2 Replies Latest reply on Sep 1, 2020 6:56 PM by Pam Liebhard Branched to a new discussion.

    Need information on the 492nd Port Battalion, 231st Port Company WWII

    Newbie

      Does anyone have any information on the 492nd Port Battalion, 231st Port Company, that served in and around Guadalcanal and the Philippines during 1944 - 1945? My uncle served in this unit and was killed aboard the USS Serpens on January 29, 1945 when it exploded on Lunga Point in Guadalcanal.  I am trying to gain more understanding of what his job was and to understand the nature of how an Army unit came to be involved there.  His job was identified as a "stevedore" and I do not understand what that means.  So looking for historical information on the battalion generally and this unit specifically.

        • Re: Need information on the 492nd Port Battalion, 231st Port Company WWII
          Adventurer

          Ms. Markee,

           

          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

           

          We searched the WWII Operations Reports in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1905-1981 (Record Group 407) and located approximately 250 pages of historical reports for the 492nd Port Battalion for 25 January 1943 to 10 May 1946. We also located a historical summary of the 231st Port Company for July - November 1945. For access to and/or copies of these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov.

           

          Here is a little background information for you. The port battalion/port company formations were, in essence, longshoremen in uniform.  Stevedore is an older term similarly used for personnel who loaded and unloaded cargo ships. Up until the 1960’s, cargo ships were considered “break bulk” freighters whose cargo holds were loaded/unloaded in single pieces or in cargo nets like you see here:

          In the days before intermodal transport, the only way to get large quantities of freight overseas was through the use of break bulk freighters.  The USS Serpens (AK-97) was an example of a Liberty ship, a mass-produced break bulk freighter unique to World War II. 

           

          It took a large number of men to load and unload ships like the Serpens (more men than the ship’s crew)--to run the booms on the ship; to move the cargo in the holds under the booms or to move the cargo in the hold out from under the booms; to spot the cargo on the shore or onto the lighter (barge); and so on.  These were the days before forklifts were readily available on ships--the cargo had to be manhandled into place almost every step of the way. So to assist the ships’ crews, the Port Battalions/Companies were used to make the loading/unloading of the ship’s cargo as quick as possible.  While shipping companies during peacetime want a quick turnaround in getting their ships in and out of port in order to maximize profit, in wartime, a naval commander wants a quick turnaround to ensure the safety of the cargo ships from enemy attack. The Port Battalions/Companies were key to that concept.

           

          For more information about the work of the Port Battalions, there is this website:

          http://www.longshoresoldiers.com/

           

          And there is apparently an ebook available from Osprey Publishing called Longshore Soldiers.  Unfortunately the book’s focus is on the European theater, but it should include the functions of the Port Battalions.

           

          And lastly, the Library of Congress also  has a collection of veterans’ oral histories of which one, that of Daniel T Mihuta, speaks about service in your uncle’s unit. 

           

          We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

           

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          • Re: Need information on the 492nd Port Battalion, 231st Port Company WWII
            Pam Liebhard Newbie

              I am the daughter of a World War II vet who was part of the 492nd. My dad’s job was to drive barges and landing craft from ships to the beach and then from beach to the ships. He was in Company A. Companies B C and D loaded ships returning from the front with supplies to return to battle. That would have been your uncle’s job. The USS Serpen had been in port about 3 days according to Dad and was almost fully loaded when it blew up. Dad was not on duty that night but told about the explosion. He said he heard the first explosion and then went outside his tent and saw the second one. It knocked tents down a good 3 miles away. There was one survivor who was said to have been blown through a porthole. In reality he was asleep on a hammock on deck and was blown about 3 miles. He must have hit the water just right. He was found in shallow water near the beach. I talked to the guy who found him. After the war the bodies were returned and buried in a mass grave at Arlington. It was the largest mass burial there ever and there is a large memorial with the names of all those killed.  Toward the end of the war the 492nd was split. Half went to the Philippines and the other half stayed on Guadalcanal and practiced for a Japanese invasion which thankfully never happened.

            The 492nd continued to have reunions until 5 years ago. When they and their wives could no longer organize the reunions the daughters got involved and that is where I came in. They were a very special group.  My father and most others have since passed away but There are still 2 members living that I know about. At one reunion Oral Histories were recorded from about 20 of the men. That is where the recording by Dan Mihuta was made. If you are interested in other recordings, check The Library of Congress tapes.  Hope this helps