Dale Lytton, Y1, USN
My Military Career By Dale Lytton
On December 7, 1941 Pearl harbor was attacked. Myself and some other young high school boys were in the neighboring town of St. Charles, Iowa looking for girls and just killing time. At about 2 p.m. Iowa time Sunday afternoon the word came over the radio that Japan had attacked Per Harbor.
The word meant very little to me, a high school boy in Iowa and I didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was located, didn’t realize how close Pearl Harbor was to the USA. I didn’t know the extent of the damage to the US Naval Fleet and Armed Forces… what the US planned for retaliation.
From what I’ve learned since then the US was more or less warned about the attack, but it was not taken seriously. Thousands of American lives were lost on land, on ships, and in the harbor.
It so happened that most of our battleships which were part of the Pacific Fleet of the US were anchored in that harbor. Japanese torpedo planes by hundreds attacked our ships “dead” in the water (meaning unprepared for an attack).
Thousands of sailors which made up the crews of these ships were drowned, killed, injured, trapped below decks in the water. A few of our US airplanes (Army) were able to resist the attacking planes and became airborne. None of our ships were able to get underway and escape the trap that they were in. It is said that some Japanese submarines had entered Pearl Harbor and were also launching torpedoes at our ships. They were not very effective with this endeavor.
The Japanese Fleet had been on the way to Pearl Harbor for several weeks (possibly all of their ships) to attack our Navy there. Luckily, some of our Navy Aircraft Carries happened to not be in Pearl Harbor at that time, much to the disappointment of the Japanese attack force. Again I repeat, being a high school graduate at age 17 had no idea where Pearl Harbor was, and how the attack would affect the USA, or how it would be for me!
After Dec 7th we kept hearing radio reports (maybe newspaper articles?) of other Japanese attacks such as: Wake Island, Midway Islands, etc. Having never experienced this before, we could not imagine what was really going on in the Pacific Ocean and what would be the outcome.
Our Armed Forces were probably at a minimum as were in peace times. We soon found out that our lives would change. Rationings, drafting and enlisting o servicemen, and all that was necessary to build up a war time resistance. Across the US manufacturing plants had to change from automobiles, etc. to making tanks, war equipment, and ammunition depots. Several ammunition depots and related plants were in Iowa, Ankeny and maybe in SE Iowa.
While strengthening our Armed Forces many women and possibly older men were forced to go to work in their place in order to bring our military numbers up to what we thought would defend our country.
Army and Navy training stations were popping up all over the US. We had to bring our military strength up to protect our country, something we weren’t experienced at. Many young women also joined the Armed Services, WAVES<WACS, and other military branches for women .
We began rationing of our everyday needs, such as, food, gasoline, automobile supplies of tires and oil. This was caused by the need of the military to have these supplies.
There was some concerns of our homeland being invaded by the enemy. We had no idea what their intentions were after bombing Pearl Harbor which was our nearest position
My memory fails me as to what else was happening at the time in the European front…..Germany & Italy…… when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor?? Many emergency meetings with our government were being held with the outcome of declaring war on Japan by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. There were also US strongholds throughout the Pacific Ocean….. Philippines, Guam, etc..
Our country being a peace time country was very inexperienced in becoming a war time country. Most of us had no idea of the future of all of this. In order to do this we had to have a draft….don’t remember the age at that time? Every US male had to register. They called it the selective service. Those that registered were taken into the service and put into the armed forces as needed to defend our country…..that is: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Marines were basically our defense on the islands in the Pacific.
By the time I entered the service in 1943 the war had been going on for 2 years before I was drafted into the Navy. I was called selective volunteer.
All of our manufacturers were involved in making our country a stronghold which was going to
be needed to defend our country…. ships, airplanes, tanks, ammunition, everything involved in a war was being produced in a mass production in those 2 years.
Our main defense in the Pacific was more or less Navy and Marine and Army manned. Our aim was to be on the defensive for 2 years following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor….defending our way of life.
Much of the before mentioned war equipment was now manufactured and ready to be put into service (use) that it was designed for. I feel and history shows that we were then prepared to go to the offense….to retake the Pacific Ocean and our lost possessions. During these 2 years (1941-43) I was just one of thousands of boys waiting to be taken into the Armed Services to protect our country. Hearing daily reports of military action by the Japanese I was still wondering when this would affect me…..18 years old in little old “small town” Truto, Iowa as well as other boys wondered I’m sure.
I was only hearing about what we were doing in the US to prepare, but I felt when I got to be 19 years I would be selected to do my part for the war…. I was willing to do so. I was notified that I’d be classified in a group (pool) and would be selected when I became eligible for the draft and sent to an unknown branch of the Armed Forces.
I and 3 other boys from the Truto area were told to assemble in Des Moines at the Selective Service Station (5th & Locust). I can’t remember the exact name of the building, maybe the old Federal Building??
After reporting we were informed that we would be put into various branches of the Armed Services. We 4 stayed together until we were put on buses, or the train? and sent to Camp Dodge NW of Des Moines. Thousands of boys in the same circumstances were there, too.
After being received we all were directed to different buildings. I remember being put in a building full of boys like me, but my 3 buddies were not in my building which was the building for boys going into the Army. I looked around and found my buddies and they said they were in the building for those going into the Navy. I was completely surprised that I’d been there that day and got separated from my friends. I went to the man in charge in my “Army” building. I asked if I could be switched to the building with my buddies (Navy). He told me that was not the problem and he simply changed my name over to that building. How do you like that? I was in the service 1 day and I was in 2 branches of the service! That must have been a record for that to happen.
Several boys and myself went to Minneaplois and after some preliminaries we were put on a troop train. We were sent to Faragut, Idaho which was a naval training station for inductees prior to being sent to other training camps.
I remember the first thing that happened to all of us. All of our hair was shaved off and we all looked alike. I think they asked if we had any experiences in anything. I mentioned that I had some in electricity. they sent me to that division.
In Faragut, Idaho was a lake, Lake Ponderae, which was the deepest body of fresh water in the US. I learned to row a boat, swim, march, other details for becoming a sailor boy. At that time I was an Apprentice Seaman, about the lowest rating in the Navy for enlisted men. I was put into a company consisting of over 300 sailors. I have the framed picture of this group of men hanging on my wall yet today.
We were trained for everything we needed and inoculated for every know disease. This was a 2-3 day event and many boys reacted to these shots and became very sick. After being sent to sick bay for a few days, all of us regained our normal health. They call this “cat fever”. It was sort of funny as they gave us pills to recover. Some of us took those pills and some didn’t. We all recovered at about the same time!
One of my Truro friends, Jim Beverlin, was married at this time. His wife, Elaine came out to Spokane, Washington which was close to Farague. She found a job there. My girlfriend, Gertrude Johnson (and future wife), also came and worked at the same place… maybe a Katz Drugstore?? Since Navy training did not happen on Saturday and Sunday, it was possible for Jim and I to get “Liberty Passes”. We went to Spokane on the train and spent the weekend with the girls.
Idaho was in the mountains and the different altitudes made many of the boys sick being unused to it. After 8 weeks of training, we were supposed to be “raw” recruits…. marching and other things Navy trainees should know. My “over 300” group of men were just a part of other 300 plus groups at the camp.
