Line Drawing of the ship as we knew her.
My Navy Memories
12/17/16 Last Changed:
The following auto biography is a result of my family wanting a history of my life in the several years I served our country during WWII. The story is as factual as I can remember it.
Jack R. Jones - Navy Autobiography
Cambridge, Ohio 43725
Recorded biography relating my NAVY memories beginning to end. From Boot camp to Separation
Particularly my combat experience in the Battle of Okinawa March-June 1945 / Remembrances as they re-occur of other days in my career from May 1944 to May 1946 as requested by my family. To My Sons, and Grandchildren, per your request for my service memories, I canít tell you too many, but what I have are so vivid you probably will be bored to death before completion. I entered the Navy, the last of May, 1944.
I was enlisted at the Cambridge, Ohio Post Office building by a Navy recruiter. Three of we enlisteeís were sent by Red Star Bus line to Columbus, Ohio . Myself, Tom Tribbie, and Charles Hickman. The two I went up with were turned down by the Navy for some reason or another, they were sent home and I was kept.
I was sworn into the Navy at the old Post Office building down by the State Capitol building after a basic preliminary medical exam. We were issued a chit for a room, meal and breakfast at the Southern Hotel. (My first stay at a Hotel). A railroad ticket on the B & O railroad to Great Lakes, Ill via Chicago. We were to be at the railroad station at the prescribed time under threat (to all in the contingent) of (GREAT PENALTIES)
My first train ride. I was all eyes. All I had was the clothes on my back, two dollars and some change, my sister Marie had given me. No suitcase. Arrived in Chicago, you have to visualize, a young boy that had never been further from home than 50 miles east of Cambridge, (Wheeling, W.Va) 59 miles south of Cambridge (Marietta, Ohio ) twice in Columbus, Ohio (80 miles west ) once in 1936 as far north as Akron, (72 miles) in my young life of 17 years. With by now a crowd, I caught the Elevated electric train to the Skokie line station (Chicago to Milwaukee) got off at Great Lakes with the rest of the bewildered crowd joined the ranks of recruits being formed up into company size (130) and marched into the training station.
Never sorry !
Our clothes were put in card-board boxes, we addressed them for home and the Navy shipped them. We were now in shorts, or a towel, almost nude, scared and even afraid to ask questions. We were measured, averaged for clothes size and each was more closely measured for shoes, sizes were marked in red numbers on your stomach.
First came the most intense medical examination (maybe it wasnít intense, because I had nothing to compare too). I remember a large round fountain device, about 20 guys could get around it at a time. In the center was a column with a metal head that squirted water out in small streams like a round sprinkling can. We were given throw away toothbrushes, and told to brush our teeth. One guy was standing there peeing in the basin. Did he ever catch hell!!! He like the rest of us had never seen anything like this.
Our teeth were examined, and marked for fillings, extractions, and whatever was needed and appointments were made by the Navy for later dates that we didnít know about.. If one had to many bad teeth, he was put in a dental company and his teeth were extracted and dentures were made for them. My brother Harry had that experience. Teeth were not too good in those days. Fluoride was not know as it is now. Filling were done without Novocain and it hurt. On this first day at Great Lakes Training station we received our clothing. About all sizes were too large, the Navy had planned on shrinkage, and weight gain from living a disciplined life prescribed by them.
Long lines again. Through a building in your under shorts. 1 sea bag, 1 ditty bag, 1 hammock, 1 mattress, 2 blankets, 2 pair dungarees, 1 pr canvas leggings, 2 dungaree shirts, 2 pair black shoes, (1 dress, 1 work) both at the time the same, but one pair was quickly turned in to the cobbler shop and for half soles, and extra rubber heels built up. 3 pair black socks, 2 changes white navy underwear, 2 white hats, 2 pair summer white uniforms, 1 navy blue undress winter uniform, 1 set navy dress blues, 1 navy blue flat cap, 1 navy watch cap (toboggan) 1 winter sweater, 1 Pea coat, 1 neckerchief, 6 handkerchiefs, 1 package clothes stops. All was taken from each person except for the immediate clothes he had to wear. The Sea-bags which by now were stenciled with your service number and name (570-55-94) etc. were gathered up to be taken by truck to our training camp.
We marched if you could call it that from the Camp Perry side (The old side) across the road and about 3 miles to a new area called Green Bay. The rest of the day was taken up by using the cut stencil boards that was a part of our new gear furnished and began the stenciling all of our clothing with our name. Even the underclothes. We dressed and again assembled for marching to chow.
Next day we marched back over to Perry to the commissary to receive our ordered living necessities. And get our haircuts didnít take long for that, all hair was on the floor when we left. Not quite bald, but not quite with hair. We again formed a line entered another area and was issued $5.00 in advance from our pay ($27.00 per month) and given a list of items to buy. They gave you a ready made up parcel (and took your $5.00) containing -- Toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, letter writing materials, black shoe polish, and shaving material even if you didnít shave yet, I canít remember about cigarettes. Maybe we were allowed to buy them, most people smoked in those days. Canít remember what cigarettes cost. Maybe 15Ę a pack. I think I just didnít smoke. Didnít have the money, nor any way to get them. All bought the same thing. Orders were to be obeyed. Marched back to our barracks.
Shots happened the first week also. The shots for disease was an experience. Companies of men, about 130 per company was marched to the dispensary where the shots were given. Double lines entered the building. Tables were set up with a several corpsman at each table. The shots were given on each side at the same time. Plus small pox vaccination scratches. Must of received about two shots each arm plus the small pox. The corpsman would pick up a loaded syringe, insert, plunge, withdraw, and lay the syringe down on the table. There was a little blood on the cover of the table from so many needles. Another corpsman would take the empty syringe, remove the needle, drop same into a bath of alcohol, pick up one that had been soaking from another alcohol tray, attached it to a empty syringe, load it with serum, and lay the loaded syringe back down on the cloth cover. Several corpsmen were doing this loading, cleaning, inserting in arms.
The recipient line had to keep moving, one fellow in our line got two shots the same, because he didnít move forward. He couldnít lift his arms the next day. They gave him light duty for one day because of his fever I think. The next day he was right out there with the rest of us. Now and then some recruit would keel over. Some people just donít like a needle stuck in them. Those guys had a lousy job doing that all day long. The next few days about everyone had stiff sore arms.
Drilling and instructions in same started immediately . We were lined up by size in rank, tallest to the front and so on, we were to remember where our place was and when we fell in we were to line up in this manner. We were taught to dress right by placing the right hand on the left shoulder of the man to your immediate right and with body facing forward, turn your head smartly to the right. We were told to observe the line and see that it was kept straight. At first you were moved over top of a line in the pavement, told to dress right, with toes on that line, and to closely observe the straightness of same line. Then moved off the line and told to dress right and keep the same straight line. After a little yelling and shoving it started to work. Our introduction to drilling by our Company commander was started the same day. He would demonstrate a move. Tell you the commands he would give to initiate this movement and we would attempt to imitate it. It was sad to start.
Day after day went in this manner. 5:30 Reveille, 6:15 calisthenics, 7:15 breakfast, 8:00 barrack inspection by company commander. Fall out 8:30 for daily close order drilling, late AM class room lectures on seamanship and such things. Personal health. 12:00 chow. Fall out at 1:00 drilling, and lectures, until 1600 (4:00) Supper chow was at 5:00. After supper we were free to go to the barracks, write letters, wash clothes and normally just lazy around. There was no radioís / course NO TVís / we could go to the Ships store but that was such a long walk, normally that was done on Sunday after church.
Sundays all fell out for church, all must go. Each to his religion. The first time in my life that I knew person other than Syrians could be Catholic. Till that time, the only ones I knew or paid attention to that went to Catholic Church were Syrians , the Buttress family, the Johns family. While I knew kids that went to St. Benedictís and played on the basketball team. I still never put together any that wasnít Syrian (The Agars, Andrews, Ananas,) Strange how small my world was. I got an enlightenment when a kid with an Irish name fell out in the Catholic line. I told him, he was in the wrong line, he said I am Catholic, then it dawned on me that Pat OíBrien who played Father Flanagan was Irish and like a flood in my brain, I recalled all the Irish names. Talk about living in a closed society. Iím glad I kept my mouth shut. I was called a hill-billy any way by the guys from the big cities for the way I talked. Words like BOOsh, FEEsh, DEEsh, Crick (for Creek) Warshrag etc. It was no wonder looking back on it.
All had to wash clothing continually, a daily chore, all clothing bled horribly and we didnít know how to scrub clothes to start with. There were large wooden wash tables with smooth scrub areas that slanted towards the center towards the water drainage trough in the center with spaced water spigots (no hot water) close by the clothes lines in rear courtyards back of each barracks. We used a scrub brush for all clothing. Those famous issued clothes stops were used to tie the clothes on the lines for drying also. We had to write letters home at least once a week. All mail was given to the company commander, and he kept a list of who was writing and who wasnít lights out 9:00 Our day was kept filled. Was no trouble falling asleep.
To explain clothes stops: as mentioned early in my dialog: these were little woven cotton (two strand) ties, like a round cotton shoe string only thicker strands in them , they were used to secure your clothing in an individual roll like a small bedding roll. The pants were folded over, leg on leg, then starting at the top tightly rolled to the bottom, no creases anywhere or they wouldnít roll tight. When the little roll was made. A clothes stop was tied two inches down from the end of the roll, 1 on each end. Absolutely had to be tied with a square knot or the inspectors would go nuts. These were by Navy boot camp rules, in addition they were supposed to be rolled tight enough to bounce if thrown to the deck. All clothes were secured the same manner.
The clothes would be laid out on your folded hammock at the bottom of your bunk on the deck, for inspection on each Saturday morning. Any layout that didnít pass, clothes not rolled tight enough gave the Company Chief the opportunity to hook his foot under your hammock and give it a kick and throw, scattering your items all across the barracks. Then you could expect some extra duty, like polishing and redoing the "Head" (Navy for toilet and showers) One could always find 3-4 men in the Head polishing bright work ( the pipes) or scrubbing basins and toilet bowls.
The bunks would have to be drawn tightly and blankets folded just so. Your ditty bag was a little soft cream colored cotton bag about 24 inches long with a draw string top. In it was kept your personal gear. Shaving gear, toothbrush, soap box, letter writing material, and memories of home, letters etc. Generally the ditty bag was left hanging on the rail and wasnít inspected. The sea bag rail was built down through the center of the barracks, kind of like a clean hitching rack, on it were hung all the sea-bags stenciled with each owners name. And all issued clothing, was rolled and stored in it.
On Saturday morning, we all turned to quite early, about daylight, we would steel wool the decks by placing steel wool under your shoe and rubbing back and forth to remove any marks on the wood. We never wore our work shoes in the barracks, to keep from marking the decks. Showered, marched to chow at 7:30. Barracks inspection at 9:00. Captains Saturday morning company inspection at 10:00. All companies stood at Parade Rest, feet apart the width of your shoulders, hands clasped behind your back until such time the inspecting officer was finished inspecting and grading the individual barracks, each building had a lower floor and an upper floor, company 1444 was on top and we (1443) was on the bottom, there was six buildings in a grouping. The inspecting parties would then appear at the top of the grinder (drill area) to inspect personnel All companies had been previously ordered to open ranks, dress right by looking over your right shoulder and get lined up with the man on your right. All across the parade area were the sounds of companies being brought to attention. We stood at attention for as long as it took the officer to inspect the ranks of all assembled men. Normally he just walked steadily down the ranks, all men's eyes ever looking forward---- for to look at the inspecting officer would be a cardinal sin.
All companies competed against each other in the compound you were in. If your inspection ratings were the best, your company was awarded a special award pennant on a parade staff to march with for a week. The pennants were displayed by flag staff pole outside the company entrance any time the company was in barracks The company ratings were posted by Saturday PM We learned quickly to find out how we ranked. We won the pennant in our 5th week. We had been marching with rifles for several weeks now, and had become pretty good at rifle drill. How proud the company was that won the pennant.
The Pennant company from each area, made up the assembled companies on the main drill field of area Green Bay for graduation of the finished companies. There would be up to 50 or more companies marching at the same time and every shoe was hitting the asphalt in cadence. And to march in review with the Camp Band playing a quick Sousa march past the reviewing stand was a feeling Iíll never forget. Pride in accomplishment is vital thing in your training company. When the company commander gave an eyes right to the reviewing stand and marched past carrying his hand in salute to the inspecting officers and dignitaries, you could almost hear the neck bones snap, as those heads went around so sharply in unison.
Mother became seriously ill in August, 1944. Was operated on and diagnosed with peritonitis in her stomach. Apparently the doctors thought she would not live. They got in touch with the Navy, I was called into the Red Cross office, interviewed, like what was my mothers maiden name. My aunts name, my sisters etc. Checking to see if the wire from home was true or false. The loaned me $50.00 to buy tickets with (to be taken from future pay) and given a 7 day emergency leave. Company 1443 graduated without me. So I didnít get to make the sought after recognition march in front of the reviewing stands as one of the graduating companyís ready for future fleet or school assignments.
