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USS LST-66

Stories from LST-66


A HERO ON THE USS LST 66
All the men of the USS LST 66 were heroes just as all the men who served on the LST s were heroes. As A matter of fact all the men who serve in the armed forces both past and present are heroes including those at home who helped to win all the wars we have encountered.

I want to write about a special hero who was on the USS LST 66 and what occurred on November 12, 1944.

His name is Robert Goldman, Pharmacists Mate Second Class.

We were participating in the second invasion of Leyte, Philippines Islands. As we hit the beach near the city of Tacloban we began to unload our cargo and troops when all hell broke loose.

The sky was filled with enemy planes, which started to slam directly into ships in the harbor. The ships that were hit were large transports. These were the first suicide planes of the war.

As we completed unloading, aboard came an Army group called Jackal Communication Battalion who had landed ashore on D-Day minus 3 in order to set up communications. This was done in order to help direct the Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers and other heavy artillery bombardment units to bomb the enemy on shore. This bombardment was to soften and destroy the enemy before our landings.

This Jackal Communication Group was tough but they were so happy and relieved that they were on board and were ready to go back to a rear area for a well-deserved rest. One of the men had a white parrot on his shoulder. He looked like Captain Hook from Treasure Island. But they were happy. Happy that it was all over for them for a while. Most of them hung around the fantail near the three inch fifty six cannon gun tub and the 20-millimeter guns for some safety while showing us their souvenir. I spoke to them for a while as they were telling us about their exploits. Later I went forward to the focsle to take a close look at the beach and the palm trees and the up sloping topography. Over the high area forward I saw two P- 38s fighters zooming straight up as if to avoid our ship from being gunned down by us. At that very instance I saw and heard this roaring Japanese Kamikaze (suicide) plane with the meatball markings almost 15 feet directly overhead that is forever imprinted in my brain. I immediately heard and saw the crash and explosion on the rear starboard side of the ship. My job and station was to go to the wardroom to tend to the wounded. I ran to the section of the ship and there I saw Robert Goldman giving a morphine shot to Robert Hardman. HIS legs were almost severed and pinned down by the hot metal of the forty-millimeter gun tub that was twisted and curled around his legs like cut up sardine can. Harden was in agony and Robert Goldman was still aflame and smoldering. He continued helping the wounded with great resolution and seemed to have the situation well in hand. Everything was hot and carnage was all around us. I have never seen nor will I ever see how instantly men can go into action and do the correct things right now. There was a Quartermaster Second Class, whose name I cannot recall, (maybe some of the fellows may recall his name), who immediately picked up a cutting torch and so professionally started to cut the metal around Hardin in order to free him.

Poor Hardin passed away later.

It seemed that Robert Goldman was initially on the main deck talking to the Army Lieutenant with the parrot when the plane struck. That Army lieutenant together with his parrot and several Army men died immediately.

The plane came crashing into the 40 millimeter gun tub, killed all the men in the tub, pushed the gun into the main deck into the 20 millimeter guns below and killed more men and crashed into the water.

Here are the words of Robert Goldman as he described in his article, "The Death Wind". "I was on fire! At first there was a warm comforting feeling and then nothing but searing pain. Instinctively I rolled on the deck to smother the flames. However, the deck had been sprayed with gas and each time I was still on fire. A shipmate finally smothered the flames with one of the padded life jackets.

The place was the beach at Tacloban, Leyte Island, the Philippines. It was November of 1944. I was a crewman on USS LST 66, a pharmacistís mate. We had been attacked by a Japanese Kamikaze (suicide) plane. All day long ships in the Leyte harbor were under attack by the Japanese. The attack on my ship came without warning. The Japanese plane came in from behind the mountain. We had been loading army people to take them back to Hollandia in New Guinea for a rest. I had been speaking to a lieutenant about the white cockatoo he had on his shoulder. After the attack there were white feathers in all directions and the lieutenant was dead. The plane, when it struck, hit the boat deck and skidded to hear where we were standing. It exploded and gas and metal fragments were strewn about.

