I recently met a WW II vet.August 1 2011 at 4:37 PM
|john (no login)|
Last Sunday, after Mass, we were sitting down to coffee and doughnuts in the Parish Activity Center, where I had the opportunity to sit at a WWII USN veteran's table, although I didn't know it at the time. Jerry is a fine gentleman in his late 80's who is witty as hell and still sharp as a tack. He served in submarines throughout the war and went on several war patrols in the Pacific as a Chief Petty Officer aboard the USS Guavina and USS Tinosa. Usually these Sunday morning coffee bull sessions strictly revolve around the wimmen' sitting around the table and all of their endless, boring gossip, but last Sunday was like finding a truly rare treasure trove of first hand, facinating information. We must have talked for a good hour, trading war stories, me relating the tales I have read about and him telling me of his own experiences while out on patrol and about their returns to Pearl Harbor. He went to great length telling me of the wild times he spent on R&R at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, between war patrols. Somewhere during the conversation, his wife, who has advanced althzeimer's disease wandered off and he had to go looking for her. I didn't see him again that day, but greatly look forward to seeing him again next Sunday, so we can pick up from where we left off.
|August 1 2011, 4:41 PM |
Jerry is a crusty, old fart, who looks much younger than his 89 years would suggest. He could easily pass for a man in his early to mid 70's, so I would say that he takes damn good care of himself. Aside from being a bit hard of hearing and walking with a cane, he is in pretty good condition. After finishing his basic training, early in the war, he shipped out for advanced training aboard an old, O-Boat submarine, left over from the First World War. They were of single hulled construction, rickety as hell and handled poorly in a bad seaway. In Jerry's case, both their green, inexperienced crew and the old submarine were out in the the stormy Atlantic in the middle of winter, not only undergoing their final training, but hunting German U-Boats as well. He said there was almost as much water inside of the submarine as out in the ocean around them. Condensation dripped from the overhead both when submerged and while on the surface. Everything was cold, wet and damp the whole time they were on patrol and they always looked forward to returning to safe harbor.
His later war patrols took him from the South China Sea to the Japanese shipping lanes around their home islands. On a couple occasions they sustained severe enough damage from Japanese depth charge counter attacks, so that they needed to return to San Francisco on the US West Coast for major repairs. He said he'd never forget that first sight of the Golden Gate Bridge and their sub later put in near the Bethlehem Steel Works, where they let the repair crews put their submarine back into fighting shape.
When I mentioned whether or not he'd taken any R&R at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Oahu, his whole face softened and he broke out with a big, happy grin that his wife just wouldn't have understood. Admiral Lockwood, Commander of Submarines Pacific, requisitioned the entire hotel and turned it into a rest and relaxation home for submariners who were just back from war patrols, half a world away. Lockwood took care of his submarine crews and they got the very best of everything that was available in food, drink and female companionship.
Jerry was a Chief Petty Officer, so his job was being near the sub's executive officer and watching him plot the boat's course, among his other duties. He said that late in the war, the Japanese merchant fleet ran out of oil and their targets dried up, so that many US subs were reduced to making surface attacks with their deck guns on Japanese junks and sampans, of which Jerry's boat sank several. If I remember correctly lcm1, I think Jerry said they once put into Brisbane, Australia for a refit and reprovisioning, before going back out on patrol.
In 1980, Jerry was invited by the US Navy to take a day long cruise aboard a modern attack submarine and he jumped at the chance. He said it was the thrill of a lifetime to be back aboard a submarine once again and he was amazed at all of the modern conveniences that everyone took for granted. It surprised him that modern submarines wallow around and perform poorly, while on the surface, but they are faster than hell and smooth running when submerged. He said that the one constant, both then and now was that the food aboard submarines was the best in the fleet.
I'm greatly looking forward to seeing him once again this Sunday!.
more info part II.
|August 1 2011, 4:45 PM |
He said the worst depth charging he underwent was at the mouth of Cam Rahn Bay, off French Indo China, today's Vietnam in early 1945. The USS Guavina was loitering off shore after seeing a small Japanese convoy enter the bay the night before, so they waited outside for them to come out. The following day, the convoy left the bay and came into firing distance of the Guavina. They fired a spread of torpedoes that sank both the oil tanker and a transport ship. They in turn, were hunted with depth charges in the comparative shallow waters and even though their charts showed a depth of over 300 feet, they hit bottom at 120 feet, pushing the submarine's sound heads into boat. They lay doggo on the bottom for the next seven hours as the Japanese laid down pattern after pattern of depth charges, trying to destroy them. The submarine had trouble staying on the bottom because they hadn't blown their negative bouyance tank, so they waited for a close-by salvo of depth charges before blowing the tank, knowing that with the loud, swirling echoes of underwater noises, the sound of high pressure air escaping from the submarine would not be heard by the Japanese Destroyers listening on the surface. The Japanese dropped over 90 depth charges on them, some of them quite close and causing quite a bit of damage to the submarine. The periscope shears were broken, the radar mount also. The sub's wooden decks were splintered and much of her pressure hull was stoved in.
