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World War II

 Service Record


 James Harrie Wilkerson, 3rd Officer

U.S. Army Transport Service


James H. Wilkerson, as a Junior 3rd Officer,  4th from left. Picture take after Dec 1945  



James Harrie Wilkerson died September 19, 1994 in Nacadogches, Texas, he was 69 year old.  Since that day, my brothers, Bobby, Tommy, and I (Rodney) have been researching dad’s service during World War II.  As boys growing up, all we knew about dad's service was that he served as a merchant mariner aboard the Hospital Ship, Algonquin.  We often "plundered" through boxes of old photographs at Grandma Ione's where we saw pictures of the ship dad served on, the crew he served with and the places he had been.  In the old wardrobe in the front bedroom, dad’s dress uniforms hung for years without being touched, just like he had taken them off.  On the shoulders of the Khaki Coat were two black shoulder boards with one gold bouillon stripe. Above the stripe is the embroidered emblem of a ships wheel.  We didn't know what they meant then and today we still are not sure what they mean.  We know that the boards are that of a Junior Third Officer, however, we are not sure what the ship wheel insignia means.  We think possibly , deck officer.  This requires more research or maybe an ATS veteran can solve this one for us.

Along the way, we found that researching dads service is no simple matter.  But, with the help of several other Merchant Marine Websites,  we have developed in this short biographical sketch what we believe to be an accurate chronology of dad's service.  Through our eyes, and using his old photographs, his memories, and documents uncovered in our research we present this document for all to view.

James Harrie Wilkerson was born and raised in Norris, MS., located in Scott County, just south of Forest, MS. on State Route 501.  He attended Elementary School just a stone throw away from his house, about ¼ mile down the road.  He graduated from Lake High School in May/June 1943.

World War II was well under way and his service was needed so in September 1943 James enrolled in the United States Maritime Service in Birmingham, Alabama.  He would serve in various positions as a merchant seaman until his discharge in June 1946.

Here-in lies the tangle, US. Maritime Service, Merchant Marine, Army Transport Service, Army Transportation Service, Army Transportation Corps.  In which service did he serve?  As it turns out, a little of them all.

The following is a chronology of James Wilkerson's service as transcribed from his official service record and some assumptions on our part.  I am in possession of all of the records show here.  They where give to Bobby by our stepmother, Martha Wilkerson.  All of the photographs here-in are scanned images from originals, also in my possession.  Some of the 203rd Hospital Compliment photographs appear to be duplicates given to the crew and hospital compliment on board.  Some of the same photographs I have are also photographs show to me by members of the 203rd.  



On September 1, 1943, 18-year-old James Wilkerson enrolled in the United States Maritime Service in Birmingham, Alabama.[1]  His Regular Enrollment in the United States Maritime Service began at the US Maritime Service Training Station, ST. Petersburg, Florida[2] on October 7, 1943 where he attended Basic Training.  The photograph below of Price and W(ilkerson) was taken during his basic training in ST. Petersburg.


Figure 1: US Maritime Training Station, St. Petersburg, FL.

Even though I do not know the exact date that James completed Basic Training in St. Petersburg, documentation suggest that he graduated on or about January 11, 1944 with a rating of Ordinary Seaman.  This is supported by the fact that on January 11, 1944, two certificates were issued to James H. Wilkerson.  The first certificate issued on January 11, 1944 was the Certificate of Efficiency To Lifeboatman.  The US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Marine and Navigation issued this certificate with serial number B255755.

Figure 2: Certificate of Life Boatman, US. Department of Commerce, 11 January 1944

 The second certificate issued on January 11, 1944 was the, Certificate of Service.  The US Coast Guard certifying that James was qualified to serve onboard a merchant vessel of 100 tons gross and upward as an Ordinary Seaman issued certificate number E493254.


Figure 3: Certificate of Service, US Coast Guard, 11 January 1944

 While in Basic Training, James received training that would prepare him to perform his duties as a merchant seaman onboard a merchant vessel.  Below is a collection of photographs from James’ personal collection that shows some the training that he would have received while at the US Maritime Service Training Station, St Petersburg, Florida.