As a pharmacistís mate I was supposed to provide medical assistance to those aboard ship. Because of the discipline of my training, and though I had been hurt, I sought out casualties to give them help. I went up to the boat deck, and found Harden, a seaman in the 40-millimeter gun tub. The wing of the plane had sheared his legs. I gave him some morphine from the aid bag I carried, and along with others got him to a small boat for surgical treatment. Harden asked about his legs and I told him they would be all right. His response was, "as long as I can get home to Mon." P>S> Harden didnít make it. Seven were killed that day, and thirteen wounded. One, a motor machinistís mate, came up from the engine room to see what was banging against the hull of the ship. He was one of the dead.

I worked with the doctor to treat the wounded, and I was the last to be cared for. The dead skin was cut away from the burn on my back. It was cleansed with tincture of green soap and then vasoline gauze was applied to the burned areas. The doctor examined the rest of me and found shrapnel from the exploding plane in my legs. These were treated and I wan the other casualties were transferred to a surgical LST in the harbor.

We were placed in compartments below the main deck and all the rest of the day we heard guns firing away at attackers from the air and on shipping in the bay. We waited till a convoy war formed going back to Hollandia. On arriving there we were taken to the Naval Hospital. There were no medical personnel in the sick bay we were taken to. However, there were medical supplies and I treated the shrapnel injuries with powdered sulphur drugs.

Ultimately I was returned to a navy hospital in San Francisco, treated there, and placed on a troop train made up of wounded and sent to the navy hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. They tried to get us to the facilities nearest to home. It made it easier for family visits. Three months later I was discharged from the hospital, and sent back to limited duty in the third naval district (NY. NY). While in the hospital in Virginia I received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal with V."

Robert Goldman, because he was a corpsman like us, was the last to be treated and administered aide. He knew this, waited and did not say a word.

That was the last time I saw Robert Goldman until 57 years later at the USS LST 66 Reunion Reno, Nevada May 2001.

YOUR A BETTER MAN THAN I AM ROBERT GOLDMAN. GOD BLESS YOU.

Peter M. (Casanova) Chase, PHM 2/c USCGR
244 Cresta Vista Drive
San Francisco, CA 94127
415 584 9430
Email PMMChase@.COM


CAPTAIN CAPTIVATES CREW

Ahoooooy Mates. This is your old pharmacist's mate Peter M. (Casanova) Chase, PHM 2/c, talking to you from the main deck of the USS LST 66. We are under way heading for Batangas. We just left Buna. I like Buna. Reminds me of Key West Florida without the houses. I am standing on the main deck just forward of amid ships. I canít stand the diesel fumes that come off the funnels. I told MM 2/c Charley McWilliams to do something about that odor. At night I place a stretcher under the 3 inch 58 gun tub to sleep in a cooler area. But what is the use. That diesel fumes hits me in the face and I have to go below and hit the sack in a bunk near one of those roaring vents.

Enough of my troubles. Iíll talk to the chaplain, if there is a chaplain aboard ship, and see what he can do about the weather. I want to talk about our Captain. He has had four commands, one of which is this present Command of the Good Old USS LST 66. He is a very talented man. He is a great lifter of weights. He can handle cargo with his bare hands likes you never seen. He must have had a weight lifting job, of one kind or another, while working his way through college, in order to supplement his income.

It happened this way. We had the privilege of becoming the ammunition ship in the invasion of Zamboanga. Zamboanga: A seaport in the Philippines on the South West Corner of Mindanao. Population 136,000. This happened a couple of months ago. As you know, we are part of the great LST 7th Amphibious Force in the Southwest Pacific Area which consist of 36 LSTs. Twelve are Coast Guard LSTs Having about 90 men and officers who are, well just say, wanted for their superior qualities. Those qualities are stamina, resoluteness, courageousness, intelligence and tremendous ability to follow orders.

During the conference, prior to the Invasion, Admiral Barbey wanted to know which ship wished to volunteer to be the ammunition ship. Well guess who held up their hands. It was Captain Frank D. Higbee and Commander C. H. Peterson who indicated that Skipper Wendall J. Holbert of the LST 66 would volunteer. Volunteer: A person who enters naval or military service of his own free will without being compelled to do so, by law.

