U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program
COAST GUARD CUTTER Ingham (WPG-35)
Mediterranean and Pacific Operations 1944 - 1946
by Dean Colbert and Robert Carter
Edited by Mike Hamrick
The following is an account of the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham's last convoy run to North Africa in the summer of 1944, her conversion to the "Command Ship" configuration at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina, the assault landings in the Philippine Islands, and post-war missions in China and Taiwan (then Formosa).
Although my initial purpose was to condense a mass of material and information into one account that could more easily be stored and saved by my family, I received so much information from my old shipmates whom I have been able to contact that the account is now such that those who wish will be able to pass the story on, adding their personal recollections for the grandchildren. Our hope is that these recollections may give them an appreciation of the U.S. Coast Guard and especially our Grand Old Lady, the Cutter Ingham, when they visit her at Patriots Point, Charleston, South Carolina.
My special thanks go to Captain Karl Zittel, and all former Ingham shipmates who contributed to the following account. While compiling this material, my respect and pride for the U.S. Coast Guard has been renewed and strengthened. This, of course, means pride for the officers and men who serve and perform the many difficult, complicated and sometimes tedious tasks exceedingly well; and then when called to the defense of our country, they have performed heroically whenever faced with dangerous and difficult missions.
CDR. Dean W. Colbert USCGR (Ret.)
Seal Beach, California
March 31, 1993
Last Convoy Run to Africa
By Commander Dean W. Colbert USCGR (Ret.)
Stores were still coming aboard as I reported aboard Ingham May 27, 1944, at the Brooklyn, New York Navy Yard. After salutes to the quarterdeck, the Officer of the Deck granted "Permission to come aboard," then took me and my orders below to the Executive Officer, Lt. Commander C. B. Medd. After a brief "Welcome aboard," I was assigned the upper bunk in Chief Engineer Lt. Clarence Deardoff's stateroom. Commander Medd explained that the entire ship's company was making last-minute preparations prior to getting underway the following morning for Norfolk, Virginia to pick up a large convoy of merchant ships which we would escort across the Atlantic to North Africa. Further, as this was the last night of New York liberty, beginning at 1600 hours, (4:00 p.m. local time - only several minutes away) my first assignment as newest junior officer was to begin immediately as Officer of the Deck.
It seemed that most of the crew went ashore to spend the last night with loved ones (mine were in San Francisco!) or perhaps to "splice the main brace." Following the mass liberty exodus, I had time to think about my new assignment. It was quite clear that I was most fortunate to be assigned to Ingham, one of seven, 327-foot, Secretary Class Coast Guard cutters. All had remarkable records. Much national attention was drawn to the U-boat sinking of Ingham’s sister ship, the Alexander Hamilton, and the Campbell had rammed and sunk the German submarine U-606 in the North Atlantic on February 22, 1943, the first really good news in the battle against the U-boats during the "Bloody Winter" of 1942-43. These events made headlines across the country and in Britain. Life Magazine carried accounts, along with incredible paintings of this action by well-known marine artist, Anton Otto Fischer, who served briefly as a Lieutenant Commander in the U. S. Coast Guard, and was on board Campbell during the sinking of U-606.
Only five days before I reported aboard for duty, Ingham’s skipper, Captain Karl O. A. Zittel had done the same. A 1932 Coast Guard Academy graduate, Captain Zittel had much experience with the 327-foot Secretary Class ships. Beginning with duty on the Cutter Taney from 1936-39, he served as Executive Officer on the Cutter Spencer, and was to be Ingham's Commanding Officer during my onboard duty assignment which ended in 1946. During this period, those who served with Captain Zittel in the Pacific theater of WWII held him in highest respect for his competence and achievements. To his former shipmates Captain Karl Zittel will always be "The Skipper."
Underway the following morning, Ingham, now flagship of the convoy’s Escort Commander, a U.S Navy Captain. The Captain, who had the code name "Zeke", was aboard with us heading for Norfolk, Virginia. In Norfolk, we quickly refueled, took on last minute supplies and assembled with a large convoy of merchant ships and a few LSTs; the convoy was designated GUS-17. Our destinations: Bizerte, Tunisia, North Africa.
Ingham's war diaries for May and June 1944 have been lost, but we are certain "Zeke" was actually Commander of the entire Task Force 65. Ingham, plus COMCORT Div. 58 (Commander of Escort Division 58) in USS Price with five destroyers; and COMCORT Div. 62 in USS Otter with seven destroyers). Our call sign was "Zeke" and the Destroyer Escorts were "JIG 11, 12, 13," etc. The French destroyer would occasionally go off station, perhaps on a U-boat sound contact. When directed to get back on station, he would call on the TBS ("Talk Between Ships") radio frequency assigned: "Zeke, thees ees Jeeg 22" etc., giving an explanation in broken English which sometimes irritated "Zeke."
I was assigned as Junior Officer of the Deck, Assistant Censoring Officer, and Foul Weather Gear Officer. Duties for the latter consisted mainly of inventory now and then, and when I was relieved of these duties, I was not displeased. Later, I was assigned as Educational Officer, which required my assisting crew members in obtaining correspondence courses and educational materials while away from home port.
Underway, it was a world of standing watches - four hours on watch, eight hours off. The Senior OD assumed ship maneuvering duties in accordance with the Commanding Officer's knowledge and directives. This was a time of training for the Junior Watch Officers. At times, the Junior OD was given the conn for zig-zag station keeping. The other watch standers in the engine room and on the bridge also were under his direction. Enroute to North Africa, it was a world of drills as well. Drills constantly on gunnery, damage control, man overboard, and the famous "fire in the paint locker (or magazines) drill." We drilled until all these routines became familiar and could be performed automatically by everyone. The time flew past although our underway speed was very slow - as slow as the slowest merchant ship in the convoy. The eight hours off watch was hardly a time of boredom. General Quarters at dawn and dusk, drills, watches, then maybe a quick shower and a few hours sleep before the next watch. Watches changed at midnight (mid-watch) 0400, 0800, 1200 (noon), 1600, 1800, and 2000 hours, and each watch was stood with the same crew members from all departments respective each watch period, day after day. On Sunday at 1800 hours, the watches were dogged, i.e., shifted ahead four hours.
On June 6, 1944, underway in the Atlantic, approximately ten days off Gibraltar, there came the electrifying news that the allied armies had landed at Normandy. The first news stories were very sketchy, with accounts of heavy resistance in horrendous weather conditions. We welcomed the news of a successful invasion as information became available to us over the ship's public address system and in the ship's news.
Nearing the Straits of Gibraltar, our screen of destroyers reported increasing U-boat activity; also, the possibility of German air activity was very real. Church services on board ship the last Sunday approaching Gibraltar were very well attended, indeed! Several days later, a fast convoy of troopships passed us after we were inside the Mediterranean. We heard rumors they had an air attack, but we had no official confirmation. With Ingham proceeding under modified general quarters conditions, all crew members manned their respective battle stations on board with helmets and life jackets an arm’s length away. Most meals were eaten at battle stations; all watertight doors and hatches were securely dogged and everyone was ready for immediate action. June 26th we arrived off Bizerte, noting it was south of Sardinia and west of Sicily and Malta.
Our flag officer, "Zeke," Commander of Task Force 65, turned the huge convoy, GUS-17, over to his counterpart in the British Navy. Several LSTs accompanied Ingham and the other escort vessels into the harbor and anchored with what seemed like hundreds of allied merchant vessels of all descriptions. A few days of liberty were a welcome relief from our 26-day crossing. When liberty was granted, we wasted no time. Cool drinks and fresh food were top priority. We obtained a personnel carrier from the U.S. Army Motor Pool and were able to drive around a bit during our five-day layover, act like tourists, and play a few games of baseball. Ingham departed for New York July 1st. Our ship’s war diary for July, 1944 states: "Ingham screening the van of convoy GUS-44 enroute to New York City, with Commander of Task Force 65 in Ingham, accompanied by 12 destroyers, (one French) . . ."
While underway with the convoy, Ingham screened the "van," in other words was "on the point" of a V-formation of destroyers which covered the front of the convoy's ten columns of 110 to 120 merchant ships. Other destroyers would cover the port and starboard flanks, working up and down the columns and the rear of the convoy, guarding against the submarine threat aft and constantly sounding for submerged "contacts."
By this time in the war, Germany's forces had been well-mauled by the allies, and air cover provided by the U.S. Navy aircraft flying off "Baby Flattops" was almost continuous. Passing through Gibraltar to the west, we sailed close by the North African coast so as to shield our ships from the the long-range German radar to the north of the coastal mountains. This tactic had its disadvantages as well, since German JU-88 torpedo bombers from bases behind these mountains in Southern France could approach beyond our radar view then quickly spring on us in a surprise attack. Their tactic was to sweep in low below our radar then hop over the mountains. For this reason, we maintained General Quarters between the Eastern Mediterranean and Oran during dawn and evening when visibility was low. Fortunately, Convoy GUS-44 was not attacked.
During the trip back to New York, we drilled as usual although our routine by now had become our daily way of life. As we steered westward, other vessels in GUS-44 departed or joined our company to or from other destinations. Here again, the war log entries note that three of our destroyers departed the convoy for other duty on July 2nd and 3rd. On July 9th and 11th, we met eleven merchant ships, two with towed vessels being pulled along by heavy hawsers. This towing of inoperative vessels was common practice in order to utilize the cargo tonnage they provided, whether or not the ships were capable of making way on their own steam. By July 17th, ten of the destroyers, the tanker, USS Polaris, and seventeen merchant ships with three tows, had broken off from the convoy, some going to Gibraltar as we passed, others to Oran and Bermuda.
During the return trip, there was considerable excitement when we learned that Ingham was to be converted to an "AGC Command Ship" configuration at the Charleston Navy Yard. The old 5-inch/51 caliber guns, which took loads of bagged powder were to be replaced by the new director-controlled, 5-inch/38 caliber, turreted guns which took loads in brass casings, and whose firing rate far exceeded the present ones. The new 5-inch/38 guns were suited for either surface or aerial targets. The sound dome on the hull for tracking submerged U-boats with sonar was to be removed as were the anti-submarine warfare "Hedge Hogs," "K-Guns", and stern-mounted depth charge racks.
