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Gators Offshore and Upriver
The U.S. Navy’s Amphibious Ships and Underwater Demolition
Teams, and Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers in Vietnam

Painting by Richard DeRosset, depicting a Viet Cong swimmer-sapper mining attack on the tank landing ship USS Westchester County (LST-1167), on 1 November 1968, in which the U.S. Navy suffered it greatest loss of life in a single incident, as a result of enemy action, during the entire Vietnam War.

Book Description
During the Vietnam War, 142 “gators” (amphibious ships) served in the combat zone. As deeper-draft ships landed Marines on assault beaches by boat or helicopter, World War II-era tank landing ships operated on shallow, winding rivers. Scores of minimal-draft vessels were required to support inland combat action beyond the reach of the cruisers and destroyers serving on the gunline offshore. Therefore, dozens of “mothballed” landing ships were returned to service. These “Ts” served as mobile support bases for river patrol boats and assault helicopters, and ran the rivers to deliver vital cargos to Allied troops, and other units of the “Brown Water Navy.” Each day brought the possibility of ambush by the enemy concealed in dense jungle along the banks. Most insidious were swimmer-sappers who used the chocolate-colored waters to hide their movements while placing explosives on vessels lying at anchor or alongside a pier. One such attack against the Westchester County killed or injured many sailors and embarked soldiers. This activity spurred Royal Australian Navy clearance divers being called into service. Their inspections of thousands of ship hulls, rudders, and anchor chains, and heroic removal and rendering harmless of deadly ordnance they found, saved many ships and lives. For those interested in learning about Sailors who fought “in country,” this companion to On the Gunline is the book you’re looking for. One hundred and ninety photographs, maps, and diagrams; appendices; and an index to full-names, places, and subjects add value to this work.

Click here to read foreword by Dr. Edward J. Marolda

Click here to read foreword by Captain John D. White II, USN (Retired)

Click here to read foreword by Commodore Hector Donohue, AM RAN (Retired)

Click here to read Chapter 1, Viet Cong Sappers Nearly Sink USS Westchester County

Click here to read the Preface

On the Gunline
U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Navy
Warships off Vietnam, 1965–1973

Sea Dragon by Richard DeRosset depicts the USS Epperson and Mansfield taking fire from North Vietnamese shore batteries, following a run in by the destroyers to within five miles of the coast in the vicinity of Vinh.

Book Description
During the Vietnam War, 270 U.S. Navy and four Royal Australian Navy warships served at various times on the gunline. Within this armada were the battleship New Jersey, ten cruisers, 212 destroyers, fifty destroyer escorts, and the inshore fire support ship Carronade. When necessary, naval guns poured out round after round, until their barrels overheated and turned red, exterior paint blistered, and rifled-barrel liners were worn smooth. Allied troops locked in battle with North Vietnamese Army or Viet Cong troops in South Vietnam were grateful for artillery support from the sea. When North Vietnam launched the Easter Offensive across the DMZ in 1972, eight to ten ships in line, abreast, often firing simultaneously and around the clock, delivered desperately needed fire support. At one point, over forty cruisers and destroyers were serving together on the gunline. Warships conducting SEA DRAGON and LINEBACKER operations — naval bombardment of military targets along the coast of North Vietnam — came under fire on a number of occasions. Runs in to within five miles of a hostile shore, to strike Vinh, Haiphong, and other targets, often preceded duels with shore batteries. Most such action occurred at mission completion as ships zigzagged, while racing seaward at high speed to clear the coast, to throw off the aim of enemy gunners. This book highlights the grit, determination, and heroism of young men — many who would likely have preferred the laid-back lifestyle of the 1960s, were it not for their country’s call to arms.

