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John Joseph Wantuck

Born on 23 November 1923 in Elmira, N.Y. -- enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on 6 January 1942. After basic training at the Marine barracks at Parris Island, S.C., he served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 30 June 1942 until late in the year.

By 5 December, Private Wantuck was serving in the Solomon Islands where, on 30 June 1943, he went ashore with other marines at Zanana beach on the island of New Georgia. For two weeks, the troops tried to dislodge the Japanese defenders farther inland near Munda while Wantuck served with the beachhead and supply depot antiaircraft defense unit. On 17 July, the Japanese mounted a major offensive at the severed and disoriented American forces.

Though eventually stymied in their attempt, they managed to reach the perimeter of the beachhead and Private Wantuck's position. Using a light machine gun salvaged from the discard pile, Wantuck stuck to his position through the night. The following morning, after the enemy offensive had been repulsed, Private Wantuck was found dead at his gun with evidence in front of him that he had killed 18 to 20 of the enemy and had probably wounded many more. For his gallant defense and supreme sacrifice Private Wantuck was awarded the Navy Cross, posthumously.

USS Wantuck (APD-125)

dp. 1,650 (tl.); l. 306'0"; b. 37'0"; dr. 12'7"; speed 23.6k. (trial); complement 204; troops 162; armament 1-5", 6-40mm., 6-20mm., 2 depth charge tracks; 4 LCVP assault craft; class Crosley

Wantuck served extensively during WWII, and in peacetime until Korea.
(Bert Kortegaard joined her, as ET2, early in 1950.)

The momentous year of 1950 began for Wantuck with a brief sojourn to Kodiak, where she dropped depth charges, and possibly sank, an unknown submarine target.

On 6/7/50, Wantuck entered Hong Kong, to assume the function of Station Ship.While she remained at Hong Kong, war erupted in Korea when communist North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June. On 6 September, she actively entered into combat operations in Korea, moving to Sasebo and arriving on 8 September.

Two days later, we were in the Korean combat zone at the port of Pusan preparing for the amphibious assault at Inchon. She departed on 13 September with elements of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, embarked. (These troops had been invaluable in the fighting to maintain the Pusan perimeter, and were removed only over the heated objections of Eighth Army).

Early on the morning of the 15th the warship was off Wolmi Do, an island just off Inchon. (Connected to it by a causeway. Some vehicle was observed tearing back to shore along that causeway during the preliminary bombardment by LSMRs, while our LCVPs were loading the assault troops. The assault area was called Green Beach, and our troops landed at 6:33 a.m.) Her troops stormed ashore on the island and quickly consolidated their position in preparation for the second phase of the operation, the invasion of Inchon itself, scheduled for that afternoon. Wantuck remained at Inchon supporting the consolidation and expansion of the beachhead until 26 September at which time she returned to Yokosuka, Japan.

The high-speed transport returned to Korea early in October with the Royal Marine Commandos embarked. In cooperation with Bass (APD-124, a second member of our squadron) and supported by De Haven (DD-727), she executed a series of raids (With 41 Commando, British Royal Marines) near Wonsan to Disrupt North Korean transportation facilities -- primarily rail lines -- to support a scheduled amphibious attack on Wonsan. However, that operation was obviated by the fact that Republic of Korea (ROK) troops entered the city from landward on 11 October. The day before that event, Wantuck returned to Japan (Sasebo. An aside: I stood shore patrol that time, and again met up with 41 Commando who were on Liberty ... <gr>)

Wantuck did not arrive back in Korean waters again until the 20th -- once again at Wonsan. By that time, however, United Nations efforts to reopen the port were well advanced (Bob Hope put on a USO show about this time!), and the transport saw little further combat duty during that deployment (We did carry UDT-1 in mine clearing operations in Wonsan, while the 1st Marine Division waited at sea, in preparation for their landing on October 26. We also evacuated some Marine wounded from an isolated coastal detachment).

She returned to Yokosuka on 25 November and, three days later, headed back to the United States. After stops at Midway and Pearl Harbor, the fast transport arrived in San Diego on 15 December 1950.

(BK: I left Wantuck here, since I made ET1, and went right back to Korea on the Union, AKA 106. After my discharge in 12/51, I became a Field Engineer with the Air Force. After gaining experience in the Philippines at Clark AFB, I returned to Korea with 606 AC&W above Kimpo for another 7 months)

Wantuck spent almost eight months conducting normal operations along the west coast out of San Diego. On 23 July 1951, she pointed her bow westward once again and set a course for the Far East, arriving in Yokosuka on 22 August. By that time, the Korean conflict had degenerated into a stalemate on land with the principals locked in Armistice negotiations and jockeying for military advantage at the bargaining table. At sea, the naval war had become almost purely one of fast carrier operations with planes interdicting communist supply routes and hitting strategic targets in North Korea. Wantuck resumed duty with TF 90, the Amphibious Force, and consequently took little active part in the conflict from that point. In fact, during the 1951 to 1952 deployment, she did not even qualify for the Korean Service Medal, though she did visit Korean ports on occasion -- particularly Inchon and Pusan. The fast transport departed Yokusuka late in March 1952 and, after a stop at Oahu along the way, she reentered San Diego on 19 April.

The ship departed San Diego again on 7 March 1953 and steamed via Pearl Harbor to the Far East. The warship arrived in Yokusuka on 30 March and, though she patrolled extensively in Korean waters, her operations were essentially as peaceful as they had been during the previous deployment. That summer, the signing of the armistice made those conditions permanent, and Wantuck departed Yokosuka to return to the United States.

After four more years of active service, the warship was rammed by the much larger APA-195 USS Lenawee in August of 1957. Too badly damaged for repair, Wantuck was decommissioned at San Diego on 15 November 1957 and berthed there with the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 4 March 1958, and she was sold on 27 October 1958 to the Sundfelt Equipment Co., Inc., of Wilmington, Calif. and scrapped.

More information regarding Wantuck's end comes from a former crewman, who visited this site:

From: HD97FBBUDP@aol.com
Date sent: Sat, 27 May 2000 03:05:53 EDT
Subject: uss.wantuck apd 125
To: korteng@rt66.com

i thought you might be interested in a little more history of your former ship, on her last deployment to wes pac early 1957 she was involved in a collision off San Diego running darken ship exercises and cut almost in half at the forward engine room thank God and the damage control parties she did not go down there was loss of life in the forward engine room i believe three of the engineman on watch were lost . she was our relief in wespac as i was on the uss balduck apd 132 and had a very close friend on the wantuck, he was asleep when the collision accured ,i talked to him after we came home his name was orley brown a bt 1 . he said it was very dark that night and some one gave the wrong orders. she was scrapped in the later part of 1957. no repairs were made . we later were decommissioned at long beach in Feb 1958

a former apd sailor, r.k. paxton bt2

Wantuck earned one battle star during World War II and five battle stars during the Korean conflict.

Wantuck at Inchon

USS Wantuck, APD 125, off the Inchon invasion beaches

She was a good ship
Bert Kortegaard, Wantuck ET2

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