My assignment to Gunnery service school had already been determined by test done several week earlier. Was to report to the service school section on the east side of Great Lakes on return from the emergency leave. Gun Service school Great Lakes fall of 1944 was ten more weeks of training. On 5"38 AA mounts, 40mm (the famous Bofors Design Anti Aircraft Gun) and the 20mm rapid fire Swedish machine guns. Classes on care and maintenance of the hand guns, small 45 colt automatic. Browning carbine, Browning automatic rifle, Garand rifle, 30 caliber machine guns, and 45 cal. Submachine gun. Classes for weeks on structure, assembly, maintenance and care of same. etc. One week of test firing all the guns, then graduation, and assignment to the Fleet.
We worked out for one hour each morning before breakfast. Weights, calisthenics, net climbing, and running. Then once each week we were marched to the shore of Lake Michigan, and we ran in the sand for several miles. Saturday and Sunday we had off. Probably the best physical condition of my life.
We all went to Milwaukee, for weekend passes. Was a very nice and friendly city. At the USO you could check the bulletin boards, they would have posted all the parties at peoples homes for the service men. Like "6 for dinner, pick up 4:00 PM" There would always be neighborhood girls as company one for every guy. Just good clean pleasant atmosphere.
Then on Saturday night, all the sailors it seemed in town, would musters at a big ballroom at the Planters Hotel. No charge, and it would be filled with girls wanting to dance. They always had good bands. Saturday night we slept at the Salvation Army, they would give youíre a blanket, clean sheets and an pillow, breakfast in the morning for the enormous price of .25Ę. Just enough to cover the washing of the sheets and pillow case. I think the city and community donated all the food and things to them. Sunday I would go to a place, a German-American club. Buses would pick those wanting to go. Would be a great afternoon dance. Free beer and food. Nice family girls to dance with. The dance would end at 1600 (4:00 PM) all had to get the 6:00 train back to Great Lakes. Those were enjoyable times.
TO WEST COAST- SHOEMAKER RECEIVING SHIP:
Upon graduation from Gun School I was scheduled for West coast assignment. A troop train from Chicago, in Pullman sleeper cars to California. What an experience for me. Seeing the great plains for the first time, the great spaces was almost too much for me to absorb. Out in the middle of Kansas or Nebraska an experience happened that was so amazing to me. We had pulled onto a long siding awaiting the passing of an Eastbound train. We were told we could be there about an hour. We could get off the train and stretch our legs. A treat after riding so far. No fences at all, just a great expanse of range sloping gradually higher to a small town about a 1/4 miles away. Probably the town wasn't over 1000 in population.
So it was like a flood of lemmings moving across the range towards the town. A school in session could be seen, students were waving out the windows at all the sailors coming across the space and heading into town. We were met at the front of the school by the principle who asked that we NOT enter the school because of foreseen and expected disruption of classrooms. He handed out a couple of basketballs and said maybe we would like to shoot some baskets to work off energy. Some did.
A little store on main street was entered and the mob of guys wanted to buy this or that. The owner asked that we not buy his merchandise because of the scarcity of same, and he needed what he had for the people in town. The war was of course making things scarce. He was so right, because all those guys would of bought ever thing in the store if allowed. He closed and locked the store.
There was only one street in the town, just a little western town with a grain elevator at one end. People were on the porches and talking. It was something different in their lives also. The train gave a several blasts of the whistle to warn us to get back. The tide of sailors turned and all running down the grade headed back to the train. The children were all leaning out the windows of the school and waving. The people on the porches were waving also. Probably in the history of the town, will be noted the day the troop train stopped and a thousand sailors came pouring into town.
Took us two days and three nights heading to the coast. The artificial tunnels built along the side of the canyon walls with wooden roofs so the snow would not crush the tracks if is slid off the mountain sides. Things we had never seen before. The pusher engines that would meet us, and help push us up grades that the two engines pulling us could not of made without help. We sat on sidings many times waiting for east bound troop trains to clear, many were hospital cars, bringing wounded back from the Pacific. Made us think a little. The Rocky mountains, the plains, and Green California.
We disembarked at Oakland, changed trains, and those awaiting ship or special assignment were sent to the Receiving Ship (like an army Placement center) at Shoemaker, California. There must of been 10,000 sailors, coming and going day and night. All personnel going to the Pacific went through this huge distribution point. We slept in Quonset Huts, they were buildings made as if a giant sheet metal culvert were cut in half. One half set on and bolted to concrete with the ends closed except for a door to come through. Each one would sleep 50 men. Served the purpose real good. There were hundreds and hundreds of these buildings in rows down streets with alphabet names. A AB AC etc. then the streets would be laid out in named sections like Dewey Jones Roosevelt and such. Each building was numbered, so they would know where you were. One Petty officer would be in charge of maybe six huts, the hut petty officer in charge of your individual hut would call roll call in front of each every morning, this muster was turned over to the In Charge Petty Officer.
I got smart there, and would volunteer at morning muster to work in the HUGE mess hall. They would load us up in trucks, take us to the mess hall, receive work assignments. We would be fed first. I would eat, and immediately slip out. I assumed with the big turnover each day they couldnít keep track of the working parties and I was right. That worked for 20 days.
Transfers and shipping out orders were posted in one of the six each morning, so people would know the transfer group they were being sent with. Your orders were normally posted a couple of days A head. You had time to find out where the mustering station was. Groups were leaving at all times of the day and night. They didnít tell you where you were going. But only..... Jones, J. R. s/1c. 570-55-94 12/14/44 group #12345 08:00 AM West transfer loading station. There were Navy buses running all over. Trucks would also pick you up from departing points.
SAN PEDRO RECEIVING SHIP:
Loaded on a train one evening, trip overnight to Los Angeles, Navy bus to Port of San Pedro. A week sitting there. San Pedro was like Shoemaker a receiving ship, but scaled down because now the troops are getting closer and closer to their assignment. No Liberty, all were kept inside the fence, no AWOLís from this place. Did get to see a traveling USO Band while I was there. Sammy Kaye and his "Band of Renown" put on a show for us. Spent Christmas 1944 there. The Navy would put on a banquet meal for a holiday like Christmas. Every body ate up a storm.
OUR SHIP THE ST. LOUIS:
We didnít know it, but 15 of us were scheduled as replacements on the cruiser St. Louis, she was just out of the Navy Yards having repairs completed battle damage incurred at Leyte Gulf. 19 men were killed, and we were the new replacements. Finally right after Christmas day the St. Louis entered the harbor for pickup. We were taken way out in the Harbor by a large whale boat, the St. Louis was anchored 2 miles out by the breakwater wall. When pointed out to us, she seemed so small, but as we drew closer the ship grew and grew. The St. Louis was 608 feet long.
How deadly she seemed anchored there, all dark gray, almost black in the twilight. With the silhouettes of her gun turrets plainly with the sky back of her. They were only awaiting the replacements because as soon as we came aboard, preparations were made for getting underway. We were met on the quarterdeck and a petty officer took us in charge and led us to our assigned living spaces I was assigned to 2nd Division as a deck seaman. We werenít told very much, and we were like lost souls. Didnít know anyone, only Jeff and I knew each other.
We had been together since Gun School. Still good friends. Before we knew it the St. Louis was setting the underway sea details and we could hear the screw shafts along the outside of our living compartment start to turn, we soon entered the rolls and swells of outside the harbor ocean, the ship was as planned slipping out of the outer harbor to sea late in the evening. Jeff and I went topside to see the coastline slip away before dark. A thought went through my mind if I would ever see it again.
Gun schools didn't cut any ice in those days. Gun strikers were add to the Turret gun gangs from the deck seaman, in a kind of seniority manner. I find no fault with that. (With a ship like our "Lucky Lou" you can understand why it took so long to become a gun striker. I didnít make GM3/c until late in August 1945,)
Holy Stoning the deck
West to the Pearl Harbor anchorage, 6 days stopover, a couple of liberties in Honolulu. I remember riding the liberty boat into the Navy Landing for liberty. Our ship was anchored in the harbor so to get to the "Fleet Landing" we were loaded off the ships gangway after showing our liberty pass to the Officer of the Deck, asking while holding a salute "Permission to go ashore sir!" When permission was granted, a person would step up onto the landing of the gangway, turning to the "Fantail" salute the colors at the rear of the ship, and then proceed down the gangway into a boat and carried over to the landing.
From there, we went through a gate past the Marine Shore based guards, show our ID card and pass, and then on out to the ticket station outside the fence in "Pearl City" where tickets were available to ride the little narrow gage railroad into Honolulu.
The ride was a treat in something we had never experienced before. The little narrow gage railroad cars had no sides on them. Cross ways seats like a miniature train in an amusement park. It just rocked along, and the sights and smells were delicious. Through the cane fields, past wild flowers and small homes. The ride was about 12-15 miles into the outskirts of Honolulu. Honolulu was not the huge Metropolitan city back then as it is today.
The sidewalks were filled with white uniforms, many times one had to walk in the street. There was beer gardens, but they all had "Bouncers" at the doors, and checked all service men for ID. We were too young to go inside.
We just walked and looked. Went to the USO down by Waikiki and watched a show by original Hawaiians and original dance structure. Bowled a couple of lines at a little run down bowling alley about across the street from the USO. Bought a trip ticket at the USO on an old bus up to the Pali overlook. At that time, on the beach at Waikiki there were only three (3) hotels. The Royal Hawaiian, the Moana Loah, and a Sheraton it seems. There were on houses built on the side of "Diamond Head" We went up there and rode a horse from a rental stable. Went into Punchbowl Crater, and viewed the Military Cemetery. The grave markers were white crosses back then. Our sightseeing day was pretty uneventful.
We had to be back at the gate at Pearl City at 1600 (4:00 PM) so we didnít take any chances of being late. At Pearl all necessary supplies were brought aboard, topped off fuel, replaced ammunition expended on training while en route to Pearl Harbor.
INTO THE WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN:
From there West into the Pacific to Eniwetok Atoll, beautiful blue waters, coconut trees and white sand. A few of the atolls were demolished and the trees remaining were devastated from the battle to take the Atollís away from the Japanese a year or so earlier. Topped off fuel and stacked in ammo again. We were doing this at every chance, never to be caught short. North and Westward to Ulithi anchorage.
I remember asking one of the older hands (Louie Forgoni) as we anchored in Eniwetok Atoll in the "Marshals", on our way further west in the Pacific........ "how do you know when you are in a battle area", "he said" donít worry, no one will have to tell you. You will immediately know. Now on north and westward to Ulithi Atoll, where the task force was formed and made up for our thrust at the enemy homeland.
CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY:
At Ulithi Anchorage in the "Caroline's" we received our assignment orders and proceeded North and West in the Pacific to join Task Force 58 a strike group consisting of Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers and Carriers operating and making strikes on the Japanese homeland. We cruised North and South acting as a screen protecting the fast fleet carriers, ranging from 50 to 300 miles off the enemy coast. Being in this area was likened to "Kicking a Bee Hive" Our force immediately came under attack from land based planes from airfields in Japan. We were now approximately 12,000 miles from home.
As our carrier based planes made attacks on the Japanese homeland, island based enemy planes were searching for and found the cause and location of our ships, and the attack plans by the Japanese were put into effect.
The first time, we were brought under attack by enemy planes, I was topside by turret four when air defense sounded. I had never heard this bugle call before, but from that time on I never forgot it. All the gun crews were running to their battle stations. I just stood there back of the twin 40mm mount. And by the time I realized I should be at my battle station in the powder magazine the hatches were dogged down and water tight integrity set on the ship.
I backed up tight against a bulkhead and squatted beside a hawser spool, just about then the starboard side guns commenced firing. I looked up in time to see a Japanese plane come down in a angle over the ship, the port side gun I was back of opened up and the plane took a hit right behind the pilot. Just a small burst of flame where the round hit The plane immediately went into a slanting glide past a battleship, which finished it. They blew it completely out of the air. I was so excited, and my adrenalin was flowing so strongly that I jumped up and down, and thumped the heels of my hands together at the sight. Did I ever catch hell from the division boatswain when we secured. He really chewed me out. I told him I didnít even know how to get into the magazine and had never been in the magazine at General Quarters before. He then realized I was one of the new replacements and had someone take me down and personally show me my battle station. I never missed getting there again.
I quickly became a part of the crew, I learned to watch the aircraft radar out of the corner of my eye, when it quit turning and stayed positioned in one direction most of us would stop what we were doing and commence drifting in the direction of our battle station. Normally when it sat in one position any length of time it had something on the screens that wasnít recognized and mostly during this period it was "Boogies" (our name for enemy aircraft) If it started turning again, we were OK, recognition had been made.
During this period while raiding the Japanese homelands, we were constantly put under attack by shore based aircraft. On March 19th, 1945 the USS Franklin, only 50 miles from the Japanese mainland, received the double bomb hits, that caused the terrible damage ending in over 800 casualties. We were forward and to the port of her at about 3000 yds that morning, our units had been under one attack after another for over an hour. In our powder magazine the turret gun room would relay down to us the ongoing events of the topside action through the sound powered head phones that Mike Bazerski wore, (he was the powder handling room Gunners Mate in charge of the "Lower Handling Room") keeping us informed taking information passed down from the upper gun room of the events taking place topside. We were under great amounts of stress being battened down in the powder magazine where we could only hear and feel the guns firing, but had no way of knowing what they were firing at.
