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FILIPINO GUERILLA OPERATIONS
Lt. Albert Eldridge, Commanding Officer
The CRUISE OF THE MIGHTY 10 began when word was passed at Solomons, Maryland and Fort Pierce, Florida ordering each of the two groups which eventually made our crew to assemble and begin training as a unit. Sand and bugs at Fort Pierce and any number of things at Solomons stand out in everyone’s memory.
We cruised around the Chesapeake on a training ship, LCI(L) 694, more or less a menace to navigation. During that time we got to know each other, and then on July 28, 1944 we headed north for that great metropolis and hub of culture, BOSTON. For some strange reason all hands finally made the train before it started. Some even brought a little love and liquor along with them. Of course, the skipper knew nothing of that.
Boston was a great liberty town, despite the fact that we got no leave, except those with the “saddest stories you ever heard.” A side trip to Price’s Neck, Rhode Island, produced some of the greatest gunnery teams know to man! Side trips to Scollay Square produced other great teams about which the less said the better. There were also a couple of “ID” cards which disappeared and reappeared to Dowden’s discomfort. It’s a wonder we ever put the ship into commission. After weeks of running around, checking lists and manuals, on September 10, 1944, though, we finally did it.
What a mess that day was, and the one following wasn’t too good either. More odds and ends weighing in the neighborhood of a ton were squeezed into one-foot spaces than an ordinary person could imagine existed. Anybody want a can of Foamite? Or maybe a length of firehose? After the confusion of an inspection by Lt. Pierce was behind us, and a hurricane blew over, we started for the Chesapeake leaving Boston and its glories.
Cape Cod Canal….the Sound….dodging ships…..following the coast….learning our ship…..and heaving eaten chow into buckets or over the rail. At last we hit buoy 13 (instead of 12) and turned into the Chesapeake. Our journey paused for another inspection at Little Creek, Virginia, but soon continued with a four-striper as passenger, for whom the exec conveniently shortened the length of the bay – at least on paper. Was his face red when the bay didn’t cooperate!
While we were in port at Solomons, someone managed to convince Wilson he could take off his sou’wester, oil skins, overshoes, life belt and life jacket. The ship received a few new hands and then set about the shakedown work. The Shakedown C.O. and a cohort conducted a unique inspection. Of course, one of the handibillies caught fire during the Fire and Rescue Drill, but we came out with flying colors. After the inspection we re-stowed gear for the third or fourth time according to a new set of ideas. Holy smoke, for the day to come when we could be on our own!
Heading south for Norfolk the pollywogs thought our little cracker box was about to do a back flip and were much surprised that we ran the electronic range without falling apart. How those waves did roll! At Lambert’s Point in Norfolk we shifted things around at a great rate and got our first camouflaged paint job. Many made their last trip home for over a year, to come from that town.
By the middle of October we were in Key West, and acquired a dog appropriately named “Keys”. Another hurricane delayed our departure, but we managed to leave on the 20th so that we got a full month’s credit towards overseas time. On October 24 we arrived in Coco Solo, Panama after our first real blue water cruise. Anyone not seasick by that time could count on staying fairly healthy for the duration. In Panama we found a crazy assortment of sounds, colors, and new ways to spend money. Jordan came back to the ship with one of the most heart-rending tales of the war, details available on personal inquiry to the Pride of Texas. In a hard way Quartermaster Hansen learned not to ask questions of Panamanian police. If it hadn’t been for the inevitable military complications that would have followed, there would have been a few minor changes in the police force affected by our delegation from the Navy. But that was of no use, and Hansen remained behind.
On the 27th we chased some LSMs through the canal with steel-nerve Jordan at the wheel. When the men on the bow could pick leaves from the banks without stretching too far over the side, it was decided that maybe after all it was he who got the worse from his previous encounter, and he really needed a rest. Although we didn’t see much of the western section of the canal because of darkness, we did have a morning in Balboa when engine trouble prevented our departure on schedule.
On the first of November, the pollywogs changed into shellbacks when we crossed the Equator three times while standing into and leaving South Seymour Island harbor in the Galapagos Group. Full of oil and hopes the ship nosed out for Bora Bora, Society Islands. Our little sister, the Nine, headed the same way, but our varying times for drills and slightly different courses soon parted us.
Those drills were the bane of the existence of all hands, but in time they proved their worth. The first night-firing we did chasing flares from Gun #1’s star shells produced confusion and undoubtedly a few sore fingers, but when we went to general quarters at night in Hollandia or in early dawn in the Philippines, we had a least a hope that we knew what we were doing. Anybody remember any single fire drill in which all pumps were working at the same time? The unhandy Williams, correctly called handibillies, were probably more a center of attention, energy, and *!%&@, than any other type of equipment. There were times when it seemed that the three-inch hose was about to take charge of the whole forward deck. Who’da thunk a little stream of water could push two men onto their backs? Must have been on some other ship, though, for it certainly couldn’t happen to the crew of the Mighty Ten.
The Chief really did some acrobatics with the Foamite on the port deck, and gave a masterful demonstration of rowing on the high seas in a man overboard drill. Then, too, there were the GQ drills in which all hands had on long sleeved shirts, dungarees, helmets and life jackets; at least that’s what the book called for. Many was the time a disgruntled sailor had to wash paint because he thought the day too hot to bother with a shirt. (Willy Penrose never could seem to find his talker helmet.) To make it complete we had a special keeping awake drill for the midwatch when that friendly (?) sub started releasing recognition flares in the blackness. The story got around that the signalman and OD of the watch jumped from the conn to the main deck when the first one blossomed. Probably thought it was a traffic light and just wanted to be sure the blackgang stopped the engines in time.
Other incidents occurred daily. For some strange reason we didn’t find a single mail buoy all the way across. The exec gave skipper heart trouble when he fouled up a wrong “DR” (dead-reckoning) position with a wrong time of shooting stars to give a false position, the day before we made a landfall on the islands. Very peculiar when they didn’t show up on Slagle’s chart.
