Tin Cans and Other Ships
Back To Sea
On February 5th, 1945, I was assigned to the USS Oklahoma City (CL-91), a new cruiser of the Cleveland class. It had twelve 6" guns, twelve 5"- 38's and a raft of 40 mm's. This new berth meant that I would go to the Pacific. Where else would a new man-of-war go with the European war about over? I was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia on February 8th and waited a month at the Receiving Station for the ship while she was on her shakedown cruise. I went aboard the ship on March 7th and the following day we got underway.
The USS Oklahoma City at shipyard, Philadelphia.
(Cramp Shipbuilding Company Photo)
There I was assigned the Gun Captain's job on a Quad 40 mm mount. We fired at drones off the coast on the 9th and Saturday, March 10th, we steamed into Delaware Bay and up the river to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. I met one of my old shipmates from the Niblack, Al Sosnowski, in Camden, New Jersey while on shore leave. He claimed to still be king of the east side of Camden. I went to Boston on leave on the 22nd to the 31st of March while finishing touches were made to the ship.
The Niblack was in the Charlestown Navy Yard at the time. I had quite a reunion at the Cave in Boston with my old shipmates. John Clowers told me that huge coastal guns near Toulon straddled the Niblack with near misses many times during the Southern France action and that the Niblack did a hellva lot of shore bombardment in Northern Italy at the French border supporting the First Airborne Division.
Newspaper stories said the U.S. Army crossed the Rhine and the war in Europe seems to be coming to an end. Mussolini is finished and Hitler has his back to the wall. Tojo and the Japanese war machine will be the only one left of the Axis powers if the army can wrap it up in Europe.
Back aboard the Oklahoma City in Philadelphia, work continues on the ship in the navy yard. This city is the best liberty port I've been to. The place is alive with lonesome women. This week was all too short and at 1300, April 9th, we got underway from the Philadelphia Navy Yard, anchored in Delaware Bay that evening and lost the starboard hook. It was replaced on the 11th. Underway at 1800, we steamed southeast at 25 knots, meeting the cruiser USS Topeka (CL-67). We continued south with her, no escorts.
The next day, April 12th, we received word that President Roosevelt died. The solemn announcement was made to all hands over the ship's loudspeaker system. I stood in shock not believing what I had heard. I felt as if I had lost a member of my own family - even though I had never been close to meeting him. I remember seeing him riding in an open touring car with James Michael Curley along Soldier's Field Road in Allston during a presidential campaign in the thirties. In the last election, Roosevelt said, "Don't change horses in the middle of the stream". The country will have to change horses and we are in the middle of a hellva big stream right now with the Japanese on the other side.
Saturday morning, April 14th, we arrived off Culebra, an island between the eastern end of Puerto Rico and Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands. We launched our two sea planes from the stern catapults and practiced shore bombardment with the main battery. The planes observed the results from overhead.
The Topeka went through the same practice in the afternoon. The planes landed in a smoothed area of the sea made by the ship as we maneuvered a turn and then were hoisted aboard the fantail by the crane. The pilot sits in the plane with the canopy open as it is lifted and swung aboard the catapult and secured.
About 1600 we steamed west, northwest, north of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In the morning, while passing through the Windward Passage between Haiti and the eastern tip of Cuba, the ship held memorial services for President Roosevelt. The order of the day was all hands, not on watch, to go topside in division assembly. Uniform was blues and white hats. We stood at attention as taps was sounded for the "Commander-in-Chief". The mournful sound came over the address system loud and clear and then was repeated from below deck somewhere in a muted, distant tone - like a soft echo. The colors, flying briskly, were lowered to half mast. As I stood listening, looking out at the blue ocean and islands, I wondered about President Roosevelt's successor, Harry Truman. He didn't look like a Commander-in-Chief. When taps ended, the flag was two-blocked again and division parade secured.
We got back to work in the afternoon with more anti-aircraft tracking and firing practice. At 1645, the ship anchored in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Topeka anchored to our port on Sunday, April 15th. We weighed anchor at 0700 Monday and headed out to sea - had anti-aircraft exercises and bombarded that night by radar control.
We had more A-A firing the next day. Five new super destroyers and two subs were also operating in the area. At 2100 that night, we picked up speed and headed south by Jamaica and on thru the Caribbean Sea toward the Panama Canal. We are on our way to join the Pacific Fleet.
The following day, April 18th, the Topeka and ourselves launched planes and one of the Topeka's planes turned over while landing in the choppy sea. The pilot managed to get out of the plane and drifted free in his life jacket. The Topeka lowered a boat and picked him up. We sank the overturned plane with one of our 40mm guns, then steamed southward at 25 knots, both ships leaving a large wake astern.
German subs must be flushed out of the Caribbean. We were by ourselves without destroyer anti-submarine protection. We arrived at the Panama Canal at 0830, anchored for a half-hour off Colon, and then headed thru the ditch.
The ship was pulled thru locks by small locomotives running tracks on both sides, up by three steps to the level of Gatun Lake. While steaming thru the lake, we washed down the ship with fresh water and then moved down the narrow channel thru the mountains and on thru a series of locks down to sea level.
We arrived in the Pacific side at 1530 and moored to Pier 2 in Balboa. I went ashore to Panama City with a couple of shipmates. The weather was warm and the uniform was whites. We wandered thru the streets and thru an area of small houses. The front doors were half doors, with women leaning on their elbows inviting us to come in. They looked so crummy, I walked in the middle of the street and out of the district hoping that I would not get infected by just looking at the middle-aged and young prostitutes existing in a dirty slum.
The battered aircraft carrier USS Franklin was moored across the stream. She was badly damaged by bombers off the coast of Japan with over 800 of her crew killed in action. The ship was a scarred hulk on her way to an East Coast navy yard. At 073 on the 21st of April we got underway, the USS Topeka with us. It was hot as hell. Pearl Harbor next stop!
On the 26th we got word that the Russian and American armies met in Germany; then on the 30th we received the news of Mussolini being killed in Northern Italy. The next day, May 1st, the German government stated that Adolph Hitler was dead. Meanwhile, the Russians were in Berlin and the U.S. Armies were running wild in Germany. The whole thing had been turned around completely after three long years. I always thought it would be, even during the early part of 1942 in the North Atlantic.
The voyage from Panama westerly in this big Pacific has been routine: drills, work, chow and sleep as both cruisers moved thru calm seas with blue skies and star filled nights. It is strange for me to experience two large ships steaming in open sea without destroyer anti-submarine protection. We are scheduled to arrive in Hawaii sometime tomorrow afternoon.
On the morning of May 2nd, we were steaming with the mountainous islands in view. The island of Hawaii rises out of the ocean like a huge, irregular rock with the mountain peaks thousands of feet above sea level. We passed other large islands in the group and stood in at Pearl Harbor, west of Honolulu on Oahu Island at 1700 mooring to buoys. This is the place where our fleet took a licking on Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941 in the sneak attack by the Japs.
