Albert Anthony Francovich -- born on 23 January 1920 at Shamokin, Pa., of Austrian parents -- enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Philadelphia, Pa., as an apprentice seaman (AS), on 8 March 1938. Transferred to the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Va., the same day, he attained the rate of seaman second class (Sea2c) on 8 July 1938. He was transferred to the destroyer tender Altair (AD-11) on 15 August 1938, travelling to his new ship in the destroyer Craven (DD-382), and attained the rating of seaman first class (Sea1c) on 16 December 1939, a little over three months after hostilities began in Europe with the German invasion of Poland.
Transferred to Patrol Wing 2 on 19 August 1940, Francovich advanced in rating twice during 1941, to aviation machinist’s mate third class (AMM3c) on 16 February, and to aviation machinist’s mate second class (AMM2c) on 1 November, a little over a month before the Japanese attack on Oahu. He extended his enlistment on 8 March 1942 for two years, and on 1 June 1942 was advanced in rating to aviation machinist’s mate first class (AMM1c).
On 6 September 1942, AMM1c Francovich was serving as plane captain in a Consolidated PBY Catalina (BuNo 2450) from Patrol Squadron 11, 11-P-5, Lt. (j.g.) Charles F. Willis, Jr., A-V(N), USNR, patrol plane commander, when, in company with 11-P-10, they encountered a Kawanishi H6K Type 94 flying boat [later code-named Mavis] from the Japanese Navy’s Tōkō Kōkūtai [Air Unit], commanded by Warrant Officer Takahashi Shinsuke, and engaged it.
In the battle that followed, reminiscent of broadside duels of the age of sail, Francovich, at 11-P-5’s starboard waist gun, put the port waist gun position in the enemy aircraft out of action with his .50-caliber machine gun fire, but in so doing received mortal wounds. The Japanese flying boat took 36 hits, but suffered no casualties in the action. Although in excruciating pain, Francovich refused to relinquish his post until the clash was over. Running out of fuel, 11-P-5 landed at sea, and the riddled Catalina sank, taking her gallant plane captain with it. Seaplane tender (destroyer) Ballard (AVD-10) rescued 11-P-5’s survivors on 8 September.
In recognition of the “extraordinary heroism” displayed that September day, AMM1c Francovich was awarded the Navy Cross, posthumously.
(APD-116: displacement 1,390; length 306'; beam 37'; draft 12'7"; speed 24 knots; complement 204; troops 162; armament 1 5-inch, 6 40 millimeter, 6 20 millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks; class Crosley)
Francovich (APD-116) was laid down on 19 April 1945 at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard; and launched on 5 June 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Mary F. Edmunds, sister of the late AMM1c Francovich.
Underway at 1303 on 11 September 1945, assisted by the large harbor tug Waubansee (YTB-366), Francovich stood down the channel of the Weymouth River, then entered Nantasket Roads. She then moved through President Roads and ultimately entered the marine railway at the Boston Naval Shipyard where an ensuing inspection revealed all outboard valves, rudders, and underwater hull fittings in satisfactory condition. Moving down the marine railway on 14 September, assisted by Waubansee and the civilian tug Venus, Francovich was towed by Waubansee to Pier 11, Boston Naval Shipyard. The next day, assisted from alongside Pier 11 by the medium harbor tug Powhatan (YTM-128) and civilian tug Neptune, the high speed transport steamed to East Boston to fuel, then set course for Provincetown, Mass., where she anchored in the harbor at 1914.
Standing out the following morning (16 September 1945), Francovich carried out runs at one-third, two-thirds, standard, full, and flank speeds over a measured mile course. She then proceeded back to the Boston Naval Shipyard and moored at 1600 alongside Pier 9 West. There she received ammunition shipped from the depot at Hingham ranging from 5-inch/38 projectiles to miscellaneous pyrotechnics and abandon ship gear, after which she took on board nine gallons of milk, duly inspected for quality and quantity.
Underway again on the 19th, assisted by Waubansee, Francovich stood out of Boston Harbor, past Deer Island and then the Boston Lightship. Exercising at general quarters, the high speed transport conducted structural firing exercises starting at 0959 with all of her guns from 5-inch to 20 millimeter, and also dropped four Mk. 9 depth charges. Securing from battle stations at 1101, she set course to return to port, entering President Roads at 1259 after which she compensated her magnetic compass (1307-1353) before returning to moor alongside Pier 9 West at 1426.
Underway for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, at 0838 on 23 September 1945, Francovich exercised at gun drills en route to Cuban waters on the 24th and 25th, and ultimately reached her destination on the 27th. She moored alongside Pier A at 0902.
Francovich began her shakedown training on 1 October 1945, getting underway for Area “Able” in obedience to her operating schedule nine minutes into the forenoon watch. She soon exercised at emergency and tactical drills, then zigzag exercises and antiaircraft tracking drills. She also operated briefly in company with her sister ship Rogers Blood (APD-115) that afternoon, then returned to Guantanamo Bay to anchor for the night, a routine she would largely maintain for the remainder of the month.
She resumed her shakedown on 3 October 1945, carrying out gun drills and general quarters evolutions, operating independently, then rendezvoused with the Coast Guard gunboat Pontchartrain (WPG-70) and the submarine Irex (SS-482) the following day for exercises. Francovich carried out formation steaming with Pontchartrain and torpedo exercises with Odax (SS-484), on the 5th, then performed gun and tactical drills for the remainder of the day.
