Barnegat II (AVP-10)
A bay on the eastern border of Ocean County, N.J., about 25 miles in length and separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Island Beach. The name may have been derived from a Dutch coast pilot’s note, barnde gat, meaning “inlet.”
(AVP-10: displacement 2,563; length 311'8"; beam 41'1"; draft 13'6" (limiting); speed 18.6 knots (trial); complement 367; armament 2 5-inch, 4 .50 caliber machine guns; aircraft 1; class Barnegat)
The second Barnegat (AVP-10), the lead ship of a new class of built-for-the-purpose small seaplane tenders, was laid down on 27 October 1939 at Bremerton, Wash., by the Puget Sound Navy Yard; and launched on 23 May 1941. Mrs. Lucien F. Kimball, wife of Capt. Lucien F. Kimball, captain of the yard at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, christened the vessel on the same day that she was commissioned, 3 July 1941, Cmdr. Felix L. Baker in command.
For the next three months, Barnegat remained at Puget Sound, conducting trials and testing equipment, such as her large aircraft handling crane. The “years of operation of patrol planes in the Fleet and the increasingly important role played by these planes” had also shown that the Lapwing-class converted minesweepers fell “far short of the characteristics needed” for mobile tenders to operate patrol planes “where shore facilities were not available.” This meant specifications that included a draft that would “permit entrance into the greater number of small harbors which might be suitable for seaplane anchorages,” the ability to tend a 12-plane patrol squadron, high maneuverability, and the ability to contribute to her own defense.
Her trials completed by mid-October, Barnegat stood out of Seattle on 15 October 1941 and, later that afternoon, retrieved her assigned aircraft, a Curtiss SOC-1 Seagull, from the Naval Air Station (NAS), Seattle, Wash. The next morning, the new seaplane tender proceeded south and reached the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., on the 19th. There, she loaded ammunition before sailing for the east coast of the U.S. on the 22nd. Barnegat called at Acapulco, Mexico, from 27 to 29 October and then sailed for Panama, transiting the isthmian waterway on 2 November. After pausing briefly at Hampton Roads en route, she reached the Boston Navy Yard on 12 November. More tests and trials kept Barnegat busy in the local operating area into the early spring of 1942. By then, the United States had entered the war as a full partner in the Allied cause in the wake of the Japanese attack on Oahu on 7 December 1941.
Underway from the Boston Navy Yard on 1 May 1942, Barnegat transited the Cape Cod Canal later that day, anchoring for the night in Buzzard’s Bay. From there, she sailed to Newport, R.I., and moored at the Naval Torpedo Station the following morning to take on a dozen Mk. XIII aerial torpedoes before she headed on to NAS Quonset Point, R.I., where she loaded equipment and stores for Patrol Squadron (VP) 73. Two days later, Barnegat embarked the squadron’s five officers and 117 enlisted men and put to sea that afternoon, bound for Iceland. Along the way, she escorted Cherokee to the Sambro Lightship and there turned over her charge to a Royal Canadian Navy escort. Barnegat stopped at Argentia, Newfoundland, from 7 to 9 May, and then resumed her voyage to Iceland. She arrived in Reykjavik late on the 13th. On the 14th, she moored alongside seaplane tender (destroyer) Belknap (AVD-8) and unloaded VP-73’s gear. Two days later, Barnegat arrived at the Fleet Air Base at Skerjafjordr, her base of operations for most of the next three months.
There she provided not only tender services but salvage and logistic support. Between 20 and 22 June 1942, she recovered gear from a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina that had been shot down, mistakenly, at Kossandr Beach by [later known as “friendly fire”] from ships in Convoy UR-29. After an interruption to locate and salvage a barge and its valuable cargo of gasoline, she completed the task on the 24th. While based at Skerjafjordr, Barnegat also transferred aviation gasoline from tankers to a variety of ships, from Skerjafjordr to Hvalfjordur, supplying heavy cruisers Tuscaloosa (CA-37) and Wichita (CA-45), battleship Washington (BB-56), and British aircraft carrier HMS Victorious in that fashion. She also supplied diesel fuel to the destroyer tender Melville (AD-2). Later, on 14 August, she got underway from Skerjafjordr to salvage a German Focke-Wulf FW 200 Condor reconnaissance plane that had been shot down by an Army fighter from Gaetta Light. At the scene, Barnegat recovered some flotsam before returning to her moorings.
