A Frisky Mystery Solved!

Since this web log writer began to study the 371st Fighter Group in detail, one bit of information has remained elusive. That is what ship did the group return to the US aboard after the war? This “Frisky Mystery” is now solved!

Patrol of the internet found e-copy of the Wednesday, 7 November 1945 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper. On page 3 is the following article, or perhaps notice is a better word:

7 Transports Due With 8,427 Troops
Seven transports were scheduled to dock today with 8, 427 troops.

The Stetson Victory carried 1,961 including the 321st Fighter Control Squadron; the 402d 485th, 404th, 405th and 406th Fighter Squadrons; 371st Fighter Group; Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron of the 502d Air Service Group; 929th Air Engineer Squadron; 744th Air material Squadron; 1790th Signal Service battalion Headquarters Squadron, and the 45th AAA Air Raid Warning Battalion.

The Coaldale Victory, the William and Mary Victory, the Aiken Victory, the John Moorhead, the John Poe and the Raold Amundsen carried 6,466 miscellaneous troops.

Those on the Stetson, Coaldale and William and Mary will be processed at Camp Shanks, N.Y. Those on the Poe and Amundsen will go to Fort Hamilton, N.Y., and the others will be taken to Camp Kilmer, N.J.

The SS Stetson Victory arrives in Seattle, 1946, bringing another load of troops back from overseas service. (Courtesy )

The SS Stetson Victory arrives in Seattle, 1946, bringing another load of troops back from overseas service. (Courtesy Museum of History & Industry)

Another report from the Associated Press in the St. Peterburg Times, 7 November 1945, page 3, indicated the Stetson Victory was due at New York on that day as shown in this excerpt:

More Than 26,000 Troops Reach Home Ports Today
AT NEW YORK-(Statson Victory from Antwerp (Belgium)) 1,961 troops including the 321st fighter control squadron; 402nd, 485th, 404th, 405th, 406th fighter squadron; 371st fighter group; headquarters and headquarters squadron 502nd air service group; 929th air engineer squadron; 744th air materiel squadron; 1790th signal service battalion, headquarters squadron; 562nd signal battalion; 452nd AAA air raid warning battalion, and miscellaneous troops.”

The typo in the ship name at second source aside, the information in two newspapers indicates the SS Stetson Victory was the vessel that brought Frisky home!

The Stetson Victory was a Victory ship, the mass-produced cargo ship follow-on design to the famous Liberty Ship of the earlier war period. She was a VC2-S-AP2 design, built in Baltimore, Maryland at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Ship yard. About the same size as the Liberty ship, the Victory Ships had improved propulsion and were faster (16 knots) vessels. Some 273 Victory Ships of the AP2 variant were built at four US shipyards during the war – total American production of all Victory variants was 531 ships built at seven US shipyards (another three were completed postwar).

The Red Oak Victory, preserved as a museum ship in Richmond, California. (Courtesy )

The SS Red Oak Victory, preserved as a museum ship in Richmond, California. (Courtesy Richmondmuseum.org)

Typical of the speed of wartime transport construction, the Stetson Victory was laid down on 3 May 1945, as the 371st Fighter Group was in its final week of combat operations against Nazi Germany. The vessel was launched on 16 June 1945, and delivered complete to the Maritime Administration on 18 July 1945. She soon began operations, to include bringing the 371st Fighter Group back to the States from Europe.

Ironically, the Stetson Victory was photographed afterward on the west coast in Portland, Oregon, soon to be the home of the 371st Fighter Group after its redesignation as the 142nd Fighter Group in May, 1946.

Partial view of the SS Stetson Vicotry in Portland, Oregon, to the immediate left of the US Navy LPD (Courtesy NavSource)

Partial view of the SS Stetson Victory in Portland, Oregon, moored across the pier to viewer left from the USS Rushmore, LSD-14, in foreground circa December, 1945. (Courtesy Mr. William Brown via NavSource)

After bringing Frisky back to the States from Antwerp, Belgium (Frisky probably boarded from Camp Top Hat), the SS Stetson Victory changed status and in July, 1946 was transferred to the War Department for US Army operation. On 31 October 1947 she was renamed US Army Transport Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, for a soldier who earned a posthumous Medal of Honor for valor above and beyond the call of duty in actions on 24 May 1944 near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy. Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated soldier in World War II who also earned the Medal of Honor in 1945, was in the same infantry company as Antolak, and witnessed his heroic action. Sylvester Antolak is buried overseas in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno, Italy, at Plot C, Row 12, Grave 13.

A cross marks the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant (SGT) Sylvester Antolak, one of many killed during the World War II fight for southern Italy in 1943-44. The American dead are buried at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. (Wikipedia)

A cross marks the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant (SGT) Sylvester Antolak, one of many killed during the World War II fight for southern Italy in 1943-44. The American dead are buried at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. (Wikipedia)

After a brief period of service, including taking USAF personnel from Japan to Germany for participation in the Berlin Airlift, the Sgt. Sylvester Antolak was placed in reserve on 31 October 1949.