We no sooner got settled for a rest at Bora Bora, hoping for time to repair our generator motors which O’B (O’Brien) proved to be incorrectly designed, than we found that we were to leave the next day. O’B’s good, but needs more than a flashlight battery to run the works. What kind of a Navy would that be with no Joe-pots working? Finally the port director agreed to hold up the Nine until we were ready to proceed just in case our generators went out before we could get to Espiritu for voyage repairs.
Bora Bora was the prettiest island we saw. The bumboats brought the first real souvenirs, and all hands indulged in buying freely. Billy Dowden found a buddy from way back, and decided the world was a small tomato after all. Unfortunately our stay was short, and soon we were standing out, bound for Espiritu Santo.
The passage through Selwyn Straits around 0300 was an eerie event in a foggy atmosphere for anyone foolish enough to be awake. Sure enough, there was Espiritu, but it was too foggy to enter port without the fog cutters. If it hadn’t been for Jordan’s efforts in his search for them, we’d probably still be wondering how to enter.
With Espiritu behind us, we passed Bougainville, then slipped between Finschaven on New Guinea and Cape Gloucester on New Britain, and headed north for Manus. It seems that there are a few coral patches in the Admiralty Islands and that the Nine did not use radar to keep her position plotted when we were making that night run. After some plain and fancy reef-dodging in a cloudburst, we followed her into port. She had been setting the course, and oh boy, what a course she set!
In Manus we found that some of the Lawley super welding had not quite finished joining the skegs to the hull. Consequently we picked up new screws and a repair job in our first drydock experience. There, too, we met six other ships from our flotilla. The day after Christmas all eight of us were bound for Hollandia under Lt. Commander Hunt to join our flotilla commander, Capt. Arison. We didn’t depart, however, until Bill Penrose added a new chapter to his twenty-nine year melodrama entitled, “Everything Happens to Penrose.” Of all the people who rode in that jeep borrowed for a refreshing ride, WILLY had to get caught.
In the first meeting of CO’s at Hollandia, New Guinea, the Ten made an impression on the Flotilla Comander which grew as time went by. First he spoke of personnel not wearing jungle green clothing, and second of not having insignia painted on the ships. There sat the skipper wearing marine pants and army shoes. Back on the ship on the director tub for No. 2 gun was proudly displayed a royal flush in hearts with Ten uppermost. We hit the jackpot. That was only the beginning, though. When we went out on a training cruise, it was the Nine and Ten who had not received the necessary instructions beforehand because they were at the waterhole. After a debacle in which no ship completed the firing runs on the towed target correctly, all twelve proceeded at night to make a one hundred and eighty degree course change the nearest near miss of multi-collisions unrecorded in Naval history. By dawn the six which did not turn, and thus disappeared over the horizon, had returned so that nearly all ships were no more than a mile out of position. We won that prize too. Although we were nearer to correct station than the majority of the others, we were the first ones to hear from the boss. At that time Petey Pallotta misunderstood the Posit signal. Abbey got fouled up in the signal lamp cord, and it was then that the Flot Commander decided to join the Coast Guard. The meeting after the cruise commenced with Capt. Arison saying, “Who --- is --- the captain of the Ten?” And there sat the skipper without the slightest knowledge of the posit signal, etc. having occurred. Oh, the joys of the Navy!
When the second division went north for the Lingayan landing, we were left for the patrol duty which had been ordered because of the scare created by a torpedo bouncing off an ammo ship at anchor. Of course, the fact that we couldn’t know if there were a submarine right below us lent spice to the occasion. The night we got the order to investigate the sound of our own screws brought all hands on deck at the guns. Brother Slagle grew a little anxious when we neared the unknown radar pip (sonar buoys) and the conversation ran like this:
“Skipper, fire a starshell.”
“Ok, Ok, Ok.”
“Skipper, fire a starshell.”
“Ok, relax, friend.”
“Skipper, fire a starshell.”
“Look, friend take it easy and we will do what is necessary.”
“Ok, but if we’re going to play war, let’s play serious.”
Home run for Oklahoma.
We completed our duty at Hollandia with a bang. That was the APc which tried to cut in front of us in the inland channel to Jautefa Bay. On the way north to the Philippines, the skivvy wavers just about burst their buttons when they broke out the big, blue Sopus pennant at the foretruck because we were theoretically vice-commodore of the mighty armada of freighters, tankers, and amphibs. Several of the lookouts developed eye strain while watching the shipload of WACs on the port quarter, but we got to the islands before they went blind.
As far as we knew, we still had the code call of Grapefruit to the radio world. It seems, however, that due to a slight error, things had changed without our knowing it. Brown Jug 9 (LCS 9) and Dungeon Zero (LCS 10) had come into being in so far as the rest of the Navy was concerned, but true to form we were on our own. Who won the war, anyway? Amphibs, or course. After a night of dodging ships at anchor and underway, we toured Leyte Gulf in search of orders before we answered the new radio call. That call gave us the second nicest orders we received (the nicest told us to head Stateside). With the LCS 9 and LCIs 361 and 363, we were formed into Task Group 70.4 for the purpose of supplying guerrilla forces in the Philippines. We were taking over the duty previously performed by the underwater approach method of the subs of the Seventh Fleet. (They were the boys who hunted with fish instead of for them). Working directly for Admiral Kincaid in cooperation with General MacArthur’s intelligence group, we had the best duty in the fleet. February 1 we received those orders, and February 4 we saw our first guerrilla officers at Mambajao, Camiguin Island, just off the coast of northern Mindanao.
It was shortly after dawn that we stood off the pier. Through the glasses we could see many people on it and many more streaming down to greet us. We broke formation, allowing the LCIs which were going to discharge cargo to tie up first. As the 361 approached the pier there was not a sound to be heard. She slid silently toward the pilings, then reversed her screws to make her landing.
“Over two!” came the command from her conn.
“Over two!” from the deck.