You should have seen the convoy on the way to Zaboanga. On our port side was the convoy and we on their starboard side was us about 20 miles distant. Believe me, we felt very much not wanted.

When we arrived at good old Zamboanga, "Now hear this. Now hear this. Sweepers man your brooms. Sweepers man your brooms. Clean sweep down for and aft. Clean sweep down for and Aft. Oh, that was boatswain mate 2/c, big gabber, Jack Shirmansky. He likes to hear his voice over the loud speaker. Sorry about that.

Alone! Boy we never felt so all alone as during that convoy.

There was shooting all over the place. We had the Marines aboard, the 16th air wing, and even they ran for cover almost dropping their knives, guns etc., knowing if we were hit by motor, artillery fire or rifle shot, we would all go up sky high.

We were the last LST to hit the beach about 5 in the afternoon. The other LSTs were pulling off the beach and were forming the convoy to go back to Batangas, right now. They were in a hurry to get out of the area because things were hot. "Now hear this. Now hear this. Now hear this. The smoking lamp Is out throughout the ship. The smoking lamp is out throughout the ship. " There goes Jack Shirmansky again. We are taking oil aboard. So I have to kill this Lucky Strike Green cigarette.

While on the beach, with the bow doors open and the ramp down, it did not take long to get the trucks off with the heavy ammo. You know, the five hundred ponders etc. The flame throwing fluid was also on trucks. We still had, in the tank deck, cases after cases after cases of fifty-cal. ammo to unload right now. In order to get off the beach and join the convoy, we the crew joined in and started to unload this ammo. But it takes a lot of time. And guess what, here comes the Captain to see what is holding up the unloading. Captain Wendell J. Holbert didnít even wait to roll up his sleeves. He started to lug those 50 cal. cases with the rest of us. Nobody said a word. We were sweating and moving the ammo as fast as we could. Then the inevitable happened. One of the cases fell on the Captains foot. Not damaging him badly but enough so that it was noticeable.

We kept on unloading until every bit of ammo was off. Enemy fire was still very extensive. The sky was black with ack ack bursts and the shore was red, like molten lava, with mortar and artillery bursts. This unloading operation took about several hours and our convoy was gone and it was nightfall.

As we pulled away from the beach and were about fifteen miles from shore, the ammo on the beach was hit and blew up. What a display. We maintained full flank speed ahead, which was about 6 knots. You must remember that our ship is pretty worn out and tired. There we were at sea all alone in the dark about ten at night looking for our convoy. We were sick with worry because there is nothing like getting lost in enemy waters, at night, without any convoy.

At last we caught up with the convoy at about three am. O300 to you. Guess what? It was recommended that the Captain receive the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his gallantry of which he refused laughingly. He knew that he and the crew would be laughing all the way back to the States. If we ever get back.

Well, that's all for now. I have to go to sick bay to give Warren Dace, Art Beakley, Nick Cirillo, Joe Doll, Rich Hoge, Hap Holden, John Propin, Pierson Sockwell and Marty Warnke their shots. No, no, no. Not tetanus shots. We are at this time rehearsing our going home party, if we ever get home. So at this rehearsal we pretend to have 190 proof ethyl alcohol and pineapple juice as part of the celebration. Our medicinal brandy was and is reserved for our wounded. Remember, alcoholic beverages are never, never allowed aboard ship. You see, our sick bay is a sickbay by day and night only.

Hey Socky, any mail today? Whatís the movie for tonight? No, not Laura again. We have seen that dumb movie ten times.

Peter M. (Casanova) Chase, Phm 2/c
244 Cresta Vista Drive
San Francisco, CA 94127
415 584 9430
Email pmmchase@aol.com


MORE TALES OF THE 66

I received a letter from a great guy by the name of Elmer A. (Dutch) Dykens, MM 2/c of the USS LST 66. The reason why I write these words in the present tense is that the LST 66 is still sailing through the various islands in the Pacific. All the crews and captains are still aboard. If you ever get down to the South Pacific Area look around and you might see her in the mists around Batangas, Buna, Cape Gloucester, Saidor, Biak, Mindoro, Hollandia, Balikpapan or even Zaboanga fully loaded with Ammo. You cannot get rid of the LST 66 and us the crew. But getting back to Dutch Dykens I promised I would write his story and submit it to some future paper that could be called the Scuttlebutt. The letter is written in five segments.

