|William Ward Burrows
(AP-6: dp. 8,450 1. 386'21/4", b. 53'0", dr. 9'6" s. 12.5 k., cpl. 118, a. 4 3", 5 .50 car. mg., 4 .30-car mg.; cl. William Ward Burrows)
Santa Rita—a twin-screw, steel-hulled, passenger and cargo motorship launched in May 1929 at Copenhagen, Denmark, by Burmeister and Wain—was built for the Grace Steamship Co., Inc., and operated between New York and ports in South America and on the west coast of the United States, carrying passengers and freight. She was acquired by the Navy on 6 February 1940 and was commissioned "in ordinary" as William Ward Burrows (AP-6) on 9 February at Pier 5 of the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, VA. Converted to a troop transport at the Norfolk Navy Yard, William Ward Burrows was placed in full commission on 15 May 1940, Comdr. Ross A. Dierdorff in command.
After fitting-out, William Ward Burrows sailed from Norfolk on her maiden voyage on 6 July and proceeded to Weehawken, N.J., to take on a cargo of structural steel. Departing that port on the 15th, the transport embarked a company of marines as well as a group of women and children—naval dependents—for transportation to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After delivering her passengers, she touched at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Cristobal, Canal Zone; transited the Panama Canal; visited Balboa, Canal Zone and the California ports of San Diego, San Pedro, Vailejo (the Mare Island Navy Yard); and the Naval Air Station at Alameda, before she proceeded on to her ultimate destination of Midway Island, where she dropped anchor on 2 October.
William Ward Burrows began, consequently, what would become a series of voyages that formed part of the belated American attempt to fortify her outposts in the Pacific—islands such as Wake, Midway, and Johnston. William Ward Burrows carried the pioneer construction unit—80 men and 2,000 tons of equipment —to Wake Island in January of 1941, departing Honolulu the day before Christmas of 1940 and arriving at its destination late in the afternoon of 9 January 1941.
William Ward Burrows would conduct eight more voyages prior to the outbreak of war in the Pacific, carrying construction employees, sailors, and marines, and the miscellaneous cargo necessary to sustain the outposts of the American defense system in the Pacific. On what proved to be her last pre-war voyage to Wake, the transport took westward a cargo of dynamite, as well as employees of civilian contractors and a sprinkling of Navy and Marine Corps personnel. In addition she towed Pan American Airways Barge (PAB) No. 4, laden with general cargo. She arrived at Wake on 11 November, disembarked her passengers, discharged her cargo, and delivered her tow before she headed back to Hawaii on the 13th.
Soon after arriving, she shifted to Honolulu and embarked 33 marines, 60 sailors, and 55 civilian contractor's employees for transport to Wake on the 28th. She got underway at 0825 on 29 November, towing PAB-7. The ship, herself, carried 1,819 tons of cargo— general supplies, lumber, "reefer boxes" (refrigerators), a boat, 10 trailers, and 20 tons of gasoline in tins.
Heavy seas and stormy winds prevailed for the entire passage. William Ward Burrows, nevertheless, plowed along at five knots with PAB-7 in tow, she rendezvoused with Sonoma (AT-12) on 5 December and took on board an appendicitis patient from the Hawaiibound tug for medical attention. As the transport continued on toward Wake Island, the weather—as Commander Dierdorff observed—was "uniformly abominable," but all hands took the rough weather well.
The ship crossed the international date line on 6 December and accordingly set her calendars ahead to compensate. Unbeknownst to the solitary transport, a Japanese carrier task force was proceeding toward Pearl Harbor. On the morning of 7 December 1941 (8 December on the transport's side of the date line), that task force struck Pearl Harbor a devastating blow and plunged the United States into a war in both oceans.
At 0705 on 8 December, William Ward Burrows received word of the attack. The crew was called to general quarters, the captain set air and submarine watches; lookouts were alerted, as were the gun crews. Civilian workmen embarked on board immediately volunteered their services "in any capacity."
