|Howard's WW-II Recollections
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Howard Landon wrote this in 2000 at age 74, based on a journal he maintained while in the service. He died of colon cancer in October 2008.
My name is Howard Joseph Landon. I was born on 16 January 1926 in Philadelphia, Pa., the only child of Oliver and Letitia Landon. My parents and I lived in West Philadelphia and surrounding suburban communities during my childhood. I was graduated from Sharon Hill High School, Sharon Hill, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, at the age of seventeen in June 1943. The war with Germany and Japan was in full swing in 1943, and it was a foregone conclusion that all of the boys in my high school senior class would enter military service soon after graduation. In fact, several were given permission by the school board to enlist prior to graduation. Their diplomas were presented in absentia.
During the war it was mandatory for all males to register for the military draft on their eighteenth birthday, and, when called for service, you could be drafted into the army, navy or marine corps. The only way to ensure serving in the branch of the military of your choice was to enlist before your 18th birthday. Once you registered for the draft, you could no longer enlist. I decided early on that the navy would be my first choice and planned to wait until just before my 18th birthday to sign up.
One of my close high-school friends, Jim Malcomson, became 18 on 4 December 1943. Since this was only about six weeks before my birthday, we decided to enlist together just before Jim’s birthday. We were sworn in on the morning of 2 December 1943, at the U. S. Navy Recruiting Station at 13th and Market Streets, Philadelphia, Pa., with our parents present. The group being sworn in that day numbered about thirty. Immediately following the ceremony we were ordered, by a veteran chief petty officer, to remove our shoes and socks and roll up our pant legs. We were given mops and buckets of water and ordered to “swab the deck” of the recruiting station. An obvious move to prove that we were then the “property” of the U. S. Navy.
Later that day we boarded a Reading Railroad train a few blocks away for the trip north to the U. S. Naval Training Station, Sampson, N. Y. Our arrival at Sampson, near Geneva, N. Y. the following morning was bleak, cold and snowy. Winters in the finger lake region of northern New York can be very cold. My boot camp experience as a member of Company 429 was relatively uneventful except for the obvious adjustment from the freedom of civilian life to the discipline of the military, and the fact that the weather was harsh with the temperature hovering around zero nearly every day.
Following graduation from boot camp, a recruit was promoted from apprentice seaman to seaman second class, and could be assigned immediately to sea duty with the fleet or to a school for specialized training. During boot camp we were administered batteries of aptitude tests and interviewed regarding our special interests. I selected yeoman school or radioman school as my preferences. The schools were located all over the United States. I was assigned to radioman school, which just happened to be located at the Sampson Naval Training Station. So, after a ten-day “boot leave” at home, it was back to Sampson for the next five months. Navy radiomen were responsible for maintaining radio communication from ship to ship and from ship to shore via continuous wave (Morse code) or by high frequency voice transmissions. Morse code was transmitted by using a telegrapher’s key and received by listening to the code through a head set and simultaneously transcribing it into written English language on a typewriter. Since I had taken a commercial course for two years in high school, I was a proficient typist and was exempted from typing classes in radioman school. In fact, I was assigned to teach one of the typing courses. Upon graduating from radio man school on 26 June 1944, I was promoted to Seaman First Class / Radioman Striker and following another short leave at home, was ordered to report to the U. S. Navy Training and Distribution Center, Shoemaker, Calif. Shoemaker was a staging area and a port of embarkation for destinations in the Pacific Theater, so I knew I was going somewhere in the Pacific. Along with hundreds of others, I was assigned to the “outgoing-unit” at Shoemaker for about thirty days, waiting for orders. During this time we had little to do and received liberty to go to Oakland or San Francisco just about every other day. I remember the west coast weather being quite fickle, and wearing summer white uniforms during the day and winter pea coats at night.
