George Macartney Hunter
George Macartney Hunter was born in Fort Covington, New York on January 18, 1918. He was the second of two sons born to Florence C. Macartney and William T. G. Hunter. His father died the same year he was born, resulting in both sons being raised by their mother. All primary and secondary schooling was attended in that rural, northern New York town. In most part due to their remarkable mother, the boy’s early years were spent quite carefree and full of adventure in the St. Lawrence River Valley that stretched along that portion of the US-Canadian border.
Hunter attended Cornell University in 1936 and graduated in 1940 with a degree in Economics. In his last year at Cornell, he earned spending money by working as a laboratory assistant for the physics department. It was in casual conversation with the laboratory’s professor that Hunter’s future plans were discussed. The wise professor spoke of the coming “storm” in Europe and advised that he felt it would behoove a young man to voluntarily enter the armed forces and have a “seat at the table” rather than to wait and be drawn into the vortex with limited options.
Hunter liked and respected this fellow and decided his advice was correct. Following graduation he volunteered for the Navy and was commissioned in the US Naval Reserve. Hunter attended various officer training courses and then was eventually assigned to the Gunnery Department aboard USS West Virginia (BB-48) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
What follows are the “notes” that he kept starting on December 7th 1941. They cover his perspective of the earliest days of the war. These are his words. It is a fascinating account.
P.H. – December 7, 1941 Sunday
Awoke this morning at 0730. Moe, Heavy, York, and myself had a golf match scheduled and planned to leave the ship at 0930. I lay sleepy-eyed in my bunk for some time.
At 07:45 the General Alarm sounded followed by “Away Fire and Rescue Party”. I cussed a bit about having to turn-to; these alarms usually secured before one was able to dress and reach his station. Consequently, I was in no particular hurry to get dressed.
Suddenly the General Alarm sounded again; and, simultaneously, a terrific explosion rocked the ship. Vail, Hine, and I looked at each other; “This is war!”, said Pete and started topsides on the double. I headed for Sky Control but it was tough going as the ship listed heavily to port almost immediately. On reaching the second level in the mast, I met several of the men coming down. All communications and transmission to the guns had been lost with the first explosion (later reports stated that the West Virginia had taken four torpedoes to port).
We abandoned Sky Control and went down to the boat deck. Extra hands were needed to convey the shells to the starboard guns; the entire port battery had been put out of commission by the “fish”. There was no air pressure and all ramming was done by hand. In the excitement the shells were fired without setting fuses.
Pearl Harbor was a devastating sight. Forward of the West Virginia the Oklahoma lay bottom up. Inboard of her the Maryland was putting up a tremendous volume of fire. I wondered what the “rump-rump” noise was and suddenly realized it to be the Maryland’s 1.1” guns which proved extremely effective. Astern of us the Arizona was a mass of flame. The sky was rapidly filling with AA fire, but high altitude Jap bombers flew directly overhead in perfect formation. They came in waves, five to each formation. We counted at least ten of these groups.
Our 5” guns were firing on these bombers as they came in on the starboard bow. As ammunition started to run out I went forward to the starboard hoist. It was inoperative and Nolen, our Chief Gunner’s Mate, was futilely attempting to contact “Supply” on the sound powered phone. I started back on the boat deck and was knocked down by the muzzle blast of our own #3 gun going off. Unhurt, however, and I continued to the ship’s service phone on the after bulkhead of the foremast. It was dead when I picked it up.
During this time Hank, Freddy White, and Mr. Johnson had been directing the guns. When we fired the last of our 30 rounds everyone left the boat deck, and, on orders from Mr. Ricketts, went over the side to aid in manning the Tennessee batteries which were doing a splendid job. Word came down about this time that the Captain had been killed by strafing on the bridge. Mr. Ricketts and Mr. White tried unsuccessfully to bring him down; it didn’t matter anyhow. Several of these officers were trapped by the fire on the bridge and rescued by Hank Graham. He climbed up on the starboard crane and threw them a line attached to a fire hose. This they secured to the bridge while Hank secured the other end to the crane; they all came down hand-over-hand.
We had been under attack for 15 minutes at this time and the harbor was a living hell. Astern of us the Arizona’s forward magazine had blown up; the Vestal alongside of her had been hit squarely amidships. Smoke was spreading rapidly over the harbor. Very shortly the day became as black as night; it was terrifying beyond means of description.
