He was remote from „regulation
in dress code. His claim for inspiration for his wardrobe was „Asiatic
Esquire“. His pants were ALYWAYS cut-off dungarees (except for liberty
and inspections). He wore non-earned battle ribbons on his work-shirt that
had popeye poainted in the back of it. His black hairy legs stood in clod-hoppers
with thick white cotton socks rolled down to cover the tops of his shoes.
You nbever knew what his necklace uniform of the day would be. A favorite: a necklacer made of condums and pro kits sewn together with a cat-gut swiped from Bingham (the pharmacists mate). Another, a band hand-made from folded cigarette wrapper celephane into small squares – more attractive than I can describe. To this he attached a „skull and cross-bone“ pin to warn others about the evils of smoking.
He could appear at G.Q. in
swim flippers and gas mask with a pheasant feather sticking from the band.
The only reason I think the officers put up with him was:
1. He aided in the morale by his bizarre antics, and –
2. He was smarter than almost anyone of the officers and they consulted him frequently to find out where we were. He knew the sextant better than most of them. Too, he could speak about five languages (including Japanese). He used their manner of greeting by bowing and saying „ah so“ and used the word „son“ on the end of all human greetings – like „Good Morning Mr. CaptainSON.“
They began serving us a snack on mid-watch this trip and don’t think we don’t appreciate that. It’s hard to keep awake on those watches.
16 February—the log read: „CROSSED INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE—ADVANCED DATE TO FEBRUARY 17 (FRIDAY TO SATURDAY). CREW ADVISED THEY CAN WRITE ABOUT BEING IN HAWAII.“ Boy! what good news—on a long voyage at sea like this one there is little we can write about. It was time to take out my notes and tell the FOLKS about Hawaii.
February 23—„SIGHTED GUADALCANAL
AND ARRIVED AT TULAGEI HARBOR, SOLOMON ISLANDS TO TAKE ABOARD CARGO AND
MARINE PERSONNEL“ saith the ships’s log.
Followed by:----„MARCH 4, STARTED ON INVASION MANEUVERS, WHICH LASTED THREE DAYS.“ We left Guadalcanal of Ulithi, Caroline Islands on 12 March and arrived March 21. This was a rendezvous point for the 7th Fleet and where we had our first air raid alert on March 22. March 25th we left Ulithi for the invasion of Okinawa. Where in Hell is that?
Well, the US Government provided us with a bit of history on the place. (I pondered whether to give it space here but so little is known of this area. I was fascinated to read:
„Spread like a net across the eastern entrance to the East China Sea is a string of Japanese islands called Nansei Shoto or „South-western Islands“. While they have little economic importance to Japan, their location gives them immense strategic value. They command the sea approaches to the China coast between Foochow and Shanghai and in Japanese hands have made the East China Sea a Nipponese lake.
They actually extend some 570 miles from a point 60 miles east of Formosa (now Taiwan) almost to the southern tip of Kyushu Island, one of the main islands of Japan. None is very large, but they provide enough area to permit construction of airfields and supply depots. Several excellent anchorages for war vessels and fleet auxilliaries are through the chain. They are as modern as many sections of Japan and are quite different from the more primitive Micronesian Islands.“ They provide real „stepping stones to Japan“ for any force moving from Formosa against the Japanese homeland. Their history antedates ours.
„----The Nansei Islands are a good reminder to Americans of the youth of our country. The Chinese have records of their people going to the islands as early as 650 A.D. while the first king of the islands, Tinsunshi, „Grandson of Heaven“, is believed to have started his reign not long thereafter. His descendants reuled until shoved rudely from their throne by the Shunten, scion of the Japanese Minamoto family, who had been expelled from Japan.
In 1372China demanded that the Kingdom of Koochoo (as it was then known) pay tribute and the island kingdom did—keeping up its friendship at the same time with the rulers of Japan. But near the end of the 16th century when the king refused to help the Japanese against the Koreans, he was in trouble. After settling with the Koreans, the Prince of Satsuma descended on Loochoo and forced the king to acknowledge Japanese rule. He agreed but also continued to pay tribute to China. It’s not easy for a small country with powerful neighbours.
So matters continued until 1879 when the Japanese (opened up to western civilization by Commodore Perry 20 years before), began consolidating all the semi-independent kingdoms and principalities scattered through her islands. The Loochoo or Nansei days of freedom were over. The islands were made part of the Japanese Empire. China naturally protested. A conference was held but the only satisfaction the Chinese received was a “So Sorry!” from the Mikado’s diplomats. And, when Japan crushed Chin in the war of 194-95 and took over Formosa, the last Chinese claim to the Nansei Islands was extinguished.
Government today?—The southern section of the sislands chain now comprises the prefecture of Okinawa while the northern islands are part of Kagoshima Prefecture. The prefecture under the Japanese system is something like a state in American except that our states have a large degree of independence and control over their own affairs which the Japanese prefectures do not.
We elect our governors; the Japaense prefectural governors are appointed by the prime minister at the suggestion of the Home Affairs Minister. The governor is advised by an elected assembly but he is the boss, answerable only to the ministers back at Tokyo. Within the prefectures are numerous local governmental units-shis (cities), machis (towns), and muras (villages or townships). These have elected assemblies which choose a mayor or headman, whose acts can be vetoed by the governor. There are no local courts, like our state courts, and no local police.
In Japan political power is centralized and works from the top down, rather than from the bottom up as in our country. Being part of Japan, the Nansei citizens elect representatives to the Japanese Diet (Congress) and the usual political parties struggled for the election of their nominees. Today, with Japan a military dictorship, the Diet has no power and winning a political election is meaningless.
