WWII Stories

A Collection of Stories from WWII

by John V. Jensen

All contents of this page copyright © 2003 by J.V. Jensen.   No portion of the following stories may be used without the express written consent of the author.

Friendly Fire

   With news lately about our troops overseas having casualties from what is referred as "Friendly Fire", there is no doubt the results are still the same as "Enemy Fire". The following story is from my experience while aboard the USS Fletcher DD 445, a destroyer, during World War II.
   First, it's important to know our Government had developed a five inch antiaircraft shell which exploded when it was within 75 feet of metal. A "proximity" fuse was this very hush-hush secret invention called "Tojo".  Prior to their use, the nose of a shell had to touch a solid surface to explode if it wasn't preset by a timer.  This of course made these new shells a greater danger with many enemy planes brought down without being directly hit.  The five inch shell had a separate powder charge which could propel it many miles.
   It was not completely dark when the crew of our ship was called to General Quarters when "bogies" or unidentified aircraft came into the vicinity. "Blips" had been spotted on the ship's radar.
   We were providing destroyer screen for larger vessels in our task force. The battleship "USS Colorado" was about 1,000 yards abreast, on our port as enemy planes were coming into range.
   Before our ship had fired a shot, we heard the concussion of a shot fired from the USS Colorado and momentarily, a blinding flash over our heads as a shell exploded, raining shrapnel on our ship.  It was obvious the USS Colorado had fired a "Tojo" prematurely before its barrel had been completely elevated. One piece of shrapnel ripped open a 40 MM shell stored in a "ready to use" open container at another gun platform like mine, The exploding powder caused a ghastly arm wound on a nearby gun crew member. The battle with the enemy was soon over, (The aircraft downed, counted as a total for the action.)
     The exposed 40 MM gun which was my battle station was not used. but I was standing in my normal place waiting for orders to commence firing when the shrapnel came down around us. In daylight, the shrapnel holes in our deck was everywhere. One two inch hole was in the deck just a little over a foot from where I had been standing the night before.  The steel helmet I used would not have stopped the powerful force which  penetrated the much thicker steel deck. One piece of shrapnel had pierced a "depth charge" thick steel casing. Have a small piece of shrapnel as souvenir from that action.

In a letter dated April 23, 2002,  Walter Claassen wrote:
     I want to comment on your "Friendly Fire" report you sent me. From your description, the 40 mm gun mount was the one between the two aft 5 inch guns. (#45) During the two years I was aboard, this was my battle station,  I wore the phones.  During the night action you related, the shipmate standing next to me took the shrapnel in his left arm. He was taken to sick bay in the officer's wardroom and the ship's doctor had to amputate the arm just above the elbow. The next day,  Doc. told me this sailor had a nude lady tattooed on that arm so he left the skin with the tattoo and wrapped it around the stump so the entire tattoo was salvaged, but only visible if you followed it around the stump."
         Feb. 2002-J.V.Jensen

 Mortar Shells!!!, At Sea!

   Our ship, USS Fletcher during W.W.II, participated in the many landings of troops on islands in the South Pacific. The initial approach to the area would be an early morning bombardment of the beach in preparation for the first wave of "Higgins boats" (LCT) to hit the shore with as little return fire as possible.  As the troops on shore advanced,  different destroyers with their previously assigned "grid maps" identical to those held by the troops, would fire over their heads to enemy locations radioed back to these destroyers which were staying very close to the shore. Our destroyer participated in the March 10, 1945 landing at Zamboanga located at the southern tip of Mindanao the most southern of the Philippine Islands. A clear day and the troops went ashore with minimum opposition.  The larger landing ships (LST) with their huge bows open and gangway down were soon unloading the many tanks and vehicles needed ashore.
   As the baker, I usually baked the different bakery items ordered at night, This was in the same space used in the daytime by the cooks. (the galley) On our destroyer, the galley was on the main deck with doors (hatches) to both sides of the ship. A compartment for eating meals (mess) was two decks below which also served as a sleeping area having stored bunks for some of the crew.
   On this day, hot cornbread was on the menu to be served with lunch, unusual for a day with a landing scheduled. As noon approached, I prepared to work along with the cooks in this already cramped galley. so made the best of it. Although we were at General Quarters, the cooks and I were excused from our battle stations unless needed.  From the galley's open hatch I could easily see the men and vehicles moving about on the beach when not busy.  Perhaps the most alarming part of being so close to the shore, was the mortar shells the enemy were firing at our ship, dropping into the water near us.
   The shore was lined with trees and vegetation so we were hopping the troops could pinpoint these hidden mortar batteries for us.  In the mean time, to counter this attack our Captain and others on the bridge were directing our ship toward the last splash of a shell, knowing a mortar battery literally jumps in its recoil from firing and would not place a shell in the same previous location. These small mortar shells, were dangerous for our crewmen at their exposed positions on deck.  Damage to the ship would naturally depend upon the area involved.  Our communication with the troops ashore and the shell fire they requested plus their own, finally stopped the mortar attack.
         May 2002-J.V.Jensen

