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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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John Land

 

A Maritime Commission name retained, referring to a famous 19th-century clipper-ship captain.

 

(AP-167: displacement 6,556; length 459'2"; beam 63'; draft 23'; speed 17 knots; complement 276; armament 1 5-inch gun, 4 3-inch guns, 12 20mm.; class La Salle; T. C2-S-B1)


John Land (AP-167) was laid down on 14 November 1942 at the Moore Dry Dock Co. Oakland, Calif.; launched under Maritime Commission contract on 22 January 1943; sponsored by Miss Mary K. Tyler; delivered in August 1943 for conversion at United Engineering Co., San Francisco; accepted by the Navy and simultaneously commissioned at San Francisco 8 April 1944, Captain Frederick A. Graf in command.


One of the many Maritime Commission ships used by the Navy under Bareboat Charter in World War II, John Land departed San Francisco on 25 April with 1,523 sailors and marines for passage to Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 2 May. After joining Transport Division 30, Fifth Amphibious Force, the transport shifted to Kahului, Hawaii, on the 8th to embark Fourth Marine Division support troops. She then conducted a week of rehearsals off Maui and Kahoolawe between 14-19 May before loading stores and fuel at Pearl Harbor.


Assigned to Task Force 52 for Operation Forager, John Land got underway for the liberation of the Marianas on 29 May 1944. She joined TG 52.15 during a brief provisioning stop at Eniwetok on 9-10 June, but was then transferred to TG 52.9 (demonstration group) while en route to Saipan. Arriving off Saipan early on D-day, 15 June, the transport helped conduct a feint landing off Garapan that day before sending her boats to assist Calvert (AP-65) and Fuller (AP-14) unload their assault troops. At 1621 that afternoon, six John Land LCMs carried her first passengers ashore, a weapons company of the 24th Marines. Her guns then helped fend off an evening raid by Japanese aircraft. As the main landing progressed, the ship continued operations in the transport area, assisting other ships and unloading troops as called for on 16-17 June. Late on the 17th the transports retired northeast of Saipan as a Japanese carrier task force closed to contest the landings, ultimately fighting and losing a two-day battle against American forces in the Philippine Sea on 18-19 June. John Land returned to the now safe transport area to unload cargo on 23 June, a task completed three days later. During the latter stages off the island the transport received 93 casualties from the beach, many directed to her as hospital ships Relief (AH-1) and Samaritan (AH-10) were fullof wounded and had turned away boats.


After retiring from the island on the evening of the 26th, John Land arrived at Eniwetok on 30 June.

The crew helped transfer wounded to hospitals there before mooring alongside Hector (AR-7) for two weeks of boiler repairs. The troopship then got underway for Saipan on 15 July 1944 to embark troops for the Tinian invasion, the next objective of the Marianas operation. John Land loaded 850 officers and men from 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, on 20-21 July before conducting another landing feint off Tinian town on the 24th. The marines did not spend too long at sea, however, as John Land's boats brought put them ashore on Tinian the next day. Returning to Saipan, the transport received 122 casualties for evacuation and carried many of them to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, via Eniwetok, as the hospitals at the latter atoll were overloaded. While en route, BM2c John D. DeLucca died of wounds received on Tinian. The transport anchored in Segund Channel there on 9 August and debarked her passengers.


Reporting to Transport Division 24, 3d Fleet, John Land provisioned at Espiritu Santo before sailing north to the Russel Islands, arriving there via Guadalcanal on 17 August 1944. She then loaded 1,219 men from 2d battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, and conducted rehearsals for the upcoming Palau landings off Cape Esperance on 26-29 August. Assigned to TG 32.17, she sailed from Guadalcanal on 8 September, arriving in transport area one off Peleliu on 15 September. She sent her troops ashore in boat waves 11-16 that afternoon and then spent the next five days unloading cargo as required and using boats to retrieve casualties. On 22 September, John Land got underway for Hollandia, New Guinea, with 34 casualties embarked and arrived alongside Comfort (AH-6) in that port on the 26th. She then received five days of power plant repairs alongside Aquarius (AKA-16).


During the first two weeks of October 1944, John Land loaded provisions as well as troops of the 24th Division, U.S. Army. The crew then secured a radio broadcasting truck on deck and, on the 13th, helped embark Phillippine President Sergio Osmeña and nine members of his cabinet and staff. Assigned to Admiral Barbey's Palo Attack Group, John Land sailed for the Philippines that same day, entering Leyte Gulf without incident on 20 October. After anchoring in the transport area, the radio truck went ashore in an LCM while an LCVP embarked General MacArthur's party from Nashville (CL-43). At 1320, the LCVP, with Gen. MacArthur on board, came alongside for President Osmeña and his party, carrying them to the beaches for their historic radio broadcast to the Philippine people. At 1840 that evening, John Land departed for Hollandia, where she arrived 25 October.


