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John Penn Class
475' / 62'
1 x 5' Gun
4 x 3' Guns
8 x 20mm Cannon
USN Sept. 13, 1942
After out fitting out and training, John Penn began preparations for the American landings in the North African "Operation Torch". During October 4-16, 1942 John Penn loaded Army equipment, cargo, and troops, then topped off with fuel. She sortied from Hampton Roads 23 October with Admiral Hewitt's Western Naval Task Force. As a unit of Rear Admiral Monroe Kelly's Northern Attack Group she arrived in the transport area off Mehdia, Western Morocco, on November 8, 1942 and began landing troops and putting cargo ashore. Although hampered by heavy surf and fire from enemy shore batteries, she unloaded with efficiency and dispatch. At 10:53 an enemy aircraft attacked John Penn, but her after batteries quickly splashed the intruder. On November 15, 1942 she departed for Casablanca and arrived the same day and unloaded the remainder of her cargo. On November 17, 1942 departed across the Atlantic Ocean bound for Norfolk, arriving on November 30.
On December 17, 1942 John Penn departed Norfolk, Virginia via the Panama Canal then across the Pacific Ocean to New Caledonia arriving January 18, 1943. Departed January 24; and arrived at Espiritu Santo 3 days later, got underway to pick up survivors from USS Chicago, sunk off Guadalcanal January 29th. In all, she received 1,003 men and 63 officers, including Captain R. C. Davis, the lost cruiser's commanding officer. After debarking her grateful passengers at Noumea, she spent the next 6 months delivering supplies, equipment, and troops to Guadalcanal from the New Hebrides, Fiji and New Zealand. Reclassified APA-23 on February 1, 1943 and continued transporting supplies and troops to Guadalcanal.
Louis Plant adds:
The ship is in two parts with most dives being conducted on the bow section. Because of the depth of this wreck, all dives are decompression dives which require the appropriate training and experience. For safety reasons, twin tanks with a separate regulator and gages on each tank, and a dive computer are recommended for diving on this wreck.
A dive to the bridge and forward guns involves a descent to the port side of the hull at about 120 feet (36 m). You can expect to see large schools of pelagic fish near the wreck. Drop down over the port side to the remnants of the bridge where there were 20mm anti-aircraft guns. You can also look in the radio room and the officer’s mess.
Heading towards the bow, there are the forward holds, derricks, masts and winches, then the forward 3-inch guns where live ammunition spills out of the ready-use lockers. This dive would involve a maximum depth of about 150' / 45m. A slow ascent can be made by returning along the hull looking in all the portholes.
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