The first inhabitants of the Nansei Ilands were probably Ainue and Kumasos, the same people who first lived in the Japanese islands. Other racial strains present are the Malay, the Korean, the Chinese, and, greatest of all, the Japanese.
Most of the people are short with dark hair, sometimes wavy and sometimes staright, with olive skin. Theeffect of Chinese immigration is seen more often in the cities of the archipelago (meaning—any water space intersperced with many islands), and in the northern islands the people can hardly be distinguished from the Japanese.
More than half of the population of 820,000 lives on OKINAWA JIMA, one of the most important of the islands. The largest city in the whole group, Naha, is on Okinawa and has 66,000 residents.”
Most people work on the osil, producting sugar, the principal crop, sweet potatoes, rice, or soy bean. Fishing and manufacturing employ relatively few. The standard of living is even lower than the Japanese level and long before the war a great outward movement began. In the past 25 years some 60,000 emigrated to Japan, Hawaii, Brazil, Peru, the Philippines, Argentina, and the Japanese mandated islands where they hoped to imrpove their hard lot.
Why sta? There isn’t much to hold a man in Nansei Shoto. The farms are small; the land which can be cultivated is very limited; and the sugar market collapses from time to time, producing widespread economic depression through the islands. Nor are the islands particularly pleasant. There are malaria and some typhus and filled with venomous snakes—a pit adder called habu and another adder, mamushi, said to resmble our copperhead. Bites from the kill many each year. Some reports say the venom kills within an hour. These snakes climb trees and bushed—making any hikes off the main roads hazardous. No one should go out at night without a light in areas where the snakes are reported.
The climate is hot and muggy and rainfall runs as high as 120 inches a year in certain sections. Typhoons sweep across the island chain regularly, five or six a year being commonplace. The water supply is very limited. There is no prestige in coming from the islands. In fact its the opposite. The Japanese look down their noses on the islanders and usually assign their recruits to labor battalions and other menial service. The Japanese officials in the islands hold themselves aloof from the people the are sent to rule.
Those wishing a memento of Nansei Shoto should get a piece of lacquerware for which the islanders are famous. They also make excellent textiles, especially pongee. Other products are sugar, hats, food stuffs, and fish. Some phosphates are dug on one of the islands and an aluminum plant is reportedly in operation. There is a little coal and some sulphur. But, as stated earlier, the main value of the islands to Japan is their location.
OKINAWA SHIMA is a long, narrow island made up of plateaus and ridges and OKINAWA is the key island of the group (“Shima” meaning group). Ist population is 443,000 and Naha , a city of 66,000. Okinawa is 67 miles long and 3 to 10 miles wide and its many bays afford sheltered anchorages for warships of all types.
Nakagusuku Wan on its southeastern
side ha been used for operations and maneuves by the Japanese fleet for
many years. Carriers and submarines train in its waters and a naval base
with some repair facilities is located ashore. Naha Ko on the western side
of the island affords anchorage facilities and a seaplane landing area.
Seven other actual or potential harbors for various fleet units are scattered
along the coats.”
April 1, 1945 beside being April Fools Day was also Easter Sunday. It was also D-Day morning. The log read: “ARRIVED OKINAWA AT 0138, AND SOUNDED GENERAL QUARTERS FOR ENEMY TORPEDO BOMBER WHICH FLEW OVER CONVOY AT 100 FEET. CONVOY OPENED FIRE—PLANE DESTROYED. AT 0500 MANEUVERED INTO BATTLE POSITION AND LAUNCHED ALL L.V.T.’S LOADED WITH 400 ASSAULT WAVE MARINES. SMALL BOATS 1 AND 2 CARRYING FLAG OFFICERS GUIDED THE L.V.T. INTO THE BEACH. AT 0830 THE FIRST WAVE LANDED ON GREEN BEACH, OKINAWA.”
Well, my journal of happenings were saved to mail home later. A crazy bunch these Marines—tough and arrogant. They broke into our beer locker and drank all our beer the night before the invasion. Somehow it was difficult to fault them. They had to go ashore and face an unknown enemy with unknown results. They gave us parts of their uniforms and other belongings so as to lighten their packs as they went ashore.
A couple of drunken Marines cornered Traub (from the deck division) in the chain locker and raped him. Broadman, a seaman first in that division had kept a close wath on the little guy. Traub had slight effiminate traits and Broadman had heard a couple of sexual threats toward his friend (like Broadman was keeping him for private use). When Traub wasn’t in sight Broadman searched and found him in time to beat the daylights out of the two marines that had violated him. They were put on report and placed in the brig and not allowed to join their unit for the invasion. Not sure whether it as a punishment or a privilege.
March 31, 1945:
War is a funny game. General Sherman was credited with “War is hell” and if, in his day war was hell, then wht could be said of our present day conflicts with enemy air attacks, submarine menaces and suicide squads. In comparison to his statement made when war was childs-play and now with wars in the machine age. I wonder if there are words to express the true deviltry of it? I think not.
We couldn’t have made a better start toward an invasion than one swell lunch of turkey and all trimmings. Grateful Marines spoke of it as the first decent meal they had in God knows how long. I overheard one say that he would be willing to make an invasion every day to get a meal like that.
Our ship slowly circles Okinawa just over the horizon from this Jap held territory. Things are much the same aboard ship and the distress of war has not yet reached us. The only thing suggesting a battle in progress is the repetitive series of flashes seen over the horizon. Aside from that, war in our sector is calm. Activities aboard ship appear uinchanged. Of course, there is the expected nervous tension prevailing. After all, this is new to us. Most of our crew were civilians six-months ago.