So many hours a day were spent on the “grinder”… like a football field… marching, formations, and how to become a Navy Seaman. They taught about the different kinds of ships we might be on, making us familiar with them all.
One of the qualifications was knowing how to swim… a must! Since I didn’t know how to swim, I had to take special schooling and lessons for this in order to graduate. This training was in a building with an indoor pool 25 yard square. Before you graduated you had to swim the entire square (length, width, length, width) with an instructor watching. I was probably one of the rawest swimming recruits and several times I felt like he would let me drown while he was watching. Somehow I passed the test…. but it was probably with a mighty poor score!
I remember going swimming only a couple of times later off the islands in the Pacific for recreation, but never had to actually swim for any life threatening times in the war.
While I was aboard ship due to storm conditions or other rough seas occasionally a sailor would get washed over the side of the ship and into the ocean. Some of this happened at night. I can’t imagine any worse feeling than being in that ocean with all of the ships going on, leaving you to drown or for the sharks.
There were several of these groups of 300 plus men being trained to man or operate the fighting ships in the upcoming future, which there was no idea of the outcome.
After completing Boot Camp which took 2 months, I became an Apprentice Seaman. We were all then allowed to go home for 2 weeks and then return to be distributed where needed in the Navy. It was so good to be home. Two trees east of Truro were just little seedlings when I was home, but now they have grown up to be big trees and I always remember them that two weeks and since the rest of my life.
I’m sure all branches of the services operated the same with their raw recruits with the completion of boot camp training and that return home which might be their very last. I wonder if many realized that?
Upon returning to Faragut I was shipped to Shoemaker, California which was south of Los Angeles, another distribution center for raw Navy recruits. This was where sailors were sent where needed, aboard ships or other bases for replacements for sailors already killed in fighting zones. I was there approximately 2 weeks and, being separated from all my friends & boot camp buddies, I was sent to San Diego to get on the USS Indianapolis. It was another heavy cruiser which was headed for Pearl Harbor for replacements on the ships where previous battles lost sailors or where ever needed.
The USS Indianapolis was a peace time heavy cruiser and was a member of my future ship (USS San Francisco) cruiser division. I was only on the ship about 4 days for just transportation, not a crew member, and ended up in the famous Pearl Harbor bay. This was where so many of our service men had been killed by the sneak attack of Japan where also ships were sunk and destroyed.
I was assigned to a temporary group and I was to board the USS San Francisco when it arrived in Pearl Harbor. It had been repaired and readied for a war time ship (had been a peace time ship before the Pearl Harbor attack…maybe built in 1935?). In 1942 or so it was in the South Pacific defending the US in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, etc. being badly damaged by Japanese battleships and many sailors killed. I was sent back to the US to be repaired……received the Presidential Unit Citation, the only heavy cruiser to receive one ever (the highest possible award to be given to a combat ship).
While waiting for the ship to arrive I served in many jobs, such as: mess hall duty feeding the thousands of sailors like me. I was offered a chance to dig graves on the hill for the sailors taken off of those sunken ships daily and other military men killed there. I didn’t volunteer for that duty.
Upon the arrival of the USS San Francisco in Pearl Harbor I and hundreds of other crew replacements were taken aboard and other ships possibly. I was one of many, but we all had a service record which went with us on this ship. Your record went with you all through you service career. I have mine still with me today.
Shortly after boarding the ship my name was called over the ship’s loud speaker to report to the executive officer’s office in which every soldier’s record was kept. I was informed there that upon examination of my record they learned I had taken typing in high school. The ship needed replacements in their office, previous sailors killed. I was assigned a job in the ship’s gunnery office. I was a Yeoman Recruit and also a Seaman 2nd Class (I later advanced to Seaman 1st Class).
Every ship had different divisions, maybe 16: navigators, electricians, store keepers, engine room, etc. After being advised of my qualifications as an office worker (gunnery office), I though what a heck of a way to fight a war in the Pacific Ocean with a typewriter!! However, as time passed and my ratings went up to Yeoman 3rd, to 2nd I could see the benefits of this kind of a job.
There were other office divisions manned by Yeomen, executive, gunnery, airplane, and so on. If you worked in the executive office (personnel records) you could have access to Liberty Cards (required when leaving the ship anywhere and returning). This could be to your advantage. I got to work there part of the time handing out their Liberty Cards, legally and illegally! Often this brought me many favors. The ship’s laundry man only did the officer’s laundry, but if I gave him his liberty at his request, he’d do my laundry, the same for the pie baker or special foods.
They were to get liberty every 4th day when in port, not at sea. If I gave them theirs on the 3rd day or whatever, I could expect continued good eating, clean clothes, etc. Is that politics?
Our gunnery office was responsible for gunnery repairs, ammunitions, and everything needed. We kept inventory of supplies there. It consisted of 4 enlisted men, some lst Class Yeomen with years of experience, and other beginning Yeoman 3rd Class on up. You were privileged to have so many yeomen in gunnery division and 2 petty Officers that came through the ranks.
They were good guys and worked for their ranks, not commissioned. Sometimes college guys were given commissions and came to run the ships. They didn’t know the front from the back of a ship. The older guys (petty officers) could do so much better…. they had “salt on their shoulders”…in the Navy and in the ocean so long.
These petty officers would go to bat for you. Repair crews were stationed all over the ship, but they were not supposed to be in the gunnery office during battle station call. When they were there, 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning, they would really mess up the place. We’d tell the petty officers about it and they’d take care of it.
Besides my duties of working in the various offices everyone on the ship took a 4 hour turn of duty. This being of various things that needed to be performed everyday on the ship. My 4 hour shift consisted of: standing watch on the ships “bridge” where the ship was controlled, located on the upper forward part of the ship. There were approximately 6 enlisted men, the Captain, and the Officer of the deck. The man that steered the ship was the Boatsman Mate. I ran the ship’s speed control. This consisted of wearing a set of head phones connected to various parts of the ship which included the engine room, main engines in it, plus a crew of operators to run the engines (it was located below deck, water level).
My job was to turn a certain speed as directed by the Officer of the Deck, so the Boatsman Mate and I called the “annunciator” controller. The annunciator controls gave a direction down below to the engine room, then they’d know what speed to go. In short, the Boatsman Mate, Officer of the Deck, and I were in control of the ship!
There would be 12 ships that would make up a convoy which proceeded to different areas as directed by the Commander in Chief of the Convoy (of 12). All were connected by radios and took orders from the Commander. In war time to prevent being torpedoed by enemy submarines or aircraft, we set a “zig-zag” course for those 12 shops.
We were all on a schedule to “zig” all at the same time, so that we didn’t collide. These “z” commands were on a schedule according to the ship’s clock.
Most of the time in regular duty it was somewhat of a boring job. In the evening your 4 hours duty was only 2 hours as meal time was included. 1200 men were aboard this ship, officers, crew, 50 Marines, 2 airplane pilots (we had 2 airplanes).