The next day, 9 December, William Ward Burrows received orders to return to Honolulu with her loaded cargo and PAB-7. The war news she received was grim. Pearl Harbor had been attacked and Midway shelled (by the Japanese destroyers Ushio and Akebono). False sightings of Japanese task forces here and there proliferated. Comdr. Dierdorff later recalled: "As reports came in, the general impression we gained was that most of the Nipponese fleet was between us and Hawaii." He was not far from the truth
On 13 December, the transport received word to take PAB-7 to Johnston Island. Accordingly, the ship altered course and on 15 December delivered the barge—with her cargo load of "general cargo" and lumber—and embarked passengers for transportation to Hawaii. That day, at 1340, William Ward Burrows' rudder touched a 3-fathom coral head—in an area believed to have been dredged to a safe depth of 30 feet. Fortunately, the transport cleared the navigational hazard with only minor damage to the tip of the rudder.
That evening, William Ward Burrows remained at anchor to the south of Johnston Island in an anchorage deemed safe from submarine attack. Comdr. Dierdorff posted full submarine lookouts, fully manned the bridge, and put the engine room on five minutes' notice to get underway. Squally weather prevented his using a 40foot motor launch as picket.
At 1810, Ens. J. A. Peterson, USNR—the officer of the deck—sounded the general alarm; when Comdr. Dierdorff reached the bridge, he saw that enemy ships were shelling Johnston Island from the northward, setting fire to oil storage tanks near the center of the island. One large shell struck 30 yards astern of William Ward Burrows, and another passed over the forecastle. Other splashes erupted from the waters between the ship and the island.
Fortunately for William Ward Burrows and her 227 passengers—132 of them civilians—the enemy did not see her. Knowing that his 3-inch guns were inadequate for a surface gunfire duel with ships of unknown size Comdr. Dierdorff wisely decided not to open fire. Favored by darkness and rain squalls, William Ward Burrows got underway at 1830 and escaped to the southward. By that time, the bombardment had ceased. At about 2330, Johnston Island reported no casualties and advised William Ward Burrows not to return; thus, early the next morning, the transport set course for Honolulu and home.
William Ward Burrows entered drydock on New Year's Day 1942 for repairs to her rudder and nine days later emerged and began loading cargo destined for Midway. After embarking a draft of marines for transportation to that key atoll, the transport got underway on 18 January. She arrived five days later and began working her cargo. Two days later, a Japanese submarine boldly surfaced a mere mile away and began shelling the island. However, about three minutes later fire from Marine Corps guns ashore drove the submarine away.
The ship soon headed back to Pearl Harbor and arrived there on 3 February. Between early February and mid-March, she made two more round-trip voyages to Midway before she conducted an interisland trip among the islands of the Hawaiian group carrying general cargo and transporting Army troops to Hilo and Maui. She next voyaged to Midway, carrying general cargo, lumber, provisions, "reefer boxes," cable reels, and a two-ton truck while transporting naval and Marine Corps personnel. In mid-May, she returned to the west coast of the United States.
Following an overhaul at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., William Ward Burrows loaded
to within 90 percent of her capacity, taking on board 1,437 tons of cargo—which included ammunition and lumber—and departed San Francisco at 1053 on 23 July. The transport arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 31st and unloaded. After taking on a different cargo the ship sailed for the New Hebrides at 1849 on 4 August.
After picking up her escort, Flusser (DD-368), later that day, William Ward Burrows made Fila Harbor, Efate Island, on 17 August. Underway again from Efate on 26 August, this time escorted by McFarland (AVD-14), William Ward Burrows headed for the Solomons. Tracy (DM-19), Colhoun (APD-2), Little (APD - ), Gregory (APD 3), Gam7'le ( DM-15), and SS Kapara joined them the next day.