On 8 August 1944 we were transported with all our gear by bus to the U. S. Naval Base at Treasure Island in San Francisco Harbor. There, we boarded a navy ferry boat for a short trip across the harbor, where we boarded a navy troop ship, the USS Harry Taylor. We were told that we were the troops and that we would be sailing to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for further assignment. The ship was large, new and fast. We sat in the harbor for the next three days, loading more troops and supplies, and getting acclimated to the ship. I was assigned to mess hall duty. Finally at 12:15 on 11 August 1944 the gangway was lowered from the ship, civilians were ordered off, and we were underway. We arrived at Pearl Harbor without incident five days later, on 16 August 1944. There were about 3,700 troops aboard.
Upon arrival at Pearl Harbor, I was transported with other radiomen to the navy receiving barracks at Aie a, Hawaii, a few miles from Pearl Harbor. On 27 August 1944 we were moved to Tent City, Aiea, and on 6 September we were officially assigned to Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet and transferred to an amphibious operating base at Waipio, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. All of the above mentioned bases were in close proximity to one another. Other than making these moves from base to base, we had little to do and were given liberty to go to Honolulu and other places on the island of Oahu. The countryside was quite beautiful and the temperature stayed fixed at about 74 degrees. We swam on Wakiki Beach and visited the famed Royal Hawaiian hotel, which had been taken over by the Navy. We were served a lot of fresh pineapple in the mess halls. The navy cooks were extremely inventive with their pineapple recipes -- we had pineapple morning, noon, and night.
On 11 September 1944, Amphibious Communications Team #5 was transported with our personal gear by bus to a dock in Pearl Harbor where we boarded the merchant ship SS Young America, as members of the crew. During the war all merchant ships were chartered by the navy, and the SS Young America was assigned to the navy for amphibious duty. The Young America was a C2 type cargo / troopship. She was built in 1943 by Moore Dry Dock Company, Oakland, Calif. and operated during the war by the Mississippi Shipping Company, Inc. The ship was 459 feet long, with a beam of 63’, traveled at 16 knots, could carry 1,500 troops and had cargo space of 119,000 cubic feet. The SS Young America would be my home for the next six months.
While the ship was commanded by a merchant marine captain and crew, several navy amphibious units were assigned for specific duties. As we became aware of the units that were joining our team on board, it became obvious that we were going to be involved in some kind of amphibious landing. There was a navy boat crew consisting of boatswains mates whose job it was to operate the small amphibious landing crafts which were carried on deck. There was a navy hatch men and winch men unit aboard to operate the winches and to load and displace tons of food, medical supplies, vehicles, and equipment from the cargo holds on the ship. A navy armed guard unit consisting of gunners mates was aboard to man and maintain the ships deck guns, which consisted of a three-inch gun on the bow, a five-inch gun on the fantail and numerous 20-mm antiaircraft machine guns around the superstructure. Navy cooks, yeomen and storekeepers were assigned to prepare food, keep the food and clothing stores, and handle mail and clerical work. The navy communications team to which I was assigned consisted of five radiomen, three radio technicians and five signalmen, and two commissioned officers -- a lieutenant and an ensign. It was our responsibility to operate and maintain radio and signal flag communications with other ships and port installations.
From 11 September to 23 September 1944 we loaded cargo and a full complement of U. S. Army infantry troops and vehicles. On 23 September 1944 we got underway and sailed west from Pearl Harbor, arriving at Eniwetok, Marshall Islands on 3 October, where we took on water and fuel. The island of Eniwetok, which had been secured by American forces in February 1944, was so small that we could see across it from the bridge of our ship. On 4 October we got underway again, sailing west. We were now sailing as part of a large convoy of other merchant marine and navy ships. The convoy stretched across the sea for miles in all directions. Ships in the convoy were ordered by the navy command vessel to change course periodically, in a zig-zag pattern to avoid enemy submarines. Commands were sent by the command ship to all ships in the convoy, and the turns were executed simultaneously. It was the duty of the radioman on watch to relay the turn commands to the quartermaster standing at the ship’s wheel on the bridge. Although our ship was capable of doing 16 knots, this was considered fairly slow, and we would have been vulnerable to submarine attack without protection. The convoy was escorted by smaller, faster navy warships such as destroyers and destroyer escorts around the perimeter.
