The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
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Sections: Fall 1944 Jan 1945 Feb 1945 Mar 1945 Apr 1945 May 1945
Early April 1945 found the Big E in Ulithi atoll, where repair ship Jason undid the damage inflicted by two friendly fire hits that Enterprise received off Kyushu in March. Again ready for action, she sortied on 5 April, rejoining Task Force 58 on 7 April. Over the next five days, Enterprise was at General Quarters continuously, and on 11 April two near misses jarred the ship sufficiently to force her to retire again for further repairs. While Night Torpedo 90's morale reached a low ebb in April, their finest hour was still to come.
Easter! Even out here the tradition of attending church on this day seems to hold good. There was the largest attendance we have ever seen. Very few new "Spring Outfits" were in evidence! The service itself was a good one with special music by the choir, Waldo Cummings [LT Ralph W. Cummings] directing.
The squadron had a party on Mog Mog today which, if drunkenness is any criterion, was a complete success. As usual, there were several incidents of an amusing nature. One had to do with a Marine Lieutenant who "somehow" got pushed off the dock into the water. A Colonel immediately objected to such undignified treatment of one of his men and finished the last part of his complaint looking up at the deck from his new point of vantage in the water with the indignant query, "Who the hell pushed me in!" Another interesting interlude came with the inception of a rock and coral fight - all good natured fun of course - which came to an abrupt end when Lt. Cmdr. Bill Chace (William Two) caught one of Bourbon Bill Bacon's [LT William D. Bacon] missiles across the head. "Sackit" now sports a nifty adhesive tape and gauze chapeau which would be the envy of many a Parisian milliner.
Some of us took enough time off from drinking to go swimming. We used face masks which enabled us to see amazingly well underwater. It was undoubtedly the most interesting swim we had ever had. We went in on the windward side of the island inside the reefs and breakers. The water all the way out to the breakers is only about chest deep or less but it was amazing how many fish there were. The bottom was strewn with clumps of coral growing like bushes. Most of these clumps varied in size up to four or five feet in diameter and grew off the bottom to a height of two to three feet. The colors of this coral were not particularly unusual, being mostly shades of brown or tan but the variety of shapes and forms was extremely interesting. Fish of all sizes, shapes, colors and descriptions swam about these formations, feeding or hiding in the intricate crevices. Many of them were exceptionally colorful, ranging from jet black through all the shades of the spectrum to pure white. One unusual one was about two feet long, about an inch in diameter and seemed to be practically transparent. We also saw a Tuna about fifteen inches long. The most numerous variety was a white fish with large eyes and a single black mark on its side - about seven or eight inches long. They traveled in schools of from five to thirty. We also saw a small giant clam about three inches across. But Jim Plummer [LT James W. Plummer] says that in deep water they sometimes grow to four or five feet and if a man steps into an open one he's quite apt to spend the rest of his life with only one foot.
We spent a very pleasant hour in this manner. We swam, of course, only in the clothes of mother nature and whenever we dove or floated our "sterns" were unmercifully exposed to the direct rays of the tropical sun. Speak of your rosy cheeks!
The VT enlisted men's team played in the semi-finals game of the basketball tournament today but sad to say they were beaten by a score of 25 to 14. We've seen them play a better game than they did today but their competition was plenty good too. The men who played for VT in this game were Lindsey [Joseph D. Lindsey AMM 1/c], Pfeiffer [George F. Pfeiffer Jr. ART 1/c], Krock [Elmer W. L. Krock ART 2/c], Kitchen [James B. Kitchen ARM 1/c], McHale [Daniel J. McHale AOM 2/c] and Warner [Donald L. Warner Jr. AOM 1/c]. This team of ours had done pretty well in beating some darn good ball clubs - too bad they couldn't have taken top honors but then someone has to lose.
The ship's newssheet today tells about the landings on Okinawa which are apparently going exceptionally well. Yesterday was "love-day". The landing was made by the Tenth Army and the Third Marines, closely supported by ships of the fleet and both American and British carrier forces which made neutralizing raids on the Sakishima and Amami groups to the south and north. The landing itself was staged on the western side of the island where there is a four mile beach suitable for wheeled vehicles. The operation is progressing according to schedule and by 1100 yesterday they had taken Yontan and Kadena airfields with only slight opposition.
Ernie Lawton [LT(jg) Ernest J. Lawton Jr.] came forth with the juicy bit of scuttlebutt that perhaps we wouldn't be needed in the Okinawa fracas. Ernie is valiantly struggling to realize a May deadline in Wisconsin - a prospective father, to be sure. He must answer the challenge of Ed Hidalgo [LT Edward Hidalgo] whose chest expanded on 22 January when "Joanne" was born. They'd better decide in the next two days because that's when we're due to sail - and it looks like we'll make it - the ship's repairs are coming along fine. Even the two 40mm mounts are beginning to look serviceable again. Of course, it would suit all of us if we didn't have to use them again.
