In January 1944, my twin brother, Donald, and I finally persuaded Mama to sign the papers so we could volunteer for the Navy instead of waiting to be drafted into the Army. The papers were signed about 9:30 a.m. on January 22, l944, and at 2:00 p.m. on the same day, we left Brownwood, Texas on our way to Abilene, Texas for testing and a preliminary physical exam.
After spending the night at a local hotel and having breakfast, we went to the recruiting office in the Federal Building for a written test and another preliminary physical. After we found out we had passed, we were put on a train for Lubbock, Texas where we were to have our pre-induction physical and swearing in ceremony. Most of the men at the induction center were draftees, with a scattering of volunteers like me and Donald. After our physical was completed, our papers were handed to a table of recruiting officers to be assigned to the branch of service next in rotation. Since I was a volunteer, my branch was already assured. A Marine recruiting lieutenant picked up my papers and looked up at me.
As he handed the papers to the Navy officer he said, "Here is a volunteer for you, but he sure would make a good Marine." We had to wait two days to find out if we had passed. We were separated into groups of about 30 men each, according to the branch of service. There were about 8 groups of Navy recruits, and out of the eight groups, the group Donald and I were in was the only one assigned for Boot training in San Diego, California. We were sworn in on January 27, 1944, two days before my eighteenth birthday. After being sworn in, one of our group was appointed officer in charge and given all the train tickets, and meal tickets, for our trip to California. The trip to California took about three days because we stopped for meals at the Harvey House Depot Restaurants, and our train was side-tracked about four times to let loads of war materials go ahead of us.
After leaving the train at the San Diego train station, we boarded buses for our trip to the Naval Training Station. During the ride to the Training Station, we passed by some defense plants and aircraft plants making planes, etc. for the war. They were painted in camouflage colors, and camouflage nets were stretched across the tops of the buildings , and even across the streets we were going along. That was a most interesting sight to see, and brought the war a little closer to home.
When we arrived at the San Diego Naval Training Station, we were greeted by men who were about halfway through their Boot training, and they kept saying, "You'll be sorry." We unloaded off the bus and were promptly shown to sleeping quarters since it was about 8 p.m. We were told to put our money inside our pillowslips and sleep on it to keep it from being stolen.
The next morning we were taken for a final physical exam and then issued our seabag of clothing and accessories which we would need for our tour of duty. After this, we were shown to the barracks that would be our home for the first two weeks of our training. After being shown how to make our bunks, we were told to pack the clothes we wore when we arrived and send them back to our homes. The rest of the day was spent getting our barracks ready for living.
For the next two weeks we went through a routine of 4:30 a.m. rising, morning classes, afternoon calisthenics, shots for immunization, and physical exercise along with obstacle courses and whale boat rowing. The whale boats carried l8 men each, 8 men on each side on oars, and one man in front calling strokes, and one man manning the rudder. Each time we received an immunization shot, we were issued dummy rifles (called pieces in the Navy) and marched to the grinder for 30 minutes of physical drill with rifles. This was to keep our arms from getting sore.
After two weeks, we were transferred to another part of the training station, and allowed our first liberty. This was our first chance to see what San Diego looked like. Most of the men went to the first bar they saw and began to get drunk. Instead of this, Donald and I roamed as much of the town as we could before having to catch the bus back to the base so we could be in bed by 10:00 p.m. The routine in this new section of the training station became more intense than it had been in our first two weeks, with more emphasis on physical development. This physical exercise was something I enjoyed, but my attitude was not shared by all.
During this second phase of Boot Camp, I met the person who was to be my buddy for my time aboard ship. His name was Wm. W. Vaughan from El Monte, California. He had just been released from the base hospital and was assigned to my company to complete his boot training. He approached me one day after mail call and asked if any of the mail I had, had his name on it, since my twin brother, Donald, and I had gotten all the letters when the name Vaughn was called. Since he was new in the company, his mail hadn't caught up with him yet, so I didn't have any of his mail.
After three weeks in this section, we were once again transferred to another section of the base before our training was completed.
While we were in our second round of training, Donald went to one of the ship's stores to buy some shaving supplies and ran into a girl that we had gone to high school with. Her father was in the Navy, and the family had moved to California to be close to him. We were invited to visit with them, and we did on two occasions before our Boot training was over.
When our training was completed, Donald was sent to Radio School on the base, while I was transferred to the Recruit Transfer Unit to wait for a new class to start in Sonar School. During this time, my mother wrote to inform me and Donald of my Grandfather's death and burial. His name was B.S.BOYSEN.
While waiting for the Sonar Class to start, one of my friends (Wm. W. Vaughan) and I hitch-hiked to his home town of El Monte, California to see his parents. We got a ride on the back of a truck hauling 10 gallon milk cans. The temperature was about 40 degrees and the wind chill factor was about 20 degrees which made our ride quite refreshing because we didn't have our heavy "P" coats on.
While waiting at the Recruit Transfer Unit, about 4 CVE's came into port after completing their initial Shakedown cruise. Since their complement of men wasn't complete, they asked for men to fill out their crews. About 300 men from the Recruit Transfer Unit were assigned to these ships, including me.
The day we went aboard ship, we got up at 4:30 a.m. and lashed our gear seagoing fashion.
(This meant tying our mattress and pillow inside our canvas hammock, placing our tied up seabag in the center and tying both ends of the hammock around the seabag so that if it were to be dropped into the water it would float.) We then ate breakfast and waited for trucks to come pick us up with our gear and take us to the Destroyer Base in San Diego Bay. This is where the ships were moored that we were to be a part of. About 9:30 a.m. the trucks finally arrived to take us where we were to go. After loading our gear, we arrived at the Destroyer Base about 11:00 a.m. We unloaded, and began standing and lounging around waiting to be taken to our ships. Finally about 1:30 p.m. they decided we should be fed, so they took us to a mess hall and fed us lunch. After lunch, we waited for about another hour, or until 3:30 p.m. before they came to take us to our ships. We were assigned a certain truck to put our gear on, and were driven to the dock where our ships were tied up. The ship I was assigned to was the USS KITKUN BAY(CVE-71). My first impression when I first saw her and the other CVE's was, "BOY! What a big ship!"
Standing on the dock and looking up toward the flight deck made you feel very small in comparison. As we went aboard, we were asked our names and then assigned to someone to show us where our particular division was to sleep for the duration of our time aboard ship. I was assigned to the Second Division which was a deck division in charge of keeping the after end (back) of the ship scraped, painted, swept and in good repair. We were also in charge of one of the two motor whale boats on board. Our function for battle stations was to man the guns and lookout stations. My friend W.W. Vaughan also went aboard with me.
