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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Pierce

 

Counties in Georgia, Nebraska, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin.

 

(APA-50: displacement 13,910; 1ength 459'3"; beam 63'0"; draft 24'; speed 16 knots; complement 521; troop capacity 1,565; armament (February 1945) 2 5", 8 1.1", 24 20-millimeter; class Ormsby; type C2-S-B1)

 

Pierce (APA-50) was laid down as Northern Light (MC Hull No. 289) by Moore Dry Dock Co., Oakland, Calif. on 22 July 1942; launched on 10 October 1942; and commissioned on 30 June 1943, Comdr. A. R. Ponto in command.

 

After a brief shakedown period, Pierce sailed for Hawaii to join the Fifth Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet. Immediately upon arrival at Pearl Harbor, the ship received assignment to a transport division and two weeks of intensive training in amphibious warfare and gunnery. Following a dress rehearsal, Pierce sailed as a unit of the task force assigned to capture and occupy Makin, in the Gilbert Islands.

 

Off the western end of Makin, 20 November 1943, Pierce conducted her first assault landing.

With Makin secured, Pierce's boats and tank landing ships brought the weary soldiers of the 27th Army Division back to the ship. Returning to Pearl Harbor on 2 December 1943, the transport discharged her troops and spent the next week overhauling equipment and boats. She was occupied for the ensuing five weeks off Maui, T.H., training some 200 officers and 4,000 enlisted men of the Army and Marine Corps in the art of amphibious warfare.

 

Carrying men of the 7th Army Division, Pierce got underway for Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands on 22 January 1944. Kwajalein's capture, following the same pattern as that of Makin only on a much larger scale, was achieved within a week. During the night of 3 February, Pierce sent five boats to one of the smaller islands to evacuate approximately 150 Army troops trapped by the enemy. Under enemy fire, the boats were loaded with troops and returned through the reef to the lagoon.

 

Upon departure from Kwajalein on 8 February 1944, Pierce proceeded to the Naval Repair Base, San Diego, Calif. for overhaul. On 14 March, she commenced the training of three landing teams of the 81st Army Division, operating off Coronado Strand, San Clemente Island, and Aliso Canyon, Calif., over the next six weeks.

 

Once again, on 1 May 1944, Pierce sailed again for Pearl Harbor, this time to exercise a battalion landing team of the 4th Marines. All preparations being completed, the ship stood out of Pearl Harbor on 29 May and joined other units of the task force enroute to Saipan, in the Marianas. Pierce, as a combat loaded assault transport, was a unit of the Northern Attack Group and was assigned the mission of landing assault troops and equipment in the vicinity of Charan Kanoa, Saipan. Pierce completed the unloading of all assault troops and their equipment on15 June. Enemy activity lessened after two hours and Pierce was ordered to close the reef to receive casualties and discharge cargo.

 

After retiring for the night the ship returned to Saipan and stood in to the line of departure south of Charan Kanoa to receive casualties, which were taken on board until the sick bay facilities were taxed to the utmost. Two hundred forty-nine casualties were received aboard in less than three hours. That afternoon Pierce fired forty-eight rounds of 5-inch projectiles, silencing two mortar positions in the hills.

 

On the next day, 17 June 1944, Army artillery aboard was dispatched ashore. At sunset, Pierce underwent the usual two hour air attack. Due to the proximity of the Japanese fleet she retired to the northeast of Saipan leaving an imposing force of U.S. heavy ships between herself and the enemy fleet. She returned to Saipan on Friday of that week and by Saturday had completed unloading and transferring casualties to two hospital ships. That evening she departed for Eniwetok amidst an air attack. After standing by on call for a week she reached Pearl Harbor 20 July.

 

For the next three weeks Pierce made repairs, trained troops of the 81st Army Division, and enjoyed a brief breather from forward area activities. On 12 August 1944, Pierce sailed with a task force to Guadalcanal, which was reached the 24th. After two rehearsals at Guadalcanal she departed for the assault on Angaur in the Palau Islands. In the Palau Islands on the morning of 15 September, while the 1st Marines landed on the island of Peleliu, Pierce in company with the Angaur Attack Force made a diversionary feint along the east coast of Babelthuap Island, keeping out of range of shore batteries. The invasion of Angaur commenced two days later. Upon completion of the unloading Pierce went to Manus, Admiralty Islands, which she reached on 28 September.

