The new Fourth Edition with 44-page Index
Eisenhower Needed Seaports
Dragoon. Southern France Invasion: Marseille,Toulon Fall. U.S. 7th Army assault divisions link up with Normandy advance
Copyright 2012 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
Author's Note: Dragoon (see headline above) begins about half way down this page.
Destroyers; Two Main Types Fought for U.S. in WW II
If the Fletcher class U.S. destroyers won the Battle of the Pacific, the Benson/Livermores won the Atlantic/Mediterranean. I realize that the premise is an exaggeration, but destroyers played a major role in World War II. In the Atlantic they helped the Allies survive the early onslaught of the U-boat. In both oceans, and in the Mediterranean, destroyers helped the troops get ashore. In the Pacific, destroyers performed the dangerous picket duty against kamikaze aircraft.
The action portion of this Chapter begins with the landings in Southern France on August 15, 1944. We will begin that event in our story after covering Edison's progress during the late winter, spring and summer of 1944. In summary, Edison left the Mediterranean for New York in late February 1944, after finishing her chores at Anzio. Edison skipped, or was skipped by, the Normandy Invasion of June 1944. I will relate, however, an interesting role that Edison and the other veteran "Med" destroyers and cruisers played relative to the cross channel invasion from England to France. First, though, some feedback.
I have, since about Chapter Five, been including feedback early in each Chapter. The feedback is often stimulated by something said in a previous chapter. I have determined to put it in as soon as I could even though it might better fit at an earlier chapter in the story.
I want to highlight the first Internet feedback from Edison men, or from their children or grandchildren. Nine chapters were on the Web before this occurred. I believe this story is in debt for gaining these new Edison readers to Jean Whetstine and the thirty-year old Edison newsletter she edits and publishes. So, first Edison Web-readers, here you are:
Warren E. Blake. On Edison from December `41 at Casco Bay to May `43; e-mail 1/29/98:
Susan DeVore Reilly. Her father is "Harry" Reilly, given name Henry, a plankowner on Edison; Susan telephoned 1/31/98 and gave me her e-mail address:
Tanya M. Sommers. Her grandfather is Frank Barber, another plankowner; e-mail 2/1/98.
Next, a delightful post Anzio-Chapter feedback item is reproduced below. This e-mail came from Ken Williams who served on the USS Ludlow and who contributed to this story in an earlier chapter. Ken's e-mail was dated 1/31/98. (We are saddened to report Ken Williams' death which occurred in late 1999.)
"Frank; Thanks for the kind words in regard to the Ludlow and myself. I look forward to, and enjoy each chapter.
"Your speaking kindly of the HMS Penelope brought forth many warm thoughts of her. She was known as HMS Pepperpot of Malta. Whenever I saw her, she invariably had holes from bomb or shell fragments in her stacks and guntubs. There was always a rivalry between us and the Brits; but there was admiration, too. From the haze of 50+ years, I recall the HMS Spartan when she went down. She got hit in the sunset air raid and was burning badly. The Brits stayed aboard and continued to fight the fire until about 2200 hours when a high level bomber laid a stick of bombs on the brightly illuminated target. Whenever we got the word, "Red Shingle" we went to battle stations. But it wasn't till the Brits sounded their sirens that we really paid attention.
"The Germans were massing just north of the Tiber River and we wanted to bring in some cruisers to break up this concentration. The Ludlow was assigned to protect five minesweepers who were to sweep a channel for the cruisers. Minesweepers sweep at five knots, barely underway, so they make a good target. We battled all the way up to the end of the channel and battled back to the Anzio beachhead. We then got the orders we did not want to hear. "Go back up, the channel has to be wider." The second time, coming back down, we were getting no return fire but the "Sweeps" were still whaling away with their 3" guns. Our Cap't asked, "What is your target?" The "Sweeps" replied, "We ain't got no target. It just makes us feel better."
"You just can't argue with that logic. (A little anecdote you most certainly will understand and hopefully appreciate.) Best Regards, Ken W."
As we approach the final chapters of this story of a Benson/Livermore class destroyer in WW II, there will be more anecdotes. I have a number that I have wanted to put in earlier but I felt that the thread of the story should first be established.
Not long after the story of this Chapter was completed, I left the Edison. I will do a little more research to help complete her tale for the period I was not aboard. But, I will not be able to speak with the force that being aboard provides. Also, just one more time, I want to leave the modern reader of these lines with a sense of what the cadres of enlistees and reservists and draftees coming into service just before or at the outset of World War II were like.
World War II Was Multicultural Before That Term Was Invented
The Naval Academy "types" joined their units, for war service, trained for a lifetime career in that service. I have acknowledged at various points that the U.S. Naval Academy and its graduates were the victims of technology "lag" in ordnance, electronics and steam engineering. But at least, the USNA education gave us some insight on what we were supposed to know. Reserve Officer Joe Dwyer, who later became Edison's Engineering Officer, was the Chief Chemist in a comb factory when he reported aboard Edison as an Ensign. After the War, Joe was responsible for the success of a company which specialized in the manufacture of homogenizing equipment. Jim Hughes was another reserve officer whom I first knew as an Ensign on the USS Edison. Jim Hughes is today, early 1998, a "sitting" Administrative Law Judge for the State of California. Seaman Abe Simon, who could neither read nor write, came to the Edison as the owner of a successful junk and salvage company. (I am sure Abe used to weep when hundreds of spent five inch brass cartridge cases were simply swept over the side.)
Officer or enlisted, aboard the Edison I never heard anyone make anything of the different paths to service taken by reservists, draftees, and regulars. We were all men of the Edison, proud of our service in her, and proud of our service with each other. Every man aboard was proud of his heritage and everyone of us listened with fascination when another one of us would reveal a bit of his past. This is still going on, as we see in the next item.
"An account mostly from memory, of my service in the U.S. Navy before, during and after, WWII, by Warren E. Blake.
