Tutuila II ARG-4 - History

Tutuila II ARG-4 - History

Tutuila II

(ARG-4: dp. 14,360, 1. 441'6"; b. 66'11"; dr. 23'; s. 12.6 k.; cpl. 628; a. 1 6", 3 3", 4 40mm.; cl. Lueon;

T. EC2-S-C1)

Arthur P. Gorman was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1179) on 11 August 1943 at Baltimore, Md., by the Bethlehem Steel Co., renamed Tutuila on 8 September and designated ARG-4
launched on 12 September; transferred to the Navy when 80 percent complete for conversion to an internal combustion engine repair ship on 18 September, converted by the Maryland Drydock Co., and commissioned there on 8 April 1944, Comdr. George T. Boldizsar in command.

Tutuila underwent shakedown in Hampton Roads from 20 April to 24 May before sailing for the Panama Canal and proceeding via San Diego, Pearl Harbor, and Eniwetok to the South Pacific.

Early in August, the repair ship joined Service Squadron (ServRon) 10 based at Purvis Bay, in the once hotly contested Solomon Islands. Tutuila served the Fleet as a floating advance base as it swept its way across the Pacific toward Japan. For the final year of the war, the repair ship engaged in round-the-clock work schedules which seldom slackened.

Tutuila aided in the build on for the operations which led to the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese yoke. Upon completion of this campaign, American task forces set their sights on islands closer to the Japanese homeland. Iwo Jima and Okinawa fell to the telling power of American shells, bombs, and troops which stormed ashore supported by a great Allied armada. Soon, the Allied navies were within shelling distance of the Japanese home islands themselves.

During this time, the repair ship operated first out of Manus, in the Admiralties, before moving to Ulithi in the Carolines. In the wake of the liberation of the Philippines, Tutuila arrived at Leyte on 24 May 1946 and provided repair services there to a wide variety of ships and smaller craft from the date of her arrival until the end of hostilities.

Yet, Tutuila's work was far from over. As American and Allied forces prepared for occupation of the Japanese homeland, the ship joined those forces headed north for duty off Nippon's shores. On 30 August, Tutuila-in company with Jason (ARH 1), Whitney (AD-4) and 11 smaller ships-set out on the first leg of the voyage northward. One day out, a typhoon lashed at the convoy, forcing the slower repair ship to remain with the "small boys" while Jason and Whitney received orders to run for Japan. On 2 September, having weathered the storm and shepherded her charges to safe harbor, Tutuila dropped anchor in Buckner Bay, Okinawa.

From there, Tutuila proceeded with a 33-ship convoy, bound for Korea, making port at Jinsen (now called Inchon) on 24 September 1946. She operated there as a maintenance vessel for ships engaged in the repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war. She continued this work after moving to Taku, China, where she arrived on 26 January 1946.

Departing Taku on 30 March, the ship steamed to Shanghai, China, where she dropped anchor on 2 April.

Six days later, she sailed for the United States. The ship transited the Panama Canal and arrived at New Orleans on 20 May. Following repairs, she moved to Galveston, Tex., on 9 June 1946 for deactivation and was decommissioned there six months later, on 7 December 1946.

She lay basking in the Texas sun until the summer of 1950, when North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. As the United States armed forces mobilized to support the United Nations effort, Tutuila received the call to return to active service. Towed to Orange, Tex., she was reconditioned with new shop machinery which replaced her 5-inch and 40-millimeter guns and their magazines. On 7 May 1951 the ship was recommissioned and assigned to the Service Force, Atlantic Fleet.

Tutuila arrived at Norfolk on 30 May 1951 and served there until 13 October, when she proceeded to Baltimore for one week before returning to Hampton Roads where she remained from 23 October 1951 to 16 June 1952.

Calling briefly at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 20 to 23 June, she operated out of Norfolk again from 28 June to 15 August and from 22 August to 30 October, with a stint at New York in between. She continued this routine of east coast operations from 1952 through 1957, with occasional calls at Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Havana, Cuba; and (:uantanamo Bay.