Click here to read foreword by Dr. Edward J. Marolda

Click here to read foreword by Commodore Hector Donohue, AM RAN (Retired)

Click here to read foreword by Captain Steven C. Saulnier, USN (Retired)

Click here to read Chapter 1, Into the Lion’s Den

Click here to read the Preface

Praise for On the Gunline

I have finished reading your fine new work. It has revealed many facts I was never even aware of; but I think its finest attribute is that it has created a “home” history for the thousands of sailors of our generations who did a magnificent job in executing the tasks they were asked to do in spite of the political and diplomatic machinations associated with the war’s creation, directions and final conclusion. Looking from the outside it is my impression that its veterans felt that they were overlooked as compared to those of other wars because of the war’s unpopularity. Your book’s well researched facts and wonderful assortment of photographs lays out “in-the-face” evidence of their contribution.

George Duddy

Just finished reading your book. Well Done! Was pleasantly surprised to see a photo of Mary Soo. I was blessed to make many trips during my career and was witness to history in many places, including Operation Deep Freeze twice. I also was on the USS Washtenaw County as a QM3 and didn’t realize she had participated with me when I was in Haiphong harbor on USS Epperson as a QMC.

I will look forward to your next project.
Percy Chinery

Enemy Waters:
Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Norwegian Navy, U.S. Navy,
and other Allied Mine Forces battling the
Germans and Italians in World War II

Painting by Richard DeRosset of the Battle of Taranto, in which on the night of 11 November 1940, twenty-one Fairey Swordfish torpedo-bombers launched from HMS Illustrious struck the battle fleet of the Italian Navy at anchor in the harbour of Taranto.

Book Description
When Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, the Royal Navy was deficient in minelayers needed to try to hold enemy forces at bay and out of its home waters. Turning first to the Merchant Navy, it requisitioned a liner and two ferries for this use, and a dozen destroyers and submarines were also converted to carry mines. Later, six fast minelaying cruisers joined the force. When Italy entered the war on the Axis side in June 1940, the situation became dire. As U-boats continued to sink shipping in the North Sea and around the British Isles, the Italian Fleet and German and Italian Air Forces controlled the central Mediterranean. Royal Air Force Bomber and Coastal Command planes took up mining, as did old Swordfish biplanes of the Fleet Air Arm. Joining in the fight were units of exiled navies, including the Dutch minelayer Willem van der Zaan, Free French submarine Rubis, and the Norwegian 52nd Motor Launch Flotilla. U.S. Navy mine forces supported the invasion of French North Africa in late 1942, subsequent landings in Italy, and the invasions of Normandy and southern France. The Canadian 31st Minesweeping Flotilla was at Normandy, and joined in later operations. Enemy Waters puts readers in the heart of the action. One hundred and forty-five photographs, maps, and diagrams; appendices; and an index to full-names, places and subjects add value to this work.

Click here to read a review by Capt. Chris O'Flaherty, Royal Navy in The Naval Review

Click here to read foreword by Dr. Edward J. Marolda

Click here to read foreword by Rear Adm. Paul J. Ryan, USN (Retired)

Click here to read foreword by Rear Adm. Paddy A. McAlpine, CBE, RN (Retired)

Click here to read foreword by Cdr. Fraser M. McKee, RCN(R) (Retired)

Click here to read the Preface

U.S. Navy, Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy, and
Royal Netherlands Navy Mine Forces battling the
Japanese in the Pacific in World War II

Mining the Tokyo Express by Richard DeRosset depicts the USS Tracy (DM-19), USS Montgomery (DM-17)—shielded from view by the Tracy—and USS Preble (DM-15), laying mines off Guadalcanal the night of 1 February 1943, trying to prevent an approaching force of nineteen Japanese destroyers from evacuating enemy troops from the island.

Book Description
As war with Japan was imminent, the British laid minefields off Hong Kong and Singapore; the Dutch in the Netherlands East Indies; and the Australians off New Zealand and Australia, in an attempt to prevent enemy invasion. Ships hastily converted to this task were referred to as “night raiders.” Duty aboard a “floating ammunition dump” was hazardous enough; missions carried out under the cloak of darkness increased the odds of survival in enemy waters. As MacArthur, Halsey, and Spruance’s forces advanced toward Japan, minesweepers worked with “night raiders”—clearing waters off landing beaches, while minelayers strove to deny the enemy freedom of the sea. Australian seaplanes (“Black Cats”) flew long, perilous night-missions to mine Japanese harbors, and British submarines and planes joined in the attack on shipping. Late in the war, USAAF bombers ringed the Japanese home islands with thousands of mines. When hostilities ended, war-weary “sweep sailors” remained in Asian waters—ridding the sea of “shipkillers.” The little-known efforts of these valiant men are illuminated in this rare look into history. One hundred and forty-four photographs, maps, and diagrams; appendices; and an index to full-names, places and subjects add value to this work.

