Posted by K GourlyKCUDKK1@aol.com
My father was here for a recent visit, and during that visit we had a wonderful time talking about W.W.II. I am so proud of my Dad, and the more I know him the prouder I am. He is a wonderful father, and I just have to pass on some of his memories;
He was assigned to the LST 748 after being on board the DE Walter C. Wann. While trying to get through the locks at Panama, they were in a terrific storm, in which my father and two other sailors were injured trying to re-secure the bow anchor on the Wann. My father had contusions to his ribs, which we now know were broken), when he was dashed into the five inch gun turret. He was let off DE 412 in Panama where he remained for about ten days in hospital. He was then assigned to the LST 748. The Captain at that time was Mr. Foster, X.O was Mr. Money, Engineering Officer was Earl Long, who was the nephew of Governor Long of Florida, and the Deck Crew Officer was Mr. Pogue. The tank deck was loaded with 55 gallon drums of airplane fuel and they were heading for New Guinea for delivery. They then received orders to head for the Island of Leyte, where they were involved in the Liberation of the Philippines. They were transporting Marine Engineers. Most of their time was spent Island hopping from one Island to the next. It was during this Island hopping that he recalls getting visited by the Japanese. Dad was on the 20 MM antiaircraft gun on starboard mid-deck. He remembers that every third round was a tracer, and you never really knew just who's guns might have brought those airplanes down. He said that every gun on every ship of the convoy would be in use. He did say that a lot of the time, he believed the pilots were usually wounded or dead, before their planes actually hit the ocean. He does recall that in one convoy, that the 748 was out of position. There was a LST behind them that was to have been in their spot, and that somehow the two positions got reversed. He said that he can remember the concussion from the explosion of a Japanese Kamikaze taking out this LST behind them, where the 748 was supposed to have been. After the smoke cleared they looked back to see nothing. He said it was so calm it was as if nothing had happened. He does believe that there were a few survivors, and believes that the number of the LST was 252. They spent Christmas Eve, 1944, beached on the Island of Leyte. They had continual air raids all night long. He said that there was no place to hide on an LST, and it made him sick inside to see the Marines they were transporting, so used to being on land, trying to "dig in" (foxholes) on the ships deck. He said that the daylight raids were difficult, because the Japanese Pilots would fly in from out of the sun so they weren't spotted until they were right on the ships. Scuttlebutt was that they were getting ready to convoy with another group of ships and head to Japan when the first "A" bomb was dropped. Due to the bombing, they were given sea liberty. To celebrate, they killed the engines, dropped anchor, were given two beers a piece, and swam in the Coral Sea. Shortly after that, they pulled up anchor and headed to Korea, where they were given liberty. By this time my Father had received enough points that he was close to being discharged. He received his discharge in Camp Sheldon, Virginia on December 23rd. 1945. He was given $300.00 mustering pay, and a bus ticket to Greensboro, NC He received the Asiatic Pacific Area Campaign Ribbon with two bronze stars, The Philippine Liberation Ribbon with 1 bronze star, and of course the World War II Victory Medal.
Here are some of the more comical things that took place while on board LST 748 that my Father recalls:
The Deck Crew Officer, Mr. Pogue was standing on the ramp while they were unloading. When the ramp was brought up, it was brought up too far, and snapped a cable. When the cable snapped, the ramp came crashing down along with Mr. Pogue. On the way down, Pogue hit his head against the side of the ramp, knocking himself unconscious. When the men around saw the wound on his head they thought Pogue was dead. He wasn't. He recovered from it, and never stood on another ramp when it was being raised.
They lost a sailor at sea. There is an area behind the bow doors at the foot of the ship where there was a small space and just enough room for about one guy. Dad said it wasn't all that unusual to find a sailor there when they were beached or anchored, It was one place where you could be alone for a while. Well, evidently, one of the sailors went into this particular area, unaware that they were about to shove off. When the ship started to move and pick up what little speed it had, that small space became like a large latrine, and the force of the waves, flushed the sailor out of the space and right into the open ocean where he was eventually picked up by a LCM.
Then there was the time the Boatswain Mate presented the Captain with a wonderful gift. They were beached on one of the Islands one evening, and had a few hours of liberty. The Captain had commented on not having any transportation. Evidently some of the Ships Captains had jeeps they hauled around with them, so they didn't have to walk anywhere when they got liberty.
Well, this one particular evening, the Boatswain Mate stole an Army Jeep while on liberty and drove it back to the LST as fast as he could. They hauled the jeep aboard, and within no time, that jeep was the property of the Navy. Dad said they painted it blue and stenciled a Navy serial number on its side, and that it remained on the LST from that point on. The Captain, I am told, was very pleased.
I truly enjoyed my time with my Father this last visit. He has never been one to really speak of the war. But having read the book "Flags of Our Fathers," it brought to me a curiosity, and a strong admiration of all W.W.II veterans. I myself am a former Marine, and spent ten years in the Corps. What is so sad, is that the young enlisted personnel, no longer have these great models to sit and talk with about what war truly is. During my enlistment, there were several Vietnam Vets in my units, they grounded us. Having them in our midst, gave of a true sense of what our mission in the military was. Day by day, we our loosing our history makers by the thousands. Who is left to teach us?
I want to send my personal thanks to all war veterans, and urge you to take the time and speak to the young people you come in contact with, and pass on the good and bad history of war. Tell those stories and be proud of what you accomplished and helped build in this country. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! K. Gourley