This is Seabees93.net's cache of David Friederich's website for the USS Cassiopaeia, www.friederich.net. This link is no longer operative and we have been unable to contact Mr. Friederich.
by David Friederich
Enlistment and Bootcamp
I was 17 yrs. old in May 1943 and WWII was in full swing. I lived on a farm near New Memphis
Station, Ilinois. I'd lived my whole life on the farm and didn't want to be a farmer. So soon after
my birthday I boarded a bus for St. Louis, Missouri 35 miles away. I went to the Federal Building
and enlisted in the Navy.
I started the physical but was underweight. They told me to get some bananas and eat as many as I
could and drink all the water I could hold, and then come back. I did this and returned, weighing
in at 115 1/2 lbs. I was 5'6". I passed, 1/2 lb. over.
Being only 17 I had to have a parent's permission. They said they'd send the paperwork to my
Father. I went back home and in a couple of days the papers came. They were quite detailed, I
remember, and although he was reluctant to do so, my Dad and I went to the bank in New Baden,
Illinois which was 7 miles north of the farm. The papers had to be signed before a notary. The
paperwork was mailed back and several days later I returned to St Louis. I was sworn into the
Navy at 2:30 PM on the afternoon of June 11th, 1943 with the oath:
"I do solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all
enemies, foreign and domestic, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to obey all lawful
orders of the President of the United States and the officers above me, so help me God."
I was taken by bus to Jefferson Barracks where we were given a more thorough physical, then were
returned to our hotel in downtown St Louis. The group that I was in were sent to the Park Hotel in
downtown St. Louis, where we were fed three times a day, and allowed to roam around the city.
Some of the guys who lived in St Louis went home for a couple of days. Several days later we were
marched to Union Station to board a train for transport to the Navy Training Station at Farragut,
Idaho. I had never been on a train before this. We went west through Kansas City, up to Omaha,
across Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and into northern Idaho. In one place they had to put a
special engine on the train they called a Mountain Engine. It was a giant steam engine with many
more drive wheels. In some places in the mountains we could look out the window and see the rear
of the train curving around the canyon walls. I had never been away from the prairie and had only
seen mountains in books and a few movies. We arrived at the station at Athol, Idaho to begin
processing. The first thing they told us when we were assembled was to empty any dirty stories we
had out of our wallets. They passed a bucket around and several guys dug stuff out of their wallets
and put them in the bucket. We were given another physical, blood typed and shots were began.
Several of the men failed the physical there because they had gonorrhea. I had never heard of it.
We were issued Navy clothing, assigned to a training barracks in Camp Bennion,Group 420-43.
Each camp had a group all in the same phase of training. The marching song at Farragut was:
"Idaho's a hell of a state,
the asshole of the 48,
hinky, dinky, parlyvoo."
And here I was in Athol, Idaho. Camp Farragut was a group of camps surrounded by a forest of
tall pines. We from the Midwest called them Jack pines at the time. They were thin and very tall.
The blue lake nearby surrounded by the tall green pines is a sight I still remember it as one of the
most beautiful lake setting I have ever seen.
We were issued wooden rifles to use for marching in formation. We had hours of marching each
day, a lot of loud "hinky dinky parlyvoo". It helped toughen you up faster, I think, although
coming from the farm I was in pretty good shape physically. We had an obstacle course and a big
swimming pool. The pool was all under cover in a large building. I could not swim so I was sent in
the evening with a group to learn. The first evening I was shown how to hang onto the edge of the
pool and kick my feet. Someone mentioned floating on your back and that if you could do that
you could pass the 150 yard test that way. I immediately found I could float on my back as long as
I kept my back straight and didn't let my belly drop. So after a couple of evenings of practice in
floating, I was sent for the test and did the full 150 yards. Every time I started to sag in the middle
I would start to sink, shoved my belly up and I would be ok again. One guy in our group could not
do it and they put ropes on him and from each side of the pool dragged him back and forth over
the course for the 150 yards. Everybody passed. We also had to step off a diving board at the 15 ft.
level into 15 ft. of water with our life jacket on, and head back against the collar in the proper way
with both hands between your legs to protect your testicles. I was scared, but thought the ones
before me were doing it, so I could too. I just walked out and stepped off, going all the way to the
bottom, where I pushed myself back up, and with the help of the life vest I popped back up like a
cork. They had two men fish you out.
I was doing a lot of new things I had never done before. We got two shots every Friday, one in
each arm. I had cat fever in both arms several times, sometimes too sick to eat. But they had a
guard over the garbage can where you dumped your tray, and several times I had to go back and
sit down and eat what I had anyway. I was issued a scrub brush and bar soap and instructed on
how to wash my own clothes. We were also shown the proper way to tie them on the line to dry,
with the square knots in the proper way. If they were not tied on the line to the satisfaction of the
company commander he would cut them down with his pocket knife and step on them. They had
to be washed again and hung to dry according to Navy regulation.
We were taken to the rifle range and fired an old 1903 Springfield rifle, bolt action with a clip. It
was called a 30.06. We fired 37 rounds without ear plugs. I was deaf in one ear for a day or so
after. Also, my shoulder turned completely black from bruising. That was the only time I got to
fire a rifle in the Navy. It had something to do with going through the mechanics of ceremoniously
going through the book on Naval Regulation. They needed bodies in the South Pacific in a hurry.
We had guard duty at night. It was for a fire watch for the most part I think. We had to march up
and down in the dark and cold Idaho nights with our wooden rifle and challenge anyone who came
near, demanding that they halt and identify themselves, and then to advance and be recognized.
We had an obstacle course through the woods with lots of mud holes, trees and vines. I had always
been impervious to poison ivy at home in Illinois, but in Idaho I contracted poison oak so bad
that I was put in the hospital and given a shot of something every day that heated me from head to
toe. I was given a large bottle of Calomile lotion and used it from head to foot. I even had it on
top of my head and on the bottoms of my feet. I also had tonsillitis during my eight weeks of basic
training and spent a few days in the hospital. We had hot days and cold nights.
About six weeks into our training we were allowed to dress in our uniforms for the first time and
marched to the railroad station at Athol, Idaho. From there we took the train to Spokane,
Washington 45 miles away, arriving there at 4:30 p.m. We had a couple of bottles of Olympia beer,
walked around a little while, and at 9:30 p.m. were back on the train to be transported back to the
station at Athol. We marched back to our barracks at Farragut again.
There was a really beautiful lake two miles from the station, Lake Pend Oreille. We would march
the distance and practice rowing lifeboats on the lake. Lined up like galley slaves with a coxswain
to call rowing cadence and steer the boat.
We had some instruction in ju-jitsu. The instructor threw each of us a couple of times.
We had to put on leaky gas masks and walk through a room filled with enough gas to really give
you tears for a time. We did a lot of drill, marching with our wooden rifles. We had classes in
aircraft and ship identification, and were given aptitude tests. I had a high score in the electrical
test and applied to go to electrician school, which happened to be in St. Louis. I didn't get it. They
needed bodies in the South Pacific to man the ships they were building as fast as they could.
When we were nearing graduation we were told that we could go home for a two week leave before
being assigned, and we were allowed to make reservations. Even though I'd spent a several days in
the hospital, I graduated. We received our first pay, and on graduation I boarded the train on the
Great Northern Route going through Butte, Montana and across the Dakotas, Minnesota, and
Wisconsin to Chicago, and then changing trains to go on to St. Louis.
During my two week leave at home I was treated royally, as most guys were at the time who were
going to an unknown destination and fate. This was a popular war. Most families had someone in
Service so they treated us like we were part of their own family. People generally asked less
questions of their government and were more patriotic. I remember where I last saw my Father
standing in the yard at home, under a white locust tree. He raised his hand goodbye. I was never to
see him again.
My sister, Hazel, drove me to Belleville and we parked the car and took a bus to St. Louis. There
we went for a cruise on the Admiral, and then visited the Woolworth Dime Store where she bought
me a miniature prayer book, about 1 1/2 inch square, a paperback, which I kept with me all
through the war and still have it.
We went to Union Station and I boarded the train to return to Idaho. I remember sitting down on
the train waiting to leave. Hazel had seen me to the gate. I really felt like crying, but didn't. To
quote Julius Caesar:
The die was cast.
I had crossed my Rubicon.
In our barracks in Farragut, Idaho, I would hear guys who would cry at night. I sure felt like it,
too. One who cried a lot was a kid from St. Louis. He was killed in a kamikaze attack on the
Franklin at Okinawa. I felt very homesick many times. I had never been away from home before.
But when things got tough I always thought to myself that I gotten myself into this, so I had to
take what came. I was to use that thought many times through the following years.
On the train back to Farragut one of the guys I paired off with was a guy from St. Louis. His name
was Marvin Hayes, and we became pretty well acquainted in the days that followed. We went back
through Montana, I recall it was around Sept 1st, and it was snowing in Butte. I recall seeing a car
that had those electric window defrosters with wires in them on all the windows and two on the
windshield and two on the backlight, and chains on all 4 wheels. At some stations and stops for
fuel and water (steam engines), women and girls would come out to the train and hand cakes up to
us. Sugar, flour and most of the other ingredients were rationed at the time, but they were all
trying to do something for the men who were going off to fight the enemy.
When we got back to Farragut we were assigned to a barracks awaiting shipping orders. It was a
dark and cold place and we were all a little sad, having just left home again, knowing that it might
be a long time before we saw our families again. We just had crude tables like picnic tables.
Marvin and I had talked quite a bit, mostly about girls, and he had a good list of them while I
didn't have any. So, one evening he laid out four slips of paper with names and addresses on them,
for me to pick one to write to. I never forgot the names for some reason. There was Antonette,
Viola, and two named Delores. The name Delores Randall appealed to me so I chose that one. We
were shipped out the next day and I was not to see Marvin again for two years.
Later I received a bunch of letters from a class of seven year old girls and their teacher from a
school in Chicago. I answered each one of them. One 7 year old promised that if I wrote back she
would give my address to her 17 year old sister. Of course I wrote back and I had a two year
correspondence with both of them, Iris and Elaine. They sent me a Xmas package one year and I
got the wrapper and some of the remains in the bottom of a mail sack: Marmalade and several
items came through. The Teacher, Nameoi, was a most faithful writer, many times writing
something every day, long letters. The time we didn't get any mail for three months I had 35 letters
from her. My cousin, Laverne, wrote often. Lucille and Milton Wilson, an older married sister of
my friend, Bob Ford, lived in East St. Louis. She wrote often. My sister, Hazel, wrote often, and
Dad wrote at times, too. A former classmate, Alice, in New Baden, also wrote. Alice had a brother
in the Marine Corps on Guadalcanal, and at one time I attempted to find him but didn't have
enough time or transport, so I never met him. I also exchanged letters with a girl from Pretoria,
South Africa, and I recall her writing about a trip she took on a train down to Durban for a visit
with her aunt and a shopping trip. I remember her vivid description of the South African
countryside. Her name was given to me by a South African Sailor who we transported. Her name
was Evelyn Halpern.
My cousin, Herbert Friederich, had been drafted early in the war and was in the 1st. Armored
Division fighting his way up through Italy. He earned the Bronze Star, at Anzio, I think. We
exchanged V Mail often. V Mail was a photastat copy of the letter we wrote on a special form.
Delores was 15 when we started writing to each other, and I was 17. Her letters appealed to me, I
believe, because of both our ages and the way we related to each other. I started writing her love
letters. She finally sent her picture, and I liked that, too. I realized early on that you had to write
letters to get them, so I became a prolific letter writer.
On Our Way
On the train to Seattle I paired up with Philip Frisby from Lexington, Missouri. We became good
friends and later were assigned to the same ship. We had no dining car and no food on the train,
so we went without eating for more than 24 hours, arriving in Seattle at 3 o'clock in the afternoon,
where we got off the train and were served scrambled eggs and not much else. We then reboarded
the train and headed down the coast, with everything blacked out, because of the fear that
submarines might shell the trains. The tracks were right along the ocean in many places. I didn't
see the ocean because we made that whole run at night. We finally picked up a dining car after
midnight in Portland, Oregon, and they had food prepared for us by about 3 AM. We left the train
near San Francisco, boarded busses, and were taken to barracks at Camp Hayward out on the
desert near Stockton. It was blistering hot in the daytime and frosty cold as soon as the sun went
I decided to become a pipe smoker while there, so bought a pipe in the ship's store and some rum
and maple tobacco. I then set out to smoke the guy out of the bunk over me. My tongue became
sore and I became so sick of the smell of rum and maple that I still can't stand the smell of it. I did
smoke a pipe for a time in later years but NEVER again rum and maple tobacco.
On September 16th, 1943, we were loaded onto busses and transported to the Navy Station at
Alameda, on San Francisco Bay, arriving at 3:30 in the afternoon. We went aboard an old rusty
cargo ship, At 6:30, just after dark, we sailed out of San Francisco Bay, passing under the Golden
Gate Bridge. The Benjamin Ide. Wheeler -- It smelled very bad as the rusty decks were oiled with
fish oil. There were 188 of us, and we had bunks with about 2 ft. of space to the bunk above you,
and we were told to sleep in our clothes and life vests, which we did. The springs of the bunk above
you sagged into you, there was so little space. Our bunks were on the second deck in one of the
holds. In the center of the hold in a wire cage was a big kettle with a burner under it. We were fed
two times a day, two ladles of stew, a piece of bread, and coffee. It was a Merchant Marine ship,
and they were paid 87 cents a day to feed us. The crew had a mess hall with a choice of foods like a
restaurant and one day a couple of guys were using an orange to play catch with. We were hungry
all 23 days it took to get to the French Island of New Caledonia.
Almost every night we had a call to general quarters when someone in the Navy Armed Guard or a
crew member reported a near miss from a Japanese Torpedo. I was told later that the crew got a
bonus evertime they were under attack, so maybe that's why we had a lot of sightings of torpedoes
streaking across our bow. We were kept sleeping in our clothes and life vests in that hot hold all
the way to New Caledonia.
