The Battle Of San Diego
As many of you know, our father Wendel Taylor, served in the US Navy near the end of World War II. He had registered for the draft on his birthday, July 12, 1943 in Centerville like many young men at the time. He then enlisted in the Navy on October 11, 1943 in Houston at the age of 18 .
The first written record I could find was where he was received on board the USS American Legion on August 2, 1944 from Training Division 36. So far I can find no record of Training Division 36 in 1943-1944, but can only assume that it included basic training plus some additional specialist training. His rank at the time he boarded the USS American Legion as shown on the Muster Report was S1C(SM), SV-6. Since dad was trained as a signalman I assume that the rank is Seaman First Class (S1C) with training as a Signalman (SM). SV-6 may refer to a code used to further identify a reservists volunteer status. SV may refer to Selective Volunteer, and the 6 for General and Specialists.
The description of the Signalman's duties on board the USS Enterprise is shown as "Stand signal watch on bridge. Identify flags. Use blinker, searchlight and semaphore. Use range finder, searchlights, signal apparatus." (Note: Semaphore is the skill of using flags by hand for communications.) Assuming the Navy keeps a standard throughout the service for job descriptions then I assume that dad's duty station on board the USS American Legion was on the bridge of the ship.
Dad had always told us the during his time in the service he "fought the battle of San Diego" and never left the harbor. It wasn't until after he was gone that I was able to discover more details about his time in the service, and the outcome of, The Battle of San Diego.
Most of the available records found that one might consider the ship's log are called War Diaries. Under normal circumstances a ship's War Diary covers a period of one calendar month. During a specific exercise or battle a War Diary might be limited to that specific exercise or battle. Below are the chronological War Diaries that mention the USS American Legion, beginning with a period prior to dad being assign to the ship. Here is an example of the USS American Legion for the month dad boarded the ship.
July, 1943, War Diary of USS Stanly shows the USS American Legion as the flagship of COMTASKUNIT 34.4.7 consisting of 5 ships, plus 5 additional escort ships. Destination Guadalcanal. (Note: The famous Battle of Guadalcanal was fought between August, 1942 and February, 1943.)
December 10, 1943 USS American Legion arrives at United Engineering Company, Alameda, California.
January 10, 1944 the USS American Legion arrives at Hunter's Point (San Francisco), California, departing on January 18th.
April 14-26, 1944 the USS American Legion participates in the training of the 81st Infantry Division on the beaches of California.
August, 1944 the USS American Legion docked in San Diego on the 1st and 2nd.
August 2, 1944 dad is assigned to the USS American Legion.
Underway at 1842 on the 2nd for San Pedro, California to unload ammunition.
August 4th the ship proceeded to Los Angeles Shipbuilding, San Pedro, California for general overhaul.
August 20th ship relocated to load ammunition, then proceeded to San Diego.
September, 1944. It appears that the ship merely relocated to several different moorings in San Diego.
October, 1944 the ship conducted training exercises in Coronado Strand, San Clemente Island, and Alisa Canyon, Oceanside, California, returning to San Diego on the 30th.
November, 1944, from the 1st to the 13th in the US Naval Repair Base, San Diego getting underway on the 14-30th to conduct training exercises in San Clemente, Alisa Canyon, and setting anchor in Oceanside, California on the 30th.
December, 1944, War Diary of the USS American Legion as flagship of Task Group 13.9 Amphibious Training Group, Pacific Fleet, and training for amphibious operations for Army and Navy personnel in the area of San Diego, California. From December 1 to December 8th, the ship conducted training exercises which involved the firing of machine guns and small deck guns (3 inches or less) towards shore targets on San Clemente Island.
January, 1945, Commander Dona J. Houle assumes command of USS American Legion on the 8th. The ship conducts landing and air support exercises around San Clemente Island returning to San Diego on the 18th.
February, 1945 USS American Legion conducts a series of exercises including landing, air support, and tactical training in the usual practice areas of Oceanside, San Clemente, and Coronado Strand, and set anchor in Santa Barbara on the 27th.
March, 1945, the USS American legion conducted a series of landing exercises from Santa Barbara, to San Clemente Island and back to San Diego.
April, 1945, War Diary of the USS Fillmore identifies the USS American Legion as the flagship of the Training Group 13.9, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet.
