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NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive
Rod Fogo, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division's wild ride in USNS LST-546
The LST 546 picked up at least a part of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division at Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan on or about Friday afternoon, the 24th of Sep, 1954. The ship was loaded with equipment including trucks and tanks and a significant number of soldiers. The following morning Saturday Sep 25, the ship departed and sailed down the western coast of Hokkaido arriving in Tsugaru Straits at Hakodate in the early hours of Sunday Sep 26. We hung out in the harbor for several hours as there were severe weather warnings of an approaching typhoon. About 6 pm the Harbor Patrol ordered our LST 546 and the Ferry boat, Toya Maru to leave the harbor area, as they deemed it unsafe to dock in the high winds and surf and they said they were afraid our anchors chains would break and cause an even worse problem. The Toya Maru was very close and left about 5 minutes before our LST. About 10 pm that evening, Sunday, Sep 26, the typhoon hit with full force. By that time we had sailed for 4 hours so it seemed to me we were out in open ocean or at least a lengthy distance from the harbor. About the same time as the Typhoon hit, the LST 546 started taking on water in the hold and the Captain sent out an emergency as the alarm bells went off all over the ship. All hands were ordered to the top enclosed deck area for a quick briefing. We were told the ship was sinking but the Captain was trying to head the ship towards the Hakodate shore several miles away. Apparently the engines were at full throttle and one caught on fire and sent smoke up through the internal ventilation system to the area where the soldiers were, making it extremely difficult to breathe. I think they had to shut down the troubled engine and we didnít make as much progress thereafter.
We were told by the officers to take off our boots and pull the boot laces out and tie them around the legs of our pants, I guess to provide additional buoyancy in the event we were in the water. Most realized if it came to that, there would be little need for buoyancy in 40 foot waves. About 11 pm we were overjoyed to feel the jolt as LST 546 hit the beach really hardóso hard in fact for several days thereafter the Navy had a difficult time even with several powerful tugboats to free it from the sand.
Unfortunately, the Toya Maru capsized less than a thousand yards away with a loss of life of about 1200 mostly Japanese citizens but a couple of hundred US citizens who were on board. We could see the upended keel of the Toya Maru with binoculars.
The troops on board the LST were transported to shore with a string of small Japanese fishing boats and the Japanese Military provided trucks to transport us to a grade school exercise compound in a Hakodate suburb. We ate cold c rations for about 6 days giving most of them to Japanese grade school children who peered at us through the windows and who passed by during their lunch period.
I was assigned to the MPís to go out to the beach to help identify the 200 US Military personnel who had drowned. I remember seeing the shoreline lined with wooden caskets as far as the eye could see to place the bodies in of all who drowned. After a day or two the smell was horrific.
LST 546 was still on the beach when another LST arrived to carry us on from Hakodate through the Straits and down the east shoreline of Honshu to Shiogama near Sendai where the troops would be stationed at Camp Schimmelpfenig. Our equipment arrived a few days later presumably after LST 546 was freed from the beach.
s/s Rod Fogo
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