My Story

1943-1945 - My Tour Aboard the USS Nashville (CL-43)

USS Nashville CL-43

USS Nashville CL-43 [click to enlarge]

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In June 1943, 2nd Lt. Thompson reported for duty aboard the USS Nashville as Junior Officer of the Marine Detachment. On October 4, 1944 he relieved Captain Bill Bonner as commanding officer of the detachment. He served in this role until V-J Day, 1945. The Nashville was General Douglas MacArthur's flagship, supporting his activities in the Pacific, including the Leyte landings in the Philippines. On December 13, 1944, the ship suffered a kamikaze attack.

1943

In June 1943, as a 2nd Lieutenant, I received orders to join the Marine Detachment on the USS Nashville in San Francisco as Junior Officer (Mare Island Naval Base). The Nashville was in dry dock in Vallejo, California undergoing extensive repairs. The previous JO and several Marines had been killed in a turret #3 explosion in operations in the South Pacific. My Commanding Officer was Major Alan R. Miller, USMC. The Commanding Officer of the Nashville was Captain H. A. Spanagel, USN, and the Executive Officer was Commander W. Kirten, Jr. USN.

Marine Detatchment - Mare Island

Marine Detatchment - Mare Island
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After the ship was repaired and outfitted with new equipment, we steamed out of San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on August 5, 1943. In 1938 when I was on the USS Portland, we had great difficulty going out the Golden Gate due to the fog. The fog was equally as thick this day as the Nashville passed Alcatraz Island. We heard the foghorns and bells, but we were steaming along as though it was a clear day. The ship was equipped with new radar, and we could see on the radar screen the coast of San Francisco, Alcatraz, and other ships as well as the Golden Gate Bridge. It was amazing to view the radar and experience the improvement in technology that had taken place in just a few years.

After the ship was repaired and outfitted with new equipment, we steamed out of San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on August 5, 1943. In 1938 when I was on the USS Portland, we had great difficulty going out the Golden Gate due to the fog. The fog was equally as thick this day as the Nashville passed Alcatraz Island. We heard the foghorns and bells, but we were steaming along as though it was a clear day. The ship was equipped with new radar, and we could see on the radar screen the coast of San Francisco, Alcatraz, and other ships as well as the Golden Gate Bridge. It was amazing to view the radar and experience the improvement in technology that had taken place in just a few years.

Entering Pearl Harbor on August 12th, it was very heartbreaking to see the sunken hulls of our ships. It was far different from having seen the fleet peacefully anchored in 1938 when I was aboard the USS Portland.

We put to sea for several days for training and target practice. The 20mm and 40mm AA batteries practiced by firing at targets towed by planes while the 5-inch AA batteries practiced on surface targets towed by ships as well as the aerial targets. The main battery of fifteen 6-inch guns in five turrets got in their share of practice, too.

The pilots of the tow planes and skippers of the ships towing the targets lived a precarious life with some initial rounds exploding closer to the towing planes (ships) than the targets.

On August 24th, we left Pearl Harbor with a fast carrier task force targeting Marcus Island, less than 1,000 miles from Tokyo, returning to Pearl on Sept 8th. As I recall, this was more of an air operation with us supporting the carriers.

After returning to Pearl Harbor, we spent the rest of September going to sea for training and more target practice, as well as getting some liberty ashore in Honolulu. I took part of the crew to the "rest camp" at Kaneohe Bay on September 12th for the day and night. Everything was provided including wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables. We played baseball and spent most of the time body surfing. Not being a good swimmer I almost drowned when I got caught in a towering wave that crashed down on me.

In my letter of Monday, September 13, 1943 to my wife, I wrote this:

Well honey, just got back from my "Rest Camp" about eleven o'clock. Had a very nice time. Left here yesterday with a large group of men. We took a train to the camp: two cars (built in 1913) and little engine. On the way out we passed through many sugar cane fields and also traveled along the coast. It took us about an hour to get there. The ensign assistant and I were assigned a cabin and the men were housed in a couple barracks. The cabin was mostly just wire screen with a roof over it so the breeze really felt good. Immediately after checking in we all were in our swimming gear and on the beach. It was a beautiful white sandy beach with large rolling waves. We had a very delicious turkey dinner with apple pie ala mode for dessert. We were entertained by a dance orchestra and that evening by a group of hula dancers. It was a very enjoyable and relaxing outing.

On September 21, 1943, Major Miller was replaced by Captain Bill Bonner, USMC, as CO of the detachment.

I mentioned in my letter home:

Tomorrow I am starting my seventh year in the Marines and receiving an automatic monthly pay increase of $8.33. The only expenses I have are my mess bill of about $25 per month, $2.50 laundry, 80 cents a month for four haircuts and a dollar or two for PX items.

On October 3rd, we departed Pearl Harbor with the largest carrier strike force yet organized. With six carriers, the Nashville with other escorting ships struck the first blow on Wake Island on October 5th. A couple times as we were bombarding Wake Island the Japanese artillery bracketed our ship with near misses from their counter fire. We quickly pulled out of their range but kept on firing with the main batteries. One of our scouting seaplanes (Curtis SOC) was spotting targets for us and had to play hide-and-seek in the clouds to dodge the Japanese anti-aircraft fire. After Navy pilot Joe Mills returned aboard, he got plenty of kidding from all of us for hiding in the clouds and not spotting our gunfire.

When we returned from the Wake Island raid on October 11th, Major Miller came out to the ship and took me to dinner at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Our dinner went past the curfew hour and the jeep he was driving was overdue at the motor pool. He had hidden the jeep under a palm tree, and somehow he got me back to the ship taking some back streets without being intercepted by the MPs. The hotel didn't seem as plush as when I had been there in 1938 with Tom Stout and his aunt and uncle.

Returned to ship on October 16th after spending two days at the "Rest Center" with several of our ship's officers, enjoying swimming, basketball, baseball, and some more excellent food.

We left on October 19th for the South Pacific. It was interesting that Gene Tunney, the former Heavyweight Boxing Champion and a former U.S. Marine from World War 1, sailed with us to Espiritu Santo. He was on his way to Australia as a representative of the US government. He was very approachable, and I had several conversations with him either in the wardroom or at my watch station. He remembered meeting me at a USO event in Cincinnati when I was a Sergeant on recruiting duty.

We crossed the equator on Thursday, October 21st. Even though we were under wartime conditions, the age-old ceremony of initiating newcomers (Pollywogs) into King Neptune's Realm was conducted by Shellbacks (previous crossers). King Neptune (senior shellback) and his court determined what kind of initiation Pollywogs would endure. Any type of abuse, harassment, paddling, and belittling of the individual was acceptable, regardless of the Pollywogs rank. The initiation went on for two days.

My letter of October 20-21, 1943 described the initiation as follows:

Nashville

The Initiation [click to enlarge]

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After quarters (roll call) on Wednesday, I dismissed my men. The Marine Shellbacks presented me with a rifle and ordered me to do the manual of arms and the marching manual as I had just instructed them. After that, they took me down to their compartment, striped me, and put a cloth like a diaper on me along with a cartridge belt, bayonet, steel helmet, and rifle. After doing the marching manual several times around the main deck, they had me get up on top of turret #3 and do physical exercise under arms singing The Marine Corps Hymn. Captain Spanagel then ordered me to be his orderly. He instructed me to go down to the Engine Room and count the revolutions the shafts were making per minute, and then bring up a bucket of oily bilge water for him to inspect. When he inspected it, he ordered me to take it to Mr. Boutelle, the Engineering Officer, and tell him "His bilge water is no damn good." Awakening Mr. Boutelle from a sound sleep, I gave him the Captain's report. He jumped out of bed and excitedly started to get dressed until he saw how I was attired. After returning to the Pilot House, I was relieved as "Captain's Orderly" with orders to take the remainder of the oily water back down into the bilges.

