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Thurman

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  1. Thurman

    New "Seabee" book!

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- About the Book A Salute to Our Veterans - Vignettes of the "CAN DO" Seabees takes the reader into the immensely intriguing would of the U.S. Navy's Construction Battalions. Deriving their name from the abbreviation of the term "Construction Battalion," the Seabees have a proud tradition of building roads, airfields, bases and other military facilities under combat conditions, often on real estate that was being hotly contested by U.S. and enemy troops. Often, the Seabees have causeways and serviceable roads in place within hours of an amphibious landing, necessitating construction in areas that had not been entirely cleared of enemy troops. This highly readable trade paperback presents the first hand accounts of 36 men from different backgrounds and eras that are joined by the common thread of service with the Seabees. Author Irene Dumas provides a glimpse of ordinary men who served in a most extraordinary organization in times of war and peace. In her personable style, she tells a story that all members of the family can enjoy. Her stories richly portray many major military and world events from the perspectives of those who actually lived through them. Although the exploits of the Seabees in the South Pacific in World War Two are well known, some of their missions in Europe, Korea, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean are less well known. Told by the men who carried the carbines and ran the bulldozers, this book plunges deeply into human experience that is all too quickly passing into history.
  2. The 18th battalion was commissioned at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Va., Aug. 11, 1942, and transferred that day to Davisville R. 1. On Sept. 6, C Company was transferred to C.B. Replacement Group, Fleet Marine Force, San Diego, Calif. The remainder of the Battalion was transferred to the FMF Base Depot, Norfolk. Embarking on Sept. 11, 1942, the unit arrived at Noumea, New Caledonia, Nov. 11. At Noumea, the battalion was engaged in miscellaneous construction projects such as camp improvement, fighter strip maintenance and general construction. The battalion didn't languish in New Caledonia too long for on Christmas day 1942 it arrived on Guadalcanal with orders to conrl struct fighter strip number 1. The battalion tackled the job with alacrity and finished the project in 44 days, though the men were subjected to bombings by Japanese aircraft during the day and naval bombardment at night. On Guadalcanal the battalion also built new roads and maintained the airfields. For their leadership and hard work Officer in Charge Lieutenant Commander L. E. Tull and Executive Officer, Lieutenant R. E. Clausen, CEC, USNR, received the Legion of Merit. The battalion finished the chores on Guadalcanal and on 11 April 1943, embarked for New Zealand to join the Second Marine Division. On April 26 the battalion was designated as the Third Battalion, 18th Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division. The battalion began intensive amphibious training and combat exercise in preparation for a combat assault on an enemy beach. The battalion trained for six sweaty months until it was deemed ready to join the Marines in the proposed assault. Two thirds of the battalion loaded aboard ship and accompanied the Second Marines across the long reach of the Pacific Ocean for the invasion. The remainder of the battalion stayed on Guadalcanal as the rear echelon. After a month at sea the battalion looked out across the blue water on November 20 and watched the Navy bombard the little atoll of Tarawa. In the ensuing five days following their arrival, the men of the battalion went ashore with the Marines-almost a third of the battalion participated in the savage fighting. Many of the men were wounded as the battalion repaired the Japanese Airfield under enemy fire in the first 30 hours of the invasion. The battalion made other repairs to bombarded facilities, built camps and aid stations and had the grisly chore of cleaning out dead Japanese from the wrecked blockhouses and trenches. The men of the battalion bulldozed long trenches in the coral sands of the atoll and dumped the hundreds of Japanese corpses in them. The battalion reworked the airfield, NL laying down Marston matting, and parking facilities for aircraft. The men of the battalion who actually participated in the invasion and the fighting on Tarawa were allowed to wear the Presidential Unit Citation awarded the 18th Marines by President Franklin Roosevelt. More than a dozen of the men were wounded and awarded the Purple Heart decoration. A portion of the battalion was sent to Hilo, Hawaii from the Gilbert Islands and Guadalcanal while a third of the battalion stayed at Tarawa to finish construction projects there. The Tarawa detachment left the Gilberts on 8 January 1944 and rejoined the battalion at Hilo to bring the battalion up to strength. In Hawaii the battalion helped construct the Second Marine Division camp, built a small service airstrip and engaged in a new training program. The battalion also main~d the new camp and airstrip and improved facilities. The battalion waS redesignated the 18th Construction Battalion and assigned to the Fifth Amphibious Corps for further assignment with the Second Marine Division on 1 April 1944. Between 5 May 1944 and 11 May the battalion embarked for the Mariana~ • Islands with the Marines with the assignment to act as shore party for the invasion of Saipan. On 15 June the battalion went ashore with the Marines on Saipan's beaches. The battalion carried out its major assignment as the invasion shore party, unloading supplies, constructing pontoon piers and effecting salvage of wrecked equipment. While engaged in these duties the battalion was under constant mortar and small arms fire and sustained numerous casualties. In addition to the main duty of beach support, the battalion also built several roads and a hospital. Six enlisted men and two officers of the battalion volunteered to assist the amphibious landing on Tinian Island on "J" day. The Seabees were presented with a unique problem of landing men and supplies because of the peculiar configuration of the Tinian invasion beach. Commander P. J. Halloran designed a wooden ramp which folded back over the top of the LST and would drop forward over the bow when the craft grounded on the beach. The high ramp would then allow the combat personnel and supplies to be landed across the ramp over the cliff~ike Tinian shoreline. The remainder of the battalion arrived on Tinian two days after the invasion and set up a permanent camp. -The Seabees also, in part, helped to establish Camp Churo. The camp was erected for the Civil Affairs people of the Second Marine Division who were charged with the care of the 11,000 civilian Japanese and Koreans on Tinian. The building of the camp was a monumental task and included all housing, sanitation facilities, food and water supply and securi perimeter. Also, the Seabees had to build a camp for the garrison force guarding the civilians and a G-5 Hospital Unit for the Japanese and Koreans. For more than six months following the invasion, the battalion , endured constant sniper fire and several banzai attacks by the remaining die-hard Japanese who refused to surrender. Five men of the battalion were killed in action and thirty seven enlisted men and one officer were awarded the Purple Heart decoration for wounds from enemy attacks. Also, five men of the 18th Construction Battalion were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism. It was common for the Seabees, individually or in small groups, to go "Jap hunting" when their construction chores were done for the day. On numerous occasions small parties of Seabees and a few rugged individuals would arm themselves with grenades and a rifle or submachinegun, and clean out Japanese soldier~skulking in the innumerable caves on the island. On one occasion an enlisted man killed five Japanese hiding in a cave by throwing in a grenade. In one instance a Seabee of the 18th charged into a cave and grabbed a live grenade from the Japanese defender, throwing the bomb further into the cave to avoid getting hit. One time, two enlisted men working on a road were fired upon by a group of Japanese hidden in a dugout nearby. The Seabees grabbed their weapons and attacked the dugout and killed nine enemy soldiers. Combat activity, though dramatic, was sporadic for the Seabees made their greatest contribution to the war effort in building tank farms for lube oil and aviation gasoline storage. The big projects were servicing facilities for the B-29s operating from North Field and West Field on Tinian. The huge Army Air Corps bombers were raiding Japan daily and the Seabees were the men who built and maintained the airstrips, tank farms, bomb dumps and other support facilities for the airmen. Included in the construction were the aircraft revetments and the fuel lines from the tank farms to the airstrips. The 18th Construction Battalion also built roads and streets, maintained and enlarged Camp Churo for the military government and drilled wells to obtain fresh water for various camps. The 18th also built a large camp for the Quartermaster Corps and a depot. The project entailed the construction of over 100 buildings, warehouses and barracks, a mess hall, heads and bakery. With all the construction and combat activity, the men of the 18th found time to rig an ingenious cobbler's shop and a ;1e press resembling a cookie cutter to make rubber heels for boots out of discarded tires. USing the die and automobile jack and a block of wood, the men made heels and soles for Seabee and Marine boots which were wearing out very quickly on the coral studded island. The battalion continued building and maintaining tank farms and roads right up to the day it was in-Jactivated, June 15, 1945.
  3. Three tour Vietnam Seabee Veteran Ken Binghams book "BLACK HELL" is just about complete and will become available soon. This book is a compilation of histories-both personal and general-including all Seabee units that served on Iwo but concentrating primarily on the U.S. Naval 133rd Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees) that was part of the 4th MARDIV at Iwo Jima. Numerous stories from individuals and news journalists are included to give the reader different perspectives and a thorough overview of the Seabee Iwo Jima experience. The bloody battle on Iwo's beaches and the build-out of the Island are included in detail. Over 200 images are included. The book begins by describing the island and the importance of it from the perspective of both the American and Japanese sides. It tells of the heroic and painful taking of Iwo Jima (Sulphur Island) by the Marines, and of the little known story of the 133rd Seabees that accompanied them during the fiercest part of the assault. Personal stories from the men of the 133rd Seabees are told and numerous pictures are included. A well written colorful chapter about the Seabees on Iwo by the famous William Bradford Huie is also included and provides an insight into what the Seabees were, their personalities, their developing lore, and what they sacrificed and accomplished for their country. Another well written chapter by Commander Edmund L. Castillo, USN from his book; The Seabees of World War II is also included. Other Iwo Jima Seabee unit histories are also included. Some of these units--or elements of them--were also part of the initial landing, and others came later. In total, over 7000 builder-fighter Seabees served on Iwo. The story is also about building Iwo's 3 airstrips and the supporting infrastructure built by the Seabees; its runways became some of the longest in the Pacific. A small city was formed on Iwo for thousands of Marine, Navy, Army, Army-Air Force, Seabees and Coast Guard men. The successful take-over of Iwo Jima meant that our heavy bombers--with their fighter escorts--were now within 650 miles of the Japanese mainland. Japan's "inner defenses" were now crushed thus portending the war's outcome. The cost in human life was grim. Part IV describes the 133rd's other battle; the on-going battle for the award of the PUC (Presidential Unit Citation). Hopefully this book will serve as a reinforcement in that quest. This book-with its collection of histories-is designed to serve future generations as a near single-source of information about the critical accomplishments that the men of the Navy Seabees achieved on Iwo Jima--especially the 133rd Seabees. THE BOOK CAN BE FOUND AT: WWW.SEABEEBOOKS.COM
  4. At Guam, Marianas, Islands, two beach parties from the 53rd N.C.B., One officer and 17 enlisted men, equipped with several tractors, landed on D-Day (H-plus-5 minutes), July 21, 1944, with special mission to assist unloading a Marine Battery of Sherman Tanks from LCM's and LCT's at the edge of the reef at Agat Beach. This task was finished within an hour under heavy enemy mortar and machine gun fire. Three of the Sherman Tanks dropped into bomb craters on their way in from the reef to shore and were submerged. This party volunteered to rescue these tanks safely and succeeded in getting two of the tanks safely to the beach in two hours, under heavy fire. A second beach party of five enlisted men was assigned the task of operating a North West Crane, mounted on a pontoon barge and anchored off the reef of Agat Beach, to unload gasoline and ammunition from LCT's to LVT's in support of assault troops. The party, in charge of the same officer Lt. Reeves, landed on D-Day (H-plus-5) and worked day and night for five days, never leaving the barge. This barge was under heavy mortar fire for the first four days. An LST anchored alongside was hit by enemy artillery and withdrew. The remainder of the battalion moved ashore on D-plus-2 and established, maintained, and constructed roads and bridges in support of the assault troops. The Battalion's beach camp was under enemy artillery fire for four hours on D-plus-3. No enemy air raids were experienced, but sniper fire was in evidence, for a nine months period after D-day, in jungle locations. The 53rd's Demolition Squad, consisted of a Chief Petty Officer and 13 enlisted men. This squad cleared all beaches, roads, and areas ahead of the construction troops over a nine months period. Both Beach Parties have been recommended for special suitable awards. Before jungle could be cleared for road building operations, the squad had first to go out with it's mine detectors. Their efforts saved many lives among our number, without any doubt. There were also armed, unexploded naval shells to be disposed of in many places. And there were detonators to be removed from both friendly and enemy ordinance before much of it could be moved. While the 53rd NCB was attached to the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, during the initial landing on Guam, they were detached from the Marines on July 27, 1944 and assigned to to duty under the Fifth Naval Construction Brigade.
  5. Under enemy fire- 6th Special Seabees, Second Section's Echelon One at Vella La Vella - October 1, 1943 - November 22, 1943 Second Section's Echelon One was called upon to handle cargo for 1stMAC, (First Marine Amphibious Corps) at Vella La Vella. A thirty-day supply of rations, gasoline and oil was to be stocked there. A convoy of LST’s was shipping out from Guadalcanal on September 29, to deliver more supplies and troops to the new staging base, the Sixth would help load it up and discharge it. For the first time the men would be working on an unsecured island. The men were given K-Rations and ammunition. They would go in with full combat equipment. Although the Seabees did not know it, the Japanese ground troops were not a big worry even though they were stubbornly resisting the New Zealand's Third Division's efforts to pocket them in the northwest corner of the island. The major threat was Japanese air attack. Enemy flyers bombed the staging base everyday, clearly the base anti-aircraft defenses and the combat air patrol were inadequate. The Sixth's Echelon One was responsible for loading and unloading LST 460. The trucks and drivers of Company B, First Corps motor transport battalion, a Marine unit, would assist them. Knowing that every minute their LST remained on the beach it was at serious risk of air attack the officers of Echelon One plan loaded the ship so that it could be discharged in a minimum amount of time. They knew that no LST had yet been fully unloaded in the five hours time it was allowed to stay beached at the Vella La Vella staging base, and they were determined to show that it could be done. In a driving rainstorm on September 29, the seven LST supply convoy left Guadalcanal for Vella La Vella with Echelon One and the Marine truck drivers aboard Large Slow Target 460. At one mile from the beach the LST crews completely un-dogged their doors and ramp and unclutched the ramp motor so that when the brake was released the ramp would fall of its own weight. The men on the deck watched for enemy planes. Navy gunners hung from the straps of their 20mm cannons, eyes skyward. To beef up their anti-aircraft defense, the Sixth men deck loaded the two New Zealand 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft cannons as well as all their own 50 caliber machine gun-equipped 6x6 trucks. A few hundred yards from shore the LST’s dropped their stern anchors and paid out the cables until seconds later they were crunching onto the beach. LST 460 grounded a little short of dry land, but Echelon One was prepared. As soon as their ramp splashed into the surf at 07:15, their bulldozer was disembarking immediately followed by their five-ton tractor crane. As their bulldozer pushed a coral road up to the ramp, the Marine truck drivers on the tank deck waited with their engines idling. After the first trucks rushed out the Seabees installed the LST’s elevator guides and lowered the 40mm cannons to the tank deck where they were attached to their prime movers and driven ashore. The Sixth men wasted no time in getting their own 20mm cannon and truck mounted 50 caliber anti-aircraft guns emplaced in positions ashore. While their shipmates worked the ship the Seabee gunners stood by their weapons. Inside LST 460 tank deck 32 Stevedores worked at top speed to load the returning trucks. At 09:20, less than two hours after starting, Echelon One completed unloading their LST. The now empty LST 460 pumped out its ballast and prepared to haul in its stern anchor cable and retract from the beach. The Seabees began dispersing into the jungle, where they would dig their foxholes. LST 448, beached a half mile north of Echelon One, was still unloading. Marines had charge of the operation and it was not proceeding as quickly as it should have. Echelon One sent a work detail to assist discharging LST 448. At 09:30, a large force of Japanese fighters and dive-bombers raided the staging area. One veteran recalled how he was walking on the beach to retrieve his rifle and gear and saw a ‘V’ formation of about sixteen aircraft come out of the sun. He first thought they were allied planes, but the sudden cry "air raid" and the formation's nosing over into a dive convinced him otherwise. The Seabees and Marines ran for the cover of the jungle as the anti-aircraft guns on ship and shore sputtered to life. Some men fired their rifles at the incoming planes. Two Japanese dive-bombers swept down and released their payloads on LST 448. The men watched helplessly as the bombs fell into the beached ship. Their was a muffled explosion and the Sixth men could feel the ground tremble from the force of the blast though the exploding ship was half a mile away. Seconds after the impact of the bombs, the Sixth men took to their feet running down the beach toward LST 448. When Japanese fighters swept in and strafed the beach the 20 or so running Seabees dived into the jungle for cover, re-emerging to continue their dash as the enemy fighters passed. The Japanese planes bombed the dispersal areas too, wounding many among the work parties and gun crews. LST 448 was a twisted burning wreck when the Seabees got to her. Ammunition was exploding in her hold and magazines. Marines were helping the wounded, assisted by the Sixth's medical officer who stayed on board throughout the afternoon despite the fires, exploding ordinance and a second attack. Many men were wounded. Of the work detail the Sixth had dispatched before the raid, eight men were wounded by shrapnel, two seriously, and another could not be found at all. Though he was listed as missing in action, it was clear two days later, when 21 unidentified bodies were pulled out of the wreckage, that Echelon One had lost one of its own. The Sixth's first experience under fire was costly, but the men did not lose their sangfroid. They dug foxholes near their work area on the beach and waited for the next supply echelon to land. The Japanese attacked intermittently throughout the day and into the night, until about 22:30. The second Japanese air strike came at 10:00 at Ruravai about two miles up the beach from where the Sixth landed and LST 334 had still not finished discharging its cargo. It sat on the shore as an inviting target. The Japanese hit it with a bomb but fortunately the damage was light. As the enemy planes swarmed over the beachhead, one Val dive bomber came hurtling across the cove at a very low altitude only to find cannon fire from the Sixth's 20mm anti-aircraft gun slamming into its nose. As the crippled plane reached the far end of the cove it suddenly exploded into pieces and fell into the sea. Later in the day the airsols (air solomoms command), combat air patrol was on station above the staging base, and they helped deflect the worst of a 60-plane raid. Some enemy bombers still got through, and LST 448 was hit again. For the Japanese pilots there was no mistaking where the beachhead was as long as smoke belched out of the burning LST 448. In the last raid of the day the Japanese scored again, destroying 5 heavy trucks and two jeeps. The violence of the air attacks on Vella La Vella that continued, vividly illustrated for Echelon One the importance of anti-¬aircraft guns. While on the island the Sixth set about acquiring more 20mm cannon .50 caliber machine guns, and trained men in their operation when there was spare time. The corps staging area on Vella La Vella was considered secured by October 8. Air raids continued but the anti-aircraft defenses were by then beefed up. During Echelons One's seven and a half weeks on Vella, their gunners were part of the bases anti-aircraft defense.
  6. Thurman

