Edward Joseph Dutra

Edward Joseph Dutra

Dec 7th, 1941. We all know that this date signifies the start of hostilities between the United States and Japan with Germany soon to follow. Prior to this date, in October of 1941, the U. S. Navy organized what was known as the Armed Guard to provide gun crews for over 1,375 merchant ships. At first, the Armed Guard was trained for 3 weeks at Little Creek, Virginia. By war's end, over 144,970 men were trained in the Armed Guard all over the country and served on over 6,236 American and Allied ships. 710 merchant ships were lost with many more being severely damaged. Over 2,000-Armed Guard gave their lives in defense of our country. The casualty rate was second only to the US Marine Corps. They endured hardships not many of us have or will have to endure. They stood watches for four hours on and four hours off sometimes for days on end. Time off was spent maintaining weapons, painting, cleaning, and occasionally, when time and circumstances permitted, they were allowed shore leave to visit the ports they delivered men and supplies to. A lot of these ports were under constant air raids and attacks by enemy plans so the men had to always be ready to fight back.

A lot of men served on the Liberty Ships. She was based on a British designed ship first built in 1879. One of the more common names for the ship was "the ugly duckling." It wasnít until President Roosevelt told the country that these ships would bring liberty to Europe, that they acquired the name 'Liberty Ship'. Liberty ships were named after prominent Americans, including 18 that were named for outstanding African Americans.

The SS Patrick Henry was the first of the 2,700 Liberty ships and was launched on Sept. 27, 1941. It was built to a standardized, mass produced design and the 250,000 parts were pre-fabricated all over the country. The 250-ton sections, complete with portholes and mirrors, were miraculously welded together in as little as four and a half days and cost under $2,000,000 to build. The Liberty (officially an EC2) was 441 feet long and 56 feet wide. Her three-cylinder, reciprocating steam engines were fed by two oil-burning boilers and produced 2,500 hp. She could attain a speed of 11 knots. Her 5 holds could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo, plus airplanes, tanks. Even a locomotive could be lashed to the deck. A Liberty could carry 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition.

Libertys carried a crew of about 44 and 12 to 25 Naval Armed Guard. Some were armed with:

About 200 Libertys were lost to torpedoes, mines, explosions, kamikazes, etc. during WWII. Two Liberty ships, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien in San Francisco and the SS John W. Brown in Baltimore, survive as "museum ships" and take occasional cruises.

Edward Joseph Dutra, Jr. - April 1944

This journal account is from one of those men of the United States Naval Armed Guard. Edward J. Dutra Jr. and took place during his third trip on the Liberty Ship Ambrose E. Burnside. This time it took him across the Atlantic Ocean to ports in the Mediterranean.

Gunnerís Mate Edward Dutra served on the Burnside for 14 months during the war. He saw ports such as Naples, Augusta, Anzio, Piombino, and Civitaveccia in Italy and Sicily. He took part in the Invasion of Southern France. He even got to visit Bermuda for a few days and catch some fish. But Iíll let him tell that story.

Edward was only 18 years old when they left N.Y. harbor that April day in 1944. He turned 19 shortly after and saw more in one year than most kids would see in a lifetime.

This is his story.

Liberty Ship SS John W. Brown

We left the States April 13, 1944 for my third trip overseas on the Burnside carrying with us over five hundred troops of the infantry and a cargo of trucks, food rations, ammunition, etc. The time of sailing was about 10:20 A.M. My gun station is #1, 20MM and my boat station is #4 lifeboat.

Another trip on the Ambrose E. Burnside

Apr 14: and all has gone well. The weather is lovely.

Apr 19: and everything has gone very well. The weather has been fine. Nothing has occurred except the usual routine. Had three boat and fire drills so far. We are expecting to have a test fire on all guns tomorrow.

Apr 20: Test fire was cancelled. Last night two submarines were reported sunk by one of our escorts. Depth charges were heard around 9:30 P.M. so it must have been around that time.

Apr 22: Today is the ninth month aboard the Burnside. Had church services today by our Lt. It is compulsory to have some kind of church service every Sunday for all armed guard men aboard ship. The weather has been very good the whole trip. If everything goes well we should see land in about eight more days. It is expected that we are going to Italy again.