In 1957, the ship paid good will calls to Bermuda in June and Nova Scotia in August, with groups of Explorer Scouts embarked for each cruise. In October 1958, Tutuila again visited Havana and then proceeded to Philadelphia, where she took part in a special project for reclaiming material from ships in reserve before returning to Norfolk. She underwent a major overhaul at the Norfolk Navy Yard from 31 October 1958 to 21 January 1959 before proceeding to Guantanamo Bay late in March. But for a round-trip cruise to Port-au-Prince from 10 to 12 April, the ship served there until summer when she returned to the Virginia capes for antisubmarine exercises. The ship continued her operations out of Norfolk until the autumn of 1962.

On one occasion, the repair ship encountered merchantman SS William Johnson in distress while en route to Norfolk and, within a short time, Tutuila sent over a repair crew to correct the engineering casualty.

American reconnaissance planes flying over Cuba in the fall of 1962 noticed unusual activities there, and, when photographic prints were developed, the unusual items and activities were found to be Russian-built missiles and missile sites. In reaction to this threat President John F. Kennedy ordered the Navy to throw a cordon around Cuba-instituting a "quarantine" of the island. In this tense climate, Navy destroyers and patrol planes formed a picket line, turning back Russian ships carrying missiles.

Tutuila proceeded to Morehead City, N.C., where she rendered services to Amphibious Squadron before stopping at Norfolk to load cargo and proceed south to support the quarantine line. Basing out of Roosevelt Roads and Vieques, Puerto Rico, the ship provided supplies and services for the ships engaged in blockading Cuban sea lanes.

After the Soviet Government complied with President Kennedy's demand for the withdrawal of the missiles and all of their associated technicians, sites, and the like, tensions eased. Tutuila proceeded north toward Norfolk but encountered a storm-much like the one weathered in 1945, with 80-knot winds and heavy seas —which caused a three-day delay in her returning to home port.

Operating out of Norfolk and Charleston, S.C., through 1964, the ship provided repair services during Operation "Springboard" in January of 1965. Visits to San Juan and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, Frederiksted and St. Croix, in the American Virgin Islands; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; provided the crew with sightseeing and recreational activities in between her regular duties out of the east coast ports of Norfolk and Charleston. In March 1965, Tutuila participated in a program to reclaim material and special equipment installed on radar picket destroyers which were currently being decommissioned at Bayonne, N.J.

As flagship of ServRon 4, Tutuila returned to Norfolk before heading south to the strife-torn Dominican Republic. While performing repair and support duties during the months of April and May, the ship conducted a special series of operations geared toward supplying needed petroleum products to light and power facilities in Santo Domingo after rebel gunfire had prevented normal tanker deliveries.

For the remainder of the year 1965, she continued operations out of Norfolk following the Dominican intervention, calling at San Juan and Guantanamo Bay for refresher training after her annual Portsmouth overhaul. During March and April 1966, Tutuila underwent extensive preparation for overseas deployment, as repair shops, berthing and messing spaces were air conditioned, and new communications equipment was procured and installed.

The repair ship sailed from Norfolk on 9 May and transited the Panama Canal on 18 May. After brief stops at Pearl Harbor and at Subic Bay in the Philippines, the repair ship arrived at An Thoi, Phu Quoc Island, in the Gulf of Siam, to support Operation "Market Time" off the coast of South Vietnam.

Relieving Krishna (APL-28) on 19 July, Tutuila commenced servicing the nimble and hard-hitting PCF's, or "Swift" boats, attached to Division 11. WPB's of the Coast Guard's Division 11 were based on Tutuila as well. The following month found Tutuila's LCM's and their crews participating in Operation "Seamount," an Army directed landing operation to clear the southern Phu Quoc Island of enemy forces. Landing South Vietnamese troops at four locations, Tutuila's boats also carried supplies and ammunition to the Allied ground forces while helicopters evacuated casualties to the repair ship for medical attention.

Krishna returned to An Thoi on 8 October to relieve Tutuila, which then steamed to Bangkok, Thailand, for rest and relaxation for her crew. The repair ship then arrived back off the Vietnamese coast, reaching Vung Tau, off Cape St. Jacques, on 18 October. Here she supported Operations "Market Time," "Game Warden," and "Stable Door" through the end of 1966.

The opening days of the new year, 1967, saw the repair ship taking up support duties for the Mobile Riverine Force established at Vung Tau for operations in the Mekong Delta. Here, she assisted in the preparation of ASPB's and other small patrol craft until Askari (APL-30) arrived and took over the major repair and maintenance work.

