Orders came down on the squadron’s third birthday, 18 April 1944, for the movement overseas. Some lines from the order are transcribed here:

ARMY SERVICE FORCES
Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation

                                                                                         Newport News, Va.
SPTAK 370.5 TMD                                                  18 April 1944

SUBJECT: Movement Orders (HR’s * *
200, 201 * * ) UGS-40.

TO : CO, CAMP PATRICK HENRY

1. MOVEMENT OF PERSONNEL: Personnel of the shipments shown * * * will move on the dates and times indicated from their present station to the Hampton Roads Port of embarkation, Newport News, Virginia, by rail transportation. * * *

2. TRANSPORTATION. The Supt Water Division, HRPE will furnish necessary water transportation to move troops as follows:

ADVANCE PARTY From Pier X at 1400, 20 April to Sewell’s
Point and NAB
MAIN BODY From Pier 6 at 0800, 21 April to Sewell’s Point

ADVANCE PARTY From Pier 6, 21 April to NAB (hour to be deter-
mined later)
MAIN BODY From Pier 6 at 1400, 21 April to NAB.
MAIN BODY From Pier 6 at 1200, 22 April to NAB.

The transportation to the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation (HRPE) and the loading aboard ship process was not completed in a single day, given all the men and materiel being marshaled for the many ships of Convoy UGS-40, in which the Redhawks sailed.

The standard procedure was to entrain at Camp Patrick Henry for the 14 mile journey to the Hampton Roads Port of embarkation at Newport News, Virginia.

2nd Lt. David J. Duff of Dallas, Texas, is shown leading Unit 6958 (254th Port Company) at the rail head at Camp Patrick Henry to board train on 20 August 1943 (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

2nd Lt. David J. Duff of Dallas, Texas, is shown leading Unit 6958 (254th Port Company) at the rail head at Camp Patrick Henry to board train on 20 August 1943 (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

There were a number of piers which could be used for boarding vessels at HPRE, as seen in this photograph:

An aerial view of the piers at Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation during World War II shows much activity. (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

An aerial view of the piers at Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation during World War II shows much activity. (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

From the troop train, the Airmen may have debarked directly onto the pier,

1st Lt. Steven L. Dyson, Shreveport, La., Commanding Officer of Unit 1205-B, (2089th Fire Fighting Platoon), with men on pier 6 about to board the SS MOHAWK in this 21 April 1944 view.  Lt. Dyson has been in the regular army 2 years, receiving his commission at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, OCS, 24 June 1942. On the right is S/Sgt. Melvin L. Campbell, Portland, Oregon.  (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

1st Lt. Steven L. Dyson, Shreveport, La., Commanding Officer of Unit 1205-B, (2089th Fire Fighting Platoon), with men on pier 6 about to board the SS MOHAWK in this 21 April 1944 view. Lt. Dyson has been in the regular army 2 years, receiving his commission at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, OCS, 24 June 1942. On the right is S/Sgt. Melvin L. Campbell, Portland, Oregon. (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

And then from the pier up the brow to board the ship at pierside.

Image taken on 4 June 1943 of 179th Infantry, 45th Division, after arrival on troop train on Pier X, about to board transport for service overseas. Note, on left, representatives of the 196th Signal Photo Company, Martinsburg, West Virginia.  (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

Image taken on 4 June 1943 of 179th Infantry, 45th Division, after arrival on troop train on Pier X, about to board transport for service overseas. Note, on left, representatives of the 196th Signal Photo Company, Martinsburg, West Virginia. (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

Redhawk S/Sgt John Brasko, Sr. (hat tip to John Brasko Jr.!) recorded his experience as follows:

“April 22-44, Aboard the SS. ____________ Bauber

Up at 2:15 A.M. Walked to train. Left Newport News, Va. and boarded Liberty Ship (Blog note: the vessel was the Liberty ship James Barbour) at 8:15 A.M.

While in formation on the Pier, with full Air Corp pack and equip. holding barracks bag in one hand and overcoat in other. A Red Cross Representative walked up to our outfit with coffee and doughnuts. I was no 1 man in the front file. She came up to me and asked me if I would care to have coffee and doughnuts. She then realized that both my hands filled up, then she tried to apologies. I thanks her the best I could under the circumstances. But asked her if she would be kind enough to slip a doughnut into my mouth. Since they were very small I had very little trouble with it. She then walked away smiling. Shortly after that my name was called, I walked up to the gangplank.

One of our officers who stood along the side of the Navy Officer who called the Roll. This Officer of ours nodded to a question of the Naval Officers. Then he asked me my serial number then told me to get aboard. So up the gangplank I went. To be helped over the rail by some Merchant marine personnel. Rushed down a hatchway to a bunk. And told to toss everything on the bunk and go topside. Which I was happy to do. Talked and looked the ship over till 3:30 P.M then we weighed anchor. Moved out past the Anti-Sub Net to get into a convoy. Then, stand by.

Rumors, stern of ship full of Mustard Gas and Lewisite Gas. Bow full of Percussion Caps and Bomb Fuses. Felt nervous as hell after hearing this. But since there wasn’t a thing we could do about it, decided it’s best not to worry. This was very easy to do of course. One more thing for this day. To-day we started to draw 20% overseas pay, plus the 15% photo specialist (??) pay. The last 5 percent of this started the following day.”

Or in the case of some Redhawks, the method of loading onto a ship was to board a smaller craft and be taken out to a vessel anchored offshore in the roadstead.

