Serious efforts have been
made to gather information about other Solant Amity cruises we know existed.
To date, the information about II, III and IV retrieved from the internet is
limited. So we have had to go to other sources.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came when we discovered that a crisis response by "L" Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and Helicopter Unit HMR(L)-264 to the Congo region in July of 1960 preceded all Solant Amity Task Force Operations.
It was only thereafter that Uncle Sam conjured the polite "good will"moniker for Solant Amity Cruises, the principle responsibility of which was to function as a United Nation's oversight "peacekeeping" force in the Congo region.
From the text USMC - A Complete History, available through the Marine Corps Association [ http://mca-marines.org ] and published in 2002, we first learned of the earlier Naval/Marine expeditionary force to the Congo (Zaire) region of Africa. In searching the internet for more information, we found a site that posts U.S. Navy Crises Responses and learned that on or about 1Jul60:
"The former Belgian Congo (now Zaire) became independent on 30 June 1960. Elements of the [Congolese] army quickly revolted, and widespread civil disorder resulted. CVS Wasp with a Marine company aboard, was dispatched to assist in the evacuation of Western nationals. During the remainder of the year, the USN supported U.N. forces in the Congo by providing sealift for U.N. force contingents."
Our first source, the USMC - A Complete History on page 538, provided a bit more elaboration about the U.S. Naval and Marine Corps resources stating that on 9Jul60:
"Following Congo's declaration of independence from Belgium on 30Jun60 and the secession of the province ov Katanga, the U.N. authorizes a peacekeeping force for the African nation. Company L of 3/2 [that is "L" Company, 3rd Battion, 2nd Marines out of Camp Lejeuene, NC] and a detachment of HMR(l)-261 on board the Wasp (CVS-18) deploy there."
Well, as life and our own up-close resources tells us, things in print aren't always and in all ways correct. Charlie La Marr, then a USMC Gunnery Sergeant and who since died on 19Dec2011, wrote to the editor of SolantAmity.com to make the following points, while we were planning to put the Crisis Responses on the website:
"Did you know that as a prelude to the Solant Amity cruise, the USS Wasp (CVS-18) went to the Congo on July 9,1960 with six helos - H-34's - from 264? I was maintenance chief then also, with L Co 3/2. We were on a Caribbean cruise on the USS Boxer off Gitmo [Guantanamo Bay, Cuba].
The Wasp took off their fighters, and put us aboard. We went to the Congo. Returned to the states and formed Solant Amity 1."
Pointing out there was a conflict in the identity of the helo unit [ 261 ] in the published text versus Charlie's suggestion it was HMR-264, we asked for a clarification:
"I knew of the...effort from a text I have been reading but the details were vague. Clearly, having been there, you would know far more than anything Iíve been reading about. What struck me was the fact that there had been units of the same kind of make-up [ a reinforced company of grunts and the HMR unit, sent there around the time of the Congo (Zaireís) gaining independence. We may have, in fact, come close to being the relief at sea for yourselves and, by that time, given a task force title of Solant Amity I.
The source says that HMR(L) was 261 and not 264 on board the Wasp. Is there a conflict? Was it 261 or 264?"
Then, according to his personal log of events, former G/Sgt Charlie La Marr responded with even more enlightening material:
"If your source is the Camo bound USMC - A Complete History which gives 261, it is wrong. I was there. It was in 264.
"On 7/9/60, I flew on HUS-1 (H-34) Bureau # 147183 with MSgt Harvey Bearden as pilot, to the Wasp.
"On 7/31, I flew with Capt. Shinkle conducting carrier landings.
"On 8/1, MSgt Bearden and I flew over to Dakar, French W. Africa and return.
"On 8/9, Capt. Cumpston and I off loaded at MCAS New River, NC from the Wasp.
"All HMR 264.
"On 11/30, with Lt. Plasterer as pilot, we went aboard the Hermitage.
"Also checking my log I see where I made several landing on the Graham Co. on 12/2 and 12/6 off Viegues."
[Some months later in our communications Charlie added, "This cruise went down 42-years ago. What is all the sudden interest?.... The concept of a "People to People program" is a bunch of crap.
It was a cover.
We were there to photograph and map portions of the west coast of Africa for future Marine amphibious landings. The Congo war brought it on; [Which explains why] we on the USS Wasp were on the original Marine deployment to Africa prior to any of the Solant Amity Cruises.]
"I hope that clears things up," he concluded.
Yes, it has Charlie. Better than I could have hoped for. Thanks.
