by Bill Bletso
We left Pearl Harbor for Eniwetok in the Marshalls. It was a long voyage at 8 knots because we were commander of a task group of LCI-LST's.
Sub-contact - failed to find sub, or he would have been sunk for good.
Man fell overboard going at 27 knots. Picked him up in 13 minutes. He was scared stiff. Said he could not swim but he learned to swim mighty fast.
Arrived at Eniwetok. So many ships there we could not get in very close. Saw some palm trees. Refueled and stayed two days. Very, very hot.
Departed from Eniwetok for Saipan. Still commander of Task Group 58.13 of LCI-LST's with troops and supplies for an oncoming invasion.
Received message over Fox that enemy planes were taking off Truk, 300 miles south. I copied contact report. About 30 minutes later the radar picked up unidentified planes. They failed to show I.F.F. We thought they were from Truk and so we got ready for action. They later turned back before they got in firing range.
Arrived in Saipan. The island was beautiful. We anchored between Saipan and Tinian. They were very close together. The island has bomb craters on it. Saw lots of B-29's going and coming from raids on Tokyo. We went up right alongside their airport. Many B-29's in airfield. They are very large. Also saw cliff where Japs committed suicide. Stayed here for 5 days.
Left Saipan for the invasion of Iwo Jima to take it (I hope). Weather starts to get somewhat cooler. That's good because I'd give anything for a little rest without sweating all the time.
Planes of Task Force 58 bombed Tokyo. The carriers were within 200 miles of Japan. We are also getting very close. Battlewagons and Cruisers also bombed Iwo Jima. Very effective in knocking out their big guns.
D-Day for Iwo Jima. Tokyo Rose told us it was going to be on the 18th. Don't know what gave her that idea. HOW hour was 900 when marines landed. Soon established a beachhead. "Tracy DM" on fire and sinking. The Japs have plenty of shore batteries doing considerable damage. Some shells ripped across our fantail scaring us. 12 LCI's went into the beach and one was sunk. Others were shot up bad. No real air raids as yet. We had first raid at sunset and we shot a few shells but planes were out of range. They soon left. Leaving no damage. We have not as yet been real close to island but we can see it clearly a few miles away.
Relieved Trojan for shore bombardment. Pulled right up close to shore. Could see Japs with field glasses. At night we shot star shells to make light for the marines to fight.
Same as yesterday. General Quarters all the time. The number of planes and ships are enormous. At Sunset Japan sent nearly 50 planes to attack us. We knew this was really it. Our fighters intercepted them away out. Lot of them got through to Iwo. We had the honor of shooting down the first plane over Iwo. It was also our first. It was an "Oscar" type torpedo bomber. It was believed to be a suicide bomber. It was coming in full speed about 20 feet high to hit the battleship Washington. It was under a mile away. I happened to be the radioman on the bridge at the time and saw the whole show. We were coming in between the battlewagon and the plane throwing everything but depth charges at it. One 5" shell nipped it and the plane touched the water. Another shell hit it square in the middle and it blew up in the flame and skidded along the water and sank about a 1,000 feet from the battleship. We saw the pilot through glasses afterwards dead with his head down in the water. Don't know how he got out of the plane and his parachute was open in the water. Everybody let out a yell when we got him including the Captain.
The Saratoga was under constant attack and it had 8 planes run out of gas and lost planes. But all the pilots were picked up in dark. Saratoga suffered a hit which sent her back to Peal Harbor. I saw 2 planes of the Japs blow up at night and it lit up the whole sky.
Shore bombardment and screening for other ships. Dull day. No raids.
Same as yesterday. We had air raid at night but no damage done. Marines raised U.S. flag on Iwo.
Shore bombardment and men on beach said we did excellent work by destroying 2 A.A. Craft guns, 2 medium guns, and damaged one. Destroyed 2 trucks and 2 tanks. Could see tank on beach.
We were sent out on a dangerous screening station all by ourselves. 60 miles north of Iwo and 80 miles south of Chichi Jima where the Jap planes are believed coming for raids.
This morning our Captain seemed very happy thinking he was going to give us a scare. And he did. At 10:00 he told us we were going to Chichi Jima to pick up 3 pilots that had crashed 3,000 yards off the island and were in a rubber life raft. We went up at full speed ready for an attack. Some fighters had the pilots spotted. We also had intentions of throwing a few shells on the beach to make the Japs happy. We got very close to the island. About 3,000 yards when all of a sudden the Japs opened up on us and laid shells with 50 feet of the ship. That was enough and we soon got out of that territory before they got our range. The pilots were further from the island now and they were really happy to see us. They started throwing everything in the air. None were injured. Two officers and one ARM 1st class. After that we opened up for Iwo because it looked a little safer there. When the Japs were laying the shells close to us the Captain mad a smoke screen and zigzagged out of range.
On the way back we passed right near HaHa Jima which is also Jap held. Stayed out of range. Chichi Jima is a good sized island which is very rocky. HaHa is the same. HaHa Jima is 4 close islands. We now are the only ship that has seen Chichi and HaHa of the ships that raided Iwo Jima.