During my 4 hour duty much time was spent with the other officers and enlisted men just “shooting the breeze”, where we were from, what we did, etc. It was an enjoyable “social time’ getting to know each other, very informal, no “sirs”, etc. Including the bridge two other locations on the ship were capable of taking over the operation of the ship in case of an emergency.
While the ship’s bridge was up high, the 2nd bridge was on the rear of the ship. The 3rd bridge for safety was below deck amid ship. Each of these 3 stations had the same capabilities of operating the ship if needed.
During all of the time the ship was moving in the ocean, our ship’s captain was available in his quarters just behind the bridge (#1), complete living quarters where he stayed all of the time unless when relieved by the 2nd in Command Executive Officer who had temporary duty of replacing him.
I felt I was very fortunate to be able to have this duty as I could see and hear all of the communication and goings on there. Others on the ship such as deck hands didn’t have this advantage and didn’t always know what was happening.
Other conditions were general quarters and anti-aircraft defense. They required certain parts of the ship to be manned….also any emergency actions if needed. General quarters consisted of manning everything on the ship in preparation for war action, guns, emergency medical, men, etc.
My place and Boatsman Mate were assigned to where we normally had our watch. During “GQ” we were place where we were most qualified.
There was special “sea” detail which was refueling from oil tankers while proceeding across the ocean. Our ship burned oil as a fuel and it had to be replaced whenever our storage was down. This was accomplished by rendezvousing with ships loaded with fuel oil in our area going along beside them. We tied up with ropes passing several 6 inch fuel lines from the tanker to our ship to fill our storage tank. Battle ships and carriers received their fuel in the same way. Smaller ships consisting of destroyers and destroyer escorts received their fuel from our ship and others like it.
The USS San Francisco was a heavy cruiser consisting of nine 8 inch guns for use in war or bombardment of enemy islands. Six of these guns were located forward on the ship on the main deck, three on the aft deck (main).
These 8 inch guns were in turrets consisting of 3 each, totaling 9. These guns were capable of firing 8 inch projectiles a distance of 20 miles. We had 2 float type aircraft on our sip mounted on aircraft silos. The purpose of these aircraft was to fly over targets being fired on by our ship and direct the ships gunnery department to where their projectiles were landing compared to the targets. Radios directed the ships gunnery department where they were landing compared to where they should land.
These guns were also used in battles with enemy ships. Also we had 5inch gun turrets on each side of the main deck to be used in surface engagements or bombardment. They could fire projectiles for anti-aircraft attacks or bombardment of land targets and enemy ships.
We had 40 millimeter anti-aircraft clusters on each side of the main deck and maybe on second deck? They were strictly for defense against attacking air planes or if needed could be used against enemy torpedo boats or small enemy ships.
The fantail at the back of the ship had 6 depth charges to be used against enemy submarines if detected close to our ships. They would just be rolled off the end of the ship, into the water, timed to go off at adjusted depths against submarines in the area.
During battle stations all of these guns and anti-aircraft guns were connected by radio and instructed from gunnery HQ which was also on the bridge of the ship. These 2 airplanes also with their floats were used at times to rescue someone in the ocean…possibly from friendly or enemy aircraft that were shot down.
They were launched while the sip was in motion with catapult equipment and were able to fly several hours while directing gun fire or any other duties they could perform. They could be retrieved while the ship was in motion de to other floats and while landing in the water. Cables could be hooked to them and pulled back onto the ship and back to their catapult.
Our ship had various 50mm and 20mm machine gun implacements also for anti-aircraft defense.
Occasionally the projectiles powder ammunition had to be replaced from supply ships, similar to the oil tankers. Most of this I have described was controlled by the gunnery department where I worked along with several other officers and enlisted men.
Every night on the ship our Navigator, an officer every ship had, would come to the bridge with his telescope and “shoot” the stars, writing down their location at the exact time every night and their position. This was so the Navy did this every night at the same time. This was probably wired to the Navy department each night or every so often, but it had to be “guarded” somewhat to avoid the enemy intercepting this information.
All of this time our naval fleet was becoming stronger. Consequently, some of our aircraft carriers were becoming targeted by the Japanese and attacked by their submarines and aircraft. Japan still had control of some islands yet in the pacific at this time with air fields. The Japanese fleet was also becoming stronger building aircraft carriers and other battleships, etc. An occasional surface engagement took place between these Japanese battleships and the US Navy.
One of our first assignments was to take Wake Island, Maybe October, 1944?? A task force of several US battleships and carriers attacked. It was the first island to be reclaimed in the pacific. This island had been taken by the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor. There was a US naval base there and many were killed or had been taken prisoner.
Our ships went by the island bombarding it. I was just a new recruit and was assigned as a “radio talker” connected to the rest of the ship. Radio earphones were clamped around your head and neck. When the #3 turret fired, the concussion of the (which I was unaccustomed to or aware of) trembled the ship causing my chord plug-ins to tighten up and nearly broke my neck! I never had to be told again to not stand with my radio chord pulled tight while firing the large gun.
I had noticed flashed on the island which turned out to be gunfire by the Japanese firing back at us. I casually noticed splashing and other thumping sounds landing near our ship, I thought, “My God, they are firing back us!” That was my first experience in a battle. As I remember none of our US ships in this missions suffered any casualties or damage. We returned to Pearl Harbor in a couple of days.
While we were in Pearl Harbor we were preparing to re-occupy some other islands nearby. This actually was the reclaiming of the Pacific Ocean. Each mission was getting bigger, consisting of more US ships, aircraft carriers, battleships, and other war machines. Very little resistance was encountered by our ships due to our expanding airplanes attacking the islands ahead of us.
These island were being reclaimed by our troops going ashore and retaking possession of each island. Practically all resistance on these islands was destroyed and our troops faced very little opposition when landing and occupying. Two or three weeks was the most time between occupation of one island and attacking future islands. This much being the story of reclaiming while occupying the islands and annihilating the Japanese resistance. Again the US Pacific Naval Forces were growing thinks to the enlargement of our forces by new ships and war equipment being supplied from back home war efforts.
Just killing the Japanese on these islands wasn’t enough. We had to set up airfields, communication, etc. to be able to claim and then defend the island. Since much of the Japanese naval forces had been destroyed in surface engagements in previous battles in the South Pacific (1942-43), we were fortunate that none of our US aircraft carriers were in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked. That gave us the benefit of having them ready for use to fight back. This, of course, was a big disappointment to Japan.
Moving across the Pacific Ocean approximately within every two weeks afterwards with the purpose of pulverizing the islands and their defenses, making it easier to occupy, we became victorious.
Aircraft fields were constructed on these islands and occupied by US planes to assist in jumping across the pacific. This made us less dependent on the aircraft carriers as we now had landing facilities on the islands.
Island after island heading towards Japan were occupied by US forces with a minimum of US casualties compared to the casualties, thousands of Japanese: Pacific Raids, 1943, Gilbert Islands Operation, Marshall Islands Operation, Asiatic-Pacific Raids, 1944, Western New Guinea Operations, Marianas Operation, Leyte Operation, Luzon Operation, Iwo Jima Operation, Okinawa Operation. As a result of fighting in these battles, I was authorized to wear the American Area Service Ribbon.