Nashville

Medical Report [click to enlarge]

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The next day after standing my regular 8 to 12 watch and while eating lunch, a group of Shellbacks grabbed me, dressed me as I was before, and ushered me before King Neptune and his court. He ordered me to be locked in a stockade, be given a haircut, and a treatment of heavy machine grease rubbed into what was left of my hair. After 4 o'clock, they released me from the stockade and had me join other Pollywogs where we had to kneel down on the deck and place our heads on the deck in front our knees. We then had to yell "Allah," and no matter how loud we yelled, we got beat on our fannies. This went on for better than 10 minutes. The final treatment was all Pollywogs were sent through the "Line" consisting of about 30 Shellback sailors, and some Marines, all armed with various sorts of paddles. The Marines likely thought it best to just give me a token paddling, but several of the sailors really laid it on with their boards, some with holes in them, resulting in several of us being sent to Sick Bay with welts, open cuts, and bruises. I was not alone in this brutal treatment. After Doctor Storey, our senior medical officer, reported to Captain Spanagel of the injuries that several of us were receiving, the ceremony was stopped. I still have a copy of my medical report. It took several days before I was able to comfortably sit down.

It was good that orders had been given that Gene Tunney would be treated lightly with no haircut or undo treatment.

We arrived in Espiritu Santo on October 26th. Gene Tunney flew on to Australia.

As I recall, we joined the 7th Fleet Task Force that included the light cruisers USS Nashville, USS Phoenix, USS Boise, the Australian cruisers HMAS Australia, HMAS Shropshire, and their destroyers HMAS Arunta and HMAS Warramunga, as well as several US destroyers. When in port, Marine friends of mine on the Phoenix (Captain Frank Granucci and 2nd Lt. Andy Andeck) and the Boise (2nd Lt. Harry Givens) would visit and send messages to each other.

On November 9, 1943, I wrote:

We had some Aussies aboard today and played medicine ball (like volley ball), had dinner, then saw the movie. A nice group of fellows. They invited us over to their ship for a game of deck hockey. Our Marines, not on duty, got ashore to play baseball against the Phoenix Marines beating them 19 to 2.

Native Tribe - Florida Islands - 1943

Native Tribe - Florida Islands - 1943
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We spent the next several weeks escorting convoys of troops and supplies between Espiritu Santo and Bougainville Island. As I recall, we used the small harbor on Tulagi Island as our base of operations. Tulagi Island, located north across the New Georgia Sound from Guadalcanal, and its harbor was a picture book setting of a South Seas tropical island, showing little damage from the Marines capturing the island several months earlier. I cannot think of any places that I have ever seen that are more beautiful than these islands. To see them at a distance and not have to live on them is one thing, but to live on them would be rough. The trees and undergrowth are so dense growing right down to the water's edge. I got ashore one day hoping to get a few native carved souvenirs. I was unsuccessful but did talk to three or four natives who surprisingly spoke some English.

We received an ALMAR (Marine Corps dispatch) that I was selected for promotion to 1st Lt., effective November 16, 1943 with date of rank October 1, 1943. I wrote:

In connection with my promotion, I followed military tradition by passing out a couple boxes of cigars; one to the officers in the wardroom and the other to my Marines. It seemed that my men were about as tickled in my promotion as I was. They were really a good bunch of kids (most of them about 18 and 19).

My roommate, Ensign Len Wolf, and I had, since joining the ship, a periodic discussion about one's rank. Reporting aboard first I naturally took the lower bunk in the stateroom. When he objected to the upper bunk, we agreed the senior one should get the lower bunk. He won outdating me by a week or two. When he received his promotion to Lt (junior grade) about a month before I received mine, it looked like I would remain in the upper bunk, but when I found out my date of rank was back dated before his, I pulled rank on him and said, "You get in the upper berth." This was all done in good fun, and we remained good friends.

After escorting reinforcements to Bougainville, we went on to Milne Bay, New Guinea, arriving there on November 27th. Most of December was spent preparing for the assault on Cape Gloucester, New Britain with occasional one or two days patrolling at sea. After participating in a full dress rehearsal at Cape Sudest, New Guinea, we sailed for Cape Gloucester on December 24th, with General MacArthur and his staff aboard for this operation.

This was the first time General MacArthur came aboard and used the USS Nashville as his Flagship. In compliance with a Navy ALNAV (Navy Administrative Message) to dispense with rendering honors in forward areas, we didn't post a Marine honor guard to welcome him aboard. Looking back on it, I think it was a bit extreme in complying with the ALNAV and not welcoming General MacArthur aboard with a Marine honor guard. Of course, I think most Marines would have agreed that we did the right thing because General MacArthur was not too well thought of by Marines because he felt there was no need to have a Marine Corps.

General MacArthur aboard USS Nashville CL-43

General MacArthur [click to enlarge]

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I did have a Marine orderly assigned to him and stationed outside his cabin. Not long afterwards, the orderly came and told me the General's Chief of Staff wanted to see me. The CofS (Chief of Staff) said the General wanted to know why a Marine orderly was stationed outside his cabin. After a short discussion with the CofS, he took me in to see General MacArthur who asked why I felt he needed a Marine orderly. I told him I was obliged to assign an orderly to any flag officer when on board. Also, my Marines knew their way around the ship, the communications office, and evacuation stations in case we had to abandon ship. He accepted my explanation and had a Marine orderly every time he came aboard.

General MacArthur and his General Staff Officers often visited the bridge (Pilot House) to observe ship operations and watch the firing of the fifteen 6-inch guns from the five turrets supporting the landing operations ashore. My normal AA (Anti-Aircraft) watch station was on the deck just above, so I was able to observe him at close range as he smoked his pipe and strolled the deck. It is true that he always wore his decorated cap instead of a helmet.

On December 24, 1943, we got underway to Cape Gloucester, New Britain escorting the invasion force. The next day the Nashville, along with other cruisers and destroyers, bombarded the Japanese shore installations on Cape Gloucester and on Dec 26th supported the landing of the 1st Marine Division, which incidentally was commanded by Major General Rupertus, whom I had seen on the train in early December 1941.

1944

After the successful landing operation at Cape Gloucester, we returned to Buna Roads, New Guinea, remaining there for about two weeks before sailing to Sydney, Australia on January 11, 1944.

The first day sailing to Sydney was real interesting. Instead of sailing many miles east to clear the string of coral reefs, Captain Spanagel took us through a narrow passage, just east of Milne Bay, which required backing down at times and maneuvering between coral heads. The water was so clear it was easy to see how close we came to scraping the coral. When we cleared and were in open sea, the whole crew gave a loud cheer for the Captain's wonderful seamanship. I believe the Aussies had told Captain Spanagel of this short cut.

On the night of January 12th, we ran into some very rough weather with the ship pitching and yawing severely. Many were tossed from their bunks. I wrote:

The ocean was pretty rough with many of the ships crew sea sick. Someone mentioned how good a greasy pork chop would taste and half a dozen fellows quickly left the wardroom mess.

Nashville in Sydney

Charcoal-burning automobile - Sydney
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We arrived in Sydney, Australia on January 15, 1944. Sydney Harbor was a beautiful large harbor and our ship tied up to the main dock near the city center. The ship's crew was divided into two liberty parties for the four days we were there. It was evident the war had placed many restrictions on the Australians. Food in the restaurants was very plain with no butter or sugar available. The stores didn't seem to be well stocked with produce or clothing. One thing that caught my eye was an automobile that had been converted to a charcoal-burning engine. The Australians were very hospitable and arranged a dance for each of the liberty parties.

Milne Bay, New Guinea - February 1944

Our First Visitors
Milne Bay, New Guinea - February 1944
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Returning to Milne Bay, we spent about a month of training exercises preparing for the Admiralty Island operation. Milne Bay was a large beautiful harbor on the eastern end of New Guinea. We had several opportunities to go ashore to play baseball and have a couple of beers. On one occasion, we played baseball against the Aussies and had a barbeque. We provided the steaks and they provided lots of their excellent beer.

One evening several of us from the Nashville were invited to dinner on the HMAS Australia. It was amazing to us that they served cocktails before dinner in their officers' wardroom. After a couple of rounds, they decided to welcome some of their new officers aboard by stuffing them out the port holes which required them to swim around to the gangway to get back aboard. They seemed to pay no mind to the fact that sharks were pretty plentiful in the harbor.