The Ancient Order Of The Deep
When we approached the Equator, we had to be initiated into the Ancient Order of the Deep. This
is a Navy tradition and is recorded in your permanent record. We were now in King Neptune's
domain. The crew and all shellbacks prepared for the initiation ahead of time. We were told to put
on our swimming trunks and come up to a certain area on the deck, where we were blindfolded
and a water hose turned on us. I was pushed to my knees and told to crawl. I was crawling under
benches while being blasted by the a fire hose and pummeled with mops and brooms. A gash was
cut in my hair and tar was smeared into my hair. My shorts were pulled open and the tar brush
was applied to my pubic area and the immediate vicinity. Finally I was raised to my knees and my
face pushed into a fat man's belly, and I was ordered to kiss it. At that point I was grabbed by two
guys, placed still blindfolded on a table, shocked with an electrical device that was like a cattle
prod on my wet body, and then dumped off, thinking I was being dumped over the side of the
ship, falling about 8 ft. before hitting the water in a big canvas water tank that had been rigged on
the lower deck. There two guys grabbed me and whipped off the blindfold. It was quite a hair
raising experience. It took a long time for the tar to come off. I had to have all my hair cut off and
start over again. Here is a picture of my Shellback Certificate.
We had cold salt water showers on the deck, where there were three sided sheds set up with open
troughs set up with salt water running through them to use for toilet facilities. Later when we
crossed the International Date Line, one day was Sunday and the next day was Tuesday. Another
time we had two Wednesdays in a row, and it happened to be Ash Wednesday, so it was announced
that the second Wednesday would be Ash Wednesday.
We had a boxing match in a ring set up on the deck one evening. Everyone had to take a turn
being paired off with someone your own size. I was paired off with a short but stout guy, and when
I hit him he just went wild -- pushed me out of the ring, got me against the rail, and tried to pick
me up to put me over the side. I was fighting for my life by now and managed to get loose from
him and away from the rail. No one attempted to interfere. I was not a very good boxer.
On the 23 day voyage to New Caledonia the engine quit several times on the cargo ship. One time
we wallowed in the troughs for 24 hours before they got it going again. We didn't see any land
during the whole trip. We'd change course every seven minutes day and night, because they said at
the time that it took that long for a submarine to target you. It was not done in a predictable
pattern. We traveled in this way all through the war, except when in a large protected convoy.
We arrived in the harbor on the morning of October 10th, anchored out and were off loaded onto
a barge with an engine attached to it, and ferried to the docks in this conveyance. We were picked
up in trucks and transported to a receiving station outside Noumea, built next to a leper colony.
There was a large cross in the field behind the fence. The barracks were on level ground but all the
toilets were up a steep hill and next to the fence of the leper colony. The large wooden cross was in
the field just beyond the fence. To go to the toilet you had to walk up the steep hill and stand in
line. They were pit toilets, with a trough on the side for a urinal. The camp was so overcrowded
that the facilities were overcrowded, and the lines so long that they had guards along the lines. If
anybody gave up and urinated on the ground, he was led away and locked up for three days on
bread and water. This happened pretty often, especially at night. I was there for several days and
nights. I don't believe I've ever had such a lonely feeling as I did in that barracks. It was down in a
bowl. It was just the atmosphere, I guess, when Taps were played before lights out.
ABOARD THE USS CASSIOPEIA AK 75
I had actually been assigned to a ship the day I arrived, but they didn't take us to it for several days. I had asked for a battleship, then a PT boat, the biggest; and when I didn't get that I asked for the smallest. I'd also put in for submarine duty. I was assigned to a Navy cargo ship, the USS CASSIOPEIA AK 75. It was a 10,000 ton Liberty Ship built by Permanente Metals Corp.,Richmond, California, under a Maritime commission contract; sponsored by Mrs Chad F. Calhoun;It was launched 15 November 1942 as MELVILLE W. FULLER; Hull # 504; acquired by the Navy 27 November 1942; commissioned 8 December 1942 as the USS CASSIOPEIA AK 75; Its Length was 441'6"; Beam 56'11" With a draft of 28'4" she sailed from San Francisco Ca. on Dec. 27th. 1942; Lieutenant Commander W.E. Carlson in command.It had five holds where cargo was stored, cargo booms to load and unload our cargo. Crew quarters were below the center part of the ship.
It was tied up to the Nickel Docks in Noumea. Several of us were taken to it in a jeep with our gear, and were welcomed aboard. The bunks were only two high with an eight ft. ceiling, and I grabbed a top bunk, which proved to be the best because someone had cut a small hole in the air duct and I would get some fresh air that way.
The Nickel docks at Noumea, New Caledonia were by the Nickel Mines and Smelter, the principal industry in that area. Tall smokestacks were always putting out a red, smoky dust. I slept with my boxer shorts and a towel to wipe the sweat off. It was terribly hot day and night most of the time, and we wore shorts and sandals, a sun helmet, and a towel while we were not in a battle zone. I wore my watch on one wrist switching to the other, then one ankle and the other, continually rotating it, or you'd just get a raw sore where you wore it too much. I had raw sores on my shoulders very often. We spent a lot of time close to the equator, so it was pretty hot on steel ships. A lot of the guys got ring worm in the hot climate, but I didn't. They painted it with laundry bluing I was told at the time. Anyway it was a blue medicine of some kind.
Our Captain was a 30 year veteran in the Merchant Marine and a Naval Reserve officer. He was very liberal about Navy regulation. The first apparent practice was, at wakeup call in the morning, the boatswain's mate would flip open the P.A. system and say: "Drop your cock, pick up your socks, it's daylight now and past 6 o'clock, out of the shade and into the sun, your daily work has now begun".
The Explosion at the Nickel Docks
Photo and text obtained by Dorothy Irvin of Coos Bay, Oregon...from Mike Christi in Noumea, New Caledonia
I had been on the ship at the Nickel Docks for two weeks while we were loading, bombs, Barrels of
Gasoline, all sorts of explosives, 10,000 tons of it. The deck was finished off with wooden pilings,
crated aircraft, and several 50 ft. LST landing craft. The 50 ft. tank lighters, I believe, were built in
Louisiana by Gar Wood Boat Co.
It was a bright sunny day and I was chipping paint on the deck, Port side, near the stern of the
ship when the whole world exploded. I heard a terrible roar, and looking up toward the bow of the
ship, I saw a whole truck and many barrels rising into the air, going up so high, it seemed to me at
the time, that it was minutes before they began to fall, while lesser explosions were taking place. I
was pushed under the gun tub on the stern of the ship by the hot blast of air and the rush of men
to get undercover before the debris began to fall. The yellow TNT from a bomb landed on soft
garbage in an open can next to me, with twisted steel around it. Whatever it was it didn't explode. I
had been down below the rail. Some who had been standing up and a couple sitting on the rail
were blown overboard. One was seen hanging on the ship's propeller. Within five to 7 minutes they
had chopped off the mooring lines with fire axes because they were fastened around bolands on the
docks and we began to seperate out and away from the dock. Some in our crew were wounded, I
recall one was a Baker and He had been on the dock beside the ship and I saw him partially under
some pileings trying to escape the falling debre. He was blinded by injuries to his eyes but
recovered his sight after about 2 weeks. Several were blown off Some were blown off the docks too
and someone was looking down and saw a man hanging on the prop. when it started, and saw it
chop him to pieces. Our first thought was that we were being shelled by a submarine from outside
the harbor. We later heard that 110 to 120 men had been killed in the explosion and many more
There were three ships at the Nickel Docks. The one on our right (Starboard)was another AK, the
USS Andromeda AK 76 or 15, I am not sure anymore. It backed out soon too. A Navy ship has to
always have steam up to get underway and sufficient crew to do it. The ship on our left was a
merchant marine ship, the SS CHADBURN. We saw the captain with a fire ax running toward the
bow of the ship to chop off the lines as we were backing out. A Navy tug was coming in to put a
line aboard to tow her away from the dock.
It was a fantastic fireworks display, star shells shooting in all directions, fires burning everywhere
all around the harbor. We were told later that a lot of windows were blown out in the city of
Noumea and many people went running into the hills. We had several fires on the deck of the ship
and broke out the fire hoses, the Boatswains mate directing the firefighting with most of us staying
under the three guntubs near the stern. We quickly put out the wooden pilings that were burning
on the deck and after we were clear of the docks and the falling debre, we began to clean up the
debris that had fallen on deck. I picked up what looked like a piece of black sponge, smaller than a
baseball. I suddenly realized it was a bloody piece of meat. Shocked, I walked to the rail and
dropped it over the side, saying nothing.
We were told that twelve truck loads of bombs had been on the docks in front of the ships and
something went wrong. That is where the explosion originated.
We anchored out in the bay and inspected the ship. Some bow plates were slightly curved so you
knew where the ribs were, but they decided it was allright and we were fully loaded and ready to
go, and our bombs and barrels of high octane gasoline (130 Octane) we carried were needed at
Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The Marines were landing on Bougainville and they needed all
the air support they could get.
Two Medals were awarded to two men for their part in saving the ship. One was to a Chief Warrent Officer. I guess he was the one who chopped off the bowline, putting himself the closest to the explosion.
**February 2000. Another shipmate now tells me he understood that around 300 were killed. Because of the long period the event was top secret, we may never know. Unclassified 1947. Pictures taken at the memorial service at the cemetery show a great number of graves.
We sailed from the harbor at Noumea the afternoon of the following day. We arrived at Guadalcanal on Friday the 13th of November. We anchored off Tanerou Beach, with Lunga Point east of us.
A ship like ours had suddenly exploded here. It went up in a giant woosh of smoke, fire, and shock
waves. The largest part found was an air funnel on the beach seven miles away. We were living on a
floating giant bomb. They had a crew of close to 200 like we had. They were expecting an attack
that night because it was the first anniversary that Tojo's son had been killed there. (Tojo was the
Japanese War Minister.) We were ordered to the more protected anchorage at Tulagi, 26 miles east
of Guadalcanal, coming back the next day to begin unloading. I was told that Tojo asked
President Roosevelt to let a destroyer come in and retrieve his son's body but was refused. I don't
recall if it was on this trip or the next that some Japanese still in hiding had slipped down to the
ammunition dump near Henderson Field and set it off. It happened at night and that was the
biggest fireworks display I ever saw outside of battle. The incendiary bombs, star shells, and
tracers going off in all directions. It lasted all night and we had a ringside seat from our anchorage
off Tanerou Beach.
At a later time another ammunition ship like ours blew up off Hollandia, New Guinea. Skulls and
bones continued to wash up on the beach at Guadalcanal for as long as I was stopped there. We
had a skull that the barber kept on a shelf in his corner of the recreation room. It was supposed to
be Japanese. It had a bullet hole in it.
Next to Guadalcanal was Savo Island. So many battles were fought around it for a period of time
when the Japanese kept trying to resupply Guadalcanal. Night after night a convoy coming down
the slot would be met by our ships. So many ships were sunk there that the waters around it were
called Iron Bottom Bay. I thought a lot about that at times that we passed that way with a motor
launch on trips to the boat pool at a place called Gavudu about 26 miles east of where we usually
anchored off Tanerou beach. On one of these trips I recall a heavy rain squall that we were able to
stay out of by running just out of range, just getting a few drops. It was the story around
Guadalcanal that at one point when the Marines had withdrawn and turned the island over to the
Army, the Japanese had thrown the Army back to the beach, even before the Marines had left on
the ships. It was said that the Army guys were on the beach waving at the Marines to come back,
and they had to unload again and go back onto the island and drive the Japanese back into the
jungle again. (I took it for the truth because I heard Marines telling it so often.)
Underway we always zig zagged, going the seven minutes on a compass heading and then seven
minutes in on another heading. Submarines took that long to target a ship. It was done in a
random pattern so your course could not be predicted ahead of time.
Merchant Marine ships were stockpiling the cargo in New Caledonia for us to reload and deliver to
the forward areas. We would unload at Guadalcanal in the beginning and then return to Noumea,
New Caledonia to reload, and then return past the New Heberdes to Guadalcanal. As the Army
and Marines moved up the Solomon chain we started going farther foreword, next to 80 miles
beyond Guadalcanal to the Russel Islands.
We could see the planes taking off from Henderson Field from our usual anchorage offshore. They
would take off wing to wing with another group right behind them. They reminded me of
blackbirds in the evening sky. We hauled a lot of bombs for them to deliver every night to the
northern Solomans, 100/500/1000 lb. bombs. We stacked them in the holds in wooden racks like
cordwood, 10,000 tons a trip.
Several trips we acted as a fleet supply ship. We went into Pervis Bay in the Florida Islands off
Guadalcanal and waited until the ships came to us. We had canned foods, clothing, peanuts,
cigarettes, just about anything they needed. I recall that we also had a lot of eight inch cruiser
shells, powder cases, and torpedoes. I saw a battleship there with a snub nose welded onto it. The
bow had been blown off. The California and the Iowa were there. We were lost in a rain storm one
night in the anchorage and bumping into a ship, made our way to the stern where they had a
gangplank rigged. We tied up and went aboard the cruiser St. Louis, staying until the rain let up a
little and we were reoriented as to where our ship was located. I saw the cruiser New Orleans, the
Salt Lake City and the Phoenix there, too. We supplied a lot of eight inch cruiser shells and
At Christmas time in 1943 while we were loading at the Nickel Docks in Noumea, a barge came
around to the ships that had some colored lights strung on it in the shape of an Xmas tree. A
group was singing Christmas carols. There was very little chance to go ashore in Noumea. A group
of us would go to church ashore on Sundays when we were there. The Sermon was in French, but
the Mass was in Latin just like it was at home. The Cathedral was a long walk up the hill
overlooking the city. A beautiful church, it felt good to go there.
They had a whore house in Noumea that was famous throughout the Pacific. It was called the Pink
House, I guess because that's the color it was painted. Eleanor Roosevelt flew in one day and asked
about the long lines in front of the house, and was told what they were for. I don't recall what her
comment was, but I'm sure she had one. She flew up to Guadalcanal, too. A morale builder for the
We had a guy on the ship, I won't name here. Soon after he was transferred onto our ship it was
apparent he didn't like to take a bath. Because of the intense heat, if you didn't take a shower and
change clothes every day, you would become ripe in a hurry. We sweated day and night. So the
guys near him in the sleeping quarters were soon complaining loudly, and he was so lazy we called
him Horizontal, because that was the position he was in if he wasn't eating. One evening a group
of guys whose bunks were in his area got together and took him up for a shower. They also took a
bar of lye soap and a scrub brush and scrubbed him good so that he was rosy pink all over. It
didn't cure his laziness but he did take a shower frequently after that. All that had to happen was
for someone to sniff the air around him and he would go and take a shower.
There was another guy on the ship that was in a poker game one night and won $600.00. He went
to bed early in the morning and stuffed the money down in his shorts. Everyone knew what a
sound sleeper he was, and he was a small guy. You had to try to sit him up and slap his face a little
to get him awake. So, someone stole the money while he was sleeping. The ship was searched all
the way down to the bilges, our lockers..everything, and it was never found.