Boot Camp and Trade School
"I enlisted in April of 1941 with deferred reporting until I graduated from high school on the 13th of June. On the 24th of June I left New Haven, Connecticut for NTS, Newport, R.I. After eight weeks of "boot camp" and a short leave, I was off to Machinist Mates School at Great Lakes, where classroom work on the "mechanics of machinery" and the basics of machine lathe and milling machine were learned. Frequent liberty in Waukegan and Chicago was enjoyed. This phase of school was about a month in length, then we were off to Ford Motor Co's. River Rouge Plant, at Dearborn, Michigan. Two months of intensive, hands-on work in the apprentice school and general plant, under the watchful eye and tutelage of Ford employees was very rewarding and enjoyable. There, because of Henry Ford's aversion to cigarette smoking in his factories, I was initiated in the fine art of chewing tobacco without getting sick! On December 7th, we had just returned to barracks from Chapel, or noon chow, I don't recall which, when we learned that we were no longer just kids, looking for adventure. The amazing change at the plant, almost overnight, from civilian auto production to almost 100% military production, was difficult to comprehend. The attitude of us "kids" changed just as rapidly. An awareness that from now on it was not going to be all fun and games. Even though we had plenty of light moments, we were all much more serious in our daily demeanor and discussions. Three quarters of our school term was completed and now we were real anxious to learn just what the immediate future held, for us.
"Now it was time to go back to Great Lakes for final exams, graduation, and assignment to our first real duty stations. Graduate, we did, all 116 of us, with no drop-outs or flunk-outs. I don't recall how Christmas was spent that year, but I'm almost positive that Thanksgiving Dinner was in the mess-hall at the River Rouge Plant. My first year away from home for the Holidays! Oh--I mustn't forget----being an "old salt" now, with another stripe on the cuff of my dress blue jumper, I had to go to Detroit and get tattooed while we were in Dearborn!
U.S.S. EDISON, DD439
"I don't remember, nor do I have record of, the exact date that I reported aboard Edison, but I do know that it was a cold , blustery night on Casco Bay, in the first week or so, of January, 1942. This "landlubber" had to negotiate a Jacob's ladder out of a bobbing motor launch, with hammock and seabag on his shoulder, and the quarterdeck watch just peering down, to see if this "new kid " had what it takes!
"After being shown down below to the forward mess deck compartment, the quarterdeck messenger told me where to sling my hammock. It was right next to the skin of the ship, and even though we were still at anchor, the "boing - boing" of the plates springing in and out with each wave, had me wondering a little, if I was really hearing what I thought I was. I was, and it precluded my getting any sleep on my first night at sea. After a quick run down to Newport for fuel, we headed down for Bermuda. When we left Newport, I was assigned temporarily to the first division and assigned both duty and GQ stations. I recall very vividly, my first week at sea. I don't recall seeing the sun during that time, as I was very busy rolling around the deck in #1(gun), 5" handling room (my GQ station) in my own vomit. I don't recall what the chow menu was that week either, and I really didn't give a damn! It was heaven on earth, when we anchored in Bermuda and I found that the sun shines down there, also, and that the sea does calm down, at times. Best of all, I was hungry.
"Even though Livermore was based in Bermuda, Edison never met up with her and I was augmented by Edison as a crew member (kidnaped !). After only a short time in the 1st division (at the time I graduated from Machinist Mates School, the Navy was not handing out ratings upon graduating. I came out of school as F3/c even though I graduated 9th out of a class of 116). CEM Camp approached me with the offer to strike for Electrician's Mate, which offer I readily accepted. Chief Camp set me on a course of study that saw me making EM3/c in a very few months.
"Memories of Boston, Portland, Halifax and Argentia, as well as Iceland, during the early part of 1942, were of the "frigid" variety. Pulling in to port with several inches of ice from main deck almost to masthead. The long convoy hauls where tedium could have set in were it not for GQ every morning at dawn, and the constant submarine alerts accompanied very often with depth charge attacks. You slept fully clothed, wearing your life belt, and when you had quartering seas and the can would "corkscrew", you slept (or tried to) with arm and leg on one side braced against your bunk chains, and on the other side, against the stanchions supporting the bunks. During calmer seas though, the bunks were quite comfortable, compared to a hammock! (From the day I entered "boot camp" until I was signed on as Ship's company in Edison and finally got a bunk, I had spent about six months in a hammock).
"Pulling alongside the docks in Londonderry or Glasgow, even without getting liberty, was like being on leave! "Sensation" cigarettes were selling on board for .03 a pack, $0.30 per carton (standard brands were much more costly at $0.60 a carton) and were grabbed up to be used to barter for all kinds of goods (including contraband Scotch for 2 cartons). We had a very clean ship, as a few handsful of rubbish covered several dozen cartons of cigarettes in GI cans being carried ashore for disposal! The First Lieutenant or Quarterdeck Watch, never questioned the great volumes of `trash" being disposed of! I remember that EM1/c Gerry Randall was running the "ship's store" at the time. He also sold raffle tickets for a .38 cal. Colt revolver, for BM1/c Madison. Don't know what he wanted the money for, but the revolver was given to him by an officer at an embassy where he had been stationed. Anyway, I bought two tickets for a dollar and wound up being the owner of the gun, which I put in the armory for safe keeping.
"We had a very good electric gang on Edison, although some felt that CEM Camp was driving them too much. He would conduct classes topside when weather permitted and down in the engine room while you were on generator and distribution watch when weather was bad. I remember Henry Reilly, Ed Stolarz, Harry Halligan, Robert Morris, Gerry Randall, Larry Whetstine, and Joe Zock. Larry Whetstine went home with me one weekend, to Hamden, CT. I can't recall where the ship was at the time. Probably either Portland or Boston. Larry was a pretty tall guy, and when my mother saw him she said, "My gosh son, you're as big as Big Stoop". (Big Stoop was a cartoon character of that era, I believe he was in the strip, " Terry and the pirates"). It was probably about fifteen years ago that I read in one of Jean's newsletters that someone inquired where Larry got the nickname, "Stoop", so I wrote to Jean to tell her that my mother was the culprit!