Figure 4: Training Ship Joseph Conrad         Figure 5: Abandon Ship Drill

Figure 6: Training Ship Tusitala                   Figure 7:  Marching To Classes

Figure 8: The Galley                                      Figure 9: Cooks and Bakers Standing Muster

 From January 11, 1944 to 1 April 1944, the nature of James’ maritime service is somewhat unclear. After reviewing the dates on the Certificate of Service and the Certificate of Lifeboatman, I am convinced that he completed basic training on or about that date.  However, the first actual document I see with a confirmed service date is the US Army Transport Service (ATS) Discharge.  The ATS Discharge shows his first ship movement date on 1 April 1944.  Among James’ personal documents were two certificates that suggest to me that he continued his maritime training after basic training in St. Petersburg, Florida, but where?  One certificate is the U.S. Maritime Designation of Grade Certificate.  The other is the U.S Maritime Release from Active Duty Certificate.  Relatives remembered James attending training at Henderson Point in Pass Christian, Mississippi but none remember what type training he took or when he attended the training.  Based on family knowledge and based on the two certificates, I feel certain that James attended Advanced Training at the U.S. Maritime Training Station at Henderson Point in Pass Christian, Mississippi[3].  Various U.S Maritime Service documents and other publications including the WWII Merchant Marine website http://www.USMM,org document that Henderson Point, Pass Christian, Mississippi was one of many US Maritime Service Training facilities during WWII.  I believed that James began training at Henderson Point in mid January 1944 and completed the training on or about 23 March 1944.  This assumption is supported by the issuance of the US Maritime Service certificate, Designation of Grade, dated 23 March 1944 designating James a Seaman 2nd Class.  This promotion would be in keeping with the successful completion of a service school.  These dates also fit into the logical sequence of dates between James’ basic training, 7 October 1943, and the date he first sailed onboard the Algonquin on 1 April 1944.

 Logical Sequence of Training and Service

01 September 1943 Enrolled in US Maritime Service

07 October 1943     Regular Enrollment Began at Basic Training, St. Petersburg, FL

11 January 1944      Certificate of LifeBoatman issued, Completion of Basic Training

11 January 1944      Certificate of Service issued, Completion of Basic Training

Mid January 1944    Advanced Service Training, Henderson Point, Pass Christian, MS.

23 March 1944        Certificate, Designation of Grade Issued, Completion of Advanced Training, Henderson Point, MS

01 April 1944          Certificate, Release from U.S. Maritime Service, Charleston, SC

1 April 1944            Active Duty with the US Army Transport Service (ATS)

 Figure 10: Designation of Grade, US Maritime Service, 23 March 1943

On April 1, 1944, after his promotion to Seaman 2nd Class and completion of the US Maritime Service Advance Training School at Henderson Point, Pass Christian, MS., James was Released from Active Duty, by certificate, from the US Maritime Service on April 1, 1944.

Figure 11: Release From Active Duty, US Maritime Service, 01 April 1944


 I believe that James was released from active duty from the US Maritime Service because, while in Basic Training, he was selected or volunteered for service with the Unites States Army Transport Service (ATS), later called the United States Army Transportation Corps.  The ATS, like the U.S. Maritime Service and the Navy, operated thousands of ships in support of the war effort.  The ATS needed qualified and trained merchant seaman and the US Maritime Service Training Stations were designated by the War Shipping Administration as the agency to provide trained seaman for the ATS who would serve as civilian merchant seaman.  The ATS ship James would serve aboard was the US Army Hospital Ship (USAHS) Algonquin.

 US Army Transport Service Begins on the USAHS Algonquin

The Algonquin was initially chartered by the United States as a Troop Transport Ship.  However, in July 1943 she was acquired by the United States Army for conversion to a Hospital Ship operated by the US Army Transport Service (ATS).  The ship was sent to the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company in Mobile, Alabama in July 1943 and the conversion was completed in January 1944.

Figure 12: US Army Hospital Ship (USAHS) Algonquin leaving Port of Charleston
Photo taken by Ray Seiple, 206th Hospital Compliment, from the USAHS Thistle

About the same time that James completed basic training and was beginning his USMS Advanced Training School at Henderson Point in January 1944, at the end of January 1944, the US Army Hospital Ship (USAHS) Algonquin, with a full crew of seaman and medical personnel from the 203rd Hospital Compliment on board, the ship departed New Orleans, Louisiana for Gibralter.  Upon arrival, the ship was cleared to sail to Oran, Bizerte, then finally to Naples, Italy before returning to Charleston, South Carolina on March 28, 1944.  Because of problems identified on this first voyage, the Algonquin dropped down to the Merrill Stevens Dry-dock and Repair Company in Jacksonville, Florida for repairs.  The ship spent the most part of April 1944 at the shipyard.  Once repairs were completed, the ship returned to Charleston, South Carolina, her designated homeport. 