While passing through Indispensable Strait on the 29th, the ships received word from "Cactus"—the codename for Henderson Field, Guadalcanal—at 1105 that an enemy air raid was imminent. While the APD s and DM's deployed to provide an antiaircraft screen around William Ward Burrows and Kapara, the transport prepared for action. At 1205—exactly an hour after the alert was broadcast from "Cactus"—a formation of Japanese planes droned overhead at 25,000 feet. Two minutes later, William Ward Burrows opened fire with her 3-inch battery and expended 50 rounds. Seven minutes later, lookouts observed two enemy bombers falling in flames, due to the fire from the task group. The surviving enemy aircraft soon fled, having caused no damage.
Shortly thereafter, William Ward Burrows proceeded to Lunga Roads, off Kukum Point, Guadalcanal, and dropped anchor. She got underway for Tulagi Harbor that afternoon but ran hard aground on the southeast end of Sylvia Reef at 1750, only five minutes after entering the harbor channel. In an effort to get out of the predicament, William Ward Burrows rang down full speed astern at 1752 and attempted to use her stern anchor as a kedge; but the ship refused to budge. Little passed a towline to the transport at 1904, but darkness intervened and kept William Ward Burrows aground for the night.
The next day, the transport passed a line to Tracy The minecraft began pulling, backing with William Ward Burrowe' engines running full astern, but the towline parted. Meanwhile, the transport's crew had begun unloading equipment into lighters, in an effort to lighten the ship. At 1458, lookouts spotted 18 Japanese bombers—Mitsubishi G4M "Betties"—at 22,000 feet. Helplessly aground, William Ward Burrows was m a bad situation; but, fortunately for her, the Japanese had business elsewhere. They attacked Colhoun at 1512—after she had unloaded 17 tons of stores consigned to the Marine Corps garrison on Guadalcanal —and, in two minutes, succeeded in scoring four direct hits. The luckless fast transport sank by the stern at about 1515.
At 2035, 20 wounded men from Colhoun were brought on board the transport for medical attention. Reflecting later upon the incident, William Ward Burrows' commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. E. I. McQuiston, concluded that, had she not run aground, his ship, too, would have been at Kukum Point and probably would have been the object of the Japanese attack. In that light, perhaps the grounding had been a blessing for the transport.
On the morning of the 31st, William Ward Burrows once more ran up her engines at full speed astern in another attempt to free the ship. At 1100, she went to general quarters when she received word of approaching Japanese planes—unable to maneuver and hard aground, the ship was still in a vulnerable position. Again, however, good fortune was with the ship, for the air raid never materialized.
Finally, on 2 September, with the aid of YP-S46 (on the port quarter), YP-2S9 (on the starboard), and Gamble, William Ward Burrows at last floated free. She remained anchored off Sylvia Reef to take stock of the damage and found it light. Gamble, however, soon reported a submarine in the immediate vicinity, and the transport got underway to seek safety in the inner harbor at Tulagi. Unfortunately, the ship developed too much way to clear a patch of shoals, and she again grounded—this time on Southern Cross Reef.
Again, William Ward Burrows backed engines, but to no avail. Higgins boats pulling on the port quarter and pushing on the starboard side failed to budge her. Fortunately, that time aground was shorter than the first. On the afternoon of 3 September, aided by the trusty Gamble and YP-289, William Ward Burrows pulled free.
After being refloated from Southern Cross Reef, the transport again got underway for Kukum Point to discharge part of her cargo. She then proceeded back to Tulagi to unload the remainder. Upon completing that task, she again headed for Kukum Point at 0645 on the 5th, she hove to at 0756 finding all available boats engaged in picking up the survivors from Little and Gregory, APD's that had tangled with a detachment of the "Tokyo Express" and been sunk by the gunfire of Japanese destroyers Yudachi, Hatsuguki, and Murakamo on the night of 4 and 5 September. As those boats passed his ship, Comdr. McQuiston invited them to come alongside and transfer the wounded to the transport. William Ward Burrows picked up 27 that morning and an additional 214 later, all for passage to Espiritu Santo. Her task completed at Guadalcanal William Ward Burrows, escorted by Gamble, got underway at 1868.