    53rd N.C.B. GUAM, July 21, 1944

    SUE - HERE IS THE HISTORY OF THE 53RD, I HAVE THEIR CRUISEBOOK. I'M CHECKING OUT WITH MY SOURCES. - THAT IS MY PHOTO OF SEABEE DEMO TEAM 3 ON GUAM. THE SEABEES HAD DEMOLITION SQUADS, THAT WERE DIFFERENT THAN THE "UDT" (UNDERWATER DEMO TEAMS). THE DEMOLITION SQUADS REMOVED MINES THIS IS MOST LIKELY WHAT YOUR FATHER DID.- THE UDT TEAMS DID RECON ON THE BEACHES PRIOR TO THE ASSAULT FORCES. I'LL GET BACK YO YOU. 53RD BATTALION Alter activation at Norfolk Dec. 22, 1942, the 53rd NCB moved to Davisville, R. I., Dec. 28, and was divided into two sections Jan. 16. 1943. The Second Section left Davisville Feb. 7 with orders to join a section of the 17th NCB to form the 120th NCB. Exact movements of Second Section are unreported following departure from Davisville. On Feb. 12, one company and one fourth of Headquarters Company of the First Section moved to Hadnot Point, New River, N. C. for duty with the Fleet Marine Force. Another company, with Headquarters group, went to San Diego for duty with FMF The Hadnot Point detachment was transferred into Naval Construction Replacement Group, Camp Lejeune, New River, N. C., Feb. 15. The 53rd was assigned 13 officers and 541 men from the replacement group at Lejeune, and seven officers and 268 men from replacement groups at Camps Elliott and Pendleton, San Diego. The contingents joined at San Diego Feb. 26, and sailed for Noumea, New Caledonia, March 11, arriving March 25. The 53rd was designated as Naval Construction Battalion, First Marine Amphibious Corps, April 14. The Battalion switched operations to Guadalcanal Oct. 12, 1943, and from there sent one detachment to Vella Lavella and several groups to Bougainville in November and December. The Battalion regrouped at Guadalcanal in January 1944, and on May 12 was redesignated the 53rd NCB. In six echelons, the unit moved to Guam, participating in the invasion, and was on duty there when the war ended.
  7. Thurman

