I was on the starboard side. Never the less, it was cause for much confusion for hours and days later."
The following is the Fremont's MPA William D. Lion concerning the same incident: "The civilian ship was the SS Yaffo, an Israeli vessel. She did suffer loss of steering which caused her to swing into the Fremont, damaging both vessels. I was on duty in the engine room at that time and had to give testimony at an inquiry into the accident. It seemed to me that the Board of Inqauiry did its best to discredit Captain Nelson, even though the Yaffo's Captain claimed responsiblity for the accident (and the Coast Guard concurred). Captain Nelson was a fine person and it grieved me to see him suffer the attempts to degrade him by the board, and especially by the board head, Commodore of Transport Division 23. I had served as Logistics and Material Officer of Trans Div 23 prior to transfer to the Fremont, so was well acquainted with the Commodore."
On 3 November, Fremont again sailed from Norfolk to Morehead City to embark troops and equipment of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Fremont then took part in amphibious maneuvers at Camp Pendleton, Virginia and Onslow Beach, North Carolina. She returned to Norfolk on 20 November 1954.
In January 1955, Fremont left for a two week reserve training cruise to Havana, Cuba.
On 7 March Fremont got underway for San Juan, Puerto Rico, where COMTRANSPHIBRON 10 transferred his flag to Fremont where it remained until 26 May 1955. Fremont sailed to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico to take part in spring amphibious maneuvers. Fremont returned to Norfolk in May. On 21 July, Captain Thomas P. Lowndes, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain William T. Nelson, USN. During the summer of 1955 Fremont participated in reserve cruises and training periods off the Virginia Capes.
From 7 to 17 September, Fremont took part in RONEX, a training cruise which was to climax amphibious maneuvers in the water off the coast of Maine. At the completion of RONEX, Rear admiral W.J. Peterson USN, COMPHIBGRU 2, transferred his flag to Fremont where it remained until December 1955.
On 27 October, Fremont got underway for Onslow Beach, North Carolina for operation LANPHIBEX with other units and participated in amphibious maneuvers. Gunnery exercises during this operation merited the Gunnery "E" for the Fremont. She returned to Norfolk on 7 November.
Fremont left Norfolk on 20 February 1956 to participate in TRAEX 2-56, amphibious maneuvers at Vieques island, Puerto Rico, and returned to Norfolk on 7 May. Until May the Fremont was flagship for Captain R. R. Graighill USN, COMTRANSPHIBRON 4.
From Norfolk the ship sailed for Charleston, South Carolina and entered the Charleston naval Shipyard on 20 May for overhaul and alterations. On 3 August, Captain Frank L. Pinney Jr., USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Thomas P. Lowndes, USN. Fremont sailed from Charleston late in August and returned to Norfolk to re-provision.
The ship then sailed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for it's post yard shakedown and refresher cruise. Fremont returned from Cuba early in October. During November the ship again left Norfolk to load elements of the 2nd Marines at Moorhead City, North Carolina and engaged in various training maneuvers in the Atlantic off the Virginia and Carolina coasts. The Fremont served as flagship with Captain B. S. Hanson, USN COMTRANSPHIBRON 4 embarked. Fremont returned to Norfolk in December in preparation of joining the Sixth Fleet.
On 7 January 1957, Fremont still serving as flagship for Captain Hanson, got underway for Moorhead City, North Carolina where she embarked the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines. She proceeded to the Mediterranean for operations with the sixth Fleet. During this period she participated in amphibious operations at Porto Scudo, Sardinia; Suda Bay, Crete; and Saros Gulf, Turkey. Her ports of call included Gibraltar; Malaga, Spain; Bari, Italy; LaSpezia, Italy; Beirut, Lebanon; and Rhodes, Greece.
Fremont returned to Norfolk on 3 June, her cruise having been extended 2 weeks. During this month Fremont had a leave and upkeep period, along with tender availability. In July Fremont made a 2 week reserve cruise from Baltimore and in August she again made preparations for Mediterranean deployment.
Fremont left Norfolk on 29 August with TRANSPHIBRON 8 commanded by Captain G. E. Peckham. She steamed to Wilmington, North Carolina where she embarked the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines and proceeded to the Mediterranean. During the cruise Fremont participated in operations at Suda Bay, Crete; and Seros Gulf, Turkey, the the latter being NATO exercise "Deepwater". Her ports of call included Palermo, Sicily; Athens, Greece; Catania, Plama, Mallorca; and Gibraltar. The following is a personal observation of Sgt. J.M. Wofford, H&S Co.2nd.BN.6TH.Marines. "During the cruise we were turned back at "The Rock" for Beirut. We had been extended for three weeks and were under blackout conditions and steaming at full speed. Two or three days later, we were in the harbor at Suda Bay Crete with 50 or more U.S. ships. We left there at full speed again for Beirut. The Ship's crew and the Marines on board held live fire problems. Myself and three of my drivers were issued our Geneva Convention Cards and with our vehicles put ashore in Beruit for about three or four days. Due to the extension of three weeks, the Fremont ran low on food. The Fremont also threw a bearing and was dead in the water for three or four days and that was a real eerie feeling." On 27 October, Captain Paul S. Savidge Jr., USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Frank L. Pinney Jr., USN. Fremont returned to the States on 19 November (same day that SN Yebba reported aboard for duty) after a 4 week extension of her cruise. Upon arrival in CONUS, Fremont had a period of leave and upkeep prior to undergoing a restricted yard availabliliy period from the Norfolk Naval Yard. The last week of December found her once again preparing for NELM deployment.