The first segment is about one of our great skippers by the name of Wendell J. Holbert. We had 6 skippers aboard the 66 at one time or another and they were as follows.
1. Lt. H. A.. White, USCG
2. Lt. JG William H. McGowan USCGR
3. Lt JG B. C. Reed USCGR
4. Lt. Wendell J. Holbert USCGR
5. Lt. George K. Wagley USCGR
6. Lt. Kenneth P. Howard USCGR

They are still aboard the ship right now. If you ever have a chance come aboard and I will present them to you together with all the rest of the guys. They don"t want to get off the ship and they never will.

[But getting back to old Dutch Dykens. This segment is called.


THE SAGA OF THE CHICKENS

Dutch, being a Motor Machinist Mate 2/c, is assigned to one of the small boats as the engineer. It is an LCPR, Landing Craft Personnel Ramp. It is still aboard. You can see it if you go by the ship. Captain Wendell J. Holbert loves that boat because it goes so fast. He uses it to take himself and some of the other officers around.

One time the Captain had the opportunity to go to an R. and R., Rest and Recreation, on one of the small islands. This way they can get away from the crew and the ship and quaff a couple of cases of that great exquisite, exotic 3.2 percent beer. We have still have some of it aboard. If you ever come by, come aboard and have a drink with us. Well this Island has been cleared of Japs but the natives are still around and intact and they have some wonderful practices and superstitions. They love to worship pigs and they love to have chicken fights. They would nurture a big pig until the lower teeth grew into a complete circle. Then they kill the pig, roast and eat it and use the teeth as ear rings. With the chickens they use for food but as they love to gamble they have rooster fights. Captain Holbert thought that this is wonderful and decided to purchase 2 fu____chickens, I mean 2 fighting chickens because it would be fun for the guys. HA, HA, HA, HA, HA . After the chickens were brought aboard, one of them disappeared, supposedly over the side???? A few days later the skipper made a surprise inspection of the main engine room. What do you know there was the second chicken cooking away on an electric hot plate. The Old Man did not get angry, but intended to participate in the feast. No, he was not angry just a little ballistic. After all, he had traded his shirt and pants for those two birds. So help me, its the truth just contact Dutch at his other home as follows. He is on a thirty day leave right now, home with his wife Jayne.

Elmer ( Dutch) Dykens
MoMM2/c LST 66
2593 Tanglewood Lane
Lake Havasu City AZ 86403
Tel. 920 855 7429L


JAWS

Dutch Dykens will give you this one straight from his own lips.

"We, on the LST 66, were proceeding through one of the narrow passages between islands, with no lights on, as these islands were still in the hands of the Japs and we did not want to draw their fire for any reason. The small boat I was on is still that LCPR, Landing Craft Personal Ramp. Not like the other boats LCVP Landing Craft Vehicle Personal. It had a narrow three foot ramp rather than one full width of the boat. The LCPR was the skipper's favorite as it can really get up and go. We had let all the passengers off at the ladder and had tied on to the hauling davits to be pulled up the side of the ship. The three of us, seaman, coxswain and the I the engineer were still in the boat. Up the side we went until the davits started up their track. The stern cable was fouled and run over by the davit wheel and was cut. The stern of the boat dropped into the drink like a stone. We, the crew, were thrown in along with any loose objects, batteries, water breachers, tools and guns. Needless to say we had to dodge to keep from getting hit. Now we three in the water, had life jackets, thank goodness, with little signal lights called red I.D. lights that were pinned to the jackets. The ship was underway dragging the boat along the side but not us. The ship was leaving us in the drink alone. Shortly I felt a nudge and oh my gosh we were in shark infested waters. If it is possible to sweat in the water that was what I was doing. and a lot of it. As black as it was at 2300 hours. The next LST behind us picked us up and we were O.K.. but thoroughly shaken up. The LCPR had to be and was eventually repaired and put back in service". In Dutch Dykens own words.