We had scarcely left the boat-deck when a large bomb hit the foremast, glanced off, and came down on the boat-deck. We would all have been killed had there been any ammunition left for the guns. Learned later that a dud had hit directly on the top of Turret III. It killed several men but Archie, Turret JO, escaped uninjured. Still, those yellow bastards were bombing with hairline accuracy,
At 0830 a huge fireball started aft of frame 90. Fortunately Bauer had flooded the after magazines, doubtlessly saving hundreds of lives. We began to remove the wounded from below decks, putting them in motor launches which came alongside to port. It was a horrible business, but the men did a magnificent job. In the midst of our rescue work Jap fighters began strafing the ships. We would continue working until the planes started diving, then all hands would take shelter under the forward turrets or below deck. I believe the strafing got only one man; it was more severe on the Tennessee and other ships.
About this time one of the Masters at Arms ran to me for aid in rescuing men in the after turrets. We were shorthanded, so I called for 10 volunteers from the Tennessee; 20 responded. Just as we were ready to start out word reached me that all hands still alive had gotten out of the turrets. This was a typical example of the existing confusion.
At 0925 the First Lieutenant ordered “Abandon Ship”. Several men jumped over the starboard bow, a completely unnecessary action as we had launches alongside to port. I directed them to the last launch and finally jumped for it myself, believing I was the last man to leave the ship. However, we learned later that several officers and men were still aboard. They left the ship much later and for the Naval Air Station.
We had no sooner shoved off from the ship than it was encircled by a mass of flames, apparently caused by oil in the water (the Tennessee was now fighting fire as desperately as she was the less concentrated plane attacks). The water was jammed with small craft as we proceeded to the dock forward of the Castor. All the seriously wounded had previously been removed to the hospital. We held somewhat of a muster among the trees back of the dock and were transported to the receiving station. The men were covered with oil and grease, so we all had showers and helped ourselves to clean clothes in the issuing room. My only possessions at this time were (1) my charmed Waltham, graduation gift from Gould and Milky; still running; (2) A soiled cap; and (3) my skivy shorts (I had kicked off my shoes in case it had been necessary to take to the water). We were cleaned up by 1030 and all hands had some hot chow. During the meal Jap planes conducted sporadic raids. During one of them, York dropped, to the deck as ordered, but took his tray with him and calmly continued to eat.
After hasty chow, I made a trip to Pier #14 and picked up 2 cases of 30 caliber; small arms ammunition that was much in need at the Receiving Station. Back to the Receiving Station again and everyone was counting noses; we began to realize how grand it was to be alive, people shook hands, smiled, and began cracking a few jokes.
The Gunnery Officer was put in command of a machine gun company. He gave me eight men and two Lewis guns to set up in the Arena. They were certainly an assorted crew; one gun crew consisted of a RM 1/C, a Yeoman, a MM 2/C, and one GM 3/C. Of this group, one man had fired a machine gun before; I didn’t know a damned thing about them. However, we located the guns, fired test rounds, and got well squared away. Parachutists had attempted to land at Barber’s Point but none had reached the ground alive.
After stationing these guns I returned to the receiving station and mustered along with the remaining officers of the West Virginia. At 1200 we returned to the Tennessee to fight the fire. Since there were more than enough men for this purpose, Mr. Nixon, our Air Defense Officer, ordered all AA personnel to remain aboard the Tennessee and assist in manning their batteries. (Both ships were equipped with the standard 5”-25 caliber, Mark XIX Director System, so there was no difficulty when we relieved the Tennessee men.)
I stood by with the Starboard Battery Officer the remainder of the afternoon. Things quieted down in the evening and the major job was fire fighting; the Arizona was pouring out intense smoke and flames. We learned at this time that many of our officers and men had gone to the Naval Air Station (NAS) where they had aided in racking up machine gun bullets, repairing
damaged planes, etc. (The enemy had bombed only one hangar containing 17 PBYs, a considerable loss).
Sunday evening the AA battery remained at GQ, and I began standing watch and watch as starboard battery officer. About 2030 we sighted two planes coming in low to starboard without running lights. Identification was impossible so all ships opened up with a terrific AA barrage that turned the sky over the harbor a bright red. Both planes were downed and both pilots killed. They were our own Enterprise planes which had not complied with the emergency recognition signals. It was a terrible tragedy but perhaps all hands learned a valuable lesson. Since then, all controlling units have notified us well in advance of all incoming, friendly, planes. The remainder of the night passed quietly enough (total blackout, of course), only scattered strafing being reported. Dead tired as I was, it was impossible to sleep with that horrible carnage so vividly in mind. In my off watches I sat in the JO mess with other officers, talking over the day’s events.