This same guy was on his battle station with the earphones on our three inch gun and while we
were at Leyte,Philippines the only communications with the bridge. He fell asleep, Why they put
him on the phones when he was a known sleepyhead I don't know.
Bull Halsey's Whiskey
Early in 1944 we left Noumea with a load for the Fleet Headquarters Base in the Russel Islands.
Just before we left the Nickel Docks, a truck arrived under guard and 98 cases of Black & White
Scotch were brought aboard and stored in the #4 hold. An Officer with a 45 in a holster on his belt
patrolled the hold around the clock. One night the smallest guy on the ship offered me a drink
from a bottle of Black & White Scotch. I took a sip of it and didn't like it. I had drank a little
beer, but nothing like this. I learned later that he was the one they had put a rope around and
lowered him down through one of the ventilation funnels. He then passed up the Scotch.
When we arrived there was a great uproar and the ship was searched all the way down to the bilges,
but there was no evidence.
NOTE A shipmate "Bosco Eudaly" has sent me his version of the "Bull Halsey's whiskey"
Incident. It is much better than I recall and well worth reading.
Bosco Eudaly's version
The Whiskey Incident
ACCOUNTS AT END Robert "Inky" Hinds Version.
As soon as the unloading was finished we began loading again, 55 gallon drums of diesel fuel, 55
gallon drums of water, many torpedoes and 30/50 caliber ammunition, canned foods, all sorts of
things. We pulled away from the island and were met by nine destroyers for an escort. We passed
the Island of Bougainville where they were fighting, to a place named Green Island where they
were setting up a PT boat base. We had to go through a gap blasted out of the reef, it seemed only
about 10 ft. clearance on both sides. The PT boats would come alongside and we would pass the
stuff to them in cargo nets. We unloaded all day and before dark we would go through the reef
where the destroyers were, and we cruised at full speed zig zagging all night, going back inside the
reef to unload each day. The Japanese were using a lot of submarines in the area to re-supply their
troops on Bougainville, and we were also within sight of a Japanese base on New Ireland. The PT
boats were keeping them bottled up, hitting them every night. This was near the main Japanese
base for the Solomon at Rabaul, New Britain which we also bottled up and bypassed. I believe we
were given this assignment because of the incident with the Black&White Scotch.
It took us three days and nights there to get our cargo unloaded. Along with the PT Boats we had
our two Tank Lighters and two Higgins Boats in the water also. Some of the guys made some giant
fish hooks, and using 1/2 inch line (rope) and 1/2 lb. chunks of meat, caught tuna, which all
weighed over 100 lbs. They would hook them and bring them alongside, and shoot them several
times in the head with a rifle. Then one guy would go down on a rope ladder and hook a grappling
hook into it and pull it up. It was some of the best food we had during my 26 months in the
Pacific. They also caught many sharks in the process. Several seven ft. ones were hauled up and
hung for pictures then chopped in the head with a fire ax for a time and then dumped back
overboard. I recall one tuna weighed 110 lbs.
I went ashore on a PT boat with a group one day and they told us there were wild pigs on the
island. We saw a sow and some pigs and made a big circle, slowly tightening it until we came
together. There was no sign of them. We thought we had them. Then someone spotted the sow with
her pigs at the edge of the clearing again. We gave up.
Finally unloaded, we headed back with our destroyers escorting us until we got past Bougainville
where they left us. I believe we then had to go to dry-dock in New Zealand to scrape the Barnacles
from our Hull. They were dragging us down below our usual 9 knot speed. So they loaded us with
jeeps, trucks and all sorts of vehicles needing repair.
War In The South Pacific
We went on to Wellington, New Zealand, where we unloaded, then put the ship into dry dock,
which means that tugs pushed the ship into a sunken chamber which had blocks set in the bottom
to match the ship, then the water is pumped out and the chamber rises, the ship settling on the
blocks. When all the water is out the ship is also braced from each side with hundreds of timbers.
We set up scaffolding and with chipping hammers and scrapers cleaned all the barnacles off down
to the metal. Then red lead undercoat was applied and a coat of black paint over that all the way
up to the water line. This work went on by all the crew in eight hour shifts, because we were needed
up in the war zone. We were given liberty here and it was almost like being home. There were lots
of cabarets, the beer was strong at nine percent alcohol, plenty of wine and rum punch. Many of
the New Zealand men were off fighting in Europe. We always had a ship's dance when we went
there, with plenty to drink and plenty of girls. I drank a lot but did not get involved with the
women. I was still pretty shy and still 17 when I went there the first time.
One of the guys from Minnesota had buck teeth and hated them so bad that one day he was so
drunk that he went to a dentist and convinced him to pull them. When he sobered up he was really
embarrassed by the way he looked and also that everyone knew about how he lost his front teeth.
Always after that he would put his hand up over his mouth and talk from behind his hand.
One day, a group of our sailors were drinking in a cabaret, sitting around a table when a guy and
his best friend got into an argument. He stood up to throw his glass of beer in his friend's face,
stumbled and fell across the table, shoving it into his eyes. It broke and put out one of his eyes.
We went to New Zealand about every six months. One time it was eight months we were away from
civilization, not seeing any civilians at all. One time we went three months without any mail.
One day there was a disturbance on the stern of the ship. I went to look, like a lot of other guys,
and a sailor had the executive officer cornered and was holding a fire ax over his head. He kept
saying "Send me home" over and over again. The Officer was really doing some talking. He finally
talked him down. He was one of those we had on board who had been away from the states for
three years when the war started, and had been away over six years when we came back to San
Francisco. You could save up your leave for that time and take 90 days all at one time.
We brought a load of cement back with us this time. It was the smoothest ride I ever had on a
ship. We were so loaded down that the water just washed over us. It was unloaded by natives at
Guadalcanal, and with their big bushy heads of hair they all looked like ghosts.
The natives wore a tag on a chain around their neck and on it the British stamped characters to
indicate how good a worker he was and other data about him. They wore shorts and a leather bag,
carried at the waist, suspended by a strap across their chest, a pouch with a pipe, tobacco and
The Banana Incident
One time we were in Pervis Bay in the Florida Islands off Guadalcanal and a beer party was
organized. We were taken ashore to a recreation area and given two cans of warm Iron City Beer.
A buddy and I went over to the edge of the jungle where a trail led off the area. There was a sign
that said "Off Limits", but we decided to explore a little and went down the trail. After going a
ways through almost solid vines, we came to a clearing with banana stalks. We'd never seen any
before this. They had small green bananas on them. So he hoisted me up and I pulled some off,
seven of them. They were about the size of fingers. Then we saw some native huts and some natives
and we started back through the jungle to the recreation area. There was some rustling in the vines
and five natives came out on the trail, carrying six ft. long bolts sharpened into a point on one
end. They kept saying, in Pigdin English,"We kill Japs for stealing." We kept moving slowly
toward the beach and they suddenly faded into the jungle again. We thought we were home free.
We came out along the water and threw those seven little green bananas out into the water as far
as we could. We then walked into the center of the large party at the beach. Suddenly the natives
returned and were pointing their fingers at us. We denied it and they ran to the water and there
was the surf bringing back those little green bananas. They demanded $5.00 compensation. The
officer in charge passed a hat around since neither of us had a dime on us. They collected $4.65
and they settled for that. The Lieutenant took us aside and said " Get your ass back to your ship
and if you EVER come back here I'll have you court-martialed for inciting the natives." We caught
a boat back to the ship and never told anyone else on the ship about our adventure.
We always had four hours on watch and eight hours off when we were underway. It would rotate.
If you had the 4 to 8 on a trip, the next time we dropped anchor you'd have 8 to 12. If you had 4
to 8, you worked on your regular duties from 8 to 4. If you had 8 to 12 you worked from 12 to 4 at
your regular duties.
The moon in the tropics would be so big and bright. It seemed so much larger than in the northern
hemisphere, maybe because we didn't want the submarines to see us. I stood watch on countless
nights. The Southern Cross was a different group of stars that we don't see in the north either.
Without light pollution the stars were brilliant. I wore my rosary around my neck on watch and
passed the time at night saying the rosary while looking out to sea watching for ships or
submarines. We almost always traveled alone, so it was very important to spot any ship and
identify it at as great a distance as possible. If we spotted a ship at night, a signal was flashed by
shuttered lights using a code to identify it ourselves by short and long flashes of Morse code.
A Seaman's Prayer
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits to keep;
Oh hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
We encountered allied ships at times, Dutch and British cruisers, and French raiders. The latter
being disguised cargo ships with six inch guns concealed under camouflage, like life rafts.
Sometimes we gave them supplies. At times we would rondevous with a fleet oiler and take on
bunker oil for our oil fired boilers. The ships would maneuver as close as possible and a line would
be fired over to their deck with a line gun. A larger one pulled over by a winch, a hose was pulled
over by that line, and a cargo boom was used to support the hose as far out as possible to keep it
off the water. When the proper connection was made, they would start pumping oil over.
Sometimes the sea would get so rough that we had to break off for a while to keep from colliding
with each other. In the meantime another line would be shot over, and many times they had mail
for us and would send it over in a bos'ns chair rigged on the line. Movies were also exchanged.
Sometimes we would get to watch movies when we were in a safe anchorage. A screen would be
rigged on deck for that.
We made our own drinking water from salt water, it being condensed by the boilers.
One time we were at the Russel Islands off Guadalcanal and they had Bob Hope and Francis
Langford putting on a show. I was in the group that went over to see them. I saw the show, but at
a great distance. It was a touch of home anyway, and I've never forgotten it.
Anytime we were at anchor on a Sunday, a group of us would go over to the island to Mass. I
remember going in a small hut on Tulage, an area on Guadalcanal where they had coconut logs
rolled together to sit on. We went to confession leaning against a cocoanut tree. The Priest had a
large suitcase with a portable altar table in it. It could be set it up in minutes anywhere. We didn't
have a Chaplain of our own. The Priest always gave us general absolution, which they had the
power to do in wartime. Sometimes when we were at an anchorage with a group of ships we would
look around and find a ship flying a Church flag and ask if we could come over for services. We
always put a motor launch in the water when we were at an anchorage.
When we were in a critical area every available man would be on deck for an hour as dawn
approached and in the evening as twilight fell. That was the hardest times to spot a submarine and
the most likely time for an attack. I remember I felt like I had spent years of my life looking out to
sea, watching for the smallest irregularity on the surface or a ship reflection on the clouds below
When we went down to the mess hall we put on special red goggles so our night vision would not
be lost. If you glimpsed some light, it could be at least 15 to 45 minutes before your good night
I had a three month stretch of washing trays three times a day in the scullery, and later three
month in the Chief's mess, where I just took care of about a dozen Chief Petty Officers. They had
their own dining room and their own dishes. I washed the dishes, scrubbed the floor, and kept the
room clean. At mealtime I set the table, took my bowls to the Galley Kitchen nearby, filling them
from the steam table, set it on the table for them, and poured their coffee. I then cleaned up
afterwards and washed the dishes in my own sink. On payday I'd set an extra bowl on the table
and everybody tipped. I think I made about $15/$20 in tips every two weeks. My pay at that time
was $58.00 a month, so that was quite a bit. It was the best job I had in the Navy.
One day the Doctor operated on a man's legs for varicose veins using the Chief's mess room table.
Another time I had to hold a guy who was unconscious while the Doctor sewed up about a three
inch gash in his scalp. The way that happened was that two of us approached a ladder leading up
to the boat deck. I stepped back and said "after you", and he said "after you", so I said "I insist".
He started up the ladder and at that instant a 10 inch metal pulley on a boom swung around and
knocked him cold. He fell back onto me. I got ahold of him from behind under his arms and
dragged him a short distance down a passageway to the dispensary. Seeing the man was
unconscious, the Doctor had me hold him sitting up. He was bleeding all over me. He quickly
inspected the wound and shaved off a large spot of hair. It was about a three inch ragged gash. He
picked up his needles and thread and started sewing. Before he came to he had it sewed up. That
was the first time I saw the curved needles they used with a pair of pliers to sew up wounds.
Back in the division as an ordinary seaman I used a chipping hammer. Sometimes day after day we
would beat the paint off with the chipping hammer, wire brush the area, and paint it with red lead
or yellow chromite. When it dried we painted it battleship grey again.
The ship was divided into divisions. I was in the 3rd, the rear 1/3 of the ship. We would start at the
beginning of our division chipping paint, and when we finished we started over again. When we
stopped anywhere to unload or for any other reason, we were over the side on stages, chipping and
painting down to the water line. There is some kind of Navy regulation that says they do not allow
When we tied up to a dock, getting close in, a man with a line gun would fire a projectile with a
small line tied to it over on the dock. The line would be tied to a 1 1/2 inch line which was tied to a
10 inch line (HAWSER) men on the dock pulled the lines over until they had the big hawser over
and placed the end over a bowland (a solid round piece of iron about 12 inches across, welded to
the deck or bolted to the dock). The line on the ship is drawn back by a winch and the ship tied up
to the dock besides two 10 inch hawsers. On a cargo ship like ours there were also two wire cables
used and enough slack left in them all for the rise and fall of the tide. A large circle of metal had to
be bolted around the lines several feet from the ship so that rats couldn't get on the ship or leave it
if you had them. We called them rat guards. All ports require them.
In most of our travels we didn't unload at docks. Most times there were none, so we anchored off
an island and unloaded to smaller boats. On some islands they had anchored pontoons to form
docks, and we could tie up against them to unload. They tried this at Leyte but the surf was so
strong we couldn't use them. We got our 50 ft. tank lighter against some one day, the waves had
them washed up on the beach. They kept us pinned sideways to them for quite a while until we
finally got turned a little in between the waves to back off. We didn't try that again. There were
snipers in the area, too at the time.
I often had bowhook duty on the ship's motor launch that we used for transport of people to the
beach or between ships in ports. On one occasion when we grounded on the beach in shallow water
I jumped in to pull the rest of the way in with the line, when I scraped my ankle on some coral. It
quickly became infected in the heat and I spent many days soaking it in hot Epsom Salts water
before it healed up.
Anytime we were within radio range of Guadalcanal we were tuning into the Army radio station.
They called it the "Mosquito Network". "Guadalcanal's healthiest spot west of the Fiji leper
colony". The radio station was broadcast over the PA system during the day. When we were out of
range of a station recorded music was often played.