The monkey fist preceded a gracefully arching heaving line through the air toward the assembled group ashore. When it was about in mid-passage, it seemed to be the awaited signal. A low murmur went through the crowd: ragged, motley, thin, tense people. One started to clap, two, ten. A shout…a cheer…the whole pier came alive with the joyful yells and cries and whistles. After three years of absence, the Americans were back! The Filipinos who had been fired on, had their towns burned by Japs, were once more in the fold. With great pride they took us around the remains of their town, showing us the large church, giving us drinks of their spring water which they claimed to be the best in the islands. There were also other drinks, but all hands learned to steer a wide course when that was mentioned. Tooba, it looked like tomato juice, tasted like?…and had disagreeable aftereffects.
All day we were honored guests at dinners and dances. We sang “God Bless the Philippines” and “God Bless America”, each to the same tune and each with the same emotional gusto. Unfortunately there was business to be done, however. Accordingly we departed that night for Iligan Bay, only a short distance southward.
The following dawn while the Nine was visiting Misamis on the west side of the bay, we tied up to the Iligan pier with the 363. Again the fond greetings. A band this time was on hand to give us “Anchors Away” while we tied up. What a strange feeling to hear a Filipino band play the Navy song way down there in the tropics ten thousand miles from home. Like a little catch in your throat.
None other than the governor of Lanao Province and the director of the Filipino Boy Scouts for Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago came aboard to express their welcome wishes.
Moros, trading the knives and other souvenirs, trip to the guerrilla headquarters in Dansalan for conferences with Col. Fertig, head of the guerrilla forces in Mindanao, dances, dinners, Maria Christina Falls, Ma and Nellie Morrison, Col. Hedges, Lt. Comdr. Wheeler and dozens of others were there then and during the many times we subsequently returned.
Off again at night, a rendezvous with the Nine and 361, Mambajao before dawn. (All that night traveling was to avoid the possibility of any Zeros getting curious about our movements.) We almost ran down a few Flip fishermen, but no damage was done to their boats all through the six months that followed. There were, though, other objects and places to be thought of in the damage line.
While we were waiting for darkness and the return run to Leyte, the skipper and Comdr. Charles (Chuck,Chico) Parsons talked of this and that. Parsons had been the mentor of the previous work by sub and was starting us off on the right foot by giving advice now and then as to what had been done previously and how we might best work with the guerrillas. He had a background as large as all outdoors in Filipino affairs before the war and exploits as long as your arm in spying activities against the Japs in Manila.
“I ‘magine there’re quite a few Nips ‘round here, Commander.”
“Helluva lot of ‘em right close.”
"Saaaayy . . . That so? How near?"
"Right over there--across the strait."
"Hmm. Doesn't appear more than twenty miles. Wonder how much hot water we'd get into, going over to say hello."
"Can't say. They have quite a few men, and are building barges in Talisayan."
"No, that's not the kind of hot water I mean. I mean we have no orders to go running here and there shooting people up. And someone back in Tolosa might not like my straying from the path on the first run."
"You're right. Some few can cause a lot of trouble. But there's a mighty nice concentration of them there."
"Think we could get at them?"
"They're right on the coast."
"Mmmm. Like to take a trip? Let's go look at a chart and see what kind of water there is down there."
That was the start of our favorite pastime. On the first bombardment by the Nine and Ten we knocked out barrels and barrels of fuel oil and gasoline, burned up the huts the Nips lived in. Our hearts were in our mouths when the Nine's "overs" missed her intended target and burst on the slopes in front of us; we were all tense when we skirted fifty yards offshore to look for targets; but we won our spurs by crippling barge traffic in the area when the fuel was destroyed. We were credited enthusiastically, but slightly optimistically, by Filipino reports with killing 600. It wasn't that good by any means, but it was a start that prompted Admiral Kincaid to congratulate us and allow us a free hand in future runs when the matter was brought up for discussion after the next trip.
Three days later we had returned to Leyte, reloaded, and were delivering more ammo, etc. to Sibonga, Cebu. That was the spot at which the Filipino ship pilot, Capt. Ayesa, saw double or triple when we took the task group right up to the pier. He swore it was not Sibonga. Commander Slagle's decision was, "Either the charts, the radar, or he is wrong." We took his word, though, and went off on a chase, only to return a little later. Again the crowds, the breakfast tables set with great care, the dances, and another United States citizen in charge of the guerrilla troops.
February 17th we were back again in the western Visayans, but this time in Upper Bais Bay on Negros Island. We had been given full clearance for roaming the coast after targets. While the LCIs unloaded their materiel, the Nine and the Ten bombarded the Japs in Dumaguette on the SE coast. Electric plant, Jap occupied buildings, barges offshore, installations, fuel dumps, all got attention from about 100 yards distance. No one answered our invitation to come out and play, so we went back to the LCIs after taking a look under the town pier to see if there really were any subs tied up there. Not a sign of one, except for a small fuel dump at the inshore end of the pier. Oil makes very black smoke, doesn't it? Just north of Dumaguette was the Jap-held town of Sibulan. After receiving a few rockets and shells, the Japs conceded the town to the advancing guerrillas.
The fourth mission culminated in the landing of supplies at Claver, Mindanao on the eastern coast February 23. We had Col. Fertig along as a guest that time and met Major Bob Spielman, a sergeant at the fall of Bataan who had been taken prisoner by the Nips. He was incarcerated at Davao with others, and explains his exit like this, "We got tired of it, so we left." A rough fighter and all-around soldier. That was a quiet mission for us though, and we made good use of the rest.
The fifth was a lulu. Tanon Straits to Toledo, Cebu after passing through the San Juanico outlet to Leyte Gulf. We left the LCIs at Toledo while we held reveille for Nips who had been playing hide and seek with Flips in San Carlos, Negros across the strait. Rockets, bombarding and then by golly we used our new toy effectively the first time. The 80 mm trench mortar mounted on our bow plopped white phosphorus into the Sugar Central ruins and brought the Nips out on the double. They thought it was gas. The Filipinos had a field day picking off the runners. In the meantime the Nine had taken a few rounds from a machine gun installed near the inshore end of the pier. Immediately she gave it her full attention. That was followed by general silence. To make it a perfect day, Dulak and Cline scored a bullseye on a barge tied to the pier. There goes that black smoke again.
