Charles Welsh, SN1, USN
My father survived the 1944 typhoon aboard the USS San Francisco (CA-38). He was monitoring the radio traffic between ships, and says that everyone was so frantic that they gave up the use of code and just transmitted in clear text–names of ships and everything. At that point I guess their real enemy was nature, not the Imperial Japanese Navy!
If memory serves, the Task Group of 3rd Fleet that took the pounding from the 1944 Philippine typhoon was commanded by Admiral John S. McCain Sr. — grandfather of the Senator.
CHARLES WELSH DIARY
Entries started on May 30, 1945 and continued through September 25, 1945. The diary supplements the almost-daily letters that he wrote home during his 19-month stretch in the Navy. The letters are the subject of a book “Treasures from the Attic, My Father’s Letters, 1944-1945 from the States and aboard ship in the Pacific.”
May 30 1945: Thursday Morning
This is something new for brand me and I’m not utterly confident of how I’ll keep it up. But I have wished often since this business started that I had a diary – and didn’t. So when this one arrived yesterday in Betty’s package yesterday — – – – – – –
Perhaps someday I’ll go back and fill in the gap but for now the best summary I can make is that after leaving Mare Island October 16  we went to San Diego, on south for some invasion maneuvers; on the way back we were hooked by a destroyer. Went to San Pedro for drydock checkup and pulled put 10/31. Stopped at Pearl Harbor a few days, left 11/11/44 for Eniwetok and Ulithi. Started on one operation that was recalled, finally sailed with Wasp, Yorktown, Ba, Bx, Ala, Mass and a couple of others as part of Task Force 38 raiding Luzon and Formosa to cover the Mindoro landing. Back to Ulithi Christmas Eve, leaving again shortly after New Year’s with approximately the same force to cover the Luzon landing.
Raided Luzon and Formosa, then after the landing slipped into the South China Sea raiding up and down the China coast from Omay [?] to Camranh Bay [?]. Coming back out hit Formosa and North Luzon, and a place called Okinawa then back to Ulithi for a rest, leaving in early February with Essex, Lexington, Missouri, Wisconsin and cruisers as part of Task Force 58.This time it was Tokyo, the first carrier raid, and later we were detached for bombardment at Iwo Jima, returning for the second one-day Tokyo raid, then Ulithi again.
From then to now, it’s been all Okinawa. This time we were in the “Pig Iron Fleet” the old but, powerful wagons and cruisers and we were in all the way. A few shells at Kerama-Retto the day, (Sunday) before we went in; Friday it was Kiese Shima, the sandpit “artillery islands off Naha and Sunday Okinawa itself. In between we were bombarding the big island, mostly in the Naha airdrome area.
We stayed around shooting lots, at the island and hordes of Jap planes – – April 6 they threw 350-plus at us; that was the day I helped get my first one – – until we ran out of chow and had to go back again to Ulithi.
A few days stocking the ship and we were back again, this time for a while in command at HakagusuhaWon [?]. The other day we went to Kerama for ammunition, since when we’ve been back on the west coast [of Okinawa].
5/31/45 – Weather: cool, sunny for a change.
Yesterday was a lazy day and all night we lay dead in the water off Naha airdrome, two DE’s cruising slowly around us while we threw an occasional 5” slug or star shell. This morning everyone was dopey – – or slept outright – – through dawn alert. We hadn’t seen an enemy plane for a week, nor had a close in bogey for those days. Lonely. This morning we’re shooting a good bit, for the Japs seem to have stirred up some trouble around Naha. Saw some tracers during the alert that I guessed might indicate another attempted landing behind our lines, but nobody said anything. Most of our shooting so far is anti-personnel , air bursts, and a couple other cruisers are pouring out slugs too so I guess the Nips are unhappy. There was a big explosion on the island a while ago, followed by a tall column of brown smoke that may have meant an ammo dump. And 10 F4U’s went sliding in followed by a dozen TBF’s! I’m glad I’m out here. Called off routine evening alert, but no soap – – Bogeys – – only.
Lovely hot summer day and since Admiral Joy left last night Cin Div Six staff is still aboard and we get a new admiral; I hear at Leyte the ship’s more peaceful. Lay all day off Hagushi Beach, doing nothing. Again evening alert cancelled, but no soap. A bogey and it seems a snooper plane saw a flock of twin engine jobs on Kyushu; so of course a big air raid is due. When we secure at 9 the guess is tomorrow.
Sort of gloomy, much rain in afternoon moved off Naha this morning, sent off plane, set bombardment 2 – – then sat all morning without a shot. A few 5 inch went off this afternoon but I didn’t see where. Oh yes, no dawn alert and I staggered below at 4 a.m. Lots of mail this afternoon. But we did have deck alert dammit.
6/3 – Cloudy, intermittent rain all day.
We came up for dawn alert to find bogeys had been around all night, 5 raids I was told. But all stayed peaceful and at 5:40 we moved out of the smokescreen patch off Naha for Kerama. The “Rice Bowl” looked much the same as always, though there seemed fewer damaged cans than the 30 estimated last week. Loafed all morning, had just about finished the press news at 1:30 when AA defense sounded; Bogeys all around us 8 to 60 miles but CAP was doing a lovely job, splashing 14 at least in the half hour or so we were there. Pouring rain, but I huddled reading in the director. Finally secured to 3 modified, then 3 to bring aboard a flock of stores and 5”. I carried a few. All quiet on 6-8 watch, but for a moment, eight corsairs had been patrolling south of us, from Naha to Kerama. We could see fires burning in the water, and the first wild guess was that four planes had gone down, all in a row. Stations, of course but nothing more happened and eventually someone figured out that four of the planes must have dropped their oil bombs before going in to land! Why not on the Japs instead of the harmless water? Then back to anchor at Hagushi, Admiral Joy returned about 7, but still no deck alert. Went below at 8, read, played some dull pinochle until 10 then bed.
6/4 – Cool cloudy.
Seems there were two reveilles this morning, the first at 3:30 for the anchor detail. I heard the second, and rolled out at 4:45 for GQ.
We were moving south to bombard, and about 5, off Naha airdrome, it started – – with us were Idaho, Louisville and Vicksburg.
The fire was tremendous, the most concentrated I’ve yet seen. We opened Turret 1, single rounds, then two, finally three, then ditto Turret 3. Ahead of us Portland was firing salvos of one gun from each turret. Behind Idaho spat out 1 and 2 round salvos, followed by 2 5-inch. Vicksburg shot mainly
5’s, as did as couple of cans. At times we could see 8 or more tracers 14” 8” 6” and 5 “, bunching in in strange crisscrosses. The artillery was going too, doubling and redoubling fire is daylight brightened. Gradually a great grey cloud dust, miles long hanging against the tossing sea. Came rolling out from the island. We were told the bombardment was to set the stage for a drive on Naha airdrome, from where B-22’s will fly.
Then three long waves of amphibian tanks down from Hagushi escorted by 6 apparently loaded LCI’s and a couple LCS. Didn’t, strangely see any rocket ships, nor anything else at once for I went below.
But it’s inconceivable that how anything could remain alive in that tortured land.
That first splurge seemed to do it for us, for we fired only sporadic 5” the rest of the day and we heard the doughboys went to town.
6/5 – Cool , cloudy, much rain.
For once I was thankful for the rain, for it caused cancellation of the routine dawn alert – – and I slept until after 7 after foggily hearing the dope via the squawk box.
Started to get my head shaved again this afternoon, and the bong-bong-bong of general alarm broke in when the barber was midway through the job!
Dashed topside to find a shore battery splashing near an LST 1,000 yards away. NJ, Vicksburg, Louisville and Idaho were firing back at long range.
It was my first taste of counter fire and a bit shaky it was, too, when you could see the yellow flashes on the beach, then wait for the telltale shell splash – – with always the chance for a hit. I guessed the shells (from the splashes) to be about 5 inch.
We were closest to the battery, which was in the hills beyond the Itoman airstrip, and eventually they turned on us, with the closest shells falling in one straddle, one round 200 yards off the- port bow, the other about 400 yards off the starboard bow.
Our plane was catapulted and we opened with 3 gun salvos from the port 5”, later 3 gun salvos from Turret 3, and still later the starboard 5”’s. After our first salvo there were no more water splashes, although at least one gun on shore continued to fire (there were 2-4 originally).
Control said we’d damaged the battery but it would take a direct hit for a KO. Our fire stopped when our tanks, attacking, get within 400 yards.
Went back to condition 3 after an hour, and I got my haircut finished. Wrote Betts [His wife, my Mother] a poem that ought to be good for a laugh.
Can’t for the life of me imagine why the Japs, after passing up scores of vastly better when they had the guns to smother them, should start shooting at ships at this late stage. Guess they knew the battery was a goner, and chose the last defiant gesture, knowing it was suicide! Strange people these Nips!
We’re still riding our luck, riding hard. Left Naha about 6 to go to Hagushi and at 7:30 we were called to AA defense. Bogies all around. 6-30 miles but we saw more and the thickest smokescreen I’ve yet seen shut us in completely within minutes. Then minutes after the bugle we got the word that Louisville had been hit by a suicide plane – – and knew she’d taken up the station we had just vacated. Luck did you say? And only last week after 10 days in Hakagusha, we moved out for Kerama and barely got around the point before West Virginia knocked down a would-be (was!) suicide plan 100 yards from her! Will not be unhappy to stay unscathed! Secured at 9, rest of the night quiet.
6/6 – Sunniest day in a long time, but showers threatening.
GQ this morning found Louisville 400 yards away, with Portland trading places to fool the Japs. Through the glasses I could see Louisville’s forward stack gone, and some superstructure damaged, one of her new SC’s wrecked (she’s only been around a week, fresh from the states. Dope seems to be 9 dead, 30 wounded, damage not too much. My guess is she’ll be fixed at Ulithi or Pearl.
Anyhow we moved back down off the south tip, firing sporadic 5 “.
The end is in sight on the island, the Japs fading fast as their crowded into their last corner, shrinking – – dying. Hard to conceive what keeps them fighting now – – but then our guys did it at Bataan when there certainly were no better reasons to hope.
There’s to be no mercy, either. I haven’t seen so many aircraft active in a long time as this afternoon. Corsairs with oil-bombs first (most extensive use of them I’ve seen since Iwo) then rockets and strafing, then the TBF’s. Ships too, with the New Orleans now pouring 3-gun salvos rapid fire from Turret 3 at almost point-blank range. A long string of yellow-brown smoke drifts up from her towards the low-hanging rain cloud. There goes a salvo from New York, farther ot while two spotting TBF’s race along 100 feet above the beach.
Learned today that Pittsburg’s bow broke off in a storm the other day, and Boston’s buckled. Pittsburgh is backing to port at 6 knots, and a tug is towing the bow, which floated! Don’t know how badly Boston was hurt, but if both are to be out for a while it might be we’ll go back to the carriers for the rest of the operation. Don’t yet know what that is, or when, but my guess is soon. In which case the carriers would be swell company at the start at least.
AA defense interrupted the above, and we spent the remainder of the day from 3 at AA or 3 modified. Many bogies and raids en route at one time, but again CAP was s on the job and so far as I know not one came through.
6/7 – A sparkling sunny day with a cool breeze that brings back memories of Lake Michigan.
GQ this morning – – and AA an hour after we started. Guess the brass hats are jumpy; maybe they have a tip or something. Bogies intermittently all day but many turned out to be friendly. Witness one that was cruising 20-30 miles to the north, had everyone excited (stations only) because he was making 300 knots.
Last night and again this morning we could see plainly tracers from a Jap battery shelling our lines. Something screwed up some here, CIC insisted the battery position the battery position was inside our lines. Anyway, we were refused permission to shoot.
Off Naha all day, firing a few 5 “. Must be near the end, for the communique omits mention of ground fighting and most of the warships are gone to where the anchorage is (and I guess will stay jammed). We moved up and spent the night there. AA defense in the evening but while radar said they were close we were only heckled a bit – – then and all through the night.
6/8 – Another cool, sunny day – could it be the rainy season is over?
Lay all day at anchor, nary a round fired. GQ routine at dawn. AA called twice before noon but CAP pulled us through again. We were told officially they were “having a field day.” Mortimer blurted in on the squawk box a couple of times – – very annoying.
Admiral Good came aboard, with due ceremony, during the first raid, and the gold braid has been fussily making points all day or at least trying to. Didn’t feel at all sorry for Mortimer, a four-striper penned down in CIC missing the official welcome of the new admiral. Think Joy left this evening but I’m not sure.
Quiet afternoon, but AA again at night as the bogies closed in. Set 3 modified at 9 and I dozed until midnight in the director.
At GC this morning I was told ships all around us were firing through the 12-4, bogies detected within 3 miles but as usual we were “not revealing our position.” And the crew is much disgusted at the “USS Neverfire.” Phooey, whatta way to win the war! They came in again this morning to 7 miles, so I went from the mount up to the director where I found all asleep. Woke Jiggs, and Gainey too, who mumbled “ain’t been nothing on the phones.” He had ‘em on! About the time I put ‘em on some guns cut loose up ahead. No stations, and after a minute or two I inquired “Control, did you hear the shooting ahead?” (We were in the smokescreen of course and couldn’t see anything.) Dopey Dunn, who doubtedless was asleep too snorted “Yes, goddammit, you don’t have to tell me everything!”
Well, I suppose he does know when to relieve himself without being told. My God, what an incompetent ass he is! Thereupon I give up
Shortly we moved down off the southern tip, bombarding almost all day, mostly 8”s. Louisville was there too, minus her forward stack but otherwise ok. Alerted again in the evening, but all the shooting around us was at friendly planes, mostly I guess at one crippled Hellcat trying to land. We were told that ships on the other side had shot down one Hellcat, badly damaged another and seriously wounded the pilot. Bad business! Rest of the night although was peaceful.
6/10 – Cloudy, chilly, hemmed in by haze.
My 33’rd birthday can easily be remembered as the day of many changes, for four times in the morning we set condition 3, then changed to Bombardment 2, and each time I, trying to get some sleep for the 12-4 watch, had to get out of bed and dress. Damm was I mad, and no less so because we still had time to leave the 40’s and man the paraboaters! How idiotic that is.
I’m convinced that all the idiots in the nation must have been gathered into the Navy, and the cream of the crop given rank.
Changed watch again this afternoon, but my turn was over and so I did sleep.
Oh yes, we had a 57 mile bogey this morning and our new ensign called us to stations (the 5” weren’t) and demanded a “sharp lookout” when visibility was 300 yards! Of course he was (I hope) only trying to combat sluggishness, but it’s so patently silly the natural effect of such an order is to cause more, rather than less, ignoring of the proper duties on watch.
While this went on we were told a picket was hit, and later that it was the destroyer Porter, and sank outright. Seems she didn’t even fire a shot: the suicide plane tilted straight down out of the overcast and was into her before the guys could get the guns going. We hear that many of her crew were saved.
Incidentally, the communiques never have mentioned the destroyer which grounded off Naha airdrome and was sunk by shore guns with heavy losses two weeks ago. From where we’re firing 5 “ now I can see part of her battered hold at low tide., and my guess is that the Navy hopes to salvage her after the island is cleaned up. And that will be soon. Hear we leave for Leyte Friday, and I’m almost ready to guess we’ll be going on a China Coast landing. Stillwell’s [General] talk with MacArthur seems significant. Back to the anchorage and a brief alert: no planes got in.
6/11 – Clearing, cool, with a brisk wind.
Bombarded all day, 8” in the morning and rapid fire 5” afternoon, 8” evening. The 5” were so hot at supper time you couldn’t touch the barrels! Flash blue for a while in the afternoon, but they stayed away. To the anchorage in the evening, and a real attack, in to 7 miles and we saw some tracers but good old CAP knocked down 10 or more in a half hour and we went peacefully to bed. But not before all the ship was rigged for heavy weather. We were told of a typhoon headed our way, expected to hit at dawn. And I noted a lot of the LST’s and LSD”s were cleared out of the anchorage.
A lovely day after the longest night of sleep I’ve had since we left port. No dawn alert and gee it felt good to stay abed until 7! No signs of a typhoon either, except water a bit rougher than usual.
Looks like the corsairs are going calling today. At least 40 of them circling now all with spare gas tanks and rockets. Brrh! Glad I’m not catching what they bring.
Also it looks like we’re staying here until the last dog is leaving. Most of the ships are gone but Idaho, Mass and W.VA. are sticking around with us NO, Portland and a bunch of cans. Oh yes, Birmingham, too, and maybe Vicksburg. Seems only a tiny antiquated part of our Navy, but It’s my guess it’s enough guns to tackle everything the Japs have left.
6/13 – Hot, murky.
Off in the morning, after a quiet night for Kerama-Retto. AA on the way. Bogies at 10 then7 miles and we went into the anchorage with all guns manned – – to find the ships there with all guns covered! But I guess they know their PBM’s better than us for the bogies were friendly. Carried a few 8 “tanks in morning, and was on watch after noon when division was called to carry 5” slugs. All the men bitching say with some justice we never get help on 40’s and 50’s and blame the division officers for not standing up for us. Could be. On the other hand the automatic weapons have been a picnic for 2 months while turret and 5” people have been worked hard – – and almost all the time.
Back to the anchorage at evening; all quiet.
6/14 – Summer, dammed hot.
For a change, I worked this morning with Svoboda wiping down all four guns and cleaning the bores. His forte handiwork, he’s good with tools but careless on routine stuff.
I begin to believe we’ll go on the next operation from here and it may be soon. We took on a helluva lot of 8” and 5” HC stuff yesterday and a little food. Much talk among the louder, and usually poorly informed, crewmen of bombarding Tokyo. Actually it would have to be Yokahoma and frankly I begin to suspect that may be the deal. Halsey [Admiral] said when he took over again last month he could take the fleet anywhere “even into Tokyo Bay” and he doesn’t make empty words. Doubtless the Japs know that too. I’m scared – – but I guess we’ll get away with it.
