Remi August Balduck, born in Detroit, Mich., on 30 March 1918, enlisted in the Marine Corps at Detroit on 4 September 1940 and commenced "boot camp" training at Parris Island, S.C., two days later. Assigned to the Marine Barracks at the Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Va., on 3 November 1940, he received promotion to private, 1st class, on 13 June 1941. Reassigned to the Marine Barracks at New River, N.C., on 28 September 1941, Balduck was ultimately assigned to the 7th Marine Regiment, Ist Marine Division, and sailed for the South Pacific on 8 May 1942.
Promoted to corporal on 6 June 1942, Balduck landed with the 7th Marines on Guadalcanal on 18 September 1942 as that regiment reinforced Marine Corps units already there in the bitter struggle for that island. Assigned to Company "G," 2d Battalion, he took part in one of the short, sharp encounters with the Japanese near Koli Point, five miles east of Lunga. On 9 November 1942, although normally a squad leader, Cpl. Balduck spearheaded his platoon in a frontal assault on a Japanese position, and suffered a fatal wound just as he threw a hand grenade at the enemy. For his "relentless fighting spirit," maintained in utter disregard for his own safety and for the extraordinary heroism that showed, Balduck was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.
Balduck (DE-716) was laid down on 17 June 1944 at Bay City, Mich., by the Defoe Shipbuilding Co.; reclassified a high speed transport, APD-132 on 17 July 1944; launched on Navy Day, 27 October 1944: sponsored by Mrs. Mary Verhougstraete, the mother of the late Cpl. Balduck; and commissioned at New Orleans, La., on 7 May 1945, Lt. Robert T. Newell, USNR, in command.
After fitting out, Balduck sailed for Cuba on 21 May 1945 and, there, conducted a three-week shakedown out of Guantanamo Bay. From there, she sailed to Norfolk, whence she carried out an additional week of training before undergoing post-shakedown availability at the Norfolk Navy Yard. Departing Norfolk on 2 July 1945 with 130 passengers embarked, Balduck transited the Panama Canal on 7 July, and pushed on for California the following day. She reached San Diego on 16 July, and operated out of that port through the first week of August. The high speed transport then took part in exercises off Oceanside, Calif., before sailing for "points west" on 16 August 1945 with Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) 23 embarked. After touching at Pearl Harbor and Eniwetok an route, she reached Okinawa on 3 September.
Balduck sailed for Korean waters soon thereafter, and supported the landing of occupation troops of the 7th Infantry Division at Jinsen (Inchon) Korea, and Tsingtao, China, that fall. Balduck, having operated principally as an escort vessel during this time, received orders directing her home to the United States on 19 October 1945. After steaming via Guam, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor, Balduck arrived at San Diego on 7 December 1945 and reported for duty with the Western Sea Frontier and the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Forces. She operated briefly between San Diego and San Pedro until ordered, on 15 January 1946, to report to the 19th Fleet for inactivation. Reporting as ordered on 24 January, Balduck was placed "out of commission, in reserve," on 31 May 1946.
Towed to San Pedro by Koka (ATA-185) in January 1949, the ship apparently underwent an overhaul at that port until March, when she was towed back to San Diego by Koka. With the expansion of the Navy occasioned by the Korean War, however, Balduck was recommissioned at San Diego on 5 November 1953, Lt. Comdr. Carl E. Olson in command, and reported for duty with the Pacific Fleet on 30 November.
Balduck sailed for the western Pacific (WestPac) on 2 September 1954; and, after touching at Pearl Harbor and Midway, she reached Yokosuka on 20 September. Balduck arrived in Asia in the wake of the Viet Minh victory over the French in Indochina in the spring of 1954. The partition of Vietnam into North and South in the Geneva accords which ended the Indochina War, had triggered an exodus southward from North Vietnam of those who did not wish to live under communist domination. A little less than a month before Balduck had sailed for her first WestPac tour, on 7 August 1954, in response to French requests that the United States assist in transporting refugees to the south, Admiral Robert B. Carney, the Chief of Naval Operations, had directed implementation of a plan which would become known as "Passage to Freedom." As this massive movement of people and their belongings proceeded apace, Balduck cleared Yokosuka on the morning of 5 October 1954, bound for Indochina.
After altering course en route to avoid Typhoon "Nancy" on 9 and 10 October, the high speed transport anchored at Subic Bay on the 11th, where she fueled from Chemung (AO-30). Underway the following morning, Balduck reached Henriette Pass, off the Gulf of Tonkin, at 1427 an the 14th, and fueled from Cimarron (AO-23) upon her arrival. Pushing on for Haiphong on the 15th, she reached her destination and moored alongside Begor (APD-127) at 1044. That same day, Commander, Amphibious Squadron (ComPhibRon) 5, Capt. Walter C. Winn, transferred his broad pennant from Begor to Balduck. He was relieved by Comdr. J. A. Davis as Commander, Task Group (TG) 90.8 on 26 October. On 5 November, ComPhibRon 1, Capt. N. J. Frank, Jr., broke his pennant in Balduck.