From the Webmaster - found and added 3/15/2017:
Often times when we would return from operations we would get ashore on an unpopulated tropical island for a swim or ball game. In the larger ports like Espiritu Santo, officer and enlisted clubs were set up in mostly Quonset huts. I recall seeing Admiral Halsey and several other Admirals at the Espiritu club. His entire fleet, as well as our 7th Fleet, was anchored in the immense harbor.

Remaining in physical condition was difficult. While at sea and not under GQ conditions, those not on watch would do calisthenics. Many of us worked out with a 15 -pound medicine ball. When in port we strung a steel cabled net between turret #3 and the forward superstructure and played a form of volley ball with the medicine ball. Believe it or not, we got plenty of exercise when the officers' team was challenged by many of the crews' teams.

Acey-Ducey

Acey-Ducey (I'm on the left)
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Other games of less physical endeavor included Acey-Ducey, cribbage, chess, and no doubt poker (unauthorized, so not in the open). As I recall, bridge, if played, was not very popular. Because it was so hot below deck, we would find a shady spot topside to read a book or play one of the games.

On another occasion at Milne Bay, I took my Marines ashore to an abandoned Japanese rifle and pistol range for target practice. While there, we saw a group of natives coming down the hill from the jungle. A very tall native (black) man was leading the group. He had a long walking stick and was dressed in a loincloth, a formal top hat, and evening jacket (with tails). No doubt these items had belonged to some British. He was followed by about six women and several children. The women were carrying large bundles on their heads and were dressed only in a loincloth. The group walked on past us like we weren't there and disappeared back into the jungle. The man had to be a chief. He was the most astute looking person you could imagine. What a picture it would have made.

Another interesting thing was to see some of the first structures being built for the Navy by New Guinea pigmies. Most of the buildings were built with native material. The barefooted workers would scramble across the beams using palm fronds for the roof. The only tools they used were machetes.

On February 27, 1944, we steamed out of Milne Bay as part of the advance guard of the invasion force aimed at the Admiralty Islands. On the 29th, off the Admiralties, the Nashville, along with the light cruisers Phoenix and Boise, bombarded some Japanese artillery at the entrance to the harbor at Manus Island. Their artillery was located on a spit of land at the entrance to the harbor and masked from view by entrenchments along the spit. They were firing at our minelayers that were trying to clear the entrance to the harbor. The Nashville fired several salvos at the Japanese, but they kept moving their artillery after they'd fire a salvo. This kept up for awhile with no success in stopping their firing. It was reported that General MacArthur suggested, "Why don't you land the Marines?" We, along with the Marines from the other two cruisers, armed only with a 60 mm mortar, a 30 Caliber machine gun, rifles, and pistols were readying to load aboard the motor whale boats when the ships gunfire successfully knocked out the Japanese artillery. I have often thought--how successful would we have been if we had tried to land from the whaleboats since they would have beached well out in the water. Captain Frank Granucci, Commanding Office of the Marines on the Phoenix, was the senior Marine officer, and would have been in command of our landing. After the war, I saw Frank in San Francisco, and we spent a little time discussing that event.

Returning to the invasion force, we supported the landings on Los Negros Island, hitting enemy shore batteries.

We rejoined the cruiser task force patrolling north of the Admiralties to prevent any Japanese surface force attacks on our troops ashore. The Nashville also provided bombardment support for the troops ashore.

Returning to Buna Roads on March 8th, we spent the month training for the forthcoming Hollandia operation. We got ashore as frequently as possible for physical conditioning and weapons training at the abandoned Japanese rifle range that we had hacked out of the jungle. One time, I decided to do a little rifle practice myself using one of the Marines M-1 rifles. I wrote:

After a couple aiming shots to get the range and windage, in the prone position, I fired a rapid fire string of 16 rounds at 300 yards. It was timed fire. Not having practiced for some time, I didn't get the last round off before the target was lowered. Well, much to my surprise, and certainly to my men too, they reported from the butts (where the targets are) that I had shot 15 bulls eyes with one miss.

The greatest thing we looked forward to, when returning to these secured ports after each operation, was mail call. Most of the time it would be several weeks before receiving any mail. Some letters and packages might be only two or three weeks old while others would be two or three months. Most packages of cookies, cakes, candy, etc., were crushed or in the case of chocolate candy completely melted. It didn't really matter how bad the packages were damaged everything eatable was relished. As long as the address was legible, I believe most mail was delivered. I had a case where a box of chocolates, from a previous girl friend, intended I guess for Valentine's Day, 1944, must have chased me all over the South Pacific because I didn't receive it until January 1945 when we returned to Bremerton, WA for repairs. It was nothing but a flattened chocolate stained box with the address barely legible.

Opposite of the joy in receiving mail was the task of censoring all mail. All mail leaving the ship had to be read and censored. The crew's mail would be delivered to the wardroom and officers not on watch would perform this task. As with the crew's mail, officers' mail was subject to this same review by fellow officers. We were not allowed to mention the location or destination of our ship, like our visits to Sydney or Pearl Harbor.

On April 9th, 1944, we had a going away party for Captain Spanagel at the Officer's Club ashore. His replacement was Captain Coney, USN. I received excellent fitness reports from Captain Spanagel. The Ship's clerk (Captain's secretary) later told me I had received one of the best reports of any of the officers.

USS Nashville CL-43

Chaplain Smith on left (I'm on the right)
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The latter part of April 1944 was spent bombarding Japanese installations and supporting landings at Humboldt Bay - Tanahmerah Bay - Aitape, New Guinea. General MacArthur was aboard on all three operations.

It seemed like every time we were in port that people were being transferred, and we were getting new replacements. One newcomer I vividly remember was our new chaplain Gerald (Gerry) Smith, a very young appearing fellow of slight build. He was an outgoing unpretentious person, just the opposite of our previous chaplain. Jerry was all over the ship mixing with the crew, visiting them at their battle station, and joining us in our game of volleyball and ball games ashore. By the second day he was aboard, he knew every officer by name and claimed he knew at least one quarter of the crew. He was a great guy and a friend.

On the night of May 11th while at anchor in Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralties, I wrote:

We had a severe lightning and thunderstorm with a bolt of lightning striking the ship. It sounded and felt like we had been hit by gunfire. Fortunately, no one was injured and the ship wasn't damaged.

On May 17th, along with four other cruisers and screening destroyers, we bombarded Wakde and supported the amphibious forces landing. We continued patrolling the area until May 25th when we sailed for Biak. Early on the 27th, along with the cruisers Phoenix and Boise, we bombarded the three Japanese airfields with our main batteries. One of the Nashville's scouting planes was attacked by Japanese fighters and received several hits. Fortunately, the plane returned safely with no injuries to the pilot. I don't recall the pilot's name.

While we were bombarding Biak, I remember seeing all of the oil fields. It looked like oil derricks were all over the island. It's understandable why the Japanese wanted that area and why we wanted to recapture it.

We continued patrolling north of the Schouten Islands and Biak to protect our forces that landed on Biak. After a short visit to Humboldt Bay to obtain supplies, we returned to Biak. Arriving off of Biak on June 4th, the Nashville received damage to the hull by a near miss from a Japanese air attack. The bomb hit at the water line and caused extensive flooding and ruptured one of the fuel tanks. My Marine storeroom, which was below the water line, was hit and all the clothing and equipment was ruined. The damage control team soon sealed off the flooded area and repaired the fuel line. In spite of the damage, we proceeded on to Biak with the task force. Early the next morning, we were again attacked by Japanese aircraft but successfully repelled them with no damage.

We proceeded to Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, arriving on June 6th. Divers made a temporary patch to the ruptured hull. While in port, we heard news on the radio of the invasion of Europe. The static was bad, but we were able to get a brief and hazy account of it.

Two days later we left for Seeadler Harbor for further temporary repairs by a tender. A supply ship came alongside one day and stocked us up with fresh fruit and vegetables. I was able to buy a 24-bottle case of coca colas for $1.00, which I quickly placed in my locker for safekeeping. It was a real surprise to get a whole case knowing how difficult it was to get a bottle in the states.