Back at Toledo we tied up to the pier in novel fashion. With our bow against the narrow end of the pier, we snubbed her short with forward spring lines through the two bow chocks. The stern anchor kept us from swinging. John Paul Jones rolled over in his grave at that one.
That night we went northward again up Tanon Strait. At Milagros, Masbate we put supplies ashore from the LCIs, took aboard guerrillas under Filipino Major Donato for the first guerrilla amphib attack. On this run we had two substitute LCIs while the originals were being repaired. The 701 and 1074 were new at the beaching game in the Philippines and spent some thirty-six hours, collectively, perched on mud banks when the skippers plowed in too enthusiastically. Before we got to the target area, part of the guerrillas were put ashore south of the town of Dimasalang which we were to attack. As we swung through the straits at the mouth of the harbor, we received a radio message not to fire on the beach because the Japs were already on their way elsewhere. Nonetheless, we continued in with all hands at GQ. That entrance was one of the most spooky of the lot. Quiet bay, quiet jungle, quiet ships.
Close to the opposite shore we drew without a sound anywhere to be heard. We lay to. . . no firing on us. . . if they're there, this is their chance. . . still quiet. . . might be friendly Flips in the village by now. . . lie to until the LCIs get here. The news which came with the other two ships was that on report of a stray Filipino all troops had remained aboard for a free ride instead of splitting up for a two-direction attack and one group having to walk the distance. As the four ships were moored together for a pow-wow, Corsairs were spotted overhead. We tried to contact them by radio as previously arranged to tell them not to strafe and bomb because of the info received that the targets had disappeared. No sense in shooting up the town needlessly. No radio contact. Down the planes dove with guns talking, bombs putting exclamation points to their sentences. The little devils set fire to a good part of the place. As we moved up the bay to put the troops ashore, WHAM, a roar and concussion swept out of the town to meet us. The planes had done well. Ammo dump. By golly, if they didn't take their ammo, they planned to come back. No Flips in that town. The light spraying we were going to give the place just in case some had remained behind was turned into a full barrage. Rockets, white phosphorous from the mortar, forties and twenties pounded designated areas. The three inch, No.1 Gun picked off specialties. Ashore, the troops advanced, taking the town in about a half hour.
When our party went in, we found rotten food all set up for a nauseating breakfast in a filthy, stinking hovel the hastily departing Nipponese might have called a chow hut. A decent dog wouldn't have eaten there, nor even a self-respecting hyena. Among the captured souvenirs were flags galore, rifles, swords, etc. The prizes were the ammo, food, and, my friends, a 70 mm pack howitzer whose chamber was neatly stuffed with a round of unfired ammo. All they had to do was pull the lanyard for at least one shot before taking to the hills, but evidently they weren't interested. How droll that could have been. But then, one shot from them would have given their position away, and shortly they would have had much company in the form of explosive shells marked for them. Maybe they were smart after all.
After the LCIs stuck on the beach a few more times we headed south through San Juanico Straits to reload. It had been a successful run. The only remaining concentration of Japs was in Masbate City. Our buddies caught up with 120 of those who fled Dimasalang; eleven got pinned under the bombardment. Although the guerrillas had received fire on the shore, none had been hit. Only casualty was a careless young man who let a Jap hand grenade go off in his pocket. He was flown to Leyte in a PBM. We never did find out how he came along.
The sixth mission was shipping supplies to San Carlos, Negros Island, which the Flips now held because the rapid evacuation following our previous visit included another trip to Dumaguette on the southern tip of the island. That time we gave fire support to and allowed the Flips an advance up to the airstrip. Two new, pretty type A barges made interesting targets. Oil fires again. The Nine had Army Lt. Bill (Not-a-boom-in-a-carload) Cohen along with them as a demolitions expert who made up a couple of packages of explosives we planned on dropping under the pier where the midget subs were supposed to be hiding. No subs, and although the packages were dropped, no boom. Slight error again someplace. What? TG 70.4? Impossible.
After the bombardment the Nine took the LCIs to Jagna, Bohol, where cargo was put ashore. We took guerrilla officers to Sibulan where they joined their troops at the place we had bombarded not so many weeks before that we could forget what it looked like. At Jagna when the other ships stood in, crowds covered the pier. As the men went ashore, one leading Filipino said to Skipper Ellis of the Nine, "Sir, if these people dared, they would fall down and kiss the feet of the Americans who have come back." Captain Ayesa, Filipino harbor pilot, visited his wife and family for the first time in months. In fact, he visited so well he got left behind. After seeing his wife, we all concluded, “Mighty well worth being left behind for.”
The seventh mission saw the Nine and one LCI on the East Coast of Mindanao picking up Col. Fertig's headquarters company for removal to Iligan. We took the other LCI to Mambajao, Camiguin Island, and then scooted over to Bohol. There we captured a small Nip lugger which was anchored offshore and towed it to the town of Loay where we remained overnight. While we were lugger-snitching, the Flips had taken a town we bombarded for them and then retreated from it without having heard a shot fired at them in anger; the most disgraceful exhibition of Filipino courage we had seen. It was there the No. 1 Gun slammed those two shots perfectly through a window from 1500-2000 yards. The next morning we supported a guerrilla advance we couldn't watch. We fired on a town hidden by jungle and hills. Aided by Filipinos and firing where the chart said the town was, we actually did hit the place.