Click here to read a review by Capt. Chris O'Flaherty, Royal Navy in The Naval Review

Click here to read a book review by Peter Down in Ton Talk

Click here to read a book review by "Seaweed" at

Click here to read foreword by Dr. Edward Marolda

Click here to read foreword by Rear Adm. Paul Ryan, USN (Retired)

Click here to read foreword by Commodore Hector Donohue, RAN (Retired)

Click here to read the Preface

Home Waters
Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and U.S. Navy
Mine Forces Battling U-Boats in World War I

They Opened the Seaways by Richard DeRosset portrays a mine detonation off the port quarter of USS Richard Bulkeley. The wooden-hulled minesweeping trawler was sunk with loss of life while participating in post-World War I clearance of the North Sea Mine Barrage stretching from the Scottish Orkney Islands to Bergen, Norway.

Book Description
In WWI under a crippling naval blockade of its North Sea ports which ultimately resulted in the starvation of thousands of its citizens and as land warfare in Europe drags on, Germany endeavours to counter-blockade Britain via U-boat attacks on shipping and by mining waters round the British Isles. Hundreds of fishing vessels from every port and harbour in Britain are pressed into minesweeping duties and minelayers sow fields to restrict and destroy German vessels. Their efforts allow the powerful Royal Navy to hold the German Navy in port—except for occasional skirmishes, including the Battle of Jutland. American destroyers hunt U-boats in British waters, while minelayers create a barrier between the Orkney Islands and Norway, to try to deny the enemy entry into the Atlantic. Desperate, Germany mounts a U-boat offensive off North America in summer 1918, to induce the U.S. to bring her destroyers home. Although nearly one hundred vessels are sunk, this action fails. Germany surrenders in late autumn 1918 and allied vessels are left with the deadly task of removing thousands of mines laid in the war.

Click here to read a book review by Chris O’Flaherty in The Naval Review

Click here to read foreword by Dwight A. Messimer

Click here to read foreword by Rear Adm. Paul Ryan, USN (Retired)

Click here to read foreword by Rear Adm. Paddy McAlpine, RN

Click here to read Chapter 1, A Dark Day

Click here to read the Preface

Praise for Home Waters

David Bruhn’s latest contribution (with Rob Hoole) to the history of naval warfare, Home Waters, is an outstanding addition to his body of work and continues his commitment to the story of mine warfare, surely one of the most overlooked narratives in military studies. Home Waters focuses on the failed German submarine offensive of WWI, which was unsuccessful to a considerable extent because of the successful efforts of the British, Canadian, and U.S. Navy mine warfare communities to deny the U-Boats access to the Allied home waters where they might have had the devastating effect on shipping that was the goal of the German submarine campaign. This is a must-read book for anyone interested in the subject of mine warfare.

Robert J. Meindl, Emeritus Professor of English, California State University, Sacramento and YNCM SW/AW, USNR (Ret.)

I want you to know how much I enjoyed “Home Waters”. The book is well researched and includes numerous maps and pictures. Those of us who followed in the footsteps of the mine forces of that era have much for which to thank them. A mine force was created by mobilizing the fishing fleet’s trawlers and drifters. The equipment was primitive and hazards were magnified by the harsh environment of the North Sea. I experienced the North Sea in winter and can imagine the challenges faced by those forces.

Both the successes and failures were addressed, and I have great admiration for those individuals who overcame such obstacles. The fact that they were able to use their experiences as fishermen to become “instant minemen” was critical to the successes which they achieved. I am amazed that they accomplished so much with rudimentary equipment and a difficult environment.

I value the book highly and intend to follow up with several of your other titles which also interest me.