We are back at Iwo Jima with our ammunition supply about exhausted. We loaded full this afternoon. You feel a lot better with a good supply of shells.
At night we had a sub contact and threw 4 depth charges at it. The first time for that. We made a likely run but couldn't be sure of getting the sub.
A dull day but at night at 2 A.M. Jap planes came over and did no damage. Likewise we didn't fire at them. Made smoke around the island of Iwo Jima.
Roamed around near Iwo and got our first mail. One of our sister ships, the Calhoun, got a nice hit on her side from the Japs on shore killing 1 man and injuring 7. Know a lot of radiomen on Calhoun. I saw the ship after it got hit. It also rammed an A.R.A. this morning messing up its bow. Bad Luck.
Started back for Saipan at a faster speed.
Arrived at Saipan. There was no action on way down. Had very quiet trip. The weather is hot again.
Got to go over on Saipan for a beer party. It was our first time off the ship since leaving Pearl. Sure felt good. Stayed all day. Saw a lot of Jap guns and wrecked tanks. There wasn't a thing I could get from them for a souvenir. We were allowed two beers for each man. It seems a lot of the guys got more than 2 beers. On guy offered me $10.00 for my second beer but I wouldn't take it. I gave it to him so I only drank one beer.
Left Saipan. We don't know exactly where we're going but have a good idea. It should be up in Ryuku Islands.
Found out we were going to invade the island of Okinawa on Easter Sunday. During the night we passed within a few miles of Guam. We are escorting some transports filled with soldiers.
We got to Okinawa and had a very quiet trip. We arrived in the morning and they gave us a screening station to the southwest part of the island.
In the afternoon we picked up survivors of a landing craft that was sinking. It was hit by 3 shells near it's bottom. Carried 20 men. They had just come off Okinawa.
Had air raid with 10 Jap planes shot down. Quite a few ships got hit by suicide bombers. On destroyer, the Adams, got hit by 2 suicide bombers. They hit her sides. No casualties. Very odd and lucky. Transport got it and was sinking.
The Japs also have suicide torpedo boats. They have 2 men in them and in the early morning or at dusk they run straight for a ship.
The army moved very fast on Okinawa and captured 180 of these boats. I think this was all of them there.
The Japs are retreating fast and seem to be getting ready for a big battle.
We fired at one plane but it was so far away we only fired a few salvos.
Previous to last night there were about 10 planes shot down every night. Last night there wasn't a single plane come over. This gives us warning for a big raid tonight.
One ship ran into a log and it turned out to be a Jap mine. All CPO's and all but 2 officers were killed on it. DD Halagan. All but 75 men killed.
The soldiers on the island found Jap robot bomb. It's run by a Jap instead of a radio. It has a 12 foot wingspan and 14 foot fuselage.
One Jap landed plane on field on Okinawa and he apparently didn't know it was captured. When he got out of his plane a marine killed him.
Today was the day when they really sent the planes over. Between 30 and 50 shot down. 15 suicide bombers hit ships. 2 very close to us. We screened for a DE that was hit less than a mile away. The Calhoun was hit by 2 planes and reported sinking. Very great damage. They send planes over every hour and keep us at General Quarters nearly all the time.
Three Vals were reported by a lookout coming over a hill about 3 miles away. Heading for us. We went to General Quarters and in about 20 seconds a gun fired one 5" shell and hit one plane. The 2 others turned and one crashed into a can (destroyer). This was a very fast General Quarters.
There were 6 cans hit by suicide bombers. Most of them in very bad damage. One can shot down 6 planes in a few minutes today.
We went to General Quarters at 3:30 A. M. and found out they abandoned ship on the Calhoun and it was so badly damaged another ship send a torpedo into it. Only 84 survivors so far.
A minesweeper was attacked by 3 suicide bombers this morning and 2 hit along her side. She shot the other one down. No persons killed and little damage. Very odd.
Right after noon chow 2 Corsairs collided in the air near us. One hit the water immediately. We went over to rescue the pilot but all we found was a mess of debris. Then the other one hit the water quite a ways in back of us. We went back and rescued the pilot. He was hurt pretty bad in the head.
Oh what a night. We went to General Quarters about 6:00. A while later they picked up a bogie at 12 miles in the clouds. He kept getting closer. At 4 miles he showed no IFF and we commenced firing on him. He was on our starboard and turned heading straight for us. At 50 degrees angle in a suicide dive. The 5" missed him but the 40 M riddled him. He was heading for the bridge. The Captain gave a sharp right turn and the plane went through our two stacks and blew up in the water about 10 - 15 feet off our port side. Pieces of the plane flew up on the deck. That was really lucky. Three planes to our credit. I was in the radio shack as supervisor at the time and when the 40 M started firing one of the radiomen said he was not going to stay in this shack and get killed. He left the shack and ran along the deck and the plane passed right over his head and he got wet from the water splashing up when the plane hit the water. He came back in the shack as white as a sheet and was too speechless to tell us what happened at first until he calmed down. He sure learned a lesson here.