The Maryland their hero in a Seaman 2/C who was playing with a 50 Caliber machine gun when the fireworks started. He open fire and brought down the first torpedo plane to attack the ship.
Another story concerned an Army private from Fort Shafter who went aboard the Oklahoma early Sunday morning to visit a Marine friend. He was caught with the rest of them when the Oklahoma capsized, but was later rescued and sent to the Tennessee. There he proceeded to work like a fiend and, when things quieted down, begged to “Fight it out here!” as he put it.
Then someone told the fate of the Jap pilot brought down on Ford Island. He escaped from his burning plane and, pistol blazing, attempted to get by a Marine sentry. The sentry never drew his gun; he walked straight into the Jap and plunged into him 17 times with a bayonet.
The storytelling and wild speculation ended the most amazingly dreadful day of my life. I was somewhat surprised at my own reactions. Death from the sky is a terrible thing and God knows I was a scared youngster. However, the mind seems to assume a fatalistic viewpoint and one finds himself carrying on in quite a normal manner. I have nothing but praise for the heroic bravery of American sailors on this historic date. There was great confusion, it cannot be denied, but those who knew what to do did it in a manner that gives the greatest cheer to a discouraging situation. Six battleships, the pride of the Pacific, were practically destroyed today. Three others were damaged but will be in action again soon. God willing, my chance to hit back will come aboard this ship with it’s splendid complement of officers and men.
P.H. – December 8, 1941 Monday
We went to GQ at 0430 this morning, but no attack was made. Rumors have started concerning our outlying Pacific possessions. The rumor that Cavite, Guam, and Wake had been taken was denied in official circles. It was also denied that either the Lex or Enterprise were sunk. Intelligence claimed the sinking of two enemy carriers and one destroyer. This confirmed the reasoning that Sunday’s raiders were carrier planes (we still believe that there were Stuka bombers with them.)
The morning passed with a rapid organization of repair forces throughout the Fleet. As I watch this Navy go to work, again I am proud to be where I am. We were caught with our pants down like the overconfident, complacent, individuals we are, but we’ll come through in the end. The attack has raised our morale 1,000 fold; these men want only a chance to hit back and, meanwhile, they are slaving day and night to put the Fleet in shape again. We mustered the West Virginia crew this morning; they are going to stay aboard as Tennessee sailors until further notice; the beautiful West Virginia is no more. We officers are now assigned regular Condition watches (Port Battery Officer, Watch I).
Still dead tired and without sleep. No alarms today but everyone was under considerable tension tonight with our planes flying around. The best available estimate of enemy planes bagged Sunday is 30.
P.H. – December 9, 1941 Tuesday
I slept fine last night and awoke with a new hold on life this morning. Somehow, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been before in this Navy ours. And I have a hunch that if my number wasn’t up Sunday, I’ll pull through this war O.K.
Went over to the Sub Base this morning and bought clothes; khaki uniforms for Wee Vee sailors at last! They are rationing clothes at the stores; two uniforms, six pairs of socks, four sets of underwear, etc. Brought some cigarettes back to the men. I ran into Parker from the Oglala whom I had never hoped to see again; he thought the same about me. Everywhere on the beach old friends are clasping hands; we have a common bond which can never be broken.
Worked on the Battle Bill this afternoon; considerable reorganizing on the Tennessee to take in officers and men of the West Virginia. and a few survivors from the Arizona. Received word that Mac had died today; the only officer casualty besides the Captain. We estimate enlisted losses at 200.
Today and tonight mainland planes have been pouring in. Again the enemy failed to attack us. They have failed to follow up their one devastating blow; every second we become stronger in the air, that is the superiority so vital to our defenses. All quiet tonight. I’m praying the clipper that left today will speedily bring relief from the awful dread that mother must be suffering from. That is, perhaps, the toughest part of war.
P.H. – December 10, 1941 Wednesday
We had another alarm about 0930 this morning; I maintain the radars are picking up “ghosts” again. We are busy now in reorganizing and regaining. Our men are just getting cleaned up now; they have no decent sleeping facilities. The conditions must be remedied quickly for our physical well being.