"During my days as an electricians "striker", Chief Camp had Bob Morris break me in as a movie operator. We had on board one, large, top-heavy, Simplex, carbon-arc light, 35mm, movie projector, which had to be lashed down in the forward mess compartment, projecting through the starboard hatch onto the screen in the after mess compartment. With just the one machine, there was always a lot of heckling to take, while reels were changed, especially when the wrong one was put in. This training served me well, for I wound up being a movie operator in both USS Kidd, and USS Wisconsin. The knowledge of carbon-arc lights in the projector also helped me understand the operation of the 24" and 36" carbon-arc searchlights, on my subsequent ships.
"Early on, in North Atlantic convoy duty the reality of death came close to me. The Awatea incident brought home to me the uncertainty of life when I lost two very good friends in Ingraham, DD444, and later in the war, others on Buck and Benson, and I don't know how many others. Most not yet twenty years old, me being just 18 when Ingraham went down. This was one of several convoys in which the rescue vessel HMS Toward served with us. Many years later (in 1980), I met the skipper of Toward, and we've been close friends ever since. He was born on the Isle of Skye and is a bagpiper, we having met when we both became members of a Scottish cultural society. He was living in Belfast Maine when we met, and is now living in Pennsylvania. Peter MacPherson by name, he is a real gentleman.
"I don't recall just how many convoy crossings we made, interspersed with dockside alterations in Boston (one being when our liquid cooled 50 cal. machine guns were replaced with 20mm Oerlikon's) and one fairly long yard availability in Brooklyn, where we went into drydock, and I spent my first night in the engine spaces on "cold iron watch". Boy, oh boy! Was it ever cold! Life became more bearable when we made trips down south on special assignment. Up the Mississippi to New Orleans, where the First Lieutenant had the ship washed down topside with "fresh water", which made the ship look like a Hershey bar, when it dried! Connection to city water when we got dockside, cured that. Up the Sabine River to Port Arthur, Texas, where the country is so flat that ships on the river looked like they were high and dry, on land. I think that this trip was made sometime after the invasion of North Africa, at Casablanca.
"Casablanca, and dodging shells from ship and shore battery, and torpedoes from subs. That was a hectic week. Armistice Day? Hah! We were still fighting in one area or another since the first attack on the 8th of November. One evening , right after chow, I was standing on the main deck hungering for a pipe full of tobacco that was denied me, for we were refueling from a tanker and the "smoking lamp was out". All of a sudden, all hell broke loose, and three large transports in close proximity were torpedoed. Mooring lines and fuel lines to the tanker were severed, and we got underway, pronto and spent quite a while trying to track down the sub, or subs. This was getting too close for comfort!
"Escorting ships back to the states and back to Casablanca. On the first trip back to Casablanca after the invasion, I was ashore on liberty with two other Edison men, when I was "pinched" for the first time by Shore Patrol. We had just come out of a bar, and I noticed an SP Officer and two ratings across the street (a very crowded street) at a distance of about 50 feet. We hadn't gone but about the same distance parallel with them, when I was tapped on the shoulder and asked why I hadn't saluted the officer. This one took me by surprise, because at that distance, and with all the civilians and service personnel in between, it never entered my mind. Well we wound up on report by this officer and were taken back to Edison, which was outboard of Texas and two other cans. As soon as we were underway for the states again, with leaves coming up, Cap'n. Headden held mast and surprised me by asking me if I thought 4 hours as "Capt. of the head" was appropriate punishment! It seems that several skippers were tired of this particular shore patrol officer "harassing their men on liberty", but had to account for the arrests by the S.P. and make a report of punishment. Anyway, I didn't mind polishing troughs and such too much, as I knew I was getting leave in New York. I think that it was after this trip to New York, that we convoyed a tanker to Port Arthur. Somewhere in this time span, we made one trip into the Med and tied up in Oran. I had only been in the Med once during the war, so it had to be on Edison. It seems to me that it was after this trip that we went to Brooklyn for yard period. This was in the spring of `43, and when we came out of the yard, we tied up at Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, I suppose for supplies.
"I was out on the starboard yard-arm (I can think of a lot of other places I'd rather have been) replacing bulbs in the yard-arm blinker lights when Morris, EM2/c yelled up that I'd been transferred (I sure wished that I had a parachute!). A call had come for Edison to supply an EM2/c for a new Fletcher class DD, whose crew was at Long Beach, N.Y. By the time I had gotten down to the deck, orders for W. Blake, EM2/c, had been drawn up and I had 30 minutes to pack my bag. I was given an advance in rating to EM2/c to facilitate transfer (Morris was an experienced movie operator and knew how to dicker with other ships and stations, to get the best movies, and the Exec didn't want to lose him!)"
I will summarize the rest of Warren Blake's contribution. After his service on Edison, he served on the Fletcher class DD, USS Kidd, then on the battleship Wisconsin, then on the destroyer Meredith, all before becoming a civilian in late 1946. After four years as a postwar civilian, he received a surprise "invitation' from the Navy to return to active duty, the Navy being short in its artificer branch. Instead of going to Korea in his specialty, as an electrician, (the artificer shortage mentioned in his recall to active duty) Warren was sent to the destroyer H.J.Ellyson as master-at-arms with European duty. This gave Warren an opportunity to visit the grave of his brother who died and was buried in England of wounds received in WW II. Another brother was flying B-25s over Rabaul and Bougainville when Warren was in that area on the USS Kidd. Warren's second separation came on December 20, 1951 at Norfolk VA. He then again resumed his civilian career as a fireman in Hamden, Connecticut.
