Even our crew had begun to be prepared for possibly taking part in such an invasion, being supplied with all kinds of gear, the bulk of which would hardly allow one to make his way through the limited space of a hatch. And had we a need to jump over the side into the sea, I think we'd have sunk to the bottom from the weightslightly exaggerated, of course.
But, considering their avowed "death is more honorable than surrender" attitude, it was estimated the cost in lives to take the mainland would involve too great a loss to allied forces. So the atomic bomb was already being considered as an ace in the hole to avert such need. It was just a "wait and see" situation in the hope it would not be needed.
And two were dropped ultimately, the first on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, and the second on Nagasaki on August 9th. And, wouldn't you know, the Russians declared war on Japan on August 8thwhen it was all pretty well in the bag, so to speak!
Over 100,000 Japanese were killed in those drops, and 110,000 were injured. The Japanese government asked the U.S. if total surrender meant their beloved Emperor Hirohito would have to give up his throne. When told it was up to the people to decide his fate, they decided on August 14th to accept complete surrender. This didn't actually take place formally until September 2, 1945, when the battleship Missouri, with General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces on board, steamed into Tokyo Bay for the official ceremony.
Got ahead of myself again, as the last clue as to what we were doing was around the ninth of May of '45. On that date we were assigned escort duty to a convoy headed for Saipan, from which we were then ordered to Guam, arriving there on May 20th. We remained there until the end of the war carrying out submarine training exercises.
One episode I'd forgotten to mention involved one of our guys on board who had a brother who was part of a B-29 crew operating off the island of Tinian. When in the Saipan/Tinian area we'd watch the B-29's taking off and landing one after another with what seemed like no end. Then one day it happened!
As this one crippled B-29 came in he was unable to control the craft, having had his controls pretty well shot up. He landed directly into a row of planes which had been readied for takeoff (fully loaded with ammo/fuel). [See Footnote 2. The only accident this could refer to, happened when a plane was taking off; not landing!] The explosion remains in my mind like a picture you may have seen of the atomic bomb blasta huge mushroom shaped fireball ascending upward filled with fire and smoke. This poor guy's thoughts were that his brother was probably killed almost before his eyes!
It was later learned the sailor's brother was not among those killed in that tragic accident. Extra effort had been made to find out what had happened in his behalf. You see, we did have a heart in the officers' complement after all!
Many liberties were not covered in this report of our ship's activities. For example I distinctly recall having a couple of beer liberties on the island of Kwajalein, that narrow strip of nothing for which we battled for a week in the first week of February of 1944. By "we" I meant our military, not our ship.
Those liberties usually gave each sailor the opportunity to get three cans of beer (it was called that, though it was still green and unprocessed). Then deals would be made to get another three in exchange for this or that, and so it went on and on. Guess we figured anything was better than nothing. And that's really what the stuff amounted to, next to "nothing."
Another liberty (half the ship at a time, I think it was) took place for three days, but I can't remember if it was on Guam or Saipan. I recall seeing all the pill boxes the Japs had built, the underground tunnels lined with thick walls of cementalmost impenetrable. Also while on that three day liberty there, I recall Japanese soldiers being taken prisoner and placed into Army trucks. As we watched, one of the Japs calmly reached under the seats to release a hook holding the seats up, as though he'd been trained in their use. They wore the typical uniform with strapped leggings.
Since it was years later before all the Japs knew the war had ended, there was still some sniping going on while we were there on that leave, tookind of weird, yet scary.
Somewhere along the way after Okinawa and our reassignment, an offer was available to go to Radio Technician School in the States, and I grabbed at the offer. But had I known the schooling was to be [cancelled if the war ended], I'd never have taken the offer.
I was offered the opportunity to either go ashore and await passage back to the States or to stick with the ship and wait until it went back. I'm glad I opted for that choice at least! I could have spent months awaiting a return on the shore bit.
From August 15 to September 15 our ship stood by in readiness to place prize crews on board any Jap subs which might surrender. I don't recall that anything ever required our services in that time, though I could be wrong.
Last Stop at Pearl
We stopped at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, probably as much for refueling as anything else. And the liberties which followed were welcomed! As we entered that port, one we'd seen before, it reminded me of my first stop there.
As soon as we got to the border between the navy yard's limits and the freedom of the outside world, there was an information booth offering directions and advice as to where to go and what to see. A couple of cute little Hawaiians manned the booth. The one was working a crossword puzzle and asked the other, "What's a nine letter word which means 'to erase'?" I stepped up and responded, "It's 'eradicate.'" She counted, "One, two...nine! That's it!" I was so impressed with myself I could hardly control my emotions, and that scene remains in my memory as though it took place yesterday. See what a little flattery can do for a person!
Docked at Terminal Island
By the time we'd returned to the States, it must have been the end of October, and my "schooling ordeal" had yet to be faced. I didn't know what to expect, and I tried to get out of it. But I was told it could not be changed (see, they wanted to get rid of me more than I wanted to be rid of them) and I'd have to go through with it.
We pulled into Terminal Island just west of Long Beach, and I was told my orders were ready. Here I was on the one and only ship I knew for over 2½ years, and now when the guys would all be together for the decommissioning of the ship, I'd be off somewhere looking for a school I would never enter. It just didn't seem fair or right.