"Chasing Japanese Destroyers"

   In military parlance, only one person is the leader and thus responsible, getting credit or blame. In the Navy, an Admiral may be in charge of a Task Force of ships and he, from his "Command Ship" will hear what has happened then decide and pass his decision of action to subordinates who in turn forward these plans to his ships.  The captains on these ships will follow these orders.
     Perhaps there may be exceptions in reporting information up the chain of command which may take time. then waiting to know the Admiral's decision which may lose the opportunity of the moment.
     Here was an example of doing what had to be done!
   The USS Fletcher, a destroyer in company with cruisers and other destroyers were near Biak Island, one of the Schouten Islands north of New Guinea in May 1944. During a nighttime patrol, our ships surprised five Japanese destroyers escorting "barges" with soldiers aboard. These destroyers immediately abandon the barges, leaving them to their fate.  Our Captain instantly called for full steam and gave chase. It is believed, the other destroyers relayed the presence of the enemy to command, then waited for orders as the "book" requires.  But our ship was far ahead of these destroyers who soon followed. We were however, several miles from the enemy.
   Our engineering division who knew there may come a time when they would be needed for this type of power were ready and the ship was soon gaining on the fleeing Japanese.
   Our ship was designed to have two five inch gun mounts forward and three more aft of the smoke stacks which were, in this case, unusable. (newer destroyers were built with four gun barrels forward in two mounts.) 
   The forward guns were continually firing and the many men involved in moving the heavy shells and powder from the storage locker to loading the guns by hand, needed rest.
   Our Captain had the ship go in a slightly diagonally course for a short time allowing the three mounts aft to turn out and have their barrels clear of our superstructure then fire for a while. This was repeated several times with only a little time lost.
   A dark night, the ship's radar was important in this battle with no visual sighting of the enemy except their guns firing.  Our ship going close to 40 mph speed (35 knots) and the ship's rocking motion, had our guns being aimed from the bridge but even "CIC" could not stay on mark to easily.  The distance traveled in this chase may have been nearly 150 miles.
   During this almost four hour pursuit, the Japanese destroyers were all firing and our ship, was the closest. Torpedoes were noted and avoided, the ship offering a slender target going directly toward the enemy. Their shells may have landed close to our ship but were unseen dropping into the water in the dark.
   As an observer from my unused exposed 40 MM gun station, I could see the flashes from their guns and later, a huge fire ball.  It was announced from the bridge over the many phones located throughout the ship, "One destroyer had stopped momentarily then proceeded again."
   One possibility; Their ship's bridge may have been severely damaged by a nearby enormous explosion (ammunition?) and the short delay was in transferring the ship's control to aft steering.
   Japanese airfields were now much closer and with dawn coming the chase was abandoned.  Also, the fuel tanks were low from the demand of the boilers, the trip back to our base with other destroyers was slow, taking many hours. As a group we had the antiaircraft firepower needed.

                   A postscript,
   After the war when Japanese naval war information became available, it listed three destroyers damaged near Biak Island that date.  Also, these destroyers were prepared for an aircraft attack and were using their many antiaircraft shells, which are more an explosive type than the armor piecing shell, (with delayed action fuses) which could be much more damaging.
         June 2002-J.V.Jensen

           JUST TO FILL THE PAGE
   The original design in 1939 for the Fletcher class destroyers was normal armament that could be handled by a ship's company of 175 men.  With World War II starting and seeing the damage done by enemy aircraft at Pearl Harbor it was necessary to add more antiaircraft firepower on the decks which made these destroyers "top heavy"  causing the ship to roll from side to side more than had been expected. plus the added manpower needed to handle these extra guns. During the war our ship's compliment was seldom less than 330 men.
       Being the bakers aboard, we often baked large sheet cakes as dessert for the meals. As many home cake bakers know, a batter is poured into the cake pan and then in the oven as the heat evaporates the moisture a dried cake raises usually a little over an inch. This also happened on the Fletcher, but when the ship was traveling and rocking from side to side, so did the batter in the oven and on many occasions the batter would "set on a roll" and the cake would be up to four inches high on one side and the other half of the pan scorched.