Westbound in Ballast
We have some time to account for after leaving the Mediterranean for rest and overhaul in March 1944. Edison left Palermo on the 14th of February 1944, Algiers on the 18th, and Oran on the 21st, bound for Casablanca. Our orders were to await the formation and arrival of convoy GUS-31. We made a rendezvous with this convoy on 26 February 1944 and got underway for New York. An Edison log entry of March 4, 1944 states that the Liberty ship SS Amelia Earhart joined our New York bound convoy that day. The Edison was the `top dog' in this convoy, and in fact the only "dog", as destroyers are sometimes called, in the convoy. The rest of the escorts were Destroyer Escorts. Our skipper, Lieutenant Commander Hepburn A. Pearce was the Convoy Commodore.
Things had certainly changed in the Atlantic. A convoy of this size with a destroyer and nine destroyer escorts was a revelation to those of us who had been baptized on the North Atlantic runs of 1941-1942. Then it was a scarce allotment of U.S. destroyers with a U.S. or Canadian Coast Guard cutter or Canadian corvette added from time to time.
That February-March 1944 convoy assignment was a long trip with over 100 Liberty ships, in ballast, through a rough Atlantic sea crossing. Each day began with a "body count" of the Liberty ships. We would cross through the convoy from flank to flank, reading the convoyed ship's name off its stern. (TBS voice communication was still restricted to warships and the methods for communicating with merchant ships were based on such limited options as the 500 kilocycle distress frequency.) It took several passes through the nine or ten convoy columns, first one way and then back, then over again etc., to accomplish this. It was an exercise in seamanship, because the prevailing wind and sea of the zig or the zag in zig-zagging convoys effected your transit differently each time. Some Liberty ships with engineering or exceptional ballast problems would be lagging and our transit through the convoy would contain a dimple to accommodate the straggling column. Our Captain let me keep the conn for this on the mornings that I had the 0800-1200 watch and I appreciated his confidence in me. On the 16th of March, the convoy arrived off the East Coast and dispersed into units destined for different ports.
Edison's March 1944 log also shows that we made Gravesend Bay for off loading ammo on 18 March. For that period, the log also shows that Lieutenant Richard "Dick" Hofer, Annapolis Class of 1942, was detached from the USS Edison on 20 March, 1942, to proceed to NAS Dallas for flight training. Dick Hofer's departure meant that I had become the Edison's Gunnery Officer. There was no ceremony. Lambert, Boyd and Hofer had been Edison's Gunnery Officers and these men would be a hard act to follow. (I was to see Dick Hofer just once more, at NAS Sanford Florida, in 1951 or 1952. Dick was killed shortly after that last meeting, while flying a Navy JRF on an instrument approach into Albuquerque, NM.)
Leave and Recreation
As evidence of U.S. progress in the War, Edison personnel began to get actual "leave" when we got to the "yard" at Bayonne, NJ, just after the middle of March 1944. Most leaves were of the three day variety, but some were longer. Three days would let you get to the Northeast Corridor, Pennsylvania Rail Road, with stops in Newark, New Brunswick, Trenton, North Philadelphia Station, Broad Street and 30th Street Stations in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Many GIs would sit up or sleep (try it, sometime) on a night train on this line just to take a girlfriend out for an evening, and be back at the ship the next morning. Taxi drivers in New York knew well where Sand Street was in Brooklyn, the home of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. My first sight of the new battleship, USS Iowa, was when the Edison and she were in adjacent dry docks at the Navy Yard. A destroyer looked like a tug boat in that setting. In fact, destroyers could be nested two abreast, and three deep in the dock and not go past the stern of the Iowa. Another favorite dock was the 35th Street Pier on the East River. I have examined one of the early Edison photos reproduced earlier in this story and Edison appears to have just gotten underway from 35th Street.
There is no poll of the number of us who got married during the March/April 1944 New York/New Jersey yard availability. Lt. Craw and I acted as best man for each other on successive days, his marriage in a church in New Jersey and mine in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. Joe and Gert Dwyer got married up in Massachusetts. I would guess 20 marriages, officers and crew, at least. (If anyone wants to find out why the "boomers' were so concentrated, these are the facts.) I had three days leave. My wife, Peggy, "picked the day" we got married. It turned out to be April 1, 1944, April Fools Day, in a Leap Year. (I've kidded you a lot about the wedding date "you picked", Peggy, but it is quite clear we took the only date that was available. We were married by a Monsignor, who later became the Bishop in residence at St. Pats. His name was Flannelly.) That wedding ceremony, (no flowers or music-it was Lent, the Saturday before Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church) was our high point in the Church, until we made it to our 50th a few years ago. My New York State Uncles, Vincent and Donald Dailey, helped us get a marriage license on short notice, helped us arrange a wedding ceremony on a Saturday afternoon at 6 p.m. during a light snow storm, and arranged a reception and dinner at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City. "Helped us" is an understatement because I do not recall doing any of it. Finally , our wedding suite was arranged by them for us at the Barclay, a lovely hotel in Manhattan, and the General Manager sent flowers to the room. It was the first time I did not have to bid my date good night at the Lobby elevator. Most of our meals the next three days were at the King of the Sea on Third Avenue. It was all seafood, but I liked their Nesselrode pie.
An East River Seamanship Event
In the early dusk of one inclement day, Edison came into New York harbor, with dock space assigned at 35th Street on the East River. Entering New York was always an event because it meant some of us would get ashore. It was always somewhat tense, though, because the skipper and the navigator would have one of us deck officers in training to conn the ship. There is a turn necessary around Governor's Island to stay in the channel and "ranges", a pair of marks on Manhattan skyline structures, one behind the other, as alignment targets on the pelorus to more precisely define where the ship was to make its course change. A strong current was running this foul evening and the conning officer and then the skipper gave way sooner than usual to a port pilot, who came over to us in a small boat from the Pilot Boat near the Ambrose lightship. The pilot confidently conned the ship up the East River and with signals, beckoned to two tugs to make fast to us with lines, one on the bow and one on the stern. In the slip right next to where we were headed was a beautiful white seagoing yacht, one of many that the military commandeered at the outset of WW II. This yacht had a beautiful clipper bow, with an engraved figurine of a proud lady at the top of the prow.
