Robert Alfred Belet--born on 6 August 1914 at Blairstown, N.J.--first enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1937 at New York City and then reenlisted on 22 January 1941. Belet served at Parris Island, S.C.; Quantico, Va.; Washington, D.C.; and New River, N.C., before moving to the Pacific combat zone on 19 June 1942. As a member of the 1st Signal Co.,1st Marine Division, in the Solomon Islands, Master Technical Sergeant Belet was at Guadalcanal on the night of 9 and 10 August 1942, during operations against Japanese forces. Without regard for his own safety, Belet supervised the repair of a communications wire in the face of persistent enemy fire. His courageous leadership contributed to the restoration of the vital communication circuit; and, for this action, he was awarded the Silver Star.
Master Sergeant Belet was later killed in action at Guadalcanal on 12 September 1942.
(APD 109: dp. 2,130 (lim.); l. 306'; b. 37'; dr. 12'7"; s. 23.6 k. (tl.); cpl. 204; trp. 162; a. 1 5", 6 40mm.; cl. Crosley)
Belet (APD 109) was laid down as DE 599 on 29 March 1943 at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 3 March 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Eleanor J. Belet, the widow of Master Technical Sergeant Belet; reclassified a high speed transport and redesignated APD 109 on 17 July; and commissioned on 15 June 1945, Lt. Comdr. Albert P. Merrill in command.
After taking on stores, the new high speed transport got underway on 3 July for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for four weeks of shakedown training. Following shakedown, despite rumors of peace, she stood out of Norfolk on 13 August with a full load of passengers, bound for the Pacific theater. While at sea, the ship received the news of Japan's capitulation, but she continued on to San Diego where she arrived on 27 August.
The war's end did not cancel her voyage to the central Pacific. On 1 September, she departed San Diego and set course for the Mariana Islands. The high speed transport stopped at Pearl Harbor only long enough to take on fuel and provisions and then touched briefly at Eniwetok Atoll before arriving at Saipan on the 17th. Belet operated out of Saipan shuttling troops as needed and providing escort and lifeguard services. She left the Marianas on 8 October and headed for occupation duty in Japan. On 11 October, Belet relieved USCGC Taney as port director ship at Wakayama, Japan. The high speed transport remained at this station until ordered stateside in December.
On her homeward voyage, she carried returning servicemen into San Diego in January 1946 and was then ordered back to the east coast. Following repairs at the Boston Navy Yard, Belet steamed to Green Cove Springs, Fla., for inactivation. She was decommissioned on 22 May 1946 and mothballed with the Green Cove Springs group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. After almost three decades in reserve, she was declared excess to the needs of the Navy, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 12 December 1963. Sold to Mexico, she became H 3 and was later renamed California (B 3). She ran aground on Bahia Peninsula on 16 January 1972, broadside to the beach, and was judged unsalvageable. Abandoned, the hulk broke up on the rocks.
Mary P. Walker
23 February 2006