Quarters for muster was the first unusual event of the day and one which is not especially relished or enjoyed. But at 0900 came an event that received whole-hearted approval and a royal reception. Twenty Army nurses from the nearby hospital ship Mercy came a-visiting. The crew of the Enterprise turned out en mass to behold and gawk. Twenty lucky officers escorted them. Some of them were not bad to look at - though we are not sure of our standards of judgment by this time. A few of the air group officers were among the chosen few - Joe Jennings [LT(jg) Joseph F. Jennings] complained that Ed Hidalgo wasn't quick enough to get a girl of his own so he tagged along and spoiled all Joe's fun. Most of us only got a fleeting glimpse.
Early this morning an LSM came alongside from Guam with last minute supplies. They unloaded till 0930 when we weighed anchor. We sortied about 1000.
Even the worst of the "die hards" have about given up hopes of our immediate return to the States - a northwesterly course just doesn't lead to Pearl by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact we are headed toward Okinawa to join Task Force 58.2 operating against the islands north of Okinawa. We learned this at a preliminary briefing session this afternoon.
Recent reports on the Okinawa operation indicate that the landing is progressing faster than anticipated. In fact they're as much as twenty days ahead of schedule in some places. A stretch twenty miles long in the middle of the sixty mile island has been secured from coast to coast and includes the two airfields mentioned before.
Observation planes are already operating from these fields which are open for emergency landings. The Marine First Division has joined the Third in making the attack along the northern front while the Tenth Army is fighting in the south with Naha as a major goal. Prior to "love-day" several small islands to the west were taken, including a sea plane base from which PBMs are now operating (Kerama Retto).
This landing is unique in military history in that the initial wave of landings was the largest ever made. 20,000 men took part in the opening onslaught - more than in the first wave to hit the beach at Normandie. In all, about 175,000 troops are to be put ashore to combat the estimated 60,000 Japs. Over 1400 ships are taking part. The British carrier force is with us - the first time that a British force has taken part in a coordinated operation against the Japanese in the Pacific war.
Our air operations today have been routine ASPs [Anti-Submarine Patrols] and tonight an eight plane exercise group will make RCM [Radar Counter-Measures] coordinated attacks on the Enterprise and the Randolph which is with us. So far there have been no operational accidents though Charlie Henderson [LT Charles E. Henderson III] came the closest. He landed and bounced his hook over two or three wires; it looked like a barrier for sure. But the resourceful young man had a record to keep clean. "Hot Shot" Charlie hit the brakes and almost brought the plane to a smoking stop just as he caught the seventh wire. This braking procedure is not often resorted to nor recommended as standard for stopping airplanes in carrier landings. Rumor says that Charlie is now working on a memo which will set forth this new style of landing as a possible replacement for the wire, arresting hook and other parts of the ordinary, old-fashioned gear!
This evening when the ASP and CAP [Combat Air Patrol] landed, the operation was witnessed by about twenty pilots who lined the catwalk which runs along the inboard side of the island about three decks above the flight deck. They all had their remarks to make about each approach and landing - praising the good ones, criticizing the poor ones, and exclaiming over the lucky ones. You'd think they have had enough of that by now but apparently not. The ovation that greeting Henderson's hot shot landing was indeed heart-warming and the gallant Charlie bowed gracefully in acknowledgment as he passed beneath the gallery on the way to the ready room - we expect the boys will give him a bad time before that landing is forgotten!
Flight operations began with a pre-dawn ASP. About an hour after take-off Commander Martin [CDR William I. Martin] relieved the monotony of the flight by reporting a bogie in his sector and the ship directed him to investigate. A long silence followed the contact report and everyone in the air waited expectantly for developments. At last the awaited transmission came through - "Nero Base this is three Baker Nero - bogie identified as friendly Thunderbolt! Cut!" This incident of mistaken identity occasioned considerable amusement in the squadron. It is assured of course that the mistake would not have been made if Lt. Cmdr. Chace had been along but unfortunately he has been temporarily grounded due to the aforementioned head wound.
We alternated during the rest of the day with the Randolph in maintaining fighter CAPs and VT ASPs. In the morning there was a briefing session which consisted chiefly of the distribution of sizeable stacks of charts to each officer and aircrewmen.
This afternoon we had a movie in the ready room - "Higher and Higher" starring Frank Sinatra - and this evening the ship had another one on the hangar deck called "This Man's Navy" with Wallace Beery.
This date finds us again approaching the battle area - this time Okinawa. We met the tanker fleet this morning and refueled. A CVL [Independence CVL-22] which came out with them has joined us now in our northwesterly heading.
