Spells BEGOR

USS BEGOR (APD-127)


   

HISTORY

Table of Contents: Click on Chapter name for details
BEGINNINGS—Origin and Begor Statistics, USS BEGOR Namesake, USS BEGOR joins the Navy.
WORLD WAR II
POST WWII—Transport Activity, Atomic Bomb Tests, China Service
KOREA, VIETNAM—Korean War, French Indochina Operation
PEACETIME—Peacetime Service, Decommisioning, Recommissioning
ADDENDUM

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ORIGIN AND BEGOR STATISTICS

At the Defoe Engineering yard in Bay City, Michigan, on 06 March 1944, the keel was laid down for DE-711, a Rudderow class destroyer escort.

DE 711 Splashdown After launching the ship on 25 May 1944, the topside was redesigned and changed to a Crosley class high-speed transport and the ship redesignated APD-127.  The navy saw the need for a fast, shallow draft ship capable of delivering and supporting Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) personnel close to shore.  This destroyer escort conversion fulfilled the need.  The topside bulkheads were extended to the edge of the ship to enclose a large area of deck space to house and transport personnel who would be involved in landing operations.

Four small landing craft, 2LCP(L)s or LCVPs per side were added along with davits.  The aft deck gun was replaced with a twin boom, 10 ton cargo derrick.  The forward 3" gun was replaced with a 5" enclosed mount.

The ship displaced 1,400 tons, was 306 feet in length, with a 36 foot 10 inch beam.  She had a 12 foot 7 inch draft.  Speed was 23.6 knots with a 6,000 nautical mile range at 12 knots.

Ready for sea, its armament consisted of the bow 5"/38 dual purpose gun mount, three twin 40mm gun pods, 6 single 20mm gun mounts and 2 stern depth charge racks.

Two Combustion Engineering DR boilers and two GE turbo-electric drive engines powered two propeller shafts of 12,000 horsepower each.

USS BEGOR NAMESAKE

LTJG Begor USS BEGOR was named for LtJG Fay Broughton Begor, Medical Corps, US Naval Reserve.  Young doctor Begor was a Medical Officer supporting amphibious operations during the invasion of Japanese-held Lae, New Guinea, in September 1943.  He was wounded by enemy fire and died five days later on a hospital ship.  [Read the details of this Navy hero's background and see photos of him in his medical and Navy roles, of his young family, and of the christening and commissioning of USS BEGOR on the LtJG Begor Tribute page.]

USS BEGOR APD-127 JOINS THE NAVY

On 25 May 1944, Fay's widow, Katherine Begor, christened the USS Begor at Bay City, Michigan.  Present were H. J. Defoe, president and founder of the shipbuilder; Lt. Frank B. Saunders USN, escort for Mrs. Begor and Captain E. L. Patch USN, supervisor of shipbuilding.

LCDR Benjamin T. Brooks read his orders and assumed command as first Begor CO.
LCDR Brooks reads orders
Hoisting the National Ensign and Commissioning Pennant signifies that USS Begor is a ship of the US Fleet.(See names)
Hoisting the National Ensign
Built at Bay City on Lake Huron before the existence of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Begor made its way onto Lake Michigan to Chicago.  Via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Illinois River, and the Mississippi River the USS Begor arrived at New Orleans and was commissioned at the Naval Repair Base on 14 March 1945.  LCDR Benjamin T. Brooks and  LCDR J. A. Harmon were, respectively, the first commanding officer and executive officer.

(See a note on Begor's construction and delivery methods.)

Shakedown Cruise to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, began on 31 March.  Combat and seaworthiness proven on 18 April, Begor proceeded to Norfolk for provisioning.  On 7 May, Begor departed for its home port at San Diego via the Panama Canal never to return to the east coast.

Arriving at San Diego on 22 May, Begor departed for Pearl Harbor two days later, arriving on 30 May.  Camouflage paint was applied at the navy base.  Begor took on a belligerent appearance on 05 June 1945, ready for action in a war that was winding down but still deadly and dangerous.

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WORLD WAR II ACTION

The ship underwent training exercises around Pearl Harbor until 18 June she departed for Eniwetok in the western Pacific.  Begor spent the waning days of WW II engaged in escort operations around Ulithi, Leyte Island, and Okinawa.

With the surrender of Japan, Begor was dispatched to Guam, arriving on 17 August with orders to embark UDT-21 for initiating the occupation of Japan. Departing Guam three days later, Begor joined the US Third Fleet and anchored at Sagami Wan on 27 August, within sight of its landing beach on the Japanese mainland. Begor was one of the first allied ships to enter Tokyo Bay on 29 August and would be the first to land troops, UDT-21, ashore at Futsu Saki Point in Tokyo Bay.

