Biography of Charles B. Shafer

Sailor, USS LST 279, USN

THE USS LST 279 THE REST OF THE STORY

     This is my story of the USS LST 279, whose World War II story was told by Bob Benvenuto. It is also about a country lad from the farmland of central Indiana in the fall of 1950. I knew we were involved in some sort of military action in the Far East but had not followed it very well. One rainy day in October a close friend stopped by and said he was going to check at the selective service office, he had just been reclassified and wanted more information. I agreed to go along to check on my status also. The lady was very nice, she said I was number 6 on the list. I said "thanks" and thought I had better give this some thought. Then she said "I am sending orders for five tomorrow". That sent us down the road to talk to the naval recruiter. As a result at 6 am on November 6th, 1950 a new life started for both of us.

     Great Lakes Naval Training Center was home for some 9 weeks of basic training, then came some weeks there in Engineman School followed by a 10-day leave at home. Then on to Norfolk and Little Creek Amphibious base where I waited for the ship to arrive. We met for the first time in early June, the USS LST 279 and I. I was not a stranger to the navy; I had read everything about the navy in the pacific from 1942 on, wanting to be a naval pilot then. I remained on this ship till August 1954 when I was separated from the navy in Norfolk.

     The following is some of the things that we went thru in that time……The ship had been reactivated from the reserve fleet at Green Cove Springs in Florida and had arrived in Little Creek for some training and operations in the area before I went on board. In Early July we went into dry dock in Jacksonville Florida. Good duty except the heat was bad and the old gal didn't have any air conditioning. Then back to the Norfolk area for more training and instruction. The ship joined about 100 other amphibious vessels in late September for the largest exercise of its kind in years, called LANTFLEX 52. The operations centered in the Caribbean and on the island of Vieques.

     On the night of November 2, 1951 the LST 279 was involved in a collision with an APA as we approached the beach for a landing, doing damage and the loss of one life. Emergency repairs were made and we went to Guantanamo bay Cuba for dry dock and full repairs. We made Little Creek just before Christmas 1951.

     In February of 1952 we were in New York City for a few days. Left on second trip to the Caribbean area on operations March 1 to March 18. On March 8 a fire in the galley destroyed the area, and made cooking a real problem. A sad note here. The APD Hobson stood by the morning of the fire to give assistance. Later she was involved in a collision with a carrier and sank with heavy loss of life. We Arrived at Guantanamo Bay March 11 and back in Little Creek March 18. March 25 in Baltimore shipyard for repairs. April 15, back in Little Creek. On April 19 loaded marines and equipment at Moorhead City NC and made third trip to the Caribbean, April 20 to may 30, 1952. During these trips we made ports in San Juan PR, Bridgetown Barbados, ST Thomas and St Croix VI, Port Of Spain Trinidad, Port Of Prince Haiti and probably others.

     July 3 1952 the ship and crew were in Oyster Bay Long Island with open house for people in the area……..on July 4 th. Back in Little Creek July 7 1952. On July 14 the ship and 9 other LST left little creek for Thule Northern Greenland, on operation BLUE JAY. All were loaded with construction equipment for the air base that was under construction there at the time. After we left Little Creek, LIFE magazine printed the story of the base, until then it was pretty much a secret…it was a long trip and saw much ice the last few days before arriving g in North Star Bay. There were icebreakers with us part of the trip. We arrived July 27. The last couple of days we were unable to stay in any kind of formation due to the large amount of ice in the area. Several ballast tanks, and some fuel tanks were opened due to a hard beaching. I was oil king at the time and spent many hours trying to salvage fuel and determine just what had been damaged. Later while at anchor small floating ice damaged out port shaft, making for a rough return trip. Some of the damage to other ships included, One holed her main engine room and was towed home, one broke a shaft and made the return trip with just one, one had a fire on the tank deck, badly damaged, one just lost a screw, and one other with hull damage As a result of this trip I say I have seen the worlds largest ice cube, the Greenland ice cap….It was a 7000 mile round trip. . Much of this time we were in 24 hours of daylight. We arrived back in Little Creek August 30, 1952.

LST's and ice on way to Thule Greenland

One of the small ones!

