Recently people have been joining me on my Sunday Walks in Downtown Albany. Typically, I walk in Albany when I'm scheduled as a tour guide on the USS Slater. A slide show and a map are detailed at this blog entry. I plan on walking on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. You can contact me at:

More on the USS SLATER (

Sunday, July 18, 2010

07/18/2010 - Convoys, Armed Guard

This Sunday I gave two tours. One group was comprised of family members of WWII Destroyer Escort Weapons officer. It was a great tour. The DE Sailor was over 90, so the tour took time. We opened the flying bridge (which was the duty station for the Weapons Officer). It took a while for the to climb the steep ladder. It was a great accomplishment. I'm glad we had a special tour.

Prior to service on a Destroyer Escort, the vet told me that he served as an Armed Guard Officer. He noted that he sailed on convoys near Iceland. I was happy that I had an opportunity to serve as the guide for this visit. However, I really wished that they visited on Friday, when Bob Bull was on duty on the USS Slater. Bob was a WWII DE sailor who also served as an armed guard.

Here are a few links relative to Armed Guard Service in WWII:

  • A very detailed history of the armed guard service is on-line: Administrative History of the Naval Armed Guard Afloat in WWII (OP-414). One chapter summarizes their mission: "....The Armed Guards had only one main mission -- to defend merchant ships and transports from enemy air, surface, and submarine attacks. Their primary duties, therefore, were watch standing and manning guns and maintenance of guns and defensive equipments. They had nothing to do with running the merchant ships although they greatly assisted at times in fighting fires, and in salvage operations, especially when the merchant seamen became panicky or abandoned ship. ...."

  • The picture above details an attack on an arctic convoy to Russia in 1942 (PQ-18). A detailed listing of all convoys is available at Arnold Hague Database on Convoy Web. PQ Series convoys typically departed from Iceland. Here is the Arnold Hague entry for PQ-18.

  • The period from 1939 to 1943 was a tough time for Merchant Ships, During this period 5,758 ships were lost from all causes. The combined tonnage was 22,161 (thousand), in modern terms these losses would equate to the loss of over a 1/2 million tractor trailer trucks (using a 40 ton base for a tractor trailer).

  • Another blogger (Bud, from Ft. Wayne) has written a detailed story about the Armed Guard which is a good read.

  • There is a detailed web site dedicated to the Armed Guard ( "....The U.S. Navy Armed Guard was a service branch of the United States Navy that was responsible for defending U.S. and Allied merchant ships from attack by enemy aircraft, submarines and surface ships during World War II. The men of the Armed Guard served primarily as gunners, signal men and radio operators on cargo ships, tankers, troop ships and other merchant vessels. Disbanded following the end of the war, the Armed Guard is today little known or remembered by the general public, or even within the Navy. ...."

  • Naval History Center has an interesting oral history account about an Armed Guard Sailor, Seaman Basil Izzi, " Armed Guard crew member on the Dutch merchant ship SS Zaandam which was torpedoed by German submarine U-174 off the coast of Brazil. He was rescued after 83 days adrift on a raft, 2 Nov 1942 - 24 Jan 1943. ..."

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