Patillo Ainsworth Finlayson, born in Cheraw, South Carolina, served in both World War II and the Korean War. He served on active duty in World War II during the years of 1942 until 1946. He was then later called back for service in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.
Finlayson acted as a Naval Reserve officer and later took part in a 60-day training on the campus of Princeton University to become an ensign.
When asked what his responsibilities and duties were during the war, he stated, “The urgency and demand for our nation to reach a war readiness posture before another enemy attack, such as the Japanese launched at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, required quick preparation of manpower and equipment.” He was assigned to the LST 312, built at Naval Shipyards earlier, in the years the country had just begun to fight in the war. He was one of the eight officers on board the landing ship tank. His job was over quartermasters, radiomen, and signalmen – communications officer.
Being a part of the LST 312 required extra months of training for the eight officers and approximately 100 crewmen. The training took place in Norfolk, VA at the Little Creek Amphibious Training Site from the month of January until the month of April in 1943. They then joined other LSTs and naval vessels in New York City. They all headed for North Africa on May 1, 1943.
Finlayson and the men landed in Arzew, Algeria. From there they worked at transporting troops and equipment from larger ships onto a beach in Sicily. “LST 312 experienced many near misses from shore batteries before paratroopers and cruiser fire were able to silence the guns. A near miss on the fantail caused damage to the ship’s stern and turned the stern anchor over, eventually causing the ship to broach on the beach.” During this time of being on the beach, they were, at times, under direct attacks. At one point, the LST 313, only several hundred yards away, was hit and burned. Much later than night, the LST 312 was towed to the anchorage area and went on transporting more troops and equipment.
One of Finlayson’s most memorable experiences was the opportunity of attending a show in which Bob Hope appeared with Frances Langford, and Jerry Colonna in a live comedy performance.
While all these events were taking place in North Africa, his family at home was sending him letters and coca cola. He learned about what his brothers were doing while he was away. One brother, Murdoch Finlayson, was a Navy storekeeper who eventually rose to be Chief Warrant Officer. Finlayson was hardly ever separated from his brother, who served in the same Navy Flotilla as the LST 312.
Finlayson and the other men aboard the LST 312, sailed to England and landed in Fowey. They stayed there for several months in the European Theater of Operations. On June 5th, the convoy sailed through rough seas to Normandy, France. At one time during the trip, a U.S. Patrol Squadron turned over three or four of the highest-ranking German Army and Navy prisoners-of-war to the LST 312 captain. They, as well as hundreds of other German soldiers, were taken into captivity.
Finlayson and the other men were ordered in July of 1944 to sail to London to a British repair depot. The Germans had, at this point, begun launching robot buzz bombs across the English Channel. Finlayson stated, “It was a spectacular sight to see British aircraft shooting down as many of those so-called ‘buzz bombs’ as they could strike.” They received a direct hit within the first two or three days of their arrival at Deptford. He described it by saying, “It twisted and curled our superstructure beyond one’s imagination. Both LSTs sustained incredible damage, but worse of all was the number of dead and wounded.” Six men enlisted were lost and two officers. “I would certainly not have been alive today to tell this if I had not been ashore in London for the overnight period this incident occurred. “ he said. “ Our officers had drawn straws on the day of our arrival to determine the liberty schedule during the time we were to be there.” After his services in the war, he finished his career at Warner Robin’s Air Force Base as an historian.