The Japanese Kamikazes

   The following, is a personal view of our ship's encounter with the Japanese pilots who were willing to commit suicide by diving their plane loaded with a 500 pound bomb into ships which if it didn't sink, would put it out of action till repaired.  The Japanese Navy lost many of their most experienced pilots when the aerial battle of Midway took place and four of their aircraft carriers were sunk, the pilots in some cases drowning having no place to land. Our Government was already rushing to build carriers and the Army and Navy's flight schools were producing pilots for the 50,000 planes that President Roosevelt promised would be built each year. This war was quickly becoming a battle for air supremacy. Japan could not supply skilled pilots fast enough to counter their own losses. As the war progressed the "War Lords" in Japan decided they could sent pilots with just the rudimentary training needed to get a plane airborne and use the plane as a guided bomb, the loyal pilot dying for his Emperor. Reports and a picture from Japan show a group of pilots in line by their aircraft, being "Honored" with a funeral before starting on their suicide mission. The word, "Kamikaze" in Japanese stood for "Divine Wind".
   The USS Fletcher's first confrontation with a Kamikaze was while it was still high and had not started aiming his plane toward us. But our firing at the plane had the luck of killing the pilot, (seen by our powerful range finder) Now, the plane in falling was gliding toward our ship. Our Captain on the bridge knew his verbal orders may take a few seconds to be understood by the man steering the ship and immediately ran to the "helm" pushing the helmsman aside and turned the wheel (ship's rudder) in time to have the plane land twenty or so yards from our starboard side with such force it activated the delayed action fuse of the bomb and exploded past our stern with no damage.
   Our second encounter with a Kamikaze, was personal for me. The plane came across our bow as it dropped closer to the ocean surface, then turning in a "U" and flying about 20 feet above the water as it now aimed for our ship's midsection where my battle station as a loader for a 40 MM gun was located. All our ship's portside guns were firing, the forward and aft guns forming a cone with their shells as our gun in the center was firing straight out as the plane came closer and closer. Near our gun were torpedo tubes with three men assigned there as their battle station. They were there waiting to die when the plane would hit our section and explode. Then, with only three seconds for us to live, these men let out a cheer and I looked out just in time to see the plane, with no power, glide into the waves and sink. The bomb didn't explode and the plane evidently had no machine guns, too wasteful for a one way trip.
         J.V.Jensen

A Rooster !!! on a Warship?

   Aboard the USS Fletcher  we had a rooster named "GQ" which stood for our orders to go to our battle station when we heard the words "General Quarters" over the loud speakers.  GQ  was the ship's mascot for about nine months. After we had arrived in the Philippine Islands and things were quiet, an outrigger canoe with natives, came up to our ship and gave us two roosters to show their appreciation for the allies returning to their country.  After they had departed,  one rooster decided to fly to the mainland perhaps a mile away, It didn't make it. The other rooster took up residency. Was on board through actions while our ship and crew were awarded five more battle stars for being in "Harms Way". The rooster apparently took the firing of our large guns as part of being a crew member.
   One day, months later, some newspaper reporters spent time aboard our ship.  One was Lee Miller, a columnist who had taken over the daily writing chores from the legendary late Ernie Pyle.  Mr. Miller wrote about the crew and their duties, using their names. Was fascinated with our rooster, "GQ" so that too, was in his stories, which told my family immediately, our ship's present area of combat, knowing already about the rooster aboard. ( How many destroyers would have a rooster?)
   After the ship's last action in Borneo when we had to refuel from an oil tanker, we suspect, one of that tanker's crew must have decided when he saw our "GQ"  he wanted a fresh chicken dinner. It was too late when we realized our mascot was gone.
   The rooster was missed, even the men assigned to care for it which was easy with sea water handy  It had the freedom of the ship but liked certain railings behind the bridge to roost, being out of the  wind. This wise bird was friendly and liked being petted so was not frighten by anybody coming near it.
         June 2001-J.V.Jensen

