My View From the Bridge

By Max E. Pyne, Bgmstr 3rd class USNR


When I went aboard the WEST VIRGINIA (BB-48) she was docked at a birth in the Bremerton shipyard. She was not painted white as I expected but was decked out in her fighting camouflage colors, varying from light gray to pale and dark blues. She was a massive, beautiful thing to see.  

            There was much excitement in the air. The workmen were still putting on the finishing touches of reconstruction. They were working around the clock. She had been raised from the bottom of Pearl Harbor where she was sunk during the Jap attack on  December 7th 1941. During that attack she took 7 torpedoes on the port side. She was patched up, and under her own power brought to Bremerton Washington for complete reconstruction.  

            She was like new, she was better than new.  All of her armament, the superstructure, all of her functions had been rebuilt, world class.   In addition she had the very latest in radar equipment, first and secondary gun control.  The newest and best of everything had been installed. She was ready to lead the "Ghost Fleet" from the bottom of Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay. We were about to get even.  It was not plain justice we were after we wanted revenge. For those still inside the Old Arizona, for the dead young men scattered across the Pacific on nameless islands and for the prisoners taken at Bataan. Retribution was at hand. 

            I was assigned to the navigation division. My living quarters were in steering aft.  I hurried there and was able to take my pick of bunks.  I took the top one near the hatch.  (A hatch is like a door). I had noted there was a fresh air supply duct near the head of my bunk.  I failed to notice those very large steel shafts going past my bunk, back to the rudder of the ship.  Just to get to my quarters was such that one needed a map though none were provided.  It was a place, deep and remote, down in the bowels of the ship.  I soon found out that the proper name for it was "Torpedo Junction". The space and compartment assignment was irrevocable.  Here I must stay during the tour of the South Pacific.  At least, here is where I must maintain my locker and personal belongings. You can be certain that I would spend very little time there. 

            At muster the next morning I met the rest of the Navigation Department.  That is the department responsible for the guidance of the ship.  All watches of this department would be in the Pilot House, the Navigation Bridge and the Chart House. This division was closely tied to and associated with the signal department, consisting of radio, signal light, and semaphore flag communication.  All of our watch positions were about ninety feet above the water line. A great place to see the coming show, if you were not faint of heart.  We were totally exposed and a target for all the bad things the Japs had to offer.  We were two decks above the Flag Bridge which was the real target. (The Admiral stays there).           

Five buglers were assigned to the ship. Only three were to be used.  The other two were to be held in reserve. They were assigned watches with other departments. Our watches were to be four hours on and eight hours off.  When we were on watch and an emergency occurred, we were to remain at the side of the Captain, where ever he was, until the all clear was sounded. Each of us were assigned a "battle station" when we were not on watch.  My station was on a "five inch thirty eight".  Sometime later I was a third loader on a "forty millimeter quad". Both weapons were very effective. The five inch turret had two barrels and was very noisy when you were up close. Some of this may have something to do with my current hearing problems. 

            Preparations were being made to get underway.  The use of tug boats were employed to get the large ship away from the dock.  We were on our own power now.  .The giant ship came alive.   We took her into the Puget Sound and positioned her very precisely at a  given point there for the degauss process.  There had been so much work done on her with welders and other tools that this was necessary.

            Once the work of degaussing was completed, and only then, would we start the giant gyroscope. The ship was headed due North.  The gyroscope was started and would run continuously for as long as she was in service.  

            Thus began the shake down cruise of the rebuilt Battleship U.S.S. West Virginia (BB-48)   She had been originally commissioned in 1924; coincidentally, that is the year of my birth. After her sinking at Pearl Harbor and with all the rebuilding, she must undergo a complete shake down.  This would evolve checking and re-checking of everything aboard.  It would also allow some of the new members of the "ships company" to become familiar with the sea going navy.           

            As we steamed down the west coast toward Long Beach, planes were sent out pulling targets. The targets were targets for our antiaircraft guns, the 40 and the 20 millimeters.  Frankly we were not very good.  We shot day after day at what ever was there for us to use. There was some hope but not much. 

            For a few days we shot at land targets, real or make believe on the island of San Clemente. That island is just off the coast of Los Angeles.  For this we used the Main and Secondary batteries.  Naval ordnance experts calibrated the fire control mechanisms precisely.  In the interlude time we were still trying to hit moving targets in the sky.  It is not as easy as you might think. Where we were going and what we would be shooting at made this practice most important.  We were getting better but much improvement had to be made. 

            During this time we were told that we could contact our families for one last visit before "shipping out".  I contacted my parents by phone and told them that I would be gone for a while. If they had time I would like to see them before we sailed.  I don't know how Dad was able to take off from work but they drove to Long Beach immediately.  

             Upon arrival they came aboard and some one seated them in folding chairs on the Quarter Deck just beneath the No. four 16 inch .45 turret.  I was paged on the P.A. system with instructions to meet them there.  It was a very brief meeting do to the remaining time.  We were getting underway very soon.   There they were, Dad in his best suit, tall and straight, with a No.5 white beaver Stetson hat. Mother was wearing a dark blue suit, hat, matching hanky and gloves.   

            Was I glad to see them.  There was little time for talk.  I recall Mother asking one question.  She said, where are the guns?  I pointed to those two large tubes above her head and said, there are some of them.  The largest rifle my Mother had ever seen in her life was Dad's deer rifle, a 30 cal.  I expect that she thought it would be that size weapons we were going to use against the enemy.  When she looked up and saw the huge tubes above her head, she expressed amazement and a frightful look came into her eyes. She ask, are those really guns? Dad and I both smiled and confirmed the question.   

            It seemed like our meeting lasted only a short time when it was announced that all but the "ship company" must leave the ship immediately.   Time for only a couple of hugs, a few of Mother's tears and my Dad said "make it count Max" and they left the ship. We cast off and the ship got underway with a west/southwest heading.  

              Until we were out of range of land, planes came out pulling targets for more practice.  We surely needed it for what was ahead of us. When on watch, I could look down on the Flag Bridge and there would be Rear Admiral Ruddock along with his aids. The Admiral had been recently wounded and was using a cane to get around.  He was combat div 4.  (commander of battleship division four). That is big stuff. 

            Our Captain was H.V.Wiley.  He was a man of about sixty years.  In the  months ahead I would get to know him extremely well from a distance, though we would be only a few feet apart. This man was all business.  He was not in the best of shape physically.  He walked like it hurt him, though he always stood erect.  His voice was impaired, like he had a throat problem.  He was a handsome man with very white wavy hair.  

             We were to learn that he had commanded a destroyer squadron of the Asiatic Fleet and had given the Japs hell at Makassar Straits, off Bali and in the Java Sea. Much later in my life I was to find he had been the commander of the Macon, 1934-35. The Macon was an aircraft carrier in the sky.  It was an airship, helium filled, that carried four sparrow hawk fighter biplanes. Her sister ship was called the Akron and was lost in the Atlantic in 1933. The Macon was lost in a rain squall five miles off the coast of Monterey California on February 12, 1935. Our Captain survived both crashes. 