Some of the larger islands were more beneficial to us as we could have more troops there to aid us in our march across the pacific. The main job of all of these cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers was to pulverize the upcoming island occupation. This was done weeks prior to the landing to minimize the resistance offered by the Japanese.
We were still having to replenish everything, supplies, ammunition, etc. on the ship while doing this occupying, rendezvousing with supply ships that were continually in the ocean furnishing all these needs. Aircraft carriers could receive replacement airplanes lost in battles
A constant look out in the waters for Japanese submarines was furnished by “smaller ships”, destroyers, mine sweepers, and other ships with underwater sounding equipment. These smaller ships never received much glory for the constant surveillance of our ships, providing supplies and troop replacement, etc., they deserved much appreciation and glory. Occasionally some of our fleet were damaged and forced to return to American bases, possibly clear to the US to be repaired. There were repair ships also floating around in the ocean, capable of repairing minor damage to our ships in action. That way the ship didn’t have to go and be repaired in the US, or on the bases.
The size of my ship was over 300 feet long and 60 feet wide with 20 feet draft in the water. Speed was measured in A knot, or nautical mile (6076 feet), is about 15% longer than a statute mile (5280), One Knot = 1.1507794 MPH (sailors would say 1.15), 30 knots was top speed and very fast.
Some of the most prominent islands captured in the Pacific Ocean were: Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Guam, Saipan, Tinian.
We were being attacked by “Kamikaze”, suicide bombers, which would attack our ships crashing into them in a suicide manner, some carrying 500# bombs, others carrying torpedoes. The Japanese pilots on these planes were to them considered heroes, giving their life to damage a ship. I remember being in Okinawa where many US ships were anchored in the bay, unloading supplies for the war. These were “sitting ducks” for the Japanese kamikazes, and at night. The US ships were capable of creating smoke screens to cover and hide all the ships sitting there. In spite of this fog, the kamikaze pilots would still come down and attack into the fog at low level hoping to hit some ships.
In order for our ships to be aware of approaching kamikazes coming from Japan, our Navy posted small ships with giant aircraft detectors, called “picket ships”? Their purpose was to detect these approaching kamikazes and warn our ships and planes of their coming attack. Many of these picket ships were spotted by the kamikazes which attacked them causing sinking and damage.
During the war the Japanese radio station had “Tokyo Rose”, a mean-mouthed woman, who broadcasted regularly. All our ships could hear her and she would claim that the US ships were cornered by the Japanese in the North China Sea, of course, that wasn’t true. It was supposed to let Japan think they were winning the war. She would say the USS San Francisco was destroyed (and others), but I knew this wasn’t true (her strategy being to discourage our people and falsely report on the battles). All of our ships had radio communication and we knew all of her information to be untrue, it was propaganda.
Maybe it was at Saipan? that the Japanese came in great numbers to attack us. We were very prepared and resisted their attack. Our aircraft shot down hundreds of their planes, we called it a “turkey shoot”.
Many Japanese aircraft consisting of bombers and torpedo planes attacked our “group of ships”. It was call “Task Force 7”. During this attack our USS San Francisco was singled out by a Japanese plane which attacked with torpedoes. We had turned our ship to parallel, which would make it difficult for him to hit us. Their strategy for these attacks was to fly as low and close to the water as possible which was to avoid anti-aircraft detectors. After the torpedo plane had launched its torpedo,, it continued approaching our ship and started straffing (machine gunned us) with small caliber machine guns. The purpose of this was to damage our ship as much as possible and kill as many sailors as possible.
The machine gun bullets would shatter when hitting metal and splatter causing metal shrapnel. While all our crew above decks wore or donned life jackets and helmets for protection, shrapnel would tear up your life jacket. This is what happened to me as I along with 6 or 8 officers and sailors on the bridge were wide open targets. Some shrapnel hit my life jacket, penetrated my left arm and left foot. This cause me to be relieved of my duties and taken to sick bay on the ship along with other injured sailors. Some of our sailors were killed then. The ship didn’t receive much damage as I recall.
While we were in formation anytime, aircraft carriers and battleships were the inner most part of the formation. Destroyers and destroyer escorts were on the outer part of the formation. Consequently, we were seen and attacked first by approaching airplanes. After they passed us and headed for the carriers or battleships we would begin firing at the planes and our aircraft would be firing also, causing possible chances for us to shoot and damage our own ships or planes. Many of the anti-aircraft guns on the bigger ships were 5 inch and 40mm guns which are capable of doing a lot of damage to a ship in this firing process.
I don’t recall how many of our sailors were killed or injured in this attack. Al who were injured were awarded the Purple Heart medal for their injuries. This battle was December 5, 1943 near the Marianas and Tinian Islands. I received a Purple Heart also, and sometime later it was stolen from my locker. I think construction workers, who were repairing the ship, took it. I reported the stolen/missing medal and a replacement was later given to me. I have this special medal still today with others from the war, they are among my prized possessions.
THE PURPLE HEART, from the Indianola Record Herald & Indianola Tribune Newspaper 3-2-05.
George Washington, then a general, established the award in 1782, calling it the Badge of Military Merit. Now call the Purple Heart, it is given to any member of the Armed Forces who is wounded or killed while serving with the armed services after April 1917 during action against an enemy or in action with opposing forces of a foreign country.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) chapter is a venue of fraternity and comradeship for veterans. The organization helps members apply for veteran’s benefits and brings them the latest information on the welfare of veterans. Blood relatives of Purple Heart recipients are also accepted as associate members.
There are 270 chapters throughout Iowa with more than 2,000 Purple Heart recipients. There are more than 500,000 living recipients of the medal throughout the US.
Visit www.mophia.org ,or www.purpleheart.org for more information.
We then returned to Pearl Harbor. On New Years Eve 1943 we made liberties in Honolulu and stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. We had lots and lots of fun! We stayed in Pearl Harbor until January 22, 1944. We made two “practice’ runs.
On January 22, 1944 we headed for Marshall Islands where we planned to land troops. It was the largest task force ever known. We bombarded one of the Marshall Islands and met heavy shore fire which came very close o our ship. Some shrapnel landed on the boat deck.
January 31st we bombarded other islands and sank 2 ships. We anchored in the lagoon and stood by for call fire by our troops on the island. All ships were anchored in the lagoon while transports unloaded. We had several air alerts, but no attacks.
By February 6th all islands were now captured. We lost 290 men on the islands, but about 8,500 Japs were dead, too.
February 8th we moved to Majuro to get more ammunition. All the other task force was there including the USS Iowa, which was a brand new battleship (classmate Foss Gracey was on this ship).