Balduck remained at Haiphong as ComPhibRon 1 flagship into January 1955. Outside of moving to Henriette Pass to fuel from USNS Marine Lynx (T-AP-194) on 23 November, thrice visiting the Rade de Crapaud roadstead, off the Red River Delta, to fuel from USNS General R. L. Howze (T-AP-134), and briefly visiting Saigon in December 1954, the high speed transport lay moored in the Song Han River the entire time.
Several incidents, though, highlighted her sojourn there: on the morning of 20 October, shortly after Balduck had arrived in Haiphong, a party of her men, along with some from Estes (AGC-12) and Calvert (APA-35), manned the winches and holds of one of the ships being used in the evacuation, Culukundis, and commenced loading the cargo of vehicles earmarked for transportation in that vessel. They completed the task the following day.
On 15 November, Balduck called away her fire and rescue party to render assistance to a burning sampan that lay upriver from the ship's moorings. On 22 December, at 1229 a Vietnamese sampan exploded and burned 1,000 yards off the high speed transpart's starboard beam; Balduck sent Lt.(j.g.) Thomas A. Dooley, MC, USNR, the young doctor in charge of the Navy medical team in Haiphong who would eventually become known for his medical efforts in Southeast Asia, to the scene of the accident at 1237. He returned to the ship with a badly burned and injured seven-year old boy, and four members of his family; after the lad was treated in Balduck's sick bay, Dr. Dooley accompanied him and his relatives to the French naval base, where he turned the patient over to a French Navy ambulance.
Toward the end of her stay, Balduck hosted the Governor General of North Vietnam, and the Commander, French Naval Forces, Vietnam, on 16 February and General Rene Cogny, the Commanding General of French Union Land Forces in North Vietnam on the 19th. Finally, Cook (APD-130) relieved Balduck as ComPhibRon 1 flagship on 20 January 1955. Shortly thereafter, Balduck sailed from Haiphong for the last time. After fueling from Taluga (AO-62) at Henrietta Pass, she sailed for Hong Kong on the 21st.
Meanwhile, a potential crisis loomed in the Far East over the Tachen Islands. On 10 January, the Chinese communists had begun bombing the Nationalist-held Tachens, and on 20 January had taken Ichiang Island, a place within artillery range of the embattled isles. At that point, Admiral Carney alerted the 7th Fleet to cover an evacuation from the threatened islands. After the Hong Kong visit, Balduck touched at Subic Bay on 4 February and then headed to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, arriving on 6 February. That same day, the Republic of China (Nationalist) formally requested American assistance in taking off its people from the islands. Balduck left Okinawa the next day to rendezvous with Task Force (TF) 77 in the South China Sea. Transferring freight and men to Midway (CVA-41) at sea an 8 February, Balduck proceeded to the Tachens on the 9th.
She supported the evacuation of Nationalist Chinese forces, her condition of readiness at night augmented by a boat patrol around the ship. On the afternoon of 10 February, she embarked the American Ambassador to Nationalist China, the Chief of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Formosa, and a party of news correspondents and sailed for Keelung, Formosa, soon thereafter. She reached her destination the following morning. Returning to Yokosuka on 14 February, Balduck brought her eventful first WestPac deployment to a close when she sailed for the United States. She departed Japan on 1 March and reached her home port on the 17th.
Balduck remained at San Diego until she commenced another WastPac tour upon her departure on 29 August 1955. During that deployment she numbered Yokosuka, Sasebo, Subic Bay, Hong Kong, Muko Jima, Iwo Jima, Camp McGill, and Buckner Bay, among her ports of call, and interspersed training and amphibious exercises with periods in port for upkeep and recreation. She returned to her home port on 23 March 1956.
Departing San Diego on 9 May 1956, Balduck operated in waters off the Pacific Northwest for the next three months, out of Bremerton and Bangor, Wash., until she departed Indian Island on 7 August for her home port. Arriving at San Diego on 9 August, she remained there into 1957.
Balduck departed the west coast on 19 February 1957 for her third WestPac deployment, sailed by way of Midway, and arrived at Yokosuka on 14 March. Steaming thence to Okinawa, she reached Buckner Bay on 20 March, and after operating between that place and Dingalan, in the Philippines, touched briefly at Buckner Bay on 3 April en route to Japan. Reaching Sasebo on 4 April, the ship remained there until she sailed for Yokosuka on 15 April. After calling at Hong Kong early in May, Balduck resumed operations, and her ports of call and areas of operation included Sasebo, Pohang Dong, Kobe, Yokosuka, Hong Kong and Buckner Bay. She concluded her WestPac deployment on 6 September. Departing Yokosuka, Balduck called at Pearl Harbor on the way back to the west coast, reaching her home port on 26 September.
Balduck remained at San Diego for two months. On 26 November 1957, though, her home port was changed from San Diego to Long Beach in connection with her pending inactivation. On 29 November, Balduck reported to the Long Beach Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, to begin inactivation. Balduck was placed out of commission on 28 February 1958. Although redesignated LPR-132 on 1 January 1969, she never returned to active service and her name was struck from the Navy list on 15 July 1975. She was sold to the National Metal and Steel Corp., Terminal Island, Calif., and she was turned over to the buyer on 16 December 1976. She was subsequently broken up for scrap.
Robert J. Cressman
16 December 2005