Barnegat’s tour in Icelandic waters took on a more Allied flavor on 5 September 1942 as she sailed for three weeks of duty servicing Northrop N-3PB twin-float, single-engined seaplane patrol bombers of the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Force’s (RNNAF) No. 330 Squadron based at Akureyri, evolutions facilitated by a Norwegian-speaking member of the ship’s company who served as interpreter. On the morning of 9 October, Cmdr. Josephus A. Briggs, Barnegat’s commanding officer, having received permission from Senior Officer Present Afloat [SOPA], Iceland, to inspect air bases in the northern part of the island, took passage in an N-3PB flown by Lt. Abildsoe, the commanding officer of Flight B, No. 330 Squadron. Cmdr. Briggs returned from his inspection trip on the afternoon of 13 October. Three days later [16 October], she conducted gunnery exercises, using balloon targets (0936-1444). That same day, she received orders to report to Commander Naval Forces, European Waters, to reach Londonderry, Northern Ireland, by 5 November.
Having received orders by telephone (confirmed later by dispatch) on 17 October 1942 to transport RNNAF No. 220 Squadron to Akureyri, Barnegat completed the loading and embarkation process by 1600, and got underway a little less than three quarters of an hour later. Upon completion of her mission, she then embarked passengers on the 19th (13 U.S. Army and one Navy) and sailed for Hvalfjordur at 0800 on the 20th. She reached her destination the next morning, fueling to capacity from the British tanker Empire Garden soon after her arrival, then returned to her buoy at Skerjafjordr that afternoon. The following day, she attempted salvage of a crashed RNNAF seaplane that had sunk near the ship.
On 24 October 1942, having received orders to transport VP-73 to Londonderry, Barnegat transferred excess stores ashore and took on board torpedoes, bombs, aviation equipment and men from that squadron. Completing the loading and embarkation by the next afternoon, she got underway immediately for her destination at 1509, proceeding singly.
During the passage, however, Barnegat encountered heavy weather, with winds logged as Force 8. At 1541 on the 26th, seas “completely engulfed the fantail” as the ship rolled 47 degrees to starboard” while efforts were underway topside to secure depth bombs that had come adrift on deck. The sea swept 33-year old Ens. George V. Grabosky (a career enlisted man who had only received a commission as ensign “for temporary service” on 30 September, who had been a Barnegat plank-owner) and two sailors over the side. Barnegat worked to try to recover her drifting men, since the stiff gale precluded the lowering of a boat. Men on board worked lifelines and tended knotted lines, grapnels, and lifebouys, as the ship battled the elements to maintain proper position for a rescue, maneuvering in the area until 1700. The two enlisted men were finally brought on board, but George Grabosky was last seen floating face down, unrecoverable.
On the 27th, Barnegat arrived at Lissahally, Londonderry, to find another set of sailing orders awaiting her. Consequently, she got underway again at 0815 on 29 October 1942 and made rendezvous with British Convoy WS-24 a quarter of an hour later, taking station as the last ship in the center column. Taking departure from WS-24 on the afternoon of 2 November, she proceeded independently to join Task Force (TF) 34.
Early on 7 November 1942, Barnegat joined the task force, took her assigned station in Task Group (TG) 34.8, the Northern Attack Group, at 0842, then went to general quarters at 1532. She lay-to off Mehedia, French Morocco, at 2200. Assigned to antisubmarine patrol and escort, Barnegat took up station inshore of six transports and two cargo ships whose assault troops were already in the boats. At 0600 on the 8th, nearby destroyers began bombarding their assigned targets to cover the passage of the troops to the beach. The Vichy French batteries returned fire within 10 minutes but, later, shifted their aim to the transports, forcing them to move out to sea. Soon after the French guns opened fire at 0740, Barnegat’s Mt. 52 silenced the fort at the mouth of the river with 11 rounds of 5-inch/38 antiaircraft common. That work done in a minute’s time (0752-0753), Barnegat retired seaward to resume screening and antisubmarine duty.