New superstructure was to be added to house twenty-five radio transmitters, thirty-five receivers, a combat information center (CIC), and many other improvements. Ingham was to be equipped with the latest electronic equipment that was available at the time, including the newest radar and many antennas. The cabin would be upgraded to provide quarters for RADM Arthur Dewey Struble, USN, and his Chief of Staff; added berthing spaces were to be squeezed into every available cubic foot to accommodate the twenty-six additional U.S. Army Signal Corps personnel who would operate the new communications equipment. The CIC would have its own specially-trained staff of five U. S. Navy reserve officers who would work side-by-side with our crew once the conversion was completed. It was an exciting time for all.
An overhead shot of the Ingham after modifications to convert her to an amphibious force flagship, taken in October, 1944.
On July 18th, we arrived in New York safe and sound, ready for showers, fresh food, and long-awaited liberty. The Statue of Liberty seemed to have new meaning to us all as we passed. The following day, "Zeke" transferred to USS Stanton (DE247), and Ingham took on stores, fuel and water. For the next four days we carried out port routine and enjoyed being back in the U.S.A. We left Brooklyn July 24th for Charleston, South Carolina.
At the Charleston Navy Yard, Ingham went into dry-dock and although berthed onboard during the conversion, many of the officers and crew were away on leave or attending special schools for training in operation of the new equipment and guns being fitted. Many of us went to the Fleet Training Group at Dam Neck, Virginia for gunnery school. Others went to radiomen's school or radarmen's school. The conversion took almost three months including several days of shakedown. By the third week in October, 1944,we were ready for a new mission: invasion of the Philippine Islands starting with Lingayen Gulf and Subic Bay.
Before and during our time in Charleston, we said farewell to many shipmates and welcomed many more aboard. Lt. John M. Waters, Jr. was relieved by LTJG. W. U. "Pete" Johnson as Gunnery Officer. John transferred to other wartime duties. Later he had a remarkable career in Coast Guard Aviation. John Waters will long be remembered for his fierce loyalty to the Coast Guard, Ingham, and to his shipmates. As an author and writer, he left us with much to be proud of, by documenting and publishing his works. John, along with a handful of others, was instrumental in bringing Ingham to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. For these accomplishments, all Ingham shipmates will forever wish him "A fair wind and a following sea."
Transferees to other stations included Olaf "Bud" Veath who, as a boot seaman, marched in the Coast Guard’s 150th Anniversary parade in New York City, August 4th, 1940, and in the 200th Anniversary parade, 50 years later August 4th, 1990, at Grand Haven, Michigan, together with some twenty other Ingham Association members. Also transferring was an enterprising young man by the name of Avner Dare, who went on to the USS General Meigs (APA-116). The General Meigs took some 5,000 troops to Karachi, India (now Pakistan), returning with 1,000 wounded from the China-Burma-India theatre of war.
Many new arrivals were young and eager, "full of vinegar and pee." Among them Donald Balsly, William Henderson, Robert Carter, Charles Kniffin; they will long be remembered for their high spirits and great sense of humor, as will many others. The U.S. Army Signal Corp staff arrived and the enlisted men, upon seeing their new berthing quarters, dubbed it "Fort Bilgewater."
By October 22nd, the conversion was finally finished and we began taking on stores, fuel and water for the return trip to Norfolk Naval Base. Last minute arrivals were aboard and we started up the coast October 24th. Weather off the east coast was very poor. A hurricane had whipped up heavy swells from miles to the east. Ingham received orders from Naval headquarters to assist in an ongoing search for survivors of a lost ship so our course was diverted toward the search area. No survivors were found during the time we spent assisting with search operations.
During our run to Norfolk, a steady vibration developed in the ship while running all ahead full. This vibration was critical as it was indicative of serious problems in the turbines or associated propulsion parts of the ship. Upon further investigation, the vibration was isolated to the starboard turbine unit and it was immediately shut down. Running on port engine only, we resumed our course to Norfolk at ten knots, arriving there a few days later.
The starboard high pressure steam turbine unit was removed and taken for repair and testing. At the outset, this seemed to be a guaranteed ten-day delay but events do not always go on schedule when dealing with precision mechanical components like a steam turbine unit. Returning by truck to the Naval Base, the turbine unit broke loose from its tie-downs and shifted, causing some damage to the unit. So, back it went again to the shops for more repairs, adding to our frustration of delayed departure for the Philippines. The days dragged by as the ship’s crew restlessly occupied themselves with final loose ends, minor training, and maintenance details. Some fortunate ones with families nearby were given brief leaves. After an in-port of nearly a month, we cleared breakwater into open sea, November 24th, 1944, and headed for the Panama Canal Zone and New Guinea.
The Pacific Story
by CDR Dean W. Colbert USCGR (Ret.)
and Dr. Robert M. Carter
There was a hustle and scurry about the decks of the Cutter Ingham throughout her conversion period, but the activity increased notably in the month of November, 1944. Stores were loaded; ammunition was stowed carefully in the magazines. Tension was in the air.
Ingham sailed from Norfolk Navy Yard for a test run two weeks before Thanksgiving. It was a exercise to see if everything was ready for the long journey ahead. On Thanksgiving Day, she was tied up at the Norfolk Naval Operations Base with steam at the throttle and an eager crew. Last-minute details were rushed to completion.
The dinner the night before we sailed was a memorable affair. Dozens of the GI turkeys so popular in the States were cooked golden brown for the crew and officers. "Accessories" were on hand too, as the complete holiday menu included plum pudding and 10-cent "seegars."
At 0600, on November 24th, the glistening cutter, wearing her coat of dark and light battleship gray camouflage, cast loose her moorings and got underway. Soon, land dropped below the horizon. Only the ever-present ceaselessly rolling sea and the low-hanging clouds could be seen. Few men on the ship paid any particular heed to that disappearing land on the edge of the world, but everyone aboard realized that it would be several months or years before they would see their cherished land again.
Two kinds of crewmen were present. To the sailors who had been aboard the vessel for many months before, wartime sea voyages were nothing new. They had been on her before she was burdened with communications equipment. In their experience , they had helped guide many convoys through to Iceland, Gibraltar, Bizerte, and Ireland. Some of them were inclined to scoff at such additions as a "CIC" (Combat Information Center) and scores of high-frequency radio sets. For the new men it was different. They had never been to sea before for any length of time. They were curious, guessing what might lie ahead. They learned that "General Quarters" or "Quarters" meant "Battle Stations."
The three-section watch was set; four hours on, eight off, including Saturday and Sunday. In addition, the work of the ship had to be done during the "off watch" hours. Ever since the Phoenicians put to sea in their flimsy craft, sea watches have been long and monotonous. In time of war, vigilance spells the difference between living and dying. Lookouts, gun crews, radio and radar operators were alert so that no situation would arise that could not be immediately acted upon.
Experienced sailors aboard (those who had seen North Atlantic gales overhead and fought German subs under the sea) said that the Atlantic is always rough off Cape Hatteras, and it really lived up to its traditional behavior. The majority of the soldiers aboard were sick, and a good many coasties looked that way, too. On the fourth day out, we sighted a distant isle of the West Indies; San Salvador, the place Christopher Columbus had discovered in 1492. Three more days slipped by, and the radar picked up the Isthmus of Panama November 29th. The "boots" began asking the "salts" who had been there before, "What is the place like? Any good for 'lib? How are the women?" Some of the more serious wanted to know, "How long does it take to get through?" The "I" barreled her way up to the harbor at Colon. Soon the submarine nets swung open to admit her to the harbor piers. She tied up to a fueling dock. Liberty was granted to the first and third sections; this really was heart-warming news. The Ingham had been in the Canal Zone one year before, so this was an old stomping ground for her in a way.
The port city itself was unusual. Some considered Colon (Columbus' name in Spanish) a sailor's paradise. There he might buy all the liquor he could afford. He could find steaks, ice cream, and a variety of fresh fruit. The downtown section of town looked very much like cattle towns seen on western movies. It looked as if there was a bar in every other building in every street. Palm trees grew everywhere, coloring the city with a tropical air. It was a lovely town with no hint of war in evidence_ except uniforms. Many luxuries, nearly forgotten in the States, were on sale. For example, there were boxes of film, fountain pens, watches, and even pre-war whiskey. The red-light district was not localized to any particular section of streets. "Branch offices" operated in every bar and the quality of prostitutes ranged from "hotel grade" to "cash alley" types. A number of officers and enlisted men merely partook of sightseeing. Many crew members tasted their first tree-ripened bananas and freshly picked pineapples. The flavor was "out of this world."
Early the next morning, the deck force cleaned the ship and painted her rusty spots. Chief Teddie Trei blew his top a dozen or so times in the process of the morning's activity. Stores were taken on, fueling completed, and at three in the afternoon December 1st, the long-awaited announcement boomed over the intercom, "Stand by to unmoor ship." It was time to start through the man-made marvel, the canal. The trip through the canal was a memorable one, even for the old hands. We entered Gatun Lock, which, when filled, raised the Ingham to the level of Lake Gatun. Fresh-water Lake Gatun, between the locks at either side, was a picturesque sight. Ocean-going ships seldom travel away from salt water, so the experience was unique for Ingham. "We can't let all this good fresh water go to waste! Let's get these hoses hooked up and wash everything off!" So spoke "Dog 'em down" Chief Bill Lawyer, 24-year salt in charge of damage control and keeping water-tight doors and hatches closed on the vessel. The crew responded and washed her down.
We continued and entered Pedro Miguel Lock for the descent to Miraflores Lake thence into Miraflores Lock for the descent to the Pacific Ocean. Sea watches continued through the night as usual and the next morning, the "I" was once more at sea. Something felt different though; it was the Pacific Ocean which was much calmer than we had experienced on the Atlantic side. It probably looked that way when explorer Balboa named the ocean "peaceful." What a change. The ship rode like a big Buick sedan. Now the soldiers (doggies), who slept in Fort Bilgewater, just aft of the forepeak, were not so seasick as they had been. They said they were finding it a bit easier to call walls "bulkheads," floors "decks," and ships "ships" rather than "boats." Indeed the soldiers were becoming sailors.