James Wilkerson began his service with the US Army Transport Service (ATS) on April 1, 1944.  Service related documents shows that he was Release From Active Duty from the US Maritime Service the same day.  His record of service with the US Army Transport Service and the USAHS Algonquin is first documented on his US Army Transport Service (ATS) Certificate of Discharge dated 3 July 1944.  This discharge certificate documents his first ATS active duty service period as 1 April 1944 to 3 July 1944 aboard the US Army Hospital Ship Algonquin in Charleston, SC as an A.B. Seaman.  This date would imply that James’ first trip with the ship was to the shipyard in Jacksonville, Florida then back to Charleston for his first overseas voyage.  Here, as an AB Seaman, he would perform routine shipboard task and maintenance, storage, rigging, etc…Below are some photographs of what I believe are James and other crewmembers as AB Seaman.

Figure 13: Below, Certificate of Discharge, Army Transport Service, 03 July 1944

 James’ First Voyage

In early May 1944, after repairs had been made to the ship in Jacksonville, Florida, the USAHS Algonquin again set sail for Gibralter and Bezerte then returned to Charleston in late May 1944.  The Algonquin made a similar trip to Gibralter and Bezerte in June 1944, however, this time she sailed on to Naples before returning to Charleston, SC in late June 1944.  James' discharge certificate documents his active duty time as 1 April 1944 to 3 July 1944 aboard the USAHS Algonquin, Charleston, SC.  His rating was Able Bodied Seaman.  It was common practice for the merchant seaman to be discharged voyage was completed.  This meant that the seaman were not eligible for pay or benefits except during the actual voyage time.

The photograph below documents James’ service as an Able Bodied (AB) Seaman aboard the USAHS Algonquin. Figure 14 below is inscribed on the back of the photograph, Dalton, Ferd B. (right), Wilkerson (second from left), Brock, Kooin (?), Niskoni.

Figure 14: James (Center) and Crew







Figure 15:  James Wilkerson A.B. Seaman 










From his records, it appears that James was promoted to Deck Storekeeper at the end of his first voyage.  He took leave and traveled home to Forest, Mississippi where the pictures in Figures 16-19 were taken of him as a Deck Storekeeper.  The photograph in Figure 20 was taken of James after he was promoted to Deck Storekeeper.  This photograph appeared in the Scott County Times, Tribute to Veterans, December 1944 Issue.

 Figure 16: James and Pauline  Figure 17: James and Ellie    Figure 18: James and Pansy



Figure 19: James and Wilbur Lee Daniels      Figure 20: James and Deck Storekeeper


In late July 1944, the Algonquin again sailed to Oran where it would shuttle back and forth to Naples several times.  On August 15, 1944, the Algonquin along with eleven other hospital ships, Acadia, Chateau Thierry, John L. Clem, Ernest Hines, Marigold, John J. Meany, St. Mikiel, Seminole, Shamrock, Thistle, and Emily H. M. Weder were involved in the invasion of southern France.  It was during this assignment a bomb exploded a few yards away from the Algonquin however, the ship was not damaged.  James was originally scheduled to sail on this voyage with the Algonquin as a Deck Storekeeper, however he was hospitalized in Savannah, Georgia.  His service record shows that he was a hospital patient at the Marine Hospital in Savannah, GA from August 1, 1944 to September 21, 1944.  The reason for hospitalization is unknown.

Figure 21:  Certificate of Discharge, Marine Hospital, Savannah, GA 21 September 1944


The Algonquin arrived back in Charleston sometime in mid September 1944.  James' service record shows he was discharged from the hospital on 21 September 1944 and was back onboard the Algonquin on 22 September 1944 when the ship set sail again to Oran and Naples then back to Charleston.  Upon her return from Naples and Oran, the Algonquin immediately departed Charleston for Casablanca.  Once there she would operate out of the port to Oran, Naples, Leghorn, Tripoli, and Marseille in France.  She would not return to Charleston, SC. until February 22, 1945.  His discharge certificate dated 3 March 1945 shows his period of active duty from 22 September to 3 March 1945 with a rating of Deck Storekeeper.

Figure 22:  Below, Certificate of Discharge # 2, Army Transport Service, 03 March 1945


On April 18, 1945 James is again admitted to the Marine Hospital in Savannah, Georgia.  He would remain there until his discharge on May 21, 1945.