On the 9th, Barnegat received orders to ascend the Wadi Sebou to establish an advance air base at Port Lyautey; she anchored off Mehedia for the night, then got underway at 0620 on the morning of 10 November 1942 to conduct antiaircraft and antisubmarine patrols. A little over a half an hour into the afternoon watch , a landing craft came alongside Barnegat and transferred seven wounded soldiers for medical treatment. Still later that day, the destroyer Dallas (DD-199) led the chartered freighter Contessa up the Wadi Sebou to Port Lyautey, where Army troops landed and took the nearby airstrip.
Barnegat fueled from the oiler Kennebec (AO-36) on the morning of the 11th (0743-1055) then went alongside Savannah (CL-42) at 1130 and delivered 5,519 gallons of aviation gasoline to the light cruiser. Finally securing a French pilot at 1500, the seaplane tender got underway a little over an hour later, reaching her destination by late afternoon. The next day, she unloaded VP-73’s equipment, setting up Naval Air Station (NAS) Port Lyautey on the southeastern corner of the airfield. She also established a port directorate and a shipping control office.
On 12 November 1942, Barnegat radioed VP-73 that the field was ready, and the first plane arrived from Lyeness, England, at 0800 the next day. Within hours, most of VP-73 was “in business” there, flying their first patrols. Barnegat housed and fed VP-73 until the squadron managed to set up a mess ashore, but VP-73 stood self-sufficient by 24 November. On 10 December, Barnegat got underway to transport a detachment of French colonial troops to Casablanca. She reached her destination early on the 11th and disembarked them. Barnegat then received orders to proceed to the United States with Convoy GUF-2A, and she headed homeward the next day.
Chronic bad weather plagued the convoy, and it fell to Barnegat to escort three stragglers from Bermuda to New York. One of them dropped astern on the 20th and was not seen again; but the seaplane tender continued on with Examiner and Santa Maria. Setting course for Nantucket Shoals lightship early on the 21st, Barnegat pounded heavily in the head seas on the night of 21 and 22 December, and sprung seams flooded the sound room and some 5-inch magazine spaces. Ignoring the flooded sound room, additional weight forward apparently gave some advantage in heavy seas, her damage control parties pumped out the magazine spaces.
Releasing Examiner and Santa Maria to a local escort at 2300 on the 23rd, Barnegat then made for the Boston Navy Yard, arriving on Christmas Eve. She spent the rest of 1942 receiving voyage repairs at South Boston. After trials and antisubmarine exercises near Casco Bay, Barnegat sailed on 5 February 1943 for Iceland. Diverted briefly to Argentia on the 8th, she resumed her voyage to Iceland the next morning. Despite cautious steaming through pack ice, she reached Reykjavik on the 13th.
Late in February 1943, Barnegat returned to Boston for repairs to her engines, degaussing gear, and radar. After a brief call at Quonset Point, she loaded aviation gasoline for Argentia at Boston on 8 March. Upon completion of that cargo run, she returned to Boston and Quonset Point before she again underwent repairs for her temperamental engines. The operations of January and February continued well into the spring of 1943. The ship transported men and cargo between Boston, Argentia, and Quonset Point. She also served briefly as a target during exercises held off Block Island and escorted the U.S. tanker Sabine Sun from Argentia to Boston late in April.
Then, after installation of YG homing equipment, QC sonar, and other gear, Barnegat left Boston on the last day of May 1943. She took part briefly in local exercises then headed south on 6 June. She reached Norfolk the following morning but, on 15 June, cleared the Virginia capes for Brazil. Steaming via Bermuda, Barnegat reached Natal, on Brazil’s northeastern coast, on 26 June 1943.
Reporting for duty with Fleet Air Wing (FAW) 16, Barnegat relieved sister ship Humboldt (AVP-21) in servicing Adm. Jonas H. Ingram’s Fourth Fleet planes assigned to cover convoys from Brazil to Trinidad. Her arrival came in the wake of the opening rounds of a local submarine “blitz” against coastal shipping. On 21 June 1943, U-513 (Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Guggenberger, commanding) had torpedoed and sunk the Swedish motorship Venezia (K. B. Hansson, master), 300 miles southeast of Rio de Janeiro.