The pilot got us headed into our dock. I had never seen such a rapid upstream current. The two tugs were to hold us off the dock against the current, and gradually let us come down on the dockspace. They were pulling hard to battle the movement of the East River. With about 200 feet of space to the dock, the line from the forward tug snapped. Our bow began to set down on the dock at high speed, headed for a concussion beyond any help the bumpers draped over the starboard side could give. It was an emergency, and the pilot looked helplessly at Captain Pearce. Pearce did not hesitate. I had never seen this happen before! "I'll take it pilot.", he said, and in the same breath gave orders to the annunciator, ALL ENGINES BACK, EMERGENCY! He ordered the tug at the stern to get loose and out of the way. Edison's available horsepower, probably 30,000 at that point, took hold. Just before smashing her bow into the dock, Edison pulled clear, backing into the East River at high speed. Right into the path of a tug with five coal barges in tow! No need to expect anything from that assemblage except that they would plow straight into us. ALL ENGINES EMERGENCY AHEAD! By now, the engineers below would be sweating. "How did the Germans get a sub into the East River?", some of them might be asking. PORT ENGINE BACK TWO THIRDS! We had to twist and parallel the river heading outbound, move forward out of the way of a train of coal barges, and somehow snake between that river traffic and the shore. I was on the after deck house. Our stern cut an arc toward the next pier. That white clipper bow and her tranquil lady passed directly overhead, just. We made it.
"Hap" Pearce was truly a seaman, first class. After things got under control and the pilot reestablished contact with the tugs, the Captain, showing no particular emotion, calmly asked the pilot if he was ready to take us back to 35th Street. He was and he did. I am sure that the pilot appreciated the Captain's gesture of confidence in him. I also realized that the pilot was now aware that he was in the presence of a real ship handler who knew how to use the power of his ship when that power was needed. The engineering gang of the Edison deserved a big hand too. I am giving it somewhat tardily, but with feeling, on behalf of all of us topside "witnesses."
That Leave Part Came To An End Too Soon
Next, Edison was off to Casco Bay, Maine. Edison anchored out, with one whaleboat, cold and foggy. The chill got through to the bone. When I went aboard, Edison had two motor whaleboats. These were skippered by a coxswain or bos'ns mate. Their engineers were Motor Machinist's Mates, MoMM, a rating different from the Machinist Mate who operated Edison's steam turbine plant. The difference was a recognition of the diesel engine which powered the whaleboat. Soon after I came aboard, one whaleboat was removed. While we had two, one was the Captain's Gig and the other was for the crew. With some skippers, not ours, the other was for all the officers and crew except the skipper. Some skippers never shared their Gig. Gigs are fitted a little fancy, with sort of curtain-type tassels draped under the overhang. But, when there was just one boat for the entire ship, the fancies kind of went away. There was a flag flown when the whaleboat was used as a Gig and removed if the Captain was not aboard.
These boats were very seaworthy in the hands of a good crew. I can recall at Hampton Roads (Norfolk Naval Operating Base anchorage) one very rough morning coming back from liberty and the petty officer in charge at the landing ordered that no boats leave the landing until the sea calmed. Captain Pearce, knowing Edison had to get underway by 8:00 a.m., ordered the coxswain of the Edison's Gig to get underway and take us back to the Edison. We made it.
Casco Bay seemed dark and dreary all the time. Anchored out with Edison and other destroyers was the U.S.S. Denebola flying the flag of ComDesLant (Commander, Destroyers Atlantic Fleet). In peacetime, a station ship like that that did not actually go any place, would help out with "services" to destroyers. In wartime it was every ship for itself. One nice extra service would have been the loan of liberty boats, not that Portland, Maine was the most desirable liberty town on the East Coast of the USA. But, you could drink there.
"Leaning," in civilian life: "Listing," in the Navy
All destroyer sailors have stood on the deck of a rolling ship. Edison rolled as high as 57 degrees when I was aboard. Still, the effect of standing on the deck of a ship not underway, but listed over at 20 degrees, just hanging there, is an experience that really scared me. It happened one night in Casco Bay, during a non-underway emergency that took place in the middle of another emergency. We were to get underway the next day, the 20th of April 1944 in convoy, with orders, many of us divined, that would take us to Normandy and the cross channel invasion. (Yes, now I had enough time aboard to begin to speculate on "where next?" We actually had no knowledge that the cross channel would be at Normandy) Since it was the last night in the States, and since we had worked very hard to be ready to go with such schemes as CSMP (which I will come back to), we pushed the limit on the number of people allowed liberty. The whaleboat was crowded on each trip and it was in constant transit. I was OOD that night and Joe Dwyer had the engineering duty. The Captain went ashore early and the Executive Officer went ashore late. The Captain came back aboard somewhat the worse for wear. No movie scriptwriter could have dreamed up the next few hours.
Joe Dwyer was still learning to be Engineering Officer, and I had never quite experienced the responsibility for the whole ship, a kind of "Full Monty" responsibility. Just about dusk, Joe reported that we had sprung a leak in a fresh water tank. Now, destroyers treat fresh water like liquid gold. It is a necessity for the propulsion system. The evaporators that make fresh water work off the almost-spent steam. The scuttlebutts ( for drinking water) are fed `almost' fresh water that is not good enough for the boilers and turbines. Human showering is mostly a salt water affair with a failed invention called salt water soap. The Edison could not depart for battle on the morrow with a leak in a fresh water tank. I sent a signal to the USS Denebola for help on dealing with the problem. The immediate response signal, summarized, offered no help. "Fix it yourself!" Amplified, in context, "Doesn't the Edison know that the entire Fleet in this Bay sorties tomorrow for momentous operations in Europe?"