The ritual of crossing the equator dates back so many centuries that it is impossible to trace its origins. Ceremonies are held to initiate all "Landlubbers, Pollywogs and Sea Lawyers," by "Shellbacks." A Landlubber is a man sailing for the first time. One still getting accustomed to a seafaring life is a Pollywog, and Sea Lawyers think they know all there is to know about shipboard life although having been a sailor for a short time. Shellbacks are men who are experienced "salts;" who are familiar with life at sea and who have crossed the equator and been initiated by King Neptune and his Court. A day or two before the crossing and the ceremony, a lot of talk came over the 1MC (P.A. system) from the Shellbacks which was intended to cause all the uninitiated much anxiety. The King's Royal Scribe, Davy Jones, delivered summons to appear in "The Royal Court of the Realm of King Neptune" for various transgressions incurring "The Royal displeasure in his Kingdom of mermaids, sharks, crabs, timmonogs, and other denizens of the Deep." Dean Colbert's specific charges included: "For being a low class pollywog, a sand pounder posing as a deep water sailor, unable to hold his liquor on shore leave in Panama and thereby molesting the privacy of an honorable shellback. Signed: Davy Jones, clerk."
Much anticipation of the dreaded initiation into the Order of the Shellbacks circulated among the transgressors with the youngest of shipmates being told of the most horrible expected discourtesies. Outnumbered miserably, this select minority had been fully aware that the great majority of "pollywogs" might attempt to do a bit of initiating on their own. The Shellbacks therefore had posted notices in advance forbidding pollywog revolts. As any reader can guess, such notices went unheeded, and a great mutiny broke forth. Several shellbacks were "shanghaied" down to the mess deck by some of the more daring "land lubbers." There, these brave lads butchered the shellbacks' hair and subsequently poured generous doses of egg, chili sauce, ketchup, and horseradish onto the prepared scalps. We crossed the equator at Lat. 0°00', Long. 98° 48' W. In time-honored fashion all pollywogs endured various indignities including the hair clippers, red and green gunk applications to port and starboard ears, mustard and ketchup baths and so on, along with many demeaning remarks, and finally a good dunking in the tank. All hands enjoyed the ceremonies; the eighteen shellbacks most of all. Somewhat later, those 'worthy' received certificates as trusty Shellbacks, having been duly initiated into the solemn mysteries of the ancient Order of the Deep, complete with the official seal and signature of King Neptunus Rex, "Ruler of the Raging Main" attached to the certificates. Scuttlebutt had it that certain officers had behaved in the same manner. Not long afterward, water fights broke out as well causing some to ask, "Just who are the shellbacks?"
Speculation grew among the enlisted men concerning where landfall would find us. The Captain and navigator knew, of course, but they were not telling. Usurer Big Deal, 'bathless' McDermott set up an anchor pool. Whoever wound up with the lucky number of minutes into an hour that the anchor would drop would win $100. Chester Blott was the lucky winner. The long-awaited land was a gorgeous green tiny coral dot in the Society Islands named Bora Bora. A week had passed after the shellback initiation.
On December 13th we arrived in Bora Bora. With liberty granted, the ship was refueled and stores taken aboard. This beautiful island, with friendly natives and multicolored lagoons was the center of a mythical tropical south sea paradise. Our stop was much too short and everyone wished for just one more day there.
September 15th we continued underway, crossing the international date line at Lat 07° 57'S, Long. 180° 00', losing one day at 2400 hours. Christmas Day 1944 was spent underway, steaming through the Solomon Islands. There were many solemn thoughts added to the dreams of home as the Ingham steamed peacefully past Guadalcanal, an eternal monument to American courage and heroism. It was here, during landing operations, that Coast Guardsman Douglas Munro lost his life as he returned covering fire to camouflaged Japanese machine gunners from his Higgins boat while evacuating marines climbed aboard LCVP's [Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel--commonly referred to as Higgin's Boats after the company that manufactures them]. Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic acts in the face of the enemy.
Onboard, the cooks provided a grand traditional Christmas dinner in all messes complete with special hand-decorated souvenir menus. It was a feast to remember. Two days after Christmas, Ingham sailed into Humboldt Bay, off Hollandia, New Guinea to await further orders. Additional alterations to the ship and to the surface search radar system were required. We tied up alongside the destroyer Tender USS Dobbin for what would be almost four weeks of drilling, hammering, hoisting, scraping, painting and handling the dozens of things that needed attention after a month at sea. The Dobbin was fully equipped with stores of material and parts. The many highly skilled craftsmen and technicians onboard could accomplish any type of ship repair. A flag bridge was added which housed separate radar repeaters and communications equipment for the flag officer and his staff which were separate from the ship's operational equipment. One of the guns was relocated to a lower deck to improve the ship's stability by lowering the above-waterline mass.
By January 24th, Ingham was again ready to move out. Following a firing run (we had learned about Kamikaze dive bombers by then), Ingham set out in a northerly direction. The destination was the Philippines. Our convoy consisted of an attack transport, the USS Allen and an Australian corvette, the Hawksbury. The journey seemed uneventful crossing the equator at Latitude 0° 00', Longitude 130° 55'E, reaching San Pedro Bay between the islands of Leyte and Samar in good shape on January 28th.
The next morning after fueling, we moved out once more with an accompanying destroyer from San Pedro Bay to the Mindanao Sea, and from there into the Sulu Sea, and finally to the China Sea and Luzon. In the Mindanao Sea, all hands had to sleep topside because of possible enemy submarine activity in that area. The Japanese still held all the surrounding islands. On January 31st, two days after the initial operation at San Antonio Bay, Luzon, we arrived tying up to a large AGC, the USS Mount McKinley. The Mount McKinley was so large that the gangplank from our bridge rested evenly on her main deck.
Navy RADM. A.D. Struble was piped aboard with full military honors. Many of the crew had to surrender their sacks, moving to hammocks and the cutter seemed to shrink as many Navy enlisted men moved aboard. Considering the difficulties involved, however, the Army and Navy folk cooperated well with their Coast Guard shipmates. Immediately we received new orders to proceed to Subic Bay and lead the resupply echelon and to remain there as flagship to Rear Admiral Struble, Commander of Amphibious Group Nine, Senior Officer Present Afloat. We carried out this assignment for two weeks under possibility of air attack, and were in a constant state of alert, but no attacks were made from enemy aircraft or two-man submarines.
Rear Admiral Struble had a wealth of experience. While we were crawling across the Atlantic with the merchant ships and destroyer escorts of GUS-17 the previous summer, Admiral Struble was Chief of Staff for Admiral Kirk, Commander of Naval Forces during the Normandy Invasion of June 6th. On this current assignment, he would serve in Ingham as Commander of the Amphibious assault landing at Corregidor and Bataan and at other landings in the Philippines. Later, after our Pacific tour ended, Admiral Struble would go to other assignments which included U.S. Naval Representative to the United Nations prior to the Korean War; and later he would command all Naval Forces during the landings at Inchon, South Korea where he was the Senior U.S Naval Officer during the Korean Conflict.
Dean Colbert's first encounter with the Admiral took place on the Bridge while on watch. Early one morning we heard footsteps up the ladder from the Captain's cabin immediately below the bridge. Expecting that our early morning visitor may be of lesser rank we were somewhat surprised. "Attention on Deck" someone snapped, and we all gave a brisk salute to the Admiral who was dressed in a very old kimono with a great Chinese dragon embroidered on the back; no hat, his bald head shining in the morning light. Without hesitation, Rear Admiral Struble said, "Let's knock this stuff off! Pass the word--we have a war to fight." With that, Admiral Struble instantly became one of us; an Ingham shipmate for as long as he lived.
At this stage of the war on Luzon, the U.S. Army was pushing southward from their beachheads on Lingayen Gulf. They were nearing the area surrounding Subic Bay. Here, the flagship Ingham lay at anchor for two weeks (February 2-14). During this time, the crew had the opportunity to go on beach parties. Here some saw and smelled dead Japanese soldiers for the first time. It wasn't a bit like a movie; more like a nightmare. Ingham people collected Japanese bullets and helmets for souvenirs. Beach parties went forward on the beach of Grande Island at the mouth of Subic Bay. The Subic area was looking a bit like Hollandia as dozens of ships arrived there.
Little did we realize that the events which were unfolding right before us would become part of the most dramatic events of the war in the Pacific. These events over the next months would throw us in the eye of victory over Japan, the recapture of the Bataan Peninsula and the Island of Corregidor, and the liberation of the Philippine Islands.
On February 14th, the task group command ship moved again with LCI's [Landing Craft, Infantry], LST's [Landing Ship, Tank], LSM's [Landing Ship, Medium] as well as escort vessels trailing behind. Their objective turned out to be Mariveles Harbor on Bataan's southern tip. At Bataan (Mariveles Harbor), U.S. planes reportedly had reduced resistance to a minimum, and the landing craft appeared to experience little trouble moving onto the beach at 0900 on February 15th. Nearby cruisers were shelling the harbor and Corregidor Island in the bay. It looked to be a pretty worthwhile objective. It recalled many memories of the early war news.
Earlier Japanese treachery had culminated in the surrender of Corregidor, General Jonathan Wainwright's forces and the infamous death march of Bataan. During the next month, these acts would be avenged by American forces, and Ingham would be on the firing line of battle. On board we exercised a great deal of patience in our daily routine. Ingham's normal complement was a crew of 118. During our convoy run the previous summer, we had carried 150. Now, that number had risen by another eighty with Rear Admiral Struble's staff of 30 officers and 50 enlisted men. We also took on other staff members, gunnery personnel and newsmen from international wire services.
