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 christened the tender on the same day when 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 floatplane, from the Naval Air Station (NAS), Seattle, Wash. The next morning, the new seaplane tender proceeded south and reached the Mare Island Navy Yard on the 19th. There, she loaded ammunition before sailing for the east coast on the 22d. Barnegat called at Acapulco from 27 to 29 October and then sailed for Panama, transiting the canal 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.
Underway from the Boston Navy Yard on 1 May 1942, Barnegat transited the Cape Cod Canal later that day, anchoring for the evening 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 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 as well. Between 20 and 22 June 1942, she recovered gear from a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina that had been shot down at Kossandr Beach by “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 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 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. On 5 September 1942, Barnegat’s tour in Icelandic waters took on a more Allied flavor as she sailed for three weeks of duty servicing Northrop N-3PB twin float seaplane patrol bombers of the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Force’s No. 330 Squadron based at Akureyi, support evolutions aided by a Norwegian-speaking member of the ship’s company who served as interpreter.
On 24 October 1942, the tender received orders to transport VP-73 to Londonderry, Northern Ireland. During the passage, Barnegat encountered heavy seas and, at 1541 on the 26th, took a “rapid, heavy roll to starboard” while efforts were underway topside to secure depth bombs that had come adrift on deck. A torrent of water cascaded across the fantail and swept Ens. George V. Grabosky and two sailors over the side. Barnegat, herself, had 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 she struggled against the elements to maintain proper position for a rescue. The two enlisted men were finally recovered, but Ens. Grabosky was not found. On the 27th, Barnegat arrived at Lissahally, Ireland, but found another set of sailing orders waiting. She got underway again on 29 October and steamed with British Convoy WS-24 until rendezvousing with Task Force (TF) 34 and Convoy UGF-1.
Early on 7 November 1942, Barnegat joined the task force, took her assigned station in Task Group (TG) 34.8, the Northern Attack Group, and arrived off Mehedia, French Morocco, that same evening. 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, nearby destroyers began bombarding their assigned targets to cover the passage of the troops to the beach. The enemy batteries returned fire within 10 minutes but, later, shifted their aim to the transports, forcing them to move out to sea. At 0740, soon after the French guns opened fire, Barnegat's guns silenced one of them with 11 rounds. That work done, Barnegat retired seaward to resume screening and antisubmarine duty.
On the 9th, Barnegat received orders to ascend the Wadi Sebou to establish an air base at Port Lyautey. The next day, Dallas (DD-199) led Contessa up the Wadi Sebou to Port Lyautey, where Army troops landed and took the nearby airstrip. Barnegat followed on the 11th after she secured a French pilot and reached her destination by late afternoon. The next day, she unloaded VP-73's equipment, setting up Port Lyautey air station on the southeastern corner of the airfield. She also established a port directorate and a shipping control office. On the 12th, 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 was self sufficient by 24 November. On 10 December, Barnegat got underway to transport a detachment of French native troops to Casablanca. She reached her destination early on the 11th and disembarked the troops. 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 Humboldt (AVP-21) in servicing Admiral Jonas Ingram's Fourth Fleet planes assigned to cover convoys from Brazil to Trinidad. Her arrival coincided with the opening shots of a local submarine "blitz" against coastal shipping. The day before, U-513 had torpedoed Venetia.
Underway again two days later, Barnegat dropped down the coast and moored at Recife the next morning to start yet more repairs alongside Melville, an old Iceland comrade. Those repairs 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 taking a load of 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 temporary measures to meet the U-boat threat. Also sent to that place were two Martin PBM-3c Mariner seaplane patrol bombers of VP 74. Anchoring on the 18th, Barnegat was ready to receive her two charges when they arrived less than four hours later.
Operations commenced the next morning. At 0702, the PBM-3c flown 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, the second pilot called his attention to something to starboard. Whitcomb recognized the object as a surfaced - 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...." U-513 was no more.
Seeing 15 to 20 men struggling in the oily water, Whitcomb circled his late opponent's watery gravesite 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. The first man came on board at 1930 and the last boarded 20 minutes later. Among them, she counted the U-boat's 28 year old commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Guggenberger, the ace awarded the Knight's Cross for sinking the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal off Gibraltar in November 1941 as commander of U-81.
The gathering darkness prevented Barnegat from locating more survivors, and she finally ceased her efforts shortly after midnight. Although she returned then to San Miguel Bay to resume operations, she had not heard the last of U-513. At 1130 on 22 July, her 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. These 18 men, Chief Engineer Harold Van R. Forest of the recently sunk Richard Caswell along with 11 men of her crew and six members of her U.S. Navy armed guard detachment, were clinging to the raft. Ironically, Richard Caswell, torpedoed on 16 July, had been U-513's last victim. 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 to authorities ashore the following morning. Once that happened, Barnegat shifted to another berth and disembarked the 18 men from Richard Caswell.
Over the next few days, Barnegat remained at Rio de Janeiro. While she was there, Trinidad-bound Convoy JT-3 departed under mixed air cover of both the U.S. Navy and the Brazilian Air Force. Among the planes so tasked, the PBM-3c that had sunk U-513 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 and U-513's collaborator in the recent rampage on shipping. 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 seaplane came into range. The Mariner'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 landing 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 she could not evade her relentless pursuers. A Brazilian Lockheed Hudson bomber 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 led by another PBM. She spotted life rafts at 1138 and, by shortly after noon, had picked up five officers and seven enlisted men, among them U-199's commanding officer, 28 year-old Kapitänleutnant Hans Werner Kraus, also a decorated U-boat commander and former executive officer to the U-boat ace, Gunther Prien. In the post mortem on the attack, VP-74's commanding officer, Cmdr. Joseph P. Toth, singled out 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 si stership 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 a 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 sistership 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 destroyer escort Reuben James (DE-153), Barnegat spent the remainder of the year there. In January 1946, she moved on to Orange, Tex., arriving there on the 14th.
Decommissioned on 17 May 1946, Barnegat saw no more active service. Her name was stricken from the Navy Register on 23 May 1958. Subsequently sold to Kavounides Shipping Co., Ltd., she operated out of Piraeus, Greece, as Kentavros.
Barnegat (AVP-10) received one battle star for her World War II service.
Robert J. Cressman
7 March 2006