February 12th all the ships were fueled and headed for Truck Island, a large Japanese stronghold, which we planned to bomb heavily. We had 12 carriers, 6 new battleships, 10 heavy cruisers, 7 light cruisers, 3 AA cruisers, and many destroyers. We were suppose to hit February 16 and 17. The Japanese fleet was supposed to be in the harbor at Truck, maybe they will come out?? The carrier planes raided Truck all day the 16th with 70 planes hitting every 15 minutes. No enemy planes attacked until midnight, which were many torpedo planes. One torpedo hit the USS Intrepid, which was one of our newest carriers. No other ships were damaged. The USS San Francisco and one carrier, one cruiser, and 8 destroyers were ordered to convoy the damaged Intrepid back 200 miles east of the Marshalls, then return to Majuro lagoon. We had many submarine contacts and bogies, so we were ordered to go farther with the Intrepid. After going almost 500 miles with her, we were ordered to return to Majuro. We remained there until February 29th waiting for the remainder of the task force from the Marianas and Guam.
February 29th we started for Pearl Harbor, and reached there March 4th. We made a practice firing run March 15th and headed back for Majuro. We arrived March 21st to a large task force assembled and headed for Palu March 22nd. We arrived of Palu March 30th. Planes bombarded on the 30th and 31st.
We headed for Walewi Island on March 31st. April 1st we headed back for Majuro. We had torpedo plane attacks and all planes were shot down before doing any damage. Air patrol shot down 16 planes in one night before they got in sight. On April 6th we arrived on Majuro and stayed there until April 13th. The same task force headed for Hollandia, New Guinea. Planes hit Hollandia on April 21st and troops landed April 22nd. We patrolled around there until April 22, while all troops had landed and resistance ceased. We had several plane attacks, but no damage occurred.
April 28th we headed for Truck Island. Planes bombed Truck on April 29th. Enemy torpedo planes attacked and 12 were shot down by fighter patrol. Three more planes were shot down by our group.
April 30th we bombarded Satiwan Island in the Carolina group. We started large fires but met no opposition.
May 1st battleships bombarded Ponape also in the Carolinas. We returned to Majuro May 5th and had 3 liberties (a first!). We saw buildings where the Japs had been but didn’t get any souvenirs. We had air alerts a few times but we didn’t have any attacks.
June 6th we go underway and moved to Roi at the north end of Kawaligen Atoll. We arrived at Roi on June 7th to pick up troops that were to land on Guam and Saipan.
June 14th battleships and cruisers bombarded Tinian and Saipan in preparation for troop landing.
June 15th troops landed on Saipan at 0840 meeting moderate opposition. At 1800 enemy planes attacked our ships at Saipan. One dive bomber dropped a bomb on our starboard about 50 yards. There was no damage done. There were no ships at Saipan damaged by the bombings.
June 16th we moved to Guam and bombarded the beach where troops were to land. At 10:30 we received word that Japanese surface forces were headed toward Saipan. We were told to return to Saipan and stand by for troops while the ships and carriers proceeded to meet Japanese forces.
June 17th our planes were changed and we were to join up with forces to meet the Japanese when they arrived. We refueled and joined up with 7 new battleships waiting for the Japs.
June 18th tankers which refueled us were attacked by planes and both were hit by bombs.
June 19th we had not met the Japanese forces yet. They are believed to be about 600 miles southwest of Guam and to have come from the Philippines. At 9:20 am many enemy planes were destroyed. The USS South Dakota was hit by one bomb but no damage was done to it. Our group shot down 9 torpedo planes of which this ship hit one. These Japanese planes were believed to have been launched from carriers and were to land at Guam & Orote Islands after attacking us.
June 20th there was no contact made with enemy ships yet. We are now 260 miles west of Guam waiting to meet the Japanese ships. We returned to Saipan July 3rd and anchored in Garapan Bay. We moved out to sea each night because of attacks almost every night. Cruiser Division #6 and destroyers went to Guam to continue bombarding in preparation for troop landing.
July 6 – 11th we bombarded coastal guns and beaches on south and west sides of the island of Guam. July 10th the DD McCall picked up a man that had been a prisoner of war since 1941. He was a radio man 1C and he was sighted for sending a semiphore signal (signals with flags) for someone to send a boat after him. Two men rescued him in a whale boat close to the beach.
July 12th we moved to Saipan to take on more ammunition. We moved back to Guam on July 14th to continue bombardment of beaches and guns. Many air strikes from our big carriers also hit the islands.
July 18 – 21st demolition squads worked on beaches cleaning reef and other defense that may hinder our troops landing. The Japanese would plant mines along the beaches so when our troops came ashore they would be injured or killed.
July 21st our troops landed at 0830 against moderate opposition. The ships stood by for call fire from our advancing troops. I remember a large water tower on a hill that the Japs were using for water. Our gunners on the ship wanted to shoot at it. Orders were given not to fire at it and destroy it, because we could later use it ourselves when we took over the island.
We were called upon to help smash Japanese counter attacks on Orote Pennisula and other points where our troops were moving up. Our ship fired 360 rounds in 15 minutes to stop one attack.
July 24th troops landed on Tinian Island. The USS Colorado was hit by sixteen 5 inch shells from enemy guns on the islands.
July 30th our ship was detached from all duties and headed for Eniwetock Island enroute to Mare Naval yard in California for overhaul. On August 16th we arrived at Mare Island. I went home to Truto on a 25 day leave. On October 3rd I returned to the ship on Mare Island. I had 19 days at home and a swelltime1
October 11th the ship left the navy yard for a trial run and returned on the 14th. We left again on October 17th for San Diego for one week’s training near San Clemene. October 26th a destroyer rammed into our port side and damaged our hangar and number 4 screw (a screw, one of 4, under the ship helps propel). We went in port in San Diego and were ordered to proceed to San Pedro to dry dock.
October 27th we arrived at Terminal Island and entered dry dock the 28th. I went to Los Angeles to see my sister, Thelma (and husband, Claude) on Saturday and they brought me back to the ship on Sunday. I showed them around the ship and they left about noon. I made iberty in Long Beach and Los Angeles 3 nights. I had a big time in the city. We left San Pedro and our ship headed for Pearl Harbor. We arrived at PH November 6th.
November 11th we left Pearl Harbor and headed for Eniwetock enroute to the Palu Islands. We arrived on November 21st. We joined the task force Unit 38.1. We received the flag of Cruiser Division #6 on board, that meant that our ship was in charge of the division #6.
November 26th we awaited orders to sail. We made liberties on Mogmog Island. A lot of these islands had refrigerated buildings which the US constructed for one or two day liberties off the ships. A lot of beer and foods were available her. I remember Mogmog had a baseball diamond and many of the professional baseball players came to play ball for entertainment for the servicemen (also some other islands had ball diamonds). Qualified servicemen (maintenance men) were on these island to maintain these buildings and services.
December 1st we got underway and headed for the Philippines. Orders were changed and we returned to Ulithi Island, I didn’t know the reason why.
December 10th got underway as part of task un 38.1 which our ship was in charge of. We headed to the Philippines to bomb Luzon and land troops on Mindinao Island. December 14th we arrived off Luzon and we began bombing the airfields. Night fighters shot down an enemy 4-motored bomber on the 13th. Our planes bombed airfields and destroyed many airplanes.
On the night of December 15th the enemy discovered our position and reported us to enemy bases nearby. We expected enemy air attacks at any time.
On December 15th in the daytime troops landed on Mindinao Island with no opposition. The ships in landing were under constant air attack. December 16th we finished bombing Luzon and left the area to refuel from tanker. December16th we joined the tankers group and about half of our ships were refueled before weather made it impossible to continue.