Lord knows how this Okinawa is mushrooming. Already it’s half as big (population) as Frisco [CA] and it has vastly more air traffic and more ground (auto) traffic too else I miss my guess. And more are coming all the time. We’re getting our first look at Army planes, P51, P61, P38, B24, B25, and soon the B29’s and B32’s will be moving. Dozens of C46, C53 and C54 are shuttling in and out, but still the Navy seems to predominate; droop-snout F4U’s, the TBF’s, still in constant use as attack bombers, F4F and F6A, PBY42 and, from Kemura the omnipresent lumbering PBM, PB4 and PB 24.
Just saw a couple of the huge P61’s skylarking over Kadema – – Lordy how they flip those big things around! Straight up and straight down, stand ’em on the wing.
And two years from now Okinawa will be a deserted, stagnant pool where once the river of war coursed swiftly – – before cutting into a new, straighter channel to Tokyo.
A flock of Corsairs homing too, either from routine patrol or another (my guess the other day was right) Kyushu raid. Funny to watch them land; more of the slow, deliberate, circling, careful approaches the carriers get. These guys roar in, peel off vertically on a wing and down they go. A constant dust storm rolls from the fields.
Oh yes; the Navy’s told the story of the beached destroyers, and it’s vastly different from the one we got. Is someone covering a mess? Could be, for we were told she grounded at night; the Japs saw her at dawn and brought up artillery until they were ready at noon. The story went on later that a BB and cruisers silenced the guns while survivors were picked up, but it was too late to save the ship. Of course the protection should have been there in the first place.
The communique (?) (Rather the story I read) conveyed the impression she grounded – – and 7 minutes later was sunk. That doesn’t make sense when you know that only once, days later and then ineffectually fired on a warship. Remind me to check up some day.
Another day of nary a shot.
6/15 – Broiling hot day, saved only by a swell breeze.
Mississippi, Tennessee (in suite), W. Va., Birmingham, Vicksburg and Tuscaloosa pulled out today, leaving us with Portland and some cans as the sole remaining home guard. They might be back but somehow I doubt it.
We pulled out, too, for a while; to fuel under way in what looked like a piece of foolishness or a test to show the skipper and admiral how it’s done. I thought the ship was poorly handled but otherwise the fueling was well done. It was the first under way for us since we left the carriers after the Tokyo raid. Could that mean we’re going back to them?
Bumped into Lt. Paulk last night and we wound up in quite a chat. Probably because he’d like very much to be a newsman himself, he’s seemed, in the few times I’ve talked with him, much impressed by my background. He’s also been way flattering about my work on the press news. Told him the censorship story, and like so many other officers he is less than mildly critical of the exec [Executive Officer]. Kept insisting that I ought to get together with Lt. Dyess, who he admires a great deal. But I don’t suppose I will, for he told me Dyess leaves in a week – – Paulk himself, has his transfer papers, leaves any day. And he told me Lt. Konopka had left yesterday! Barrett, Knipp, now these guys – !!
Damm seems all the officers I get to know slightly and like for themselves and because they’re good men, get sent off pronto. And the heels and halfwits stay on.
The Navy Way – – but I’m sure the administration of the ship has deteriorated, sadly and possibly seriously, from the new skipper all the way down.
Speaking of the skipper, he held inspection today; without any advance notice that it would be other than a perfunctory lower decks. And, quite naturally seeing where we are, how long we’ve been out, etc., he ran I guess into a lot of dirt. Result: the boatswain of the watch piped sweepers 6 times this afternoon, and I here it’s to be every 30 minutes from now on.
What a psychologist! Doubtless improvement is needed and a reasonable amount can be made with little strain but I’ll bet the net result of his order is a drop, instead of an improvement.
More and more I wonder about the guy and can’t escape the growing impression he’s an ignorant misfit out here. I’m sure going to check with AP Sports and WOV what he was at Annapolis.
And what’s worse, it already is becoming obvious our new admiral is more horse-shit and more crabby, than the old. Poor Bosweldt tells us he got the admiral’s orderly a dressing down for permitting him (Bos) to break in on a dinner party to get the execs approval of a “well done” note (silly thing!) he’d ordered inserted in the yesterday’s press news. Seems it was late (the notice forced another page on the sheet!) and the quaddranner was at dinner. Bos wanted to get rid of the thing, asked the orderly if he would be ok to go in; went in, got the execs ok, then heard the admiral raised hell with the orderly for letting anyone – – especially anyone so low as an ensign! – – break in on his dinner!!!
Reminds me Poulde and I talked quite a bit last night on the Navy’s caste system. Guess he and some of the officers resent it as much as some of us.
All quiet until we went below – – and 20 minutes later AA. Bogey at 18 miles then went out; at 9 we set 3 modified, back to 3 before midnight.
6/16 – Sunny, hot. (Dusk)
Started the day with a bugle AA at about 5 a.m. – – and as I was starting up the ladder an explosion outside froze everyone. For a bit I thought our 40’s were firing – – but learned later what I thought was brass dropping must have been the rattle of shrapnel.
Anyhow I yelled something about “let’s man these dammed guns” wiggled through and up the ladder, found another mob (4-5) huddled up by the upper shower. Much excitement up on top; bogies 7, 10, 15 miles but we saw no more shooting.
Later learned a plane had passed over us, and the shrapnel may have been from a bomb but more likely was a short 5” from the beach or another ship. Walts said our AA knocked down one plane 10 minutes before we were called.
One guy on the 5” battery was slightly cut by shrapnel; we found several pieces in Unit 4, another stuck on the fantail deck. When we secured it was again to 3 Mode and later to 3. Wonder of that isn’t the admiral’s doing. He seems more than ever a puffed-up ass and it begins to look like he’ll really give us a headache.
We were ready to move out at dawn, then did go down off the south tip and fired a half dozen 5”. Hooray, we’re mad again!
Got a new man on the press news and he looks like a Kowtow. I’m looking for a quick and easy out. Also seems to have been a squawk over working in the 1st Lt’s office but he stopped that. Sonny Speas was very snotty.
Tonight we ran over to Hakagusha – – alone – – find Idaho here, lots of ships at the beach. We anchored rather far out in the opening.
And spent a calm night – – except that control advised us the destroyer Twiggs blew up mysteriously and sank at 9:30 in the other anchorage. Same old story – – we leave and all hell pops.
6/17 Sunny, hot. (Dusk)
Out early to the south tip, set bombardment 2 at 11, fired four rounds before chow; more after and set 3 about 2:30! Spent all morning at 25 cent poker, lost $ 1.10. Wrote my Okinawa invasion letter this afternoon. Back to Hakagusha this evening.
The island caught hell today and shortly before noon 3 B-29’s came in, escorted by at least 35 P-47’s. My guess it was Arnold [Admiral]; he was at Guam the other day.
AA at 9 p p.m. But the evening plane at Youtan didn’t come our way. Bogies on 12-4 but all that bothered us was smoke.
6/18 Sunny, hot. (Evening)
Little sleep last night, even though I stayed in until 8. Read all morning then the press news and typing my Okinawa piece.
We were ready all day – – but nary a shot. Came back to Hakagusha – – and AA at 9 but only a 25-mile bogey that soon ran away.
6/19 – Cloudy, pleasantly cool. (dusk)
Back to the south tip in the morning, bogey on the way but the fighter planes got it. We fired quite a lot of 5” at troop concentrations, and my God how those futile survivors in the last corner are catching hell. All day the land echoed and reechoed to the thunder of rockets. And shells.
As we left at suppertime the glasses showed two men nonchalantly on the beach, and a knot of others 30 or so, huddled among a cluster of rocks. We didn’t disturb them. They might have been civilians.
General Buchner dead, news said today. Perhaps the troops are mad, which accounts for the concentrated hell on the island.
6/20 Sunny, warm.
Guess the 5” yesterday qualifies us for start and finish of Okinawa. Hear today all organized resistance is ended.
In anchorage all morning, out alone at 15:30 to rendezvous at dusk with Calif., Tenn., Wichita, Tuscaloosa, St. Louis – -and 2 cans and 1 DE! Nobody seems to know why, but dope is we’ll be out a couple days.
Hear also a couple typhoons are on the way. The ship is rigged.
6/21 Sunny, hot At sea cruising off Okinawa
AA brought us out of the sack at 6, but the dumb jerk Dunn never told us why. Verbatim report of his reports as control officer:
“Control on line!” (5-10 minutes after every station is manned)
“Flash white ½” (After 10 minutes of silence)
“Set Condition 3” (ditto)
(First control, I’m told, reported 14-mile bogey, friendlies near)
Two TBF’s showed up before noon, and both fell into the drink! Why? Hear a rumor that all crewmen rescued by one of the cans.
Told at quarters we’re a screening force for Okinawa against a possible Jap surface raid. That’s ridiculous, in the face of all the planes there – – and us with 2 cans and 1 DE.
The Navy Way!
Kicked off an SOC. for AA firing this afternoon. We got one very quick short run. (I never saw a sleeve after we opened!) Tuscaloosa got sleeve on run back from other side and SOC. dropped second, had to come back home. Officers hint last sleeve sabotaged because pilot didn’t like towing short cable. Don’t blame him.
6/22 Sunny, hot (evening)
A dull day. Loafed all morning. GQ for damage control in afternoon. And blackjack after that. Won $5 then lost $4.
Sleeve practice in morning. Again it was a poor test – – but I don’t think Gainey’s ever fairly good.
Wichita and St. Louis left us at dusk.
Night poker session, won $9 – on the books.
6/24 Sunny, hot
The exec actually treated us to holiday routine this afternoon, and I played blackjack, won $20 = $5 on the book.
Chester, fresh out from the states, showed up today, and Tennessee too bringing some mail!
6/25 Sunny, very hot; showers late afternoon
Drone firing this morning; first drone up crashed. Second made one run for us, then was knocked down by St. Louis so we quit.
Shed my shirt on watch this afternoon and got quite a burn, although it doesn’t sting – – yet. My lip does tho – – again.
St. Louis and Wichita both back this morning. Poker this afternoon losing $10 or $11 (don’t know).
Went back to clip room at night then poker, AA broke in at 11 p.m. I had to grab $76 and run but made it ok. Not clear what caused alarm; California fired ahead of us, but nothing on radar and we secured soon. Resumed play for a bit and wound up $20 ahead.
6/26 Sunny, hot
Dull day, spent all afternoon on my fanny, poker in the evening until 2 a.m. Won $30.
6/27 Sunny, hot
Fell into Jenkins bunk after breakfast and slept until noon. Worked a bit after lunch, played poker again at night. Little Carmba was hooked $120, Walts ahead $10 and I $60 and Gump claimed he was even! Wound up $ 37 ahead, Carmba lost as much and Walts dropped $40 to Gump, nearly all on one pot. To bed at 2:30 – – no more poker for a while now.
Sunny, but the breeze is strong – and cooling.
We pulled away from the task force last night, arriving at Kerama about 6; heard en route we’d take in 30-day stores – – and no Leyte! ? ? ? ?
Also told a heavily camouflaged Jap ship, believed to be a cruiser, has been spotted creeping down the islands and Wichita and St. Louis detached to get her; should be interesting.
Kerama much the same as before, except for a large number of apparently undamaged cans; must be 30 or more. We’re the only big ship in. Never even got a good look at Okinawa, but as we were moving away after dark we could see – – until midnight – – flares lighting the areas where I guess pockets are holding out.
Worked today on # 3 locker – – and Gornick told of showing Manown how bad it was only to have the gun boss insist that the replacement be for # “ 4 where the admiral sees it” T hell with him, we went ahead on # 3.
6/29 Sunny, very hot
Afraid the sun is really rough; to sick bay twice today about my lip, and my forehead is sore too.
Back with the Task Force; find Wichita and St. Louis here with Chester, W.Va. and California so I guess their side trip was scuttlebutt.
Sleeve firing this morning, and now I’m sure of Gainey, for we had one long, good run and he fizzled. Lost the sleeve in the smoke (only 2 barrels too!) and kept right on firing without training until our tracers were crossing. Mt. 6 hundreds of yards short of the target – – so I stopped him. Neither Harding nor Dunn said anything, even to ask why I stopped, and guess it’s very possible they know or guess I’m right.
Gainey knows he flopped, too. I wonder – ? Letter from Don Reed [He and Chuck were in boot camp together and Reed was from Johnstown, PA] and he’s boosted to GM34/c. Good to hear from him though.
6/30 Sunny, very hot
Worked this morning on clipping room hatch and it looks good.
Personal inspection (of a sort) and we were awful even as the officers warned us to expect admiral inspection. In whites when? we get back to Leyte. Got talked into poker tonight, won $35 from Ed Gump and quit at midnight.
7/1 Sunny, and I can prove it
Dozed in the sun all morning, wound up with quite a burn, back and legs. Must be more careful. Holiday routine all day.
I’ve about adopted the locker as my fair weather bed; like it first rate.
Sunny, hot but a cool breeze.
Payday and I’m debating to get a $500 bond, will take it if Gump can lend me $160. Have that much on the books but prefer to leave it there. Scuttlebutt says we now go to the 7th Fleet, which makes sense for it seems certain to me Kyushu has been delayed and next step is China Coast. (Some of the guys say we are going to Borneo but I don’t believe it.) Shouldn’t be too bad.
Had to charge Okinawa in the early hours this morning; thought I was home!
Nope, no $500. Seems the inevitable crap game went the wrong way this time, Gump and Nick both broke out and Nick hit me for $40 which I couldn’t refuse. Guess it’s just as well, for I’d be gambling to go so far in the hole.
On picket this afternoon Tennessee and Nevada. We were in battle maneuvers we (with Wichita, Chester, and St. Louis) went racing at 25 knots to within sight of Okinawa. Then hotfooted away, leaving California, Tennessee and Nevada lumbering over the horizon, eating our dust. As dusk we broke off with a can, went back on picket duty off Hakagusha. Still flares all night in some spots of the southern tip and we saw a few cannon flashes. Otherwise quiet.
Back to the Task Force in the morning (Chester missing) and battle maneuvers again, 7 cans in tow with us. Cruisers and cans cutting capers in the flat water, the wagons loafing along on the horizon like ladylike observers.
Just, while all this was going on, the exec breaks in “The ship will leave this Task Force at noon and proceed to Leyte.” So here we go with one DK. Guys still say Borneo, and some are very jittery about the equator, me too, but I’m not letting one.
AA firing this afternoon, Gainey and I fired 2 guns and I guess I did OK. Liked it too!
Met quite an odd convoy at dusk – – 2 APD’s and a DE out in front of 19 LST’s – – and one lone little LCS bringing up the rear. Guess they’re going to Okinawa.
7/4 Hotter, more sunny
Holiday routine, holiday chow: we steam toward Leyte at a steady 18 knots, are due in Friday morning. Sea a tiny bit rough and ship partially rigged for heavy weather but none visible. Much razzing of pollywogs. Phooey!
Worked hard today and the magazine show it.
Burst firing this morning, Cond. 3 Sect. 4 watch. GQ for damage control this afternoon, at which Bosweldt tells us we’re due in Leyte tomorrow or to Subic Bay next day but the admiral has asked more time in Leyte to give the crew a bit of liberty. Good! I still say we are going to China though Bos says Borneo.
He also says my typed Okinawa letter was rejected a second time but he sent it on. Thanks Bos. He agrees there’s nothing censorable.
7/6 Sunny, terribly hot but relief from evening showers.
Early morning brings us to another new place, and Leyte turns out to be a lot bigger and busier than Ulithi except the carriers and new big ships aren’t here. Coming in I saw New York, Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi , New Orleans, Tuscaloosa, Portland, Salt Lake and at least 6 CVE’s and many Cleveland Cl’s and 2 PT’s. Looked for Reed’s ship but no dice. And the huge harbor is crowded with all kinds of ships: I’m sure more than ever we’re going to China. Alaska and Guam don’t seem to fit as destinations.
The gang just got back from liberty say they went to another compound at Samar and it was some better. Beer was $10 a case and the natives selling all kinds of stuff there and the kids were diving for coins. And almost all yipping about peter even Crawford [Pharmacist Mate 2/C] who should know better. Well, I’ll see for myself in 3 days.
Odd censoring incident. I had batted out a quick note for Reed and went to the wardroom to get it cleared tonight. While our new division officer was reading it, Red Siblin saw me, beckoned, and endorsed both that envelope and Betty’s without reading either. He had just come back from liberty.
Damm this place is no better than Ulithi! Early in the second movie I had sneaked down from watch for another peek at the Okinawa newsreel when I noticed lights in the harbor going out. Raced for the ladder, saw some tracers off the port beam as I went up. AA moment later. Phones all screwed up. There were two series of bursts off the beam and several flurries of shooting ahead. Secured quickly then back to the movie as usual. Never found out what happened.
This dammed sun is getting me down. Ditto the jock itch, about which I hate to go to sick bay altho I guess I should. Damm stuff gives me fits especially at night.
Told today we’ll be in here until noon of the 12th, which gives me one trip to the beach and an outside chance will get our work done. Fortunately we’re pretty well along now but there’s still a helluva lot to be done.
No dope (official) on destination but Subic Bay seems obvious. And we may stop there for a while. Obviously we weren’t expected to stay here; no mail, no parts, no repair ship assignment.
7/8 Cool, showers all day.
Not a damm bit of work, but 40 and 20 ammo stuff, empties in morning ( I worked) , loaded in the afternoon when I was on watch. (I missed!!)
Mass today, Father O’Hara back again from New Orleans. Hope he comes again soon.
First liberty on Samar, not exciting, much too dry: 2 beers, Phooie!!
Hear the admiral flew to Subic Bay, where we pick him up the 14th after firing 7/12 & 13. Hear he’s to command Task Force 54 – – which I doubt.