The gun room on our "High" turret had a periscope and range finder. The Turret Captain, Chief Turret Captain White, could watch through the eyepieces and observe the action taking place. He would then relay throughout the entire turret via the turret intercom ---from gun room to magazine what he was seeing. The message came down to us ......The Franklin just took a hit, and she is blowing herself apart. We would get a read-out of the explosions etc. taking place on her.
Captain Griggs called away, the fire and rescue parties. Their orders were "Prepare to give assistance to a damaged ship". (The Franklin). We started a turn, but at the same time the cruiser SANTA FE put on a few more turns and moved ahead and alongside to give assistance. No attention was paid to the fires and exploding ammunition. She moved up under the list, on the Port-side amidships, about even with the quad 40mm and the mid ship elevator, put lines on the ship and started taking off crewmen needing to leave the ship. At sometime during that period the USS Pittsburgh took the ship under tow, and with an escort of destroyers began a withdrawal from the area. I found out later the Franklin had only been on station for 14 days before taking this terrible beating of explosions etc.
DETACHED FOR OKINAWA:†
On March 23rd we were detached from the Task Force 58 and ordered south to harass and pressure enemy forces in the southern Ryukyu islands "Okinawa Gunto" then to us an unknown island group. The bombardment force consisted of the battleships TENNESSEE, IDAHO, NEW MEXICO, ARKANSAS, WEST VIRGINIA, COLORADO and NEW YORK. The heavy cruisers SALT LAKE CITY, PENSACOLA, WICHITA, PORTLAND, SAN FRANCISCO, MINNEAPOLIS, and the ill fated INDIANAPOLIS, light cruisers BILOXI, BIRMINGHAM and ST. LOUIS and an undetermined amount of screening destroyers. The USS Indianapolis was carrying the "Flag" for our heavy battleship / cruiser / destroyer group. We arrived March 26" off the coast of Okinawa and quickly set up commencement of shore bombardments in preparation of the assault on this island.
It is now known as a part of history, the Japanese Government had prepared for the attack for weeks and moved everything at their disposal to Okinawa. Tokyo radio had solemnly told the Japanese people "The rise or fall or our nation will be decided." The battle for this 67 mile long island lasted from April 1st to June 2nd
Our arrival on station brought immediate response from Japanese forces, our ships battle log, records we were immediately straddled by two torpedoes from an awaiting midget submarine, the "torpedo's" were sighted running just as the helm was laid over turning the ship in preparation to obtain firing position for shore bombardment. Our skipper Captain Riggs quickly ordered a fast correction on heading causing the ship to turn between the two, one passing by forward and one aft, escaping a hit that possibly could of destroyed the ship and this writer.
This was to be an early indication of what we would be facing for the next 61 days. There followed a period of incessant bombardments of Okinawa, both pre-invasion and support, illumination and harassing fire, anti-suicide craft, coast bombardment, call fire from spotters on shore, counter: to shore battery fire and various other duties connected with the support of our operations.
†Assault landings were made on April's Fool Day, a Sunday morning April, 1st 1945, the opening of the largest Air and Sea battle ever waged on this planet. we commenced firing at 0445 AM and continued with steady 6"47 turret and 5"38 AA mount bombardment until 0655 AM. The St. Louis fired 1400 and some odd rounds of 6"47 ammo that morning, that really depleted our magazines, all before the boats went in. When we secured the magazines and came topside for fresh air, a breather to clear our heads from the ether fumes that emerge from the opened powder cans and to help store expended "Brass", plus. The odor of exploded powder hung heavy in the air and the sky was yellow from the fumes, burnt cork from the 6" powder cartridge cases littered the decks and all corners, the silence topside was almost over whelming after such extended firing. Even those on deck talked quietly and low.
The shore line was like looking into the fires of Hell! Burning as far as we could see. What a job the Navy and Air force did. Hard lessons learned and applied from Saipan, Tarawa, Iwo and former island landings. The troop ships had come up through the night to a launch distance from the shore. About 3-5 miles out. The assault boats were in the water circling to go in. Others were still on the way in from the more distant outside troop ships.
Many of the troops were brought closer to shore in LSMís we called them tank gliders, many stopped at an LST the large shore landing ships. Troops were transferred over onto the LSTís and then replaced in "Alligators" these were boats that had treads on them like a tank, they were capable of going through water, and right up onto the beach. They couldnít come from way out because riding so low in the water, waves could cause them to ship water, and create the possibility of swamping. Mostly marines were in these.
The troops commenced the beach landings about 0710. Our Navy and Air Force certainly qualified for lessons learned and did the planned job, the assault troops made the beach landings, and proceeded inland for three miles before a shot was fired at them.
Two days later the "S........ hit the fan. Our moving and sustaining fleet of ships were brought under the most severe attacks imaginable. Our guns were extremely active for the first 15 days, records show our immediate naval group was brought under air attack on 88 different occasions during this battle by (presumed) Kamikaze suicide planes. Our cruiser was even taken under fire by enemy shore batteries on three different occasions. (They lost) The gunners on the 20's and Mk 10 director operators for the 40's were so good (experienced) that no plane could come close to us without the fact of touching or hitting us. (Maybe every ship feels that way about its gun crews) Our gun crews were credited with one "Kill" at 8000 yards with a 5 inch shell , and splashed another boogie at 100 yards with the 40's and 20's . That one was a little too close for comfort, especially when one remembers these planes were closing at 200 + miles per hour. Normal distances for kills were 1000 to 3000 yards.
40mm gun crew at Air Defense
I can recall with clarity, from my battle station in Turret 4 powder magazine of the distant stares of the men in the "Powder Magazine", with eyes directed at the angle between the "Overhead" and "Bulkhead" while listening to first the 5" guns, then the 40's and finally 20mm's directing fire at incoming planes. Not knowing down four decks under water in the "six inch" powder magazine, with all air shut off, and hatches securely dogged down, what was happening topside. Hearing mainly the shrill high pitched scream of the ships 4 screw shafts housed in the shaft tunnels outboard of the magazine bulkheads. These carried to us the sound of increasing revolutions bringing the ship to "Full Flank Speed" thereby allowing its highest maneuvering and sharp turning ability. ....... "
A Pause in the Firing"...... then the eagerly awaited report from the "Gun Room" above in the turret "SPLASH ONE BOOGIE on the PORT QUARTER". How sweet that report was. The men would look at each other and grin or with some, a period of quiet would come over them and no talking would take place for a short period to time. Conversation would start again and until another "Boogie" came or "SECURE", "SECURE" would sound, we knew inside us that "Our Lucky Lou" (nickname for our ship) and its well trained crew had brought us through again.
When a young man, (18) death is something that happens to others and not yourself. It is very possible, I could not be sitting here at my computer putting these bits of recorded history together if our crew in its entirety had not been as competent, efficient, supportive and dedicated as it was. Our ships gunners had experience going back to Pearl Harbor, when the St. Louis was the first to clear the channel that Sunday morning and came out firing with three accredited plane kills for painting on the bridge.
I was a powder passer in the # 4 Turret magazine during the entire Okinawa campaign, I suppose I was the lowest on the totem pole because of my lack of seniority, and I know what the word "tired" means from just being on the beginning or commencing end of the firing.
At General Quarters all outside air was shut off and the magazines were sealed. This was to keep from drawing fire into the air systems in case of a hit on the ship. Fire was one of the most dangerous foes. Because of the lack of air, the magazines became extremely hot inside the handling room and the powder storage rooms. Opening the powder cans in preparation of withdrawing the brass powder cartridge allowed an outpouring of powder ether. An odor emitted from the powder itself. Some would get light headed. The men would quickly start undressing, and some would be down to their underclothes. After several days of firing, we emptied our powder cans out of the passage ways, and always pulled powder cartridges from the top of the stored cans down to deck level. This would give us more room to move around. Stretching out spread eagle on the deck at times was as comfortable a feeling a person could obtain. The cool steel deck felt good to the bare skin. Upon the word SECURE! SECURE! A rush would ensue to be first up the ladder after the job of un-dogging and raising the armored hatch took place.
One part of living not thought about during these battle conditions is the Non-Ability to use a toilet facility. A crude and most primitive item used was just a galvanized bucket. Some times we would be dogged in for long periods of time. And body functions happen whether one is in combat or sitting a bus terminal in Chicago. All men used the bucket, no one gave it a thought.
It normally would take two men to open the armored hatch, it was supposed to be counter balanced but the ship had taken two severe metal twisting and stress beatings, one probably caused by the bomb hit at Green Island and the Kamikaze at Leyte didnít help either. These I suppose may have contorted the ships metal, any way the hatch was more than a normal person could swing by themselves. Especially reaching up over your head with one arm and hanging on the ladder with the other to swing it up and open. We had one seaman by the name of S. H. Johnson , my good friend that could open the hatch by himself. He was strong as a bull as a young man. And liked to show it. Then the mad scramble climbing the ladder up through the barbette to the hatch opening into the mess hall and the air (90ļ) up there felt cool like air conditioning although we didnít know what that term meant back then.
At Condition #1 we stood 4 hours on watch, then supposedly 4 hours off. The trouble was the off hours in the daytime normally were ships work hours, so you hardly ever got into a lay down position to sleep.. (I slept under the turret #5 overhang at night) You would be going into and out of General Quarters (under attack) so often, (Air attacks happened mostly in the daytime) that sleep for the first 8 to 10 days of the battle was almost a memory. Iíve actually witnessed a man sitting on the deck with his head resting on the bulkhead in the area between the two starboard 5"38 mounts while awaiting the chow line to start moving , actually sleeping with call fire from the beach occurring and acted upon , the firing would cause his head to bounce on the bulkhead. But he still slept. Port or Starboard 5"38 mounts apparently took turns being on call and firing as directed to targets of opportunity from the land observer or from observation planes spotters. Illumination fire would be at night every 30 minutes. Other ships took turns at firing illuminating shells. It just stood to reason, one ship couldnít carry all the "Star" shells.
Our illuminating shells burned a bright white. The Japanese burned a yellow. Our tracers were red orange, the Japanese tracer was as I remember a greenish yellow, so a person always knew where the fire was coming from. I can recall seeing a stream of Greenish Yellow tracers come up out of a valley back of some hills on the island, so I assumed these were Japanese tracers.
We cruised up and down the coast, accepting call fire from the beaches and laying down harassing fire where needed. Those first few weeks, we would expend 80-90% of our ammunition, then draw back about 30 or so miles to a group of islands with a protected harbor in the center called "Kerama Reto" for re-supply. We would arrive early daylight, leave early dusk, so we could not be observed coming and going.
Baker Flag" would be on the mast almost immediately and word would be passed, "The smoking lamp is out" Mostly the entire ship turned too to re-arm, we would tie to an ammo ship and gangways put across. Soon the 6" projectiles and powder would start coming aboard, each round (108 lbs) would be carried on a shoulder, one by one. On board working parties would be dropping by block and tackle the projectiles into the magazines. The power cans were handled likewise. Back on the hanger deck empty powder cans would be passed back over to the ammo ship for passage back to the States and reloading.
On our free side, a barge would be brought in and the loading of 40 and 20mm ammunition would began. The 40's were in clips, 4 rounds to a clip, 4 clips to a can. We brought those cans on board like the old time fire fighting chains, passed hand to hand along the line.
The Japanese knew we were in there, but our destroyers would circle the anchorage and lay down a dense smokescreen from their smoke generators over the anchorage in the evening. It was like real heavy fog that lay over us. We could hear the enemy planes flying over us at night, but they couldn't see us.
One night in Kerama Retto, after tracking a particular nosey boogie flying above the smoke for some minutes, the port side after mount #54 fired one round with an "proximity fused" 5"38 projectile. "Scratch one Boogie" He never knew what hit him. That proximity fuse was so secret in those days, we were not even allowed to take one out of the box to look at them. It took special permission to put one on a projectile and fire it. That came from the first case of them brought aboard, They were dark green opaque looking. Strange to us. Of course later we used them quite often but still not common like the set timed fuses we loaded on the High Explosive AA projectiles used for 5"38 firing when we were brought under air attack.
We had an urgent request one night for illumination at a certain range and bearing inside our area of responsibility. We hung two shells over the area. It illuminated a group of Japanese about 20, that were making an end around move on our Marineís. They made short work of them once they could see what was going on. We had a nice grateful thank you from the company commander for the accurate placement of the star shells.
In the bridge log, it was noted we had 5 different torpedoes fired at us, over the weeks in this battle. I didn't know this at the time or I would of been more frightened, just thinking of it, and being locked down in the powder magazine. All were alluded, or were off target enough there was no worry.
As a part of the record set by our ship in the 61 days we were on line in the battle for Okinawa, we were documented in firing 26, 265 rounds of major (5"38 AA shells and 6"47 turret High Explosives Ammo ) not including the 20-mm and 40-mm rounds for *Bombardment, Call Fire, Submarines, Illumination, Enemy planes, Suicide boats, Ammunition Dumps, and Harassing Fire. We were as mentioned earlier even challenged and brought under attack by shore base batteries on three different occasions. (They LOST) This record is posted and recorded
Naval records also document over 1900 Kamikaze pilots made mass and individual suicide raids on the U.S. Ships. 355 of them on one day (with conventional planes) When the battle was over, 34 U.S. Ships been sunk and more than 300 damaged. 80% of the Destroyers on the Picket lines were hit. The personnel casualties for the Americans, the costliest of all Pacific Island campaigns, were 12,500 killed and missing, and 36,631 wounded. The Navy had alone almost 10,000 casualties, more than any time in History. The Japanese personal casualties were recorded over 90,000 to battle, 16 combat ships sunk, and 7,830 planes destroyed. Over 1000 planes were destroyed by the fleet in one day. This gives a little idea of the ferocity of the battle on land and sea.