When the Japanese finally broke contact, the Guavina was able to surface, but was only able to stay there for five minutes at a time, because of Japanese aircraft flying overhead. On at least one occasion, the Japanese aircraft dropped bombs on them after they crash dived. It took them quite a while to finally get their batteries fully charged as they made their way to Subic Bay in the Philippines, where two US sub tenders were anchored. Jerry said that when they sailed into Subic Bay, he was amazed to see a number of US Cruisers and destroyers already there and he remarked at how huge they were, in comparrison to their much smaller Fleet Boat Submarine.
By this time, the Japanese Army had been driven into the hills, but bands of them would come down every night and shoot at the anchored US Navy ships at anchor in the bay. He said that one night, he had just put out some laundry to dry on a clothes line extending from the 20mm mount to the rails on the Cigarette Deck when the Japanses ashore opened fire. They were showing a movie on the fantail of a nearby cruiser and the Japanese gunfire shot up the movie screen, putting an end to the movie.
Jerry was able to get some leave time away from the boat while they were undergoing repairs at Subic Bay, so he and a friend went ashore armed with a Thomopson submachine gun and a couple pistols before meeting a local Filippino guerilla, who drove them around in an American jeep. They went to San Marcelino Airfield and he could still see the wrecks of US Aircraft destroyed in the air attacks of 1941 that had been pushed aside by the Japanese, as well as the Japanese wrecked planes that had been recently destroyed and pushed aside by the conquering US forces. He managed to pick up some great souveniers from the wrecked Japanese aircraft.
Jerry and his Missus' are still in the process of moving to a new apartment, so much of his wartime memorabilia is still in boxes. He's going to bring me a bunch of stuff in the near future.
|This message has been edited by johnbryan on Aug 1, 2011 4:58 PM|
Re: more info part II.
|August 1 2011, 4:51 PM |
Jerry said that he'd met most of the surviving US submarine skippers over the years via a number of veteran associations. Eugene "Lucky" Fluckey of the USS Barb, being one of them. He told me how they made their torpedo attacks by shooting a spread of torpedoes so as to hit the Japanese ship's bow, it's belly and it's screws to insure its sinking. He talked about the problems that US submarines faced with faulty torpedoes for the first few years of the war. We chatted about US Fleet Boat Submarines and the older S-Boat model subs that were only slightly newer than the O-Boats he first went to sea in. I told him the story of Captain Howard "Dinty" Moore's S-44 that fired a perfect spread of four torpedoes into the belly of the Japanese Heavy Cruiser Kako, off the coast of New Ireland, following the disasterous Battle of Savo Island in August, 1942, where the Allies lost several heavy cruisers to a night time Japanese gunfire and torpedo attack, while doing little damage in return. The S-44 took some of the sting away from that loss by sinking the Kako.
Jerry said that in his three years in the navy, he wore many hats and went from a Seaman frst class to signalman and quartermaster. On one occasion, while on the surface, he and the captain were on the bridge as a damaged B-24 was cruising overhead and they began signaling each other with a blinker lamp. The plane's pilot wanted the crew to parachute, but the Guavina's Skipper told Jerry to tell them to ditch the bomber in the water instead, because they might not find all of the crew after they parachuted. The bomber ditched nearby and the pilot and co-pilot were hurt in the crash, but the Guavina's crew were able to save them all except the tailgunner who never got out of the plane. They later rendesvoused with another submarine who was inbound to where a US Hospital ship was known to be, so they transferred the crew to the other sub via their inflatable life rafts.
In any event, our Sunday chat came to an end all too quickly and I shook his hand, telling him how much I enjoyed talking with him. His wife smiled and said. "Not as much as he enjoyed talking with you!" Hopefully, I will see him again soon.
|This message has been edited by johnbryan on Aug 1, 2011 4:55 PM|
Many thanks Johnbryan.....
|August 1 2011, 5:26 PM |
Has Jerry, or have you, thought of sharing his stories with a group who will preserve them for future generations? Maybe a group like the Veteran History Project being done by the Library of Congress?