C. R. “Rick” Hannum, LCDR, USN (Retired)

This book … achieves the distinction of being both a jolly good read and a very useful work of reference, with excellent details of the sources used.

It describes the work of the fishing vessels of three nations: Britain Canada and the Unites States of America, in combating the menace of German mines and submarines in the First World War. Various aspects of this story have been related before, … but authors Hoole and Bruhn take on the challenge of a much wider perspective, covering the reasons for the outbreak of war, factors affecting the navies of both sides, lack of preparedness for underwater warfare by both sides, the technologies involved and capabilities of the vessels engaged, as well as the conduct of operations, large and small.

…. Much of the general story will be known to TCA [Ton Class Association] members and others with a background in MCM, but there is a wealth of material new to this reviewer, not least of which is the chequered history of the formation of the Royal Canadian Navy and scale of resources deployed by the USN during their 17-months of involvement in the conflict.

…. No better summary of this work can be given than the words of Admiral Lord Jellicoe “The Royal Navy saved the Empire but it was the fishermen in their boats who saved the Royal Navy”. This book is their story.

Peter Down, Ton Class Association Honorary Secretary & Ton Talk editor

Entire review

Ingram's Fourth Fleet
U.S. and Royal Navy Operations Against German Runners, Raiders, and Submarines in the South Atlantic in World War II

Sailing under False Colors by Richard DeRosset portrays German blockade runner MV Karin aflame from fires set by her crew before they abandoned ship, after being stopped in the South Atlantic by two units of the United States Fourth Fleet—the light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) and the destroyer Eberle (DD-430). A short time later, delayed-detonation scuttling charges exploded, killing all but three members of a boarding party from the Eberle attempting to salvage the vessel.

Book Description
The story of the South Atlantic campaign in World War II, and that of the U.S. 4th Fleet and Royal Navy forces in the theater, was primarily one of ships and land-based planes hunting enemy submarines, commerce raiders, and blockade runners, while also safeguarding convoys. Admiral Ingram was the commander of a small seagoing force that grew into a fleet, charged at first with reconnaissance, later with the protection of shipping, and finally with the waging of relentless warfare against the enemy. The accomplishment of this required great teamwork; between the U.S. and Royal navies, various branches of the American military services, and Americans and Brazilians. Overshadowed by many larger actions and amphibious landings in the European and Pacific theaters, and therefore little known to the public, the South Atlantic campaign helped win the war. Companion book to Eyes of the Fleet.

Click here to read foreword by Dwight A. Messimer

Click here to read foreword by Steven C. Saulnier

Click here to read Chapter 1, Sailing under False Colors

Praise for Ingram's Fourth Fleet

Commander Bruhn has crafted an excellent introductory book about an important but forgotten theater of naval warfare in World War II, a theater of war whose story up to now has never been adequately told. The United States Navy’s Fourth Fleet, as the author points out, is the Navy’s forgotten fleet of World War II. Between 1942 and 1945, the Fourth Fleet’s ships and aircraft patrolled the empty waters of the South Atlantic Ocean west of Ascension Island between the latitudes of 10 North and 42 South. Within this ocean area, the ships and aircraft of the Fourth Fleet sought to interdict Axis merchant ships sailing between Japan and Germany, destroy German merchant ship raiders, and sink German, Italian, and Japanese submarines.

The heart and soul of this book are the accounts of each of the successful operations that resulted in sinking a submarine or the intercepting of a blockade runner. The author has done a creditable job of bringing to light the battles of the Fourth Fleet. A book still needs to be written on subjects the author touches on but does not explore: base development, joint service command, and diplomatic relations with Brazil. This book fills a gaping hole in the account of the Battle of the Atlantic and needs to be read by all World War II naval historians.

Click here to read complete review by Charles J. Bogart.

Combat Action in the South Atlantic in World War II
Sixtant - War II in the South Atlantic
Created and hosted by Capt. Ozires Moraes

Eyes of the Fleet

Evasion of Destruction by Richard DeRosset portrays a strafing run by three Japanese "Mavis" flying boats following their unsuccessful torpedo attack on the USS Heron (AVP-2) on 31 December 1942. Heron shot down one of the aircraft with her starboard 3-inch gun; her port gun had been disabled by earlier combat action. This final attack followed a series of earlier ones by twelve other enemy aircraft against the seaplane tender as she sailed alone in the Java Sea. Due to heroic actions by her captain and crew, Heron survived overwhelming odds during the long ordeal.