At 0715 on 8 September, the transport dropped anchor at Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo, and later refueled from Sabine (AO-25). After disembarking the APD survivors and discharging more of her cargo, William Ward Burrows took on passengers and light freight and pushed on independently for New Caledonia on the 12th. Reaching Noumea on the 14th, she continued her voyage through the Pacific war zone to Suva, in the Fiji Islands, in company with USAT Ernest R. Hinds and escorted by Buchanan (DD-484). There, she brought on board more cargo and mail for delivery to Pearl Harbor.
Again sailing in company with Ernest R. Hinds and escorted by Raleigh (CW7), William Ward Burrows made port at Pearl Harbor on 28 September. She remained at that point until 4 October loading cargo at both the Hickam Field dock and at the Navy Yard. She sailed for the Fiji Islands at 1400 that day, in company with Tangier (AV-8) and escorted by Woodworth (DD-460). Upon arrival at Suva on the 15th, the transport worked her cargo and, on the 18th, pushed on for Espiritu Santo where she arrived three days later.
Underway for New Caledona on the 27th, William Ward Burrows arrived at Noumea the following day and unloaded her passengers and mail. She tarried there until 14 November, when she pushed on for Samoa Upon arrival, she discharged passengers and mail, picked up other passengers; and then proceeded back to the Hawaiian Islands, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 27 November.
The transport made one round-trip voyage to Midway and back before she shifted to the west coast of the United States for her second "stateside" visit since the war began. Arriving at San Francisco, Calif., on 2 February 1943, she spent the next few weeks exchanging cargoes and embarking passengers. She sailed for the Hawaiian Islands on 21 February, in company with Henderson (AP-1) and escorted by Bulmer (DD222) and Parrots (DD-218).
The convoy, designated Task Group 15.6, ran into heavy weather on 25 February and for four days fought through mountainous seas. William Ward Burrows occasionally shipped water over both bow and stern and rolled very heavily in the rough seas and heavy swells, but arrived safely at Pearl Harbor on 2 March.
The ship devoted most of 1943 to making interisland transport runs, travelling among the islands of the Central Pacific, especially those of the Hawaiian chain. The most dramatic incident during this period of her service occurred on 6 November as she was approaching Midway toward the end of a run from Pearl Harbor. The ship's steering gear failed, and she was forced to lie to off the channel entrance until repairs could be made. Meanwhile, PC-598 stood out of Midway to help protect the transport and joined PC-586 at 1418. At 2034, PC-598 reported picking up a submarine contact. A minute later, the transport went to general quarters. At 2040, PC-598 fired a floating flare to illuminate the area, and she commenced dropping depth charges a minute later. William Ward Burrows—underway off the coast, with PC-586 patrolling ahead—later lost contact with PC-598 as that vessel went off to the hunt.
The next morning, with the danger passed and the steering casualty repaired, the transport entered the lagoon and began discharging her cargo. The ship remained at Midwav from 8 to 10 November and soon set sail for Pearl Harbor, with PC 586 again as ocean escort. She made one more interisland cargo-carrying voyage before she began her third run to the South Pacific.
Three days before Christmas 1943, William Ward Burrows, escorted by PC-549 and PC-596, departed Pearl Harbor with a cargo of ammunition. She traveled via Palmyra and American Samoa—transferring mail to PC-596 on 30 December to deliver it to the port of Tutuila. The transport ultimately arrived at Havannah Harbor, Efate, at 0847 on 5 January 1944 and moored alongside the battleship Alabama (BB- 60). After working cargo on board the battleship between 6 and 11 January, she proceeded to Espiritu Santo, where she discharged cargo between the 13th and 15th.
Proceeding thence to Funafuti, in the Ellice Islands, the ship remained at that port for two days before she set her course toward Pearl Harbor and arrived there on 28 January. After repairs, the transport made two more voyages to Midway Island—completing the second on 29 April—before she became the flagship of Service Squadron (ServRon) 12.