REST AND RECREATION:
We were relieved of duty after 61 grueling days at Okinawa, ordered south to Leyte-Samar Area in the southern Philippines for a two-week period of rest, recreation and replenishment and actually to just get our selves together again. The Japanese had been cleaned out of this area and were way up north in the Philippines at this time of the war.
Again I was all eyes coming slowly into the Leyte-Samar anchorage. Now we were close to shore and the coconut palms were right down to the beach. Floating debris from the beach, shards of palm branches and general flotsam seen only in a quiet South Pacific anchorage. The water had changed color to a thick green color. Not the blue of deep water anchorages. Ships were all over the place.
An Essex class carrier was about a Ĺ mile over from us on the Port side. We were watching a P-38 split tailed army plane cut swathes, loops and just general show off flying all over the sky above the fleet anchorage. Our comments were, "Boy is that guy going to get it, when he gets back to his base." This plane climbed straight up in the sky, turned over and dived right back down, swooping over the carrier, then right back up, turned over, back down and didnít make the pull out, and crashed into the flight deck of the ship. Dreadful, but he would of been facing a court martial and would have put him away for the rest of his days in a federal prison. Things like that are just not done to Line Ships of the Navy. He must of had a death wish or been drunk and wanted to show the Navy pilots that he also could fly.
We were sent over to the beach (Port and Starboard liberties) in groups of about 50 to an LCI (Landing Craft Infantry vessel) they would run up to the sandy beach, drop the landing ramp, and we would off load, get our 2 cans of beer and 2 sandwiches (cheese & peanut butter) then gather over under some trees. The petty officer in charge would give us the scoop as to how long we would be here before the LCI came back for us. Areaís to stay away from. Boundaries permitted. We took our beer ration and sandwiches and just wandered off to do as we pleased. Not much to do. There were some big dice games over under some shelter. These must of been professional gamblers. They would work two men at time throwing the dice. One would toss the dice, the other would handle the money, take bets and collect or pay if they lost. I had never seen this much money in my life.
I didnít have any money, just a few dollars in my pocket. And that because the party from the day before told me I might be able to buy some souvenirs from the natives. We tried to play some soft-ball but it rained every half hour or so, and for the first few times, we tried to find shelter under the Palm trees. That didnít work, so after a time or so we just said the H.... with it and kept on playing.
The native Samar natives had some huts above our area on the hillside. Sold souvenirs. Japanese invasion money, coconuts, bananas. The bananas were short fat little things, wasnít to sweet, not like I remembered tasting at home. Many trinkets, buttons, clothing, army rations etc. taken from the Japanese. They had mason jars filled with green-backs. I asked one what he was going to do with all the money. He said he was going to the States after the war, this money would give him a start.
I was thirsty and thought I would get a coconut with juice in it for refreshment. What they sold was dry and the lining of coconut was dry. We would take a rock and hammer on the shell until it broke then we could take our pocket knives and pick out coconut from the shell. I had never eaten any before. Wasnít bad, just too dry. No juice at all. I let him know what I wanted. He made all kind of motions with his hands on his belly, shook his head no. Squatted and made a face while holding his belly. He got his message over about diarrhea to me, but I knew better than drink too much, so just took a little drink it tasted good. And didnít bother me.
Above where the natives were selling on a bank was a Seabed Battalion, they had two rows of tents with wooden floors. Each tent was large enough to probably sleep 12 to 16 men. Each tent had a rack like a hitching rail in front. From the rail hung a "Lister Bag" These were bags to hold drinking water. They cooled themselves by a light evaporation through the material. Chemicals were normally added to aid in purifying the water. I was thirsty as could be, so I squatted down by spigot, cupped my hands and started to get a drink. A guy come busting out of the tent, yelling "Hold It" " Hold It", I said all I want is a drink, he replied get it on the other side of the street this side is all working. They were fermenting raisinís, apricots and what ever in the ones on this side. I would suppose after they got the brew fermented, they could distill the alcohol out and make a brew, which was saleable, these guys were real hustlers.
They would charge a dollar to chill a case of beer. The case was put in a waterproof sack then into a barrel of gasoline and a compressor hose inserted. They boiled it a little while with the air, and when the case came out, the cans would almost frost.
My older brother Harry came over to the St. Louis to visit me one day, they passed the word from the quarter deck several times, but I was hid out in the Hammock Netting snoozing. I had moved and rearranged the hammocks so it made a hole down in under other rolled hammocks where one could stretch out full length. There was an air blower inside this small compartment so the ventilation was good and almost cool. I hid so good no one could find me, and the loud speaker in the mess hall could hardly be heard inside this compartment when the hatches were closed so I didnít get to visit with brother Harry. He was on a destroyer just came in. The USS UHLMAN (D687) I didnít find out all the particulars until the War was over and I was home.
Another incident happened while we were there. In gun school, I had a friend named Wayne KOTTWITZ, from Illinois. We were separated at Shoemaker, in California. He had one assignment, I another. Anyway, he came over to the ship one day, knowing I was assigned to it. He was stationed on a CEMENT TANKER. I could see it where we were. He said it was towed from the states and anchored where it was. No engine, nothing except a rudder when it was under tow. It was used as a kind of filling station for smaller ships. The large sea going tankers would load it, and they would disperse fuel. Wayne was telling me this was the most boring duty a person could have. He wanted to trade with anyone that wanted absolute, safe duty. He said I know you are going back up north where everything is going on, I am dying here. Do you know anyone at all that wants security. If we had time I expect some one would of made the trade, but we were leaving shortly and there wasnít time to negotiate a trade, even if our ship would of took him. He came to visit me in 1956, but I havenít heard from him since.
BACK NORTH INTO DANGER:
Our ship was ordered back "North" to Okinawa in late June, assigned patrol to protect shipping in the area. Seemed odd to be there and no air attacks. We were ordered back north as a unit of Task Force 32, around the first of July and our group was assigned the closure of the East China Sea to Japanese forces plus we were screening for anti-shipping sweeps that were continually being conducted by the outlying destroyers,
Our duty was to provide surface and air protection for the ongoing minesweeping operations. and escort for mine sweepers with their rigged Para-vanes for cutting mines loose in the area. These Para-Vanes were interesting pieces of Naval equipment. They had the appearance of a large fuel tank one would have noticed under the wings of aircraft. Fins and elevators (like the elevator on the tail of an airplane) were capable of being set so these pieces of equipment when towed by cable from the mother ship would ride at a pre-determined depth and distance out from the side of the ship, like 100-200 yds or so. Maybe more, not being of this rating I didnít know this type of information. Each carried a signal flag which protruded out of the water above where it was riding in tow. These Para-vanes would be streamed out behind a ship. The ship would in a drawing look like an head of a "V" with the arms behind being the cables to which the Para-vane was attached.
Not being a "mine-man" I can only describe what was told me about these cutting devices. There apparently was a cutter bar somewhat like the blades of a hedge trimmer, below and attached in some manner to them so in the towing of these devices, if an anchored mine chain, contacted the tow cable, it would ride or slide along the cable towards the Para-vane because the towing ship was of course moving forward. When the chain attaching the mine to its anchor slid along far enough to reach the Para-vane its chain would slide into contact with the cutter bars, the pressure of a foreign cable being pulled into the mouth of these cutters with the Para-vanes underway would trigger an explosive charge, this charge would be the closing lever to cause the cutters to slam shut shearing off the chain from its mine. The mine would then free surface.
The rigged and running Para-vanes would be constantly under observation, when the flag dipped somewhat like a bobber on a fish line. It had made contact. The mine would be sheared loose, and float free. One of the smaller ships would move in an explode it with a 20mm gun. Firing continually until it exploded. Mines are much larger than you think. They are dangerous and ugly, with horns which contain the detonators sticking out from the sides. They are probably three to four feet in diameter.
Floating mines are really HAIRY" All mines in an area heavily mined as in this set of waters were not anchored. Through the movement of the seas, storms etc. Many would break loose and be a menace to all ships, the original Navy that had laid the mines was in danger also. They had to be blown out of the water by firing at them.
Destroyers or Destroyer escorts ( a smaller vessel) were usually the ships that were assigned the jobs of moving in close enough to fire at them with 20mmís. Loose ones floating were always looked for (and found) The look-outs spotted a close one we all remember. It was sighted floating free and practically in our track. It floated past slowly, (we were cruising slowly also) down past the side of the ship. The ship cannot turn quickly at that point, because the wash might cause the mine to move in touching, and in turn cause an explosion which if not sinking would most certainly severely damage and more than likely inflict personnel casualties to a ship.
As a result of the above near miss, a mine watch was established during this mine sweeping and clearing operation, "Lucky Me" and few other deck-hands with my low seniority from our division were listed for this watch. All the deck divisions to be fair, furnished so many men to stand this lousy watch. One person only at a time would climb up on top of forward turret two, the high turret on the bow, wearing foul weather gear and bundled up, it was uncomfortable there in the wind, we sit on the edge of one of the life rafts secured on top of each turret, given binoculars and told to watch the oncoming sea for floating mines. How I or any one else could have seen one and in turn warn anyone in time for the ship to veer is beyond my imagination. We wore sound powered head phones connected to a phone talker on the bridge. It was a certainty in my mind, if we hit one, I was a goner. I surely would be blown sky high off the turret.
One air strike was conducted by carriers of the Force against the Chosen-Hangchow area, this probably to remind the Japanese that a task force large enough to warrant a carrier was in the area, and to keep their heads down or suffer the consequences. The Japanese had very few operating forces in China by this time in the war. We had no fear of land based planes from China. The St. Louis retired to in late July, returning to the Okinawa area anchoring in the Buckner Bay area for replenishment.
We were awarded the right to attach another battle star ( a small bronze star), for our combat ribbons and this information entered into our service record.
Finishing our assignment protecting mine sweeping in the East China Sea area, we were another step closer towards closing the door for Japan. We were then ordered south to Subic Bay in the Philippines. This area was a major Naval Harbor and anchorage for Merchant as well as Navy ships. It is north of Manila on the Island of Luzon. Making entrance into this anchorage, a ship would travel up a narrow passage about Ĺ mile wide.
We went to General Quarters, condition 2 while traversing this passage. The Japanese troops were known to be on the hills above the passage, and our ship was ever alert and wary to surprise. After a mile or so before opening into this large protected harbor, ships would pass "Grande" Island. This had been an armored fort with huge gun emplacements. These of course now were damaged, rusted and wrecked in general. But a person could see, that in the old days no ship could make entrance without permission. I suppose these dated back to the Spanish American War. A fortification like this with modern aircraft was doomed. But those huge costal guns would kept any fleet out in earlier days.
On our way in, we passed two submarines being led out to deep water by a destroyer. The crew or many of them were standing topside. We of course gave a "Port Salute" and they saluted as we passed. This was a Naval courtesy and custom to recognize a passing ship, going in or coming out of port.
Those guys didnít look to thrilled going out on another "War Patrol" Submarines was really dangerous stations and the chance of survival wasnít too good. If a crew member made it through 5 war patrols, they were shipped back to the United States. Many never got the 5 patrols in. The Subs were painted light gray and looked pretty deadly to me. Destroyers would escort a sub out to deep water, about 3 - 4 miles off the coast, where they could dive and go about their orders. At least they were safe that long.
Upon entering the harbor, we were directed to an anchorage area. As soon as the sea detail was secured and the anchor dropped. The gangway was put in place, and immediately a small boat carrying office "Guard Mail" would come alongside with official business mail. Much of this was for the different departments, such as Supply advising procedures for re-supply and general ships business.
Working parties were ordered the next day and I was put on one that would go to a "Reefer Ship" a refrigerator ship. There we would get Meat, Produce and such. A tank glider, (the small boat with a drop front) would pick up the working party maybe 15 or so men, and deliver them to the destination. Arrangements were made at what time the small craft would come back and pick us up.
We were directed to a cargo hold, by ships personnel, according to what our requisition called for. This requisition was of course handled and submitted by the ships storekeeper petty officer in charge of the working party. Working parties in a replenishment type of anchorage such as we were in Subic could be for anything. Everything needed to keep a fleet going was available. At any given time we would be getting food. Next time maybe ships supplies. One time I was put on a party that was going to a small stores supply storage, of course we didnít know that until we got there.
Upon entering this large building and being shown where the requisitioned materials were. Our minds started working with ideas. Some of us drifted aside from the main party, and we started dressing. New dungarees, new shirts, I got a new pair of shoes. What we took off just was shoved behind packing boxes. My old shoes was tore out in the front and the leather was ruined from salt water immersion so many times. So it was nice to have new shoes.