There are approximately four hundred eager Marines aboard representing a small sector of the average American youth. Tomorrow these men go ashore under the surveillance of Jap guns with itchy trigger fingers. Mayn will not return. Such is the brutality of war.
While some have but a few hours to live ony would expect some show of it on their faces. Perhaps there is a psychological shield that says “not me—it will be another guy”—who knows. Each man is as jolly as can be expected. None cease to laugh and joke with their buddies.”----
(NOTE: There was a marine
who slept in deck division next to ours. He was a strange and unforgetable
young man. Everyone liked Sgt. Grant from Canton, Ohio. He seldom went
to chow except to get a cup of coffee. He kept a supply of peanuts and
Clark bars and that is what he ate—little else. He went about in
shorts and boots—his upper half covered with pimples, bushy black hair
and ugly tatoos.
His sad face bore a blue-beard and his hairline almost reached his bushy eyebrows. He and his buddies gambled with the swabbies. Money meant nothing to them—it was Japanese script anyway. They offered their clothes and belongings as money to gamble. I bought Grant’s inoperable portable radio for three dollars.
The night before the invasion Grant gave “Tubbs” smith a roll of bills, some letters and personal things and asked him to mail them to his girl friend after the operation was over. This was done with an aire of not planning to return---on purpose. It was bizarre and creepy. Strine bundled his responsibility into a package and put it in the ship’s safe. Many left belongings rather than carry them. I kept a Marine officer’s foot locker and kept it in the quartermaster store room.
“Each is determined in his own mind that he will return, knowing there are many who will not. They pass slow hours telling their buddies farewell and jokingly asking the where-abouts of the other’s valuables in the event one doesn’t return and leave his belongings go unused.
Others play cards with their issue of Japanese currency. Some busy themselves packing their belongings, oiling weapons, reading their Testaments in spiritual readiness for tomorrow’s push. A few read gruesome murder mysteries and in some minds the plot will go unsolved. Many sleep as though they are storing up rest hours—cause tomorrow all hell breaks loose.
No matter what the individual does, be assured each mind thinks of home, moms, dads, sweethearts, wives, kids, good food and better times. That is why they leave our ship tomorrow to stop the enemy hoping for a better world for their children. Their dream is to free all from the world of a greed-crazed invader so off-springs will not know the horrors of war.
Many a cigarette has been shortened in the previous hours, saying nothing of countless ones to be smoked in the hours to follow. A queer thing is that fellows who ordinarily disliked one another are now on the best of terms with each other. Officers normally consider themselves above seaman or privates show signs of humanity, friendliness and lean toward respectiv charges for full success of our grim mission.
War brings out the good i everyone to an almost unbelievable point. Guys who have the uncontrollable habit of cursing and swearing at most frequent and unexpected moments let out with nothing more than an occasional damn.
I have wondered why god allows the destruction of war. My mind settles with thoughts that it brings people closer to Him who made them for the purpose of loving Him and their neighbors. In peacetime we grow lax and put off love of God with vile desires and evils of mind, heart and body. War lets us see things in a better light and He steers us back to the straight and narrow.
April 1, 1945 (Easter
There were few who slept aboard ship last night. Awakened at 0100 hours we found early breakfast of hot cakes, fresh eggs, fried sunny side up. Eggs are a delicacy worth their weight in gas stamps.
We then went to our respective watches and stood at alert watch till zero hour at 0800 hours. Things were so quiet. One speculates what could happen in the next few hours—imagining all sorts of things. Radio watch was unusually dull and hours drug slower than ever. We weren’t afraid, just ill at ease. No sleep would be had. There was a hyper feeling everywhere.
About 0500 we stopped circling and headed in. It was a most beautiful night we had since Hawaii. At morning light we could see our battle wagons silhouetted around us. Cruisers and destroyers were everywhere—you could see nothing but ships—all sizes moving in unison. This gave one a feeling of security to be surrounded by them.
The large ships continued lopping giant shells to the island as we sailed closer. The estimate was that fourteen hundred ships crammed the area of seven and one half miles of Okinawan coast line. There was a like numbe of aircraft in action.
The most excitement of the day came just after day break when a Jap plane was sighted off our stern. The ack-ack fire that followed sent a thick screen to knock down the yellow devil.. It looked as though thousands of fiery fingers reached up to pluck him out of the sky at the cost of his life. Everyone watched. It was like an exciting movie and you were there waiting for the moment he would burst into flames. We did not have to wait long. Everyone shouted.
In a short time the second “bogie” was spotted and another fiery curtain sped heaven-ward. This plane came closer and started its death-dive for a battle wagon. No-one breathed as it dove unharmed through fiery pelts. Suddenly it burst into flames and crashed just beyond its intended target. I don’t see how it got through the bullets that far without getting hit. Again shouts from the crew but were cut short when another plane came out of the clouds. It barely entered its dive when a direct hits ruined his plan. Believe it or not that was the only air defense of the Japs that I saw that morning.
The zero hour was at hand. All Marines were ready to shove off, packs and all. They stood around and waited for the word. We anchored off shore just far enough that we couldn’t see much. (We couldn’t beach cause of the coral reefs that outlined the coast of this last strategic Japanese stronghold.)
At 0700 the small boats were lowered and bow doors were opened. Amphibious tractors came rolling out. Small boats bulged with human cargo and led the amphib-tractors to rendezvous point. Our crew and men were assigned first wave. The volume of our air force caused the sky to darken.
The tractors and small boats circled until 0800 and then made their way toward mainland. I stood on the boat deck wondering what these men were thinking as they went in closer. The didn’t know what would be waiting for them. One of our radios were tuned to hear reports of progress as they neared land. “We are now going up on the beach—there is little opposition so far.” That was the only we had of knowing what was happening. The officer has field glasses in use.