Occasionally, during the major landings, we accommodated up to 360 persons onboard and there was literally standing room only. While some were working, others slept. Administrative business of the command was top priority but no less important was the defense and operational readiness of all of Ingham's systems. Everything on the ship had to work at peak output 24 hours a day. The engineering department and commissary men performed the impossible. Mealtime was a carefully orchestrated operation. Up to 1000 meals per day were prepared and served out of a galley roughly the size of the kitchen in a 4-bedroom house, and the officer's mess was the size of most home laundry rooms. Add to this mid-rations for watch standers. The engineers made all our water not only for drinking and cooking but for showers as well. Many of the smaller naval ships had no water making equipment but Ingham's was sufficient to supply the necessities and allow everyone a 1-minute freshwater shower every day for officers and crewmembers. It was a challenge by any standard, but Ingham's crew rose to the occasion. Many of the "black gang" (below decks engineering personnel) and other crew members had been on board during the worst of the U-boat campaigns in the north Atlantic. As a whole the crew was superb, especially the Chief and First Class Petty Officers. They were a tremendously capable and reliable group. Everyone went about their jobs and battle station duties, officer and enlisted alike; all well-trained and highly competent.
Corregidor had long been the "Isle of Pride and Pain." The Spanish built a Customs Station there in 1675 for the purpose of collecting duties. Defenses against pirates and other invading European powers were constructed over the next century and all foreigners well-scrutinized. By 1898 Spain ceded the Philippines to the U.S. when we had begun to fear expansion by the Japanese. When Japan's fleet defeated the Russian fleet at Vladivostok in 1904, military leaders in our war colleges knew that the threat was real. The Dutch were in the East Indies and the French were in Indo-China. The British were expanding bases in Hong Kong and Singapore, proudly boasting that "the sun never sets on the British Empire."
Efforts to make Corregidor invulnerable commenced and the completion of the Malinta Tunnel in 1932, under almost complete secrecy, gave the U.S. a strong fortress on the island. The tunnel had taken 8 years to construct, was over 800 feet in length, 24 feet wide with 24 side chambers. Inside were vast amounts of munitions, fuel and supplies of all sorts so that in the event of a surface attack, time could be bought for the arrival of assisting warships. An air force was not seen as a threat of any consequence at that time, and Clark Field, later to become Clark Air Force Base, expanded after this period as air superiority grew. Further armaments were added by U.S. forces in 1941. Twenty-three large gun batteries were dug into solid rock around the island. A three-story concrete mile-long barracks was constructed, containing two schools, a Y.M.C.A., a hospital, softball and football fields, boxing and swimming facilities. Service clubs were also included in the complex.
General Jonathan Wainwright, the top military commander on Corregidor in 1942, surrendered this entire garrison to the Japanese on May 6, 1942, and was sent to Manchuria as a prisoner of war. The Japanese then occupied Corregidor as a stronghold for the defense of Manila Bay up to the time of our invasion. In Subic Bay February 14th, we sortied with a large flotilla of Navy ships, including light cruisers, destroyers, mine sweepers and all sizes of landing craft. Sixty-one ships made up the landing ship echelon and at 1700 we got underway for what we had come halfway around the world to do: begin our participation in the liberation of the Philippines. Our position: 14° 18'N, 119° 25'E, underway off Corregidor, carrying out COMPHIBGROUPNINE [Commander, Amphibious Group Nine] operations plan No. 4-45. Excerpts from Ingham's war diaries, February 15th:
" _ Ingham underway for bombardment and invasion of Bataan and Corregidor. At 0810 hours, fire was received from the north coast of Corregidor. Estimated 4" projectile_ nearest projectile to Ingham landed approximately 300 yards on her starboard quarter. Enemy battery fire immediately silenced by guns of our light cruisers and destroyers. One LSM nearing Mariveles Harbor severely damaged by explosion believed caused by hitting a mine. Four incoming projectiles landed in the water in the troop transport area causing numerous casualties to troops in landing craft embarked from the attack transports. Firing on Corregidor carried out throughout the day by CL's [light cruiser] and DD's [destroyers] By 1810 hours, Phase I of operation considered successful."
We stayed at General Quarters from 0730 to 1530. Noon chow (the crew was lucky to get any) had consisted of sandwiches and imagination because the water and steam supplies were secured (turned off).
February 16th at 0800, an unbelievable number of C47 transport planes flew over the island dropping parachute troops in great numbers. All the while, Navy dive bombers carried out low-level pounding of the beach areas. Army Air Corps Mitchell B-25 and Liberator B-24 bombers dealt high-level destruction. Later, we learned that the Army aircraft had flown off air strips on Mindanao Island to the south. After the war, we also learned that many of the paratroopers of the 503rd Regimental Combat Team had perished in their assault from landing in high winds and being blown against the jagged rock faces of Corregidor.
Not long after the aerial bombardment, about 1030, we were positioned about 3500 yards off Black Beach, directing the landing craft assault of infantry. The enemy was firing back this time. Some of the landing craft were hit by projectiles and some of the troops were killed. The operation continued as guns boomed, until all barges were unloaded. An hour and a half later, about 1150, we received word that the beach had been secured and we had a moment to breathe. At 2000 we made for Subic Bay arriving there at 2300 so that Admiral Struble could confer with other high-ranking officers upon the strategy for the days ahead.
On February 17, in the afternoon, the Hidatsa (YT102) hit a mine in Mariveles Bay. We immediately dispatched a medical team including Dr. Monroe Shack and PhM1C Anthony Pagano to assist.
February 19th, mail began to filter in somewhat more frequently. Letters from home were read and reread, then passed around to be read by others. Mail call brought many smiling faces. Successful landings on Iwo Jima cheered the ship's company. Tensions lessened a notch. We saw evidence that we were winning one night when a PT boat moored alongside carrying six Japanese prisoners of war for later interrogation. They looked sick and hungry. According to scuttlebutt (rumor) one begged to be shot because he feared the Americans would turn him over to the Australians. Apparently he was certain that if the Aussies laid hands upon him, they would literally eat his live flesh. The PT boat crew had captured these wretches trying to swim from Corregidor to Luzon proper. We heard later that they were sent to a clean prison camp because they squealed on their regiment.
Temporarily, enemy planes flew over occasionally, but movies were still shown on the foc'sile nightly. One crew member stated, "Come war, come anything--we must have movies!" Soogeying, chipping and painting kept the "I" beautiful, helping her deserve the name "Showboat" given by the seamen. As Saturday arrived, the PA system boomed these immortal words, "There will be a CO's inspection of personnel today at 1300." War was hell, but it really was not. It now seemed far away and a bad joke. Enemy planes did not appear. Every 30 days, pay officer Henry Izard set up shop on the mess deck, and paid the enlisted men in cash. The round went on, standing inspections, chipping and painting, standing watches, attending briefings and watching movies. Poker games took place most evenings on the mess deck with green-visored Chicagoan Phil Petrucci presiding. ("In" jokes said Phil was from "the mob!") "Salts" from North Atlantic patrols told the "boots" how easy they had it without gales and subs to battle. The wardroom saw a continuous game of hearts as those coming off duty replaced those going on. The crew had their card games as well, in the crew quarters, but no word leaked out, nor did anyone in the wardroom discuss whether they played for money. The ship's office crew liked to play Pinochle for fun.
The ship's News was published weekly by the different Divisions. The "News" was always a big event. Our shipboard paper was named "Gobs Gab" by Chief Schuckman. News from home and letters were treasured; read and re-read. Important happenings were announced on the Public Address system: "Now hear this! President Roosevelt announced today that Germany has surrendered unconditionally." V.E. Day was great news and assured us of additional forces to use against the Japanese. April 12, 1945 we were shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
This first action for Ingham in the Pacific had given all of us a front-row seat. For three days as flagship for the Mariveles-Corregidor attack group, we had seen our cruisers and destroyers fire their big guns at shore batteries. It is hard to describe the feeling one gets while watching B-24 Liberators bomb their targets from less than one mile. Our troops made amphibious assaults on the beaches and Army Paratroopers dropped in to go hand-to-hand with the Japanese defenders. Of our losses, the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team fought the bloodiest battles for five days along the barracks. Meanwhile, the infantry landed and secured the beaches and advanced to aid the 503rd. Most of the 5200 Japanese defenders did not survive the savage fighting. Although narrowly missed, we had taken no hits and were ready for more.
Occasionally, we found a opportunity to go sightseeing under the guise of official business. One morning five of us officers checked out a weapons carrier and drove to Manila. The whole city was a mess. We purchased a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch whiskey which tasted horrible. Upon close inspection we discovered a drilled hole in the bottom of the bottle. The bottle had been refilled with something pretty bad and the hole plugged up. Our enjoyments were simple ones.
Speculation spread through the vessel about where the "I" was headed next. "Big Deal" Mc Dermott laid odds for the China coast; others were sure it would be Australia, the Marshalls, or another Philippine island. On March 1st, Ingham was designated task unit 78.3.1 and we departed to direct the assault landings on Panay, near Tigbauan March 18th. Once again Ingham led the van of the attack, directing all units of the operation in what was a repeat of our landings at Corregidor four weeks earlier. By March 20th, the operation had once again ended successfully without damage to Ingham or crew.
By the last of March we were at it again, this time as flagship for the landing at Pulupandan, Negros. And once again Ingham was not hit by hostile fire. All crewmembers and equipment worked like a precision piece of machinery, and the time passed very quickly. We returned to Subic Bay for fuel, stores and a brief reprieve.
In port, we found our pleasures in Mail Call, occasional fresh fruit and real potatoes, the ice cream machine, an occasional beer or two on the beach, when allowed after V.J. Day. And movies! We traded ship-to-ship and saw a good number of them several times. Pinups of Betty Grable in her famed swim suit were #1 throughout the fleet and in Ingham, too. In "Gobs Gab" all news was welcomed, especially of home. Probably the most enjoyed and anticipated was news of the American and National league races. There was a big question whether the World Series in October would be held because of the travel necessary. As the war news improved, and after Japan surrendered, the military chiefs including Admiral Chester Nimitz urged the series be held, and it was.
We did tire a bit of Spam and dehydrated potatoes and milk. Twice, we were disappointed to lose our turn to draw supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, when Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet entered Leyte Gulf. Of course there went the fresh stuff. We lost our turn again when an Army regiment arrived after two years fighting in New Guinea yellowed and skinny. Of course they got the best; fresh everything.