December 18th we were in a bad typhoon and many ships had trouble because of the rough sea. Carriers were having trouble with planes breaking loose and causing fires to break out. One carrier lost 10 sailors overboard and had several fires. Our ship had made several 30 degree rolls. Many ships had men overboard and the ships were damaged. December 19th the weather cleared and ships refueled. Carriers got new airplanes from small carriers designed for replacement of airplanes for the planes that were lost in the storm (or otherwise).
Our ship received mail from destroyers that we bringing the mail out. I received mail from destroyers that were bringing the mail out. I received 6 letters and 5 Christmas cards.
December 20th on our way to Luzon to bomb airfields about 3:30 am on December 21st the weather changed and the sea became very rough. Operations were changed and we headed for Ulithi. I remember to this day that one of our men was washed overboard and lost, there was nothing we could do. Many survivors were picked up from destroyers that were lost in storms. We returned to Ulithi on December 24th.
Received Christmas letters and packages on December 25th. It was so good to hear from home. There was a Christmas program held on the well deck and we sang Christmas carols. Our dinner was very good and then we had a good show that night. We stayed in Ulithi Until December 30th. We got underway as part of task group 38.1 and we headed for Formosa which we planned to bomb on January 3rd and 4th.
On January 2nd, 1945 all of the ships refueled and moved on west to Formosa. January 3rd and 4th the planes bombed Formosa, but the weather was very rough and the operation was not too complete. There was no air resistance over the target and many Jap planes were destroyed on the ground. No air attacks from the Japanese were made on our force.
January 5th all of the ships refueled and carriers got replacement planes. After all of the ships were refueled, all moved south to Luzon on the night of January 5. January 6th we arrived 60 miles off of Luzon at dawn and the weather again prevented the planes from making an effective bombing. There was no air opposition over the target and few planes were found on the airfields. The ships of the 7th fleet began bombardment of Luzon where landings were to be made on January 9th. There was severe damage caused by Japanese suicide planes on many of our ships. The Admiral on the USS New Mexico was killed.
January 7th photos showed many Japanese planes on airfields at Luzon. Our planes are attacking them today. The enemy planes were around this task group this morning, but no attacks were made. We are now fueling destroyers while our planes are bombing airfields.
January 8th all of the ships refueled and the carriers got replacement planes. After fueling, all ships headed for Formosa to bomb the airfields. On January 9th the planes are bombing Formosa while troops are landing on Luzon. The bad weather again kept the planes from doing a good job of bombing. We had anti-aircraft defense that afternoon and one enemy 2 engine plane was shot down by Yorktown fighters (a carrier). There was no word from landing yet.
On January 10th last night we passed their Bashi Channel between Formosa and the Philippine Islands into the China Sea. We were 12 miles from land while passing through the straight. Air strikes were launched at Formosa and Luzon. Three enemy planes were shot down by our fighters about 20miles away. There were no attacks on this force yet. The Japanese fleet was supposed to be along the China coast. January 11th we refueled and headed for the China Coast to strike the Japanese fleet which was supposed to be at Camaron Bay.
On January 12th the air strikes were sent to Camaron Bay, but no Japanese men of war were there. The convoy consisted of four AK and four AO and four DE. All of them were sunk, but one DE which beached in 45 minutes. (AK = a troop transport, AO = a transport of some kind, and DE = destroyer escort).
On January 13th our planes sunk on CL and some destroyers. They damaged on CA. Sever AK and AO were damaged or sunk on enemy strikes. On January 14th the ships were refueled, but with bad weather it made it for very tough going.
January 15th the ships were still refueling (because of the weather). January 16th a few strikes were made at Hong Kong, but weather caused the most strikes to be canceled. January 17th the weather was still bad and air strikes couldn’t be carried out on a full scale.
Toyko Rose reported at this time that the Japanese had the US 34d and 7th fleets trapped in the China Sea, which was a dishonest report, this was on January 18th and 19th.
January 20th our planes were striking at Formosa on a small scale. We were on a northerly course and would pass through the channel that night. At 6 pm bogies were picked up closing our formation. We went to AA defense as bogies closed formation, bogies were unidentified planes. Our fighters were sent to intercept the enemy and shot down a few Bettys and Gills (Japanese planes). A new Jap plane, a George, was encountered and was one of three that was shot down. These planes seemed to be very fast. Our fighters had trouble shooting him down. About 6:30 pm enemy planes crossed this formation, but made no attacks. We fired on one single engined plane, but it escaped due to darkness. There were no planes shot down by our ships fire. Other enemy planes were in the vicinity, by no attacks were made. At 10 pm we passed through the northwest part of the channel. Land was about 5 miles away on our port side (left). We could see land easily, but there was no action anywhere. We cleared the channel about12 pm with no ship damage. Evidently the Japs didn’t have us pinned down as Toyko Rose had said.
January 21st the planes were bombing shipping at Formosa. Bogies were in the vicinity, but not attacking yet. Our fighters shot down several Jap planes so far. We moved north last night and moved off of the Okinawa Islands (which were between Formosa and Japan). Our planes were bombing shipping and ground installations. Many enemy planes were destroyed in the air and on the ground. We were about 300 miles from the south part of Japan. The Marines landed about 1300 hours. Enemy planes attacked our forces and damaged 3 of our carriers, USS Ticondoraga, USS Hancock, and USS Langley were damaged (all carriers).
January 23rd we refueled and headed to Ulithi. We arrived there on January 26th. The battleship USS Missouri and cruiser USS Alaska joined our fleet.
February 10th got underway as part of Task Force 58.2 and headed north to the Japanese mainland which we planned to bomb before landing troops in the Bonion Islands. February 11th we passed about 50 miles west of Guam. On February 13th all of the ships were fueling from tankers in the ocean. All ships were topping off from the tankers by February 14th. We then headed northeast for Japan (about 250 miles away). On February 15th on northerly course we headed for Japan at 18 knots speed. We expected to speed up to 25 knots for the night run. A Japanese Picket boat was sunk by our planes and 1 survivor picked up. Enemy planes were shot down 25 miles from the task force. We expected to be attacked by many enemy planes tomorrow and the next day. The weather was getting colder all of the time (about 60 degrees at that time and cloudy with rain squalls). So far we have not been spotted that we know of.
On February 16th our planes were launched at dawn in rather poor weather. We were about 90 – 110 miles from Japan and expecting air attacks at any minute. We were at GO all day but there were no enemy plane attacks yet. We believed our attack would be a complete surprise. February 17th we launched the same as the day before. The fighters went in first, then bombers and torpedo planes went later. The Jap picket boat sunk last night. There were some prisoners taken and most intelligent were put on carriers to get information from. Much to our surprise no enemy planes attacked us. We stayed in GQ again another day.
We heard Japanese radio go off the air when the planes starting bombing Toyko and Yokohama. Later we heard them making claims of sinking and damaging many of our ships. Our planes destroyed many Jap planes, 340 planes were damaged all together on the ground and in the air. Several Jap ships were sunk or damaged there, including 1 CVE (small carrier). Our losses were about 35 planes.