USAT Sgt. Sylvester Antolak seen in service between WWII and Korean War, circa 1947 - 1949. (Courtesy )

USAT Sgt. Sylvester Antolak seen in service between WWII and Korean War, circa 1947 – 1949. (Wikipedia)

In reserve less than a year, the Antolak was reactivated 22 July 1950 by the Navy as a US Naval Ship (USNS)and troop transport (T-AP-192) for Korean War service, which included shuttling troops to Japan from the US, to Korea from Japan, and also the Philippine Expeditionary Force To Korea (PEFTOK) from the Philippines to Korea, earning seven battle stars. She was inactivated once again in September 1952 and remained in reserve until disposal in December, 1971.

While the actual date and time and other details of the SS Stetson Victory’s arrival are still not established for the record of this web log, nor is the debarkation and movement of the group and its three fighter squadrons. The units then moved out from the port by either railroad or watercraft from the New York Port of Embarkation/ Brooklyn Army Terminal.

New York Port of Embarkation's Brooklyn Army Base shown in this post-World War II view. (Courtesy )

New York Port of Embarkation’s Brooklyn Army Terminal shown in this post-World War II view. (Wikipedia)

But official USAAF history sources indicate the 371st Fighter Group and three fighter squadrons arrived at Camp Shanks, 30 miles north of New York City up the Hudson River, by 9 November 1945. Camp Shanks was the largest embarkation base the US Army operated in World War II, and processed around 3 million military personnel going out to and/or returning from overseas destinations.

A view of one small portion of the sprawling Camp Shanks, New York. (Courtesy )

A view of the barracks in one small portion of the sprawling 2,000+ acres of Camp Shanks, New York. (Courtesy Don.genemcguire.com)

Frisky was likely just another number in line when it came to reception at the large camp area in Orangeburg, New York. But at that point he probably didn’t care, home at last after doing his duty for the nation. And so we render a hand salute to the officers, men, and women, who served with the 371st Fighter Group to achieve the hard-fought Victory in Europe against fascism!

A Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, clean with no bombs or external tanks carried, banks away from a camera plane in the European Theater of Operations in World War II. The national insignia on the bottom of both wings was an ETO measure to help Allied personnel on the ground identify it as a friendly aircraft. (Courtesy 142FW History Archives)

A Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, clean with no bombs or external tanks carried, banks away from a camera plane in the European Theater of Operations in World War II. The national insignia on the bottom of both wings was an ETO measure to help Allied personnel on the ground identify it as a friendly aircraft. (Courtesy 142FW History Archives)

References

“The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.,” Army & Navy Pictorial Publishers, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1946

371st Fighter Group, official histories

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 7 November 1945, page 3, online at: http://bklyn.newspapers.com/image/54526745/

St. Petersburg Times, 7 November 1945, page 3, at: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=888&dat=19451107&id=eBIwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=pE4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=7185,977365&hl=en

USNS Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USNS_Sgt._Sylvester_Antolak_%28T-AP-192%29

Sylvester Antolak, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvester_Antolak

USNS Sgt. Sylvester Antolak (T-AP-192), ex USAT Sgt. Sylvester Antolak (1947 – 1950), es SS Stetson Victory, NavSource Ship Photo Archive, at: http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/22/22192.htm

Victory Ship, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_ship

SS Red Oak Victory, website at: http://richmondmuseum.org/ss-red-oak-victory/

Outboard Profiles of Maritime Commission Vessels – The Victories and her Subdesigns, at: http://drawings.usmaritimecommission.de/drawings_v_types.htm

Levine, David, “Remembering Camp Shanks: More than a million World War II soldiers headed overseas after a stint at Camp Shanks in Rockland County,” at: http://www.hvmag.com/Hudson-Valley-Magazine/September-2010/Remembering-Camp-Shanks/

SS Stetson Victory, picture at Seattle, at: http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/imlsmohai/id/3751

Camp Top Hat info in Dutch: http://www.axis4peace.eu/historia/tophat.htm

New York Port of Embarkation, at: http://www.wikiwand.com/en/New_York_Port_of_Embarkation

Brooklyn Army Terminal, and image of, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooklyn_Army_Terminal

Gottluck, Wesley, “Camp Shanks: Last Stop USA,” at: http://www.boatingonthehudson.com/images/flippingbook/2013/04_april/Articles/CAMP_SHANKS.pdf

Camp Shanks picture, at: http://don.genemcguire.com/CampShanks.htm

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2 Responses to A Frisky Mystery Solved!

  1. lamourie says:

    My father, in the Army Medical Corps, traveled on the Stetson Victory from Seattle to Yokohama from July 26 to August 8, 1946. I have a copy of the ship’s newspaper.

  2. Louise Snyder says:

    My dad, who is 93 years old, was in the 371 as a radio operator. My children and I visited his first base in Normandy many years ago. As he has gotten older, he has opened up more about the war, and he’s told us some fascinating stories about himself and members of his group.

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