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Bayfield (APA-33)


A county in the northwestern part of the state of Wisconsin. Established on 19 February 1845 as LaPointe County, it was renamed on 12 April 1866 to honor Henry W. Bayfield, an officer of the Royal Navy who came to Canada during the War of 1812 and, following the return of peace, remained in the New World to survey the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the coast of Labrador.

APA-33: displacement 16,100; length 492'0"; beam 69'6"; draft 26'6"; speed 18.4 knots (trial); complement 575; troops 1,226; armament 2 5-inch, 8 40 millimeter, 24 20 millimeter; class Bayfield; type C3-S-A2)

Bayfield (APA 33) was laid down as under a Maritime Commission contract (M. C.  Hull 275) on 14 November 1942 at San Francisco, Calif., by the Western Pipe & Steel Co.; launched on 15 February 1943; sponsored by Mrs. J. E. Schmeltzer; acquired by the Navy on 30 June 1943 and placed in reduced commission the same day; got underway from San Francisco on 7 July 1943 and arrived in Brooklyn, N.Y., on 29 July 1943; decommissioned and converted by the Atlantic Basic Iron Works to an attack transport; and commissioned on 20 November 1943, Capt. Lyndon Spencer, USCG, in command.

Following shakedown training in the Chesapeake Bay and repairs at Norfolk, she conducted amphibious training in January 1944. Bayfield then underwent additional repairs, concluding them on 3 February. At that point, she received orders to New York to embark troops for service in Europe. On 11 February, the ship departed New York with a convoy bound for the British Isles and arrived at Glasgow, Scotland, on 22 February. From there she moved south to Portland, England, to await orders. On 11 March, Bayfield made the short run to Plymouth and joined a group of amphibious ships that then set course for western Scotland. The ships reached the River Clyde on 14 March and carried out landing exercises there until the 21st in preparation for the European invasion at Normandy.

On 29 March 1944, she broke the flag of Rear Adm. Don P. Moon, Commander, Force "U," and served as headquarters for planning the landings on Utah beach. She joined with other Normandy-bound ships in practicing a variety of maneuvers and tactical operations during short underway periods until 26 April, when a full-scale rehearsal took place. Bayfield anchored again at Plymouth on the 29th and, on 7 May, began embarking troops of the 8th Infantry Regiment and of the 87th Chemical Battalion. By 5 June, the invasion force completed all preparations and got underway for the Bay of the Seine. Passing along a swept channel marked by lighted buoys, Bayfield and the other transports reached their designated positions early on the morning of the 6th and debarked their troops. Once the troops left Bayfield, she began service as a supply and hospital ship in addition to continuing her duties as a flagship. Those assignments kept her off the Norman coast while other transports rapidly unloaded troops and cargo and then returned to England. On the 7th, she shifted to an anchorage five miles off the beach and made smoke that night to protect Utah anchorage from Luftwaffe attacks.

Finally, on 25 June 1944, she headed back across the channel. On 5 July, after quick repairs, the attack transport joined Task Group (TG) 120.6 bound for Algeria. Upon its arrival at Oran on 10 July the group was dissolved; and Bayfield continued on to Italy. At Naples, Rear Adm. Moon, still embarked, assumed command of Task Force (TF) 8 or "Camel" Force, for the invasion of southern France.

Plans and procedures were refined, and full-scale rehearsals were held off beaches near Salerno between 31 July and 6 August 1944. Following the death of Rear Adm. Moon by his own hand, a tragic victim of what would become known as “battle fatigue” on 5 August, Rear Adm. Spencer Lewis took command of TF 87 on 13 August, and Bayfield sailed for the southern coast of France. Early on the 15th, she put troops of the 36th Division ashore east of Saint-Raphael in the Golfe de Frejus.

As its target, Camel Force drew the best defended section of the coast, the area where the Argens River flows into the Mediterranean, and the hard fighting there kept Bayfield in the vicinity of the Golfe de Frejus for almost a month. Finally, she returned to Naples on 10 September 1944 and, three days later, received orders to join a transatlantic convoy at Oran. The attack transport steamed by way of Bizerte to embark passengers for transportation back to the United States, and left Oran with her convoy on 16 September. She arrived in Norfolk on 26 September, disembarked her passengers, and entered the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., for repairs.

The repairs occupied her until the end of October 1944, and then the attack transport spent the first week in November preparing for duty in the Pacific. She loaded supplies and got underway on 7 November for the Panama Canal, whence she set course for the Territory of Hawaii. Bayfield arrived at Pearl Harbor on 26 November and discharged her passengers. The next day, she broke the flag of Commander, Transport Squadron (TransRon) 15, Como. H. C. Flanagan. Between 6 December 1944 and 18 January 1945, the ship participated in five practice amphibious landings at Maui.