Fremont, flagship for TRANSPHIBRON 4 Commanded by Captain P. L. Wirtz, left Norfolk on 8 January 1958 to embark the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines at Moorhead City, North Carolina. After embarkation Fremont sailed for the Mediterranean where she participated in landings at Gulfo di Almeria, Spain in a joint Spanish-American landing at Suda Bay, Crete; and Porto Scudo, Sardinia. During this time she visited Gibraltar; Valencia, Spain; livorno, Italy; Cannes Gulf Jaun, France; Barcelona, Spain; Naples, Italy; Alicante, Spain; Antalya, Turkey; Salonika, Greece; and Athens, Greece.
Near the end of her cruise, TRANSPHIBRON 4 was ordered to standby for possible landings in Beirut, Lebanon. Fremont remained on station steaming in a large square known as area "xray" for several months. Finally relieved Fremont set her course for the States stopping in Gibralter for several days of liberty. While unloading vehicles for use by the CO of TRANSPHIBRON 4, Fremont was ordered back to Beirut. Fremont along with the rest of the ships of TRANSPHIBRON 4, began steaming at full speed for Beirut. On 15 July the United States landed troops at Beirut, Lebanon, in support of the National Lebanese government. Fremont landed her troops in Beirut on 17 July. What follows is a personal observation of Tony Yebba concerning the Beirut landings. "On the days leading up to the landings and while steaming from Giralter to Beirut at full speed, the boat crews were assembled on deck and given lessons by the Marines on how to fire a machine gun. After receiving the instructions, the sailors under Marine Corps guidance commenced firing at the open sea."
"I was assigned to the Boat Group Commander's boat as a radioman. The day before the landing the Boat Group Commander, informed his boat crew that the initial landing on the 15th was conducted without a shot being fired and that we should have a safe landing in the morning. The next morning, the Boat Group Commander appeared on deck with a 45 strapped to his hip, two belts of ammunition around his chest in an "X" pattern, and a large knife. So much for his safe landing speech from the day before. On a personal note, I was armed with a zippo lighter. As perdicted the landings went well. Sometime during the day of the landing, a coxswain of a Mike boat came alongside our boat and informed the Boat Group Commander that he had seen what looked like a mine in the water. We followed the Mike boat to the mine's location so that we could have a closer look at the object. As we cautiously drew near to the suspected mine, a passing boat's wake caused the mine to bounce against our hull. We all ducked for cover, but the mine turned out to be a bouy used by a local fisherman. It was a hell of a way to ascertain this fact. I could now claim to have taken part in a minesweeping operation."
The following are some personal observations of Dick Kleva, USMC concerning his part in the Beirut Landing. "My Platoon did a pre landing over to the Spiegal Grove a landing ship dock. We then transferred to Amp Tracks and were the first to hit the beach. We were met by Natives in bathing suits and Bikinis, Capt Trowbridge our Company Commander told me to keep the landing area open. The local police would not let me cross the Macadam Road, so I sent the Amp tracks down the beach out of the way, and met Capt Trowbridge , When he landed with a vendor's Ice Cream Pop. We went up into the Mountains. We did get shot at which made it the biggest War I ever want to be in. The USS Fremont left us We stay there for about six weeks. we did motorized patrols along the syrian border. A squadren of marine fighter ad's flew support. A destroyer or light cruiser gave us navel gunfire support. We had engineers for map making and air navel gunfire officers in the convoy we were met in the villages by cheering lebanese people we tossed them candy and food from our c rations . I did heliocopter patrols when I wasn't on the ground patrol. We were under combat conditions for a least 3 weeks. 50 per cent security. ( One marine on watch while one marine slept per fox hole) every night we were harassed by locals who were trying to catch a marine asleep to steal his weapon my troops were exhusted. The locals jammed our radio's. We finnaly were ordered to stand down and it was a court marshal charge if a marine was found with a live round in his weapon. My understanding was that his officer would also be charged. So we went from a combat situation to denfending our self without bullets. So we used stones and huge rocks to scare away intruders. After some time we had a chance to go into town. The st george hotel was like heaven I saw the first bikini on a young gal wearing high heel shoes. I still can't get over it. Had coffee in the city. A bomb went off in side ' blew the shop window out and I landed under the table looking up at the ceiling did't know where the hell I was. I want to go back to beirut but since the last war there I guess I will have to wait awhile. Since the Fremont left us there we flew from Beirut to Italy then to the navy base in Morroco from there to Newfoundland and the to South Carolina and a bus to Camp Lejune."
On 18 August, Captain George L. Street III, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Paul S. Savidge Jr., USN. The crew of Fremont attended the age-old "Change of Command" ceremony with a great deal of interest. Their interest centered around the new skipper who was a "Medal of Honor" recipient. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of this most honored medal. Captain Street, a submariner, received his medal during WWII for his daring on-surface submarine raid while in command of the USS Tirante. Captain Street slipped past mine fields and patrolling vessels into the heavily restricted Quelpart Island harbor. While in the harbor, he sank a large Japanese ammunition ship and two pursuing ships. Clearing the gutted harbor at emergency speed he escaped back to sea with the enemy in pursuit.