After settling into our new quarters, we were allowed to roam the ship and acquaint ourselves with our new home.
The next morning, we were all assigned sea detail stations which we were to man for getting underway, and entering port. As soon as we were all assigned, we cast off the ship's moorings. I missed the whale boat that was to take us to the dry dock, and I had to run all the way. A distance of about two miles. After things were secured, and the water was pumped out of the dry dock, we were allowed to go on overnight liberty. My friend, W.W.Vaughan, and I hitch-hiked to El Monte to see his parents.
For the next two weeks, we spent our days scraping the barnacles and old paint off the bottom of the ship and putting on a new coat. During this time, we were allowed liberty every other night, and duty on board every other night. Most of my overnight liberties were spent roaming around town, or going to an all-night movie. The movies were opened 24 hours a day to give people some place to sleep because there weren't enough rooms or apartments for everyone.
When the painting was completed, we made several trial runs out into the ocean for a day, returning to port each night. While this was happening, our liberty schedule was the same as before. One afternoon about a week later, a large working party was assembled and taken to the dock where a large number of tractor-trailer trucks were parked. These trucks were loaded with all types of ammunition and bombs that we would need in our ensuing encounters with enemy forces. Beginning about 5:00 p.m., we unloaded ammunition off the trucks and onto the ship until 6:30 a.m. the following morning. At 8:30 a.m., my friend woke me up to tell me they had just announced liberty for all the men who had been on the ammunition working party. I got up and dressed and went with my friend to see his parents, knowing this would be the last chance to see them before we left the United States.
On the morning of May 9, 1944, we cast off our lines and set sail for the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. We were not told officially where we were going, but from our direction of travel, we had a pretty good idea. The first day out was pretty routine as far as I was concerned. I worked my cleaning station and stood my watches in a routine way. After completing the 8-12 p.m. watch, I went below and turned in. At about 5:45 a.m. reveille was sounded, and about 15 minutes later we went to our battle stations to watch the sun come up. This is a routine that occurred each day at sunrise and sunset.
When I got up, I was feeling a little bit seasick, and by the time we secured battle stations to go to breakfast, I was so sick I couldn't get within smelling distance of the mess hall without wanting to throw up. The second day, I got as far as the top of the ladder going down to the mess hall. The third day, I got to the bottom of the ladder before having to go topside for some fresh air. I had a bad case of what is known as the dry heaves because there was nothing in my stomach to throw up. The fourth day, I finally got through the chow line and got a little food down. That was the medicine I needed, because from that time on, I was never seasick again.
We finally arrived in Pearl Harbor approximately seven days after leaving the United States. We tied up at a dock at Ford Island Naval Air Station to unload the aircraft that had been taken aboard for us to transport to squadrons that needed replacements. Liberty was given to the Port Watch the day after we arrived at Pearl Harbor. To go ashore, we had to leave the ship and catch a bus to the main gate of the Naval Air Station. This was exciting because the buses were wire cage trailers pulled by tractors at about 5 miles per hour. To board the bus, you ran alongside and jumped on when you could. The buses never stopped, and when you wanted to get off, you jumped off at your destination. After leaving the Naval Air Station, we had to board a ferry to get from Ford Island to the main island of Oahu. When we got to Oahu, we had to board a bus for about a 15 mile ride to the city of Honolulu. This was usually a pretty wild ride because the roads were narrow and rough, and buses were crowded to the gills with sailors. The bus drivers didn't know what the word slow meant, and would drive about 60 mph to town. When we got to town, the streets were so crowded with Soldiers, Sailors and Marines that it was almost impossible to walk down the sidewalk. We had to exchange our U.S. currency for Hawaiian which was U.S. currency with Hawaii printed on the back. Most of my liberty day was spent wandering around town seeing the sights because I didn't have a lot of money to spend since it was the middle of the month, and payday was the first of every month. I did have a picture made of me with one of the Hawaiian girls that posed for those kind of pictures. I paid $1.00 for it.
After taking aboard and operating squadron (VC-5), and making a few repairs to the ship, we sailed with a troop convoy for an unknown destination. While on our way to this destination, we held battle station and gunnery practice, firing at target sleeves towed by a torpedo bomber. We also learned our abandon ship stations and had abandon ship drills. That was a very disturbing thought to know that we might someday have to do just that. The destination turned out to be the island of Manus in the Admiralty Island chain. On our way to Manus, after leaving Pearl Harbor, the weather became more hot and humid as we got close to the equator. I don't know what the official temperatures were, but it was rumored that they were 130 degrees in the shade and no shade. When I sat down to write a letter, the sweat would roll as if I was doing hard manual labor. In order to keep from messing up my letter, I would have to put a piece of paper under my hand to catch the drippings. Also, we had fireproof mattress covers on our bunks, and the outside was waterproof. When I spent the night in our sleeping compartment, I would wake up with a puddle of water where I had been sleeping. Also, it was hard to keep things from mildewing. There was no air-conditioning in the sleeping compartments. All we had were fresh air blowers bringing air in from the outside. That was why I chose to do most of my sleeping on the flight deck. During this trip, my friend W.W.Vaughan and I were on one of the starboard sponsons writing letters home. The wind was fairly brisk on this particular day, and when I was about halfway through with my letter, a wave splashed up over the sponson giving us both a bath and ruining our letter writing. We didn't do any more writing that day because we had to go below and change clothes and get ready to go on the 12 noon to 4 p.m. watch.
We left our convoy at Manus and rendezvoused with a convoy headed in a westerly direction. The task assigned to my group of ships was to furnish Combat Air Patrol and Anti-Submarine Patrol for the troop and supply ships in our convoy. My group of ships consisted of 6 CVE's, 3 Destroyers and 4 Destroyer Escorts. The names of the CVE's were USS GAMBIER BAY, USS WHITE PLAINS, USS ST LO, USS FANSHAW BAY, USS KALININ BAY and USS KITKUN BAY. We would launch aircraft before daylight, and about every 4 hours after that. This was usually a very noisy operation because the plane support crews would have to crank up the starting mechanism for the engines. When the planes were ready, they would start the propellers turning. When the propellers started turning, they would fire a shotgun shell to spin the prop fast enough to start the motor. If the motor failed to start, the process was repeated. While the engines were warming up, the exhausts made a lot of noise. When the planes were launched, they were catapulted off the ship with a catapult that had 3000 psi steam pressure behind it.