On one ship we were getting fruit and such. In the hold we were working we found there was crates of honey dew antelopes over to the side of what we were putting in the slings to be hauled up to the main deck. The men were ingenious on this one. We stacked crates in a manner to make a tunnel over to where the melons were. One at a time, we crawled through the tunnel and then would use our knives and have a melon. The ships storekeepers watching the stuff from the main deck could not see us, so we got away with it.
On that one, we were down in the refrigerated hold so long, that when our working party was relieved to go up on main deck and await our boat back to the St. Louis, I sit down back of the steam engine running the booms that lifted into and out of the holds. It was so cozy after being in the hold so long. I went to sleep. When I awoke the working party for the St. Louis had left. I panicked at once. I knew we were leaving late that afternoon and this was in the afternoon. Missing your ship in War Time was an offense punishable by Court Martial. I was really in an uproar. I went to the officer of the deck, and explained I was from the St. Louis and had been left behind by the working party. I of course told him I was in a hold working and didnít hear them pass the word.
The signal man got on his lights and relayed a message across the bay, by relaying and passing along to other ships with a target St. Louis that they had left one of their working party aboard. About a half hour later, here comes the ships gig sent from the ship just for me. Was I ever relieved.
One of the days we were there, we were taken as a recreation thing over to Grande Island, where the big guns were entrenched as I mentioned earlier. We just browsed around looking at the old rusted guns and equipment and fortifications. Young men can only do that so long. So the first thing, somebody mentioned lets go swimming. There was no beach as such. But one could carefully wade in the water until it deepened and then swim. We swam nude, and I and several others took off running down the cement pier and just bailed out over the water. While I was in the air, I looked down and saw the outline of a huge "Portuguese Man OíWar" , a type of jellyfish. I was really struggling trying to keep from hitting this thing. We had been warned of the painful poison it carried. I managed to just get a few red welts on my side. Good thing I didnít hit into this creature.
Also managed to come up with some tropical fungus infection that appeared and grew in every orifice of my body. The corpsmen painted me all purple for a treatment of some kind.. ( Reactivated this fungus in a warm water pool here at home, with a dandy earache I went to an ear doctor. He looked and "Said" looks like home, Dr. Noche was from the Philippines).
We were ordered to sea about the middle of August to escape an oncoming typhoon. These were terrible storms like our Hurricanes. The major ships went to sea to ride it out. The small ships could only tie down as good as possible and hope for the best. Many of the small craft we found out later was washed up on the beach, some a good ways.
We met the storm about two days at sea, the ship had attempted to get to the outside edge of the storm to be less severe. As we entered into the storm track, the seas got progressively rougher and the waves higher and higher. At the worst point we were only turning over about three knots of forward progress, and this slow turning of the screws was only to be able to control the direction of the ship.
After entering into the storm, the ship started taking huge rolls. The bridge kept the ship pointed into the middle of the troughs with the 3 knots it was turning. At times, we could look up, and see green water (solid water) higher than our mainmast, which I have to judge were about 80 to 100 feet from sea surface. The reason I make this guess is, the St. Louis had 20 foot freeboard. That is from deck level to water was 20 foot. I am guessing that the top of our mainmast or foremast had to be 60 or more feet about deck level.
At times the solid green water would be way above our heads, and then the ship would be lifted up with water under in a huge wave swell, and we would be on top and could see across the water for a great distance. Now and then we could spot the top of a mast of some other ship down in a trough.
We witnessed out a mile or so from us, a troop ship, on the edge of the August "typhoon" (Oriental Hurricane) that had hit a mine, it was in heavy seas and every time it rolled to the starboard side, a hole in its port side would come out of the water and sea water would gush out of it. The hole in the side of the ship was large enough to drive a truck into. We couldnít help at all. The word was a sea going tug was on the way to help, whether they made it in time or not I donít know.
Some of the rolls the ship was taking were so severe that we picked blown wave tops (water) on one side, ran it across the deck off the other when the ship righted itself. Below decks was a mess, locker doors were flying open, in the mess hall, the stacked mess trays and pots and pans were crashing to the deck. On one particular bad roll, I became so alarmed thinking "She" wouldnít correct herself, that I went topside, and when "She" was fairly level, I tore around to the faceplate of turret 4, climbed the ladder to the top and sat down inside one of the life rafts. I was sitting cross ways with my back against one side and my feet braced on the other. The trouble is, about then the ship started into another roll, and I was staring almost straight down into the water. "I thought" my God, If I fall from here I will go right in the ocean and no one will even know Iím missing. Plus they couldnít get me, if they did. On the comeback roll, I again slid down the faceplate ladder, across the deck into the hatch forward of turret four, thence the down ladder to the second deck and STAYED THERE.
The storm was most severe and the sky outside was real dark and it rained a lot for about 6 hours, and then gradually eased up. We went back into Naha Harbor at Okinawa the next day. The damage was terrific to the little ships that couldnít go to sea and ride it out. Some craft was way up on the beach, washed there by the waves.
While St. Louis was anchored in Buckner Bay on August 12th about 300 yards from USS PENNSYLVANIA (BB 38) a Japanese torpedo plane slipped in and torpedoed her, crippling, but not sinking her. My first thought, was we had taken a hit. Boogies had been spotted on Radar and we were at General Quarters in the Powder Magazine 3 decks below the water line. There was an enormous thud and the GM 3/c Mike Bazerski in the handling room, said "Weíve taken a hit" up forward in the superstructure. As it turned out it was the Pennsylvania taking the hit on her fantail. Sound carries through water so good its frightening to hear the sounds out there.
Burned in my memory are the sound of depth charges rolled over by destroyers. Depth charges made a two part sound, the first was the firing mechanism going off, and then the main charge exploding. Sounded like a rap then a ker-boom On the surface there was just the big explosion. But us powder rats could hear it all. We really didnít like to hear depth charges, there being only one answer........out there stands an enemy submarine. And we were located in torpedo junction.
We were thrilled to death when we as a crew were told the Japanese had made contact to set up rules for ending the War. Word was received about August 12th. Late that morning a white plane with green crosses was met coming out of Japan, by an escort of Navy fighter planes, they were really protected. There was planes flying cover above, below and to the side. I got to see the plane. It landed at Ie Shima, the little island the War Correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed on just a month earlier. The opening talks apparently were conducted in the Philippines, and the plane escorted back to Japanese area of the main island. All planes of the Allied forces were kept miles away from this area. I assume no sorties were flow at all that day, nor the following days. The war was winding down.
The night we received the word about the war ending, I had hit the sack at 20:00 (8:00 PM) to get a little sleep before going on the Mid-Watch at 11:45 PM. I was to go on watch that night in the after five inch gun director. An Ensign, canít remember his name now, myself and two others. Our watch ran from 12:00 to 04:00 in the morning. On this watch we were supposed to be relieved about 3:45 by the next group of people going on the 0400 to 0600 watch
About 10:00 at night the lights came on in the compartment, and guys were running up and down the ladders, yelling the war is over. At first I thought it was some prank. But when the loudspeaker came alive and advised the crew to take cover from falling shrapnel from the beach. I realized this must be the real thing. Crew-members on the ship were racing around yelling and waking every one in their sack to the news.
The Army and Marine troops on the beach at Okinawa went crazy. They were firing every piece of ordinance they could get their hands on into the air. This went on for the longest time, until they ran out of ammunition I guess. The fleet anchored out, was taking all the debris from the exploding ordinance, we were warned to take cover because of the falling shrapnel.
The 5" Director Mount is an enclosed dedicated piece of fire control equipment, that controls two five inch AA mounts. When in control, it had the ability to absolutely control the tracking and firing. The gun crew in the mounts responsibility was to keep the guns loaded and ready to fire. The targets were selected by the Combat-Information-Center (CIC) on radar and relayed to the 5" director. The director set the ranges in etc. and the guns were fired by electric key from there. Four of us were on watch that night.
Liquor was broken out from where ever it was kept. The higher ranking officers were issued same. The crew was out of luck. BUT, someone said to this Ensign, canít you get something to drink ? He replied, I can but maybe only a small can of sick bay alcohol. This was grain alcohol and perfectly good for drinking if cut down enough with water or juice. He left the 5" director, and was gone about 20 minutes or so, and came back with a little dark green can of the alcohol. I went over to our turret and got some grapefruit juice powder, kind of like Cool Aid only sour. We mixed the two together with water to reduce its strength. The first drink I took, I thought my insides were on fire. We all had a couple little drinks, second drink was better. Then it was gone, but we were out of it anyway. Thatís all it took. I went to sleep. We didnít get relieved from watch until after 6:00 in the morning, when somebody got it together enough to decide the watch should be relieved. The whole ship went nuts that night.
From that point on we just coasted. The shipís orders of the day, consisted of holiday Routine (no work) each afternoon. We were allowed to sunbath, the engineering divisions began to get sunburned because they were so white from below decks all the time. The loafing didnít last too long. We had a wise Skipper and executive officer. Idle hands arenít to healthy. Orders were passed down to the deck divisions, to start removing the paint off the wood decks in the beginning of restoring them to the condition they were in Peace Time. The other divisions I canít speak for only knowing what we did.
The deck hands were issued from the bosun locker paint scrappers, a straight flat piece of iron about 12" long, with one end turned down at a 45ļ angle and a bevel ground onto the end. by kneeling on your knees, left hand putting pressure on the 45ļ angle, the right hand behind to pull with, a dragging motion would do a good job of scraping the paint off the deck. There remained a lot of dents in the wood, because of shell casings and whatever hitting the deck through the years. Each dent held a little dark blue-grey paint. Our whole ship was painted this color.
Seems like every time there was free time, out came the paint chipping hammers, and paint scrappers and all the deck hands were put to it. I being so low in seniority always got a part of all these jobs. For instance some of the older seamen would have much better jobs. One I envied was in charge of the bosun locker, this was a tiny little compartment off the deck on the starboard side just forward of turret four, and under the ladder that one had to take up to 01 level to get past 5"mount 3. We called it going "up and over" on the other side past the mount was a ladder down of the same length that dropped down onto the after quarterdeck. The chow line formed here going below to the third deck mess hall.
Anyway, under this after ladder was a bulkhead hatch, when opened exposed a little area like a clothes closet, in it was kept all the tools and equipment needed to run a deck force. The heaving lines, the scraping tools, various tools used like fids and marlin spikes for line work. A small tool bench with a vise on it. And best of all our "Joe" pot and hot plate. The Navy ran on coffee I think. There was always making a pot of coffee. We deck seaman could hardly ever get a cup. It was always taken by the bosunís mates, and the older seaman. What a treat to get a cup of coffee from the division "Joe" pot. We always drank it heavy with sugar, and white with canned milk. I donít know if I liked it that way when I came aboard, but that is the way the older hands drank it, and so did I. Monkey see, Monkey do.
The entire after deck on the fantail was stripped of paint as best as possible. This took about a week. Then we started to holy stone the deck. This procedure was accomplished by using a primitive tool that was only a fire brick from the boiler room inventory with a small indentation ground into the middle top. A short piece of swab handle was placed in it, the kneeling deck-hand would put his right or strongest hand down close to the brick on the handle, lay the handle up against the right shoulder for bracing, cross his left arm over the handle and grasp the right forearm tightly.
A row of deck-hands maybe 5 or 6 in a line would start moving these bricks back and forth on the deck in a strong sanding motion. Salt water would be run across the deck in a continuous stream, this would keep washing away the grit coming off the brick. This old fashioned sanding method that had been used in the Navy since the sail ships, ground down the marred and dented deck wood to a smooth surface.
The sun and salt water on the decks, quickly turned them back into white decks as they were seen in peace times. We scrubbed the decks twice daily. The wood decks were scrubbed with salt water at 0600 AM and 1600 PM every day.
I still can hear in my mind the bosun pipe shrilling over the loud speaker, and the bosun of the watch announcing. "Sweepers man your brooms, clean and sweep down fore and aft. Sweep down all deck and ladders". This was an 0800 and 1600 ritual in the Navy.
During these last few leisurely days of August 1945, we slowly brought the ship back to a state not possible during the war years. All life lines, were served (wrapped) with tar soaked hemp. A special tool was used, these again were resurrected from I donít know where. This tool was shaped like a long narrow 8 to 10 inch long paddle with a notch in the front end and a hole back from the notched end about three to four inches.
A large ball of this serving twine was held by another person. This tar embedded twine was fed under the paddle through the hole, out the top, the twine started on the life line, then the nose of the placed against the line and paddle passed along with the twine around and around the life line. The length of the paddle with a little pressure through the notch, would put the leverage on the twin to wrap the line extremely tight. So tight the tar would ooze out of the twine.
The life lines were twisted copper braid, and "War" covered with painted (Blue) canvas, saltwater had of course entered under the painted canvas cover sewn previously on the life line, the water had made them green with corrosion. This was all wire brushed off prior to this serving on them. The twine would be wrapped so tight there would be no give at all. They were practically sealed for the weather. After being served, other deck-hands using a sewing palm.
This leather palm fit over your fingers and thumb, protecting the palm of your hand, like a farmers corn shucker when the needle was pressed through the canvas. A large curved needle used to sew a canvas cover on the line. Canvas was drawn from the sail locker and strips about 2 inches wide and as long as the canvas issued was wrapped and sewed in an overlapping stitch. All sewing finished in less time than I could imagine. The canvas was painted white. Coat after coat until it was sealed also from the elements.