    Seeking information on E.C. Adams

    SUE - HERE IS THE HISTORY OF THE 53RD, I HAVE THEIR CRUISEBOOK. I'M CHECKING OUT WITH MY SOURCES. - THAT IS MY PHOTO OF SEABEE DEMO TEAM 3 ON GUAM. THE SEABEES HAD DEMOLITION SQUADS, THAT WERE DIFFERENT THAN THE "UDT" (UNDERWATER DEMO TEAMS). THE DEMOLITION SQUADS REMOVED MINES THIS IS MOST LIKELY WHAT YOUR FATHER DID.- THE UDT TEAMS DID RECON ON THE BEACHES PRIOR TO THE ASSAULT FORCES. I'LL GET BACK YO YOU. 53RD BATTALION Alter activation at Norfolk Dec. 22, 1942, the 53rd NCB moved to Davisville, R. I., Dec. 28, and was divided into two sections Jan. 16. 1943. The Second Section left Davisville Feb. 7 with orders to join a section of the 17th NCB to form the 120th NCB. Exact movements of Second Section are unreported following departure from Davisville. On Feb. 12, one company and one fourth of Headquarters Company of the First Section moved to Hadnot Point, New River, N. C. for duty with the Fleet Marine Force. Another company, with Headquarters group, went to San Diego for duty with FMF The Hadnot Point detachment was transferred into Naval Construction Replacement Group, Camp Lejeune, New River, N. C., Feb. 15. The 53rd was assigned 13 officers and 541 men from the replacement group at Lejeune, and seven officers and 268 men from replacement groups at Camps Elliott and Pendleton, San Diego. The contingents joined at San Diego Feb. 26, and sailed for Noumea, New Caledonia, March 11, arriving March 25. The 53rd was designated as Naval Construction Battalion, First Marine Amphibious Corps, April 14. The Battalion switched operations to Guadalcanal Oct. 12, 1943, and from there sent one detachment to Vella Lavella and several groups to Bougainville in November and December. The Battalion regrouped at Guadalcanal in January 1944, and on May 12 was redesignated the 53rd NCB. In six echelons, the unit moved to Guam, participating in the invasion, and was on duty there when the war ended.
  8. A SPECIAL PIECE OF HELL, BY BILL D. ROSS. PELELIU THE UNTOLD STORY. THE PACIFIC WAR'S FORGOTTEN BATTLE. FOUR HUNDRED SEABEES LANDED WITH THE EARLY WAVES OF THE ASSAULT ON D-DAY. BECAUSE OF THE DISASTROUS TRAFFIC JAM ON THE REEF, HOWEVER, THEIR EQUIPMENT REMAINED OFFSHORE ON LST'S UNTIL THE MORNING OF D-PLUS- 3, A DELAY THAT RESULTED IN DEATH FOR SEVEN OF THE MEN, AND WOUNDS TO NINETEEN MORE WHO WERE SERVING AS VOLUNTEER STRETCHER BEARERS. MANY OF THE OTHERS, ARMED WITH CARBINES AND RIFLES PICKED UP ON THE BEACH, HAD MOVED SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE 5TH MARINES TO HELP CAPTURE THE AIRFIELD. CAPTAIN FRANK COOPER, 1ST ENGINEER BATTALION, 1ST MARINE DIVISION, PELELIU. THE BIG BOTTLENECK ON PELELIU WAS A PLACE CALLED BLOODY NOSE RIDGE, I THINK ITS REAL NAME WAS UMERBROGO, SO NATURALLY THE MEN HAD TO CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE. OUR COMMAND FINALLY FIGURED OUT THAT THE THING TO DO WAS FIRST BYPASS BLOODY NOSE AND THEN COME BACK AND REDUCE IT, I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW MUCH WORK OUR OUTFIT DID TO TRY AND HELP THE RIFLE COMPANIES HERE, BUT IT WAS CONSTANT. ALONG WITH THE SEABEES AND PIONEERS, WE GOT AN AIRSTRIP GOING, AND OUR PLANES ENDED UP BOMBING BLOODY NOSE FROM A RUNWAY ABOUT A HALF MILE FROM THAT HELLISH PLACE. THEY CALLED IT THE SHORTEST BOMBING RUN IN HISTORY. SEPTEMBER 15, 1944, PELELIU WAS ONE OF THE MOST BRUTAL BATTLES IN THE PACIFIC. BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 15 AND OCTOBER 15, 1944, THE FIRST MARINE DIVISION SUFFERED MORE THAN 6,500 CASUALTIES FIGHTING ON A HELLISH LITTLE CORAL ISLAND IN THE PACIFIC. PELELIU WAS THE SCENE OF ONE OF THE MOST SAVAGE NO-QUARTER STRUGGLES OF MODERN TIMES, ONE THAT HAD ALL BEEN FORGOTTEN. "BILL SLOAN" AUTHOR BROTHERHOOD OF HEROES, THE MARINES AT PELELIU. CIVIL ENGINEER CORPS BULLETIN - JUNE 1949. "ACTION AT PELELIU" CDR P. CORRADI'S STORY OF HOW THE 33RD SEABEES HIT THE BEACH AND BUILT A LANDING STRIP DURING THE ATTACK ON PELELIU. D-DAY - THE FIRST SEABEES WENT ASHORE EARLY THIS MORNING. THEY'VE BEEN ON BARGES AT THE REEF ALL DAY, TRANSFERRING BEANS, BULLETS, AND MEN FROM THE ASSAULT BOATS TO THE AMPHIBIOUS TRACTORS THAT ARE BEING USED AS FERRIES BETWEEN THE REEF AND THE BEACH. MORTAR SHELLS ARE DROPPING ALL AROUND THEM, AND DISABLED AMTRACKS ARE PILING UP PRETTY FAST. NONE OF THE TRANSFER BARGES WHICH ARE MANNED BY THE SEABEES HAVE BEEN HIT. IT'S AMAZING THAT THERE IS ANY FIGHT LEFT IN PELELIU'S DEFENDERS. FOR DAYS THE BIG GUNS OF THE PRE-INVASION BOMBARDMENT FORCE HAVE BEEN POURING HEAVY SHELLS INTO THE ISLAND. SINCE BEFORE DAWN THIS MORNING, STRIKE AFTER STRIKE OF CARRIER PLANES HAVE STRAFED AND BOMBED THE BEACHES. THE LCIR'S HAVE BEEN WHIZZING 5-INCH ROCKETS INTO SHORE DEFENSES ALL MORNING BUT STILL THE JAP MORTARS MAKE THE STRETCH FROM REEF TO BEACH DEADLY. THE BEACH ITSELF IS A BEDLAM OF GEAR, WRECKED EQUIPMENT, AND PINNED DOWN MARINES AND SEABEES. ABOUT NOON, FREDDIE DAVIS(LT C.F. DAVIS, CEC, USNR) AND OBIE OBRIEN (CHCARP E. E. O'BRIEN, CEC, USNR) WENT ASHORE WITH TWO HUNDRED MORE THIRTY-THIRDERS TO JOIN THE SHORE PARTY AND HELP UNSCRAMBLE THE BEACH. D+1- WE WERE TO START WORK ON THE AIRFIELD TODAY, BUT INTENSE FIGHTING IS STILL GOING ON AT THE SOUTHEAST PORTION OF THE AIRDROME. THE NORTHWEST PORTION IS STILL IN JAP HANDS. THE THIRTY-THIRDERS ARE ENGAGED ENTIRELY IN SHORE PARTY OPERATIONS. CASUALTIES AMONGST THE AID PARTIES HAVE BEEN EXTREMELY HIGH, SO OUR PEOPLE HAVE TAKEN OVER STRETCHER BEARER'S ASSIGNMENTS. WE STARTED A CEMETERY AT ORANGE BEACH TODAY. D+2- FIGHTING HAS MOVED UP TO THE NORTHWEST END OF THE AIRDROME. THE SKIPPER AND HANK AUCH (LT HERMAN H. AUCH, CEC, USNR) MADE A RECONNAISSANCE OF THE AIRFIELD WITH COLONEL FRANCIS FENTON, THE DIVISION ENGINEER, FIRST MARINE DIVISION. THERE ISN'T MUCH LEFT OF THE JAP STRIPS. THE PRE-INVASION BOMBARDMENT AND THE FIGHTING OF THE PAST TWO DAYS HAS LEFT THEM HARDLY RECOGNIZABLE AS AIR STRIPS. THE PLAN IS TO REPAIR ONE STRIP AS A FIGHTER FIELD AND TO COMPLETELY REBUILD THE OTHER THIRTY FIVE HUNDRED FOOT STRIP AS A BOMBER STRIP, EXTENDING IT TO 6,500 FEET. D+3- THE MORTAR FIRE IS TOO HEAVY AT THE REEF TO RISK BEACHING THE LST'S HENCE NO EQUIPMENT IS AVAILABLE TO START THE AIRFIELD WORK. WE ARE GOING TO WORK LIKE THE JAPS UNDOUBTEDLY DID- WITH PICK AND SHOVEL. LT WALTER SUYDAM AND FIFTY MORE OF THE BATTALIONS MEN WERE LANDED TODAY WITH A SUPPLY OF HAND TOOLS. A HUMAN CHAIN WAS FORMED ACROSS THE AREA WHERE THE JAP STRIP HAD BEEN, AND WE STARTED TO COMB THE PLACE FOR SHRAPNEL, UNEXPLODED BOMBS, BOOBY TRAPS, ETC. CHIEF CARPENTER'S MATE, SALVATORE IMPELLETTERI, AND HIS BOYS WERE KEPT BUSY DISARMING AND DISPOSING OF THE BOMBS AND BOOBY TRAPS. A MOUND OF HEAPED UP PIECES OF SHRAPNEL SOON BEGAN TO FORM. IMPELLETTERI'S CREW DUG UP A JAP TORPEDO WAR HEAD THAT HAD BEEN RIGGED WITH A PRESSURE TRIPPING DEVICE. THE EASTERLY END OF THE FORMER STRIP HAD BEEN CLEARED BY DARK. D+4- FILLING IN THE HOLES AT THE EAST END OF THE STRIP WAS BEGUN AT DAWN. THE WORK IS HOT AND SLOW. CROCKFORD WAS KILLED. THE BATTALION COMMAND POST WAS MOVED UP TO THE STRIP FROM THE BEACH. DUGOUTS WERE EXCAVATED TO REPLACE THE INDIVIDUAL FOX HOLES. A BATTERY OF 155-MM GUNS WAS SET UP IN OUR BIVOUAC ARE. THE PONTOON CAUSEWAY SECTIONS WERE LAUNCHED FORM OUR LST'S AND SOME OF THE HEAVY EQUIPMENT WAS TRANSFERRED FROM THE TANK DECKS TO THE PONTOONS VIA THE BOW DOORS. THIS HAD TO BE DONE OUTSIDE THE RANGE OF THE SHORE GUNS IN DEEP WATER. WHEN THE TRACTORS, SHOVELS, TRUCKS, ETC. HAD BEEN MOVED ONTO THE PONTOONS, THE CAUSEWAYS WERE TIED UP ALONGSIDE THE LST'S FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT. D+5- THE 155'S FIRED OVER OUR HEADS ALL LAST NIGHT. AFTER THE SOUND HAD BEEN LIKENED TO A SUBWAY EXPRESS BY A FEW FORMER DENIZENS OF NEW YORK, LITTLE FURTHER NOTE WAS TAKEN OF THEM AND WE EVEN MANAGED TO SLEEP WHILE THE GUNS PUMPED SHELLS ALL NIGHT INTO BLOODY NOSE RIDGE. ONE LOADED CAUSEWAY SECTION WAS BEACHED AND WE NOW HAVE 2 TRUCKS, 3 GRADERS, AND A DOZER WITH SCRAPER. REPAIR WORK ON THE FIGHTER STRIP REALLY SPEEDED UP WITH THE ACQUISITION OF THIS EQUIPMENT. A DAMAGED FIGHTER PLANE LANDED ON OUR PARTIALLY COMPLETED STRIP THIS AFTERNOON. OUR RUBBER TIRED MOTOR GRADERS WERE PRACTICALLY IMMOBILIZED BY THE MANY BITS OF SHRAPNEL THAT STILL COVER THE FIELD. EFFORTS WERE RE-DOUBLED TO CLEAN UP THE REMAINDER OF THE STEEL FRAGMENTS. SNIPERS STILL CAUSE WORK STOPPAGES. THE CARPENTER CREW THAT STARTED ERECTION OF THE FLIGHT OPERATIONS TOWER, WHICH LT CAMBELL AND WO HYNES HAD PREFABRICATED BACK IN THE RUSSELLS, WAS TWICE STOPPED BY SNIPER FIRE. D+6- MORE EQUIPMENT WAS LANDED OVER THE PONTOON CAUSEWAY TODAY. TWENTY THREE OFFICERS AND SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTY THREE MEN ARE NOW ASHORE WITH THE BATTALION. ENOUGH EQUIPMENT IS AT HAND TO START CONSTRUCTION OF THE BOMBER STRIP. FREDDIE DAVIS SHORE PARTY GROUP HAS REJOINED THE BATTALION FOOR THE AIRFIELD WORK. MORE DUGOUTS WERE EXCAVATED AND TARPS WERE STRETCHED OVER THEM TO KEEP OUT THE BLISTERING SUN AND, ALTERNATELY, THE POURING RAIN. A SQUADRON OF OUR FIGHTERS LANDED ON THE STRIP THIS AFTERNOON. WE STARTED THE FIGHTER TAXIWAYS. WE HAD OUR FIRST HOT MEAL TODAY. D+7- HEAVY RAINS TODAY. WE CONCENTRATED ON REMOVAL OF WRECKED EQUIPMENT FROM AROUND AND IN THE AIRFIELD. SOMEONE COUNTED OVER ONE HUNDRED ENEMY AIRCRAFT THAT WE HAD HAULED TO A CENTRAL DUMP. THE BORROW PIT FOR CORAL IS IN FULL OPERATION. NO ONE THOUGHT THOUGHT THE ONE AND ONE HALF CUBIC YARD SHOVEL WOULD EVER MAKE IT OVER THE FLOATING PONTOON CAUSEWAY WHICH IS ONLY TWO PONTOONS WIDE. THE HEAVY EQUIPMENT CREW MOVED IT SAFELY, HOWEVER. FIGHTING CONTINUES ON THE NORTHWEST EDGE OF THE AIRDROME. CHIEF STRASSER WAS KILLED TODAY. D+8- UNLOADING THE CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT HAS FINALLY BEEN COMPLETED. WE NOW HAVE OUR OWN DISTILLATION UNITS. ONE WAS PUT INTO IMMEDIATE OPERATION. WE HAD BEEN DRINKING WATER THAT WAS HAULED ASHORE IN STEAMED OUT OIL DRUMS, BUT ITS TASTE WAS HORRIBLE. WORK IS PROCEEDING ON THE BOMBER STRIP TAXIWAYS. WE TRIED TO MAKE BETTER TIME BY WORKING AFTER DARK TONIGHT, BUT THE MARINES SHOT OUT OUR LIGHTS WHICH WERE SILHOUETTING THEIR TROOPS ON THE SLOPE BELOW BLOODY NOSE RIDGE. WE WORKED FOR AWHILE BY MOONLIGHT. THE HEAT AND THE FLIES ARE BAD. DOC YORK AND DOC GEER ARE BUSY WITH THEIR NUMEROUS DYSENTERY PATIENTS. D+9- IMPELLETTERI'S CREW HAS ALL MINES, DUDS, AND BOOBY TRAPS CLEARED FROM THE AIRFIELD AREA BUT THEY CAN'T BE EVERYWHERE. CHIEF PELLISSIER AND GENE YUETTNER WERE WOUNDED BY A BOOBY TRAP TODAY WHILE ATTEMPTING TO SALVAGE SOME ENEMY GEAR. ONE JAP ROLLER HAS BEEN REAPAIRED AND WAS PUT INTO SERVICE ON THE TAXIWAY TODAY. GRADING CONTINUES. D+10- THE CORAL PIT IS REALLY PRODUCING. SURFACING OF THE BOMBER STRIP HAS BEEN STARTED. THE ARGUS 20 RADAR INSTALLATION WAS COMPLETED TODAY. THE CREW THAT HAS BEEN TRYING TO PUT IN THE AVGAS SPILLWAY ON THE WEST ROAD HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET BACK TO LOCATION AS FIGHTING HAS BROKEN OUT THERE AGAIN. ATTEMPTS TO DRILL WELLS FOR FRESH WATER HAVE BEEN UNSUCCESSFUL. SINCE BRACKISH WATER IS THE BEST WE CAN BRING IN, MYRON WATSON (CCM, CEC, USNR) IS HOOKING UP THE INTAKE TO THE DISTILLATION UNITS TO THE BEST OF THE BRACKISH WATER WELLS. TODAY WE HAVE A GANG SHOWER PIPED UP FROM THE WELL. WHAT A JOY! D+11- WE WORKED ALL NIGHT LAST NIGHT HAULING CORAL. THE MOON WAS BRIGHT AND THE STAR SHELLS OVER BLOODY NOSE RIDGE GAVE AN ALMOST CONTINUOUS BRIGHT LIGHT. TODAY, WORK WAS RESUMED ON THE AVGAS SPILLWAY. THE TEMPORARY CAMP IS WELL ALONG. WE HAVE COTS SET UP IN THE DUGOUTS, DORMITORY STYLE. THE GA;;EY TENT IS SERVING HOT MEALS CONTINUOUSLY. D+12- THEW ENEMY RESISTANCE HAS BEEN PRETTY WELL LOCALIZED ON BLOODY NOSE RIDGE. OUR FIGHTER PLANES ARE TAKING OFF ALMOST CONTINUOUSLY FROM THE STRIP WE PUT INTO OPERATION JUST A FEW DAYS AGO. THEY ARE STRAFING AND BOMBING THE ENEMY ON THE RIDGE ABOUT A THOUSAND YARDS YARDS TO THE NORTH OF THE STRIP ITSELF. THE SKIPPER TOOK A RECONNAISSANCE TRIP IN A PIPER CUB TODAY. HE REPORTED THAT THE MARINE PILOT WHO FLEW HIM TOOK ALONG A SUPPLY OF HAND GRENADES WHICH HE TOSSED OUT AT LIKELY TARGETS. AS A RESULT OF THIS AND OTHER RECONNAISSANCE IT WAS DECIDED TO LOCATE THE PROPOSED HOSPITAL UP THE WEST COAST OF THE ISLAND ON LAND WHICH HAS NOT YET BEEN SECURED. LT BETY WAS ASSIGNED THE JOB OF FOLLOWING UP ON THE HOSPITAL. D+13- WORK PROGRESSES ON THE BOMBER STRIP. PLANES CONTINUE TO PILE IN AND EMPHASIS HAS SHIFTED TO PROVIDING TAXIWAYS AND DISPERSAL AREAS FOR THEM. TWENTY FOUR HOUR OPERATION HAS BEEN APPROVED AND CORAL HAULING HELP FROM OTHER UNITS OBTAINED. THERE WAS A RUMOR THAT THE JAPS HAD SURRENDERED TODAY, BUT THE INTENSE FIRING ON THE RIDGE CONTINUES. BELL AND BARTLETT WERE KILLED. FOR THIS, THE THIRTY THIRD RECEIVED A NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION, WHILE THE SHORE PARTY WHO LANDED ON D-DAY WAS AWARDED A PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION.
  9. Thurman