CLOSE CALL

"The invasion of Leyte was quite a success". (still in Dutch words). "We dropped our load and went back for our second. We arrived at our landing area and was upon the beach, bow doors wide open and our big ramp down, discharging our second load. We were at general quarters as I was active in the aft repair party. The telephone system had broken down and there was no communication between the after and forward repair parties. The officer in charge of my (aft) repair party sent me forward with a note for the forward repair party officer. While I was at the 40 millimeter gun tub forward, two planes come over. The first plane was a Jap Zero being chased and gunned by an American twin tailed persuit plane. As the Zero got over us, I guess he figured he had it anyway. He dove his plane into the after port 40 mm gun and down onto the 20 mm guns just below it. He did a good job of killing five of our crew. Listed are Hugh C. Norenburg, Seaman 1/c from Fresno, California - Clyde E. Gourley Seaman 1/c from La Porte Indiana - Harold E. McGehee, Seaman 1/c from Dixon Missouri - Earnest J. Harden, Seaman 1/c from Philadelphia, Pa. Louis E. Mader MOMM 2/c from Appelton Wisconsin. Louis Mader was in the main engine room and came up on deck for fresh air and was replaced by Dick Mullencamp. Both Dick and I were not to be taken at that time. Fate plays tricks on us as I happily was with Dick Mullencamp at our first reunion after 56 years".


FREE ROOM AND BOARD

"Our Lingayen Gulf Invasion was quite hectic It involved heavy gun fire from Jap gun emplacements and mortar fire also. While we were on the beach discharging the cargo, quite a few of the Army passengers were hit by shrapnel. The three of us, small boat crew, took them from our ship to an other LST that was set up as a hospital ship.After we got the troops aboard the LST skipper would not let us leave as it was to dangerous. There were Jap patrol boats all over, machine gunning anything that moved including their own boats they could not identify. They put me up in one of the passenger bunks until morning as this was a night operation. Years later I met an LST er here in Lake Havasu that was a crewman on the LST hospital ship. Gus Castallano and he remembered the incident. If he reads this. Hi Gus."


AUSTRALIAN MARINES

The Balikpapan Borneo invasion was nasty. It included shelling, mortar fire and machine gun fire. The passengers we had were a lot worse. They were Australian Marines, (Tommies), tough! These guys were TOUGH. About four hours after landing our Skipper (Lt. Wendell J. Holbert).granted us, not liberty, but a jaunt ashore. I went with several other fellows. We were all armed as I recall with 45s, carbines and tommy guns. We did not need to use them as the Aussies had done a superb job of clean up. Where we landed was a large oil storage area and a prisoner of war camp. The Japs had imprisoned many Dutch oil field workers, men, women and children . By the time my crew landed they had released the prisoners. As we proceeded we saw a Dutch lady with her baby in her arms bayoneted to a palm tree. She was bayoneted through together with her child with one lung. About 50 feet away was a semi live Jap soldier spiked to a tree stump by his private parts. He had a little knife in his hand. I guess the Aussies were not that sure he did the bayonetting of that woman but they were not taking any chances. He had a chance of cutting himself loose or ending it all. We collected a few trinkets at Balik-Papan. That was our last invasion. The ship by then had made 29 invasions and was rewarded with 8 battle stars. The second biggest award to an LST in battle. I sure appreciate the whole crew and especially our fine skipper (Lt. Holbert), who came to our reunion also, our ships doctor LT. Ed. Drucker. After some 56 years. My what a thrill" He is daydreaming of the future..

Now remember Dutch Dykens, we the crew and Holbert the skipper, do not want you to go AWOL. Oh by the way, come back with your sleeves rolled up because you are due for shots according to Doc Edgar Drucker, Doc Paul C. Irvine, corpsmen Elton Lewis, Robert Goldman, Frank Nixon, Chief Harry Foster and me. We are all aboard and waiting for you.

Also, if any of you guys want to get in touch with our Hero Robert Goldman. He is aboard but his wife Dolores will forward all his mail to the ship.