With temporary repairs completed, we left on June 15th for Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, arriving on June 18, 1944. Most of us thought we'd either have to go to Pearl Harbor or possibly Sydney for further repairs. It was a real shock when we pulled into Espiritu Santo and our ship went directly into a Floating Dry Dock. There were no shore facilities available for billeting, so we stayed aboard during the repairs with all of the noise and confusion.

The next day I found out that there was a Marine Air Wing ashore at Espiritu where I could get a resupply of clothing and equipment that had been lost in the air attack. A thirty-mile boat trip to the area where the Air Wing was located would have taken several hours, so when I found out that our pilots were flying the seaplanes (SOCs) to a Navy repair facility to be serviced, I bummed a ride with Lt (JG) Driver. I wrote:

The water was pretty calm in the harbor so we had a smooth takeoff. It was beautiful to look down and see all the coral reefs and coconut plantations, as well as all of our ships in the harbor. As we were flying along taking in the sights four P-38 fighter planes passed pretty close in front of us. All of a sudden when we hit the wash of their planes it felt like we were going to tumble out of the sky. Well, we made a safe water landing, and I took off for the Air Wing telling Pickens and Driver I'd be back to return to the Nashville with them. When I came back with a few boxes of gear and saw the pilots, they said we'd have to take a boat back because their planes were unsafe to fly and would have to be replaced. I kidded them plenty about taking me for a ride in their unsafe aircraft particularly with it having been the first time I had flown in a seaplane.

Sydney

Docked in Sydney [click to enlarge]

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It took over three weeks for the Nashville to be repaired with the ship remaining in the floating dry-dock the entire time. With all the noise and confusion aboard ship, when we didn't have duty aboard, we took advantage of going ashore. Besides many recreational facilities being available ashore there was a good rifle/pistol range that we took advantage of for training. Hiking around several of the small islands was interesting and provided some much-needed exercise. The beaches were beautiful and swimming in the crystal clear water was a delight.

The repairs and much-needed overhaul were completed by July 14th, and we sailed to Sydney for a few days R&R. With it being wintertime, we really felt the change from the tropics.

We tied up at the same pier, which was only a few blocks to the center of the city. As before, we were able to get ashore every other day and the ship sponsored two dances for the crew.

It was difficult buying any type of clothing for a gift to send home because of rationing. Coupons were needed, and they were very difficult to obtain in sufficient numbers to buy anything very nice.

One day, four of us (Len Meyer, Callahan, Wilbern, and I) had dinner at the American Red Cross Officers Club. I wrote:

The two outstanding things in that meal were fresh milk and fresh strawberry shortcake. Where they got fresh strawberries that time of the year, I don't know, and after I had consumed three glasses of milk the waitress said she'd bring a cow in if I ordered another glass. After dinner we went to an Amateur Boxing match.

One evening, four of us went to the opera and saw two short operas, Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci. Both operas were in English and very enjoyable.

After a very pleasant visit, we left Sydney on July 26, 1944 with all hands accounted for.

Typically, after a few days of liberty in a port there were a few crew members who got into trouble for disturbing the peace, fighting, drunkenness, etc. None of the offenses were extremely serious but did call for some to be tried by Summary Court Martial. Back in January, I had been appointed as the Recorder for the Court Martial Board. As after the other visit, I was kept busy with this additional duty for the next several weeks. It was helpful that I had been taking a correspondence course in Naval Law available from the Marine Corps Correspondence School.

Returning to Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralties on August 2, 1944, we spent most of the month at anchor in the harbor. Once a week we'd go to sea for a day or two patrolling, and with such a large turnover in the crew, for training of the replacements.

To help fill the time in port, it was good that there were fine beaches for swimming and recreational facilities available ashore, which we took advantage of as often as possible. We scheduled ball games against teams from the other ships and the Army unit ashore.

Rufus B. Thompson, Jr. - USS Nashville CL-43

Writing Home [click to enlarge]

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On August 29th, the Army unit ashore invited us to see the Bob Hope show that afternoon. I wrote:

The show was very good. The troupe consisted of Bob Hope, Jerry Colona, Francis Langford, Patricia Thomas and Jerry Romano. It was a typical Hope show with the wisecracking between Hope and Colona. Francis Langford sang several songs. She looked prettier than she does in pictures. The other girl, Patricia, danced and sang. She got much better applause than Francis Langford. Jerry Romano sang and played his guitar. The escort for the troupe was Lanny Ross. He participated by singing his theme song from his program.

I'm sure it was an oversight on my part that I failed to mention that Les Brown and his Band of Renown were there.

On September 10th, we embarked General MacArthur and staff again at Humboldt Bay and proceeded to the East Indies Island of Halmahera, midway between New Guinea and the Philippines. Arriving at Halmahera, we provided bombardment support for the landing troops at Galela Bay. We proceeded into Morotai Harbor where General MacArthur went ashore to visit his troops. On all of these landings that General MacArthur made, I had four armed Marines accompany him ashore.

Morotai

Landing on Morotai [click to enlarge]

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We returned to Humboldt Bay on September 18th and disembarked General MacArthur at his temporary headquarters. We remained at Humboldt Bay until September 27th before proceeding to Seeadler Harbor, arriving on September 29th.

On October, 4th, I assumed command of the Marine Detachment relieving Captain Bonner who was transferred to the States. 2nd Lt. Poul Finn Pedersen USMC had reported aboard a few days earlier as the new JO. Before he left, Bonner suggested I move into his room, which I did. It was specifically designated for the Marine CO. He couldn't have been gone a few minutes before a Navy Lt. opened the door carrying an arm full of clothes. When he said he had been assigned the room, I told him there must be a mistake because this was the Marine CO's room. He left, but within moments the ship's First Lieutenant (Billeting Officer) came barging into my room and ordered me out. When he wouldn't accept my explanation, nor the plaque on the door, which stated "CO Marines", I said let's go see the Executive Officer. Armed with a copy of Navy Regulations, I showed the XO where it stated that a private stateroom would be assigned to the Commanding Officer of the Marines. The XO said he couldn't argue with "Navy Regs" and the room was rightfully mine. Needless to say, the Billeting Officer was a bit miffed.

Since arriving in Seeadler Harbor, it was evident we were getting ready for a major operation with the influx of ships and craft of all descriptions. Many of my friends from Officer Candidate School (OCS) and Sea School were aboard the assembling cruisers and battle ships. We met ashore at the club or exchanged visits aboard our ships. I recall seeing Admiral Halsey and several other Admirals at the club. His entire fleet, as well as our 7th Fleet, was anchored in the immense harbor.

We got under way on October 11, 1944 for Humboldt Bay, arriving there on the 14th.

On Oct 16th, General MacArthur came aboard with his staff and we sailed for Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. We were so crowded aboard that some of the Army staff officers and news correspondents had to bed down in the wardroom or in passageways. An Army Colonel shared my stateroom with me, alternating or "hot bedding" as we called it, to catch a little shuteye. Most of the time I found it cooler to go up topside and sleep on deck.

USS Nashville CL-43

APDs and LCIs Underway [click to enlarge]

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As we sailed along with accompanying destroyer escorts, we were passing what seemed like an ocean covered with ships and boats of all descriptions, all heading in the same direction - The Philippines. There were troop ships, LSTs, LCMs, LCIs, tugs, tenders, PT boats, etc., you name it. Larger vessels were towing some of the smaller craft.

The trip was uneventful and upon arriving off Leyte Gulf on October 20th, we provided preparatory gunfire support for the landings. We repelled several high-altitude Japanese bombers with our heavy anti-aircraft batteries. It was interesting that the five main battery turrets had been tied into the AA directors so those fifteen 6-inch guns could be used as AA weapons. To my recollection, we didn't down any bombers but several were scared off.

We remained at sea until the 24th when we entered the Gulf and anchored near the town of Tacloban. The next morning President Quezon and staff came aboard to greet General MacArthur, and then both went ashore for MacArthur's triumphant return to the Philippines. I wrote:

I suppose by now you have read or heard of the Nashville taking General MacArthur into the Philippines. According to censorship regulations we are able to mention this now.