(NOTE: Smith told us that just before Sgt. Grant climbed aboard his tractor—he handed him another wad of newly-won paper money asking him to send a money order to his girl. He gave Smith his rifle and ammo-belt, then opened a crate of hand granates, tied many around his belt—pulled his shirt-tail over them. He smiled and threw Smith kiss as his unit pulled away.)
We moved closer to the beach today and could see where the big guns did their damage. The sea wall outlining the island has large holes where explosives had landed. Hundreds of tents are pitched irregularly along the shore and the beach is busy as an ant hill.
A hospital ship moved in today to evacuate the wounded still reported to be few. Aside from that nothing is happening except our usual daily air raid alerts occurring several times each night. I have gotten used to the smoke screen now. It steps into the radio shack till you can hardly see the typewriter anymore and the smell is offensive.
Wednesday, April 4
“According to reports from Tokyo today, if Okinawa falls, defeat for the Japanese is assured. If they place so much value on this small island why aren’t they doing something about it? News from the states describes Okinawa as “a dagger pointing at the heart of Japan”. Okinawa is otherwise worthless except to give us control of the China Sea and a few airstrips from which we can launch our B-29s for destructive raids on Tokyo in the future. It has little value as far as natural resources are concerned.
Japanese propaganda flows freely these days. Even as we approached the island there were reports from Tokyo that our task forces enoute to Okinawa were destroyed or being crippled. We heard our entire convoy had been sunk.
“I can’t figure the Nips. They broadcast in English to us. They play our favorite records, favorite classics, even play the Star-Spangled Banner, Yankee Doodle, Schubert’s Ave Maria, to entertain us. Of course, this is mixed with comments from “Tokyo Rose” on how badly we are loosing and how our fleet has been wiped out. She expresses sympathy for our folks at home since we “will not return”. We get a kick out of listening to her bull---, then we change to short-wave and pick up “state-side” programs to hear the real story.
Friday, April 6
We were a “G.Q.” for hours today during our first real air raid. Planes were dropping all about us but few came close enough that we could fire. We were in mid-fleet and that gave us little chance to use our limited power. An estimated 150 “Sons of the Rising Sun” were shot down during today’s display.
Our only close call was mid-afternoon just after changing anchorage. A plane fell and exploded in the exact spot we had just moved from. Another plane came close to firing range when some other ship set him on fire. The days that followed were marked with an occasional air raid of a few planes each but nothing of importance.
Friday, April 13
Thirteen must be our lucky number. Early this morning we were called to battle staions—a big air attack eminent. In no time Jap planes were all over the place. In previous days they centered their attacks on our ships but today they were pelting shore installations by strafing air strips we had taken on day-one.
These were the famous Kamikazi plane – cheaply made and fueled for a one-way trip only. When these pilots are out of ammunition, their spiritual commitment commands they use the last explosive charge stored in the plane’s nose to dive into anything of value. Their loss of life brought honor to their family.”
(L.S.T.’s hold little fear of the Kamikazi. Once our cargo and fighting men are off-loaded we have little value. Kamikazi pilots opt for larger fleet ships.)
“After strafing the shore they came over the hill and headed toward us—one uncomfortably close. Several of us stood on the baot deck not to miss anything. We could see the pilot as he dove toward us. One doesn’t know whether to run or stand and watch. The plane headed for a direct hit and my stomach felt real strange.”
“Our 40mm gunner near us let fly a string of bullets that set it smoking. The next blast tore loose his tail controls. In spite of this he continued his dive. Another volley came from the port side and another aft of the wheel house. The plane flipped mid-air and dropped straight down. This was too close and prayers came to mind. There was a huge splash on the surface, a cloud of smoke rose and when it lifted we saw the oil slick. The spray from the crash cooled our faces. Then it was quiet. I glanced at the conning tower to catch the skipper’s reaction. Only Hanson’s head was visible—there were three officers up there and none could be seen.
With today’s good fortune we fly a miniature flag of red and white for the “rising sun” of a Jap plane that once was. It is in full view and we are proud. Guess what the topic of conversation was that day and the days that followed?
While our crew was shooting down the Jap our stern was hit by his shells. It hit our 40mm gun tub without penetrating it. Another tore a 3 inch hole in a ventilator an filled a life jacket with shrapnel. Luckily the owner of the jacket was not in it. What a souvenier.
We had occasional air alerts from then on till the 25th when we set “Special Sea Detail” enroute to Saipan. A few days later troops and ships at Okinawa experienced a 15 hour raid by 200 planes. That was the most destructive raid of that operation.
Well, we made our first invasion and the crew of LST-772 (affectionately named “USS Wait” by Clyde Brown). Ours was a salty crew ready for another stab at this war. We wondered where and what we would hit next.
On April 12 the word of President Roosevelt’s death came on us like a bomb. The trauma of this sad news cannot be explained. Each man dealt with it in his own way. Many tears flowed and my own made a mess out of radio messages received on watch. Had we been home—it woudl have been sad enough but out here—it was devastating. There was little discussion of it as we went about our daily duty like zombies.
The same day we heard false reports that Germany had surrendered. The see-saw content of these stories caused an emotional roller-coaster. Who the HELL is this Harry Truman guy? Our new Commander in Chief was a tie salesman—God, and Sam—help us and me!
Our May 1st arrival at Saipan was great--we had bags and bags of mail and packages. There were stacks of letters for me and I found a quiet spot to read and read and re-read. Mom mailed me a copy of a letter to the editor of the Press. It was written by Bea Wysong the leader of the church choir. I relived the sadness of the President9s death as I read:
"To the editor, '--and lo' his name led all the rest. I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you ministered unto me. I was in prison and you visited me.