There were Missionaries on the various islands. We would see them at times with their small boats,
a single cylinder engine, putt-putting along, a rack overhead with palm fronds on it for shade. We
had no direct contact with them.
I often went ashore with working parties to get supplies: canned goods, small arms ammunition,
and mail, as a bowhook on our motor launch. Going ashore with the boat gave me a chance to see
how the Marines lived. They had their tents with a lot of mosquito netting. It rained often there,
then the sun came out and steamed the mud dry to a powdered dust. The Marines were a pumpkin
yellow color from taking Atabrine, a Quinine substitute developed after the Japanese cut off our
supplies of the drug in the far east. They were usually knee deep in mud or dust. They used to joke
about overhearing two mosquitoes arguing outside the tent over who would get this one.
Appendicitis, No Clothes, and Where's My Ship
On June 17 1944 we were at Guadalcanal. It was a Sunday evening and we pulled anchor and
headed south. I had the 12 to 4 a.m. watch and began to have a stomach ache. By morning I was
really hurting bad. We always tried to avoid going to the sick bay because we didn't want to be
considered a wimp. I was showing my pain badly enough that my friends were urging me to go. So
I went and was diagnosed with appendicitis, put to bed and given nothing but fruit juice.
Three days later we were met by a motor launch eight miles offshore of the New Heberdes. They strapped
me in a Stokes basket and picked it up with a cargo boom, swinging it out from the ship setting me
down into the bottom of the boat. I was taken to the beach at Esperitu Santo, in the New
Heberdes, where they had an ambulance waiting.
It was a rough ride and I was in pain.
They took me to an area with tents and one long steel Quonset hut. It was U.S.Navy Base Hospital #6. There
they gave me a blood test and quickly confirmed that I had appendicitis. I was taken to a hospital
operating room set up in a tent with a wooden floor, screening all around and a regular operating
room light overhead. It was dark by now. A corpsman gave me a shot in the spine and they waited
a few minutes. When he made the incision I felt it. The Doctor took the needle and rolling me on
my side put another shot in my spine. My chest hurt so bad. I felt like everything he was doing was
pulling something in my chest. He had a corpsman put his fists on my chest and lean on me, and
the Doctor told me to talk, which I did for 45 minutes. It still hurt bad. They had just hung a towel
on a bracket so I couldn't see my belly.
When he got it out he held it up and showed it to me. It looked several inches long and about pencil thickness, with a lot of nicks on it. He said I had a lot of adhesions and that is why it radiated up into my chest. The Doctors name was Snow, and he was from New York City. They brought me back to the Quonset hut where they had 21 beds on each side all in one big room. I would hear someone say something and I had to laugh. I would hold my hands over my ears and just hear a whisper and had to laugh. Of course when I laughed I cried,
too because it hurt so bad. I had some kind of post operation shock. It took a couple of days to get over it. I only got fruit juice for another three days and then had to get up and go stand in a chow line all bent over to get something to eat. They were experimenting at the time so they used metal clamps on me and stiches on some. Some were just given fruit juice and some were put on IVs.
At the same time I had a problem because I had no clothes. I'd been put off the ship with my
boxer shorts, shoes, socks and my wrist watch. A Red Cross person came through passing out
sticks of chewing gum. I asked him if he could get me some clothes. No, he said "They couldn't do
anything about that". So I sold my wrist watch for $20.00 and borrowing some clothes. I then went
out to the road and hitched a ride to a ship's store. The ride was one I still remember because I was
still so sore. I bought several sets of clothes and hitched back to the hospital. I had to stay there 14
days before I was released.
About that time my clothes arrived at the hospital. I was then released with no one telling me what to do to get back to my ship. I didn't know that I had been permanently transferred off the ship. I hitched a ride out to the harbor and found a troop ship that was headed for Noumea and got aboard telling them that I had to get to Noumea to rejoin my ship. I still don't know how I got away with it without any orders to show. I just thought all I had to do was find my ship and that's all there was to it. When I arrived at Noumea I went ashore and the ship had gone on to New Zealand. So I went out to the receiving station and signed in.
The next day I came out for roll call, and when my name was called for a work detail, I said "Hey, I'm on the way to my ship. All I need is for someone to take me out to the Nickel Docks." I'd heard that it came in during the night. They had a guy with a jeep take me and my gear out to the ship. When I came to the bottom of the gangplank, a good friend hollered "FREDDY, you "@!#$ #@ ## @??#@"!! I never thought I'd see you again!!." He was a very religious guy. I'd never heard him say anything off color before, but he had discovered whiskey and women on the trip to New Zealand. Yes, Freddy was my nickname in the Navy.
I went aboard and then found that I had been transferred off to be re-assigned elsewhere. This was what they usually did. After a conference with the executive officer and a large group of my friends putting in a few words in my favor, they took me back. I see by my discharge that I was attached to the ship twice.
A note from home.
In September of 1944 we loaded 2,000 tons of dynamite in the #1 hold, #3 and 4 hold had aviation
gasoline in 55 gallon drums and water in 55 gallon drums. the 68th. Navy CB Battalion. We
rendezvoused off New Guinea with hundreds of other ships of all sorts: cargo, tankers, reefers,
troop transports, LCI and LST landing craft. All the LSTs had big balloons moored over them
tied with many ropes. They were to prevent planes from strafing the troops on board. During the
trip several broke loose and were shot down as they drifted away for target practice.
We picked up General McArthur on the cruiser Nashville at Hollandia, New Guinea. We tried to
keep a mile between ships and there were more than 700 ships. We were scattered over hundreds of
miles in all directions. We also carried the 68th.CB Battalion. I don't recall how many we had but
we had a lot of their equipment, too. The dynamite was theirs.
During the voyage to the Philippines I was scheduled for promotion to Coxswain, a 3rd class Petty
Officer, but all new rates were held up when they discovered that all the medical alcohol was
missing, and we were going into a battlezone. The ship was searched from top to bottom without
finding any. A shipfitter who had his own stash that he had salvaged from underwater, where cargo
nets had broken during unloading, donated 15 gallons and we were back in business.
This shipfitter, named Newman, made a diving helmet out of a sugar can,(a square 5 gallon can,
fitted with a glass to see through and a a fitting for an air hose. He had several guys that shared in
his finds by helping him. They would tie a rope around his waist and with a heavy weighted belt
they would let him down into the water. With the helmet over his head and a small gasoline
compressor running they would lower a bucket with him. He would go down about 50 ft. by
pontoon docks, where the ships had been unloading cargo and sometimes a net broke. He kept he
and his buddies supplied with beer and other items, and I'm sure he must have shared with the
captain, too because he allowed it. He even had his own Jeep which he had salvaged and was
allowed to put it on the dock and use it in New Zealand. Many times the little compressor would
stop and they would frantically haul him up. Several times I saw them get it started before he came
to the surface and they would just drop him again. He would tie a belt of weights around his waist
he could drop off if he needed to.
War In The Pacific
As we sailed along keeping our space we would see no warships except destroyers and
DEs(destroyer escorts). They would weave in and out in case a submarine would surface among us.
One day a guy fell off an oil tanker on our starboard side and a destroyer circled back but couldn't
find him. We couldn't deviate from our space without disrupting the 995 spaces around us. We
heard that no one on the following ships saw him.
We were armed with a three inch gun on the bow. It used a single power case and projectile
together, a 20 MM anti aircraft gun in a guntub was on each side back about midway toward the
focastle, and four on the bridge. There was one on each corner, each mounted with a protective
armored tub about four ft. high. There were two toward the stern on the front of a tub that held a
five inch gun on the stern. On the deck we had two 50 ft tank lighters with two mounted 50 caliber
guns on each one, and two jeep lighters, with two 30 caliber guns. To further explain we had a
three inch, 8 - 20 mm anti-aircraft,, four 50 cal., four 30 cal., and one 5 inch. I don't recall but
have been told in later years that we had also installed a pair of 40 MM on each side.
My station was on the five inch. It had a two piece shell. A powder case went in first and a
projectile was placed in the breach ahead of it. I stood on one side of the barrel with headphones,
with two large dials. They were faintly lit at night by dim red lights. I was told the windage and
elevation through my headphones, and I spun the two small cranks to the proper setting. The job
was called sight setter. There was one guy on each side in a seat that did the aiming with wheels
and cranks to spin them with, one for elevation and the other for side to side. One had the trigger.
When we fired the smoke and cork really flew. We could throw one 9 miles. Before the projectile
was put in the breech a wrench was used to turn the fuse to however many seconds you estimated
you wanted it to go before it went off. It was exploded by a timer in the fuse, not by contact. On
the 20 mm cannons, everytime you fired a magazine of ammunition through the barrel, one man
pulled off the empty magazine and another put a new one on. Another man with special asbestos
gloves on gave the barrel a twist and pulled it off. The barrel was stuck in a water tube on the side
of the gun tub, while another barrel was placed on and instantly locked on. All this with much
practice was accomplished in seconds. We had a new gunnery officer at one time and someone was
telling him, "You jerk the barrel off and throw it in the water", meaning the tube. He replied,
"Just a minute. Can't we figure out some way to save those barrels?"
As we approached Leyte in the Philippines, the battleships, cruisers and destroyers had been
pounding the beach. The projectiles were so big that you could see them flying through the air
after they were a short distance out of the barrel. As dawn approached the LSTs went in to begin
unloading the Army Troops directly onto the beach. We came within sight of the bay ahead, and at
first light the Japanese Zeros attacked in force. They were everywhere. We shot down one before
we reached our assigned position in the gulf of Leyte.
Facing the beach, Tacloban was on our right, there being a hill in the vicinity of Tacloban. A
battleship was called in later to shell Japanese positions that were still holding out on the hill, and
later I saw carrier planes looking like angry bees bombing and strafing there. Unless you have seen
a sight like this I don't think you can picture it. The desperate fury of the scene with the air almost
solid with smoke and fire, aircraft exploding into a million pieces, and nothing but tiny pieces
flying through the air in the end, and some as a great fireball diving into the water. A kind of
numb feeling would come over me. I could do my job perfectly but had a numb feeling, like the
scene wasn't real. I think that if I'd been hit I wouldn't have felt it for awhile.
We had a fog generator on each side on the stern and when we came under attack they would fire
up an engine on them and pour a light oil through it, which would put out a fog. Everyone made
fog to hide the ship behind them. It was an eerie feeling being in the fog with the battle raging. It
was worse than seeing them coming at you. I never saw anyone panic while we were in combat. I
did see people who couldn't stop firing until they ran out of ammunition. The first time I fired at a
plane with my 50 caliber on my tank lighter, I held the trigger down until the magazine was empty.
On dropping anchor, we immediately put or 2-50 ft. and 2-35 ft. landing craft over the side and
began unloading the 68th. C.B. Battalion with their gear. They had 2000 tons of construction
dynamite. We ferried them to the beach, which was almost solid with LST landing craft landing
Army Troops. They had enough space between them that we would get to the beach between them.
We would sometimes be thrown against them and we'd try to keep down the damage by using
fenders we carried along. The surf was higher than predicted and when they landed some
bulldozers ashore, they would push us off, because we had a hard time backing off when we were
grounded on the sand too high by the surf. We had heavy timbers to stick down over the side and
the bulldozer pushed against them. The timber slipped one day and we got a bad gash in our hull.
The pumps were keeping it afloat allright until we returned to the ship. We came under attack and
scrambled up to our gun positions after tying up, and someone looked down and saw it was
sinking, grabbed a fire ax and chopped off the line. It floated clear and sank with about eight ft. of
the bow straight up and was still floating in the bay when we left.
A tank lighter was 50 ft.long and was powered by two diesel engines. We had two 50 caliber
machine guns on each one. A magazine for them has a belt with 110 rounds in it, but that only
filled it half full. On one trip to the beach I had hooked another belt on and filled the magazine
with 220 rounds. The first trip to the beach, and my first time to fire it, I slipped into the harness,
and when I saw the aircraft making a high curve off the land to make a run at us, I sighted on it,
pulled back the mechanism to cock it, and mashed my little finger. Cocked it on the next try and
started firing before it even came into range. I just held the trigger down, and when he was at
about 10 O'Clock I could see him plainly and my tracers were going right through him. It glided to
a fiery crash out into the bay. The barrel on my gun was red hot and all the bluing was burned off,
but it didn't jam. All 220 rounds were fired before I could stop. After that I just pressed the trigger
in short bursts. I wasn't the only one shooting at him, but I could see my bullets going through
him. I think about that man often now.
One day a Japanese pilot jumped in time and landed in the water, and everyone around tried to
get us to go out and run over him. We wouldn't do that, and soon someone else had picked him up
and brought him in, turning him over to a beach officer.
We saw General McArthur and his party landing just south of us on the Beach, but we were too
busy to stop and watch. I think he went ashore several times.
I was standing by a small steel wall that surrounded the controls on the tank lighter one day, when
suddenly a torpedo plane came into sight low over the treetops, headed for the ships. As it came
close to the beach, I could see the torpedo begin to fall. I couldn't move. It slowly came down and
landed in the sand several hundred ft. from me. I crouched down expecting the explosion and
nothing happened. The propeller was spinning, but it didn't go off.
On one trip from the ship a Japanese plane dived on us and dropped several bombs close to us,
lifting us out of the water momentarily. I saw it comeing and faced it with my mouth open as I had
been told to do, and I wasn't hurt. But one of the six of us on the boat had internal bleeding from
the concussion. The pressure would equalize quicker if you faced an explosion and opened your
mouth. Some of the guys on the ship saw the attack and often laughed about it later, saying "It
took 15 minutes for the water to settle around us".
We had a lot of problems with some of the local natives in the Philippines. In between attacks
they'd come out to the ships in small boats and beg. They'd say "Merry Xmas! You got much
gold", holding up handfuls of paper Japanese Occupation Money. When we came under attack it
seems they would fade away for awhile. We also had to avoid their fish traps set out in the bay.
I traded cigarettes for this coin and some paper occupation money.
In the twilight of the evening they came down right at water level, releasing their torpedoes. One
evening I had rigged up a hammock beneath the five inch gun tub and came down and laid in it
for a few minutes. There was no warning. A plane came between us and another ship. The bullets
from another ship were striking and sizzling in the water just below me. In the half darkness I felt
the swoosh of something I thought was a torpedo passing about 10 ft. away going fore to aft.
When we had canned foods in the cargo, most of us would put aside our own food supply. I had
mine stashed away in a deck locker. I had canned peaches, fruit cocktail, sardines, potted meat,
pork & beans. Many times I'd rush down to the mess hall and get some slices of bread and hurry
back up to my gun position and open a can of potted meat to smear on it.
We were told to have all our clothes clean, and at least once a day I went down to my locker,
grabbed clean clothes and took a quick shower. We were told to keep as clean as possible and to
wear our blue jeans and long sleeve shirts to protect against flash burns and to help keep down the
contamination of wounds if we were hit. And we were instructed to face any explosion with our
mouth open. The shock waves from exploding bombs would hit you like a sudden hot gust of
wind. We had steel helmets which we wore all the time, too. We'd only catch snatches of sleep in
the 16 days we were there. They would attack up until about 9 P.M. and then usually started again
about 1 A.M. We didn't have radar on our ship and had to rely on signal flags from other ships
that planes were on the way, if we had any warning at all. Many times we just sat down, leaned
back and catnapped until they came again.
One evening a plane came right over us. It had our emblems all over it, but all planes had orders
not to fly over us. Every gun opened up on it and the Jap zero it was chasing. The air was solid
fire. He turned his bottom toward us two times so you could plainly see the emblems, but no one
stopped firing and he went down in a ball of fire. It was a Corsair. No one wanted credit for this
After a raid they had someone who would give credit for a kill to certain ships and you could paint
a little Japanese flag on a panel. We had official credit for seven planes and a greater number of
We only had carrier plane protection for about two weeks. The CBs laid steel mesh landing mats
on a section of beach and everyone cheered when two of the new P38 twin tail Black Widows came
into sight. They had flown in from New Guinea and were low on fuel. They each came in on
opposite ends of the landing mats and collided head on in the middle in one ball of fire.
We would be on the beach unloading, and it would be teaming with thousands. Someone would
blow a whistle and they would just seem to melt into the ground. The Japanese planes would come
in fast and low from inland without warning. Usually they didn't strafe, they were too focused on
the ships. The Kamikazes came one morning about ten o'clock. I recall one was hit low down, and
as it cartwheeled past our stern it was breaking into millions of pieces which flew ahead of it until
none was left. At the same time another torpedo plane dropped his torpedo and it hit a Liberty
Ship astern of our port side and blew a 17 ft. hole in the side of it. I believe it was the SS Benjamin
I Wheeler that I traveled on from San Francisco to Noumea, New Caledonia. Our ship escaped
with very little damage, just more plate damage from near misses from 100 lb. bombs they used, it
bowed the steel plate in against the ribs, like I described before. We already had some of that kind
of damage from the Nickel Dock explosion down in Noumea the year before.
War In The Pacific Continues
Every night they would put the Japanese radio broadcast of Tokyo Rose over the PA system. One
night she mentioned the Navy 68th CB Battalion we'd brought with us. Another night she said
"We almost got you boys last night." I haven't told that part yet. She was referring to the night
their fleet almost made it into Leyte Bay. One afternoon about 5 p.m. we had warning that 15
Japanese bombers were headed for us. We were all prepared when they came into view, coming in
high up in a clear sky. We turned our five inch straight up and began firing, so that they'd fly into
the metal flying around up there. The puffs of exploding shells filled the clear sky. They stayed
high up beyond range and just kept on course and didn't drop anything. There were some strange
happenings at times. We made fog but not in time, and could see plainly overhead.
The smell of rotten bodies reached all the way out into the bay at times. It was so hot, over 100
degrees. They were just running out trenches, and after pulling a dog tag from each body they put
them into the trench and covered it again with the bulldozer. The location was noted by a grave
Every day we could see the white ghostly forms of the Hospital Ships waiting out at sea for the
One night word was passed that the Japanese fleet was coming in on us. We were trapped. We
knew that our main fleet was away in another direction. I recall standing in the quiet darkness ...
looking out to sea south of us... waiting... No one was saying anything. We knew that we didn't
have a chance of surviving if battleships and cruisers started firing on us. We waited in a stunned
silence... In quiet desperation. We could faintly see the flash of heavy Naval guns and ships
burning over the horizon in the darkness at sea south of us in the Suriago Straits and early in the
morning when they engaged Taffy III off Samar in Leyte Gulf. I saw the San Lo burning that
morning when it was hit by the kamikazee. That night we could still see ships burning out to sea.
They were that close to coming in on us. I was a bystander in what Naval historians later called
"The greatest Naval Battle in History". My childhood dream of being in something "great" had
turned into my worst mightmare. I was not to learn for many years why they suddenly broke off
the attack, just when they had us. I did know that 1,100 of our Sailors died out there that night
and the next morning.
Well done, my friends...
You have our eternal gratitude...
We will not forget...Rest in Peace.
Until we meet again, may you have fair winds and following seas.
The following was taken from a newspaper article published during the 50th anniversary of the
landings at Leyte. It isn't an exact quote but a chronology of events. The sources are "TO
SHINING SEA","TOTAL WAR", "EAGLE AGAINST THE SUN", and "THE ENCYCLOPEDIA
OF MILITARY HISTORY".
The plan was: Three columns of battleships to converge on the landing beaches, there to sink the
cargo ships and shell the GIs ashore. Land based planes to harass the American ships by plunging
into them, in suicide dives.
The Philippine Campaign marked the birth of the kamikaze, the crude forerunner of todays cruise
missile. So the Japanese ships set sail from several points, hoping to converge on McArthur's men
in the Gulf of Leyte. What resulted was a string of four Naval battles that history lumps together
as the "Battle of Leyte Gulf". The Battle of Leyte Gulf ranged over an area larger than France,
involving more warships and Sailors than anybody had ever deployed at one time anywhere.
Here is how the battles unreeled:
The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea: It pitted American submarines and carrier planes against Japanese
battleships, and the Americans won big, hitting on Oct. 23-24. They sank a Super Dreadnought
(85,000 ton Battleship), two cruisers and damaged several other big ships. Worse, they put nagging
doubts into the mind of the Columns Commander, Admiral Takeo Kurita.
The Battle of Suriago Strait: Two columns of Japanese battleships, one after another, tried to push
their way through the strait en route to the landing beaches. They fell into an ambush laid by old
American battleships such as the Tennessee, salvaged from Pearl Harbor. In the midnight darkness
of Oct. 24-25, Admiral J.B.Oldendorf lived a sea dog's fantasy. He "capped the T", maneuvering
his ships so they formed the crossbar of a T as the Japanese formed the stem. In capping the T, the
crossbar can bring all its guns to bear; the stem cannot. The results are predictable and
devastating. The American battleships savaged the Japanese.
The Battle of Cape Engano: At dawn on Oct. 25th., Halsey's search planes found the Japanese
carriers, which had been trying desperately to be found. After all, the carriers were decoys,
virtually planeless. They were meant to lure Halsey north, away from the landing beaches. Halsey
fell for it. His planes sank the Japanese carriers, but the triump was an empty one. That's because
the crucial battle was hundreds of miles away off Samar.
The Battle off Samar: With Halsey gone Kurita's column, bloodied but still powerful, poked
through the Suriago Strait and bore down on the beaches. On the way, the battleships surprised a
small American force, code-named Taffy III. Taffy III comprised of 6 light carriers and 6
destroyers - no match for the Japanese. The carriers lacked armor, and their planes, meant for
ground support, lacked heavy bombs. A slaughter loomed. But Taffy refused to roll over. The
carriers ducked in and out of squalls, launching their planes with small bombs to frighten the
Japanese, if not to sink them. The destroyers charged the Japanese battleships, like Jack Russel
Terriers nipping at bears. Somehow it worked. Kurita, still twitchy after his losses in the Sibuyan
Sea, looked at Taffy III's mini-carriers and saw Halsey's big carriers. After two hours of David
against Goliath, Kurita withdrew. On the bridge of one of the outnumbered and outgunned
American ships, a signal man watched the Japanese Dreadnoughts turn away. He uttered one of
the war's classic lines: "Goddammit, boys, they're getting away!" The battle of Leyte Gulf ended
the Japanese Navies role in WWII.
From that point on the U.S. Navy had nothing to fear but the kamikazes. The suicide planes made
their debut on Oct. 25th, sinking the light carrier St. Lo outside Leyte Gulf. For the rest of the war
the kamikazes would break the Navy's heart, if not its back. Ashore on Leyte , the Army fought
the weather as well as the Japanese. Mud made movement miserable, and three typhoons within 10
days threw the G.I.'s off schedule. But the Army was in the Philippines to stay.
We landed an entire field's Army in the Philippines, the 6th Army, I think, in the original invasion
force that went with us. On another night we waited for Japanese torpedo boats that were sneaking
down the coast. As we waited, the wind began to rise and they said a typhoon was coming. We
pulled one anchor, backed off as far as the chain would allow, dropped the other one again, and
backed off to dig them in as deep as possible. When it really hit with winds of 135 knots we had the
engine backing off against the anchors at full speed. We were dragged almost to the beach anyway
but didn't ground. The warships went out to sea to better maneuver. I was told that some rolled as
much as 70 degrees and righted again. Some destroyers and destroyer escorts rolled over and most
men drowned. The waves were 70 ft. I was so tired that when they told us to take cover inside the
ship I went down to my bunk, fully clothed with life jacket and belly down, and I got a grip on
both rails of my bunk, fell asleep and slept through the whole thing.
I read that the cruiser Indianapolis went out to sea and cut the engines wallowing in the troughs
sideways and made it that way. Their bow was splitting apart from heading straight into the waves.
After 16 days at Leyte, the Army was 19 miles inland and we were unloaded. We upped our
anchors on Nov. 6th, 1944, and headed back down the Solomon chain of Islands. We brought
several loads of bombs and ammo up into the Admiralty Islands to Manus, staging supplies for the
next landings. I believe the Iwo Jima invasion was one of them.
New Zealand(Aotearoa)-Land of the long white
As soon as we had the cargo unloaded we headed for Wellington, New Zealand to go into dry dock
to scrape our hull of barnacles and to repaint below the water line. When we were in dry dock we
would work all day and party at night. Everyone had a bottle hidden around while we were
working and we had a great time. Guys on the high scaffolding around the ship up to the water
line would be dropping scrapers and chipping hammers, but nobody seemed to get hit. When we
got out of dry dock we loaded a cargo of 100 lb. bombs and one part of a hold of New Zealand
beer. It was in quart bottles and packed in wooden crates in straw. (9% stuff). We also had a
general cargo of food and miscellaneous for the New Zealanders who had taken over the holding
of Bougainville in the northern Solomons.
We arrived in the afternoon in Empress Augusta Bay, and started unloading our cargo onto
landing craft that came alongside. That night about 1 o'clock in the morning we had a sudden call
to general quarters. After being at our battle stations for awhile, someone began to question why
lights were still on over on the beach. Upon investigation it was determined that a boat coming
alongside had given the condition red warning. Turning on the lights it was discovered that 200
cases of the beer had been hijacked.
We had just taken a strip of a jungle island seven miles wide and 34 miles long. It was such thick
jungle that they just burned that area bare. The Japanese raised their food in gardens deep in the
jungle and occasionally would patch up a plane and take off from a hidden airstrip and drop a few
small bombs on the camps. The 100 lb. bombs and magnesium incendiary devices we brought
them allowed the New Zealander's to fly over and bomb and burn their gardens when they located
them. We had bypassed this island, and after the war they flew over the jungle on a regular
schedule for several years afterwards with PA systems in planes announcing in Japanese that the
war was over. Many did not believe this, and I remember one soldier being found 28 years after the
war and returned to Japan.
We had an anchor pool. It was 60 tickets for the 60 minutes of the hour, and you paid a dollar for
a minute you drew out of a hat. When the anchor was dropped the next time the winner was the
one that held the exact minute that was logged in the ship's log. Everything that happened around
you had to be written hourly in the logbook. Observations about the weather and anything at all
that happened, you wrote it down and signed your name to it.
We had one black man and one Philippino in our crew. They were both permanently assigned to
the Officer's Mess. We had a Jewish tailor on the ship. If you needed anything altered he would
always do it for you. He usually just took what you wanted to give him. One of the guys would
make remarks about Jews, such as "stingy" and things like that. He brought a pair of dungarees to
have them hemmed for him. I was standing up on the bow one evening talking to him when the
guy came up and asked for them. He went down into his little sewing room right in the bow and
brought up the dungarees, handing them to him. The man asked what he owed him, and the tailor
said $3.00. He frowned but handed him three one dollar bills. the tailor took the money and his
hand didn't stop as he dropped it over the side of the ship. He then turned and walked back to his
We had a Captain who had been in the Merchant Marine for 30 years but had been in the Navy
Reserve, so he was given a ship as soon as the war started. He wasn't strict on Navy regulations
when it came to what we could wear. He also allowed beards and earrings, Eisenhower jackets that
we got from the cargo and dyed navy blue. I had my ear pierced like a lot of the other guys,
putting a cork or potato behind it and piercing it with a needle pulling a thread through it. I then
treated it several times a day with alcohol, working the thread back and forth to keep the hole
open until it healed. On a trip to New Zealand around that time I went to a jewelry store and
bought a pair of earrings. They were gold circles of twisted wire with blue stones hanging in the
circles. I put the two together making one long one, maybe about an inch long. I wore it for a
time, but before arriving in New Zealand the next time I took it out because I thought someone
might get hold of it in a fight and tear my ear up.
In March we were up in the Admiralty Islands at Manus, again with a load staging supplies for the
next invasion, when I received a letter from my cousin, Laverne, telling me that the Doctor said my
Dad had less than a week to live. She thought maybe they would let me come home to see him
before he died. I'd been gone a year and a half. I went and showed the letter to the ship's Doctor,
Michael James O'Grady. He was the closest to a chaplain we had. He said he was going ashore the
next day and would ask the Red Cross if I could send a message. He brought the letter back to me
the next day, telling me that they couldn't do anything like that. "Tough luck, kid" he said. It was
in April before I received a letter from my sister, Hazel, telling me that he'd died the 6th. of
March, 1945, and all about the funeral. I was to be notified through the Red Cross. They had held
up the funeral waiting to hear from me. I received the letter in the afternoon about 2:30 p.m. I was
sitting in a group of about a dozen guys when I opened it. I was shocked by the news and the
finality of it. I'd waited a month to hear. I had not seen him in 1 1/2 years. I had talked him into
signing for me to go into the Navy, when he needed me on the farm. I had realized by now that he
had been the best of fathers, and I had hoped that I would have a chance to make up for this after
the war when I came home. He had written to me many times, and I knew he was proud of the
things I was doing. I took some satisfaction from that fact. I said nothing to anyone. We were at
sea. That night after lights out down in the sleeping compartment I got up from my bunk and went
up on deck. It was a dark and windy night. I walked the passageway on the port side and cried for
a long time. Then, getting my emotions under control I went below to my bunk again. I dreamed
about him that night. I was walking through a dark and stormy jungle, crying, carrying my father
over my shoulder sewn in a canvas sack, like we buried our dead at sea. I don't know If I cried
aloud in my dream, no one said anything to me. I didn't tell anyone about it for several weeks. I
didn't write a letter to anyone for the next three months. I don't really know why. I had the feeling
that I wanted to punish others back home with my silence. My world had changed. It could never
be the same again.
Several weeks later we went to New Zealand again arriving in Wellington on April 30, 1945. In
Wellington I went to a movie one evening and there I met a young woman who was working as an
usher. I asked her for a date and she accepted. After she got off work we went to a nearby hotel
private lounge. I soon learned that her mother owned this hotel and several others. My friend was
24 years old, had a seven year old son, and was divorced. She had an apartment at 27 Majoribank
St. in the Mount Victoria section of Wellington. We spent a lot of time at her mother's house,
which was located in Newtown. It was an English style cottage, set in a rose garden. It had an
"Electric fire", in the living room. A good size fireplace make up of glowing rodlike units. The
view of the Harbour from high up, overlooking Orient Bay, was spectacular.
Her mother and father were divorced. They were Scotch/Irish and had come to New Zealand 18
years before when she was 6 yrs. old. They had been in show business and were exhibition dancers.
She had many friends, two brothers and one sister. She was the youngest of the family. I'd get off
the ship at 3:30 p.m. and meet her in a private lounge in one of her mother's hotels. We would go
to eat somewhere or go to her house where she would cook a meal, or sometimes she had supper
waiting for me at the house and I would go directly there. She would sometimes have a drink and I
found I did not need to drink to have a good time.
Everyone was required to do some sort of work under a wartime emergency act, and my friend was
an usher in a movie theatre when I met her. After a couple of days we went to spend an evening
with her brother, his wife and two children, and she asked him to get her an exemption while I was
there. I don't remember what kind of job he had. He had some official position. He obtained the
exemption the next day.
We went to see her father and spent some time with him. He was retired and looked like the typical
English gentleman. He carried a cane, wore a bowler hat, in the style of those days. They were a
Her son was in boarding school but came home on weekends, and we would go to the amusement
park on Saturdays and Sundays when he was home. The wealthy always sent their children to
boarding school. He and I became great friends and after I left there he wrote letters to me, too.
She had a lot of friends and we went somewhere to a party many nights. The highlight of the party
was always gathering around the piano and singing, songs like "Now is the Hour","Harbour
Lights", and "Kiwi".
Almost everyone had someone overseas in the Australian, New Zealand Expeditionary Force that
was fighting in Europe. You could feel the longing sadness and the tears in their voices when we
sang those songs. The whole family seemed to welcome me. They were a closeknit, very
affectionate family. We had a ship's dance while I was there it was on May 21st. My 19th birthday.
Several evenings she dressed in evening clothes and we attended the Theatre, my dress uniform was
acceptable for formal dress. I can still see the seating arrangement but can't recall what was
playing. This was also a first for me.
We did a lot of talking. I had been too shy and hadn't really had the opportunity nor had I ever
really talked to a woman in depth before. She told me about how a woman wanted to be told she
was beautiful, to be told often that she was appreciated and wanted. Many New Zealand men
would walk down the street with their girlfriend with their hands in their pockets, while we walked
arm in arm. Her favorite expression was "Cold hands - warm heart - dirty feet and no sweetheart."
She liked to be told that She was, "cuter than a little bug's ear"...I thought she was... She was a
happy person. She blunted the hurt that I was feeling over my father's death only two months
before, and put a new face on my world of the future.
I had been there about two weeks and one afternoon we were at her mothers house sitting on the
couch in front of the Electric fire when Her mother said, "Why don't you two get married"?. The
next evening my friend said "Mother said she would give us a Hotel as a wedding present"... This
would have make it possible for me to stay in New Zealand after the war was over.
I had duty on some nights so she would get a cab and come down to visit me at the ship. We sat
behind a shack on the dock and talked for hours. I felt that I had lost my family. She offered me a
family -- with one reservation. She loved New Zealand and would never leave it.
The gas meters in rental property had coin meters on them. You put a coin in a box on the side of
the meter and it gave you a certain amount of gas. Sometimes it would run out in the middle of
cooking a meal and you had to go outside and put a two shilling coin in the meter box. The
bathrooms also had a coin box on the water heater, so before you took a bath you had to put a
three penny coin in the meter, light it, and wait for it to get hot.
While on this trip to Wellington we'd caught two guys who had jumped ship six months before,
and had them locked up on the ship to take them back with us. One night while I had guard duty
over them they begged me to take them to one of their girlfriend's house, so they could have one
last visit with them before we left. I finally agreed to it, and with a 45 on my side and a carbine
rifle, the jeep driver that had the duty that night and I took them into town to a house. We went in
and they talked to the girls for about an hour. We returned to the jeep and headed back to the
docks and the ship. As we approached the docks there were two policemen at the gates that
stopped us, demanding to know what I was doing, going armed into the city. It was strictly a
violation of the law. The police were not even allowed to carry arms. They wanted to know where
we'd been and what we had done, and who had seen us. By now the two prisoners were really
trying to help me get out of this. One of the prisoner's girlfriend was known by one of the officers,
and so with a stern admonition to me they finally let me go and we returned to the ship. It was a
After being in Wellington for three weeks we were ordered to return to Auckland. It was with great
sadness for many of us that we sailed away after so many happy hours spent there. My friend had
agreed to meet me in Auckland if we were staying there for any length of time. She would come up
on the train.
I was paid the next day after we arrived and decided to go down on the train and get her. I went to
my division officer and asked for a 48 hour leave. He finally said yes and wrote me a pass on a
scrap of paper that I pulled out of my pocket. I went by and rented a room in a home owned by a
Mrs. Henry, where I had stayed before. I usually tried to rent a room to sleep ashore for a few
nights while we were there. I told Mrs. Henry that I was going to Wellington, and that I was
bringing a friend back with me. She said it was allright, she also knew that I understood her rules.
"No visitors after 11:00 PM.
At 2:30 in the afternoon I caught the Train to Wellington, a 15 hour trip. It was a rocky ride and I
had been drinking some that afternoon, so I was motion sick and felt awful bad, but didn't
embarrass myself by throwing up. I arrived the next morning at 5:30 A.M. and found her at her
mother's house. She agreed to go back with me to Auckland, so we went to her apartment to pack
her bags and got on the train at 2:30 that afternoon. It was coming into winter there and she had
her fur coat which we slept under on the trip north. Later she tried to give me her fur coat to wear
on watch on the cold nights after we left until we got into warmer waters. I didn't think that would
go over very well with my shipmates.
During the night the train stopped at Rotorua up in the mountains where there are many hot
springs. Her sister was a head nurse at a hospital there, and we had a short layover, so we went
over to the hospital where her sister was on duty. She was expecting us. Someone in the family had
called ahead. She lined up the entire staff of nurses of about six or eight and introduced us.
We arrived in Auckland at 5:30 AM caught a cab and took her to the house and introduced her to
Mrs. Henry. I arrived back at the ship, running up the gangplank at 8:00 AM just as they were
having the morning roll call. The Division Officer saw me coming and hollered "Friederich! I
didn't think you were coming back." That afternoon at 2:30 I asked my division officer for liberty
again, having explained to him that I had brought my friend up from Wellington and could hardly
leave her here alone. He didn't argue with me this time and let me go again.
We went to the University there and met her brother. He was on the faculty. She had brought
along some money and I had gotten paid again, so we partied, going out that night. I took her to
the Peter Pan Cabaret. This was not the kind of places she usually visited. She had spent time in
Auckland before so she knew several good restaurant's, a museum, an Art Gallery. She introduced
me to many of these things that an Illinois farm boy had never seen before. we had a great time.
We were in Auckland a week and on the morning of the 5th of June we were told that we'd
received orders to leave. I went to my division officer and asked to spend the last night ashore to
say goodbye to my friend from Wellington. We stayed home that night. Mrs. Henry agreed to let
me stay all night. She and my friend had hit it off right away and were usually having tea and
talking together when I arrived at the house in the afternoon. We talked all night about the future.
We agreed that the future was a bleak uncertainty, if I survived...I would come back... We would
plan on it being a year...Reluctantly... I left her, early in the morning of June 6th, 1945. It was a
sad farewell...Looking back at her one last time going out the door...She was a beautiful
woman...She taught me a lot about life, love and being part of a loving family. She touched my life
in a special way, and I knew that because of her my world would never... ever... be the same again.
My friend from Wellington has always have a special place in my memory. We met at a time in my
life when I most needed someone to hold onto to keep my sanity when my world was falling apart.
"Now is the hour,
When we must say goodbye,
Soon you'll be sailing.
Far across the sea.
While you're away,
Oh please remember me,
When you return,
You'll find me waiting here."
We arrived in Hawaii on June 23 and moored at Pier 42, the Army pier just down from the
Aloha Tower, in the channel to Pearl Harbor. It was like being home. There were Woolworth
Stores and so many American civilians. We stayed in Hawii for about a week, leaving on June 30
for San Francisco. I had my picture taken with a Hula girl sitting on each knee. I ate a lot of foods
I hadn't had in a very long time. I did not go down to Pearl Harbor. I had seen too many sunken
ships, so I avoided it. It was sometime after that it was made a memorial and became a popular
We arrived in San Francisco July, 9 1945, and went to the Matson lines Pier 63 off 3rd St. in
the China Basin, where we were told we would not be allowed to go home. There was not enough
time. I had now been away from home for almost two years. We started to strip the ship, moving
all our gear to a barge moored in front of it, almost under the 3rd Street drawbridge. There was a
quonset hut on the barge. We were given $4.65 a day to buy our own food in town.
Civilians started welding three ft. wide one inch thick plates down each side of the deck, the
full length of the ship. Several Liberty Ships like ours had broken in half in the cold waters of the
north Pacific, and that's where we were scheduled to rendezvous for the invasion of Japan to take
place in October. The initial invasion was to consist of several million men. Many of us would die,
judging by the way they fought to the death down in the islands. The Navy ships were especially
sitting targets for the kamikaze, so when the atomic bombs were dropped and the war suddenly
ended on August 15th, 1945, we were all grateful.
The next day we were told we could go home on a 30 day leave. I turned another corner here in
my life when I made a decision to go back to the Midwest to see if I belonged there anymore. my
friend, Phil and I took a Greyhound bus back, pairing off with two young women who had just left
their Navy husbands in San Francisco. We had three bottles of whiskey, and drank it by pouring
out part of the coke in a bottle and filling it the rest of the way with whiskey. The girls didn't drink
but they were fun to be with and we stayed together all the way to Kansas City. I believe they went
on to Chicago. We talked all day and all night, too, while we traveled up through Cheyenne,
Wyoming, and then down to Denver. It was a very happy trip. I was very comfortable with women
by now. The crash course that my friend from Wellington had given me had changed my world for
Phil's girlfriend met us in Kansas City. When getting our luggage off the bus, he handed over
all the whiskey that we had left. His drinking days were over.
I came on to St. Louis. I hadn't slept in three days and nights when I arrived in St. Louis, and
arriving at my sister, Hazel's house I laid down on a bed and slept for 14 hrs. After visiting for a
few days I took a bus to Mascoutah, Illinois, and was so welcomed there that they gave me all the
free drinks I could handle and then some. One night at midnight I woke up in the middle of the
street fighting a Marine 50 lbs. heavier than me. I hit the concrete with my head, doing damage
over my right eye. The Police came, and with them a guy I had gone to school with named
Merlynn Wolz. He talked them out of locking me up and took me to a doctor, who he got out of
bed. The doctor patched up my eye, and Merlynn took me home with him to his Uncle, Verle
Hanks, house, put me to bed. They next morning he had cleaned my uniform, his aunt fed me
some breakfast. I went by the doctors office to pay him and he would not take anything.
I went out to New Memphis Station to visit my Uncle Gus and Aunt Rose Klingelhoefer. They
were my Godparents. I had one eye swelled shut. Uncle Gus took me to the tavern in New
Memphis where he and I spent the day. I drank 32 shots of whiskey that day, feeling no pain. My
sister and her husband came out to the country to go to the Church Picnic at our old parish, St
George's in New Baden. I wore dark glasses and went with them. I then returned to St. Louis with
them. On a Friday afternoon I went to meet my cousin, Laverne, where she worked in the office at
the Be Mack Trucking terminal just north of downtown St Louis. She had written to me all the
time I was gone, about life in St. Louis, family, church and visits to our relatives in Illinois. I had
written about life on a Navy cargo ship, tropical islands, the heat of the tropics, flying fish and
anything but about where we where or what we were doing. Laverne had invited me to spend the
weekend at her parents' house where they lived on Louisiana. There were Harry and Josephine, her
Mother and Dad, her sister, Arlene, and brothers, Norman and Justin. I'd brought clothes for the
weekend. We went out to dinner at her favorite restaurant, Fredrick's on Grand Ave. We had so
much to talk about, to catch up on. She had been one of my most faithful letter writers and I had
confided much to her. She had a definite opinion about my 24 year old divorced friend with a
seven year old son. The next day we went to lunch somewhere, then to the Fox Theater. After
dinner at another restaurant we went to meet Cousin Geraldine at the Casa Loma.
On Sunday after Mass at St. Anthony's we had dinner at Harry and Josephine's. We went to a
ballgame at the old Sportsman Park, and out to dinner at Fredrick's on Grand Avenue again. Her
opinion was important to me and so I turned another corner.
After going back to my sister's house I now wrote a note to Delores Randall. I had not written
to her in five months, and although I had written passionate letters to her for almost two years, I
hadn't met her. I told her that I was in St Louis and would like to see her. I didn't get any reply.
She was out of town at the time. Her great-grandfather had died and she was in Steelville, Missouri
attending the funeral.
One afternoon I went to meet my brother, Harold, at the A&P Store where he worked on
North Grand, and we went out to lunch. Coming back from lunch a car was parked by the store
with my brother, Al, waving us over. It was Delores, her mother, her brothers, Billy, and Richard,
who was just over a year old. Al said, "Do you know who this is?" I shook my head no. Billy, who
was five, said "That's Delores." I had written to her for almost two years, but the picture I had was
two years old, too, and I didn't connect with these people being with Al. I climbed into the car with
them and they took me to their home.
We had carried on a two year romance by mail. I had never had anyone so glad to see me. The
Preacher came by that evening and Delores was not embarrassed to stay sitting on my lap. He
questioned me concerning the state of my soul and other matters he thought were his duty to
inquire about. Delores worked for AT&T downtown at Beaumont and Locust. We went down
together and she asked her supervisor for time off. She said okay, so we went to a cocktail lounge
where she often went with her girlfriends between split shifts, then to the Fox theater, the Purple
Cow, a restaurant she liked, The Lowes State, her favorite, the Lowes Orpheum, and the Casaloma
Ballroom, where Laverne and Geraldine had taken me. We went to many other places that Delores
knew about from working split shifts and having time in between when it was not always convient
to take the street car back home. She would often go with some of the girls to a radio station,
where their favorite disk jockey was on the air (Ed Wilson). He was a large, overweight man.
She was blonde, 5ft 2, 110 lbs., gray-green eyes, and had just turned 17 in July. She had an
innocent sophistication. She wore nice dresses, little hats, white gloves and high heels. I was really
in love for the first time in my life. I only went back to my sister's house to sleep for a couple of
hours, coming in at 4 or 5 in the morning, getting up and going back to her house at about 10
I had to leave on Sept 27th to report back to San Francisco, to The Treasure Island Navy
Station. Harold and a friend of Delores's named Wanda took us to Union Station, where I had to
leave that evening. We were sitting at a table in a little restaurant on the upper level overlooking
the main station lobby. It was about 7:30 in the evening on Sept. 27th, 1945, when I whispered in
Delores's ear, "Will you marry me?". She said "Sure I will.". This felt like a forever thing. I felt so
good about it, that I had a commitment from a beautiful young woman, and I wanted to hurry
back and start a new life with her.
As I sat on the train leaving again I thought that my world had turned over again, and again
my life would never, ever be the same. When I arrived at Treasure Island I went to the ship's Store
and bought an engagement ring and sent it to her. I still have the bill of sale for it. Described as
three stones, 28 points, $118.00. That was 1 1/3 months pay at that time.
I was put in charge of a receiving barracks there and there were thousands coming in and
shipping out each day, getting out of the service. I had to manage working parties to scrub the
barracks and polish floors, issue bedding, assign bunks, supervise the checking in and out, issue
chow line passes. It really worked very well because most guys were intent on moving on home or
wherever they were heading and didn't want any trouble. This is where I ran into Marvin Hayes
again. He had gone home on leave after me, and was just coming back through to be re-assigned.
Delores had introduced him to a friend she worked with and they later married, and we attended
In December I was assigned to a ship that was in dry dock at Hunter's Point, The USS Charles
Carroll APA 28, a troop ship, and spent two weeks in a barracks there before we took the ship out
and anchored off Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. I had quite a lot of SP duty in town. The crew
started getting yellow jaundice, and before it was over there was 300 cases. They gave us a handful
of hard candy on our tray every meal and told us to put three teaspoons of sugar in our coffee.
They started to give everyone two shots, one in each buttock. I had SP duty almost every day
because we were short handed, so when I went down for my shot I waited in a long line, and when
I reached the head of the line with my pants already down they were out of serum, and had to go
somewhere to get some more. I waited as long as I could, finally pulling up my pants, getting my
name checked off at the door, and rushing to catch the group going on shore patrol. I never did
get the yellow jaundice. They said that it was caused by the lack of a vitamin that was affecting
that group's liver. Most were transferred off before we left San Francisco.
On Dec. 31, 1945, we left San Francisco Bay. Yes, we pulled out on New Year's Eve for Nagoya,
Japan with several thousand Army troops. We had been given double shots of everything they had
at the time: Yellow Fever Typhus -- some of the shots made me pretty sick at times. I was put in
charge of the boat deck, which included the four landing craft, the captain's gig, and most of the
life rafts for the several thousand men. I also had the incinerator and two smoke stacks. I had six
men to manage it and keep it clean. I had never been in charge before, so it was not an easy task.
Several of the guys were afraid of heights and so I would not make them go up on the smokestacks
on the stages to wash them down. I had to use some of the same guys too often, so several times I
went up myself. One day the First Lieutenant came out and saw me, ordered me down and really
told me off. I was to make the guys do it regardless or put them on report for refusing. I didn't like
this man. One of the deck winches which I had to use to lower a heavy landing craft had a frayed
wire cable. The boat weighed several tons, so I protested to the First Lieutenant several times that I
was afraid it would break and I always had to have men in the boat when I lowered it. He would
order me to lower it anyway. So everytime I had to lower that boat I went and told him about the
cable and he would order me to lower it anyway.
While underway I always had charge of a watch, and would have to go down in the crew's
quarters and wake every guy scheduled for my watch. Each compartment had steel doors that were
locked watertight by about six dogs, and going through I had to open each one and then on the
other side lock them down again. If anyone failed to show up for his watch I had to go find him,
and sometimes had to wake him again. I would be on the bridge with headphones, keeping contact
with everyone on watch, and at different times, depending on when it was, turn on the PA System,
blowing a set signal on my Boatswain's pipe and announce a wake up call "A sweeper's, man your
brooms, clean sweep down fore and aft two times a day. And quite a few times when I had the
watch, General Quarters.
About the PA system -- there were separate switches for the crew's quarters and the
compartments, the Officers quarters and the Captain's quarters, and there was one master switch
that turned all of them on at once. The sea was rough most of the time in this trip to Japan and
China in January of 1946, and endless times I would be woke up in the middle of the night when
one of my boats or life rafts would begin to loosen in their davits and swing a little. I would have
to go up on the dark, windy deck and half hanging over the side, tighten up on turnbuckles with a
Marlin spike. The cables would give in rough seas, and they had to be continually re-tightened.
We arrived in Nagoya, Japan, with the load of Army troops. Going into the docks to unload
them, the city was a burned out shell. There was snow on the ground and the men came down to
the docks with no shoes. They had rags tied around their feet with hemp twine, and rags tied over
holes in their clothes. They had handfuls of large Chinese coins and would try to get you to throw
them something, throwing up these Chinese coins. Guys would throw a cigarette butt down and a
dozen would pounce on it. Usually the guy that got ahold of it was pounced on and dragged off. I
have never seen people in this condition before or since. They were just a ragged mob.
I went ashore with a group under armed guard and in an hour I was back on the ship. They
had holes dug in the ground covered by tin or straw mats and some had small fires down in there.
We sailed away from the sight of that awful destruction and those starving people and arrived a
few days later at the Island of Guam.
At Guam we loaded several thousand Marines for transport to China. On the trip to china we
ran low on food. We had a lot of Chili Con carne with beans, chile concarne and rice. I had a mess
hall bench collapse on my ankle and heel and was disabled for a couple of days. Later I was to see
my medical record and that incident was listed as my ankle being crushed between a small craft
and the side of the ship. One day off the coast of Korea I had the watch and was standing on the
edge of the bridge with my headphones on, just looking out to sea, when I saw a big rusty ugly
looking mine, spikes sticking out all over it. I just hollered at the Officer of the day and ran into
the wheelhouse, and flipping open the master switch, called "General Quarters". The Captain
arrived in seconds and the ship was put into a sharp curve away from it. Its location was called to
a destroyer to blow it up by gunfire. The Captain said we couldn't take a chance on blowing it up
ourselves because of the several thousand passengers we had onboard. Arriving off Tsingtao
China, the Yellow Sea was so shallow that we had to anchor 23 miles offshore and send half the
Marines by shallow draft, LCI landing craft, up the Yellow River to Peking, now named Beijing.
Our draft was 36 ft, and the Yellow River was not that deep. They had announced that there would
be a 24 hour liberty in Peking, so I found myself 2nd on the list. The guy making up the list was
#1, though, so they took every other one starting with the first. On leaving there we went down the
coast to Tiensin and unloaded the other half of our Marines there, and only the doctor going
ashore with their records. We had to unload quite a way offshore there, too, but we could see
many tall smokestacks and a lot of coal smoke. It looked like a dirty place.
After unloading there we retraced our path along the coast, back by Port Arthur Manchuria
and down and around the Korean Peninsula to Sasebo, Japan. Sasebo had been untouched by the
bombers. All the factories there were underground. People there wore pins they said that indicated
they would not give in if they had to fight 1,000 years, to save their homeland. The Channel going
in was stepped on both sides by gardens. It was beautiful. There was a recreation area set up on an
island in the channel where the troops were going for protected recreation. I saw the Japanese here
on the docks eating from small bowls at their lunch time with chopsticks.
We came straight from there back to San Diego in 14 days carrying several thousand Army
troops. The last night out of San Diego was one of the roughest rides I'd had since the Typhoon in
the Philippines. I slept belly down on my stomach holding on, and we rolled all night. Arriving in
San Diego we were met by cheering crowds and a
I had enough points to get out by this time and was immediately let off the ship and stayed
overnight in a training barracks. I started for St. Louis the next day. I had no way of knowing at
the time, but my brother Harold had just joined the Navy and was in a nearby training barracks
there in San Diego at that time. It was a four day trip back to St. Louis by troop train. Arriving at
Union Station we were bussed to a Navy station at Lambert Field where I was discharged the next
day and dropped off on Grand Ave. by a Navy transport truck. I briefly went by to see my sister
and leave my gear, arriving at Delores's House at 3:30 in the afternoon on March 20th, 1946.
While I was gone Delores had decided to take instructions in the Catholic faith. She had attended
instructions before on released time from grade school and had just about finished and joined the
church shortly after I came home.
We decided to take a trip to Lexington, Missouri, where my friend, Phil and his wife lived. We
took a Bus to Kansas City and then to Lexington where they met us and had reserved two rooms
in a hotel for us there. They just had a small two room apartment. Phil and I had talked about
going into the cleaning business together. He knew something about it, but by now he and his wife
had decided he would go to watchmaker school under the GI bill. We stayed three or four days
visiting and while there we toured the Civil War Battlefield and Hospital there that still, after
almost a hundred years had visible bloodstains on the floor, as I looked down at them I thought
"How long will people remember all the blood that was shed on those faraway Pacific Islands and
the men who gave their all to keep us free?"
We were married 10 June 1946, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in St Louis, Missouri. My
cousin, Laverne, was a bridesmaid at our wedding. She died of cancer on 11 August 1991. As I
looked down at her in her casket I thought about the bond we had once had and how she had
helped me come home.
In Memory Of Chaplin/Captain/Father Lawrence F. Brunnert, U.S. Army
Who gave us this blessing in our marriage ceremony
"May you live to see your children's children,
even unto the second and third generation."
Father Brunnert went into the Army Chaplin service shortly after Delores and I were married. He
was sent to Korea. (Exact quote from a message I received last year) "He was killed at Chosin
Reservoir, he died of wounds received in the horrible battle that raged for 10 days... His date of
death was Dec 2 1950. He was a member of the 32nd Infantry part of the 7th Div."
I had written 600 pages of a daily diary while on the USS Cassiopeia but was ordered to destroy it
when we returned to San Francisco in July of 1945 because the war was not over and they were not
allowed. But even after 50 years there are many things you find that you remember always. I'm
sure I have a lot of mistakes in my story and there are some things that I know that I saw that do
not agree with other accounts I have read about. I can only go on what I recall seeing when some
of it even after over 50 years is still so vivid.
I have always believed "Every man the architect of his own fate."(Appius Caecus) Choices made at
different times in our lives, always point us in another direction with a different outcome. One of
the best choices I ever made was to pick Delores’s name from a group of names and in the end to
choose her for a wife. I have always told her that she was the best thing that ever happened to me.
We have been married 56 years, have four daughters, 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren,
and I still think so.
"Do not forget the things your eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life, rather
tell them to your children and to your childrens children."
Copyright©1996-2003-David A Friederich-All rights reserved
One of the Cargo ships was the USS CASSIOPEIA AK 75
2 Photos of the Scene at Doniambo
DRAMA AT DONIAMBO
November 19,1943. The conquest of the Pacific has begun. The Americans began to
transfer their material and their stocks of arms and munitions towards the bases
farther to the north.
At Noumea that day three cargo ships and a warship were tied up to the west dock
of Doniambo factory. Several teams of military longshoremen (?) were taking care of
the transport and stowing in the holds of cases of all kinds of munitions and a batch
of high powered bombs.
It was probably about 14:30 when suddenly a terrific explosion shook the town. The
faithful who were attending vespers in the cathedral hurried outside, terror stricken.
From the church square they could see a giant mushroom spreading slowly in the sky
of Noumea and explosions, some sharp, some muted, following one upon the other,
creating great glowing clouds.
In an instant the Noumeans realized the seriousness of the situation. The American
munitions depot at Doniambo was the victim of the flames. General alert was instantly
issued. All military security services and all the U.S. units were mobilized and
coordinated their efforts with that of the French police as well as the city ambulance
drivers and firefighters. There was no time to dilly-dally. The big bombs had not yet
exploded. Most of them were already loaded on board the ships. If the fire managed
to spread as far as them the town of Noumea would risk being partially wiped out.
To avoid the worst it was necessary to try to approach the blazing fire, to bring the
centers of the fire under control and especially at all costs to get the ships away
from the dock. Faced with the imminence of the danger, the authorities took the first
steps to protect the civilian population. They decided to proceed with the evacuation
of the Tir Valley section of the town which was directly threatened. There was
immediately indescribable panic. Woman and children filled the streets outside the
houses and fled in the direction of downtown.
For the most important, that is to say the withdrawal of the ships from their
positions at the dock, it was necessary to immediately call on the services of all the
qualified maritime pilots. Not one of them was on the scene at the moment. How to
get in touch with them? The U.S. police immediately set out to look for those whose
homes were relatively close to where the drama was taking place. Louis Henin, one of
the Caledonian officer-pilots at the time, was among those. The explosion had just
awakened him from his nap. He didn't hesitate a second and jumped in the jeep of
the M.P.s who took off. When they arrived at the scene, it was hell. Nearest to the
dock the spectacle was danteesque, flames and smoke formed an apparently
impenetrable screen. To better fight the fire, large ladders were put up facing the
inferno. Clusters of humans were climbing them, fire hoses in their hands and it was
there that the horror climaxed. Explosions followed one upon the other with a frenzied
rhythm and each of them blew over the ladders which continued tirelessly to approach
and the unfortunate ones perched on them, obstinately directing ridiculous jets of
water toward the hurricane of fire, were struck down.