Tutuila conducted in-country availability for the first time on Hisser (DER-100) on 9 January. Her repair crews finished another difficult job in just five days— the overhauling and repairing of the troublesome diesel generators of Benewah (APB 35).

Turned over to the operational control of Commander, Naval Support Activity, Saigon, in April 1967, the ship commenced services to LST's engaged in operations off the mouth of the Mekong River. During this period, the repair ship continued to provide support and maintenance facilities for craft of the Mobile Riverine Assault Force and supported Coastal Division 13 as well. Further, Tutuila's 3-inch guns spoke in anger for the first time in the Vietnam conflict, as the ship undertook a shore bombardment in the Rung Sat Special Zone, providing harassment and interdiction fire into an area of suspected Viet Cong activity north of Vung Tau.

Returning to An Thoi in October 1967, Tutuila relieved Krishna and provided support for coastal divisions of Navy and Coast Guard before proceeding to Kaobsiung, Taiwan, for five days of upkeep in late November. She returned to Vung Tau on 7 December to continue supporting coastal interdiction operations.

The repair ship remained at Vung Tau until taking over duties at An Thoi in April 1968 from Krishna. While remaining on station through the summer Tutuila also trained South Vietnamese sailors in the operation of PCF's, four of which had been transferred to the Republic of Vietnam in August. Tutuila's hard work earned the Navy Unit Commendation as a result of the labors conducted at both Vung Tau and An Thoi.

Extensive improvements in habitability highlighted the yard work conducted at Yokosuka in January 1969, while the main engine, auxiliary pumps, and the three main generators were all subjected to thorough overhauling. On 21 March, the ship departed from Yokosuka for sea trials and refresher training-a virtually new ship both inside and out. The final week of training completed by 22 April, Tutuila cleared the Japanese isles on the 27th, bound, once more, for Vietnam.

After a five-day visit to Hong Kong en route, the ship dropped anchor at Vung Tau on 14 May. She commenced work almost immediately, conducting a temporary availability on Brule (AKL-28) before 1 June and filling 36 work requests from Mark (ARL12) as well as repair work and availability requirements for local YFR craft and the Republic of Korea LSM-610.

On 12 June, Tutuila got underway for An Thoi where she supported the continuation of "Market Time," as well as "Seafloat" and "Sealord," while maintaining PCF's, YFU's, APUBI, and several LST's.

For the months of June and July, the ship also undertook further training operations-repairing 17 Vietnamese Navy PCF's and training 39 Vietnamese bluejackets in diesel engine overhaul. Saint Francis River (LSMR-525) underwent two weeks of restricted availability, adding to the repair ship's already busy and round-the-clock schedule. Furfilling these and other requests for South Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, and United States Navy units, Tutuila remained busy for the remainder of her active career off Vietnam-receiving three Navy Unit Commendations in the process. Late in 1971, she was selected for transfer to the Republic of China Navy.

On New Year's Day 1972, Tutuila departed Vung Tau after six years of combat support duties. Many times she had hoisted PCF's or other patrol craft onto pontoons alongside for complete overhauls; her crew had taught their Vietnamese counterparts the intricacies of diesel power plants and generators. Her guns had even conducted one offensive shore bombardment. Vietnam lay behind her as she headed for Hong Kong on 1 January 1972. Six days of bad weather jostled her before she finally made port at the British Crown Colony on 7 January.

Her stay at Hong Kong was not all rest and relaxation, however, as much lay ahead to be done in preparation for the transfer to the Chinese Navy. Tutuila's crew gave her a "face lift" which included painting overhauling engines, and getting her records and accounts in order. She departed Hong Kong on 13 January and arrived at Subic Bay two days later, where upon arrival, the work of off-loading supplies and ammunition began.

Departing Subic Bay on 29 January, Tutuila made port at Kaobsiung on 2 February to the accompaniment of a Chinese military band which played tunes from the dockside. For the next three weeks, final checks were undertaken to put the finishing touches on the transfer. Finally, by 21 February 1972, all was in readiness. On that day, Tutuila was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list. Transferred to the Nationalist Chinese Navy, she was renamed Pien Tai and serves as a supply ship into 1979.