On 29 August 1945 at 0747, Begor is underway for Futsu Saki Bay, Japan, reaching point EA in the channel at 1011. Four minutes later dispatched UDT-21 to survey the beaches in the vicinity of the forts on Futsu Saki Point. They found the beaches to be excellent for landing and the Japanese to be peaceful.

UDT21WelcomesMarines While on the beach a Japanese Major approached LCDR Clayton, UDT-21 Commanding Officer, and wanted to surrender his sword. Clayton explained he could not accept his sword, but the Japanese Major insisted he wanted to surrender. Finally Clayton agreed to accept the sword if the Major and his troops would remain in the area and surrender to the Marines who would be landing the next day.

FutsuSaki Surrender Clayton brought the sword back to the ship, but when Admiral "Bull" Halsey, Commander, U.S. Third Fleet, heard of the incident, he ordered Clayton to return the sword.

Got underway at full speed for Sagami Wan anchorage to make the necessary reports to CTF 31.4  At 1500 lay off of USS BRAXTON APA-138 while the UDT commanding officer made his reports to the Marine Battalion embarked.

On 30 August, Begor supported landing of Marines on Futsu Saki, standing by for fire support as needed. Proceeded at 0631 for Yokosuka Naval Base, entering as first ship. The Underwater Demolition Team cleared the docks for the USS SAN DIEGO and demilitarized ships at the Naval Base. USS SAN DIEGO would be the first allied vessel to dock in Japan at the end of the war.

Cave Searchers, Onahama Anchored in Tokyo Bay until 8 September when Begor got underway with UDT-21 and began searching for and destroying Japanese suicide boats and 2-man submarines in Katsura Wan and Uchiura Wan, Sendai, Onahama and Chosi. This would continue until 27 September when Begor received orders to return to San Diego.

Two man sub

CO, LCDR B.T. Brooks, and XO, LCDR J.A. Harman, on Eniwetok
CO Brooks, XO Harman on Eniwetok
On 30 September, Begor departed Japan for San Diego via Guam, Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor.  Begor's Executive Officer, LCDR John A. Harman assumed command of Begor on 20 October, one day out of San Diego.  Begor arrived back home in her home-port of San Diego on 21 October.  A job well done, WWII Shipmates!

For details on the day-by-day activities of the Begor during this time period, see the
"This Day in History" page HERE.

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POSTWAR TRANSPORT ACTIVITY

On 09 November 1945, Begor was again dispatched to WestPac, to Pearl Harbor, and Kwajalein to help transport troops home.  Arriving in San Francisco on 30 November 1945, Begor spent the next five months transporting troops between San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

For details on the day-by-day activities of the Begor during this time period, see the
"This Day in History" page HERE.

ATOMIC BOMB TESTS

In May 1946, LCDR Richard K. Margetts assumed command.  In June, Begor proceeded to Bikini Atoll to participate in the two nuclear test explosions, designated "OPERATION CROSSROADS."

Begor arrived at Bikini on 05 June.  She was selected control ship for drone boats.  These boats were used to collect water samples from the lagoon following each detonation to measure the degree of radiation contamination.

Underwater Demolition Team "Easy", later renamed UDT-3, was assigned the control and maintenance of the drone boats.

Operation Crossroads, 1946, Test Able At 0900 on 01 July 1946, from a distance of ten miles, Begor witnessed test Able, an atmospheric detonation.  At 1015 from its position outside Bikini Atoll, the drone boats were directed in their mission to assigned sample areas in the lagoon.

Operation Crossroads, Drone Boat Washdown When a prescribed Geiger counter reading was transmitted back to the controllers on Begor, a water sample was taken.  Upon completion of the mission, the drone boats returned to Begor to be washed down with fire hoses, and then boarded by a safety officer.  Upon his declaration that a boat was safe, UDT-3 boat crew and a radiation chemist boarded to transfer the collected water sample.

With exception of a rehearsal exercise on 18 and 19 July, Begor remained in Bikini Lagoon performing routine activities until the second detonation.

Operation Crossroads, Test Baker At 0540 on 25 July 1946, Begor departed the lagoon to take station for the second Crossroads event.  At 0835 test Baker, a shallow underwater detonation was witnessed.  Thirty minutes later two drone boats were directed to the target area.  Each returned with ten samples of lagoon water.