Here is a link:http://www.loc.gov/vets/
It also looks like an excellent place to spend some time guys and gals!
|Loki Luv, MD°|
Interesting stuff !
|August 1 2011, 11:02 PM |
Thanks for passing it on !
|August 13 2011, 6:30 AM |
Have you had any more opportunities to chat with Jerry!?
In the past three weeks,
|August 13 2011, 9:09 AM |
I spent two of them with my parents in northern Michigan and last week, Jerry and his wife didn't come to the ten o'clock Mass. He was probably on vacation himself. I'm hoping to see him again tomorrow, so we can resume our chat sessions about his WWII experiences on submarines. I've missed talking with him a great deal and look forward to seeing him again. Before meeting Jerry, our usual Sunday post-Mass, round table sessions invariably centered strictly around the women, their lives, the kids, the usual gossip and etc. I would content myself by swilling coffee and reading the church bulletin from cover to cover for nearly an hour, until it was time to leave. Finding Jerry a few months back was that rare gem in the rough that you don't see very often. The guy is still lively, full of piss and vinegar, facinating as hell and he remembers things from WWII like it was yesterday.
Re: In the past three weeks,
|August 14 2011, 1:17 PM |
I didn't see Jerry again this Sunday either. The last I heard, he was planning on taking his whole extended family on another house boat trip down some lakes in Kentucky. That may be where he's been these past two weeks. The last time he did that, he rented two huge houseboats and spent a couple weeks on the water with his family.
Hot Damn! I finally saw Jerry and his wife today!!
|August 21 2011, 1:34 PM |
The reason for his absence over the past month was because the poor guy fell off a step stool and pulled his entire bookshelf down on top of himself. Jerry threw out his back, needed a bunch of stitches in both hands and he was still bruised black and blue all over. He was in good spirits today though and we had a great talk during the "coffee and doughnuts hour" following the ten o'clock Mass.
He told me that on one war patrol the USS Guavina torpedoed a munitions ship or gasoline tanker that blew up like a massive string of firecrackers. When they surfaced the boat to look for prisoners or valuable information material, there was no sign of any survivors, just alot of floating wreckage. Later, during another patrol, while they were shadowing another Japanese convoy, their radar went down and they had no parts with which to fix it. After radioing COMSUBPAC at Pearl Harbor, they were told to rendesvous with the USS Pampanito who had spare parts. Following the rendesvous, both boats resumed trailing the convoy. The Pampanito's Skipper was the senior ranking officer, so he ordered the Guavina to draw off the Japanese destroyer escort screen, while the Pampanito went after the convoy ships. This, naturally angered the crew of the Guavina, because they were the ones who originally sighted the Japanese convoy, but they followed orders. After the Guavina decoyed the destroyers away, the Pampanito was able to successfully attack the convoy ships, which no doubt greatly upset the Japanese Destroyer Captains who realized they'd been egregiously duped. Jerry said that he had visions of the Destroyer Captains committing hara kiri after being suckered into following the Guavina, while the Pampanito was blasting the convoy ships out of existance.
He said they would occasionally imbibe on some "secretly borrowed," 180 proof torpedo alcohol that was used to fire their torpedoes, but only during times of inactivity and relative safety. He said it made a pretty good drink when mixed with pineapple juice. I asked if the sub's pharmicist mate ever gave out any medicinal alcohol to its crew, but Jerry said he never saw that happen, because their Captain was a big diciplinarian. Their Captain would even oversee which records were put onto the phonograph for the crew to listen to and you could tell it was Sunday by the records that were played. Although a strict diciplinarian, the Guavina's Captain Lockwood was utterly fearless in battle. He preferred making surface night attacks on Japanese ships in order to give them a better chance at getting crucial torpedo hits on them.
He has about 35-lbs of old magazines, pictures, documents, guide books, war diaries and submarine log histories that are all boxed-up for me to see. He's going to loan them to me in the near future and I can't wait to pick them up. I told him that he should donate all WWII submarine material to a museum or university, because much of his collection is pretty rare and probably priceless. I'm looking forward to seeing him again soon!
Another bit of information I remembered.
|August 21 2011, 3:55 PM |
Jerry was fortunate to spend his WWII career aboard a "Manitowoc Boat" that was built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Those submarines were the most stoutly built boats in the fleet. The builders in that shipyard used twice as many reinforcing welds than were called for during the construction phase, making their submarines much more resilient to depth charge damage and nearly indestructable. The Manitowoc shipyard received the "E" for Excellence Award pendant and flew it proudly throughout the war.
|August 22 2011, 7:19 AM |
For which I shall reward you one "ATTABOY!" 999 more and you will be able to get a free cup of coffee!
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