            You may like to know that the captain of a capital ship is always on the Navigation Bridge or his cabin there, when the ship is underway.  His food is brought to him on a tray.  The Executive Officer, second in command, personally reports to the captain in his cabin or on the open bridge each day.  Even the Admiral came to the Bridge on occasion for discussion.   The Captains cabin is quite small and in a way the captain was his own prisoner. 

            The Captain,  Admiral and the Executive Officer are assigned orderlies.   These were provided from the Marine detachment aboard.  We had about 120 of them. They are known as "Sea Going Marines" and may be the best trained and most disciplined of the Corp. The main function of the detachment was to maintain the brig. serve as orderlies and when not on watch, their battle stations were manning some of the 40 millimeter antiaircraft guns.   

            As we approached Pearl more planes pulling targets were provided for our gunners, who were really working at it and improvement was becoming noticeable. 

            When we pulled into Pearl they docked us at the exact birth location she was in on the morning of December 7, 1941.  You can bet that provided some food for thought.  The Arizona was still visible and lying on her side just aft of where we were docked.  Some of you who have visited Hawaii and the Arizona Memorial were within a few yards of where were docked. 

             The Captain kind of hobbled ashore to an awaiting command car.  He was gone perhaps an hour.  When he returned to the ship, he was like a completely new man.   He had lost the hooks he had in his pants when he went ashore.  He was smiling and walking like he was in a hurry to go somewhere.  The Admiral returned a short time later and we got underway.  The heading was south and west, at "flank speed."  There was a destroyer escort at our flank. We would be running a "zig zag" course for the next several days. The zig-zag course and the Destroyer Escort were the only protection we would have against enemy submarines.           

            We knew something was up as there was no time for liberty in Pearl.  It seemed things were moving so fast.  There was an air of urgency in everything we had been doing.  Day after day we held drill, both for General Quarters and for Air Defense.  Stop watches were set and monitored.  Setting new time challenges for the readiness reports that would come to the navigation bridge from all divisions that conditions were "combat ready".  The Captain was most cheerful.  He was a new man. He knew where we were going and was in a hurry to get there. 

            The ship was now a living thing.  It surged with excitement. Is it possible that  the crew sensed the attitude of the Captain? There was one thing for certain, we were going somewhere important. The destination was known to very few and they were not talking.  When I would leave my watch in the Pilot house the deck hands would gather at the foot of the ladder and ask "what's the scuttlebutt".  They wanted to know the latest information.  I had nothing to tell them. 

            The ships company numbered two thousand two hundred fifty officers and men.  I  think all of us shared the same feeling of concerned apprehension.  Thank God Bill Clinton was not aboard.  We would have had to turn back just to put him ashore.  It is safe to say that some of us didn't have great confidence about the out come of this voyage.  It was like we were on a giant roller coaster careening out of control, traveling at great speed toward what, God only knew. You will not complain, your pride will not allow it.  Whatever devil lies ahead you won't quit. My father said to me as I was leaving the last time, "make it count".           

            While on this voyage we  would cross the equator.  Submarines were a threat but I think as a mental distraction, as well as an almost absolute age old requirement, we held the time honored " shellback" initiation.  This hazing will take your mind off even the most difficult things. The "shellbacks" started construction of the various torture devises to be used several hundred miles north and east of the point of our crossing.  They arranged the whole stage of events on the forecastle. 

            They constructed a large water tank of wood and canvas, with a trip seat above.  Sections of  3" diameter fire hose were cut about 18" long to be used as whips for us unsuspecting and tender "Pollywogs" as we ran the gauntlet. Many other preparations were put in place for this grand and momentous occasion.   This would be one of the very few times I ever saw the Captain on the open, lower decks while that ship was underway. He went down there to start the proceedings of the initiation.  If any of you do not know the difference between a Pollywog and a Shellback, that means you are a Pollywog. Other names for a Pollywog  are as follows:  Drug store cowboys, lounge lizards, dance hall sheiks, asphalt arabs, plow deserters, chicken chasers, hay tossers and parlor-dunigans, to name but a few. 

            In the most serious of times this ritual has been conducted.  This must include all of the pomp and circumstance that might be available. At the precise time of our crossing the grandfather of all hazing was to begin.  I  was on watch and observed the navigator and his quarter master assistant on the open bridge take the readings with the sextant, thus to confirm our exact location and the moment of our crossing of the equator. This was reported over the ships loudspeaker system starting the grand event. King Neptunus Rex and his Royal entourage, which included Peg Leg Pete, Davy Jones and other notables from the deep were piped aboard at that precise moment. 

            Being on the Navigation Bridge I could witness what was going on down there.  The poor Pollywogs were herded onto the forecastle.  There they underwent the most humiliating of events.  Their heads were shaved close.  Their  bodies were painted with grease and they were fed a mixture of cold rice & raw egg whites.  They had to kiss a fat mans navel. Then, they were dumped in the newly constructed water tank where there were several large guys waiting to hold them under the water.  As they tried to escape they had to climb up a sloping  wet canvas wall of the pool.  Once out of the pool they had to slide down the wet canvas wall.  At that point they met the force of a fire hose in their faces while being forced to run the gauntlet, where they were being pelted with the fire hose whips. Oh what a nice time awaited me when I got off watch. 

            When my watch was over I went directly to the engine room, found some heavy grease and applied it to my full head of hair.  It was my thought that they certainly would not use those electric shears in all of the grease I had put in to my hair. Nothing could have been further from the truth.  What they didn't cut off they pulled out and I was again as ugly as I had been during the first month of boot camp.  The raw eggs, the trip seat and the difficult time while in the tank was child's play compared to my long trip down the line of the gauntlet while being beaten with those frayed ends of the fire hoses. 

              I got through it much better than Lt. Commander White, who was one of our gunnery officers. He was a very large fat men and one that was difficult to like. He was quite young for his position and rank. It was obvious to me and to others that money bought it all for him as it did for a lot of commissioned officers in the navy. While he was running to escape the line of the gauntlet with the fire hose in his face, he ran head long into a paravane and broke his ankle.  To my knowledge he was the only casualty of the day. It could not have happened to a nicer guy.  His family owned the Black Ball ferry line in Seattle and being an officer he may have been given our ships very first purple heart. 

            The weather was very warm. You can bet that I no longer slept in my bunk down in torpedo junction. I had not done so since we left Long Beach.  I would only stay there long enough to change uniforms and for mail call.  My unofficial bunk was lying on the steel deck topside, but beneath the turret mount of the five inch thirty-eight located on the port side of the second deck. The reason I slept beneath the turret was for protection from falling shrapnel. I was also at my battle station should we go to general quarters. I slept with my head in my helmet, it served as a pillow. I slept in the cloths I wore. There was no padding, just the bare, warm steel decking. This is the way I spent my sleeping hours during the many months we were in the Pacific.    

            The beauty of the Pacific that far south is beyond description.   At night as the giant ship plowed its way through the water,  the disturbance would cause the plankton to glow in our wake.  This effect would remain for several hundred feet behind us, creating an easy mark for enemy aircraft that might be overhead.  So far, there were none. 