Fremont, after 3 extensions totaling 4 1/2 months, re-embarked her troops and returned to the States. During this cruise Fremont won the coveted Battle Efficiency Award.
Upon her return to the States, Fremont began a shore leave and upkeep period. Beginning in late October, Fremont spent a two month shipyard overhaul period at the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Dry-docking Company in Berkley, Virginia.
After the Christmas holidays, Fremont under control of the Amphibious Operational Training Unit, began a four week training period at Little Creek, Virginia. After the training period, Fremont began preparations for another Mediterranean deployment which was scheduled for late in February.
During the Mediterranean deployment, Fremont participated in 7 amphibious landings including one at Anzio, Italy, scene of one of the mightiest struggles in WW II. Other landings were held in Greece, Licya, and Spain. Ports of call included Naples, Bari, and Savonia, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Gibraltar; Tangier, Marocco; Patras and Salonika, Greece; Cannes and Monton, France. On 14 July, Captain Charles H. Mead, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain George L. Street III, USN.
Fremont departed Gibraltar on 11 August and arrived at Morehead City North Carolina on 23 August to disembark troops of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines. Then it was back to Norfolk for leave and and an upkeep period.
From 19 September until 7 October Fremont was along side a tender, USS Amphion R-13 for well deserved repairs. On 19 October she steamed to Annapolis, Maryland to embark Midshipmen for the Oyster Bowl Game in Norfolk. Following the Bowl game she went into a period of training in the Virginia Capes area. Fremont returned to Norfolk for the Christmas holidays for leave and upkeep.
During the months from January to June 1960, Fremont was busy making three cruises to the Caribbean. During the first cruise, the Fremont suffered the loss of life of SA Nesbit USN and LCPL Cook USMC. The following are the remembrances of George Murr of that unfortunate event, "The January 1960, Caribbean voyage that is depicted on the APA-44 home page constituted my first cruise in the Navy. I remember SA Nesbit being lost at sea in a replenishment exercise, and was a bow hook on LCP-11 when LCPL Cook drowned during that pre-dawn landing on the island of Vieques (we searched in vain for him for two days)." The following are recollections by ET2 Dan All of the loss of SA Nesbit, "We were on the way to Vieques with all lights off and held a drill of some sort around 2000 and Nesbit was there. When he was supposed to go on watch at 0400 he did not show up. Everyone was broken out and the ship searched with no luck. After daylight I was told that a destroyer was sent back to search but found nothing. If there was a destroyer it was not operating within sight of us. Myself, along with everyone, else was questioned by an officer investigating the accident. Sometime before this happened I was told that the Captain on one of the other ships in the convoy sent a message to the Commodore who was aboard Fremont to request permission to light the ship for the safety and welfare of the crew and was refused. It was so dark that you could not see your hand in front of your face."It was during the last cruise that Fremont became the envy of the fleet by winning her 5th consecutive Assault Boat Coxswains Award. This distinguished her as the only Amphibious ship to carry the Gold Award. Her ports of call on these cruises included Kingston, Jamaica; San Juan Puerto Rico; St. Thomas; and Guiday, Turjillio.
On 1 August, Captain Alfred F. Gerken, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Charles H. Mead, USN. During the summer months, Fremont operated in the Norfolk/Little Creek area and in October made another Oyster Bowl run. From 19 October until 17 December, she went through a yard period at the Maryland Shipbuilding and Dry-docking Company in Baltimore, Maryland. Christmas holidays were spent at Norfolk for leave and upkeep.
In January 1961, Fremont went through AOTU training followed by independent ship exercises in the Virginia Capes area. This lasted until March when she went alongside the USS Vulcan AR-5 for three weeks of repairs prior to deployment to the Mediterranean.
On 8 April, Captain Lloyd V. Young, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Alfred F. Gerken, USN. On 11 April Fremont, flagship of COMPHIBRON 4, departed Norfolk and arrived at Moorhead City, North Carolina on 12 April. The 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines (reinforced) embarked and the squadron deployed that day for a six month cruise with the Sixth Fleet.
Ports of call included: Golfo Di Palmas, Sardinia - 27 April to 4 May; Athens, Greece - 8 to 15 May; Marmaris, Turkey - One Alpha - 17 to 26 May; Corfu, Greece - 30 May to 6 June; Naples, Italy - 10 to 20 June; St. Florient, Corsica - One Alpha - 21 to 30 June; Livorno, Italy - 3 - 10 July; Aranci Bay, Sardinia - One Alpha - 11 -22 July; Barcelona, Spain - 24 July to 1 August; Porto Scudo, Sardinia - One Alpha - 7 to 17 August; Malta - 20 August; Rhodes, Greece - 23 to 28 August; Navplion, Greece - One Alpha - 29 August to 6 September; Athens, Greece - 9 to 14 September; Saros Bay, Turkey - One Alpha - 16 to 19 September; Palermo, Sicily - 23 to 25 September; and Pollensa Bay, Mallorca - 27 to 28 September.
During the month of July, the Fremont as part of Amphibious Squadron 4 took part in the making of the movie "The Longest Day". The following article which was submitted by James Speshock appeared in the July 26, 1961 Navy Times:
"SIXTH FLEET - To an amphibious squadron, a Mediterranean deployment means extensive training in the fundamentals of amphibious operations. But Amphibious Squadron 4 has had the privilege of helping in the filming of the motion picture "The Longest Day", to be released by 20th Century Fox sometime in 1963. The movie is the story of the first 24 hours of the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
The beaches selected for the filming were located near the town of San Florent, a small resort on the north coast of Corsica.