The trip to our destination was uneventful except for one nighttime submarine scare during which our 5"-38 rifle fired a star shell which lit up the whole convoy. We had a few anxious moments after that wondering if the submarine was stalking the convoy. Our destination with this convoy turned out to be the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Guam. Our purpose there was to recapture these islands from the Japanese. For two days after our arrival, we watched the Battleships and Cruisers shell the islands in preparation for invasion. Our planes also made bombing and strafing runs on the islands. The islands were invaded on June 6, l944. Approximately two days after the initial assault on the islands, our radar picked up a flight of enemy aircraft closing in our direction. We went to battle stations when they were 25 miles away. Our Combat Air Patrol engaged the enemy planes at approximately 15 miles away, and shot down 10 planes. By this time, the planes were within range of our anti-aircraft guns, and our planes had to break off contact to keep from being shot down when we opened fire. The attack came a few minutes later in the form of dive bombers screaming down from the skies dropping their bombs as they came.
Lucky for us the bombs missed their targets. Several of the attacking planes never pulled out of their dives, but crashed into the sea because the pilots had been hit by anti-aircraft fire. During this attack, the powder magazines behind the 40 mm anti-aircraft guns on the flight deck catwalks began to run out of ammunition, so they asked us to help get ammunition from the powder magazines in the hold. For about 45 minutes I stood in front of the lift from the powder magazine in the hold and handed cans of 40 mm ammunition to two men in a human chain to the flight deck. These cans weighed approximately 140 pounds each and were normally handled by two men. After it was all over, I was so weak that I could hardly move. During the next two weeks, we were to have two more raids. Once more with dive bombers, and one with torpedo planes. The pilot of one torpedo plane was captured by a Destroyer, and brought aboard my ship for questioning. Seeing this Jap gave me a strong feeling of hate for an enemy.
My ship's planes shot down 10 planes during these raids.
During one of these raids, an officer in charge of my lookout station was watching the activity of the gunners firing at the enemy aircraft, and he thought he saw an enemy plane approaching on our Starboard quarter. He immediately radioed the bridge telling them the location of the incoming plane. The bridge couldn't confirm the sighting and upon closer examination, the enemy aircraft turned out to be a large butterfly serenely flying through the chaos around it.
During the next three months at sea, we had routine flight and drill operations. Sometimes, when there was very little wind, the surface of the ocean would become glassy smooth. I enjoyed watching the moon come up and paint a silver streak across the ocean, silhouetting each ship against it as if they were toy ships set on a giant mirror. Another one of God's majesties. There were some exciting moments during some of the flight operations. Sometimes when planes landed on the flight deck their tail hook failed to catch an arresting cable, and the plane would continue down the flight deck until it hit the barriers at the front, erected to keep planes from going off the end of the flight deck, or crashing into parked planes. Most of the time when planes hit the barrier they would flip upside down, and the pilot would walk away cursing. Sometimes planes would fail to catch an arresting cable and wind up on either the Port or Starboard catwalk alongside the flight deck. Sometimes a plane would come in too low to clear the screen behind the landing signal officer, and the landing officer would waive him off, but they would drop the screen and jump to safety into a net alongside the platform he stood on. Another time during landing operations, one of the pilots was circling for his landing approach flying close to the water. When he banked his plane for one of his turns, his left wing tip caught a wave in the ocean and he and the plane did about 5 cartwheels before coming to rest in the ocean. The pilot threw out his life raft and climbed into it just before the plane sank. Another time, one of our pilots came back with his plane damaged by anti-aircraft fire so that he couldn't control it well enough to land on the ship. They told him to take the plane up to 10,000 feet and bail out, which he did. The plane on auto-pilot flew about a mile before it rolled over and plunged into the sea. The pilot was picked up by a Destroyer and later transferred back aboard ship.
During these routine operations, and after the ship had secured for the night, I would go up on the flight deck before going on watch and watch the stars in the sky and marvel at the wonder of them. When there was no moon present, and all the ships were running dark, the stars would seem so close you could almost touch them. During these moments to myself, I spent a lot of time talking to God. Also, during these operations, I got in the habit of sleeping somewhere on the flight deck, or catwalk, because it was too hot down in the sleeping compartments. I would tell someone where I would be sleeping so they could wake me up to go on watch. I would angle across the flight deck until I found the lifeline (a chain across the end of the flight deck). I would follow the lifeline by feel until I got to the end which was about 2 feet from the edge of the flight deck next to the catwalk. It was then just a matter of stepping to the edge and jumping down on the catwalk to my watch station. One night, when there was no moon, I was awakened to go on the midnight to 4 a.m. watch, I got up and angled across the flight deck to where I thought the lifeline was. I started feeling around in front of me for it, but it wasn't there, and it was too dark to see. When I couldn't find it, I thought to myself, "Maybe I haven't gone far enough," so I started to take a step forward to see if I could find it. When I started to move, a voice said, "Don't move!", so I stayed where I was and started feeling for the lifeline again in front of me, and to each side of me. When I couldn't find it a second time, I started to walk forward again, and the voice said again, "Don't move!"
This voice gave me a strange feeling because there was no one else close to me. I once again started feeling for the lifeline, and this time, I reached around behind me and felt the end post to the lifeline directly at my back. If I had taken one more forward step, my feet would have hit a curved steel plate, sending my feet from under me, and putting me in the drink. Needless to say, I got on the right side of the lifeline in one big hurry.
After being at sea for three months covering and supporting the invasion of the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Guam, we went into port at Guam to replenish our food and ammunition supplies. Since the island wasn't completely secured, we anchored 1/4 mile off shore and took a barge to the supply ship which was anchored about 500 yards off shore. While aboard the supply ship loading supplies, we saw a sailor in an infantry landing craft between us and the shore. He was swimming off the boat, and every time he would dive into the water, there was a sniper on the shore that was trying to shoot him. He was just out of range of the sniper's gun, and the bullets would splash into the water between him and the shore. During our stay at Guam for supplies, we were awakened one night about midnight to go to our special sea detail stations (our stations for weighing anchor and getting under way). The reason for this was that a typhoon had blown up during the night, and we were in danger of colliding with another ship anchored close by due to dragging anchor. We had to raise anchor, move back to mooring position, drop anchor and keep steam and engine power to hold mooring position. As I stepped onto the sponson that was my sea detail station, the wind caught my cap, and before I could put my hand up to catch it, it was flying through the air about 100 feet from the ship. The winds were at 80 knots. The boat crew in charge of the Captain's Gig (power launch) had left the gig tied up to the boat boom alongside the ship. When the typhoon blew up, the sea was so rough that it tore the mooring eyes out of the top of the Captain's Gig and sank it. It was later replaced with another boat, but it wasn't as nice as the first one.