King Neptune's Domain

     As the world became more enlighten and it was decided that the world was round, the problems was not truly solved. While sailors would travel east and west, there was very little known about going south into uncharted areas below the equator, Many stories came back to civilizations about the imaginary creatures living in these uncharted oceans.
   Going back to Mythological Roman times, a legendary creature called Neptune was said to rule the oceans. So now the oceans at the equator became the domain of "King Neptune and his Court".  Somehow it became necessary to pay homage to this great king and have him bestow blessings upon any person who dared to enter his realm by crossing the equator. These newcomers were called polliwogs and a couple of days before reaching the equator had some silly minor obligation to perform. Then on the day of entering his domain, they were initiated in the rituals deem necessary, these novices were then declared "shellbacks" with all privileges that may even require them to initiate future polliwogs.
   Many stories have been told about the method used on different ships to honor "King Neptune" but usually it had a theme where a few shellbacks would volunteer to act out the parts of what would have happened if King Neptune had come aboard by dressing in (ragtag) clothing to create the parts.  There would be a King, (with Crown) a Queen, (with wig) a baby, (with a rattle) a Justice and depending on the participating shellbacks, any amount of Court Nobles, but always a group of police who escorted the hidden "polliwogs" to the initiating scene one by one where the "court" would take over as these polliwogs suffer many indignities such as being pushed backwards blindfolded into a deep tub of seawater made from canvas inside a stack of (four person) life preservers, having a terrible haircut that only removing all the hair would be the solution. An electrical "cattle prod", some liquid tar painted on the skin plus the powerful force of water coming from a "firehose" were other inventive methods used. But always the finish would have the convert get down on his knees and kiss the "baby's bare stomach". King Neptune with his Queen would  be seated on a "throne" watching as their court did the "dirty work".
         J.V.Jensen 2002

Action at Corregidor

Dear John,
   My name is Paul Bigelow and I'm a major in the USAF at Hurlburt Field in FL (near Fort Walton Beach).  I'm trying to research some family history and came upon the history of the USS Fletcher (my mother's maiden name). The reference to Elmer Bigelow is the first piece I've been able to trace in my research for the USS Bigelow (DD-942).  Can you provide additional details, if available, of Elmer C. Bigelow who died during the gunfire attack on 14 Feb 45 of Corregidor?  Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
         Sincerely, <signed> PAUL T. BIGELOW, Maj, USAF

Dear Major Paul Bigelow,   I was aboard the USS Fletcher, Feb. 14, 1945 and remember the activities of the day very well. I personally did not know Elmer Bigelow, he was in a different division and with over 300 men aboard, we would see a shipmate and only know him from a smile. There may still be a few friends of his from his division  (Water tender) coming to our reunion group's annual reunions. I don't know if they could give any details of his heroic action unless they were with him at his "battle station"  As you realize, with a "24 hour day" while underway, only a third of the ship's crew would be needed at their designated work places.  At General Quarters, everyone would have their assigned "battle station" be it engine or boiler rooms, on the bridge or to the gun mounts with their support personnel and to the various "damage control group" centers. located around the ship. These "damage control" men were experienced, having special tools including portable water pumps for using sea water in case of fire and the many duties they may be required to do in an emergency.  I think Elmer was in this type of unit and why he was there, ready to put out the fire in the ammunition storage compartment.   You may find it interesting to know that for three days prior to the action you are interested in, our task-force of cruisers and destroyers were firing shells at Corregidor Island's steep cliffs, using our five (five inch) mounts from dawn to dusk. Retired 30 miles north to Subic Bay, our advance base, where we watched movies on the bow of the ship,  using #1 enclosed mount sideways with its side door open where the projector was placed so it would be above our heads. Buckets upside down was a very common seat.  The next morning it was down the coast and back to bombarding Corregidor. During these days, there was no return fire from the island. Our range finders being powerful, could see the tunnels in the cliffs, covered with removable brush, where a gun emplacements may be, but these guns were likely on tracks, rolled back from the entrance and probably not damaged.  On February 14th. another destroyer and our ship were ordered to blow up mines which were floating in the water. A Navy (yard) mine sweeper earlier, had cut their cables from "anchors".   Moving very slowly as each shell fired did not explode a mine and with Corregidor being silent,  It was a surprise to see shells landing in the water near our ship and they certainly were not coming from our sister ship.   We immediately reversed our engines and had backed up about a hundred feet when a shell from Corregidor hit our ship a hundred feet forward from my "battle station".   I will always believe I was spared.   The shell cut open the deck into the chief's living quarters below and put big holes in #1 gun (where most were killed) and disabled the use of #2 gun. Below decks were the ammunition storage compartments for the damaged guns and there, a fire had started by the exploding shell.  Elmer's quick action in putting out the fire in a confined area without thinking of himself, and taking the time in using the normally used breathing equipment, saved our ship from terrible damage if not losing the whole ship with many fatalities.The crew of the USS Fletcher to this day, believe, this to be true.   We had just been hit by the enemy's shell, when, within minutes, orders came for our ship to rescue men from a sinking mine sweeper which was much closer to Corregidor.  As we headed for the stricken craft, we knew there was an active gun just waiting for our ship to come closer.  Then, out of the "blue", a plane flying just above the waves with a plume of white smoke trailing hid our ship from the island completely.  In those few minutes till the smoke cleared, our ship "regrouped" and with the help of this spotter plane, (from a cruiser) our guns were able to fire round after round into the tunnel where, we were told, by the plane's pilot, the gun responsible for our ship's damage, was located and destroyed it.   At this same time, my gun captain, had been ordered to help with rescue work at the damaged area. I was standing next to him so he handed his earphones to me. (Our 40mm gun had not been used in this operation,)   While our ship was picking up the mine sweeper's survivors, orders came from the bridge telling me to take our crew to another 40mm gun near the bow.  Men from this forward gun had gone to  help in the rescue of our casualties. After reporting all present at our new gun position, I received orders to have our crew fire at the yard mine sweeper along the water line, This was to sink it so it wouldn't keep floating and possibly land on the beach for the enemy to board.  We heard later there were several dead aboard.   The USS Hopewell had originally gone to the rescue of this stricken craft but enemy shells landing on the destroyer had killed many men, it stopped the rescue efforts and had to retreat, passing us with its dead readily visible.   We returned to Subic Bay, transferred our six dead and seven wounded to a destroyer tender (repair ship) and prepared for the next morning when paratroopers would land on top of Corregidor.   The next day our ship was in position and participated as required, even if we only had three guns available, if needed, we would use them as if there were five.   It was also the day Elmer Bigelow died from double pneumonia, the result of breathing only smoke too long. His heroic action was noted. After the war, President Truman gave his mother the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously. For conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his life.   A destroyer, USS Elmer Bigelow DD 942, was named in his honor.