Ships at HPRE could also be loaded while anchored offshore, to increase the amount of men and materiel which could be loaded. Aerial view of ships anchored in the James River off the piers at HRPE, waiting to embark for overseas service. Seven vessels are visible in this picture. (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

Ships at HPRE could also be loaded while anchored offshore, to increase the amount of men and materiel which could be loaded. Aerial view of ships anchored in the James River off the piers at HRPE, waiting to embark for overseas service. Seven vessels are visible in this picture. (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

Another member of the 35PRS, (then) Lt. Arthur Clark, recalled his loading experience: “I remember that Major Mac (35PRS Commander Major McChristy) assigned me the job of loading our Liberty ship. It was out in the harbor and we used a lighter, a small boat, to go back in forth. It was a two day job.” This was likely the other vessel which carried members of the 35PRS overseas, the Liberty ship SS Peter Minuit.

Discussion of this with Col Sterling Barrow, USAF (Ret), a 35PRS pilot, who recalled all the pilots being on the Peter Minuit, suggests that the Enlisted Men of the squadron were largely, if not all, on the James Barbour, while the Officers went aboard the Peter Minuit. Although it might seem strange to divide the unit, which could have been carried on one ship, having the squadron split between two ships mitigated the potential for disaster in case a particular vessel was lost on the transit. One will recall such a disaster is exactly what happened to the 32d Photo Recon Squadron enroute to Italy aboard the SS Paul Hamilton in Convoy UGS-38 on 20 April 1944 in the eastern Mediterranean.

But no Redhawks were aware of this catastrophe in a sister PRS as they boarded their Liberty Ships on April 22. Some 499 troops were embarked on the James Barbour and 502 on the Peter Minuit as they became part of Convoy UGS-40. All together there were some 101 merchant chips in the convoy, escorted by probably around 20 escort vessels. The end destination of the convoy, which departed Hampton Roads on 23 April 1944, was Port Said, Egypt, though some vessels would leave it for other ports in the Mediterranean along the way. In fact the vessels carrying the Airmen of the 35PRS were to leave the convoy once in the Mediterranean to bring them to the port of Oran, Algeria, to transfer to another ship heading east.

Aerial view of a portion of a convoy (UGS-52) off Lynnhaven, Virginia (just east of Hampton Roads), before sailing. Thirty-five ships are visible in this 22 August 1944 view.  (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

Aerial view of a portion of a convoy (UGS-52) off Lynnhaven, Virginia (just east of Hampton Roads), before sailing. Thirty-five ships are visible in this 22 August 1944 view. (US Army Signal Corps, via Library of Virginia Digital Collections)

It would take a while to make the Atlantic crossing however, as the “S” in UGS was the designation for a “slow” convoy. A Liberty Ship at best speed could make about 11 knots; other merchant ships were slower. The distance between Newport News and Oran, Algeria is about 4,096 miles, which converted to nautical miles (1 statute miles = 0.868976 nautical mile) is about 3, 559 nautical miles. At Liberty Ship speed of 11 knots that is about 323 hours transit, or some 13 days. And that was but the first leg of the overseas journey from the States!

Painting of the Liberty Ship, John W. Brown, in Convoy off the East Coast, April 1944 - by John Stobart. Given to the Academy in Commemoration of the Normandy Landings, June 6th, 1944. The John W. Brown is one of two Liberty Ships still in service to this day.  (US Merchant Marine Academy)

Painting of the Liberty Ship, John W. Brown, in Convoy off the East Coast, April 1944 – by John Stobart. Given to the Academy in Commemoration of the Normandy Landings, June 6th, 1944. The John W. Brown is one of two Liberty Ships still in service to this day. (US Merchant Marine Academy)

Notes:

The SS James Barbour was named after James Barbour (June 10, 1775 – June 7, 1842) was an American lawyer, a member and speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, the 18th Governor of Virginia, the first Governor to reside in the current Virginia Governor’s Mansion, a U.S. Senator from 1814–1825, and the United States Secretary of War from 1825-1828. The vessel was laid down 19 December 1942 at the Todd Houston Shipbuilding Corporation in Texas, launched on 10 February 1943, and completed on 25 February 1943. It was temporarily converted to a troopship and was in the U.S. reserve fleet before being scrapped in 1970.

Schematic of Liberty ship at Skylighters website.

Schematic of Liberty ship at Skylighters website.

The SS Peter Minuit was named after Peter Minuit, Pieter Minuit, Pierre Minuit or Peter Minnewit (1580 – August 5, 1638) was from Wesel, in present-day North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, then part of the Duchy of Cleves. He was Director of the Dutch colony of New Netherland from 1626 until 1633, and founded the Swedish colony of New Sweden in 1638. According to tradition, he purchased the island of Manhattan from Native Americans on May 24, 1626 for goods valued at 60 Dutch guilders, which in the 19th century was estimated to be the equivalent of US$24 (or $680 today). The vessel was laid down 28 January 1942 at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Maryland, launched on 23 April 1942, completed 27 May 1942. It was temporarily converted to a troopship and was scrapped after leaving service in December, 1963.
References

35PRS History for April, 1944

Vessels in Convoy UGS 40, listing at: http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/ugs/index.html?ugs.php?convoy=40!~ugsmain

United States Naval Administration in World War II, History of Convoy and Routing, at: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/adminhist11_convoyrouting.htm

Liberty ship, Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_ship

Liberty Ship information pamphlet at: http://www.ww2ships.com/acrobat/us-os-001-f-r00.pdf

Liberty Ship Schematic at Skylighters website, at: http://www.skylighters.org/troopships/libertyships.html

Library of Virginia Digital Collections, at: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/using_collections.asp

Photographic Catalog of the US Merchant Marine Academy, SS John Brown painting at: http://academyphotos.net/photogallery/displayimage-530-John-W.-Brown.html

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