As I prepare a post for publication I try to confirm (as best I can):
- the facts are accurate
- my spelling is correct
- the story will make sense to someone having no background with my family
- I’ve filled in as many gaps as possible with additional research
- my logic and analysis are sound
- necessary links and footnotes are in place
Unfortunately, life intervenes on a regular basis, pushing my writing right up to—sometimes past—my scheduled publishing time! Yesterday was no exception. That post had a lot of moving parts I needed to line up, so it took longer than I anticipated.
As I worked on it, I thought I remembered seeing the name of the ship bringing Bob, Spike, and Cliff back to the states, but I couldn’t find it. I checked and double checked the papers and notes I had from Mom, the Christmas cards from Cliff’s wife, Esther, but it wasn’t there. I decided I must have been mistaken, and left it as a mystery. I was okay with that.
So today I was cleaning up and sorting through some papers on a different table, and what pops up, but a 3″ x 6″ paper with:
David Gaillard: went over on this ship
USS Elsheba: came back on this one
Seriously? Why couldn’t I find this yesterday?? A ship’s name meant I could check for more information, so I started with a quick Google search. No Elsheba but there was an Alchiba in the Navy during WWII. The spelling was wrong, but the pronunciation worked. Was this the ship they were on? The “War Diaries” on Fold3 described her mechanical issues and the attempts to solve them:¹
In June of 1944 the Alchiba returned to the states for repairs to her engines. This was to mark the end of the Alchiba’s active part in the Pacific, for newer ships were brought in to replace the older war-tattered ones. She was placed in the Service Squadron of the Pacific and continued carrying supplies to the advanced bases, making two trips, one to Espiritu Santo and one to Ulithi atoll, taking in Guam and the Philippines.
It sounded promising! The Wikipedia article² tied in even better with my dad’s timeline;
On 30 May , Alchiba entered the Moore Dry Dock Company, Oakland, California, to undergo extensive alterations and repairs. The work was completed late in August, and the cargo ship got underway for sea trials in San Francisco Bay. Engine trouble developed during these tests, and the ship returned to the yard on 1 September for further repairs. She took on cargo at the Hunters Point Navy Yard on the 22nd and sailed once again for Espiritu Santo.
While en route, the ship experienced more engine problems, but she reached her destination on 9 October and commenced repair work. This process continued until early November, when the vessel shaped a course back to San Francisco. She arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California, on the 29th and underwent extensive repairs to her main engine.
So . . . not a bent screw, but engine problems. That could certainly slow her down. The Alchiba arrived in Espiritu Santo 9 October, but repairing her mechanical problems prevented her leaving as scheduled on the 13th. “Early November” could easily accommodate their 7 November departure, and arriving in San Francisco on the 29th is dead-on with the information I had. I think we have a match!
I was unable to locate any records documenting the guys actually being on that ship—no transit list or transfer documentation. Finding something like that would have put a lovely bow on the whole story, but sometimes it’s not to be. Perhaps I’ll find those records digitized some day, but in the meantime, I’m happy to have reduced my mysteries by one!
¹”World War II War Diaries, 1941-1945″, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.fold3.com), accessed 27 May 2019, dated n.g.; USS Alchiba, image 302745269; citing World War II War Diaries, Other Operational Records and Histories, compiled ca. 01/01/1942 – ca. 06/01/1946, documenting the period ca. 09/01/1939 – ca. 05/30/1946; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group Number 38, ARC ID: 4697018, roll 1970; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.