Posted by: SJS | June 19, 2022

USS Carondelet — A Father’s Day Salute

USS Carondelet 1945

The vessel which became the USS Carondelet began its life as an Italian tanker named Brennero, built in 1929. While the Brennero was anchored in New York Harbor it was seized by the US Coast Guard on June 11, 1940 under suspicion that that the ship was helping to fuel German U-Boats that were patrolling the East Coast of the United States. The Brennero was later turned over to the Merchant Navy in October of 1941 and it was renamed the SS Gold Heels. It sailed as a Panamanian licensed tanker to the Dutch East Indies and then on to Australia where the US Navy claimed her and the ship was refitted.

On April 4, 1944, the SS Gold Heels was commissioned the USS Carondelet (IX-136). The newly commissioned tanker was named after a legendary Civil War gunboat that served with distinction in the Union Navy. The first USS Carondelet fought in the Battle for Island #10 during the Tennessee River Campaign of 1862.

The WWII vessel named the USS Carondelet served as a station tanker and a repair ship. Station Tankers stayed in one place for extended periods of time performing repair and general maintenance work while also fueling front line war craft in the South Pacific. Like the PT Tenders, the presence of the Station Tankers did not go unnoticed by the naval forces of Imperial Japan. And like the crews on those PT Tenders, AJ and his fellow crewmen on the Carondelet had more than a few close calls with an increasingly desperate enemy that knew the important role of the maintenance and supply ships. Taking out the support craft in any way possible was a proven way of weakening the effectiveness of American fighting vessels.

The range of US Navy vessels that were serviced by the Carondelet is truly impressive. The summary log of the ship’s work in August of 1945 includes the following details: 56 LCTs (Landing Craft/tanks), 25 LCIs (Landing Craft/infantry), 8 SCs (Submarine Chasers), 2 AMs (Mine Sweepers), and 4 PCEs (Patrol Vessel Escorts). And that is only a portion of the work accomplished when young Navy Signalman, AJ Waite was aboard in August of 1945 while the Carondelet was at work in the Philippines.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this year, Dave and I are keenly aware of the role played by our fathers in the US Navy during the final, pivotal phase of WWII in the South Pacific where the fighting was intense and every ship that flew the American flag was never far from sudden and potentially lethal danger. AJ Waite and Red Stahley did their duty with steady fortitude, good humor, and the willingness to do whatever was needed, whenever it was needed. Our gratitude, respect, and love for these men only deepens as the years pass. The example they provided continues to shape and influence us every day of our lives.

I remember Dave once telling me that his father’s favorite movie was Mister Roberts–the classic film starring Henry Fonda and Jimmy Cagney. Fonda’s character, Mister Roberts, is a junior officer on a Navy cargo vessel who serves under a petty tyrant of a senior officer played by Cagney. Roberts is a natural leader and skilled administrator who does everything he can to shield his subordinates from the whims and vindictive decisions of their meanspirited captain. The war in the South Pacific is winding down and Mister Roberts desires nothing more than a transfer to a fighting ship that is in the thick of the action against the Japanese. In the meantime, he does his cargo work with dedication and generosity.

I will offer no further details and invite you to check out the film for yourselves. Consider it a Father’s Day gift to all the kind readers of this blog. I can promise you that Mister Rogers will not disappoint. Fonda and Cagney are at the top of their game and the story is a beautiful tribute to the members of the Greatest Generation who served in the US Navy, especially those who were stationed in the South Pacific.


  1. We were lucky to have had the fathers we did!!

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