No one seems to know as yet just what our job will be but it seems likely that we'll have intruder and heckler missions and perhaps some searches for surface forces from the empire. Reports have come in of Jap naval units moving from Kyushu. One such force is said to include two BBs, two CLs, and seven DDs. The day groups gave this force the "business" with extremely good results. One BB [IJN Yamato] is definitely sunk and several other ships are reported dead in the water or burning badly. It seems likely that we may get to see some action.
The ship in general spent the day preparing for action. The air group flew the afternoon ASPs and CAPs. At about 1500 the force was alerted by a bogie at ten miles - a report followed shortly that our CAP had splashed it. The "Splashee" was Jap Francis [a two-engine medium bomber] and the "Splasher" was Runion [LT Dallas E. Runion], a fighter pilot.
This evening we had a briefing session which was interrupted at 2000 by special church services and resumed again at 2200. The ship will be at GQ all day tomorrow, hence regular divine services will be impossible. During the briefing, ACI Eddie [LT Edward Hidalgo] was giving us elevations on various islands. One of the charts had 6400 feet for the maximum peak on a certain island but Eddie has 2100 feet from some other source. In the discussion that followed, Eddie said he was sure that 2100 was correct and that we should rely on it - he'd "take the risk of saying that!" - if we didn't hear any more about it from him. Bob Heid [LT(jg) Robert S. Heid] quipped back immediately, "and if you don't hear from us you'll know that 6400 feet was correct!"
This morning found us going into general quarters for the whole day. We are now part of 58.2 which includes the Randolph and the CVL that came out with the tanker force. We are southeast of Okinawa about 150 miles but will undoubtedly get closer 'ere long.
The day passed quietly with no aerial attacks. The fighters launched sixteen planes on a target CAP but otherwise there were no air operations.
However, there are three hecklers scheduled for tonight, the first at 2000. These are to hit Miyako Shima and Ishigaki Shima about 200 odd miles from our evening position.
Probably the most outstanding activity of the day was the serving of "K" battle rations. Each man was issued a box containing one full meal prepacked. There are three types - breakfast, dinner, and supper. The first contains a can of ham and eggs, the second a can of cheese and bacon and the third a can of meat or hash. In addition they have some sort of biscuits; a powder to make coffee, orange or lemonade, or soup broth; candy and gum or a fig bar; matches; cigarettes; and toilet tissue (an unusual color of tan). Of course all these packages are scientifically designed and packed and so are "chock full" of vitamins and peculiar enough they're quite tasty - the first ten or twenty times!
Sunday night the heckler missions to Miyako and Ishigaki Shima went off with little or no trouble. Joe Doyle [LT Joseph A. Doyle Jr.] and George Bruehl [LT(jg) George W. Bruehl] flew the first one, Jim Moore [LT James S. Moore] and Bill Balden [LT(jg) William H. Balden Jr.] the second, Charlie Henderson and the Group Commander the last. We can't vouch for the extent of the damage but the night was clear and the fields were quite plainly visible. It is fair to assume that many of our missiles found their mark. At least we're sure we kept the Jap awake - little flak was encountered.
The second mission went a little astray on the way home and failed to make good the landing time of 0600 - in fact they missed it by about a day and half! Jim Moore and his crew will certainly have a lot of stories to tell when they get back to the States! It seems that they got a little off course on the way back, found themselves up near Okinawa, and had to do considerable maneuvering to avoid countless friendly ships. When they finally got clear and at the time they had figured for an ETA they began picking up signals on the Big E's channel and so they homed on it. They were somewhat surprised to find that this brought them to the Jeep Fleet. By this time they didn't have enough gas left to search for the right force so on the advice of Commander Martin requested an emergency landing on one of the Jeeps. The funniest thing was that Balden and Moore had left the target separately and both ended up at the same position at about the same time - the first they'd seen of each other in four hours! As it turned out, the Big E was numerous miles off its point option so perhaps they aren't entirely to blame - that was their story!
The vagrants landed aboard the jeep Shamrock Bay and were treated very well. Jim made a hot shot landing that called forth a word of praise from the Skipper of the jeep. They stayed aboard till about three that afternoon and then took off to report to Yontan airfield to try to get the position of the Enterprise but being unable to get that information they landed there and spent the night. They tell of sleeping in a big tent through a couple of "flash reds". During one of these a five inch dud landed in front of one of the tents in the group. Even the occupants of that tent were unaware of it till someone stepped in the hole the next morning.
Our gallant adventurers spent a good deal of time trying to get our ship's position but no one seemed to be able to give it to them. The crewmen whiled away the hours poking around the Jap plane dumps for souvenirs - judging from the samples they brought back, pickings must be pretty slim. Chief Sturla [Leland F. Sturla ACMM] complained because he didn't take along his tool kit! When they turned up their planes Tuesday morning, Baldy heard an Enterprise plane trying to make contact with them through one of the control ships in the landing force. Clearance was obtained, our planes took off, and rendezvoused with Gibby Blake [LT(jg) Gilbert S. Blake] who led them safely through to the force. We believe this to be the longest TBM flight on record.
