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Wayne Haviland Account of the Sinking

of the USS REID DD369 - December 11, 1944

The death of a ship under such traumatic circumstances meant the end of many young lives - part of a heavy price by our generation to free the world from the scourge of Hitlerism and Japanese militarism. Those of us who survived should feel forever grateful for th privilege of pursuing our young hopes and dreams. We owe a debt of remembrance to those of our shipmates who were denied that privilege.

The various official action reports and logs of other ships cannot possibly capture the emotional scope of this event./ Individual memories are essential, even tough those memories, seen from different perspectives through the fog of half a century, may differ to some extent.

The REID’s organization plan called for the engineering officer to be in charge of the forward damage control party, which was based in the passageway between the galley and the wardroom on the main deck. The first lieutenant, Denny Collins, had the aft party based in the machine shop on the main deck.

The "talker" for the forward party was Dick Woll. The party also included "Huba Huba" Wood, Walt Norman and Derwood Polk, as well as others

Our location precluded a direct view of the action as the Kamikazes made their approach. However, the bridge kept us informed by telephone. Also, the location of the attackers could be deduced by the firing sequence - the thundering of 5 inch guns, then the thumping of the 40's and 20's, and finally the chatter of the 50 caliber machine guns.

Soon after the 50's started firing, there was an explosion and jolt, which seemed to come from the starboard bow area. We started forward through the wardroom and officers’ quarters passageway amid thick smoke to confront this problem, but almost immediately there was a massive explosion aft. (We later learned that the entire stern had been destroyed by a magazine explosion.) The ship lurched violently to starboard, and all communications were broken. It was obvious that the REID was mortally wounded. We were on "local control" and the order to abandon ship was given to the forward damage control party (probably worded something like, "let’s get the hell out of here!")

As we emerged from the wardroom, we could see the starboard rail submerging. After climbing a steeply sloping, nearly vertical deck, we clambered onto the bottom of the ship as she rolled over, and jumped into the water from the keel.

The ship’s momentum carried her away from us. We had a clear view as she slipped, bow up, under the Comotes Sea. That picture remains firmly in my memory. I never think of it without experiencing an overwhelming sense fo loss and sadness, because we later learned of the virtual annihilation of the aft damage control party and both fireroom crews, as well as heavy gun crew casualties, both above deck and below in the magazines. Although many outstanding leaders, Chief Machinist Carl "Red" Updegraff and Chief Electricians Mate George Forbes, whose battle station was the switchboard adjacent to the main generators in the engine room. In retrospect, the heavy loss of life was not surprising, given the fat that observers on othere ships stated that REID disappeared from view within two minutes of theat first blast which drew the attention fo the forward damage control party. However, the saving of over half of the crew was a remarkable achievement attributable to good discipline, quick thinking, training, concern for others and ability to improvise.

During the period we spent in the water before being picked up by landing craft, I saw very little indication of panic. People who were wearing kapok jackets or inflated life belts helped others by providing flotation and lung power for inflating belts. I heard words of encouragement directed to shipmates and instructions to landing craft personnel urging the rescue of wounded shipmates as a first priority.

I cannot end this remembrance without paying a tribute to the members of the REID’s black gang, which rose to the occasion and saved the day many times for the engineering officer, (whether he was Kemna or Haviland.)

Th Black Gang, in wartime, has a uniquely tough assignment, because the main propulsion plant and auxiliaries constitute a vital system which mus operate essentially on a continuous basis, with limited opportunity for preventive maintenance. REID’s black gang was equal to the task, which over nearly two and half years of my experience from Kodiak to Ormoc, involved many difficult emergency repairs. I hasve always remembered with gratitude the skill, ingenuity and devotion of REID’s engineering crew.

One particular instance involved the installation of the #1 fireroom starboard blower at sea after REID had been ordered to proceed on an urgent basis from Hollandia, New Guinea to Leyte. It seems the Kamikazes were taking a heavy toll of destroyers and replacements were desperately needed. The order came late in the day on November 16, 1944. The blower was on board a destroyer tender being balanced to correct a severe vibration problem. It was returned to the ship and was installed that night, while REID steamed on #2 fireroom. This major piece of equipment operated perfectly and REID was once more ready for action because of the efforts of a great fireroom crew, most of whom perished less than a month later.

As survivors examining our memories of the sinking, we would probably agree that the two minutes between the first Kamikaze hit and REID’s final plunge constituted the longest two minute period of our lives.. Those two minutes were packed with so much action and emotion that none of us will ever forget that experience or our shipmates who shared it with us.

During those two minutes, we who survived lost many close friends. Two who were among the closest to me were Denny Collins, who had orders for stateside transfer to new construction immediately following this last operation, and Bobby Landis, an assistant engineering officer, who was stationed in the #1 fireroom.


