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On the 13th May, 1944, at Charleston Navy Yard Pier 314, the U.S.S. LSM 129 was commissioned and Lt. (jg) W.A Farmer became her first commanding officer. Another week was spent putting the finishing touches on her, and then on the night of the 19th compass compensators swung ship in a fog and the good ship proceeded down the river and out to sea.
On that first trip up the coast to Little Creek, Va., the Port engine had to be shut down two times while the Black gang learned how to adjust the temperature regulator in the cooling line. The Starboard engine was down once because of lost suction of the Salt water pump. Finally it steamed into Little Creek Jetty and docked at pier number 5 at 1953 on the 21st of May.
After a week of shakedown the crew was considered well enough acquainted with operation of the ship to train other men for other LSMs, so on the first of June the first trainees came aboard. Eight crews were trained during the four months following, and then on the 7th of October, 1944, she put into Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs and alterations prior to her Pacific duty. After nine days in the yard and five weeks at Imperial Docks waiting for necessary spare parts, she stood out of Hampton Roads on the 23rd of November, 1944, bound the Pacific.
December 9th saw Balboa, Canal Zone left behind and the 129 looked very lonely, indeed, for many, many days as she proceeded alone all the way to Hollandia, New Guinea, where she arrived on February 1. The Equator had been crossed on the 98th median, and the 180th meridian was crossed in latitude 21 degrees 30 minutes south. Stops were made at Bora Bora, Society Islands, Espirito Santo, New Herbrides, Tulagi, Solomons, where the load of small boats was deposited and Manus, Admiralty Islands.
At Hollandia the 129 joined its first convoy on the 6th of February, and on the 11th picked up about 275 survivors from the LST 577 which was torpedoed by an enemy submarine. These survivors were promptly transferred to the LST 1027 with no additional casualties, which was a tribute to the ship handling of Lt. Farmer the C.O., and to the ability of the entire crew who performed so admirably in their first emergency. A letter of commendation to Robert Owen Sterling, BM1/c, 623 04 83, USNR by Admiral Barby, Commander Seventh Amphibious Forces rewarded Sterling for his exceptional courage in rescuing men from the water, and his outstanding seamanship and organization in handling the deck while mooring to the floating hulk and transferring the survivors in the rough seas.
While in another convoy on February 21st, a destroyer which was escorting the convoy received a torpedo in her engine room but none of the ships in the convoy itself were damaged. By this time the crew of the 129 decided that a war was going on and carried their life jackets with them twenty-four hours a day while at sea with no reminders necessary.
Then on the twenty-eighth of February the 129 steamed into the harbor at Puerto Pricessa, Palawan as part of the invasion force. The greatest danger here proved to be coral heads and destroyed Jap planes which littered the beaches, but though she sustained severe damage to her screws, she succeeded in towing a more badly damaged LSM to Mindoro. The pre-invasion bombardment by sea and air is what made this operation possible with so little enemy resistance.
In spite of the damage sustained, the 129 spent the next month and a half on vital supply runs around Mindoro, and to the adjacent islands, including Lubang, Harinduque, and Rhomblon. On April 20, she limped into Subic Bay for badly needed repairs. After having been put back into operating condition she proceeded to Manila Bay to await a southbound convoy. At this time the crew had a chance to see the terrible damage wreaked upon the capital of the Philippines by the revengeful Japs as they were driven from the city.
After Supplying Batanges, Luzon with a Port Director brought up from Hollandia, the 129 again drew a dangerous job. The showdown at Balikpapan, Borneo wasn’t going quite as well as expected, and a rush order came through asking for as several hundred tons of ammunition for the cruisers which had part of the job of softening up the beaches. After four hectic days the Sea Bees finished loading her from a merchant ammo-ship and she was off for Borneo. No escort vessels were available so she proceeded as far as Tawi Tawi alone, where she joined a task unit of LSTs escorted by a Destroyer Escort, and was given a position one half mile astern of the rest because of the type cargo she carried. No other ship seemed to want her anywhere near. On the morning of the fifth of July the fires glowing in the sky could be seen forty miles at sea, and as dawn came huge black clouds of smoke emerged from the darkness. Cruisers, destroyers, destroyer escorts, and LCSs were bombarding the beaches in support of the ground troops, which had landed just four days before, and were drawing a decreasing amount of Japanese counter fire as their missile struck home. The following day the cruisers replenished their supply of ammunition and resumed their methodical hammering of Jap installations, the crew of the 129 well satisfied that they had done their bit here.
The return trip to Elite was via Morotai, and upon arrival at Leyte Gulf she was laid up a few days for overhaul of main engines. The Motor Macs. Did their stuff in record time and on the ninth of August she left for a run to Ormoc and couple of other places, just north of there. It was on this run that news of the impending surrender of Japan reached the world. The joy and relief of the crew was in accordance with the occasion; no more need be said.
After this run the 129 was used by the commanding general of the 31st division on Mindanao for a run between Malabang and Agusan. Coming back to Leyte she carried a load of salvage equipment and then was put into dry dock for badly needed repairs to the underwater part of the hull. On September 10, with new plates on her skegs, new screws, one new shaft, and a new paint job on her bottom she prepared to return to Mindanao to do more work for the General. For the next two months her duties were varied, having carried everything from food for the Marines and Filipinos for the local police force, to old equipment for the junkyard.
The towns and villages touched were Agusan, Zamboanga, Malabang (Port Baras), Parang (Police Harbor), Davao (Talomo), and Nasipit. On the twelfth of October Lt. Farmer received his orders to return to the States for release to inactive duty in accordance with the point system. The veteran skipper, who had come up from the ranks, had accumulated more than enough points and was anxious to become a civilian again. Lt. James H. Miller, the executive officer succeeded Mr. Farmer as Commanding Officer, by this time though Mr. Miller, also had enough points for release so when his orders came through on November 17, Lt. (jig) Donald F. Lineman, the Engineering Officer became Commanding Officer, and the 129 was now operating with only three officers.
Then on November 26, after a short period of repairs and one short run she received word that her services were no longer needed in the Pacific area, and after taking on a load of vehicles for Guam, headed east in company with about fifteen other Less, quite different from her lonely trip of a year before. Guam was left behind to the westward on the night of December 15, and for the second year in a row she spent Christmas at sea. New Years Eve was spent enjoyably at Pearl Harbor, but the minds of all were still thousands of miles away to the eastward—at home. January 12th saw San Diego Bay and all rejoiced that the 129 finally made it home.
Submitted by Donald F. Liebmann
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