 Figure 23:  Certificate of Discharge # 2 , Marine Hospital, Savannah, GA 21 May 1945

After discharge from the hospital, on 29 May 1945, James again sailed with the Algonquin and would remain aboard until December 1945.  During this period until September 1945, the Algonquin made four more quick trips to Europe and back to Charleston.  However, on her last return in September 1945, she began returning to New York, Stapleton Pier 16, Staten Island.  From the new homeport in New York, the USAHS Algonquin would make two more trips to Naples, Leghorn, and Marseilles in late 1945. It was on this voyage on August 16, 1945 that James was promoted to Boatswain.  I believe all of the photographs below are of James as a Boatswain between August – December 1945.

Figure 24: James R/R and crew                                Figure 25:  James as Boatswain after War Note he is wearing the US MM VE device on left Pocket


 Figure 26:  James and shipmates celebrating at Coney Island, NY


 Figure 27:  Below, Certificate of Discharge # 4, Army Transport Service 14 December 1945

December 1945 saw the end of service for the Algonquin as a Hospital Ship.  When she returned to New York on 14 December 1945, she was dry docked and altered to carry either troops or military dependents.

By early January 1946, the work was completed and the US Army Transport Ship (USAT) Algonquin was back in the Atlantic on 5 January 1946.  James was again onboard, this time as a Junior 3rd officer.  The USAT Algonquin made two back-to-back trips to Naples to bring Italian war brides to the United States.  Many other trips were made during 1946 for the same purpose, including one short voyage to Bermuda.


Figure 28: Algonquin Docking, James Wilkerson, Junior 3rd Officer, Right with Captain Gearhard


This photograph shows Captain Gearhard, Ships Master and James H. Wilkerson, Junior 3rd Officer docking the ship in what appears to be Pier 16, Staten Inland, NY.

James’ official discharge dated 29 June 1946 shows him re-rated to Junior Third Officer on 5 January 1946.  However, two items of evidence suggest that James receive one additional promotion that may never have been documented.  In a photograph at a fair at Coney Island, James is with other officers and crew of the Algonquin. James is wearing an officer hat with gold band and he is also wearing the shoulder boards rank insignia of a Third Officer.  In addition, the actual shoulder board insignia from his Khaki uniform is that of a Third Officer and not a junior third officer.  The stripe measures ½ inch wide while that of a Junior Third Office would measures only ¼ inch wide.  I believe that James was promoted to Third Officer at some period between January and June 1946.  However, this promotion was never properly recorded in his official USATS record because he was immediately discharged upon completion of the voyage on 29 June 1946.

Figure 29:  James, 4th from left, wearing Junior Third Officer Shoulder Insignia

Figure 30: James Shoulder Boards, Junior 3rd Officer Shoulder Boards

With his service complete, on June 29, 1946, James was discharged from the Army Transport Service for the final time.  His work complete, he returned home to Mississippi.  The Algonquin was laid up in the James River Reserve Fleet.  She would remain there until 1956 when she was sold for scrap.

Figure 31: Below, Discharge Certificate # 4, Army Transport Service, 29 June 1946

Chronology of Service 

The following is a chronological of James H. Wilkerson’s Maritime and US Army Transport Service.  These dates are transcribed from the original documents of James' service record.

09/01/1943             Original Enrollment, United States Maritime Service, Birmingham, Alabama.

10/07/1943             Regular Enrollment, United States Maritime Training Station, ST. Petersburg, Florida

01/11/1944             Completion of Basic Training, USMS, ST Petersburg, Florida, rating, Ordinary Seaman,

01/11/1944             US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Marine and Navigation Issued Certificate of Efficiency To Lifeboatman, Certificate Serial Number: B 255755

                             US Coast Guard Issued Certificate of Service to serve onboard a merchant vessel of 100 tons gross and upward as an Ordinary Seaman.

01/11/1944 –

03/23/1944             Attended USMS Advanced Training School at Henderson Point, Pass Christian, MS.

03/23/1944             Promoted to Seaman 2nd Class, USMS

04/01/1944             Released from Active Duty, United States Maritime Service, Rating, Seaman 2nd Class and placed in inactive status, United States Maritime Service.

04/01/1944             Shipment, US Army Transport Service, Charleston, SC, USAHS Algonquin, Rating at beginning of voyage, AB Seaman

07/03/1944             Discharge, Army Transport Service, Charleston, SC., Rating, AB Seaman 

Late July 1944         The Algonquin sailed again to Oran, I believe that James was Promoted Desk Storekeeper and was scheduled to sail on this voyage. But, for some reason, he was hospitalized instead.