7/10 Hot morning, showers cooled the afternoon
Little or no work accomplished, partly our (Sam and I) fault, partly our Division. Phooie!! Anyhow we shoot 7/12 @ 13 then shove off for Subic (?) the 14th.
Good many drunks came aboard this evening – – fully loaded. Also a monkey, which I doubt will stay long.
7/11 Gray, showers all day kept it cool.
At quarters this morning, Harding says we shoot tomorrow and next day, both AA and surface circling around us before getting it.scuttlebutt the admiral leaves us the first of August, and we may stay in Subic until then. Hear liberty much better over there, and you can get into Manila in dungarees which would suit me. Oh yes, we would pick up the admiral at Subic.
But while Svoboda and I worked on our locker after lunch a PBA landed near us, kicked out the admiral and he came aboard. Now what?
(Hear Minneapolis now en route from the states, is due at Leyte 7/28. Also hear we’re going on partial again, as we were off Okinawa which doesn’t make sense but might happen.)
Anyhow the sidecleaners are working later to finish up. Another job I hope to stay away from.
7/12 Hot, sunny.
Off to fuel in the morning, to sea with Cru Div Six – New Orleans, Tuscaloosa and 5 cans – – for a shoot. First 5”, then automatics which kept up while we fired 8” at a towed target. Not especially good, anyone. Gainey some better but he screwed up once. A sleeve was crossing the beam, going forward. He said he was on, then I turned with some question to Dunn, who, while I was turned, gave commence fire. I tapped Gainey, turned back to look for the sleeve and realized he was much further aft than I expected – was still looking for the sleeve when cease fire came (very quickly!) and Dunn and Harding wanted to know what he was firing at. I guess he had gotten a 5” burst instead of a sleeve. Harding later said he thought Gainey was on another very distant plane. So did Ross; many guys laughing at us.
Night firing too, first time since we left the states, and we were wonderful. The task force knocked down 5 sleeves in 6 or 7 runs! Then fired (other ships) a long time at the last sleeve circling around us before getting it.
7/13 Hot, sunny.
AA firing all morning. We got only a little, 5” mostly. Some general and his staff are board as visitors. Why?
About 10 set Condition 3 and kept on firing and since it was our watch I got it first run, when Hatch yelled “standby.” I snapped the safety over and suddenly the gun went boom-boom- boom. Looked down at the mount, subconsciously lost the target guess we must have come quite close to a can. Took my right hand off and held it up to show I wasn’t firing, trained the mount safely as I could altho I remember the plane swerving aft and our tracers under it – safely enough.
What happened of course was that Radar had the fire selector switch on local and when he tramped down the gun took off. But I was surprised and shocked, recovered just in time to avert some real trouble.
Next run went of ok, but Haltend neglected to set the sights, which nettles me. From now on I’m a sight setter; any dope can point the damm gun – – even Gainey.
Back to port in evening and the general got off. Me, I’m dog tired and wonder if I’m getting cat fever which already has sick bay overcrowded. Dooley got out today. Anyhow Svoboda and I field tripped 4 guns and cleaned six boxes in one afternoon, so everything is ok except the paint.
Leave tomorrow for Subic, everyone getting whites ready for Manila, which we’re told officially today is likely. Golly hope we don’t take on any ammo until we get there. Guam, Alaska and 4 CL’s on the way out in the afternoon. Where?
7/14 Rainy, gray, strong wind.
Off in the morning for Subic Bay with Tuscaloosa, New Orleans and 4 cans. Due there Sunday afternoon.
Scuttlebutt says no Manila liberty unless we shake the “cat fever” epidemic. And we got two left – arm shots this afternoon.
At quarters this morning we’re told to be ready for “peacetime admiral’s inspection” on Saturday – – in dungarees which must be stenciled as in Boot Camp, How utterly ridiculous!!
Camba says our route is through Surigao Strait – – and I hope we make it better than the Jap battle fleet did last October.
7/15 At Subic Bay
Overcast, but hot.
Cruised all night among islands and by daybreak we’re out in the South China Sea, keeping the various Philippine islands in sight most of the time to starboard.
We were and odd Task Force last night. A wandering AK going our way simply turned on a masthead light and hitched on behind. She dropped back after daylight. We were making 18 to 20 knots.
Sighted rugged Bataan, and Corregidor, at noon, and into Subic after lunch to find one 3-stack British heavy cruiser (London – or maybe an Australian) and two Brooklyn class lights the only big ships. Not a great many other ships in the harbor, which is comparatively small. The country around us looks very rugged and in spots like home. But it does not look like promising liberty and I doubt much I’ll see Manila.
Still on water hours. Double down.
Handout this morning indicates another compound for liberty, and is loaded with warnings against local liquor, food and venereal disease. Says the latter is 85% among prostitutes and “these women know nothing of female hygiene.” And it winds up with a list of four prophylaxis stations! Simultaneously a poster appears in the mess hall – a giraffe in sailor whites nattering for a building and the caption reads “When you stick your neck out ‘PRO’ .
Am I laughing but much bitching from the crew.
7/16 Rainy (and how!)
Worked a bit until the rain stopped us, and from then on couldn’t do a thing.
Alongside a British tanker this morning and the Limeys did quite a business in booze, first at $15 a quart, finally $40 and none to be had. One guy (Kasin) dropped four $20 quarts over the side – – but he got enough aboard to get himself stinking drunk.
On watch in the afternoon, missed the ammunition carrying!!!!
Guys on liberty say much the best place we’ve had, lots of beer.
Poker in the evening, won $46.
The midwatch was awful. I stood my lookout, the tried to sleep on a wet cot – finally came below.
Drew $50 pay today as a reserve and I’ll keep it.
7/17 Still raining.
Couldn’t do a thing topside, so we started a poker game at 10:a.m. Wound up $11 ahead when we broke up at noon.
But we went back shortly and played until midnight – – and I lost $60, Sam lost $100, Gump $80 and Crawford got $130 – Sharp and Gardner got the rest.
7/18 Still raining.
Spent most of the day reading, but there were two interruptions. Uruland in the morning checking up on the clipping room and a bit irked about the dirt (which I did not tell him was left from the suits [army inspectors] poker game. He seemed to find our area ok.
And Manown , in the afternoon ,very surily ordered me to work – – and so I did what I could about cleaning the magazine.
No poker for a while, at least until this inspection flurry is over.
7/19 Overcast, but only very few showers so Svoboda and I worked all day.
Sam, Will, and Gump went over the fantail this morning, bound for Subic City, and I guess won’t be back until tomorrow. Me, I passed up liberty today, but may try to go Saturday.
Met Sidney M. [Mogleven, an officer from Somerset] for the first time today since his return. He’s much enthused about flying – Pearl to Guam to Samar to Manila, then driving to here. Wish I could too – – only in a different direction, going east.
Hear we move to Manila Monday or Tuesday, perhaps will stay there the rest of the month – – which suits me.
H.M.A.S. Shropshire left this morning, and I got a good look at her odd AA battery. 4 twin mounts that look like 3,” 4 queer-looking double quad or sextuple mounts that I first guessed were rocket racks, and strings of 40’s. Much better armed than I originally guessed.
Phoenix also out this morning but back in the afternoon. Scuttlebutt says she goes back when Minneapolis arrives.
This seems to be quite a sub base. Almost every day we see one or more coming in.
Oh yes and we’re taking on odd stores: Beer!!!
7/20 Hotter, only a few showers
Sam, Will, Gump and 3 others AWOL at quarters this morning and I’m afraid it will be toughest on Sam; Bleyke has never forgiven him for that drunk at the clipping room. They were back at suppertime broke, bedraggled, and definitely ready to face the music!
Curiously enough they (Sam and Will) avoid me after their episodes, probably because they know I’ll give them hell if they give me half a chance. But from some of the others come stories of old times, fights, drunks, etc. and plenty of “pom-pom” One guy even has big scabs on his knees; claims the bed was hard!
By the way, we had another party aboard last night, too. They had a half gallon the night before last and about a quart last night. Laux made out for some coke, and Jiggs for ice, and the resultant mix wasn’t bad. Svoboda sat in on the party. No one very drunk but all edged. Chuck said he felt weird this morning.
Anyhow we worked most of the day, got the clipping room ok, fixed mags in the 3 and 4 lockers, checked the 3 and 4 guns .Will make a final checkup in the a.m. and let it go at that. But the First Division crossed us up by chipping and painting the worst spots on the forecastle today, which makes us look bad.
Harding told be today there may not be any openings for GM3/C this time but a couple of transfers are coming up.
And Mogleven says we fire 3-4 days next week, then go to Manila. Phooie! Guess that’s what Phoenix has been doing. She was out and back again today.
7/21 Sunny and hot for inspection, then showers and cooler.
Well the inspection is over and I guess ok; at least the inspector didn’t have apoplexy.
Funny how the tension eases afterward; 75 % of the crew is sleeping this afternoon. I was ambitious : washed some sox!
7/22 Rainy and several squalls in the afternoon.
Mess this morning and I served.
But it did me no good in the afternoon-evening poker game for I lost $75 and now am, for the first, in debt more than is owed me; +81; -83.
The squall gave us a bad time, and almost sent us home. New Orleans dragged her anchor, bumped into us forward on the starboard side and did little damage, mostly a nicked bow, before she got under way. Ed Sharp says (?) she’s banged up more than us.
We had two guests or new arrivals today HMAS Hobart (CL) and Bataan (DD), nice looking ships. During the squall, Bataan also broke loose, drifted broadside between Phoenix and Nashville, 600-700 feet apart. Hobart was fuelling but got away ok. The squall blew out as fast as it started.
7/23 Mostly sunny, hottest day in a long time.
Worked a bit this morning, altho I felt lousy, then went out on the launch for the first time. Got 3 beers and gave 1 away! Then I wandered all over Grande Island, heckled by SP’s and enjoyed myself.
The place seems to have had a lot of gun placements, 8”, 6” coastal mounts and a batch of 3”. Mounts are out of bounds because so much powder and many live shells remain – – and halfwits insist on breaking into the magazines and burning the powder.
Anyhow I enjoyed it.
An Australian DD9 came in this evening, but got little attention for our Marine master sergeant (who always has seemed a swell guy) and CWT Goodman (whom I don’t know) were having the bloodiest fight I’ve seen on the fantail. Both were reeling drunk. But I was amazed to see even a drunk marine handle himself so poorly. He caught one of the first blows on his left eye and bled like a stuck pig. Never had a chance, but he was game, even when it was finally stopped.
Oh yes, about Grande Island. Many signs there that the war has passed twice; shattered bullet-pocked trees, burned out buildings, blasted pillboxes – – all seem to have been ours. No evidence that the Japs even fortified the place. And many bomb and shell craters, mostly new altho I guess a few of the old ones are recognizable.
Also in tonight are a long string of LSM’s, and we’ve a couple of big fleet tankers too, plus some transports and AK’s.
Anyhow we go out tomorrow for 3 days of drills, some AA and surface shoots, and back in Thursday then Manila?
7/24 Hot fairly sunny. NO rain. At Sea
Sailed this morning with New Orleans, Tuscaloosa, Nashville, Phoenix and Hobart plus 11 cans, and this afternoon picked up Shropshire and a can to complete a very respectable Task Force.
Sleeve firing this morning, but it was mostly a farce – 76 rounds per quad per run. Nor could I see enough of the Aussies to tell how they shoot, although several sleeves were downed.
However I’ll best remember this day for 2 other things : My first bout with “cat” fever and the second test gypping. Phooie!
7/25 Hot, fairly sunny until the evening shower
Slept very poorly on the locker last night but anything is better than the compartment where I spent the morning in Jenkins’ rack. Cat fever worse but I guess I’ll live.
Fired this afternoon in 3 modified; Haltend ok on two very brief runs but our sight is fouled. All our guns are dirty now. Feel hellish but I guess I’ll still write. Haven’t see land all day in contrast to yesterday when we were within sight all the time.
Learned today Lou Clouse squawked and was permitted to take yesterday’s test without having taken a progress. Neither did Pena, who seems to think he’ll get his rate back and Dewey said Harding had talked to him about me – – he’ll see me later.
7/26 Sunny, hot all day Subic Bay
Felt lousy again all morning but a little bit better tonight.
Surface battle maneuvers last night, couldn’t see a thing, but the daylight edition today was swell. Cruisers steaming and careening; cans dashing madly laying wiggly black smokescreens on the flat blue se.
CA firing again this afternoon and the force looked good. Gainey griped.
At the end we sent the admiral and his aide, via the mail bag to a destroyer and I guess he went with Tuscaloosa and New Orleans into Manila. We came back to Subic with Shropshire, Hobart, Phoenix, Nashville and 8 cans. Most of us fueling now: were tied up to the British tanker we used before – – and Shropshire and 2 cans are alongside a big new US tanker with 4 5” mounts to mark 38 directors.
Harbor fuller than ever before: near us is a big loaded (CB’s?) transport. And I’ve seen tonight, for the first time, LCS and LCI’s with 3” guns; old jobs, converted.
We’re all hoping for mail – but doubtful.
7/27 – Sunny, very hot.
Boy did our hopes come true!
Went to the second movie last night and came back all glowing after seeing “The Fighting Lady.” (Somehow, after that, it’s a bit easier to convince yourself that all this is not a total loss) to find the mailman had brought 8 letters from Betty, plus one from Duck. Got 3 more from the gal today, a long-delayed note from Bob and 2 Times! Awoke at 6:30 and read until breakfast.
Feeling much better physically, too. We worked all day, got the guns and the boxes. Now we must scrape and paint.
Much shooting outside today, but nothing new in. Admiral Good back at supper time, I guess via PBY.
And we got some new men today, 3 of them GM3/C, one in our division and I guess that sinks me from making rate
7/28 – Ditto
Cold almost entirely gone now, thank goodness.
Sunbathed all morning on watch; back to Grande Island to roam with Svoboda all afternoon. Guy off a can fell and got a frightful double compound fracture of the leg as we were coming back. We brought him to Frisco.
On the 8-12 tonight things started to pop midway through the second show. First the admiral’s aide was called to report to his cabin “immediately” and it was repeated. 5 minutes later with emphasis!
Then the skimmer was busted out and Cash rolled out of bed to take Gladney over to some PC and right back. (I guessed later it was to arrange for an emergency opening of the net.) Then a whaleboat was called to take an officer somewhere in the direction of Olongapo.
About that time, the First Lieut., acting exec while Dudley is sick) came down to stand with the O.O.D. And a great flurry of signaling started; we talked to all the other ships of TF 74. Code room was jammed too.
Shortly after the movie ended we heard the boilers were getting up steam and the engineers on 15-minutes’ notice to be ready.
And then heard scuttlebutt that some Jap warships, never further identified, had been located somewhere south, perhaps on a suicide run. Of course the obvious guess was that we were going to meet them.
Went to bed, and to sleep, shortly after midnight.
7/29 – Ditto (at sea)
Awoke vaguely in the night to hear the orders for getting under way and to see later we were past the net and moving out of the bay. When I got up at 7:30 we were at sea; Frisco, Nashville, Phoenix, 3 DD’s, Shropshire, Hobart and 2 DD’s. All steaming southwest at 18 knots.
By 8 o’clock New Orleans came over the lagoon all alone (she and Tuscaloosa had been in Manila) crowding on 25 knots to join us. We stepped up the force to 20 knots. Later two cans came tearing up at 30 and joined us.
The Jap ship sighting seemed authentic dope But no one seems to know what, how many or where though Singapore is a logical guess. And about 10:30 the ship did a 180 degree turn, since when we’ve been going back out at a steady 18 knots.
Another Camranh Bay? Some say the British caught the Japs and (a) got them all (b) got some, turned the rest back to Singapore (?) Maybe we’ll find out, some day
Damm, my right knee is giving me fits today; very painful.
Oh yes, talked to Warnick today, turns out he’s from Boswell,; we played football against each other in 1927 and know lots of the same people. First one he mentioned Bus Barrett who he says now is home from the Alcan. And Crawford who helped bring our accident case aboard yesterday says the guy is doing well after a 3-hour open reduction job.
A big bunch of guys, some say 40, were left behind, AWOL, among them Sam Benson BM1/C and MAA! Some guys jokingly explain Tuscaloosa’s failure to join us by saying that it took all the available crew of both ships to man the New Orleans!
Bet they were happy (?) to see us come back at suppertime, minus NO which broke off with a can for Manila.
Walts says two other task forces were sent out along with us last night, presumably from Leyte. One, I guess, was Alaska-Guam, the other 54, headed by W.Va.
Maybe this was just a feint sortie by the Japs to see how we react?
7/30 – Ditto Subic Bay
Much work today, and my knee, not painful enough in the morning to send me into sick call but very bothersome as the day wore on.
Told at quarters “the plan for the next operation is in” – – but no further dope as to what, where, when. That sound like we’re going to war soon, but scuttlebutt says we leave again tomorrow for three days of maneuvers and shooting, then go to Manila. Besides I don’t think we’ve enough aboard to for any serious operation.
Our admiral, it seems, is taking wings. He climbed into an SOC – [“Attention on the well deck”!!!] at noon, took off with McDougall, assume for Manila. Back at supper time, and he personally hooked the plane on – – much fuss; Little John, the boatswain, Mike, half the crew watching. Some of the guys say he’s flying to get the 50% flight pay. Maybe but I kind of doubt it.
Divers at work, welding under water on the bow all day. Heard one of them say they had patched one of 9 holes. Seems like we take a lot of water up there when under way.
Oh yes we got 20-1 scraped, chipped, brushed and zinced. Phooey!!
7/31 – Ditto at sea off Bataan
Sailed this morning with Shropshire, Hobart, Phoenix, Nashville, and we were joined at sea by New Orleans – – another 3-day cruise, I guess.
Maneuvers all morning, while we scraped # 3 mount – and a bit of shooting in the afternoon. Gainey, becoming contentious, refused to fire once when I failed to cut the range as he sleeved the sight. And I’m puzzled about him – – his firing track frequently seems to waver sharply off line.