Underway again on 28 June 1943, Barnegat dropped down the coast and moored at Recife the next morning to receive a five-day tender availability alongside Melville, an old Iceland comrade. That maintenance done, Barnegat made a brief trip north touching at Natal and Recife before returning south with the U.S. tanker Gulfport. Stopping at Bahia on the 9th, the pair continued south and reached Rio de Janeiro on 13 July. Her presence there having been dictated by the recent rash of U-boat sinkings in the region, after receiving gasoline from Gulfport, Barnegat departed Rio de Janeiro on the 17th for Florianapolis, less than 500 miles, as the crow flies, from Rio, part of the improvised measures to meet the U-boat threat. Also sent to that place were two Martin PBM-3c Mariner patrol bombers of VP-74. Anchoring on the 18th, Barnegat was ready to receive her two charges, 74-P-5 and 74-P-7, when they arrived less than four hours later.
Operations commenced the next morning. At 0702, the PBM-3c commanded by Lt. (j.g.) Roy S. Whitcomb, 74-P-5, took off from San Miguel Bay, Florianapolis, on an antisubmarine sweep. The patrol proceeded uneventfully until the radar operator reported a contact at 1355. As Whitcomb looked at the “sharp blip” on his own radarscope, his second pilot called his attention to something to starboard. Whitcomb recognized the object as a surfaced U-boat and sent his crew to battle stations. Soon, their quarry, U-513, saw the attacking plane and began to take evasive action. Whitcomb’s PBM-3c dropped six depth bombs and caught the U-boat in a starboard turn. The U-boat absorbed the full impact of at least two direct hits, two bombs straddled the submarine, two others struck the deck. Within moments, observers in the Mariner saw “rising boils and [a] brown stain on [the] water.”
Seeing 15 to 20 men struggling in the oily water, Whitcomb circled and dropped two life rafts and life belts to the displaced U-boaters, while informing Barnegat of the kill. The ship proceeded swiftly to the scene, arrived there in less than four hours, and began a search. At 1915, Barnegat sighted a life raft with seven men on board and closed to pick them up. She brought the first five on board at 1930 and the next two 20 minutes later. “All survivors were immediately made Prisoners of War [PoWs],” Barnegat’s war diarist noted, “and [were] treated as such.”
Among them was the badly wounded Kapitänleutnant Guggenberger, the boat’s 28 year old commanding officer, who held the Knight’s Cross for sinking the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal off Gibraltar in November 1941 while commanding U-81, which made nine successful war patrols under his command; he had also briefly served on the staff of Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz. In addition, Barnegat logged the other PoWs as Gunther Bleise, Joseph Mohr, Hans Werner, Alois Nonn, Helmut Micha and Helmut Weinhold.; 46 men went down with U-513.
The gathering darkness prevented Barnegat from locating any more survivors, and she finally ceased her efforts at 2147. Although she returned then to San Miguel Bay to resume operations, she had not heard the last of U-513’s brief foray into Brazilian waters. At 1130 on 22 July, Barnegat’s other plane, 74-P-7, reported sighting a life raft with survivors on board. Underway shortly after noon, the tender proceeded to the scene and at 1645 reached two rafts which had been lashed together.
She found 18 men from the recently sunk U.S. freighter Richard Caswell along with 12 men of her crew (Chief Engineer Harold Van R. Forest, Deck Cadets Paul R. Williams and Ralph A. Alano, Engineer Cadet Howard D. Muhlenbrush, Able Seamen James D. Matheson, Jr., Solomon A. Suggs, Carroll H. Andrews, and Roy D. McKinney; Fireman Lucien A. Johns; Messmen Douglas J. Acker, Jr., and Jack D. Holland, Chief Steward George A. Wessells) and six members of her U.S. Navy armed guard detachment (GM3c’s Kenneth M. Schenk and Adrian E. Kitchen, BM2c’s Harry D. Hamler and Verlyn G. Van Blaricom, and Sea1c’s Joseph J. Pizzuto and Ben Conley) were clinging to the raft. Ironically, Richard Caswell, torpedoed on 16 July, had been U-513’s last victim. Barnegat had rescued the last of her 60 survivors; an Argentine ship had picked up 26 from two boats, while the third boat carrying 16 men reached Barra Valha, Brazil, on the 22nd.