Bayfield departed Pearl Harbor on 27 January 1945 and touched at Eniwetok for fuel before arriving at Saipan on 11 February. Following rehearsal off Tinian on 12 and 13 February, the Joint Expeditionary Force (TF 51) got underway on the 16th for Iwo Jima. Bayfield debarked troops from the 4th Marines on D day, 19 February; and, while anchored off Iwo Jima for the rest of the month, served both as a hospital and as a prisoner-of-war ship. After 10 days at Iwo Jima, she set course back to the Marianas on 1 March. After dropping her passengers off at Saipan on 4 March, the ship started getting ready for the Ryukyu Islands campaign. On 6 and 7 March, she loaded supplies and equipment of the 2nd Marines and got underway on the 11th for rehearsal exercises preparatory to the invasion of Okinawa.

Her task force left the Marianas on 27 March 1945 and hove to off the southeastern coast of the Okinawa on Easter morning, 1 April. As part of TG 51.2, the attack transport and other units of Demonstration Group Charlie simulated a landing on the south coast to draw attention away from the actual landings at the Hagushi beaches. Although the ruse failed to fool the Japanese, TG 51.2 received more enemy air attacks than did the real landings. Hinsdale (APA-120) and LST-884 were both severely damaged. The group repeated the operation the next day and, then, retired seaward to await orders. Bayfield’s troops were not required at Okinawa; and, on 11 April, she got underway for Saipan, where they were disembarked on the 14th. She then remained at Saipan undergoing maintenance and repairs until 4 June.

Since supplies were needed to support the continuing offensive against the Japanese, Bayfield sailed for the Solomons on 4 June 1945 to load cargo and move it closer to the fighting. She stopped at Tulagi on the 12th and at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides on the 17th. Her hold filled, she sailed on 1 July for the Marianas and unloaded at Tinian on 9 July and at Saipan on the 13th. After taking on passengers, Bayfield got underway for Guam where she arrived on 14 July. Two days later, the transport set course for California.

In San Francisco on 30 July 1945, Bayfield went into dry dock to prepare for the expected invasion of the Japanese home islands. However, hostilities ended on 15 August while the transport was still undergoing repairs. Ten days later, Bayfield departed San Francisco, bound via Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, for Subic Bay and Zamboanga in the Philippines. At Eniwetok on 7 September, however, revised orders directed her Tacloban, Philippines. She arrived at that port on 14 September and, after disembarking passengers and unloading cargo, reported to Commander, Amphibious Group 3, for duty in the occupation of Aomori, Japan. On 17 September, Bayfield embarked soldiers and equipment of the 81st Division; and, on the 18th, the task force got underway. The landings at Aomori took place according to schedule on 25 September.

After discharging the troops, Bayfield returned to Marianas on 4 October 1945 and joined the Magic Carpet fleet. She embarked a full complement of returning veterans at Saipan and at Tinian before heading home on 7 October. Upon her arrival at San Pedro, Calif., on 20 October, she disembarked passengers including the TransRon 15 staff. Following repairs, the ship carried occupation troops to Korea in November 1945 and in January 1946, returning from each voyage with a full contingent of veterans.

In March, the attack transport was ordered to Pearl Harbor for Operation Crossroads, atomic bomb tests scheduled to take place at Bikini Atoll in July. She set sail from Oahu on 2 April and proceeded via Kwajalein and Eniwetok to Bikini with supplies and equipment. She returned to Pearl Harbor early in May to take on more cargo and arrived back at Bikini on 1 June. Bayfield then served as a barracks ship for the crews of the target ships. On 30 June, she took station 22 miles from the site of the initial Test Able, an air burst detonated at 0900 on 1 July 1946. After the explosion, Bayfield reentered the lagoon and anchored at 1728 that day. She remained there until 18 July providing berthing spaces for members of the survey and monitoring teams until they were able to return to their own ships. She then got underway to participate in a one-day rehearsal for Test Baker. On 24 July, Bayfield again departed the lagoon and, at 0835 on the 25th, observed the underwater detonation from a distance of 15 miles. She returned to the anchorage at dawn the following morning and remained in the lagoon until getting underway for home on 3 August. She stopped at Kwajalein on the 4th to check contamination levels, but resumed her journey on 8 August and arrived at San Francisco on the 20th.

The transport continued to serve with the U. S. Pacific Fleet making two more voyages to China until joining the U. S. Atlantic Fleet in November 1949. Based at Norfolk, Va., she operated along the eastern seaboard and in the West Indies until mid-August 1950 when the recent outbreak of hostilities in Korea called her back to the Pacific. Bayfield arrived in Kobe, Japan, on 16 September and, the next day, got underway for Inchon, Korea. She spent the next seven months providing logistic support to the United Nations forces in Korea. She returned to San Diego on 26 May 1951 and, except for a round-trip voyage to Japan and back in September 1951, did not return to the Far East until March 1952, again to support troops in Korea.