Anyhow we got the mount zinced after we secured and I loafed the rest of the evening – no writing.
Went to sick bay this morning about the right knee that’s been giving me fits, and the doctor says it’s cartilage out of place. Gave me a wrap (not much help) and said to exercise it
8-1 – Ditto At sea off Bataan
Fired again this morning, and for once the force didn’t seem to do much with the sleeves. We shot quite a lot, too.
GQ this afternoon, for a few rounds of 8” and 5” offset firing – again at 5 p.m. for a few rounds of 8” bombardment – – we were just off the mouth of Subic Bay.
Knee still bothersome; can’t stoop at all and I’m walking carefully.
An odd business last night. Asleep on the locker I dreamed (?) I was having a wet dream, just dimly recall someone standing over me laughing. Didn’t wake up enough to go below – – and when I woke this morning I wasn’t starched. Remarked on it to Svoboda – – and he says Gornick had a similar experience last week, think someone was fooling around. Possible, yet – – Anyhow I’ll wake more quickly next time, just in case.
8-2 – Ditto Manila Bay ! ! !
The cards ran badly for me last night – – again – – cost me $35 for a couple hours and now I’m left with a lone $20 for Manila liberty! But I shouldn’t kick.
AA this morning, and in nearly 3 hours Mount 4 fired 24 rounds. Most runs 5” and for the others our position in the task force was no good.
GQ in the afternoon for damage control drill – – a surface battle this time! And about 2:30 we secured and broke away with two cans (one an Aussie) for Manila Bay: – Bataan had become familiar to most of us, and we had seen Corregidor many times from a distance, but this was new. And the crew evinced more interest as we passed through the narrow strait than I’d ever seen them show before. So this was the storied place!
Corregidor surprised me by its size – – it looks as big as Iwo – – rising abruptly from the light green sea. Battered, pocked by shell and bomb, many visible scars. Quite a cluster of buildings atop, too, invisible from the sea side. But some are plainly wrecked and I guess the rest are shells. The island has a lower, wooded, tip on the bay side, and I guess it was there our paratroops landed.
The tip of Bataan, too, is extraordinarily rugged, rising sharply to mountains that look higher than those rimming Subic.
Off we saw our first wrecked ship; a red-rusting hulk lying on its side in shallow water.
As we steamed into the bay field glasses were at a premium for sightseers, as slowly the white skyscrapers of the Pearl of the Orient rose on the distant shore. We could see many, many ships at anchor; 3 hospital ships, four 66’s, but I didn’t see another warship although some claimed to have spotted Tuscaloosa.
For sheer size, this place dwarfs San Francisco Bay; for a time as we steamed in from Corregidor we could not see land around nearly half of the horizon. And the evening breeze that’s blowing now makes rougher small boat waters than I’ve seen since Iwo.
The anchor went down while we were still far out, a good 4 or 5 miles from the beach, somewhere off Cavite. But in the clear distance we could see real skyscrapers!
But the sight that most impressed me – – and I think most of us, was the incredible number of sunken ships, all kinds and sizes, their stacks, superstructures and kingposts jutting crazily from the water everywhere. None are really close to us (I guess that’s why we anchored here) but long before we could reach the beach I could count 15 of them with the naked eye. In where the docks should be glasses show only a jumbled mess of masts, spars, stacks – – and salvage derricks.
That, I think, is what I want most to see. Perhaps I’ll have liberty tomorrow.
8/3 – Ditto
A bit more sightseeing (via glasses) this afternoon only showed me more sharply the incredible wreckage. I wasn’t much to see it up close. Can’t locate the sunken Jap cruisers, dammit.
Turned down liberty today, but my Lord what a drunken bunch coming back! Seems all that most of them want are hooch and women, or both, and the supply is plentiful.
Purviance, on OOD, put one boatload of drunks on the port side while the admiral got off via the starboard gangway.
Me, I want to go sightseeing. This wrecked harbor is one of the most fascinating places I’ve seen in all my life.
I saw a PBM take off, very slickly, via JATO this afternoon for the first time.
Hear fruits are plentiful: I’ll enjoy that and Walts says photos 3 for $6 – OK? [His wife had been bugging him for some time about an up-to-date picture.]
8/4 – Ditto
I’ve spent a lazy day sunning myself (should have been writing) but I’ll meet the quota this evening. Got a bit of sunburn, but I hope not too much.
Drunks seem less plentiful coming back tonight, but one poor guy wound up with DT’s and a few of his friends had a helluva time with him. Vasa looked on for a minute but no doctor was called.
Me, I go tomorrow.
Much scuttlebutt flying around about a cruiser torpedoed and sunk (yesterday or Wednesday) between Leyte and Ulithi. I first heard it was Minneapolis (scuttlebutt long ago said she was due here 7/28) but the story now seems to be Indianapolis – – also en route out from the States after taking some damage in the early stages of Okinawa. Further, these unconfirmed rumors say, she sank so fast there were few survivors; only 160 found as yet, according to several sources. Not official, but I guess there must be some basis in fact whether she’s sunk or not.
Oh yes, we’re flying the British flag above and ahead of our own today in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s birthday I hear.
And when Admiral Good came aboard this afternoon he was called to “CruDivSix” – wonder what’s happened to “Task Force 74” or was it just an error.
Our new exec is aboard. He’s the big, rather odd-shaped chap I saw pow-wowing with Dudley on the aft platform yesterday. He’s a commander, to: don’t know his name yet.
Perhaps8/5 – Warm, rain in late afternoon
Liberty today, and all the story’s in my letter if the censor will pass it – – I hope! Aside from what I think is clearable, there’s the item that the in the inner harbor, the docks seem to be full of live ships, not dead ones. Can’t say for sure for I saw little going in and never got to the docks afterward but it seems certain my first impression was in error.
Fumbled the AP office visit and I got a “quick” brushoff but I guess I can’t blame Schedlen [the Associated Press Manila Bureau Chief] for suspecting I was a copy boy.
Knee horribly painful before the day ended and I had a time getting to sleep.
8/6 – Rainy, but warm
Out of Manila bay early in the rain, arrived at Subic to find Minneapolis still absent.
All the rest of TF 74 here and a big afternoon powwow brought at least three admirals and a half dozen captains aboard. What now?
Still no dope on Indianapolis. Schedlen seemed not to have heard it.
8/7 – Hot, sunny after rain most of the night
Really worked today, got the last of our scraping done and now all that’s left is to slap on some paint.
Scuttlebutt had said we were to take on ammo yesterday and shove off for another 3-day shoot, but don’t know what’s happened. Ammo likely tomorrow. And I hear we go back to Manila next week. Phoenix left today – – for home.
Plan of the day says: From Commander Dudley to all hands. “Goodbye and Good luck.” And our new exec is installed. Don’t even know his name which, along with the draft story I wrote yesterday for Sunday’s paper, gives me an idea for a series of personality sketches of the department heads since there have been so many changes. I’ll buzz Bromwell the next time I see him. [For some time Chuck has been responsible, along with an officer, for putting out the Press News which is distributed almost daily to the crew. This assignment was in addition to his gunners mate duties.]
8/8 – Sunny, very hot
About 10 o’clock last night we were ordered, suddenly and mysteriously, to set Condition 3 – – and it lasted until 10 this morning. Only reason we could get last night was a whispered “enemy air activity over Formosa” – 800 miles away! This morning at quarters the word was “because the 3rd Fleet is in Leyte;” later control said “because we expect some retaliation for the atomic bomb.” [Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima] And Harding said later the gun boss, at quarters, had said he wasn’t able to describe the reason. Naturally, I ‘m wondering what’s cooking; and if the process will be repeated tonight.
Tracking Drill on watch this morning and some Chatterbox Charley on control kept blathering excitedly target angles and target bearings. Then he kept wanting to know if I, in Director 43, was tracking. I ignored this while following one run but when he repeated on the next I stopped, pushed the button and told him “43 only has two hands, and can either track or talk.” That cooled him off for a while but soon he ordered a two-man crew in the director so Radar came up. Started to razz him with frequent (truthful) reports of “43 on target” and the luck brought a run of planes and for a few minutes I had Radar rattling target bearing and position angle apparently faster than Chatterbox Charley could keep up. At the end, Radar said “He wasn’t letting out a peep!” Fun in the Navy!
Oh yes Svoboda and Dooley caught hell from the boss today for painting too much and was Chuck sore! And only yesterday the gun boss jumped Harding to see that we got the painting done! The Navy Way ! x! x !
Later – Yep Condition 3 on the 6 to 8 watch, and tomorrow’s dope indicates it is to be routine at night.
Funny, but I’m jittery without knowing why – this would be a helluva time for anything to go wrong.
Several bursts of 40 mm fire, as signals I guess, from two different spots on the beach tonight. That didn’t help my jitters any, either.
Wonder if the Japs don’t have some kind of atomic bomb, too; perhaps to be loaded into an ex-Nazi V-2? Perhaps that’s what we’re afraid of. If they don’t it seems to me this new weapon of ours – – unless it’s a propaganda dream or we foul up some way; say with an accidental explosion where it could do serious damage – – must bring a quick end to the ware unless the Japs find some way to nullify it.
Anyhow I have the feeling of sitting on a powder keg with a smoldering fuse.
Tired tonight, and somehow a bit depressed. Wonder if I’m getting enough rest atop the locker – – but what else can I do?
Russia dealt herself in today, and when guys who heard evening newscasts say (not too reliably) that she attacked in Manchuria and we dropped another atomic bomb. [Nagasaki?] The end, in all reason, can’t be more than weeks away.
Odd I should be so low at such a time. Perhaps it’s a subconscious fear that the Japs have no reason? – –
Marine Staff Sgt. from New Orleans on the beach today says there hear insistently we (both ships) are going East Coast soon for a long overhaul (major modernization). Might be something in that; the Navy scrounging post-war reconversion costs into its cost-of-war total.
Tells laughingly of operating with Iowa when she hoisted flags for 37 knots – – A 45,000-ton battleship calling for 37 knots, and the best we had was 31! That was when I knew we were antiquated!!!”
And LST guys just back from Okinawa tell of sharply-increased Jap sub activity there, 2-man jobs trying to cut the supply line; say we’ve considerably stepped up our escorting.
However nothing new on Indianapolis and by now I’m reasonably certain she’s not sunk; seems likely the whole tale was fake.
But everywhere the crew is talking of the atomic bomb; in contrast the Russian entry created hardly a ripple. Still there’s surprisingly little speculation on when it will end. Guess that comes under the too-good-to-be-true heading.
8/10 – Ditto.
Hooray, the painting is done – – from here we coast.
Odd incident: I was painting away on a 20-2 this morning, Sam sitting there talking for a moment while he was on watch. Manown appeared, looked at me and inquired “Are you in the 6th Division?” On being reassured that I was, he checked up on the painting, seemed pleased and left. I knew damm well that day (7/18 in a letter) he ran me out of the clipping room that he didn’t know me from Adam’s Off Ox. Of course I’ve only been working in his division about 8 months.
Happy hour due tonight, with Tuscaloosa guests. Hear we may have personal inspection tomorrow – – I don’t care.
8/11 – Ditto
Well I guess the big event has come. Heard of the Jap offer [surrender] last night and perhaps my reasoning is influenced by too-roseate pictures of home but I really think it’s over!
God! What that means – – to many of us.
Wrote a lousy letter tonight, will try to improve tomorrow but not promising. Strangely, I can talk sense, but not write it – – and I’m quite scared about going back to writing for a living.
McInteer thinks this ship, with all the older CA’s, will be the first to be laid up.
Walts hears a DD was sunk in the Philippine area this week.
We may (?) go out Monday for a shoot.
Tuscaloosa cruising today, testing the 5“ replacing the one that blew up.
Scuttlebutt: The Aussie admiral wants TF 74 to go to Australia for a victory party? !?
Not a damm thing did I do today except stand my watch, serve Mass and loaf. Nor do I expect to do anything else.
Well my guess in last night’s letter on the timing of the Allied reply wasn’t bad; it came in about 1 when I had been asleep an hour. And it seems we’re not to let the Japs save much face. Our reply is initial acceptance yet put onto the record a humiliating fact that certainly was implicit in the Potsdam declaration.
So we’re still waiting, for the Jap reply now: I can’t see they’ve any real alternative but to accept. If it doesn’t come by 10 tonight (providing Japan announces again) my guess would be 8-12 tomorrow morning.
Much more talk now of going home; the crew seems at last almost willing to believe this is it. Everybody wondering when – – which made the points story today right timely. [Points based upon ones Navy career – time served, battles, etc. – form the pecking order of time of discharge. Chuck had written a story about points in the ship’s Press News]
Oh yes, Brownell gave me a green light on the department head stories – – so I’ll see the exec tomorrow. Must apprise Harding first.
The officers had a picnic – – and apparently plenty of liquids – – on Grande Island today.
This evening is the first time I’ve seen one of the Aussie ships (Shropshire) have the radar watch. Note they operate both of their comparatively small SVC screens. They appear to be independent too.
8/13 – Hot, but several showers
Still we wait, and for some of the boys it’s getting unreal. There’s only a small voice of doubt in my own confidence that it’s over. But the official word would help.
Such a welter of rumors and uncertainty I’ve never seen. For instance today we were told we shove off tomorrow for that 3-day shoot; tonight I hear it’s off again.
And here’s what I can recall of the pusillanimous scuttlebutt picked up on the beach today!
The war is over. Boys from Appalachian (GCI) say the word was passed there yesterday, and they were to leave today to pick up MacArthur and Nimitz, then on to Tokyo! At the last minute the story was killed, their admiral and staff stayed aboard and another GC sent. (I saw one go out at 7 a.m.)
Tuscaloosa boys willing (?) to bet (?) 10-1 that we, both ships, will be in the States next month.
The admiral yesterday demanded to have his dress blues fixed immediately – – and sent 4 SK’s scouring the harbor for 1½” gold braid.
That the next time we sail it will be for home (this very thin)!
That Tuscaloosa refused us belts for our non-operative water coolers on grounds that we’re going home.
New men aboard yesterday said to have told of talking to Indianapolis survivors at Samar.
Fact: We begin baby storing the wooden decks tomorrow.
Wow: Whatta Life!
8/14 – Hot, overcast.
Minneapolis arrives this morning and, for a few minutes, the four survivors of the original seven were in the same harbor at the same time for the first time since the war began. But Tuscaloosa was on the way out as Minnie came in, and while I heard firing all day she didn’t come back at evening son I don’t know ———–
Minnie has been all but stripped of 20’s; only about 10 left, and has a new twin 40 atop Turret II. Radar directors now on the searchlight platform, with the lights moved aft over the movie shack; radar also on Mount 3, port catapult gone but silo still there.
The long drag has taken the edge off the news, but the broadcast says “Jap acceptance will be forthcoming shortly.” About 8 the gun boss put out word that Truman would broadcast at 2100, and there is to be no firing. However radio broadcast at 8 unmentions Truman’s talk and me thinks someone’s mixed up!
8/15 Hot, fairly sunny after a rainy night
Well, this was it. And I think all of the story is in my letter; not a good letter, altho one that may shock Betts, but the best I could do.
Up to now – 8 p.m. – there’s been no sign of a celebration aboard, and I’m reasonably sure now there won’t be one which is just as well.
Meanwhile most of the ship is painted and indications are we get underway tomorrow. Where? I dunno, or why. It might be just another shoot, and it might be a deal of some kind. If so, I’d guess we might be going to Honshu, for the occupation landing. That would be something!
Still can’t find Tuscaloosa in the harbor but a boat was called for her today so she may be inside.
And the Indianapolis story was let out today and the radio say “Even as President Truman was announcing the Jap surrender, the Navy – – – – – – – – – – – – – . “ That was no mere coincidence. And something definitely was wrong. Probably she had one or more atomic bombs, but I’ll bet when the full story is told she hadn’t enough escort. And almost 100% casualties! My God what a tragedy!
Stories circulate that a Jap sub surrendered outside Sunday, and was brought in. I wouldn’t know.
One of our subs went out this a.m. – and one, possibly the same, came in a half hour after the Truman dope, firing green flares.
Wish I knew when we’ll go home. Started a new letter series, the last, today – – and I wrote 5 letters this afternoon.
Wet dream again last night, possibly due to the very fiery ointment for my itch.
8/16 Hot, despite showers.
The points took up most of our day, and I would never deny the plan was an awful letdown for me. But I guess I’ll survive, and eventually get out and home.
Much impressed with the exec in our talk today, and look forward to going back tomorrow. He listens well, thinks straight and doesn’t quibble. This is going to be fun. [Writing the story]
Still no sign of getting underway, but scuttlebutt says it may be tomorrow. We’re on 4-hour notice which means stand by for anything. Shoot? Patrol? Escort?
Nashville guys say they expect to get MacArthur back, and that almost certainly would mean Tokyo. If so I guess we’d join Alaska and Guam with their four lights, which would make quite a task force. (Tuscaloosa is back.)
We fueled today as did most, if not all, the others. And the ship is painted sufficiently to put to sea and still finish in a day or so.
A very damp dream again this morning, got me up at 5:30 for a shower – – which was fortunate! We’re on water hours again. [Water rationing]
8/17 – Sunny, hot
Discovered last night that one of the British “armament” ships is in – – she was tied up with Shropshire last night, all lighted up like a Christmas tree, and today moved over to Hobart. Most of the guys think of it as sort of a floating whore house, replete with bars and beer. I wouldn’t know, being very naïve about such things, but I’d like to go aboard to appease my curiosity. Some of our officers have been over, but the crew will see her only from a distance.
We took on chow today, and more and more it looks like we may be going somewhere soon. My guess is still Tokyo, but some of the boys insist the Guadalcanal “heroes will march in Frisco’s victory parade and Harding let drop a cryptic remark, not further explained, that he’d bet a V-division guy long ago that we would not be back in September “and now I’m afraid I’m going to lose.” Whoops my deah!