Book Description
Cloaked by jungle foliage, the unheralded seaplane tenders operated ahead of the Fleet, like the Navy's famed PT boats. As Halsey's South Pacific, MacArthur's Southwest Pacific, and Spruance's Central Pacific forces advanced toward Japan, these ships served as afloat-bases for patrol planes referred to as the "eyes of the fleet." The large fabric-clad PBY "Catalinas" and later PBM "Mariners" combed the seaways for Japanese forces and carried out bombing, depth charge, and torpedo attacks on enemy ships and submarines. Nighttime anti-shipping operations-"Black Cat" or "Nightmare" missions-were dangerous and daytime combat operations even more so, when encounters with more maneuverable and heavily-armed fighters necessitated hiding in clouds to survive. The Japanese were keen to destroy the scouts and their floating bases, and seaplane tenders often lived a furtive existence, particularly early in the war. Pilots, plane crews and shipboard personnel received scores of awards for valor, including the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Silver and Bronze Star Medals.

Click here to read Chapter 1: Peril in the Java Sea

Praise for Eyes of the Fleet

Click here to read review by Charles H. Bogart in PowerShips, Fall 2016.

Click here to read review by David Legg, president of the Catalina Society.

I loved the book! I'm not a big reader, but I read it in a weekend. I found that I just "had to know" everything, right now.

I hadn't realized that so much occurred between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. I've always been interested in WWII since I was a kid, but was never a researcher or one to put everything down to memory. It was great to learn about the small naval forces that we had in the southwest Pacific and what they did with so little in the area, as compared to the Japanese.

I hadn't realized how valuable a part the seaplanes played in almost every campaign, and that the seaplane tenders were relied upon so much for many, many things.

My focus has been on the USS Barnegat-class and I've favored them in my own mind over the other AVs and AVPs and AVDs. Your book has set my mind to a new outlook on all of the classes of tenders and their capabilities and roles in the war.

My father is now reading the book and enjoying it. He first jumped to the parts about his ship, USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38), but is now reading the whole thing.

Carl T. Musselman
MM1/SS USN (1982-1995)

It took me awhile to get through "Eyes of the Fleet". It is a very impressive and detailed work entirely up to your usual standard. To me it relates a important story that I was entirely unfamiliar with. I hope it will do the same with many others. The Pacific was quite a different type of war than Europe and without the resources you have described would have been even more difficult to have won. It is great for those who served in the tender navy and its aircraft that someone has told their story - well done.

George Duddy
White Rock, British Colombia

We are Sinking, Send Help!

Spartan Death Throes off Anzio by Richard DeRosset depicts the rescue tug USS ATR-1 alongside HMS Spartan; hit by a glider-bomb that passed down through the British light cruiser, set her aflame and blasted a hole in her hull. She sank shortly thereafter off Anzio.

Book Description
U.S. Navy tugs and salvage ships were in the thick of the action during the invasion of French North Africa, the lengthy, bitter Italian Campaign, and the invasion of France in World War II. Seventeen officers and men from the salvage ship Brant and the fleet tug Cherokee received Navy Cross Medals for their heroic actions during a special operation in French Morocco. Cherokee was the first Atlantic Fleet tug to earn a battle star overseas. Tugs and salvage ships were with the Fleet at Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and during the invasion of southern France. Tugs saved many ships damaged by combat action, and the lives of sailors and soldiers aboard aflame or sinking ships, or in the sea. These workhorses also pulled scores of landing craft off hostile beaches. Thirty-six tugs and six salvage ships collectively garnered sixty-six battle stars. The fleet tugs Arikara and Pinto, and rescue tug ATR-2, received the Navy Unit Commendation for their work off Omaha beach at Normandy. Officers and crewmen who took vessels into harm's way received awards for valor for acts of heroism performed under fire. Following the capture of enemy ports, tugs and salvage ships and their salvage personnel worked with minesweepers and mine clearance divers to open harbors critical to sea-supplied support of Allied troops ashore.