The ships of Amphibious Squadron 4 present at San Florent included the command ship Pocono, dock landing ship Fort Mandan, attack transport Fremont, attack cargo ship Muliphen and tank landing ships Waldo County and Grant County. The 3rd Battalion 6th Marines Regiment also took part.
FILMING LASTED nine days. The first few days included rehearsal landings, selection of camera locations and placement of special explosives for battle effects. In addition, film sequences were shot aboard some of the squadron ships.
The Fremont was filmed while conducting a surface gunnery exercise. Close-up scenes were taken of her guns firing at surface targets in the distance.
The USS Fort Mandan was filmed as five LCM-6's with troops and equipment embarked, moved out of her welldeck to circle off the starboard quarter.
Additional filming was done aboard the Fremont as combat loaded Marines were photographed as they hit the cargo nets and climbed down into the awaiting landing craft (LCVP's). Smoke, created by smoke generators located in two boats stationed to the windward of the Fremont, provided conditions similar to those of D-Day morning.
Filming of the landing operation took place in two days. Units of the 6th Fleet, including the missile cruiser Springfield, Fleet Flagship, arrived at San Florent to provide the ships necessary for background scenes as they existed at the Normandy Beachhead. The landing operation included two amphibious maneuvers. The first maneuver consisted of seven waves of landing craft which departed for the beach 2000 yards away, at two minute intervals.
As each wave reached a point just short of the beach, it turned to port by flank movement and returned to its original circling position. In the second maneuver, the waves departed at three minute intervals, beached, unloaded their men and equipment, retracted, and returned to their parent ship.
DURING THE TWO amphibious maneuvers, many special effects were in evidence. Deep and shallow water explosions sent towers of water 60 feet into the air showering the Marines as they descended. Ground charges sent sand flying in all directions. Air guns using ball bearings as shot, sent thousands of rounds of simulated machine gun fire at the on-charging Marines. Smoke from the smoke pots provided a realistic atmosphere to a usually plain amphibious landing.
Upon completion of the landings, it was reported that about 50 boats and 800 Marines had participated. In the distance, 18 ships of the 6th Fleet could be seen at anchor."
During the 1961 Med cruise Steve Reed remembers the following incident: "One memory comes to my mind during the Med Cruise of 1961. Our ship was anchored off the coast of Turkey (the town, I can't recall) and in the early morning the ship began shaking ... feeling like we had just collided with something. There was confusion until it was determined that the area had just experienced a major earthquake! The town we were anchored off at, had undergone considerable damage. Aid was immediately provided by the USS Fremont, including medical assistance and supplies to the residents, as a measure of Goodwill."
Robert Reis adds his memories of the earthquake incident: "Someone had a comment about the earthquake while we anchored off Turkey but they weren't sure exactly where. Well I remember that incident well. I was on watch down in the engine room, I think the 1200 - 0400 watch, when the ship started rocking for no apparent reason. We were anchored off Marmaris, Turkey and sent in much needed medical supplies and the marines provided equipment and manpower to repair roads and do some general cleanup."
On 13 July, Captain John Greenbacker, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Lloyd V. Young, USN.
On 18 September 1962, Fremont left Morehead City, North Carolina with the USS Pocano, USS Muliphen, USS Telfair, USS Fort Mandan, USS Ashland, USS Waldo County, and the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division for a Mediterranean Cruise. On 5 October at Pollensa Bay, Mallorca the Marines aboard relieved the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, becoming the Landing Force for the 6thFleet. Commodore Pridmore was the Commanding Officer of PHIBRON 4 and Lt. Col Paul Graham was the Marine Commanding Officer. The USS Pocano was the flagship until President John F. Kennedy declared the blockade of Cuba when Pocano left and the Fremont took over as the flagship for COMPHIBRON 4.
Ports of call during the 1962 portion of the cruise included Pollensa Bay, Mallorca; Toulon, France; a landing which included the French Marines (the French came ashore with loafs of bread tied to their packs) at St. Florent, Corsica; Messina, Sicily; Tatanto, Italy; a landing at Bomba, Libya; Corfu, Greece; Brindisi, Italy; a landing at Pilo, Greece; Athens Greece; and Palermo, Sicily.
New Years day 1963, found Fremont at Palermo Sicily a little over 2 months away from the end of her Mediterranean cruise. During the first months of the year the Fremont conducted a landing at Porto Scudo, Sardinia. The USS Mount McKinley joined the task force for this final landing of the cruise. During this exercise the Marines lost Lt. G.P. Davis due to a grenade accident. During the remainder of the cruise, Fremont made ports of call at Genoa, Italy and Barcelona, Spain
On the way home to CONUS heavy seas were encountered and the Marines were kept off the open decks. The Fremont arrived at Morehead City, North Carolina and debarked the Marines on 7 March.
On 2 August, Captain Julian T. Burke, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain John Greenbacker, USN.