Missed out on the exec today; will try tomorrow.
An idle day, filled with rumors of a new points system – hear almost anything.
One concrete accomplishment, we filled out our points and stars-and-bars forms after inspection.
No us commenting on points, except that most of them seem to be wishful thinking, weighing overseas and stars. I don’t care unless there’s more credit given for a wife and # of kids.
But home, that runs like wildfire. Latest is that 50 guys from the repair ship Dobbins came aboard Monday for transportation home!
Shropshire, Hobart and a couple of cans (one U.S.) moved out this evening. Most of the guys guess they’re Australia-bound as one Aussie predicted the other day. I kind of doubt it for there were no formalities as the ships passed us.
Some dumb phools on the island set fire to, and blew up, a 6” gun installation. A helluva fire and a helluva bang that rained rocks clear out in the harbor. Hope we didn’t lose anyone. The place is a shambles.
Admiral and skipper brought a couple of girls aboard the ship this evening! They say they look like army nurses. And I guess some of the boys were their usual smutty, obnoxious selves at the movie. Pfaugh! Idiots and animals.
Mass this morning, on Nashville, Father O’Hara and much too big of a crowd.
Was interested in their new radar; a GM1/C told me it’s swell when they can first find the target usually but they’ve had no luck with the searching. Suspect that’s the result of inept operators.
And their hit was not on the bridge as we had heard; he says the plane [Kamikaze] crashed around the 40’ and (about where Mount 4 is) and one of its bombs went through a 20 station to explode near the incinerator. The second bomb bounced 10 feet off the main deck wiping out most of the 5” battery. He says they had no shooting at Borneo.
Nashville skipper has invited MacArthur to return, but they don’t know yet; the crew wants to go Japan.
Nothing new on us. Someone says 3 cruisers leave tomorrow but we, along with Nashville and I guess the “others”, remain under 4-hour notice.
However at least 50 LST’s and a flock of LSM’s pulled out today, heading either north or west. And one of the cans that went with Shropshire returned tonight and fuelled.
8/20 Rainy all day
St. Louis pulled in this morning to join us, but still no dope on where or when.
My talk with the exec is covered in the letter, but one item;
Admiral Good is gone for good – – and we get a new CruDivSix, maybe tomorrow. Have a hunch the new one will stay aboard too, instead of going to Minnie.
8/21 – Ditto (double)
Nolan told me an order is aboard to cut the crew 10% last night, and that the 53 guys with 44 points and more, plus others up in there close, get off real soon.
Seems logical. Anyhow 3 separate groups went off today, steward notes to Subic, another group to a ship, and the third to Minnie. Does that mean we may be going back?
No sign of a new admiral, but hear we’re assigned to the occupation force; and we’ve a total of 7 DD’s around us tonight. Might be any time.
Poker today broke my ill luck: I won $13.
8/22 – Still raining
A very dull day indeed; not even a piece of fresh scuttlebutt.
But we did get another batch of new guys aboard. And we’ve picked prize crews: they, mostly marines, took Tommyguns over to the range. At quarters this morning we were read the prohibitions against stealing off prizes.
Dooley hears, via St. Louis, that the Pennsylvania was hit at Okinawa. Many casualties when the plane crashed among the movie crowd.
And Dooley got into a drunken fight tonight in the mess hall. Damm!
8/23 – Still raining
Dooley seems to have a guiding angel – – apparently he’s not even on report!
No sign yet when we shove off, but if we’re to make it to Tokyo it almost must be by Sunday.
Phooey on such weather.
8/24 Showers, warmer
One real item tonight: company.
Just a supper time a shiny new British carrier came cruising in, with two light cruisers and three destroyers. She’s a beauty, too, and bells of guns. 8 twin mounts of 5”, and at least four of those eight barrel pompoms plus 40’s, 20’s and maybe even some 50. Cal. Whew!!
Maybe this is what we’re waiting for, but they did not fuel and we still have no admiral so do I don’t think it likely we’ll leave in the morning – – and we should if we’re to be in on the Tokyo show.
Everyone’s griping, wanting to get out of this wet hole.
Long talk with Harding today but no real news. He’s a nice chap, been around more than I expected but has no idea what he’ll do when he gets out of this.
8/25 Showers, but quite a bit of sunshine
And still no sign of a move, so that tonight it appears certain we are not going to be in on the first Tokyo deal. Scuttlebutt says we’re under brief notice now with cleanup, but – – and I hear the chaplain predicts it will be Korea – – which I think unlikely.
Another Fornadelle class British carrier in this afternoon, with one destroyer. This one not so shiny new and a bit different design (smaller stack, lower freeboard). Walts heard on the beach today that the first force came from the Indian Ocean, via Sydney and their cans fuelled last night, the cruisers and carriers today, early.
We now number 2 British CV’s, 2 CL’s, and at least 3 DD’s, along with us, New Orleans, Tuscaloosa, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Nashville plus 6 to 10 DD’s, maybe more. Quite a respectable Task Force!
And a string of 7 submarines came in this afternoon. Still many subs shuttling in and out daily.
8/26 – Sunny, hot (No rain for 24 hours!)
Lots more company today, two big convoys, upwards of 50 – transports and cargo vessels. All appeared to be U.S. ships, and all were loaded.
However, I’m now inclined to believe we eventually will go to Hong Kong and that suits me OK. Would like to go to Japan when the edge is off – – so long as I must wait anyway.
Learned one of the carriers (expect it’s the older) is the Indomitable. Our softball team beat one from one of the cruisers, the Canadian, Prince Robert.
But we’d all like to move – – and a count tonight shows 21 destroyers around us – – plus a batch of DE’s farther in the harbor!
8/27 – Sunny, hot – – Subic Bay
The numbing shock of the news that hit me this day will not, I guess ever wear of: certainly it still dominates me now, 24 hours later but I think I want to set down how it came to me.
I am pretty well under control now; actually I never did fall completely apart as I had often feared I would. Now I must stay strong for what lies ahead.
Yesterday was a lovely day – sunny, hot, pleasant – and I even worked a bit in the morning for we had a few tag ends to pick up before going to sea.
At noon I took my shower; the captain’s orderly had brought his questionnaire the night before and I thought it best to see the skipper before we sailed. [Interview for the Press News story]
About 1:30 the exec sent me in with advance warning the Old Man “didn’t feel good but wasn’t doing a damm thing.” And as I anticipated, Whelchel was a bit dour at first; he didn’t like the idea of fuss and feathers, and what was a (dammed) seaman doing in here anyway? But he invited me to sit down while he finished checking some papers. I had time to look at him, a balding, stone-faced, moderately husky man, wearing only pants (his fly gaped open), a skivvie shirt and sloppy old brown-leather slippers. He smoked endless cigarettes, offered me one and from then on I smoked, too.
But his attitude changed quickly. Sort of stiffly he asked how long I had been in the Navy, what I did on the outside and where. His eyes brightened a bit at the answer, and rubbing his chin and shooting a sidelong glance at me he remarked: “That must have been about the time I was taking my football team [The Naval Academy] to Philadelphia?” And I said “yes” and told him how I saw the ’42 game – and then we were off. From then until 4 o’clock we swapped football yarns, opinions and personalities so thick and fast that I failed to get a lot of his biographical data.
I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did for it was the best afternoon for me in many a moon. When I left, finally, it was on my own initiative. Left to him we might have been yarning yet! I doubt that he gets many such chances.
When I left his cabin the orderly said the chaplain wanted to see me, and, all aglow from the past few hours, I remember wondering what he wanted and thinking conceitedly that I’m getting to be somebody. Chin with the captain and the chaplain wants me.
And I have the impression of arriving at the chaplain’s cabin like a real reporter, my sheaf of notes in my hand. I remember he invited me in, as he has before and offered me a seat. He picked up a couple of sheets of paper off his desk, made some remark about “How’s the family back home?” – – from then the picture isn’t clear. I think I said “All right, I guess.” Sort of casually then the light dawned.
He told me simply “Your father has passed away.”
Looking back I think that I must have guessed it, known it before the words were out. But the effect was like being struck, hard, in the face. I recoiled, covered my face with my hands. I wanted to pray but all I could think of was the phrase “Requiest in pace.”
Afterwards, I don’t know how long, I recovered enough to see the wires the chaplain handed me. He asked about what the family status was and I told him. Then I tried again to read the messages, and remember only that they were apparently routed from Philadelphia and dated August 26. It said evening, and I figured that must have been only a dozen or so hours earlier. But of course that might be wrong.
And then I asked him what could be done to get home. He said he would see my division officer (Who was he?) and the exec but both were on the beach just then and it would have to wait until they came back. (Actually he got to the landing about 9:30 and as far as I know he hasn’t seen them yet.)
Then I stumbled out, up to the focs’le to be alone. I think I prayed then but mostly remembered. How he looked, and talked, and laughed. How he lived, this man who to me always has been and always will be the only man.
And I blamed myself bitterly for never having some way to tell him, to let him know, what was in my heart. I think perhaps he guessed, but I can’t be sure he knew; my playful scolding, arguing, laughing must always have left him with some shadow of doubt.
It came to me then that this was the one thing I have been most afraid of, a haunting fear I kept shoving into the forgotten dark corners of my mind.
And, somehow, I think we must have shared the same premonition the last time we said goodbye, so long ago. There was a mistiness in his eyes then, as I know there must have been in mine (and is now) that seemed to say it was the last time. But perhaps, he, as I, laughed (?) it off as silly superstition.
I thought, too, of what this dreaded thing means to all of us, too, in the days to come – – but that can – must – wait until I know more clearly.
After a while I stumbled back to the chaplain, to see what I’d overlooked, but he said there was nothing to do but wait. Then I was hopeful I might be able to leave the ship before the morrow’s sailing. But as the hours wore on I knew that was impossible.
The next few hours are rather blank. I know I walked, just couldn’t be still whether because or in spite of my painful knee. And I talked a while with Daugherty, who lost his Dad a few months ago. I did eat a little bite of supper (I had passed up lunch) and went to sick call. The doctor (?) told me to put the bandage on; stay as quiet as possible; and he gave me some aspirin.
At last it was dark, and when the movie started I lay down on my locker. Only then did I cry, and only a little. The flood is dammed and I mean for that to stay that way. But those apples will not go down. [“Apples” was a term often used by Betty and Chuck when talking about how they missed each other.] When I got up I drank some coffee, wandered some more and at last the movie was over. I went looking for Harding. And I found him going, on watch in sky forward, and there we sat until midnight talking – – it helped, a lot. And we agreed to see the exec in the morning about a leave or transfer.
I came back to my locker, took off my shoes, and, sometimes, went to sleep.
8/28 Sunny, hot – – at sea bound for Okinawa
It was all too true this morning, not just a bad dream. But without exception the men and officers have been as helpful and as sympathetic as possible.
There was no chance to get off today but – Harding came for me about 9:30, and he already had seen the exec and Gorton, and apparently there are only formalities to getting me off. Gorton even says he believes I’ll be able to get a discharge.
Anyhow Harding took me to the exec’s office, where Bromwell and Gorton were checking the files to see what’s needed and eventually the two of them worked out the dispatch to be sent to the commander of Task Force 74. Harding took it up, the exec signed it pronto, and it was blinked to St. Louis as we moved away from the tanker and out to sea. But there was no reply in time so we wait now until we get to Okinawa and see what happens there. And I don’t believe there’s any doubt it will work.
Harding, however, seems reluctant to ask for air transport, as though that would be carrying a good thing too far, but I still will try and have hopes.
Anyhow they’ve all been better than swell.
Tomorrow I must get my stuff ready to leave. We’ll probably not reach Okinawa until Friday, or later, but I’ll be ready then to jump off running.
To get back to ordinary things for a moment, we’re out with Cru Div 6, Minnie having rejoined us outside Subic, and 5 cans. Off on the horizon New Jersey and a can have been dallying all afternoon, although hesitant to join us.
The British task force left yesterday afternoon and when we pulled out only St. Louis, Nashville and some cans were left. The captain told me Nashville gets Admiral Joy and goes to Shanghai and he does not know.
But the dope today is we go to Okinawa, join Intrepid, Cabot and possibly somehow other carriers, then it’s into the heavily-mined Yellow Sea.
Anyhow it feels good to be going somewhere. If only – – – – – — – – – — – – – – – –
So I routed him from recognition class
8/29 – Sunny pleasantly cool
I am still unable to write; thought that I might make the grade this evening after failing two days in a row but have given up now with a promise I’ll make it tomorrow.
And I can’t seem to settle down anywhere to anything. My knee remains damnably painful and probably that contributes. – – But I keep trying to think and wind up going in circles.
Worst of all, it now appears likely we will not go to Okinawa (to anchor) and if not that leaves us stranded for the Lord only knows how long. And days may be important.
At quarters this morning we were told we will join Guam, Alaska, and (Damm!) some CVE’s (actually Intrepid, Antietam and Cabot) and accompany the force which lands in southwestern Korea September 11. The place, I believe, is Haijo; Dunn didn’t know.
And the landing is two weeks away! If we don’t get to Okinawa before then, I’m afraid I’ll be on here at least another month, and probably longer!
However, despite my pessimism, I’m getting ready to leave, quick. This morning I washed my blues – – they were in surprisingly good condition, but fit like a couple of burlap sacks – -and now I think I’m all set. And this afternoon I made for crude ashtrays from 40m cases, tomorrow may try the 5”. It did help a lot in passing the time.
There’s no other news. New Jersey was gone at dawn, and we roll along north at about 18 knots, keeping in sight of Luzon’s west coast. Last evening we passed the lights of Lingayen Gulf. And we passed, too, a very odd convoy of LST’s, etc., with a few tugs a few tugs and DA’s, and headed by four ships I thought might be surrendered Japs – about 800-tonners. No one knows.
8/30 – Sunny, pleasant
Alaska and Guam joined us today; we are 100 miles off Okinawa after passing through Basai Strait during the night, and up the east coast of Formosa.
At 9 a.m. it was announced that U.S. Mail would close at 10, and so I forced myself to write; to Mother of course. Even now I’m not sure what I said, but I’m sure it wasn’t what I really tried to say. There are no words.
It was 10 when I finished, having been interrupted by Harding who came up to report news but both the exec and captain were interested in and working for me (he seemed much impressed by that), and I had to get the letter off quickly. So I routed him from recognition class, and I hope Gainow tells the truth when he said it went off to the destroyer, which left for Okinawa after making the rounds of the force.
Shortly after the big cruisers joined us and another can came alongside to deliver guard mail. Then we sailed west.
Meanwhile I started on the 5” case, and with Svoboda’s help got it cut off and some work done on it. Enjoyed it, too, and soaked up some more sunshine while working in my shorts.
For division instruction, Doctor Dunn came up to talk to us about what the shore parties and later the liberty parties will find in China. (He said Chefos) “It’s the best liberty anywhere, the old timers tell me,” he said, then went on to warn of cholera, typhus and bubonic along with the usual dope on V.D. But he did it sensibly and I hope the boys will pay attention. He’s a pert, very earthy, guy.
One more taste of war: – – AA sent us scrambling to battle stations about 3 p.m., a bogey off the port quarter. Nothing happened and we secured after 10 minutes. One of the radar guys said one plane at 19 miles, probably a transport, was failing show IFF.
And in the evening I happened to meet Bromwell who said the reply to my leave request was in (the guard rail, I guess): approved. At least that was a relief, and since Harding seemed reluctant to ask for air transport I had told him in the morning I would see the exec.
Anyhow I went to the fantail to tell Svoboda, and also collected my $6 from Love. And tonight I wrote to Betty, filling in some of the three-day gap. Not much of a letter but the best I could do.
8/31 Sunny, cooler; shower in the afternoon
Harding wasn’t at quarters (he had the mid-watch, Smith said; so had some others) so I got clearance and went up to see the exec. And Bennett was grand: he showed me the o.k., gave me a copy, said yes he would request air transport, thought it would be Priority 2 and couldn’t have been finer.
So all chipper I came back aft, loafed a bit and then resumed my work on my 5” which is roughly finished now. Very crude, and it weighs a ton, but it is a souvenir.
This morning we noted the water around us was green-brown, and realized we were in the Yellow Sea. Control said at one time we were 100 miles from Shanghai. And as we steamed northwest it got cooler, the water rougher. This evening we went Indian-file through a minefield: 3 or 4 cans , New Orleans, us, Minnie, Alaska, Guam, and Tuscaloosa. Very ticklish, I guess, full Zebra set.
We hear we get to Tsingtao tomorrow, and there are rumors of two Jap destroyers to be boarded and seized. Also hear that the carriers join us tomorrow.
Anyhow the exec said he’s send me off at the first possible moment – “in a day or two” he thought, and Bromwell is getting all the papers set. What a swell bunch of guys!
And of course there will be no more letters – – I can reasonably hope to beat them home – – yet all the thrill, all the fun is gone from the thought. There’s even little interest in the idea of flying across the Pacific and all of America. Glad Betts and Mother don’t know that I feel this way – they certainly wouldn’t expect this and they’d have fits.
9/1 – Overcast, cooler
Apparently I was guilty yesterday of wishful thinking for I heard from Gorton today that the exec cannot himself approve air priority and he (Gorton) suggests I see the exec again to ask him to send a note of request with my orders. Hate to do it, for it seems like heckling what’s been a good thing but if I must I must!
Anyhow I now feel I must resume writing in the event that I may be weeks or months getting back. So I’ll try after supper.
Meanwhile I’ve promised Polacek, Mogleven and Warnick to give their folks a call when (if) I get back as well as Walts’ and Svoboda’s. There’s still no sign of when I’ll leave the ship. Mogleven says if I fly and have luck it may be only five days from Okinawa.
Anyhow it was quite cool last night and again today, I guess more noticeable in contrast to the Philippines heat. I slept poorly, less than 5 hours.
