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Old 11-11-2009, 02:16 PM
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jriley1349 jriley1349 is offline
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Post Naval Action - Lingayen Gulf - January 6, 1945

(A story that centers around an excerpt from my dad's WWII Navy diary)

Background:
During the closing months of World War II, US and allied forces were pushing the Japanese from captured islands throughout the South Pacific. In preparation for the liberation of Luzon (Philippines), hundreds of US and allied war ships had massed offshore and were confronted by Japanese naval and air forces in the Lingayen Gulf. Despite their eventual success in driving out the Japanese, they suffered heavy losses, particularly to the naval convoys due to kamikaze suicide attack planes.

During the Lingayen Gulf campaign (January 4-12, 1945) a total of 24 ships were sunk and 67 damaged by Japanese kamikazes. My father's ship, the USS Howard as well as three other DMS's ( destroyer mine sweepers) were sent in ahead of the main force to clear the Gulf of mines while under heavy attack. Although partially stated in the below diary entry, the three of the Howard's sister ships (USS Long, USS Palmer and USS Hovey) were sunk within 48 hours of this journal entry. My Dad, Jim Riley was a 21 year old Machinist Mate/Engineer and whose battle station was to man a 20 millimeter anti-aircraft cannon (gun #25).

================================================== ======

James W. Riley - diary entry of January 6, 1945 - Lingayen Gulf - Luzon

G.Q. [general quarters] at dawn. Start to sweep at 0700. DMS's [destroyer mine sweepers] swept in center section. Lingayen Gulf is bordered by high mountains on the east and a smaller range on the west. The southern end of gulf is very flat and the city of Lingayen is in N.W. corner of gulf. The boogies [Japanese attack planes] constantly raided us coming out of the sun or low through the passes of the mountains. Saw eight boogies shot down, two by our planes chasing them, with a burst of flame & splash. They have a bad habit of suicide diving on our ships. Two just missed the "Long" DMS-12, the third hit just off of the bridge causing an explosion and fire from fuel tanks. At the same time, one suicided on an APD [troop carrier ship], injuring 5 men and causing damage - #4 stack knocked over and both davits torn loose. The "Long" was abandoned and continued to burn all night. Also a suicide plane crashed on the quarter deck of the "Stoddard" DMS.

Battle wagons, cruisers and escorts mentioned before, steamed in [unloading troops] and then headed out to sea again late in afternoon. While on their way out, we had quite an air-raid of (suicide) "special mission" planes as Radio Tokyo calls them. Just before dusk, a Jap dive bomber (Val) came across our fantail from port to starboard side. Gun #24 shot first, then I picked it up on the starboard quarter, aft and commenced firing. #23 fired too and we shot it down.

After everyone got their breath, the control said #25 shot it down. I was told later that my tracers went into the engine cowling and oil streamed out, then the boogie banked and started to dive for us. Fired some more and was told the tracers went through the cockpit and hit the tail assembly. The plane crashed about 40 yards off our starboard quarter. I was scared and forgot to turn on the light on my gun-sight - been razzed ever since. As the harness was released from the gun, my knees were still vibrating and to top it off, a chief was running up the deck below, pointing at me and hollering,
"Riley got him!" I didn't know what to think. I think the other two guns deserve most of the credit, the main thing is we can paint a Jap flag on our bridge. If I did get the plane, it was purely by luck! A little later, saw suicide dives into one of our battle wagons, two of our cruisers and an Australian cruiser - also some DD can escorting the battle ships. The Australian cruisers suffered the heaviest damages today - 57 killed or drowned and 90 injured.

Had K-rations, with a cooked meal at night. Saw enough action today to last us a lifetime. After dark, the captain spoke to us over the speaker system - said,
"We have seen plenty of action in the last twenty four hours," and ended by saying "Well done, men, well done". That meant something coming from the old man! [While sweeping], got one mine the U.S. planted back in 1940. Slept at gun. The captain wanted to know who the gunner was on gun #25.

==========================

I recall my father describing this battle once when I was young. Other times, he just shook his head with comments like, "we watched our sister ships go down" or "they really gave us hell that day." Although he gave credit to the other gunners and admits he was scared, it seems possible that his well-placed gunfire may have prevented his ship from being sunk that day. The Japanese Val had a pilot and a gunner.

From reading the entire diary, I learned that the USS Long was the twin sister ship to the USS Howard and had accompanied Howard during most of it's service in the North Atlantic and South Pacific. The Howard and Long often tied up together at sea to share engine parts, ammunition, food, jokes and entertainment (movies shown outdoors on the aft decks). The comradery and dependency that both ships' crews shared was like that of a single family. I know my father carried a good deal of stress throughout his life from witnessing the Long's destruction as well as action at Iwo Jima a month later.

---------------
Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia describing the final hours of the USS Long DMS-12:

USS Long began mine sweeps in Lingayen Gulf 6 January, evading and firing upon Japanese aircraft as she carried out her intricate mission. Shortly after noon, beginning her second run, Long spotted two Mitsubishi A6M Zero “Zekes” heading for her.

Long went to 25 knots and opened fire, but a suicide plane crashed into her portside below the bridge about 1 foot above the waterline. With fires and explosions amidships, Long lost power and internal communications, and was unable to fight fires forward. Her commanding officer, Lt. Stanley Caplin, fearing an explosion in the forward magazine, gave permission for men trapped on the forecastle to leave the ship, but through misunderstanding, the crew aft abandoned ship. All were quickly rescued by Hovey (DMS-11) standing by to aid the burning but still seaworthy ship.

Lieutenant Caplin prepared to lead a salvage party and board Long from tug Apache (ATF-67), but continuing heavy air attacks prevented firefighting and salvage attempts. Later that afternoon a second plane attacked Long and exploded at the same spot, destroying the bridge and breaking the ship’s back. Long capsized and sank the following morning. Several of the survivors rescued by Hovey perished when Hovey herself was torpedoed and sunk by enemy planes early the next morning.
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Old 11-11-2009, 02:43 PM
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Thank you for posting this.
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Old 01-09-2010, 01:07 PM
McHank McHank is offline
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I am researching my father Floyd "Swede" Walker served aboard her 1941 through 1945
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Old 01-11-2010, 05:24 AM
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McHank... did your father serve aboard the Howard, or Long?

My father had a USS Howard scrapbook that someone on the ship must have put together. The below link is to a lot of scanned images from a Howard scrapbook belonging to Thomas O'Hara - looks like he had some good times on R&R. My dad's scrapbook has most of the same photos and he is in image #24 (right side).

http://www.navsource.org/archives/11/0907d.htm
I have other photos of the ship that I can send along if you want.

Also, I just got through reading Herman Wouk's, The Cain Mutiny. Wouk had served on a 4-piper Wickes-class DMS during WWII and the story takes place on such a ship. Unfortunately, the movie (starred Humphry Bogart) was not filmed on a Wickes-class DMS because they had all been scrapped by 1951 when the film was made. It's a good read (pulitzer prize winner) and will give you a good idea of what life was like on such a ship.

Jim Riley
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