In passing;

     Another destroyer, USS La Vallette DD 448, was ordered to finish firing at the still floating mines in the area we had left earlier, but the ship hit an uncut mine, opening a huge hole in its starboard side, it nearly sank with its bow nearly level with the waves. A second destroyer, USS Radford DD 446, was dispatched to rescue it, but then, also hit a mine in the same forward fireroom, starboard side as the La Vallette. The casualties for the Radford were less when the Captain had already ordered all unnecessary men normally below, to stay on deck. The Radford was able to tow the La Vallette the 30 miles back to Subic Bay, mentioned earlier. Both were given enough repairs to handle the trip to a West Coast shipyard for restoration.

Oct. 1997-J.V.Jensen

Men below decks

   Aboard our ship many men had battle stations for "General Quarters" below deck They were in the fire room, the engine room or in the different ammunition compartments,  These men as well as those stationed inside gun mounds or other enclosed areas couldn't see what the rest of us saw who were on deck with exposed smaller guns.  Seeing flashes of the enemy s guns firing at us or aircraft looking for a target does get the adrenaline moving till we answer back, Stopping the attack and saving our ship puts everything in its proper perspective but still very unnerving to those below decks.
    It was necessary for every group of men in their various sections to be connected by phones to the bridge by using  single line telephones, The man with the phone in each group would usually convey a running account of what he was hearing.  The officers on the bridge, when not giving orders were understanding about that. With no one talking it usually meant things were quiet which was comforting for the men below relying on any information.
     When only our five large gun mounts were firing, the men below deck knew it meant the enemy were miles away, When our medium range guns (40 MM) started firing, the enemy were closer and when our lighter guns (20 MM) began firing, there was concern. This came about when the Japanese started using suicide pilots (Kamikazes) diving their bomb laden planes toward our ship.

May 2001-J.V.Jensen

"Peanut Butter Cookies"

    As one of two bakers aboard the Fletcher, I realized there was no recipe in our Navy cookbook for making peanut butter cookies, a favorite of mine. My wife Margaret, had a good recipe for them.  So I had her send the recipe to me and after doubling it quite a few times found the amount needed to give the crew two cookies each when there were cookies listed on the menu. This was a lot of cookies to make by hand for over three hundred men, so after a while, decided to use the same amount of dough but make them twice as big and only serve one to each man. This turned out to be a good idea. There was always men waiting to sit down with their tray of food getting cold because of the limited seating area,  With the war, more guns were added where possible, this also added a third more crew than the ship was original designed to carry.  Now, when the men finished with the meal they would place the large cookie in their mouth, carry their tray to the cleanup area, then go on deck to munch on it.   One day while we were tied up to a pier in Nandi, Fiji Islands, someone on deck spotted a shark in the water. He threw some of his cookie into the water and the shark came by to eat it. Well, in minutes, that cookie was followed by more from other members of the crew and soon a "school of large sharks" were along side our ship trying find yet another crumb and were actually "Rocking the Boat". Their huge bodies as a solid mass did cause out ship to gently sway. That day I became known as the "Shark Bait Baker.

