The Last Days of the United States Asiatic Fleet

The Fates of the Ships and Those Aboard, December 8, 1941–February 5, 1942

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About the Book

After the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7), American sailors of the Asiatic Fleet (where it was December 8) were abandoned by Washington and left to conduct a war on their own, isolated from the rest of the U.S. naval forces. Their fate in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies was often grim—many died aboard burning ships, were executed upon capture or spent years as prisoners of war.

Many books have been written about the ships of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, yet few look into the experiences of the common sailor. Drawing on official reports, past research, personal memoirs and the writings of war correspondents, the author tells the story of those who never came home in 1945.

About the Author(s)

Greg H. Williams served four years in the Navy, including duty on the converted Liberty ship USS Granville S. Hall (YAG–40). He was one of 27 volunteer crewmen who made the entire five month voyage from San Francisco to Europe on the Jeremiah O’Brien in 1994 for the 50th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. He lives near Noti, Oregon.

Bibliographic Details

Greg H. Williams
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 429
Bibliographic Info: 13 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7248-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3167-7
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

Preface 1
Introduction 3
I. The U.S. Navy in the Pacific 7
Planting the Flag  8
The Philippines  9
China  11
II. Setting the Stage for War 14
The Naval Disarmament Conference  14
Petroleum  16
Borneo  17
Manchuria  19
III. Japan on the Move 21
The Response  21
“Asia for the Asians”  23
American Missions and the Panay  24
Uncertainty at Home  27
A New Commander in the Far East  29
The Fleet Moves to Pearl Harbor  31
French ­Indo-China  31
Admiral Hart Relocates  32
Plans Evolve  33
Americans Evacuate  34
IV. Fateful Decisions 36
V. The Asiatic Fleet on the Eve of War 42
The Cruisers  42
The Destroyers  42
The Yangtze Patrol  44
The Submarines  45
The Air Patrol Wing  46
The Minesweepers  47
The Motor Torpedo Boats  48
The 16th Naval District  48
Cavite Navy Yard  49
Olongapo Naval Station  50
Mariveles Section Base  51
VI. Preparations for War 52
A Visit to Pearl Harbor  52
Army Bombers Go East, the Marines Go South  53
Admiral Hart’s Proposal  53
Army vs. Navy  55
Fleet Reorganization  57
The War Warning  58
Columbus Smith at Shanghai  59
Major Ship Movements Detected  60
The Boise Shanghaied  61
The Riverboats Go South  62
Preparing for the Worst  62
British Plans  63
VII. Who Knew What? 65
VIII. Japan Attacks 78
The Wake  79
The President Harrison  83
Cavite Ships  84
Army Air Bases Attacked  86
The William B. Preston  86
Early News  87
IX. The Asiatic Fleet at War 92
The Tutuila Trapped  92
Manila Bombings  95
December 10—A Rough Day for the Allies  95
The Invasion Convoy Arrives  96
Capt. Colin Kelly  97
The Prince of Wales and the Repulse  97
Cavite Bombed  99
X. The Retreat Begins 108
The Air Wing Heads South  109
General Ship Movements  109
The Corregidor  110
Ambon Island  112
Admiral Hart Moves South  112
Christmas 1941  113
Mistaken Identity  114
The Canopus  116
XI. The Fleet’s Last Year 118
The Borneo Oil Fields  120
A Trip to Washington  121
A False Alarm  122
Destroyers off Balik Papan  123
The Mariveles Naval Defense Battalion  127
Policy Opinions  149
The Flores Sea  150
A Sub Commander and a Flight on a PBY  159
The Asiatic Fleet Disbanded  162
A Visit with the Troops  163
Admiral Hart Replaced  164
Timor  164
A New Source of Oil  166
Port Darwin  166
Badung Strait  175
Aircraft to Java  179
The Java Sea  210
Sunda Strait  215
The Stewart Captured  274
Ships Ordered to Australia  274
XII. Stranded Up North 294
Token Relief  294
The Abandoned  295
The Surrender and the Quail  305
XIII. Individual Group Operations 317
The PT Boats  317
The Submarine Patrols  332
Patrol Wing 10 Operations  362
XIV. The Disposition of Asiatic Fleet Ships 389
XV. Irish Pennants 397
A Tale of Two Quail Survivors  397
The Arisan Maru  400
Joseph Henry Bangust  401
The Houston Survivors  402
Charley Lawrence Thomas  403
A Few Commanders  403
Those Adrift  407
The End at the Beginning  408
Navy Items of Interest  409
Civil Authorities  409
Ratings  409
Fast Forward  411
Bibliography 413
Index 415