These words can be applied literally to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We were hungry, we were naked, we were ill with worry and deep in the prison of despair when he took office and his smile flashed before our grim faces--a smile as poignantly sweet as a breeze wafted over a field of lilies. We too smiled and took hope and we asked one another in wonder and awe, --did you hear~ Do you know we have nothing to fear but fear itself?
In the following years we learned many things, A nation--ours, one-third ill-clothed, ill-fed, and ill-housed. We became conscious of responsibility. We learned the laborer is worthy of his hire. We learned the old and infirm must have care. We learned that little children had no place in sweat shops. We learned that we are our brother's keeper and learned anew all these things that we had for years forgotten.
And now he is gone, but it is foolish to think he will not be at San Francisco (meaning: for opening of the United Nations sessions), He will, and he will be with us on Victory Day. It is his conference and his victory.
It is hard to say 'farewell brave soldier, farewell good neighbor and fine friend'. We, our children nor our children's children shall ever know another such man.
God raises up but a few.
Goodnight, my President. Your footprints have left their mark deep
in the sands of life, nor time, nor storms, nor peace shall ever erase
them. God grant you sweet and well earned rest. Pray for us."
Veil, this turned loose a few tears when I put this on the bulletin board. I noticed many guys copying it to send home. We were touched--again and again.
With censorship it was difficult to write about something that happened much earlier. My notes aided me and my first letter off to the FOLKS from Saipan described our stay at Tulagi (Florida Island).
"--arrived on a foggy morning to the most uncivilized place we have been. The tropical scenery was suited to a Dorothy Lamour movie."
"There is a large complicated bay lived by very high country. Our mail service was good. We had a dungaree liberty here and took our two
bottles of beer and they furnished all the doughnuts we could eat. Some combination-huh? In this wilderness paradise. there was a clearing with a couple of old buildings. The doughnuts were handed out two at a time and all you had to do was get back into line again.
We moved from there to Bikini Atoll and Pavuva in the Russell group. Pavuva is where I found the Jap and marine hats. I also picked up the prop. blade from a Jap plane but I couldn't send that with the hats--could I?
One fellow found a human skull and it decorates our ship's bow. That sure was a messy place. An abandoned coconut plantation once run by the British permitted us to eat coconuts once we figured how to de-shell them. There were several horses here and guys rode them bareback. I wouldn't touch them after a previous experience. The only other thing here was Marine tents and lots of mud.
These stops were enroute
to Guadalcanal--the most civilized of the bunch. We stayed there
a short time but not permitted to go ashore. We did have good movies
as we went back and forth between these islands. At Tulagi is where we
saw the USO show starring Kartha O'Driscoll. Sure was hot there but
that troop gave performances that helped us forget the
Beginning June 4th we began
shuttle service as we left Saipan for San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippine
Islands and arrived June 10, ~ loaded troops and equipment and headed
for Subic Bay, Luzon, P.1. where we stayed for 6 days. We weighed
anchor for ~n Fernando, Lingayen Gulf,
P.1. arriving the next day.
Seaman Downey brought a monkey aboard and named him Bewahie (after a Japanese string instrument). Bewah was cute1 active and full of mischief. He got into a lot of trouble but we enjoyed his company. Someone taught Bewah to masturbate and much of his time was spent practicing for the World Olympics in this event. He would bite if you interrupted his pleasure so we left him to his hobby. He unmercifully tormented .?Rex" the dog that the steamfitters had adopted months prior.
We off loaded and re-loaded cargo and personnel headed back to Okinawa to beach at Nago Wan Beach. This part of the island had not been secured and we took back-up troops in for a beach landing to off load equipment and men. Radio watch was secured while we beached for security reasons to prevent the enemy locating our signals and those of the other three LSTs.
All communications to the
convoy was by signal light at night and semaphore during the day.
Radiomen are trained to read semaphore but are not adept at it. Code
by light can be done sometimes better by radiomen than signalmen--we were
faster1 so we took the night watches. Our second day we were attacked by
Japs hiding in trees to one side of the clearing. Shots were fired
and a Marine patrol was sent into the jungle to find them. No one
on the ship was hit but we saw gun flashes and heard the zing of bullets.
I had the eight-to-mid watch in the conning tower that night and it was pitch black. This was a boring and unwelcome assignment after that day's activity in spite of reports that the jungle nearby had been secured.
Late in the four hour period I stood at the rail and peered into the night for light signals. There was a canvas top overhead and something reached down and grabbed the pencil off my right ear. In the dark I froze, (might have dirtied my skivvies) and stopped breathing. Bewah loved pencil erasers and had grabbed mine to eat while I struggled to regain the small amount of composure I could muster, That monkey's survival was the wonder miracle of World War II, Consideration of using my finger nail clippers to amputate his joy stick gave me satanic rapture once breath returned.
It was a six day jaunt to Cebu, P.1. arriving on July 4. The only celebration was a good supper and signalmen shot of f some pyrotechnic flares from the bridge. Big deal.
During a later trip from Subic Bay we were towing crash boats for delivery to Okinawa. As a typhoon approached we were commanded by the Seventh Fleet to cut them loose and abandon them but chart them by radar if possible. They were unmanned. We never saw those boats again and they left Rudy's radar screen about an hour after the storm began.
Many trips of this ilk were performed by our crew with little of anything important happening. Without girls;---sleep, food, mail, movies and bitching were the most important activities undertaken. There were the occasional sighting of mines that brought our gunnery crew into action to blow them up. They are dreadful looking things and make one hell of a noise.