The last two days have kept us at GQ but they have been unmarred by aerial attack. Day attacks have continued, aimed mainly at the islands north of Okinawa. No outstanding results have been reported but evidently the main airfields have been neutralized. Monday night we sent hecklers to Amami Gunto. Everything went off successfully and uneventfully - no one even got lost!
Today was another one of those bad days. We were at GQ continuously for the fourth successive day. Shortly after mid-day we began to receive alerts of attacking planes; this continued intermittently all afternoon and after dark. At about 1400 one Nip got through and apparently had the Big E boresighted. He scored a near miss on the starboard quarter and crashed into the water on the port beam exploding with such violence that the ship staggered, and all but lost headway. A few minutes later another one came in from the starboard quarter and was shot down just before he hit us - in fact a timely turn to port was all that saved us from a suicide hit. The plane hit the water and exploded right below the forward five inch gun gallery. The force of the explosion blew one wing up on the flight deck! An ordinance man walking by it a few minutes later saw the red meat ball and was heard to exclaim in extremely surprised terms, "What the Hell!" Two other planes looked like they had our number also - one was shot down just astern and the resulting explosion littered the flight deck with Jap parts (inferior to U.S. parts of course) of all descriptions. One gunnery officer claimed that the Jap pilot himself was blown clear of the plane and hung for a moment on the catwalk rails before he dropped into the water and sank. The other close call was a plane shot down off the port bow. These were the only ones that came close to us - there were many others who attacked and were either shot down by the CAP, the ship batteries, or else made ineffectual attacks. Again we feel miraculously lucky to have gotten off so easily as we did. The Big E lives a charmed life.
Shannon McCrary [LT(jg) Shannon W. McCrary], Jim Moore, and Joe Doyle chose the landing signal officer's platform for their point of vantage to watch the "show" today. When asked why they chose such a wide open spot they remarked "Someone said that was the safest place on the ship and I guess they were right - every one of those close ones came right by us before they hit anything!"
Word was received that the Japs will launch all out attacks against our carrier force today and tomorrow! Brother! What do they call today's performance? Word also came this evening that a wave of attacking Bettys [Japanese Navy two-engine medium bombers] had been broken up by our CAP. A second was was evidently on its way but they couldn't find the target and returned to the Emperor. Shortly after that we went into condition Baker and a hot meal was served.
Tonight we're keeping hecklers over the airfields at Tokuno and Kikai Shima northeast of Okinawa. Scarborough [LT(jg) Joseph M. Scarborough] and Cummings went first. In landing, Joe came in without flaps, wheels, or hook down, though he didn't realize it. Naturally he was awfully fast; he never hit the deck until he was past the barriers and into the planes parked on the bow. Someone said that his plane was considerably shot up; that may have been the reason for it all. When the crash came, the fire alarm was sounded but no fire broke out. At the same time a Jap bogie dropped a flare that lighted up the whole force. We immediately went into GQ and condition Able but no attack developed. Joe wasn't hurt and his crewmen Roundy [Raymond Roundy AMM 1/c] and Pulliam [Leroy A. Pulliam ARM 2/c] came out of it ok, though Pulliam was cut up a bit and considerably shaken.
Waldo Cummings shot down a Tabby [Japanese Navy two-engine transport] over Kikai. One of the Essex fighters located it but found himself out of ammunition so he sent out a call for any friendly plane in the vicinity to come over and make the kill. Waldo complied with flying colors. The Tabby crashed into the drink in flames.
Another GQ day, making the fifth. We're beginning to get just a little tired of those "K" rations. We haven't had any attacks so far. The only time the guns opened up was to shoot at a foolish F4U which made an aggressive approach. It didn't take him long to see the folly of his ways, however, and he got away in one piece. Other groups in the force have been kept very busy with the Japs - one group reports having shot down eighteen Zeke's and various other reports of splashes have filtered through from time to time. But the Japanese "all out" attack doesn't seem to be getting very far.
At 1400 this afternoon a meeting was called for VT. The Admiral [Rear Admiral Matthias B. Gardner] has sent a dispatch asking the people at Yontan airfield if they could use twelve VF and six VT for night operations. The suggestion must pass through devious official channels so there is nothing definite as yet. The purpose of the meeting was to get volunteers in case the project goes through. Henderson, Cummings, Scarborough, Landon [ENS James D. Landon], Balden, Blake, Heid and Blazek [ENS James A. Blazek] came forward for the glory of "90".
Tonight's schedule calls for five two-plane hecklers to hit the same two islands of Tokuno and Kikai. Fuller reports of the later hops last night indicate that some nice fires were started by Joe Jewell [LT(jg) Joseph W. Jewell Jr.] and company - Henderson, McCrary, Lawton, Scott [ENS Knox O. Scott], Joe McLaughlin, Landon, and Brooks [LT(jg) Charles E. Brooks]. Meager AA was encountered over Tokuno - the targets were pin-pointed and attacked with little trouble.