It had been about 6 months since I had been in boot camp, and the shoes that I had been issued were beginning to wear out. I went down to the clothing locker and bought a new pair of shoes for $5.00.
I thought I would be smart and save my new shoes until we had a Captain's inspection, and then I would begin wearing them. I gave them a real good shine, and put them away in my locker. About a month later, they called for a Captain's inspection to be held in the afternoon. When I got off watch, I started dressing for the Captain's inspection. When I took my new shoes out of my locker, they were so badly mildewed that they were starting to fall apart. I couldn't wear them so I had to hurriedly shine my old shoes and wear them. The next payday, I went back down and bought another new pair of shoes, but I never did store them in my locker. I wore them as soon as I got them.
After replenishing our supplies, we went to sea again and furnished invasion support for about a month. We then were sent to Manus in the Admiralty Islands to pick up a convoy headed for the invasion of the Caroline Islands which are between Guam and the Philippines. The invasion of the Carolines turned out to be routine operations as far as the fleet was concerned. Very little resistance was shown to the fleet. The main inconvenience was that we had to go to battle stations to watch the sun come up. This was also repeated at sunset. The reason for this was that it was a favorite trick of the Japanese to attack by air flying out of the rising, or setting, sun when it was low on the horizon making them hard to see.
While the ship was under way, our daily routine was pretty much the same. After battle stations was secured each morning, all hands would go to breakfast unless they were on watch. After breakfast, we would clean our cleaning stations. We also did a lot of paint scraping and repainting.
There were times when we would have a Destroyer alongside the fantail to refuel, deliver mail, deliver a downed pilot or deliver some message. When this happened, we always sent them 10 gallons of ice cream from our "gedunk" stand. It was always very welcomed. Destroyers couldn't make their own ice cream.
Once when we had a Destroyer alongside for refueling, we were about half-way through the refueling when one of the engines failed on the Destroyer, and she began to fall back. Several requests for them to cast off the fuel hoses from their end went unheeded. We were then told to drop our end of the hoses. As we dropped our end of the hoses, so did the Destroyer, and several hundred feet of 4" high pressure hose went to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
One day, two shipfitters were welding on an auxiliary fuel tank for one of the airplanes. It was full of water, but a small pocket of gasoline vapor was trapped inside. When the welding torch heated the tank, it exploded and set their clothing on fire. They both jumped overboard to put out the fire. The welder's helper was kept in sick bay on the Destroyer that picked them up, but the welder was too badly burned. He was transferred back aboard, but died a few hours later. His burial was held shortly after his death. A burial at sea is an impressive and saddening service because no one can visit his place of burial.
During most of our time at sea, my waking hours were spent cleaning my cleaning station, chipping and scraping paint, repainting what we had scraped, making boat fenders from old mooring lines and standing watches. We also spliced lines and hawsers. Watches were stood on a 4 hours on and 4 hours off schedule. The reason being, that if you were on the 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. watch, you would be relieved at 7:15 a.m. for breakfast, and the 8 a.m. watch would relieve the one that had gone on watch at 7:15 a.m. and we would go back on watch at 12 noon.
One thing I enjoyed while sailing among the islands was seeing the beauty of the palms and forests on them when we were given a day's liberty from time to time. The flowers and foliage were lush, green and beautiful. I enjoyed wading along the shore on the islands and seeing some of the sea life and beautiful shells there. Some of the prettiest shells I couldn't bring back because they were inhabited by crabs.
After the Caroline Islands were reasonably secured, we again went to Manus to furnish convoy support for a group of ships going to the New Hebrides Islands with troops to relieve some of the troops stationed there so they could participate in the invasion of the Philippine Islands. When we went to the New Hebrides Islands, we crossed the equator for the first time. Most of the ships had initiations for all the "polywogs" (people who had never crossed the equator before). However, since our Captain had never crossed the equator before, we were spared the initiation. They did, however, issue "Shellback" cards to all on board. Therefore, I am an official "Shellback". During the time I was aboard the KITKUN BAY, we crossed the equator 13 times and the international date line 8 times.
After returning to Manus by way of the Solomon Islands, we picked up a convoy of troop and supply ships that was to undertake the invasion of the Philippine Islands. The trip to the Philippines took about 2 1/2 weeks to complete because of the large number of ships we were escorting, and because of our zig-zag course. Each day we would get reports of ships that had either been torpedoed or sunk by kamikazes ( Japanese suicide planes). As we approached the Philippines, the air and fleet activity of the Japanese became more intense, and we were instructed to be on the lookout for Japanese surface ships as well as Japanese planes. D-Day for the invasion of Leyte Island was October 20, l944. After securing from our early morning battle stations on October 25, l944, and while the crew was beginning to eat breakfast, battle stations was again sounded, and pilots were told to man their planes on the double.
When we got to our battle stations, we found ourselves under attack by units of the Japanese fleet. My work station at this time was in the scullery (where dishes were washed). When battle stations was sounded, I got so excited I forgot to turn off the dishwashing machine and one of the cooks had to do it. I hit the ladder going topside at full speed, and when I got topside I saw shells splashing around the ships in my group. The attacking group consisted of 4 Battleships, 8 Cruisers and 10 Destroyers. The Battleships were shooting at us with 16" and 14" guns, and the Cruisers were shooting at us with 10" and 8" guns. The 16" shells weighed about 1,000 pounds each. We turned into the wind to launch aircraft, but by doing so we were headed toward the Japanese ships instead of away from them. As soon as our fighters and bombers were airborne, we turned away and ran for our lives. The Japanese were shooting from about 20 miles away, and the biggest gun we had would only shoot about 5 1/2 miles. For the next 2 1/2 hours we were chased by the Japanese. Most of our Destroyers had left us to go attack the Japanese ships, while some stayed to help us lay smoke screen. All the ships in the task force were laying thick black smoke as fast as they could to make range finding difficult. In spite of this, hits were being scored on the ships in my task group. The ship which normally sailed behind my ship in formation (USS GAMBIER BAY) took repeated hits, and eventually took enough hits so that she could no longer maintain steam. Watching her fall back out of the formation was one of the most helpless feelings I have ever had in my life, because I knew my ship couldn't turn around and go help her. As she fell back our Destroyers went back to pick up survivors, and had to engage the Japanese ships first. Every ship in my task group took shell hits from the Japanese ships except mine. The reason we didn't take any shell hits was because our Captain was smart enough to chase salvos (bracket of shells). If a salvo landed on the Starboard side, he would order the helmsman to turn hard to the Starboard. The next salvo would then land either astern or off our Port side. When this happened, the helmsman was ordered to put the ship hard to Port causing the next salvo to land to Starboard or ahead of us. Sometimes, they would land right where we would have been if we hadn't changed course. The closest they came to my ship was when they landed a salvo 20 feet off our fantail. The resulting concussion was so violent that I thought we had been hit. During this time, the Japanese ships had closed to within range of our 5" gun, and we began to return fire, scoring several hits of our own. The planes from my ship accounted for 2 Cruisers sunk and a Battleship dead in the water from 5 bomb hits and 2 torpedo hits. As the Japanese ships closed in, we found ourselves heading in a direction that would run us aground in another hour. We could, in fact, see the land ahead of us. About this time, the Japanese ships suddenly turned and headed away from us. As we turned away from the land, our radar picked up a flight of enemy planes, but lost them shortly after. We began landing operations for the aircraft from our task group, and it was suddenly discovered that the Japanese planes were intermingled with our planes. As our planes scattered to get out of the way of our anti-aircraft fire, each of the Japanese pilots picked a Carrier out of the task group and headed for it in a suicide mission.