On 29 September 1944 we crossed the 180th Meridian and I, along with many others in the crew, was initiated into the Order of the Royal Dragon. On 7 October another initiation took place when the ship crossed the Equator, and I was transformed from a Polliwog to a Trusty Shellback. Appropriate certificates, signed by the ship’s commanding officer, were issued attesting to these initiations. On 9 October 1944 the convoy arrived at Manus, Admiralty Islands, where we stayed anchored in the harbor until 24 October. We still had no idea where we were heading with our troops and equipment. We sailed o n 24 October, arriving on 25 October at Hollandia, New Guinea, which had been secured by U. S. troops in May 1944. We sailed from Hollandia on 29 October and, while at sea, were told that our destination was the Philippines.
The Young America arrived at Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands on 4 November 1944, 14 days after the invasion of Leyte, and the beginning of the Philippine Campaign. For the next 11 days we sat anchored in the harbor near the towns of Dulag and Tacloban and disembarked our army troops and vehicles. The beaches had been somewhat secured by the first wave of the invasion forces two weeks prior, but there was still Japanese ground resistance farther inland. The soldiers climbed down cargo nets over the side of our ship into waiting landing barges manned by our navy boat crews for the short ride to the beaches. We encountered no surface opposition by Japanese ships, but we were und er constant attack by low flying Japanese planes. The planes, which took off from landing strips in the interior of Leyte island, dropped bombs and strafed allied ships anchored in the harbor. During the air attacks members of the crew not on watch at their primary assignments assisted the navy gunners. During “general quarters” I was assigned to one of the 20-mm antiaircraft machine guns on the superstructure. It was my job to feed ammunition to the gunners. This was very exciting and took on the atmosphere of a football game. When a Japanese plane was hit and fell into the sea, everyone on the ship cheered.
On the morning of 13 November the SS Young America was strafed by two low flying Japanese zero fighter planes. We suffered no personnel casualties, but parts of the ship’s superstructure were damaged. On 15 November we put to sea again arriving at Hollandia on 21 November and sailing on to Manus the following day. Since the ship needed repairs, the captain elected to go to Noumea, New Caledonia for repairs to the engine and superstructure. We sailed from Manus on 30 November, arriving in Noumea on 6 December.
New Caledonia was a beautiful place and a welcome change from the Philippines. The people (French and native) were warm and friendly, and we enjoyed our stay there. With repairs completed, we loaded new army troops and cargo, and sailed from Noumea for Espirito Santo, New Hebrides Islands on 22 December. At Espirito Santo we loaded more troops and put to sea again on Christmas morning, 25 December 1944. We sailed northwest through the Milne Straits and the China Straits, which were narrow and dangerous because of coral reefs, arriving at Oro Bay, New Guinea, on 30 December. There, we loaded army paratroopers, and sailed on 1 Ja nuary 1945 for Finschhaven, New Guinea, arriving on the 2nd. At Finschhaven we tried, unsuccessfully, to pick up a supply of landing barges, since we had left ours at Leyte Gulf. We sailed on to Manus, Admiralty Islands, arriving on 4 January 1945, where we took on the needed barges along with fuel, water and food. We joined a large convoy at Manus and sailed again for Leyte on the 19th, arriving on the 26th. Things were much different than when we had left in November. General MacArthur had announced the end of organized resistance by the Japanese on 26 December 1944. There was no more resistance from the air, and the area appeared to be secured. On 14 January 1945 I was promoted to radioman third class (RM3/c) a rating equivalent in the navy to an army sergeant.
We disembarked our troops and supplies at Tacloban, Leyte, Philippine Islands and sailed back again to Hollandia and Manus, arriving at Manus on 9 February 1945. There we loaded several hundred army, navy and, marine casualties for transportation back to the United States. We sailed from Manus on 14 February and arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands on the 18th, where we loaded additional wounded marines from the Solomon Island campaign. Following a short stop for fuel at Tulagi, Solomon Islands the next day, we sailed for San Francisco, California. We were going home! On 11 March 1945, the SS Young America arrived at Treasure Island, San Francisco, California, and began disembarking troops. On 13 March I received a thirty-day leave and left San Francisco by train for Philadelphia. Following my leave at home, and with the war still on, I headed back to San Francisco by train. Cross country train travel for armed service personnel during the ‘40s was anything but comfortable. The trip took nearly four days and there were no sleeping cars. We sat up in coach train cars all the way. On 14 April 1945 I arrived back at Treasure Island, San Francisco, California, and was again temporarily assigned to an outgoing unit for about a month.