Spencer Bostwick’s account of the sinking

I was Supply Officer aboard the REID when she was lost in December 1944. I do believe that I was the first man off, a dubious distinction. . . . I was wearing a pair of chukka boots that I’d conned from some supply sergeant on the beach. These had metal cleats on the soles. When the REID made its last desperate turn to port to avoid what was probably [suicide] plane #7, the ship’s port side dipped so low, I couldn’t hold my place on the steel deck, but went skating down and off as if I were on ice, and into the warm Comotes Sea. Somehow my leg suffered a shrapnel like wound for which I received a Purple Hear. I’ve always felt a little guilty about that.

Technically, I wasn’t supposed to be topside at one of the 20mm guns; my GQ station was in the wardroom at the coding machine. But the Ormoc supply run was an action run, and I had to see what was happening when GQ sounded. Nothing was; just that terrifying silence moments before all hell breaks loose. A gunner’s mate near me who had that peculiar ability to count, in a flash, a large number of people or things, said suddenly, "there they is - there’s twelve of em." The gunnery officer, Lt (jg) Taylor, told us, stand fast, we don’t know who they are yet." Then there was a black smear on the sky as one of our 5 inchers fired - that told us the bridge had identified them.

Everything we had opened up. - including the cal 50 machine guns that the ship’s doctor - Lt Corales - and I had conned from an Army airfield in the Admiralties. The skipper, Commander McCornock, had told Dick and me to visit the beach and acquire any additional firepower we could. This was following our experience around Biak with the early Kamikazes, when Harley Brubaker had been killed. The guns had been left behind by a group of B-24's returning to the States, and were mounted on stanchions on the REID. The question was, how would air cooled guns, designed for a bomber speed air flow, operate aboard ship? One of my last memories, as my cleated boots started their ride, was those bomber funs firing like holy h- - -.

REID was dying when I hit the water, her fantail area entirely blown out by the infamous Zeke #7, which had come in, seemingly slowly and gracefully, with long scarves of fire trailing behind - - a black fighter, a Zeke, with yellow wing wells - a giant snarling killer bee.

My fall took me well under the surface; it was already dark from fuel oil, and I heard the ship tearing itself to pieces, giant explosions that nothing could survive. Coming up, I recall beating away the thick overcoat of bunker fuel, as we’d been taught to do in the swimming pool at the Supply Corps school at Wellesley, to fight off surface fire. A flotation pillow wandered over, which I grabbed to rest on. There was REID, vertical, her bow pointing at the sky, like a defiant finger. What I could see of the bottom was wearing the red paint we’d all helped apply during our alongside at Pearl earlier that summer. I didn’t feel anything. I just paddled about, dazed, until an LCI picked me up. As with any great loss, you don’t cry until later.


Ship’s Logs

Not Great Literature

The officer of the deck signed the logs, but I don’t know who wrote them. Perhaps the yeomen did some of them, such as "Moored as before." A lot of the logs were typed. Life aboard ship was not often exciting, but whatever did happen was reduced in the log to a dull account, essentially statistical in nature, certainly not literature. Entries leave the impression that logs were intended to record the ship’s specific maneuvers so that in the event of a casualty of some sort, a board of inquiry could reconstruct the event. Much more interesting information was available in the signalman’s log kept on the bridge, but those logs were not preserved.

For example, on that night off Finschafen in October 1943 when we steamed for hours in our own smoke to confound the circling Japanese bombers, the log records in minute detail the turning of the ship to this bearing and that bearing, planes bearing in one direction or another and how many. But the log omits entirely any record of the drama that unfolded as dawn approached, other than to say that planes were picked up on radar at a certain bearing and later departed. With a nod to history, the log might have included the following account.

The contact picked up as dawn approached was a squadron of enemy torpedo planes. They circled, awaiting first light to appear on the eastern horizon to silhouette our ships for easy targeting.

With no hope of friendly fighter planes arriving until too late, and knowing we would be sitting ducks against the dawn’s early light, a ruse was devised using a radio frequency known to be monitored by the enemy. One ship (probably our ship) played the role of the squadron leader of our friendly fighters. Another voice was that of the fighter director on our ship.

The plan was to play out a dialogue on the radio that would lead the enemy to believe that friendly fighters were on the way and would arrive at first light. In reality, there was no hope of the friendly fighters arriving until about 30 minutes after first light. But the play went on with the simulated exchange.

As it progressed, all of us on the bridge heard the exchange on the bridge speakers. Our friendly "squadron leader" reported take off and made periodic position reports indicating getting closer to us as dawn approached. Finally, with just five minutes remaining before first light, the enemy torpedo planes turned and went home without firing a shot, evidently a victim of their own eavesdropping. And so the "Rugged Reid" lived on.

During the same campaign around Lae and Finschafen, one day around noon we went to general quarters and scrambled our fighters to chase an elusive visual target almost directly overhead. The log reports the target to have been an enemy plane at 30,000 feet. The target actually was the planet Venus which all of us on the bridge eventually discovered. The facts are much more interesting than the written record, but reviewers at the Navy Department in Washington might not have seen it that way.

The same reasoning probably applies for not including in the log our going to general quarters for a contact that turned out to be a coconut floating in a moderate sea. This occurred shortly after we were outfitted with our first radar and before we had much experience with it. In this case, a report in some other form may have been made citing the sensitivity of the new equipment and the alertness of the radar operator who was able to detect something that small. Nice to think so anyway.


June 3, 1944 - Where were you?

The REID already had made an earlier trip to Biak in late May, 1944 for the initial landings on that island. There had been plenty of duty time at general quarters as enemy planes continuously harassed the Army beachhead positions, randomly breaking off to attack the supporting naval forces.. Then it was back to Humbolt Bay, New Guinea to regroup and set sail once again on May 31 for an amphibious landing at a different beach on Biak. The task force arrived on June 2 and the amphibious landing was made that morning. Enemy planes again attacked off and on all day, concentrating mostly on the beachhead, but occasionally peeling off to attack the destroyers patrolling off shore. This kept the crew at general quarters most of the day right up to 11 p.m.

The next morning, June 3, 1944, the USS REID (DD369), USS RUSSELL (DD414) and USS MUSTIN (DD413) were the supporting force defending the amphibious landing on Biak. The REID and MUSTIN were preparing for shore bombardment while the RUSSELL was stationed about 10 miles distant as an air guard ship. The sky was about 30% overcast with low flying clouds.

A minute or two after 11 a.m. enemy planes were detected on radar. Almost immediately, 15 to 20 Japanese fighter bombers, Tonies, Zekes or Tojos, dropped over the coastal ridge, taking full advantage of the low clouds. The crew already was at general quarters. The captain went to flank speed and began radical maneuvers to confound the attackers.

"Due to her position off Green Beach, and the absence of other shipping in the immediate vicinity, the REID received the main effort of this attack. The intensity of the attack was so great that no single observer could note all details. . An Army observer on shore with an excellent view of the engagement reported that fourteen enemy planes dove on the REID. .. ".

Enemy planes ". . . commenced making determined dive bombing, glide bombing and strafing attacks on this vessel, both singly and in groups of two and three planes, from all directions in rapid succession. . . . Many bombs exploded close aboard on all sides. One Tony was hit by 40mm fire and seen to retire smoking in a slow glide and crash about 10,000 yards to the eastward. The tip of the wing of a Tojo was seen to be sheered off by 20mm fire and later seen to crash by the USS MUSTIN off Owi Island. Another Tojo was seen to retire smoking after having been dissuaded from pressing [his attack by the five inch battery.]"

"At no time was it possible to track a target for long enough to get any more than a rough solution with the range-keeper. All machine guns guarded their respective sectors, firing at any planes within range. The value of the main battery was chiefly in discouraging planes from attacking, while the automatic weapons were relied upon to take care of planes once they had commenced their dive."

The Captain continually maneuvered the ship in a radical manner at maximum speed to present as narrow a target as possible to the attacking aircraft.

After about 20 to 25 minutes of intense attack, friendly aircraft appeared. The P-40s and P-47s drove off the remaining enemy planes. Five minutes later another group of enemy planes appeared, but these were driven off by the five inch battery and chased by friendly planes.

On later review of the action, it was discovered that the ship had been struck numerous times by shrapnel and left four holes in superstructure ranging five to eight inches in diameter. Radarman Harley Brubacker was killed by the shrapnel and four others wounded - Lt (jg) Bill Albers, Machinist Mate John Woolcock, Seamen Paul Eudaley and Bill Halpap. Seaman Roland Williams was burned by shrapnel. In addition to the casualties, two of the 20mm guns malfunctioned during a critical period of the attack. One of the guns was replaced quickly; the other remained out of commission.

It is amazing that the ship survived this concentrated attack. Task Group command reported that, "The performance of the ship as a whole was outstanding," with particular praise for the gun crews.

A View from the Other End of the Cannon

You might be interested in an account of what it was like to be hunkered down on the beach with warships offshore bombarding you. The account that follows was written by a Marine who spent two tours on Guadalcanal, starting with the initial assault. During the early stage, the Japanese Navy made many forays into the area to bombard the airfield under construction and the Marine positions. I met the author, Chuck Buser, at a Guadalcanal Veterans reunion several years ago. He is a great story teller and writer.


"Far and away the most terrifying part of my first tour on the Canal was the mid-October bombing shelling by enemy surface ships, aircraft and land-based artillery.....

"It was a wild, desperate time when men and machines worked to the point of exhaustion. We were also heavily shelled in mid-November, but were better equipped then and it did not seem then as though we would lose the Island.

Short of an atomic bomb, it is difficult to imagine anything worse than being on the receiving line of shelling by battleships, cruisers and destroyers. The sound alone was deafening. Fourteen-inch shells on the way in gave a whooshing sound like a locomotive on the loose, then could be heard going through several trees before hitting the ground. Then there was a slight pause before a tremendous explosion shook dirt and debris down over our helmets and shoulders. We never kept our chin straps fastened, fearing the blast would tear head from shoulders. Words fail me. and I cannot do justice. By contrast, bombs from aircraft sounded with sort of a flutter and, except for the 1,000 bombs, they did not rival the naval gunfire.

Fortunately neither we nor the Japanese used poison gas and our gas masks were tossed aside almost from the beginning of our assault on Guadalcanal. There was only one man I remember who always seemed to carry his gas mask. He was in many ways extra cautious, to put it as kindly as I can. During one of those runs to the beach, at a time of "Condition Red," that fellow got part way to the beach before noticing he did not have his gas mask. He then ran back to the operations tent to get it, and was seen there by an officer who thought he was the only man standing by his post during that attack. The officer wrote the man up for a medal. It was that kind of war sometimes. I suppose all wars are like that."


From: Len Niessen, October 27, 2008


January 12, 1945

Tonite we all had to work.  120 survivors came in from the USS Reid[1] a DD announced lost due to enemy action in the 2nd Battle of the Philippines.  They were brought back on the USS Nashville and arrived here this morning.  All records were lost, of course, so a card had to be made out on every man.  We also made up a SF form on each man and shore-duty scores on those who rated them.  They came here from small stores where they were given the usual Navy tailoring job (too short or too long).  None of them had contacted their families yet, who probably think they are lost.  They are due to get their survivor’s leave tomorrow so we rushed them through.  The Reid had been through quite a bit of action and some of the men rated 9 stars.  They were a boisterous lot, and it was quite apparent they were all glad to be alive.  106 men were lost with the ship.  They each had a thick packet of letters which they were given a few minutes before coming here and they kept themselves pretty busy reading these while waiting to be interviewed.  They hadn’t heard from their families for a month or more.  While I was filling out the SF form on one man, he was reading letters from his wife.  He showed me a picture of his 2 year old girl.  Attached to a page of the letter was two little candles from her birthday cake. He just smiled from ear to ear while reading the letter. 


One of the fellows I interviewed was 17 years old and had several months of sea duty already, climaxed by his ship being sunk.  I wonder what I’d be like today if that had happened to me when I was 17.


Q. – How was your ship sunk --- torpedoed?


A. – Well – that’s what we were told to say.


Q. – OK


A. – We were suicide-bombed by a Jap plane.


Q. – Well, that’s fairly common nowadays – why the mystery?


A. – They don’t want information to leak out how effective suicide bombing is.  The way I look at it is, it’s not only the damage to ships that is effective, it’s the mental impression that it makes on those it hits.  The sight of a burning, twisting plane diving toward you for what seems like several minutes is rather hard on the nerves.  There must have been 50 ships throwing up stuff at the plane that finally got us.  Ten planes peeled off and each one went for a ship.


Q. – How long were you in the water?


A. – About a half hour – it wasn’t so bad.  Most of the damaged ships in the yard were suicide-bombed. On the Reid two gun mounts were wiped out; most of the men lost were below deck.


A Moment in Time

A view from the other side

  [This letter was written by a young Kamikaze pilot on the eve of his suicide mission in 1944. The pilot's family shared this letter, in gratitude and respect, with a person who, 43 years later, located and returned the pilot's identification tag to them. The translation follows:]

            Dear mother whom I honor and my deceased father, watch over me. Grandparents, younger brothers and sisters, I hope you are all being fine.

             Now I, Masao, am writing this with deep emotion. What more is there to say now, except that I am praying for your health and happiness. In regards to my 19 years of life, why regret it if a blossom falls when it is still only a bud if there be a need?  Nothing further needs to be said.

Just please understand that there are no clouds in Masao's heart; it is clear and content - nothing to reconsider - no regrets. As a member of an honorable force at sea my only hope now is that I may be of good service. It is nothing more but Masao's honor and happiness that I was chosen of the chosen to ride on one of the newest weapons carrying the frantic hopes of all navy personnel and countrymen, and which will contribute decisively to the Great Asian War. I desire that you, mother, and everyone to be proud of me. Please remember Masao's gallant burning red appearance attacking the enemy task force. Masao will not be destroyed until the U.S. and Britain are defeated. Even though my body shall be done away with in the South Seas, surely my spirit will continue. I shall be living forever, day and night, as a spirit fighting for my country; living in your heart, mother, and living in the country land.

             Mother, please watch your health, you may be lonely, but be of good health. Younger brothers and sisters, help your mother and grow up to be a person who is of service to others. Grandparents, take enough rest, live long and see Japan be victorious in the Great Asian War.

             Under a dim lamp I am writing this in a hurry. Only annihilation awaits me tomorrow, that is what I have told my heart to prepare for. Now I am quietly thinking and longing to see the skies over home. Maybe I will be lucky , but I will not overly seek for it.  If I still have life I will write again. I will ask my comrade to mail this letter along with the cigarette the Emperor gave me, because I don't have enough time. Praying for your health and happiness.

             From Masao         October 19. 1944

Brief account of the REID’s war time activity

 [Responding to an email]  You asked for information about your father-in-law, Ted Divis.


              I am the keeper of the records, such as they are, of our ship the USS Reid DD 369. The only information we have in our files about Ted Divis is what he sent in to my predecessor about 15 - 20 years ago. His short bio says that he was born in November 1920 in Brainard, Nebraska, enlisted in the Navy in December, 1939 and reported aboard the Reid in March 1940 at San Diego. He was a member of the "black gang," meaning he worked in the engine/fire room of the ship. He transferred from the Reid to shore duty in August, 1944 while the ship was in Pearl Harbor as a Boilermaker first class, and left the Navy at the end of his 6 year enlistment in December, 1945.

During the period he was aboard the Reid, the ship made a good will visit to Australia in the spring of 1941 and I'll bet he had a great time. On the way south, he was initiated into the mysteries of the deep and became a shellback as he crossed the equator.

He was aboard the ship in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. The ship defended the islands and for several months did convoy duty to the west coast and back. We resupplied Midway before the attack there and were involved in the defense of Alaska during the Battle of Midway. While there we sunk a Jap submarine, bombarded Japanese positions in the outer Aleutians and were chased by a Japanese carrier task force.

We returned to Pearl and later escorted Army troops to Guadalcanal, stopping off in Pago Pago in Samoa , Suva in Fiji, Noumea in New Caledonia and the New Hebrides on the way. We operated in the Guadalcanal area for several months bombarding Japanese positions and defending the island during frequent attacks and against reinforcements. We escorted ships to Australia and returned to San Francisco for overhaul in mid 1943.

We returned to the western Pacific as part of McArthur's Navy in his campaign up the coast of New Guinea and neighboring islands on the way to his return to the Philippines. During the landings in Lae, Salamaua, Finschhafen, Arawe, New Britain, Saidor and others along the New Guinea coast we were under frequent attack by Japanese aircraft and had some narrow escapes.

In January, 1944 we sailed to Sydney, Australia for some R & R and then returned to the New Guinea campaign. In July, 1944 the ship returned to Pearl Harbor for some refitting. It was during this period that Ted Divis was transferred.

The ship returned to New Guinea and then on to the Philippines and participated in the battle for Leyte. It was during this campaign, on December 11, 1944, that the Reid went down off the west coast of Leyte with the loss of one third of the crew. Those in the fire room and engine rooms suffered heavy casualties.

A Graphic Account

 by Hilliard Harless [Deceased 2000] 

I joined the Navy on February 12, 1942. [He was born in 1919 in Maynardville, TN]  I went through boot camp at San Diego, California. I put in for submarine duty, and was waiting to go to New London, CT  to submarine school when the Battle of Midway was brewing. They shipped us submarine prospects to Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii.

 I went aboard the USS REID at Pearl Harbor, and from there the REID went to Alaska, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, and then to the Philippines.

We made the landing at Ormoc, Leyte on December 7, 1944. We lost about four ships. As we were going back with reinforcements and supplies on December 11, we were at battle stations.   My battle station was Starboard Throttleman in the engine room. Ken Schoening relieved me, and I went up to the port torpedo tubes and talked to Peterson. I got cooled off and told Peterson I believe I'll go down and let Schoening come up early and cool off.

Then the ship got hit, and the lights went off. I had the throttles all open at flank speed. The lights went out and knocked the dynamo out. Oliver Kusta was on the port throttle, and he left the engine room. Chief Kolsom was yelling, "Stay by your throttle, stay by your throttle!." I climbed up on the foamite can to turn the battle station light on to see my steam gauges.  The gauge had dropped to zero.

  About that time a big tool box on the port side broke loose. It weighed probably over 1,000 pounds.  It came rumbling through to where I had just been standing before I stepped up on the foamite cans. It bounced against the bulkhead on the starboard side. I think I was one of the luckiest guys on the REID.

 I looked around toward the hatch and what little light I could see  was coming from there.  There wasn't anybody left but Updegraff and me inside. I told Updegraff that everybody was gone. They had not passed the word for us to abandon ship.  So I said, "Updegraff, let's get out of here, they're all gone. There's nobody down here but us". We got to the hatch and Williams, the Engineering Officer, was standing there by the hatch. Williams reached and helped Updegraff up, then he reached to help me up. About that time the water poured into the hatch and hit us in the face. Williams evidently lost it, and he went up the hatch.  I went up the hatch behind him.

I had on a big pair of high-top Army shoes and had them tied up around my ankles. I remember the suction pulled the shoes off at the same time. The good Lord got me out of there, but I made a joke about it saying it was those big shoes that held me down.  I don't know how far I was under there, but it seemed like an awful long way. It took me a long time to get to the top. My lungs were about to burst. The ship was lying on her side. There must not have been 6 or 8 inches sticking up there. I hopped up on it, and was the tiredest I had ever been in my life, and I thought I had to rest. I laid down there and looked around.  The ship was still going forward, but it was going down by the stern.

  I thought, "I've got to leave here". I got over the port side because I didn't want go down where the smoke stacks were. I was afraid I might get sucked down in there. I looked where the ammunition had blown up in the magazine. The keel of the ship looked like shark's teeth, where the metal had been blown up. I had played a lot of poker in there, and I thought, well I’m going to gamble.  It can't be any worse under than it is on the top. So I dived.  I didn't hit anything down there and I came up. Up off the port bow was a mattress floating. I swam for the mattress, and got to it. I got on the mattress since I didn't have a life jacket. I looked around and saw Walter Norman, and he got on the mattress too. We started trying to get Winkler.  Winkler didn't have a life jacket. Winkler was panicking because he couldn't swim in the oil. You had to get down under the oil before you could swim in it.

  About that time a Japanese plane came through strafing in the water where we were.  It just happened he didn't hit any of us. The plane dropped a bomb. Winkler said that if that bomb hadn't gone off he would have drowned before we got him.  Winkler started swimming like a duck and came right to us.

 Now we know what fish feel like when they get dynamited.  We were wide open. The bomb blew salt water and fuel oil up into us. Then a big heavy-set sailor, who had a life jacket on, came over and got on the mattress. I had to make him get off.  We told him we didn't mind him staying with us, but we would  have to hold on with our arms on the mattress for it to carry us. The mattress carried us until the landing craft picked us up. 


Schoening pulled me aboard the landing craft. He was hit with a bunch of shrapnel and he had blood running down his face. Schoening had tears in his eyes. He said he didn't think he would see anymore. I said,  "Don’t you see blood running down your eyes?  What are you worried about?".

It was getting dark and I heard somebody out there that sounded real pitiful. He was saying, "Some of you all please come out here and get me, some of you all please come out here and get me." I called him Henry Aldridge.  Anyway, I pulled him aboard. He had two inflatable life jackets on and a kapok life jacket.  I said, "Aldridge, what are you worried about.? You have enough lifejackets to last the duration of the war". Aldridge said, "Yeah, I know, but I am dark, the water's dark, and it was gettin' dark, and I was scared you all wouldn't see me". 

That night we went on up to Ormoc.   There were planes overhead. A guy was standing beside me with dark sun glasses on. It was dark as pitch, and he still had these sun glasses on. From then on, I started calling him "Night Fighter".  We went on up to Ormoc on the landing craft that picked me up. The landing craft got stuck on the beach. I left the landing craft and got on another one, but it got stuck too. They had to tow it off. The landing craft had messed up one screw and one rudder. It could travel about half-speed - about 7 knots. The next day we were going back to the east coast of Leyte and they contacted a plane.  We went to general quarters. The rest of the ships had to leave us because we couldn't travel as fast as they could.

I looked around the landing craft and found some crates full of ammunition.   I called to some guys, and we started to throw the crates overboard. We just about got them thrown over the side when two planes came through strafing and dropped three bombs. I dove in a passageway.  One bomb hit along the starboard side and one of the crates exploded. The projectiles went through four steel plates in the engine room. 

I came on in and they put me on the NASHVILLE, which had been hit and was being sent back to the States. I rode her back to Bremerton, Washington. I got survivor's leave. I was in pretty bad shape. I didn't want to turn in to sick bay; I wanted to get home. I hadn't been home since I joined the Navy. I went home, but I wasn't able to stay out my whole 30 days. 

I turned in to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  I went to sick bay there. They  gave me some aspirin and shipped me back to San Diego. I ended up in Industrial Command in San Diego, and I would go sick bay every day. They would give me some pills. One morning I went to sick bay and this four striper Captain was there. He wanted to know what they had been doing for me. He told them to get me to a hospital and not to even pack a ditty bag.

I went to Balboa Park Naval Hospital, stayed there four months, five days; then I got discharged. I received a medical discharge on July 12, 1945.

 I retired from trucking in 1981.  I was a trucker when I went into the Navy.  I'm doing all right, my luck is still holding out. I would like to thank the old boys on the landing craft who took care of us. I know now how the HENLEY sailors felt the night we rescued a bunch of them when I was the engineer of the whaleboat.

 [The HENLEY was just astern of the REID in 1943 in column off New Guinea, at dusk, when it was struck amidships by a single torpedo, breaking her in half and sunk in 2 or 3 minutes.]

The ship was keeling over, and the water on the steps caused me to lose my footing.  I was holding the hand rails, swinging out there, and here came Barber and Ailport, who were down on the lower level. They came up between me and the steps and almost knocked me loose, but I held on. I got up far enough to push down on the top of the hatch and get my shoulders up above. I remember the suction was so strong that it was all I could do to hold on.   If I had not been pressing down, it would have sucked me on down.

Account of Sinking of the USS REID

By Frenchie Perrault

I was in my sack, though not by choice.  I’d been on the sick list due to a badly swollen ulcerated ankle that was healing.  I was to stay off my feet except to use the head.  When the GQ alarm sounded I was not about to stay there.  I went topside where I sat with Damage Control.

After some time I got restless and decided to go below to relieve F2c Grassman, the man on the evaporators.  This was my normal GQ station.  This was the last time I saw him.  There but for the grace of God go I.  I think of this often as I thought I was doing him a good turn.  

Shortly thereafter, the guns began to fire.  There was a flash and explosion at the generators, which were across from the evaps on the upper level of the engine room.  This was CEM Forbes’s GQ station .  He must have been killed instantly.

I could see light in the hatch and men leaving.  When I got there the ship was already listing heavily.  Getting up on the ladder was difficult as the handrail was about all we could get ahold of.  I pushed someone up, and in turn, was pulled and pushed out.  I reached down and pulled someone else out.  After that, I hollered “Is anyone down there?”  Getting no reply, I turned from the hatch.

Water was up to my knees and I was going to go over the side.  But after seeing the after stack starting to take in water, I thought better of it.  I stayed put as the ship was going down under me.  When the water got to my waist, I started swimming away.  I had lost one shoe so I removed the other, which made for better swimming.  I swam until I met Hynard and Schoening, I don’t recall if there was anyone else.  By this time the ship was on its side.  CMM Updegraff and MM2/c Kusta were standing there on the side of the ship.  They had no life jackets and neither could swim.  We yelled for them to jump, we would help them.  They refused and went down with the ship.

Our ship was going down stern first, and the bow was rising out of the water.  When it was almost straight up, Hynard said, “Let’s salute.”  She was gone in seconds.  Then in her final death blow, the depth charges exploded.

Later I was picked up by LCI 661, the same one that picked up Haviland.

Some Shipmate recollections of December 7, 1941

 "Someone was running through the compartment hollering: 'They are sinking our battleships!"

 "Gordon Seastrom was standing next to me poking me in the ribs, saying, 'What are they doing?" In those days Gordon was a long skinny kid with sharp elbows.”

 "Our boilers were down, valves, gauges, fire control and navigation instruments were over on the tender for calibration or whatever and the fresh water was turned off."

 "We had a valve from the fireroom over on the Whitney for repair. It seems like it took three guys to carry it over to the Whitney, but John Barber ran over and carried it back by himself."

 "No ship was ever put back together so fast."

 "That was the only time in my 20 year tour of duty that I ever saw a ship underway and standing out of a harbor with zero inches of vacuum on the main plant."

 'The bridge kept telling us to knock off the smoke."

 "Pullen called for flank speed - 30 knots – although usually any destroyer in Pearl Harbor held speed down to 10 knots.  'Boy, I bet I catch hell for this, ' he reflected.”

 "As we passed Battleship Row, they were all down and burning. I'll remember the USS Arizona forever."

 "The devastation was horrible. God Bless the sailors who didn't make it."

 "As we headed out, we saw a 50 foot motor launch with a depth charge tied to its stem looking for the midget sub thought to be in the harbor."

 " We got underway to hunt Japs. Fortunately we didn't find them."

 "I thought once we rounded Barber's Point, the Jap  fleet will pick us off and that would be the end. – Then I had a terrible thought: I had over 60 days leave and $300 on the books. If the ship was sunk and I survived, who would believe me?"

 “I was asleep on this morning, at the home of friends in Pearl City, Oahu.  I was awakened by the lady of the house and told the Japs were attacking Pearl Harbor.  I dressed quickly and went out the back door, just in time to see a Jap plane (red marking balls and fixed landing gear) level out over the house.

“I remember saying to her, “Yep, they sure are Japs.”  She worked at an office in the Navy Yard and had a pass, so she drove me back to the liberty landing near the Sub Base.  Driving back home her car was hit by shrapnel through the motor hood, but didn’t hit the engine or her.

            “A 50 foot motor launch crew was taking crew members back to all their ships. . . I rode . .  past battleship row, they were all down and burning.  As we rounded Ford Island, I remember a Jap plane, which had just hit something on the island, leveled out over the 50 footer so darn close you could see the expression on the pilot’s face.” 

The Battle Not Fought

Len Gardner

[This month, August, is the 64th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs that brought an end of the war in the Pacific in 1945. ]

Those of us who survived the war in the Pacific, friend and foe alike, plus all of our succeeding generations, can be thankful this battle was not fought.

Operation Downfall, a battle plan approved in mid 1945, called for two massive military invasions in succession aimed at the heart of the Japanese Empire. In the first invasion, code named “Operation Olympic,” 14 combat divisions of soldiers and marines would land on heavily fortified and defended Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese home islands, on November 1, 1945.

 The second invasion on March 1, 1946, code named "Operation Coronet," would send at least 22 divisions to land on the main island of Honshu and the Tokyo Plain.

The Allied naval armada would have been the largest ever assembled. Over 3000 ships of all types would be involved. The plan called for using the entire Marine Corps, most of the Air Force and more than 1.5 million combat soldiers, with 3 million more in support. More than 40% of all servicemen still in uniform in 1945 would be directly involved in the two amphibious assaults.

American casualties were expected to be extremely heavy - up to one million men by the fall of 1946, and some called this conservative.

Responsibility for planning Operation Downfall  fell to the top commanders: Chester Nimitz, Douglas MacArthur and the Joint Chiefs of Staff - Ernest King, William Leahy, George Marshall and Hap Arnold.   At the time, the development of the atomic bomb was a very closely guarded secret known only to a few top officials outside the Manhattan Project.  Planning for the invasion of Japan did not take its existence into consideration.

Throughout the Pacific War, unlike the European theater, the Allies were unable to agree on a single Commander-in-Chief. Inter-service squabbling over who it should be - the U. S. Navy wanted Nimitz, while the U. S. Army wanted MacArthur - was so serious that it threatened to derail planning. Ultimately, the Navy partially conceded, and MacArthur was to have total command of all forces, if circumstances made it necessary.

The goal was unconditional surrender.   The advocates for invasion agreed that while a naval blockade chokes, it does not kill; and though strategic bombing might destroy cities, it leaves whole armies intact.  So on May 25, 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after extensive deliberation and some reservations, issued to General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and General Arnold, the top secret directive to proceed with plans for the invasion of Kyushu.

While this was going on, the Japanese were making plans of their own. They knew they could not win the war, but they hoped to drag it out so that a negotiated peace might be possible, rather than unconditional surrender. An invasion was anticipated.  Japanese geography limited the likely invasion landing areas and the Japanese were able to accurately deduce the Allied invasion plans and adjust their defense plans accordingly.

Suicide attack was to be Japan’s main weapon. All of their aircraft of whatever type were committed to the kamikaze mission, and measures were taken to conserve them until the invasion. Allied estimates of available Japanese planes initially were estimated at 2,500, of which only 300 would be available for suicide missions.  The estimates increased by the month.  By August 1945 it was over 10,000.  The actual count (post-war) turned out to have been nearly 13,000 aircraft available for suicide missions.

At Okinawa with fewer than 2000 planes, Kamikaze success ratio was one hit in nine attacks. In the close-in waters off the coast of Japan itself, they expected to do much better. By overwhelming the US defenses with large numbers of Kamikaze attacks in a period of hours, the Japanese estimated that the planes would sink hundreds of ships. Since they were training the pilots to target transports rather than carriers and destroyers, the casualties would be disproportionately greater than at Okinawa. The Japanese planned to sustain the attack with wave after wave of Kamikazes continuously over many days. One staff study estimated that the Kamikazes could destroy a third to a half of the invasion force before the landings.

In addition, Japan had 350 midget submarines, 1000 manned torpedoes and 800 suicide boats ready for deployment.

The Army also was getting some uncomfortable news.  During the spring of 1945, Allied intelligence was aware that Japan had transferred five divisions to Kyushu, but still projected that by November the total defending force would be about 350,000. That changed in July, with the discovery of four new divisions and indications of more to come.  By late July, the count was up to 600,000 and rising.   These new estimates transmitted powerful shock waves both in the Pacific and in Washington. On 29 July, MacArthur's intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Willoughby advised that this buildup, if not checked, threatened "to grow to [the] point where we attack on a ratio of one (1) to one (1) which is not the recipe for victory. "

In fact, by August, Japan had fourteen divisions and various smaller formations, including three tank brigades, for a total of 900,000 men on Kyushu. This would give the defenders a 3 to 2 advantage in manpower.

Elsewhere, the Soviets were preparing to follow up their invasion of Sakhalin with an invasion of the weakly defended, northern home island of Hokkaido by the end of August. With American forces locked in combat in the south of Japan, little could have prevented the Soviet Union from marching into the northern half of the Japanese home islands. In the post- war world, Japan might have been divided much like Korea and Germany.

President Truman approved plans for the invasions July 24, but required a final review before giving the green light. Two days later, the United Nations issued the Potsdam Proclamation, which called upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or face total destruction. Three days later, the Japanese governmental news agency broadcast to the world that Japan would ignore the proclamation and would refuse to surrender.

During this same period it was learned -- via monitoring Japanese radio broadcasts -- that Japan had closed all schools and mobilized its school children, was arming its civilian population and was fortifying caves and building underground defenses. Every foot of Japanese soil would have been paid for by Japanese and American lives.

Truman was keenly aware that with the end of the war in Europe and troops coming home, pressure to conclude the war in the Pacific would build rapidly. Public opinion might not support another year of war, particularly one with the high casualty rates that were projected and being continually revised upward. Without doubt, this was a factor in his decision to use the atomic bomb.

In retrospect, the 1 million American men and the several million Japanese who were to be the casualties of the invasion, were instead lucky enough to survive the war. Intelligence studies and military estimates clearly indicate that the battle for Japan might well have resulted in the biggest blood-bath in the history of modern warfare.

Far worse would be what might have happened to Japan as a nation and as a culture. When the invasion came, it would have come after several months of fire bombing of all the remaining Japanese cities. The cost in human life that resulted from the two atomic blasts was small in comparison to the total number of Japanese lives that would have been lost by this aerial devastation alone. One can only guess at how many civilians would have committed suicide in their homes or in futile mass military attacks.

[ This article was assembled from declassified material now on the internet.  There is much more to this story and it is well documented.  Read about it under “Operation Downfall.”]