Apr 23: More depth charges were dropped during the night. None of the ships were harmed, so the submarines must have been driven away.

Apr 26: Had a general alarm about 9: 00 in the morning. Unidentified aircraft was heard. No trouble resulted from that. Today we start the usual routine of keeping half of the guns cocked and loaded at all times.

P.S. A year ago today I passed my Navy physical.

Near Rock of Gibraltar

Apr 27: It is expected that we will see the Rock of Gibraltar about Saturday morning. Weather has been very good and we were able to make good time. We are just beginning to roll a little bit today. It isnít enough to result in any bad weather though.

Up to date I have had many good musical times with the troops. They had one show, which I was in and played my guitar and many song sessions, which I have, played for with another fellow, Mr. Ford. He is pretty good.

Last night it was reported that depth charges were dropped again. About fifteen in a row. Nothing more said about it. Sixty ships in our convoy. Most of them Liberties.

Strait of Gibraltar

Apr 28: Today the convoy lined up in columns of four and I counted them as nineteen ships long. The reason for this is that we are to pass through the Straight of Gibraltar sometime tonight around two or three oíclock I think.

Apr 29th: Land sighted about 6: A.M. this morning. We started going through the Straight of Gibraltar around 10:30 A.M. Destination is Naples unless any changes are made. Our Lt. told us that Naples is being bombed on an average of every third day. Very encouraging isnít He?

P.S. Today is my birthday (19th). Nice place to celebrate it donít you think? If I hadnít gone up to write in the gun log I would have almost forgot the date.

Apr 30th: Today is Sunday. We had a church service this morning by the Ensign. Nothing else very exciting. We are only plugging along at about seven or eight knots. We are to hit Augusta Sicily before we go into Naples. This will make the fourth time for me to go to this place.

Passing Oran Africa now 6:00 P.M. The time has changed six times so far.

May 1st: Today we had three General Quarters. Both times it was unidentified aircraft. Nothing happened. Had a fire and boat drill too.

Bizerte, Tunis

May 3rd: Passed Bizerta, Tunis today and are now about 7:00 P.M. leaving the coast of Africa and heading for Augusta Sicily.

May 4th: Still at sea and heading for Sicily. Hope to be in port by tomorrow morning. The weather has been very nice all the way. No rain at all. The sea has also been calm.

Augusta, Sicily

May 5th: Landed in Augusta Sicily today about 8:00 A.M. for the fourth time since July. An American Lt. came aboard and took our mail ashore. No news as to when we will leave this port but soon I guess. Itís only a couple days to Naples from here.

May 6th: Still in Augusta expecting to leave soon. Not sure when. Had our usual Saturday field day inspection.

May 7th: Left this morning at about 6:A.M. from Augusta for Naples. At two (P.M.) oíclock we started through the Straight of Messina. We are almost to the end now. It is very pretty through here. You can see Sicily on the Port side and Italy on the Starboard side. Lots of cities, towns and villages. There are red roof, stone houses almost everywhere you look. Not much damage done to this part of the coastline.

Itís now 3:30 P.M. and we are leaving the Straight of Messina. Passed Mt. Stromboli about 8:00 P.M. This is a volcano.

Depth charges dropped last night. Nothing resulted.

Isle of Capri

May 8th: Sighted the Isle of Capre about 4:30 A.M. and came into Naples about 8:30 this same morning. We are still out in the stream now so canít get a very good look at the harbor or city. Went into docks at late noon, Pier "K". All troops got off. Men working on cargo already.

May 9th: Had liberty today. Went around town. The place is more organized now. There is a swell American Red Cross building. Got more entertainment in it than most of them I have seen over here. There was mail when we got back. Got fourteen letters. Just mail we have had since we left. Latest date was 25th.

May 10th: Still unloading ships.

May 11th: Went ashore again today. Plenty hot. Walked all around the place. Got back early. Our pier is a long way from town.

Mail again today. Two letters date 27th was the last date.

Mt. Vesuvius does not flare now after itís eruption in March 1944. The whole top is blown off.

Still unloading cargo.

Played baseball on the docks this morning.

It is rumored that we are taking a load of cargo from Naples to Anzio. The place where the made the Anzio beach head not long ago. Pretty hot place so they say. Our engines are in pretty bad shape also. They say something will have to be done to them before we attempt to go back top the U.S.