Joe told me his men figured they could get the hole up out of the water if we listed the ship about 20 degrees. Irrespective of whether we got help or not, we would have to get the hole up out of the water. There was no prospect of a drydock. Portland did not even have one. So, at Joe's direction, his men, skilled and to all appearances, confident, started pumping oil and water to the port side. Gradually, Edison heeled over, and inch by inch, our welders now hanging on a scaffold, reported the impending "arrival" of the suspect hole. After four hours of anxious step by step pumping, the hole emerged above the waterline. It was about amidships on the starboard side. Everything loose on deck had to secured. Just as Joe's men were preparing their torches to weld a hastily fabricated patch over the hole, a boat approached from the flagship, the USS Denebola. A weary Commander (three striper) came up (or over) the ladder we put down, and took in this scene with great puzzlement, while he moved ever so carefully about our slanted deck. "I want to see your Captain. I have Secret sailing orders for him to sign for!" Whew! The Captain is ill, too ill to see you, was my response. "Well then, I want to see your Executive Officer." Sorry sir, he is ashore. "What on earth is going on here? Tomorrow you sail. No Captain. No Exec. And this crazy operation going on when I cannot even stand up on the main deck." Well sir, we asked for your help but you turned us down. We are doing our best. "OK. I'll be back at 0200. Make sure you are straightened out and I can get the CO or the XO to sign for these Secret sailing orders. These orders are the most important you will ever get." Yes Sir, we will do our best.
Sure enough, he came back at 0200. Now, though the Captain had come back aboard, he was really in no condition to see anyone. The XO had until 0600 to return. I did not think a junior officer could persuade gold-braid-on-the-cap to come back once more at 0600. Joe's men now had the patch on and wanted to test the compartment by putting some air pressure on it before we pumped fluids back and righted the ship. Good evening, Commander. Watch your step sir. We are still tilted over. "I want to see the Captain or the Executive Officer." Sorry sir, the Executive Officer is not aboard and the Captain is too ill to see you. (I thought the man was going to go bonkers. Joe, standing at my side, was just as scared as I was.) "What in heaven's kind of ship is this, anyway? Leaving in a few hours, still listing like crazy, no senior officers available!" Sir, if I could make a suggestion. You have had a long night visiting all these destroyers. If you would let me have the sealed package, I will take it in to the Captain's stateroom and get him so sign and bring you back the signature just as fast as I can. "Never supposed to do anything like this, but the Fleet has to sail, and I want to make extra sure this one sails with it. OK. No more funny business, please."
So, I took the package into the skipper's stateroom off the starboard passageway. He was in deep sleep in his bunk which was on an inner bulkhead. I put the orders into his open safe, and signed his name, and brought the receipt back to the Commander. Here you are, Sir. Have a pleasant morning. He never spoke as he got back into his launch and disappeared into the Casco fog. Joe told me the test was OK, and he started the pumping operation in reverse. At about 0630, still over about 15 degrees, the bell from the skipper's stateroom rang. I ran from the quarterdeck and presented myself at his side. "Why in hell can't I get up out of this bunk?" Sorry sir, we are still heeled over and you are in kind of a V-shaped slot there until we get level again. Please read those orders. It apparently tells where we are going and when.
TO DO and DONE
Oh yes, the Current Ships Maintenance Project (CSMP). By April of 1944, Jim Hughes had become the First Lieutenant. At our previous type (type=destroyer) inspection, probably in or around Norfolk, maybe a half year earlier, the DesLant "destroyer type" people had given us a poor mark because our CSMP file was not up to date. During the April 1944 Casco Bay stay, the destroyer type officers on the Denebola told us to be ready to stand inspection while anchored there. The inspection was held and we got good marks. (This was before the fresh water tank episode.) We were especially lauded because our CSMP file was up to date. Jim Hughes had discovered the discrepancy report in which we had the bad mark during the previous inspection, just a day or so before this Casco Bay inspection. Jim had his shipfitters construct two shiny, aluminum boxes with beautifully fitted, hinged, covers. Both were labeled CSMP in large letters. Both obviously held 8 x 10 1/2 inch government letter-sized documents. One box was labeled TO DO. The other box was labeled DONE. The Edison done fine. After the inspection party left I looked inside the two covered boxes. There was nary a document inside either box, nor do I believe there ever was.
An Eastbound Show of Force
On 20 April, 1944 Edison's two week stay in Casco Bay ended as she headed back into the Atlantic with an all-warship force. Many of the ships had been in Casco Bay with us but other cruisers and destroyers rendezvoused offshore from other ports. This was my first time at sea without cargo ships, and we did not even have a fleet tanker with us to fuel the destroyers. On this day, too, though I did not realize it until reading Theodore Roscoe's book on Destroyer Operations in World War II, the USS Lansdale took a torpedo while guarding a Mediterranean convoy. She was another Benson/Livermore sunk by aerial torpedo.
The speed of advance of our all-warship convoy, much faster than the fastest merchant convoy, took us to the Azores in just a little over five days. The destroyers fueled there and this force was underway again.
We were not going to England or the British Isles to await the cross channel invasion. We were going back to the Mediterranean, only this time instead of slinking through the Straits of Gibraltar in the dead of night, we were going through at high noon, and hoped the German spotters in Algeciras, Spain, surely would see us, and count us! It was the conjecture around the ship that the Allied High Command wanted the Germans to think that the next major thrust would come from the south of Europe. And for all most of us really knew, maybe it would. The sealed orders I had signed for surely revealed our next mission, but I was not among those on the Edison who had a "need to know" even though I was now about the fifth senior officer of our 23 aboard. I had begun as the junior officer in the 10-officer complement Edison had when I joined the ship. Irrespective of the predictions about our next action assignment, a magnificent fleet of 25-30 U.S. cruisers and destroyers sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar at noon Greenwich time on 29 April and arrived in Oran on 1 May 1944.
