Wendell Cushing Neville, born at Portsmouth, Va., on 12 May 1870, entered the U.S. Naval Academy on 12 September 1886, and was commissioned a 2nd lt. in the Marine Corps on 1 July 1893. In February 1914, Neville, a veteran of the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion, was promoted to lt. colonel and ordered to sail for Vera Cruz, Mexico. There he led his regiment in the landing operations which resulted in the capture of that city (21–22 April). For his conspicuous courage, coolness, and skill under fire he received a commendatory letter from the Secretary of the Navy and was later awarded the Medal of Honor. Promoted to Colonel, August 1916, he was transferred overseas, December 1917, to command the 5th Marines.
In Europe, he put that organization through its final training and then led it into battle, commanding at Verdun and at Belleau Wood. Promoted to brig. gen., he commanded the brigade which led in the Battle of Soissons (Marbache sector), the Battle of BlancMont Ridge (Champagne sector), the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the march to the Rhine, and, finally, the occupation of a sub-sector in the Coblenz Bridgehead. Continuing his service after occupation duty, he was appointed maj. gen. on 10 December 1923, and became the 14th Commandant of the Marine Corps on 5 March 1929. Maj. Gen. Neville died on 8 July 1930, and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
(AP-16: displacement 7,475; length 507'; beam 56'; draft 24'; speed 16 knots; complement 574; troop capacity 1,150; armament 4 3-inch)
Neville, built originally as the three-masted, 440' screw steamer Independence in 1918 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Alameda, Calif., for the U.S. Shipping Board, was commissioned on 18 November 1918, Lt. Comdr. O. P. Rankin in command. After WWI service in the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, she decommissioned on 20 March 1919, and was returned to the Shipping Board for merchant marine service. Rebuilt and renamed City of Norfolk in 1930, she was run by the Baltimore Mail Steamship Company until reacquired by the Navy on 14 December 1940. Converted by the Willamette Steel and Iron Co., Portland, Ore., she recommissioned as Neville (AP-16) on 14 May 1941, Capt. C. A. Bailey in command.
On 18 June 1941, Neville reported for duty with the Atlantic Fleet and for the remaining days of quasi-peace in 1941 transported military and naval people to various points along the East Coast and in the Caribbean. On 7 December 1941, she lay at San Juan, P.R., enroute from Trinidad to New York. Within the month, however, she was conducting landing exercises with Army units along the Virginia coast. Detached from that duty in mid-February, she embarked soldiers, sailors, and equipment and departed the East Coast on 19 February 1942, on the first trans-oceanic run of her second world war.
She completed the round-trip voyage to Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 25 March, at New York, disembarked British Royal Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, and British Merchant Marine men, and then continued on to Norfolk, Va., for voyage repairs. At the same time, she received 20-millimeter guns and more modern landing craft for use in her new operational territory, the Pacific.
Neville departed Hampton Roads, Va., on 10 April and steaming south with Task Force (TF) 38, passed through the Panama Canal on the 18th, to serve with TransDiv 8, ServRon 4. Anchoring in Fanui Bay, Bora Bora, on 4 May, she discharged her Army and Naval Construction Battalion "Seabee" passengers and proceeded on to Wellington, New Zealand, where she remained until 22 July. Then, with men of the 1st Marine Division embarked, she headed toward the Fiji Islands to rendezvous with other Allied vessels assigned to Operation Watchtower, the assaults on Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
At 0630 on 7 August 1942, Neville arrived in her assigned transport area off Beach Blue on Tulagi. Seven minutes later she lowered her boats and dispatched Marine Raiders. At 0730 Marine Combat Team 2 was debarked into landing boats which put them ashore soon after "H" Hour at 0800. Despite increasingly stiff opposition, the ship landed all assigned waves by 1012. By 1320 aerial resistance, in the form of bombers and fighters, had been added to the well developed Japanese defenses in the Tulagi-Gavutu-Tanambogo area. The long battle for the Solomons had begun.
Neville remained in the area through the 9th, witnessing, from a distance, the devastation wrought off Savo Island on that date. On the 13th, she arrived at Nouméa, New Caledonia, whence she continued on to Wellington to take on reinforcements. Returning to the combat area on 26 October, she participated in the landings at Aola Bay on 4 November, and then departed to take up transport duties in the New Caledonia-New Hebrides [Vanuatu] area. At the end of the month, she again returned to Guadalcanal, discharged supplies and reinforcements, took on men to be evacuated, and headed south east. After stopping at Espíritu Santo in the New Hebrides to disembark her evacuees, she proceeded to San Diego, Calif., arriving for an availability on 4 January 1943.