May 13th: Went out in the harbor this morning. Still a little cargo in number one batch but Army fellows are unloading it now with barges. Got it all unloaded this morning.

May 14th: Early this morning at 2:38 I was awakened by some of the fellows running around the ship closing portholes. Guns were firing and a smoke screen was set up. The sky was all lit up with red tracers. It was a beautiful sight. Guns were firing from almost every direction it seemed. And in a while you could see a plane when a spotlight hit it. As we were not allowed to fire our guns I was able to watch it all. A few bombs were dropped near our ship but no damage done. You could hear planes and dive-bombers coming in, but every time a mass of guns opened up on them. A few bombs were dropped near an Army camp. As a whole not much damage was done. It was all over but the smoke at about 3:10.

This morning, at seven, we pulled into dock one. They are loading us up with gasoline and ammunition to take to Anzio.

May 15th: Had another alert last night. No plans came over though. Blacked out port for about an hour.

May 16th: Ship almost loaded. Will leave tomorrow I guess.


May 17th: Leaving Naples for Anzio today. Left at 8:00 P.M. Should arrive there around tomorrow noon. We are all standing condition 2 watches, which is four on, four off. The waters up this way are full of mines. This time we are carrying a full load of gasoline, ammunition, alcoholic beverages, and wooden beams.

May 18th: Arrived at Anzio around one oíclock at noon. Had no trouble on the way.

May 19th: At present we are stuck solid on the bottom. Itís impossible for us to move. The bottom is sand so it does not hurt the ship. So far anyway. They have hopes that when it is unloaded it will come up enough to free us. All last night and tonight you could see the gunfire from the front lines. Occasionally a shell lands near the ship. The front is about nine miles away. There is an almost continual roar of guns. The Germans are using what we call "Anzio Express" this is a nickname for a big gun they have.

May 20th: Today is a little windy and it is just enough so that the smoke screen isnít effective. You can plainly see the mountains where the Germans are hiding out. On a calm day you canít see the mountains as the smoke screen covers them, but on a windy day the Germans can watch all the operations going on in the harbor.

We are unloading on ducks and L.C.T. There are no docks. This place is what is known as Anzio beachhead. The place we made on landing just recently. We brought up some colored soldiers from Naples to unload us here.


May 22nd: Today we finally unloaded and are getting ready to shove off. Left at 5:48 for Naples.

May 23rd: Landed at Naples this morning around 8:00.

May 24th: We are now tied up to docks here and started to load again. We are to make another trip to Anzio. Missed the convoy that was going to the States.

May 25th: Had another air raid last night. Just a light one.

Visited Pompeii today. Saw the ruins and Italyís most beautiful church. Itís all inlayed with various stones from different countries. Itís very beautiful. The ruins were rather interesting to see. It covers around 150 acres.

May 27th: We pulled out of the dock "A" and went out into the harbor today. They finished unloading around 6:00 in the morning.

May 28th: Had church today aboard ship. Still in Naples harbor waiting orders.

May 29th: Today we got orders to come back into docks around one thirty. We are now tied up 2:00 P.M. They are going to unload us again. They just found out we had been to Anzio once. A ship is only supposed to make one trip there.

Instead of unloading tonight we took on about 650 troops and started for Anzio around 8:20 P.M.

May 30th: Landed at Anzio this morning around 7:30 A.M. They are now unloading us.

May 31st: Had seven alerts and two air raids tonight. No damage done to harbor or ships.

Jun 1st: Had five alerts and a few air raids last night. Once a plan came in and was firing at the ships with his guns. No damage done to my knowledge. Lost track of the number of raids now.

Jun 2nd: Still unloading. Should be finished soon.

Five alerts and one air raid last night.

Almost unloaded.

Jun 3rd: Three alerts and one air raid.

Jun 4th: Finished unloading this morning. Missed a convoy going to the States yesterday night. Leaving Anzio now at 3:00 P.M. today.

Jun 5th: Landed in a harbor a few miles from Naples at 3:00 P.M. this morning. Left the harbor about 5:30 P.M. for Naples. Landed at Naples about 7:30 P.M. We are now anchored out side the harbor.

Jun 6th: Went into docks for another load this noon. Another shuttle run, Pier "A" dock 1.

