—reflecting the dark green base paint with mottled camouflage given to those that served in the Pacific—was the nickname given to the first flush-deck APDs (fast destroyer-transports) by the Marine raiders they transported.
Active until 2010, American APD Corporation ran joint reunions for all 32 four-stack APD shipmates, sometimes exchanging visitors with Marine Raider reunions. The complete story is captured in Secretary-Treasurer Curt Clark’s book “The Famed Green Dragons.”
THE NEED: FOR AN AMPHIBIOUS WAR
The island-to-island nature of the Pacific war was a “three-legged stool,” requiring control of land, sea and air. But where control of the air and sea were contested, as in the Solomon Islands, ponderous transports and cargo ships carrying conventional Navy boats for landing were not a complete solution. Something more nimble was needed—fast, shallow draft, yet capable of embarking troops in adequate numbers and delivering them with equipment to landing beaches.
In 1926, Andrew Jackson Higgins
designed a shallow-draft boat, the “Eureka,” for oil drillers and trappers along the Gulf coast. With a semi-tunnel hull protecting its propeller, the boat could operate in shallow waters; with a “spoonbill” bow, it could also beach itself and back off with relative ease.
In 1936, the Navy conducted trials for new landing craft, without satisfactory results. Having previously approached the Marine Corps, however, Higgins now offered the Navy his Eureka. In 1938 and ’39, trials showed the 36-foot “LCP” or “LCP(L)” (Landing Craft Personnel—Large) superior to Navy designs and satisfactory during landing exercises. It lacked a bow ramp for disembarking men and equipment, but Higgins was soon shown photographs of Japanese landing craft with this feature, which he incorporated in his modified “LCP(R)” (Landing Craft Personnel—Ramp).
In 1940, the Navy received funding to purchase landing craft in quantity. Initially converting large merchant ships as troop transports equipped with davits for handling 36-foot boats, the Navy adopted “Higgins boats” as standard. Eventually, 2,193 LCP(L) and 2,631 LCP(R) were built, followed by 23,358 LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) of which General Dwight Eisenhower said, “Andrew Higgins . . . is the man who won the war for us. If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”
HIGH SPEED TRANSPORTS
To support these special operations, the Marines needed a fast seaborne transport from the Navy. On 28 November 1938, the Navy’s oldest flush-deck destroyer, USS Manley
, underwent the first of several exercises and modifications in quick succession until, by 7 February 1939, her forward two boilers and two stacks were replaced by a berthing compartment for 120 Marines and her four triple torpedo tubes mounts were replaced by davits to handle the new Higgins boats. One waist gun was deleted, the other moved to her centerline.
When the Marine Corps saw what had been accomplished, it immediately requested more such ships. By August, Manley (now APD 1) was joined by Colhoun (APD 2), Gregory (APD 3), Little (APD 4), McKean (APD 5), and Stringham (APD 6) from “mothballs.” Designated “APD” (Auxiliary Personnel Destroyer) and carrying the original LCPs, they formed Transport Division (TransDiv) 12 under the command of Commander Hugh W. Hadley, with Little as flagship, by the end of the year. They were deployed to the Solomon Islands where, off Guadalcanal’s Lunga Point in August and September 1942, Colhoun, Gregory and Little were sunk.
Transport Division 14
Impressed with the advantages of this “new” APD weapon, however, the Navy requested 26 more conversions. As no four-stackers remained available in mothballs, it began converting active flush-deckers in as little as four weeks each. APDs 7–12 were completed in October 1942, APD 13 in December, APDs 14–18 in January 1943, APD 19 in July, APDs 21, 23 and 24 in August, 20 in October and 22 in December. APD 29 was converted in January 1944; APD 25 in May.
Six ex-seaplane tenders (AVDs) were converted as APD 31–36 in March, April and June 1944. Conversion was canceled of APD 26–28—three other AVDs that had reverted to destroyer status in December 1943, McFarland (DD 237), Williamson (DD 244) and Decatur (DD 341). APD 30 was apparently not assigned.
The first three new conversions—Talbot (APD 7), Waters (APD 8) and Dent (APD 9)—replaced the lost ships in TransDiv 12. (McKean was subsequently lost off Bougainville in November 1943).
Concurrently, Brooks, Gilmer, Humphreys and Sands (APDs 10–13) were formed into TransDiv 16 (deployed to New Guinea) and Schley, Kilty, Ward and Crosby (APDs 14–17) were formed into TransDiv 22. Kane (APD 18) was used in the Aleutians, landing army rangers and conducting patrols before joining the others in the Pacific.
