THE TRANSPORTS. Task Force 125. APA Bayfield. Force Flagship. DD Forrest. Stand By Flagship. PT 199. Transdiv 5. APA 5 Barnett. Flagship. APA 33 Bayfield. (Also acting as Force Flagship). APA 13 Joseph T Dickman. LSI(L) Empire Gauntlet. Note that APA 33 Bayfield was acting as an attack transport, part of Transdiv 5, and also as Force Flagship, Naval Force ‘U’. This was not an ideal arrangement. APA 5 Barnett was Flagship Transdiv 5 and would return to the UK with the other APAs while APA33 remained off Utah Beach as Force Flagship, Naval Force ‘U’. APA = Auxiliary, Personnel, Assault. An auxiliary is a ship not designed or intended for fighting. In the Pacific in particular they did a lot of defensive fighting. Personnel is a troop transport. Assault is a ship equipped and trained for landing troops under combat conditions. Sometimes referred to as a Combat Loader or Attack Transport. Typically an APA would carry an infantry battalion and attached troops plus equipment, supplies and vehicles. On D Day they were not required to carry supplies and only a limited number of small vehicles (Jeeps and Weasels). It was not thought wise to have the APAs anchored longer than necessary off a hostile shore which was threatened by air attack and attack from surface craft and submarines. When writing about APAs in regard to Force ‘O’ at Omaha Beach Mike was uncertain as to whether LCVP were loaded at the rail and then lowered or lowered and then troops loaded using scrambling nets. The answer seems to be that both were used according to circumstances. I hope this is made clearer below. The following is based on a useful booklet, ‘Ship to Shore Movement,’ 1943. An APA is designed to transport assault troops and their equipment and disembark them on a hostile shore in the least possible time. Much of the following is devoted to rapid disembarkation. An APA normally carries a battalion of infantry plus supporting units. A division pf APA, TransDiv, normally carries an infantry regiment, plus supporting units and a proportion of divisional troops. Typically a Transdiv consisted of four APAs, two of which would carry the assault battalions and the remaining two the reserve battalions.’ On approaching the Transport Area off the hostile shore all APAs would go to General Quarters. On arrival at the Transport Area APAs would go to Condition One Able for debarkation. In Condition One Able all boat stations were fully manned for debarkation and unloading. Transports would anchor or lie to under way in line parallel to the shore. Transports would lie to under way if the sea bed made it impracticable to anchor, or if sea conditions would cause the anchor to drag. Off Utah the first did not apply but there were reports of transports dragging anchors. On arrival at the designated point in the Transport Area the APAs will lower boats as quickly as possible. Craft will already be loaded with equipment and the troops will be assembled at their unit boat stations ready to embark. APAs have a Tannoy system to call troops to the correct station. The APAs of Force ‘U’ had multiple bank davits which were capable of lowering a fully loaded LCVP thus the craft could be loaded at the rail before lowering. Multiple bank davits allowed two or three craft to be carried on one set of davits. One craft would be already on the davit ready to be hoisted out to the rail for loading and then lowered. Two more craft were stacked inboard of the davits. When the first boat was clear the second could be attached to the falls of the davit and hoisted to the rail for loading. The third boat would follow in s similar manner. Boat loads were planned so that the first boats to be loaded and lowered would be for the first assault wave. When the complete wave was in the water they would be led by the boat wave commander to the Rendezvous Area where they would be formed up for the run in to shore. The other boats would follow in similar manner when ready. On most APAs there were some LCVP or other small craft such as LCS(S) and LCC which were not carried on davits but were stowed on the hatch covers. These would have to be lowered into the water using the ships cargo booms. These booms were not to be used for lowering loaded craft. As time did not normally allow these craft to be hoisted to the rail for loading they were loaded with troops using scrambling nets. Boats that were lowered by booms, together with any boats assigned from other ships, formed a boat circle. Usually boats would be lowered from both sides and so two circles were formed. These should be some 250 foot away from the ship and those on the port side circled counter clockwise while those on the starboard side circled clockwise. This meant that when they were called in to the APA for loading they would approach from the stern. Loaded craft would leave from the bows thus avoiding delays and collisions. Any larger craft, including the ships own LCMs and any other craft assigned, would form a circle to the stern of the ship and circle clockwise. Each circle will have an officer in charge to see that the circles are correctly formed and maintained and that signals received from the ship’s embarkation officer are promptly obeyed. APAs had five debarkation stations on each side. These had a number and a colour assigned to them. These numbers and colours were the same for all APAs so that craft from other ships could readily understand them. From the bow the numbers and colours were: Number 1. Starboard. Red. Number 2. Port. Red. Number 3. Starboard. White. Number 4. Port. White. Number 5. Starboard. Blue. Number 6. Port. Blue. Number 7. Starboard. Yellow. Number 8. Port. Yellow. Number 9. Starboard. Green. Number 10. Port. Green. Later in the Pacific APAs would have these numbers displayed in coloured squares painted on the ship’s hull. This was not done on D Day. The ship’s debarkation officer would be stationed on the bridge. He had a schedule showing the boat that is to be at a debarkation station at any time. He also kept a record of boats loaded and despatched. There would be an officer or petty officer at each debarkation station to keep the debarkation officer informed of progress. There was a telephone line to each debarkation station and to the signal position at the stern. When calling boats from a boat circle the debarkation officer would send instructions to the signal position and the signal party would send a signal to the boat that was required and the station to which it should proceed. The debarkation station would show a flag of the appropriate colour, or show a coloured light at night. The ship also had a powerful loud hailer. The debarkation officer had radio links to the boat group commander and the assistant boat group commander. These two officers would be in the rendezvous area forming the craft into waves. When troops had to disembark into craft which were in the water and not at the rail they used the scrambling nets which were hung at each debarkation station. The bottom end of the net was to be kept inside the craft so that if a man fell he would at least fall into the boat and not in to the water between the craft and the ship. Scrambling nets were also used by ship’s crew when required. LCMs or other craft carrying vehicles were called alongside and vehicles were lowered into them using the ship’s cargo booms. Vehicles were carried in the hold which was underneath the personnel decks. To access them the hold covers had to be removed and then the access hatches in the troop decks had to be removed, the troops bunk tiers being removed first. Vehicle crews were to be in the craft before the vehicle was lowered so that they could ensure correct handling and positioning. Marshalling troops to the correct debarkation station was a complicated process. Troops would be assembled into their correct boat groups, have their equipment checked and then, often for a long period, be called by Tannoy. There was not much space to spare in the accommodation area, in the passages or on the APAs deck so that it was important that routes be planned carefully and that troops should be called only when there was space near the boat davits. It was also important that troops be ready to move when called. Mike.