Jun 10th: Finished loading this morning and came out of dock into harbor tonight.

Jun 11th: Went back to Pier 23. Going to pick up troops I think. Came in at noon. Carrying a big load of ammunition, gasoline, oil, etc. Got a load of oil barrels on deck even. Can hardly move around.

Jun 12th: Still at pier 23. Soldiers lashing down deck cargo and building catwalks.

Jun 13th: Went out in stream again.


Jun 18th: Went back to pier 23 and took on about 600 troops. Left Naples about 3:30 P.M. for Civitavecchia port above Rome. (40 miles)

Jun 19th: Passed mouth of the Tiber River which leads to Rome this morning around 5:30 A.M. Landed at Civitavecchia about 11:30 A.M.

Jun 21st: Still sitting outside harbor waiting for orders. Havenít started to unload as yet. Troops left when we arrived. Soldiers started to unload us today at noontime.

Jun 22nd: Today marks the eleventh month aboard the Burnside for me.

Jun 26th: Light air raid last night. No visible damage done to my knowledge.

Jun 27th: L.C.T. put a hole in our ship about one ft in diameter trying to make a landing alongside. Weather was rather rough.

Jun 28th: About 12:30 this morning had another light air raid. No damage.

Jun 29th: About 1:00 again this morning had another light air raid. No damage.

Jul 1st: About 11:00 tonight had another light air raid. No damage. Gunfire drove plans away as before.

Jul 2nd: Almost unloaded. No 4 has been the delay. Weather has been very bad. Another raid, no damage.

Jul 3rd: Sailed from Civitavecchia about 7:00 P.M. for Naples after taking on about two hundred troops and five trucks.

Jul 4th: Landed at Naples all safe and sound at about 3:00 P.M. Still out in harbor and donít know when we will go inside.

Jul 5th: Went into birth 23 and unloaded troops and cargo. Went right out again.

Jul 6th: Four oíclock today we went into birth 9 pier "A" for another load I think. Later in the day they started loading.

Jul 12th: Putting out into stream again fully loaded at about 1:30 P.M. Carrying a load of pipe, rations, etc. We have a bunch of Italian soldiers and American soldiers destination unknown as yet.

Left Naples 3:15 P.M. for Civitavecchia.

Jul 13th: Landed at Civitavecchia at 10:07 A.M. Had a very quite trip.

A small fire broke out in the dry stores room this afternoon. No damage done.

Jul 16th: Left Civitavecchia at 10:55 A.M. for Piombino.

Test fired at 2:00 P.M. Fired 180 rounds. Fired like a charm.

Arrived at Piombino at 8:30 P.M.

Jul 17th: We are now unloading on L.C.T.

Jul 19th: Saw a little of the town yesterday. Pretty bad shape. Plenty of wreckage.

It was a large factory center, but it sure ainít now. Itís all bombed out now.

Jul 22nd: Pulled out of docks into harbor at 5:45 A.M. Took on about 1000 Arabs and French Troops.

Jul 24th: Sailed from Piombino at 6:00 A.M. expecting to go to Naples

Jul 25th: Landed at Naples about 8:30 A.M.

Jul 26th: Went into docks at 11:00 A.M. in morning. Troops are now being unloaded.

3:00 P.M. went back out again. Expect to go right back to Piombino without any load and bring back more troops. Probably leave tonight.

Got 19 letters today.

Came right back into port again. Just got out side of harbor and was called back.

Ship near Piombino

Jul 27th: Heard today that we have carried over 4200 troops on our ship since we have been over here this time so far.

Left Naples at 1:30 P.M. still empty for Piombino. Got a small convoy. Everyone full but us. 12 ships.

Jul 28th: Arrived at Piombino at 3:00 P.M. Dropped anchor and got orders that we would take on troops.

At 5:30 we left Piombino for Naples again. Orders came that we were supposed to be at Naples loading up. What a mess! Someone got the orders wrong. Still empty.

Jul 29th: Landed at Naples once more at about 7:45 P.M.

Jul 31st: Pulled into docks at 6:00 A.M. at pier "A" birth 10.

Aug 1st: Aircraft came over last night. Did no damage but shore batteries put up plenty of fire.