This morning and afternoon were rather quiet but about an hour before dusk some Sonya planes came over. We went to General Quarters. The first plane started diving at us. They started throwing everything at it. It kept coming and when it got within 2,000 yards the 20 M.M. opened up. We knew then that it was going to crash into us. And it did although it was riddled with bullets. It hit our port side clipping the outrigged Captains gig (boat) off. It knocked all the gunnels (railings) off the port side and twisted the torpedo tubes around. I was in the radio shack and when we knew it was going to hit us, we layed on the deck. It missed us by less than 10 feet. The gig fell in the water. The plane fell into a thousand pieces. The port side of the ship was caved in and taking water fast. Two compartments were taking water. When the plane went over the side of the ship it's bomb exploded. Two men on the port midship 40 M.M. were wounded. One was a radioman. Another standing near by was hit in the head by shrapnel. Shrapnel was flying all over the place. One of the men on the 40 M.M. was wounded pretty bad. The plane fell off into the water. Meat from the Jap was laying on the torpedoes. On guy found a little finger and saved it for a souvenir. I go a couple parts of the plane. To top all this off nobody was killed. Most everybody saw him coming and got under cover.
This no sooner died down for about 20 seconds and another plane was making a run on us. We thought he was going to hit us but he dropped two bombs instead. They hit the water very close and jolted us. I thought he had hit us when I heard the jolt. He did no damage. As soon as he passed over us the guns found their mark and brought him down. And it sure sounded good when the Captain yelled through the loud speaker "We got him, We got him." I felt pretty good then. But another plane was starting to make a run on us. Luckily we shot him down before the 20 M.M. started firing. All this happened in exactly 14 minutes. Almost total firing. Our radio antennae was knocked down when the first plane hit and for almost 45 minutes we had no communication with the Task Force 51 Commander. Another piece of the plane was wrapped around another antenna and it took a while before we were able to go up and get it down. They had radioed that help was on the way though. When we finally did get another transmitter going the Task Force 51 Commander said "Boy are we glad to hear you Staghound". (Staghound was our voice code name). There were three other planes in the vicinity and one left the area. A gun boat shot down two just when we were being hit or else they probably would have attacked us. We might have gotten one of them.
Not counting that one we got 3 planes in 14 minutes and that makes 6 in all.
We were relieved on our station then and escorted by another can to a harbor at the south tip of Okinawa. It was about 50-60 miles away. We could only make a few knots.
The water evaporators were blown up and we went without water. The laundry bag with all my divisions dungarees in it was knocked over the side. I still had a pair in my locker though. I lost 2 pairs. I finally went to bed for about a half an hour and closed my eyes and got up for the midnight watch sort of tired. The communications officer had a 527 group (word) message ready for us to send out by that time. It listed all our damages and everything that happened. Russell Blackley and I each sent half of it. It took almost the whole watch to get it out along with keeping everything else caught up.
When the second Plane dropped it's bombs, the bridge lookout saw two torpedo wakes near us. It was believed a small Jap sub come out from the island coordinating their attacks with the planes. Our sound gear was not working at the time or else we would have had contact with the sub.
At 5:00 A.M. I went to bed and laid down and almost immediately got up for morning General Quarters. No planes came over, however.
At dawn we entered the harbor which still had a few Japs around it. We went in and tied up alongside a water barge to take on water. It sure felt food to get a drink and wash up.
A man came over to inspect the ship then and said he could have it fixed up to make 17 knots and repair our evaporators in four days.
The harbor is named Toronto Retto.
We transferred the 3 wounded men over to a hospital ship here.
This evening the planes came over again and the ship that took our screening station from us last night was attached by 6 planes and a couple of them dove on her and sunk it. It was the Badgart DD. A gun boat was hit by a suicide bomber, also.
The ships in the harbor made smoke and stayed pretty well hid.
At night a new menace came up. Jap swimmers were swimming out from the island and throwing grenades up on ships or a couple of them would come out in a boat with a bomb and tie it on a ship. The Captain stationed special guards all over the ship.
We are still in the harbor here and getting a rest. During the last week quite a few more cans have been hit and sunk by suicide bombers. About 200 planes have been shot down last week. More than 50 were shot down in one night.
One ship came in with it's bow ready to fall off. The damage to the ship is greater than they thought it was. It can't be fixed here. We still have to get water from another ship so we have very strict water rations.
From here it was a matter of a slow ocean voyage back to Pearl where a Navy band gave us a rousing welcome with every fourth man getting a case of beer. They couldn't fix us in Pearl so we went back to the San Diego Destroyer Base to meet Commodore Byron McCandless and where the wife and eight year old son of Captain Bruce McCandless came out in a boat to meet the ship. The ship's crew received another band welcome and everyone had a good time in San Diego.