Return to the Philippines

While doing further research on “FS ships” for an article I previously posted online and was updating with new in information (The Macajalar Bay Landing and the Liberation of Mindanao), I came across a very interesting post “ The Passenger-Cargo ex-“FS” Ships of the Philippines” posted on August 13, 2016 by The Philippine Ship Spotters’ Society (PSSS).

The three FS Ships of Convoy B departing Ormoc, Leyte on 08 May 1945 (USCG)

According to the data contained in this post, it seems the three FS vessels (later joined by four more a day later) which were part of the US Army augmentation force Company B Convoy landing logistics and supplies for the 108th Regimental Combat Team of the 40th Sunshine Division at “Brown Beach” at Tin-ao, Barrio Agusan, Cagayan, Misamis Oriental on 10 March 1945, later became part of the Philippines’ merchant marine after World War II.

According to the PSSS story, the former FS (Freight and Supply) ships of the US military dominated the Philippine shipping industry right after World War II, with some still being used until the mid-1990s.

A Design 381 (Vessel, Supply, Diesel, Steel, 177) FP-343 (FP later designated FS) photographed in 1944. Naval Historical and Heritage Command (Photo # NH 74691) Right after World War II, the former FS ships of the US military dominated the Philippine shipping industry. FS means “Freight and Supply”. Their earlier designation was “FP”. The FS series is one of the many types of transport-supply ships used by the US armed forces in World War II. Click here to read the full story from the Philippine Ship Spotters’ Society.

The first three “Design 381” Freight & Supply (FS) vessels of the Army Transportation Corps manned by Coast Guard crews which arrived from Ormoc, Leyte  on Q Day were the FS-270 (LTJG O.T. Fretz, Jr.), FS-275 (Lt. H.L. Sutcliffe, USCGR) and FS-390 (Lt. G.E. Oliver, USCGR).

(For a real time view of the actual film footage of these FS Boats click here. U.S. Coast Guard Motion Picture Digest June 1945 No. 2 is a silent newsreel-style film of the events of World War II in May and June 1945 that involved the U.S. Coast Guard. Fully loaded Coast Guard-manned FSs (freight and supply Army ships) leave Leyte and head for northern Mindanao. The ships slowly leave Leyte’s harbor (00:33) on 8 May 1945. A monkey sits on a ladder of one of the ships. A member of the crew charts the ship’s course. The FSs arrive at the Bay of Macajalar, Mindanao.)

With data from the PSSS article which were compiled by Messrs. Gorio Belen, Jun Marquez, Angelo Blasutta and Mike Baylon, we managed to trace the fate of at least two of the three FS vessels.

Two of the three FS ships of the Macajalar Bay Landing Force with Barrio Agusan in the background 10 May 1945. (USGC)

FS-270 skippered by LTJG O.T. Fretz, Jr. was later bought by Sulpicio Lines and christened the MV Don Enrique (1) but was wrecked in 1982.

FS-275  under Lt. H.L. Sutcliffe, USCGR had a most colorful history. After its service with the USS Army as FS-275, it was acquired by the US Navy in  March 1947 and commissioned on 5 July, with Lieutenant (junior grade) H. E. Toponce, in command.

According to this entry from military.wikia.orgUSS Estero (AG-134/AKL-5) was a Camano-class cargo ship in the United States Navy. She was named after Estero, an island off the coast of Florida.

For her initial Pacific Ocean Operations, she was employed in logistics support of the administration of the United Nations Trust Territories, calling throughout the Marshalls, Carolines, and Marianas. On 31 March 1949 she was reclassified AKL-5.

USS Estero (AKL-5), underway at Sasebo, Japan, 23 October 1953.
(Cropped US National Archives Photo)

At the outbreak of the Korean War she was fitted out for emergency ammunition carrying service, participating thereafter in the Inchon invasion in September 1950. Early in 1951 she was converted to carry refrigerated cargo, and in September resumed cargo duty bearing supplies to warships until the end of hostilities. Estero earned seven battle stars in the Korean War.

From 25 August to 2 September 1954 she made five trips in support of “Operation Passage to Freedom“, the evacuation of refugees from North Vietnam. Subsequently she performed her logistics services for the fleet in the western Pacific, with only brief interludes as in May through July 1957 when she transported an Air Force team which was surveying the habitability of prospective stations in the Sulu Sea. During the 1956 operation her crew also performed reconnaissance of strategic access features which earned the ship a Letter of Commendation from the Chief of Naval Operations.