    Bougainville Field in Use, Seabees Did Job!

    ARMY & NAVY REGISTER - JUNE 10 1944 SEABEE REGIMENT COMMENDED A REGIMENT OF NAVY SEABEES HAS BEEN COMMENDED BY ARMY, NAVY, & MARINE CORPS OFFICERS FOR THE PART IT PLAYED IN REPELLING A SUSTAINED 17- DAY COUNTER-ATTACK ON BOUGAINVILLE. THE SEABEES WERE UNDER COMMAND OF COMDR. L.V. CLARK DEICHLER, CBC, USNR. TWO BATT., BIVOUACKED JUST OFF THE TOROKINA FIGHTER STRIP, WERE SUBJECT TO ESPECIALLY HEAVY FIRE. IN ORDER TO REMAIN ALIVE, IN THE BIVOUAC AREA BETWEEN MARCH 8 AND 24, 1944, AN OFFICIAL REPORT STATED, IT WAS NECESSARY FOR ALL HANDS TO SPEND SOME OF THE DAYLIGHT HOURS IN FOXHOLES AND TO SLEEP IN FOXHOLES EACH NIGHT. IN ONE 24 HOUR PERIOD, THE JAPS SCORED 11 DIRECT HITS ON THE CAMP OF ONE BATTALION AND DROPPED MORE THAN 110 SHELLS WITHIN 50 YARDS. THESE COMBAT CONDITIONS DID NOT PREVENT THE SEABEES FROM COMPLETING ALL EMERGENCY REPAIRS ON THE PIVA FIGHTER STRIPS, WHICH HAD TAKEN A HEAVY BATTERING. DURING THE ENTIRE 17 DAY PERIOD, NO NAVAL FACILITY WAS OUT OF COMMISSION FOR MORE THAN 30 MINUTES. AIRFIELD REPAIR GROUPS HAVE BEEN RECOMMENDED FOR APPROPRIATE AWARDS BY MAJ. GEN. R.J. MITCHELL, U.S.M.C., WHO WAS THEN COM. AIRCRAFT, SOLOMON ISLANDS, AND WHO IS NOW COM. AIR SOUTH PACIFIC. THROUGHOUT THE ASSAULTS, THE SEABEES CONTINUED WORK ON A HOSPITAL, A PT BASE, BOAT POOL REPAIR FACILITIES, AND OTHER IMPORTANT NAVAL BASE STRUCTURES. THEY REPLACED INFANTRYMEN IN HANDLING RATIONS & UNLOADING CARGO. THEY FURNISHED A COMBAT TEAM OF APPROXIMATELY 400 MEN TO BE HELD IN RESERVE FOR FRONT-LINE DUTY. THEIR WORK, IN THE FACE OF CONTINUED ENEMY OPPOSITION HAS BEEN ON THE HIGHEST ORDER AND REFLECT GREAT CREDIT UPON THE BATTALION PARTICIPATING, SAID REAR ADMIRAL O.O. BADGER, U.S.N. COM. SERVICE SQUADRON, SOUTH PACIFIC FORCE. THIS COMMAND, REAR ADMIRAL BADGER CONTINUED, TAKES THIS OPPORTUNITY TO COMMEND THE REGIMENT FOR THE EXCELLENCE OF THEIR PERFORMANCE. THE SEABEES ALSO WERE COMMENDED BY MAJ. GEN. MITCHELL, CAPT. H.S. SEASE, U.S.N. COM. AIR CENTER, TOROKINA, MAJ. GEN. O.W. GRISWOLD, ARMY COM. OFF. AND CAPT. O.O. KEESING, U.S.N., COM. NAVAL AIR BASE, TOROKINA.
  10. Milwaukee Journal - Jan. 3, 1944. BOUGAINVILLE FIELD IN USE, SEABEES DID JOB! With U.S. forces on Bougainville - A 6,500 foot field for light and medium bombers, within less than 250 miles of Rabaul, and only 850 miles from Japan's mighty Naval base of Truk is now in operation in these northern Solomon Islands. The airfield, at the base of the fuming volcano, Mount Bagana, was carved out of the heaviest of jungles and was dedicated Christmas day. Called Piva field, after the river village of that name. It is the second field to be established on the expanding beachhead which U.S. Marines first won November 1, 1943 with a landing at Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville's west central coast. The Torokina fighter field of 4,200 feet, superimposed upon a swamp, has been used since Dec. 12. Torokina has been dispatching fighter planes for sweeps over Rabaul. Now they can screen bombers flying from Piva, a mere aerial skip and jump from Rabaul. The Piva field is the nearest one of the allies to Truk in the Carolines. The building of Piva was accomplished with heroics and utter dis-regard of danger. Once tractors were leveling ground within a few feet of where a bomb disposal crew, under Marine Lt. Ed Curry of Boston Mass. was supervising the digging up of a string of Japanese duds and time bombs. Again a Japanese patrol harassing the Seabees got so close to the field that a Seabee was captured. When Seabee surveyors started laying out the field, they actually worked for several days beyond our lines. As they returned from work, they would chide the Marines. If you guys don't hurry up and take that country, we'll have the field finished before you get there. The Bougainville fields put dive bombers and torpedo planes within reach of Rabaul. The Piva field was ready for bombers less than six weeks after the Seabees broke ground. The toughest job was in pushing roads through swamps to it, often under Japanese fire. Once that was accomplished. the clearing, grading and surfacing proceeded swiftly.
  11. Thurman

