USS Custer (APA-40)

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USS Custer at anchor, 24 July 1943, location unknown
Union Navy Jack
Name: Custer
Namesake: Counties in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota
Ordered: as type (C3-S-A2) hull, MC hull 388
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi
Laid down: as SS Sea Eagle
Launched: 6 November 1942
Sponsored by: Mrs. L. S. Border
Acquired: by the U.S. Navy 23 January 1943 as Naval Transport (AP-85)
Commissioned: 18 July 1943 as USS Custer (APA-40)
Decommissioned: 24 May 1946
Reclassified: Attack Transport (APA-40), 1 February 1943
Struck: date unknown
Honours and
Six battle stars for service in World War II.
Fate: sold for commercial service in 1948
General characteristics
Class and type: Bayfield-class attack transport
Tonnage: 8,100 tons
Tons burthen: 16,100 tons
Length: 492 ft (150 m)
Beam: 69 ft 6 in (21.18 m)
Draft: 26 ft 6 in (8.08 m)
Propulsion: General Electric geared turbine, 2 x Combustion Engineering D-type boilers, single propeller, designed shaft horsepower 8,500
Speed: 18 knots
Boats & landing
craft carried:
12 x LCVP, 4 x LCM (Mk-6), 3 x LCP(L) (MK-IV)
Capacity: 4,700 tons (200,000 cu. ft).
  • Crew: 51 officers, 524 enlisted
  • Flag: 43 officers, 108 enlisted.
  • Troops: 80 officers, 1,146 enlisted

USS Custer (AP-85/APA-40) was a Bayfield-class attack transport that served with the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific Ocean theatre of operations. She carried troops into invasion areas and landed them, and, for this dangerous work, she returned home for decommissioning post-war with six battle stars to her credit.

Custer (AP-85) was launched as SS Sea Eagle 6 November 1942 by Ingalls Shipbuilding Co., Pascagoula, Mississippi, under a U.S. Maritime Commission contract; sponsored by Mrs. L. S. Border. Her original passenger capacity was 12, and was to carry a crew of 52 with an original cargo carrying capacity of 16,628 tons.

The United States Navy received the ship on 23 January 1943 and renamed her the USS Custer (APA-40) in honor of the several Custer counties in the United States. Custer moved to the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, Hoboken, New Jersey, to be converted into, and armed as an attack transport - the period of conversion consumed 159 days. On 18 July 1943, Custer was placed in full commission by Captain R. E. Hansen, under his command, at Pier 1, Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Her trial run was made on the East River on 28 July 1943. Post-trial repairs were made at Pier 36, Brooklyn, and were completed on 9 August 1943. 10 August 1943, Custer sailed for Norfolk, Virginia, arriving on 12 August 1943. 13 August 1943, Custer received her landing craft; 26 LCVP's and 2 LCM(3)'s; along with boat crew and officers.

During the period from 14 August 1943 to the latter part of November, the ship was engaged in training exercises in Chesapeake Bay. Dummy loads were carried, and dawn landings were rehearsed. 17 November 1943, Custer returned to Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth Virginia, for overhaul and dry-docking.

World War II operations[edit]

Departing Norfolk, Virginia, 11 December 1943, Custer arrived at Pearl Harbor 10 January 1944, carrying Seabees. She loaded troops at Honolulu and sortied 23 January as a part of Task Force 51 for the Marshall Islands operation. Held in reserve during the invasion of Kwajalein, she landed her troops on Eniwetok on 19 February and embarked casualties, with whom she returned to Pearl Harbor 6 March.

After sailing to embark men and cargo at San Francisco, California, Custer joined in amphibious training exercises in the Hawaiian Islands, and arrived at Kwajalein 9 June. She put to sea 2 days later for the assaults on Saipan and later on Guam, transporting troops and evacuating casualties to Eniwetok until her return to Pearl Harbor 7 August.

Custer sailed from Pearl Harbor 15 September 1944 by way of Eniwetok and Manus for the invasion landings on Leyte of 20 and 21 October. Safely out of Leyte Gulf before the great battle for its possession, she loaded reinforcements at Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, from 26 October to 14 November, then landed them on Leyte 18 November.

After replenishing at Manus and training at Huon Gulf, New Guinea., Custer sailed on 31 December for the invasion landings at Lingayen Gulf of 9 to 12 January 1945. She operated in the Philippine Islands, participating in the unopposed landings at La Paz, Zambales, on 29 January and acting as mother ship for landing craft and coordinating cargo activities at Tarraguna, from 13 to 20 February.

