"Now go to your stations all the regular and special see detail" was piped over the loud speaker system after the commissioning ceremonies on December 3, 1944, as the U.S.S. OKANOGAN (APA220) was preparing to get under from Richmond, California with Commander (now Captain) Frederick Fender of Monticello, Florida, the Commanding Officer at the Conn. The green crew of officers and men was beginning a two and a half month period of concentrated combat training to put into practical application their pre- vious shoreside schooling. The first phase came at San Pedro, California, where she took her workout in tactical maneuvers, battle station drills, and gunnery firing practice as a ship of the Navy, Incidentally, we al learned at this early stage of the game to stay out of the chart house, sanctuary of our newly wed Navigator from Los Angeles, California, Lieutenant, later to become Lieutenant Commander C.F. Roehm, USNR. Next came the training as an assault transport at San Diego, California, off the beaches of the Coronado strand where she assimilated every possible kind of combat condition in getting her small landing craft to the beach with troops and cargo. Some sort of a record was made when the now fairly well trained "corn huskers" lived up to the Indian Chief heritage of the name of Okanogan by launching all twenty-six boats in the total elapsed time of eleven minutes, fifty se- conds. On the books the Okanogan was now ready to go; but wait- she was to become a flagship as Captain G.E. Maynard, of Hudgins, Virginia, Commander of Transport Division 57 and his staff reported aboard. The ship then sailed for San Francisco for her first load of passengers bound for the far and much too broad Pacific.
At Pearl Harbor the crew got over its illusions about Waikiki Beach and hula girls and then loaded part of the newly formed Tenth Army as its first combat load for a still Top Secret invasion. And it probably still would be "Top Secret" if the newspapers at home hadn't let the news out of the pad- locked brief cast of our Communications Officer, Lieutenant John C. Morrison, of Westfield, New Jersey. ComransDiv 57 was transferred and the Mighty "O" became the roosting place for Captain R.J. "I Want a Convoy" Townsend, Coronado, California, and his staff of Transport Division 56. Again the 220 headed west and the attendance at divine services noticeably increased as she hit Eniwetok and then Ulithi. Two weeks were spent at the "enchanted isles" with the only break in the monotony of the daily routine supplied by the evening movies on #2 hatch (some of them were talkies) and the music of Lieutenant (junior grade) Sam Fribourghouse of the thriving metropolis of Yankton, South Dakota (dog team the last hundred miles) and his orchestra from ship's company. Incidentally, the orchestra at this time blossomed forth with a new theme song "Tropical Rhapsody", written by pianist Bobby Clark Signalman Second Class, of Van Nuys, California. John Ainley, Aero- grapher's Mate Secon Class, with the able assistance of Hal Berrigan, Yoe- man Second Class, kept the crew up on the worked and ship's news by publish- ing the ship's newspapers, the daily "Chief" and the Sunday "Rendezvous".
Finally the big day dawned and the Okie joined up in convoy bound for Okinawa to arrive on the morning of the 17thh of April. Lieutenant Commander George R. Hickey of Rockland, Massachusetts, the Executive Officer, set Condition ONe-Able two days out, rigged "them booms" and prepared to lower "them boats". For the next five days Flash Red, Control Green, and Make Smoke were the bywords as the Okanogan proceeded to take first place in the Division for unloading troops and cargo. Fortunately, the Japs were bother- ing somebody else that week and the closest she came to action was the night she was buzzed by an F4F, - and were some of our faces red as we crawled from under cover.