    Okinawa Seabees

    Story about Seabees attached to the 1st Marine Division at Okinawa, patrolling the Makibaru area and fighting Japanese; in close combat with the enemy. The first few nights I foxholed by myself as the casualty group was fairly new in organization and I had not made any buddies. The Marines (1st Marine Division) in the group had been together for some time and were not new to combat. They already had a "wife" slang for a mate who was more or less a permanent foxhole co-inhabitant. The 1st Marine Division landed on L-Day near the Bishi Gawa river mouth. During the initial period of the campaign, this Division was responsible for, among other things, hunting down small bands of enemy guerrillas and infiltrators throughout the center of the island. This included the Makibaru area. The enemy force in this area was the 1st Specially Established Regiment, ordered to fight a delaying action and then retreat.Those of us assigned to the casualty group with the First Marine Division soon found a wife. Paul Gilbert SF1, was my choice. He was about my age, thus the necessary vibes were present. In mid morning of the second day the casualty group made of up Seabees and Marines moved out with a number of trucks loaded with supplies. We were attacked twice by small groups of Jap infantry, they had no heavy armament so they were killed or repulsed with but few wounded on our side. This was the first time I saw who was shooting at me and who I was shooting at. Regardless of the distance you were never sure if it was your effort that caused the target to fall or someone else's effort. But it gave you satisfaction to think it was your shooting that counted the most. At this time we did not have time to look over the kill or to search for trophies or souvenirs, In fact this pursuit was only practiced when we began to feel like victors and felt reasonably certain the bounty was worthwhile. Flush with the flowing adrenalin and the thrill of first combat action of exchanging fire with a seen enemy, I felt sure I had accounted for at least two Japs. It was later, on a very personal basis, that I could say "I killed him" He's mine. Our present mission was to get the truck convoy to it's destination. The assault was moving inland and in a few days the Seabee Battalion was well along in setting up camp near a captured airstrip. The term "camp" means temporary, "base" means more or less permanent. Twice, Jap sorties attacked the fringes of the air strip. But their numbers were such that they were more of a nuisance rather than a threat. The supplement to the casualty groups for the most part returned to their units. Thus, we were again reunited with our mates. I returned to my duty as a cook. We cooks had little to do galley-wise. We more or less just passed out prepared food. So I, becoming bored, often went exploring or joined the Marines I had been with in the casualty group. They were now a mop-up team whose job it was to hunt out the Japs who stayed behind the lines to act as snipers and to do diversion action. I could have got in trouble leaving my station, but from now on till the end of the war military discipline took second place to surviving and getting the mission done. Along with the Marines I shot at burning Japs as they fled from their cave hide outs. It was about this time that I got a Jap I could claim as mine. Four Marines and two of us casualty group members were sent on a side trail to check for any snipers or straggling bands that the Japs may have left behind. I would like to interject here that by now the members of the casualty group were accepted by the Marines as part of their cadre. The reason for this hesitancy is that in combat you like to know your comrades, who has had previous combat exposure, who is compatible and can be counted upon, and who may be questionable. So, the six of us made our may on full alert along the path that was about a wagons width and most likely once used by native farmers. Vegetation had grown high along its sides but the bombardment had taken a good share of this down. We were especially aware of and watched the craters and mounds caused by this bombardment. We were spread out in military fashion, a fair space about each individual. We had progressed maybe a mile or so from out take off point when out in front of us appeared four Japs. They must have been crossing the path's clearing as they were taken by surprise as much as we were. They yelled something as did some of us. In a twinkle of an eye, they started firing and charged toward us. We dropped to one knee or flat on the ground and returned fire. Both sides were firing as fast as a trigger finger would work. We had the advantage not only because there were six of us but also because we dropped to a stationary position. The charging Japs were also firing as a fast as possible but with little accuracy. It was all over in a few minutes. This time I knew I had got my kill. For in their charge one Jap got within thirty feet of me when I hit him in the head and gut, the head hit being what counted. The other fallen Japs were some distance from me and mine. Our leader told two of the others to be alert. The sound of our fighting could bring others from the wrong side. While the two assigned as lookouts remained on the alert, the rest of us looked over our kill. No one came to me or mine as it was evident to all who killed him. We stripped the Japs bodies which had become the custom, to look for maps or military information. In this case it may appear silly as these four appeared to be just lowly grunts. But, Jap officers were known to take the disguise of lower rank. What lay ahead was a second encounter with Japs within an hour. We first heard a laughing noise behind us then running foot falls. We all dove into the underbrush beside the path, half on one side and half on the other side. We were not setting up an ambush necessarily until we knew the numbers. Well hidden we were and a good thing as about 15 Japs came jogging at a good pace right by us. They were within 15 feet of us. Such was the game of hide and seek in the Pacific on land as well as on sea. Our leader said we should return and report what we had just seen. That many Japs behind the lines may be significant in association with other intelligence being collected by other groups such as our own. On returning and reporting it seems that from other information gathered, the Japs were pulling back their harassment groups and snipers to strengthen their rear lines. This proved to be true. My last assignment with the Marines was for our group to go back to the trail we had just returned from and cautiously prod forward till we found or met resistance; then to stop and send a runner back with the location. I imagine this act was repeated all along the area for some distance. We were not to engage if this ws possible; just locate. Of course, everyone knew the likelihood of this was slight. We got well beyond the point on the trail where we turned back from our last encounter with the Japs. It was getting dark and so we made our foxholes for the night with half of our force on one side of the pathway and half on the other side. We made the holes deep and the weather looked good. But in the island climate, minutes could change all this. Here the jungle had not received the devastation as some of the rest probably because we were in a gully or a narrow valley. The only sky you could see was directly overhead. We had been in our foxholes but a short time after darkness enclosed us when shouting and rifle shots assaulted us from all sides. Fortunately, for some reason it was a few seconds before the assault members exposed themselves. It was obvious at once we were out numbered and while we were dug in and ready it would only be a matter of time before we would be over run. But only moments after the Jpas attacked, a large detachment of Marines came from what seemed like nowhere and they far outnumbered those who just seconds ago had the advantage. The battle lasted but a short time. There were many downed Japs but only a few Marines. I never did know if we were used as decoys or were just lucky. The Marines who rescued us were so confident that the encounter was over they bedded down in convenient niches without going to the trouble of digging foxholes. The next morning the Marine body that rescued us proceeded on and our casualty group returned to our original base.
  12. Thurman

    Seabees at Salerno!

    But Some never get Recognition! That is why I post these!
  13. Thurman

    Seabees at Salerno!