The beginning of a new year found Fremont deployed to the Mediterranean. While in the Med the Cyprus Crises erupted and the ship and it's Task force spent three months navigating around "Point Cirrus" on standby to go in and evacuate Nato personnel from Cyprus. The following is a personal observation of LCDR David W. Fowler who was a DT2 at the time: "I well remember entering Malta in Mar 64 after some 74 days at sea. The ship's party in Barcelona was held in a club with a "house of ill repute' on the second level. The Commodore was most perplexed when a lovely 'hooker' sat on his lap." The first break from this drudgery was on St Patrick's Day when the USS Enterprise and her Task Force put on an air show for the amphibs. The first liberty port was Valletta Malta in April; Naples, Italy twice; and Barcelona, Spain as Fremont worked her way out of the Med. The last Med stop was Majorca but the ship's crew did not pull liberty. Amphibious landings were conducted in Turkey, Sardinia, and Corsica with Nato Forces.
During the June to September period Fremont operated out of Little Creek and NOB Norfolk and did make one trip to the Camp LeJeune area to put the Marines on the beach.
On 14 August 1964, Captain Charles K. Schmidt, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Julian T. Burke, USN. The following are memories of Captain Schmidt provided by Jerry Wotherspoon (64-67)
Yeoman - USS Fremont APA-44. "For the majority of Capt. Schmidt's tenure as Skipper of the USS Fremont, I was his Captain's Yeoman and Engine-room Phone-talker during G.Q. and high-lining. I was asked if Capt. Schmidt had any shipboard humorous quirks. Capt. Schmidt was a strong Captain coming from the Submariner service and often showed his independence by refusing the use of a Harbor Pilot when entering foreign ports. One of Capt. Schmidt's funny quirks, was his habit of wearing a red ball cap on port side of the bridge, then placing that hat in his port side chair and walking across the bridge to starboard side and placing his green ball cap on his head. From the forward hatch it looked like we had two Captains. I think the Boatswain's mate thought it was funny, because they cut a red baseball cap and a green baseball cap in half, sewed the two halves together and then place it on Oscar our Man Over-Board dummy. I'm not sure if it represented throwing the Captain overboard or just the quirkiness of humoring the Captain.Another time, while crossing the Atlantic, we were participating in a "high-line" exercise. As the two ship's ran parallel to each other and the line between the two ships slacked and became taught. Captain Schmidt called the ship's Baker to the Bridge. When the very nervous Baker arrive, he was in his whites and flower dust settled around him. The Baker thought he was in trouble when the Captain told him to walk over to the port-side flying bridge and stand there. Captain Schmidt, ducked down behind the bulkhead and gave the "Official" con to the Navigation Officer, but led the Captain of the other ship the impression that the ship's "Baker" had the con. The other ship's Captain hailed over to the Fremont, "Who's got the con?" Captain Schmidt hailed back, "The ship's "Baker", it's so easy to maneuver this ship, anyone can do it." Lot's of laughter on the Bridge that day.It was an honor and pleasure to visit with my former Captain and Leader at the Cocoa Beach reunion in 2011."Following Captain Schmitt's assuming command, Fremont deployed the end of September to the Caribbean. The deployment gave Fremont the opportunity to train her new personnel in their duties concerning amphibious warfare. An interesting sidelight to the deployment was the transfer of 200 four and 1/2 ton baulks from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to San Juan, Puerto Rico where they were used as camels for the ships in that area. The baulks were loaded on hatches and any other deck space that was available. It was quite an engineering feat as well as a peculiar sight to see the baulks loaded aboard. The transporting of the baulks was a true exhibition of the Fremont's versatility. During the cruise Fremont spent a lot of time off of and landing on Isle De Vieques where the Marines were based. Ports of call were Ponce, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, St Croix, and Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. The Caribbean cruise was a lot nicer than the previous Med cruise.
Fremont departed the Caribbean and returned to her home port on 22 January. The return home was eagerly anticipated, but the cold weather encountered was not and many of the crew members longed to return to the warm weather they had just left. From 22 January until 2 June Fremont remained in her home port taking advantage of the time to send many members of the crew to various schools for training. Groups of reservists came aboard for two 2 week periods and were treated to exhibitions of the duties of an APA, including many General Quarters and "2-ALFAS".
On 2 June, Fremont departed her home part for a 5 month tour of duty with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean with BIT 2/2 embarked. Five specialized troop landings were conducted during the cruise. The major landing saw Fremont land troops on the shore of Greece in a NATO operation. The operation gave Fremont and her crew a chance to work with members of the Greek Services and identify the problems involved with the different techniques employed by foreign nations.
On 30 June, while in the Spanish port of Valencia, members of Fremont's rescue and assistance detail were instrumental in saving the Spanish oceanographic Ship XAUEN, from destruction by fire. The detail, answering a plea for assistance from the ship, spent about one and one-half hours combating the blaze. The commanding officer of the stricken ship sent a letter of appreciation to Fremont for her help.
Fremont also held a 4th of July party for some 200 American residents while in Valencia. The celebration was carried out in the traditional manner with band music from Fremont's "pop music" combo, hot dogs and hamburgers, boxing matches, and a starlight movie on the main deck. A fine time was enjoyed by all.
On 24 August while in Genoa, Italy, Fremont welcomed aboard a new commanding officer, Captain Martin M. Casey Jr., USN, who relieved Captain Charles K. Schmidt, USN.
Members of the ship's basketball and baseball teams were given special recognition while in Velletta, Malta during the period 9-17 September for winning the squadron tournaments. While in Velletta, Fremont crew members "pitched in" and helped renovate the grounds of Begija orphanage in Hemrun, a suburb of Velletta. The crew assisted in painting fences and benches, and the installation of outdoor lighting. They also presented the orphanage with a brightly decorated table and set of chairs manufactured onboard Fremont. During the renovation activities, the Fremont's "combo" entertained the children while cake and soft drinks were served.