There were three separate occurrences of significance in the Leyte operation: 1) The naval action in Leyte Gulf the day before the battle of Surigao Straits, 2) the disposition of the USS Nashville during the battle of Surigao Straits, and 3) the Nashville dispatch to support the jeep carriers under attack by the Japanese fleet east of the Philippines.

The day before the Battle of Surigao Straits (October 25, 1944) the Seventh Fleet, battle ships, cruisers (including the USS Nashville with General MacArthur and staff aboard), and destroyers, under the command of Admiral Kincaid, was maneuvering in the southern portion of Leyte Gulf when the fleet came under attack by Japanese aircraft. My GQ (General Quarters) station was AA aft control in the after superstructure, so I was able to get a good view of that action. Only a few of the ships near the perimeter were in a position to fire because the planes were at such low altitude. At least one enemy plane had successfully dropped its torpedo that went directly under us about midship. (One report said it passed astern.) The wake of the torpedo was very visible to me from my vantage point. Apparently the torpedo was set too low or it hadn't leveled out. Another report said it was an errant torpedo from one of our destroyers that had to jettison its torpedoes before sinking. Fortunately, none of our ships were hit by the torpedoes or friendly gunfire. One other interesting thing that stands out in my memory is that it was a very cloudy and overcast day with intermittent rain, when, after the action, a single ray of sunshine came out shining on only one ship -- the battleship USS California.

When the Seventh Fleet was about to engage the Japanese fleet in the battle in the Straits, Admiral Kincaid ordered the USS Nashville to remain at anchor near Tacloban in Leyte Gulf because General MacArthur was still aboard. While that battle raged, we could hear the gunfire and see the sky lighted up.

General MacArthur - Leyte

Returning to the Nashville from Leyte
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The day after the Surigao battle several US jeep aircraft carriers were sunk or disabled by another Japanese task force off Leyte. US fighter planes, with no carrier to return to, were scrambling for safe haven and tried to land at the unfinished Tacloban airfield. Many planes crash-landed. In the midst of all of this, one or two Japanese planes attempted to land with Kamikaze troops. All hell broke loose with every amphibious ship, landing craft, or what have you firing. The Japanese planes were reportedly either shot down or crash-landed, killing the Kamikaze troops.

On the morning of October 26th, Admiral Kincaid ordered the USS Nashville to get underway to assist the beleaguered jeep carrier Task Force, which was under attack by the Japanese force east of Leyte. It was rumored that Admiral Kincaid insisted that General MacArthur and his staff disembark from the USS Nashville. This was the last time the General was aboard the Nashville.

Prior to leaving the harbor, we went alongside a Merchant Marine supply ship to top off fuel and deck load additional ammo. When the deck crew shot the lead lines to the Merchant ship to bring us alongside, the men on deck refused to handle the lines, using the excuse that it wasn't their job. I had to station Marines along the rails of our ship to keep our sailors from boarding the Merchant ship. The problem was soon taken care of, and we took off at flank speed. We barely got out of the Gulf when we were ordered to return because the Japanese fleet had withdrawn.

After the Leyte operation, we continued patrolling off the Philippine coast for several weeks before returning to Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralties on November 21st. After almost six weeks at sea, it was wonderful to return to what had become our homeport. We finally got our mail and were able to go ashore for recreation, swimming, and have a couple beers at the club. I had an opportunity to visit three of my classmates, whom I hadn't seen since Sea School, on their ships and at the club. Much of the remainder of the month was spent training and replenishing supplies on the ship.

On Thanksgiving Day, I was again invited to the Chief's Mess for Thanksgiving Dinner with the other two guests - Captain Coney and the Executive Officer, I believe Cdr. Corwin. I wrote:

The Chiefs had their Thanksgiving dinner this noon and I was invited along with the Captain and Exec. My, it was certainly a wonderful meal -- far better than the one we had this evening in the wardroom which was still very good. Think the difference was the flavoring that their cook used. He had been a chef in a Chicago hotel.

We departed Seeadler Harbor on November 29, 1944, sailing in very cloudy and rainy weather. We had an uneventful cruise, arriving in San Pedro Bay, Leyte on December 5th.

Kamikaze Attack

Apparently, to keep us active, we spent most the week patrolling Leyte Gulf, then on December 12th, we set sail for Mindoro Island on the west coast of the Philippines with the Commanding General of the landing force and his staff embarked on the Nashville. Our route took us through Surigao Strait where that last great sea battle was fought on the night of October 24th. It was an eerie feeling to be sailing through the same waters where many US and Japanese ships had been sunk just a few weeks earlier.

It was known that there were still many operational Japanese air fields located on Mindanao, Negros and other small islands flanking our route. So, we were at our General Quarters stations immediately after getting underway.

With the exception of my assistant, 2nd Lt. Poul Finn Pedersen, USMC, 1st Sgt. Alton B. Chambers, USMC, and myself, all of the Marines were stationed midship on the boat deck manning the 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft weapons. Lt. Pederson was the assistant anti-aircraft control officer stationed in the foremast (forward superstructure). 1st Sgt. Chambers was in charge of the two quad 40mm guns, located on the fantail and manned by our wardroom cooks and mess men. I was the anti-aircraft control officer stationed in the mainmast (aft superstructure). Two quad 40mm guns manned by sailors were located just below my station, one on the port and one on the starboard side.

The first day and night were quiet with no air alerts or other warnings, so we had been placed on One Easy, which meant half of the personnel on station could rest or take a short break. I believe it was about 9 or 10 AM on December 13, 1944, a light cloudy day, that we received an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) radar alert. Scanning the sky I saw two F4U's well to the rear and crossing the stern of the Nashville to my right (port side of the Nashville) in level flight at about 1500 elevation. (One report I have read estimated the elevation to be about 5000 feet). I think my estimate was more accurate because I was able to identify the planes as Marine F4Us. This was all observed in a second or two. Seeing the F4Us, we thought the IFF was a false alarm but all of a sudden a plane, that apparently had been closely following the F4Us, veered off and dove for our ship coming directly from our stern. 1st Sgt. Chamber's crew was the only one able to fire a few rounds as the plane banked into the port side clipping its right wing tip on the Quad 40mm below me. The plane slammed into the port side of the boat deck and into two 5-inch AA guns on the main deck. One bomb exploded there, and another bomb was catapulted from the left wing of the plane over to the starboard side of the boat deck, where it also exploded, knocking out the two 5-inch guns there. The 5-inch ammo ready boxes on both sides were open and much of that ammo exploded. The forward superstructure received some damage, causing the AA control located there to be evacuated. The brunt of the explosion was forward, leaving only superficial damage to the after superstructure. Fire raged on the main deck and boat deck in the mid section of the ship until the Damage Control team was able to extinguish it. The kamikaze plane, which was surprisingly still in one piece, and pilot were pushed over the side with other debris to clear the decks.

With AA control forward out of action, I established communications with the few AA gun crews that were still operable, alerting them to be on the lookout for any more enemy planes. Fortunately, none appeared. I don't recall how long it was before someone relieved me at my station so I could check on my Marines.

The devastation was beyond belief. All of my Marines manning the AA weapons on the boat deck and the sailors manning the 5-inch guns in the midship area on both the starboard and port side were wounded or killed. The wounded were evacuated to emergency medical facilities established in the officers' wardroom and the crew's mess hall for treatment, and the KIAs were moved to the hanger deck. The Landing Force Commander and his staff, who weren't wounded or killed, were transferred to the USS Boise, as I recall. The Nashville, escorted by two escort ships, immediately returned to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, where the wounded and dead were transferred to Army Medical facilities ashore for treatment or burial. We had no time to sort out the personal belongings of the wounded to send ashore with them. However, I did transfer the individual personal records of the wounded ashore with them to the Army Medical Field Hospital.

From the Webmaster: According to LtCol (then 1st Lt) Thompson, of the 40 men in his detachment, 19 were killed. Only three Marines survived the attack uninjured: LtCol Thompson, 2nd Lt. Poul Finn Pedersen, and 1st Sgt. Alton B. Chambers.