Tutuilu received seven battle stars, three Navy Unit Commendations, and two Meritorious Unit Commendations for her Vietnam service.

Construction and shakedown [ edit | edit source ]

Originally laid down as Arthur P. Gorman under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1179) on 11 August 1943 at Baltimore, MD, by the Bethlehem Steel Co. renamed Tutuila on 8 September and designated ARG-4 launched on 12 September transferred to the Navy when 80 percent complete for conversion to an internal combustion engine repair ship on 18 September converted by the Maryland Drydock Co. and commissioned there on 8 April 1944, Comdr. George T. Boldizsar in command.

Tutuila underwent shakedown in Hampton Roads from 20 April to 24 May before sailing for the Panama Canal and proceeding via San Diego, Pearl Harbor, and Eniwetok to the South Pacific Theater.


This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.

    Luzon Class Internal Combustion Engine Repair Ship
    Keel Laid August 11 1943 as ARTHUR P. GORMAN
    Renamed September 8 1943
    Launched September 12 1943
    Acquired by U.S. Navy September 18 1943

Struck from Naval Register February 21 1972

Naval Covers

This section lists active links to the pages displaying covers associated with the ship. There should be a separate set of pages for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Covers should be presented in chronological order (or as best as can be determined).

Since a ship may have many covers, they may be split among many pages so it doesn't take forever for the pages to load. Each page link should be accompanied by a date range for covers on that page.


This section lists examples of the postmarks used by the ship. There should be a separate set of postmarks for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Within each set, the postmarks should be listed in order of their classification type. If more than one postmark has the same classification, then they should be further sorted by date of earliest known usage.

A postmark should not be included unless accompanied by a close-up image and/or an image of a cover showing that postmark. Date ranges MUST be based ONLY ON COVERS IN THE MUSEUM and are expected to change as more covers are added.
>>> If you have a better example for any of the postmarks, please feel free to replace the existing example.

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Yangtze Patrol, 1928-1937 [ edit | edit source ]

Assigned to the Yangtze Patrol (YangPat) and redesignated river gunboat PR-4 on 16 June 1928, Tutuila cruised on shakedown up the Yangtze River from Shanghai to Yichang, where she joined her sister ship Guam in mid-July. Convoying river steamers through the upper reaches of the Yangtze on her first passage through the scenic gorges, she flew the flag of Rear Admiral Yates Stirling, Jr., Commander, Yangtze Patrol (ComYangPat). Tutuila ' s shallow draft enabled her to traverse the treacherous rapids of the gorges with ease, so that the fluctuating water levels did not hinder her year-round access to the upper stretch of the Yangtze. Her duty with YangPat offered excitement and variety: conducting roving armed patrols convoying merchantmen providing armed guards for American flag steamers and "showing the flag" to protect American lives and property in a land where civil strife and warfare had been a way of life for centuries.

Dealing with sniping by bandits or warlord troops in the 1920s and 1930s required both tact and—on occasion—a few well-placed rounds of 3 in (76 mm) or .30 in (7.62 mm) gunfire. One incident which called for a mixture of diplomacy and force came in 1929, when Lt. Cdr. S. D. Truesdell was in command of the gunboat. He called on the Chinese warlord from whose territory some rifle shots had come. During a discussion of the incident, the general explained that his men were merely "country boys, who meant no harm". Truesdell replied that he, too, had some "country boys" among his own crew. He noted that he had found them tinkering with the after 3-inch gun, pointing it at the general's conspicuous white headquarters as they practiced their range-finding. Truesdell's rejoinder bore immediate fruit the sniper fire ceased.

Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1941 [ edit | edit source ]

In 1937, the complexion of life for the Yangtze gunboats changed. The undeclared Second Sino-Japanese War began in July and spread to the Yangtze valley in August–September. Japanese river operations effectively bottled up the river for neutral gunboats, and their proximity to war zones produced incidents such as the sinking of Panay by Japanese aircraft on 12 December 1937. On 3 August 1938, Tutuila followed Luzon up the river to Chungking, as the YangPat flagship carried the American Ambassador—Nelson T. Johnson—to that river port.