     September 12, 1952 went into dry dock in Portsmouth Va. for repairs. October 16, 1952 arrived Quantico Va. for operations with the marines there. Made for a good weekend liberty in Washington DC. November 15, 1952 Left Little Creek for Boston Mass. One week end liberty I wont forget. On December 17 I was back in Great Lakes for more schooling on main propulsion engines. Checked in at the school and was given weekend liberty. Just 3 hours by train home. Was able to make 7 straight weekends home while there. Returned to Little Creek and waited for the ship to return from operations. March 13 1953 we were in Quantico for operations with the marines again, and a week end in Washington for a friend and I. April 1 we entered the naval yards in Philadelphia. It was just a short ride to the old Shibe Park where the Phillies played 2 series with the CUBS, I saw a few games.

     The summer of 1953 was spent in operations along the Atlantic coast. We made a training trip to Newport RI and a weekend in Providence .

     During Late July 1953 we were forced to return to Little Creel from Operations off the Virginia capes by hurricane Hazel. As we came in to the bay entrance the large ships were leaving for open water to avoid the storm. We spent about 12 hours in the bay area with both anchors down and both engines on line, trying to hold position, Radar reported ships moving all around us but nothing was ever seen.

     September 3, 1953, Left Moorhead City heavily loaded with pontoons and marine equipment for Porto Rico area again. Much changing of course due to hurricane activity in area.

     On one of these trips we remained with the marines as water supply, making a run to Roosevelt Roads each day and bringing fresh water back to Viegues, then spending the weekend in Charlotte Ammile in St Thomas. The beaches there were the best, as well as the food.

     We were in dry dock In Berkley VA in 1954. reason unknown now.

In dry dock 1954, Berkley Va.

     In January 1954 yet another set of maneuvers called TraEx 1-54 was made to the Caribbean area. The LST 279 operated for 79 days, during which she beached 13 times, married to causeways 31 times, anchored 48 times, and moored alongside an AKA 10 times. In the later maneuver an estimated 10,000 marines were transferred from the beach to the transport or vice-versa. It was during this trip that we operated with a helicopter on the main deck.

     May 17 to 28 of this year we made a trip to Bermuda for a look around. I think the ship made 7 trips to the Caribbean during this time. Usually took marines down then came back. Later we would go back and bring them home. One trip we stayed for several weeks as support ship.

     I was separated from service August 29 1954. We knew the ship was to go thru the canal and to some port on the west coast. I wanted to make that trip, but it wasn't worth another 4 years. My navy years were good, and I loved the ocean, but it just wasn't for me. By now the Korean thing was over and I wanted to get my feet and hands back in the Indiana soil. A good friend I kept in touch with made the trip and was separated on the west coast. The final destination of the LST 279 was to Nationalist China I understand.

     I spent almost 3 years either in charge of the main engines or as oil king taking care of fuel, fresh water and all ballasting of the ship. I enjoyed both jobs, but oil king was the best. It was a one-man job, responsible only to the engineering officer. I had more free time than anyone else under normal times. If properly done I seldom missed anything worth seeing. The trip to Greenland was a good example, I spent hours on deck watching what went by.

     Additions or corrections are welcome.

     This is my story of the LST 279 as I remember.

----- CHARLES B SHAFER

         USSLST279@YAHOO.COM

LINKS

Biography of Bob Benvenuto, LST 279, WWII, USN

Bob Benvenuto, Gangway Watch, USS Berkley County, LST 279

LST 279 and Christmas `44, Bob Benvenuto, LST 279, USN

USS LST 279 Deckload, English Channel, Fall, 1944

USS LST 279 Enroute to Normandy, English Channel, Fall, 1944

LST 279, High and Dry, Utah Beach, Normandy, Summer, 1944

USS LST 279 Stern Anchor, Weymouth, 1944

LST 279, Unloading, Utah Beach, Normandy, Summer, 1944

Some of the Crew on Deck, USS Berkley County, LST 279

USS Berkley County, LST 279 - in 1954

USS LST 279 - Captain's Inspection, 1945

USS LST 279 - Weymouth England, 1945

Wartime Birthday, Bob Benvenuto, LST 279, USN

White Caps, Watch Caps and Dress Blues, Bob Benvenuto, LST 279, USN

Back To Justin Oral History, Navy Biographies

Please Share your Stories! E-mail the Curator to share or discuss or with any questions!

Copyright 2003 John Justin, All Rights Reserved

The URL of this page is

http://www.justinmuseum.com/milbios/shafercbbio.html

1