After taking on additional stores and fuel, the troopship embarked troops from the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, 32d Division, U.S. Army, and got underway in formation for Leyte on 9 November 1944. On the night of the 13th the task group was attacked by a lone enemy aircraft, which dropped a torpedo that missed Catskill (AP-106) before the plane was splashed by anti-aircraft guns from multiple ships, including John Land. Anchoring in San Pedro Bay on the 14th, her boats unloaded all troops by that afternoon and the transport retired to Manus, arriving there on 20 November.


Again assigned to Admiral Barbey's assault force, the troop ship steamed to Aitape, New Guinea, where she loaded elements of the 3d Battalion Landing Team, 172d Infantry Regiment, 43d Division, U.S. Army. Getting underway on 28 December 1944, John Land rendezvoused with other warships in Leyte Gulf and proceeded through the Philippines to Lingayan Gulf. While en route, her crew witnessed a Japanese fighter splashed by ship gunfire at 1822 on 7 January 1945 and, later that evening, heard over the radio net as three American destroyers sank Japanese destroyer Hinoki some 15 miles to starboard. The transport arrived off the San Fabian beaches on the morning of 9 January and quickly debarked her troops in LCMs and LCVPs. In the afternoon she anchored 7,000 yards offshore to more quickly unload cargo, completing that task the following day. She remained there, proving boat services as well as refueling small craft, until returning to Leyte Gulf on the 13th. After provisioning, John Land sailed south to Biak, New Guinea, where she embarked elements of the 41st Division, U.S. Army, between 23-31 January. At sea on 2 February, the troop ship sailed to Mangarin Bay, Mindoro, where all passengers and cargo went ashore on the 9th. She then steamed to Leyte Gulf to unload excess stores, and transfer her port anchor and 90 fathoms of chain to Starlight (AP-175), before sailing east to Ulithi, arriving there on 18 February.


John Land loaded cargo and supplies in the anchorage at Ulithi until 5 March 1945, when she got underway with Task Unit 12.6.1. The ships sailed north and west to Iwo Jima, arriving off that island four days later. After waiting in the transport holding area for nine days she discharged cargo on 19-20 March, a task that took longer than expected owing to heavy seas. The ship then loaded elements of the 5th Marine Division, comprising 1,148 officers and men, between 21-26 March before sailing for Hawaii two days later. Arriving at Hilo, via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, on 15 April, the ship disembarked her passengers before sailing east the next day, arriving in San francisco on the 22d.


The transport shifted to Oakland two days later, where John Land received an overhaul at Moore Drydock & Shipbuilding Co., through 22 June 1945. Over the next week the ship took on 1,469 U.S. Army troops for transport to the war zone. The Navy crew quickly discovered the disorganized nature of their passengers when no cooks or bakers appeared to provide meals for the Army replacements. The ten Navy cooks were hard pressed to pick up the slack, a tense situation made worde by the rumor that the Army replacements were actually paroled prisoners, free only because they'd volunteered for war service. Despite the resulting friction, the transport carried the troops to the Philippines, via Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok and Ulithi, without incident, arriving in Manila on 26 July. With passengers and cargo unloaded by 3 August, the transport embarked 187 mostly Navy passengers and sailed for Hawaii, mooring in Pearl harbor on 17 August, two days after the Japanese armistice.


After provisioning, loading cargo and embarking 963 soldiers from the 98th Regiment, U.S. Army, from Hickam Field wharf, John Land sailed for Japan on 7 September 1945, arriving at Wakayama, via Saipan, on 27 September. With the troops disembarked two days later, John Land immediately began Operation "Magic Carpet" duties, loading some of the hundreds of thousands of Pacific veterans headed home to the United States. With some 1,733 passengers embarked at both Wakayama and Guam, the transport sailed for home with all possible speed, arriving at San Pedro on 21 October. She sailed again seven days later, this time loaded with 1,006 Construction Battalion (Seabees) troops, who were brought to Guam on 12 November. Taking on 1,828 passengers at Tinian on the 15th, she sailed home for the last time the following day, arriving in San Francisco on 29 November.


John Land made three more "Magic-Carpet" voyages to the western Pacific over the next six months. The first, begun 14 December 1945 when she sailed for Noumea took her to the South Pacific, where she found no passengers available, before moving on to Manila to pick up troops on 15 January 1946. She returned to San Francisco on 16 February. Her second voyage took place between 15 March, when she sailed for Manila, and 28 April upon her return to San Francisco. She repeated that round trip again between 8 May and 21 June.



John Land (AP-167) at San Francisco c. 1945-46, her decks full of returning servicemen.


Released from service by the Naval Transportation Service that same day, John Land sailed to Seattle, Washington, arriving there on 5 July. She was decommissioned at Seattle on 5 August and was returned to the Maritime Commission the next day. Eventually sold to Waterman Steamship Co., where she served in merchant service as Jeff Davis, the ship underwent various changes of name and ownership (sold and renamed Sea Comet II in 1953; sold to Grace Lines in 1957 and renamed Santa Regina; sold in 1961 and renamed African Gulf; sold to Liberty Navigation in 1963 and renamed Norberto Capay) before finally sold for scrap in 1968 as part of bankruptcy proceedings.


John Land received five battle stars for World War II service.

Revised 08 February 2008, Dr. Timothy L. Francis