Tutuila remained at Chungking as station ship with little hope of relief. Further Japanese operations resulted in the capture of Hankow in October 1938, making river travel below the former Chinese capital city subject to harassment and obstruction by the Japanese Navy. Such conditions resulted in the stranding of Tutuila at Chungking, where she remained through 1941.

After the fall of Hankow, the Chinese moved their capital up river to Tutuila ' s station, Chungking. Japanese forces thus stepped up the intensity of their attacks on that city, and air raids were common occurrences during the spring, summer, and fall. Only winter bad weather prevented the Japanese from year-round heavy raids. Moored at Lungmenhao Lagoon, Tutuila bore a charmed life until 31 July 1941, when Japanese bombs landed close aboard, holing the ship at her waterline and destroying the ship's motor skimmer with its outboard motor.

By late 1941, as the situation in the Far East worsened, four gunboats remained with YangPat and one in the South China Patrol. Admiral Hart's reduction of naval forces in Chinese waters cut this number to two. Luzon—with Rear Admiral William A. Glassford, ComYangPat, aboard—departed from Shanghai for Manila on 28 November 1941 in company with Oahu. Wake remained at Shanghai as station ship Tutuila, beyond hope of escape, remained marooned at Chungking. Mindanao departed Hong Kong at approximately the same time and arrived in the Philippines shortly after hostilities commenced.

World War II, 1941-1942 [ edit | edit source ]

Shortly after his arrival in Manila, RAdm. Glassford deactivated the Yangtze Patrol on 6 December 1941. Within a few days, Japanese air attacks had devastated Pearl Harbor and hostilities were underway with a rapidity which caught Wake unawares at Shanghai, where she was captured. For Tutuila, however, this news only heightened the anxiety.

Her residual complement of two officers and 22 enlisted men was ordered to depart from Chungking without their ship. She was then taken under the jurisdiction of the Naval Attaché attached to the American Embassy, Chungking. She was decommissioned on 18 January 1942, the same day Tutuila ' s crew flew out of the city.

Republic of China Navy, 1942-1949 [ edit | edit source ]

The attaché delivered the ship to an authorized representative of the Republic of China on 16 February 1942. Then, under terms of lend-lease, the U.S. Navy leased the gunboat to China on 19 March, her name becoming Mei Yuan, which can be translated as "of American origin". The name Tutuila was struck from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register on 26 March.

The ship was permanently transferred to the Chinese government on 17 February 1948. She served the Nationalist Navy until near the end of the Civil War which ravaged China after World War II. As Communist forces advanced upon Shanghai, the Nationalists abandoned and scuttled Mei Yuan to prevent her capture. Her subsequent fate is unknown.


It is stated or passed on through Samoan oral history/tradition, that Tuifea’i was the son of Tuifiti who came to Samoa, looking for his cousins Pate and Alainuanua. This Tuifeai was Fijian -Samoan, as his mother was from Manu’a. Furthermore TUIFE’AI became known as TUISAMOA, a title according to another version…was bestowed upon him by (the cannibal king) Malietoafaiga. He (TUIFE’AI) settled in Falealili.-Upolu. However, there is no mistaking the name of TUIFE’AI and his place in the history of Tutuila Island, to the east. Is this the one and the same TUIFE’AI who held Tutuila in sway…grip of fear over his insatiable cannibalistic appetite? I believe this is the one and the same TUIFEAI, who had a great influence in Tutuila.

Interestingly enough, and ACCORDING to other more recently added versions on the internet….it is said that this is the TUIFEA’I, whom LUTU and SOLOSOLO (brothers and yet warrior chiefs)of Falealili came to, as what is expressed in the samoan vernacular…”Fa’aea le pologa a Tutuila mai ia TUIFE’AI”, to release and free the people of Tutuila from the bondage of TUIFE’AI’S insatiable appetite for human flesh.

Additionally, there seems to have been some confusion as to whether this same TUIFEA’I, was the one and the same individual known as Malietoafea’i. That, particular Malietoa would most likely be Malietoafaiga, a totally different individual,time and generation to that of the infamous TUIFEA’I.

This is where it becomes quite disconcerting…regarding the above mentioned Lutu and Solosolo and the well known TUIFEA’I aka TUISAMOA. If one were to take a close look at the estimated timeline of samoan prehistory, to gauge the possibility/likelihood of the above mentioned event, which involves the brother chiefs – the original LUTU and SO LOSOLO and their so called, “vanquishing…defeating, the infamous TUIFEA’I TUISAMOA… would be virtually…IMPOSSIBLE.