DAILY WORK SCHEDULES:
New hot shell nets were woven out of copper cable by the leading seamen, and overseen by Boatswain mates. A metal marlin spike was used to part the braid of the copper cable. This was about 10 - 12 inches long smooth, and to a point at one end. Blunt at the other so it could be hammered with a mallet opening the cable strands for weaving. (Rope hawsers or lines were opened with a tool called a "fid", made of hard wood). This was the cartridge casing net under the high turret about 7 foot off the deck. These were to catch the empty casings coming out of the turret after firing. Damage control men would take the empty case and stack them.
OFF FOR CHINA:
In late August while in the Philippines we were assigned by Pacific Fleet Commander to TF 73 to be a part of the Yangtze River Patrol Force. And in the latter part of September we were sent to Shanghai.
We leave today from Okinawa. September 28th. I hear 12 LCIís left at 1000. We got underway about 1250, expected to rendezvous with LCIís later in the afternoon around 1500. This is a very slow formation, most we can make is around 10 knots. "Mother Lou and her Ducklings"
Off the coast of China I noticed the water has muddy appearance like it is real shallow, or we are now at the mouth of the Yangtze River, As we approached the Yangtze through the waters of entrance, the water changed to a deep muddy yellow. we continue to pass island after island . These islands are cone shaped or very steep cliffs and not much base to them, like what pictures shows of China. Islands all over the place, large and small, some have lighthouses on, people, small villages, junks or sampans. One of our DDís escorted or led the way through the islands.
Water getting shallower and muddier through these islands. We were told we have only 8 fathoms (48 feet ) of water under us, strong current running by. Canít see mainland yet even through a glass, can see some saddle islands in distance. We are waiting for the tide to come in so we can steam up the Yangtze. Seems funny anchored in wide open like this. Water looks like it is running fast by us and muddy too. Cold air blowing almost continuously.
Steaming slowly up the Yangtze, from its very wide delta mouth, it gradually gains a recognizable shape of a river with defined banks as we proceed up. As we get nearer to actual mainland we see more junks and a lot of small fishing boats, etc. Land is all flat. We pass "Merchantmen", "DDís", Small craft, more and more small junks, I notice the trees are not very tall. Small houses or homes all over the place on the banks. Farther up the river we began to see clusters of buildings, small factories I think, Chinese water buffalo grazing here and there in the open fields. I see Chinese and British Flags flying on the ships masts and building flag poles. Solid land really looks nice. It has taken us 4 hours of steaming to reach the mouth of the tributary river leading into Shanghai.
Turned into the tributary river, the "Whang Poo" a muddy fast flowing river susceptible to rapid changes reflecting the Yangtze which in turn rose and fell by tide to head into Shanghai, quite a few industrial buildings all along the river. Lots of Junks. Seems funny to see very little damage done to buildings. Most all camouflaged, all deserted. Saw an AD and an AOG with 4 Jap ships (3 river craft, one landing). Jap flag at half mast. Americans guarding them all. Sailors armed. Japs stood at attention etc. as we passed. Saw quite a few river craft beached, rusted, salvaged and left lying close to shore.
We have stopped and by the looks of things are in the heart of Shanghai. We tied up out from the area called the Bund. This apparently was the landing docks for steamers in the past to disembark passengers or whatever. We moored to two buoys fore and aft at 1730. LCIís, LSTís, LSD, PCís moored along docks.
Noticed very little or few lights in City at Dusk, and no lights at all along land we had passed coming up the river. Buildings all over the land too, 1 story houses. All the buildings are good looking. Mostly British etc. Along the river front most all buildings are deserted, some of them are damaged, fire etc.
The radio room with the Skipperís permission put China Radio throughout the ships intercom system. We could hear music being broadcast. Sounded weird to us. The sounds were so different than what our ears were used to hearing as music The city of Shanghai a huge city is ranked among the first few largest cities in the world.
ANCHORED IN SHANGHAI:
We anchored out from the area called the Bund. This apparently was the landing docks for steamers in the past to disembark passengers and their peace time entry through customs.
Large dark looking stone buildings, with a type of foreign look that is hard to describe, these buildings I assume were part of the import / export business where in earlier days the shipping industry was centered. Just as we have a financial section with wall street.
Bodies were sighted floating in the river quite often. Whale boats from our ship, ( we were the first major ship to Shanghai ) patrolled steadily. When sighted the bodies would be turned over with a boot hook ( a long 10 foot pole with a seaman hook on the end) to determine if they were oriental or Caucasian.
The ship was cabled to anchored buoys placed mid stream, fore and aft. There was such a tidal influence the current would race and a ship could make large swings if not tied up in such a manner. It was called a "Chinese Landing" our boat boom was rigged and swung out for the captains gig and whale boat and the boats lowered into the river, the coxswain running the boats were strongly lectured on the type of tie up and coming along side to make. They had to always drop below the boom and then power slowly up to the catch cable. The bow hook in the front of the boat would catch the loop ring, that was on the end of the tie cable and hold the boat up to it until an after line was secured to the boat. . Otherwise they would never get tied to the boom to make the boats stable. The undercurrent was so strong we were warned, a person falling in possibly would not emerge to the surface. We had to take cholera shots, and several other shots before being allowed to go on liberty.
CHINESE RIVER PEOPLE:
The river was congested with little boats, we called them "Bum Boats" maybe because they were always bumming. But those poor souls were the "River People" they lived and died on those boats. The boats had a single oar like a tiller fastened on the stern, and the Chinese person propelling the boat, would move the tiller, back and forth in a sideways movement, and he could do what he wanted with that boat. He could steer, and he could propel.
The next morning the USS Nashville, entered the area and tied up about 50 yds up river at the next set of buoys.
On the landing docks in front of the "Bund" were large bamboo cages, in which Japanese prisoners were being caged. These were river boat soldiers and navy men surrendering their craft to the allied forces.
Money changers, were all over the place to change your currency into the Chinese currency. We received a huge roll of high denomination bills. Too many to carry almost. Stuck them inside our "Skivy" (undershirts). Unfortunately by the next liberty, the money was not in use any more. And we had to buy another kind. First time in my life I ever heard of a change of currency in a country. It is a terrible thing to behold the old currency blowing down the street and no one picking it up. Like old advertisement folder or the like.
ON THE TOWN:
Our liberty consisted of hunting up a "Cabaret" first. Our Rickshaw driver understood where we wanted to go by the gestures of drinking and other "obscene" moves we made with our hands. , straight to a bar. The crowds of Chinese citizens were solid around us as we made our way down the street. They were as curious about us as we were about them. The divers or runners had to keep up a steady calling to make way through the crowd.
Upon entry to the bar we were advised it cost us (American) .25Ę for entrance. We thought it was a cover charge. A red ticket was given to us, and we slipped it in our jumper breast pocket. We were the only customers in the bar, when we first entered. Entering we observed an area with tables and chairs, a bar against the wall with only Whitehorse Scotch and Russian Vodka bottles in view along with the glasses. The beer was kept in a water tank. They would reach in, wipe the bottle (quarts) and bring bottle and glass to the table. I believe a quart of beer cost about .20 in our money.
A closed dance floor with what looked like plumbers 2" pipe railing painted black, inclosing it and about 20 folding chairs which on each sat the object of a 18 year old sailors attention. FEMALES. A group of musicians had began to make a racket of sorts when we came in the door. We were among the first of the Liberty Parties to arrive. Our liberty started at 12:00 noon, and we had to be back on the docks to go back to the ship by 17:00 hours (5:00).
After serving a bottle of beer to us, shortly the manager wearing a tuxedo came over, "asked if we were enjoying ourselves". Someone said!! "Hey Mac!" How does one get to dance with the girls. He replied.......You have already bought any one of the girls you desire, by your purchase of the "Red" ticket. "For a dance"? We asked. No.....for the rest of the afternoon to do as you please. It would please them if you ordered a sandwich, because food is what they are working for. We caught the drift immediately.
Needless to say, there was an immediate movement towards the dance floor by all the Cabaret, there were maybe 12 to 15 guys there by now. Barging to the railing, we stepped over the rail, the girls immediately stood up in a line to be chosen. It took no time at all, to choose a partner, and then the fun started as we tried to dance. Never was so bad a music played or listened to. Those guys were terrible. We didnít care. We all hugged and squeezed our way around the dance floor, every sailor in his own world of bliss and imagination. Our little table of sailors then led our selected lady to sit at our table. From then on the afternoon proceeded quite nicely.
(This autobiography of mine is for my children and others to come, so with at least a shred of decorum, I shall not relate many parts of the pleasant afternoon). We were young, healthy, inexperienced, and I might say very naive young men from all over our Country, called to service during a war, mostly our life experience came from listening to older crewman on the ship, and their sea-stories of what foreign liberty would have in store for us. We actually knew very little of the real world.
I wish I had then enough sense to visit sites and see things. We shopped a little, bought a few trinkets, and looked for food. We had been warned also not to eat any local food not thoroughly cooked. Like fresh fruit, fresh vegetables in salads etc.
We stopped in a different bar on my second liberty, there were more than several British and French sailors in there. Shanghai beer in sold in quarts, Black Horse scotch, and Russian vodka was again the extent of all they had to drink. We of course drank beer, being too young to have developed a taste for harder whiskey. Within no time at all, a fight had started between a couple of British and American sailors.
It had been misting rain, and the British Sailors used a white paste polish painted on the tops of their flat hats to make them pure white. The water from the rain dissolved this like mascara on a womanís eye. The white ran down on the denim jumper collar and down the necks of the sailorís, it didnít take long for the American sailor's to start ribbing them about the way their uniform looked. Plus poking fun at the red pom-pomís on the French sailors beret style caps. Didnít take much to get a fight going when one is young and full of the ole Nick. The French sailors had classy looking uniforms I thought. The skivy shirt was of horizontal strips which showed up good against the deep v- neck of the jumper. The beret type caps were actually real nice looking with the red pom-pomís on top.
The ladies of the night or bar girls were Chinese and some White Russianís. One of the Chinese "Bar" girls asked me if the black sailors were "Legal People" They had never met or seen a black sailor. Maybe it was just the time and era in China, and of course maybe had never seen a black man in person before. We were the first ships other than Japanese or German in that port since 1941 so we were strange to them also.
BUM BOAT MERCHANTS:
While anchored out, we had boats come up to the ship, one brought an Navy authorized tailor. For $40.00 they would measure, and promise in two days a new custom made dress blue uniform would be delivered. The jumper could be lined inside with black silk, having sewn embroidered dragons or Chinese symbols, the pants lined with black silk down inside to the start of the legs, for ease of getting into. We turned our jumpers and pants inside out to put in our locker, this kept the inside ironing press in place. We were proud of our tailor made blues. Any owning a set, would show them all over the compartment, as the sewn dragons and what ever.
All sailors like uniforms very tight. With the young hard bodies we owned back then, we could wear clothes like that. Inside the cuffs would be Chinese dragons embroidered on each, these of course were turned back when wearing so the public could see our pretty embroidered designs. The buyers name would be embroidered inside the jumper and pants. All these purchases were approved by the Navy Port authorities. Of course, the skipper had to approve the coming aboard of a civilian.
One "BIG" trouble was, on a cruiser or a line ship of the Navy, very few officers would allow us to wear our tailor made blues on liberty, we were required to wear the heavy "Melton Cloth" wool blues. We would have them tailored as well as possible. But they couldnít match the custom made Chinese Serge uniforms for show-off ability. Our tailor madeís were mostly tucked away for a less strict duty station. Later on in ones career.
Another merchant that came aboard to show his wares was a jeweler. He showed precious stones. Not set of course. Any that had the money, could buy and know it was the genuine article. Sailors were always being taken in foreign ports. These were protective measures approved by the Navy for we Navy sailors. Course even though cheap, still a good diamond or ruby cost $50 to 300.00 and we didnít have any extra money. We were too busy spending it on Wine / Women and Song.
A boot maker would measure you and make custom made half boots of real soft upper leather for $20.00 two days delivery. I only was paid about sixty dollars a month, even being 3rd class, and getting hazardous pay while in combat. So we didnít have a bale of money to spend.
HUNGRY RIVER PEOPLE:The "Bum" boat people, would line their boats up and move in order to where the scullery water was emptying out of the side of the ship into the river. They would hold a little net about the size of a butterfly net up to the outlet from the scullery, the water would go through and the ground up solid food would stay in. When they had filled a couple of nets, and dumped it on a flat place on the bow of their boat, the boat behind would be yelling like crazy to them, and they would move. The debris from the mess hall was not coming out all the time. Just at chow time. Looked terrible, but it probably was better nourishment than they were getting. Ground up food from the dumped mess trays and the steam tables was what it was.
BUM BOAT FAMILIES:
These river people lived on small boats, maybe 20 feet long. A small area in the center was covered like a "Covered wagon" in the old west days. The back end had a slight platform built on it, where the boatman stood, using a single oar or "sweep" paddle extending back over the rear of the boat. He would move this in a side wise sweeping motion, and also turn it in his hands to control the right left movement of the boat.