Aug 4th: Finished with the loading. Took on about 500 troops and pulled out into harbor at about 1:00 P.M. Plenty of talk about another invasion of Southern France. We got all invasion equipment. They put a big billboard on the sides of the ship with a big number 11 on it. Donít know what itís for, but soldiersí say at the invasion they have been in they have them.

Aug 13th: Naples. Four months ago today we left the States.

Today at 2:30 P.M. we lifted the anchor. Our destination is Southern France. We are going to be in the invasion of So. France which is to take place soon.

Itís supposed to be the biggest amphibious and aircraft invasion since the war.

Started four on four off watches at 8:00 P.M.

Aug 14th: Everyone pretty tired this morning from the watches but hopes seem to be high. Tomorrow morning we should be there if all goes well. We are to be in the DH+5 wave, which is the 5-hour on the invasion day. All equipment has been checked and ready for battle. Sighted Sardinia last night at about 8:00 P.M.

20 MM

Aug 15th: Sighted French coast about 7:00 P.M. last night. Battleships and Cruisers were shelling shores for all they were worth. Drifted around all night. Had a light plane attack at about 9:05 P.M. which lasted until 9:45 P.M. All ships appear fine. Planes were to high for my guns but were plainly visible. I fired 67 rounds of ammunition.

Before convoy came in we split into three sections, 16, 16, 18. One went to Red and others to Yellow and Green.

Came in close to shore this morning at about 9:00 A.M. One L.S.T. is beached and still burning on shore. Plenty of plans keep going overhead to the front. The place we are at is Saint Raphael. The harbor is loaded with ships. The country is very mountainous and only a few houses scattered around. (P.S.) Found out L.S.T. was hit in the air raid.

Aug 16th: Had another attack last night at about 9:05 P.M. until 9:25. 3" 50 fired about 27 rounds. Didnít fire the 20MM as planes kept to high. Only one bomb dropped near us. No damage done.

Aug 17th: Had another air raid. No damage done. About 8:50 P.M. to 9:20 P.M. Only 3" 50 fired. P.S. took on about 200 prisoners.

Aug 18th: Moved from Green beach to Red beach in the afternoon. Last night we had another air raid. Bombs landed ashore in about three different places causing fires. Bow 3" 50 almost hit an incoming plane. I only fired a burst of about four rounds. Planes were too high for my gun though.

Aug 19th: At about 2:15 P.M. we finished unloading all cargo except the flatted cargo which we are using for ballast and pulled anchor, leaving for Naples.

Our 200 prisoners consist of German, Polish, Russian, Italian, and Frenchmen. We had them unload cargo yesterday. Lots of them are young.

Aug 22nd: Landed in Naples safe and sound at about 11:30 P.M. The trip down went very well. Air raid last night. Plane was quite low, but we werenít allowed to fire in the port of Naples. Shore batteries opened up on him.

Sep 2nd: Pulled into pier 73 at about 7:30 this morning. Took on about 250 troops and pulled out at 4:00P.M. Destination is supposed to be Piombino. We were suppose to get some fresh meat, but left too soon. None of us have had any fresh meat for over two months.

Sep 3rd: Landed at Piombino at about 7:00 at night.

Sep 4th: Went into dock this morning at about 7:00. Started unloading flatted cargo. Went ashore for a few hours today. Not much here. Pulled out of docks at 7:30 tonight. Not all unloaded, but I donít know why they didnít finish. We anchored.

Sep 6th: Yesterday everyone including the Captain, Lt., and two Ensigns turned to on the hatches so we could get unloaded. Our possibilities of going home look pretty good now. Everything was taken off. It looks funny to see the crew down in the holds working with the Italians. We all worked up until late at night until it was finished. When the crew volunteers to do that work you can bet everyone wants to get home pretty bad.

Sep 9th: Pulled into docks at about 7:00 P.M. again.

Sep 10th: Took on over 1000 Japanese American troops today. Sailed from Piombino at about 1:45 for Naples.

Sep 11th: Landed at Naples about 2:00 P.M. Troops left at about 12:00 P.M. These troops were very interesting company. Most of them spoke very good English or well as Japanese, Hawaiian, Spanish and various other languages and countries

Sep 13th: Today it was rumored that we are going home and to leave tomorrow. We are to carry back to the States, prisoners (German). All our Italian money was exchanged to American for us, which is a very good reason to believe it has some truth.