The plane that chose my ship was coming in over the stern of the ship and headed for the middle of the flight deck. Our anti-aircraft guns were hitting the plane from both sides as he made his dive. The only guns that could fire were the last two twin mount 40 mm's on each side of the flight deck (one Port and one Starboard), in other words, only 4 guns were firing because the rest of the guns had been shut down by an automatic cut-off that kept them from firing across the flight deck. At about 500 feet, the plane suddenly buckled in the middle and exploded. This knocked him off course, and he narrowly missed the ship, taking about 25 feet of catwalk on the Port side and one man with him. Another Carrier wasn't so lucky. The plane that chose her for his target hit in the middle of the flight deck and set her aviation gasoline on fire. As the fire spread, the bombs on their aircraft began to explode, as well as the powder magazines for the flight deck and anti-aircraft guns. As the men abandoned ship, the explosions on board sent pieces of steel weighing several hundred pounds each into the water, killing several hundred men.
As night began to fall, we were ordered back into position guarding the troop and supply ships for the invasion.
On the night of October 25, 1944, as we were steaming back to our position off the coast of Samar, a broadcast from Tokyo Rose was picked up and broadcast throughout the ship. Tokyo Rose told how our task group had been wiped out by the Japanese Battleships and Cruisers. She gave the names of each ship in the task group and said that we all had been sent to the bottom of the ocean. We thought this was funny because we were going as fast as we could to regain station for invasion support. This was the only radio Tokyo broadcast that was piped to the whole ship.
The next day, my entire task group was ordered to proceed to Pearl Harbor for temporary repairs.When we arrived, the shipyard at Pearl Harbor couldn't accommodate all the ships, so the rest of the task group was ordered to proceed to the United States for repairs while my ship was put in dry dock at the Naval Air Station at Ford Island, Honolulu. We were in Honolulu for about 30 days getting damage repaired, and having some of the hangar deck modified. During this time, we were given liberty on alternate days according to what watch you were assigned to. On one of my liberty days, I had my picture taken in Honolulu in my white uniform. On another liberty day, instead of going to town, I boarded a bus on the Naval Air Station and rode it around to the place where the mine sweepers tied up. A friend that was my older brother's age was assigned to a mine sweeper, and I wanted to see if he was in port. His name was Jack McCulley from Brownwood, Texas. After looking over several rows of mine sweepers, I located his in the middle of one row. I had to jump from one mine sweeper to another for about eight jumps before I got to his ship. When I got to his ship, I found him on his hands and knees painting. He had his back to me, and when I said hello, he had a shocked look on his face when he saw who it was. He jumped up and hugged me because he was so glad to see someone from home. We went below and had about a 3 hour visit swapping sea stories.
After repairs were completed, we brought aboard a new squadron (VC-91). We then went back to Manus to pick up another convoy and furnish Combat Air Patrol and anti-Submarine Patrol for them on their way to the invasion of Luzon Island in the Philippines. On our way to Luzon, we stopped at Leyte Island to pick up supplies and additional ships for our convoy. While we were at Leyte, I was picked to go ashore on a mail working party. Since it was the rainy season, they issued us rubber boots to wear because the mud was ankle deep in the streets of Tacloban on Leyte. When we got ashore, we found out that we had about 2 hours to kill before they needed us for the working party. While waiting for the work to start, we walked around town to see what kind of damage there was from the war. The people we met were very friendly and smiling, but since I couldn't speak Spanish, and they couldn't speak English, we could only use hand signals. I did, however, meet a man who was an attorney and had studied at Harvard Law School in the U.S. He invited me to his house and introduced me to his wife and daughters. He gave me some Japanese occupation money, and I gave him some U.S. coins for souvenirs.
When we got back to the warehouse for the working party, we were shocked to see mail sacks piled almost to the 16' ceiling. It was close to Christmas, and this was Christmas mail for all the ships.They put us all to work sorting the mail sacks according to the type of ship it was going to: i.e. Cruiser, DD, Carrier or otherwise. We worked at this until about 2 a.m., and the pile seemed just as big when we got through as when we started. When we got back to the ship, we began our convoy duties again.
The sailing was routine until we started through the straits between the islands. At that time, the Japanese once again began using suicide planes to attack the convoys. The convoy just ahead of us was hit several times, and a small Carrier like mine was sunk just two days before D-Day on Luzon. As we approached Luzon, we were called to battle stations because our radar had picked up a flight of approaching enemy planes. Some of them got through our Combat Air Patrol. As the planes came in, we began a very heavy barrage of anti-aircraft fire, but one of the planes singled us out for his target, and although we had an almost solid wall of anti-aircraft fire, he was able to penetrate and hit the ship on the Port side right at the water line. At the same time, the Cruiser on our Starboard quarter fired an anti-aircraft shell into the Starboard catwalk of my ship. The suicide plane killed one man in the engine room, and the anti-aircraft shell killed 16 men topside. When the suicide plane went through the side of the ship, she began to take water rapidly and to list to Port. When this happened, the skipper ordered everyone on the Port side to move to the Starboard side. Shortly after this, it seemed as if the ship was going down, so everyone was ordered to abandon ship, except for a small group of volunteers who stayed behind to see if they could save the ship. As I was starting to my abandon ship station, two medical corpsmen came up carrying a stretcher with a severely wounded man. They asked for help to get the stretcher to the fantail so they could attend to more wounded. After several minutes of struggling down the ladder, we finally got to the fantail. When we did, one of the ship's doctors was there to examine the wounded man. After examination, he was pronounced dead. An officer who had helped get the stretcher to the fantail got the man's wallet and asked if anyone had a flashlight. I said I did, and we went just inside a hatch off the fantail to look at the man's ID to see who he was. As we shut the hatch, the sight that greeted us was an eerie one. The passageway was dark except for a couple of battle lanterns that had been blown loose from the bulkhead and were swinging back and forth by their electrical cords, the lights burning. It was a typical scene from a war movie. The hatch we went into was reasonably close to my sleeping compartment, and I had a strong urge to try to get to my locker to salvage my picture album. I wasn't worried about the rest of my stuff, but I didn't want to lose my pictures. However, my better judgement got the best of me and I decided not to try it.