Last night's hecklers met with a few interesting experiences. At take-off on the 2100 hop, bogies appeared on the screen so pilots were directed to take cover. The launch was delayed forty-five minutes. A flare exploded in Gerbron's [LT(jg) Charles E. Gerbron] bomb bay and he couldn't get rid of it. It burned there and set off three others. The crew was badly scared and no one can blame them. When he got back he found that he'd burned a twelve inch hole in the skin of his plane. AA may have started the trouble.
Joe Doyle had a harrowing experience on the 2000 heckler. He had just dropped a flare when he saw the outline of a plane above and to one side of him - he was between the flare and this threatening plane. He made a quick turn but the plane followed him. He made another turn - the plane still stuck. Finally he paused to examine it more closely and discovered to his chagrin that it was his own shadow cast by the flare on the clouds!!
Charlie Henderson on the 0400 hop thought he'd gotten another step toward his DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] (for shooting down five planes) when his radar operator reported a large plane. Just before he started shooting he luckily recognized it to be a PBM rescue plane. He contacted the "near" victim on his radio and told them where he was. They sounded quite surprised to find he was flying wing on them. Moore, Bruehl, Balden, Scarborough, Thomas [LT(jg) William R. Thomas], Roy [ENS Robert Roy], and Toar McLaughlin took part in the heckling expedition.
Commander Martin and Gibby Blake went on a search for a 900 ton ship. they didn't find it but obtained a sub contact - before they could illuminate and attack, it submerged.
Today is our sixth one at GQ but again we saw no action. An intelligence report came in of a sizeable group of Jap planes headed this way, due to arrive at about 1900 but we saw nothing of them and at about 2000 a hot meal was served - steak!
Considerable conjecture has been circulating today concerning the likelihood of our retiring and heading "states-ward" eventually. The general feeling is that something of that nature is in the air. At least we're on a course of 150 degrees at 21 knots and the plan of the day for tomorrow says that we'll not fuel but will make some large transfers of personnel and material, via destroyer. There is rumor that several VF pilots will be transferred and perhaps some planes. We did the same thing last time we left the combat area and got them back when we returned. On the other hand we didn't transfer any non-flying personnel last time so it looks like this MIGHT be preliminary stripping of the ship.
Well, in the final analysis it boils down to the conclusion that so far very few of us really know what will happen and "them which know ain't telling!!" Everyone who doesn't know, however, seems to be doing a great deal of "telling".
Poor Old Halbach [LT(jg) Edwin H. Halbach], Charlie Henderson's radar officer, surely has been having a tough time of it lately. Charlie has flown the past two nights and with the attacks or expected attacks during the day, poor Ted hasn't gotten much sleep. He hasn't shaved for several days either and what with his super-short haircut he seems to have as much hair on his jowls as he does on his cranium. Somebody looking for him today asked where the guy with the "hair all over his head" was! We're a little afraid that Ted doesn't see eye-to-eye with Charlie in all matters especially when it comes to finding and shooting down Jap planes in a TBM - can't say we blame him either.
We almost forgot to mention Joe Scarborough's bad luck last night - he was shot from the catapult as stand-by on one of the hecklers. It may have been a weak shot 'cause his wing went down and he went in. Luckily the plane stayed afloat long enough for all hands to get out and they were safely picked up by a can. Old Joe certainly has had his share of bad (with good) luck lately.
After going through the experience of as heavy an air attack as we did a few days ago it seems that something more than a blow-by-blow description should be written. It affected so many of us, the memory of it and similar experiences will occupy such a large part of our recollections of this period, that it seems the picture would hardly be complete without an effort to give some conception of what we went through.