Sep 14th: Picked up anchor at 10:30 in Naples harbor. Destination is U.S.A. We are to stop at Augusta before we proceed home.

Today we had our first fresh meat in over three months. What a treat. Everyone is very happy about us going home.

Sep 15th: Landed in Augusta, Sicily at 1:10 in the noon. No orders received yet.

Sep 16th: Left Augusta, Sicily 6:00P.M. Destination Hampton Roads, VA.

Sep 18th: Sighted African coast 8:00A.M. Pass Bizerta about 2:00 P.M.

Sep 22nd: Passed the Rock of Gibraltar at 12:15 P.M. and are now passing through the Straight. We should enter the Atlantic about 3:00 P.M.

Sep 23rd: Night brought with it a storm today. Weather getting pretty rough. Since our ship has no ballast or cargo, we are rolling around plenty, which makes it quite uncomfortable.

Sep 24th: Still rolling around, weather rough.

Sep 25th: Quite rough all day but tonight it is smoothing out a little. Expect to see the States in about two weeks from today.

Sep 26th: Calmed off pretty good today.

Sep 27th: Everything going along fine. Plenty of work to keep us all occupied.

Oct 2nd: Plenty rough again today. Long towards night we fell behind the convoy.

Oct 3rd: Still rough. Just as we were catching up with convoy the steering engine broke down. We are plenty far behind now. They are steering the ship from the aft emergency wheel instead of the bridge. The water contains seaweed, which is a sign of the Gulf Stream. This was seen yesterday.

Oct 4th: Finally caught up with the convoy about 10:00 P.M. Water still rough.

We were just informed that our fuel is running short and will have to leave the convoy and go to Bermuda to get some.

Left convoy alone and unescorted for Bermuda at 4:0 P.M. Water still rough.

Oct 5th: Still traveling for Bermuda. Suppose to be there by 11:00 P.M. tonight. American escort met us this morning sometime.

Landed in Bermuda around 9:20 P.M. All you could see ashore is red lights and etc.

Oct 6th: This morning the port was visible to us. Itís nothing more than an island with very few houses. We were off St. George.

About 9:00 in the morning we pulled into the oil dock and started taking on oil around 11:30. Went back out into stream around 2:30.

Oct 7th: Still in harbor waiting to leave. The weather is beautiful here.

Heard a real fish story. Today our Ensign caught a fish off the stern so everyone got interested in fishing. Finally a school of big fish was seen so we got some depth charges and through one over the side. About 15 came up. Some of the fellows dove in and got about five of them before the rest came to and swam away. After a while we saw more fish. We got six this time. The next time we got 30. Some haul. Thatís what a hungry crew will do. It will be the first fish we have had since we left the States. Everyone could use a good meal.

Left Bermuda at 5:00 P.M. for the States.

Oct 10th: Sighted the first buoy at 1:00 P.M. which means N.Y. is only about thirty miles off now.

10 min 50 sec past 5 we went through the net of N.Y. harbor.

Dropped hook at 7:30 P.M.

Oct 11th: Went into pier 76 from Hudson River. Left at 7:00 A.M.

Oct 14th: We are to be detached on the 18th.

This will complete the third trip.

This ended his tour on the Ambrose E. Burnside. On November 10th 1944 he received orders to be transferred to the Armed Guard Pool. There he received orders to sail on the Liberty Ship S.S. Edward Burleson. Here are just a few of the pictures he took while assigned to this ship.

Note: Information about Armed Guard was found on web site: http://www.armed-guard.com/

Information about Liberty Ships was found on web site: http://www.liberty-ship.com/

Aboard the SS Edward Burleson

Ed Dutra and Peter Jernigan

Twigger, Bill Russell, Ed Dutra - 1945


Dutra, Parrucci, Henry Russell, Bill Russell and Ted Balun - November 1945

Edmond F Murphy - 1989 - with SS Lane Victory in background

Edmond F. Murphy 1945

Anthony Parrucci - 1989 - with restored 5"38 in background

Anthony Parrucci and Ed Dutra in 1945

Bill Russell, Ed Dutra and G Twigger in 1945

Ed Dutra in December 1945

Ed Dutra and wife, Pat, in a restored 1930 Model A Ford

Ed and Scott in Ed's living room

Click to return to Main Armed Guard Page