February 18th we headed for Iwo Jima where our ships were bombarding prior to landing. On February 19th the carriers sent air strikes against Iwo Jima. At 1900 hours enemy planes attacked the force group. One of theirs was shot down and possibly another one. We fired at other planes buy they were out of our gun range. One dead Jap was seen floating where a plane went down.
February 20th all of our ships fueled and the carriers got replacement planes. This ship and four others were ordered to bombard Iwo Jima the next day. Many Jap planes were reported leaving Japan. We expected them to attack at any time. On February 21st we arrived at Iwo Jima and were ordered to relieve USS Tuscalusa which was firing on Jap troops. We bombarded all day and our planes were spotting for us. That island was the toughest one yet. There were many casualties in landing and the opposition was very heavy. The enemy attacked our ships at 1800 hours and one enemy plane was shot down by a destroyer near our ship. Other planes attacked our carriers and damages the USS Saratoga. The Bismarck Sea (one of our ships) was badly damaged and sunk the next day.
On February 22nd we bombarded all morning and were relieved by the USS Idaho (a battleship). About 3 pm bogies were reported and later friendly planes closed formation and were taken under fire by small ships of our force. Two were shot down but the crew was rescued. There were no enemy planes attacking, it was our own planes accidentally. On February 23 and 24th all of our ships refueled and headed for Tokyo. Air strikes were launched against Toyko and targets around it on February 25th. The weather was reported bad over the target area. We ceased the strikes at about 1500 hours because of the weather. February 26th we headed southeast along Japan and intended to launch attacks (air strikes) at Naguro. The weather was still very bad and several ships were damaged by the storms.
February 26th and 27th our ships refueled and our ship plus 4 destroyers joined Task Force 58.4 and head for Ulithi. Other task forces were to bombard Okinawa for 2 days. March 2nd we arrived at Ulithi and anchored about 1800 hours. On March 11th two enemy planes made a surprise attack on the ships of Task Force 58.4 and other ships of the 5th Fleet. One plane crashed into the carrier USS Randolph killing several men and starting serious fires on afterpark (s hip’s flight deck). Another plane crashed into the mess hall on the flight deck. There was no report of damage there.
March 14th Task Force 58 got under way and “stood out” (they all got ready to leave). Our task force now included 11 large carriers, 6 small CVL, 8 battleships, and many cruisers and destroyers. March 21st Task Force 52 and 54 stood out. We were now a part of Task Force 52 which was a bombardment group. The force included 10 old battleships, 9 carriers, and many destroyers. The force headed for Okinawa Island which was midway between Formosa and Japan.
We were to start bombarding these islands as our planes were to be landing on March 25th. On March 18th the carriers struck at enemy home waters causing heavy damage to the Japanese fleet. The aircraft carrier USS Franklin was badly damaged and other ships were slightly damaged. March 25th we arrived at Okinawa and mind sweepers were sweeping the waters around the small islands. March26th the US troops landed on many small islands around Okinawa. There was not much resistance reported by our pilot and troops. Our troops were advancing rapidly.
March 27th many bogies were reported around formation last night. At about 6 am Japanese planes attacked formation. One crash included the USS Nevada (battleship) that was next to our ship in the formation, causing small fires. Another crashed into the stern of the USS Biloxi. Two others were shot down by ship fires after dropping bombs near the ships. Our ship claimed shooting down 1 enemy plane. Two of the planes were suicide attackers, but others didn’t attack. One plane crashed near a destroyer after missing his suicide dive. Our ship started bombarding Okinawa Island and many fires were started.
On March 28th only a few enemy planes attacked in the morning. One was a suicide plane but it missed a destroyer. Others were shot down. Many submarine contacts were being made by destroyers, using underwater Sound equipment. March 29th no enemy planes attacked our force this morning, except other attacks were made on other forces near Okinawa. Last night a low flying plane knocked a part of the mast and the radar off of a ship nearby. I remember that so well as if it just happened today.
March 30th we bombarded Okinawa Island mostly around Naha town. We took on ammunition in the afternoon and we returned to the firing area. March 31st many bogies were around our formation last night and one was shot down by a destroyer. We spent the day bombarding Okinawa.
April 1st, April Fools Day, our troops landed on Okinawa Island after the most intense bombardment yet. The troops landed at 8:30 am without much opposition and advanced on the island rapidly. By night they had a beach head about 6-8 miles long and 2 1/2 miles inland. We had been standing by for “call fire” (our troops would call for us to shoot at a suitable target). On April 2nd we loaded ammunition and stood by for call fire. At 1400 our troops had reached the other side of the island cutting in into two parts. Now the slow drive of capturing the island would start. We had captured one airfield and would soon have it in use. The enemy planes were in the vicinity and one made a suicide dive on our USS West Virginia hitting her port (left) side. We were to fire star shells (shells that light up the sky when fired) and stat firing throughout the night on Okinawa.
On April 3rd our troops were advancing rapidly and we were about 15 days ahead of schedule. The enemy resistance was getting greater as our troops moved south. We had 2 airfields by then and soon would have them in operation. On April 4th we were standing by for call fire and illumination. Enemy air attacks were expected all of the time. 5 suicide planes had made attacks and damaged several of our ships. The USS Indianapolis (cruiser) and the USS West Virginia (again) were damaged. Our troops were advancing more rapidly than expected and we were still 15 days ahead of schedule.
By April 5th the troops were advancing and we were supporting them with call fire from the shore fire control party. Large enemy air attacks were expected today but the weather was rather bad. On April 6th at about 3 pm while we fueled, bogies started closing our force from many directions and with many raids. At 4pm-5pm we were attacked by about 8 planes and all were shot down by surface ships or air patrol. One plane made a suicide dive and hit an LST causing a great explosion and damage. A LST was a Landing Ship Troops and was a small ship that would carry troops to the shore. Until about 8pm we were attacked by many enemy planes and 11 of our destroyers and small craft had been damaged. I saw 2 suicide planes crash into one destroyer causing much damage and fire. Another one hit the mast of a DE (Destroyer Escort), a small ship with underwater sound equipment and crashed into the water. One plane made an attack on our ship and we shot him down after he had started his suicide dive. We claimed shooting down 2 and helping on another. A total of 76 planes had been shot down by Task Force 51 which we were a part of. Task Force 58 claimed 200 shot down by fighters. One destroyer had sunk and others were badly damaged by enemy planes.
On April 7th at about 4 am an enemy plane attempted to crash into our ship and missed by only 150 feet. His torpedo passed ahead of the ship about 50 yards. We bombarded the east side of Okinawa at about noon. Word was received that Japanese surface ships were heading our way. We were standing by to repel anything they could put up. About 5pm we headed north and formed our battle line that we would use against the Japanese force. Our force consisted of: 4 heavy cruisers,, 3 light cruisers, 6 battle wagons, and many destroyers. At 6:30 pm one Jap suicide plane crashed into the USS Maryland causing slight damage. There were 13 men missing and 8 seriously wounded.