After some minor repairs at Leyte, we proceeded on December 17th to Seeadler Harbor where the Nashville received more extensive repairs to ensure it was seaworthy for the trip to the States. We departed on Christmas Day, December 25th for Hawaii with a destroyer escort. I wrote:

We had a special Holiday Service on the main deck which I think was attended by everyone except those on watch. The Chiefs again invited me to their noontime Christmas dinner along with the Captain and XO. Our dinner in the wardroom was in the evening so I wound up having two delicious Christmas dinners.

Besides standing our normal duty watches, Lt. Pedersen, 1st Sgt. Chambers, and I spent most of our time assembling the personal effects of the Marines. I spent many days and nights composing individual letters to the next of kin. It was the most heart-rending and difficult task I have experienced in my life.

I wrote:

We had very stormy weather and very rough seas for most of the trip with the ship pitching and yawing violently. Sometimes it looked like the bow of the ship was going to submerge like a submarine with salt water spraying up over the forward turrets and even splashing on the bridge while I was on watch as the JO.

1945

The sea calmed as we approached Hawaii, and we entered Pearl Harbor on a beautiful sunny day, January 2nd, 1945. I got ashore a couple of times. Had dinner with my old boss, Major Allan R. Miller. Saw several of my OCS classmates at the Marine Club, as well as two friends I had known at the Naval Academy Prep School we attended in 1938-9.

An officer was flown from Hawaii to Seattle to make train and plane reservations for the officers and crew in the first leave group.

We departed for the west coast on January 5th, arriving at the Bremerton Shipyard, WA on January 12th. The Nashville was immediately dry-docked for damage repairs and overhaul and the first group left on leave.

About twenty of us went to the airline ticket office in Seattle to purchase our tickets. When I pulled out my bank check to pay for my fare, I was told cash only. Captain Coney and others vouched for me but to no avail. Not knowing what to do, I went across the street to the Olympic Hotel to find out where the nearest bank might be. Entering the lobby, I noticed an USO lounge on the mezzanine deck. A nice looking lady wearing a USO tag greeted me and told me that I looked pretty despondent. After I related my problem she said the banks wouldn't honor my check either, but she could get my check cashed in the hotel. I'd have to make it out to her then she would endorse it and I'd get my money. I was real skeptical of this but she convinced me to go down to the hotel office with her and talk to the hotel manager. Upon his assurance, I made out the check in her name, she endorsed it, and I got my cash. I ran back to the airline office and bought my ticket. Captain Coney and others couldn't believe how I got the cash so quickly and after I told them they all kidded me that I'd sure have a hard time convincing my wife of the story. There is a follow on to this, which I'll include later.

I flew to Cincinnati, Ohio to see my wife (Personal Journal). After approximately two weeks, we returned to Seattle, WA by train, and I reported back aboard the USS Nashville.

USS Nashville CL-43 - 1945

New Detachment - May 1945
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Although I had asked that replacements not be brought aboard until I returned from leave, most had arrived, including a new 1st Sgt, from the local Marine barracks and other stations. 1st Sgt. Chambers had received orders and was transferred while I was on leave. The new detachment was a mixed group, with some combat veterans, others from stateside units, with many directly from Boot Camp. Most had not attended Sea School and were unaware of the protocol, shipboard lingo, and duties aboard ship. The first thing I heard upon returning from leave was from a Navy officer who had been the OOD (Officer Of the Deck). He said some of the Marines came aboard failing to salute the quarterdeck (colors) and the OOD and asking, "How do we get to the bottom of this boat?" Well, the first thing I had to do was to set up our own Sea School. They turned out to be a mighty fine group of Marines.

The ship was completely torn up, undergoing major repairs and upgrading. You couldn't walk any place without stepping over pipes, wires, etc. The noise was terrible with all of the riveting, drilling, and banging. Fortunately, I only had to stand Officer of the Deck watch every fourth day, so I was able to go ashore and be with my wife on other nights.

On one occasion, several of our wives decided to take the ferry into Seattle for a day of shopping and dinner with we husbands joining them after work. The question came up on where to meet. Without any other ideas, I suggested the USO lounge on the mezzanine deck of the Olympic Hotel would be a convenient and comfortable place to meet. Our wives were already there when we arrived and as we entered the lounge, I was greeted by name by the lady who had helped me cash my check for an airline ticket a few weeks before. Needless to say, it was good I had discussed the check-cashing incident with my wife, but of course, my Navy buddies had lots of fun during the evening kidding me about it.

Repairs were completed on March 4th, 1945, and when the ship made a trial run in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we struck a floating log damaging one of the propellers. An aircraft carrier, badly damaged from a Kamikaze attack, which had just been put into dry dock for repairs, was removed so a new propeller could be put on the Nashville.

Repairs were finally completed, and on Easter Sunday, April 1st, 1945, the USS Nashville left for San Diego. After nearly three months of cloudy weather, we finally had a bright sunny day and had a spectacular view of the majestic snow covered Olympic Mountains. It was interesting that we had seen a large photographic mural in the local theatre of Admiral Dewey's White Fleet anchored in the harbor in the late 1800s with the beautiful Cascades in the background. We didn't believe the mountains were real in the mural. Seeing them as we steamed out to sea convinced us otherwise.

After arriving in San Diego on April 4th, we spent the next three days conducting training exercises, including short-range and anti-aircraft gunfire practice. Completing that training, we returned to San Diego to top off fuel for our trip to the South Pacific. Maneuvering to the dock at North Island, the stern of the ship hit the dock damaging the port side propeller. With no repair facilities available in San Diego, we left immediately for San Francisco for repairs, arriving at the Hunter's Point Naval Facility on April 12th. Again, another ship had to be removed from the dry dock so the Nashville could be quickly repaired. When we left San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on April 15th, we had several federal agents aboard investigating the accidents.

Arriving in Pearl Harbor on the April 21st and after two days in port, we went to sea for more joint training exercises. Completing the exercises on the 26th, we had three days of liberty before departing for the South Pacific on April 30. Every time we would get into port, more of the Officers I knew were being transferred. Two of them who left while in Hawaii were Ken Hysong and Len Meyer. Ken and I had spent untold number of hours on watch together at sea; he as the OOD and me as his JO, and at our General Quarters station in the Forward AA Control until I took control of AA Aft. With all of the new replacements aboard, I was one of the old timers on the ship. Our new skipper Captain McCondray, USN, was our third skipper, and with the transfer of our senior medical doctor, Dr. Ballenger, Dr. Henderson became our third medical doctor. I began to wonder if the Marine Corps had lost track of me.

We received the radio report on May 8, 1945 of Germany's surrender. I wrote:

Sweety, I can imagine how the news of Germany's surrender is being taken in the states. It must really be cause for celebration, etc. Now, let us hope that this one out here ends soon. Hope they don't waste too much time in moving some of their equipment out this way.

Manila Harbor

Sunken Japanese Ship - Manila Harbor
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We arrived at Seeadler Harbor on May 9th. My chess-playing friend Lt John "Deacon" Daniels USN was transferred during our stay. We spent two days there before continuing on to Leyte Gulf and Subic Bay, where we dropped anchor on May 16th.

From the vague details I can glean from my censored letters, I believe we visited Manila Harbor May 23 - 26th. Passing Corregidor and entering the harbor reminded me of the devastation we had seen at Pearl Harbor. The harbor was an eerie sight with the masts of sunken Japanese merchant ships evident in every direction. The Nashville anchored well out in the harbor clear of the debris. Liberty parties were shuttled by boat from the ship to a temporary pier in Manila. We had been cautioned that there was still some sporadic shooting in some areas of the city. Liberty was restricted to daylight hours.

After our visit to Manila, we sailed up the coast to Subic Bay where we remained until June 6th. The Navy had set up a recreational area on Ford Island with several ball fields, volleyball courts, horseshoes pits, etc., which we really took advantage of, as well as swimming in the Bay. Joe DiMaggio's brother, Dom, was the Recreational Director of the facility. Several times he joined us for some of our "green" beer.

I also wrote:

As you have most likely noticed, we are now allowed to write that we are back in the SW Pacific Area. We can also mention that we were in the Admiralty Islands, and spent a little time in Subic Bay, also. You can see that our censorship regulations are not as restrictive as they were.

