The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Fike (Claude E.) World War II Diary
Collection Number: M275
Dates: June 1941 - August 1993
Volume: .9 cubic feet
Claude E. Fike, son of Claude Edwin and Rosa Pegram Fike, was born in Delmar, Maryland, on March 31, 1920, and grew up in North Carolina. Shortly after completing his B.A. degree at Duke University in June 1941, Fike enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve's V-7 Officers Training Program. The V-7 program, also called the Midshipman School, was a 90 day intensified indoctrination for college graduates in navigation, military arts and sciences, gunnery, and seamanship. Fike reported to Midshipman School in Chicago on September 1, 1941, and was commissioned Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve in January 1942. He was then ordered to the Fifth Naval District in Norfolk, Virginia and was there assigned to the Officers Duty Pool, to be reassigned as needed. His first duty was aboard the U.S.S. SC-102, a World War I submarine chaser. The SC-102 patrolled the Atlantic coast during the early months of World War II, when German submarines were sinking ships within sight of the beaches. In March 1942, on a dark night, the vessel was accidently rammed by an American destroyer off the Virginia Capes, and subsequently sank.
Fike was then assigned temporary duty on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Rush, which was on constant sea patrol and needed a deck officer. In the fall of 1942 Fike received orders to the U.S.S. APc-2, a small coastal transport being completed at Bristol, Rhode Island. These small wooden ships were designed for multi-purpose use in the upcoming island hopping campaign in the Southwest Pacific. However, prior to the vessel's sailing date of March 11, 1943, Fike received a new assignment as the commanding officer of the U.S.S. APc-5. The APc-5 operated as part of the newly formed Seventh Fleet against the Japanese held New Guinea and adjacent islands. This was General Douglas MacArthur's opening campaign that eventually led to the invasion of the Philippines.
On August 26, 1944, after eighteen months in this theater, Fike was relieved and directed home for thirty days leave and reassignment. While on leave, Fike received orders to report to the Navy Small Craft School at Key West, Florida, as an instructor. Disappointed with these orders, Fike went to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. and requested combat duty aboard an attack transport instead. The request was granted and he was assigned to the USS Buckingham, APA-141, then being outfitted on the west coast at San Pedro, California. During the last year of World War II, the Buckingham participated in several operations, notably Okinawa and the Philippines, transporting combat troops and evacuating the wounded. After the war ended, the Buckingham participated in the initial occupation of southern Japan at Wakayama.
Fike was honorably discharged in January 1946 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He then decided on an academic career and entered Columbia University, graduating with the masters degree in history in 1947, followed by the Ph.D. in 1950 from the University of Illinois. His first teaching post was instructor of history at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At about the same point in time, Fike married Helen Frances Duke of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and one son was born of the union. In 1952, he accepted a position at the College of Charleston (SC) where he remained as assistant, then associate professor until 1957 when he accepted a position at the University of Southern Mississippi. He was promoted to full professor in 1959 and was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1961, serving in that post until his resignation in 1976. Thereupon he was appointed director of the newly established William David McCain Library and Archives, a position he held until his retirement in 1986. Dr. Fike died on August 4, 1994, of cancer. He is interred in Roseland Park Cemetery, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
This collection contains items pertaining to Claude E. Fike's career in the United States Naval Reserve during World War II, between June 1941 and September 1945. Items in the collection include a typescript of Fike's World War II memoirs; copies of a war diary dating between March and April 1942; two copies of the APc-5's ship log kept from June 1943 to August 1944; personal correspondence between June and September 1945; a scrapbook covering Fike's war years; and several items of memorabilia.
The material begins with Fike's typed manuscript of his World War II memoirs written in 1988. This record briefly chronicles his war-time experiences from his enlistment in June 1941 to his release from duty aboard the USS Buckingham in September of 1945. During Fike's career he served aboard five ships: the SC- 102 (a World War I submarine chaser), the USS Tourmaline, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Rush, the APc-5, and the USS Buckingham. His memoirs discuss his experiences aboard each of the vessels.
The memoirs are followed by two copies (one handwritten - one typed) of a war time diary recorded by Fike during March and April of 1942 aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Rush. The diary details day by day accounts of the ships activities patrolling the Atlantic Coast. The vessel's main purpose was to drop depth charges and collect evidence that would determine if other ships had been sunk by German submarines. Also included in the log are brief references to Fike's service aboard the SC-102 and the USS Tourmaline.
Next are two copies of the APc-5's log, kept by Fike during his command between June 1943 and August 1944. Both the small hand written journal and the typed copy are replicas of the ships' official log during Fike's tour of duty. Included with the typed copy is a cover sheet detailing the vessel's purpose in the Pacific. Interestingly, the cover sheet discusses the fact that the APc-5 did not have navigation gear on board. If the ship assisted in invasions, then a naval captain boarded the vessel, and using its communication system, the officer would guide the ship through the combat zone.
Personal correspondence consisting of nine letters written by Fike to his parents from June 23 - September 11, 1945 when he was aboard the USS Buckingham, follow the ship's log. In a letter dated August 14, 1945, he discusses his feelings following the dropping of the atomic bombs, and the end of the war.
Next are several items of memorabilia -- a piece of metal salvaged from a downed Japanese plane; a small document written in Japanese which describes the physical condition of a Japanese soldier in a field hospital; Fike's Navy belt buckle and cap insignia; and the American flag flown by the APc-5 and the USS Buckingham during Fike's command (Box 2).
The final item in the collection is Fike's World War II scrapbook (Box 2), dating from September 1939 to December 1945. Included in the volume are photographs, maps, and newspaper clippings. Photographs portray Fike from his midshipman days in Chicago, through his service aboard the Buckingham. Many of the photographs were taken aboard various ships, while others were snapped during shore leaves, in social settings. Some depict landscapes, seascapes, and indigenous people of the South Pacific. Others are battle scenes from New Guinea and Saipan. Of particular interest is an aerial photograph of an American raid on a Japanese airstrip in Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea. Also, the scrapbook contains three maps of the Pacific, two of which chart Fike's travels during his naval career in the Pacific including New Guinea, Guam, Saipan, and Okinawa. The third is a Japanese military map of New Britain. A notation in the scrapbook says that this map was of German origin. Finally, newspaper clippings are dispersed throughout the scrapbook highlighting, significant battles or events of World War II, particularly the Pacific arena. Examples of articles are the Norfolk, Virginia newspaper's "Nazis and Poles Begin War; "Invasion and Liberation of Kiriwina Islands," (New York Times); "Destruction of Buna, New Guinea" (Life magazine); and "Truman Announces Japan's Surrender" (News and Observer).
This collection provides insight into the War in the Pacific at and around New Guinea, New Britain, and the Philippines. More specially, there are valuable details and descriptions of daily activities and wartime oeprations on small ships. For those interested in World War II fighting in the Pacific, vessels patrolling the Atlantic seaboard, or life aboard small naval ships, this collection will be useful.
Provenance: Mr. Dan Crouch
Volume: 25 pages
Dates: July 4 - September 11, 1945
Form of Material:
Typescripts of letters written by Claude E. Fike to his parents, while aboard the USS Buckingham, during World War II. The typescripts were prepared by Dan Crouch, who served with Fike on the Buckingham.