On 14 February Neville, now reclassified APA-9 (effective on 1 February), stood out from San Diego enroute back to the Atlantic. She arrived at Norfolk on 10 March, and after amphibious training in the Chesapeake Bay area, sailed on 8 June for North Africa to prepare for the Sicilian invasion. By 10 July she operated off Scoglitti with Cent Force as it landed soldiers on either side of that fishing town. Assigned to the Northern Group, Neville's boats delivered men of the 45th Infantry Division to Red Beach, near the mouth of the Acate River, at 0434. Despite being the last group to get away from their transport, heavy surf, and indefinite landmarks, they were the first to touch down on the beach. With the last wave in by 0640, the task of discharging cargo was begun. On the afternoon of the 12th, the APA departed the assault area and returned to Oran, Algeria, whence she sailed on the 22nd for the United States.
Neville arrived at Newport News, Va., on 3 August, only to depart again on the 23rd, once more assigned to the Pacific. By the end of September she was engaged in intensive landing exercises in the Hawaiian Islands. On 10 November she stood out of Honolulu, T.H., and sailed for the Gilbert Islands with soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division and a platoon of Marine Raiders, 5th Amphibious Corps, embarked.
On the morning of 20 November 1943, marines and soldiers landed on Tarawa and Makin. At 0642 Neville dispatched her marines to secure Katubam but kept her soldiers on board for later landings on the lagoon side of Butaritari. By 1015 the first of eight waves had been dispatched, landing on Beach Yellow at 1040 under an opposing storm of small arms fire. Cargo discharge operations, begun later in the day, continued through the 22nd. On the 23rd, Neville cleared the transport area only to return the next day to take on survivors from escort aircraft carrier Liscome Bay (CVE-56) before returning to Pearl Harbor. From Pearl Harbor, the transport steamed to Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Wash., underwent repairs, and then headed south to San Diego, arriving on the last day of 1943. With the new year of 1944, Neville received new landing craft, fresh boat crews, and orders to join Trans Div 30 at Pearl Harbor. She arrived there on 9 January, again took on troops of the 27th Infantry Division, and on the 23rd got underway, with the Kwajalein Attack Force Reserve Group, Task Group 51.1.
Neville sighted Kwajalein on the 31st, but maneuvered east of the Atoll until entering the lagoon on 2 February. There she engaged in debarkation drills in preparation for the assault on Eniwetok. On 11 February, the uncommitted Kwajalein Reserve Group was dissolved and reformed as the Eniwetok Expeditionary Group. Four days later the group, TG 51.11, sortied from Kwajalein.
On the 17th, Neville entered Eniwetok lagoon and prepared to land her troops on the main objective, Engebi, the following morning. The first waves hit the beaches at 0844. Neville's boats, used on the 17th and on the morning of the 18th, were called on to transport her own passengers to the beaches until after the vessel had shifted to Transport Area 3. Then, at 1609, troops were debarked for landings on Eniwetok Island. For the next three days, she remained off Eniwetok, sending supplies to the beaches and taking on casualties. On the 23rd, she shifted to the Parry Island transport area, where she remained for four days. APA-9 then got underway for Kwajalein, Pearl Harbor, and, ultimately, San Francisco, Calif. On 8 April she returned to Hawaiian waters for amphibious training exercises with marines in preparation for Operation Forager, the push into the Marianas.
Assigned in May to TransDiv 10, Neville departed Honolulu on 30 May 1944, and steamed west with TF 52. Soon after at 0630 on 15 June, she worked in her assigned transport area, seven miles off Saipan. By 0700 her boats had departed for a demonstration feint off Mutcho Point, Garapan. Her boats reloaded in mid-morning, she shifted to the Charan Kanoa transport area. At 1103 she received orders to send her troops in to Beach Green Two. The first boats shoved off for the departure line at 1135 and by 1340 the job was completed.
From the 15th until the 18th, the transport retired each night to positions just off the islands of Saipan and Tinian. From the 19th to the 21st, as the Battle of the Philippine Sea raged, she cruised 75–100 miles east-northeast of Saipan, then returned to complete off-loading cargo at Saipan. On the 23rd, she turned her bow toward Eniwetok, where the ship took Japanese POWs on board. Next sailing to Kwajalein, she embarked ambulatory casualties, and on 5 July joined a convoy headed for Pearl Harbor. There, on 13 July, she delivered her prisoners, and the next day continued her voyage and reached San Diego on the 21st.
On her arrival at San Diego, Neville was assigned to TransDiv 1, Task Unit 13.1.1, then conducting amphibious training exercises for assault troops. From 3 January 1945 until 15 August she operated as a training ship for APA crews, and then, after the cessation of hostilities, resumed duties as a transport to ferry fresh troops to former Japanese islands in the South Pacific and bring home veterans.
On 15 January 1946, the transport departed California for the last time. Steaming to the East Coast, she arrived at Boston, Mass., on 5 February to begin inactivation, decommissioning on 30 April. Transferred to the War Shipping Administration on 16 July, she was stricken from the Navy List on 15 August 1946.
Neville received 5 battle stars for her World War II service.
Updated by Mark L. Evans
20 April 2020