Operations Crossroads, Test Baker The drone boats were taken to USS Albemarle AV-2 where the water samples were finally removed about 1430.  Two more drone boats were guided into the Baker target area that afternoon to obtain additional water samples.  These samples were similarly transferred to Albemarle at 1800.  Four more drone boat runs for water samples were made on 26 July, and two were made on 27 July.  These samples were transferred to USS Haven AH-2.  On both 28 and 30 July, Begor shifted anchorages but remained in the lagoon until 03 August when she departed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 08 August 1946.

Begor was one of the operating ships at Crossroads whose involvement caused it to be temporarily listed as radiological suspect.  A degree of contamination did occur to virtually all of the non-target ships which remained in Bikini Lagoon for over ten days after test Baker.  This was largely caused by low level radiation contamination of the entire lagoon waters.  It was confined to the exterior hull at or below the water line and to the internal salt water piping systems.  To prevent contamination of the drinking water, Crossroad ships were directed to scrape off marine growth near the water line, not to steam evaporators in excess of 80%, and not to dismantle the evaporators without a radiation monitor present.  Despite precautionary efforts, Begor came to be dubbed as the most radioactive contaminated ship in the navy.

Begor returned to San Diego in October 1946 for a deserved stateside tour.

CHINA SERVICE

In mid-1947, LCDR H.L. Waliszewski became the fourth commanding officer and Begor returned to WESTPAC, where she earned her first China Service Medal for service as Station Ship Hong Kong and participation in the evacuation of missionaries as Chinese communist forces overran the country.

Begor received her fifth commanding officer, LCDR Lyle Hays, in mid-1948, as she was operating out of San Diego during the period March 1948 through June 1949.

From July to December 1949, Begor again served on the China Station and earned a second China Service Medal.

During this period, Begor received her sixth commanding officer, LCDR William A. Walker, and a new executive officer, LT J. Roderick Perry.

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KOREAN WAR

In June 1950, Begor was proceeding up the west coast of California when North Korea invaded the South.  Departure for the war zone was delayed when a collision with a fishing boat punctured Begor's hull.  The ship was diverted to Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco for repairs and routine maintenance.

Prior to departing San Francisco for Korea, Begor participated in a search and rescue for survivors of the collision of Navy Hospital Ship Benevolence and the merchant ship SS Luckenbach under the Golden Gate Bridge on 25 August which resulted in the sinking of the Benevolence and the resultant loss of 23 lives.

Typhoon By way of Pearl Harbor and Midway Island, Begor arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, on 07 December 1950.

While Begor was in Yokosuka, voyage repairs were made, fuel was topped off and provisions were loaded. During the night of 9 December, Begor loaded 25 tons of miscellaneous cargo and 71 passengers. At 0221 on 10 December Begor departed Yokosuka in company of PCEC 882.

Begor proceeded down the southeast coast of Honshu on 10 & 11 December. On the 12th, she passed through Japan's Inland Sea and Shimonoseki Straits into the Sea of Japan, ending up on the east coast of Korea. Enroute, Begor destroyed a floating mine on the 13th.

At 1726 on 13 December, Begor arrived at Hungnam, Korea, reporting to Commander Task Force 90 for duty. The crew went to General Quarters on the 14th, in response to an air raid warning.

On 19 December, CTE 90.3 and boat control personnel embarked and Begor took station at the entrance to Hungnam inner harbor as boat control vessel. Begor continued to support UDT-3 in addition to control duties until 22 December. The ship went to General Quarters at 0331on the 20th for an air raid alert.

Begor was relieved as control vessel by USS DIACHENKO (APD-123) and shifted to anchorage 1000 yards off Hungnam breakwater, on station for demolition duty operating directly under CTF 90 (RADM DOYLE) with UDT-3.

During the night of the 23rd and daytime on the 24th,BEGOR boats and working parties assisted UDT-3 in transporting explosives to the beach, and in planting demolition charges in the Hungnam harbor area. David Douglas Duncan, famed Life Magazine War Correspondent, was on the beach and filmed much of the operation.

Begor at Hungnam

Following the evacuation of American troops from Hungnam, Korea, after they were beleaguered by an overwhelming Red Chinese army at Chosen Reservoir, Begor crewmembers assisted the embarked UDT-3 in the destruction of the Hungnam port facilities and abandoned military equipment.

On Christmas Eve 1950, this spectacular explosion destroyed the Hungnam waterfront.  The explosion was filmed with Begor in the foreground.  The blast was reported as the largest non-nuclear explosion to have occurred up to that time.  This picture became one of the most widely displayed photographs of the Korean conflict. It became the hallmark of the ship's depiction thereafter and is featured on the homepage of this website.