Yesterday and last evening we spotted several Chinese junks plodding calmly along and each time a destroyer went over to check. More of them today, too, and meanwhile we’re drilling our prize crew and shore parties.
Lay down for a nap after lunch – – I’d done nothing all morning – – but the bugle call to general quarters brought me racing topside. Found we were in battle line, the big fellows ahead, steaming into Tsingtao harbor.
But nothing happened. Sighted a scattering few junks, one up close, but apparently the Jap destroyers was a false rumor. A lone B-29 flew out from the land to sea as we went in, to within 2 or 3 miles of the coast of China. Close enough to see, through glasses, the terraced fields and what probably was the town or city, but only dimly. Then slowly we steamed back out to sea and now we’re cruising northeast, toward the tip of Korea. No idea what’s next or when.
GQ lasted less than an hour. I went below and slept until time for the 4-6 watch. This evening the sun is poking through the clouds and it seems less cool, though everyone is wearing jackets. And the storm that seemed brewing yesterday now has disappeared and the water is calming.
Water hours started today; seems we’ll have to supply the small craft when the occupation starts.
9/2 – Sunny, coolish
Through the night we crossed the Gulf of Paibo and all morning we sailed northwest in sight of the coast of Korea. Went almost to Haijo before turning back, still cruising aimlessly.
That was where V-J Day found us – – I, 000 miles west of Tokyo listening to the broadcast. Strangely our crew wasn’t overly impressed. And when I listen to that foolish talk I wonder if we did win the war.
Played poker in the afternoon, losing 13 of my 17 available dollars and was starting down to chow when I was called to the exec’s office.
Yep, I go tomorrow, on a tanker!
Curiously, I had trial-packed Walts’ bag in the afternoon, and so left it. Svoboda helped me then to do what I could about getting ready, and I spent the remainder of the evening planning and gabbing. Slept, pretty well, too.
9/3 – Sunny, warm
Flight quarters woke me at 5:30 and Svoboda and I were ready to pack. I had already planned, if I could get all my stuff in the other bags, to abandon my bedding and give most of it to Stanley and it worked out that way.
I had been told I’d leave before 8, and was all ready but we didn’t go alongside the tanker until nearly noon, so I got an extra meal out of Frisco. Meanwhile the exec had called Siciliano [Chuck’s successor on the ship’s Press News] and I to his cabin: seems TF71 has become involved with the publicity mania and wants stories right now on the skipper and every man. Of course it’s Sam’s baby and the exec left it there, wished me luck as he went on the bridge.
Having eaten, I went back to the boat deck where my gear was, but saw they had the transfer rig on the gun deck so Chuck and I carried the bags up there. And when I got my papers they strapped me in a bosun chair and swung me across 50 feet of water, slick and easy, to the USS Chiwawa – AO 68.
Turned my papers over to an officer and first hung around aimlessly while the fueling went on for an hour or more (incident: empty ammo can tipped under me and I fell hard, skinning my hand and chin). Quite a few of the fellows came up to talk to me and they’ve been mighty nice; chow tonight was good, and I’ll sleep topside somewhere.
And after supper I sat and watched Frisco and the others go down over the hill. Don’t suppose I’ll ever see her again but she leaves me many pleasant memories – – in addition to the inevitable regret at having to be on her at all. Svoboda seemed especially sorry to see me go. He hung along on the stacks until the last moment, then waved and turned away. And all of the others were swell, too, even Mike who directed my last order, aided by Plum.
No one has told me anything here so I’ve no idea when we get in or what the prospects are other than it will be Okinawa. Of course I’m on the anxious seat but it can’t be helped. Anyhow we’re now running southeast, with another tanker and two cans.
Later, Intrepid, Antietam, Cabot and some destroyers showed up on the horizon – – they have been a day behind TF 71 – – and I watched them recovering a few planes at sunset. Don’t suppose I’ll see that again, either.
Looking back to Frisco, I didn’t do much of a job of saying goodbye, but then nobody seems to do that when they leave. However, I’ll have a note to write to Haltend when I hit San Francisco. But to set down here a few of the guys I’d like to meet again: Sam Dooley and Will Fairbanks, of course, and the two Chucks, Walts and Svoboda, were my friends long before we saw CA 38.
Then there’s Paul Haltel, and Leroy Plum, Ralph Crawford, John Taylor, Vic Standbridge. Lots of others are casual names, but looking back now I seem to have made (for me) remarkably few close friends. But they were a lot of good guys and so long as I had to be out here I was glad it was on Frisco.
– -Even yet we can’t forget or ignore the war. All day we’ve been literally wading through mines – – the B-29’s must have sown thickly here. As usual the cans were doing yeoman work and by nightfall must have exploded 30 or 40. How many more were sunk I wouldn’t know, but those detonated go off with a nasty yellow flash followed by a 50-foot column of pearl-gray smoke. You can feel the thump a mile away.
Guys on Chiwawa are jumpy about them too, and so am I with only two cans to to screen two tankers and us with 80,000 barrels of high-octane gas forward.
9/4 – Sunny, pleasant – U.S.S. Chiwawa off the China coast
After writing last night I went to the lookout bridge and gabbed a while – – one of the boys had a brother who I knew on Frisco. Later I went to the movie, a slightly gory “mystery” and it was ludicrous the way each reel ended at a tense moment; then a 5-minute wait until it started again.
Sat around after the movie, kibitzed a very-close played $3 poker game until midnight then got my blanket and slept on deck until 6:30. Some officer got rough this morning, put 68 crewmen, all the chiefs and four officers on report for sleeping in after 7.
Got me a book from the library, Lee Stowe’s “No Other Road to Freedom” and read on it all the day. Swell reporting, but he worked so hard to justify what the past four years have shown was a completely objective job of news-talking.
And all day the ship(s) just lay around barely making headway. The exec said, when I went to check on my papers, that there was some fuelling to be done tomorrow and maybe we’ll get to Okinawa Friday. I hope so, much of this kind of life will drive me daffy.
This crew seems a vastly different sort from Frisco, much younger (!) and a harum-scarum bunch. All tattooed and bragging of brig time – – and wondering about the war! All east coast duty since launching in ’42, until coming out here in July, and this is their first fuelling run.
Officers, too, very young but a clean-cut nice looking bunch on the whole and they mingle more with the men than ours on Frisco.
Find myself sorely tempted (after succumbing when coaxed or questioned a little) to spin yarns about what it was like out here, and while it doesn’t seem much to me they seem to like it. Wonder if I’ll be one of those “Now-when-I-was-there” veterans?
But they are all friendly and very nice to me.
Life on here very different, too. The ship is, in many respects more regulation than Frisco. Whites for bridge watch under way, morning quarters, white hats, reveille, etc. and it’s so clean as was our dirty old boat. But chow is fair to good, perhaps better than was ours.
9/5 – Sunny, pleasant
Another day wasted away. Lordy how glad I am I wasn’t on this or something similar all the time! I’d be crazy for sure.
More bad news today, too. Last night the story was that we would fuel two DM’s today then unload the rest to the other tanker and take off tomorrow for Okinawa.
But only one destroyer-minelayer appeared today, and now it seems we’re stuck here until the 8th, with the carriers and cruisers to fuel again.
Damm, it seems I never will get started home. Best bet now is a can that might be making a mail run to Okinawa for TF71, if I could get on that. A captain came aboard last evening from the other tanker, and there are four other officer-passengers, so that this skipper will be on the lookout for any speed in routing – – which is a break for me. Alone, I’d be sunk for sure.
Nevertheless this is deadly monotonous. The edge of my newness has worn off, so the crew is less interested in me – – and the same is true in reverse. I’ve found them uniformly friendly, but with the exception of two young ensigns not all the sort I’m used to. Expect the years make a lot of difference.
Anyway we’ve cruised up and down all day, south for a while and then north moving a bit faster than yesterday, which helps a little. Read all morning to finish Stowe’s book (I skipped most of the arguments in a book written for the moment and not for the years) dozed a while and then sunned myself all afternoon.
But damm, I just want to get going!
Wonder how Mother is, and how things are going at home, but can’t possibly know. Whatta life!
9/6 – Sunny, pleasant except for a 2-hour morning rain
Slept last night again on the shelter (?) deck, my blanket for a mattress, shoes for pillow. Up early and soon the carriers appeared. We got Antietam, which had on Turret IV the first gunnery E I’ve seen out here – – She had to show something, and she was just too late for the war.
While we were fuelling the carrier to port we got several destroyers, in succession, on the starboard side, and one of them, 479, a big 5-mount Fletcher, put on a performance almost identical to Frisco’s ramming at Diego so long ago.
I had been reading all the morning in the mess hall, and had just wandered out on the well deck when I saw something was wrong. She  wavered, then headed in at a sharp angle. I sprinted up the ladder to the poopdeck, saw she was going to hit and ran to the port side to be clear of any flying debris. There was a bumping and scraping, a tearing sound, and I looked over the fantail to see her slide astern, minus a port anchor and scraped quite a bit.
On the well and cargo decks I found the crew had gamely stuck to their posts while all the lines, two fuelling hoses and some feeders smashed up and were carried away. The destroyer dropped back clear, came alongside an hour or two later after our damage was repaired and hers partially: mattresses and anything else available had been stuffed in a 10-foot rip at the deck-bulkhead juncture.
Meanwhile we rode steadily ahead, the great carrier towering high above us.
The rain stopped, about when we had finished fuelling, and I read all afternoon and got a lot of sun. Had finished Stowe’s book in the morning, and in the afternoon I ploughed through “Good Night Sweet Prince” Gene Fowler’s very swell biography of John Barrymore – – swell despite the author’s too-obvious admiration of and apologies for his subject. Anyhow it sure changed my opinion of J.B.
And in the evening I again went to the movies and swiped a bunk below.
9/7 – Rainy morning, afternoon partly sunny.
Well my old gang came back again today.
Frisco came dashing up at 7 to fuel again and I saw most of my friends – – another last time. Svoboda was on watch and it was good to wave to him – – another fake farewell?
Guam was alongside too, and then New Orleans and Alaska and a can or two so that by noon our load was pretty well gone.
Tonight the dope is we unload to another tanker (Two more full ones are now with us) and then hike tomorrow for Okinawa – – I hope.
The mines came back today, quite a few again, and I’ll not be sorry to get away from them. Golly they’re nasty!
When I went on deck before sunrise today I was more than a little surprised to find destroyers around us showing lights, but I was totally unprepared for what I saw when I went topside about 9 tonight: the destroyers showing running lights and all four tankers lit up like Christmas trees. Quite took my breath away, after so long in the dark and I sat on the fantail quite a while, thinking of lots of things: mostly home and through my thoughts the recurrent refrain of “When the lights go on again, all over the world.” And I wished – – but no use in that! But somehow dad seemed very real and close to me, out there in the cool-rushing night with yellow lights glowing across the black water. I wonder if he was, up there somewhere, perhaps trying to talk with me so we could say all those unsaid things to each other.
Psychic or imaginative?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know I cannot bring myself to realize what life can be like without him.
Yet I do not worry about him – – somehow I know he still is and always will be watching over us. Perhaps even grumbling a little in his own way that must have been (to him) a subterfuge behind which he hid outward signs of the abiding love he gave us.
And while I do worry how things are at home I somehow know that Mother is and always will be strong, knowing which is best and so doing it, carrying on. But I need to get to her soon, desperately.
I suspect I shall wind up as always, leaning on her, rather than reversing that role.
The movie tonight was prefaced by a street scene labeled “Lisbon, in 1941” and initially I was back in Johnstown in that year so long ago.
Now I think I had better go to bed. Had intended to write tonight, just in case, but I’ll do it tomorrow.
9/8 – Cool, only a little sun
Somehow it wasn’t surprising to me that, after the early evening, I should have difficulty going to sleep last night. At any rate it was past midnight when I went to bed and must have been past two when I dozed off; only to wake, chilly several times before I got up at 7.
The plan rumored yesterday came true: all morning we pumped fuel to the other tanker, cruised a while in the afternoon and about 5 broke away from the tanker group to head south with DE. Don’t know just where we are, but not far from Korea, I judge, although we haven’t seen land for a couple of days. Guesses are we’ll reach Okinawa Monday or Tuesday.
Got, from one of the officer passengers today, some dope on what to do at Okinawa. He, a young ensign, was on Guam and intends trying to fly back too but says frankly my chances are better than his. Sure hope so.
Anyhow I no longer am alone. Before we pulled away from the other tankers a dozen more passengers came aboard via breeched buoy from a destroyer – – 44-point men homebound also via Okinawa. They seem a good bunch, really more congenial than the crew – – or perhaps there’s a special affinity among orphans.
9/9 – Cool, overcast
Yep, I did write last night, a week, but I’m hoping it won’t be needed, that I’ll be home sooner.
A nice thought has just come to me: It seems reasonably certain I will be home for our 10th anniversary.
Didn’t do a damm thing all day, except read a very little bit, gab a great deal and watch a bit of chess – – of which I played two games, clumsily, the first in many years.
Slept below last night, again in the purloined rack, from midnight or so until 6:30. Seems I am getting by on very little shuteye. Chow was good today.
Spent most of the time talking to the tin-can sailors, who bear out my impression if being more my kind of guys. Probably that’s largely because they’re older, but they’re also pretty intelligent and better-spoken than any usual Navy cross-section.
Seems we’ll get into Okinawa Tuesday morning, and I should know the score pretty shortly, might even be home before the week is out if I’m real lucky.
Anyhow it’s much better to be on the way. This ship rocks slowly at 10 knots, a DE in front, and there are movies again topside tonight.
Sea today changed to an off-shade of green, not so yellow as before but definitely a change, and our course is about 160 degrees. Saw a couple pinpoints of land this evening, a few junks this afternoon and not a mine all day. Hope we’re away from them for good.
9/10 – Sunny day, quite windy
Today’s wind threatens to blow up a storm and the sea has been getting gradually rougher all afternoon and evening. The ship now is heaving heavily (a movement entirely unlike Frisco) and my stomach is more than a bit queasy.
Sent a bit of laundry today and the guy who two days ago said he’d be happy to take it seems not a bit concerned about getting it back to me.
Anyhow, the dope sheet indicates we’ll be in port about 8”oclock in the morning.
Been a lazy day. Loafed, read John Marquand’s “So Little Time” which I enjoyed, and played three games of chess.
Anything to pass the time.
9/11 – Sunny, clearing.
This day really saw me started home.
To go back to last night, the sea became more rough and with it my queasiness more acute so that before 10 o’clock I crawled into an empty rack and shortly thereafter was asleep – – my own remedy for seasickness, very effective, too.
Woke, for no reason I could determine, about 4 and wandered around a bit; found the laundry guy up, too, and collected my clothes before going back to bed. It was 6:30 before I woke again so I quickly showered, shaved and packed. Still unsteady I passed up breakfast. Topside, we were passing the southern tip of Okinawa en route to Buckman Bay where I found Wisconsin, Tennessee, California, Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, one CA (Baltimore?), one CL and a flock of cans.
We anchored near Youshimura and shortly afterward loaded our gear into one of the 50-foot launches, and after a wait, went down ourselves. The wait was for 3 men from the ship, two released by the new overseas credit and one man named Edgar whom his mates called “Sharecropper” on emergency leave. He’s with me now.
It was a wet ride to the beach, through the choppy water, and most of us were drenched when we reached the dock, “Brown” Beach on the northwest corner of the bay. Then the fun began.
No one knew, of course, when to go or what to do. There were others, hundreds of them, in ahead of us, lugging their heavy gear in an unstopping line down the road.
My main concern just then was to avoid getting swept up with the discharges, and so I began inquiring for the NATS air priority office. No one seemed to know, and I made up my mind to get to Youtan when I learned there would be a bus at 1 p.m. Meanwhile I tried to contact the Red Cross field office for possible help and was just waiting for the guy to come back from lunch when one of the other men of the tanker crew ran into me and asked how I’d made out, adding “Sharecropper just got a clearance for an airplane out today!”
Boy did I jump! Found Sharecropper, inquired how he did it and where, the set off hotfooting it up the muddy hill.
It was simple as that once I found the right place. My card was made out and I was cleared for the priorities office at Youtan, and sprinted to make the bus, just in time.
(The little ensign from the Guam showed no disposition to be helpful on the beach. Knowing the ropes, he had cleaned up early and had been waiting in the cab of the truck-bus. But I had my eye on him. He too is aboard this plane.)
At Youtan I was first at the priority, and had a bit of an argument because my papers do not say specifically “emergency” leave. But I got a 4E which should do the job. On the way now, my only worry is Eniwetok, for there’s Si Uhl [a friend from Somerset] at Guam (our first stop) and Spencer and Tubby [Tubby Braucher, also a Somerset friend] at Pearl.
Sharecropper also got 4E, though his paper’s say emergency, and so I assume, did the ensign’s.
Then we waited a while at the canteen, until our plane was called out. That was to be the last for the day, and all we left-overs were taken to the transit center and given cots for the night. A poker game started, and I walked a couple hundred yards to the canteen for some candy, peanuts, etc., not having eaten all day.
I had been back at the Quonset hut but only a minute when the dispatch came in yelling for “anyone who wants a hop come on!” and we shucked out of there fast!! Piled into a truck and went back to the depot.
Our plane was called – – for a big C54 warming up across the way – – but I was outed. It was assumed there would be another plane. Soon another list was read, I was on it; we were told to get our gear on the truck and dash aboard – – the plane was due to leave I n 5 minutes – – from Kadema! So in we piled and away we went, twisting and turning up and down the hills on a broad but traffic choked road to Kadema.
There another C54 was warming, this an ATC (Air Transport Command, Army). We got our gear, tickets, secured our gear and buckled our straps. The engines warmed a minute more and we taxied, a long way, down to the end of the runway.
Brakes squealed, the plane turned and stopped: the engines roared: we were moving, bumpily at first, then the macadam landing strip was rushing smartly by; faster, faster. – – I never knew when the wheels left the ground.