We towed the barge to Mambajao where we joined all the others, the two from the East Coast having arrived after a very rough run. Iligan again, unload, off for Lagonglong. At that town on the eastern side of Macajalar Bay we took aboard 380 troops and after an LCI or two went through the routine of getting stranded by the tide, departed for Talisayan. The scene of our first bombardment was the scene of our first mid-afternoon assault. Sort of a tea. The rocket’s white ballistics urged the Nips to the hills. Again a no-resistance landing netted excellent results. This time it was a total of two trucks captured (Coulson, O’B, Jr., and Walker had one running for moving captured supplies very shortly), ammo, rifles left by someone who had urgent business with the monkeys about coconuts or bananas, radio station minus transmitters, and the complete plans for the defense of the island of Mindanao. Later on when our army got into the war down there, that particular information was most helpful. Two steel barges, rice, etc. completed the list. Beery dear for the Joponees, sahr.
That landing was March 20. March 29 we were again playing slap the Jap; this time at Masbate City after we with one LCI had been to San Carlos Negros with another load of supplies. Before dawn the LCS 9 as lead ship (her skipper had won the toss for the position farthest inside the bay) nosed through the narrow entrance into the harbor. Our bow was about 100 yards behind her stern. Two red tracers split the distance in two when the guard on shore realized he had visitors. Inside the harbor we took position before the town proper and blasted targets on schedule. The LCIs had mortars for the first time. They filled the bay with 60 mm bursts. Pretty spray, wasn't it? A little scary at times, though. The Nine with her No. 2 twin forty did a precise decapitation of the machine gun pits on the military crest of the hill overlooking the harbor. Up to the pier went the 363. Over the side went a sailor who tottered on the crumbled concrete blown out of shape by air raids of a long previous date. Lines secured. Guerrillas ashore. In thirty minutes the town our Army intelligence deemed too dangerous for a direct sea approach into the harbor fell to seventy-five guerrillas after stalwart resistance by one Nip on the run.
The Nine soon should be sent out a reconnaissance boat to check the progress of troops who had come up by land from the rear. Bingo, ping, ping, ping. To the rear, March. Did they ever skeedaddle to the leeward of that steel zephyr directed toward their ship? Very shortly the boat had to make another stab at it, though. This time for the worthy purpose of moving wounded Filipino personnel from the front to rear echelon for treatment. Again they were fired upon. One perverse piece of lead almost changed their exec's (Ens. Hannah) personality. Another broke skin on a seaman, but they carried out their duty.
Then sister Niner got into trouble. She lost the use of both screws and drifted onto the beach. One hundred yards away were little men who disliked her. We closed in to aid her by towing her off. While deck hands rigged towing lines, they got a whiff of Jap gun powder at close range. "Get the hell off that fo'c's'le." By the way, that was one of the best executed orders ever given on any ship. Men hit the deck as if trying to take cover between the second and third coat of paint. On the Nine, they hid behind the anchor winch. Their engineer (Lt. (jg) Lathrop), viewed from our conn, looked like Roy Rogers a-gunnin' fer Bloody Butch of Daid Man's Gulch. Then Woody Pack and Billy Powers, ordinarily men who knew the law and saw to it the rules were obeyed (hmmm?) pulled a fast one. With no orders to do so, they leaped back to the fo'c's'le and completed the bending of tow lines. No lead hit or even came close to them. Nonetheless, Admiral Kincaid saw fit to agree that their example of fearless attention to duty deserved commendation. Bronze stars for the boys. The men on the Nine who carried the wounded guerrilla under fire also were decorated. Needless to say, the awards came after we had returned to port, not right there.
Another souvenir hunt; a long tow for the Nine; back we were in Leyte. We had learned before leaving that our friends had captured food, ammo, and one Jap Zero on the ground. The men reported killed by the blast that rocked the night air while we waited for the Nine to float free (the try for towing her off failed) were not found. We still didn't know whether it was caused by accident or was a trap. We did know, however, that the targets our deck watch pot-shotted in the dark were the Nine's men returning to the ship. The ninth mission took us to IIigan again after we stopped at Mambajao for the barges previously left there for repairs. After discharging supplies we took a company of men to Dipolog just west of IIigan Bay. They were to stem a Nip drive for the Dipolog airfield. Can do. Did do. The Nine and an LCI went to Claver, Mindanao on its east coast for troops while we with the other headed first to Mambajao prior to a night's patrol of Macajalar Bay sniping for barges, thence to Gingoog to discharge supplies. The officer conning the ship cut a bit too close to the sand bar NE from the island and our starboard screw reacted unfavorably toward being scoured in sand. In fact, it wouldn't work. On one screw we diddled the rest of the trip.
Supplies went ashore at Gingoog via a boroto bridge. The outrigger canoes serving admirably for tough, shoeless feet to trudge on while shoulders toted guns and food ashore. When we left Gingoog with men aboard, we were to rendezvous with the other two ships at Bilaa Point on Surigao Peninsula. Three hundred twenty troops went down the ramps to combat Nips on the tip of the point.
When the troops were ashore and on their way, we split into three groups. One LCI took Major Marshall of the guerrilla forces to a battalion Command Post on the east side of the bay. The Nine and the other LCI hit Cabadbaran to discourage any thoughts of the little brown men reinforcing the point up north. We pounded Buenavista to destroy supplies, and we did just that. Filipino observers who were spying on the Nips in the regions hit, and who had never seen us before reported:
"TWO AMERICAN LIGHT CRUISERS SHELLED CABADBARAN FOR FIVE MINUTES AT 14:30 X THENCE NASIPIT SHELLED FOR ONE HOUR BY SAID TWO CRUISERS PLUS ANOTHER SAME TYPE COMING FROM DIWATA POINT X UP TO 19:10 NASIPIT STILL BURNING X INFO CONFIRMED."
If our friends thought us to be cruisers, it may well have been true that their stories telling us the Nips were reporting us as heavies and battleships were true. Slight exaggeration of size, but under-estimation of value. Do I hear "Yea, Brother" from the multitude?
The Nasipit fires were started by the Nine, Ten, and 363. We went into the harbor and plastered the joint. By that time the 363 was pretty cocky about her use of the mortar and claimed she flattened the hut called a church complete with a Jap HQ. On our return trip, thar she stood, but then, it was only an LCI. Anyway, that fire really burned white-hot for a long time into the night, well after the time reported by the Flip. Remember seeing them forty miles away that night? The trip was profitable in other ways at the same time. The Nine potted two barges and a small oil dump, reconnoitered the pier for landing troops at a future date.