The worse thing we spotted was a body of a Japanese soldier floating. He was swollen about twice normal size and his clothes had burst the seams. The smell was sick-sweet till he was punctured by our hand guns to allow the body to sink. The unforgettable stench caused some guys to throw up.
Generally, we sailed unbothered with "black-out" nights and ever-alert days. Enroute from Okinawa to Leyte on August 4 we were ordered to a Zig Zag course due to submarine contact in the midst of the convoy. It fired two torpedoes at our destroyer escort. One went directly under our bow but too low to hit our ship. Sweat was uniform of the day.
Trips to the Philippines after that were Mangarin Bay, Mindoro--Zamboango, Xindinao Island and repeats of the prior ports of call. One could say we covered these Islands pretty well.
Everytime we off-loaded a
bunch of Marines it was a relief---
FOLKS: They came aboard dirty, some are conceited humans. when they leave we have to de-lice, super clean the toilets, showers and everything. They would stay up all night playing cards and keep us awake with shouts, cursing and laughter'. They got a ration of beer every day and spilled it on the deck where it dried sticky--guess who cleaned it up?
They swiped us clean but did give us some khaki and dungaree trousers. We can 't wear them aboard ship so I will send them home as soon as I get another collection of stuff together. Maybe dad can use them to work in. Anyway I have my opinion of sea-going bell-hops and it isn't the best.'1
A load of laundry for your division is returned weekly to quarters in mattress covers. Two guys are assigned to sort by name to the bunk of the owner all clothes with decipherable labels. If you get 90 percent of what you sent, you were ahead, Any items unlabeled were left in a pile and were up for grabs. I hated this detail.
Food items I craved most was ice cream, spice cake, a bowl of hot chili and hot tamales. lone of these things except cake could be sent through the mails. I had learned to drink coffee like everyone else--by carrying a mug around at all times. Navy kidneys must be a mess.
One was always alert to see a buddies ship in port or pull along side to exchange movies or passengers. This activity was something to watch. In rough seas the tow lines could be loose between two ships and dip into the ocean. when the ships rolled the opposite direction, the line would become taunt and vibrate as it rung water from the manila rope.
The transfer could soak a bag of mail and ruin containers of movies. what it did to passengers as they were being pulled across from one ship to another recalls my night on the conn-watch with Bewah scaring hell out of me. Crews from both ships cheered the voyager on. If dunked, the shouts became louder.
When aunt Kary sent me a
bottle of Old Spice aftershave it was like gold.
Guys lined up to smell it. Only my best friends got a drop or two to use.
Since I only REALLY shaved about once a month I threatened to have it kept
in ship's safe.
Out of boredom I decided to grow a mustache. I waited forever for the first sign of anything appearing more than 5 day growth of hair. Then--there they were--I could feel 'em and with proper light they glowed in their blondness. This was going to be my best effort.
Someone wrote to Kax Factor lamenting about the trials of maintaining mustaches at sea and the sun bleached hair etc. Many guys could grow mustaches and beards but some youthful hairs were so fine they didn't lay well and lacked color.
An unpopular machinist began his mustache when the ship was launched in Illinois and never trimmed it, His wife sent him wax to keep it standing straight out. It reached 13 inches from each side of his nose and it was his only pride. One hand was always twisting on it--a handle-bar it wasn't. It was inevitab1e~-someone cut off six inches on one side. Imagine the shock when he awoke the next morning. Glad his bunk was on the opposite side of the tank deck from ours. Guess he really "pitched a bitch".
Kax Factor sent wax, dye,
mustache combs and reams of instructions. In spite of this my mustache
flew in the breeze like spider silk. Vax and dye didn't take on it.
The beard I tried was worse--it looked like mice were aboard.
For a bit of flavor of the times there follows excerpts of a weekly news effort for military citizens of the Marianas Islands issued 31 May 1945:
OKINAWA CONTINUES TO BE HOT SPOT---In the so-called 'Baca' bomb raids on American ships in Okinawa waters 77 more planes were said to have been shot down, One light U,S ship was lost and 12 more damaged in 24 hours according to Admiral Nimitz' report,
Ground activity was still proceeding very slowly as the 6th Marines took approximately 2/3 of Naha, the capital of Okinawa,
In less than a month there was VICTORY in EUROPE after Germany signed unconditionally to cease hostilities, Sure hoped our new President had something to do with speeding that up, (SAM, see to it he gets busy on this side of the world---Okay? Thanks bud,)
News taken on radio watch became more exciting and topics of current events were discussed more and more at chow instead of what we did on our last liberty, It became apparent that all the glory was credited to the successes of the Marines, Navy, Army, Etc, I was in the Navy but its newest, 'special' branch was seldom mentioned, It seemed poetic justice was due as I penned the following:
'The AMPHIBIOUS MAN'
You hear of Marines and
Army troops, Waves, Wags and other groups;
But give it a thought if you can1 have you heard of the AMPHIBIOUS MAN This forgotten gob's a rugged sort, unlike the fleet he has no home port
goes where needed, does what he can, an orphaned sailor, the AMPHIBIOUS MAN,
They pick the men at random--how
else could they provide?
