USS Blue Ridge (AGC-2) - Service History - 1943-1944

1943-1944

Following trial runs in Long Island Sound, Blue Ridge departed New York on 8 October 1943, to train in the Chesapeake Bay Area out of Norfolk, Virginia. On 1 November, the ship put to sea with two destroyers, bound for the South Pacific. After transit of the Panama Canal, Blue Ridge called at the Society, New Caledonia and Fiji Islands, en route to Brisbane, Australia, arriving on 16 December 1943. She pulled out of Brisbane three days later for Milne Bay, New Guinea where 24 December 1943, she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Daniel E. Barbey, USN, Commander Seventh Amphibious Force. She served as the command ship for amphibious operations westward along the New Guinea Coast until 13 October 1944. On that day, Blue Ridge left Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura) as the flagship of Rear Admiral Barbey's Northern Attack Force bound for the liberation of the Philippine Islands.

On the night of 19/20 October 1944 Blue Ridge and her formation stood through the swept part of Surigao Strait, between Homonhon and Dinagat Islands and entered San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands. She served as a command ship for troops storming the beaches at Leyte the morning of 20 October, and continued in support of the amphibious assault landings for six days. The ship's gunners drove off an enemy reconnaissance plan 23 October. The morning of 25 October, a torpedo-bomber made a run along her port side, coming in from her port quarter, and was shot down by her forward 40 mm gunners. That afternoon, the ship fired on 11 enemy planes of various types attacking the transport area.

The morning of 26 October 1944, Blue Ridge helped fight off five enemy bombers that attacked her formation. That afternoon she helped drive away three more enemy bombers. Several bombs fell in the vicinity during this action, but only one exploded close enough to shake the command ship. As she kept watch off the Leyte beaches, the three-pronged attack of the Japanese Fleet met disaster in the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Samar and the Battle of Cape Engano. She stood out of San Pedro Bay in the night of 26 October 1944 to stage at ports of New Guinea in preparation for the liberation landings to be made at Lingayen. She remained the flagship of Vice Admiral Barbey who was designated commander of the San Fabian Attack Force 78. Besides Admiral Barbey and his staff, she embarked Major General Innis P. Swift, commanding the I Army Corps, and Major General Leonard F. Wing, commanding the 43rd Infantry Division, together with their personal staffs.

Blue Ridge led the San Fabian Attack Force from Aitape, New Guinea on 28 December 1944. An aerial snooper was driven off by gunfire on 2 January 1945 and covering escort carrier aircraft shot down a bomber twenty miles out from her formation the following day. The night of 4 January 1945 the command ship followed a covering group of cruisers and destroyers through Surigao Strait to enter the Mindanao Sea. On the afternoon of 5 January an enemy submarine fired on the covering group, ten miles ahead, and was forced to surface and rammed by destroyer Dashiell. Enemy planes attacked the formation 7 January; two being shot down by pilots of the Combat Air Patrol, and three fell victims to combined anti-aircraft fire of the formation. That night four destroyers sank a Japanese destroyer eleven miles to the east of Blue Ridge. The command ship helped repel six enemy planes on 8 January 1945 and entered Lingayen Gulf before daybreak of 9 January. Troops stormed ashore that morning, some two hours after a single-engine enemy aircraft sneaked through cover of night, strafed to a point forward of the bow, barely missed the bridge, then overshot and dropped bombs about 500 yards off her port bow. The ship was not damaged and suffered no casualties. During the initial landings, three air attacks came close enough to be a threat to Blue Ridge, but veered off the in the face of heavy anti-suicide swimmers and small fast suicide boats. To combat this threat, a patrol boat was kept circling Blue Ridge and all shipboard security patrols were strengthened.

Read more about this topic:  USS Blue Ridge (AGC-2), Service History

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