On the tenth mission while we were bound for lIigan with supplies, the 361 split her shaft. Back she went with the Nine. We went ahead with 363, discharged cargo at lIigan. At Gingoog we met the Nine with the LCI 429. The latter discharged part of her cargo, then left with the Nine with 220 Division Special Troops which they disembarked at Diuata Point west of Nasipit in order that they could come up from the rear onto the town, our next objective. They continued across the bay, locating the contingent which was to make the assault landing the next morning. We waited for the guerrilla chief of staff (exec), then caught up with the others after they picked us up on radar and guided us in.
Our landings were models of military procedure, form, and perfection. To prove the point, here is an operation order. These affairs usually cover reams of papers.
OPERATION HOGAN'S GOAT
18 April, 1945
Purpose of operation is to take and hold Nasipit area and airfield south of it as a prelude to capture of Buenavista. Approximately 350 Nips in area. From past experience, we can hope Japs will hit the road, and we will hit the road right after them - or at the same time. If they stay and fight, LCIs will remain offshore longer than now anticipated while gunboats clear beach area. In event of fire during rocket bombard-
ment, the 9 will turn to the East and the 10 to the West. (That is, of course, if the fire is of such intensity as to force withdrawal from rocket
Elastic Schedule follows:
Underway, Tinigbasan to Nasipit 0330
Rocket bombardment of Nasipit and Punta 0530
Grand Entry into harbor and close bombardment of
beaching areas 0615
Landing of shock troops 110th D.S.T. in the rear. Don't
shoot in wrong areas 0645
Landing beaches-Punta and Talisay (second choice of ramp on
Yes, Ralph, you can fire your mortar. The guerrilla G-2 says you didn't even touch the church steeple. But don't get anxious because you
simply must stay clear of the beach until the great, big, powerful LCSs find out if there are any guns with evil intentions in the area. No, not now, Coach, I'll tell you when you can come into the harbor.
Truly yours, s/ Albert C. Eldridge, Commodore, USNIP
(P .S. That "Commodore, USNIP" is just a joke, fellers. Thar wan't no Newnited States Navy in the Philippines as a regular outfit. Jest a jest on the idea that the guerrillas were really called U. S. Army in the Philippines afore Bataan.)
Which reminds me of a story. There was a boot ensign fresh out of the States who was doing duty on one of the LCItems we worked with. He'd heard the other skippers call me commodore - just naturally being wise joes. He thought, however, that they were serious. One fine morning he started a conversation, "Good morning, Commodore. What do you think of such-and-such?" in a very polite manner. Holy smoke. . . someone wise him up . . . this is the amphibious force. Trying not to grin and hurt his young feelings I replied with apparent naive seriousness, "Mother calls me Albert, and you may do the same." In his unbelieving eyes could easily be read, "This isn't what they taught me at Mid-shipman School." Then I grinned. . . he grinned. Amazing how quickly a man becomes used to the Navy.
Believe it or not, that landing went off according to schedule. After the bombardment the 363 put her men ashore just south of the bridge; the 429, outside the harbor, east of the town proper. We went ashore just behind the guerrillas, having the LCSs tied up to the LCIs which beached again after retracting to cover their sectors of support in case of a counter attack. For some strange reason the Nips never did have a thought of returning while we were there. Really a lot of captured gear that time: machine guns, rifles, two steel barges, twenty drums of gasoline, food, fuel oil, ammo from 105 mm howitzer to .25 caliber rifle. A truck and a sedan added to the total. The truck was another Jap Chevvy. Coulson, et al., soon had it carrying ammo to the pier for loading onto the ship to be sent to Leyte.
Not all the ammo was found that day. Later a large cache was found in the church claimed by the 363 to have been destroyed on our first visit. When the Nips started a counterattack three days after we had left the scene, the Flips fired the church. Explosions rocked the town; the Japs thought us to be returning for further support. Off they go into the wild green yonder. Just our reputation, fellers; that's all that was necessary.
With the landing behind us, we escorted the 429 to Iligan where she finished unloading, then back to Leyte where we met the Nine and 363. When we stopped off at the Eighth Army HQ to send two prisoners ashore, we had the fun of watching the Nips' eyes pop out as the DUKW kept right on churning up onto the beach and rolled on four wheels after acting very much like a boat in the water. Them damn' Yankees again, Heideki. In fact, both of them leaned over the side and about fell in while jabbering excitedly, pointing at the wheels.
The eleventh task was again taking supplies to Iligan and Gingoog. The side trip was a run into Macajalar Bay where with PT boats we gave an advance bombardment to Baluarte. When the firing ceased, Filipinos crossed the river north of the town to scout Nip positions. All large guns previously reported in the area had been withdrawn, including the one which had shelled a PT the week before. A party from the ships went ashore to meet the Filipinos and see the area. Nothing to be seen, so we left. Our bombardment cruise around the bay evidently discouraged any reoccupation of the area. When Uncle Sugar troops landed in the town of Agusan (landing area selected on the basis of information gained by our task group which reported all possible beach defenses, gave water depths, etc.), they found an undefended beach. If we had had our way, and the big timers had not insisted on bombarding before they went in, we could have completed the arrangements for the guerrilla band and put up the signs we had painted giving directions to guerrilla HQ, HQ TG 70.4, etc. Tsk, tsk, too bad they wouldn't take our word that they would have no trouble. The guerrillas really had that place in hand.
Returning to Balingasag (east shore of bay), we embarked troops for transportation to Butuan Bay in preparation for our next assault, Buenavista. After we bombarded the town, it was taken on April 29, 1945.