    BULLDOZER DECEMBER 2, 1943. Long after this struggle is over and every serviceman is home, the story of the heroic exploits of the Seabees shoulder to shoulder with the Rangers and Commandos at Salerno will be told at many a fireside throughout the country. And here's one that won't be overlooked. Shortly after the first landing. English Army Engineers were prevented from laying down a section of wire mesh roadway by heavy fire from a strongly entrenched German Maching gun nest. It couldn't stop a Seabee bulldozer, however from hauling several English trucks which had bogged down. The maching gun nest was finally cleared out, and Commandos were taking care of the Nazis, the trucks were rumbling their badly needed loads inland, thanks to Seabee resourcefulness and courage. Moving in on the exploding beaches together with the first wave of assault troops, and working under severe continuous maching gun, plane and shell fire, the battling builders piled vital supplies ashore, often completely unloading heavily packed LST's in less than an hour per ship. Picked Seabee platoons also unloaded roughly 10,000 vehicles at Salerno and earned high praise for excellent performance.
  14. Seabees Say Work Does it - Pacific Jobs No Miracle: Milwaukee Jounal - July 16, 1945 By Robert J. Doyle GUAM- If you ask the Seabee Stevedores, they will tell you that the miracles worked in supplying our increasing forces in the Pacific are about 90% perspiration. Jake Haffner, Milwaukee Wisconsin, former chief clerk in the Milwaukee office of the FBI, is Chief Yeoman of a stevedore battalion which arrived on Guam nearly a year ago with the invasion forces. He tells how the men began unloading ships even before they came ashore and have been unloading cargo ever since, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The stevedores live in tents near the harbor. Five or six men sleep in each of the 14 foot square, screened tents. The climate is so warm that they sleep in their shorts and need neither blankets nor sheets. Their working hours compare to those in steel mills in America 50 years ago. The men are divided into day and night shifts. They reverse shifts every two weeks. Even figuring time off for meals, the men put in 60 to 70 hours a week, and no time and a half for overtime. HEAT IS CONSTANT; The stevedores draw the regular pay of Navy enlisted men, depending on their ratings. The base pay of the majority is less than $100 a month. Many Seabee construction outfits here now work eight hour shifts, six days a week, but the stevedores are so hard pressed to keep up with the ships constantly arriving that they have been unable to shorten their hours . The men seldom find relief from the heat. They work on the docks and on the decks and in the holds of ships, piling boxes into cargo nets and loading them on trucks. In the daytime their tents approach Turkish bath conditions. Haffner works in one of the Heaquarters office tents. He handles correspondence, reports and service records of the men. He worked in the Milwaukee FBI office from 1935-40 and then worked for Ford Motor Co. before entering the Navy in July 1943. He has been overseas for 19 months. CAME UNDER SHELLING; If any of the stevedores were downhearted, as the outfit waited in Hawaii for orders to move west, about the prospect of being service troops with nothing exciting to tell their grandchildren, that worry was thoroughly dispelled when Guam was invaded. After 59 days on the same crowded LST's caused by the neceassity of turning back a couple of times while our battle fleet slugged it out with Japanese forces, the invasion convoy arrived at Guam. The stevedores lined the decks to watch the dive bombers and shelling of the enemy positions and saw the assault troops go ashore. On D-plus-4 the LST on which Haffner was riding moved in and dropped it's ramp. The Japs had been waiting and they began peppering the LST with mortar shells, wounding some of the men. The ship backed away until the Jap mortar crew in an old concrete water tank was wiped out by dive bombers. Haffner and his comrades came ashore the next day and set up pup tents in a swampy area near the shore. The first night ashore included a mortar barrage and a suicide charge toward the camp area. RAN CAVE GAUNTLET; A few days later, Haffner and another man from the stevedore outfit were ordered to deliver a message to the Marine Headquaters. After delivering the message they took the wrong trail back and had run the gauntlet past many cave openings. Several enemy soldiers were killed in the caves by Marines the following day. About two weeks after the Marines and Soldiers landed on Guam, the stevedores in Haffner's outfit unloaded the first American ship to drop anchor in Apra harbor. Now, as they look at the harbor and other parts of the island, it is hard for the stevedores to realize that such great changes have taken place and such mountains of equipment and supplies have been unloaded in less than a year. It's a miracle - 90% perspiration.
  15. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    The practice of "absorbing" Seabee units into Marine units was commonplace in the Pacific, with one result being high casualty rates and another being under-reporting of their contributions to the cause, at places like Guadalcanal, Tarawa,Saipan, Peliliu, and Iwo Jima. Not many know, that besides Corpsmen, many Seabess also wore the USMC uniform.
  16. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    On 5 May, 1945, Roy E. Ellett, CM2c, and Quentin A. Carroll, MM2c, (130th NCB) did perform meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy on Okinawa Shima, Ryukyu Islands. Serious fires were blazing in native structures adjacent to an important supply road. One burning structure collapsed on the road, halting traffic and endangering personnel and military vehicles. Ellet, without considering his own personal safety, drove his bulldozer into the flaming structure. Despite the intense heat and choking smoke, he cleared the burning debris from the road, permitting military traffic to flow again. A strong breeze threatened to set afire an entire block of buildings at an intersection of the "utmost importance" Despite the intense heat blown into his face, Carrol, without hesitation and disregarding his own personal safety, drove his bulldozer up over an embankment, pushing flaming buildings back to a safe distance and smothering the burning debris with dirt. Due to his outstanding service, MM2 Carrol made it possible for the flow of military traffic to be resumed. So reads the recommendation for the Bronze Star medal signed and attested to by 1st Lt. Leon T. Struble, and USMC Sgt. Warren E. Brenfman, Headquarters, 1st Engineer Battalion, who witnessed the incident and heaped high praise on both Ellet and Carroll. During those first two weeks in May, the battle for the Shuri defense zone had reached a deadlock with the Japs holding the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions on their left, the Army's 77th Division on their center and the 96th and 7th Army Divisions on their right. Two strongly defended points, Chocolate Drop Hill and Connical Hill, had to be taken, in order to encircle Shuri and trap a portion of Jap General Ushijimas forces. It was during this critical stage that the construction and maintenance of roads solved the problem of supply for the five fighting divisions. Carroll and Ellett, heavy equipment operators went beyond the call of duty to uphold the Seabee tradition "Can-Do". --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  17. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    Marine friend sent this! I often find myself wondering, who are they; when I hear the phrase "Unsung Hero's?" A hero is defined as: with courage, nobility, and one who fears no danger. Sixty-three years ago when I was age nineteen I met a group of people; some who were almost twice my age. I met them on a battlefield, on the island of Tinian, some eight thousand miles from our west coast They carried only small arms weapons while building the largest airfield in the world, that brought an ending to World War 2. Some history books have their deeds too deeply imbedded in the books back pages. Marines place their deeds much closer to the front pages. As a former World War 2 Marine Sergeant, I now realize when "War" holidays approach us, we are often reminded of deeds we didn't give much thought to, heroic acts we had to put on hold. These holidays have a way of making us remember those among us, who were the "Unsung Hero's" of the pacific, as we hop-scotched every island, on our way to victory over Japan. After sixty-two years, and my memory flashbacks of world war 2 courage, I'm still reminded of the warier with the "can do" the job attitude, tirelessness, and most of all; many times, being side by side with we the Marines, mopping up every foxhole and cave, until they were declared secure. If I were to continue writing it would take many pages to fully cover why this Marine, and all Marines are thankful that our government ordered our defense department to organize a much needed "Navy" construction force to aid our Marine Corps. It was then that skilled construction workers, patriotic "Older" men (average age 37) volunteered to answer the call. They needed little advanced training; they quickly excelled in small arms weapons training, and Navy discipline. The rest is history. Did I make you wait too long, or does my message assure you: "We, The Proud Marines" during World War 2 give thanks to our new found, and tireless comrades, "their" huge airfield on Tinian gave so many of us the thrill of coming home "alive" to our loved ones. Yes, the memories do come back. We now offer a strong firm handclasp to our best friends; the United States Navy Seabees. They are truly Americas "Unsung Hero's." Sgt. Dick Beard; USMC 1943-1945 Richard L. Beard
  18. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    We work like hell, we fight like hell, And always come back for more: The Navy's advance base engineers On many a foreign shore. On half the lousy islands For here to Timbucto, You'll find a hive of Seabees- One hell of a fighting crew. The admiral just dropped around To chat the other night, He said, "Now boys, I know you work But you've also been trained to fight. "So if there's any trouble, don't stop To put on your jeans; Just drop your tools, grab up your guns And protect those poor marines."
  19. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    "NEVER LET US DOWN" As the former Commanding General of the Fifth Amphibious Corps and Commanding General Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, it gives me great pleasure to send a brief message to the bi-weekly magazine SEABEE for their final and souvenir edition. In my humble opinion the formation of the Seabees was one of the finest developments of this last war. The outstanding work of the Seabees and their magnificent courage in battle played a most important in the successful prosecution of the war. It was not an unusual sight to witness the Seabees performing their duties under heavy fire. It was an inspiring sight, for instance to see them working one end of the airfield while the Marines were fighting on the other end. They were equally at home with the tools of their profession or with the weapons with which they were armed. The spirit of brotherhood existing between the Marines and the Seabees was forged in the holocaust of battle. Perhaps I can sum up this brief message in these few words. "THE SEABEES NEVER LET US DOWN". With sincere personal regards, H.M. Smith Lieutenant General U.S. Marine Corps
  20. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    UNBELIEVABLE CONTRIBUTION We of the Marine Corps know firshand, perhaps better than anyone else, the almost unbelievable contribution that the Seabees have made to victory. Many times we have fought side by side in the early stages of battle, before there was room for you to proceed with your assigned construction projects. While we pressed farther inland, you laid aside your arms-but not too far away to pick up your working tools and build highways, airports, supply depots and innumerable other projects, It was a comforting thought to know as we pushed the enemy back that you were right behind us with your bulldozers and your tractors, year graders and your power shovels guaranteeing us roads to bring up our supplies and ammunition, and to return our wounded, and airports for our planes to use in supporting our troops and in pushing the attack. During the interludes between operations, fortunate indeed was the unit that was located near a Construction Battalion. Then, the more peaceful pursuits of erecting a flagpole, repairing a watch, were childs play at the hands of the Seabees. The Marines who have fought together with you against the Jap will never forget the support you have given us unfailingly from Guadalcanal to Tokyo. The bend of fellowship between Marines and Seabees, forged by the heat of battle, is one which I am sure will last as long as there are veterans of these organizations left to recount firsthand experiences of the many hard-won battles of the war. On behalf of all Marines in the Pacific, I want to extend my Thank You, and Well Done! ROY S. GEIGER Lieutenant General, U.S.M.C., Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific
  21. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    The Fighting Seabee The Navy needed fighters And they needed engineers, So they organized the Seabees to pin back Nippee's ears, They took welders, riggers, boilermen, cooks and bakers too; They signed them in the Navy, which was the thing to do. With Tommy guns and rifle, we Seabees learned to shoot; We used a big machete knife, and other things to boot. They taught us how to march and drill, They taught us how to dress; We learned Commando tactics and we bucked the line at mess. We learned the Navy lingo; we called it "deck" and "swab"; We learned just how to "knock it off" like any other gob. They taught us all these many things in thirteen weeks or less, And what they didn't teach us, the rest we had to guess. We finished out our training and we sailed to Island X, We had all our equipment stowed below and on the decks. The japs they held the island when at last it hove in sight; We knew that they were ready, so we got prepared to fight. We landed under heavy fire, and there was plenty hell, It kept us busy most the day, just dodging every shell. We soon had wiped the Nippees out and then we went to work, Each Seabee did his duty - not a one was seen to shirk. We built a mighty landing field, a barracks and a dock, About a hundred miles of road we made from solid rock. We got things finally squared away, 'twas pretty to be seen, Then we went back to the beachhead, where we saw our first Marines. They had followed in behind us, though they said they got there first; We had everything completely fixed, they could even quench their thirst. From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli It used to be the Leathernecks, now it's all Seabees. And when we reach the Pearly Gates and stand at Heaven's scene, There'll be a Seabee waiting there to greet the first Marine.
  22. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    Captain Wilfred L. Painter (CEC, USNR), was truly a legend in Seabee history. A movie could be made of his exploits. Much of his work in the Pacific had been confidential, almost nothing was written about him. Author William Bradford Huie, in his book From "Omaha to Okinawa" wrote a few pages about him. I have condensed some of Huie's writing. If Painter had lived in the 16th Century, he would have been Captain Blood, if in the 19th, he would have been a mixture of Jeb Stuart, Buffalo Bill, and Jesse James. After Guadalcanal, Painter became one of the Navy's advance Scouts in the Pacific. It was his job to pick landing sites, and particularly to pick the sites for airfields to support our operations. On every island in the Solomons on which we landed, Painter was there before the landing - surveying, taking soundings, determining whether and how fast an airfield could be built there. He had sneaked ashore from Submarines and PT boats, hidden in caves, dodged Japs, ambushed Japs, made rendezvous with his subs and PT's, and returned with the information on which the decisions were made. Painter is an engineer. To understand the importance of his work, you must understand the importance of his work, you must understand the importance of engineering to the war's naval operations. Every landing we made in the Pacific was made with one prinipal aim in view: to obtain an airfield. If the Japanese had an airfield on the island, was it on the best site? could the Jpanese field be lengthened and enlarged for our use? If not, where was such a site? What about prevailing wind direction and its relation to proposed runways? Was there a coral deposit nearby? If not, what would be used for building material on the runways? What about supplying the airfield? Was there deep water nearby in which piers could be built and Liberty ships docked? Some of our line admirals were slow in realizing their dependence on those engineering considerations, but Painter, with his brusque but efficient manner, was there to advise them. Admiral Halsey, no shrinking violet himself, quickly recognized Painters value, and Painter became a captain at thirty-five the youngest four striper in the Navy. On Pearl Harbor Day he was building a dry dock at Long Beach. He was rushed to Pearl Harbor and placed in charge of raising the battleships California and West Virginia. He worked like a fiend. He dived with divers, and was so covered with scum each night that he had to bathe in Kerosene. A doctor was assigned to follow him throughout the dark, muddy bowels of the big ships to revive him when he collapsed from sulphur dioxide gas. He had both ships raised and in dry dock before anybody believed it was possible. The earliest Seabees had been rushed to Efate and Espiritu Santo, and they completed an emergency airstrip at Santo - our first jump off base - just ten days before D-Day at Guadalcanal. Painter was in this area as engineering officer on the staff of Vice Admiral McCain, commander of naval aircraft in the South Pacific. In effect, he became all around engineering handy man for Admirals McCain, Turner, and Halsey throughout the South Pacific campaign, In effect, many of the engineering decisions, were Painters, as evidenced by the fact that he was jumped from Lieutenent, to Lieutenent Commander, to Commander, and then to Captain in rapid order. He was thirty five when he put on his four stripes. Rank meant nothing to Painter, however. Like most of the Seabee officers, he was essentially a civilian, and wanted only to get the job done and get out. He hates red tape, and his adventures in cutting it are Pacific legends. He would tell off an Admiral as quickly as he would a seaman second-class, and only his sheer ability as recognized by broad-guaged men like Admirals Moreell, Halsey, and Nimitz kept him from being canned. Painter tore around the South Pacific on all sorts of missions. Two days after the Marines had taken Henderson Field, he landed there in Admiral McCain's flag plane and began surveying sites for fighter strips Nos. 1&2. The Japs came over, Painters plane had to run off and he was left on Guadalcanal. When the old destroyer Mcfarland was hit, Painter patched her up and saved her. When we were ready to move northward "up the slot" Painter was sent to New Georgia to pick the landing and airfield sites. He sneaked ashore there and found a British colonial official who was hiding from the Japs with a small party of natives. The Britisher provided Painter with a canoe, a guide, and some bearers, and the party started on the water trip across Viro Harbor, which was held by the Japanese. A storm almost swamped the canoe before it could reach shore. Painter spent the night in a cave. Next day, as the wind became even stronger, he abandoned the canoe and set out to explore all the land around Viro Harbor by foot. With his native guides, he waded swamp for two days, traversed thirty miles, and concluded that a landing was not feasible at Viro. There was no site where an airfield could be built quickly. Painter left the Viro area, went to Segi Point, and found the spot he was looking for. Disguised as a native and in a captured Jap landing craft, Painter took soundings off Segi in full view of Jap land parties. Later Painter returned to Segi with a survey party and actually began work on the airstrip. The 47th Seabee Battalion landed there on June 30, 1943, D-Day in the Munda operation - and completed the airfield in ten days. This was only the beginning of Painters scouting experiences. He dressed like Davey Crockett. He flew thousands of miles, traveled in PT's and subs. He was fired on by Japs and Americans alike. He was on Northern Luzon looking for airfield sites long before the Japanese realized that they had last the Philippines. He has been other places, too, but the full story will have to wait.
  23. Thurman