Formosan Crisis operations.

During the Formosan crisis of 1957-58, she rendered important support with emergency lifting of ammunition from Japan to Taiwan. Estero shuttled supplies among Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.

On 22 January 1960 Estero was decommissioned. Her name was stricken from the Navy List on 1 February 1960.

From thereon, she returned to the Philippines and  started a new life as the MV President Quirino  of the newly-formed Philippine President Lines (PPL) shipping company which acquired her in in 1961. When PPL transferred their local operations (they were more of an oceangoing company) to Philippine Pioneer Lines, the ship was renamed MV Pioneer Tacloban as she was plying the Manila-Tacloban route.

She was later sold to N&S Lines which again renamed her as the MV Odeon. Still later, she was again resold to Lorenzo Shipping where she was christened MV Don Jolly.

As to the fate of the third FS vessel that participated in the Macajalar Bay Landing on 10 May 1945, FS-390 skippered by Lt. G.E. Oliver, USCGR, we are still determining if indeed it is the MV Bais 1 of Aboitiz Shipping Lines/PSNC/Cebu-Bohol Ferry Company which is listed by the PSSS as FS-3190 that was wrecked in 1978.

Upon consulting the online resource World War II Coast Guard-Manned U.S. Army Freight and Supply Ship Histories list, the ship count stops at FS-550 thus, we can only surmise that the FS-3190 vessel listed therein had a typo error, and could either be FS-319 or FS-390. We have posted an inquiry to the Philippine Ship Spotters Society Facebook Page and will update you as soon as we get their reply.

Freight & Supply (FS) Boats were US Army vessels under 1,000 gross tons of numerous types that included 511 small nonstandard coastal freighters of numerous designs. (courtesy of Al Ross)

Not the least, the PSSS article lists no less than 15 Philippine shipping firms that used a total of 78 FS Ships at one time or the other. Of course, many of those were the same vessels which were sold and in some instances, resold and resold again. Still, when you consider 78 is 14% of the 550 FS Ships listed by the US Army and Coast Guard, that’s still a significant proportion of the entire FS Fleet.

FS Ships in the PN & PCG

It wasn’t only the Philippine Merchant Marine which used World War II era FS vessels, but the Philippine Navy (PN) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) as well.

Thanks to a tip from Naval Historian PCG Commander Mark R. Condeno, we consulted the online resource which lists four former ex-FS ships which served the PN and PCG at one time or another.

BRP Cape Bojeador, sister ship of BRP Limasawa ex-US Army Freighter posted June 11, 2017 (defensenet.ph)

Built by Ingalls ShipbuildingBRP Cape Bojeador served with the US Army as the FS-203. The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel  was commissioned at New Orleans on 17 October 1944, with LTJG F. S. Shine, USCG, as first commanding officer. She was assigned to and operated in the Southwest Pacific area including Hollandia, and decommissioned 31 October l945. She was paid off in 1988 but put back in service in 1991 after a major overhaul. She served with both the PN as TK-46 and the PCG as AE-46, a lighthouse and buoy tender, but has since been retired.

BRP Badjao, originally FS-408, also a Coast Guard-manned Army vessel, was commissioned at Stockton, CA on 13 February 1945, with LTJG F. Roebuck, USCG, as commanding officer. She was assigned to and operated to the Southwest Pacific and Western Pacific areas, including Zamboanga, San Fernando, Tacloban, etc. On 9 November 1945, LT Roebuck was relieved by Captain Carl C. Elliott, WTDTC.

MST 471 Nasami was formerly the US Army FS-408 and subsequently acquired by the Philippine Navy as the AS-59 and the Philippine Coast Guard as the AE-59.

It was subsequently acquired by the Philippines from the Japanese Navy where it served as the minesweeper tender  JDS Nasami (MST-471) until stricken off in 1996. A sister ship of BRP Mangyan, it served both the PN as the AS-59, and the PCG as the AE-59 but sank off Ilocos Norte during a typhoon.

As confirmed by Naval Historian PCG Commander Mark R. Condeno, BRP Badjao AE-59 foundered off Bangui, Ilocos Sur during Typhoon Luding on September 2, 1995. However, thanks to a successful rescue operation, all of its crew and one civilian passenger were safely recovered.