A few might choose the duty, but they're mostly all Shang-hued, You've heard plenty of the Navy, of our ships fore and aft
but I'll bet a pretty penney, you've heard least of Landing Craft
They've built a few already,
and they're building plenty more,
for they have to have the L,S,T,'s to win this doggone war, They're loaded from the transports in the middle of the night,
sail the oceans far and wide, can't even show a light,
They find their way in
darkness and land up on the shore
through bombs, discharge their cargo and go right back for more, Bringing in the last wave doesn't end the job
for troops on the beach can't live without this gob,
He brings in reinforcements
and everything they use,
His job is full of danger, but he never makes the news, And when the beach ii taken and the radio starts to tell
you'll hear of the Marines and Army and how they went through hell,
You'll thrill at front
page stories of their heroic job
but you'll never hear a word of the poor AMPHIBIOUS gob, You Navy men on battle ships, cruisers and tin-cans
or carrier pilots raising hell on the island of Japan---
Your insignias are well known from East coast to the West
but of all the colors and designs, I still think mine the best, Our insignia shows an eagle, an anchor and a gun,
Although its stately looking its subject to much fun,
They ask us what it stands
for, we reply as best we can, 'Its the unknown insignia of our orphan Navy
It really has much meaning and it means a lot to me, It stands for where we're fighting, land, air and sea,
This forlorn decoration
has caused many men to grieve
for still the question haunts us, 'What's that upon your sleeve?.' And when this war is over and we're back ii, civil life
how in hell will we explain to the kiddies and the wife?. They know we were in the Navy but we're subject to a gyp,
We're just an orphan sailor, a gob without a ship,
August 4, 1945 enroute Okinawa
to Leyte again, we were on a 'zig-zag" course due to submarine contact
in the midst of the convoy, Ship's log read:
'TORPEDO ATTACK ON EARL V, JOHNSON (DE 702), AT 1226 ON 4 AUGUST, WHILE ACTING AS
ESCORT FOR 25 LSTs, EARL V, JOHNSON MADE A SOUND CONTACT APPROXIMATELY 350 MILES EAST
NORTHEAST OF LUZON, THE RANGE WAS APPROXIMATELY 800 YARDS, AND EARL V, JOHNSON
IMMEDIATELY GAVE THE ORDER FOR THE CONVOY TO TURN 45 DEGREES TO PORT IN ORDER TO AVOID,
THE DESTROYER ESCORT THEN PROCEEDED TO DROP 10 DEPTH CHARGES, ALL WITH NEGATIVE RESULTS,
A SEARCHWAS THEN STARTED BY THE ESCORT SHIPS, BUT WITHOUT SUCCESS, ALTHOUGH SEVERAL SONAR
CONTACTS WERE MADE DURING THE AFTERNOON,
AT 0209, ON 5 AUGUST, A NEW
SERIES OF CONTACTS WERE MADE WITH AN UNDERWATER TARGET AND
NINE DEPTH CHARGES WERE DROPPED WITHOUT APPARANT RESULT, A HALF HOUR LATER, A TORPEDO
CROSSED EARL V, JOHNSON'S BOW ABOUT 10 YARDS AHEAD, IMMEDIATELY, COURSE WAS CHANGED TO
RUN DOWN THE TRACK, AFTER WHICH TWO MORE TORPEDOES BORE DOWN ON THE SHIP FROM THE PORT
SIDE, THE FIRST PASSED LESS THAN 10 YARDS AHEAD, WHILE THE SECOND PASSED DIRECTLY UNDER
OUR SHIP, A FEW SECONDS LATER, THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION 1000 YARDS OFF TO STARBOARD, AND A
CLOUD OF BLACK SMOKE APPEARED,
FOLLOWING THESE ATTACKS, A WHOLE SERIES OF WAKES APPEARED IN THE AREA, RESULTING IN CONSTANT ECHOES, THE SITUATION WAS BECOMING SO CONFUSED THAT THE ESCORT VESSELS DECIDED TO CLEAR THE AREA TEMPORARILY AND LET THE WATERS SETTLE,
AN HOUR LATER, A NEW SONAR
CONTACT WAS MADE AND A DEPTH CHARGE PATTERN WAS AGAIN FIRED,
AFTER ALL THE CHARGES HAD EXPLODED, ANOTHER UNDERWATER EXPLOSION OCCURED, AND A LARGE
COLUMN OF WHITE SMOKE APPEARED, RUMBLING AND BREAKING-UP NOISES WERE HEARD FOR A FULL
MINUTE AFTER THIS DELAYED EXPLOSION, WHICH WAS SO VIOLENT THAT IT DAMAGED EARL V,
JOHNSON'S STEERING CONTROL, THE DESTROYER ESCORT THEN REJOINED THE CONVOY, SINCE IT WAS
CONSIDERED DANGEROUS TO REMAIN IN THE AREA IN A DAMAGED CONDITION, THE COMMANDING OFFICER
BELIEVED THAT THE LAST ATTACK HAD DESTROYED THE SUBMARINE,'
A plane sighting on 5 August off our Port Bow did nothing for our nerves, A verbal report shouted from the crow 5 nest '-It's ours'.'.!--a PBM Mariner', It circled the convoy in search of a submarine but was forced down with engine trouble, All personnel were taken aboard and the destroyer escort destroyed the plane---leave em nothin' was the policy, They sink fast,
The next day, August 6, 1945---great news: 'ATOM BOMB DROPPED ON HIROSHIMA" was awesome, unbelievable, unreal and horrifying, The Japanese refused to surrender, A couple of days later another 'ATOMIC BOMB DROPPED ON NAGASAKI'
The outcome of this news
was kept secret--or, at least we didn't hear about it, It was maddeningly
quiet on the News front", August 14, 1945--a break in the news broadcasts
came and after a tormented minute of silence, President Harry S, Truman's
voice announced that Japan accepted the peace terms of the Allied Powers---
THE WAR I S OVER!