ServRon 12—dubbed "the harbor stretchers"—was a harbor development and salvage unit whose job was to clear harbors in the forward areas, making it possible to berth shins and bring supplies to the front-line areas at the earliest possible moment. Commanded by Capt. (later Commodore) Leon S. Fiske, ServRon 12 would play a part in the stepping-stone advance that eventually carried American forces to the Japanese home islands themselves.
Underway on 16 May—in company with Boreas (AF-8), Fortune ( IX-46), Triumph ( AM-323), and Vigilance (AM-324)William Ward Burrows dropped anchor at Majuro lagoon in the Marshalls, on the 25th. Two days later, she shifted to Kwajalein, where she served into mid-July.
The flagship of ServRon 12 departed Kwajalein on 15 July, bound for Eniwetok. She sailed in company with her former running-mate and sister ship Bow. ditch (the erstwhile Grace Liner Santa Inez) (AG~ 4), and escorted by Bancroft (DD-598), their courses set for the Marianas.
On the 21st, lookouts in the ship sighted starsheD and heard the sound of heavy gunfire from Saipan— probably the mopping-up operations by the American forces ashore, since organized Japanese resistance on Saipan had ceased on the 9th. William Ward Burrows passed near Tinian on the 22d, observing from closehand the preparatory bombardments paving the way for the landing of Major General Harry Schmidt's marines that would follow two days later. Late on the 23d William Ward Burrows dropped anchor in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan where she became a base of operations for the harbor development unit and immediately begaa salvage and harbor development operations, providing
water and stores to the various ships assigned to ServRon 12 as well as small craft from other units.
Her stay at Saipan was not without incident. On 30 July, shortly after midnight, a tremendous explosion rocked the area; the concussion from the blast blew in the plywood light shields at the William Ward Burrowe' hatches facing the island. Japanese infiltrators had detonated a cache of 84 tons of dynamite. Boats from the ship put out to investigate but could only ascertain that damage to the dump had been done and the guards had disappeared, probably killed in the blast.
The following morning, William Ward Burrows disembarked a detachment of four officers and 180 enlisted men of Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) ("Seabees") 301 to continue harbor development work at Saipan and stood out of Tanapag Harbor, bound for newly conquered Guam in company with Vega (AK17), Agenor (ARL-3), LST-431, and escorted by the destroyers Stockham (DD-683) and Tisdale (DE-33). After a one-day passage, William Ward Burrows dropped anchor at Apra Harbor and began unloading salvage equipment. Soon various barges and other salvage craft were operating from alongside the transport which supplied them with water and stores as they worked on local harbor development tasks.
Commodore William M. Quigley, the new Deputy Commander, Forward Area, and his staff reported aboard on 18 August. The ship's force immediately began constructing a wooden addition to the communication office on the promenade deck, port side. In addition, a voice radio and operations office was built on the port side of the gun deck. These alterations were made to help the ship fill her new role as the ship in which the Senior Officer Present, Afloat, (SOPA) was embarked.
William Ward Burrows soon resumed her work as base ship for harbor operations at Apra Harbor. She again supplied various ships and small craft with stores and water, until she detected a leak in one of her fresh water tanks. After patient searching, the ship's force found the affected area and soon repaired it. Shortly thereafter, Commodore Qulgley and his staff disembarked and set up shop in the repair ship Luzon (ARG-2).
William Ward Burrows next embarked seabees and their equipment and took on board a cargo of dynamite that partially filled one of her holds. She continued the loading evolution until 2 October when she got underway in company with her escort, Caravan (AM-157). Soon after they cleared the harbor, the barometer began dropping steadily—a sign of an impending typhoon.
The storm developed throughout the night and struck with full force the next morning. William Ward Burrows plunged through the tempest, "like a sailboat between two mountains of water," as the ships' historian later recounted. During the morning, hands in the transport estimated that the wind velocity was at least 85 knots. Fortunately, William Ward Burrows suffered little damage—one life raft lost over the side—and she and Caravan continued their voyage. On 4 October, they joined Hydrographer (AGS-2), ARD-16, and Pakana (ATF-108).