We awoke about noon of that seemingly endless day April 11, 1945, to find the ship at general quarters - condition ABLE was set and that eerie feeling we've mentioned before pervaded the whole atmosphere - a jumble of broken conversation and laughter came clearly to us and the pungent odor of cigarette smoke from the small group gathered just outside in the passageway. Then came the word from the phone talker, "Alert the watch" and cigarettes were quickly extinguished, instant action seized the scattered groups of lounging men - men in experience only, but boys in years - the heavy steel door clanged shut, and a heavy silence of watching and waiting settled down around us. An occasional muffled voice came through to those of us who could only wait - the talker announcing range, bearing and numbers of attackers. We lay waiting only to think of something else but yet unable to tear our minds and imaginations away - the announcement that the screen had commenced firing, the whir of electric motors as the gun directors came on and began miraculously and automatically to figure out the problem of lead, taking every possible variant into consideration - the guns turning in train and moving in elevation to meet the directors' demands, one conveyor bringing up shells automatically fused, a steady, rhythmic clank. Finally, the five inch guns begin to pound and blast irregularly, followed shortly by the steady pom-pom of the forties as the range closes and at last the incessant chatter of the twenties, indicating that the attack had gotten through the screen and was practically upon us. By this time the one dominant noise and impression is that given by the guns - it builds up to a mighty crescendo, taking your nerves with it - you can feel the wave of fire as it follows the oncoming plane - feel it reach the climax, and, if the ship is lucky again, pass over to the other side and the cease fire siren comes as an anti-climax. You're scared and no denying it and no degree of shame is felt or needed - this feeling is one you've probably never had before and it leaves you weak and not a little amazed to find that essentially you're still calm and the complete master of yourself. But the worst is yet to come. Finally one Jap "suicide" scores a near miss and you hear the rending of steel, the shouts of men on the deck, the wail of the fire siren, the non-committal tones of the bos'an's mate on the bull horn announcing "Fire, fire on the flight deck," and you feel the staggering shock of the explosion that sends familiar inanimate objects into gyrations - then you realize that it's actually happened - just what, you don't know - uncertainty and the shattering of the subconscious conviction that nothing could actually happen - that the ship in all its seeming power and security is still vulnerable to death and destruction - the ship shakes her head, recovers her pace and suddenly you remember to breathe again. You're weak - you're amazed to find yourself out of the bunk, maybe just standing in the middle of the room. It's over for the present at least - a fire's raging and men are hurt - maybe dying. Quickly the word gets around about what's happening - passing to every part of the ship. Beyond all doubt the hardest part of all this is not being able to see what's going on - not knowing what to expect or what to do - not having anything to keep you busy.
The foregoing spans, at most, two or three minutes but measured in living and experience it is interminable - and this is but one of many such attacks. By the time five or six hours have crept by it seems weeks ago that the first alert was sounded - literally a life-time in emotion and experience crowded into a few brief hours. Sherman's remark becomes very real - "War, most certainly, is hell!"
All night and day we've held our southeasterly heading. By this morning we were far enough from the danger zone to eliminate the routine dawn GQ - only torpedo defense. A general field day was declared for all hands to clean up the ship after so many days at battle stations.
At frequent intervals throughout the morning and early afternoon destroyers came alongside to transfer personnel and material. We gave away our spare belly tanks and other items. Several pilots were taken to other carriers to bring back flyable duds which we will take back with us. To the optimistic ones among us this points to a quick return the States - others still have their fingers crossed.
It is assured by now that our immediate destination is Ulithi. The rest of the force met tankers and fueled today but we did not and by mid afternoon we had broken away with a small screen and continued south.
At a VT meeting this afternoon to fill out forms of preference for next duty (another good omen) Commander Martin spoke briefly to us. He had no definite information as to whether we've seen the last of combat, however, he preached the conservative view. Many of us try to believe that he is just "blowing smoke" to keep us from being too disappointed if something happens.
If he's right, however, there is going to be an all time low in squadron morale. Almost everyone has rationalized or "irrationalized" himself to the optimistic point of view. For the present, there is nothing to do but wait and hope.
Last night we had a "wing-dang-do" party for the enlisted men in both squadrons. We had punch (spelled with a capital?) consisting chiefly of medicinal brandy cut slightly with pineapple and grapefruit juice. The fruit juice added volume and taste but did little to tone down the power of that brandy. It was very easy to take. Chief Cirillo [John H. Cirillo ACMM] quickly became primed to the point where he made an excellent and extremely vivacious master of ceremonies. Before long a distinct glow prevailed. Chief Schillaci [Anthony Schillaci CY] was among the "glowingest" but he certainly didn't lack company - twenty-four gallons of our potent mixture plus five cases of beer were entirely adequate to obtain the desired effect. The most successful stunt of the evening was Ed Hidalgo's pseudo-serious "briefing lecture" on the one target which he claimed we'd be called on to hit before the end of the cruise. He dwelt at long length on the importance and characteristics of this target apologizing profusely for having to inject a serious note into the gaiety and fun. He finally climaxed his act by an "Intelligence photo" of the objective - a huge picture of a lovely luscious lady sitting on a rock in the middle of a stream, completely nude.
The general opinion of one and all was "A hell'uva good party!"
All hands are shocked to learn of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Most of us were entirely unaware that he had been ill. His loss to the nation and the world at this time will be sorely felt and sincerely mourned. We wonder what the effect will be upon the prosecution of the war and, above all, upon the peace settlement. He has been a capable leader and even those of us who differ with some of his views and policies and political affiliations, join with the nation in profound sorrow at the passing of our Commander-in-Chief. At 1545 this afternoon a five minute period of silence and cessation of work was held in his memory and concluded with the stirring strains of the bugle playing taps.