While we were moving the wounded man down from the flight deck, a Destroyer had maneuvered in under our Starboard catwalk. A line was secured, and the men from my ship began jumping across to the Destroyer. I helped transfer the body of the dead man from my ship to the Destroyer, and then I jumped across. After the Destroyer had taken as many men as she could, we cast off the line and began moving to catch up with the rest of the convoy. The Destroyer sailors were showing the men from my ship where they could sleep for the rest on the night, because darkness had fallen while all this was happening. Being extremely tired from the excitement of the last few hours, I lay down and went to sleep. About daybreak the next morning, we were awakened by the 5" guns on the Destroyer firing very rapidly. We learned later that they had shot down another Japanese plane. The shipfitters who had stayed aboard the KITKUN BAY had managed to keep the ship afloat and to restore power to most of the ship. About mid-morning of the next day, the Destroyer was ordered to return us to the ship so we could take it to Leyte for repairs. As we were going back to the ship, we were all topside getting some fresh air and one of the crew members from my ship sat down on the stretcher holding the body of the dead man from my ship. When someone told him what he was sitting on, he jumped like he had been shot and left the area in a big hurry. When I woke up that morning, I noticed that the front of my shirt was covered with dried blood from the dead man that I had gotten on the way down to the fantail.
After arriving back at my ship, we were transferred from the Destroyer to my ship by way of a motor whale boat, a few at a time. When we reached the ship we had to climb aboard by way of a rope ladder (Jacob's ladder). This was a slow process because only two or three men at a time could climb, and the ups and downs of the whale boat riding the waves, plus the motion of my ship made it hard to climb.
While enroute to Leyte Island, the tail assembly from the Japanese plane that hit us was lodged on a Port sponson amidships. Since the hatch had been blown off the hinges on impact, the hatch was secured by ropes so that it couldn't be opened. I wanted a souvenir from the Japanese plane, so I went to the sponson forward of the one that had the tail assembly on it, and walked the boat boom from one sponson to the other. There was a cable securing the boom to the ship, but you could only hold onto it 3/4 way along the boom. When I walked the boom, I held onto the cable as far as I could, and then waited until the ship took a Starboard roll and ran the rest of the way leaning against the side of the ship. If the ship had suddenly rolled to Port, I would have had a bath. When I got to the sponson with the tail assembly, I took my knife and cut a square piece of fabric from the tail assembly. Then I reversed the procedure to get back to the starting point of my journey. The next day , the tail assembly was brought up to the flight deck and all who wanted souvenirs could get them. (I already had mine, and I still do). The tail assembly was dismantled in a short time.
We slowly made our way back to Leyte Island. During this cruising time, one of my shipmates who slept a couple of bunks above me started talking in his sleep. I told him about it, and he said, "The next time I start talking in my sleep, wake me up." A few nights later, after completing the 8 p.m. to midnight watch, I went below to turn in. When I started to crawl into my bunk, my friend started talking in his sleep. I shook him to wake him up, and he said, "What's the matter?" I said, "You were talking in your sleep." He said, "I was?", and swung his legs over side of his bunk. I said, "Yes you were." Then he jumped down from his bunk and went at a fast pace to the passage between the bunks. As he turned the corner, I suddenly realized that he was walking in his sleep. I ran to the corner he had just turned, and he was nowhere in sight. I ran all the way to the fantail looking for him, but couldn't find him. I went back to my bunk wondering who I should tell, and about that time he came back around the corner and crawled back up into his bunk. When he lay down, he opened his eyes and woke up. When I told him what had happened, he was scared to death, but made me promise not to tell anybody because he didn't want to be transferred off the ship. A sleep walker was not allowed to serve aboard ship for fear of them walking off at night into the water.
When the suicide plane hit us, he knocked out one engine and one set of fresh water evaporators.
Because of this, we were unable to make enough fresh water for us to take fresh water showers. Salt water showers were the rule, and usually left the skin sticky until it dried, and then it caused itching because of dry skin. This led to a practice by all on board that every time the ship passed through a rain squall, the message would be broadcast on the ship's public address system, and all who were not on watch would grab soap and towel and run to the flight deck for a shower. It was funny to see the flight deck covered with people taking a shower. Most of the time, about the time you were all soaped up the rain would stop and you would have to dry off without rinsing. This led to the practice of using the outer part of our combat helmets to catch rain water so we could rinse off.
When we got to Leyte Island, they had frogmen come out and weld a patch on the side of the ship so they could pump the water out of the engine room and machine shop that were flooded. When the patch was in place, pumping operations were begun. When the pumping was about 3/4 finished, they suddenly abandoned the engine room, and ordered all personnel to stay away from the mess hall and galley area The reason was that they had found two 500 pound bombs in the engine room. One of the bombs was inside one of the boilers broken in two. They immediately called for a bomb removal team from Leyte to come and defuse the bombs so they could be disposed of. Most of the day was taken up while this was going on. When the bombs were defused, they were thrown overboard through a hole that was cut in the patch welded to the side of the ship.
After the excitement and delay of finding the bombs, the patch was restored and the ship put in a floating dry dock so that the propeller for the useless engine could be removed, allowing us to make more speed as we sailed toward Pearl Harbor and home. It took us almost two weeks to sail from Leyte to Pearl Harbor, and then another 10 days to the United States. This was our first trip back home since we had left the States some ten months earlier. We were a very happy crew when we knew that we were going to see the good old United States once again. The only sad part was the loss of those shipmates who would never return home again. We arrived back in the United States in early March, l945. The day we arrived, it was pouring down rain, and the temperature was about 40 degrees. After being in the tropics for so long, our blood was very thin, and our P coats were in storage. Before we got away from our sea detail stations, everyone was about to freeze. We were cold and wet to the skin. It was sure good to get in out of the cold and rain.