 

By 8 October 1944, Pierce had embarked men of the 1st Cavalry Division and loaded their equipment. After staging a rehearsal landing, the task force of which Pierce was a unit sailed on 12 October for the initial assault on Leyte, in the Philippines. She reached Leyte Island on the morning of 20 October after passing through enemy mine fields in Surigao Strait. Movement to the objective proved uneventful. Evening found the ship underway standing out through mine fields to the open sea. On 23 October, she lay anchored in Kossol Passage, Palau Islands.

 

On 28 October 1944, the ship began a long tour of Pacific outposts, stopping first at Guam, Marianas to load personnel and equipment of the 77th Division and sailing from there to Noumea, New Caledonia. Orders were changed enroute on 11 November and she headed west to Manus.

 

Two days later Pierce set sail for Leyte. She was quietly unloading on 24 November 1944, off Taraguna, Leyte when three enemy planes attacked and were shot down. The emptied Pierce sailed that day to Hollandia, New Guinea, which she reached 29 November.

 

There followed two weeks of repairs and rest in Hollandia, after which Pierce departed for Sansapor, New Guinea. At that base she loaded personnel and equipment of the 6th Army Division, practiced landing operations and spent Christmas. Early on 30 December 1944, Pierce shot down one enemy plane. That afternoon, she sailed from Sansapor with a task group bound for the initial assault on Luzon, Philippine Islands, at Lingayen Gulf. The trip was not without excitement as each dawn and dusk brought enemy planes over the disposition, but no hits were scored on Pierce.

 

With the exception of one group of enemy planes the approach into Lingayen Gulf on the morning of 9 January 1945 went off without interference. Unloading was progressing when an enemy plane came out of the sun unobserved and attempted to glide bomb Pierce, but he let loose his ordnance too soon and it fell abreast the port side of No. 5 hatch, demolishing one of the ship's boats lying nearby and killing two men.

 

Next the ship embarked soldiers and loaded equipment of the 38th Army Division, conducted a rehearsal landing, and sailed again for Luzon, this time to take part in the initial assault on beaches near the town of LaPaz, north of Subic Bay. The whole operation proved uneventful, and instead of enemy opposition at the beachhead only friendly natives were present. She returned to Leyte for repairs and spent most of February 1945 unloading merchant ships.

 

Men and equipment of the 7th Army Division were taken on board by 10 March 1945 After the usual rehearsal, Pierce departed Leyte with a task group amidst high seas and headed for Okinawa Jima, Nansei Shoto. Except for aircraft which appeared in the vicinity only to be promptly shot down, the trip was uneventful. Pierce stood into the transport area off Okinawa on the morning of 1 April. As the ship was retiring for the night Japanese planes got through the combat air patrol, one kamikaze crashing into a transport about 800 yards on Pierce's starboard beam. On the following day, she continued unloading, then retired for the night and completed unloading the next day. On 5 April, Pierce was ordered to sail with other unloaded transports to Guam, whence she continued on to California.

 

During the next ten weeks the ship was overhauled in San Francisco. Pierce then went to San Diego for refresher training. While the ship was again enroute to the war zone, with Eniwetok only a few hundred miles away, she receiued the electrifying "cease all offensive operations" message on 15 August 1945. Pausing in the Philippines, Pierce continued on to the Japanese home islands and to Korea for occupation duty. She returned to San Francisco on 13 November, only to put to sea again on the 30th, bound for Manila.

 

At Manila (19-23 December 1945) the transport embarked homeward-bound veterans, then crossed the Pacific, reaching San Francisco on 11 January 1946. She departed on 21 January, transited the Panama Canal and arrived at New Orleans on 6 February.

Decommissioned at Mobile, Ala., on 11 March 1946, Pierce was stricken from the Navy List on 17 April 1946 and delivered to the Maritime Commission for further disposal on 2 May 1946. She was sold to her former owner 28 July 1947.

 

Pierce received six battle stars for her World War II service.