By Lieutenant Commander Ralph S. Lorimer
Record-Breaking Working Base is Always on the Job
On 17 January, 1945, the Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot at Albany Calif. was one year old – and during those twelve months from 17 January, 1944, a great and vital job has been accomplished for the Navy’s amphibious program in the Pacific against Japan. The hard work, imagination, and unrelenting drive of all the Station’s officers and thousands of enlisted men have kept pace with the ever-increasing needs of the far-flung Pacific battle areas – and now, as the Pacific war thunders to new peaks of all-out effort, the men of NLFED are ready for whatever tasks lie ahead either at this station or overseas.
History of NLFED
Prior to the establishment of NLFED at the old Albany racetrack location [Golden Gate Fields, which opened in 1941 – AHS], the Small Landing Craft Depot at Bay Farms (near the Oakland Airport on S. F. Bay) took care of the small number of landing craft being shipped out of this port. This SLC Depot was commissioned in July of 1943, and while decommissioned on 17 January, 1944, continued in operation until 5 May, 1944, gradually being taken over by the larger operations at NLFED, Albany. At SLC, the craft were moored in the estuary, and the crew, numbering some 200 men, lived and messed aboard an old river steamer named the Crockett.
Our Commanding Officer, Captain H. C. Laird, USN (Ret.) and Lt. Comdr. W. E. Lehr, arrived on the West Coast on 30 December, 1943, to look over possible sites for NLFED – and it was quickly decided by Captain Laird that the Albany racetrack, located on San Francisco Bay, offering spacious grounds, and convenient to rail and truck facilities, was the right place to start to work constructing the giant landing craft depot.
Already famed for outstanding work in the amazingly rapid construction and efficient operation of the Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot, Norfolk, Va. For which he was awarded the Navy’s Legion of Merit Medal.” … for outstanding contributions to the success of the Atlantic invasion ,” Captain Laird and his first contingent of officers and men set to work as the new year of 1944 opened – doing the spade work and planning necessary to the construction and maintenance of the giant base. Thanks to the very “unusual” California weather, the “spade work” was the concern of pretty nearly everyone aboard, as the officers and men alike waded around in the deep bogs of the race track fields and runways. Nevertheless, within a few weeks, adequate quarters and mess facilities had been provided for hundreds of men already pouring aboard from the Norfolk base and many other locations.
“Early Birds” at NLFED included resourceful Lt. (jg) W. M. Percival, Lt. George Smith, Lt. C. S. Ryland, Lt. P. R. Tittermary, Lt. Roy Fricks, Lt, S. L. Kelso, Lt. G. W. Barlow, Lt. P. H. Dew, and Lt. D. C. Christensen. in many different lines, these officers and their men contributed much to the development of the Station, under difficult conditions.
As the Station grew, more and more landing craft appeared in the infield of the old racetrack, and also spread out all over the ex-parking areas and other grounds. In March, with the completion of our first dock section, boats began to be moved out directly from NLFED, instead of being trucked out and swung into the water by cranes down at the Oakland docks. Naturally, military security forbids mention of the number of craft that have left this base in tested 4.0 condition, but you can be sure our operation is comparable to the needs of the overall Pacific program.
In May, 1944, Lt. Comdr. R. S. Lorimer reported aboard to assume the post of Executive Officer and by that time the shops and offices were hitting their stride – but more was still to come. By Fall of 1944, nearly three thousand men were busy learning all the “tricks of the trade” in connection with the repair, maintenance, and operation of LCVPs, LCMs, and LVTs. A broad program of athletics and entertainment under the direction of the Welfare Officer, Lt. R. W. Crawford, was under a full head of steam. In October, the pint-sized BEACH BUSTER suddenly blossomed forth in its present size and coverage, bringing more and better pictures and news of NLFED and its personnel. By late 1944 it was safe to say that NLFED had “arrived” – and that everyone in the East bay area was well aware of the importance of the mighty Navy base that had grown with incredible speed on the shores of San Francisco Bay.
It was a job that rates a “well done ” – and there’s more to come. Tasks ahead that will demand equal skill, tenacity and loyalty. Jobs we all know that we’re ready for!