Japanese reports underestimate the damage at Pearl Harbor; neither they nor the people at home must know the true state of affairs for a long time. All information is closely guarded, mail censored, of course.
The Maryland was moved to the docks today; it will be some job to free the Tennessee. When the West Virginia turned sideways she locked us against the quay. We are salvaging valuable equipment from West Virginia; and some personal effects. All my gear is under water so I am making no effort to recover it (was pleasantly surprised to have this excellent pen returned today by a shipmate who had borrowed it last Saturday).
Other officers of the Wee Vee are on duty at the Naval Air Station, the receiving station, and as airplane spotters for the Army. We are indefinitely attached to the Tennessee, but without written orders.
Had the 2000-24000 tonight. The sky was full of searchlights aiding our planes that are constantly coming in (I don’t like those lights). Meanwhile cruisers, destroyers, and Submarines move in and out of P.H.
P.H. – December 11, 1941 Thursday
New Battle Bill goes into effect this morning. These condition watch crews are really on the ball; we would almost welcome a return engagement.
Received word this afternoon of a magnificent feat performed by the Saratoga. She brought over twice the normal plane capacity by keeping 100 planes in the air all the time. This was done on a record run and to top it off, she continued West, not stopping at Pearl.
We hear reports of the gallant stand of our Marines in Guam; they’ll never be taken alive. On Johnson Island they allowed landing forces to come within 100 yards of the beach before opening up with a 5” battery; what a massacre!
This afternoon we began breaking up the quay in an attempt to get underway. The piledriver continued working all night. I had the 00-0400; received one “alert” signal at 0330, but nothing developed. Perhaps it was Secretary Knox arriving from Washington to survey the damage.
P.H. – December 12, 1941 Friday
Didn’t sleep well last night and I’m bothered with a head cold and racking cough. Guess we are quite normal again when we start “bitching” about such trivialities.
Saw our West Virginia gang in their quarters at the Arena. Tidwell told me that Brophy had gone insane after the battle was over. I did some more shopping at the Sub Base.
On returning I found the men had salvaged cots and bedding from the West Virginia; perhaps they’ll get a decent night’s sleep at last. Rumor is that leave will be granted 1 day in 4, from 0900 to 1700. What the hell is there to do on leave? There is no liquor for sale whatsoever. Besides, we haven’t been paid and I’m broke.
Had the first dog this afternoon. It was peaceful, had loading drill and a little instruction on the gun. Strange, how little emphasis we are placing on safety precautions these days.
The ship is constantly increasing its machine gun armament; certainly hope we get the 1.1” guns. A final checkup on the division shows a broken arm (Bidwell) as our only casualty. He was knocked off the port crane by the first “fish”.
Time to turn in on my cot now. I’m sleeping on the boat deck level of the mast, next to men and guns.
P.H. – December 13, 1941 Saturday
Had the 0400-0800 this morning, very peaceful. We checked up on our ponchos, helmets, and optical equipment. Went to Condition I at 0845 to permit turrets to drill (AA condition watches utilize the turret divisions). Newscasts this morning say we are holding well at Guam, Wake, and Midway. Our own offensive is well underway. Knox reported back in Washington.
At 1030 an enemy submarine was reported in Pearl Harbor. Efforts were made to catch the big fish ”alive”. However, depth charges were dropped this afternoon. She was still unaccounted for as I went on the 1800-2000 tonight. Posted surface lookouts on the guns.
Just received word that all non-rated men were (from the West Virginia) to leave the ship by 2200 and report to the Arena. What is happening now? The Saratoga, four cruisers (heavy), and several cans came in at sunset, perhaps they are going to them. I hate to see them leave, but we’ll probably be going ourselves, directly.
CINCPAC orders Undress Whites for shore leave. What a hell of a note when we have two khakis to our name.
News was encouraging tonight as the first week of the war was drawing to a close. It’s certainly been hectic as these pages probably indicate. Hope I won’t be too busy to keep this up.
Remember Pearl Harbor!
P.H. – December 14, 1941 Sunday
Very quiet “anniversary”. Nothing to report on the 0800-1200 this morning. Tom Eddy was ordered to temporary duty on the Pennsylvania; Hank temporarily on the Tennessee. The rest of us are still hanging in air, without any orders (wished I could have gone on one of the cruisers with our men). Our petty officers are “lost” too.