Barnegat returned to San Miguel Bay at 2159 on the 22nd but remained there only overnight, getting underway early the following morning for Rio de Janeiro. Reaching that port at 1100 on the 24th, she was held “incommunicado” until her prisoners could be transferred ashore the following morning. At 0540 on the 25th, the seaplane tender transferred the seven Germans to NOB Rio de Janeiro; a little less than two hours later, Barnegat got underway at 0730 and proceeded to Pier 1, mooring at 0819, then disembarking the 18 men from Richard Caswell at 1115, transferring them to NOB Rio as well.
Over the next few days, Barnegat remained at Rio de Janeiro, conducting joint exercises with the Brazilian Tamoio on 29 July 1943. The tender conducted further antisubmarine training the following day, in concert with the destroyer Winslow (DD-359) and Tamoio as well as the Brazilian Rio Branco in the operating area off Rasa Island. While shifting berths on the morning of the 31st after Winslow had stood out to sea, however, Barnegat received word from NOB Rio that 74-P-7 had attacked and damaged a U-boat. She immediately got underway to proceed to the scene.
Trinidad-bound Convoy JT-3 had sailed under mixed air cover of both the U.S. Navy and the Brazilian Air Force. Among the former planes so tasked, the PBM-3c that had sunk U-513 (74-P-7) carried out a routine antisubmarine sweep in advance of the convoy when its radar raised a contact. This proved to be U-199, a Type IXD U-boat on her maiden war patrol. U-199 increased speed, and her quartermaster put the helm over to starboard. Confusion reigned below, however, as some of the forward tanks were flooded for an emergency crash dive.
The Mariner attacked at 0718, and U-199 opened fire as soon as the bomber came into range. The seaplane’s machine guns swept the decks, while she straddled U-199 with a stick of six bombs that showered her with tons of spray. After putting her two remaining bombs close aboard without sinking the submarine, the plane radioed for assistance. Though badly shaken, U-199 tried to repair her damage and clear the area, but could not evade her relentless pursuers. A Brazilian Lockheed A-28 Hudson responded to the Mariner’s call for help and attacked, followed shortly by a Brazilian PBY which administered the coup de grace.
Informed at 0958 that the U-boat had been sunk, Barnegat hurried to the scene, making radar contact with the PBM. She spotted life rafts at 1138 and, shortly after noon, stopped and picked up five officers and seven enlisted men, among them U-199’s commanding officer, 28 year-old Kapitänleutnant Hans Werner Kraus, a decorated U-boat commander and at one time former executive officer to the celebrated U-boat ace, Gunther Prien. Barnegat’s men segregated the officers (Kraus, Helmut Drescher, Herman Weber, Karl Ludwig Roese, and Karl Heinz Jager) from the enlisted sailors (Franz Krug, Adolph Hartmann, Paul Buchholz, Heinz Kirchhoff, Heinrich Ludwig, Walter Meischner, and Helmut Lukes). Sighting Ultramar, a small fishing boat (Jose Ferriera Neiva in command) that had been in the vicinity at the time of the attack, Barnegat went to flank speed to “overhaul and investigate” the vessel. The boarding party led by Lt. Cmdr. Edward R. Nelson, Jr., found Ultramar’s papers in order and nothing amiss, and the Americans let the fishermen resume their piscatorial pursuits.
In the post mortem on the attack, Cmdr. Joseph P. Toth, VP-74’s commanding officer, praised Barnegat for her “usual good performance...in recovering the survivors” of the sunken U-boat. Once again, Barnegat anchored in the harbor at Rio de Janeiro with her “guests” held “incommunicado” until they could be taken ashore. Between 0520 and 0540, U-199’s men disembarked under heavy guard, en route to the airport and a speedy trip to the United States for a thorough interrogation.
Barnegat remained in Brazilian waters into the spring of 1944, operating at Bahia, Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, Fernando Noronha, Sao Luiz, and Florianapolis. As before, she hauled freight, transported men and gear, and tended patrol planes of FAW-16. Her only time out of Brazilian waters came when she briefly conducted tending operations at Montevideo, Uruguay, from 13 to 16 March 1944. Another break in her routine came on 29 and 30 November 1943, when she patrolled off the entrance to the harbor at Bahia to cover the arrival of a task group formed around Iowa (BB-61) during the battleship’s return at the conclusion of her part in transporting President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Teheran Conference.