April 8th we received word in the morning about Task Force 58 attacking the Japanese fleet and sinking 1 battleship, 1 cruiser, and several destroyers. The Yamato was Japan’s super battleship and was sunk by 8 torpedoes and 10-1,000# bombs. Only 1 Jap ship escaped. We lost 7 airplanes.
On April 11th we were still standing by for illumination and call fire. Our troops at the south had encountered heavy enemy resistance and we were trying to support them as much as possible. Marines to the north continued to move rapidly with only light opposition.
At 1345 on April 12th many bogies were reported approaching and we went to AA defense, that is, “Anti Aircraft Defense”. By nigh fall 103 enemy planes had been shot down by our Combat Air Patrol (CAP). One plane attacked our force and it was shot down by our ship while making a suicide dive on an AK (a non-fighting ship that carried soldiers, etc.). We lost the destroyer (maybe called “Adele”?) due to enemy plane suicide plane attacks.
We went to a routine morning alert on April 11th at 0500. Shortly after reaching my battle station I heard a plane approaching our ship from the starboard (right side). Due to the smoke screen made by transports, I was unable to see it although it seemed very close. A minute later a series of bright flashes appeared close above our starboard bow. The plane passed very close to the ship and disappeared to port side (left). He had taken a chance of hitting a ship by diving very close to the water and amid the smoke and dropping his bombs. Luckily he missed and no damage was done to our ship.
April 13th we received word of the death of our president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was quite a shock to everyone and he will be greatly missed by our country.
April 14 – 18th we were still supporting the troops on Okinawa. Our advances had been stopped for about a week due to heavy enemy resistance. Our Army in the south had met very heavy artillery and small arms fire on a rugged terrain. Our marines at the north had been checked by strong point on the mountains. Landings had been made on Ioa Shima and the airfield was in our hands.
On April 15th about 70 enemy planes tried to attack our force but were intercepted by Task Force 58 and planes based on an Okinawa airfield. Only a few were able to reach our force, but were shot down by our ships fire. Almost every night a few small enemy suicide boats tried to attack ships near the beach. None were successful and all were destroyed. Japs made counter attacks every night trying to penetrate our lines but were unsuccessful so far.
April 19th a big push by our Army started today. we were standing by for fire support area close to shore. Ships from Task Force 58 had been detailed to help support the push today also. On April 20th gains that were made yesterday were all lost last night by fierce Japanese counter attacks. April 21-12rd we stood by for call fire.
April 24th we were now headed for Ulithi for supplies and more ammunition. On April 28th we arrived at Ulithi and took on our supplies and ammunition. Part of Force 58 were also here and others were due April 30th.
April 29th we received word that a Jap suicide plane had crashed into the USS Comfort (a troop carrying ship) killing 29 people.
On May 10th we were underway and proceeded to Okinawa. We arrived at Okinawa on May 13th and commenced bombardment of the southern end of the island at about 1800. AA defense sounded for evening alert. Bogies were reported closing the task unit. One plane passed along the starboard side with lights on, but didn’t drop any bombs. Soon after that another plane could be heard, but not seen due to smoke screens. He dropped a bomb about 1000 yards ahead of our ship doing no damage. Another plane passed very close to where I was standing.
May 13-26th we fired in support of our troops on eastern Okinawa. Several air attacks had been made on different Task units around the island. On May 25th a large air attack had been expected for several days and at about 9am enemy planes were reported in the area. However, the weather was very bad due to a nearby overcast and rain squalls. One enemy plane made a suicide dive on a destroyer but missed by a few feet causing slight damage to it. Another plane dived on a transport doing no damage. Two Bettys (Japanese bomber) were sighted low and close to a destroyer that opened fire and splashed one of the two planes. The other one was believed to be hit and smoking. Two survivors were picked up and one was seriously wounded. An enemy plane landed on one of our airfields and about 10 men jumped out and threw hand grenades into a bunch of parked planes destroying 6 of our transport planes. In 18 hours 61 Jap planes were shot down.
On May 26th four Jap planes shot down one of our PC boats and it was sunk after being hit by two suicide planes. A PC was a Patrol Craft that patrolled the shores to protect entrances and exits.
About 22 Japanese planes were shot down by our CAP on June 1st. Ten of these Jap planes had US markings on them, a strategy used to trick and deceit us. The Japs seemed to be scattering on the southern front of the island. June 3rd our troops made an amphibious landing on the southern part of Naha airfield. The troops advanced in all fronts.
June 15th we stood by for call fire on the south end of the island. Only a small part on the southern tip was still in Japanese control. Naha airfield was still being repaired by our Seabees and would later be used for a b-32 base. There were no enemy air attacks for almost a week. On June 17th at about 5am enemy planes attacked our task force. Some enemy planes were shot down and either our own AA fire or bombs from enemy planes exploded very close aboard our ship wounding 1 man and spreading shrapnel about the deck.
June 20th the island of Okinawa was almost secure now with the exception of a very small part of the south end.
My memory fails me about what happened after Okinawa. I do remember going south down the China coast. We thought we were friendly with China, however, every time we would pull into one of their docking areas, we would get the word to leave within so many hours.
When we got the word that the war was nearly over, I and other Yeoman in the gunnery department of the ship realized that when we got to the United States we might end up stuck in California typing up everyone else’s discharge papers for a long time. We decided to just wait it out on the ship in the Pacific Ocean.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima ended the war and I can’t remember the time or place when we were notified on the ship, if they said “stop shooting”! The war is over!”?? this I can’t remember. The battleship USS Missouri went into the Japanese harbor. The Japanese head officials and officers boarded the ship to surrender with General Eisenhower and some others.
Around October our ship pulled into the coast of California. I think we remained there aboard ship until departing for the east coast?? By December our ship pulled in the navy yards in Philadelphia. We unloaded, said our good-byes, and boarded a troop train for Minneapolis. I received my discharge papers in Minneapolis and headed for home on the train (regular). I can’t remember the feelings I had other than I’m sure I was glad it was all over and luckily I was going home all in one piece.
Jan. 1946 we received a “52-20” when we were discharged, that was $20 a week for 52 weeks. I had to go to Winterset each week to receive this money.
I didn’t think that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in Truro, Iowa. I did return waiting to see what might happen. When I was in California in October I met a girlfriend of the manager of the San Diego baseball team. She wanted me to come back to California after the war and she would get me a tryout with the team. I thought about it, but didn’t do it.
In the meantime I drove a truck for my brother, Harold. A friend of ours, Ralph Brammer, was building a new gas station and grease room on Truro’s main street. After we talked it over and I didn’t have any other prospects on the horizon, I decided to lease the station. I remained in Truto and owned several other businesses on main street for over 60 years!
The USS San Francisco was decommissioned in Philadelphia and was later scraped. I might have mentioned before, but the USS San Francisco was a heavy cruiser and was awarded the presidents citation for its courageous action defending Solomon and other islands in the Pacific in 1942. This was the only citation awarded to a ship. This was before I boarded the ship.
When I received the word that Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, I didn’t realize what it would mean to me and the rest of our country. After coming home from the war I did realize what it meant and how my life was affected and others, too. We servicemen and women were heroes welcomed home with parades and hoopla, we remembered those who didn’t make it home.