It was 5 p.m. of September 11, 1945 = 4 a.m. back home where they are waiting for me.
The airfield dropped away. Peeking out the tiny porthole, I could see planes and more planes, each in its parking place. Then below us green fields and pyramidal forests of olive-green tents and the blue waters oh Hagushi Anchorage; still jammed with ships but not warships (there had been hundreds of these in Buckman, too).
Blue sparkled the water and yellow showed the sun as we wheeled, climbing back over the land. I regretted not being able to see Naha. We were climbing, still, out over Buckman and away to the east, due at Guam about 1 a.m. (2 a.m. there) cruising at 5,000 feet, we could see at first blue sea below the cloud mass. But now the horizon flames from the setting sun and below us only the dark gray masses cover the earth. The sky – – stretching upward however far it goes is the deepest of deep blue.
There’s nothing cozy or comfy, at least beyond the bare necessities, about this plane. It’s a huge bear of a thing, perhaps 60-feet long, the green walls curving out, up and then in to the 8-foot ceiling. Canvas seats are slung along each side, enough for 50 or more passengers (There are only 20 of us). My seat is on the right side, all the way forward against the bulkhead and next to the door that leads to the pilot’s cabin. I’ll be going up there after a while, after it gets dark. In the middle of the floor and across from me are piled our bags, thrown just any old way. My mud stained sea bag is wedged between a lumpy canvas travelling kit and two once-handsome attaches, one of which bears a Shrine tag that says “Islam-Orient.”
At my feet is a half-filled jug of heavily chlorinated water – – all we’ll get to drink. And there will be nothing to eat, at least until we land. I’ve had only a few peanuts since last evening.
The plane rides more smoothly than any car or train. At first my ears “popped” every minute or so, but that’s over now, and gone, too, is any notice of the roaring engines except for a vibration-rumble and a sort of hissing noise like the wind rushing past. It’s a bit cool, though, and most of the men are requesting blankets.
Yes, and the inside of the plane is dirty – the floor grimed with the yellow clay of Okinawa, Guam and The Lord knows how many more islands. As we were taxiing to the runway a blond-headed youngster surreptitiously pushed out the door where the paper and dust and sweepings left over from the last trip.
Me, I’m dirty, too. My shoes are caked with drying yellow clay, my pants spattered, my hands and arms dusty, and my face, too. That salt soaking this morning didn’t comfort my tender nose and fresh-shaven face, either. But I don’t care; I’m headed home, after so very long.
A bit about Okinawa: Having watched (from a distance) the place grow from the start six months ago, I knew it was huge, busy and vital – – but what I saw today took my breath away.
First there was the traffic – – an endless stream of cars and trucks – – some amphibian – – pouring over the hard-packed clay roads that are four lanes wide in places. And the mass of men – – thousands upon thousands riding, walking, standing in chow lines, carrying heavy-loaded sea bags. And the planes – – hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of them, all huge and shiny: and very deadly!
Riding the truck bus from the east coast to Youtan we came first to a huge field along the bay – – where the Japs apparently never dreamed of one. And on it were hundreds, how many hundreds I won’t even guess, of Corsairs and Mitchells and Avengers and Thunderbolts.
Then we wound up the hill past Kadema, a field covered with those big four-engine C5P’s. And finally to Kadema with more and more hundreds of Liberators and Mitchells and C46 and C54 – – and flocks of slim-tailed P38’s. It was breath taking.
And all along the road were huge army and marine CB camps, neat tents in an orderly row along quagmire streets. Road intersections – – all the roads are numbered just like the highways at home – – were plastered with signs pointing this way to such-and-such outfit and that way to so-and-so battalion. Tank companies with their long-gunned Shermans parked nearby, hooded over with canvas.
At the top of a hill a little white building stood aloof from another tent camp. Before it, row on geometrical row so that they aligned any way you looked, neat white crosses in a fenced-in plot that by spring will be green and calm and restful – – for a sign said that there were sleeping the men of the First Marine Division. How many I could only guess: 3 plats of 45 acres across by 40 deep = 1,800?
Just now, when death is so very personal to me, it struck me that here was a most fitting place of final repose.
Otherwise, you had to look for signs that here was a truly bitter fight. I found these signs mostly in the shattered homes of the tiny towns along the road, the untended fields of sugar cane – green and weed choked among the green hills. And I found a sign, too, in the great mountains of empty ammo cases, relics of the thundering guns I saw yellow flashing not so many months ago. And a bomb-pocked field where I remember watching Jap tanks and troops retreating under the thumping bombardment of a destroyer that lay near us [Frisco] in one of those early days. Had I stayed tonight I would have tried to hitchhike down to Slivi and Naha but I can’t regret having missed it.
There were sand-bagged air raid and bomb shelters gouged into the earth, in places, and some larger ones that I knew had been gun placements. Near Kadema an army radar director, much like those on destroyers, pointed its blind yet all-seeing eyes to the sky.
And I saw a few Okinawans, stubby, chubby, little brown people; men in Khaki wearing red-painted helmets, their badge of civilian police; black dressed, bare-legged barefooted women clustered in an undamaged house, chopping and carrying cane in a field; a smiling brown urchin standing in a side road waving to the passing traffic.
It’s an hour or so later and I’ve just come from my first visit to pilots’ compartment, an astonishing maze of dials and gadgets yet all this husky pilot has to do is push a button now and then and we fly straight for Guam at 7,000 feet, at something over 200 miles per hour.
There are five in the crew: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, engineer and radioman – – the latter a tow-headed youngster from Braddock. Nice boy; he says the hell with flying and radio; he wants to go back to the brass foundry.
It’s strangely beautiful up there, with the dark rushing past you into darkness, and the stars hanging just out of reach. There’s a thunderstorm sputtering through the clouds down below us, and each flash lights the rough-hewn white floor into spectral beauty. Once we struck a rain squall and the sound of it was like a million hard-tipped wings beating against the glass. Then suddenly we were out and it was over; the stars were there again.
And a note about “Sharecropper” before I forget: the name fits him beautifully, with all the implications of the footloose Okies. He’s a gaunt, long sort of fellow, high cheekbones, long nose, thick lips and a sort of stupid look from his little, sunken eyes. He has one of those black beards that never looks clean-shaven, and most of the time his hair (black) is as unruly as a clump of elder (right now it’s all slicked. Somehow he reminds me, physically and mentally, of Rollie Whipkey [from Somerset] although he doesn’t have Rollie’s gift of gab.
9/12 – Sunny, hot.
Guess from here on it’s a continuous story, but someplace there must be dates for chapters [In one of their letters Betty and Chuck discussed writing a book: hence the reference to “chapters”], so:
After writing last night I dozed awhile, very chilly; woke and went forward to the crew compartment then returned again and I guess dozed some more. At one point during this stretch one of the officers next to me broke out some K-rations and we used the fruit powder to dilute some of our heavily-chlorinated water.
At some time after midnight, we found the lights of Guam below us, sparkling like a small city. And we wheeled slowly ‘round over Apra and its harbor (where 3 flat tops lay lighted like Christmas trees) and came swooping down smoothly, softly to the Apra airport. I wasn’t sure when the wheels grounded; we were rushing over more dozens of parked planes on the half-dark airport and suddenly they were on our level and seemed to be rushing past us. The airship taxied to the passenger terminal and out we climbed.
This was a different sort of place than Okinawa – a big clean building, a neat and almost empty hallway in the early morning. A score of men, mostly soldiers, were lounging around, some sleeping on the green-cushioned benches. Outside it was wet but not muddy in contrast to Okinawa.
Here ATC checked our tickets, written only to Guam, and said there was nothing further they could do for us; it was a matter for NATS (Naval Air Transport Service). We checked our bags and climbed into a bus-truck to go to the officers’ mess for chow. When we got there, the officers were nicked 35 cents – – and we enlisted men had to draw (sign up for) a tray, cup and eating tools. But we ate free, and the fresh-made French toast, spam and dried preaches tasted swell.
By then I was groggy. We climbed aboard the truck and the Chamorro driver took it bumping and grinding down the dark-lit roads, past another airfield, to the terminal again. Then another wait, another truck and we were off to the NATS base at Agana, 5 miles north.
There a chipper young ensign told me my 4E was “safe.” There was even there a line of waiting men, until it dawned on him we were not off a newly-arrived NATS plane, but were from ATC – – hence a brand new problem.
So we started in all over again and here I had to produce the radiograms [announcing his father’s death] which I had procured from the chaplain without any real thought for need except as insurance. Without them it might have been very difficult. At any rate he retained my 4E after saying there would be no more night planes.
And I checked my gear, got a ride to the transient center where a dopey MAA directed me to a darkened barracks. I lit a match, found an unoccupied bunk, shed my shoes and fell in. At first I couldn’t sleep; it was too warm and the bed seemed to be rocking, and besides the crickets were singing loudly. So I shed all my clothes and lay there, dozing a little. It had been almost 4 when I got in and the MAA said reveille was to be at 5:30. I was to be back at NATS at 8:15
I remember a bugle, a couple of other wanderers stumbling, in and out, another who fell into the bunk next to me and then it was daylight and men were moving around and I had a barnyard in my mouth. At a washroom across the street I cleaned up as best I could – the showers were locked – and went out seeking breakfast. Another dopey MAA gave me a chow chit but serving was ended and a surly so-and-so at the garbage-stinking mess hall said no soap for food without a special pass. I swiped a cup of muddy coffee and 3 oranges.
Then feeling better and with bag in hand I headed for the terminal. Stopped en route at a sick bay for salve for my sun-salt blistered nose and lips, then hiked a half-mile along the airport, where F6F’s and TBF’s were taking off, to the terminal.
It was crowded, and the same chipper ensign wasn’t holding out any false hopes for me. I typed some spare copies of my orders, then started hunting Si Uhl [a friend from Somerset who was a Navy officer]. Found him too, by phone at 8:15. He knew of things at home, said he’d been expecting me and would do what he could to get me out today, but 4E was the best priority allowed and there was nothing higher. He said to call him back in an hour, and gave me Walker Mong’s phone number. It was great to talk with him; he sounded like the same old Si!
Then I waited a while, and a half hour later I was called for the 12:30 flight! (So, too, was Sharecropper.) Then it was a matter of wait and see if I got bumped. While I was waiting I tried to locate Walker, but no luck as things are too fluid on Guam. Called Si again and told him what had happened and he said call again if I got bumped and we’d manage to get together in the afternoon.
Walked around, visited (my first) Red Cross hut, where I drank a real bottled coke and ate two doughnuts. Talked to the gal, too, and, gee, she seemed swell. And while I waited I cleaned myself up, got some of the mud off my shoes and pants so I don’t look too bad.
Still I was afraid of being bumped, and hoping Sis’ [his daughter Elizabeth] advocacy would prevent it. At 11:30 the flight was mustered and I was on, next-to-last on the list. Shortly afterward our bags were ready, we went aboard.
This was an entirely different sort of plane, although also a C-54 (the Navy calls ‘em R5D). This was a super-luxury transport, wide cushioned seats, soft green carpet – – all the accoutrements of a very deluxe railroad car – – temperature just right, lights (individual control), for each seat, a regular flying palace with stewards. None of the ATC’s easy informality here, and there’ll be no visiting of pilots.
Si had spoken of it as a special CinPac plane through to Hawaii. And we had two captains, a war correspondent – – only three enlisted men and a couple from the army.
My seatmate, the seats are paired on each side, is a strapping bronzed 2 and ½-striper, homebound for keeps. Not overly talkative but very friendly. The war correspondent is INS [International News Service, now defunct], must check his name on the passenger manifest.
As we went aboard, senior officers formally first, our names were checked and we found most of the baggage stowed.
Soon we were off, about 12:30 p.m. of Sept. 12 – – though the quirk is we’ll be at Pearl before we leave Guam!
The takeoff was smooth and strong; zooming up and away quickly, out to sea without a chance to see more than a corner of green island. And we went to 9,000 feet, whereupon I promptly dozed off.
Woke, a bit cramped after a couple hours and spent the rest of the time into Eniwetok talking and writing. The landing was quick and smooth, a sharp slide slipping onto the strip and we were taxiing to the terminal, where the 4-stripers went over to AtCom for a drink. Most of the junior officers just wandered around; I found a coffee pot a-brewin and scrounged in.
We had, by the way, been fed on the way in: tomato juice, a slice of bread, peas and carrots, warm roast beef, green beans, a bit of canned pears, all served on a regulation navy tray! And very tasty.
Off again after an hour wait, climbing up for the two-hour journey to Kwajalein – – seems our side trip to Eniwetok was to pick up an admiral.
Kwajalein was just another atoll, until they took us to the mess hall whereupon it became the dirtiest, most stinking hole I’ve seen yet. Ate a bowl of cereal and a greasy bacon sandwich. Strangely, the water tasted good. I did manage to wash up a bit, the only credit mark for my ledger for that place.
Some delay getting off, but we made it o.k. but I was almost out. Three army men were bumped off, leaving me last on the list. And shortly afterwards he lights went out and I slept, but not before getting some salve cream for my very sore lips. The sun and salt water at Okinawa did that to me. At some point in the night I woke and grabbed a blanket, then snoozing again and next I knew the sun was breaking over the horizon to light the cloud floor below us.
We were again at 9,00 feet and the sight below was lovely, an almost-solid level plain of clouds, with occasional white-jutting mountains that seemed always a shade or two lighter than the main mass as the sun changed it from gray to sparkling white. Occasional holes showed us more, bumpy cloud layers beneath and occasional flat-looking blue water speckled with motionless white dots and streaks. Took me some time to figure out that these were whitecaps – and the water must be at least a little rough – – But all was serene up there. As I look back tonight I can recall only 2 or 3 moments of even mildly rough flying thus far, and the sensation is identical to being in a fairly fast elevator with an operator undecided as to which way to go.
Eventually the pilot started down toward the cloud floor, the twin lights blinked “no smoking please” and “fasten seat belts” and we dropped into a hole in the clouds, our wing tips slicing off slivers of gray mist on either side. Down for a bit, and through the layer to emerge in another world cluttered with bulky white clouds which we passed or dove through, in a moment of fog-shroud. And down, the water more visible and suddenly it was green instead of blue and we were over Johnston Island. The flaps went down and you could feel the plane holding back while your body wanted to pull free – – until it hit the safety strap. Then a light jostle, a screech from the tires and we were racing, slowing along the landing strip and came wheeling to a circling stop before the white painted frame depot.
Only a tiny place this, barely big enough to land and take off the big planes, but the base, activated in August 1941, was neat and orderly, although I wasn’t overly impressed – – at first.
We had been given coffee, sandwiches, and a cup of too-spicy tomato juice about 6 or 7 (most of the passengers were asleep except my seatmate and I. Turns out his name is Parker, he’s a former airline man on the west coast and has helped build NATS from the start) and now at 11 a.m. we were told the stop would be 45 minutes and we would be taken to chow before the 4-hour hop to Pearl.
Note: This is another chapter, another day, but it is still the same date for we crossed the line east of Kwajalein last night: and so for purpose of the record, arrived at Johnston Island 11 a.m. Sept. 12, roughly 2 hours before we left Guam! ! ! – yesterday ! ! !
I was, of course, dirty and unshaven and so I decided I needed a shave worse than chow. My impression of the place, and the feeling of my face, were not improved when I had to wash and shave in salt water. Afterwards, with still time to spare I ran to ships service for cigs, matches and magazines, and also to sick bay for some salve. Sick bay, by the way, was in a big underground concrete air raid shelter. En route I was further impressed by the neat, well-groomed look of the place.
Back at the terminal Parker was saying we’d be laid up for 3 hours – – seems a gasket was leaking and a big gas tank had to be drained, removed and fixed. Then I heard the plane would be held over 24 hours and sure enough we were told to remove our bags and prepare to stay overnight. No replacement plane was available. I remember thinking that if we had to be held over this was the best place I’d seen – – clean, not too hot and (comparatively) slight danger of being bumped.
So in a few minutes we piled into a couple of jeeps with our hand luggage, the officers went to BOQ and me to a big, and very well equipped, transient barracks that even had a concrete swimming pool out front. And there was fresh water and I jumped out of my clothes to soak up an hour-long shower! Oh my, very lovely!
Then I lay around on my bunk a bit, reading Life, then wandered down to the beer canteen where I got four cold cans of Budweiser, served to me on a table, but three filled me up and I gave the last one away.
Seems the boys serving (it’s done to ration the stuff, they serve only every 15 minutes and you can’t get any in between) have a racket: the beer should be 10 cents but if you pay 30 cents you can get two cans.
Then I went to chow, to the best meal since I left Shoemaker [the California Fleet Replacement Center] : steak, fried but reasonably tender and tasty; mashed potatoes and brown gravy; creamed corn; mixed vegetables (canned green beans, peas, carrots); peach upside-down cake; lemonade or coffee. And every item was good or better! I was amazed, and downright delighted.
9/13 – Sunny, warm.
Shortly after writing the above I was in bed, sound asleep in a few minutes, and knew nothing more until a voice, waking me, said “NATS wants you.” It was 2 a.m.
So out I rolled and, with another fellow named Ameno, headed for the terminal. Yep, another plane, this a very bare C54 and we were off at 3 a.m. Among the passengers were two Red Cross girls, neither pretty, both on the shady side of 30, and soon after the start one brought a couple of blankets and lay down to sleep on the floor. So did I and others.
It was daylight, and quite chilly when I woke. We got only a glimpse of Hawaii as the plane bee-lined into a landing at John Rodgers Field at about 8:30 a.m.
And right there and right then I hit a stone wall – – the airport people all but laughed aloud at our request for further air travel, mumbled something about “POW’s getting all the air space” and, after we cleared through customs we were put aboard a bus for the receiving barracks.
Up over Red Hill, and down to Aiea – the bus hauled us into the dammedest jam I’d seen since Shoemaker, and maybe even worse. The yeoman marked my card “1st available” but what that may mean I’m afraid to guess.