    Seabee History WWII

    WHAT IS A SEABEE Between a Soldier and a Marine there stands an individual called a SEABEE. SEABEES come in assorted sizes, shapes and weights, but all have the same code: Enjoy every second of every hour of every day, whether at work or at play, and to protest by griping (their MOST treasured privilege) when issued an order. SEABEES are found everywhere: on top of, underneath, inside of, climbing on, swinging from, running around or more likely than not…turning to. Mothers and sweethearts love them. Airdales and Fleet sailors hate them, Company Commanders tolerate them and Chief Petty Officers drive them. A SEABEE is a composite, he has the appetite of a horse, digestion of a sword swallower, the energy of a mini H-bomb, the curiosity of a big cat, the lungs of a dictator, the imagination of Paul Bunyan, the slyness of a fox, the enthusiasm of a fire cracker and the spirit of a fighting ****. He likes: liberty, leave, holidays, weekends, women, chow, BEER, movies, geedunks, swimming, pin-ups, sleep and comic books. A SEABEE isn't too thrilled about: Duty nights, watches, taps, reveille, routine discipline, officers, drills, marching or secured heads. Nobody else is so early to rise without actually wanting to get up. No other person gets so much fun out of Liberty or Shore Patrol. No one can have so much fun on so little money or time. A SEABEE is a magical creature: you can chew him out, but you can't get the work done without him; he is dirty, unpolished, not squared away, often overbearing and sometimes reluctant. A SEABEE is a person of magical abilities: he can weld, build, drive, repair and fight all at the same time; he can destroy or he can beautify, instantly; he can make something out of nothing; work never tires him, nor does he seem to tire of it! His motto is "CAN DO", to which he adds "HAS DONE" and "DID", these frequently impossible feats are recognized in the form of a "WELL DONE" by everyone from the Commanding Officer on down. The average SEABEE is a thick-headed individual of a variety of nationalities. They won't admit to anyone or anywhere, except in the defense of their Battalion that they have the BEST job in the Navy. Without them, the Fleet would have nothing to talk about. Marines would have nothing to gripe about and History would have nothing to write about. GOD BLESS THE SEABEES
  24. Arrival at San Pedro Bay, Philippines October 28, 1944 - May 18, 1945 On September 26, a/b detachment of the 6th Special, boarded the Navy liberty ship AK 117, the U.S.S. Zaurak. The men of a/b detachment were told by the Zaurak’s crew that their captain had lost a ship to Japanese bombers off Tugali and that he was determined to settle the score. There was ample evidence that this was not just braggadocio in the profusion of extra anti-aircraft guns that were welded to the deck wherever they could fit. Compared to the average liberty ship the Zaurak bristled guns. Though the crew was inexperienced, they were as gung ho as their captain. Already veterans of too many air attacks, the Sixth NCB men shared none of the sailors’ enthusiasm for meeting the enemy at Yap. The Sixth Special's a/b detachment spent the month of October at sea. They left Bougainville on September 26 thinking their ultimate destination would be the invasion beaches of Yap. However, unbeknownst to the Sixth men, circumstances developed in mid September that led to a decision to skip Yap and some of the other preliminary operations, and strike directly at the central Philippines. The boredom of waiting broke when the Zaurak was finally ordered north, dropping anchor in San Pedro Bay, between Leyte and Samar, on October 28 after an uneventful trip. Things had not been uneventful in the waters off Leyte. Two days prior, the still formidable Japanese fleet made an attempt to destroy the American invasion force in Leyte Gulf. But though success was within their grasp they failed to seize it and in turn lost heavily. The Sixth men had missed the largest naval battle in history, which was fine by them. It was at Leyte that the Japanese first used organized kamikaze attacks. The Sixth men were veterans of many an air raid, but the action they saw while aboard the Zaurak in Leyte Gulf was of a much higher magnitude than they had previously experienced. San Pedro Bay at the northern end of Leyte Gulf, an area of 400 square miles, was filled with hundreds of ships. When enemy planes came over the guns of several hundreds of ships opened fire on them. With such a heavy concentration of ships firing, it was dangerous to be on deck. Low-flying Japanese bombers drew fire from all sides, fire that crisscrossed the crowded Bay and not infrequently hit other ships. On the Zaurak the Sixth Special men were assigned battle stations, some were stretcher bearers, others passed ammunition to the gunners. They were called to general quarters the day they arrived at San Pedro Bay. Merely defending his ship was not enough for the Zaurak’s captain. Determined to shoot down as many Japanese planes as possible he weighed anchor each night and positioned the ship at the end of the Tacloban airstrip. The Japanese attacked the airstrip nightly, and when they came the Zaurak’s gunners were in a good position to take shot of them. The Zaurak put up such an impressive volume of anti-aircraft fire that the Japanese took notice of her right away. Tokyo Rose announced on her radio program that she knew the Americans were moving a "cruiser" into position at the end of the airfield every night. The Zaurak’s captain was delighted with the compliment. These nightly moves and the enemy attention they attracted were not particularly popular with the Sixth Special men, who were eager to get ashore before their luck ran out. A few nights later it very nearly did. The start of November brought no slackening in the Japanese air attacks. On November 1 the ship was called to general quarters eight times, and during the more than ten hours that the gunners remained on alert the Japanese attacked twice. On November 2, general quarters was called seven times. The enemy attacked only once, but the men spent another seven and one-half hours at their battle stations. The climax of the enemy air attack came on November 3. General quarters was sounded eight times, and the men spent over eight hours at their guns. The Japanese attacked five separate times. At dawn the Japanese began a concentrated attack that lasted for over an hour. Formation after formation swooped in to bomb and strafe the ships anchored in the Bay. They had their first encounter with a kamikaze a minute after the attack began. Hurtling toward the Zaurak a single enemy plane was discerned in the glare of the searchlights, tracers, and gun flashes. The Zaurak’s gunners threw up a curtain of fire, the three inch and five inch guns thundering out over the roar of the smaller calibers, but the kamikaze did not waver. When it seemed as if the Zaurak was doomed, the enemy plane suddenly swerved as if it had struck an invisible wall, and its tail section dropped off into the sea. In flames and out of control the planes passed over the ship at masthead height and crashed into another liberty ship, the S.S. Mathew P. Deady, only 200 yards astern of the Zaurak. One Sixth veteran recalled how he had his foot on the rail ready to jump over board as he watched the kamikaze swoop in. The Zaurak’s 3 inch gun shot the tail off the Japanese suicide bomber at almost the last second. A Sixth man assigned temporarily to the Zaurak’s LCVP crew was on shore by the airfield and observed the whole drama. He and three other men immediately boarded the LCVP and rushed to the burning ship to rescue the men who had been blown overboard into the burning sea. Ignoring warnings from the stricken vessels crew, and with flaming debris still falling from the sky, the four men pulled 20 from the sea and rescued five more from a raft. Seven of the survivors were badly burned. Before the long attack was over the Zaurak’s gunners shot down another enemy plane. Nine Zaurak crewman and three Sixth Special men were wounded. On November 4 the men spent another seven and a half hours on alert. General quarters was sounded six times and five attacks were beaten off. There were no casualties on the Zaurak, but a Japanese bomb missed the ship by only 50 yards. The Seabees sweated out three more attacks before they started going ashore at Samar, on November 8. They were attacked six more times before disembarkation was completed on November 10. In the ten days that they spent afloat in San Pedro Bay they were attacked by enemy aircraft twenty seven times, and the air raids continued throughout November. On November 10, the danger of an approaching typhoon led to the decision to rush the rest of the Sixth Special ashore on thirty minutes’ notice. Their camp was still incomplete, but the blow tore down those tents that had been put up, and a wet miserable night was had by all. The storm’s eye passed about 01:11, but the gusts of rain and wind continued until dawn. After the typhoon the Sixth's camp was a flooded disaster area. The men reimposed order on their wind scattered camp, but the mud and floods were the constant companions until the dry season belatedly arrived in mid February. Vehicular traffic was impossible. High rubber boots were the normal footwear, and slipping in the slimy ooze was a way of life. Every day the stevedores had to wade through the mud to get to the beach. The Sixth Special commenced stevedoring operations in the Philippines on November 12, handling cargo on both ship and shore. All ships were worked in the stream. Approximately 29% percent of their time on duty was wasted waiting for lighters. It was not uncommon for men to waste their whole watch waiting on the beach for transports to the ships. The frequency of Japanese air raids in November also forced delays in cargo handling, 14% percent of the time the stevedore gangs were on watch they were on red alert. Between November 11, and November 30, the Japanese attacked seventy times. The ships in the harbor that the stevedores worked every day were the target of the enemy bombers, and "8" Sixth Special men were wounded during the month. It was not safe in camp either, shrapnel possibly from American anti-aircraft fire, fell in the camp during every attack. Other factors that lowered the Sixth Special's cargo handling efficiency included the great distances they had to travel just to get to the ships they were supposed to work. LCM trips of ten to twenty miles were not uncommon. San Pedro Bay has an area of about 400 square nautical miles, and it was full of ships in November. Sometimes the men spent their whole watch trying to find the ship they were to discharge. When the plans to develop the San Pedro Bay area into a major naval base were canceled, the Sixth Special was reduced to picking miscellaneous cargoes for the few naval activities that remained there. After December the enemy air raids became sporadic, and none were near the Sixth camp. By March the raids stopped altogether. After over six and a half months in the Philippines, and in the case of the majority of men in a/b detachment over 26 months overseas, half of the Sixth Special was finally going home. The 28th Special NCB arrived, and the Sixth was secured. On May 18, 1945, the men gathered their belongings and prepared to board the troopship S. S. General Hersey bound for Oahu, Pearl Harbor, HI.
  25. Thurman