June 2001-J.V.Jensen

A Drinking Beer Story

    The USS Fletcher DD 445 arrived in the Solomon Islands when our Navy was very short of ships of all types. You may have read stories of how some Americans before Dec. 7, 1941 didn't care what happened in Europe.  Believed in isolationism and letting Germany finish taking over England.  Even Joseph Kennedy, then our Ambassador to Britain was for a time, pro-Hitler. He was the father of Jack Kennedy, our President. (1960)   With this "America First" attitude the government couldn't start building ships, planes or tanks etc. till the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. With limited amount of destroyers spread between a two ocean war, we, in the South Pacific area soon realized our Government was first going to help the European nations. Our duty then with a weakened Navy was to at least, try to stop the enemy's advance. Naturally with so few ships, there could be no rotation of ships back to the states for liberty or leave.     In those early days of the war, some island's small natural harbor or bay would be a temporary forward base for our cruisers and destroyers. Other vessels in and out, may be a Navy ammunition supply ship, Fleet oil tanker and food supply ship.  A village in the area with their native stores was certainly no reason to go ashore.  After the "front line" had moved on, in some of these places, "Quonset hut type" buildings including hospitals were erected for a more permanent base with even baseball diamonds added, (don't know about golf courses) With piers and the storage buildings, now cargo ships started unloading supplies in safety. By then the combat area and the USS Fletcher were miles from there.   In one respect, men on warships were envious of the fighting men on shore. As you may know, men in foxholes were relieved in groups after being in the front lines for a while. Going back far enough from danger to be able to get some fair night's sleep before returning to the front lines.  But more than that, we in the Navy knew the Army and Marines brought along a good supply of beer for these days of rest. But in the Navy there was a ruling saying, "No alcohol aboard Navy warships except in a doctor's locked cabinet". medicinal, you know.  Finally, the Navy changed the rules, beer could now be stored under lock on the ships.    Now started a new type of "liberty" for our crew. An "LCT" (Landing Craft Tanks) with room for forty or so standing men, would come along side and with our tepid beer aboard, part of our crew would board and be allowed two bottles per man, the craft circling our ship till the beer was gone, then repeating this game with more beer and crew.   A few times these Higgins craft would make several trips taking our shipmates to the beach of an "Exotic Paradise" island where MPs with rifles were walking along the edge of the tree line to either, make sure we didn't escape or protect us from the island's cannibals Oh, yes, the deluxe furnishings with our two beers were fallen trees to sit on, a lot more accommodating than the Higgins' boats going round and round the ship.     Even this type of liberty was rare and months went by without seeing civilians. We saw very few "USO shows", our ship seldom being in a safe area for them.   From the time we left San Diego in early January 1944,  we had one "sightseeing liberty" going ashore Feb. 20, 1945 in Manila, in the Philippine Islands which had just been "secured", a four hour tour in groups of eight with an officer along as "chaperone". This poor city was a living hell for its residents, the buildings empty having been blown apart or huge holes in it. Of course, no restaurants were seen and we were aware the Japanese had put poison in bottles of good brands of whiskey by using a hypodermic needle down the cork, the small hole was not noticed by those who had bought them from the young people roaming the streets and now were either dead or on a hospital ship wishing they were.   For many months, our ship was scheduled for maintenance service such as barnacle removal from the hull. As our ship's name came closer to a date for return to the states, other ships having serious damage from the Japanese would go ahead of ours on this list.  The fine engineering and the other departments necessary in keeping our ship in great condition and ready for combat till we did return was certainly noted.    Finally a dry dock became available.      Arriving in Long Beach, California the end of June 1945, 18 months from the time we left San Diego the crew finally had their liberty. With the ship in drydock and crew living in barracks, most of them could go on their 30 day leave and many of them having been overseas for three years were given new on shore assignments using a point system based on how long at sea and months in the service. With the war ending before our ship was ready for sea, now the process of returning  many of the 12 million men and women from the different services to civilian life began.

Aug. 1999-J.V.Jensen

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