On 17 May 1945 I received orders and departed again for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, this time aboard the navy troopship USS Adair (APA 91). Upon arriving at Pearl Harbor, I was assigned to the navy receiving barracks at Aiea, Hawaii on 23 May, then to the receiving barracks at Waipio, Hawaii on 28 May and finally to U.S. Navy Station at Iroquois Point on 27 August 1945. During this time we had little to do except for liberty in Honolulu and listening to reports on the progress of the war. We were as surprised as everyone else when the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and when the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August. Japan indicated surrender a day or two later, with the formal surrender coming on the deck of the battleship U.S.S. Missouri on 2 September 1945. We thought, with the end of the war, we would be leaving Pearl Harbor for home, but it was not to be. Instead, on 12 October 1945 we sailed west from Pearl aboard the U.S.S. LST #625, en route to Okinawa. Before leaving Pearl Harbor, we were issued a complete set of army olive drab uniforms, including helmets, canteens, and sidearms (45-caliber automatic pistols.) We were told that we would be part of the navy occupation forces and would go from Okinawa to somewhere in Japan. We were given Japanese-American dictionaries to study while sunning ourselves on deck during the long trip. The voyage from Hawaii to Okinawa was slow and uneventful until the last few days. The LST (Landing Ship Tank) is similar to a floating bathtub and very slow. Two or three days before arriving in Okinawa, we were caught in a typhoon and took quite a beating. The sea was very rough, with strong wind and unbelievable rain. The starboard side deck of the LST was in the water one minute and the port side the next. Finally it subsided, and we arrived in the harbor at Naha, Okinawa on 31 October 1945. We sat anchored in the harbor until 17 November, when we were transferred to U.S.S. LST #482. We departed Naha the same day and arrived at the port city of Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan on 19 November.
Kagoshima would be home for the next five months. We ceased to be troops and took up our assignment as a communications team assigned to the U. S. Navy Port Director at Kagoshima. We were temporarily housed with a company of U. S. Marines in a building which had been part of the University of Kagoshima. During the latter days of the war, and before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the city of Kagoshima was bombed heavily with conventional bombs by allied forces B-29s. Kagoshima was a city of 180,000 people prior to the war, and when we arrived only a handful of buildings were left standing. These were some of the university buildings and a department store which had somehow escaped the bombing. Everything else was reduced to rubble. While there were thousands of Japanese civilians in the city when we arrived, they were mostly women, children and old men. During the daylight hours these people walked aimlessly through the rubble of the city looking for what was left of their homes. At night, they deserted the city and walked into the surrounding hills, only to reappear the next morning. Navy CBs (construction battalion) quickly constructed three quonset huts on the edge of the harbor, and in a couple of weeks my unit, composed of radiomen and yeomen, was moved from the university building to the huts. One of the quonset huts was set up as a radio station and port director’s office, one as a sleeping barracks, and one as a mess hall. Our immediate job was to unpack and install radio transmitters and receivers and other communications equipment that had been shipped with us, and to set up a radio station. Kagoshima was a busy port city, with allied ships of all nationalities arriving and departing every day. Our assignment was to establish radio contact with these ships and control the flow of shipping in and out of the port. Later, Japanese ships of all kinds arrived from all over the pacific, bringing soldiers back to their homes in Kyushu. The port director’s office was responsible for the repatriation and assimilation of thousands of Japanese soldiers, sailors and marines during the time I was there. While we were in Kagoshima we wore our olive drab army uniforms and side arms at all times. While the Japanese civilians and returning military personnel were disarmed, the wounds of defeat were still very fresh and their attitude toward us was one of disdain.