Then a barracks, bunks and me without bedding, and I find many others on emergency leave – some say they’ve been here 10 days and more. Most of the rest are 44-pointers, or men in transit to new duty. I can’t even guess how many thousands there are.
Me, I’m very downhearted, and scuttlebutt from the yeoman who blocked me off from the chaplain says all transport is frozen for five days.
So I went to ship’s service to drown my sorrows in a bottle of orange pop, a sandwich and a bag of potato chips. Chow, by the way, is swell enough though the lines are blocks long. I went into ecstasies over real fresh tomatoes for supper, even midgets!
While drinking my pop Ameno came up to join me. He too has been twisting and turning for any possible escape, but with no better luck than I. His letter says his sons, 8 and 6, is ill of infantile paralysis and his wife, a mental patient, is unable to care for them. MY God!
Tried to phone Tubby but no luck. Came back to the barracks and slept – on the springs.
9/14 – Sunny warm.
Slept through breakfast today and, when I wasn’t called on a work detail, started out to find Tubby. Quite a journey but I made it, if only for a few minutes. Discovered I’m living on the flat not far from where we anchored last fall, and I would guess its five miles to his office. – – past the new fleet landing, the sub basin, the old fleet landing and on up past the anchorages.
Found the place grown very regulation and getting worse. Sleeves down, warned several times about my hat, always in fear I’ll be stopped and found out-of-bounds or something else.
Few warships in; Wasp, which Tubby says leaves the 30th for the East Coast via the Panama Canal, getting her forward flight deck fixed, and at least 2 or 3 other CV’s and some CVE’s – – but nary a wagon or a cruiser did I see.
Tubby, I find, has changed a great deal, both physically and mentally. He’s grayed a good deal and developed a paunch that looks downright unhealthy. Alongside him, I really merit the “Slim” nickname a couple of the tanker guys hung on me. And he’s far-less the diehard Republican, and is bitterly critical of the party’s failure in Pennsylvania to provide a sensible veterans program. I think I’ll like him lots better if he’ll keep that same attitude on a lot of things.
But we didn’t have much time to talk for I had to hurry back. He said he’s got his own orders to leave, but doesn’t expect to be home until late October and has told no one except Sara. He’s not optimistic Bill’s chances to move up.
When I left I hiked top speed back; made it in time for a tardy bite of chow and the muster, then slept all afternoon. Tomorrow I’ll go to early Mass, then do some laundry, I hope.
But Lordy how I want to get home! Wrote to Betts tonight.
9/15 – Sunny, warm
A half hour after jotting down the above notes I was feeling a great deal better – – I was on draft, along with all the rest of the emergency leaves, and some others in the barracks. The orders were to have our gear on the draft field at 8 a.m.
Getting ready was easy after I woke at 6:30, and I even got some breakfast, finagling past the line with my draft card. My gear is on the ground and the wait began.
No new no nothing. There were several thousand men on draft, a few of them for air travel, and we were left sitting on our gear, in whites until 11:30 when we were taken to chow. Back for more sitting; at 2 we were told all the west coast draft was free until 4, so Ameno and I headed for a distant line at a new fleet landing. En route I saw a heavy cruiser had arrived since yesterday, and inquiry disclosed her number – 68: Baltimore. We drank 3 beers each, ate a sandwich on the way back, then passed up supper – – more waiting.
By 5 a big draft of new men was arriving, just in via the Langley, and we thought maybe we’ll ride her back. At last, everyone else was gone; they began calling the west coast draft, in divisions of 50. Our friend “Sharecropper” turned up in the second; Ameno and I in the 6th. Then we climbed aboard trucks for Dock H-3.
Yep, it was Baltimore! About to take her second load of 1,000 men to the States! We stowed our gear’ were assigned bunks, two to a bunk, one night and one day.
My teammate turned out to be a big jovial Negro coxswain! After everyone was settled I found a vacant bunk and so was o.k.; no mattress but I’d kept my blanket.
At 10 o’clock tattoo, taps and sleep.
9/16 – Sunny, warm ————— At sea, off Hawaii aboard the U.S.S. Baltimore en route home!!
Reveille brought me out at 5:30 and I went topside, got in the chow line that for each meal is longer than the ship. Stepped out when the launch party was called, but couldn’t go since I was not in whites. Finally ate, read a paper and after quarters just loafed around.
At 11:30 preparations to sail were underway. A navy band serenaded us from the dock. Two chuffing little tugs came up, our mooring lines were freed and they pulled us out into the blue channel.
The band blared, over and over: “California, Here I come Right back where I started from!”
Slowly we rounded Ford Island, past Randolph (Boxer was also in, and some CVE’s; saw Jap “Kato” being taxied on the airstrip, and out to see we went.
Sorry, but I don’t feel descriptive. Got a good look (this time) at Diamond Head and the Honolulu resort area. Most impressive were the jagged mountain ridges behind the city. But the important thing is I’m on the way at last; a wee bit rough and windy out here, we’re doing 18 knots – which should mean arrival at Pier 7, San Francisco some time Friday. Hooray!
Movies topside, under way, and the jam is as big as I expected with a crew of 1500 plus 1100 passengers, Phooey.
9/17 Sunny, cooler
Walked a bit last evening before going to bed, and slept until reveille. Breakfast, and at quarters I got drafted for a work detail – chipping paint and rust in GSK forward! Very naturally, I didn’t work too hard, a couple hours in the morning and an hour or so after lunch, but while I didn’t mind it, and having something to do helps pass the time, I can’t resist resenting that we passengers should have to do the usual work of the crew. Some of the extra work occasioned by our presence aboard would be natural enough, but jobs like that? ? ?
The more I see of this ship, the more glad I am that I was on ‘Frisco. You can’t do this, don’t go there (we are restricted to the main deck aft and the compartments, all forward is officers’ country, no one allowed on superstructure) and the crew is a very unpalatable bunch. “Keep out – – ship’s company only” signs everywhere. Fooey, doubled! Guess I can stand it though, for so long as I must.
Hear we’ll get into San Francisco Thursday evening! We make about 18 knots daytime, and I guess it goes to 20 at night. By midnight tonight we’ll have set the clock ahead one hour since leaving Pearl. Only 1 and ½ hours to go! Then 3 home!!! [If he gets a plane]
Nevertheless it must be admitted that this is not only a bigger ship than ‘Frisco but also a really better-equipped one. So much more living space, there are 6 mess halls grouped about the galley; and all the offices, damage control gear, etc., and is so much newer, more plentiful. Everything is built right into the ship. And each gun gang has a swell place to work and loaf in the cubbyholes under the elevated mounts.
A small fire broke out in the stored baggage area in the hanger deck about 4 this afternoon while I was sleeping. Don’t know how come – training I guess – but I was wide awake at the first warning from the bull horn and went topside. However, I was not impressed by the response of the crew. Guess they did the job all right, for secure came in a few minutes, but there was none of the fire-wagon jump I’ve been used to. Maybe I’m hyper-critical.
To hell with it: I want to get home.
9/18 – Overcast, almost chilly.
A good long sleep last night, from which I barely roused in time for breakfast. And at quarters I drew another work detail – – scraping decks this time; Baltimore’s topside is not yet clean.
But my lip has been bothersome and so I went first to sick bay where the doctor, after a casual look, told me the black spot in my lip is a carotid (?), a pre-cancer infection and I must stay out of the sun.
Golly, that floored me, so much so that I hadn’t recovered enough to ask questions before he had me dabbed with the same old zinc oxide and so I stumbled back to my sack where I spent the morning and the more I thought about the more scared I became.
So I went back in the afternoon, waited to see him again, and received the very welcome surgery is one way.) He tells me to see a dermatologist when I report to Philly [His orders tell him to report to the Navy in Philadelphia at an unspecified date (to the transcriber)]. He told me the Brooklyn Navy Yard is very good at such stuff. Which of course I will – – and I’ll talk to Dr. Barchfield about it, too; soonest
Much relieved, I returned to the rack and spent the afternoon reading, relaxing and watching the payday crap game which went on right under my nose.
It was a medium rough game, , and at one point when the thrower couldn’t get his bet covered I threw in $5 – – and won. That got me started and for the rest of the afternoon I kept making an odd bet here and there, laying odds against the dice until scrammed for supper. Beginner’s luck I guess, for I wound up with $56 – – after starting with $12!!
Which will help a lot if I fly home.
Since when I’ve been topside a bit and now am in the mess hall for a bit of reading or whatever else is available.
9/19 – Overcast, cool.
Another day, another deck-scraping job and, I bear, still another day of this dismal voyage before we dock Friday morning.
Bad enough in themselves, these things, but frappe’ the whole mess with a double portion of low down blues and you’ll find me in the most miserable frame of mind in – – never matter!
Specifically why this should be I can’t say but it seems to be one of those situations wherein everything is wrong. Frankly, I think I’m scared by what I may find at home, and, by what may happen to me afterwards. It’s been more than a month now since I’ve heard a thing from home (except) and the Good Lord only knows what may be happening there. Nor would there be any more than a “million-to-one” chance and more radiograms might have reached me. So I was looking forward more than a little to making a phone call tomorrow night, now I must wait another 24 hours – – but I can know by then the homecoming prospects.
Strangely, I’m afraid I’m more concerned about the long-range prospects than the immediate matter of what I may find at home. That of course is in a large measure due to my confidence in Mother and Betts.
God how I dread the thought of coming back to navy life, even if for only a little while and I’m dubious about that for from all I can see my discharge in the normal course of events is months away and I’ve small confidence in the efficiency of a special plea. Even when I do get out – – the what? Somerset, for good, or back to the AP? And if so, what? How crowded may it be and how much have I lost in these 18 months?
Damnably unpleasant such thoughts. Yet I suppose they’re not uncommon, now. But wish to hell they wouldn’t bother me so. I’m hoping they’ll fade when I get back to my family and normalcy, but I can’t be sure.
Which brings up the matter of what and how great changes will they find in me. Many, I’m sure, even without being able to put my finger on them. I suspect I’ve aged quite a lot, in appearance at least; gray, very much thinner, forehead lines. But what of changes in speech, habits, the will to do, confidence? Some of these, I think, are good but others – – To be charitable, let’s say I’m not sure.
In short, I’m blue and very, very lonely.
Nothing much to the day. The ship rocks along at what seems to be little better than a crawl, evincing more of my impotence.
Worked a couple of hours, silently, resentfully scraping the oak planking, but it didn’t hurt me any. Nevertheless, I just walked off in the afternoon. I’ve been signally unsuccessful in finding anyone to talk to among the thousands here; or perhaps it’s just that I don’t have anything to talk about. Altogether I don’t suppose I’ve spoken a dozen sentences all day to anyone in particular. Read a few Saroyan short stories and nibbled a bit at chow – – guess that’s all.
Financial note: The crap game was going (yet) when I went back to my bunk last night and for lack of anything better to do, fished out $16 of my day’s profits and dropped it – literally. Which is the one and only time I’ve really been in a crap game. Recount shows I’ve $50 on hand. 10 of it was in the emergency fund – – which I boosted to 20. That, with the $100 I deposited for safekeeping assures me of enough money to fly – – but I can’t make up my mind.
(Radio just now, NBC from Tokyo blathers of the 3rd Fleet homebound. Phooey. The stinking navy is still fumbling this discharge business.)
Which should be more than enough bitching and moaning for any one night.
9/20 – Clearing, cool.
Another lazy day which, I hope, will be the last one. Having somehow escaped a working party this morning I spent all the time lazing and dozing. Woke in time for noon chow and afterwards walked the deck awhile and sat with a couple of the boys on a 5” mount until a childish ensign having mumbled (within our hearing, in the obvious hope we’d take the hint) something about “clearing away the passengers,” sent a seaman striper to tell us to leave. The brat! I went away laughing right at him.
Then more laying around and dozing until suppertime, when I showered, shaved and then ate. Tried to read a bit of Dostoevsky but found him again, ass all the Russians, to wordily lugubrious.
Tentative program says we get to the dock between 0900-0930 tomorrow: reveille at 0445 – – which is not too early if it means I get off sooner.
Much planning of just what I must do, but so many unknowns I can’t do much. We’ll see.
9/21 – Clearing, cool.
Slept, jerkily, and came awake at 4:45 reveille, then breakfast, get the gear out and stand around – – for hours.
Then out of the mists the tiny Farinland Islands and beyond them – later the hazy outline of: The bullhorn said “The Golden Gate Bridge is now visible ahead.”
Never was I on a ship that moved so slowly. Finally she stopped, and the pilot came aboard from a converted yacht. We went on. Under the bridge a wistful, bashful of
; Past Alcatraz and a big-white lettered sign on the hillside across the bay:
JOB WELL DONE
You knew it didn’t mean anything except a smart bit of municipal publicity. But it made you feel sort of warm inside.
Past the ship-lined piers and on up to 7 where we stopped, a couple tugs took charge and the ship slid smoothly into berth. On the dock a few Baltimore men back from leave, a white-clad band, playing dispiritedly the same old tune – – “right back where I started from.” Lots more enthusiasm coming from a newsboy hawking papers.
San Francisco looked wonderful – busy, bright, alive! It was good to be home It was 10:30 a.m.
Another wait, then down the gangplank, gear into trucks, bodies into buses for the jam-packed trip to the madhouse of Treasure Island.
Then began the long wait, without chow, until 8 p.m. And as I had half-expected, the failure to put “emergency” onto my leave papers fouled me up, so that I was left out of that class [for departure arrangements] unless I could get new Red Cross verification/
But since I rated the full 30 days, was assured in any event, I couldn’t get out until Monday morning, and there seemed a chance I might get my travel , I decided to let it go as it was.
That done, I changed my mind about liberty, changed my dungarees to blues. And went out. Same old train; from San Francisco I tried to call home, was told there would be a 2-hour delay which would mean 2 a.m., so gave it up. Phoned Duck who was on duty and Red Sabin. [Duck (Frank Neilan] and Red Sabin were old friends from Somerset who were stationed in San Francisco, both with the Navy]
Then to the Stewart for 3 lovely scotches, walking awhile, to the movies to see Rhapsody in Blue, the AP office, a bite to eat and it was 4 a.m., time to phone.
Lord it was lovely to talk to Betts and Mother and Sis again and to hear them say they were all right, even when I doubted. The next time we talk it will be Pittsburgh.
Back to T.I. at 5 a.m., where I slept a couple hours on the bed springs.
9/22 – Sunny, warm.
Up at 8, and am in the business of cleaning up to leave; railroad ticket ($33.55); classification (the guy took one look at my newspaper record, and my 38 points, said I’d probably come back to California for public relations work); and a long wait to slip my bag in Railway Express (guess I should have checked it) then up to the window, a 48-hour pass just like that and I was on liberty at 1 a.m.
Having phoned Duck I’d meet him at 3. I had time for a bit of shopping, a bite to eat, a haircut and a couple drinks before he arrived at 4.
Ducky looks older, heavier and sparse on top and Lib, who was in the car her same old self except a bit thinner. But the baby was there and is a darling. Chubby, the picture of health, with quite a bit of Neilan: the high forehead, the set of her blue eyes and a determined grin. Lord, what memories holding her brought back!
We drove around about to their house, right on the beachfront with surf all but knocking at their front door. It was grand. While Lib fixed a spaghetti dinner I played with the baby and talked with Duck. As we were about to eat the phone rang. Red [Sabin] had swapped for the night off and so after we ate Duck and I drove in for him.
En route I had a chance to ask Duck one question that has been bothering me, as to how I’ve aged. His first answer was “unbelievably” shocked me. But finally it worked out that he was thinking more of a year ago, that I look as good or better now than then. That I liked!
Met Red, back to the house, and we (mostly I) sat and talked until nearly midnight when Lib went to bed. The 3 of us played two games of pinochle then Red and I go to bed together.
He is, by the way, very unhappy about having been a “dry land sailor” and won’t listen to me as to how lucky he was.
And whether it was his interest or my garrulity, I monopolized most of the conversation with my stories. Hope Lib and Fran weren’t too bored.
9/23 – Sunny, warm
Red and I talked on after going to bed until some time after 2. Woke once during the night when I had all but kicked him out of bed and we got up for breakfast at 9. Then to Mass (Lib stayed home; I had wondered if she was a convert) in a tiny little church. More talk and pinochle, a good dinner at 3, a walk, and more of the same until we ate some hamburgers about 9 when I took a bath and shaved and Duck drove us in. Found a new bunk place, said goodbye to Red then Duck and rolled in at midnight, leaving a call for 6.
A lovely weekend!
9/23 – Sunny, hot.
Slow awakening, so that by the time I got breakfast it was 7 a.m. Out to T.I. in a terrible jam of guys coming from liberty but it was quick and easy. Papers all in order, stand in line and before 10, I was a free man until October 28 [His orders called for him to report to the Philadelphia Navy Yard].
And the papers say “delayed orders” which means (I hope) 3 cents a mile and $1 a meal!
Red’s friend, whom he asked for plane travel, had no luck but he tried. Same story as Honolulu. And I couldn’t reach Red Varner [another Somerset friend] by phone after I got to Oakland so I gave up.
Found a tailor shop (negro), got my blues fitted a bit better ($3.20) then wandered a bit, went to a newsreel, then the steak I’d been promising myself. Mmmmmm! An inch thick, preceded by a shrimp cocktail and accompanied by potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, milk apple pie and cheese, coffee, scotch and soda. ($3.56). Sensational!
Then a long wait, seat on the train and we’re on our way!
9/25 – Sunny
Through the night we rolled and I slept most of the time, But at Donner Pass about 3 a.m., I awoke and watched the downhill side of the Sierras slide past in brilliant moonlight. A brief stop at Reno, and at Sparks with 15 minutes my seatmate and I sprinted through the frosty night [The diary stops here in mid-sentence and there are no more entries.]