|Pearl Harbor (November,
Team assigned to USS Bull. Obtained 12 special army 50-cal. machine guns thru the help of Eddie Duchin (popular piano player remember him?) whose friend was the Supply Officer at Pearl. Eddie was the Sound Officer on the Bates. We met thru mutual acquaintances. Obtaining the 12 guns was not easy, but Eddie's charming and persuasive ways won out!
Pacific (December 1944)
Headed towards Ulithi. Sat with the ship's C.O. on the bridge for several days. I mentioned the threat of Kamikazils coming up and requested the installation of "some"50 cal. machine guns to be manned by our UDT volunteer gunners. Permission granted. Much to the astonishment of the Captain next morning the 12 50's adorned the Bull - 6 each side with gun mounts firmly welded to the edge of the ship.
Well, it took a lot of persuasion to maintain our artillery ( the skipper figured on only I or 2 50's). The guns paid off - we helped shoot down 2 Kamikazi's at Lingayen Gulf, where several ships were sunk including the Brooks, which I was previously on with Team 7.
Lingayen Gulf (January 1945)
Left Ulithi and proceeded to the Philippines where our first violent action took place: A jeep carrier, the "Oominy Bay" in the Mindanao Sea, was hit by a Kamikazi which blew off the super structure. Many lives were lost but the Bull had to continue with the Fire and Bombard force to Lingayen Gulf.
Sailing past Manila, we witnessed at least (8-10 Jap torpedo planes attack our battleships which calmly shot them down during their approach runs.
We made Lingayen Gulf and reconnoitered White Beach, near the town of San Fabian. Not much in the way of mines and obstacles. During the covering fire, one of our support destroyers refused to come any closer to the beach as ordered, so the Bull steamed in to cover the swimmers and almost ran aground - ships crew fired the 5 inch gun so fast they had to spray the barrel with water. The Bull gave us great support - what a skipper and crew!
With the swimmers back, we noticed a huge whale shark along side of the ship - it was 25 to 30 feet in length! We all gave a sigh of relief our swimming was completed.
But in the late afternoon all hell broke loose: hundreds of Kamikazi's attacked our ships causing much damage and many casualties. That is when our 50's went to work - with great success as mentioned. The Bull was not damaged and sailed back towards Leyte Gulf with the other ships. In the Mindanao Sea, the ship's captain received orders to rescue a downed flier and destroy his plane off the beach of Siquijor Island. After steaming several miles among the islands (with no escort) the plane was sighted in a lagoon. The Team volunteered to rescue the pilot and destroy the plane - so off we went but were stopped by the the barrier reef. Meanwhile, dozens of natives in small cayucas met us and offered to take us to the beach, which we did somewhat reluctantly because we did not know friend from foe!
I was in the first boat which landed on the beach. In front of me was a line of armed men! I believed that I was to be captured, but I resolved to shoot it out - so I drew my 45, but it stuck in my holster. As I kept tugging at the pistol, I figured they would shoot before I could. But as I looked up, the armed men were presenting arms! So then I assumed them to be the local guerrillas and I promptly gave them a snappy salute! And then the cheers and yelling because MacArthur had sent a big ship to the island. So I had to make a brief speech on behalf of MacArthur!
Well, our crew was welcomed with flowers, beer and flag-waving, shouts and speeches and what all. We were having such a good time we forgot about the pilot! When I finally remembered our mission, I was directed to the edge of the village ( I believe the name is Larena) where on a raised pallet was the pilot surrounded by a dozen girls waving palm fronds over him to keep him cool. I immediately signaled for the ship's doctor as our patient looked none too good! The scene looked like a John Wayne movie.
The doctor came ashore and after his examination, decided to take him aboard the Bull. However, we stayed ashore enjoying the festivities until the signals from the Bull urged immediate return; which we did reluctantly.
Meanwhile the Bull was having problems with 2 Navy fighters who were on the verge of bombing our ship. Communication was finally established with a Navy "dumbo" which was on its way to pick up the injured pilot. The "dumbo" called off the 2 Navy planes in the nick of time as they were starting their bombing run!
After such harrowing experiences our good and friendly skipper had a nervous breakdown and the XO took command of the Bull (I forget their names at the moment). Anyhow, the Bull and UDT 14 were credited with capturing an enemy island, namely Siquijor Island!
Ulithi (January - February, 1945)
Arriving at Ulithi, our team was put ashore on an island near the channel entrance - it was being prepared for a receiving station for all the ships in the harbor. I looked for the CEC officer in charge of construction to obtain food and lodging for UDT 14. it was provided - skimpy quarters still under construction, but good food.
The CEC officer in charge invited the officers of the team to the Officers Club, which turned out to be a grass shack on the point, facing the main channel. The beer was cold and much appreciated!
While enjoying the beverage we noticed a freighter coming up the channel accompanied by 2 destroyers. When I asked what that ship was, the CEC officer said that it was the ammunition ship. Later another somewhat decrepit freighter arrived surrounded by 3 destroyers each side. When questioned as to what that ship was, the CEC replied "that's the Liquor Ship!"
After a delicious Seabee dinner we gathered in the tent of the 0 in C and spun mighty tales of UDT 14. All of a sudden he asked what time it was. When told, he said we were late for the dedication of the new chapel by the Chief Chaplain of the navy.