On 21 October Fremont departed the Mediterranean and returned home to Norfolk on 3 November. Sea duty for the year not yet completed, Fremont got underway again on 6 December to accomplish many of the required exercises for the fiscal year, and to conduct training in the ship to shore movement exercise. During this period, liberty was enjoyed for a weekend visit to New York City on 10 December.
Fremont returned to Norfolk on 17 December for a holiday upkeep period. Many of the crew took advantage of this period to spend the holiday at home with family and friends.
During the first months of 1966, Fremont alternated between local operations and in-port upkeep periods in Norfolk.
The 1st major event of the year was the change of command for PHIBRON 4. On 6 April, Captain R. S. Salter USN, relieved Captain Neal Almgren as Squadron Commander aboard Fremont. Although the squadron staff was quartered ashore, Fremont was selected as the site for the ceremony, since the ship had recently been the Commodore's Flagship during the Mediterranean deployment.
The highlight of the first half of the year was a trip to Miami on 14-15 May. It was Fremont's 1st visit to the resort city. The keys to the city were presented to Captain Casey by Mayor Chuck Hall after a luncheon aboard the ship on 15 May. It was the first time the keys to Miami were presented to a United States warship.
A change in PHIBLANT organization, effective on 1 July, reassigned Fremont to COMPHIBRON 12. Once again in the flagship business, the ship embarked COMPHIBRON 12 on a permanent basis, and again began making preparations for an upcoming Mediterranean deployment.
The 8th July was a red-letter day in Fremonts's 23 year history. The ship received a new version of an old award in the form of the 10th consecutive amphibious assault award. Vice Admiral Charles K. Duncan USN, COMPHIBLANT, presented a plaque with the new insignia, designed by Fremont seaman, Richard L. Skow, and approved by the Chief of Naval Operations. Fremont became the 1st ship in US Naval history to earn this distinction.
On 5 August, Captain William L. Sheppard, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain Martin M. Casey, USN.
During the 1966/67 Med cruise SN Mike Glennon remembers the following incidents: "There was the pre cruise ship's party at the Fleet Rec. Center that developed into a major Hollywood style brawl. I remember that well since I was a major factor, unwittingly, in the brawl.
When we pulled into Naples the first port of the cruise the mate sent Pete (AKA water rat AKA Lawrence Palmer) and me out to top up the starboard cargo boom to #1 hatch. I was working the controls and Pete was working the winch clutches and directing me. Guess after he put the hook into the pad eye on the deck he threw the wrong clutch and next thing we knew we had bent the boom like it was a bow. They had to unship the thing, lower it and send it off to some yard to repair. Had to unload everything including the boats off the port side until we got it back.
New Years in Naples with Carol Baker coming aboard for dinner. Remember that her playboy center fold was well thumbed and in high demand by the time she came aboard. It was kind of a stressful time for me since I and a Marine ended up sitting and eating with her in the middle of the mess deck. It was kind of funny how I ended up there as was what happened when I indicated to her I didn't have anything to drink in my mug when a toast was proposed.
There was the Greek W.W.II lend lease Destroyer (Fletcher class I think) that lost her steering while we were light lining with her during a NATO exercise. She payed off and ran her anchor right into the bake shop then slid down the side of the ship. Then she about broke off the boat boom when it got caught in the eyes at the bow of the destroyer. Left a big dent in the forward 5" of the destroyer when it let go. Almost took out a few of the Greek sailors too.
Of course there was the UNREP with the Sylvania where Bill Mondon (AKA big dum dum) of the 1st Division was working under the load and when he went to drop the net hooks over the side the Sylvania took in the slack too fast and the hooks got caught up under Bill's life jacket ties and next thing we knew he was hanging out half way between the two ships, It got worse when the ties of the life jacket came undone and he was just able to grab the hooks in time to keep from hitting the water. We did get him back safe and sound though, but only after one more scare.
Also remember having to pull out to sea during a practice landing in Malta due to a storm. The seas were so bad we could see the turn of the LST's keels as they rolled in the wind and waves. While it wasn't a funny thing I do remember I was part of a Mike boat crew who had to be put over the side in the midst of the storm so we could make our way back to the beach to pull an injured Marine out for emergency medical treatment. It was quite a ride in and when we did get in the causeway the LST's had dropped had broken loose and the coxswain of the boat did a hell of a job getting us along side the damn thing and getting the Marine aboard. The trip back wouldn't have been so bad but the squadron was still under black out conditions and we missed them and were well on our way to sea before we could raise the ship on the boat radio and get guided home".
On 20 October, Captain Daniel W. Herlong, USN assumed command of Fremont from Captain William L. Sheppard, USN.
From January 1968 to May 1969 were Fremont's last two Mediterranean cruises. Each cruise lasted about five months. Fremont was the flag ship of the task group on the first cruise. The task group consisted of an Attack Cargo Ship (AKA), an LST, and one or two LPD's/LSD's. Various landing exercises were conducted with the attached Marines. Landing sites included Sardinia, Sicily, and Crete. At least one exercise in each cruise was coordinated with NATO members. Ports of call included Naples and Livorno, Italy; Corfu, Greece; Cannes, France; and Barcelona and Malaga, Spain.
