U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program
U.S. Army FS-184
Pacific Theater, World War II
Narrated by Hank Rodgers, Jr. QM1, USCG, Retired
Date: 23 May 1995
The Coast Guard-manned Army supply vessel FS-177, a sister ship to the FS-184 that petty officer Hank Rogers served on the the Pacific. The famous movie Mister Roberts revolved around life on a FS craft.
This is a story about the U.S. Army Manned Detachment, which was Coast Guard-manned and we were part of the Army Transportation Corps. These were all Army ships that were manned by Coast Guard personnel.
This is the story of one of those ships, the U.S. Army FS-184. The "FS" stands for freight and supply. Now, this was changed later on, after the ships were built. They were originally called "FPs" – freight and personnel – but we carried very little personnel and in only one operation did we carry personnel which was the Tulagi operation which will be related later on.
The 184 was built by Higgins Shipyard in New Orleans, Louisiana, and it was built in 1944. The crew went aboard the end of July of 1944. Within ten days we were in commission, crewed, loaded, and proceeding on our way to San Pedro, California via the Panama Canal with stops in Panama City, Panama, Acapulco, Mexico, and then our destination, which was San Pedro, California.
Upon arriving in California, we were put into dry dock and had a bottom job done over again and we also had another camouflage paint job done on the hull of the vessel. We then changed cargoes and were ready to proceed within another week to ten days – ready to go.
We left San Pedro in the first part of September of 1944, proceeded to Pearl Harbor, and that time we were there just to unload and load and take on water and move out again and within two days to three days we were again heading South. We left and went the the Solomon Islands where we had to take on water at a placed called Funa Futi, and again we were loaded and overnight took on water and left the next day. We also had mail on board which we had to drop off at Guadalcanal for the troops there. We proceeded to Guadalcanal and we anchored and were there overnight and after dropping off the mail and taking on a few stores, we were then proceeding to Moratai, where we reported to the Army Transportation Corps, the headquarters there, and we were under operational control of the Army at that time, the port director, and so forth.
We operated all this time under the Army, carrying supplies, over, above, anywhere it was needed.
This vessel has been classified as a coastal freighter, but as you can see, that is not the case. This vessel, the 184 in particular, crossed the Equator something like 14 times and we have more or less shown that this is more than just a coastal freighter and that is just a misnomer I guess you call.
The operation that I really want to get to was in January of 1945. Leading up to that time, we had taken on stores in different places up through the New Guinea landing coast, the Halma Hera Group off New Guinea, all those islands, and under different times, under air attacks at one place in Morati, but of course we had no loss of life, so we really didn’t have any really bad situations until we got to the Nasugbu operation.
We were sent to Tacloban, Leyte. At that time, the Spencer was over in the corner of the cove. She was the command ship. The 184 – we started taking on ammunition as a support group for the 11th Airborne Division for the air drop at Nasugbu operation and we also had another FS with us, the 309.
Now, the 309 took on engineering because they were going to put a dock up there and some other stuff for the combat engineers. We were in company, each one of us towing an LCVP because we didn’t know exactly what we were going to run into once we got to Nasugbu. We were supposed to have native labor waiting for us to unload the vessel, but as it turned out, that wasn’t the case at all, and, of course, the troops which were engaged with the Japanese about two miles up the beach, they had their hands full. So, we unloaded our own cargo once we got there, but, of course, our biggest concern was the Japanese Q-boats and, of course, as anyone that’s been in this situation knows, the Japanese Q-boats are the waterborne brothers of the kamikaze. They are loaded with TNT in their bows and they seek out a vessel and they blow them out of the water if they can.
Well, when the 309 found out that the 184 had ammo on board, they hoisted their anchor and went over to the far side of the cove to get away from us so that in the event of an attack that they would have a little protection. Once we unloaded the cargo of ammo we had on board, to the tune of 60 tons, we got a new cargo put on board for transport--dead American paratroopers. We returned with these dead paratroopers to Tacloban, Leyte, for air transportation back to Finchaven, New Guinea for the graves people at that location. It wasn't very pleasant to do. But we got it done. This was something like six weeks of resupply between Tacloban and Nasugbu.
The 309, however, stayed in that cove. She had stayed overnight. Well, unluckily the next day she got hit with a Q-boat. There was no loss of life. There was some structural damage – not much, mostly sand and water into the stern and the lazaretto, back on the after part of the vessel, but luckily they had foreseen putting a protective device around the hull of the vessel which has been documented in the Coast Guard Manual of World War II.
But, it was an operation that was carried out by ten FS’s and I am including three Letters of Commendation from the Coast Guard, the Army Manned Detachment in the Philippines whereas the 11th Airborne was at that time presented the Presidential Unit Citation and we were recommended for it, but, of course, being an Army award we were disallowed, so I am just sending these along as a matter of information.
That’s my story and I hope that it will be published and anybody who is interested in Coast Guard history will be able to someday read about these little know facts.