By the docks in certain areas these boats were side by side for great distances. Small river boat communities. People could walk across other boats as needed for supplies, goods, or to reach the shore. I have told, entire lives were lived on these small boats. I recall the little babies, (crawlers) would be naked on the boats, each boat was the home for a family. The boy babies had a little ring around its stomach to pull him back in if he fell over the side, but the little girls were on there own. Nothing around them. Girls were not an asset to a family over there.
Water taxis, were of the same type of boats standing off from the side of the ship put in the current, just slowly swinging the sweep, just enough to hold the small craft in place against the river current. I canít believe they ever done any business from a Navy ship. But if a ship had someone (Chinese Merchant) that had to go to shore VERY quickly, a signal could be given and they would pull over to the gangway, holding the boat steady, the customer could sit down in the middle on a seat, a cover top was over them in case of inclement weather. Merchants used them.
Three liberties in Shanghai, and we then were ordered out, leaving was an experience. Because of the strong currents influenced by the high tide change that effected the river, we had to leave by a certain time or wait until the next day. We really hauled tail, getting down that tributary river and out into the Yangtze. Our screws were turning up the bottom mud as we departed, we left at such a high rate of screw revolutions.
A crazy thing happened, on the way down to the Yangtze we were ordered to quarters to make a head count. The River at that point was just a little wider than the Ohio River. On the banks were Chinese Citizens watching, like any group of spectator. For some strange reason, the corpsman were ordered to do a "Short Arm" (we called it) Here we were standing in ranks on the fantail, (and I assume other parts of the ship also) our pants were lowered and the corpsmen with flashlights were inspecting genitals of the men for disease that might have incurred while in China. I always wondered what those people on the banks must of thought. A United States Man of War , going down river and the men topside in formation with their pants down.
We met with an LST in the near out to sea area loaded with Chinese troops. Our job was to escort the ships to Formosa, they would be the occupying troops, The garrison and island surrender would take place on the St. Louis from the Japanese commander. All this we found out later.Well before entering Kiishung (Kaohshiung ?) harbor we entered an entrance area to the Port of Kiishung, (Kaohshiung ?) this whole area had been mined during the war. Not to many miles from the entrance of the harbor, we were met through former contact with officials in charge, a small costal vessel, on it was a Japanese harbor pilot, an interpreter, and the Navy contact person. The came aboard and upon recognition took over the wheel and using maps of mine placement slowly moved through the outer bay and into the harbor entrance and so into the inner harbor. Noticeable was the sunken shipping in the harbor. A huge dock crane was on its side also. There were long docks with railroad cars on them and warehouses all along the dock. We tied to a dock without the aide of tugs. First time I had seen this also.
Along side the dock the warehouses were found to contain stored ordinance. Our captain insisted before any motion was made to accept surrender. The ordinance was to be moved out of the warehouse and away from the ships area. This was accomplished with haste by the Japanese soldiers and dock labors. The ordinance was moved to the other side of the harbor, noted by the whale boat crews that were set in the water and patrolled continually up and down the water side of the ship.
The boat crews passed the word to friends of theirs on the ship, and parties of men some way or other got to that warehouse in the daytime and gathered up souvenirs. This gave the Japanese a great opportunity to observe the frantic souvenir gathering of American servicemen. We in the deck divisions could find no reason to leave the ship and we wanted to go over and get our bootie also.
So.........after the movie on the fantail that night, Sam Johnson, Jim Jeffrey and myself put a Jacobs Ladder ( a type of folding line and wood slat steps ladder) over the side about even with turret five, in the box cars at across the dock, standing up inside the cars because of the misting rain, were two marines we knew. A Cpl Hand, that I had stood watch on the 40's with, and another unknown marine. We called to them, told them we were coming down the ladder. We jumped in the car, told them our plans, they knew of the different guys from the patrolling whale boats that had gathered up souvenirs that afternoon. So we promised to bring them back something for turning their eyes in the other direction.
No one felt there would be any problem, we were from the same ships crew, had all been through the same things together. And all seemed well. We found the warehouse, after looking around a little, we went to the side where there was a window missing. All three of us climbed in the darkened warehouse. By the light coming from a glassed in office towards the front, we could see shadows and hear people moving around through the building. I canít remember now, whether or not, our batteries had run down in the flashlights or maybe we didnít even have one, I canít remember. We tried to see what was in the cases.
We finally found one. It had (2) Nambu pistols in holsters. We already had a fistful of bayonets for the marines on watch. Seeing so many guys moving around in the building tearing open crates and tossing things around. We decided to go out the front way and not exit by window as we entered. Upon getting up the office, there was a Japanese soldier maintaining the office. He held out a book for us to sign as a receipt of goods taken. (All armies are the same) Looking at the book offered, there were signatures of Clark Gable, Joe E. Brown, and just any thing that had come in previous signers minds. We signed and left. It took some time to work our way back around the bay. We certainly didnít want to run into any more of those Chinese soldiers, with their machine pistols hanging down to their knees.
When we crawled up to the boxcar and whispered for Corporal Hand. A strange marine stuck his head out, and motioned for us to climb up in. The watch had changed and we didnít realize we had been gone so long. The two marines in the boxcar questioned us as to what we had been doing, we told him and offered the bayonets as gifts to them. This guy was a real deal, he wanted out pistols, we only had two. And there was three of us. He handed his carbine over to the other marine, after cranking in a round. said hold this on them, I am going to take the pistols. Jeff said pulling a bayonet out of the scabbard, you might have one for not turning us in, but we made the trip, and we are going to keep the other one. You can take it, but by God you will take the bayonet with it.
About that time, I looked up to the ship and a fellow named John Milton was at the lifeline. We called to Milton. Throw down a Jacobs Ladder Milt and we all had decided, we were going to jump out on the dock, if he was going to shoot us, it had to be in front of a witness. We bailed out. Nothing of course happened. We climbed back aboard. Later we found out, guys coming back from the so called foraging parties were actually walking up the gangway, and signing their self in to the Officer of the Deck.
We flipped a coin for the remaining pistol, and I won. I hid the pistol in the front of our turret by the faceplate. And brought it home with me. In 1948, married with son Terry, work slowed down in a recession. I got a little punch board, took it over to the pottery where I worked, and raffled the gun off for $18.00. We paid bills with the money. Responsibility was always strong in me, debts incurred was something I had to pay.
The next day, Johnson, burning mad because the other pistol was taken from him, decided to try and get the souvenir back. He and I and Jeffrey went down to the Marine compartment. He faced that guy and wanted his pistol. Another Marine, stepped up for the culprit, and Sam got into a fight. Sam got knocked silly. And we didnít get the pistol. Word was passed to the Marines from this point on they were not to come back to the fantail. Or they would face a fellow named Forgoni a big strong Italian fellow from Pennsylvania who would work on them just as did Johnson. The Marines who pulled this trick were not Marines from our ship, but marines being transferred as passengers to the States. We could never find out their names.
The Commander of the Island offered to give rifles, swords or whatever as souvenirís to the ships crew. Our skipper wouldnít allow it, thinking that was too much ordinance to have on the ship as individual possessions. They brought a stake bed truck up, and dumped a whole load of Helmets on the dock. The guys cleaned them up. But even though I took one, and cleaned it up I didnít want it, and I donít think I even took it off the ship.
The surrender instructions to the Japanese Commander were given by our Captain Griggs, and held in the Wardroom. I didnít get to see any of it. Probably on watch. But as a white hat I couldnít have been allowed to mingle with the officers anyway. As an 19 year old I wasnít too interested no how. Guess I just didnít have any sense of history yet.
GUAM AND HEADED HOME:
We were ordered from there to some islands I canít remember the name, putting aboard a group of some 10 or twelve Japanese Prisoners. Plus a bunch of marines, headed for the states. We transported the prisoners to Guam. They must of been important for such treatment. I recall them being kept in the hanger deck. We pulled guard duty on them. But they were not going anywhere, nor did they want too.
A large Japanese (we were told he was a Mongolian) a sergeant led them in calisthenics each morning on the fantail. We had never seen calisthenics like this. It was more of stretching and bending process to an odd rhythmical chant. We were used to seeing men jumping up and down, bending, squatting etc. We scrubbed the decks at 0600 with salt water, so each morning we 2nd division deck-hands got to witness this activity. Then they took them to chow, no one was allowed near them, but I was told those guys really put the chow away.
I recall them playing cards, and they shuffled the cards from the top of the deck, we thought this odd, because normally we shuffle from the sides of a deck.
After our stop at Guam, discharging the prisoners and the passenger Marines we again thought our time had come to return home for leave to our familyís after being in battle for so long. To go back to the States as returning victors, just as most war ships did. Wrong!!! Our orders were changed and we headed back down into the South Pacific to pick up service men for return them to the States. A part of the "Magic Carpet Fleet" The islands were full of service men, some had been there for over two years, all wanting to go home, just as we were. Canít blame them for that.
To the Solomonís, Tulagi, Guadalcanal more passengers. Got back to the States in late November 1945. I can recall coming under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco harbor, even though we were two months late getting home, a tugboat met us with water hoses squirting up in the air, and on the hillside was an enormous sign "Welcome Home" Well Done" Iím sure the first warships home must of gotten a huge celebration. But we were old hat by the time we got back. They were used to seeing fighting ships creeping back into the harbor.
For the few days we were there, I remember every now and them another warship would come slowly into the harbor from sea. The same tugís would greet them. It was kind of stirring to look out to the "Gate" and spot a cruiser, destroyer, or other fighting ship slowly making its way in from sea, coming home from war for the first time in a long time. They were sort of weary looking, proud, but weary. The ones away for a long time, was dark and rust spotted, riding high from no ammunition in the magazines. If I remember right we had our ammunition removed at Pearl Harbor on the way back.
No leaves, just liberty for a few days then back to the Pacific to pick up more troops. Of course the guys on our ship whose time was up, left the ship and went to separation centers. Regular Navy crewmen who were short timers also was taken off. We went to sea with a much shortened crew. I know the ship was riding high in the water when we went back to sea. Almost felt naked, like something might happen and we couldnít defend our selves. It was hard to realize there was no danger a t sea. Lights could be had on top side decks. Smoking topside, anytime and all that.
CROSSING THE EQUATOR:
We worked our way down to the equator, the deck crews were doing "keep busy" work. Paint was being chipped off the turret barbette (the round armor under the turret proper) an endless job. We would chip it with paint chipping hammers, prime the metal with zinc chromate, repaint the entire thing with Navy dark grey.
As we got closer and closer the equator, more and more time was spent for the "Crossing the Equator" ceremony. The conversion of "Poly-Wogs" as any in the crew was called who had not until this time crossed the equator, by the "Shell-backs" as the crew that had already had crossed were known as. This is an old time Navy Custom, the hazing, ceremonies, and fun rituals were again possible. During the war, the vigilance was of necessity quite high, so the initiation was low keyed if any. Now the old crew who had been there before could have their day on us initiates.
For three days in advance, water fights took place. Just like a college hazing. On the day we crossed. The word was passed for all poly-wogs were to lay up to the focscle (the bow) for muster and initiation. Following muster, you would be in your bare feet and all would be ordered to drop to their knees and commence the crawl back to the fantail. All the time salt water hoses were being used on the crawling line. Arriving at the fantail another part of the initiation began.
Living in the second division which owned the fantail, I was aware of the preparations being made. A "Judges" bench like a court room was set up. On the high chairs was a black robed Judge, each poly-wog in turn was led up to the bench, your name was called, and charges if any were read against you. These charges may of been dreamed up by your best friend. Like "Loitering in the passage way, muttering words concerning the "getting even with shell-backs" "known to have posted a picture of tortured shell-backs in the division living spaces", and just being a lousy low-life poly-wog, and things like this. You would naturally be found guilty. And when the gavel was slammed down on the bench, about that time you would be given a good strong jolt of electricity through your bare feet. Being soaking wet, one would really go up in the air.
Two shell-backs then, grabbed your arms and again forced and ordered you to your knees, we were ordered to crawl to the Royal Court grouped in front of us. One shell-back on a throne, played the part of King Neptune, his wife with a blonde wig was beside him. Seated in front of them was the "Royal Baby" a big fat bellied shell-back in diapers. We were ordered for our miserable discretions to kiss the "Babyís belly. Our faces were shoved into the babyís which was smeared with white grease and other icky looking stuff.
From there we were taken up a three or four step ladder to a platform to meet the "Royal Barber" sitting in the chair, canvas shears were taken to chop big hunks from your hair. The bare places were dabbed with black grease. At that point the chair was tipped backwards and the one in the chair did a flip into a large canvas tank filled with water.
Several shell-backs were in the water to catch you, and as soon as your head came up above the water, they asked what were you. Naturally after three days of being hazed your answer would be "Poly-Wog", WRONG! Back under the water you went, each time I come up, spitting and choking on the salt water, and the same question would be asked, I said "Seaman" "Gunnerís Mate striker" "Citizen" everything I could think of between trying to get my breath and choking from being shoved under on every answer. Finally one felt sorry for me, cause I was really getting in trouble, He whispered in my ear, say "shell-back". That did it, they pushed me out the other side of the tank, two big guys caught me and I was forced to my knees again. A yawing, stinking round entrance of canvas tubing was in front of me. Go through, I was ordered. It was filled with old stinking garbage from the chow hall, allowed to ripen in the equatorial sun for a day or so. Mean while, as you are slithering through on your belly trying to get through as fast as possible, sailors on the outside of the tubes were putting their feet on your back pushing your head back into the mess.