During the next two years, Bayfield made three more voyages to the Orient and performed special duty in August and September 1954 assisting in the evacuation of refugees that resulted from the partition of Vietnam into a communist north and a democratic south. As one of more than 40 amphibious ships employed in Operation Passage to Freedom, the transport provided food, shelter, and care to the evacuees as she carried them south to Saigon. She returned to San Diego on 9 October and commenced a routine of alternating local training operations along the west coast with deployments to the Far East.

In February 1961, Bayfield changed home port from San Diego to Long Beach where she served as the flagship for the Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PhibRon) 7. Her first assignment saw her underway for a major amphibious exercise in Hawaii. During that operation, the transport received orders dispatching her to the western Pacific to bolster the Seventh Fleet during the Laotian crisis. The tension soon subsided, however, and Bayfield returned to Hawaii to finish the interrupted training exercise before continuing on back to the west coast.

The ship deployed to the Far East again in January 1962 and she spent most of the overseas tour participating in exercises and showing the flag. Near the end of the assignment, however, the chronically troubled Indochinese political situation erupted once more. Bayfield received orders to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, where she stood by during yet another crisis in Laos. Late in July 1962, she returned to Long Beach and resumed operations out of her home port. In October, she had to forego another major amphibious exercise in Hawaii because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The transport embarked elements of the lst Marines and headed through the Panama Canal to support forces engaged in the quarantine of Cuba. With the end of that crisis, Bayfield returned to Long Beach on 15 December.

Following a regular overhaul at Willamette Shipyard in Richmond, Calif., and refresher training out of San Diego until 6 June 1963, the attack transport resumed local training operations out of Long Beach. On 17 September, she embarked on another deployment to the western Pacific. Bayfield stopped off in Hawaii for about three weeks, then resumed her voyage west on 16 October and arrived at Subic Bay in the Philippines on the 31st. She made a visit to Hong Kong during the latter part of November, returning to Subic Bay near the end of the month. The ship spent December operating in the waters between Okinawa and Japan, stopping in Numazu, Yokosuka, Nagoya, and Sasebo. Bayfield also carried cold weather training in Korea waters and joined the Nationalist Chinese in exercises near Taiwan during the first two months of 1964. She disembarked her U. S. Marine contingent at Buckner Bay, Okinawa, in mid-March and headed back to the west coast, arriving in Long Beach once more on 6 April.

Bayfield operated out of Long Beach for more than a year and then deployed to the Orient again in May 1965. She returned to the west coast in December and resumed local training missions in the Long Beach and San Diego operating areas early in 1966. Later that spring, she began a five-month overhaul at the Todd Shipyard in Alameda, Calif. The ship left the yard on 26 September and spent several weeks at San Diego for amphibious maneuvers and refresher training. Bayfield embarked on another tour of duty in the Far East on 28 December, refueled at Pearl Harbor early in January 1967 and continued on westward. She touched at Okinawa on 19 January and continued on to the Philippines. At Subic Bay, ComPhibRon 7 shifted his flag to the transport, and she got underway for Vietnam on the 31st. The ship served as a floating barracks at Danang until 15 February and then sailed for Okinawa to take on troops and equipment for rotation to the Vietnamese combat zone. During that operation, Bayfield anchored at the mouth of the Cua Viet River, and her embarked troops went ashore to replace Marine Corps units that had been serving eight miles up the river at Dong Ha. After embarking the departing Marines, Bayfield returned them to Okinawa on 13 March.

In April 1967, she loaded troops for another landing and put them ashore south of Danang on 28 April. The transport continued to serve off the coast of Vietnam until 28 May, ferrying troops between points as needed and transporting casualties to hospital ship Sanctuary (AH-17). Relieved by the amphibious assault ship Duluth (LPH-6), Bayfield headed home via Sasebo, Hong Kong and Pearl Harbor. She carried out exercises out of Long Beach until 27 December, two days after Christmas, at which time she was placed in a reduced readiness status. Berthed next to the attack transport Talladega (APA-208) at Long Beach, Bayfield prepared for inactivation. She was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 28 June 1968.

After a board of inspection and survey found the transport to be unfit for further service,  her name was stricken from the Navy List on 1 October 1968. She was sold to Levin Metals Corp., of San Pedro, Calif., on 15 September 1969 and scrapped.

Bayfield earned four battle stars for her World War II service, four for her Korean War service, and two for her service in the Vietnam War.

Raymond A. Mann

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

6 June 2024

Published: Thu Jun 06 11:07:29 EDT 2024