We received authorization to promote 2d Lt Pedersen to 1st Lt. We surprised him at a detachment formation. When he ordered the 1st Sgt to take his post the 1st Sgt stood fast and said he wanted to make an announcement. Much to Pete's surprise the 1st Sgt. read his promotion order and presented him with a new set of 1st Lt bars.

Again, as before, it took several weeks to gather additional forces, supplies and equipment for the next operation. Finally, with Rear Admiral R. S. Berkey, USN, and his staff aboard, we proceeded on June 6, 1945 to Brunei Bay (on the northern coast of Borneo) where we provided bombardment support for the successful landing of an Australian brigade on June 10th.

Kris Knife

Kris Knife [click to enlarge]

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One humorous incident in Brunei: I wasn't able to get ashore but did receive a souvenir in a rather unusual way from one of the native Chiefs. It happened that those who did get ashore found out that the natives were badly in need of clothing, so a collection was undertaken aboard ship. The only thing I had to contribute was a pair of "long-handled underwear" which I certainly didn't need in the tropics. One of my navy buddies delivered a bundle of clothing, including my underwear, to the natives. It happened the chief picked the underwear out for his pregnant wife and in return sent me a hand-carved native kris knife. The 8-inch wavy blade sharpened on both edges is a mean looking weapon. The blade is protected with a hand-carved wooden scabbard and the wooden handle, likely made from a bowling pin is a hand-carved animal-like figure. I still have the knife.

We remained in the Brunei area until most Japanese resistance had been quelled. Then proceeded on June 17th to Tawi-Tawi Island in the Sulu Archipelago.

To those at home, it was likely surprising to know that we had our "Bond" drives, too, to support the War effort. Several times while in port, we'd conduct a lottery. I wrote on June 22nd:

Before the movie we had a bond lottery. Tickets were sold for $1 and the prizes were 1- $500 bond, 1 - $100 bond, 2 - $50 bonds and 20 - $25 bonds, so you see that makes up some pretty good prizes, and helps to raise money for the government. I came within one number of winning a $25 bond. I never was lucky at chance games so I don't feel disappointed. It creates an interest for selling bonds and it also helps out some lucky people.

On June 29, after we were permitted to write about our visit to Manila, I wrote:

Manila 1945

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I can now tell you that we have been to Manila. It is very easy to see why the Japanese folded up so fast. When I took the boat into Manila from our anchorage, every place I looked I could see partially sunken Japanese ships; some of them had only the tops of their masts above water while others had sunk only a few feet before they hit bottom.

The first day I went ashore I just walked around looking at the sights and what sights they were. It was utter devastation. Even though Manila had been secured by the American forces since February, bombed out buildings showed little evidence of any repairs or restoration. Japanese fortifications were evident throughout the city with pillbox type bunkers built in opposing buildings at street intersections, providing full surveillance in every direction. In all of what was the downtown area there is not one building left untouched. Walls on some were caved in while others were completely gutted. Some streets were fairly well cleaned up while in many areas the rubbish and debris from the bombings appeared to not have been touched. The stench was still terrific in lots of places some areas of the city.

Rufus B. Thompson, Jr. - Manila 1945

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Some small shops were open with their wares displayed in the best shelter they could find.

The second day Lt's. Weatherford and Rasmussen and I took the ships jeep over in the morning and drove all around the city. On the way to Nicolas Field which only took a little while we passed through what had been a fine residential district. There were very few of the homes not damaged with most of them in complete ruins. We just circled around the Intramuras because we weren't allowed to go inside the walls. The Intramuras, as you know, was an old Spanish city. The thick walls (they must be at least twelve feet thick) completely surround this old city. I could see many places where the Japanese had taken advantage of the thick stone walls for gun positions or pill-boxes. It must have been a very beautiful place before he war because most of the buildings had tall columns in front and many statues, gargoyles, carvings, etc., all around.

Bilibid Prison

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Another place of interest was the Bilibid Prison. It is the place where lots of our service men were kept prisoners. We didn't get to see much of it because we were only allowed inside the first enclosure, which was enough though, because of the horrible conditions and the stench and filth.

We then drove out to Santo Tomas University where American and other civilians had been interred. The buildings did not appear to have been damaged by bombs or gunfire. Living conditions must have been extremely severe and over crowded with housing for many being shanty like structures in the main court yard. Most of the prisoners had been removed but the few remaining didn't look in very good physical condition. We refrained from trying to engage in conversation with the few we saw.

Santo Tomas University

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In the afternoon, at the appointed time, we met the Executive Officer, Cmdr. Corwin, USN, and Cmdr. Stocker, USN., our new gun boss who had joined us at Pearl Harbor, for them to use the jeep. Instead of Rasmussen and me returning to the ship, Cmdr. Corwin asked us to join them. We revisited the Bilibid and Santo Tomas University, saw the Manila Hotel, then drove out to the Malacanang Palace. The peculiar thing at the Palace though was it appeared that a musical concert was quickly vacated leaving the area in disarray. Some musical stands were still in place with musical scores still on them while others were tipped over and music scores strewn on the ground. We couldn't understand why the area hadn't been cleaned up if it had been caused by bombing raids a couple months earlier.

Cmdr. Corwin had been stationed in Manila before the war so he was able to point out places of interest including where he had lived. He had a difficult time locating where he resided because most of the homes in the neighborhood had been leveled.

The last thing that impressed me was the outdoor market that we went to hoping to buy some avocados and mangoes. The market had everything in it; fruit, vegetables, all kinds of meat, including live and dressed chickens, fish, etc. Everything was in the open, with little shade from the sun and no protection from flies or customers handling the produce. You can imagine the aroma that greeted us. We lost interest in buying avocados and mangoes because we thought the lady was over charging us and she wouldn't accept our Hawaiian dollar bill. Rasmussen did buy about a dozen small bananas which we helped him eat. Because of the stench we didn't stay very long.

After our day of sightseeing we had difficulty getting the right type of boat to transport the jeep back to the ship, not returning until 9 p.m. It was a very interesting day, but it sure was good to get back to the clean conditions aboard ship.

We made a brief visit to Puerto Princesa on Palawan Island then returned to Tawi-Tawi until June 29 when we joined an escort carrier task force for two days when they launched air strikes at Balikpapan. On July 1st and 2nd we provided gunfire support for the landing of Australian troops. With that successful operation accomplished, we returned to Tawi-Tawi until July 8th when we sailed for Subic Bay arriving there on July 10th.

Periodically, over the next couple of weeks we would put to sea for exercises and gunnery practice returning to Subic Bay at night.

Every time we returned to Subic Bay, new replacements were reporting aboard. There were only six Navy Officers remaining on board from the original crew when I joined the Nashville at Mare Island in July, 1943. I had served with three Captains (Captains Spanagel, Coney, and McCondrey), three Executive Officers (Commanders Kirten, Corwin, and Ford), two Senior Medical Officers (Commanders Storey and Henderson) and two Gunnery Bosses (Lt Commander Ken Hysong and Commander Stocker). All of them were fine people and a pleasure to serve with, as well as the other officers, my Marines, the Chiefs, and crew.

On July 16th Rear Admiral Berkey and his staff debarked from the Nashville.

One day when on Ford Island, I met Marine Captain Sypher who was in charge of a Marine military police unit in Subic City. I visited him on July 17th spending most of the day driving out into the countryside. I wrote:

We drove several miles into the country. The valleys and canyons are really beautiful reminding me somewhat of those in Montana. Of course, the vegetation is so much thicker and greener here. On the way back to Subic City we stopped at an overlook site where we had a gorgeous view of Subic Bay with our ships at anchor. It was a very interesting and different experience.

I did not write this but do recall that while we were at the overlook site, an overloaded rickety bus stopped to let the passengers off for a rest stop. There were no facilities available so they just went over to the edge of the cliff to relieve themselves--men, women, and children. It was evident the bus chassis was from a salvaged US Army truck.

Our last operation was on July 24th when we were ordered with the other ships of our Task Force to intercept a Japanese convoy reported off the Indochina coast. This was a false alarm, however, because shortly after getting underway, we were ordered to return to Subic Bay.