Barnegat wrapped up her work in Brazilian waters, at Sao Luiz, on 12 May 1944 and sailed for the U.S. that afternoon. Steaming via Bermuda and Norfolk, she arrived at Boston on the 24th. Following voyage repairs and alterations at the Boston Navy Yard, the seaplane tender sailed to Norfolk in early July and then made passenger and freight voyages to Bahia Praia and Horta, Azores, and to Casablanca, before returning to Norfolk on 16 August. On 7 September, Barnegat departed Norfolk and proceeded to Eastern Bay, Md., at the mouth of the Patuxent River where she laid out a seaplane operating area, placing mooring buoys and seadrome lights to prepare for training operations with PatWing 5. She worked with these aircraft over the next few weeks and returned to Norfolk on the 23rd.
Returning to transport duties soon thereafter, she again sailed for the Azores and Morocco on a voyage that also took her to Bristol, England, late in October 1944. She returned to Norfolk on the morning of 9 November and spent the remainder of that month and the first half of December at the Norfolk Navy Yard undergoing repairs. Underway on 14 December, Barnegat reached Bermuda two days later and occupied the next few days training with VPB-107 and VPB-215 of FAW-9 in practice fuelings, rearmings, and general servicing. Then, she got underway on the 29th in company with Ellis (DD-154) to return to Norfolk and reached that port on the last day of 1944.
After spending a month getting repairs to hull damage suffered at Bermuda, Barnegat set sail for the Canal Zone on 5 February 1945. She arrived at Coco Solo early on the 11th and relieved her sister ship Rockaway (AVP-29). For the next few months, Barnegat served in constant "ready duty" status, prepared to get underway, often within an hour. Her Central American service comprised the tending patrol planes and transport duty. She supported the advanced naval air base at Baltra in the Galapagos Islands, making several trips there from the Canal Zone and remaining at such picturesque spots as Aeolian Cove or Tagus Cove, on Isabella Island, tending VPB-74 aircraft. She also visited Bahia Honda, Colombia, and Limon Bay.
Barnegat established an independent air base at Tagus Cove, enabling the patrol bombers to extend their coverage farther off the coast of South America than previously possible. There, she provided fuel for the planes; deployed lighted mooring buoys; billeted and fed the crews; provided bombs and bomb-loading crews; kept crash and fueling boats in the water at all times to fulfill all of the squadron’s needs. Occasionally, Barnegat also carried out salvage and rescue operations out of Coco Solo, participating in a search for a lost F6F pilot in March 1945 and assisting some downed PBM’s in June. The end of hostilities with Germany in the spring of 1945 and with Japan that summer altered neither the tempo nor the scope of Barnegat’s operations, for she remained busy at Coco Solo into September 1945, making only one brief visit to the U.S., at Miami, Fla., between 18 and 22 September.
After returning to Coco Solo on 26 September 1945, she operated there into October, sinking discarded PBM hulls at sea with gunfire on the 6th and 15th. She then transited the Panama Canal on 19 October, en route to Baltra Island, arriving there early on the 22nd. Barnegat carried out practice operations with VPB-201 at Tagus Cove until 31 October when VPB-204 arrived for training. Shifting to Aeolian Cove on 8 November, Barnegat sailed for the Canal Zone the next day. She transited the canal on the 14th, returning soon thereafter to Coco Solo to dispose of more junked PBM hulls by gunfire between 19 and 26 November.
Relieved by sister ship San Carlos (AVP-51), Barnegat set course for the U.S. on 11 December 1945 and reached the Naval Repair Base, Algiers, La., on the 15th. Shifting on the 17th to a berth alongside the escort vessel Reuben James (DE-153), Barnegat spent the remainder of the year there. In January 1946, she moved on to Orange, Texas, arriving there on the 14th.
Decommissioned on 17 May 1946, Barnegat was stricken from the Navy Register on 23 May 1958. Subsequently sold to Kavounides Shipping Co., Ltd., she operated out of Piraeus, Greece, as the cruise ship Kentavros. Ultimately, she was broken up for scrap in 1986.
Barnegat (AVP-10) received one battle star for her participation in the North African occupation, for supporting the Algeria-Morocco landings (8-11 November 1942).
Robert J. Cressman
Updated, 25 November 2022