As soon as the ship was put in dry dock in the States, and repairs were begun, the ship's company was given a 20 day leave in two separate shifts. The men in what was known as the Port watch were given leave first, and the men in what was known as the Starboard watch were given leave second. Since I was assigned to the Port watch, I was with the first group to go on leave. Since we had a payday while enroute from Pearl Harbor, I had drawn all my pay that I had been letting ride. When I got my leave, I had over $200 in cash. I caught a bus to the train station in Los Angeles and bought a round trip ticket to Brownwood, Texas. The train ride took 3 days to Brownwood. I had not let my mother know that I was in the U.S., and the night I arrived at the train station, Mama was working as a Red Cross volunteer serving coffee and doughnuts to the servicemen that were passing through on the train. I was hoping to get to the serving counter before she saw me, but she spotted me when I was about halfway across the floor of the train station. She froze in her tracks until I got to where she was standing, and then she hugged me real tight and looked up into my face and asked, "Which one are you Donald or Ronald?"
Since she had always bragged that she could always tell us apart a block away with our backs turned, the ladies at the counter thought it was funny, and laughed and cried at the same time. While home on leave, I was married to Wanda White, a girl I had known before joining the Navy. Our wedding day was March 9,1945.
When I returned to duty after my leave, Wanda went with me to California so she could be there until I had to go back overseas. The ship was in port for about six weeks after my return, while repairs were completed. Several of the men who were assigned to the Port watch failed to return from leave at the appointed time, and they were considered A.W.O.L. and deserters.
After repairs were completed, we went through a series of shakedown maneuvers to be sure the repairs were completed properly, and that the ship was once again seaworthy. After these maneuvers were completed, it was decided that we would return to combat. When we left the States, Wanda went back to Brownwood, Texas.
As we were leaving port to go back overseas, one of the deserters rode the boat that came out to pick up the pilot and returned to duty on the ship. He was court-martialed and placed on 6 months restriction. This meant that he couldn't leave the ship for 6 months. Since we weren't in the U.S., he didn't mind. However, all of his clothes and gear had been transferred to the brig on shore so he had to buy all new clothes and accessories.
When we returned to active combat duty, my ship was assigned to a task group of small Carriers that was furnishing Combat Air Patrol and Anti-Submarine Patrol for a fleet of tankers that was refueling the ships of the Third Fleet. The Fleet at that time was in the process of shelling and bombing the Japanese mainland in preparation for invasion. The ships of the Third Fleet would rendezvous with the tankers in my group on an interval of about once a week. While refueling operations were in progress, we had every available plane in the air for protection. Sometimes the rendezvous would take place at night, and it was a strange sight to see these ships coming toward us led by a hospital ship which ran with all lights showing. The rest of the ships in the fleet would be running on a darkened ship schedule (no lights on weather decks). The contrast was quite unnerving when you realized that there could be submarines in the area. We were with this group of tankers about two months, and since they were running low on fuel oil, we escorted them back to Manus to replenish their supplies. While we were at Manus, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Shortly after the second bomb was dropped, the Japanese offered to surrender. When this was announced to ships anchored in the harbor of Manus, many of the ships began firing their anti-aircraft guns into the air. This lasted for about an hour. My ship wasn't in this group because of orders from the Captain.
While we were in the U.S. for repairs, our forces had invaded the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa with very heavy casualties and loss of men and ships due to suicide plane attacks. If we hadn't received the damage we did and had to go to the U.S. for repairs, we would have covered both of those invasions.
Soon after the announcement of the surrender offer by the Japanese, my ship loaded supplies of cold weather gear and was ordered to proceed to Adak in the Aleutian Islands. We headed North from Manus toward the Aleutian chain. About a week after we left Manus, we crossed from the Southern Pacific waters into the Northern Pacific waters. The color contrast was really something to see. It looked as if someone had drawn a straight line down the middle of the ocean and colored one side a brilliant blue, and the other side an aqua green. This is one sight I'll never forget. Soon after crossing into the Northern waters, we encountered a bank of dense fog. It was so thick that you could see only 10-30 feet from where you were standing. The ships in the task group had to reduce speed and hold their positions in convoy by radar because it was impossible to see the other ships. We were still standing wartime watches because the Japanese might not all have received the surrender message. We arrived in Adak and took on some more supplies of cold weather gear. From the supplies that we loaded, we thought we would be in a cold climate for the rest of our service time. While in Adak, we had an open house one day and invited the Army troops stationed there to come aboard and tour the ship. Since there were no tugs operating in the Aleutians, we had to maneuver the ship to the dock using only our engines and rudder. That was a ticklish operation, but went without mishap. A short time after this, after we left the Aleutians, we heard about another ship that almost destroyed a dock trying the same thing.
After leaving Adak, we headed West once again. This time our destination was the main island of Japan, Honshu. After about two weeks of sailing, we were told to be on the lookout for loose mines that our minesweepers had cut loose but had not been able to destroy because of strong currents. Soon after this order was received, I was standing the 8-12 morning watch when one of the forward lookouts suddenly came alive on the intercom and yelled that there was a mine dead ahead of the ship about 200 yards. The Captain ordered the helmsman to move two points to Port on the compass. When the order was completed, we all went to the railing along the Starboard side of the ship and held our breath while the live mine floated the full length of the ship at about 25' distance. If one wave had moved the wrong direction, it would have thrown the mine into the side of the ship and blown us out of the water. After the mine was past the ship, one of the Destroyers in the task group fell out of formation and went to the mine and destroyed it with 20 mm gun fire. The rest of the trip to Japan was spent with all eyes watching for mines.
We arrived in Tokyo Bay about two weeks after the Japanese had negotiated and signed a surrender agreement with the Allied forces. We anchored in the harbor of Yokohama, Japan and immediately got orders to proceed to the Northern island of Japan, Hokkaido to pick up POWs for transport to Tokyo and eventually to their homes. We sailed the next morning and had a safe trip to Hokkaido. When we arrived, a delegation of Japanese dignitaries came aboard to negotiate the transfer of prisoners to my ship. Since it was late in the day when the prisoners began arriving in small boats, it was well after dark before they were all boarded. The Captain decided to wait until morning to proceed back
to Tokyo. During the night, we would sweep our searchlight around the ship approximately every 15 to 30 minutes to prevent any attempt at sabotage to the ship. I stood a 4 hour watch on the fantail that night with an M-1 rifle and orders to shoot first and ask questions later if anyone tried to come aboard.
The next morning we set sail for Tokyo. In talking with some of the prisoners, I found out some of them were Soldiers and Marines that had been captured during the battle for Wake Island in 1942. We also had some British POWs that had been captured by the Japanese in Singapore, China in early 1940.
They told us about having to eat leaves and grass in order to survive. They also made tea out of Mulberry leaves. Toward the end of the war, our planes dropped food to these POW camps, and they told of some of their fellow prisoners who were so hungry they wouldn't wait for the packages to hit the ground, but would run out and try to catch them in mid-air. This caused some of them to be hit by the packages and killed.