            Plowing through the waves was lovely to watch from the bow.   Usually there were a herd of porpoise playing in front of and to the side of the bow.  They were racing with us and as you watched them, it seemed they were calling to each other and trying to pace the movement of the ship as if in competition.  This would go on for hours at a time. They never seemed to tire of this. One had to wonder what in the world they were doing this far from what we call home. 

            The colors of the water and the sky were extraordinary. When the sky was clear, as it usually was, the water would be near the same color, a very deep blue.  When you add some beautiful white clouds, each point of the compass would be a fit subject for the worlds greatest artist and a challenge to his ability to mix the paint. 

            Some times we would have very calm seas.  I have seen it when there was no water movement as far as the eye could see.   It looked like a sheet of ice, totally flat and smooth, disturbed only by our passing.  We would pass through rain squalls, some of them lasting only a few minutes.   In the heat it was nice to get wet as the movement of the air would cool and dry you off if you were on the exposed decks. 

            The sound coming from the large ship was something I will never forget.  There was a rhythm, a low pitched hum, a cadence, a certain harmonic. No, it was more a feeling than a sound detectable to the ear.  The ship seemed to be alive much as if it were a living thing.  The burning fuel oil created the steam, which moved the huge turbine generators, thereby creating the electrical power to run the ship.  The four large propellers ( screws) moved us through the water. She weighed thirty five thousands tons but in the open sea she moved easily and quietly.  In the day time there would be no smoke from her stack to give our position away.  Only at night would we blow or clear the stack. They called this, "blowing the tubes." To do so, the engine room would have to get prior permission from  the bridge.           

            If I wasn't on watch or asleep I was exploring the ship and it's various departments. I was learning about world class technology in the many fields represented aboard.  What an education, radar was a most fascinating thing to me, as were the optical second battery gun controls.  I must admit that the general mechanics of the engine room held no interest for me. While on watch, I could witness first hand the workings of the navigator and his quartermaster assistant.  I learned the use of the sextant and pelorus. While there was a very large magnetic compass just ahead of the tiller, we used the gyrocompass repeater during all maneuvers.  

             Each member of the crew, whose watch was in the pilot house was encouraged to learn to steer the ship and to be able to maintain a steady course. It is necessary that as many of the pilot house crew as possible learn to steer the ship, in case of an emergency. To steer the ship is not easily done.  Like all things, it takes practice and you cannot be thinking of anything else. 

            In my view the third person in charge of the ship is the navigator.   Ours was the best.  He had been teaching that subject at Annapolis.  C.M. Sugarman, a full  commander rank.  He was a very friendly person to all.  There seemed to be no outward sign of rank displayed at any time.  He was a man of about fifty. He would take time to explain the many things I would ask of him during our time aboard together.  At that time I was doing some sketching with pencil and paper.  He liked my work well enough to invite me to his cabin in the evenings, where he would remain very still while I arranged the lighting and drew a sketch of him. He sent it to his wife and family.  I was very flattered and I hoped they liked it. 

            While on watch my duties did not require me to be ever present in the pilot house.  Usually in fair weather, the Captains' Orderly, the Boatswain Mate and  myself would remain just outside on the open bridge or on the catwalk that extended completely around the Captains' cabin.  At no time was I more that ten feet from the P.A. mike.  At no time was there ever any loud talking, even during times of attack.  Our training was such that voice levels were to remain low. 

            This was the spit-n-polish part of the Navy, certainly for our division and those standing watch on the bridge and in chart house.  Clean dungaree uniforms daily, sometimes twice.  Shoes were highly polished and hats were mostly squared, not jauntily placed on your head. It was all business.    

            Our arrival at the appointed place called Manus Island was precise in regard to time and direction.  It is a place just north of New Guinea in the Bismark Sea. It was night time when we arrived and dropped anchor.  

            At first light of the next day I was on watch.  I could see many ships around us.   There were ships of every description and size. There were so many masts, it looked like we were in a forest, a forest that extended for miles only to be interrupted by the open sea on one side and the land mass forming a very large bay on the other. Preparations were made to immediately get under way. 

            It now became obvious to everyone aboard what the hurry had been all about in our haste to get this ship ready, to this place and at this time.  All of the air defense practice, the shooting at drones, the bombardment of San Clemente Island and the drills to get to general quarters condition at the shortest possible time. It all started to make a lot of sense. All was to be put to more serious practice within a few days.   

            This huge task force was "formed up" just outside the bay.  We assumed a formation called a "Battle Line". In this, all of the capital ships were positioned in the center and were in column. To the sides were the lesser ships, again forming a single column line.  This armada extended in width for several miles, the length was a like distance.  I am of the opinion that it may have been the greatest assembly of men and material in the history of man.  The course was set for North, North West. The approximate date was October 13, 1944. I cannot be totally precise in this because personal logs or diaries were prohibited.  In the following account and where dates are specifically mentioned is made possible only following my research in the various books that were published following the war. You will note proper credits are given at the end of this story. 

             Date certain, we entered Leyte Gulf  from the Philippine Sea on the 18th of October 1944.  On October 19, 1944 we commenced shore bombardment on the Philippine Island of Leyte.   Initially we and the other battleships and heavy cruisers remained off shore a mile or so. We used the 16 inch .45 main battery as well as the 5 inch 38 secondary battery to bombard the designated targets.   

            For some reason known only to our captain  He took us in very close to the beach and began strafing the beaches with our 40 millimeter guns.  He was devastating the beach and was setting fires to the grass huts and other buildings near the waters edge. We were the only large ship to do this. I guess it was fun for him while it lasted.  I think the Captain thought he was John Wayne or Sgt. York and  he was doing his damnedest to get in as many blows as possible against the enemy. 

            It wasn't long before the ship just shuddered and stopped dead in the water. What a strange feeling that was. We had been moving rather slowly because we were in "uncharted water".  I happened to be on the forecastle at the time, as I was not on watch.  The chief Boatswains Mate and his subordinates were rushing to the chains with a sounding line.  "The chains" as it is called is a small platform that extends about four or five feet out over the water from the deck of the forcastle.  It was there that the sounding line/lead line was being dropped into the water.  A lead line consists of a small line, somewhat larger than a clothes line with knots tied in it at 6 foot intervals with a weight on the end to take it to the bottom.  When lowered the boatswain counts the number of knots that go below the water. In this way he knows the waters depth in fathoms. This method has been used for centuries by sailors.  Even in medieval times were they used.  Now, with all of the high tech stuff we had on board we needed to put into use a very old method to confirm what must have already been known to our Captain. 

            The terrible truth soon became clear.  We had run aground.  The ship required 32 feet of water at the bow and 31 feet of water at the stern to stay afloat. This we call "the draft".  Or you could say that the ship draws some 32 feet of water in order to stay afloat. 

              The decision must be made quickly as to what to do.  If there was a counter attack by the enemy we were in deep trouble. Being unable to maneuver we were like a sitting duck for air bombing, sea or land shelling attack. 

            The Captain made his decision and the screws were reversed slowly at first. There was some movement.  He then called for the screws to move us forward.  There was some movement again and the Captain stopped all engines. By this time the mud from the bottom was being churned up by the screws and was everywhere around the ship. It looked as if we were in the center a giant mud puddle. Finally the Captain gave the command to reverse the screws. With this maneuver he was able to back her off the muddy bottom and we immediately moved out to deeper water.  That is where we should have stayed in the first place. 

             You can be sure there was a great sigh of relief on the Navigation and the Flag Bridges.  We then took her back out to the  open water.  Now there was a vibration we had not felt before.  The ship had been damaged when it ran aground.  Divers were sent down to determine the extent of damage. These were "free diving" divers.  The report came back that the screws on the port side had been damaged and the shafts that turned them had also been bent. We were still able to do what was required of us as you will see in the coming pages. 

            Invasion started early on the morning of October 20, 1944. The first Kamikaze attack was made that day. I was very glad we were not still hard aground. Our AA guns were able to put him down close aboard.  Mentally, the Kamikaze was to become the most devastating of weapons the Jap devils were to put up against our ships.  There is no way to describe the feeling accompanying the realization that this was happening.  This first one, I personally witnessed, from my vantage point on the Navigation Bridge, I felt that it must have been an accident. Surly the pilot had planned on bombing and strafing but had been hit at the last moment and had almost crashed into our ship.  He was the only Kamikaze that day. The tools of war have now changed. 

            Official recognition of the reality of the Kamikaze were made known to us the next morning.  It appeared in the published "Orders of the Day."  It was very subtle, in that the Executive Officer wrote" You cannot fly a plane down the barrel of a gun when the gun is firing."  Subtle as this was, it was clear enough to all.  That bastard had tried to crash his plane on our ship.  He was willing to give his life in order to take as many of us with him as possible, perhaps the whole ship and all aboard. What a trade that would be. He was the first of literally hundreds to attack our fleet in the coming months.  

              We assisted in the downing of five more in the next few days.  One of their greatest tricks was to come in low and fly just off the water between the ships.  In this way our gunners would accidentally strafe the other ships and they in turn would strafe us, raking our decks and theirs with murderous 20 & 40 millimeter bullets. 

            The Oriental mind is one we never fully understood.  I doubt that many of us do even today.  Let me tell you that they were very cunning, clever and most of all they were patient.  There was no limit to what they would do or go through in order to obtain the advantage.  While Hitler taught superiority of his white haired and blue eyed youth,  Japan began when they were even younger, teaching more dedication to country, total worship and respect for the Emperor, who was a god like symbol in their eyes.  

            Japans' warriors had been marching around their world with the funny long swords, dressed in house coats and thongs on their feet, talking nasty to everyone they met for centuries.  Now, these sons of bitches were getting to be a real pain in the ass. It was the beginning of a program that was to drive the most stable person out of his mind.  It was an insidious, crazy thing to do.  It was a fantastic weapon. While we were trying to win a war so as to return home to our families, these guys were content to die on the spot, take all their glory with them and the more of us they could kill in the process, the greater their reward was to be.  Surely, the devil himself is lying in wait for us now. 

            In the afternoon of October 24, 1944, scuttle butt, (rumors) had it that we were going into a sea battle.   I went on watch at 20:00 hours, and found that it was not just rumor. The younger guys were asking the older, more experienced ones what a sea battle was like.  We had men aboard from the crews of the Yorktown and other ships that had been lost in earlier battles.  What we were hearing was not very assuring to any of us.  My watch lasted until 24:00 hours (midnight). 

            After I was relieved from my watch, I went directly to my battle station on the 5 inch 38.  General Quarters had not been sounded as yet but I might as well be there early. This promised to be a very long night.             

            The sea was very calm with only some moderate ground swells. It was a warm, pleasant, moonless  night and the only wind was from the movement of the ship. We were in a battle line formation and were patrolling back and forth, east to west then west to east at the northern entrance to Surigao Strait. It was much like pacing the floor when you are troubled.  From the Bridge I had learned that we would make contact with a large enemy task force sometime after midnight.  They were approaching our position through the Mindanao Sea.  Their purpose was to destroy our fleet and reclaim the land just taken by our landing forces.  Reports were that the size of the approaching fleet was formidable, that the odds were in their favor. It is times like this when one wishes he were somewhere else. 

               We were patrolling back and forth waiting for the enemy to arrive.  As we would turn and reverse our course, we would retrain our main battery guns to point in the direction of the approaching fleet.  At each turn I would walk to the far side of the ship, to put as much distance between me and the enemy as possible just in case they got in the first shot. Men were standing, lounging everywhere, just waiting and quietly talking.   These were the anti-aircraft gun crews of which I was one. As it worked out we would not be needed this night.   

            At around 01:30 hours General Quarters was sounded. Our radar had their fleet located on the screen.  Confirmation of their approach came from a lone P. T Boat that had been positioned along the shores of the straight.  He had sited them as they entered the south end of the straight.  We jammed their radar and a short time later we sent out P.T. Boats to launch the first assault.  This was followed by our Destroyers and then the Cruisers.  These vessels are smaller, faster and more maneuverable than a battleship. All of them carried torpedoes. We would remain where we were and use our larger guns when the enemy came within range.   

            Our large 16 inch .45s  were loaded for a full broadside. We would use armor piercing shells.   At 03:53 orders were given to our main battery to "commence firing."  All eight barrels were fired at the same time, this is called a salvo or a broadside. You could see the projectiles arch upwards in the sky as some burning material follows for some distance. The huge ship moved sideways in the water four feet from the recoil of those rifles.  The report came back that we had a "hit". The guns were reloaded quickly as the gunnery officer recalculated the point of contact and we fired again.  Another full eight gun salvo was on it's way. If you are anywhere near guns of this size being fired, the sound is deafening.  It is not a bang but rather a loud whoom and your clothing will whip in the wind created as the shells leave the ends of the barrels.  Your face and bare arms will feel the heat of the flames spouting from those barrels.   

            Now we could see the explosions as our deadly fire was making contact with their steel decks and superstructures. Things were burning on the horizon.  We could see the light of the flames as it was being reflected from the rising smoke.   Loud cheers were coming from the spectators on our surface decks of which I was one.  Again and again we poured salvo after salvo into them.  The official count was that we sent 93 armor piercing, one ton projectiles and scored major hits on the targets of the radar screen. It's difficult to explain but I do not recall seeing any return enemy fire; certainly none was directed at us.  I later learned that we had exhausted our supply of armor piercing shells and we had resorted to using shore bombardment shells. 

            After a time our ship ceased firing. I am told that the major radar blip, the one we fired on first, had disappeared completely from the radar screen.  This happened in the first nineteen minutes.  It was later found to have been the battleship Yamashiro.  The West Virginia had just sunk another Battleship.  

            The battle would continue for a time with the use of our smaller ships in pursuit of the retiring enemy forces.  At first light our planes would follow them as long as necessary and finish off anything remaining afloat. Our work was finished and at 07:30 we secured from General Quarters.  We were safe.  The men on the beach were safe and so were the many landing craft and supply ships that brought them here.  The battle of Surigao Strait was over. 

            This was later known as one of the largest and certainly the last great Naval Battle that will ever be fought on this planet.   That day our planes finished off the rest of the enemy fleet. Our small ships found many Jap survivors in the water, most of them declined rescue and in truth, I think they were shot. 

            We later learned that Halsey, with all of the brand new battleships and the very fast new carriers of the 3rd fleet, was not with us that night.  Halsey took them all with him and was chasing the enemy fleet which was just a clever decoy that was baiting him out in the north Philippine Sea up near Formosa.  We also found out that there was still another enemy fleet approaching from the Sulu Sea.  This fleet made contact with a few Jeep carriers (small carriers) and a handful of destroyers. Those small ships put up such a fight that the enemy fleet believed it had encountered a large task force. The enemy turned and retired from the scene.  Had  the two enemy fleets got to us at the same time as planned, things would have been quite different for our side and this story may never have been written. 

            At this point we had been at the front about five days. We were out of ammunition and other supplies. We retired to a place called Ulithi, in the Caroline Islands. There we took on food supplies, replenished our ammunition and returned immediately to the Philippines.  Once we arrived we again assisted in land bombardment using the main and secondary batteries.  While in the Pilot House I could hear the "spotters"  radio reports from in the air or on the ground giving our gun crews directions as to where to place our bombardment shells. Up ten, right five, then following that last round, "RIGHT ON, NO CHANGE, NO CHANGE RIGHT ON". Then we would pour it in to them. 

            The long days that followed were marked with air attacks from the Kamikaze.   Our gunners were getting very good.  They were getting a lot of practice at hitting fast moving targets in the air.  Each afternoon we would go to Air Defense and remain in that condition until after dark. Each morning before sunrise we would go to Air Defense and remain until the sun was high in the sky.  We had learned that the Japs liked to come in high with the sun behind them. That made it very difficult for us to spot them as they approached the fleet.  Even with our best radar they could get through unnoticed at times. 

            After things were secured on the beaches of Leyte and as far inland as we were effective with our main battery, this is about  25 to 30 miles, things quieted down and it was time for repairs to our damaged screws. 

            In mid November 44, We steamed South, South East to the New Hebrides; this is an area in the North Coral Sea.  Our exact destination was Espirito Santos. Upon our arrival there we were precisely positioned over and immediately raised on a floating dry-dock for repairs to the damaged screws.  It took about three hours for them to raise us above the water high and dry.  The dry-dock crews went to work immediately to straighten the bent and deformed bronze screws.  The two on the port side were the ones damaged. Each were about seventeen feet as measured across the blades.   The crews used giant torches to heat the bronze screws as they were being twisted with the aid of huge cables. They were trying to re-form those giant screws to near new condition and shape. This was to take several days. This was to be the first time I was to set foot on foreign soil. 

            The "ships company" is divided into four parts. As luck would have it my time ashore was the first of the batch.  We went ashore and were issued two cans of warm beer.  I gave mine away because in those days I didn't drink anything stronger than navy coffee.  We were taken to a place on the beach where we could swim and lay in the sun.  No other living creatures were there, no native girls, no nothing.  Only the guys on the sand and  in the water.  Our helpers, the Marines, were armed with small bore rifles and were in a motor whaleboat patrolling just off shore looking for sharks. "Good idea."   Didn't I tell you they were our helpers??   

            The beauty of this place cannot be described. The sand was as white as table salt. The water of this protected lagoon was a clear bluish green through which you could see forever.  There was no surf.  In those days people probably didn't surf anyway.  The weather was very warm but comfortable. Behind the strip of narrow beach was a tall jungle of trees of vivid green.  A couple of us wandered inland through the trees, which turned out to be only a hundred or so feet deep. We found ourselves in an orchard or grove of coconut palm trees planted neatly in rows,  just like Dad's apple orchard back home.   As we looked to the end of the rows of  trees,  we could see a beautiful, very large southern style mansion, with tall white pillars at the front porch and flowers planted all around. It appeared as if we were in Georgia or South Carolina.   As we studied the orchard we noted the ground was littered with coconuts as thick as they could lay rotting in the sun.  In the heat, the maggots had taken over. The devastation of war has shown itself even here in all this beauty.            

            I could have saved giving you the above description because most of you unknowingly have seen this place.  Those who have seen the movie "South Pacific" are aware of its beauty.  In the script about the WACS, the young lieutenant and the plantation owner, it all fits perfectly. This is where that movie was made.           

            Each of the ships' company had a few hours on that beach and all too soon the repairs were made to the ship.  It is time for us to leave a South Sea Island Paradise, one I shall never forget and the only one I have any desire to return to. Maybe someday.  I have studied the method of transportation etc. and I have an idea it is not all that easy to get to, except by tramp steamer.                  

            Late November, early December we were chosen to lead a carrier task force covering and lending support to the Mindoro operation.   We would take two other battleships, a division of cruisers, six escort carriers and a dozen destroyers.  I do not know how many troop carrying ships would be with us. We came into the central Philippines by way of the Sulu Sea.  Our mission was to support and protect the landings of our troops on the Southern end of Mindoro. That was the second landing by MacArthur's forces.  This operation lasted several days. Our AA gunners were getting very good at hitting fast moving objects in the sky.  All of the daylight and near daylight hours we were under constant attack from the air.  We remained at this place until around the middle of December. We then  retired to replenish supplies and ammunition at a point near the equator and spent Christmas there.  The place was called Kossol Roads, Palaus. 

            December 26, l944 we departed that place and made rendezvous with another large task force of men and materials for the landing on the island of Luzon. My research indicates that there were 850 ships of every type in this force.  Luzon is the largest of the islands of the Philippines. The capital city of Manila is it's main attraction.  We landed troops from the Sixth Army ashore just north of Manila in the Lingayen Gulf.  Bombardment started on or about January 6, 1945 and we remained in that area, lending support until February 10, 1945.    The intensity of the Jap air attacks became more noticeable as the days wore on.  It seemed that we were always at Air Defense.  The small carrier, Ommaney Bay, was just off our Port side and was hit by just one plane. All hands were ordered to abandon ship in less than 20 minutes.  It sank right before our eyes.  The crew was rescued by our smaller ships and there was little loss of life.  Our ships photographer was standing beside me at the time.  With his camera he caught the plane in a vertical dive not ten feet above the ships smoke stack.  What a shot!  It seemed that each day more and more ships were being hit with the suicide planes.  There was little else to think or talk about.                                                   

            If you followed the process of the war in the Pacific you would  know that we bypassed many islands in our drive toward Japan.  This is where a great many of the Kamikaze originated from.  Most, if not all of these bypassed islands had an airstrip and some planes on them.  Each day our planes would bomb and strafe these landing fields and the planes that were visible. During the night the Japs would rebuild the airstrips and piece together a plane, load it with just enough fuel for a one way trip. The rest of the plane was loaded with bomb material. This is the way the Kamikaze was born. There was an endless supply of them as they used every type of plane that could be made to fly.                                                                                                
            Our work of support to the troops was about finished and we departed for points South and East on or about February 12, 1945. What do you know, we were scheduled for some time off. We were headed for a little rest and recreation and would have time to catch our breath. We were certainly ready for some of that as we had been at the front for some 5 months. 

            Upon our arrival at Ulithi, our favorite supply and replenishment station, the Captain went ashore.  All of us were looking forward  with eager anticipation to going ashore or at least a rest for a few days with some peace and quiet.  It wasn't an hour before the Captain came back.  He was all happy and smiles with the new orders that we had been "selected" to go once again back to the damn war.                                                                                

              We immediately took on more ammunition, food and fuel. All night long we loaded and at first light the next morning we got underway.  This time our assignment was Iwo Jima.  Again, in order for us to make it count we had to travel at flank speed to meet the time requirements for the land bombardment and the start of that campaign. We arrived at Iwo Jima the morning of February 19, 1945.  The Marines had already made the initial landing an hour before we arrived. As we approached the land mass of Iwo Jima we immediately commenced land bombardment at close range, using the main and secondary batteries.  We fired for several days until our supply of ammunition was totally exhausted.  During this time I witnessed the raising of our flag on Mount Suribachi.  We were in very close to the shore and just south of the island when it went up, but oh, what a cost.                                                                                                                              
            On or about March 1, 1945 we retired to Ulithi for more supplies and ammunition. We were hoping for a few days of rest. We had been scheduled  for time off on several occasions but things always happened to where it was just not possible.  Our sister ships who were to relieve us on a given day were themselves hit with planes taking damage and loss of life, thus they had to retire to the rear areas for repairs.  We had to stay on station to support the ground troops.  

             Our problem was that we were just too lucky, if such a thing is possible.  We hadn't taken any damage what-so-ever.  I was on the bridge one day when the ships doctor made a report to the captain.  I heard him say that he could  no longer  be held  responsible for the mental health of the crew. 

             We had guys going absolutely nuts.  I have seen grown men with pull toys they had made.  They were pulling them on a string across the deck. One of the guys went to sick bay.  When it was his turn to talk to the doctor he got on his hands and knees and barked like a dog.  How are you going to fight a war with a crew made up of mad men.   

             As time went on, one became aware of the signs of the deterioration of the mind. The first sign was the wringing of the hands and the constant movement of the lower part of the hands and arms.   Blank stares and incoherent talking when no one was near.  Running the hands through the hair.  In the latter stages of this there might be violent actions that required sedation by a medic.  I have seen guys leave the ship in straight jackets as the sedation was just not enough.                                                                                  
We retired to the south and to the island of Samara in the Philippines. This place is in the east central Philippines.  Again we take on food, fuel and more ammunition.  This time we were allowed to go ashore for an afternoon on solid ground.  

             We were limited to two cans of warm beer and free run of a "park like" place.  It was a compound of several acres.  Yes, it was fenced.  The Philippino people were selling craft products, like grass skirts, cheap jewelry, shells and very small fresh bananas. The place reminds me now of a flea market with booths etc. like you find around here. Their booths were made of palms and grass to keep out the sun and rain. These were not handsome people.  Their skin was quite dark and their very young would cling to their mothers back (much like a monkey).  Most all of them had at least one good gold tooth showing when they smiled at you.

              The "ship's company" is divided into four groups. Only one fourth were allowed off the ship at one time. Even though we were in what was considered a rear or secure area, that was the case.  It was my first time on solid ground in seven months.   We were at this place only about 4 to 5 days.  It was time to move.  Yes, in more ways than one.  The whole damn "ships company" came down with a severe case  of dysentery.  It seems those fresh bananas did it.  On the trip North and East  there was just enough time to overcome this problem.

             We joined up with another, very large task force as we traveled through the East China Sea to Okinawa Gunto.   This place is North and East of Taiwan or (Formosa) as it was called then.   

              Date certain, we arrived off the shores of Okinawa on March 24, 1945. We commenced the softening up process by bombarding the beaches on the West part of the island, a little North and East of the city of Naha.  We spent several days in this process and on April 1, 1945 we put the troops ashore.   On this day I would see my first tank battle. On this day we would take a near miss and on this day we would take our first and only damage since the ship was rebuilt.

            We were in close to the beach again, perhaps a few hundred yards offshore.  With the quartermasters long glass I could almost walk along side the troops as they advanced up the beach to higher ground.  The long glass I am speaking of was about as long as a base-ball bat and was a full 24 power, with excellent optics.  The tank battle took place up near the crest of a hill.  Our tanks were advancing up from the beach area and theirs came out and down the crest of the hill to meet ours.   It was almost unreal to watch. It was like watching toys.  They stood there, exchanging fire, several rounds each.   It wasn't long before the good guys won and our advance inland continued to higher ground bypassing their smoldering tanks. I do not know why we didn't open up with our 5 inch .38 on their tanks.   I am certain that  we would have finished them off promptly.  It could be that the Army didn't want our help.   By the way, on this landing we put ashore both the Marines and Army troops and many of each. 

            This was the day that we would take our first and only hit from the enemy.   How ironic, it is April fools day 1945.  It was a quiet, very nice day. The water was calm, there was little or no wind; every thing seemed quite peaceful. We would occasionally fire at targets as they were called for by our aircraft spotting crews.  We were using the 5 inch 38 guns as the targets were relatively close. I was on the navigation bridge and on watch.   

            All of the sudden, this peaceful day was interrupted by a very loud noise over our heads, then the two splashes, one on each side of the ship. We had just been straddled by a Jap shore battery. As luck would have it, our Chief Quartermaster saw the flash and smoke of the shore guns on the beach when they fired at us.  He ran directly to the Pelorus on the open Navigation Bridge and locked in on the location of the enemy guns. He called the direction and elevation to the secondary fire control and before the Japs could reload and correct the straddle, our 5 inch 38s. took the shore installation out.   We believe it was a pair of  8 inch guns.  It was the only time I recall being fired upon by shore batteries. I must tell you that I did not enjoy hearing the sound of those bullets over head or the splash they made hitting the water near by.  It was somewhat like a freight train passing overhead on a trestle. 

            We had been in and out of air defense all day. I do not know how many planes we had seen or destroyed during the daylight hours.   It was just after 20:00 hours. I had just relieved the watch on the bridge and all was pretty quiet and it was very dark.   

            There was little warning, several of our 20 millimeter A A guns opened up and were shooting almost straight up.  The bastards were directly over head and coming straight down at us. There were three of them. The one that hit us came straight down just missing the smoke stack and main yard arm.  He hit the port side of the signal bridge then went down and penetrated the O-2 Deck. The engine and the bomb went through the mess deck and into the laundry.  The bomb continued down alongside the stack through the first deck and glanced off the portion of the stack as it flares going into the armored deck.  The bomb was deflected to where it broke wide open on the armored deck about 20 feet away from an "open" 5 inch ammunition hatch. The bomb was a 500 pound phosphorus type with two fuses, one on each end.  Both fuses failed and for some reason the phosphorus did not ignite.  Had it done so we would have lost the ship. The pilot was found in one of the mess kettles in the mess hall. 

            It all happened so fast. The noise from our guns was such that I was not sure what had happened.  I was standing on the starboard side of the navigation bridge talking to the Boatswain mate. We rushed to the port side of the open navigation bridge. There we could see the flames coming up from the fire on the surface decks below.  We placed a very bright light down on the scene.  There we could see some of the casualties and wreckage of the plane and the damage to our ship.   The Navigator, Commander Sugarman told me to pass the word" Fire on the O-2 Deck" I was so stunned with what I had seen below and the speed of the occurrence. I could not get all of the words out.  He took the microphone from me and passed the word himself.  We all went to work and sprayed water from the fire hose on the scene below.  The fire was quickly extinguished. 

             The repair crews were able to remove the two fuses and then remove the broken bomb, placing all of it safely over the side.  Within one hour we reported to command that we were again "combat ready". We had lost 4 men killed and 23 wounded. The damage to the ship was superficial. The ships doctor came to the bridge and reported to the captain regarding our losses and the Jap pilot.  He brought some of the pilot's credentials with him. The ship's company had stripped him of most everything.  They never were able to find who had the Japs boots.  They are probably sitting on some old sailors shelf at this writing.   The doctor said  he had examined the body and believed it to be a youngster of about 15 years.  Could it be we were now scraping the bottom of the barrel?    

            The next morning we held burial at sea services for our dead.  The Jap had been put over the side the night before without fanfare.  On this day we made the necessary repairs to the ship. However it would be some time before we could use the port mess hall.  It seems that the smell of burning gasoline, rubber, paint the human flesh had permeated into the steel decks and bulkheads. It was a smell I shall never forget. 

            The fantastically fierce and unrelenting attacks by the Kamikaze were now to the point that a ring of Destroyers were placed around the island of Okinawa. This was to provide a "radar screen" to alert the fleet of the approaching planes. The destroyers assigned to this duty were given the most difficult of tasks assigned to any sailor.  These poor guys were out about 20 to 25 miles from us and had to remain on station there.  Their exposure was far greater than ours because they didn't have the fire power to protect themselves that we enjoyed.  By now, the Kamikaze had to fly over them in order to get to us. Several of these destroyers were being hit each day.  The kamikaze were getting through to our main bombardment fleet all too often. To the navy personal, this was a fight to the death, for their side and ours. The continued use of the Kamikaze was a fanatical attempt to kill as many of us as possible before we could attack the homeland. Then they would deal with our landing forces as best they could at the time.

            Our fire support to the land operation continued without interruption. Our main battery guns fired a total of 1,300 rounds of 16 inch shells against the enemy's defenses of this island.  I have no idea how many 5 inch rounds we poured into them.  If you study this island you will see that no part of the place was safe from our guns.  We were able to give total support to the troops at any place on the island and at any time during daylight hours. 

            Logistics had improved to where all of our necessary supplies of food, fuel and ammunition were brought to us.  We no longer needed to retire to the rear areas in order to obtain them. There was no relief for us, we just stayed there and hammered away at them.  We remained on station providing support to the troops until the island was secured. This happened around the end of June 1945. This campaign had lasted a total of three months.           

            There came a time when a portion of the island was considered to be secured to the point that we were allowed ashore.  I went ashore one time on the island of Okinawa.  On this day I was assigned Shore Patrol duty.  We took landing craft to the beach where most of the crew had their ration of beer and played baseball in a large flat clearing all afternoon. 

             As in the past, all of the shore party were given a couple of cans of warm beer each.  There were a few who had more than a couple of cans as they could bargain for someone else's beer for a price.  My shore patrol duty did not require my being any place at any given time, so I just wandered around the place with another "S. P.". 

            Some of you may know that for centuries the people of Okinawa and other cultures in the East had, and I must assume, still have a ritual or practice considered to be peculiar by the people of the Western World. This deals with the burial, the honor, respect and safe keeping of their dead.  The Island of Okinawa has many burial mounds or caves, some of them I believe to be volcanic in origin. The ones I entered were quite small in breadth and height. This is where their dead are placed. It must be assumed these caves are considered a sacred place that is to be protected and respected through time and memorial.  

            We were patrolling around the perimeter of the clearing where the nice young men were playing ball with their friends.  They were having a good time and were minding their own business. They didn't need the protection of the Shore Patrol.  

            It was quite by accident that we came upon the burial caves and noted some activity around them. The openings had been breached and a number of intoxicated sailors were coming and going with their open shirts full of bones. They were transferring them from one cave to another.  It was apparent they thought they were doing bad things to the Japs, even the dead ones. At that point in my life and even now, I am not certain what the relationship might be, if any, between the Japanese and the Okinawans. I must assume they are at least cousins if not brother and sisters. 

            This had to stop.  It was necessary for us to crawl inside some of the caves and order the men back to the beach area. It was with some reluctance that they all complied with our orders. We did not place any of them under arrest or even put them on report; which would have meant, at the minimum, a captains mass for each of them.  We decided to just drop the matter and consider it as just another unfortunate happening which would be better left alone. These guys had seen enough hell and didn't need any more from our officers.  In addition, whatever damage that may had been done could not be changed by bringing in the U. S. Navy brass. This was the first and perhaps the last time in my life that I would assume the position of judge and jury to my fellow man. I will always think we did the right thing. 

            As this campaign was drawing to a close, the main topic of discussion aboard our ship and I am sure all of the others, was the next assignment.  We all knew where it was to be.  We certainly were aware of the enemy's willingness to die by any means if he could take even one of us with him. Their hatred for us may have been equaled only by our very strong feelings of contempt for them and what they had done to us at Pearl, at Bataan and the countless other islands of the Pacific.           

            Until now we had been dealing with islands and property other than the  homeland of the Japanese. We were convinced that the hell we had all gone through in the past many months was nothing compared to what was just ahead for us. What we had been through was just an introduction or the first chapter in a very long book.  We hadn't seen anything yet.           

            The buildup of men and material now being assembled in the forward areas was massive. The ever increasing speed with which things were happening was remarkable.  The chain of islands comprising the Japanese homeland is called the Honshu. That is what we were getting ready to hit next. 

             It was during mail call one day when I received a letter from Mother.  She informed me that the war was to be over very soon.  She said that this was due to the fact that we had or were developing a bomb to end it all.  You can be sure that I read that portion of the letter to all in attendance.   All laughed and made light of it.  This happened about 30 days prior to the dropping of the "bomb" Mother had in mind.  You can bet those guys wanted to hear that letter read to them again. 

            With the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the whole world changed for this sailor and I am sure all others.  There is no way to describe the relief I felt. Was it possible that I might be able to return home and lead a real life?  Would I be able to see my family and old friends again? Where would the future lead me? I cannot describe the happiness, anticipation and hope I was feeling at that time. It was like the sun had just come out from behind a black cloud and a new day was here.  

            For months it had been an existence of extreme pressure and stress.  It had been a time of just doing what had to be done. There had been no hope that this mess would change, or would ever be over. Certainly this war was going to last forever. 

            Date certain, August 31, 1945 we were met at the mouth of the Urage Channel by an antiquated Jap tug boat flying a white flag. We took aboard a lone Japanese Harbor Pilot and he was immediately conducted to the Navigation Bridge where he met with the Captain and the Navigator.  He was a very young looking officer. He may have been 30 to 35 years old.  He was dressed in tans and his boots were brightly polished. It would be his responsibility to take us into Tokyo Bay, guiding us through the minefields that were guarding the place.           

            As we entered the narrow Urage Channel, instructions were given over the P.A. system that all hands would hang from the overhead  braces and racks for as long as possible during our travel through these mine fields.  Just like bats in a cave we hung as we were instructed or we would do so for as long as we could, then rest our selves by standing with bent knees. This position would help take the shock in the event we were to hit a mine.

             The trip in took an hour or more.  We finally dropped anchor in Tokyo Bay very near the Yokosuko Naval Base and few hundred yards from the Battleship Missouri who had just dropped anchor. That is where my friend Douglas MacArthur and all of the good old boys were.  Mount Fuji was on our Starboard side.  This was the damn place we started out for many months ago.  We were the first of the "Old Ghost Fleet" to appear at this place.  We were there representing retribution from the event of Pearl Harbor and the many other places where the Japs had prevailed for so long a time.

             Date certain, September 2, 1945 the formal surrender was accomplished aboard the Missouri. For this great event some of our officers were allowed to go aboard the Missouri.  We also sent some of our band members to help out with the ceremony. 

            I believe it was the next day when a portion of the ships' company were allowed ashore.  I was among them. Some of the guys went to Tokyo  which was a train ride of about 35 miles.  I had no interest in that so my friend George and I  just walked through the Yokosuko Naval  base.  As the landing craft took us in to shore we passed by many ships that were burned out hulks lying on their sides or just resting quietly on the bottom of the bay. This was all that was left of the Imperial fleet. The rest of it was on the bottom of the Pacific ocean  in much deeper waters and in widely spread areas. I guess you can say that we surely had gotten even. 

             As we strolled around the place we noted row after row of small tanks and equipment lined up ready for inspection.   George and I wandered about aimlessly. We seemed to be totally alone. We got into a large warehouse.  It had equipment and supplies for their troops.  There were piles and piles of sleeping mats.  We found some navigation books. I took one with me even though it was written in Japanese.

             We went into a cave or a tunnel.  It was not very large or long. It was open at both ends and there was evidence of people having lived in the place.  Fish bones were every where. I feel it may have been used as a bomb a shelter.  It being open at both ends, at least it would provide some protection from falling objects.

             As we started back to the dock, a very young U. S. Army officer drove up to us in his jeep. He took away the navigation book I had taken from the warehouse.  There goes my one and only trophy from the war.  At the time, I had some private thoughts regarding this young officer's parentage but I didn't say anything. The amusing part of it was that I really didn't give a damn.  Max's war was over. 

            Now it was time to go home, at least that is what we thought.  We remained there until the rest of the crew had a chance to go ashore. That would take three more days. We had done our time, made our mark and taken revenge for what the bastards had done to us earlier.  We had been in the "forward area" far too long and most of it without time off. We had "made it count" just like my dad said to do. We were all tired to the bone. 

            The record will show that we had fired over 3000 rounds of 16 inch one ton projectiles,  30,000 rounds of 5 inch .38 shells and 200,000 rounds of 20 and 40 millimeter shells. The grand total of 5,500  tons of ammunition. We had traveled over 63,000 nautical miles. That is over two and one half times around the world. 

            Well, it was not over yet.  We took on troops and the old ship acted as a transport taking the G.Is. home. We had people sleeping topside and in every available nook and cranny of the ship.  The mess hall was open 24 hours a day in order to feed the added load we had with us. We carried with us people from the Army as well and the Marines.  We also had as many wounded personnel as our facilities would accommodate.

            Believe me, there was little bickering.  Every one was now a "happy camper". There was hope in every face you were to study, something that had been missing for many months. My God, what a relief.           

            When I hear those bleeding hearts expounding about how bad it was of us to drop the two Atomic bombs on the Japanese, I am convinced they are too young to have been there.  They do not realize the price in blood, ours and the Japanese, it would have taken to resolve the matter without the two bombs.  The poor pathetic damn fools have been taught to hate this country.  I for one, wish they would find some place they liked better and immediately go there taking their misguided teachers with them. I am fully aware that the teaching staff at Berkley and Stanford would be greatly reduced. This country would be better off with out the sons of bitches. 

            You have go back to the old teaching that "right" will prevail.  I am convinced the main influence conducting us safely through the maddening experience of the past months was a canopy, a protecting umbrella of prayers and love from our Mothers and Fathers back home.           

            We stopped off in Pearl on our way home.  My very good friend George and I went ashore and spent the day at an LDS home converted for the use of  G.Is.  We drank fresh milk by the buckets and he played a lovely grand piano in a large formal setting room all afternoon.  Believe me, this was a grand and beautiful place.  They made us very much at home. 

            Date certain, we arrived in the U. S.  October 15, 1945. We made port in San Diego. We tied her up at the dock at the foot of  Broadway.  You can bet all of the public telephones were busy for a time.  About one half of the ship's company were allowed to go home on leave.  They turned the ship around and made several trips back and forth to Pearl, bringing  home the troops. As for myself, I took a bus ride to Utah to see my folks.           

            It would be sometime before I was to be discharged from the service.  There was to be much consideration for those who had been in the most battles or engagements. Stars were given out for each of these.  Our ship's company had four of them that could be placed on the campaign ribbons  This made me eligible for an early out.  However, this would not be the case with unmarried guys my age. The Navy wanted to keep as many young single men as they could.  Those who were married with kids were discharged and sent home as soon as possible. They were followed by those who were married along with the older guys.  I had enlisted for the duration of the war and I wanted out right now. 

            We took the ship to Seattle and docked her in the main ship yard.  We started the process of putting her into mothballs.  There was still trouble with the Russians and no one knew what would happen in that regard. 

             During my last days aboard I was asked to go to headquarters and for four days I cut records of all of the 115 calls, commands,  in the U. S, Navy.  Those they were going to keep and perhaps some of them are being played even today. You see, they found out that I was good at both my jobs.  If it was on the 5 inch .38 or in the Pilot house, I was pretty good at what I did. 

Assistance in the preparation of the above story in regards to precise time,  quantities of ammunition expended and miles of travel were taken from the following reference books.

            Battle Stations:  Wm. H. Wise & Company 1946.

            Mountaineer Battle wagon: U.S.S. West Virginia (BB-48) 
            by Myron J Smith, Jr. February l982.

            United States Battleships: by Alan F. Pater,  1968

            National Geographic January 1992 pp. 114-127

Click here to go to the Stories Index
Click here to go to the main USS West Virginia page

Copyright 2000-2023 All rights reserved.