I wrote on July 26th: "We had a going away party for our Executive Officer, Cmdr. Corwin this evening as he is leaving tomorrow. We were all very pleased that he received his promotion to the rank of Captain. Our new Exec. is Cmdr. Ford."

We were at anchor in Subic Bay for most of July and the first two weeks in August. When not on duty, we took advantage of the recreation area ashore. On those days when I was aboard, besides standing my normal watches, I had the ships legal work to do, continuing training of the Marines, working on my correspondence courses, and finishing my inventory of supplies and equipment anticipating receiving my orders.

The last time the Nashville went to sea, while I was aboard, was for a day of training exercises was on August 1, 1945.

On August 3rd, I wrote:

I received my orders for transfer to San Diego upon the reporting of my relief, a Captain C. H. George, USMCR. This doesn't mean I'll be leaving right away because my relief most likely won't get here for at least a month then it will take almost that long to get home. Anyhow, honey, the important thing is, I have my orders.

In that same letter I wrote:

The Chiefs and my two staff NCO's invited me to a steak fry and weiner roast at their camp site on the island. They have a wonderful campsite on a separate beach with their tent located in a grassy area and mango trees. They had taken advantage of a fresh water stream flowing from the hills and built a swell fresh water swimming pool when we first arrived on the island. It was really great to take a dip in the salty water in the bay then jump into the swimming pool with the fresh cold water. It was by far one of the best days I have had since leaving the states.

On August 9th, I wrote:

Chaplain Jerry Smith received his transfer orders back to the states. I've been having lots of fun kidding him that it would be just my luck to have to ride all the way back to the states with him. The kidding isn't all one sided though because I get more than my share from him and the rest of my Navy buddies.

Often, when on watch or just lounging on deck I'd get a bit nostalgic seeing the beauty of the sea, the gathering clouds, the sunrise or sunset, or watching the porpoise frolicking in the waves along side of the ship, I'd unconsciously start whistling. This was a "no-no" aboard ship. When caught by my Navy buddies and once by the Chief Bosun Mate, I was told "Only Marines and Damn Fools whistle aboard ship". In spite of the kidding, I don't think I ever stopped.

On August 10th I wrote:

My relief, Captain George, came aboard this afternoon so I will be on my way home in about a week. I have lots of things to turn over to him and it all takes time. I should get home about the first of October. Boy, am I ever floating on air!!

On Sunday August 12th I wrote:

This morning we had a nice church service. The chaplain had a Philippine choir on board to sing for the service. They were pretty good. Their minister gave two prayers so it was really very different. Have enclosed the program for you.

I still have the program as a keepsake.

On Wednesday August 15th I wrote:

My own darling: It hardly seems possible that the end of the war has finally arrived. It is certainly a day that has been looked forward to for a long time. I can imagine that everything is running rampant in the states now. Our ships Captain announced the message that the President put out. He then gave the "Lords Prayer" for all of those who didn't live to see this day. I certainly thought that was most appropriate. My thoughts certainly went to all of the fine men I lost.

On the more joyous side, but with a peculiar feeling with it being the day that the war is ended, Captain George relieved me as Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment, USS Nashville. I'll be on my way as soon as I get transportation.

The Executive Officer told me the Nashville was leaving for China in a couple of days. He offered to delay my orders, and I could have remained aboard with no duties. After a visit there, they would arrange air transportation for me to the States. I, like everyone else, was anxious to get home so I turned the offer down. It was possibly a mistake because I missed seeing China, and surface transportation didn't get me to the States for more than a month anyway.

Manila 1945

A Manila Hotel [click to enlarge]

Close Image

I left the USS Nashville at Subic Bay on August 17, 1945 and took an LCI (Landing Craft - Infantry) to Manila Bay where I was housed in a Navy billet, the Manila Hotel. The Manila Hotel had been badly damaged from the bombing and fighting for the city but was still used for billeting. All the windows had been blown out and 2 by 4s were placed across the open areas as a safe guard. There were about twelve of us to a room. The beds were cots equipped with mosquito nets. Our meal the first night was a K ration. After a couple of nights there, a Navy friend and I were transferred to a Navy hotel ship with a comfortable bed, clean room, shower facilities, and good food.

It seemed like I was never going to get out of Manila but finally sailed for the States aboard the Army transport Tjisadane on August 26, 1945. Before the war, the Tjisadane was a Dutch liner that sailed in the Far East and South Pacific. The US army took it over as a troop transport retaining its regular foreign crew with Hindu and Indian stewards. We escorted 6 LSTs and some other small ships all the way to the states, doing good if we made 5 to 6 knots headway.

Army troops were housed in what I guess would be called the steerage section. Several civilians, who had been prisoners at Santo Tomas, plus about forty Army officers, twelve Navy Officers, and me, were billeted in the first class section. There were six of us in a room with double decked bunks. It was evident the ship was pretty plush before the war. Regardless of the double-decked bunks, our accommodations were nice. Two stewards, one an Indian the other a Hindu, took care of our room and did our laundry daily. I can't remember how their caste system worked, but one picked up the dirty laundry and the other would return the clean laundry. Three very acceptable meals were served daily in the ornate dining room.

I spent most of my time finishing three Marine Corps correspondence course that I hadn't completed on the Nashville.

The most interesting part of the trip home was meeting and talking to many of the civilians who had been prisoners at Santo Tomas. One American couple, an engineer and his wife, maybe in their late fifties or early sixties, told me about some of their experiences and living conditions in Santo Tomas. They did say that few would have survived much longer from the lack of food, when rescued. She also said that women were treated like cattle with Japanese guards herding them into the showers in the nude and being lashed with a stick if they attempted to cover up.

Returning to their home after they were rescued from Santo Tomas, they found much to their surprise, most of their finest silver ware and dishes at their home. Their Philippino help had buried the things for them during the war returning them after the Japanese left.

Two other interesting couples were a South American professional Hi Lai player, his wife, and her sister, who was recently married to an US Army Lt Col. The Hi Lai player said they suffered the same depredation of food and squalid living conditions but were not singled out and punished as severely as the American prisoners. It is a shame that I can't remember any of their names or recall many of their stories with any degree of accuracy.

On the lighter side, a CO of Troops aboard a transport is in command of all troops embarked. I think our CO of Troops played a little game in assigning me the task of conducting morning calisthenics for the Army troops. Can you imagine the response I got, a Marine Officer, with a bunch of Army guys who had spent years fighting their way through the jungles and were now heading home to be phased out of the service. After a couple of days, the CO of Troops realized it was a lost cause.

One other thing that sticks vividly in my mind is that every morning we were awakened by the loud speakers playing a song with words went like "Nothin could be fina than to be in Carolina in the morrrninn" ("Carolina in the Morning").

We arrived at Terminal Island in San Pedro on September 23rd, 1945. Upon debarking, the only greeting I recall was being offered a hot cup of coffee from the Red Cross.

Battle Stars and Awards

During my tour aboard the USS Nashville we were awarded the following Battle Stars and other awards:

1 Star/Pacific raids
Marcus Island 31 August 1943
 
Wake Island 5-6 October 1943
1 Star/Bismark Archipelago Operations
Cape Gloucester, New Britain 26 December 1943
 
Admiralty Island Landings 29 Feb -- 7 March 1944
1 Star/Eastern New Guinea Operations
Supporting and Consolidating Operations, Seventh Fleet - 26 December 1943 -- 24 July 1944
1 Star/Hollandia Operations
Aitape - Humboldt Bay - Tanahmerah Bay -- 22-23 April 1944
1 Star/Western New Guinea Operations
Toem - Wakde - Sarmi Ares Operations 17 May 1944
 
Biak Island Operations 27 May and 4-5 June 1944
 
Morotai Landings 15 September 1944
1 Star/Leyte Operation
Leyte Landings 20-24 October 1944
1 Star/Luzon Operation
Mindoro Landings 12-18 December 1944
1 Star/Borneo Operations
Brunei Bay Operation 7-17 June 1945
 
Balikpapan 28 June - 9 July 1945
Philippine Liberation Ribbon
20 - 24 Oct 1944 -- 12-18 December 1944