This morning in place of the regular divine services in the wardroom, memorial services were held for President Roosevelt. The attendance was exceptionally large and many of us heard the new chaplain [LT Joseph M. Sullivan] for the first time. We were well impressed by the simple and straightforward manner and speech. He talked briefly of the things the President had accomplished during his twelve years in office and spent a few moments analyzing the country's prospects for the future, injecting an optimistic note of confidence. We found it a very fitting service for the occasion.
The carefree optimism first noted yesterday has continued. The ship resembles a vacation cruise liner with sun bathers sprinkled all over the flight deck and people lounging everywhere, talking and laughing. This evening the air group officers had their party in the ready room. The principal beverage resembled last night's concoction, and met with equal success. Bob Jones' [LT Robert R. Jones] efforts to conduct an orderly and smooth-running program met with considerable difficulty but this confusion added to the gaiety. Outstanding in the evening's entertainment were Lt. Cmdr. Reggie Allens' spicy (to say the least) renditions of numerous limericks of which he seems to have made quite a study. Several distinguished guests were present including Cmdr. Martin, Cmdr. Roscoe Turner, Cmdr. Blitch [CDR John D. Blitch], Cmdr. Kabler [CDR William L. Kabler] (ship's exec.), Lt.Cmdr. Chace, Lt.Cmdr. Belcher [LCDR Frank G. Belcher], et al.
We are due to arrive at Ulithi tomorrow and our collective fingers are crossed in the fervent hope that the Big E will shortly thereafter take an easterly course for Pearl Harbor and points east!!!
This afternoon shortly after dinner the ship went into routine GQ for entering Ulithi, in due course dropped anchor, and quickly settled into the usual port routine.
This morning before reaching Ulithi we flew two ASPs; the second one stayed up till we passed through the sub net and then landed at Falalop. The flyable duds from other ships were flown ashore as well as several fighters.
This evening at 1830 the officers mess gave a farewell dinner for Admiral Gardner and his staff who were leaving the ship in a day or two - the Admiral goes to take a job in Washington, much to his own disgust, he says! Jerry Flynn [LT(jg) Gerald J. Flynn] was Master of Ceremonies for the occasion and surpassed even his usual wit with his Bob Hope type of jokes and ad-libbing, aimed chiefly at the Admiral and his own seemingly slim chances of getting back to the States. It was quite a banquet, featuring the turkey and et al; even after-dinner cigars. One of the most popular items was the fact that the whole meal was served on real china service - a distinct improvement over the usual tin trays. Several of the ship's top ranking officers and some of the staff were called on to say a few words; in the course of these little speeches Captain Hall [CAPT Grover B. H. Hall] spoke.
The Captain threw considerable cold water on our fond hopes for an immediate return to the States by announcing that the present plans for the Big E require her to return to Okinawa in ten days. This did not make us happy. Of course we really have only ourselves to blame for being so optimistic, indulging in wishful thinking without any official reason. Nevertheless our disappointment is very great - a "blue funk" has settled about the ship.
Admiral Gardner's farewell speech partly atoned, however, when he told us that the air group was to be relieved "soon", though just how soon he was unable to say. Probably it's safe to expect that the ship will make one more trip north. In spite of this jolt, all our hope is not dead; it's merely changed. Now we're hoping for our relief to show up in the next ten days or so!!
The show this evening was "Here Come the Waves" - Bing Crosby, etc. It was rather stupid and filled with the malarkey about the glory of going to sea (blowing smoke for the civilians and potential Wave recruits) but the crew of the Enterprise was in no mood for that type of bunk and expressed itself with cat calls and other forms of derision. It was hardly a true portrayal of the Navy as we know it from the past few months.
In connection with the general desire to be homeward bound, one Marine gunner was heard to remark, "Hell, we can hold out against a landing party from the repair ship for weeks!!" It is also rumored that volunteer work parties have checked out all the blow torches from the gear locker and stand ready during the night to undo all the work done during the day!!
Yesterday afternoon and all day today they've been loading the Big E with airplane parts and supplies. We've taken aboard more belly tanks than we gave away! Divers have been over the side most of the day. In order to facilitate certain work the ship was listed to starboard some eight degrees by pumping out the port tanks and filling the starboard ones. We spent most of the day walking around at peculiar angles. Below decks and on the hangar deck where you can't see the water, the effect was particularly ludicrous. Looking down the hangar deck while the movie was being shown, one saw all the guys standing in the rear, each and every one apparently leaning to port at an almost impossible angle. People standing in closed rooms look as though they'd fall on their faces at any moment. It's like living in a fun house in the room with the slanting floor and walls. The fellows just back from Mog Mog with the usual load had quite a time maneuvering - three dimensional confusion is a little too much to cope with when a man's in hiccups!
When the possibility occurred to us a few days ago (at that time it seemed a remote possibility only) that we might have to go back out, the mere thought of it and the disappointment seemed almost unbearable and impossible to face. Now, that disappointment has begun to lose some of its sharper edge and it's surprising to find that already the effects of it are wearing off - we eat, sleep, go to Mog Mog, laugh and joke, and circulate new scuttlebutt no matter how absurd it may sound.
