Tuesday, March 4, 2008
USS Oyster Bay (AGP-6 and AVP-28)
Figure 1: USS Oyster Bay (AGP-6) photographed off the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 28 November 1943, shortly after commissioning. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Oyster Bay photographed off the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 28 November 1943, shortly after commissioning. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Oyster Bay anchored in Leyte Gulf in December 1944 with PT boats alongside. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Oyster Bay tending PT boats in Seeadler Harbor, Admiralty Islands, on 25 March 1944. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Oyster Bay tending PT boats in Leyte Gulf in October or November 1944. The boat approaching at the right is PT-357. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Originally launched on 7 September 1942 at the Lake Washington Shipyard in Houghton, Washington, as a 1,760-ton Barnegat-class seaplane tender (AVP-28), the USS Oyster Bay was designated for conversion to a PT boat tender and reclassified AGP-6 in May 1943. The ship was commissioned on 17 November 1943 with a crew of 333 officers and men. The Oyster Bay was approximately 310 feet long and 41 feet wide, had a top speed of 18 knots, and was armed with two 5-inch guns (as well as an assortment of smaller caliber guns).
After a shakedown cruise off the coast of San Diego, the Oyster Bay headed for the Southwest Pacific on 2 January 1944. She stopped at Brisbane, Australia, and then went on to serve as a PT boat tender in Milne Bay, New Guinea. The Oyster Bay assisted two motor torpedo boat squadrons in February and on 9 March escorted 15 PT boats to Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralty Islands. On 14 March, the Oyster Bay bombarded enemy shore installations for the Army on Pityilu Island and on 20 March she steamed towards Langemak, New Guinea, with 42 wounded soldiers for evacuation to a hospital in Finschhafen. The Oyster Bay also bombarded Ndrilo Island to the east of Seeadler Harbor in preparation for a landing there by US Army troops.
The Oyster Bay usually tended to roughly 15 PT boats. She did this in Dreger Harbor, New Guinea, on 19 April 1944 and then proceeded to Hollandia in May. The Oyster Bay and her PT boats then moved to Wakde Island on 5 June, after Allied forces invaded the island to take a major Japanese air base there. Once again, the Oyster Bay assisted Army troops by bombarding shore installations on the Wicki River and at Samar Village.
In October 1944, the Oyster Bay was sent to Leyte Gulf to take part in the invasion of the Philippines. On 24 November, two Japanese planes attacked the Oyster Bay while she was being supplied with gas. The planes, though, were driven off by heavy anti-aircraft fire. Two days later, another pair of Japanese aircraft attacked the ship, but this time both planes were shot down. The Oyster Bay took part in operations at several locations in the Philippines and continued her duties there as a PT boat tender until the end of the war.
On 10 November 1945, the Oyster Bay left the Philippines and headed for home, arriving in San Francisco on 29 November. She was decommissioned on 26 March 1946 and transferred to the Maritime Commission on 12 August 1946. The ship was returned to the Navy on 3 January 1949, was re-designated AVP-28 on 16 March 1949, and was placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet until October 1957, when she was transferred to the Italian Navy. The Oyster Bay was converted into a special forces tender and was renamed the Pietro Cavezzale. She served in the Italian Navy for more than 35 years, finally being decommissioned in October 1993 and scrapped in February 1996.
PT boat tenders received very little recognition throughout the war, even though they were given the important task of providing maintenance and repair facilities to PT boats in very isolated areas. Always close to the fighting, these tenders (as in the case of the Oyster Bay) sometimes provided gunfire support, but they were also prime targets for enemy aircraft. They were a welcome sight to many damaged PT boats and they enabled these small but very active warships to remain on station for long periods of time. The Oyster Bay not only performed these duties incredibly well, but her career also spanned 50 years, which is, in and of itself, a remarkable achievement.
Posted by Remo at 8:25 AM