From that same text mentioned earlier, USMC - A Complete History, and other sources we also confirmed that there were a total of four Solant Amity Cruises:
The following is from the really interesting personal notes of THOMAS DeLANGE [ firstname.lastname@example.org], one of the USS VOGELGESANG's Radiomen during the period of the Solant Amity I episode spent in the Congo:
Task Force 88 - The Task Force sailed under the command of Admiral A. L. Reed, COMSOLANT for Operation SOLANT AMITY later designated Solant Amity I. The Task Force included the following ships:
GRAHAM COUNTY LST-1176
NESPELEN AOG 55
The following were drawn from South Atlantic resources for the Task Force initiated for the handling of the Santa Maria "Pirating incident."
USS SEAWOLF SSN-575 - a Submarine
Task Group 88.2 - SoLant Amity II sailed under the command of Task Group Commander Rear Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey.
Information obtained at http://www.kevinflatley.com/cruises.htm
- Underway for Solant Amity II.
- Bathurst, Gambia.
- Durban, South Africa.
- Diego Suarez, Malagasy Republic (Madagascar).
- Port Victoria, Mahe, Seychelle Islands.
- St. Denis, Reunion Island.
- Zanzibar, Tanzania.
- Mombasa, Kenya.
- Aden, Yemen.
- Mombasa, Kenya.
- Cape Town, South Africa.
- Recife, Brazil.
- Lome, Togo.
- Libreville, Gabon.
- Trinidad, BWI.
- Arrive and disembark Port Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, VA.
|",...after refresher training, [the USS Meredith DD-890] got underway for a good will tour of various ports in the Caribbean and along the west coast of Africa from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Capetown, Republic of South Africa. While en route she collected oceanographic data which included piscatoral and avian surveys as well as hydrologic information."|
One can only surmise what it was that promoted all that interest in the oceanographic and hydrologic data of the west African coastal areas, the kind of information essential to successful amphibious landings for example.
Inferred from our research: the Task Group for Solant Amity III was initiated around the 14th to 18th of September 1961 until approximately 18Dec61. However, on 30Dec03, former Corporal Viktor von Mertens [USMC 8/5/60-8/4/64], who served first in Echo-2-6 and later transferred to "Fox" for Solant III, contacted us. He is presently accumulating all the documentation, including the official cruise book, he has at home in Phelan, California. When received we will update these Solant III entries to more accurately reflect the new findings. [ Click on the photo to see other members of his platoon at the time. ]
Viktor can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 760-567-4770.
If there is anyone else out there in cyber-world with still more information than provided, we would appreciate hearing from you. Credit for that information will be provided.
Task Group ___ SoLant Amity III, under the Command of Admiral Reed with the USS Donner functioning as the Flag Ship.
THE COMPLETION OF SOLANT AMITY III, IN 1962,
NO UNITS WERE SIMILARLY DEPLOYED UNTIL FEBRUARY 1963.
Task Group number for SoLant Amity IV, Officer in Command and the entire list of ships are as yet undetermined.
As with SoLant II, the listing of ports visited were obtained from former Spiegel Grove crew member Kevin Flatley. He has his own website and you may view the posted information at :
Underway for Solant Amity IV.
- Port of Spain, Trinidad, BWI.
- Freetown, Sierra Leone.
- Monrovia, Liberia.
- Lagos, Nigeria.
- Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo.
- Capetown, South Africa.
- Lourenco Marques, Mozambique.
- Dar Es Salaam, Tanganyika.
- Durban, South Africa.
- Capetown, South Africa.
- Tristan De Cunha.
- Recife, Brazil.
- Port of Spain, Trinidad.
- St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
- Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, VA .
For more information about the various Solant Amity Task Groups, we suggest you search for website(s) dedicated to the Gas n' Go Fleet of the Patapsco Class Gasoline Tankers.
Having broken free of Belgian
colonial rule but not yet from Belgian political influence during the
early 1960s, the Congo found itself enmeshed in turmoil and intrigue that
continues to this day. You may recall that its Prime Minister, Patrice
Lamumbo, was brutalized and eventully assassinated during the period when
forces of Solant Amity I were plying their "trade" as part of
the UN activity in the region.
If interested in learning more about those tumultuous times, a search of the Internet will furnish you with enough to fill a fair sized library. For an abbreviated version, however, we direct you to read Heart of Darkness the Tragedy of the Congo, 1960-67.
To Home page. Meet the 1st Platoon; 2nd Platoon ; 3rd Platoon ; Weapons Platoon or Headquarters and H&S Personnel. See Solant Amity Cruise or Santa Maria "Piracy" Incident related photographs. Read the Comments of visitors to the site or a tribute to the Marines aboard the Hermitage or of the Corp's Discipline Problems in the 1970s. Or, perhaps you would just like to see some recent photos of the Corps' Parris Island Training Center or an array of Links and Things or read a number of interesting Anecdotes of Military History of the period.