The original Lutu and Solosolo are the great- grandsons of Tafa’ifa(T4)Queen Salamasina. THE Tuifea’i Tuisamoa, of the TUIMANU’A and TUIFITI line, lived way, waaaay… long, long, long BEFORE, T4-QUEEN SALAMASINA, her children …such as her son le SATELE(Tapumanaia II-TapuSatele…o le ULUA’I SATELE) and daughter Fofoa’ivao’ese. TUIFEA’I preceeded any of her(T4 Salamasina’s grandchildren(on le SATELE’S line.….his children, a son LE SATELE and daughter ALA’IFEA….usuia e Mata’utiamoelala from Falealili). Alaifea, is the mother of the original or first LUTU and SOLOSOLO…warrior and brother chiefs of Sapunaoa Falealili. They are the great grandsons of Queen Salamasina. LE SATELE, is her grandson and born from him is her or another great grandson MATA’UTIA of Sataua.

TUIFEA’I aka TUISAMOA…. lived some 250-300 years before Queen Salamasina and her great grandsons Lutu and Solosolo. Tuifea’i Tuisamoa is found in the oral tradition relegated to the ousting out of Tuitoga TALAKAIFAIKI…TALA’IFE’I’I and the rise of the newly named or founded titleMALIETOA line...which begins with MALIETOA SAVEA.

Queen Salamasina and her descendants….ARE not only descendants of Tuifiti, Tuifea’i…TUISAMOA…but also to that of the Tuimanu’a, Tuiatua,Tuia’ana,Tuitoga, Tuiuea, Tagaloa,Tonumaipea Malietoa genealogical lines et cetera. Another added matter of concern are statements made on other blog sites, news blog sites on genealogy and history, is that Tuifea’i Tuisamoa is the one and the same Talakaifaiki/Tala’ife’i’i, who supposedly held sway over the “entire” Samoan archipelago”. They are quite sadly mistaken, indeed.

Additionally, I have come across, at least three times….writings by others that attempt a connection between Tuifea’i and Tala’ife’i’i…..and venture further to state that Tuifea’i is one and the same Tuitoga Tala’ife’i’i. Tuifea’i Tuisamoa and Talakaifa’iki were first cousins. Their mothers are sisters daughters of Tuimanu’a, one married Tuifiti, the other Tuitoga.

The versions on the internet which have surfaced referring to Lutu and Solosolo…defeating Tuifea’i or driving him out of Tutuila….is nothing short of trying to forcefully merge people and events in a timeline that would never make sense to anyone with half a brain. Different periods of the historical timeline.

Information on Vietnam Naval Operations

Compensation and Pension (C&P) Service has initiated a program to collect data on Vietnam naval operations for the purpose of providing regional offices with information to assist with development in Haas related disability claims based on herbicide exposure from Navy Veterans.

To date, we have received verification from various sources showing that a number of offshore “blue water” naval vessels conducted operations on the inland “brown water” rivers and delta areas of Vietnam. We have also identified certain vessel types that operated primarily or exclusively on the inland waterways.

The ships and dates of inland waterway service are listed below.

If a Veteran’s service aboard one of these ships can be confirmed through military records during the time frames specified, then exposure to agents can be presumed without further development.

(5)All vessels of Inshore Fire Support [IFS] Division 93 during their entire Vietnam tour

  • USS Carronade (IFS 1)
  • USS Clarion River (LSMR 409) [Landing Ship, Medium, Rocket]
  • USS Francis River (LSMR 525)
  • USS White River (LSMR 536)

(6) All vessels with the designation LST [Landing Ship, Tank] during their entire tour

(7) WWII ships converted to transport supplies on rivers and serve as barracks for brown water Mobile Riverine Forces]

(8) Vessels with the designation LCVP [Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel] during their entire tour

(9) All vessels with the designation PCF [Patrol Craft, Fast] during their entire tour [Also called Swift Boats, operating for enemy interdiction on close coastal waters]