In late 1943 and early 1944, Tattnall, Roper, Barry, Osmond Ingram and Greene were pulled from anti-submarine duties in the Atlantic, converted, and sent to the Mediterranean as TransDiv 13, then joined their sisters in the Pacific later that year. Dickerson, Herbert, Overton, Noa, Rathburne, Clemson, Goldsborough, George E. Badger and Belknap formed two final divisions, 14 and 16.
USS Manley (APD 1, ex-DD 74).
, ex-Destroyer No. 74 and DD 74, was the first Caldwell
-class destroyer commissioned—the first flush-decker. Converted as the prototype APD in 1938–39, she lost her two forward boilers in favor of quarters for troops. She also lost forward stacks, her 4-inch guns were replaced by 3-inch rapid-fire dual purpose guns and her four banks of torpedo tubes were replaced by davits for Higgins landing craft. She also stowed four machine guns on carts, one 75mm pack howitzer, ten boat guns and ammunition for a total gain of 33 tons.
USS Colhoun (APD 2, ex-DD 85).
USS Gregory (APD 3, ex-DD 82).
USS Little (APD 4, ex-DD 79).
USS McKean (APD 5, ex-DD 90).
USS Stringham (APD 6, ex-DD 83).
USS Talbot (APD 7, ex-DD 114).
USS Waters (APD 8, ex-DD 115).
USS Dent (APD 9, ex-DD 116).
USS Schley (APD 14, ex-DD 103).
USS Kilty (APD 15, ex-DD 137).
USS Ward (APD 16, ex-DD 139).
USS Crosby (APD 17, ex-DD 164).
USS Tattnall (APD 19, ex-DD 125).
USS Roper (APD 20, ex-DD 147).
USS Dickerson (APD 21, ex-DD 157).
USS Herbert (APD 22, ex-DD 160).
USS Rathburne (APD 25, ex-DD 113).
-class and fourteen Clemson
-class destroyers were converted as APDs.
Of the latter, six had previously been converted as seaplane tenders (AVDs): George E. Badger, Clemson, Goldsborough, Belknap, Osmond Ingram and Greene.
Eleven APDs were sunk, scuttled or damaged beyond feasible repair during or immediately after World War II:
- Colhoun by Japanese dive bombers off Guadalcanal, 30 August 1942.
- Gregory and Little by Japanese destroyers Yudachi, Hatsuyuki and Murakumo off Guadalcanal, 5 September 1942.
- McKean by a Japanese aircraft torpedo off Bougainville, 17 November 1943.
- Noa in collision with DesRon 45 flagship Fullam (DD 474) off Palau, 12 September 1944.
- Ward by a Japanese suicide aircraft at Ormoc Bay, 7 December 1944.
- Brooks and Belknap damaged beyond repair by Japanese suicide aircraft at Lingayen Gulf, 6 and 11 January 1945, respectively.
- Dickerson, damaged by a Japanese suicide aircraft at Okinawa, 2 April 1945, and scuttled two days later.
USS Brooks (APD 10, ex-DD 232).
USS Gilmer (APD 11, ex-DD 233).
USS Humphreys (APD 12, ex-DD 236).
USS Sands (APD 13, ex-DD 243).
USS Kane (APD 18, ex-DD 235).
USS Overton (APD 23, ex-DD 239).
USS Noa (APD 24, ex-DD 343).
USS Barry (APD 29, ex-DD 248).
USS Clemson (APD 31, ex-DD 186, AVP 17 and AVD 4).
USS Goldsborough (APD 32, ex-DD 188, AVP 18 and AVD 5).
USS George E. Badger (APD 33, ex-DD 196, CG 16, AVP 16 and AVD 3).
USS Belknap (APD 34, ex-DD 251 and AVD 8).
USS Osmond Ingram (APD 35, ex-DD 255 and AVD 9).
USS Greene (APD 36, ex-DD 266 and AVD 13).
- Barry damaged by a Japanese suicide aircraft at Okinawa and struck again while under tow, 25 May 1945.
- Greene grounded during a typhoon off Okinawa, 9 October 1945.
Five of the six ex-AVDs received ten Presidential Unit Citations
, all while attached to the USS Bogue
(CVE 9) hunter-killer task group in the Atlantic in 1943 before their conversion as APDs: Belknap
as AVD 8; Clemson
, two awards as AVD 4; George E. Badger
, three awards as AVD 3; Greene
as AVD 13; and Osmond Ingram
, three awards as AVD 9.
Barry, as DD 248, also received the Presidential Unit Citation with Borie and Goff in the Card (CVE 11) hunter-killer group.
Eight APDs received the Navy Unit Commendation: Crosby, Kilty, McKean, Stringham, Brooks, Gilmer, Sands and Ward.