Following the war, American sailors were discharged from the service according to a point system. Points were accumulated according to length of service and whether or not you had been wounded in action. In April 1946, I had reached the magic number of points and was ready to return home. On 8 April 1946, I traveled from Kagoshima north to the port city of Sasebo, Japan by Japanese train. On 10 April we departed for the United States aboard a navy troopship, arriving at the U. S. Naval Station, San Diego, California on 7 May 1946. On 8 May I boarded a train and headed east. On 12 May I arrived at U. S. Naval Training Station, Bainbridge, Maryland and was discharged the following day. My parents drove from Philadelphia and picked me up at Bainbridge.
The above account was reconstructed from handwritten notes and a journal kept during the two-and-a-half years of active duty in the Navy. The events, for the most part, are in chronological order, beginning with my enlistment on 2 December 1943 through my honorable discharge on 13 May 1946.
My memory is another source of information regarding my life in the Navy during the war. As I write this account about 55 years later, it seems strange that the relatively short part of my life spent in the service should remain so important and so vivid. Perhaps it’s simply because of the war itself. The war was a huge event in the history of the United States and I was involved in it. Following are some “disconnected” recollections that have stayed with me through the years. They are in no particular order and they are not dated, but they all took place during the 30 months that I was in the Navy.
Icicle in the bunk . . . As I m entioned previously, the weather while I was in boot camp at Sampson, N. Y. during the winter of 1943-44 was very cold and very snowy. As recruits, we were assigned to guard duty on four hour watches outside of our barracks during the night. Giant icicles hung from the eaves of the barracks roof line. One night, after coming off the 2000 to 2400 (8 p.m. to 12 p.m.) watch, I got undressed and slid, feet first, into my bunk only to straddle a four-foot long icicle which had been planted there by my buddies. It was a cold surprise.
Wine on tap . . . While anchored in the port of Noumea, New Caledonia in December of 1944, the crew of our ship was invited to visit a French naval destroyer. The French sailors proudly toured us through their ship and, when we entered the mess hall, served us wine and cheese. The port wine was “on tap” and flowed freely from a faucet built into the bulkhead of the mess compartment. Hooray for the French!
Swimming in the snow belt . . . During the 1940s swimming wasn’t as popular with school aged kids as it appears to be today. As a kid in junior and senior high school, I didn’t swim. Living only 60 miles from the seashore resorts of southern New Jersey, we went to the shore in the summer, but we really didn’t swim in pools. I was introduced to pool swimming rather suddenly at boot camp. Since I had always associated being in the water with being at the seashore in the heat of the summer, I had trouble adjusting to the idea of marching through deep snow in sub freezing temperatures at 6 a.m. to go swimming. The pool was indoors of course, but somehow I just couldn’t connect swimming with the snow and the cold.
Great uncle Dave . . . While I was at home on leave, my parents and I visited my mother’s uncle Dave in Richwood, N. J. Apparently I was the first person Uncle Dave, who was about 80 years old, had seen wearing a navy uniform. He greeted me and asked if I knew Jack Williams. When I replied that I didn’t, he couldn’t quite understand why not, since Jack was also in the Navy.
Tailor-made blues . . . During the war sailors were issued two sets of dress uniforms -- one blue wool and one white cotton While these uniforms were satisfactory, they were not considered “cool” by sailors who had been in the service awhile and especially by those who had served overseas. It was common practice for sailors returning to the U.S.A. from a tour of duty at sea to head for the first civilian uniform store they could find, and have dress uniforms tailor made. Since these uniforms were made to order, they fit much better than the G.I. issue uniform. Tailor mades always had wide bell bottom pants. Needless to say, on my first leave from overseas, I bought tailor-made uniforms.
3.2 Beer . . . The traditional image of “drunken sailors” was something of a reality during the war. Sailors on leave were certainly prone to visit bars, get drunk and get into brawls with other servicemen, especially marines. During long voyages at sea there were no alcoholic beverages aboard ships. On a couple of occasions, however, during stops at friendly, virtually uninhabited islands in the Pacific for “rest and relaxation” the crew of our ship was treated to 3.2 beer by the navy. Crew members would swim, play football on the beaches and drink beer. 3.2 beer is made with very low alcohol content, so you have to drink a lot of it to feel the effects. I tried it, didn’t like it, and have never drank beer since.
