World War II in the Pacific
An "I was there" story.
I was a supply officer in Service Squadron Ten, part of ServForPac, and was
very familiar with some of the concrete ships with IX hull numbers. I was
aboard the Quartz (IX-150)* when it was towed from the anchorage at Ulithi to Leyte
at Leyte I was transferred to the Feldspar (IX-159)*. The war ended when we were in Leyte Gulf.
We then received orders to go to Okinawa. We were being towed in company with
some other ships and were caught by a typhoon. The first night of the typhoon
we broke the tow. I was on deck at the time, looked to starboard, and
wondered what that light was. "That light" belonged to the tug that was
the force of the typhoon was blowing us past it.
Navy Concrete Barges in WW2
That typhoon was my first experience of a severe storm at sea, and it gave me
a lifelong respect for the force of an angry ocean. We had two LCVPs on deck;
these went overboard very early. We also had a large tractor crane (I have
forgotten just what these were called) on deck. This was used to lift stores
cargo nets out of the holds and deliver them into boats, usually LCMs, tied
alongside. Every concrete ship in Service Squadron Ten had one of these.
In the storm the crane was swept overboard; as it went, it punched a hole in
the port quarter of the Feldspar. We had several crises occurring at once.
disbursing officer's safe, which was on small wheels and was supposedly
secured in the office, rolled across the deck and threatened to drop into the
that had been damaged by the crane. Several people were wrestling with it and
finally got it secured, tipped on an edge and held by ropes. I was on deck
working with some men trying to get our whaleboat secured. We did wonder if
ship was going to go down. We were taking on water through the hole on our
side, and were broadside to the waves that swept over our ship. When people
heard that ours was a concrete ship, they normally found that hilarious. But
the ship had strength enough to carry us safely through the storm.
After the typhoon ended, we drifted for a couple of days. At that point we
were probably somewhere in the vicinity of Taiwan (Formosa). Why didn't we
the radio? There was no such thing aboard these ships. Finally a fleet tug,
sent out to look for strays, found us and took us in tow. We started back
the Philippines, but then the tug got orders to turn and go to Okinawa.
When we reached Okinawa, we were dismayed to see a number of large ships
standing out to sea. Why? A typhoon was due to hit. And hit it did. The
was driven aground. When the typhoon ended, I got orders for China. The last
time I saw the Feldspar, the strange ship that had saved our lives at sea,
was on the rocks in Buckner Bay.
I was very happy to find your site as I was browsing the web, and I was very
happy to see the picture of the Quartz. Those days are now so very far away,
but I am very grateful to you for keeping alive the memories of these very
QUARTZ (IX-150) (barge) Yard No.12
(See how she looks today (Photo: John Campbell)
Build: Launch 1943.12.04. Delivered 1944.04.13.
4.338 gross tons, 4.096 nrt.
Dim: 108,20 x 16,45 x 9,60 m.
355 feet x 54 ft x 31'-6"
1944. To US Navy.
1946. Took part in the nuclear weapons test. At Kwajalein she was declared free of
contamination and was towed to Pearl Harbor and then to Bremerton, Washington,
where she was stricken from the Navy List.
1947.10. Sold to Foss Launch & Tug Co., Seattle, for further service.
Later she became a part of a breakwater at Powell River, Vancouver, B.C.
FELDSPAR (IX-159) (barge) Yard No.15
4.338 gross ton, 4.096 nrt.
Dim: 108,20 x 16,45 x 9,60 m.
355 feet x 54 ft x 31'-6"
1944. To US Navy
1946.08. Stricken from USN, returned to US Maritime Comm. Sold
In response to a reader's query.
All the concrete barges were identical ; the Quartz was an identical twin of
the Feldspar. In a way they resembled LSTs : the superstructure was aft and
contained the living spaces, the galley, mess hall and wardroom, office spaces,
the bridge, a
40 mm gun, wheel house (the barges were not self-propelled but could be
steered ), and signal lights.
That they were built by the Maritime Administration and used by the Navy was
perhaps for budgetary purposes. As you saw, when the Navy had no further use
for them, they were returned to the Maritime Administration.
As far as I have been able to find out, the Quartz is the only one that still
exists ; it is part of a breakwater in Canada.
As you know, ships in the Navy are classified by type (e.g., DD for
destroyers, and a particular destroyer would be DD plus its hull number). I found it
amusing that the barges were classified as IX, which meant unclassified, plus
their hull numbers.
Seventy seems like a high number for the crew of the Feldspar and other
barges. I would guess the crews were about fifty men. There were three officers
aboard. The captain was a line officer, usually a lieutenant commander. When I
reported aboard the Feldspar, the captain was LCDR Harris, who was a lawyer I
believe from San Francisco. Technically, since the Feldspar was not a
commissioned ship of the Navy, he was not the captain but the officer in charge, but all the officers in charge that I met were referred to as the captain.
The other two officers were Supply Corps officers. Bob Sherwood, a graduate
of Yale, was a lieutenant when I first met him. I remember him as a very
competent officer. The second supply officer on the barges might be an ensign or,
often, a warrant officer. There were a couple of chief petty officers aboard and
some deck rates—bosun's mates, signalmen. I think most of the rated men were
There were several holds — I think it might have been five —
loaded with supplies. Ships would send boats (LCVPs or LCMs) alongside ; in the
different holds the storekeepers would fill the orders, and these would be
loaded into cargo nets. We had a crane mounted on a tractor — I can't remember the
technical name for this piece of equipment — that would lift the cargo nets out
of the holds and put them in the boats waiting alongside.
A while ago I did a lot of research on the concrete barges. LT Sherwood was
listed as the O in C after LCDR Harris. I think this was when people were going
home and the Navy had no further interest in the barges. In that research I
read of one barge that was reported to have been so damaged in a typhoon that
it was towed out to sea and sunk. The barge was named after a mineral, as were
all the barges (Quartz, Feldspar, Cinnabar), and the name was given, but it
was not the Feldspar. But I can't believe that the Navy spent good money to
repair the Feldspar, a ship type it really had no further use for.
So I continue to believe, despite the printed word, that the Feldspar is the broken ship that was towed out to sea and sent to the bottom.
A reader's query.
I see from your website Jim Donovan had memories of the Feldspar. My father was
Master of the tanker Iroquois which towed Feldspar into the Pacific and I am trying
to obtain any memories people might have of this tanker in the Pacific campain.
Because she was a British ship working with the American Navy in the Pacific I have
not found any sources of information so would be grateful for some help.
I attach photo of one of the tows Iroquois did for your information.
Inoquois was designed for towing. Interesing story on Iroquois - (1907-1946) website.
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Last updated on December 14, 2004. 5Jul07 - new url for pictures. 2Nov12 - Iroquois.
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