Spent three hours this afternoon censoring outgoing mail. There were some laughs and lots of heartbreak. But everyone was vowing personal revenge on the enemy and all were confident of complete victory.
Work on the quay progresses more rapidly; divers are removing obstructions now. I think I’ll dive into the Wee Vee bunkroom tomorrow to see if I can salvage any of my gear.
All quiet on the 2000-2400 tonight. Our men didn’t go out on the cruisers after all, just working party to provision them. Word from the Philippines is, “All we want is more ammunition and more Japs”. The commander is striving desperately to keep the Wee Vee crew intact and placed on some new construction. That would be wonderful. Harry Stark was ordered to a four stacker as executive officer.
P.H. – December 15, 1941 Monday
Slept well, up at 0730 this morning. We didn’t shift berths today as scheduled. Yard workmen have been rigging machine gun nests on the cranes. Nothing to report on the 1200-1600 this afternoon.
Heard F.D.R. speak at 1730. The Worden skipper reported to CINCPAC, at 0645 Dec. 7th, The sinking of a Jap submarine. Somebody should get “hung”; but damn anyone that blames the Navy as a whole.
Archie collected my pay today. Wee Vee casualty list now down to 95; Oklahoma to 200. Enemy planes bagged Dec. 7th, now 41. Turning in at 1830 in preparation for the mid.
P.H. – December 16, 1941 Tuesday
Very quiet midwatch; welders busy about the ship. Began shifting berths at 0800 this morning; moored to pier 17 about 1700. The 1600-1800 was quiet. Rumor that the army tracked enemy planes on their Radar for two hours before the attack. Tomorrow we start cleaning up the ship.
P.H. – December 17, 1941 Wednesday
All quiet on the 0400-0800. Very busy aboard today; painting, cleaning, refueling, stripping ships, handling ammunition, etc. Orders are to have ship ready to get underway in 48 hrs. Got a temporary pass and picture taken for a permanent one.
Honolulu was quiet; practice air raid at noon, amusing. Had an excellent steak at the Wagon Wheel, then a movie at Waikiki. Back to the ship at five; there’s no reason for going ashore anymore. Army, Navy and Air Force commands were relieved today; such action was essential to public morale. Admiral Nimitz is 4.0.
P.H. – December 18, 1941 Thursday
Took aboard 400 rounds of 5” - 25 cal. And lots of 14” during my 0800-1200. Received notice to leave the ship and report to the receiving station. Packed all my gear in about half an old seabag and here I am.
Have no orders, yet. Lights out here at 1730; everyone goes to bed at 1800. Good news that the Lt.-Gen. Emmons has taken over Army command.
P.H. – December 19, 1941 Friday
Temporary orders to Com.-14, duty at the receiving station. Apparently there’s damn little to do. English has gone to the sampan fleet. Bought cheap trunk and little odds and ends. We eat at the Officer’s Club.
Hope to get a ship soon; this is a hell of a war diary with no war since the initial fireworks. Very dull here with nothing to do. We hang out at West Virginia Pay Office a good deal.
P.H. – December 23, 1941 Tuesday
Marine sentry shot himself in the hand on the 0000-0400 this morning. Japs don’t seem to be getting far in the big push in the Philippines. Tonight I transferred 23 men in a draft to the West Coast; didn’t even know what ship was taking them back. Lurline sails with evacuees Friday. Mailed a little birthday present to mother; hope it gets there on time.
Had a second opportunity for a job, Army Intelligence; again Comdr. Peterson wouldn’t detach me. Am I going to sit in the receiving station for the duration?
P.H. – December 24, 1941 Wednesday
Large drafts arriving from the mainland today. Buildings decorated for Christmas. Heard C.I.C. and the Prime Minister this morning. Went to a show at the Sub Base; I’d seen it before. News bad from Manila.
Everyone looking forward to Christmas liberty tonight and tomorrow. But CINCUS doesn’t trust the Japs; at 1700 - all shore leave was cancelled until 0900, Dec 26th. Set Condition of Readiness II. That’s our Christmas Eve - “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men”.