Altering course toward Ulithi Atoll, William Ward Burrows effected the necessary minor repairs to the storm damage suffered in the typhoon before she again got underway on 9 October, bound for her original destination, the Palaus. She hove to off Peleliu and unloaded her cargo into amphibious trucks (DUKW's) and her dynamite cargo into an LCT.
Five days after her arrival, William Ward Burrows shifted to a position between the islands of Bairakaseru and Garakayo, where she lay to, while a survey boat from NCB-301 took soundings of a nearby inlet in preparation for anchoring ARD-16. The transport eventually moved to a spot between Angaur and Peleliu and hove to for the night. During her stay in the Palaus, several air alerts occurred, giving all hands some anxious hours; but the transport never sighted any enemy aircraft and continued her support duties, transferring navigational gear and buoys to Papaw (WLB-308).
Departing Peleliu on 23 October, William Ward Burrows headed back to the Marianas to resume her flagship duties for ServRon 12. En route, Caravan—again her ocean escort—made a contact on what she believed was an enemy submarine and made one attack. However, she lost the contact and eventually rejoined her charge and shepherded the transport safely back to Guam.
William Ward Burrows operated at Guam into the spring of 1945. Getting underway for the Ryukyus on 30 May, in the wake of the invasion of Okinawa, William Ward Burrows—escorted by Sustain (AM-119)— reached that island on 3 June and entered Buckner Bay. As she steamed to her assigned anchorage, the transport came under attack from a solitary "Jill" that roared down out of the clouds. Immediately, the ships in the anchorage blanketed the sky with antiaircraft fire and sent the "Jill" crashing about 1,000 yards from Burrows' anchorage. This proved to be only the first of almost continuous air raid "flash" alerts that would characterize the ship's sojourn in Okinawan waters. Five days later, she observed a kamikaze crash the fast minelayer J. Willuam Ditter (DM-31), four miles away.
At 1908 on 11 June, the transport—at general quarters and "on the lookout for low-flying bogies"—sighted a "Jill" or "Sonia" off her port side at 1,500 feet. The transport and all of the other ships in the area immediately opened fire, "engulfing the plane and vicinity with tracer fire and shell bursts." The plane roared past William Ward Burrows, Bowditch, an LSD, and a "Liberty" ship, making a banking turn over the nearby Katsuren Hanto peninsula, and crashed at 1911, about 700 yards astern of Burrows.
The following day, the transport moved to the Yonabaru anchorage and began unloading equipment for the Seabee unit that had begun to establish camps on the beach. Air alerts continued almost ceaselessly, day or night, but unloading operations proceeded regardless.
After that period of work offshore, William Ward Burrows got underway and proceeded to Chimu Wan, an anchorage on the northward side of Buckner Bay, and dropped anchor there on 2 July. However, twice after the ship reached that body of water, typhoons nearby forced her to get underway to seek maneuvering room in the open sea. On 19 July, for example, she sortied with LST group 35—16 LST's and two LCM's —and remained at sea until the morning of the 21st. Air alerts, too, continued to make life hectic almost until the end, but Japan—worn down by ceaseless Allied pressure, particularly from American seapower —indicated a willingness to surrender and accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration on 15 August.
But for William Ward Burrows, however, the cessation of hostilities did not mean an end to the ship's work. The veteran transport participated in the occupation of the erstwhile enemy's homeland, continuing her vital support role between 2 September 1945 and 26 January 1946. During that time, she successfully weathered another major typhoon in September of 1945 without suffering major damage.
Her task completed in the Far East, William Ward Burrows sailed for the United States in the spring of 1946. She reported to Commandant, 13th Naval District, for disposition on 17 March 1946 and was decommissioned on 16 May of the same year. Struck from the Navy list on 15 August 1946, William Ward Burrows was delivered to the War Shipping Administration, Maritime Commission, and simultaneously delivered to the Commission's reserve fleet for lay up. She remained in reserve until she was sold in 1957 and scrapped.