ETCM Glenn Carraway recalls the following incident: "I vaguely recall going to a function hosted by Capt. Herlong. This was held prior to our Med deployment in November of 1968, I think. When I first arrived aboard the Fremont, I got there on 1 January and we left for the Med on 3 January. I came from Treasure Island and I left my wife in California. We returned from the Med at the end of May 1968 and I went to California to move my wife to NORVA. If I remember correctly Capt. Herlong had a cruise in the Chesapeake Bay for family members of the crew. This cruise was prior to the next Med deployment. Anyway we were in the Norfolk channel and the Fremont lost power. We were dead in the water. At that time, the un-commissioned aircraft carrier Kennedy was headed out to sea from the Naval Shipyard and we were blocking the channel. Everyone was scurrying around trying to find out what the problem was and the Capt was excited not wanting to bring disgrace o! n ! the Fremont or himself. I am not sure exactly what happened, I think they put a mike boat over the side to push the Fremont out of the channel. Anyway, the Capt gave a salute to the un-commissioned Kennedy as it went by. We were dead in the water in excess of 30 minutes or more".
During the summer in between cruises, the Fremont steamed to Miami Florida where it served as a "Floating Hotel" for the Secret Service covering the Republican National Convention. The agents were quartered in the regular berthing compartments. Donald Sanders was assigned by the USAF to this detail as a Special Agent. He provides us with the following personal account of his experiences. "I was a "guest" aboard the vessel in the fall of 1968 in Miami Beach, FL. I was a Special Agent in the USAF, and received orders to report to the USS Fremont. To us Air Force and other service agents assigned to the Secret Service for protection of the Republican National Convention (that was the year Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated), the ship was a special experience that I recall as one of the highlights of my military career. I remember the Navy Seals arriving by helicopter, jumping into the water, and sweeping the ship for mines. Not that far away in the bay, anti-Cuban terrorists sunk a ship while we were there. The officers and crew did everything possible to make us feel welcome and as comfortable as possible under crowded conditions." Click the link to read a newspaper article about Fremont's roll in the National Convention. After reading article click the BACK button to return to History."Republican National Convention"
The following are memories of the convention provided by Bill Garbarino, USAF. "I was one of forty airmen from Homestead AFB in July-August of 1968 selected as unarmed guards or drivers to assist in the security operation of the Republican Convention in July – August of 1968. I remember arriving at the pier in Miami and sitting in the sun for several hours waiting for the ship to dock. As soon as it docked several busses arrived with special agents on board. They quickly filled up the berths in the ship and we airmen wound up being billeted at a hotel in Miami. Since we were, for the most part, young enlisted personal this was quite a treat. They also gave us per diem and bought us civilian clothes to perform our duties. My duties were to check ID’s of the returning agents and others who needed to board the ship. I remember being told not to talk to the media. I also spent several evenings in the berthing areas of the ship ensuring that only authorized personnel were allowed in. I spent my 21st birthday standing under the lid of a dumpster in the rain. I remember at one point there was serious concern that some Cuban terrorist group might attempt to blow up the ship so Navy Seals were brought in to provide security under the ship and lights were set up to shine in the water along the side of the ship. One evening as I was doing my stretch on the pier a sailor drove up on a small rented motorcycle, showed me his ID and I passed him through. Unfortunately, he appeared to be a little intoxicated and drove straight off the pier. Outside of all the pretty girls in Miami, it was the highlight of my enlisted days in the USAF.
The second cruise began in November, and all the major holidays were either spent at sea (crossing on Thanksgiving Day), or in a foreign port.
On 16 December, Fremont welcomed aboard a new commanding officer, Captain Carl F. Turk, USN, who relieved Captain Daniel W. Herlong, USN.
USS Fremont APA-44 designation changed to LPA-44 on 1 January 1969
During her last Mediterranean Cruise in 1969, the Fremont really began to show her age. There were five fires in the Engine Room. Various pump and blower motors would overheat. In one instance, the main electrical boards in the Engine Room caught fire. The fire was the only lighting available to the crew to get to the electrical boards.
The following is a personal observation of William Barker of his time aboard Fremont. "What I liked about the Fremont was some of the unique features of her steam plant. Boilers and turbines were located in one room. The throttleman was located on the second level, close to the boilers. A very hot place to be. The lubricating system to the turbine bearings was gravity feed. A bit of a problem in heavy seas. She earned the "RED E" for engineering efficiency during the year."
"The Engine Room was often used as an "exercise area" for Marines. Used most often was the area between the two boilers. Occasionally the Navy crew was asked to supervise the "exercise". It was more of a punishment."
"Many of the Marines we sailed with were fresh out of Vietnam and it showed. With the anti-war movement heating up in Europe, they were targets for harassment by the locals. Occasionally, I would be assigned SP duties and this problem would become quite clear to me. There were times when it became necessary to intervene between Marines and the locals. It was always a good idea to partner with a Marine when on Shore Patrol."