(10) All vessels with the designation PBR [Patrol Boat, River] during their entire to ur [Also called River Patrol Boats as part of the Mobile Riverine Forces operating on inland waterways and featured in the Vietnam film “Apocalypse Now”]

USS Tutuila (PG-44)

Figure 1: USS Tutuila (PG-44) in China, date and location unknown. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS Tutuila (PG-44) in Chungking, China. Date unknown. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS Tutuila (PG-44) in China, circa 1928. US Navy photo from Jane's Fighting Ships. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: USS Tutuila (PG-44) circa 1928 on the Yangtze River. Photo from the Tutuila (ARG 4), 20th Birthday edition (1964) Welcome Aboard pamphlet. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: The gunboat USS Tutuila sits at anchor across from Chungking in 1941. On the day this picture was taken five bombs narrowly missed the vessel. Photo by Carl Mydans for Life magazine. Photo from the October 1973 edition of All Hands magazine. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: USS Tutuila (PG-44) at Chungking during bombing raid. US Navy photo from the July 1978 edition of All Hands magazine. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: US gunboat in the midst of a Japanese bombing raid on Chungking, China. USS Tutuila, the only American gunboat in Chinese nationalist waters, is shown standing by the American embassy on the “south bank” of Chungking, as Japan’s air forces rained incendiary bombs on the Chinese capital. Clouds of smoke swirled around the little river craft and although bombs and shells fell close to her, Tutuila was not injured. Photo from the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8: “Far Yangtze Station” by artist Tom Freeman. USS Tutuila standing watch at Chungking, China, in 1939. Signed by artist Tom Freeman and Rear Admiral Kemp Tolley, who was the Executive Officer on board Tutuila. Print available for purchase at the US Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after an island in American Samoa, USS Tutuila (PG-44) was one of six American gunboats built by the Kiangnan Dockyard and Engineering Works in Shanghai, China. Commissioned on 2 March 1928, Tutuila was part of the US Asiatic Fleet and was built specifically for patrolling China’s Yangtze River. The ship was approximately 159 feet long and 27 feet wide, had a top speed of 14.37 knots, and had a crew of 61 officers and men. Tutuila had a fully-loaded draft of only 5 feet 5 inches, which made her ideally suited for some of the shallower waters of the Yangtze River. The gunboat also was armed with two 3-inch guns and approximately ten 30-caliber machine guns.

As part of the famous Yangtze Patrol (YangPat), Tutuila was re-designated from a gunboat to a river gunboat (PR-4) on 15 June 1928. She went on her shakedown cruise up the Yangtze River from Shanghai to I’Chang, where she rendezvoused with her sister ship USS Guam (PR-3) in mid-July. Their principal missions included convoying river steamers through the upper parts of the Yangtze, conducting armed patrols of the river, providing armed guards for American flagged steamers, “showing the flag” and protecting American lives and property in a country that was plagued by bandits, pirates, warlords, and civil war.

American gunboats on the Yangtze drew occasional sniper fire from shore by bandits and warlord troops in the 1920s and 1930s and Tutuila was no exception. During one such incident in 1929, Tutuila was fired on by some troops loyal to a local warlord. Lieutenant Commander S. E. Truesdell, commanding officer of the gunboat, went on shore to discuss the matter with the warlord. During the meeting, the Chinese warlord stated that his men were mere “country boys, who meant no harm.” Truesdell replied that he, too, had some “country boys” on board his ship and that they were pointing one of the ship’s 3-inch guns right at the warlord’s headquarters. The sniper fire from the warlord’s troops ended immediately after the meeting.

By 1937, duty on the Yangtze had changed dramatically. The Sino-Japanese war had escalated in July and had quickly spread to the Yangtze valley in August and September. Japanese military activity along and on the Yangtze soon proved dangerous to gunboats from other nations. On 12 December 1937, the American gunboat USS Panay (PR-5) was sunk by Japanese aircraft. Japan claimed it was an accident, even though Panay was clearly marked and identified as an American warship. On 3 August 1938, Tutuila followed her sister ship USS Luzon (PR-7) up the Yangtze to Chungking, carrying the American Ambassador, Nelson T. Johnson, to the embassy there. However, the Japanese eventually captured Hankow in October 1938, effectively cutting off Chungking from the entrance to the Yangtze. The Japanese Navy prevented any ships from leaving the area, which meant that Tutuila was basically stranded at Chungking, where she would remain until 1941.