The first weeks in April were spent between Tolosa, San Pedro Bay, Leyte and in observing an assault landing at Tagbilaran, Bohol. Then, on April 26th, we directed a secondary landing on Negros and returned to Tolosa, Leyte. The weeks were going very fast. By May we had begun to prepare for the attack on Northern Mindanao with all units rehearsing at Ormoc Bay, Leyte. On May 9th we steamed out in the van of the amphibious strike. Our objective this time was the shore of Macajalar Bay in northern Mindanao. Our assault and the consolidation of smaller gains made by other units between May 10th and 16th allowed us to report "Mission Accomplished" upon our return to San Pedro Bay.
During that return trip, which we made May 12th, a rather tense situation developed while Ingham was steaming through the Surigao Straits enroute to San Pedro Bay. During the mid-watch (midnight - 4am) there occurred a failure of the surface radar system. No aids to navigation existed and the channel was treacherous in certain areas. To further complicate matters, we were entering the area where many Japanese vessels, including battleships, were sunk in the last great naval battle of WWII, the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Only seven months earlier, on October 20, 1944, while the Japanese carriers attacked to the North, the southern striking forces under ADM Nishimura approached through the Surgao Straits with battleships and escorts. To meet this threat, ADM Thomas Kincaid sent elements of his Seventh Fleet in to stop them. The "Old" battleships, under VADM Jesse B. Oldendorf, were most successful in their classic maneuver of "Crossing the T," thereby scoring a great naval victory and sending the Japanese ships to the bottom. As Ingham proceeded very carefully under reduced speed, Chief Warrant Officer Frank Recely and RTC [Radio Technician-Chief Petty Officer]] Charles Osborne climbed the mast, found the problem, made repairs, and reset the antenna by lining it up with the ship's wake as a guide, all in total darkness. The following day, on inspection, the adjustment was found to be amazingly accurate: within one degree of true bearing. Ingham resumed course and speed, to the relief of the Captain, and to our Navigator, LCDR Delmont E. Wood, USCGR.
The last of May was relatively calm although it was a busy time. We took Admiral Struble to Zamboanga, Parang and Taloma Bay in Southern Mindanao, where he conferred with the various Army commanders about the planning of final "mopping up" operations which would be necessary in June to conclude the brilliantly successful Philippines Campaign.
The month of June was a period of welcomed inactivity back in Leyte Gulf. Members of the crew welcomed swim call and beach parties with beer. Some recall seeing a Navy baseball team, with Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto of N.Y. Yankees, defeat another team. Some even attended a U.S.O. road show of "Oklahoma." During this period Dean Colbert was able to go ashore and visit his cousins, John and Charles Gray, and his relatives who lived in Tacloban, Leyte. John and Charles had been imprisoned by the Japanese, then released and allowed to supervise their land holdings in Leyte Province. The families were quite well-off with large farms. John was a 130 pound boxer who had won all Pacific and Olympic trials in 1932. Dean had seen him during his visit to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles where he lost a close fight. They roasted a pig in honor of Dean's visit. As gifts he had managed to liberate a fifty pound bag of sugar and a few other supplies from the ship. Later John was able to visit Ingham, meet some of the officers and dine in the wardroom. After the war ended, he became very successful in the trucking business.
Ingham's gun crews had drilled long and hard in preparation for either surface or anti-aircraft action during landing operations. As a safeguard against internal damage to our vital electronic equipment the big 5"/38 guns had never fired a shot since our arrival in Subic Bay. The recoil shock is tremendous and jars the entire ship. After months, the call to fire was cause of much excitement. Many of our old hands had fought the U-boats and in a sense were frustrated, especially at major landings where shore bombardment was required. All hands wanted a part in avenging Pearl Harbor. Our number one Gun Crew consisted of Ed Trettin, Dick Cutting, Robert Smith, Johnny Hoitsma and Mickey Manning, our Gunner's Mate. Dean Colbert was the Officer in Charge.
Following the successful bombardment and landing operations, "Gobs Gab" reported as follows:
Ship's News/July 20, 1945:
"Under a blanket of drizzling rain, the mighty "I" and her small armada silently crept in on its objective this morning. The mountainous island of Balut, our objective, was silhouetted like a looming monster in the background. DE-241 stood close off their shore like a threatening challenge. The atmosphere grew tense, and the amphibious operation was underway. The LCI's, heavily loaded with their cargo of men and the LCS's, put on speed and headed for the beach. Everything seemed to be dry and normal aboard the "I" until over the P.A. system came the words we've all been waiting so long to hear, "standby to fire!" As if a spark of new life was injected, all ears perked up for the men at battle stations. Suddenly the stillness of the atmosphere was broken by the roaring explosion of the mighty "I" 's big guns. Over and over they sent roaring 54 pound shells of hot steel, aimed at the Japs occupying the island. The high-light of the day was when a burst or two from our 20MM gave the guerrillas in the bum boat the scare of their lives.
"Nice shooting, boys, and a note to remind the big guns that once looked like ornaments, that they are no longer considered virgins. The scuttlebutt is that the gunners are going to paint a "cracked cherry" on each of the five-inch guns, and on one of the 20's.
"Best news of the day: Mail will be waiting at Tolosa.
"Thanks to the fellows responsible for the new wash basins that have recently been installed in the crew's head.
"We have been informed that the water consumption for yesterday was 6500 gallons. Remember _ keep the water use down and we keep our daily showers."
The Captain's steward, during his free time, strolled the main deck, not paying attention to the "Keep Clear" orders during modified General Quarters. Just as he walked under the muzzle, controlled by Fire Director and nearly horizontal just a few feet above his head, the order came to "Fire." He was instantly knocked to the deck and was as white as a sheet. His ears are probably ringing to this day. But as far as we know despite the sharp crack of the 5" gun, the blast did not break his ear drums.
After our assault on Balut, Ingham was released as "available" and we made for Buiuan, Samar, for minor repairs and installation of yet more equipment. As we had sustained no battle damage or casualties among our personnel, it was a time to reflect on our good fortune. Soon we received word that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima August 6th and again on Nagasaki August 9th. These events were to change the course of the war, and world history as never before.
In preparation for his upcoming transfer, LTJG Edward P. McCarrick began the task of turning over records and blueprints to Dean Colbert as the newly assigned First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer. Having been assigned the duties of Senior Watch Officer earlier, the additional duties of Damage Control Officer caused Dean considerable soul-searching, although perfectly evident that our experienced, well-trained D.C. parties were most capable and cooperative. LT McCarrick and Dean spent several days going over blueprints, eyeballing the shaft alley, the glory hole, the bilges, and inspecting valves and fittings the length and breadth of the vessel.
"Gobs Gab" carried a cartoon that Engineering Division came up with of a worrying Mac (the late Ed McCarrick) and a LTJG Dean Colbert decked out with fire hose coiled over his shoulder, a fire ax and flashlights, a roll of blueprints under his arm. In the caption, Mac was saying, "Well, look at it this way: suppose a suicide plane had just crashed into Number 2 gun deck." Also on August 13th we received word that the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and had sunk immediately in the Philippine Sea enroute to Leyte. The first reports of "no survivors" magnified the real meaning of Dean's new responsibilities. The news that Japan had surrendered unconditionally brought great joy to us and finally when the news was confirmed beyond doubt, great excitement. The possibilities of an incoming Japanese suicide plane or a torpedo was virtually eliminated. There was, of course, still the threat of floating mines or other obstructions.
For many crew members there was time for other thoughts like one's accumulated "points' for discharge and the trip home. All of us had accumulated points which were derived from one's age, rank, length of service, and time in grade. A total of 45 points guaranteed almost immediate discharge after return to the States. Lacking the 10 points for dependents, Dean Colbert's total was something like 40 1/2 points. Seaman first class Bob Carter's position was to remain on the deck force. Most of the early departees had to go home by ship and really didn't arrive "home" much before Ingham.
August was now a time for great celebration when the Japanese surrendered. On the 15th, Leyte Gulf had a tremendous fireworks display as nearly every ship fired whatever it had in celebration. The night sky was filled with tracers, star shells and parachute flares. Elsewhere around the world everyone reacted with great joy. In Manila, the office of war information newspaper Free Philippines rushed an extra edition off the press with headlines in red ink "IT'S ALL OVER." All of war-shattered Philippines celebrated joyously. Elsewhere:
San Francisco _ (undated):
"United Press war correspondent Frank W. Hewlett in an article today said the Japanese surrender will end the prison suffering of thousands of American soldiers, sailors and marines headed by Lt. General Jonathan Wainwright. Hewlett also said, 'Suggestion has been made by observers that the Japanese could evidence their good faith in the surrender negotiations by producing General Wainwright and returning him to the Americans forthwith. Besides this great and beloved American General who passed into enemy hands with the surrender in the Philippines, the Japanese should have about 15,000 Americans in their prisoner of war camps. But only time will tell how many survived more than three years of mistreatment."
Across the United States reaction to the news: August 14, 1945
San Francisco: "Thousands of servicemen and civilians staged demonstrations on Market Street. Soldiers and sailors shouted as they rode atop cable cars. Girls on streets were kissed constantly as they were spun from arm to arm."
"New York's celebrators formed a parade in Times Square. Windows opened in darkened buildings and ticker tape came floating down on laughing, singing paraders."
"Thousands jammed Randolph Street, Rialto in Chicago, to stage joyous demonstrations. Denver, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles were scenes of similar celebrations."
"Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii: Lights went on again full force at Pearl Harbor last night. Flashes brighter than those when Japanese attacked the Naval Base illuminated the sky. Impromptu twenty-minute celebrations lighted the entire harbor as searchlights, tracer bullets, rockets and flares blazed."
We made a brief visit to Tolosa, Leyte, which had been our home port during the past seven months, then returned to Guiuan in preparation for our next assignment. Not only had Ingham endured the invasion of the Philippines, none of our personnel had sustained injury or been lost. We had performed all our tasks faithfully and well; and now we all had a stake in the winning of victory.