April 26 - May 31, 1945 the USS American Legion participates in a series of landing exercises from San Diego, to Coronado Strand, to Pyramid Cove (San Clemente Island) and back to San Diego.
May, 1945 the USS American Legion conducted a series of training exercises in Coronado Strand, Oceanside, and San Clemente Island.
May 4-7, 1945 the USS American Legion being repaired in San Diego shipyard.
June, 1945 the ship conducted a series of landing exercises in Coronado and San Clemente Island, returning to San Diego on the 28th.
July, 1945 USS American Legion conducts a series of landing and gunnery exercises off the coast of Coronado Strand and San Clemente Island, returning to San Diego on the 27th.
July, 1945 the ship conducts a series of training exercises in landing, surface fire, and air support in the areas of San Clemente Island and Coronado Strand, returning to San Diego on the 27th.
Note: On 15 August 1945, Japan surrenders, with the surrender documents finally signed at Tokyo Bay on the deck of the American battleship USS Missouri on 2 September 1945, ending the war.
September, 1945 USS American Legion is assigned to Operation Magic Carpet and in San Diego Shipyard for reconfiguring and preparing to get under way.
September 7th ship is underway to San Francisco, arriving on the 8th.
September 11th, ship is underway to Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii.
Arrived in Pearl Harbor on the 17th.
September 20th ship is underway to Apra Harbor, Guam, Marianas.
September 30th, arrived in Apra Harbor, Guam, Marianas.
October-December, 1945. I found no records of the USS American legion during this period.
*UPDATE* Wikipedia shows that the USS American Legion returned from Guam arriving in San Pedro on 24 October, 1945. On 8 November, 1945 the USS American Legion departed for a second cruise to the Pacific with orders for the Philippines. After stopping at Manilla and Tacloban the ship returned to San Francisco on 12 December, 1945.
January 1, 1946 dad is shown in the ships muster report with the rank of S2C(SM) SV-6.
March, 1946, the USS American Legion is placed on inactive duty and scheduled for de-commissioning.
The Navy Historical Center confirms dates above as the final two trans-Pacific cruises and Dad was aboard during that time. These two cruises as a part of Operation Magic Carpet would be the last cruises of the USS American Legion prior to decommissioning.
Operation Magic Carpet. A veteran at the Pacific War Museum tipped us off to the operation that dad's ship was assigned on and after September, 1945. This operation was a full on effort to bring American troops home from overseas. The operation officially began with the ships returning from Japan following the signing of the surrender document in Tokyo Bay. Every available ship was quickly re-purposed to bring home over 8 million servicemen deployed around the world. The missing logs from October-December, 1945 could indicate that the USS American Legion made more than one trip to carry troops home, but I have not found the logs for those months yet.
So, my assumptions are, that the USS American Legion returned from active battles in the Pacific to become a flagship of the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Training Group. Every month, or several times a month, his ship would take on sailors or soldiers from other branches of the service to train them in various operations from landings to air support to surface and ship to shore gunnery.
Dad was likely utilized in not only the communication from ship to ship, but also to assist in the training of other signalmen that would be transferred to other ships destined for the Pacific theater of operations under the command of Admiral Chester Nimitz.
So The Battle of San Diego did happen. The battle was fought time and time again. Every month from August of 1944 until commencement of Operation Magic Carpet. Training our servicemen and preparing them to serve our country, and finally participating in the massive effort to bring the troops home. Yes, The Battle of San Diego was real. And the winner was all the American sailors and soldiers that benefited from their time with our dad on board the USS American Legion.
On Father's Day, 2022, a flag was flown in his honor and a plaque was placed in the Pacific War Museum honoring dad's time in the service and aboard the USS American Legion.
A series of YouTube videos by Frank Zalot, Jr. have been found online that can give you some idea of life aboard the USS American Legion during World War II. Frank Zalot was assigned to the USS American Legion much earlier than dad and saw action prior to the ship returning stateside in December, 1943. After the USS American Legion was assigned to the training fleet, Frank then switched from guns to signalman, and completed his service as a signalman several months after dad boarded the ship. He includes many still photographs of the sailors on the ship, including dad.
You can view the movie and others prior to dad's assignment to the ship by going to YouTube.
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