During the ensuing eight months, Begor engaged in clandestine nighttime landings of Korean agents and British Commandos behind enemy lines together with beach reconnaissance and mapping of the underwater approach to contemplated coastal landing sites.  Midway through these operations, Begor received her seventh commanding officer, LCDR Archie C. Kuntze.

Begor's wartime tour was interrupted by a return to San Diego in September 1951 and shipyard maintenance at Mare Island Naval Shipyard.

LCDR George B. Hamilton assumed command of Begor as her eighth commanding officer in early 1952. Begor resumed her Korean War activities later that year, arriving in Korea in November, again participating in patrol operations and support of UDT activities.  With the armistice ending hostilities, Begor engaged in prisoner of war exchange missions, and then returned to San Diego in August 1953.

FRENCH INDOCHINA OPERATION

Begor at Haiphong

In the summer of 1954, under ninth commanding officer, LCDR Zavin Mukhalian, and Executive Officer, LT Gordon "Buster" Tribble, Begor was again deployed to WestPac. There, she participated in the evacuation of 600,000 refugees from the north to the south of French Indochina (Viet Nam), a humanitarian operation named "Passage to Freedom", part of the Geneva Agreement ending the Indochina War. Begor became station ship at Haiphong within a week of the signing of the Geneva Agreement. She quartered and supported staff charged with the evacuation. Included in the medical team was Dr. Thomas A. Dooley, who devoted his life to humanitarian causes in Southeast Asia.

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PEACETIME SERVICE

Begor was given reprieve from her humanitarian activities and, in early 1955, participated in the tenth anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Iwo Jima, which was fought in February and March 1945.  Iwo Jima, an island of only eight square miles, is located about 650 miles south of Tokyo.  Begor and USS Balduck, another APD, were assigned as primary control vessels for the beach landing.

Iwo Jima Reenactment

A detachment from Begor was picked as the advance reconnaissance team.   The team consisted of the gunnery officer, John Love, operations officer, Jack Ward, and communications officer Richard Hegrenes, and about ten enlisted personnel.

As recorded by LTJG Hegrenes, "We went ashore about three days ahead of the operation and scoped out the island including Mt. Suribachi.  It was weird, because there were thousands of discarded Japanese shoes and flip-flops. Some areas could not be touched because of live ammunition still scattered around the island."

On her station 2,000 yards from the beach, Begor controlled each wave of landing craft assigned to her area so they would reach the beach in proper order at a specified time. 

Upon completion of this operation, Begor returned to the States and operated around San Diego through 28 August 1955.

On 29 August, Begor again departed San Diego for WestPac, steaming non-stop and refueling from an accompanying APA, arriving in Yokosuka on 9 September.  She remained in Yokosuka until 28 September, when she departed for Kobe.  Begor only remained in Kobe four hours before being ordered back to Yokosuka, due to an incoming typhoon.

Begor operated in and around Naha, Okinawa and Yokosuka through 14 November before being ordered to Subic Bay, where she entered dry-dock for routine maintenance.  On 1 December, she departed for Hong Kong, remaining there until 12 December. From Hong Kong, she  proceeded to Sasebo, where she operated between Sasebo, Beppu and Yokosuka until 21 December.

Departing for Okinawa on 21 December, Begor anchored off Iwo Jima for two days.  Ship's Company, if not on watch, were allowed to go ashore and observe the devastation that took place some eleven years before, in a battle costing the Marine Corps nearly 7,000 lives.  Begor would continue to operate around Okinawa, Yokosuka and Iwo Jima until she returned to San Diego on 24 March 1956.

Begor received her tenth commanding officer, LCDR E. A. Williams, before departing in early May for San Francisco and Treasure Island.  She was placed in dry-dock at Todd Shipyard in Alameda and would not return to San Diego until late August.

Later in 1956, Begor would be caught in Typhoon "Marge" and assigned to escort several LST's. Many of the LST's suffered typhoon damage, but Begor escaped without a scratch.

Basketball Team

Another note-worthy "typhoon" of that era was Begor's great basketball team of 1955-56, playing about 28 games and winning all but 3. The team played much larger ships such as Aircraft Carriers, Amphibious Command Ships and land-based teams from San Diego, Hawaii, Philippines and Japan.

USS Begor's championship basketball team:
Standing (L-R): ENS Gordon Ewy, MM3 Richard Ellis, SH2 David Jefferson, BMSN Jimmy Dollar, MM3 Chuck Dillon, LTJG Dick Hegrenes;
In front (L-R): (Unidentified), SO3 Bill Bauer, EM2 Don Koval


Begor deployed from San Diego for Westpac in March 1957. Her eleventh commanding officer, LCDR Phil Koehler, a former UDT officer, assumed command during this six-month deployment. The new CO and his seasoned crew brought the ship home to San Diego in September 1957

USS Begor enters Pearl Harbor, November 1958, enroute Westpac
(Official U.S. Navy Photograph)
Ship in Pearl

In August 1958, LCDR Francis T. Kleber became Begor's 12th commanding officer. The ship made her final WestPac deployment in October, with UDT-12 embarked. After steaming in company with PhibRon THREE for the Pacific crossing to Yokosuka, Begor enjoyed independent missions, operating alone on a wide variety of adventures.

At Okinawa, the ship, with UDT-12, was tasked to clear underwater obstructions with explosives to create a beach-landing site suitable for LST (Landing Ship Tank) amphibious operations.

At Corregidor Island in the Philippines, UDT-12 trained Philippine Marines in water-team tactics, communications, and use of high-speed boats to deliver and pick up swimmers, beach survey procedures, and the use of explosives. Manila liberty every weekend added pleasure to the experience.

At North Borneo, Begor and UDT-12 surveyed a landing site making underwater beach mapping of a contemplated Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) amphibious training exercise.

27 March 1957 AMPHIBIAN photo welcomes Begor and Phibron-3 home to San Diego after 6-month deployment to WestPac
(Official US Navy Photograph)
Read The Amphibian, March 27, 1959 in larger type

Begor returned to her San Diego homeport in company with Phibron-3 in March 1959. The ship and squadron's return was reported in two editions of PhibPac's weekly newspaper, The AMPHIBIAN. In the 13 March edition (below), there was an article on Begor's "Channel Fever" Party, and a second article on Phibron-3's return. Run your mouse over the story titles below and click to see the full text of each story in a separate window. Shipmate CSC Bob Ward is credited with developing, planning and implementing the Channel Fever Party.

A welcoming band played as Begor approached her berth at North Island Naval Air Station (San Diego), as seen in this photo (left), in the 27 March edition of The AMPHIBIAN. Ops Officer LTJG Bob Lawrence was Officer of the Deck during this approach. To read the caption in larger type, run your mouse over the photo and click when an instruction to do so pops up. A separate window will open.
The 13 March edition of The AMPHIBIAN contained an article about Begor and another about PHIBRON-3's return from Westpac
(Begor article written by ship's Public Information Officer, ENS Stuart Huntington)
Read The Amphibian, March 13, 1959 in larger type

DECOMMISIONING

In July 1959, Begor returned to her homeport and retirement, where she was decommissioned and assigned to the reserve fleet. There she remained until August 1961.

RECOMMISIONING

View of side while in drydock 01-06-61
View of side while in drydock 01-06-61
In August 1961, the Gray Ghost of the Korean Coast was towed to San Pedro Yard, Bethlehem Steel Company, Terminal Island, California, for extensive hull and systems overhaul, preparatory to her recommissioning on 20 November 1961.

During this period a new crew was formed in San Pedro, which included BEGOR's thirteenth commanding officer, Sumner Gurney.. Following commissioning, along with sister ship USS WEISS, on November 20th she again joined the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Recommissioning Invitation
During the following seven months Begor trained and operated extensively along the west coast. Crewmember tales abound of her valiant efforts to overcome years of neglect, and hull and propulsion deterioration, all to no avail.

In July 1962 the gallant old lady was again retired to the reserve fleet where she would flounder for several years in the company of her retired sister ships

On January 1st 1969 her designation was changed to Amphibious Transport Small (LPR-127), as she lay awaiting her next resurgence. It was not to happen.

Begor was struck from the naval register of ships on 15 May 1975. A year and a half later, on 6 December 1976, she met an ignoble demise being sold for $60.000, (less than the cost of one of her LCVP's), as scrap to National Metal and Steel Corporation, Terminal Island, California.

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ADDENDUM:

      For her entire Active Service Life of 16.5 years, USS Begor was home to a continual flux of over 1,000 sailors who helped make naval history and who forged a bond of friendships that still exists.

      In the Fall of 2009, Begor and her crew will hold their twentieth annual reunion in Portland, Oregon. Please see our Upcoming Reunion page for details.

      Begor shall not grow old as the crewmen who are left grow old. The memory of that gallant ship and her myriad adventures will be told and retold as long as two or three of her shipmates shall meet.

      This history was compiled from the recollections and personal experiences of its crew members.  Very little information has come forward for some periods.  This history will be revised as new information is presented.

     

Page Last Updated: 11/09/10


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USS BEGOR (APD-127).  Call sign N-U-E-A.
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