After unloading our prisoners in Tokyo, we were given a one day liberty to go ashore and look around. The devastation in Tokyo was really something to see. Most of the shops and houses had been made of bamboo, and the incendiary raids had reduced Tokyo to a pile of rubble. You could stand on a street corner and look for a mile in any direction and see nothing but rubble and burned out buildings.
The Japanese people were trying to pick up their lives again by selling souvenirs along the streets, and rebuilding what had been destroyed. I got some chopsticks and other trinkets while there. The day was interesting, but depressing.
After everyone had had liberty ashore, we headed South again to Guam to pick up a load of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines for transport back to the U.S.A. While there, we transferred our squadron (VC-63) ashore.
Some of the men we picked up for transportation back home had been away from the U.S.A. for 4 years. The trip from Tokyo to Guam was uneventful, as was our trip from Guam to the U.S.A. When we got to Los Angeles with our load of GI's, we arrived early in the morning, and the fog was so thick that we had to find the entry in the breaker wall with our radar. We laid to until the harbor pilot came aboard.
When he came aboard, he asked the Captain if he wanted to wait until the fog lifted, or did he want to go on in. The Captain told him most of the troops aboard had been gone from home for a long time, and he didn't want to delay their homecoming any longer. He then said, "Let's take her on in." As we cleared the breaker wall, there was a Navy blimp flying overhead playing popular songs of the day. The blimp crew were the only ones that could see us through the fog. There was a pleasure yacht anchored in the harbor with the Harry James orchestra aboard to welcome the returning GI's home. We could just barely make out the outline as we sailed by, and they never saw us. When we arrived at the dock in Los Angeles, it was completely deserted. Everyone was inside waiting for the fog to lift. As soon as we were spotted, the dock filled with people. Sailors on duty to catch our lines, and family and friends of a lot on the returning boys aboard. It was quite a sight to see, and a surprise we all enjoyed.
It was getting close to Christmas at this time, and we were hoping to be home for Christmas, but it was not to be. After unloading our passengers, we were sent to the Mare Island Navy Yard near San Francisco where the ship was outfitted with temporary bunks on the hangar deck, and extra sleeping facilities below decks. We were also outfitted with temporary heads (bathrooms) on the fantail (rear deck) of the ship. While there I got to see one of my cousins from Houston, Texas who had joined the Waves.
Her father was also there for a visit. Wanda, my wife, came out from Brownwood, Texas to be with me for about a week. As soon as the work was completed, we were dispatched to the Philippines to pick up more troops for the trip home.
Since we were to arrive at the Port of Luzon Island on Christmas Day, we had a Christmas party on board for all the crew the night before, complete with Santa Claus. We began loading troops as soon as we arrived, and received troops and their gear until dark. The next morning, we completed our loading of troops and began the trip back home. A couple of the troops who were the last to board had to throw their gear to the fantail and climb fast to get aboard because the ship had already started to move.
Shortly after leaving for home, we ran into a bad storm. The waves were running 50' to 60' high, and the ship was pitching and rolling so bad that the tables wouldn't stay up in the mess halls. We had to take the tables down and eat sitting on the deck. We would sit with our legs crossed and holding our food trays on our knees so that when the ship rolled one way we would raise that leg to keep our trays level, and when it rolled the other way, we would raise the other leg. There were a lot of seasick passengers, and none of them were allowed on any of the weather decks for fear of their being washed overboard. The temporary heads that had been installed on the fantail were flattened by the waves crashing over the end of the ship. We were taking waves in such a way that when they broke over the bow of the ship, solid water from the top of the wave would hit the windows of the pilot house which was 75' above the water line. I was on wheel watch at this time, and a normal wheel watch schedule was 30 minutes on the wheel and 30 minutes rest. During this storm, both wheel men were on the wheel for the full four hours trying to keep the ship on course. We made such slow progress that it was over two weeks before we got back to the U.S. During this storm, our cooks needed some potatoes from the "spud locker" which was located on the fantail. Another seaman and I were sent to get two sacks of potatoes. Since waves were breaking over the fantail, we had to wait until the ship was on the crest of a wave, and when the bow went down, we made a mad dash for the "spud locker". We opened the hatch and got inside before the ship started up the next wave. We each got a sack of potatoes, and when the ship crested another wave, we made a mad dash for the hatch going into the hangar deck. That was scary!
After this trip, we made one more trip to Okinawa to pick up more troops for transport back home. During this trip back, there was a new man on the after steering watch, and the O.D. decided to give him some steering practice. When steering was switched to after steering, the ship began to turn to Port. The O.D. called down and told him to turn the ship to Starboard, but he just kept turning to Port.
The reason being, that the after steering was below decks, and the only way he could tell which way the ship was going was by the gyro compass card in front of him. The ship did a 360 degree turn in the middle of the ocean. Because of this, the Captain was called to the bridge and the situation explained to him. He said to send someone down to show the seaman what to do , and then to transfer steering back to him. This was done, and we proceeded on course.
Upon arrival back in the U.S., I was transferred to the Naval Station at Terminal Island, San Pedro, California for discharge. The processing for discharge took about a week. While in San Pedro, the KITKUN BAY (CVE-71) was sent to Bremerton, Washington to the Naval Yard for decommissioning.
My friends on board wrote to tell me of all the fun they were having while there, and wished I could be there too. The final score for the USS KITKUN BAY (CVE-71) was 26 enemy planes shot down, 2 Cruisers sunk, a Battleship dead in the water from 5 bomb hits and 2 torpedo hits, plus numerous landing barges and enemy tanks.
My discharge was final and I was released from active duty on January 18, l946, nine days less than two years after I was sworn into the Navy. I then boarded a train back to Brownwood, Texas and returned to civilian life, a much older and wiser man.
Note: by Ron Vaughn
This Day in History
Texan Colonel William Travis sends a desperate plea for help for the besieged defenders of the Alamo, ending the message with the famous last words, "Victory or Death."
Union General George Thomas attacks Joseph Johnstons Confederates near Dalton, Georgia, as the Yankees probe Johnstons defenses in search of a weakness.
Maj. Gen. Frank Merrills guerrilla force, nicknamed "Merrills Marauders," begin a campaign in northern Burma.
U.S. forces liberate prisoners of war in the Los Ba?os Prison in the Philippines.
The U.S. 40th Infantry Division launched the largest tank raid since the beginning of the Korean War. It was the largest deployment of armor without infantry support in a single engagement during the war.
General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the coalition army, sends in ground forces during the Gulf War.