Edison sortieed from Mers-el-Kebir the next day to assist in the escort of convoy UGS-39. From 8 May to 13 August, Edison served in various AA and ASW assignments for ships transiting Italian waters. There was a brief time out for gunnery exercises 11-14 July 1944. On 13 August, 1944 Edison left Palermo, Sicily for her assignment in DRAGOON, scheduled for August 15, 1944. During this period, we lost more Benson/Livermore destroyers participating in the Normandy Invasion.
In the Spring of 1942, before I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, our modest berthing and anchorage facility at Annapolis was visited by the USS Corry, the first Benson/Livermore class destroyer I had ever seen. From our Annapolis seawall we could speculate about some of the events of her time trials. One unmistakable sight occurred when Corry's two screws, each driven by 25,000 Shaft Horsepower, were given All Ahead Flank Emergency. (From my memory, this signal was "All Ahead Flank" on the annunciators, sounded twice in succession to indicate "Emergency") Corry's stern dug down like a fast speedboat, which she was, and the bow seemed to hydroplane. I did not know until later that she was making over 37 knots but I was impressed with the sight. I also learned later that the shallow Chesapeake did not allow the absolute top speed to be achieved. It was about that time that the Naval Academy annual First Class Midshipman auction was held for assignments after graduation, and as I related at the outset of this story, I put in for Destroyers, Atlantic Fleet. I now feel that perhaps, subconsciously, the Corry visit to USNA influenced my decision. The USS Corry was lost during one of ANVIL's (Normandy Invasion) first D-Day close fire support missions at Utah Beach. She struck a mine which broke her keel. Normandy is not chronicled in this story because Edison was not there. But, I did want to note Corry's loss and also the losses of the destroyers USS Meredith and the USS Glennon before the assault phase of the great cross channel invasion came to an end. In a later Mediterranean action, we lost the Destroyer Escort Herbert C. Davis, which along with the U.S. DE Frederick C. Jones, had served so brilliantly at Anzio.
She Left Her Anchor in Napoli
Edison managed a few liberties in Naples. We took what might be looked at as an extra liberty our first time in that beautiful harbor. We had been reminded to look at the charts before anchoring there. Naples was a deep water anchorage. The bottom would usually be about 40 fathoms down. This depth was quite different from our anchorages in other world harbors. Jim Hughes, our First Lieutenant, ordered his deck gang to transfer some chain from the port anchor chain to the starboard anchor chain to accommodate the extra depth. In most anchoring situations, the anchor detail could order the chain snubbed at 15 fathoms and be assured the anchor was already on the bottom. Not so at Napoli. Human habits are hard to break. Our first trip in, the charts for our assigned anchor position showed about 42 fathoms of water. The navigator (Stan Craw) told the skipper (Hap Pearce) that Edison had arrived over the assigned anchor position coordinates, and the skipper used the horn to tell the First Lieutenant (Jim Hughes) on the focs'le," NOW!" Jim said, "Let Go", and the chain sped up out of the chain locker with the anchor as the driving force. The fifteen fathom "shot" sped by and Jim, out of habit, ordered the capstan operator to snub the chain just as the fifteen fathom shot hit the water.
"Report the chain.", ordered the Captain. "Up and down, no strain.", reported the focs'le. "Back down ten turns." ordered the skipper, and then asked again, "Report the chain." "Up and down, no strain.", reported Jim from the anchor detail. "Where are we, navigator?' asked the skipper. "About a quarter mile from our anchor position." responded Stan Craw. "Jim, bring up that anchor.", spoke the Captain. Orders were given to the capstan motor operator and the chain slowly came up out of the water. Sure enough, the fifteen fathom shot came out of the Bay of Naples,, neatly split in half. So then the Captain looked, and we all looked, for the anchor buoy which would mark the anchor position on the bottom.. "Jim, how much line did you have on the anchor buoy?" "Fifteen fathoms, Captain." So there in Napoli Bay is a nice anchor, which at one time could be found if you snorkeled to 25 fathoms and found the anchor buoy. I assume the anchor buoy and its line have disintegrated over the past fifty years. Jim has taken a lot of kidding about the "up and down, no strain" event, which the rest of us relished as a sanity break from the serious business of shooting, and being shot at.
From Christmas, 1943, right on through the Italian campaign in 1944, Prime Minister Churchill used every argument and worked every channel of communication possible to persuade Roosevelt and Eisenhower that the northern Italy to Yugoslavia alternative was the best choice for beating the Nazis, and that the southern France strategy should be abandoned. He won some converts, but General Eisenhower was never convinced. President Roosevelt sided with his Generals. After the Normandy landings, their outstanding success on the main thrust from Normandy, coupled with the slower going in the Cherbourg prong of the assault, convinced the Allied planners that logistics alone demanded ports in the south of France. At its peak, even given the amazing job in clearing devastated Cherbourg to make her a seaport once again, that port could not handle the tonnage of a Marseilles. The decision to throw the weight of Patton's Army eastward and leave Brittany to die on the vine, meant that Brittany ports were out of the question to make up the logistics deficiency that several successful Allied armies now required. On 8 July 1944, General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, Eisenhower's successor for all Mediterranean operations, put in motion the plan to invade the south of France.
