17th Infantry Regiment Boards Steamship George Flavel (XAP-78)

Soldiers of the United States Army's 9th Amphibious Task Force, 7th Infantry Division, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, prepare to board steamship George Flavel (on the left) at the Adak fuel dock for transport to Kiska, Alaska. Adak had only this dock to accommodate ships at the time of the Kiska invasion; other docks were added later. George Flavel was a EC2-S-C1 type Liberty Ship, Hull #658, constructed by the Oregon Shipbuilding Company as a troopship. Her keel was laid March 11, 1943 and she was delivered on April 8, 1943. She was purchased by the Alaska Steamship Company and leased by the War Shipping Administration. George Flavel's Captain was Charles N. Goodwin (July 31, 1904 - November 2, 1982). Goodwin went to sea in 1923 and earned his Master's license in 1939. George Flavel was designated XAP-78, part of transport group 16.11.4 for the Kiska landings (Operation Cottage). At 1030 Hours on August 15, 1943 a minor fire in hold #3 broke out after a jeep's motor backfired and set fire to sleeping bags. Many other ships sent firefighting details. This was George Flavel's second fire; the first one was at Attu on July 15. Boatswain Walter C. Lubinski (January 20, 1916 - December 1985) donned a gas mask and put out the fire. Exposed to smoke twice, he developed an eye infection that cost him the sight in his left eye. In 1945 Lubinski unsuccessfully sued for compensation but was denied because George Flavel was under contract to the War Shipping Administration. SS George Flavel and USS Heywood (APA-6), carried to Kiska 258 officers, nine Warrant Officers, and 5,661 enlisted men of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry. They landed on Kiska in the southern sector on "Scarlet" Beach #10 on August 15, 1943. The commander of the 17th Infantry was Colonel (later Major General) Wayne C. Zimmerman (January 15, 1897 - December 23, 1983). After the invasion of Attu in May 1943, the 17th Infantry garrisoned that island until relieved by the 159th Infantry. The ships that brought the 159th to Attu, then embarked the 17th and brought it to Adak on July 22, 1943. The 17th Infantry was the only combat-experienced outfit in the Kiska operation. Zimmerman recommended that the standard GI boot be replaced with warmer winter weather galoshes and the assault troops issued parkas. The other ship in the right side of this view is the steamship John Burke. Another Oregon Shipbuilding EC2-S-C1 Liberty Ship, Hull #609. John Burke's keel was laid on November 20, 1942 and launched December 15, 1942. She was delivered on December 23, 1942. She transported ammunition to garrisons around the Pacific. John Burke arrived off Kiska on August 25, 1943, the day after the island was declared secure. She was struck by a kamikaze on December 28, 1944 during the Mindoro, Philippines invasion, and her cargo detonated in one of the largest conventional explosions in history. The Liberty Ship disintegrated and her sixty-nine crew were all killed. The 17th Infantry fought on Kwajalein and in the Philippines. Steamship George Flavel was scrapped in 1968. Adak became a major Aleutian base and was used by the United States armed forces until 1997.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
National Archives and Records Ad
Archival Identifier: 
Fuel Dock
Alaska Territory
United States