One man would fall and another would immediately replace him. It was a tragic
unsustainable gamble(?) of a massacre. And those bombs, those enormous bombs,
were they going to resist very long to those violent waves of repeated shocks and to
that terrific heat which made the atmosphere suffocating(?) There was total panic,
some gas masks appeared, pieces of iron flew whistling through the air. To make
oneself heard at a meters distance, one had to shout.
Louis Henin appeared in the middle of the Apocalypse in a troop of haggard men,
gripped in total disarray. Like a robot he hurried on board the cargo ship which one
of the security officers managed to point out to him, because two of his American
colleagues had just taken possession of the others and were already executing the
Orders rang out, the bell of the Chadburn rang out. Slowly the big cargo ship unooked
from the dock. "Slow ahead"! It withdrew, it was finished, The greatest danger was
removed. The bombs wouldn't explode, Noumea wouldn't be a martyr town.
Comsopac File: South Pacific Force
Of THE UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET
HEADQUARTERS OF THE COMMANDER
In the name of the President of the United States,the commander South Pacific Area
and South Pacific Force takes pleasure in awarding the Navy and Marine Corps Medal
MONSIEUR LOUIS JEAN HENIN
for service as set forth in the following
“For heroism while acting as a Civilian Pilot during a fire which resulted from an
explosion in ammunition stowed on a pier at the Naval Advanced Base, Noumea, New
Caledonia in November 1, 1943. M HENIN with complete disregard for his own
safety, made his way through the hazardous fire and explosion area to a merchant
ship which was in the danger zone and directed the removal of the vessel to a place
of safety. His couregeous action contributed materially to the saving of a valuable
ship and to minimizing the loss of cargo and personnel.
Signed: W.F. Halsey, Admiral, U.S.Navy.
On land reinforcements arrived ceaselessly and after an hour(?) of relentless efforts,
the blaze was contained. A bitter odor of smoke hung over the area around Doniambo;
sparks fell over most of the town.
The rubble still smoking, they pulled out the bodies, mutilated or charred. How many
were there? We will never know exactly since the American authorities had decreed a
total blackout in this region. Some French first aid workers cited figures of 50 dead
and several hundred wounded which were all sent to the American hospitals of
Magenta, Anse-Vata and Dumbea.
One piece of luck in this great misfortune: that the drama happened on a holiday when
the majority of the Doniambo factory personnel were not on the job. What would it
have been like if the catastrophe had occurred on Any other day of the week? One
shudders to think of it...
In spite of the understandable silence of the American authorities, some news finally
managed to filter out and it was learned that the fire broke out at the moment that
competent services of the U.S.Navy was carrying out a prescribed general inspection.
The two officers assigned to the task, Messrs Parenton and Degives, both French
decent and natives of Louisiana, had just finished their tour and were absorbed in the
tally of stocks when the initial explosion rang out. They were horribly wounded,
especially Mr. Degives who never recovered his sight.
As for Captain Friger, the third officer assigned to this inspection, he owed the
saving of his life to a sligh delay caused by the finishing of the urgent report. He
had just left the general quarters and was already on the way to Doniambo when the
first detonations were heard. However, it was noted that the unfortunate man
perished in unfortunate circumstances. Having miraculously escaped the explosion in
Noumea, he did not survive the giant one at Hamburg a few months later. The ways
of destiny are sometimes inscrutable.
From this episode, no doubt the most tragic that New Caledonia experienced during
its American years, remains the memory of the immense fright, and also a great
grief, but also again,without doubt, of a magnificent act of courage, that of the pilot
Louis Henin to whom the governor wrote the day after the drama:"It is with great
pride that I learned of the great heroism which you performed during the tragic
events which took place at the "Le Nickel!" Company docks in the course of the day on
November 1, 1943, and the badge of honor which you just received from Admiral
Halsey, Commander-in Chief of the land and sea forces of the Southwest Pacific,
Allow me to add my heariest congratulations to those of the admiral and to tell you
the high value I place on your brilliant action whose prestige reflects on all the French
in the Pacific.
Bury our Dead
A Copy of this Newspaper story written in French was obtained by Dorothy Irvin of Coos Bay, Oregon-From Mike Christie of Noumea, New Caledonia-Dorothy arranged for it to be translated into english. Hugh Irvin, Dorothy's husband was injured in this explosion.
English Translation©1997-2002--Dorothy Irvin--All rights reserved
Used with permission
Dorothy & Hugh Irvins home page
(?) Denotes a word that the translator was not certain of the meaning.
Copyright©1996-2002--David A Friederich--All rights reserved
Copyright©1996-2002--David A. Friederich--All rights reserved
Bosco's version of the Black & White Scotch Incident
ABOARD USS CASSIOPEIA - AK 75 - SOUTH PACIFIC, 1943 OR 1944
We had loaded and were headed for Guadalcanal. Some of the crew members had spotted the
whiskey as it was taken aboard and stored in #4 hold. The whiskey was destined for the
Officer's Club on Guadalcanal. Bull Halsey must have frequented the club at times because the
whiskey quickly became dubbed "Bull Halsey"s whiskey". At any rate, the first night out the
Officer of the Day noticed we were off course and after observing for awhile and smelling the
breath of the man on the wheel, he concluded that our steersman was indeed drunk. The OD
promptly relieved him of duty,accused him of being intoxicated and sent him to Dr. O'Grady,
hoping to get confirmation of that accusation.
To the amazement of the OD, Dr. O'Grady talked to the man, observed him for awhile, put him
through some inebriation exercises and concluded that he had in fact been drinking but was not
considered to be "drunk". This left the OD with no back-up for bringing charges of drunkenness
on duty. During this same watch, the next man on the wheel was having difficult staying on
course and the OD questioned him about the possibility of his being drunk. His response was
something like "No, Sir, I certainly am not drunk and I demand to see Dr. O'Grady." As I
remember, nothing came of this either. However, this did alert the OD and a check of the Black
and White cargo was made. Sure enough, some of it was missing. A guard was set up
immediately over #4 hold. There were two hatchways down into the hold and an armed guard was
stationed at each one. This alone was not considered sufficient protection so a non-commissioned
officer walked between the two guards.
I drew a 4-hour watch that night as one of the guards. The night was as black as
pitch...couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Old Tony, the Boats was walking between
me and the other guard. Tony was a retired Chief Boatswain who had been called back to active
service at the outbreak of WWII. He seemed like a very old man to us teenagers. He would
spend about 10 minutes talking with me, then walk over to the other guard and spend about 10
minutes with him. As soon as Tony would leave me, I would feel a tug on my clothes. I would step
aside and someone would enter the hatch or would exit it. I"m sure the same thing was happening
at the other guard station when Tony was with me. The whiskey was being carried away with
This watch continued each night for the entire trip but I am sure all the whiskey disappeared
much before the watch ended. It was stashed all over the ship. For instance, I was part of a
paint detail (painting deck while underway) and was sent to the forward Boatswain's locker to
get some rags to wipe up with. We had a huge box with a lid on it where we kept rags. I raised
the lid and reached in with both hands to get rags. To my surprise, there was only a thin layer
on top. The entire box was filled with Black and White. I got as many rags as I dared and
returned with them. Another day, I pulled watch in the crows nest and found whiskey stashed
there. Of course, no officer ever went to the crows nest so that was a very safe place. It was
hidden in every nook and cranny.
Before we arrived at Guadalcanal, Capt. Carlson came on the PA system and made a plea to the
entire crew to "put it back" so we knew it had been discovered that all the whiskey was gone.
He explained that the whiskey was to go to the Officer's Club and that Admiral Bull Halsey
would be very upset. I think he actually expected to be court-martialled over this or to at least
lose command of the Cassie. He asked that it be returned that night---but it didn't happen.
HERE IS WHAT DID HAPPEN
We had a man aboard who we called Little Beaver. I think he was from Minnesota. Little Beaver
had a habit and he had trouble taking care of it. For instance, there was never any morphine in
the First-aid kits and Little Beaver got credit for that. He also liked his alcohol. Little Beaver
was a likable guy and was very talented and skilled at making things. He also had access to the
machine shop. He or a shipmate, took an oblong metal container, cut the end out, cut a hole in
the side and attached a piece of plexiglass for a window, cut places to fit down over the
shoulders so that it would extend down past mid-way of a man's chest when placed over his
head. He attached weights to hold it down then he attached a hose to the top of it and ran the
hose to an old hand operated air pump. The result was a usable home-made diving bell for
We anchored at Guadalcanal very late in the afternoon and were to begin unloading next day.
That night the Black & White was gathered up, put on a couple of pallets and let over the side
and down on the sea floor. Someone went over the side in Little Beaver's diving bell while
someone worked the air pump. The diver unhooked the boom lines from the pallets and they were
left on the sea floor.
Next day, bright and early, a work party of Sea Bees came on board to unload us. They headed
directly for #4 hold, uncovered it and were ready to start unloading the whiskey. Next thing we
knew, they had covered the hatch back up and were leaving. As far as I know, we never saw or
heard from them again. A short time later (same day) another crew came aboard and proceeded
to unload us. Several days later when we finished unloading, it was nearly dark. We were told we
were to get underway early next morning.
That night, Little Beaver's diving apparatus appeared again. A man went over the side with it, a
boom was sent over and lowered down, the pallets were hooked on to and the whiskey was
retrieved and hidden again. Next morning bright and early we left Guadalcanal. I don't think
Capt. Carlson completely understood what had happened, but everyone was quite relieved that no
charges were brought against our Captain or anyone else.
MY STORY CONTINUES
Later, The Cassiopeia makes the Philippine Invasion at Leyte. This would be October, 1944. All
the crew survives. Cassie gets credit for 7 planes. We come back to Guadalcanal. Dr. O'Grady
sends me to the Mobile Hospital on Guadalcanal with an extreme case of jungle rot. I'm sent
back to the US and discharged, go to college on the GI Bill and eventually go to work for the
U.S. Geological Survey in Rolla, Missouri. My position takes me around to call on U.S.G.S.offices
in a 14 state area.
Several years later, probably late 1960's, I am in Madison, Wisconsin calling on the Water
Resources office there. A new District Chief, Bill Schaefer, had just entered on duty. I arrive
in the morning and he & I go out to lunch at noon. We get to talking about WW II "Were you in
the service?" "Yes, were you?" "Yes. Where did you serve?" "South Pacific." "Really! So did I.
What branch of service?" "Navy. How about you?" "I was a Sea Bee. What islands did you see?"
"New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, Guadalcanal, Bougainville, New Guinea and on to
the Philippines." "Boy, me, too. What ship were you on?" When I told him I served on the USS
Cassiopeia, he hit the table, jumped straight up and asked, "What happened to Bull Halsey's
I was really shocked by his question and responded "Tell me how you know of the whiskey and I'll
answer your question." Bill then related that he was a young officer in the Sea Bees and had
been in charge of a group who acted as stevedores. They had loaded our ship at New Caledonia
until the day before the docks blew up. Also, he had been in charge of the group sent to unload
the Black & White at Guadalcanal. When they found there was no whiskey they loaded up and
left. So I then explained what actually had happened to the whiskey to Bill's complete
amazement. I then said, "Bill, our Captain was expecting an investigation and much trouble over
this. Do you have any idea why it didn't happen?" His answer was, "Yes, Bosco, it was because
we got blamed for its disappearance. Higher-ups thought we had unloaded it and stashed it
somewhere on the island. When we reported there was no whiskey, they didn't believe us. They
grilled us, accused us, threatened us and made life miserable for weeks but they couldn't prove
anything on us. I think every duffle bag on the island was searched."
Bill and I became friends and when we would see each other after that we would greet each
other with "Hey, Halsey, how you doin'? " or some similar greeting.
In Febuary 2000, I called Bill Schaefer who now lives in Virginia
He is now 87 years old and he says he is reasonably well. He is certainly alert and appreciated my call. It was our first contact in years...Bosco END OF STORY
Webmaster's Note: I understood there were 98 Cases of Black & White Scotch.
Copyright© 2000,2002--Bosco Eudaly--All rights reserved
Memories of life aboard the USS CASSIOPEIA AK 75
By Robert C (Inky) Hinds
I came aboard the Cassie at Noumea, New Caledonia. The evening I got on the ship the
executive officer told me I would be assigned to a division the next day, but he had a special job
me that night. He told me about the wiskey and I was stationed at no 4 hold. He gave me a 45
and said shoot anybody that I saw trying to access the hole. I felt that I was the most
important man on the ship because of the company I had while on watch. Tony the boats told me
I was the luckiest boy in the world to have gotten duty on the Cassie. I didn"t shoot anybody,
but sometimes I would see one of the big ventilators move 3 or 4 feet at a time.
The next day I was assigned to first division. Thats when I met Beaver. There was
whiskey hidden from one end of the Cassie to the other. Beaver worked all night removing 24
huge bolts from an inspection cover from the shaft that went to the screw down in the Shaft
alley, so he could stash some of the black and white. Next night it was re-stolen by some other
Beaver sort of took me under his wing and I became his compressor operator for his diving.
Beaver would dive and pick up beer which had been lost while unloading.
We would put the beer in a mail bag and store it in the cooler. On new years day 1944 Beaver
let me pick 4 men and he picked 4. We borrowed the captions gig and went to a little island to
have a party. We had 11 beers each, but when they were gone Beaver broke a pint of grain
alcohol and you can guess what happened then.
We had a warrant officer ( I can't remember his name ) but he knew where everthing
was stored on the ship,
We worked many nights to steal New Zealand beer or something that we wanted. We had a
different uniform every day. The warrant officer would tie a rope around my leg. I would crawl
thru the hold until I found the prize. When ready to come out I would jerk the rope 3 times and
he would hold tension on it till I got out.
The executive officer had found out about some of deals and said if he caught us we would court
One day my buddy came and told me that some amphibious boots were in no. 2 hold and we ought
to get us a pair.
We uncovered no 2 hold in broad daylight and were looking for our size.
The executive officer's Office was overlooking no. 2 hold and he stuck his head out of the port
hole and said boys I warned you, you're in big trouble.
About that time commander Carlson stuck his over the bridge above him and said, boys, if you
find any size 12 bring me a pair. The court martial was never mentioned again.
I will be 80 years old coming this march, good to hear from any Cassiopeia crew. Robert C.
Hinds (INKY) # 64 on crew picture.
Copyright© 2001,2002-R.C.Hinds-All rights reserved