Driving lessons . . . During my stay with the occupation forces in Japan immediately after the war, I learned to drive. I did not have a driver’s license at home before going into the navy. Several trucks and jeeps were assigned to the port director’s office in Kagoshima, and I frequently got to drive a jeep around the city. There were no traffic rules, no traffic signals, no traffic cops, and no civilian vehicles. It was just those of us in military vehicles against thousands of civilian pedestrians on the crowded, rubble-strewn streets of Kagoshima. I had many close calls but happily didn’t kill anyone.
Showers, eggs, and girls . . . During the war in the Pacific, sailors on long voyages yearned for three things more than anything else -- I’m not sure about the priority. Of course, there were no females aboard ship, but we were also without fresh water showers and fresh eggs. Salt water showers and powdered eggs were the order of the day for weeks and months at sea.
The bomb that didn’t explode . . . During one of the many air attacks at Leyte Gulf, Philippines, a navy sea- going tug boat anchored close to our ship was hit by a bomb dropped from a Japanese plane. The bomb landed on the broad, flat wooden deck on the stern of the boat, but didn’t explode! Instead it tore right through the deck and landed in the engine room below. Lucky sailors aboard the tug.
Medals and Ribbons -- one a little late . . . On 12 May 1946, when I received my honorable discharge documents at Bainbridge Naval Training Station, I was also presented with several medals and campaign ribbons. I received the American Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, and World War II Victory medals and ribbons. In addition, it was noted on my discharge papers that the government of the Philippines would award the Philippine Liberation Medal with two battle stars, at a later date. On 11 November 1990, 44 years later, I received the medal. I received a letter from the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, inviting my wife and me to attend a ceremony at a Philippine Community Center in North Philadelphia. There, the Philippine Ambassador presented the medal to about 25 WW II veterans of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. It was an impressive ceremony, complete with speeches, costumed folk dancers and refreshments. Better late than never.
Silver Dollars . . . While on liberty one day in Oakland, Calif. I went to the movies. The price of admission for servicemen was one dollar. I gave the cashier a ten-dollar bill and promptly received nine Morgan silver dollars in change. Silver dollars were in wide circulation on the west coast in those days. World War II navy enlisted uniforms are notable for their near absence of pockets. I don’t remember what I did with the coins.
Stepping off into the water . . . During boot camp, one of the areas of training was “abandon ship drills” in the center’s Olympic-size swimming pool. Part of the training was to jump off of a 30 foot platform fully clothed, while in the water remove and inflate articles of clothing into a makeshift flotation device, and swim to the side of the pool. One of the recruits in my company, named Donald Nelson, refuse d to jump, saying he would just “wait for the ship to turn on its side, and then step off into the water.” I never saw Don after boot camp, but I later learned that he perished when his aircraft carrier was hit by a Japanese kamikaze somewhere in the Pacific.
The case of the missing swabs . . . This story sounds like one that might have come from Mr. Roberts, but it’s true. As previously mentioned, I was assigned to mess hall duty on the troop ship voyage from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor. Following the evening meal and after swabbing the mess hall decks on the first day at sea, another sailor and I were instructed by a chief petty officer to take 12 dirty swabs (mops) to the fantail of the ship, tie a long line around the handles and toss them into the ocean. We were to let them drag in the wake of the ship for ten minutes, and pull them back aboard. This was how the dirty swabs were cleaned for the next morning’s meal. We tied the line around the 12 swab handles, tossed them into the ocean and ten minutes later pulled 3 swabs aboard. Our knot-tying prowess learned in boot camp had obviously failed us. The next morning we were pulled off of the swabbing detail and assigned new duties deep into the galley area of the mess hall and far away from the fantail of the ship.
Bananas to the rescue . . . In November 1943, a couple of weeks before being sworn into the navy, I reported to the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory at 33rd and Chestnut Streets for my preinduction physical examination. As I stripped to my shorts and was being weighed, the examining doctor told me I was a pound and a half under the minimum weight limit. I weighed 113.5 pounds and the limit was 115 pounds. He told me to get dressed, go out and eat a sandwich and a couple of bananas and come back and he would weigh me again. I did it . . . and it worked. I passed the physical.