After the fall of Hankow, the Chinese moved their capital up river to Chungking, where Tutuila was stationed. She now was officially the American station ship for Chungking, which was a rather hollow title considering that there was no hope of rescuing, let alone relieving, this stranded little warship. Japanese forces began advancing on Chungking, bombing it repeatedly from the air. Although many bombs fell on the city and on the river, Tutuila managed to avoid all of them. But on 31 July 1941, a near miss seriously damaged the gunboat, blowing a hole at her waterline and causing some flooding. The ship, though, remained afloat.

Towards the end of 1941, the situation on the Yangtze seemed desperate. Two of YangPat’s last remaining four river gunboats (USS Luzon and USS Oahu, PR-6) managed to leave Shanghai and made a remarkable voyage to Manila on 28 November 1941. Of the other two gunboats, USS Wake (PR-3) stayed at Shanghai as station ship while Tutuila remained stranded at Chungking. On 5 December 1941, the Yangtze Patrol was officially deactivated. A few days later, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Wake was captured by Japanese forces at Shanghai. Tutuila remained isolated, but still was under American control deep inside China.

Unfortunately, the small gunboat’s days were numbered. The crew of Tutuila (which now numbered only two officers and 22 enlisted men) eventually was ordered to abandon their ship and leave Chungking. Although saddened at the prospect of leaving their ship, these tough old Asiatic Fleet veterans probably knew a hopeless situation when they saw one. What remained of Tutuila’s crew was flown out of Chungking and the Naval Attache attached to the American Embassy in that city formally handed over the ship to representatives of the Republic of China on 16 February 1942. The ship was renamed Mei Yuan (which roughly translates to “of American origin”) and the gunboat officially was stricken from the US Navy list on 25 March 1942. The ship remained with Nationalist Chinese forces until after World War II and was scuttled sometime in 1948 to prevent her from being captured by Chinese communist forces.

American gunboats served all over the world and were always considered to be small and expendable warships. But real people served on board those “expendable” ships, often facing dangerous situations with little recognition and even less hope of success when confronted by a larger and more powerful enemy. Cut off from the rest of the fleet, the men of Tutuila held out as long as they could before having to give up their ship. Remarkably, this tough little gunboat survived the war only to go down in yet another conflict along the troubled Yangtze River.

Brownwater Vietnam Veterans

I picked up the Tut in Norfolk a few weeks before she sailed as an SA. Checked in at the quarterdeck and the Chief said, "Welcome aboard, sailor! You're going to Viet Nam." I was told she was 'welded to the pier' and only got underway to 'scrape the coffee grounds off the hull' (SKC Anderson in Great Lakes). She was my first ship and I was as dumb as a box of rocks. I was assigned to S-1 and worked in the bulk store room, the paint store room, the rubber mat store room, and the electronics store room along with SK2 Bob Storey. Div Off was Warrant Officer John Robey. Don't remember a lot of names in my division but one that sticks out is MALACHAI TAUALILI, from Guam. I ran with Calvin Murphy from Tyler, Texas and Moses Reed from Detroit. Stood a lot of bow watches at An Thoi and Vung Tau. I could see the rain squall coming and would put on my rain gear. I might as well have left if off I was sweating so much with it on. In Bangkok, I got paired up with a Thai TM1 by the name of Tomnoon Vachirapo. Took me places in Bangkok tourists didn't go to. Met a girl in Bangkok Jewelry and asked her out. She wouldn't go because the girls with the guys off the ship were hookers and she didn't want her friends thinking she was a 'bad girl'. Tom (the TM1) taught me a short Thai song and made a sign that in Thai said, "I'M NOT A BAD GIRL". We bought some roses on the way back to the store. I sang the song, then gave her the flowers and the sign and told her she could wear the sign around her neck. She laughed and said she'd go with me. We went to a dinner theater then took a taxi to her home and I met her family. Last time I saw her but we wrote for a couple of years then she said she was getting married. I told her it might be better we didn't write any more so her husband wouldn't get jealous. She agreed.
I made SK3 off the Tut, and the results came in while I was in Saigon for 10 days waiting for my flight, but didn't know it until I checked in to my new command, Dam Neck.

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