Underway from Leyte for the usual run, Iligan, then back to Gingoog. The Ten lay to at Balingasag while plans were made for the next move, and the Nine took 361 and 363 to Gingoog. They brought about 200 men back with them, who were to go ashore prior to US troops near Agusan. The US troops, however, were tired of unopposed landings plus Filipino greetings on supposedly occupied beaches, and wouldn't play ball. We did not put the Fils in because the commander sea forces and commander land forces were going to bomb and bombard come hell or high water. We left our men at Villanueva and departed for the East Coast with the 363.
At Tandag we slithered into the harbor between two jutting arms of land. A naturally well-protected bay, it had served as a stopping off spot for enemy subs from time to time. There the 363 became a cargo carrier for sure. Tons of rice were put aboard by Filipinos carrying it in woven containers from wooden carts on the pier into the well deck forward of the deckhouse. They even boarded off the after end of the steel bulwarks so as to have maximum usage of the area.
When we staggered into Gingoog Bay with the rice, we passed the Nine and 361 taking men to stem a Jap advance on the southern end of the Surigao Peninsula. At anchor were one or two LCIs who had brought back guerrillas who acted as aides for the US Army in their treemenjus attack on undefended Agusan and Bugo.
The thirteenth mission was largely food and fuel oil for Iligan and Gingoog. A shuffle of food supplies among the guerrilla forces completed that work. The Ten and 363 took men and ammo up the Agusan River to the town of Butuan. Really a beautiful scene running between the silent banks. That was our last run in the Southern Philippines, May 23, 1945.
June 2 we were off for Polillo Islands on the eastern coast of Luzon via San Juanico Straits, Samar Sea, San Berardino Straits. Our actual contact with guerrillas was established at Infanta on the mainland, June 4. Infanta is almost due east of Manila, but any resemblance to that opposite side of Luzon is a pipe dream. When the Japs left Infanta, they forgot their kinfolk. The swarms of flies made anchoring at 1500-2000 yards offshore a necessity. Might have been a fairly good idea at that. The time those friendly sojers popped away with M-1s at boxes in the water and sent lead whistling around our ears until some irresponsible soul gave them a few showers of salt water created by .45 slugs chattering in the ocean before them, that experience also taught us to stay way out. Then too, if we'd been in really close, the deck watch would have had a temptation to do his watching from a hut while building stronger friendship ties with our erst-while brother-scrapper’s women.
June 5 Lt. Hobbs and his Alamo Scout team went ashore in Casiguran Bay to get information on reported Japs. The Nine with one LCI strafed Nips along the shore while coming North to meet us. (We were now working with LCIs 364, Ensign Philips, commanding; and 432, Ensign Keeler.) While we waited for developments, we moved troops and supplies from Alabat Island to Infanta, Dingalan Bay to Infanta. On the seventh Hobbs, et al., scouted Palanan Bay well north of Casiguran.
The tenth we finally got in some pecks at the enemy. The usual dawn bombardment was preceded by the landing of troops from Co. A of Anderson's Battalion (guer.) with the Alamo Scouts. They set up an ambush on one side of the Japs, and then we shelled on the other. The Nips fell for the ruse, ran away from the shelling right into the ambush. Twenty Nips nipped, one Filipino. Citizens of Casiguran Town later killed the remaining four intruders.
The planned job at Palanan Bay seemed too big for the small number of men then with us, so it was deferred. Instead, we moved to the extreme northern end of Luzon with Co. A plus Lt. Hobbs' men and a newcomer (to us, but not to scouting), Lt. Dove. Dove was a wildman from way back. Operating from Ballesteros on the coast, we put him ashore with a Scout team before dawn on June 20. They found that the fliers downed previously on the island. and whom we hoped to rescue, had been beaten and then killed by their captors. For all hands the fighting took on a little more personal feeling. That was the first near-contact with barbarity.
On our way south we strafed and bombarded Nip positions on the northern coast. After buoying reefs off Polillo we continued to Leyte where we took a breather from the twenty fifth to July 4.
On Independence Day we were once more underway for hunting. The sixth we got the bad news that our request for a full scale operation (all four mighty ships) on Fuga Island was refused. Navy said, "No." At dusk July 11 we made contact with civilians outside Palanan Bay on the east coast of Luzon, got information for a landing. The next morning we bombarded and landed troops. On the beach we saw the remains of a Zero shot down previously by a U.S. plane. When a party went up on one of the hills near the shore to see what damage was done by the bombardment, a Nip log-reinforced outpost was found battered by a rocket from the Nine. The many hits in the area suggested that the men who left behind their gear had reason to do so.
Powers, Arnold, our new communications officer, Full-Ensign Rutherford (and he really looked full), and the skipper took a jaunt up the river towing the collapsible Jap boat with ammo and provisions and a guard of Flips. On the way back down, Powers ran into trouble, lost the Jap boat. The skipper and communications officer got stranded when the receding tide lowered the river water level and would not allow any boat to come up. They made the trip down in log dug-outs which drew about four inches of water and which scraped the bottom at that. Those canoes were the most delicately balanced things yet. The Filipinos jumped around in them as if they were on a Mississippi side-wheeler.
It was dark when the small party tried to paddle the Jap boat found on the beach back to the ship before the approaching storm set in. With a pole and a palm frond for paddles, we snailed our way seaward. Near the LCIs we were challenged, but when we got to the Ten, Big Bill Slagle had the #2 Gun trained on us.
The first time we tried to ambush Japs, it was no go. The second ambush party sent out made up of Alamo Scouts under a new leader and four naval personnel knocked off six Nips and a collaborator. After that we collected the Filipinos and moved southward again.
It was not all work, though. We did take time out to drink beer under the trees at a grassy spot. Our reason for selecting that spot was that at Jordan's request the ship was turned to investigate a large grassy slope on a mountain which looked so much like a piece of feminine apparel, he was homesick. In that same area we found large caves and a natural rock arch eaten out of solid rock by the sea. We talked with natives who spoke not a word of English or Visayan. We stopped in one little cove where we found nomads who knew not from whence they came, or whither they were bound. That, now, is the ultimate in indolence. Can't beat it. But right in the midst of those people stood a youngster who spoke excellent English. No rhyme or reason to education, is there?