We arrived at Okinawa on September 24, Our duty there was to help take some of the lesser wounded men to sea and get them off the island since a typhoon was coming in, On the 28th we departed from Buckner Bay to carry out "typhoon plan", one of the marines that bunked with us enroute to the invasion was one of our wounded passengers, We sought him out to learn first hand of his experiences, He had shrapnel removed from his buttocks and right shoulder, He could move about but very slowly, Tubbs Smith asked about Sargent Grant,
He said, 'That crazy sun-of-a-bitch hit the beach like a madman, He ran ahead of our platoon and dodged bullets as he shouted 'Geronimo--Geronimo '--and, he wasn't even Indian, Anyway, he didn't have any gun or ammo with him--just hand grenades, He took off his shoes and headed for the first pill-box, He lopped a grenade into the opening and barely got away when it blew, Then, the bastard took off up the hill and blew the second one to hell, Still screaming 'Geronimo' he kept going to another emplacement and blew the yellow devils to bits, All the while he is jumping between bullets and screaming like a crazy man,
A buddy last saw him jump across a fox-hole when the Japs riddled him with machine guns, His body fell into the hole and they ripped him apart, Sargent Grant is---no more--the damn fool,11 Tears came into his eyes as it did ours,
Tubbs Smith took it hardest and he retired to his bunk, When he pulled himself together he wrapped Grant's belongings, The address that he was to mail the package to was at the top of a short typewritten letter informing the Sargent that the sender had gotten married and 'I am sorry to have to let you know this way', 'That dumb son-of-a-bitch, and all over that dumb broad---Oh shit!' I quietly touched the Sargent's broken portable radio and said a prayer, 'Sam--see that Sargent Grant gets the best----Okay?' There were a lot of 'Dear John' letters and a few 'Dear Jane' ones also--but this one I remember,
(Many jokes were exchanged about the 'Dear Johns' but there was nothing funny or rewarding about them, There was no way to avoid them cause if the gals didn't tell the guys they had taken up with someone else, that wasn't fair, If they did step out and wrote them at least it relieved their conscience but it was devastating to the recipient, He was out there somewhere, couldn't leave to resolve the problem and just had to live with it, It wasn't as though that was all he had to deal with, There was no solution to the sad problem,)
When we returned to port a couple days later the hospital ship 'Hope' had arrived to take on wounded--ours and several guys that were injured on shore during the typhoon, One week later we were ordered to Hagushi, Okinawa to carry out another 'typhoon plan--will they ever stop?
During this period there was some great news, 'All men 30 years or older with 3 or more children will be granted immediate release', We had 6 men fitting that criteria, They heard the news in a bazaar way,
October 2 during movies the hospital ship sent a signal-light message to have subject men sent over the following morning, I read the message from my seat at the movie and told one of the guys nearest me that was affected by the order, He jumped up and started dancing with the guy next to him who thought he had gone 'asiatic' (a term for bonkers),
When the 'duty yeoman' checked the records he broke into the movie speaker and announced the names of the men to leave the next morning, No one cared about the rest of the show, Each acted as though they were told to be ready to shove off, This six would be in the States by the 20th for the big Navy Day celebration,
Rumor had it that they would release all men seventeen to twenty-one in order they may finish their education, It was just that--a RUMOR as was so often the case, You learned to believe very little of what you heard and hold on to all the hope and faith you could muster,
Struthers and I went to the radio shack bitchin' that perhaps it was just as well we were 'unrated' since our life was pretty easy with less responsibilities now that the war was over, When you get a rate, they expect more of you and then you fear loosing the rate for some small infraction--too, radiomen were considered a vital rate and you suffered reduction in discharge points, They held on to rated radiomen longer, Of course it meant another twelve bucks a month, Was it worth it? Naw! we had all we needed,
The typhoon we had just experienced was one of the worst, You would think one would get accustomed to them after a while--we didn't, Sometimes it became annoying to have your body strapped into your bunk to sleep, It sure reduced normal nocturnal movement but it was better than finding your bare ass on the cold metal deck,
The flat bottom of an LST is designed to take the ship up on a beach when necessary, They are not engineered to weather storms well, The sides and bottom are made of three quarter inch armor plate, You can hear sea water hitting the sides while you are underway, Since the lain deck is flat and most of the superstructure is aft, you can watch the deck bend when the ole' tub climbs a wave and comes down flat on the other side, It shudders and the main deck buckles, A few have been known to break in half and--they sink fast,
My letter to the FOLKS at
the time better describes the worst one we had, 'Dear FOLKS: -
--the first of the two typhoons we went to sea to ride out was mild as we managed to stay pretty well close to the edge of it, That last one, oh brother!! Its the worst yet, The Navy lost many men and ships, Sailors and soldiers are still washing up on the beach,
We just couldn't get out of the center of it, We were in convoy with about forty LSTs, Usually we sail with a four hundred yard interval between ships, This time we were commanded to keep a thousand yards apart for fear of ramming, Thats about like sailing alone--you seldom see another ship and when standing on deck you have to look almost straight up to see the top of a wave passing, I was really sick for a couple of days and the army guys--wow, how they lived through it I'll never know,
For one and a half days no one was allowed on deck cause the waves were washing over them and taking everything in sight, One ship in the convoy had its rudder ripped off and several others had their bow doors torn loose, One time our ship was lifted up and set down going almost in the opposite direction,
That big strapling Negro mess cook I told you about that used to bring me chitlins on mid-watch, We call him 'Sabu", well, nothing usually bothers him but he was one sick boy, He was telling later that the only thing that kept him alive was the 'hope to die',
Radio watch was one SOS after another, Many ships were run on the reefs, We have been back a couple of days but it is still pretty rough here in the bay,
The worst thing that happened was that the Fleet Postoffice burned and all mail was destroyed, We have about two and a half months mail coming--sure hope it wasn't there, We won't know till we reach Yokahoma, If there isn't any there then we'll know the storm got ours,'