#9 in a series
USS Fuller (AP-14/APA-7)
By Paul A. Roales & Others
In December, 2010 I acquired a collection of material dealing with the World War II transport ship USS Fuller (AP-14/APA-7). The collection included a 45 page book of Xeroxed material including menus, photos, a partial crew list, a Life magazine article, letters, the official ships history by Albert C. Allen, and 24 pages from a hand written war diary. I also got 16 pages of ORIGINAL material (most marked Confidential) dealing with the Fuller’s part in the landing on Guadalcanal on August 6, 1942, 3 pages of official congratulations under USS Fuller letterhead for the Battle of Midway (part of page one is shown here), and 2 full page poems. Nowhere in this collection was the identity of the person who gathered the material revealed, so this story will not be about an individual, but about the ship.
As I got into my research I discovered that there had been a book published about the USS Fuller. The book is “The Lady Gangster” by Del Staecker (Cable Publishing, 2009). Del’s father was a crew member on the USS Fuller and the book is compiled from his memories plus the diary and official ships history which were included in my 45 page Xeroxed book. I exchanged emails with Del briefly, but he had nothing new to add since the publication.
Here is a history of the USS Fuller from Wikipedia. "USS Fuller (APA-7) was a Heywood-class attack transport acquired by the U.S. Navy for service as a troop carrier just prior to World War II. She served in the Pacific War, a very dangerous area in the early years of the war, and safely returned home post-war with nine battle stars to her credit.
The second Navy ship to be named Fuller was built in 1919 by Bethlehem Steel Corp., Alameda, California, as City of Newport News; transferred to the Navy 12 November 1940; and commissioned in ordinary for conversion the same day; and commissioned in full 9 April 1941, Captain P. S. Theiss in command. She was reclassified from AP-14 to APA-7 on 1 February 1943. The conversion added 100 feet (30 m) in length to allow more cargo and marines to be carried.
After training her crew in the operation of landing craft, Fuller arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, for duty in the Atlantic Fleet 15 June 1941. She sailed from Charleston 22 June in the convoy carrying the first marine troops to the occupation of Iceland, from which she returned to Norfolk, Virginia, 22 July. Training operations with marines on the North Carolina coast, and with her division in the Norfolk area, continued until her departure from Hampton Roads 5 December 1941 to transport marines to Cuba, the Canal Zone, and Puerto Rico. She returned north for exercises with soldiers in Lynnhaven Roads, then between 19 February 1942 and 25 March, carried troops and cargo to Northern Ireland.
Transferred to the Pacific when the war broke out Fuller sailed from Norfolk 10 April 1942 for Wellington, New Zealand, arriving 22 May.
She landed U.S. Marines and their equipment in the initial assault on Guadalcanal 7 August, and through the next months continued to sail out of Wellington to bring reinforcements and supplies to Guadalcanal and South Pacific bases, often coming under Japanese air attack. As U.S. Army troops relieved the battle-weary marines on Guadalcanal, Fuller carried soldiers from Noumea and Suva to Guadalcanal. In May 1943 she sailed to Pearl Harbor to load marines for transportation to Australia, then returned to her transport duties from New Zealand and Australia to South Pacific bases.
On 28 October 1943, Fuller sailed from Efate, New Hebrides, for the initial landings on Bougainville, where she landed Marine raiders on Cape Torokina 1 November. Laden with casualties, she cleared the assault beaches the same day for Tulagi and Purvis Bay. Returning to Bougainville's Empress Augusta Bay anchorage with reinforcements 8 November, Fuller came under enemy air attack, receiving a direct hit on her port side which set her afire and killed five of her crew and two soldiers embarked. She returned to Purvis Bay 2 days later to repair battle damage, and twice more during the following month and a half carried reinforcements to Bougainville.
After a U.S. West Coast overhaul between 18 January 1944 and 20 March, Fuller trained at San Diego, California, and in the Hawaiian Islands for the Marianas assault. She sailed from Pearl Harbor 29 May for Saipan, where on the morning of 15 June she staged in a feint landing before putting her troops ashore in the actual assault. Ordered away from the island for safety during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Fuller completed unloading her cargo 24 June, and sailed for Eniwetok with prisoners of war on board.
For the invasion of Tinian, 24 July 1944, Fuller again staged a diversionary feint at landings, then landed her marines next day as reinforcements. She returned to Espiritu Santo 9 August with casualties, then loaded troops and cargo in the Russells for landing exercises on Guadalcanal. Fuller carried the same men to the assault on Peleliu on 15 September, and after offloading all her cargo and receiving casualties, sailed for Hollandia, arriving 25 September for drills in anticipation of the Leyte assault. She landed troops successfully in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, in the initial assault of 20 October, then sailed at once for Humboldt Bay to load reinforcements and supplies, with which she returned to San Pedro Bay 14 November.
After preparations at Manus and New Guinea, Fuller once again launched her landing craft for the assault in Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, 9 January 1945, putting out the next day for Leyte to load reinforcements. These she landed at Lingayen, then sailed back to Leyte and on to Ulithi to load marines for exercises at Guadalcanal. Returning to Ulithi 21 March, Fuller sailed 6 days later for the invasion of Okinawa, off which she arrived during the initial landings of 1 April. However, she did not land her men until the 7th, and 2 days later she sailed for the west coast, and an overhaul completed in July. Arriving at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, 2 days after hostilities ceased, Fuller carried out occupation transport assignments until returning to Seattle, Washington, 3 December 1945.
There she was decommissioned 20 March 1946, and transferred to the Maritime Commission 1 July 1946. Her final disposition is not known."
Below are reproduced the cover of the book “The Lady Gangster” (so named because most of her crew was from Chicago) and one of the ORIGINAL documents included in the collection.
The 16 pages of ORIGINAL material on the invasion of Guadalcanal mostly dealt with signaling (ship to ship, ship to shore, ship to aircraft, and visa-versa). But there were a couple general information documents about the Guadalcanal landing. Here are links to a 3 page document compiled by H. C. Flanagan, Commander U.S. Navy, Executive Officer on the USS Fuller. It is well worth reading.
E-mail feedback or questions to Paul Roales.You can return to Heroes: An Introduction HERE. All contents copyright 2011 by Paul A. Roales