Write to
Robert Goldman
33 Branbury Lane
Bloomfield CT 06002
860 242 9905
rgol393147@aol.com

If any of you fellows come around this way, come aboard. We have Lucky Strike green cigarettes, that went to war, at 50 cents a carton

ńny of you LSTers on the beach at this time, give yourself a break. Take a busman's holiday and visit the LST 325 at Mobile Alabama. That visit will prove that all LST s have never been scrapped or sold.

Also, there is a rumor going around that they will be forming a group called the UNITED STATES L.S.T. ASSOCIATION which will have reunions for all us salts every year. Don't miss this deal you will not regret it.

Peter M. (Casanova) Chase
244 Cresta Vista Drive
San Francisco, CA 94127
Phone 415 584 9430
pmmchase@aol.com.


ACK ACK OF THE 66

While we were on the good old USS LST 66 on our way to Manila, we stopped in Batangas. It is a wonderful port. Many nice people live there and are very hospitable.

Well one day a cute little mutt came aboard. He was very friendly and loved the crew. He enjoyed each and every one of us. He loved to eat rice and hated meat, but we didnít care because we needed a pet and he sure filled the bill. Then one of the fellows decided to call him ack ack. The name seemed perfect because when one of the fellows would call, "Here ack ack" his ears would perk and he would come a running. His tail was wagging all the time and just loved to be petted. When we petted him he would roll on his back and seemed to enjoy it so well that it even had us enjoying him all the more. He was a smart little fellow. He quickly learned to fetch things and obeyed us very well. Sometimes the fellows would get jealous if he would place more attention on one of us and not the other, but that poor mutt but seemed to love us all. He was also territorial so that if any outsider would try to handle him he would object with a few barks. He did not think to well of Marines and felt the same about the Army. He was strictly a seafaring dog.

At sea he was a champ. It seemed that he was able to handle the helm and be able to take the four-hour watches like it was inherently bred in him. Who knows, he may have been a descendent of Leif Erickson dogs and therefore was part of his instincts?

All went well until we went to sea. Everything was going great. Ack ack seemed to have the situation well in hand. He was doing his duty. Then it happened, we had general quarters and gunnery practice. The clatter of the 20 MMs guns, the Thump thump of the 40 MMS and the whump whump of the three inch fifty six really did it. He went berserk and hid. He would not come out from hiding place, as we looked everywhere.

When we finally got to port, hit the beach, opened the bow doors and lowered the ramp, ack ack came out from hiding. He scurried down the ramp with all the guys chasing and calling his name but to no avail. He disappeared into the jungle.

We were all sad. We all went through the jungle and looked for him calling his name. "Here ack ack. Here ack ack!" Tears where in our eyes. The whole Crew was in despair. We were thinking of having a funeral.

Several months went by and as we were traveling from Borneo to Suva and from Subic Bay to Leyte we. finally ended up in the area where ack ack had left us.

I was up front looking at the beach and behold what to my eyes did appear but ack ack. I could not believe it. I asked the other guys. "Hey fellows is that ack ack?" All the fellows looked and said. "Yes. Yes that is ack ack." Way in the distance. So we all yelled. "Hey ack ack! Here boy. Here boy. Here is your old crew." Ack ack heard us. His ears perked up. He stood at a attention. You could almost surmise that he was thinking who are those that are calling me? Who knows me? He started to run in our direction with his tailing wagging and in such a happy mood. Then he stopped. You could see the wheels turning in his head. His head was tilted like that famous dog in the Victorís Corporation advertisement in "His Masterís Voice." It was all coming back to him. Those guns pounding and pounding away and pounding away. That thunderous earth shaking noises that had the metal shaking beneath him. He did a screeching halt a one eighty and ran as fast as he could leaving a cloud of red dust behind him. Never to be seen again.

I wonder if ack ack was and is smarter than we are. Are dogs smarter than men? Were we kidding ourselves?

If any of you guys ever see ack ack please some how communicate with him and ask him why he left the good old fellows of the USS LST 66.

We forgive him and want him back.

Peter (Casanova) Chase PHM 2/c
244 Cresta vista Drive
San Francisco, CA 94127
415 584 9430
pmmchase@aol.com


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