Hong Kong, Indo-China and Taiwan
by Dean W. Colbert and Robert Carter
After a month at Tolosa, Leyte, our "home port" in the Philippines, our new flag officer, Rear Admiral Elliot Buckmaster came aboard August 23rd with his staff of fifteen. Discussions taking place in Manila would determine in part our next assignment. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army 35th Signal Corp. detachment came onboard once again after being temporarily assigned to communications duty on Leyte and expecting they would then return home. It was good to see our old friends again as they had been with us since we had left Charleston the year before, but they were not overjoyed at still more duty. On Sunday, September 2nd, the formal end of the war with Japan came at last. Suddenly, everyone felt a lot lighter of step because peace had finally come. "Home" was no longer something in the past; we would see it again. Censorship of our personal mail ended several days later, otherwise our shipboard routine remained unchanged.
In January 1941, Admiral Buckmaster had taken command of the USS Yorktown, CV-5. (Yorktown had been fortunate enough to escape the December 7th Pearl Harbor attack by having been assigned to the Atlantic). After the Saratoga was torpedoed, Yorktown moved into the Pacific theater and carried the brunt of battles against superior Japanese naval forces at Tulagi and in the Coral Sea. Luck ran out for Yorktown, however, June 4th, 1942 at the Battle of Midway where the combined effect of Japanese bombs and torpedoes sent her to the bottom. Admiral Buckmaster, then Captain, had stayed on board until the last moments and was one of the last to abandon ship before she went under. Construction of a new aircraft carrier, the Bon Homme Richard, was nearly complete at the time Yorktown sank in the Battle of Midway. To honor "The Gallant Ship," CV-10 was renamed Yorktown. Now, the USS Yorktown and USCGC Ingham are tied up bow-to-stern at Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina at the Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime Museum, across the river from Charleston.
Our new mission with Admiral Buckmaster as Commander of all South China forces: Transport troops and civil authorities of Chiang Kai Shek's Nationalist Chinese Army to Taiwan from French Indo-China (now Viet Nam).
September 7th we formed up our convoy of twenty-seven destroyers, LST's and LCI's and departed San Pedro Bay. As soon as we hit open seas, we encountered very rough weather which was to be our first experience with typhoons. Despite considerable rolling and pitching, we pressed on, sometimes at the agonizing pace of two knots. As weather deteriorated even further, LST-1044 signaled that one of her crew was suffering from acute appendicitis. Ingham immediately dropped back from the lead position to 30 yards abeam of the LST. A line was fired over and the deck department rigged a breeches buoy to bring the sailor aboard. The swells were tremendous and the two ships were being tossed about severely. This delicate operation was accomplished without dunking the sailor much to everyone's relief. As we secured the decks, Ingham raced ahead of the convoy at seventeen knots and soon the other ships disappeared over the horizon. Our medical officer, Dr. Monroe Shack, a public health service doctor, set up sickbay for the "operation" with the help of our corpsmen and as the O.D. held the ship as stable as possible, the appendix was removed. By this time, the rest of the convoy had caught up with us and we resumed our station as convoy leader.
All the ships in the convoy were taking a heavy pounding, especially the flat-bottomed LST's. Some of which lost cargo in the 100+ MPH winds. Ingham experienced a small fire in the No. 3 ammunition hoist which was immediately extinguished by our damage control men and three days later, we reached Buckner Bay, Okinawa. The harbor was filled with many U.S. ships including the battleship New Jersey and two others of the old West Virginia class which were at anchor nearby. There were also many cruisers and destroyers and what appeared to be Coast Guard 83-footers. September 15th all the ships in Buckner Bay put to sea again to avoid heavy weather from the typhoon.
By the morning of the 16th we had rounded up all the stragglers in our convoy and pushed on towards China as the storm increased in intensity even more. The swells were so enormous that when in the trough, walls of water rose fifty to sixty feet in all directions. On the crest of swells we looked down on the other ships.
Finally we reached the Yangtze delta September 19th, being assured by the Atlantic patrol "salts" that this storm was "a piece of cake." We had survived the storm and minefields without damage although the crew was exhausted from the continuous pounding and a week of sea sickness. With other units of the Seventh Fleet, we were to enjoy two weeks of glorious liberty in Shanghai whose citizens were celebrating the end of an eight-year occupation by the Japanese.
Floating mines had presented a serious problem to the Seventh Fleet and our task force. Mines were everywhere and our Navy minesweepers had worked constantly for the past five days clearing the channel and anchorage in Shanghai. Our convoy formed up single file as we entered the mud-yellow Yangtze River approach. All hands were ordered to assemble on the fantail as a precaution in the event we were to contact a submerged mine. It was a time of serious apprehension for all shipmates. To add to our apprehension, we were witness to several vessels other than our own hitting mines and receiving much damage. We also passed floating mines as close as 25 yards. For this reason we maintained modified general quarters to insure our watertight integrity. We proceeded up the Yangtze River and anchored in the stream off the Bund, in downtown Shanghai. Anchored about were hundreds of junks, other U.S. and British warships, and what seemed to be thousands of small craft with families living aboard. Thousands thronged the banks on both sides of the river to view the U.S. ships. They cheered, waved United States flags and clapped their hands. Squat little riverboats tooted their whistles as their crews jumped and danced with delight. Some had banners which read "welcome glorious Seventh Fleet."
The departing Japanese army had systematically looted Shanghai of sugar, flour and anything negotiable since the surrender five weeks earlier. Everything of any value had been taken. Public buildings were stripped of radiators and furniture in a desperate attempt to salvage anything which could be sold on the black market. Japanese officials in Shanghai had appeared stunned and disorganized at the surrender of Japan although the end had been inevitable for the past year. Later we learned that the departing Japanese had broken up busses, streetcars, and even a statue of King Edward VII in an attempt to ship them to Japan aboard the previously captured USS President Harrison and on the captured Italian liner Conte Verde, seized after Italy's surrender.
Admiral Kincaid's pilot, Captain Eugenio Merrett had been released only a week earlier from Pootung Prison Camp where he had been held with 1,100 other Allied P.O.W.'s since January, 1943. Capt. Merrett described conditions in the camp as horrible; 200 prisoners shared two rooms, two wash basins and three toilets. Their daily diet was rice, cabbage and water soup. Capt. Merrett displayed "a huge wad" of Japanese-sponsored Chinese Yuan, which was rated at 145,000 per American dollar.
As we prepared for liberty September 20th the British carrier HMS Colossus was waiting to take Allied P.O.W.'s to Hong Kong and Manila. The hospital ship USS Refuge, the Ex-Empress of Australia was tied up at the TKK Wharf. Ahead of Ingham anchored in-line in the river was Admiral Kincaid's flagship, the USS Rocky Mount and the cruiser USS Nashville.
Once ashore, the enlisted men were "wealthy" and descended upon the city in groups of up to one hundred jamming streets and sidewalks. Walking along Nanjing and Bubbling Wells Road, beautiful women, Filipino band leaders and banking tycoons shared the crowded sidewalks with beggars, street urchins, newsboys and grinning dudes shouting "Woman? woman?"
The exchange rate at the time made anything desired within ones reach. The menu at the Palace Hotel included:
Chicken & Ham 160,000 Yuan
T-bone Steak 170,000 Yuan
Hamburger Steak 130,000 Yuan
Ice Cream 80,000 Yuan
Beer 20,000 Yuan
Mix with this hundreds of British Navy, U.S. Navy, and Coast Guard sailors ready to blow off steam. The night clubs were ready; the economy starved for American dollars. Port side liberty was granted at 1600 as the starboard liberty section could only wait with envy. Checking the Shore Patrol list, there was Colbert's name in all capitals with duty the first night ashore. It was an apparent fact many of the Chinese were well educated and either extremely friendly towards us or curious to see if they could make a dollar. With so much money to be spent, it seemed they were guaranteed in the latter.
During our shore patrol rounds, we came across one young U.S. Navy Seaman pretty well along; about "3 sheets to the wind;" hat on back of head, U.S. paper money protruding from his jacket pockets. He was quite forcefully telling about fifteen Chinese they were heathens; that they "better get with the Lord, and mend their ways." All this taking place in an area not very well lighted. Lt. Colbert asked our senior Petty Officer to hold him, call the jeep and send him back to his ship.
The young seaman said, "Lieutenant, this is not your business. This is between me and God!"
While he was being held, his Commanding Officer, came by. The young seaman called, "Captain, Captain, they've got me."
The LCDR turned to Colbert, "Let him go!"
Colbert answered, "Sir, he is drunk, and we're having problems. I am sending him back to the ship as soon as the jeep gets here."
The LCDR replied "The hell you are! I'm taking him."
Colbert fired back, "No, you are not!"
Then the Commander says, "You're nothing but a G.D. Coast Guard J.G.!"
The Petty Officer and Colbert exchanged glances trying not to do anything rash. Then Colbert said, "Sir, I'm acting under the direct orders of Admiral Kincaid, and I suggest you get out of here, pronto!"
The Navy Commander struggled with himself for about three seconds, turned and stomped off.
There are many stories told of those first few nights and days in Shanghai. When going through the bars, just before liberty expired the first evening, a couple of "innocent" seamen from Ingham were at a bar in civilian clothes. The shore patrol officer looked, couldn't believe his eyes, did a double take, struggled with himself for at least three seconds, tapped his wrist watch, turned and left the premises immediately. On the liberty party the next day, many crewmembers went ashore, appetites whetted from the stories of the previous night, among those told by Signalman Striker Donald Balsly, Seaman 1st Class Robert Carter and Lt. j.g. Dean Colbert.
On October 2, 1945, Ingham left her moorings and proceeded down the Whang Poo about two miles and tied up to a tanker for refueling. Nearby we saw Japanese ships seized as prizes, flying the Stars and Stripes over Rising Sun ensigns. Their crews were still aboard, with a few sailors from the USS Nashville in charge. The vessels looked immaculate; food that appeared to be rice was stored in barrels on deck. Early the next morning, with a Yangtze River pilot aboard, Ingham proceeded carefully down the river 40 miles to the open sea, her mission in Shanghai completed.