Praise for We Are Sinking, Send Help

Commander David Bruhn's book We Are Sinking, Send Help, was not only a comprehensive and informative book on a little-known part of WWII, it filled a personal need about my own history. My father was a hard-hat salvage diver and there was little information about these heroes until now.

This book is a must read to understand the logistics, hazards and versatility of the salvage units in the Navy. Knowledgeable veterans will appreciate his expertise and chronology of events, but us civilians will find it easy to read, informative and necessary for a more thorough understanding of what it takes to save lives and win a war.

Cathy Chase
Professor Emeritus
Author of Jump -

Click here to read forewords from William I. Milwee Jr. and Rob Hoole.

Click here to read a review by David Kronenfeld, Associate General Counsel at Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc.

Battle Stars for the "Cactus Navy"

Companion book to MacArthur and Halsey's "Pacific Island Hoppers"
Night Action off Tulagi: an oil painting depicting YP-346 at Tulagi, Soloman Islands. The ship is engaging in battle in the middle of night, illuminated from the gunfire of the two vessels, flames erupting on board as well as a single flare in the sky above it.

Night Action off Tulagi by Richard DeRosset depicts the destruction of USS YP-346 by the Japanese light cruiser IJN Sendai off Guadalcanal on 8 September 1942. It is the cover art for this book, which is devoted to the U.S. Navy's Patrol Yachts and Patrol Craft (converted civilian yachts and fishing vessels commonly called "Yippees") of World War II. (Click on title to view entire painting.)

Book Description
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy obtained approximately 700 vessels from private owners, armed them, designated them as patrol yachts (PY) or patrol craft (YP), and sent them to sea. The vessels spanned the spectrum from yacht to waterfront work horse—fishing vessel, whaler, tug, and freighter. San Diego tuna fishermen—including those that would be aboard their boats at the Battle of Midway, and at Guadalcanal supporting the 1st Marines—donned Navy uniforms without the benefit of "boot camp" training and went off to war. They were joined by fishermen and yachtsmen from ports and harbors all across America, as well as men straight from cities and rural towns. Officers and crewmen who took vessels into harm's way received the Navy Cross, and other awards for valor for acts of heroism performed under fire. Officers aboard the yachts Fisheries II and Maryanne were awarded Navy Crosses for their actions during the defense of the Philippines—three posthumously, as they died while prisoners of war. Three men aboard the YP-346—sunk by the Japanese light cruiser Sendai—also earned Navy Crosses, and the YP-346 and two other former tuna boats at Guadalcanal received the Presidential Unit Citation for heroism. YPs and PYs at Saipan, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Leyte, and Balikpapan earned battle stars for combat; the ex-halibut boat YP-251 was credited with sinking a Japanese submarine in Alaskan waters, and the patrol yacht Siren earned a battle star during one of the most successful series of attacks on a convoy by a single German submarine. Others did not fare so well; the YP-389 and patrol yacht Cythera were lost to German U-boats in infamous "Torpedo Junction" off North Carolina. All of the unheralded vessels served when called, and like militiamen of old, they were mustered out when no longer needed.

Click here to read forewords from Melville Owen and August Felando.

Praise for Battle Stars for the "Cactus Navy"

I have been waiting for a book on this subject for a long time and was very pleased to find this one. The author covers units and selected operation of these craft in all theaters. There is special emphasis on some boats that saw sudden and dramatic action, such as YP-389 which was sunk by gunfire from a U-boat and the YPs off Guadalcanal. Of particular value is the data found in the appendix, listing specifications and sources for all YP boats.

One very pleasant surprise was the inclusion of the operations of a small minesweeper outfitted as a Q-ship and sent to hunt Japanese subs off the southern California coast in 1942. Having studied the USN Q-ship programs in WW1 and 2, this came as a welcome surprise.