Only in the movies -- not really . . . In January 1945 the SS Young America was part of a large convoy sailing for Leyte Gulf, Philippines for the second time. Navy warships which were protecting us suddenly began to maneuver at high speed, and the destroyers and destroyer escorts began dropping depth charges. It was obvious that they had discovered an enemy submarine in the area. The attack ended when we saw oil and debris rising to the surface of the ocean. The sub had been sunk.
Thanksgiving dinner . . . While anchored in the harbor at Manus, Admiralty Islands on Thanksgiving Day 1944, our crew received an invitation to go aboard a navy cruiser for dinner. Although the food aboard our ship was quite good, the Thanksgiving Dinner aboard the cruiser was a special treat and long remembered.
Souvenirs . . . About a week before I was scheduled to depart from my unit in Kagoshima, Ja pan, to return home, I was allowed to visit a huge warehouse filled with confiscated Japanese weapons of all kinds. I was told that I could take several pieces from the large piles of guns and swords, as souvenirs of the war. I left the warehouse with a rifle with bayonet, a samurai sword, and a naval officer’s ceremonial sword. I traded the rifle, which was long and heavy, to a marine for a field jacket on the troop ship on the way home. I still have the bayonet and swords.
Atom bomb aftermath . . . In April 1946 I road on a Japanese train with two other sailors on the overnight trip from Kagoshima to Sasebo to pick up our troop ship to return to the U.S.A. The train was filled with civilians and was very crowded. It was a strange feeling to be this close to the former enemy and to be totally outnumbered. As the sun came up in the morning, the train passed through the outskirts of what was left of the city of Nagasaki. Eight months after the blast, the devastation was complete and passengers on the train were silent.
Fish heads and rice . . . Toward the end of my time in occupied Japan, construction workers began to pick up the debris throughout the city of Kagoshima. I have only one recollection of these workers. When it was time for lunch, they stopped work, squatted and ate the same thing every day. They carried small, shallow tin boxes with a hinged lid. The lid would open and there it was -- raw fish and rice . . . every day.
120 lb Shore Patrolman . . . In December 1944 the SS Young America spent two weeks in Noumea, the capital city of New Caledonia. It was a beautiful place and, except for serving as a staging area for allied ships, was untouched by the war. While our ship was being repaired there, the crew was given liberty to go ashore in Noumea nearly every day and night. There were many other American and allied ships in the port as well, and the red light district of the city with its bars and other forms of entertainment was well patronized by sailors of many nationalities. In order to assist the local police, ships in port were asked to put pool of navy shore patrolmen ashore each night to maintain order. One night I received shore patrol duty, was fitted out with a 45-caliber automatic, garrison belt, handcuffs, SP arm band and billy club, and assigned to patrol the waterfront district. Realizing that, at 120 pounds, I would be totally ineffective at anything remotely resembling physical force in an altercation, I removed the police paraphernalia and headed for a quiet little restaurant I had found the day before on the north side of the city. I spent nearly four hours having dinner before returning to my ship unscathed.
Kon i chi wa . . . Having studied our Japanese-American dictionaries during the long trip from Hawaii to Kagoshima aboard an LST after the war had ended, we were very anxious to try out our language skills. The first Japanese we encountered after setting foot on land was a group of little kids about seven or eight years of age. I proudly said “konichiwa” (good day) to them. The kids giggled and with broad smiles replied, in perfect English, “Hello, how are you?”
Faith . . . When I was 17, my religious faith was not as strong as it has grown to be in later years. I was raised in a Christian family, attended Sunday school as a child, and youth groups as a teenager. While overseas, I wrote to my pastor, the Rev. Robert Lamont, at the Darby Presbyterian Church, Darby, Pa. acknowledging my faith in Christ and requesting that the session of the church approve my application for church membership. I was received in absentia. Rev. Lamont was a great comfort to my parents during the time I was in the navy. I attended religious services aboard ship and on shore whenever I was not on duty. As I look back, I thank God for protecting me during a time in my life when I was in harm’s way.