Rest and recreation in Shanghai for the ship's company and an opportunity for us to see something of one of the world's great cities had continued for two never-to-be-forgotten weeks. This poem, by LCDR John Buckley, USCG, was written at sea December 12th, 1945 enroute Shanghai to Pearl Harbor, on CGC Spencer; it sums up the nights we spent in this great city.
I've played on the sands of Hawaii,
seen the cross in the soft southern sky
and far from my home, sweet pleasure I've known
but it can't be compared to Shanghai.
Oh, I've seen the great rock called Gibraltar
and Spain's rugged coast rising high
and I've gazed on so far
at that pale northern star,
but it can't be compared to Shanghai.
I've cruised in the Med and Atlantic
done a hitch on the beach at T.I.
I've stood at the bar
in far off Samar,
but it can't be compared to Shanghai.
There's some won't agree with my logic,
and grimace, their faces awry;
but I smile as I close
and feel sorry for those
who missed the best part of Shanghai!
Underway, on the Bridge October 4th, Ltjg. Ben Scaffidi, the Senior Watch Officer, was in the process of being relieved by Ltjg. William L. Bryan, who was to have the watch beginning at 1600 (4pm). While discussing course and speed, ships in column, etc., the report came in from a lookout, SN Warren Jordan at 1554 (3:54pm): "Object dead ahead, close aboard!" The object was instantly perceived to be a mine, and Ltjg. Scaffidi gave the order: "Left full rudder, notify the Captain." As the ship heeled to port, Captain Zittel arrived on the Bridge, took the Conn and ordered "Right full rudder, steer base course." The Admiral, as usual, was in the Captain's Chair on the starboard wing of the Bridge, and became very excited when he spotted the mine at nearly the same instant as had Jordan. Ltjg. K. R. Chappel recalls: "I was on the main deck aft, on the starboard side with several others. We watched the mine coming down the starboard side of the ship, close aboard. We felt the heavy vibration as the vessel heeled hard to starboard. The mine was large, dark, slimy, with barnacles. It had protruding horns like large wieners. It was very close and we narrowly missed it."
Then we maneuvered into a suitable position and began firing the after 40mm at the mine which exploded after taking 136 rounds. The mine exploded with a great blast of flame, noise and smoke jolting the whole ship. at Position 26° 31' N. Lat, 125° 53.2' E. Longitude. Ammunition expended: 136 rounds of 40mm, and 25 rounds of .50 caliber. Ingham resumed base course and speed. At 2315, USS Prometheus and the destroyer escort USS Formoe joined the convoy. That evening, the South China Sea was calm and for the first time on the Pacific trip, a movie was shown topside while the ship was under way. The screen and projector were set up between the after 40mm gun turrets. Peace did make a difference!
The following Sunday morning, October 7, 1945, Ingham picked up two British pilots from a Royal Navy destroyer and proceeded into Hong Kong harbor. High cliffs overlooked the channel on either side. Gun emplacements dotted them, but many craters on the hillsides attested to the accuracy of Allied bombardiers. The entire landscape showed evidence of the bombings. Sunken Japanese ships littered the harbor area so the pilots guided Ingham carefully indeed to avoid them. As flagship of the Commander, South China Force, the Ingham entered the harbor at Hong Kong at the head of the first group of American warships to arrive at the British Crown Colony. She was greeted by units of the British Fleet which had reclaimed the colony shortly before the US fleet's arrival.
Meanwhile, back in the States, a baseball "World Series" was in progress between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs. It was neat to have time to notice it. Game time at Hong Kong was 0200, so it was hardly worth the effort of straining to hear the short wave radio if one had to stay up all night.
Hong Kong was oddly different. Beginning on October 8th, liberty was granted to the crew. We found the island city built on a mountainside with streets running diagonally up its steep slopes and its streets rising toward the mountain top changing to steps. Again those who had visited Europe said the street-stairway combinations were commonplace there. Only near the bottom along the seashore did we see level roadways. We saw fewer rickshaws than in Shanghai but more sedan chairs. Perhaps the steepness of the walkways accounted for the difference.
Captain Zittel announced that the rate of exchange was $1 US for $8 HK. Prices seemed reasonable for the first few days. Merchants asked more than they expected to get for goods, expecting us to engage in deal-making to lower the price. Previously, during our stopover in Okinawa, our Pay Officer LT Donovan, accompanied by two guards armed with .50 caliber machine guns, went to the U.S. Navy's Disbursing Office, withdrew $100,000 in crisp, new U.S. bank notes, and returned to the ship. This was in preparation to pay all hands prior to much anticipated liberty in the two great cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong. The local population, because of the Japanese occupation and wild inflation, were very suspicious of all paper money, especially if it was old or torn. They had tremendous interest in U.S. bank notes, and a strange fascination for crisp new bills, so much so that the new bills would sometimes be worth far more than old ones. Torn or mutilated notes were almost worthless. In Hong Kong, due to the British influence, Hong Kong dollars were pretty stable, if in good physical shape. It made for some interesting situations in arriving at the final price of goods.
Ingham sailors met "Brits" from nearly every part of the "empire." "Limeys" seemed congenial, and easy to get to know. A movie playing at the time in a theater was "Blood and Sand" with Tyrone Power. Ashore, it seemed peculiar to sit in a soft seat rather than on a steel railing to view the flick. A few days after the Ingham's arrival, the Chinese celebrated "Double Ten." To help the festivities, every allied ship in the harbor flew the national flag of China along with their nation's colors. It was a festive night sky for an hour. Every ship in sight turned on its searchlights and played the beams this way and that. It was a colorful occasion. Prior to leaving Hong Kong, those who required cholera shots were attended to, and several had bad reactions.
Excerpts from Hong Kong newspaper "The China Mail":
"The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, Flagship of the Commander South China Force, arrived in Hong Kong Harbor on October 7, 1945. With the Ingham were: the USS Prometheus, a supply ship, and five Destroyer Escorts: The USS Harris, USS Dufilho, USS Numro, USS Haas and the USS Formoe. This was the first visit to the Crown Colony of Hong Kong by United States warships since before war was declared.
"Adm. Buckmaster was entertained by His Excellency the Commander in Chief, Admiral D.H.J. Harcourt at Government House. The Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce had requested that all Chinese firms fly U.S. flags. USCG Cutter Ingham was part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet attached to General Douglas McArthur's command throughout the most successful southwest Pacific campaign."
After one week in Hong Kong, Ingham left with one Destroyer Escort to Haiphong, French Indo-China. At 15 knots, the two ships covered the distance in two days, arriving October 16th. The ships anchored five miles from shore because (we heard) the French were fighting a war with the Annamites, whoever they were. Buildings along the coast were said by European travelers to resemble structures on the Riviera in the south of France. They did indeed look graceful and tastefully planned. We saw a lighthouse atop one island, the building made of tile and marble. We heard that it had once been used for French dances and state occasions. Beach parties took place for approximately 25 enlisted men each day.
Some nine days after her arrival, Ingham (now accompanied by other ships of the US fleet: Destroyer Escort's, DD's, and troop ships) moved nearer the shore. We heard that the troop carriers were to move the Chinese 52nd Army farther north to battle communist forces. Others boarded different vessels for transfer to the island of Formosa (now Taiwan).
The welcome news of the assignment of the USS Charleston to relieve the Ingham was received October 22, 1945. We were about to turn the prow toward home after many months of duty well performed. On October 27, Ingham shifted anchorage to a spot near the Norway Islands. Massive rocks rose from 100 to 250 feet from the sea. Scenery was gorgeous. Beach parties were sent to sandy strips of beach in and among the rocks up narrow inlets. Swimming conditions were ideal.
On November 4, Ingham departed the Norway Islands to return to Hong Kong. On that trip, we encountered rough weather, and consequently, approximately 80% of the crew looked a bit green around the gills. Liberty was granted, this time the Captain's announcement stated that the US dollar equaled only six Hong Kong dollars. We speculated that the British cut the value of our currency because we had more to spend than their own folk. We heard that Royal Navy sailors were paid roughly $25.00 US/month in contrast to US sailors' overseas pay of nearly $80.00 US/month.
On November 6, 1945, the U.S. Army 35th Signal Detachment consisting of three officers and 23 enlisted men, were transferred permanently from Ingham. We had made many friends and were sorry to see them go. At the same time we were pleased for them, because we knew they would soon be going home!
On November 14, we departed Hong Kong for Formosa. Two days later upon arrival in Formosa, at 1000, a Japanese man boarded from one of our LST's. Snapping a salute at our gangway, he sang out the crisp announcement, "I pilot." He directed Ingham safely into harbor at Takao, Formosa (Taiwan). Masts of Japanese ships showed above the water line; once again we could see the result of Allied bombing raids. Piers and wharves were severely damaged.
The next morning, the troop transports carrying the Chinese Army troopers from Indo-China arrived and anchored a few miles out in deep water. Presently, many soldiers were moved to barges and were brought ashore. Later reports from sailors on barge duty indicated that the Army troopers were all seasick on the barges, vomiting rice everywhere.
On November 20, liberty parties were allowed to go ashore for sightseeing. The Japanese supplied a couple of "rattletrap" trucks to transport us. We wondered how the trucks had escaped the bombing raids. We witnessed craters 20 feet across and 10 feet deep alongside the piers. We would see no ship still afloat, except for a dozen or so two-man Japanese submarines which had been hidden under camouflage nets and had avoided being hit during bombing.
The trip to the town of Takao (Tuh - kuyu-oh), five miles distant, took about 15 minutes. On the journey, we saw some Japanese farms which looked as if every inch of tillable soil had been turned by a plow to produce food. The main crop appeared to be kale, but we also saw many rice paddies. We passed a cement works where calcium carbonate and calcium silicate were heated. Still further on, we observed caves cut into the side of mountains with railroad tracks running inside. We later learned that inside were power plants supplying electricity to all of southern Formosa. The Japanese appeared well prepared for bombings. On closer observation, we found very large gun emplacements deep inside the caves, with tracks to haul the guns to the openings in the rock for firing. They were undamaged and still operational.