David Gregory

I enjoyed reading "Cactus Navy". I read in passing about YPs in naval books from time to time, but your book puts their contribution in perspective. With all the YPs obtained from the California and New England fishing fleets, I wonder what the civilian population ate for fish!?
Thanks again.

Cdr. Gary Grice, USN (Ret.)

MacArthur and Halsey's Pacific Island Hoppers

Enemy Strike from Rabaul: an oil painting Enemy Strike from Rabaul by Richard DeRosset is the cover art for the book. (Click on title to view entire painting.)

Endorsement of Painting
Richard DeRosset's depiction of the APc-15 during its battle with a flight of Japanese dive bombers and fighters takes me back to that day seven decades ago and reminds me of the heroic efforts of my officers and crew. He captures the minute details of the ship engaged in a life and death fight for its survival against overwhelming odds. His magnificent painting is a masterful work of power, passion, and detail.
Kemper Goffigon III
Former Commanding Officer USS APc-15

Book Description
At the commencement of World War II, the Navy and the Army—woefully lacking small ships able to ply shallow, reef-infested South and Southwest Pacific waters, which were necessary to support island ground combat—initially acquired whatever was available in ports, harbors, and backwaters to meet their needs. These vessels included schooners, ancient ferry boats, luggers, fishing trawlers, tuna boats, tugs, launches, lighters, surf boats, ketches, yachts, and yawls. The services took whatever craft they could get—some barely seaworthy—as the urgency of need did not permit discrimination in what was purchased or chartered.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, needing his own Navy to support leapfrog operations up the New Guinea coast, found his vessels in Australia and New Zealand, and the Navy its small ships and craft in America. These "Pacific island hoppers" were later supplemented with other small vessels newly constructed in American boat and shipyards. Among them were sixty Navy wooden-hulled 103-foot small coastal transports, hundreds of Army freight-supply ships and large tugs, and lesser numbers of coastal tankers and harbor tugs. The Army ships—most of steel construction, a few of wood—were manned by Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, or Army crews.

The islands hoppers worked mostly with amphibious forces, but also supported PT boat squadrons, and as "maids of all duties" engaged in a variety of operations. Periodic combat with Japanese planes off the New Guinea coast and in the Solomon Islands transitioned to frequent battles with conventional and kamikaze aircraft and suicide Q-boats during the Philippine Islands Campaign. Significant numbers of the island hoppers earned battle stars, and crewmen awards for valor including the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star medals.

Following the war, the Navy acquired some of the Army ships; many served in the Korean War and a few in Vietnam. Three of the former freight-supply ships were employed for intelligence gathering; the most famous, USS Pueblo, was captured by North Korea. Others led interesting careers under civilian ownership; one was run aground while engaged in drug smuggling in the Caribbean, and another served as a "radio pirate" off England, broadcasting BBC-banned rock and roll music over the airwaves in 1966.

Click here to read foreword from Kemper Goffigon III, Former Commanding Officer USS APc-15

Night Action off Tulagi

Richard DeRosset's Salvation from the Sea depicts PT-59, under the command of Lt. John F. Kennedy, rescuing U.S. Marines pinned down by Japanese forces at the mouth of the Warrior River on Choiseul Island the evening of 2 November 1943.

Click here to see the Table of Contents

Praise for MacArthur and Halsey's "Pacific Island Hoppers"
I have found the book MacArthur and Halsey's Pacific Island Hoppers, the forgotten fleet of WWII, a very interesting part of the war that I was not aware of. David D. Bruhn has done a wonderful job bringing to the forefront the many wooden vessels used to bring the war to the enemy. From the small wooden PT BOATS, to the larger Freight-supply ships, this book has covered the bases on these forgotten wooden wonders and the brave men that manned them. Mr. Bruhn's book will happily take its place in my World War Two reading library.

Frank J. Andruss Sr.
The Mosquito Fleet Exhibit

Having researched the histories of nine former U.S. Navy APc "Small Coastal Transports" that were registered in Vancouver after the war and served Canada for many years as tugs, fish packers and herring seiners, I was delighted to discover David Bruhn's thoroughly researched and well-presented book MacArthur and Halsey's Pacific Island Hoppers.