So we all piled in his jeep ('about 10 or 12 of us) and headed for the chapel about 150 yards away. The driver couldn't see very well with so many passengers aboard and collided with the side of the church. We all fell off and dusted off our uniforms amidst scornful looks of the people in the church!
After listening to a long-winded talk by the Chief Chaplin, the next speaker, a Father Gallagher, stepped up and in a few words welcomed everybody and offered his services to anyone in need. I was so impressed with the short talk I told the 0 in C that he said in one sentence what the Chief Chaplain took one hour to say! The 0 in C: asked if I would like to meet Father Gallagher and I said "sure". When introduced, Father Gallagher asked if my family was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I replied affirmatively to which he replied "Six weeks ago I baptized your baby daughter". What a surprise! I then asked Father what color eyes the baby had. He retorted: "Son, I don't remember that, but we had a heck of a good party!"
The next day I paid a visit to Father Gallagher to talk about the baptism and the Portsmouth Navy Yard, where Jackie's (my wife) father worked. After all that, he told me a strange story: Father decided to visit the big island where all the natives of Ulithi were moved (the Navy took over all the other islands for military purposes). He got a small boat with a coxswain to drive and as they approached the beach all the natives kneeled for his blessing. Father was surprised because all he wore were plain khakis with no insignia. He said "how did they know I was a priest'?"
After landing, the good father was surrounded by the inhabitants and was requested to say Mass, which he was prepared to do. During the Mass, the worshipers all responded in Latin, much to Father's amazement. After the service he asked the people when was the last time they had Mass. They replied "10 years ago"!
The next day I went to the Dental Officer for a checkup. He said he would be glad to look at my teeth, but his dental tools had not yet arrived!
After swimming along the beautiful and colorful coral reefs for a few days, we boarded the Bull once again and headed for Iwo Jima.
Iwo Jima (:February, 1945)
Arriving at Iwo early in the morning of D73, the ominous-looking island with steam spouting here and there, I was reminded of Dante's "Inferno" !
As the records show, UDT 14 reconnoitered the beaches under intensive fire. Our only casualty was Lt. (jg) Lee Yates, who was killed on board LCI(G) 449 along with one of our marine observer's.
Two of our swimmers were not picked up on schedule, so I kept our back-up boat on the scene until we finally spotted them right off the beach. Despite the mortar and machine gun fire, our coxswain zigzagged and picked up our boys - one hour late!
After the morning's operation all the UDT CO's reported to the Ancon, flagship for the Fire and Bombardment Force. At the (meeting, the Admiral looked at me and with pointed finger said 'Lieutenant, do you realize that you held up the 3rd Fleet one hour ? I replied "yes sir". Then he said "I want to see you in my cabin after this meeting". I had visions of a Court martial or desertion, etc. So, after the operation conference I knocked at the Admiral's cabin. He said "come in", and I entered the cabin. He looked at me for a minute then shook my hand and said "I would have done the same thing". What a relief!
Later I was to return to the Bull, but it had been ordered on picket duty, so I and 2 marine observers went with Fred Brooks, CO of Team 15 to the Blessman which proceeded at flank speed to join the rest of the fleet heading towards Japan.
About 21:30 a five--hundred pound bomb from a Jap plane exploded in the mess hall of the Blessman. I had just left the area and went up forward to find an empty bunk when the bomb exploded. Lots of casualties and damage. Many of Team 15 members and our 2 marine observers were killed. Later another destroyer came along side, which I boarded and then transferred to the Bull in the A.M.
As you know, we lead the assault waves to the beach on D-day and then spent several days demolishing broached boats to permit other craft to land.
One historical event I will never forget: While on the beach directing the demolition work, a loud voice from the Beachmaster broadcast "now hear this, the American flag is about to be raised on Mr. Suribachi". All shooting stopped and we all looked up and saw the memorable sight of the marines raising the flag. After the flag was raised, the shooting resumed.
Another outstanding memory: From the control boat we located the big guns on the hills that were demolishing our LCI(G)'s. Later a cruiser came in and took out the guns. This action, no doubt, saved many lives on D-Day!
Okinawa (March, 1945)
After several days of demolition work on Iwo, Team 14 was ordered to Ulithi and then back to Kerama Retto, where one of the teams found a batch of mini-subs, which were quickly disposed of. Then off to Okinawa.
Our job there was to conduct feint reconnaissance and demolition activities, which we did. Many of our team members did not consider this operation as important as our previous action, but nonetheless was most effective in misleading the Japs of where the main assault landings would take place. I remember at Tinian with Team 7, the feint and phony demolition drew the Japs away from the main landing area. All troops landed with hardly a casualty.
Following the landings we sailed back to Kerama Retto where suddenly all the Kamikazi's swooped out of the sky and hit over 125 ships - mostly destroyers on the picket line. We stood by our 50's but I don't remember if we hit any Zero's which were everywhere.
Pearl Harbor ? Maui (February 1945)
I guess everyone remembers our voyages back to Pearl and Maui and then a 30--day leave in the States. I was transferred to Davisville, R.I., a Seabee training area. And Chuck Emery was transferred to Naval Operations.
None of us will forget the awesome experiences of the UDT'S. I did not write about the many details that Team 14 was involved in as they are well recorded elsewhere. But I can say I was sure proud to command a great bunch of guys!