Custer sailed from Leyte Gulf 27 March 1945 for the invasion of Okinawa. From 1 to 6 April she landed troops and cargo and fought off air attacks during the initial landings, then sailed for a stateside overhaul. Departing San Diego, California, 5 August, she embarked troops at Pearl Harbor for the occupation of Japan, landing them at Sasebo, Japan. She sailed to transport troops from Manila to Sasebo, Japan, then embarked homeward bound servicemen for San Pedro, California, arriving 21 November.

Invasion Log[edit]

Place Date Transported
Kwajalein 2 February 1944 1st Bn., 106th Inf., 27th Div., USA
Eniwetok 17 February 1944 1st Bn., 106th Inf., 27th Div., USA
Saipan 15 June 1944 2nd Bn., 165th Inf., 27th Div., USA
Guam 21 July 1944 2nd 155 M.M. Howitzer Bn., Corps Arty., USMC
Leyte (Dulag) 20 October 1944 2nd Bd., 17th Reg., 7th Div., USA
Leyte (Tarraguna) 18 November 1944 2nd Bn., 503rd. Parachute Reg., USA
Lingayen January 9, 1945 3rd Bn., 160th Reg., 40th Div., USA
La Paz, Zambales Province, Luzon, P.I. 29 January 1945 2nd Bn., 152nd Inf., 38th Div., USA
Okinawa Jima 1 April 1945 18th Reg., Hdqtrs, 7th Div., USA


Officers Rank Years
McDowell, Wayne Allison Captain 17 July 1945 - 24 May 1946
Terry, Winthrop Captain 16 April 1944 - 17 July 1945
Hansen, Ralph Edward Captain 18 July 1943 - 16 April 1944
Griese, A. A. Lt. Cdr. June 1944
Shearer, Marshal Livingston Lt. Cdr., (XO)
Anderson, D. C. Lt. (j.g.)
Barton, E. M. Lt. (j.g)
Berrigan, J. F. Lt. (j.g)
Branch, R. F. Elect.
Bryan, I. F. Lt. (j.g)
Cathcart, T. R. Lt. Cdr.
Christie, J. W. Lt. Cdr.
Cirona, F. J. Lt. (j.g)
Wadleigh, F. L. Ensign
Hastings Jr., J. E. Lt. (J.g)
Smith, R. G. Lt. (J.g)
Hamner, Melvin Carl Lt. (J.g)
Morris, William Mack Lt.
Enlisted Rank Years
O'Brien, L. CMB - 31 July 1945
Coleman, Theodore John BM1c 7 July 1943 - 31 December 1945
Aerts, Reuben James BM2c
Arminio, Thomas Gerard PHM2
Aunspach, Arlon Lloyd S2c
Carper, Walter Edward BM2c
Gallagher, Charles E. BMG2
Garrett, Floyd Unknown
Gual, Raymond Joseph CQM
Goosmann, William Frederick WT1
Hickman, Louis Franklin MOMM1
Komanetsky, Michael RM1
Kunz, Walter Francis RDM1
Louks, Walter George CMM(AA)
McElwee, James William MOMM2
Polley, Ernest R. PHM3
Rodriguez, Sabas Escamilla S1c
Salzillo, Albert Anthony BM2c
Shamrock, Morris Frederick GMGC
Shaw, Hugh Fancher SM
Sorenson, Andrew Peter EM1
Stipe, William L. EM3
Thompson, Leon A. MM1
Wallenthin, Edward Dana EM1
.... Work in Progress

Post-war decommissioning[edit]

Custer was decommissioned 24 May 1946 and transferred to the U.S. Maritime Commission for disposal 11 September 1946.

Honors and awards[edit]

Custer received six battle stars for World War II service.

  • Marshall Islands operation - Occupation of Eniwetok Atoll, 19 February 1945
  • Marianas operation - Capture and occupation of Saipan, 11 June 1944 –
Capture and occupation of Guam, 12 July 1944
  • Leyte operation - Leyte landings, 20 to 21 October and 18 November 1944
  • Luzon operation - Lingayen Gulf landings, 9 to 12 January 1945
  • Manila Bay-Bicol operation - Zambales-Subic Bay, La Paz landing, 29 January 1945
  • Okinawa Gunto operation - Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto, 1 to 6 April 1945

Qualified Custer personnel were eligible for the following: