USS REID 369
News History Newsletters Photos Model Shipmates Contact
Wayne Haviland Account of the Sinking
Spencer Bostwick’s account of the sinking
June 3, 1944 - Where were you?
A View from the Other End of the Cannon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Hilliard Harless [Deceased 2000]
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.
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
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.
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?".
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".
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
was running through the compartment hollering: 'They are sinking our
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.”
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."
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
ship was ever put back together so fast."
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."
bridge kept telling us to knock off the smoke."
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.”
we passed Battleship Row, they were all down and burning. I'll remember
the USS Arizona forever."
devastation was horrible. God Bless the sailors who didn't make it."
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."
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?"
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.
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.”
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. ]
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.
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.
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.
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
casualties were expected to be extremely heavy - up to one million men by
the fall of 1946, and some called this conservative.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
addition, Japan had 350 midget submarines, 1000 manned torpedoes and 800
suicide boats ready for deployment.
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. "
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”]