On the way in, the ship's company stood at quarters topside rendering honors to the men and ships lost that day three and a half years ago, It is very warm and humid. Perspiration rolls down my face and the bright black polish of my shoes fades to a dull finish in the bright sun. Some of the ships present were the USS Duluth CL-87, Topeka, four carriers and destroyers including the Maury, McCall, Izard, Hall and the Burns, also a large number of attack cargo and transport ships. On the 4th we went out for A-A practice with the cruisers Duluth and Topeka, returning to our berth at 1800 on the 7th. At 0800 next morning the ship moved into the Navy Yard next to the carrier USS Hancock. The war ended in Europe and the letter from home telling of my brother Jack's arrival home was great. He had survived the war in Africa, Italy France and Germany and returned as a Master Sergeant. Scores of combat ships were at Pearl: cans, DE's, the USS Hancock, Ticonderoga, Bon Homme Richard, North Carolina and the Nevada.
About 1300 in the afternoon, a sailor waved hello from the dock. It was my cousin John McCarthy from Boston. He knew I was aboard the Oklahoma City and knew the ship had come into the yard. I went ashore and met his gang at the Navy Yard including the Waves working in the office - good duty this guy has!
John took me on a tour of Honolulu. The next day we visited Waikiki Beach and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The hotel had been taken over by the Navy and was being used as a resort for submarine sailors relaxing after a tour in the Western Pacific. The weather is bright and warm with sunshine in Honolulu. It is a relief to get in the shade of the palm trees.
On Saturday, May 12th, the ship got underway and went around the islands for four days of A-A firing and beach bombardment practice. Then it returned to port for ammo and went out again for another two days of anti-aircraft firing with very good results. We came in Saturday, May 19th and moored alongside the cruiser USS Amsterdam (CL-104). She got underway the 20th and the USS Columbia (CL-56) came alongside.
On the 21st, the USS Mullany (DD-528) steamed in damaged by suicide planes. She was one of many that have come into Pearl during the past few weeks damaged by the Japs. The Madison, Benson, Wainwright, Trippe and other old familiar destroyers were showing up after finishing their European duties - the Niblack is no doubt on its way also. May 22nd we got underway with the Topeka. She was senior to us now with a two-star Admiral on board. We steamed west. Across the wide Pacific, without incident having many gunnery drills in the mornings and afternoons. The ship’s complement is a mixture of many new recruits, young officers and some experienced people, yet it seems pretty well organized. It is quite a change from the smaller crew of a Tin Can.
We arrived at the Ulithi Islands in the Western Caroline Islands between Yap and Guam on June 1st. The USS Mugford (DD-398) greeted us at dawn as we steamed in and anchored amid a very large group of ships: cargo, oilers, amphibious craft, fleet tankers, cans and the battleship Tennessee. It was overcast and raining for the first time in quite a while.
The new carrier, USS Bon Homme Richard, with her brood of night fighters, came in on the 3rd and drooped the hook. I was assigned shore patrol duty that day and went ashore in the motor launch with the Liberty Party to the island of Mog Mog. The island was nothing but a mound of sand with palm trees and sailors from the ships at anchor drinking beer. Here we are amid bright sunshine, palm trees and beautiful green blue ocean with not one woman in sight. The guys had their fill of brew and we returned to the ship about 1700.
There is a heck of a lot of ocean out here in the Pacific - we are north of New Guinea and directly south of Japan and both seem to be a million miles away. At 1100, June 4th, we got underway and steamed north at 25 knots in company with the carrier Bon Homme Richard, cruiser Topeka and the destroyers O’Malley and Ringold. We were now on our way to join Task Force 38 off Okinawa. We arrived at a fueling area 200 miles southeast of Okinawa in the Philippine Sea and all ships fueled. We topped off from the oiler USS Kankakee.
That night we met the task force a little north of the fueling area on June 6th. There was more than one Task Force group: we joined Task Force 38.1 which was comprised of three battleships: USS Massachusetts, Alabama and Indiana; carriers: Hornet, Bennington, Belleau Wood and San Jacinto; cruisers: Baltimore, Quincy, Topeka, Atlanta, San Juan and Oklahoma City; and seventeen cans including the Harrison, John Rogers, Twining, Ringold, De Haven, Mansfield, Maddox and the Samuel N. Moore.
Admiral “Jocko“ Clark was aboard the carrier Hornet. Her flight deck was damaged as were other ships from the typhoon the day before. The cruisers Pittsburg and Duluth were badly damaged in the storm and had left the group.
The next day, June 7th, the Task Force steamed north, passed close to Okinawa during the night, and at 1000 in the morning the carriers launched Hellcats and Avengers. They headed in to raid Kamakazi air strips on southern Kyushu, the southern Japanese home island. From these air strips the Jap suicide planes were at present raising holy hell with our ships off the Okinawa beachheads.
The planes returned and landed aboard the carriers at about 1400. Eleven were missing and ten landed behind our lines in Okinawa. One plane off the Bennington was shot down and ditched in the ocean. The pilot was picked up by a PBY while our fighters protected the rescue from overhead.
The next afternoon, six ships from the other group, the cruisers USS Alaska and Guam with four destroyers, bombarded the island of Okin Dika Shima. Ninety planes from our group of carriers joined the assault, bombing the island which was 120 miles from the Task Force. Our ship launched the Sea Hawks from the catapults and they flew in for rescue work if needed. All planes returned at dusk.
The following day, June 10th, the Indiana, Massachusetts, Alabama and four cans went in and worked over the same island with 16“ shells. Planes were over the target once more and reported the destruction to be very heavy. We headed south, leaving Jap waters and it became hot once more. Our carriers joined the other unit early Monday, June 11th; the rest of us had A-A practice all day. My gun crew cut up a sleeve and knocked it down. The boys are getting good.
Wednesday, the 13th, we had shore bombardment practice. At 1300 we steamed in thru San Juanico Strait to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands and anchored amid a large group of ships of all descriptions: cargo, transports, LST‘s, oilers, battlewagons, carriers, cruisers and cans. Some of the men-of-war present were Admiral Halsey‘s flagship USS Missouri, the Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Massachusetts, Alabama, Texas, Colorado, Mississippi, Essex, Hornet, Shangri La, Bennington, Quincy, Trenton, Baltimore, Flint, and many others.
On the 14th we took aboard fuel, ammunition and stores, and the following morning got underway for sea. The destroyers USS O‘Bannon, Nicholas and Taylor were with us. The O‘Bannon and Nicholas both had the Presidential Unit Citation for gut fighting in the Pacific. The four of us steamed northward at fairly good speed, changing our compass heading often during the next forty-eight hours as we moved up past Samar, Luzon and Okinawa to join the light carrier Task Force 32.1 for temporary duty.
Sunday morning, June 17th, we met a group of ships fueling from three fleet oilers. The destroyers and Oklahoma City went alongside the tankers and fueled. We were close by a light carrier for a few minutes before fueling and a few of their crew , knowing the Oklahoma City was a new ship, yelled over the thirty or forty yards of water that separated us, “Welcome to the war“! I felt like shouting back in retort but what could I say? In the afternoon, we departed from the cluster with five converted aircraft carriers (CVE‘s), four destroyers and five destroyer escorts - this must be Task Group 32.1.
Monday morning, our group was up at the entrance of the East China Sea, eighty miles from Okinawa and seventy miles off Miyako Shima of the Sakishima group of islands. The carriers turned into the wind and launched their planes - F4F‘s, TBF‘s and a few F6F‘s. They headed in and raided Miyako Shima‘s airstrips and other military installations. They returned, landed on the flight decks, rearmed, fueled and went in four more times during the day - about fifty planes to a strike. All planes returned okay and the group moved further out to sea late in the day. These baby carriers can do the job but are slow as hell.
The Japs were tracking us with radar but no enemy planes were in sight. Ships in our group were the light carriers: USS Franshaw Bay, Steamer Bay, Shipley Bay, Lunga Point, Manila Bay; destroyer escorts: Tils, O‘Flaherty, Mills, Sprotston, Himminger and ourselves, the cruiser Oklahoma City. There is another light carrier Task Group thirty miles away. They are also making air strikes on Sakishima.
The next morning, Tuesday, June 19th, we moved in closer to the target and the carriers sent in planes all day to bomb the airstrips and destroy Japanese aircraft. Eight strikes were made. The air over the group of ships was filled with ships taking off and returning to the small decks of the baby carriers. The planes encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire and some did not return. One badly shot-up Avenger came over with smoke pouring out and hit the drink ahead of us. One of the crew was in the water as we passed. A destroyer astern picked him up. I don‘t know how many of our planes were lost in action.
The following morning at daybreak the carriers launched their planes again for the third day in a row. Strikes on Miyako Shima and smaller islands continued most of the day. Our job, along with the tin cans, is to protect the carriers from attack by the enemy while their “hornets“ blast away at the Japanese land bases. That evening at dusk we met the other carrier group. The cruiser USS Vicksburg was with it.
The Oklahoma City was ordered back to the Philippines to join Task Force 38. We shoved off and headed south-the light carrier USS Sargent Bay and two destroyer escorts with us. The four of us arrived at San Pedro Harbor, Leyte on Sunday, June 23rd. We fueled, took aboard ammunition, stores and dropped the hook. As before, the anchorage was filled with ships including many of our first line men-of-war. The harbor is miles wide and the ships ride in the sparkling blue green water hundreds of yards away from each other They become interesting silhouettes of various shapes in the late afternoon sun and ominous sleeping giants during the night.
A few days after we had anchored, the light carrier Task Group we had left off Okinawa arrived in San Pedro Harbor. They were attacked by Japanese aircraft in a heavy battle the day after we had left. I had wondered why the Japs didn‘t strike back during the three continuous days of air strikes. On the fourth day they did, probably with planes from air strips north of Sakishima.
The following Sunday, June 30th, we weighed anchor, steamed out of the bay, and went down the coast a way. We anchored and had A-A firing practice with the USS Massachusetts, New Mexico and the Amsterdam. Our firing was on the ball. The Oklahoma City knocked down twelve of the sixteen air-towed targets that were shot down. We returned to San Pedro Harbor just as the USS Tuscaloosa was standing in.
The following morning we stood out to sea in the driving rain which was a cool relief from the hot sun during the past weeks. Destroyers, cruisers, battleships and carriers were all underway and moving out to sea. This must be it! The Japanese homeland has to be our target now with organized resistance about ended on Luzon and Okinawa. We were with the battleships South Dakota, Massachusetts, Indiana and Alabama - the carriers must be all together for the time being. We has A-A firing practice in the afternoon and bombardment practice with the main battery after dark at a surface target. I‘m glad that I have earphones on when the six inch guns blast away.
The next morning I came topside to find us in a group with ten destroyers and the light cruisers Topeka, Atlanta, Dayton, Amsterdam, Springfield, Wilkes Barre, Pasadena and Astoria. All ships had 40mm antiaircraft practice during most of the afternoon, firing at sleeves towed by planes from the carriers. The sleeves are a very small target of bright orange color and fly about 75 to 100 yards behind the plane. The bursts of tracer shells from our guns go whistling at the sleeves as the guns of the mount fire and recoil in a staedy rhythm of noise. The 40mm ammo is in clips of four projectiles fed downward into the breech of each gun. My guys fed the gun smoothly all afternoon without hesitation in firing between clips of ammo. One Hellcat couldn‘t land back on his carrier because of fouled up landing gear and pancaked in the drink near a can on our beam. The pilot got clear of the sinking airplane and was picked up by the destroyer.
On the morning of the third of July, the skipper announced the straight dope to all hands. Tokyo and the whole Japanese homeland is about to be bombed and bombarded by our Task Force - Task Force 38 with Admiral Bull Halsey in command aboard the USS Missouri. We all knew it and the announcement made it official.
At 2000 hours, the large fleet of combat ships - big aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers - formed into groups each containing about five carriers, three battleships, five cruisers and ten or twelve destroyers. Our group, 38.1, consisted of the carriers: Lexington, Hancock, Bennington, Belleau Wood, San Jacinto; battleships: South Dakota, Massachusetts, Indiana; cruisers: Topeka, Atlanta, Dayton, San Juan, Oklahoma City; and destroyers including: Ringold, Schroeder, Cogswell, Ingersoll, Dashiell, DeHaven, Collett, Moore and Blue.
The following day the battleships left us while we had more A-A practice and returned to the formation at 1500. Our position today, July 4th, is 400 miles off Iwo Jima. At daybreak July 5th, the carriers sent up their Combat Air Patrol to hover over the fleet. At 0700, the destroyer Cogswell came alongside us, fired lines across, pulled our flexible oil lines aboard and borrowed fuel as we steamed in moderate seas. We got the word that three British aircraft carriers were hit by suicide planes off Sakishima, a group of islands between Okinawa and Formosa. We operated in the same with the light carriers a few weeks ago on the strikes at the Kamakazi bases.
The Task Force while in separate clusters moved in unison within an area of a few miles. Some of the carriers had night fighters in the air. On the night of July 7th, a plane from the carrier Bon Homme Richard crashed into the sea in the darkness. Destroyers searched; they did not find him. The pilots flying off that carrier must have a lot of guts. Taking off and landing back aboard a carrier at sea during the daylight hours was a task in itself. Night fighters did it all in the darkness.
The hospital ship Rescue passed by all lit up. She was in Norfolk, Virginia and also at Pearl Harbor when we were there. At 0700, Sunday, July 8th, we met some fleet tankers escorted by DE‘s. All ships refueled and received mail. We left the area at 1800; our position is 800 miles off Tokyo.
The following day, Monday, the 9th, was overcast and we steamed northwest toward Japan. Many mines were sighted and sunk by gunfire from the destroyers. One exploded between us and the Bennington. The Task Force picked up speed that night at 2000 and by 0600 , July 10th, we were within fifty-five miles of the Japanese coast. All the carriers launched planes and the attack was on. They caught the Nips by surprise and smashed hell out of the airfields and Naval bases in and around Tokyo. The weather was perfect - six strikes that took all day long. We were at our battle stations of course, waiting for the opposition. Some Jap twin engine planes headed for us but they were neatly shot down a few miles away by the Combat Air Patrol off the Lexington.
The last group of aircraft returned and landed on the carrier flight decks one at a time late in the day. Some of the planes returned damaged or smoking. They came directly in, while the other planes waited until they were safely aboard. At 2000 the Task Force picked up speed to 25 knots and headed east on course 100.
The next day, a radio broadcast said Admiral Halsey‘s trouble hunting carrier task force blasted Tokyo. The mentioned some of the ships but not the Oklahoma City. This was the second Navy raid on Tokyo - the first was last February. At 0600, we met tankers and cans. All ships fueled in rain and cold. Our position was 250 miles off Hokkaido, Northern Japan. We were much nearer Kisa and Attu in the Aleutians than the Philippines. The ship had antiaircraft firing practice while waiting as other ships fueled. At 1600 the Task Force shoved off from the tankers and they disappeared over the horizon to wait and fuel us again. Word passed the tomorrow morning our carrier planes are to strike Hokkaido airstrips.
We encountered bad weather during the early morning hours. Visibility was ceiling zero and all flight operations were cancelled. The date is Friday, July 13th. During the day a sailor fell over the side from a destroyer. It was bad luck for him and good luck the same day - he is alive and back aboard ship.
Saturday, the 14th, the bad weather continued and the first air strikes were called back. Our battleships, the Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota, heavy cruisers Quincy and Chicago from 38.4 along with tin cans went in. They bombarded a city in northern Honshu (this was the first Naval bombardment by our ships of the Japanese homeland) - they shelled hell out of the place. As the day wore on, the skies cleared and the carriers sent in planes to bomb Hokkaido. We had a repeat performance the following day, July 15th. This time the battlewagons Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin along with the Dayton and Atlanta from our group went in and shelled. We sat and waited with the carriers eighty miles off the coast. Our planes not only blasted land targets but also sank a Jap destroyer and a number of small ships off the coast.
The Task Force steamed out of the area that night, meeting tankers at dawn. We went portside to an oiler for fuel while the South Dakota went on the other side. While we were fueling, a British Task Force joined us. It consisted of the battleship King George V, a couple of carriers, cruisers and cans. We moved away from the tankers and all ships topped-off with fuel. At 1700 hours the ship maneuvered, smoothing out an area of the sea astern. One of the observation seaplanes from the battleship Alabama touched down after a few bounces and taxied up to us as we slowed down almost to a stop. The crane lines were lowered, hooked on, and the plane hoisted aboard our starboard catapult. The fantail or stern deck of a cruiser is a helluva lot bigger than a destroyer's, but similar. Tin cans have two depth charge racks and the cruiser has two aircraft catapults in about the same position.
The Task Force moved in towards Japan again during the night. At 0600 the next morning, July 17th, our carrier planes bombed the Tokyo area. Bad weather prevailed during the morning of the 18th and limited strikes were made on Tokyo. Late in the day at 1900 hours, we left the formation in company with the cruisers: Topeka, Atlanta, Dayton and four destroyers. Another division of cans from Task Group 38.4 joined us as we headed in for the Japanese coast. The destroyers were USS Ault with ComDesRon Sixty-Two aboard, USS John Weeks, Borie, Lind, Hank, English, Waldron and Sperry. The formation steamed at various courses thru the black night, the efforescence of our wake astern the only thing of brightness.
At about 2330 a surface contact was picked up on radar screens. Two of the destroyers closed range and opened fire with their five-inch guns. We could see the shell tracers lacing thru the blackness, then flares shooting straight up, arching like a fireworks display, and ending as quickly as they had started. The ship was one of our own submarines on the surface and the flares averted damage and possible sinking. We are close to the coast. I wonder if the Japs saw the gunfire and flares.
Our formation of ships arrived a few miles off Cape Nojima at the entrance of Tokyo Bay. All cruisers opened fire with our main batteries at a large radar station and other defense installations. The roar of the guns and the belches of flame from the muzzles shook up the night. I saw large explosions where shells were landing and when the odor of gunpowder drifted away I could smell the land from the off-shore breeze - it stunk. The foul smell seems like an omen of victory because we are close enough now to finish Tojo and his war machine. Davis, one of the Gun Crew, said "Ya know, this bombardment is the first time this ship has fired at the Japs" and I thought, by gosh, he's right, and they haven't fired back at us - yet.
We continued down the outer entrance of Tokyo Bay in single formation at 28 knots with the tin cans ahead and on our beams. No enemy ships were in the area as expected. Halsey thought some of the remaining warships at the Yokosuka Naval Base might try to slip out and down the coast tonight. If they did chance it, we were to intercept them. The bombardment reminded me of the night the Niblack and other ships blasted away the Italian mainland almost two years ago. That night I pumped the shells; tonight, I watched from the 40mm mount topside. Both actions were hit and run although this time we roamed the coast looking for enemy ships.
Our bombardment group continued southeast throughout the next day, July 19th. During the afternoon a Jap twin engine plane paid us a visit through broken clouds. The Topeka and a can opened up on him with their five-inch guns and he turned tail. Before dawn the next morning we arrived back to our Task Force. A group of oilers and supply ships were with them. That morning after breakfast, all gun crews turned to cleaning and oiling our mounts.
A sailor yelled that someone was hurt badly on one of the 40mm guns on the starboard side of the ship. I ran over and turned away quickly. Kendrick, a seaman gun striker had been cleaning the gun pit when the damn thing elevated suddenly and swiftly, crushing his head. He was dead. He was buried in the afternoon at 1600. His canvas covered body slid from below the colors into the sea as the ships company stood at division parade and taps were sounded. Kendrick was a nice guy - I shot the breeze with him only yesterday. Now he is dead at the bottom of the sea. His gun captain and crew were put on report. An inquest will be held.
Later, we fueled, took aboard stores and mail from a support ship, and then moved away. We launched the Alabama's plane from the starboard catapult. Our position was 400 miles off Japan. The following afternoon we went alongside an ammunition ship and got our quota of ammo.
On the 22nd we went portside to a supply ship for more stores and provisions. The aircraft carrier Bennington was on her other side. Taking aboard ammunition and provisions while underway at sea is a matter-of-fact routine out here. It takes good seamanship and a lot of hard work. Each net full usually lands softly on deck even in rolling seas. These past three days all ships were at slow speed and we stayed in the same approximate area all the time. The guys on report were cleared of blame in Kendrick's death - the accident being a screw-up in the gun control.
Before dusk, July 22nd, the Task Force picked up speed away from the supply ships and headed in toward the Japanese coast at 23 knots. On the 23rd a squadron of cans left us and steamed into what I believe was Hachijio Shima. They bombarded the island heavily when they found no shipping.
The next morning, July 24th, our carrier planes hit Japan once more, this time in the general area of Shikoku, north of Kyshu. They caught some of the Japo fleet and sank or damaged most of them with direct hits on a carrier, battleship, cruisers and destroyers. The planes also sank an oiler and blasted targets inland. The Army B29's were giving them hell. I guess the Japs are pretty used to seeing those babies by now.
Our carrier planes - loaded down so heavily with bombs, rockets and tin fish - barely cleared the water after taking off from the flight decks. One plane from the Bennington came within inches of hitting the drink. My gun crew all raised their arms and yelled "Get up, get up" as he slowly gained altitude.
The carrier planes were airborne again the next day and hit the same area again with very good results until late afternoon when weather closed in over the targets. They met enemy planes today and shot down a large number of them. The Japs sent out eight groups of planes to attack the Task Force; however, they were scattered by our Combat Air Patrol. Planes from the Hancock shot one down off our port quarter. He came down in flames and hit the water with a large explosion - then black smoke. Shortly after three more Japs came screaming down in flames a mile off our port bow.
All of our gun directors, radar, five-inch guns, 40mm and 20mm gun crews remain at battle stations tracking the bogies ready to open fire. My gun crew is on their toes ready to load and fire in an instant. I keep them at ease by relaying the information received on the earphones. All ships are ready to open fire on the enemy planes but the Combat Air Patrol off the carriers does not let them penetrate their screen of the main body of the Task Force. Our picket destroyer had a rugged time of it that evening at dusk - don't know how many Japs concentrated on her but no hits. During the day planes over our task group had shot down a total of eighteen attacking Jap planes. We left the area, ninety miles off the Japanese coast, that night at 2200.
In the sack, I thought about how different this "roving airport at sea" warfare was compared to my experiences in the Mediterranean. It has to be different to the guys who were fighting the Japs all the way to Okinawa. This Task Force is so damn powerful, most of the combat ships wait for a turn to do something. Except for the shore bombardment missions, the carrier pilots are doing it all.
The next morning, Thursday, July 26th, we met another group of tankers - all ships refueled. We went alongside the USS Merrimack and topped-off our fuel tanks. The fuel supply lines are held up out of the turbulent water between ships by booms and lines on the tanker as the oil is pumped thru from ship to ship.
That night on the 8-12 watch four hundred B-29 superforts passed over from the Marianas enroute to pay the Japs a visit. The planes filled the sky above us - an awesome sight of air power even in the clear night sky. The next day the ship went alongside the ammunition ship AE-3 and took aboard a supply of five-inch projectiles and powder in cargo nets. Each load was guided softly on deck and sent below to the ship's magazines.
At 1430 the Task Force left the supply ships and headed back towards Japan. The cruiser USS Duluth, CL-87, damaged in the storm in June before we joined the Task Force, was back in formation. Our ship got into its usual position with the South Dakota ahead and the Lexington and Massachusetts on our port quarter.
On Saturday the carrier planes went on another strike, this time on the Inland Sea area and the Kure Naval Base. They put the finishing touches on the remaining big ships of the Japanese Fleet, hitting shore installations, many merchant ships and small craft. Jap carriers, cruisers, battleships and destroyers were sunk or put out of action. The Imperial Navy is about done in!
About forty planes failed to return to the carriers - I hope that some of them got out of the battle area and will be picked up. It is ironic that the Japanese aircraft from a powerful task force at sea off Hawaii destroyed many of our ships at Pearl Harbor to ignite the war and now the planes from the most powerful Navy Task Force ever, put the finishing touches on the remains of the Jap fleet while they were anchored or moored in their own Naval base. The news of the successful air strikes was great to hear - maybe this war will soon be over and we will be able to go home.
Sunday, the Task Force moved out to sea and northward. Information on the missing planes was vague and we felt that most of the missing were lost in action. During the afternoon our battleships South Dakota, Massachusetts and Indiana along with cruisers and cans shoved off. They bombarded Hamamatsu, a steel center in southern Honshu.
The following morning the planes again hit at the airports in the Tokyo area and to the west. That night destroyer division 25 went in and picked up downed pilots between us and the beach. Meanwhile, eight tin cans went in on a bombarding mission. They gave the coastal town hell as fires could be seen for forty miles; they also shelled and sank a Jap merchant ship.
At dusk on the 30th, our battleships returned to the Task Force from the Hamamatsu shelling, minus two destroyers. I don't know what the dope was - if they were sunk or damaged or what their names were. The next morning we got the word that none of our ships got into trouble and the destroyers were okay. At 1600, the 31st of July, we met our supply ships once more and fueled from a tanker before dark.
While we approached the tanker, a seaman pointed at a destroyer and asked the guy next to him, "What kind of a ship is that?" That ship looked familiar to me. As she came about the silhouette of a Benson class destroyer was clear in the late afternoon sun.
The sailor was a young guy who had seen nothing but twin mount flush deck tin cans and I told him that he should take a good look at the ship because that type of destroyer was the class of our small ship Navy during the rugged going in the first years of the war.
The Task Force moved southward and then northwest during the next few days with the tankers and cargo ships still with us. We took one of the Alabama's planes aboard and had antiaircraft firing practice with the 20 and 40 millimeter batteries each day. The seas were calm and the ocean endless in all directions. The Task Force headed in a general northeast direction until August 7th when we got into battle formation and headed for the Japanese coast once more.
That same night the dope sheet came out with a story about a B-29 dropping an "atomic" bomb which destroyed almost an entire Japanese city, killing thousands of people. The news caused a lot of excitement and disbelief among the crew. How could one bomb do so much damage? We drank many cups of jo in the Gun Shack wondering what the atomic bomb was all about.
When back in my bunk trying to get to sleep I thought about the newfangled atomic bomb. The damn thing destroyed a city and I resented its use. Why blast a city into kingdom come when we have the Japanese homeland about ready to give up. Their Navy is sunk and their Air Force a weak kitten except for an unknown quantity of young Japs who would commit suicide by crashing their bomb-filled plane into our ships. Our Task Force has been roaming off the coast these past weeks and the Air Force pounding their defenses into oblivion.
In the morning we ran into rain and fog. Flight operations were cancelled. The following morning our position was further south with clear skies compared to yesterday. The carriers launched the first strike at 0600. Targets were air drones on Honshu. As the planes returned the pilots reported that results were very good on all six strikes, destroying a grest number of Jap planes on the ground and in the air.
Kamikazi Planes came out and attacked our picket destroyer, the USS Borie DD-704 a number of times. One crashed into her just aft of the bridge and she blasted others out of the sky. Another managed to get into the task group only to be knocked down by a destroyer astern of us. It was a pretty sight to see him come down in flames and hit the drink with a large explosion.
Meanwhile, our battleships were in bombarding a coastal city without opposition. The Topeka launched a seahawk; he went 140 miles and picked up two downed pilots. The last strike was late in returning. They and the C.A.P. were still landing after dark - some crashed into the sea and were lost. The next day our carriers again launched a series of strikes with the planes over Japan all day bombing in relentless assault. The ship's dope sheet said Russia had declared war on Japan - what a helluva joke. The fight is about over and Joe Stalin wants to be our comrade in Asia.
We got the word that another of our superfortresses dropped another "atomic" bomb on Japan. This time the city of Nagasaki in the western side of Kyushu has been destroyed. The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima near the Kure Naval Base some four hundred miles west of Tokyo on the main island of Honshu. It looks like our brass want to end this war in a real big hurry. I wonder how the Japanese War Lords feel now with the Third Fleet roaming off the coast at will and bombarding the coast with carrier planes constantly bombing air fields, Naval bases and factories? And now with devestating atomic bombs wiping out two cities within a few days, how do they feel? Three years and eight months ago they bombed Pearl Harbor on a Sunday morning. I heard the news on a small radio in the kitchen of a three-decker house in Dorchester with my aunt and uncle. Much water has passed under the Niblack and the Oklahoma City since that day.
Things went pretty smoothly for the Task Force - no enemy planes came near us. Our planes returned to the carrier decks before dark. At 2330 that night in the sack, I was awakened by the PA system. The skipper announced that Japan had agreed to surrender provided that she be able to keep her Emperor. Our government had demanded unconditional surrender.
I got up, lit a cigarette and shot the breeze with the guys in the compartment. We all hoped the thing would end. One kid from Iowa was jubilant at the prospect of going home. He had been at sea for five months - a lifetime for him but a short period by comparison for some of us who had experienced most of the war. The Task Force met our tankers and fueled the following day, August 11th. The Oklahoma City is slated to go in tomorrow and do a little shell throwing at the Japanese ourselves. I don't know what will happen now. We're still waiting for the word, "Peace", which might come any hour from Washington.
The next day, Aughust 12th, our bombardment mission and all offensive operations were cancelled. The only planes airborne off the carriers were the C.A.P. Washington told the Nips they could keep their Emperor but he would be under direct control of the Supreme Allied Commander of the Asiatic area.
At 0630, Monday morning, our carriers launched aircraft. They went in over Tokyo without bombs. When no word was received on the surrender, the second strike loaded up with rockets and bombs. By eight o'clock they were bombing hell out of Tokyo, much to the surprise and misfortune of the Japs who greeted our planes with waving arms and no antiaircraft fire, after the first strike did no bombing. We had our planes in over the Tokyo area all day. They destroyed hundreds of planes and blasted pther targets including the "Japan International Aircraft Factory". This damage and destruction was by our group alone. The whole task force box score must be very high. During the afternoon sixteen Japanese suicide planes tried in vain to reach us but all were shot down by the Combat Air Patrol. Our position was seventy miles off shore due east of Tokyo.
That night we went further out to sea and met our tankers fueling from the USS Platte-O24. The British task unit, including the battleship King George V fueled from the same tankers. During the afternoon the Missouri, Admiral Halsey's flagship, steamed into our group and went alongside the AK-19 for supplies. Just before dusk the USS McKee DD-575 came alongside and sent aboard the pilot from the battleship Alabama via breeches buoy. It looks like a fun ride from ship to ship as long as the line is kept taught. At 2330 we were back in formation and on the go again. Radio Tokyo put out the dope. The surrender terms were accepted by the Imperial Cabinet, however, it is unofficial and it looks as though we are going to strike again tomorrow.
Landing parties were organized from the ship's main battery divisions along with the Marine detatchment. All ships had the same set-up. I guess "Bull" intends to have the 3rd Fleet Sailors and Marines land on Japan first ahead of General McArthur's Army. No antiaircraft persennel were on the landing group - so I no chance of going. In addition to our own Task Force 38, other ships were now arriving from the south, making this the greatest array of sea power ever to be knocking at an enemy's door. The battleship South Dakota left our formation, the Alabama took her place.
At dawn the following morning, August 15th, our carriers launched another strike and as usual they hit many targets and shot down a number of Jap planes. Some of the TBF's just barely skimmed the water as they took off loaded down with these 500 pounders. About 0900 we got word from CinPac, Admiral Nimitz, to cease all offensive operations. Shortly thereafter we got the word the war was officially over! Here was a flash from the second wave of planes from the Lexington - "Recalled five miles from the Honshu coast - no hits - no runs - no errors". The ship's crew secured from battle stations at 1100 and set the watch. Some other gunners' mates and I assembled in the Gun Shack and drank a cup of jo to toast the occasion. We had a rain squall about that time but it certainly didn't dampen our spirits! I guess the folks back in the States are raising merry hell right now.
At about 1400 the alarm for general quarters sounded loudly and all hands scrambled to our battle stations, pulling on our life jackets. My crew had the gun ready in no time and the first thing I heard on the earphones was "Jap planes are approaching the task force". These damn Kamikazis don't know when to quit. The war is officially over and the fanatics still want to kill us and themselves. The Japs did not get near the task force, the combat air patrol from the carriers shot down ten or fifteen zeros a few miles away from us.
At 1500 the captain announced over the ship's loudspeaker system that Admiral Halsey was about to speak to all the ships in Task Force 38 over the TBS radio, and his voice would be broadcast over the speaker system. The Admiral's voice came over clear. He said: Men of the third fleet, the war is ended. You and your brothers in arms have brought a treacherous and barbaric foe to his knees - give praise to God Almighty that our dear ones at home have not been endangered. He also talked about a lasting peace, the guys who had been killed, and gave a Navy Well Done, but keep your powder dry.
The Japanese high command has given up but I guess he is concerned about more action from Japs who want to keep fighting like the Suicide Pilots who tried to get us a half-hour ago.
The next day, Thursday, August 16th, all of the groups of the Third Fleet joined in one formation. It was quite a sight: carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers - warships as far as you could see. This has to be the most powerful Naval Armada the world has ever known, with tankers, supply ships and ammunition ships some miles away ready to replenish our needs.
Friday morning, the Alabama's Seahawk took off from one catapult and returned to her ship. Next day, the 18th, we joined the supply ships again. We went starboardside to the AO77 and fueled, the Alabama on her other side. Then we picked up speed and steamed over to task group 38.4 and went alongside the AP84. The carrier Yorktown was on her other side. We took aboard passengers, freight and mail for our group (all but our own - I don't know where our mail is). We returned to our own group at dusk.
At 0600 Sunday morning, August 19th, the destroyer Ringold came alongside our starboard quarter. We transferred our entire Marine detatchment - Japan bound - aboard her. Cans came alongside all morning for mail - two at a time. Today the Oklahoma City is a fleet post office. We fueled on the 21st and transferred some communication men, Japan bound. The Topeka, Dayton and a few other cruisers shoved off. It looks like the task force is beginning to break up somewhat. There were APD's and other auxiliary craft in the area besides the oilers and supply ships.
Ship's news said that Japanese envoys left Manila for Tokyo and that the peace terms will be signed aboard the battleship Missouri within the next ten days. Our position is still about in the same area off the coast, east of Tokyo. On the 23rd, we finally got our mail from a troop transport ship that had steamed into the group. The bundles included mail for the cruisers San Juan and Amsterdam. They came alongside as soon as we moved away from the AP and got their mail in bags over the pulley lines between ships. I think the guys are more concerned about getting mail safely across than supplies.
Mail call has always been the same during these past years. Some sailors wait for their name to be called and wait in vain but almost everyone gets at least one letter. Others get a fistful. Some rip open the letters on the spot and read them eagerly while other guys, like myself, retreat to a quiet place and read them two or three times over to absorb every word.
Friday, the 24th, our task unit was off by itself once more. The ship's food supply is getting low. Scuttlebutt has it that we have less than a week's stores aboard. Commander Kirkpatrick, formerly the Gun Boss on the battle cruiser Alaska came aboard by breeches buoy. Our own Exec., Commander Hines, made Captain and was scheduled for transfer.
Saturday, August 25th, we were close to the Tokyo unit once more. The San Juan, Astoria, Amsterdam and ourselves were the only cruisers left in the group. The carriers launched planes - they went in over prisoner-of-war camps and dropped food and medicine. They did it again on Sunday. The pilots said the Japs waved and smiled at them as they went in low.
Monday morning, August 27th, we met fleet oilers and DE's. We went portside the AO56 while the Indiana went starboard. Commander Hines went aboard this tankerfor further transfer. The sea was choppy today and we completed fueling at noon. Our position was eighty miles from Tokyo at 0600 that morning. Other ships had moved into Sagumi Bay, including the Missouri.
That same afternoon, we went alongside the AK20 for some badly needed chow. Tuesday evening we left the supply "train". Wednesday morning we were eighty miles off northern Honshu. It was, by the way, our 60th consecutive day at sea and still no dope about going into port.
Thursday, we went alongside the Astoria - and transferred sixty five men - stateside bound for discharge. They were sent from ship to ship, one at a time, by the breeches buoy. The ride is across the canyon of ocean below afifty yard suspended line between the ships. These guys, all Reservists,want to get home in a hurry. I don't blame them.
Friday morning in the rain and fog we went alongside the AK-20 for more provisions and then fueled from a tanker and transferred more men at noon. I don't think the Navy has ever fired more line-throwing guns than this task force has during the past two months. Fueling, supplying ammunition and feeding a task force of this size at sea, and now tranferring personnel, has resulted in many hours alongside other ships while underway.
Sunday, September 1st, our 63rd day underway, the weather was still bad. I couldn't believe the orders for stations to go thru antiaircraft firing practice. We spent the entire afternoon fiiring 40 millimeter shells at sleeves towed by carrier planes in the driving rain - savage amusement with the war over. Things were under control on the beach. Fleet marines and sailors had taken over "key" spots and some of our task force wereriding anchor in Tokyo Bay. Sunday, September 2nd, we were in close again, close to Nojima Cape. Planes from ourcarriers were over Tokyo Bay when the peace terms were signed about noon aboard the Missouri.
At dusk on Monday the battleships Indiana, Alabama, the cruisers San Juan and Amsterdam, the San Jacinto and some cans shoved off from our formation. Tuesday we were further out to sea and gave some of our fuel to three cans. Wednesday morning, the 5th, our bunch joined two other units and two task units wereformed from three. We fueled four cans that afternoon, the USS English, C.S. Berry, the 703 and the 877 which looked fresh from the States.
Thursday, September 6th, we met tankers and all ships filled their A-card. We had more antiaircraft practice firing from 1600 to 1800. I don't know if the captain wants to keep us busy while sloshing around out here or if he has orders to expend ammunition just to get rid of it. The sea was very calm, the weather clear and warm.
We seemed to be going in no general direction - stilloff Honshu. The carriers had planes in the air most of the time. This waiting off the coast is getting tiresome as hell. Friday morning, September 7th, the Lexington rejoined us from Sagumi Bay. We went alongside her at 1100 in the driving rain. Then we took aboard mail - Marines and Sailors - our own and those from the Bennington. They were the first to land in Japan as occupation forces and were relieved by the army a few days ago. We transferred the Bennington's men aboard her while her band welcomed them back. Our men were "deloused" as soon as they cameaboard. They had experienced filth and lice on the beach.
The weather cleared. Saturday morning, the USS Ault came alongside with guard mail and shortly after we fueled the destroyers Hawkins, John Rogers, and the 807. That night we did not darken ship. It seemed strange steaming with running lights and light coming from hatches and ports all over the ship. Sunday, the 9th, we fueled from AO24 and in the afternoon, took on stores from the F10.
Monday morning the task group got into single file - six cans: the Bennington, Dayton, Oklahoma City, Hancock, Lexington, Belleau Wood and the rest of the cans in that order. We steamed into Sagumi Bay and up into Tokyo Bay and anchored next to the USS Wisconsin at 1015, September 10th. I lost the anchor pool - again - never have one any of them. The anchor pool is a bet amongst the crew calculating the exact time of mooring or anchoring the ship. All of my bets have gone to lucky winners of anchorage times ever since I hoped to win the pool years ago. This anchorage was a big event and the pool was large. So, after seventy-three consecutive days undrway we dropped the hook and the ship came to rest. When we left the Philippines with the task force, I never thought our next anchorage would be off Yokohoma. The bay was full of men-of-war and transports. We got word that the destroyers: Benson, Madison, Mayo and H.P. Jones were in Tokyo Bay during the signing of the peace terms. Old Squadron 7 tin cans had made the last curtain call. I wonder where the Niblack is?
The anchorage area is very busy with launches and whaleboats moving about from ship to ship to ship to shore - the city and mountains are a hazy view beyond.
Admiral Halsey released an order by the Navy Department that men with over two years' sea duty and at least four battle stars could be transferred aboard Stateside-bound ships. This order gave regular nave personnel with time a chance to go home on leave because up until now, onlt Reserves with enough "points" for discharge were going back. There were only seventy of us eligible of the 900 men aboard. So, I packed my gear and got ready. This seemed as good a place as any to leave the ship - Tokyo Bay - the end of the line! The Oklahoma City was scheduled to stay in Japanese waters. The opportunity to stay around and go ashore is of no interest to me. I am tired of war and the ocean and would like to go home. The job is done.
Wednesday morning, September 12, a group of us were transferred by launch to the battleship Indiana fo duty. I didn't know until I got aboard, thinking it was just for transportation. A lot of men from other ships were coming aboard as passengers. I was assigned to Turret 2. The 16" guns were quite a change from 40 mm mounts, and much more mechanized that our 5 inch caliber guns on the Niblack where projectiles and powder were manually handled in the Gun Mount. The huge gun turrets and the mechanical methods of loading were awesome by comparison. It was my first look at the Navy's big guns from the inside. I thought about the past years and wished I had stayed aboard the Niblack throughout the war. She was a good ship with a good crew. Destroyer officers and men were a breed closely knit together. The big ships do not have that informality.
At 1200, Friday, September 14th the ship weighed anchor and moved slowly out of the bay with the destroyer USS Mansfield. I looked back at the hazy outline of the Japanese homeland and wished, briefly, that I had gotten ashore to see Yokohama, Tokyo and some of the people we had been fighting. After clearing the channel, we picked up speed to eighteen knots bound for Hawaii with the Mansfield ahead of us.
The ship is crowded with many passengers relaxing topside in the sun during the day. Chow lines are long during every meal. The ship launched a Kingfisher observation plane from the stern catapult almost every day and it towed a sleeve astern for gunnery drills. One day the pilot fell into the drink - as the plane was being hoisted aboard - the Mansfield put their whaleboat in the water and picked him up. Thursday, September 20th, we crossed the 180th meridian; time went back on the clock one full day.
We arrived at the Hawaiian Islands on September 22nd and moved into Pearl Harbor with ships' company and passengers at quarters topside and tied up to a dock astern the USS Maryland. I went ashore and visited cousin John McCarthy again for a few hours in the Navy Yard.
We took aboard stores and about 300 more passengers. Some of the ships present were USS North Carolina, New Mexico, Mississippi, Idaho, Maryland, Wasp, Randolph and the Saratoga. We got underway at 1600 the next day, September 23rd. The Maryland's band played "California, Here We Come" as the Indiana slipped away from the pier. We headed out of the harbor, out to sea then east, northeast for San Farncisco.
Early Saturday morning, September 29th, fifteen days out of Tokyo, the ship's crew and passengers assembled topside in divisional assembly in blues and white hats as the ship moved under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay. There was a cluster of people high above us on the bridge watching the ship arrive home. We move through the bay and tied up at the Navy Yard at Hunters Point. A large band on the dock was there to greet us with "Stars and Stripes" and other tunes.
It was a great welcome. The many passengers were transferred ashore that day. Later on I went ashore to San Francisco with my shoes highly polished and uniform clean and smartly pressed, hoping that everyone wanted to continue to celebrate the end of the war. The San Francisco News had a large front page photograph of the Indiana passing under the Golden Gate Bridge on all the newsstands downtown. The celebrations had subsided but happy faces were everywhere. I enjoyed liberties in San Francisco and Oakland across the Bay. The city and the whole area is beautiful. The days are sunny and warm and the nights cool. I met Ellen and spent much time with her in Oakland where she lived. One night, when I took a cab over the bridge, the cabbie asked about my campaign ribbons and battle stars. I thought he was joking at first, and then explained what each ribbon and star was for.
Three weeks after arrival in Frisco, my request for leave to get home was granted and I left the battleship Indiana to the receiving station at Treasure Island in San FRancisco Bay. The place was an absolute mad house with thousands of guys waiting for discharge and transportation home. After five days at the station, I got my traveling papers with a few hundred others on October 27th. After a trip to Market Street and the ferry that night, we started the long train ride across country. We had coach seats on the train with all the seats taken.
The first two days were interesting because I had my first look at Nevada, the Great Salt Lake in Utah and stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming for a few hours. Sleeping in the seats became easier as the train moved eastward through Nebraska and Iowa. We reversed the seat in front of us and took turns stretching out for a few hours. We also developed a knack for sleeping in any position with our smelly feet in someone else's face - the train dirt covered everyone.
We got off the Western Pacific train in cold Chicago and boarded another coach for the ride east within a few hours. The rest of the ride home to Boston was more of the same and eased somewhat by the departure of two guys in Cleveland giving me more space to try a new sleeping position.
After five long days and nights of coast to coast train ride and almost four years of duty in Uncle Sam's Navy, I was back in the same kitchen in the top floor apartment on Longfellow Street with the same small radio on the wall shelf that had broadcast the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the "Day of Infamy" in December, 1941. It is quite different than that day. My brother Jack looks great in civilian clothes and we had a lot to talk about. The last time I saw him was in June of 1943 aboard the Niblack in Oran, Algeria. He has married Celia Lucas and I'm elected to be the Godfather of their expected child. Nanie and John were very happy and we celebrated Thanksgiving with a roast beef dinner with all the fixings.
This story is a diary - one that is similar, I'm sure, to the experiences of thousands of guys who went to sea in World War II including their long impatient trip home. During all of the actions of the war, I was always confident that our ship, particularly the Niblack, would make it through ok - even though many of our sister ships were damaged or sunk with great loss of life. During the last months of the war aboard the Oklahoma City off the coast of Okinawa and Japan, however, I became apprehensive despite the fact that I was on a cruiser in the largets, most powerful Naval Task Force in the history of the world. My thoughts were that a fanatic Japanese suicide pilot would make his final plunge into our ship. None of them did, thanks to the carrier combat air patrol and the tin cans who had played such a mjor role in winning the war in the Pacific.
The small radio on the wall shelf over the kitchen table reports the news as it has done for years. Nanie and JOhn have listened with apprehension for a long time and now it's over. My brother Jack survived the battles of North Africa and Europe, Pat Lucas survived the invasions and lugging of supplies around the Mediterranean, and it is good to be home with them - the fighting over. For this, I thank God and hope that the world will never again be at war.