Finally through the long tube, we were helped to our feet and washed thoroughly with salt water hoses. How nice that felt to be cleaned off. We were now "SHELL-BACKS" and so all would go around to the other side of the turret and watch the newcomers just starting in the line at the Judgeís bench. A good time was had by all. I wouldnít of missed the initiation for all the tea in China. What memories. Another of the fun times.
We went into American Samoa, Pago Pago was the harbor name. A beautiful blue harbor with absolutely stunning green mountains in the background. Around the harbor were little sheds on stilts out of the water. These we found out were Natures Toilets. From the back of some were waving little white clothes. We just knew these had to be from native Polynesian beauties calling to us. We anchored just out a little ways from the shore. It was just what every body can dream of a tropical island is like. The white sand, the coconut trees, the beautiful foliage, mountains in the background, thatched roof huts, crystal clear blue water. The whole bit.
There was a small refueling station at the pier. And on the pier was a group of natives, making up a band of sorts. They had brass instruments, I forget what they played, but was probably music learned from the church or teachers. They wore Navy white hats, with the top part of the rim colored in orange. Bare chested, bare footed. A sarong from the waist to below their knees, with that same color scheme of an orange two or three inch stripe around the bottom.
We were advised no one except those cleared by the medical doctor could go ashore. The ones that went over by the whale boat to get official papers, that might be awaiting the ship were all checked and cleared. How we envied them.
That night on the fantail, the crew watched a movie. After the movie, 4 of us from the second division decided we were going over on the beach. Jim Watkins, Gildersleeve, Furbee and myself. We took our clothes off about 9:30 when things had settled in for the night. Put them in a bucket, unrolled a Jacobs ladder over the side, climbed down, pushing the bucket ahead of us, swam over to the beach.
Out of the water, we dressed and started down a dusty road back up the harbor towards where we had seen huts through the trees, and a white spired church. Several hundred yards up the road we came to this hut. The sides were open, the roof was thatched, and a single cord hung down with an electric light burning. There were four or five men in there, we climbed up the little bank from the road and tried to communicate. They let us know that all the females had been taken back in the jungle and moved over the mountain. We got through to them by making tipping motions, was anything available to drink. This was in agreement to them. One got up went back in the bush and came back with a green bottle like a pop bottle, a twist of paper was stuffed in the neck of it, a liquid was inside we could see.
Gildersleeve, said how do we know it is drinkable ? Watkins said, ask him to take a drink, we asked and he did. Thinking no use to waste it. Gildersleeve took a drink, turned his back to me and handed the bottle, I took a drink, and knew immediately why he turned his back. It was the foulest tasting stuff you could imagine. Made from fermented coconut juice. BUT POTENT it was. We got it down among the four of us, and it wasnít any time until it hit. Holey Mackerel! All of got snookered on that one little bottle, it must of been a real high alcohol content.
We didnít bother sneaking back down that road, we were singing and yelling all the way back to the dock. Then we found out, we werenít the only guys that had slipped off the ship. The road had lots of guys yelling around. The ship sent the whale boat with master-at-arms over to pick up the drunks. Several of the guys had to be brought up in cargo nets, they were to whacked out to even climb the ladder. Some were completely out of it.
Later we found out, a couple of guys had taken a small out-rigger canoe and were going to paddle around the harbor. This turned out bad, because of the outgoing tide, the canoe was being carried out to sea. They yelled, and yelled until some one on the ship noticed the canoe going out to sea. The ship had to send the whaleboat after them also.
We felt for sure our butts would be hung out to dry, but later found out so many had left the ship, it would of been impossible to put all on report. So none of us got any punishment. Our Captain had a good heart.
We went from there to Guadalcanal in the Solomonís, entered and anchored off Savo Island (the site of the earlier famous Naval battle) Seems like we must of got somebody or people there. Some things are clear to me, some are fogged in. Senior moments I think.
I think we made three trips to the South Pacific on the Magic Carpet Fleet. I remember having Christmas aboard in December 1945. Large meal with all the trimmings.
STATES IN 1946 - HOME:
Back in the States, sometime in January 1946, A little time in San Francisco, the people aboard that live in California or within 5 days close were given leave. I lived to far away and didnít get any. Our orders for the East Coast were received. We left San Francisco for the last time, headed south towards the Panama Canal.
One day while drifting at 12 to 15 knots south, Marlin were sighted and also a huge sea turtle. The executive officer, being a fisherman with the Captainís good wishes decided to try and catch some. So we stopped right out there in the middle of the ocean, boats were lowered and they went fishing. No fish were caught, but one boat did throw a net over the basking sea turtle, they towed him back to the ship. Used the aircraft crane to bring him aboard over the stern. A big one. The crew didnít get any of the turtle soup, I think the officers ate it all. Some good pictures were taken. I have a picture of me standing holding the guide line to the crane and the Turtle hanging there.
Arrived at Colon on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. Ours was the only ship going through at the time. So one liberty was granted for the Pacific side, and there would be another liberty on the Atlantic side in Panama City. I pulled shore Patrol on the Pacific side. No sailors in bars except from our ship. Was an easy watch. My partner and I got half drunk in the bars we were supposed to be policing. We would go in, see someone you knew, first thing you knew they had a drink holding it down at their sides below the bar, we would squat and drink it. That was a crazy wild night. Things happened that I shouldnít write in my memoirís.
My ride through the canal which should of been historic and interesting was almost lost. I was feeling bad and slept a lot of the ride through. Woke up in Gatun Lake, saw the first locks, and lost interest in most other things. I remember only how wild and green, and humid it was. The liberty on the other side was just a wild, except I was on liberty. Not to talk about this either. My friend Sam Johnson, Jim Jeffrey and myself made the liberty together
EASTERN SEABOARD COAST:
It snowed up the eastern coast of the seaboard on our way to Philadelphia. I was sleeping in an compartment just below the main deck. I put ANOTHERmattress on top of me plus my blankets, snow was coming down ladder. Most compartments were empty. So many people had been taken off, there was only a skeleton crew remaining, just enough and no more to get her around to the Navy yard.
Went up the Delaware river to Philadelphia to the Navy Yard, her last anchorage. Tied up outboard of the heavy cruiser USS Wichita
DECOMMISSIONING THE SHIP:
I remained aboard until March 1946 to the time we put her out in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. stayed with the ship through to the decommissioning in the Philadelphia Navy yard working the 6"47 turret guns.
The turret gunners all worked as a group, the GM's from turret 4 and turret 5 together worked as a team on the hydraulics and recoil mechanisms, spread, brushed and smeared cosmoleen (a heavy sticky grease) on all moving parts, removed and wrapped designated parts in brown waxy paper marking with a tag the contents, following the rules put out by the Bur Ord. procedures for decommissioning of the turrets, right up to the end we broke down the guns ourselves, no Navy yard help, except for crane use to move heavy loads.
We had used masking tape to make a frame of paper strips to cover a gun tub (40mm) mount, even the turret barrel "bloomers" covers that protect the turret barrels from sea water, covered it almost like a net. Then had a plastic spray that came out like spider webs. We would spray the tubs with this making an airtight cover like a cocoon over the gun. A preformed plastic window was set in the net just before making the final spray to seal it.
A container with Silica Gel would be placed in the gun mount, and a monitoring device that read humidity. By peering in the window, an inspector could read the humidity gage and note if the moisture inside was low enough to prevent rusting of any metal on the guns. Thatís what all those silver huts are one sees on decommissioned ships.
By the time our turrets were out of commission and inspected by a BurOrd inspector for final approval, the 40 millimeter mounts were ready to spray with the plastic airtight seal. The 40 millimeter gunners mates and turret gunners mates, by this time were all together with jobs being assigned through the gun office. Our crew was getting smaller all the time. Much work and not much crew to do it.
At the end of the time aboard the St. Louis, she was to be de-commissioned with in a few days, the ship was by this time mostly fastened up. You could not go below decks. The hatches were sealed. We few slept aboard the Wichita. A few day later we were given orders separating us from each other, the few of us that had been together in the war. Only 4 of us left. I went to Norfolk, Graysneck went to Texas, Milton went to Boston, and Saville to an Amphib base in the Carolinas. Our times together had ended.
I think at some point, the plastic huts were cut off and metal huts were placed on the gun tub and sealed at the bottom.
After all ammo was taken off the ship and we returned to final berthing, One last thing I vividly recall. While working on de-commissioning the after turrets, we found two live projectiles in the Turret 5 ammo hoist. We fearing the consequences, at night, dumped the two shells over the side and to this day in the mud is still where they lay for eternity, right under where the "Lou" was moored.
My end of time aboard the St. Louis was quickly coming to a close, she was due to be de-commissioned in a few more days. The ship was by this time mostly fastened up. You could not go below decks. The hatches were sealed by weld tabs.
We few remaining slept aboard the Wichita. I stayed on the USS Wichita for quarters and meals for a couple of days towards the end in March, 1946. Then I was transferred over to the USS Massachusetts a Battle ship, also being decommissioned, stayed aboard her for about a week or so, then to the USS Latimer Bay an APA for a few days before my orders came through transferring me to Norfolk, VA to the 16' Fleet Reserve group.
A few day later we were given orders separating us from each other, the few of us that had been together in the war. Before I was given orders, the Navy not knowing what to do with us, sent me over to the battleship Massachusetts for a several weeks, didnít do anything except check the moisture reading in the covered huts on the guns, then over to the Latimer Bay an AKA for several more days, just putting time in.
OUR LAST LIBERTY TOGETHER:
before we were broken up, there were only 4 of us left who had been in the old 2nd division. We made our last liberty together and what a fog breaker it was. Kind of hazy on this one. I know Graysneck cut his hand bad, sometime through the evening, and I finally curled up on the corner of 4th and Broad for a nap. A mounted policeman woke me up. And did he wake me up. He bent my little finger down into my hand and up off the walk I came. I can recall him asking how Graysneck got cut, blood was running off the end of his hand, I didnít know, Milton was just leaning against a building and grinning kind of dull like, and Ray I think could not even remember how he got hurt. I think we ended up in the hoosegow, but I canít swear to it, because of the condition we were it. Maybe Graysneck can remember some of the doings. Seems like at his point in the evening, there were only the three of us.
I was transferred to Norfolk, I think Raymond Graysneck went to Texas, I think John Milton went to Boston, and I think Bob Saville to an Amphib base in the Carolinas. Our times together had ended.
The Navy in all its great wisdom, gave me my records to carry on my transfer to Norfolk. That was a rewarding train ride. I cleaned out my service jacket of anything that might be detrimental to me. Like a Captains Mast papers, and an emergency leave paper, and a 72 hour pass that our lousy executive officer made me take and charge as a three day leave. That 72 was the ONLY and first time I got home, since August, 1944 and then only for (1) one day. (1 day getting home, 1 day at home, then 1 day coming back) He wanted to make his record look good, and choose to do so, by working us extremely hard and no leaves, getting the ship out of commission in record time. I fooled them, my records were clean as a whistle when I got to Norfolk
On arrival to Norfolk, I was assigned to the 16th fleet headquarters group, we checked ships out of commission and loafed mostly. Good food, every night liberty, right down Granby from "Fleet Park" where dances were regularly held every Wednesday and Saturday, lots of nice looking girls to dance with, beer was only .25 cents a big paper container. The dance hall was filled with tables like picnic benches. Good music. Lots of boogie, and close hugging music. Was like being in heaven.
Our Navy Unit Commendation caught up to me while I was there. When I was called out at Saturday quarters parade I thought Now What! Thought I had been caught up on something.
Our compound had a fence around it, no guard at the gate. An office building, which served as the officers quarters down below, and offices above, a barracks and a mess hall. A misc building for vehicle and official cars parking. What a racket living there. Never had it so good. Our compound was just outside the Main Navy Base, about two miles .
Our job was to inspect the gun mounts on the ships tied up and out of commissioned. We inspected the Gun Mounts that were covered over by temporary huts, through a viewing window we could see inside a humidity meter, and logged the dryness so rusting would not start again on the guns. There were cans of "Silica Gel" opened to absorb moisture inside the sealed hut.
SEPARATION FROM THE NAVY:
In May 46, I was sent over to NOB, Norfolk to await separation. Lived in a Quonset Hut for the time waiting separation. Being regular Navy on a 17 to 21 cruise, they sent me home and sent a monthly check to me for a year. My discharge came in 1947, my due date to get out.
All those papers I cleaned out, while en-route to Norfolk paid off, I got paid for leave time due me from May 1944. Plus mileage home, Cambridge, Ohio. I was rich. Also dumb. I threw a lot of my clothes away and carried only a suitcase and ditty bag home. Had to repurchase clothing when I was called back in November 1950. They did at least allow me to stay home until after the holidays before activating me again on Jan 2nd 1951.
Duty on an Essex Class "Carrier" NUTS! 18 months over there (40mm AA mounts this time" as a GMM2/c) thatís another story.
Jack R Jones, 2nd Division USS St. Louis (CL-49) WWII (Light Cruiser) 1944-46
1st Division, USS Antietam CV-36 Korea Service (Essex Class Carrier) 1951-53