08/01/1944             Patient, Marine Hospital, Savannah, GA to 9/21/44

09/21/1944             Discharged Marine Hospital, Savannah, GA

09/22/1944             Shipment, Army Transport Service, Shipment, Charleston, SC, Rating, Deck Storekeeper

02/23/1945             Returned to Charleston, SC

03/03/1945             Discharged Army Transport Service, at own request, Charleston, SC. Rating, Deck Storekeeper

04/18/1945             Patient, Hospital, Savannah, GA to 5/21/1945, Merchant Seaman

05/21/1945             Discharged, Hospital, Savannah, Ga

05/29/1945             Shipment, Charleston, SC., USAHS Algonquin, Rating, AB Seaman

07/11/1945             Rating, Re-Rated Deck Storekeeper

08/16/1945             Re-Rated (Promoted) Boatswain, USAHS Algonquin

12/14/1945             Discharged ATS, New York at own request, Rating, Boatswain, (reverse side of discharge) employed AB Seaman, Charleston, SC, 29 May 1945

                             Re-rated, Deck Storekeeper, NY, 11 July 1945

                             Re-rated, Boatswain, Charleston, SC, 16 Aug 1945

01/05/1946             Army Transport Service, Shipment, USAHS Algonquin, New York, NY., Rating, Jr. 3rd Officer

Date Unknown         Promoted Third Officer

06/29/1946             Discharged Army Transportation Corps, New York, Rating, 3rd Officer (Never Documented)

07/18/1946             Certificate establishing US Merchant Marine service from 10/6/1943

 Chronology of Ratings:

 04/01/1944 - 05/29/1945         A.B. Seaman, Charleston, SC

07/11/1945 - 08/16/1945         Deck Storekeeper

08/16/1945 - 01/05/1945         Boatswain

01/05/1946 - 06/29/1946         Jr. Third Officer

Unknown                                Third Officer

 James Wilkerson Joins the Army Air Corps

In May 1947, James and a friend, Hoyt Duckworth joined the US Army Air Corps.  James was later discharged on September 3, 1947, reason unknown, official record, shows For Convenience of the Service.

05/01/1947 - 09/05/1947:  Service, Army Air Force

09/03/1947 - 09/05/1947:  Released to home 3 days leave before discharge.  Last duty station AFTRC 3543 AAF Base Unit, San Antonio, TX, Private, # RA14258510 (possibly a service number).

Figure 32: Photograph Postcard of the USAHS Algonquin


 USAHS Algonquin Officers and Crew

                      Figure 33: USAHS Algonquin, Captain Paul G. Gerhard, Ship Master

                                                                Figure 34: USAHS Algonquin, 3rd Officer



Figure 35: USAHS Algonquin, 2nd Officer                                 Figure 36: USAHS                                                                                           Algonquin, Junior 3rd Officer

 USAHS Algonquin Crew


                    Figure 37: 1st Officer (middle) Andre Perros,     Figure 38: Boatswain Harry Linderstedt,
              Boatswain Harry Linderstedt, AB Seaman,          2nd from left, others unidentified Thompson (Salty)

  Figure 39:  Crewmembers


Figure 40: Crewmembers (Inscribed Bill,Cherry, Joe, Mike)


 Figure 41: Crewmembers (Inscribed on back, Troy McCurley, S.C.)


 Figure 42: James (top) and Shipmate

Other Photo's of the USAHS Algonquin

 Figure 46: At Pennols Warf, Bermuda         Figure 47 Ship at Sea




Figure 48: USAHS Algonquin             Figure 49: Naples, Italy docked next to a sunken ship at Leghorn, Italy


 Figure 50: Unknown sunken ship

Figure 52: Shore Leave Pass for James Wilkerson


 Figure 53:  War Shipping Certificate of Service

[1]  Original Enrollment Date, 1 September 1943, US Maritime Designation of Grade Certificate issued March 23, 1944, signed by T.E. Colgan, Ens. USMS Officer in Charge.  Also USMS Release from Active Duty certificate issued 1 April 1944

[2]   Regular Enrollment date, 1 October 1943, US Maritime Designation of Grade Document issued March 23, 1944, signed by T.E. Colgan, Ens. USMS Officer in Charge.  Also USMS Release from Active Duty certificate issued 1 April 1944

[3]  Source, Rosco Sharp, Brother-in-Law of James recalls that James attended some type training at Henderson Point.  Does not remember the dates, only that it was during WWII.




Last Modified : 11/06/05 11:32 PM

Rodney B. Wilkerson

Copyright 2003