It seemed rather pointless to attempt a detailed day by day account of this two week period in port. It was, in general, entirely similar to the other stopovers in this "fair" anchorage of Ulithi and so we'll cover it generally, making brief note of interesting developments.
The morale of the ship as a whole has gradually been on the up-swing from the all time low point. Without being at all happy over the prospect of another month in the combat zone, everyone is, at least, resigned to it.
Most of the time the weather has been hot and clear. As a result, much sunbathing has been in order and many well tanned or crimson torsos are in evidence. In general this has been a lazy time for the air group. Reading and writing, sleeping and eating, acey-ducey, and loafing have been the usual pursuits.
The most serious thorn in the squadron flesh were the almost daily musters on the hangar deck at 0815 which necessitated our arising at the ungodly hour of 0700. The full fourteen hours of sleep were to be tallied, it became necessary to go back to the sack after these annoying sessions. We even had to submit to a couple of Captain's inspections - all this supposedly being one method of boosting morale though we don't see how they figure it that way, the sack being an infinitely better morale booster.
One pleasant innovation in routine was the formal dinners served in the wardroom each evening for all officers. The meal was served on real china service with stewards waiting on tables - just like in the States. It's amazing how much better the food tasted than when served on a tin tray.
While we were in Ulithi the Intrepid came in. Air Group Ten is aboard. Hence, many of us found old friends whom we hadn't seen for many months. Also during our stay, the Shangri La arrived from Pearl enroute to join the fleet.
The news from Okinawa has been followed with interest. Relatively little gains have been made in the south but the Marines have almost completely cleared out the entire northern part of the island. Several islands to the west have also been taken. The most spectacular action has been in the air where literally hundreds of attacking Jap planes have been shot down - many of them being "Kamikazes" (the Navy has just recently lifted the censorship ban forbidding any mention of these attacks).
Even in Ulithi we haven't been able to forget completely that there's a war going on. Two or three evenings, general quarters was sounded interrupting the movie but nothing came of it. Once about noon there was an alert and we learned later that the CAP from Falalop had shot down the snooper called "Woleai Willie" who paid daily visits to Ulithi just to see what was going on.
Both the fighter and torpedo squadrons have had several planes over on the beach for practice. Everybody has flown at least once and many of us have spent several days there. It is probable that the lust of unlimited beer is more responsible for these prolonged visits than the thrill and pleasure of flying. It's a particularly welcome outing for the aircrewmen. Falalop remains pretty much unchanged from one time to the next. The shower and head conditions continue as deplorable as ever.
Athletics of various kinds have helped pass many hours for some of us. For a few the physical exertion of carrying a strip of canvas topside for a little sun bathing marks the limit of athletic ambition; but more violent forms of exercise were also found in badminton, volleyball, and basketball or softball on the beach.
We had no boxing matches this time but the Hornet sent over officers and enlisted men's teams for basketball games and in true Enterprise style we won. Gibby Blake seems to be the squadron's outstanding athlete. There doesn't seem to be anything in the sports line that he can't do well. He's especially good at basketball - it's a pleasure to watch him handle the ball and ring up those points, making a bigger man look a little foolish in the process.
Mog Mog is still open for business and thriving. Most of us availed ourselves of its services on more or less frequent occasions either as part of a ship or squadron party or simply on our own hook. Two of the best parties we've had there were squadron functions when we went over in the morning. The main activities were swimming and a softball game. Those ball games were something extra special - everyone just had a hell'uva good time. More arguments and heated debates arose as a result of close plays and obscure or fancy rules than in a national election. Nearly everyone played his position in the field with a can of beer in his hand or within easy reach.
The air group has really got something good to look forward to and talk about. We were told a few days ago that there are plans afoot for the whole group to be sent to Hollywood for a short tour of temporary duty when we get back to the States. There seem to be two reasons. First of all the Navy wants to publicize and glamorize night carrier work which this squadron has pioneered. Secondly, an ice box rears its ugly head. It seems that the former Air Group Ten, which many of us were in, purchased a General Electric refrigerator before they left the States thinking that they might find themselves land-based, sooner or later. This refrigerator accompanied them throughout their cruise and returned with them to the States. GE learned of its existence and history, sensing its publicity value, it got hold of it and now wishes to give a party for the squadron. At any rate there is talk of parties and other publicity stunts and hob-nobbing with the cinema great - feminine especially. Arrangements are being made for us to get our blues sent to Hollywood for the occasion. All in all, it sounds like a gala occasion - if it actually goes through.
Tomorrow we bid farewell to fair Ulithi and will soon join the force near Okinawa where, we are told, we are "sorely needed and greatly missed." The next thirty or thirty-five days can't go fast enough to suit us.