The Rag Tag Fleet

5 June 2017 – 4 February 2018

United States Military Forces entered the Second World War after the Japanese bombing of the US naval base at Pearl Harbour in December, 1941. By then Australian forces were already assisting the British Empire in Europe and the Middle East.  Japanese forces achieved a sweeping run of victories in south-east Asia and large areas of the Pacific.  This included the loss of an Australian division in Singapore and was followed by bombing raids on Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Fearing invasion, Australian Forces were recalled back to their homeland and the United States took command of defences in the south-west Pacific with the aim of driving out Japanese forces.  With no available fleet in the region, all types of watercraft found between Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and New Zealand were requisitioned for the US Small Ships section.  They included everything from yachts to fishing trawlers and coastal steamers.

With medically fit men already serving in the war, Australian civilians that were too young, too old or medically unfit were recruited to serve with the American Small Ships.

Coinciding with the 75th anniversary, The Rag Tag Fleet shares some of the stories of the men associated with the Port of Eden who are commemorated at Eden’s Cenotaph.

Title image:

Fishing trawler, Zoie in New Guinea while under control of the US Army’s Small Ships Section.  Commandeered from Crookhaven fisherman, Bert Evans, who was never paid for his trawler, nor ever saw her again.


Commemorative plaque at the Eden Cenotaph remembers  men associated with the Port of Eden and who served with the US Small Ships Section.

American Captain Ladislaw Reday served in all areas of the US Small Ships Section until the end of the war in the Pacific.  He nicknamed the ships,  the Rag Tag Fleet in his memoirs published under a similar name.