Sunday, November 28, 2010

History of the 13th Major Port, part 1

During WWII the 13th Major Port was in charge of seaport operations. In England it oversaw the supply work in preparation of the Normandy invasion. In Antwerp, Belgium the 13th managed the American port operations while under continuous bombardment by German V-weapons (this is discussed in my book). In 1946 an official history was published for members of the unit. I have copied portions of this history below:

The 13th Port: 1943–1946
Headquarters and Headquarters Company 13th Port was activated on January 25h 1943 and moved to Fort Hamilton, NY where Colonel Walter D. McCord assumed command on February 17th and started organizing and training it.

The Port was organized on the Table of Organization of a Major Port for duty overseas. Scarcely had training begun when it was decided in Washington to send the 13th to Churchill, Canada to unload supplies there during the short season it was possible to navigate the Hudson Bay.

This was done and, in June 1943 advance detachments of the 13th had actually left for Churchill when a change in the overall picture made it unnecessary to send a Port to Hudson Bay.

Again the Port was reorganized, and this time its personnel was expanded, and training was concentrated on fitting it for operation in the European theater.

It sailed for England on 29 December, 1943 arriving some 10 days alter, and immediately went to Plymouth, England.
[the 13th also operated in English ports of Totnes, Truro, Hayle, Falmouth, and Fowey.]

It left Plymouth in Octobers, 1944 having done an exceedingly creditable job in helping to launch the invasion of "Fortress Europe" and in supplying the troops there during the "build-up" and the "break-through" stages of the Normandy Battle.

From Plymouth it went to Antwerp, Belgium, where, with the British it opened and operated the immense Port of Antwerp, supplying the sinews of war to all the American armies facing the Germans, except the 7th Army which was supplied through Marseilles.

After V-E Day, the 13th helped outload personnel and supplies in connection with Redeployment. After V-J Day in September 1945, redeployment became outright demobilization, and the 13th Port self-demobilized in the fall of 1946.

During its operations it served under five Port Commanders. Each contributed his bit to make the history of the "lucky 13th" interesting and distinctive.

Colonel Walter D. McCord - was in command in the States and some time in England.Colonel Curtis A. Noble - was in command while in England.Colonel Doswell Gullatt - was commander of the 5th Engineer Special Brigade on Omaha Beach. Gullatt took command when the 13th arrived in Antwerp.Colonel Edward C. Forsythe - was commander of the 5th Major Port in Antwerp. At the end of the war when the 5th was deactivated Forsythe took command of the 13th.Colonel Fredric L. Knudsen, Jr. - took command after V-E Day. He had been commander of the 263rd Infantry Regiment, 66th Division.

When the 13th Port trained in the United States it knew that Army regulations wisely made a Port an exempt station, directly under the War Department, and provided that an overseas Port would be directly under the Theater Commanders.

When we landed in England we found the facts of life were different. There old cumbersome systems were in full force and effect. The Ports were under Districts. Districts were under Headquarters, Service of Supply, and it was under the Theater Commander!

The many layers of Command through which communications must pass between a Port and the Theater agency concerned caused delay and added to difficulties of operation, as many of the intervening layers of command had little idea of the composition, functions, and operation of a Port.

Despite the handicaps inherent in this intricate set-up, and the prevailing obsession to break up all service units and "remold them nearer to the hearts desire" of the SOS, the 13th Port remained intact as an operating unit, and performed creditably at Plymouth, Fowey, Falmouth, Totnes, Truro, and Hayle. Its members on detached service were located all through South England during the preparations for and launching of the Normandy invasion and the build up following, and did excellent work throughout the whole period.

This is part 1 of a series of articles I posted about the 13th. Read Part 2.

1 comment:

  1. I was a member of the 13th Port serving under Lt Col Perry Euchner in the Inspector General department. Returned to the States in December 1946.


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