The American and Anzac Allies having finally stopped the Japanese advancements at the very gates of Australia were in desperate need for ships to carry the war back to the Japanese along the Papua New Guinea coast and in the Solomon Islands. Bruhn's book relates the story of the long hard struggle through numerous tropical island battlefields, supported by vessels procured from both coasts of the United States and sailed across the vast Pacific by hastily trained crews of young officers and sailors. He focuses on small navy and army ships and tugs which to date have been little recognized for the vital work they accomplished. As is depicted in the dramatic painting of the USS APc-15 on the cover of his book, these small wooden vessels of barely over 100 feet in length frequently suffered enemy air attacks during which crewmen fought valiantly to save their austere, minimally equipped and armed ships. I was privileged recently to speak by phone to 94 year old Kemper Goffigon who commanded the APc-15 and won the Navy Cross for his leadership and courageous actions during and following the action depicted.

I am happy to report that the ex-APc-15 spent a far calmer working life following the war, first as the tug La Belle and later in retirement, following removal of her engine, as the non-powered live-aboard vessel Black Trader. Retired tug boat skipper Kerri Beaulieu reported seeing the ship at a Fraser River marina near the end of her days, "She was dressed up as a funky live aboard with hanging baskets, deck furniture and new paint to her super-structure.....but no work [had been performed] to her hull." Reportedly, she later capsized and sank in a nearby slough in the late 1990s.

I highly recommend this book for those interested in ships, action in the South and Southwest Pacific during World War II, and the history of the Pacific islands.

George Duddy
White Rock, British Colombia, June 2014

Just finished Island Hoppers. Amazing amount of work and research you did here. This is a phase of WWII that has been completely overlooked. What a good read.

Chuck Sheley
Editor, Smokejumper magazine

Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Volume III: The U.S. Navy's Coastal and Inshore Minesweepers, and the Minecraft that Served in Vietnam, 1953-1976

From 1953 to 1976, twenty-four U.S. Navy coastal minesweepers (MSCs) swept mines, searched the seafloor for downed aircraft, sunken ships and lost munitions, "showed the flag" in the Caribbean and throughout the Far East, and played a key role in the Vietnam War. Atlantic Fleet coastal minesweepers searched for a nuclear bomb buried in the sea bed off Savannah, Georgia, as a result of a midair collision between two U.S. Air Force aircraft and provided support for the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. MSCs based at Sasebo, Japan, conducted patrols off Vietnam to interdict smuggling of supplies by sea to the Viet Cong in the South. One, USS Vireo, participated in the destruction of an enemy gun runner. Much smaller minesweeping boats(MSBs) kept the Long Tau River, which passed through the dangerous "Forest of Assassins" and connected the South China Sea to Saigon, open to merchant vessels delivering military cargos to allied forces. Facing daily the possibility of death by Viet Cong mine or riverbank ambush, the thirteen boats of Mine Squadron Eleven Detachment Alfa comprised the first Navy unit to be awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for heroism by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Possessing too few minecraft to support its riverine combat operations, the U.S. Navy also pressed existing landing craft and newly built assault support patrol boats and minesweeping drones into these duties.

The unheralded MSBs and steel-hulled minecraft collectively garnered four Presidential Unit Citations, three Meritorious Unit Commendations, and three Navy Unit Commendations. Significant numbers of the small enlisted crews that took the craft in harm's way received the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Bronze Star Medals for acts of heroism performed under fire.

Cover painting by Richard DeRosset (view entire painting)

Click here to read forewords from Dr. Edward J. Marolda, Former Senior Historian of the Navy, and Capt. Richard Tarbuck, USN (Ret.)

Click here for an endorsement from Capt.James A. McClure, USNR (Ret.)

Click here for an endorsement from Alan Perry, ENC, USN (Ret.)

Click here for "Remembering the Contributions of the Mine Warfare Community" from the Naval Historical Foundation.

Also from David D. Bruhn

Click on the images below for more information.

Wooden Ships II Wooden Ships I Ready to Answer All Bells

Click here to read book reviews for the Wooden Ships and Iron Men series.