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USS Indus (AKN-1)

Net Tender Story - #5 Volume IX - USS Indus AKN-1

We should probably call our Group The Net Navy Group because it includes Net Tender/Net Layers, Net Tenders Tug Class, Net Gate Vessels, Net Cargo Ships and Net Depots. Up until our recent reunion we have never had anyone attend our reunions from the Net Tender Tug Class Vessels or the Net Cargo ships. This year we welcomed a wonderful couple from the Net Cargo Ship USS Indus AKN-1. They were Charles and Jean Chapman from Chelsea, MA. Charles was a quartermaster on Indus.

Recently Charles sent me a copy of their ship book “THE INDUS LOG’ With this information we are able to give you some information on the USS Indus.

At the end of 1943 the Allies were on the offensive on their drive from the Southwest Pacific to the Philippines.

Prior to that as Allied Forces began to reclaim valuable harbors and ports it required as long as 6 months after occupation to install torpedo nets because of delay in receiving net material. This required the patrolling of these unprotected ports and harbors until the torpedo nets were laid. These patrolling vessels were probably also needed at the front lines.

A new system of net laying was implemented by the construction of 4 converted liberty freighters 441 feet long and acquiring one old 1914 freighter 353 ft long One of the liberty ships became USS Indus AKN-1. These ships known as Net Cargo ships were floating Net Depots. They carried net material to the scene of operation, assembled them and launched the completed net sections ready for installation to the AN class Net Layers. The Net Cargo Ships were the mother ships to a pair of Net Layers, one that laid the moorings and the other who laid the nets and buoys.The commanding officer of the AKN was the Task Group Commander for the Net Laying operation, directing movements of the Net Layers. The net installations could then be completed during the assault phase of captured islands and anchorages instead of waiting for the arrival of net material.

Two large forces were moving on a Island Hopping route from the Southwest Pacific to liberate the Philippines and continue on to Japan if necessary. Many Japanese held islands were by-passed and cut off from their supply lines.

Beginning in 1944 the Net Cargo Ships and AN Net Layers would be laying Torpedo Nets at the Marshall Islands (Majuro, Kwajalein and Eniwetok) Mariana Islands (Guam, Saipan and Tinian) Admiralty Islands (Manus) Padiado Islands, now Indonesia (Mios Woendi) Caroline Islands ( Ulithi, Pelelieu and Kossol Roads) Philippine Islands (Subic Bay and Guiuan Roadstead, Samar) Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

USS Indus AKN-1 had been launched as the Maritime Liberty ship Theodore Roosevelt at Baltimore, MD 29 October 1943 but acquired by the Navy 5 November 1943. It was commissioned 15 February 1944 with Comdr. A.S. Eimmo in command. He was born in Norway and prior to serving in the navy he served in the Maritime Service in Alaska. His first command in the navy was as Commanding Officer on the Net Tender USS Butternut YN-4. Indus had a crew complement of 228.

Indus sailed from Norfolk 1 April 1944 , with a load of nets and buoys, for the Pacific theater via the Panama Canal, arriving Espirito Santo, New Hebrides May 12th. Her first assignment was net laying the magnificent deep landlocked Seeadler Harbor on Manus Island in the Admiralties, with Net Layers Cinnamon AN-50 and Silverbell AN-51. From June 24th to August 8th these ships installed 8,950 yards of torpedo nets in 4 baffles to protect the harbor

Indus made a trip to Milne Bay for another load of Net Material and later joined up with Silverbell AN-51 and Teaberry AN-34 at Mios Woendi a tiny atoll just east of the larger island of Biak, off the New Guinea coast. This was a forward base for the navy with a Submarine Base, PT Boat Base and Seaplane Base. Here the 3 ships installed 3,052 yards of torpedo nets in 9 working days working 13 ˝ hours a day. 5 more days were required for the addition of surface protection. The installation was completed on Sept. 21st and Indus sailed for Milne Bay where she took aboard Captain Hylant 7th Fleet Service Force Coordinator and his staff. He was Task Unit Commander and Indus was to be his flagship.

Indus sailed to Hollandia, New Guinea on October 12 and joined a 75 ship convoy that sailed to Leyte in the Philippines, arriving in San Pedro Bay between Leyte and Samar Islands October 23rd. They arrived at the beginning of the most vicious sea fight in history that ended up with the destruction of the Japanese Navy. During their 37 days at Leyte they would witness the Kamikaze suicide planes that dove into our ships. Indus took a near miss one night and saw other ships being hit. Shells could be heard whizzing overhead. Ships were at General Quarters most of the time under continual attack from Japanese aircraft. No nets were laid in San Pedro Bay . Ships job there was to issue stores and mooring gear for sono buoys. They also repaired many small craft. While there they were credited with shooting down 2 enemy planes on Oct. 25th and Nov. 4th.

Indus went back to Hollandia, and later to Manus for repairs and equipment and back to Hollandia to become part of a 115 ship convoy headed for the Lingayen Gulf invasion off the coast of Luzon in the Philippines, Manila’s Island.

Indus entered Lingayen Gulf 9 January 1945. Crew worked hard supplying small ships in the bay, also furnished ammunition to working parties, repaired boats and maintained staff communication during this period. One of their thrilling experiences was to help American prisoners freed from the Japanese notorious Cabanatuan Prison Camp,. who were brought aboard. Indus worked with Net Layers Teaberry AN-34 and Silverbell AN-51 launching and installing anti-torpedo net protection at Subic Bay, located 20 miles north of Manila. Assignment was completed April 10th. Back at Manila Indus was assigned to Commander, Service Squadron Four, as his flagship.

Then back to Manus for scraping and painting. Indus left Manus on May 12th headed back to Manila with general cargo and the staff of ComServRon Four aboard. Brief stop was made at Hollandia, leaving there as Commodore of a 46 ship convoy. Arrival at Manila gave the crew their first real liberty in over a year. The war had caused great devastation to the city of Manila.

Unexpectedly Indus received word to discharge cargo and the flag immediately and proceed to Pearl Harbor. Ship steamed into Pearl Harbor on June 19th. The crew was jubilant, thinking that maybe they were headed for the states. Alas, their new orders were not to San Francisco but to Eniwetok, to which they departed on July 1st.

At Eniwetok Indus worked with the net cargo ship USS Salem CM-11 repairing nets. Salem was converted to a net cargo ship in November 1944, but retained her CM Minelayer designation. Al Seguin stated that his ship USS Sandalwood AN-32 was working about a mile away from these ships. He also stated that USS Hoptree AN-62 was at Eniwetok and could possibly have been working with these ships. The net repair job was completed on July 31st. The Japanese surrendered in August, Comdr. Einmo turned over command of the ship to Lt. Comdr Dubail in September and USS Indus ended up at Norfolk, Va. in March 1946 and was decommissioned at Norfolk in May 1946.

The great 18 month offensive drive by the Allies from January 1944 (Tarawa) to June 1945 (Okinawa) had been completed. Because of the new Net Cargo Ships like Indus, a new system of net laying had been implemented whereas the Net Cargo Ships and Net Layers followed the fleet and laid the nets without any delays.

Glenn Paulson

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