The following is from several emails from Linda Hilton. "My name is Linda Ann Wheeler Hilton. My husband, Richard Douglas Hilton, BM3, served on the USS Fremont from late 1966 until her decommissioning in September 1969. Doug passed away in 2005, so I can't relate all of HIS stories of three years on APA-44, but I do have some of my own. Doug and I met in a bar in Torremolinos, Spain, in the spring of 1969 when the Fremont was at the end of what would be her last Med cruise. Along with his Boat Group shipmates Dan Gorski and John Spreadbury, we enjoyed the amenities of Torremolinos, especially a small restaurant near the beach called "Las Pampas," where the owner Mike served what the guys described as "real steaks." Although the ship was docked in Málaga, nearby Torremolinos was the place to spend liberty, and as the only American girl working in a bar there, I got to meet a lot of the crew members. However, I ended up spending most of my time with Doug and his friends, so by the time the Fremont left port to head back to Norfolk, I had pretty much decided I was going to head back, too.Everyone thinks of southern Spain as warm and sunny all year long, but in late February and early March, it was pretty chilly. My rabbit fur coat came in handy, and it also made me easily identifiable. So when the Fremont pulled into Rota a few days after leaving Málaga, and I was there to meet her, it was the coat that gave away any surprise. Someone on deck saw me and passed the word along to Doug. And three weeks later, when the Fremont docked at Norfolk, Lt.(jg) Tony Pasquariello was on deck. I could almost hear his eyes roll in his head when he saw me -- and the coat -- and waved. So much for THAT surprise!Just a few weeks after that, in June 1969, Doug and I were married in my home town of Arlington Heights, Illinois. Then we returned to Norfolk and he remained on the Fremont through the decommissioning and then was assigned to the USS Spiegel Grove -- now an artificial reef off the coast of Florida -- until his separation from active duty in January 1970.We lived in his home town of Angola, Indiana until 1985, when we moved to Buckeye, Arizona. We had a son and daughter, both now married, and two grandsons before Doug died of cancer in July 2005. I now live in Apache Junction, Arizona.Just last night, a friend and I were talking about the tall tales some ex-service member acquaintances tell of their military exploits. There are always some excuses why there is no evidence to back up the stories. I didn't serve, but Doug did, and he served on two ships that gained some fame, and I at least have some souvenirs: a couple of Zippo lighters and belt buckles, a plaque that I think came from the decommissioning ceremony, cruise books and uniform patches. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except for one item. Doug liked to tell people that the Fremont's landing craft were used in filming "The Longest Day," though "his" boat didn't make the final cut. And he was proud to have been on the ship for that record 13th Amphibious Assault Award. He was also proud to serve as coxswain on the Captain's gig. (Forgive me if I get the terminology wrong; I was never in the navy!). So when the ship was being mothballed in Portsmouth, Doug decided he needed a souvenir. One night he came home with the clock from the Captain's gig. Yep. He took it. That was in the summer of 1969. For years and years and years he said he planned to mount it in a walnut or other wood frame, but he never seemed to get around to it. But wherever we went, the clock went too. And yes, I still have it. It's a "Mark 1 Boat Clock, US Navy," probably nothing special. It probably hasn't been opened (it has a wingnut closure) since it was removed from the Fremont, and I don't know if there's a key to wind it inside or not. Maybe I'll check it out tomorrow. Right now it's still about 105 degrees outside and hotter than that in the workshop where the clock is kept.Friends had told me that since the wingnut on the side of it hadn't been opened in close to 40 years, I'd probably need to soak it in WD40 for at least a week. Before I did that, however, I thought I'd give it a try to see if I could get it loose. Well, surprise surprise, because it opened on the first twist, without even a whiff of WD40. There in the back was the key. I wound it up, and it started ticking just nice as could be. So I took the clock to the USS Fremont reunion and put it on display and everyone seemed very pleased to have it there.But that's not the end of the story.Shortly after Doug passed away in 2005, I tried to locate Dan Gorski, one of his friends on the Fremont and best man at our wedding. Even with the internet and Google, I wasn't able to find him. But in the days before the reunion, I did some more searching. In four years, there's a lot more information on the internet, and this time I was able to get an address and phone number that fit the profile. I also had another listing for someone with the same name as his daughter. So I thought maybe I'd be able to fnid him. But by the time I obtained that information, it was 8:00 P.M. in Arizona, and 11:00 P.M. in Michigan where the phone numbers were. I don't call people that late at night. But during a quiet moment at the reunion, I decided to try the phone number for Dan T. Gorski. Well, I won't bore you with the play-by-play of the conversation that took place between me and the woman who answered, but the end result was that I had the right number. Dan and I talked for about 15 minutes, I told him I was at the reunion, and so on. He was really shocked to find out I still had the clock!"
Beginning in May the mothballing process had begun for Fremont. During the decommissioning phase, Fremont was ported in Portsmouth, Virginia. The remaining ship's funds were used to fund a party at the Naval Facility in Norfolk. Approximately $5,000 was used to fund this party. The money was used to hire two bands and go-go dancers. There was plenty of food, and an open bar. This party was to be a memorable event for the decommissioning crew of the USS Fremont. The following is a personal observation of DK3 Gary Zenobia, "I did work on the Decommissioning crew and even remember having a few times as the night watchman, walking through her pitch black, crewless, a real eerie feeling and kind of sad."
Click the link to see the Decommissioning Program. After reading click the BACK button to return to History."Decommissioning Program"
Decommissioned 3 September 1969
The Final Chapter
From: Tony Yebba
Date: Sunday, April 12, 1998 7:17 PM
Subject: USS Fremont APA-44
In your list of decom ships the USS Fremont APA-44 is not listed. I believe that she was decom in 1969 and ultimately scrapped. Could you provide information.
DPC Anthony R. Yebba USNR (Retired)