|02 December||U. S. Navy Recruiting Station, Philadelphia, PA, Enlisted|
|03 December||U. S. Navy Training Center, Sampson, NY, Boot Camp|
|20 January||Boot Leave at home, Colwyn, Pa.|
|29 January||U. S. Navy Training Center, Sampson, N.Y, Outgoing Unit|
|05 February||U. S. Navy Training Center, Sampson, N.Y, Fleet Radioman School|
|26 June||Leave at home, Colwyn, Pa.|
|04 July||Train to Oakland, Calif.|
|08 July||U. S. Navy Receiving and Distribution Center, Shoemaker, Calif.|
|08 August||U. S. Navy troop ship USS General Harry Taylor|
|16 August||U. S. Navy Receiving Center, Aiea, Hawaii|
|06 September||U. S. Navy Amphibious Operating Base, Waipio, Hawaii|
|11 September||SS Young America|
|23 September||Departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii|
|03 October||Arrived Eniwetok, Marshall Islands|
|04 October||Departed Eniwetok, Marshall Islands|
|07 October||Crossed Equator|
|09 October||Arrived Manus, Admiralty Islands|
|24 October||Departed Manus, Admiralty Islands|
|25 October||Arrived Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea|
|29 October||Departed Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea|
|04 November||Arrived Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands|
|13 November||SS Young America strafed by Japanese planes|
|15 November||Departed Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands|
|21 November||Arrived Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea|
|22 November||Departed Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea|
|23 November||Arrived Manus, Admiralty Islands|
|30 November||Departed Manus, Admiralty Islands|
|06 December||Arrived Noumea, New Caledonia|
|22 December||Departed Noumea, New Caledonia|
|23 December||Arrived Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Islands|
|25 December||Departed Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Islands|
|30 December||Arrived Oro Bay, Dutch New Guinea|
|01 January||Departed Oro Bay, Dutch New Guinea|
|02 January||Arrived Finschaven, Dutch New Guinea|
|03 January||Departed Finschaven, Dutch New Guinea|
|04 January||Arrived Manus, Admiralty Islands|
|13 January||Departed Manus, Admiralty Islands|
|14 January||Arrived Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea|
|19 January||Departed Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea|
|26 January||Arrived Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands|
|01 February||Departed Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands|
|07 February||Arrived Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea|
|08 February||Departed Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea|
|09 February||Arrived Manus, Admiralty Islands|
|14 February||Departed Manus, Admiralty Islands|
|18 February||Arrived Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands|
|19 February||Departed Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands|
|19 February||Arrived Tulagi, Solomon Islands|
|19 February||Departed Tulagi, Solomon Islands|
|11 March||Arrived U. S. Navy Training Center, Treasure Island, Calif.|
|13 March||Train to Philadelphia, Pa.|
|16 March||Leave at home, Colwyn, Pa.|
|10 April||Train to Treasure Island, Calif.|
|14 April||Arrived U. S. Navy Training Center, Treasure Island, Calif.|
|17 May||U. S. Navy troop ship USS Adair (APA 91)|
|23 May||U. S. Navy Receiving Center, Aiea, Hawaii|
|28 May||U. S. Navy Amphibious Operating Base, Waipio, Hawaii|
|02 August||800 B-29s bomb Japan|
|06 August||Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima|
|09 August||Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki|
|27 August||U. S. Navy Amphibious Operating Base, Iroquois Point, Hawaii|
|12 October||USS LST #625|
|31 October||Arrived Naha, Okinawa|
|17 November||USS LST #482|
|19 November||Arrived Kagoshima, Japan|
|19 November||Occupation Forces, U. S. Navy Port Director, Kagoshima, Japan|
|08 April||Japanese train to Sasebo, Kyushu, Japan|
|10 April||U. S. Navy troop ship|
|07 May||Arrived U. S. Naval Base, San Diego, Calif.|
|08 May||Train to U. S. Navy Training Center, Bainbridge, Md.|
|12 May||Arrived U. S. Navy Training Center, Bainbridge, Md.|
|13 May||Honorable Discharge|
|American Theater||Asiatic-Pacific Theater||WW II Victory||Philippine Liberation|
For more information contact Mark Landon