Operation Beard took place July 21. The Fils were only about seven hours late opening fire from their position south of the Bambanan River. Captain Nakagome, commander of Jap forces in Eastern Luzon, was killed by an ambush set up on the basis of his previous actions (running up the river bed to escape our bombardment of July 10). He repeated his first reaction which was reported to us by an escaped collaborator, and then tried to fight his way out of the trap. If he had been taken alive, he would have been the highest ranking officer captured on the island. His diary gave information on jet propulsion, Jap intelligence concerning our fleet and task force composition, Filipino political leaders and collaborators. One commander was also killed, plus sixty-one others. Two Filipinos wounded each other.
On the twenty-sixth at Masanga River area fifty more went to their ancestors. Again food and ammo were destroyed. The next day the Nine and the 432 left for Leyte and repairs.
With the 364 we bombarded Lagiun Bayan (Shark Town) south of Infanta on July 29. The Flips caught up with eleven Japs while a Navy party from the LCI killed four and captured one. Again the usual capturing of rifles, a machine gun, etc. which hasty departures do not include.
That was our last action. In Leyte we started preparing for a run to Borneo to take Dutch native troops up a river, but someone called the whole deal off, Hirohito by name. "Enough!" he said, so we came home. Well, not right away, but our work was done. The Chief (Langlinais), O'B (now a chief, also), and Tillman were first over the side for demobilization. The Chief, however, was just going Stateside for the ride. He was all set to ship over again.
That was the beginning of the breaking up of the crew. Others trickled off here and there. The ship went to Manila, back to Tacloban, Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshalls, Pearl Harbor, Frisco. The Golden Gate well before '48. In fact, four years after the Pearl Harbor disaster, almost all our crew members were in the U.S. to stay. That was the date of the grand entry under the Frisco bridges. By the end of spring, 1946, Jordan's "Great Speckled Bird" was quiet. Her men had laid her up for a long rest, well protected, ready for service if the need comes again
She was not just another ship. She had an honorable record. She had a crew with a spirit out of proportion to her size. Many small ships are not thought by their crews to be of any great value. To be sure, we realized our work was nothing in comparison to the war around the world. We filled, though, a definite need. We helped men who otherwise would have continued to be held in check and abused by masters. We came not as masters, but as friends. We joked about the size of our task group, the freakish operations we dreamed up, the mortar and other whims of the skipper; complained of drills, officers having to swap duties and learn details of departments other than their own, of seamen learning flag hoists, of long watches, of loading ammo only to spend it again shortly. There were imperfections, mistakes, troubles without end, yet we did our work. That work was appreciated.
Here are two samples of appreciation:
HEADQUARTERS TENTH MILITARY DISTRICT
Adv CP, APO 159 8 May 1945
SUBJECT: Letter of Commendation - Task Group 70.4
TO: Commanding General, Eighth Army, APO 343
1. It is desired to make the activities of TG 70.4 commanded by Lieut. William Eldridge, a matter of record. They have landed approximately 600 tons of badly needed supplies in areas outside the operation of American troops. In addition, they have engaged in 4 amphibious operations. These operations were made against isolated Japanese garrisons. Guerrilla troops were loaded on the LCIs of the TG and landings made in each case under fire from the LCS units of the group. Successful landings were made at Talisayan, (Misamis Oriental), Ananaon, (Surigao), Cabadbaran and Nasipit, (Agusan). In each case the
enemy were driven from their positions and with the exception of Cabadbaran the enemy garrisons were annihilated. Large quantities of supplies, both ordnance and quartermaster, were captured. During the present operation, terminating approximately 18 May, troops will be landed at the vicinity of Butuan. This operation expects to eliminate remnants of Japanese garrison in Agusan. In addition to these operations they have shelled the coast of Tagoloan River to Cagayan on several occasions. Then activities in conjunction with guerrilla attacks forced the enemy to withdraw from the beaches at Macajalar Bay, allowing the American units to make an unopposed landing.
2. It is desired further that a copy of this letter be passed to the
Commander, Seventh Fleet.
s/WENDELL W. FERTIG, Colonel, CE, Commanding.
And that was not all. To his commendation was added the congratulations of Lt. Gen. Eichelberger of the Eighth Army, the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, General MacArthur of the Southwest Pacific Area, and the Commander, Seventh Fleet. Admiral Kincaid went even farther, he recommended our task group for the Navy Unit Commendation. It was not granted by the Navy Department Board of Decorations, but the following statement shows in a general way what the fleet thought of the task group, and our ship was one-fourth of that group. His suggested citation said that the task group should be given the commendation:
"For distinguishing itself by extraordinary achievement and
meritorious service in connection with operations against the enemy in the S. W. Pacific Area during the period 24 January to 23 May 1945. Task Group 70.4 aggressively and cooly proceeded in many hazardous missions in unswept waters close to enemy held shore installations supplying guerrilla forces, furnishing fire support and bombardment and transporting and reinforcing guerrilla forces who were attacking the enemy in the vicinity of allied occupied positions. Serious damage was inflicted on the enemy by bombardment of ammunition dumps, oil depots, and motor barges. The Task Group contributed materially to the success of the operations against the enemy throughout Visayas and Northern Mindanao in the Philippine Islands."
From those words we can be assured that our efforts were not in vain. The hours at general quarters, the days of disturbed rest in port, the breaking out of crew and officers in the middle of the night to take on supplies, put them ashore, or accomplish repairs, plot a course, check a position. . . those deeds seldom are noticed, yet it was they that made possible the results for which we were praised. The insignificant gave birth to the spectacular. If our crew had not been a strong unit, there would have been hesitation in capturing a lugger. If our crew had had poor spirit and no sense of discipline, there would have been no men at the guns when the odds seemed stacked for receiving fire. If the United States we grew up in had not given us the start it did, if we had not all mentally agreed when we first sailed to work well together for the common good, the Mighty Ten could not have existed.
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