How a Tuna Fleet Went to War
Found this great article on the Tuna Fleet of San Diego by Peter Rowe of the North County Times.
“In October 1942, two of the Navy’s smallest vessels embarked on a big mission.
“You’re going to Guadalcanal,” one of the skippers was ordered. “This cargo has got to go through.”
The two vessels, the 110-foot Paramount and the 128-foot Picaroto, sailed northeast from the New Hebrides and into The Slot, one of the South Pacific’s most dangerous passages. Evading Japanese patrols, the two vessels reached Guadalcanal’s Red Beach in November. They were greeted by a band of Marines who, though exhausted by combat and malaria, unloaded both boats in record time.
“We won’t take a chance on you boys getting sunk,” one Marine assured the Paramount’s captain, Ed Madruga. “This cargo is really important.”
The cargo? Turkeys, potatoes, cranberries, oranges: Thanksgiving dinner.
The Paramount and the Picaroto were among the 53 original Yard Patrol boats, tuna clippers — most from San Diego — converted into military vessels during World War II. Known as YPs or Yippies, these vessels have been almost forgotten. That’s not surprising. They played a modest role in a mammoth conflict, hunting submarines and ferrying men, food, fuel and other supplies to American outposts.
These unglamorous yet vital missions — just ask the men on Red Beach — were fulfilled at great risk. Twenty-one of the vessels and dozens of fishermen would never come home. When the survivors did sail back into San Diego Bay, though, their wartime experience would transform the tuna fleet and usher in this industry’s golden era. Using new technology and an intimate knowledge of previously unknown waters, they would chase tuna around the globe, hauling in record-setting catches.”
Read the rest of the article here (link)