BRP Limasawa was the former FS-396 (US Army), another Coast Guard manned Amy FS  commissioned at Decatur, Alabama on 18 January 1945. Her first commanding officer was LTJG E. H. Bowler, USCGR, who was succeeded on 29 October 1945, by LT R. H. Johnson, USCGR. She was assigned, to and operated in the Southwest Pacific and Western Pacific areas. She departed Manila 28 January 1946 for duty in the Marshall Islands, having been transferred from Coast Guard AF WESPAC to Administration Commander, Coast Guard Activities SWPA, Philippine Sea Frontier on18 January 1946.

She was later transferred to the US Coast Guard as the USCG Nettle WAK-129, and subsequently acquired through sale 31 August 1978 by the Philippines where she served with the PN as the TK-69, before entering PCG service as the AE-79 and used for logistics support for USCG LORAN transmitting stations with her one 5-ton derrick. She has since been retired from PCG service.

Not the least, BRP Mangyan, originally commissioned on 1 July 1944 as the US Army’s FS-524, was also a Coast Guard-manned Army vessel with  LTJG K. B. Kell, USCGR, as commanding officer. She was assigned to and operated in the Southwest Pacific and Western Pacific areas. She was decommissioned on 11 October 1945.

A ship of the Philippine Navy, BRP Mangyan (AS-71).
(NavalForcesWest Phil Navy)

Later turned over to the United States Navy, she was later transferred to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as JDS Miho (MST-472) on 31 March 1955, converted to minesweeper tender, and used in minesweeping missions and limited transport services until 1974.

The Philippine government acquired the ship through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) from the United States government. She underwent extensive repairs at the Maebata Shipbuilding Inc. in Sasebo, Japan in 1978, until she was finally turned over to the Philippine Navy. On 27 March 1979, she was commissioned as BRP Mangyan (AS71) named after the Mangyan peoples, an ethnic minority on Mindoro island. She has since been stricken in 1996.

All four were former US Army Design 381 F&S vessels. The first three were employed as tenders for buoys and lighthouses.

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 Sources:

1.       The Passenger-Cargo ex-“FS” Ships of the Philippines, posted 13 August 2016 by the Philippine Spotters Society admin, with research support by Gorio Belen, and database support by Jun Marquez, Angelo Blasutta and Mike Baylon. Edited and reprinted from an article in the old Philippine Ship Spotters Society website.

2.        World War II Coast Guard-Manned U.S. Army Freight and Supply Ship HistoriesU.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office. 2011. Retrieved 04 January 2021.

3.       JUNE,1945 U.S. COAST GUARD DIGEST #2 WWII NEWSREEL PHILIPPINE CAMPAIGN, IWO JIMA 52044b. www.PeriscopeFilm.com

4.       USS Estero (AKL-5) ex USS Estero (AG-134) (1947 – 1949) USAT FS-275 NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive

5.       “MST “Nasami” Class (Japanese)”. 2015. Retrieved 04 January 2021.

6.       PCG Ships and AuxiliariesCabo Bojeador (US Army FS-330) type Buoy Tender, http://www.geocities.ws/kalasagnglahi/content13.html. Retrieved 04 January 2021.

7.       USAV FS-524. NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive

8.       Calumet Shipyard & Drydock Co., Chicago ILRetrieved 04 January 2021.

9.       Combat Fleets of the World, 15th Edition. Retrieved 04 January 2021.

10.   BRP Mangyan (AS-71)military.wikia.org. Retrieved 04 January 2021.

11.   BRP Cape Bojeador (AE-46), sister ship of BRP Limasawa ex US Army Freighter, posted 11 June 2017, Defense of the Republic of the Philippines, defenseph.net.

12.   Survivors Recount Miracles, Philippine Daily Inquirer, with reports from Kristine L. Alave, Tarra Quismundo and Ryan D. Rosauro, 09 September 2009, pressreader Philippines

13.   Macajalar Bay Action Report-10 May 1945, ComPhibGroupNINE Operation Plan 11-45, pages 6, 17, 18 (NARA)

14.   Correspondence with Naval Historian PCG Commander Mark R. Condeno on January 6-8, 2021.

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