P.H. – December 25, 1941 Thursday
Manila practically lost; But what heroism. A Christmas card from the Roberts. Took communion this morning; 1000 services at the Arena. A strange setting indeed; dungareed sailors, Navy wives, a strange conglomeration. I knelt beside a colored mess attendant. The sermon - Peace on earth only for those with goodwill in their hearts; we must keep that goodwill in
a world of hatred and destruction. Brought me close to my loved ones this morning. News tonight that our own planes are now bombing Japs on Guam.
P.H. – December 27, 1941 Saturday
Read Time’s story of the war (Dec 15th). They guess well. Saw Chief Justice Roberts at the Sub Base. Had a golden chance at assignment as gunnery officer on Perkins (can). A ’40 U.S.N. ruined it, damn it. Have little higher hopes now from more contact with the Pooling Officer.
P.H. – December 28, 1941 Sunday
Doc and I spent a pleasant day at Waikiki. Went to a 1000 movie and lay on the beach all afternoon, very relaxing. Met Jake on the way back; here at 1700.
Life is so different these days; right down to the essentials. Take liberty one day a week and there’s not much to do then. The evenings are bad, no lights and one can’t go to bed every night at six. Glad when days are longer.
AT SEA! – December 31, 1941 Wednesday
Things happened fast this morning. Went on my knees to get the Saratoga and came aboard while she was underway! Terribly happy to be at sea again, but mother will worry because of long lapses in my letters (two or three weeks). We don’t know where we’re going; radio is sealed up; large task force (14). The Saratoga is a fine ship, a hell of a lot of officers aboard including my old classmate Stu Kowen. Condition III all day, II at night. I’m in the Gunnery Department, but don’t know what battery. This is the best New Year’s present I could hope for. Had to leave the bulk of my laundry in Pearl Harbor; also my pay accounts, but no need for money.
These altimeters for rangefinding are terrible; it seems a crime to have such obsolete equipment for 12 damn good 5” guns. However, we have 5 pom-poms, 28 - 50 cal. machine guns, and 8 - 8” guns, so this is quite a gunnery ship after all. The Gunnery Department is very young; one Lt.-Comdr., one Lt., and the rest Ensigns. The Executive Officer is a fine gentleman, but they say the Skipper is a bear. Well, I’m used to that.
Wondering if the Savannah will get out here now. We’re not in much anyway and Lord knows what the next port will be. Flight operations are interesting. The ship rolls considerably more than the Wee Vee, but not enough to make it uncomfortable. Guess the watches are pretty rugged but I’m still a very, very, happy man tonight.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Ensign Hunter’s first official orders since West Virginia were to report to the Commandant, 14th Naval District for duty at the Receiving Station (Pearl Harbor). These temporary orders were issued December 18th 1941 by the Pacific Fleet Pooling Officer. On December 31, 1941 those orders were cancelled and Hunter was finally assigned duty (albeit temporary duty) aboard USS Saratoga (CV-3). On very the last day of 1941, in Ensign Hunter’s words, he “came aboard while she was underway!”. He was assigned to the Gunnery Department where he remained until April 16, 1942. During his tour aboard Saratoga, she was involved in local operations in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor. On January 11th 1942, Saratoga was struck by one of, at least, three torpedoes fired at her by a Japanese submarine that had been stalking her for several days. She was in no mortal danger but prudently headed for Pearl Harbor for a more thorough damage assessment, arriving on January 13th.
On February 9th, with Hunter aboard, Saratoga left Pearl Harbor for Bremerton, WA and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She was scheduled for more comprehensive repairs to the torpedo damage to her “fire rooms” and an extensive fitting out for what was to be a long and heroic series of campaigns. Following arrival at Bremerton, Hunter continued his temporary assignment in Saratoga until April 16th, 1942 when he received orders to report to the USS Indiana (BB-58).
Indiana was in the final stages of construction at Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. in Newport News, Va. when the now Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Hunter reported aboard on commissioning day (April 30th, 1942). While aboard Indiana, Hunter participated in her shakedown in Casco Bay, Maine. Then on November 9th, 1942, fully laden with ammunition and supplies, Indiana churned out of Hampton Roads, Va. enroute to Tongatabu Island via the Panama Canal. The powerful vessel dropped anchor in Nukualofa Harbor, Tongatabu, Tonga Islands and reported for duty with the Pacific Fleet on 28 November. At this time the U.S. Navy was in a very precarious position in the Pacific, with only battleships Washington (BB-56), South Dakota (BB-57), and now Indiana, along with carriers Saratoga (CV-3) and Enterprise (CV-6) carrying the burden of the Pacific war.