The city itself resembled a big pile of wreckage. Although several buildings were still standing, they bore the marks of explosions and fires. The only places we saw open for business were cabarets which sold sake wine and women. We saw a theater which was open. Inside we heard gruesome music to our Yankee ears. The main musical instruments were cymbals and gongs. The actors wore decorative fancy robes. It looked to us like some nightmarish variation of "The Mikado" spoken (naturally enough) in Japanese. We stood it only for a few minutes, wondering if our entertainment in the States would seem as weird to them. After a couple of hours, we returned to the pier in the dilapidated trucks. On the way, we saw a "flock" of Japanese "Q" boats; little suicide craft we had feared and stood watch against at night in February in Subic Bay. Movies continued at night on the foc'sile. Our projectionists had latched onto a "short subject" film of a sing-a-long. We memorized every song including "Icky Ticky Tambo." Speculation concerned when we might head for the States.
Thanksgiving was celebrated a week early on Ingham (November 22nd rather than the 29th). The feast for enlisted men was served on the foc'sile. 10 tables were set with white cloths and plenty of food was on hand; we even had a printed menu and the mess cooks served table wearing their whites.
The Chinese Commanding General, was a huge, overweight man. He invited Adm. Buckmaster and the Captains of the ships under his command to a dinner celebrating the successful transfer of Nationalist Chinese troops. RADM Buckmaster called a meeting of those who would attend and admonished them to be careful of the Chinese drinking custom during the very long, 3 to 4 hour ceremonial dinner with many courses. In other words, where the Chinese lifted their glasses with the toast of "Gon Bay" or "Bottoms Up," to drink lightly.
As the dinner progressed, (one of the courses included fried chicken heads, which protocol required everyone to eat) lovely young ladies brought more and more drinks, and Admiral Buckmaster got caught up in the occasion. He proposed his own toast or two. The obvious happened and long before the last course, the Admiral's aide had to help him back to the ship. The dinner was held in one of the few two-story buildings left standing from the bombing and the beautiful young ladies were prostitutes who lived on the second floor above.
The Admiral's staff was berthed on an LST which followed us everywhere. His staff was U.S. Navy but any disciplinary action was the responsibility of Captain Zittel, our Commanding Officer. One day a very young Navy seaman was brought before Captain Zittel, at Captain's Mast, for refusing a lawful order. Specifically, when placed on messenger duty, he refused, stating, "I didn't volunteer to come out here to be a messenger. I came out to fight the war."
Captain Zittel, "Young man, do you know that for this refusal of a lawful order in time of war, you could be shot? Now, if you understand, and go back and do your duty, I will not punish you."
But the seaman responded, "Sir, I did not come out here to be a messenger."
With that the Captain said, "We will place you in the ship's brig until you change your mind."
It took two days before the young man sent word he wished to see the Captain. "Sir, I understand and I will perform all lawful orders directed to me."
Captain Zittel sent the seaman back to his LST with a note to the Chief of Staff to please not punish him, and requested that the infraction not be placed in the seaman's file Actions such as this were cause for Captain Zittel to be held in very high regard by officers and enlisted crewmembers alike.
Tragedy struck the ship at 1300 on November 24th, the day the Ingham sailed for Hong Kong. Lawrence William Heffron, a 25-year-old seaman who was part of the "black gang" died of acute amoebic dysentery. It was a sad moment for all shipmates, indeed. We were a lot quieter for some time after that. Underway at sea, we sighted a light off our port quarter. Exactly one year after the "I" left Norfolk, our relief ship the USS Charleston came into view from over the horizon. Both ships steamed into Hong Kong on Sunday morning. Activities included bringing mail aboard, refueling, and getting Heffron's remains to shore for a funeral and burial. Our communications officer, LCDR Finley, transferred our shipmates of the U.S. Army 35th Signal detachment and their equipment to the Charleston. By 1600, the "I" was no longer home to "Radio 1." The radio room was empty now and no equipment poured forth DI-DA-DA-DITS. It was hard to believe we actually were no long Flagship of the South China Forces. Lawrence Heffron's funeral took place beside his grave in Hong Kong's International Cemetery with over half of the ship's company in attendance. The sunlight was beautiful, and so were the sprays of flowers around the coffin. Heff's fellow sailors carried his body up the mountainside for the occasion. Eight gunner's mates formed an honor guard to fire three volleys. A bugler from the USS Prometheus blew taps. We learned that the presiding priest had heard Heffron's confession just two week before. The next day, the same priest conducted a memorial service on our foc'sile in Heffron's honor.
The tensely awaited day for shoving off for home finally arrived! At 1000 on November 29, 1945, RADM Elliot Buckmaster USN, shook hands with Captain Zittel, saluted the quarterdeck and departed the ship while eight sideboys stood at rigid attention as the bosun trilled on the bosun's pipe in the ancient custom . The Admiral walked across the connecting gangplank, and was greeted in similar fashion by the Captain and crew of the USS Charleston. We had mixed emotions as he departed but the overriding emotion was joy in knowing we were about to get underway for home! At 1230, zone security officers checked their areas for stowaways. The crew together with 80 Navy people, having enough points to return to the States, mustered topside. Then, just before 1300, the Captain shouted happily over the 1MC, "Stand by to un-moor ship . . . for HOME!" By 1400, we were clear of Victoria harbor, underway for Saipan in the Marianas, and the good old USA.
We were actually moving east! The sea tossed us about rather roughly all the way to Saipan. On December 5th, the Ingham tied to an oil tanker off Saipan for fueling. Seven men and sixteen officers boarded Ingham to ride to Pearl Harbor. A mere four hours later, we were off again bound for Honolulu, Hawaii. In the crew, we had no information about our destination after the stop at Pearl Harbor. But we were going in the right direction. With a calm sea once more, we watched movies twice on the mess deck and once in the wardroom. On December 10th, we crossed the International Date Line, thus regaining the day we had lost between Bora Bora and Holandia the year before. We had two Mondays, but neither was "blue."
Early in the morning of December 14th, we caught sight of Oahu. By 0900 we were moving through the uncommonly narrow channel leading to Pearl Harbor. Once there, we moored to a buoy and observed that the bay was nearly surrounded by land. No matter what storms hit the sea, the harbor remained calm, ideal conditions for a fleet base. From our mooring point, we saw no evidence of the Japanese' sneak attack four years before. The scenery was breathtaking. Large pineapple plantations surrounded the mountain slopes on every side and the blue water reflected the cloudless sky perfectly. Mail was hauled aboard by carloads, which boosted morale to an all time high.
Once the Captain had granted liberty to the crew, we mobbed the shore boats to reach the jetty. Stepping ashore, we spotted a canteen with Coca-Cola, ice cream, and pineapple juice. It somehow tasted better since we had not tasted the genuine article since leaving Panama a year earlier. A 20-minute bus ride brought us to the sprawling city of Honolulu with its palm-lined streets and modern business district. The mass of white uniforms looked a good deal like Norfolk in the summertime. However, it was more beautiful and much cleaner. A short distance further along the shore brought us to Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the distance. Some members of the crew patronized tattoo parlors so they could wear decorations home on their bodies. The tattoo artists offered anchors, nude ladies, and fish among other designs.
Peacetime conditions made many differences. For example, the Captain could now let us know our next destination. Beside that, we could send radiograms home telling that we were going to be traveling back through the Panama Canal. And a third difference concerned our "passenger ship" status. The people we were carrying bound for the west coast debarked, and 40 different "high point" men came aboard to ride to the east coast.
Our 14-day trip to the Canal Zone began following loading operations on December 15th. A "HOMEWARD BOUND" pennant flew from our mizzen mast. The Pacific was actually pacific again for the "I;" like a pane of glass. On Christmas eve and Christmas day, we even felt a little holiday spirit because of our heading. One year before, "I" had been in a hot climate for Christmas near the island of Guadalcanal, and here again was a hot Christmas. The Stewards and Commissary men provided us another feast for Christmas Dinner, this time it seemed the best meal we had eaten.
At 0900 on Sunday, December 30, our ship waited her turn near Balboa to go through the locks and traverse "Teddy's Ditch." At 1100, she was floated up to Miraflores Lake by locks of the same name. Next came the Pedro Miguel lock for the lift to Gatun Lake. And by 1800, she was descending in the Gatun locks to the level of the Atlantic. One section of the crew flew frantically into whites for a brief liberty. By 1930 the "I" was moored to a pier in the Coco Solo Naval Base near Colon. The other section was granted liberty the following afternoon. The port city looked as it had in '44. We returned to the ship in one of three possible orientations: upright, listing to one side or horizontal.
Monday, December 31, was the day we again loaded and departed. Whether sober or otherwise, everybody cheered on beginning our last lap. We saw the new year arrive in happy condition; some even sang "Auld Lang Syne." Someone shouted "Happy New Year" over the PA system at midnight. Watching our journey on the western Atlantic on a chart, one could see Cuba looming close to port on January 2nd, Florida on the third, Charleston early the fourth. Even the sea near Cape Hatteras was calm. Saturday night January 5th we were shining our shoes, examining blue uniforms and getting out some long underwear. No one appeared to sleep very much.
At 0430 on Sunday, January 6th, everybody left his sack to look at the Statue of Liberty, the beautiful lady with the lamp, lighted now that peace had come, standing on Bedloe's Island. Captain Zittel made an announcement over the PA system similar to those he customarily made at overseas ports. It went somewhat like this: "NOW HEAR THIS: the rate of exchange here is one to one except at nightclubs where it runs a bit less than one-half to one. The natives are friendly if not mistreated. Style of greeting is usually 'hello,' not 'huba, huba, huba.'"
END OF NARRATIVE
This account of Ingham's activities has been enhanced immeasurably by the inclusion of portions of "A View From the Glory Hole" written by then eighteen and nineteen year old Seaman Robert Carter. My sincerest appreciation to Bob Carter; and to Mike Hamrick for his invaluable help in the editing of this material.
Time and space has prevented a fuller account of shipboard activities. Because of my background as a former Surfman (or "Sand Pounder") and Boatswain's Mate, I dedicate these accounts to the memory of Chief B. M. Teddie Trei, and to our shipmates who served with him on the Deck Force aboard Ingham.
Dean W. Colbert