Underway during the mid watch on 6 October 1945 to shift berths, she soon found her starboard screw fouled by a line that defied efforts by the ship’s force to clear. The diving lighter from the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Lt. R.W. Dobson, officer-in-charge, arrived on the scene at 1930 and soon cleared the propeller within 45 minutes. Sunday, the 7th, proved a day of rest before the training recommenced in earnest.
Francovich went to general quarters and carried out antisubmarine exercises on 8 October 1945 in company with the destroyer Ernest G. Small (DD-838), with Odax serving as the target, then conducted underway training on the 9th with heavy cruiser Macon (CA-132), the high speed transport serving as a target during the forenoon watch. Fueling practice occupied part of 10 October, with the ship going alongside the oiler Allagash (AO-97), and operating with destroyers John R. Craig (DD-855) and Cone (DD-866) and the destroyer escort Fogg (DE-51). Later that day, Francovich conducted antiaircraft firing exercises with Pontchartrain. Week two of the shakedown saw her reprise operations with Macon on the 11th and antiaircraft exercises with Ernest G. Small, then working with the latter ship again on the 12th in addition to Power (DD-839) and Orleck (DD-886).
The third week saw no let-up in the drills, starting with gunnery training in concert with Ruchamkin (APD-89), with the auxiliary tug ATA-146 towing the target, on 15 October 1945. The next day saw Francovich serving as target for Ernest G. Small and John R. Craig, followed by antiaircraft firing practice. ATR-30 towed a sled target for the high speed transport to fire at on the 18th, after which time Francovich conducted a docking exercise with Ruchamkin. The next day (the 19th), she conducted antisubmarine exercises with Cone and Odax.
After a port visit to Kingston, Jamaica (20-21 October 1945), Francovich returned to Guantanamo Bay to wrap up her shakedown, firing an antiaircraft exercise and gunnery drills with ATA-146 again towing the target on the 22nd, after which the high speed transport carried out night cruising exercises, returning to port the following day to replenish her bunkers alongside Guantanamo’s main fuel pier.
With 90 passengers on board for transportation to NOB Norfolk, Va., Francovich cleared Guantanamo Bay on the afternoon of 25 October 1945. She conducted a depth charge structural firing test the next morning, expending five Mk.9s and five Mk.6s. She then conducted a three-hour full power trial that afternoon (1200-1500).
Standing in to Hampton Roads during the forenoon watch on 28 October 1945, Francovich moored alongside Convoy Escort Pier 23 at 0925. Soon thereafter, the men embarked at Guantanamo, each “with bag, hammock, records, and transfer papers,” departed the ship. The following morning, she transferred ammunition to the covered lighter YF-286 (0915-0935), then immediately took another lighter alongside to transfer 5-inch and 40-millimeter rounds to it.
Shifting to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Va., on 30 October 1945, Francovich embarked W.A. Shawn, the navy yard pilot, from the large harbor tug Kabout (YTB-221). Shawn oversaw the warship’s mooring to Pier 5, Berth 33. Shawn again had the conn the next morning, seeing the ship, assisted by Kabout and Minnehaha (YTM-271) to a midstream berth alongside Willmarth (DE-638), after which Mackahemo (YTB-223) and another tug assisted Francovich into Dry Dock No.3, where she remained until 7 November, towed out by Chaska (YTB-226) and Minnehaha, shifting to Berth No.2, Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The following day (8 November), the ferryboat Sequin (YFB-35), “apparently having trouble with engines,” drifted into the warship’s port quarter near frame 153, and left a “slight indentation approximately one inch deep and six inches wide in hull plating at a distance of four feet above the water line.” That afternoon, Francovich shifted berths to Pier 22, Berth 222, Convoy Escort Piers, mooring alongside Case (DD-370).
Francovich fueled on 9 November 1945 and offloaded ammunition on the 10th, then cleared the Convoy Escort Piers at 0917 on 14 November and stood out of Hampton Roads, setting course for Jacksonville, Florida. She dropped anchor in the Commodore Point anchorage at 0925 on the 16th. Underway for Green Cove Springs, Fla., during the forenoon watch on 18 November, she anchored in the St. Johns River at 1145, with sister ship Rogers Blood mooring alongside to port. Francovich remained at Green Cove Springs into the spring of 1946. On 29 April 1946, brief ceremonies occurred marking the ship’s decommissioning and going into reserve, with her remaining officers and men transferred to the Florida Group, Sixteenth Fleet, or to other vessels.
Ultimately deemed “excess to the needs of the Navy” and “of such limited military value as to no longer warrant retention,” Francovich was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 April 1964. Acquired for scrap by the Portsmouth Salvage Co., of Norfolk, she was transferred to her purchaser on 4 June 1965, and was broken up subsequently.
||Date Assumed Command
|Lt. Cmdr. Malcolm Maclean, USNR
||6 September 1945
|Lt. Harry K. Brill, USNR
||31 October 1945
|Lt. Frank R. Buckbee, USNR
||11 January 1946
Robert J. Cressman and James C. Sawruk [biography]; Robert J. Cressman [history]
12 February 2018