    Operation Crippled Chick Korea

    Operation Crippled Chick ACB 1 Builds Emergency Airstrip Behind Enemy Lines By Steve Karoly A flight of seven Vought-Chance F4U-4 Corsairs slowly circles over Wonsan Harbor. Each pilot in turn glances at his fuel gauge. With fuel reserves short, they realize that their only option is to bring the fuel-starved birds down onto the deck and ditch them into the icy waters off Wonsan, North Korea. But this option does not comfort the flight leader or any of his squadron mates. To ditch, they risk injury. And these pilots realize that their squadron, VF 193 from the USS Princeton (CVA 37), would loose half its complement of precious Corsair fighter planes. After a fruitless afternoon searching for a downed naval aviator near Hungnam, the flight leader’s immediate concern is to find sanctuary for his flight. But they had spent too much time searching for their downed comrade. As they flew over the small task group of American destroyers and minesweepers, they knew they would be quickly plucked from the frigid water of the Sea of Japan by waiting boats. Seabees refueling seven Corsairs on Yo Do on July 15, 1952. Note the bold white "B" on the starboard wing of the first Corsair. Five squadrons used this tail code. They included VF 191 (aircraft: F9F-2), VF 192 (F4U-4), VF 193 (F4U-4), VF 194 (F4U-4) and VF 195 (AD-4). This option, later described as one that pits you "between the Chinese Dragon and the deep blue sea," would not be exercised that afternoon. For soon Radio Yo Do began broadcasting the call "Steak for dinner." Once he heard those comforting words, VF 193’s flight leader instructed his flight to bank their planes toward a 2,400-foot runway in the middle of Wonsan Harbor. The fighters landed at half past two on a rainy afternoon on an Allied-occupied island located some four and a half miles off shore in a harbor belonging to the enemy. Although North Korean gunners could, at any moment, lob hundreds of 76 and 105-mm. shells onto the runway, the pilots knew their chances of survival were greater on the island than in a yellow life raft. A small team of Seabees quickly refueled three of the Corsairs so they could return to the Princeton that evening. The remaining four were refueled in the morning before taking off for the aircraft carrier. The Corsairs and their pilots flew off so they could return to battle again. This was a day of jubilation for the Seabees. They had worked 19 long days to complete the emergency landing strip, dubbed Briscoe Field in honor of the commander of the 7th Fleet. The seven Corsairs of VF 193 were the first planes to make an emergency landing on the strip. How the airfield came to be The assignment to build the emergency landing strip on Yo Do fell to ACB 1’s Det. George. Led by Lt. T.E. Rowe, Det. George was composed of one warrant machinist, six chief petty officers and 69 Seabee enlisted men. Six of these Seabees proudly wore the blue, yellow and red ribbon for the Presidential Unit Citation, which was awarded to ACB 1 for the landing at Inchon almost two years earlier. A month after the September 15, 1950 landing at Inchon, ACB 1 moved to the east coast of Korea and again supported the 1st Marine Division. This time they landed at the port city of Wonsan as part of the 1st Marine Division’s shift from the Inchon-Seoul area to the northeast coast of Korea. While the Marines moved north to positions in the Chosin Reservoir area, the Seabees built piers and unloaded ships. Later that month, as elements of the 8th Army reached the Yalu River, the tide turned for the Allies when the Chinese Communist Army struck the 8th Army in late November. The 1st Marine Division came under attack on November 27, 1950. For the next three weeks, the Marines made their famous "advance to the rear" as they evacuated Chosin Reservoir. The 8th Army lost all the territory they had gained as they fell back. Inchon and Wonsan were evacuated and Seoul fell on January 4, 1951. By the end of November, all Seabees but one had evacuated Wonsan. This time Wonsan would remain in enemy hands for the rest of the war. To keep the Communists from using Wonsan, Navy Task Force 77 stepped its air interdiction efforts in the spring and summer of 1951. In the sixteen months since the evacuation of Wonsan and Hungnam, the Navy waged a campaign of destruction along the northeast coast of North Korea. Almost daily, pilots struck key transportation and supply points. But by the spring of 1952, the Navy recognized a problem. Scores of aircraft had been lost to the antiaircraft guns around Wonsan. One ship, the converted helicopter landing ship USS LST 799, had plucked 24 Allied aviators from the Sea of Japan. Most of these aviators were rescued in the vicinity of Wonsan. Destroyers waiting in the bay picked up many more aviators. These pilots had a choice: They could crash land in North Korea and face capture by the Communists or ditch their craft in the icy waters alongside an Allied ship. If a ship’s boat crew or rescue helicopter reached the pilot before hypothermia set in, he had a chance of survival. Although the plane was lost to the Sea of Japan, the pilot lived to fly again. But Lt. Col. Richard G. Warga, commander of the US Marine garrison on Yo Do Island in 1951, had a better idea. After interviewing several pilots who had ditched in the bay in the summer of 1951, Warga and his naval liaison, Lt. James S. Lampe, Jr., reasoned that the approaching winter would make survival difficult. So they recommended that the Navy build an emergency airfield on the island. Seabees build an airfield The 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Robert P. Briscoe, carefully weighed all the factors involved. A 1953 Navy press release characterized this analysis much like an accountant gazes at a balance sheet. While there were concerns for how the North Koreans would react to construction of an airfield, Briscoe felt that salvage of a single plane was worth the effort. In the end, it cost the Navy $5 milllion to save nearly $10 million in aircraft. An aerial view of the emergency airfield on Yo Do. You are looking at the runway from the harbor end. The runway is set on an approximate southwest to northeast axis. The southwest end of the runway is closest to the camera. This photograph is dated June 26, 1952, the day the Seabees finished the runway. The balance sheet would not be complete unless you consider the human factor. Dozens of pilots were saved from capture and possible death at the hands of the Communists. Damaged planes landed on dry land, thus keeping them out of the frigid waters off Wonsan. The remaining factor cannot be measured, which can be called the "comfort factor." As pilots circled over their targets, they knew that all they had to do was fly a few miles to safety if their aircraft was crippled by antiaircraft fire or ran low on fuel. On June 6, 1952, the Seabees initiated Operation Crippled Chick, the code name for the effort to build the emergency airstrip on Yo Do. Det. George, which was assembled for the job because all available mobile construction battalions were tied up building the airfield at Cubi Point in the Philippines, sailed on the USS LST 692 from Japan on June 3. The first obstacle that confronted the Seabees was how to beach the pontoon causeway on a beach that had a very shallow gradient. Officers on the beach were concerned that the Seabees would not get causeway high enough onto the beach to anchor it properly. But the Seabees had an answer: After they dropped the causeway sections into the water and had connected them together, these resourceful Seabees pushed the causeway onto the beach with the bow of the LST. An officer on the scene later commented that the Seabees off loaded their equipment in "jig time." The plan was for Det. George to have a 120-foot by 2,400-foot airfield operational in 45 days. Nineteen days later, on June 27, Det. George boarded an LST and returned to Japan, their mission complete. Seabees use a wagon-wheeled air compressor to drive the rock drills. It took four hours to drill to a depth of 18 inches in order to reach an adequate depth for blasting. They filled in and leveled the only rice paddies on the island, the only possible location for an airstrip. The runway ran from one side of the island to the other, bisecting the island. For the first 12 days ashore, the Seabees worked 16-hour days. On June 15, two days after receiving their first of two shellings from North Korean batteries on the mainland, the officer-in-charge reported that the runway was 50 percent complete. At that point it was 80-feet wide and 1,600-feet long. Eventually, the runway was widened to 200-feet. Det. George twice received shellfire from the North Koreans. On June 13, 21 rounds fell between 2015 and 2030. All it did was interrupt the Seabees’ work day. Det. George worked an extra hour to compensate. The log of the detachment again reported shellfire on June 21. This time 41 155-mm. rounds fell among the small boats kept on the island. There were no Seabee casualties.
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