These major ships, plus a few cruisers and destroyers, protected the American landings on, and subsequent defense of, Guadalcanal. There did not materialize a battle for the Indiana group, only a constant threat of one, with the Japanese Fleet feinting and dodging, but never clashing with this group. Earlier in this campaign, however, the enemy had struck another hard blow. A group of Japanese cruisers and destroyers approached Guadalcanal undetected, and had smashed an Allied cruiser force there, sinking HMAS (Australian) Canberra, USS Astoria (CA-34), USS Quincy (CA-71), and USS Vincennes (CA-44), in what is now know as the First Battle of Savo Island.
Indiana supported the Rennell Island operation on 29-30 January 1943 and in February she began operations out of Noumea, New Caledonia, guarding against further Japanese threats in the South Pacific. It was here that Hunter received orders to disembark Indiana and report to the Amphibious Fleet taking shape on the East Coast of the United States. These were orders he little liked, as he felt his true calling was gunnery aboard battleships (Big Ships-Big Guns). He requested change of orders several times over the next year but all requests were answered with “Request Denied”. As any sailor knows, the “needs of the Navy” come first, during wartime, they absolutely come first. So Hunter did as ordered.
It took a month for Hunter to travel from the South Pacific to Little Creek, Virginia and the home of the then-named, Landing Craft Group. For the remainder of 1943 and the first several months of 1944, Hunter participated in most every aspect of the Amphibious Fleet build-up, whose purpose was directly centered on the impending Allied invasion of Europe. He was trained and readied for this unfamiliar type of duty in a different theater of war in locations such as Little Creek, Va., Solomons, Md, Philadelphia, Pa, New Orleans, La, Norfolk, Va, and Newport News, Va.
During the massive Amphibious Fleet reorganization and build-up, Hunter was promoted to Lieutenant and given an ever-increasing succession of responsibilities. During this period, Hunter quickly specialized in the operation of the LST ship (Landing-Ship, Tank). First, he learned the navigation, operation and maneuvering of a single LST, eventually graduating to operations of LSTs in groups. Some of the positions he held during 1943 - 1944 were First Lieutenant, LST Group Ten (Flotilla 10), First Lieutenant, LST Training Group One, Division Commander, LST Training Group Four, Division Commander, LST Training Group Fifty Nine, Division Commander, LST Group Thirty, (Flotilla 10) and finally, Commanding Officer, USS LST-51 and overall Commander of LST Group Thirty
On April 4th, 1944 Hunter was promoted to Lieutenant Commander (LCDR). Almost immediately he was ordered to take LST Group 30 across the Atlantic for England and the prelude to D-Day. On June 5/6 LCDR Hunter sailed from Portland, England aboard his Group Flagship USS LST 51, and set course for the Normandy coast. The Top Secret orders under which he was to proceed were code-name Operation Bigot. For several weeks his Group crisscrossed the channel bringing large quantities of men, equipment and tanks to Omaha beach.
On December 21st, 1944 LST Group Thirty was decommissioned with Hunter sending out the final communication. Addressed to: “Commanding Officers, ALL SHIPS, Group 30: it read in part:
1. Upon dissolution of this command I wish to thank all Commanding Officers, Officers and Men of Group THIRTY for their efficient performance of duty while under my command.
2. As part of an outstanding Flotilla it has been a privilege and pleasure to have served with you.
3. It is with sincere regret that I say “Farewell and Godspeed.
Hunter immediately requested leave, and once granted, returned to his home in Fort Covington, NY for a long awaited but short visit with his mother and close family friends. Returning from leave he reported to the Commandant, Eighth Naval District in New Orleans, La on Feb 1st, 1945. This was “in connection with the overhaul of certain Landing Craft” as his orders read. Of course, this was in preparation for, what appeared to be at the time, the inevitable invasion of the Japanese islands.
The last of Hunter’s official orders available at this writing were issued on May 24th 1945, directing him to proceed to the Amphibious Warfare Training Center, Norfolk Va. The war in Europe had ended sixteen days prior, and the end of the Pacific war was just over two months ahead. There was going to be no invasion of the Japanese Islands and it was time to move on.
Hunter resigned his Commission late in 1945. He married, had four children and spoke little of his wartime experiences.
Bravo Zulu, Mr. Hunter!
Prepared by Steve Dufort, son-in-law of George Hunter
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