Many Cities for No Good Reason
The orders were for me to report to the Navy Base at San Diego, and I was bussed down. When reaching the gates, the guy looked at my orders and said, "We have no record here that you are supposed to be here!" Nice feeling! "I'm being sent here," the ship doesn't want me on board; this place doesn't know why I'm here; what's going on?"
I don't know for sure how many days I spent there in San Diego, but it seemed like ages. In reality it was probably only several days before I'd received the news I was being sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for mustering out with a delay en route at Chicago of one week before reporting there to Philadelphia.
While I was awaiting this news at San Diego, I'd been on my own trying to find my way around this vast camp. One time while in the head to shave and shower, I had my pea coat hanging on a hook (it was practically new, since we didn't need them in the Pacific), and when I got back out, the new coat was gone and a dingy, worn one was left in its place. I guess a sailor saw an opportunity for a good "switch" and took it. This was right after I'd entered the camp and was already homesick for the ship and crew I'd just left behind. This was a real bummer!
Once at home I tried to overcome my feelings of sadness for the ship and crew by trying to pour out my burdens and enjoying renewing family ties and friendships. I'm sure I made the very best of that week.
In the Philadelphia Navy Yard I was assigned the task of walking sailors around from station to station as they completed their paperwork which would give them their discharges from the navythe same thing I'd be doing soon. But it still wasn't over for me.
I now received a transfer to Lido Beach, Long Island, New York, a base located, right on the Atlantic Coast. It was cold and windy and damp there. But my duties were much the same as they were at Philadelphia, walking sailors around from place to place.
This didn't last too long before I was finally transferred to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinoisthe place from which all this had begun some three years earlier!
It may have been a couple to three weeks of just killing time, now being in those groups being led from station to station to complete my discharge. Whatever needed signing and on whatever line, it would be done promptly and without question. "The sooner, the better" attitude was in full force by now. Very few men bothered to report illnesses or minor injuries in order to try for some sort of disability benefit which might come later on.
To this day I don't know on what date the ship was actually decommissioned and when all the guys left for wherever. Did they have weeks and weeks of work around the ship? Did they get a lot of liberty time, or did they have scheduled posts and hours? That's something I missed very much knowing.
A Civilian Again!
January 13, 1946, and I was now a free man again! In that short ride from the Lake's North Shore to Chicago, and then another ride to the southwest suburbs, I took time to ponder my past experiencesthe joys, the heartbreaks; the good times and the memories of them, and the tragic events which led to sadnesses. It was all behind me now, and the future was all I could hope for.
Who would ever have thought at that time there'd be a forty-five year interval before I'd begin writing about those few short years of my navy life!
Well, there have been wars (the Persian Gulf  being the latest) and rumors of wars since those days, and the Bible says there will be those as long as this world exists. [The US since then becoming involved in both Afghanistan and Iraq.] Yet, I want to take a brief moment here to thank all the service men and women who have served, who are serving, and who will serve this great country of ours in whatever time remains. God bless them, each and every one!
1[Return to Text] We must point out the USSR had been planning an attack on Japan for months prior to this, so the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima had nothing to do with their decision to attack the very next day. But it certainly appeared to the American people that they waited until the 'last minute' to help. And if not, why did Stalin wait so long that Roosevelt had to ask him to act at the Yalta Conference? Even then, Stalin only agreed that "...the Soviet Union would enter the Pacific War three months after the defeat of Germany." And if they didn't, the USSR would have lost an international entitlement to various territories (such as the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands). It came down to Stalin refusing to fight in both Europe and the Pacific at the same time, yet still wanting to get whatever they could with a limited expenditure on their part. The USSR waited until the Japanese were quite weak in Asia (having moved their best troops to various islands to fight the Americans) and unsure of where, if ever, the Soviets might attack them. So, on August 8th, the full 3 months after the Yalta agreement, the USSR caught the Japanese off-guard in Manchuria by attacking on 3 sides at once, having timed their declaration of war to only an hour before the attacks. It may be, however, that the invasion of Manchuria and the possibility of the Soviets 'coming in the back door' to Japan was a significant contribution to Japan's surrender.
2[Return to Text] Though we've seen reports of single B-29 crashes during landing; sometimes damaging planes on the ground, we've been unable to find any Army Air Force records of a large "explosion" involving a landing plane and planes ready to takeoff, as the author described above. We do, however, believe this note in the Crouter's War Diary from its 20 MAY 1945 entry, refers to this incident as seen from his ship: "Observed explosion, fire and large columns of smoke on North end of Tinian Island at 1825." Furthermore, this note from May 20th, 1945 confirms that date: "(9th BG, 1st BS, "Thunderin' Loretta") crashed on takeoff at North Field, Tinian May 20 1945. 10 killed, 1 survived. Damaged 7 other parked B-29s (44-69841, 42-63506, 42-93992, 44-69844, 44-69972, 42-63504 and 44-69859)" (from this page). There's also a book in PDF format (download it from here) which contains an article titled, "Thunderin' Loretta's Last Thunder" (Ch. 14, pp. 263-265) that describes this as the worst crash on the field (as well as the book's author concurring as such, on page 30), thus, making it obvious there could not have been a 'crash landing' as described by our author.