The veteran 3rd, 36th and 45th U.S. infantry divisions were readied for the assault phase. They would become the nucleus of a new US 7th Army under Lieutenant General Alexander Patch. For the assault phase, these would be commanded by Lieutenant General Lucian Truscott and be called the VI Corps. Two French divisions, also withdrawn from Italy, would become the French II Corps which would be supplemented by a French tank and motorized infantry brigade. To minimize language difficulties during first assault hours, the French troops would come in a major follow up landing, close behind the assault forces. It would still be Admiral Hewitt's job to get these forces successfully ashore. Under Hewitt, Rear Admiral Frank Lowry would handle the west flank, toward Marseilles, with the U.S. 3rd Division to go ashore. Rear Admiral Bertram Rodgers, USN, would command the landings of the U.S. 45th Division in Baie de Bougnon in the center pointed toward St. Tropez. Rear Admiral Don Moon, USN would be in charge on the right flank, with the U.S. 36th Division, whose right flank would reach toward Cannes. We had worked with Lowry before at Anzio, Rodgers had come from the Pacific, and Moon had commanded the tough landings at Utah Beach in Normandy. Each had the primary responsibility to get one US assault division, with added units, successfully ashore. Rear Admiral Lyal Davidson would again command naval gunfire support. Recalling the beyond-range problems of the cruisers and destroyers at Anzio, Admiral Hewitt asked Admiral King for heavier-gunned warships to augment Hewitt's Eighth Fleet.
Five battleships were made available, Nevada , Texas, Arkansas, old U.S. BBs, along with HMS Ramillies and the French BB, Lorraine, which we had seen in North African ports. I never laid eyes on these heavies during DRAGOON. Heavy U.S. cruisers Augusta and Tuscaloosa were added. Light cruiser Quincy was added to Brooklyn and Philadelphia, helping to make up for the absence of the damaged Savannah. It would be Edison's assignment to work this assault with Tuscaloosa and Rear Admiral Morton Deyo. Seven British and two American escort carriers would provide air cover and air support. There would be a major pre-dawn paratroop landing, followed by a softening bombardment from the sea and then an 0800 local time daylight troop landing. Admiral Davidson and a member of his staff had gone to Normandy to examine German shore defense fortifications. The planners expected to face some heavy guns in the assault phase of DRAGOON but knew they would not find the heavy guns and fortifications in the depth experienced at Normandy. On the fifth of August, laden with combat fatigue from Normandy, Admiral Moon took his own life and was replaced by Rear Admiral Spencer Lewis, USN.
For those who recall code names, the name Overlord, the long planned invasion operation across the English channel, moved into its actual assault phase with the name, Neptune. Anvil had been the long term planner's name for the Southern France invasion during its preparation, but the assault phase became known as Dragoon.
Edison's officers and men often speculated, during the four invasion operations preceding Southern France, about success and the prospects for the end of the War. But no one aboard Edison during the extensive preparation for DRAGOON, had the remotest idea then that the final sustained period of dramatic enemy action for Edison's commissioned life span was at hand.
The Chain of Command
The senior officers are more tuned to the chain of command and the junior officers and crew complement are less aware of its nuances, though we generally had an idea who the next-up boss was. A destroyer and its skipper going into action are part of a chain of "command". It is spelled out on paper before the operation takes place. Then, in the fast pace of action which follows, that chain of command can change by the minute, with no paperwork whatsoever! The plan adjusts to the realities, to what the enemy does, and to what our forces have accomplished or failed to accomplish.
It had been Edison's good fortune, whether escorting to the place of assault, defending against air attack or surface attack or sub-surface dangers, or while under the direction of a shore fire control party, SFCP, to generally re-attach to Admiral Lyal Davidson's command often enough to feel "at home" with him. This feeling of attachment persisted just as strongly as our bond with a destroyer division or destroyer squadron commander. During DRAGOON, Admiral Davidson moved his flag to the USS Augusta, another ship well known and trusted by us. But these treasured connections were far from the Edison during the Southern France assault. Davidson and Augusta were kept busy on the west flank of the operation while Edison was either directly under Admiral Deyo on Tuscaloosa, or working for an SFCP, both of which were on the eastern flank of operations. We preferred the SFCP assignments. A bond with Tuscaloosa and her flag officer never jelled for the Edison. This resulted from contrasts that I only sensed at the time. Reviewing my recollections for this story, the difference I then only sensed has become clear.
"I am going in!", were Admiral Davidson's electric words from USS Philadelphia as he confronted the yet-to-be-swept mine field at Salerno.
"Go in and draw their fire and we will back you up." , were the words from Tuscaloosa at Cannes almost a year later.
If I had any other point to make in the contrasts of the words above, I would make it. Rear Admiral Deyo's requirements were right in context with the overall challenge for the "Camel" support force, as our force during DRAGOON was code-named. Destroyers screened, destroyers protected, destroyers put themselves between main opposing larger warship ship armadas, and they always "drew fire." We will take one such intervention look at our Pacific counterparts near the end of the next Chapter. The situation developed in a major Pacific battle in which destroyers performed the role of physically intervening between an overpowering line of Japanese battleships and a group of sitting duck U.S. escort carriers. It is as clear to me now as it was in 1943 and 1944 that the situation Deyo faced in the Gulf of Cannes was entirely different from the situation Davidson confronted at Salerno.
Notwithstanding, I can just never forget how Rear Admiral Davidson in the USS Philadelphia saw his role and Philadelphia's role so courageously in that furious first day at Salerno. It could have been disaster for the Admiral and his flagship. Philadelphia, too, lived just as charmed a life as the Edison.
Rear Admiral Deyo proved to be more of a communicator than Rear Admiral Davidson. Deyo publicly and unstintingly commended the ships under his command. Examples will be forthcoming.
Other Bonds Held Fast
Our old friends Woolsey and Ludlow would be with us and the Camel Force, along with U.S. destroyers Parker, Kendrick, Mackenzie, Mclanahan, Nields, Ordronaux, Boyle and Champlin. Champlin was commanded by my company officer at the U.S. Naval Academy, LCDR F.E. Fleck. In addition to the U.S. heavy cruiser Tuscaloosa, we had U.S. cruisers Brooklyn and Marblehead, battleship Arkansas, HMS Argonaut, and French cruisers Duguay-Trouin and Emile Bertin. The latter was one of the most graceful looking warships I have ever seen. All together, these warships were labeled, The Bombardment Group for Task Force 87, Camel Force. The flagship for Rear Admiral Lewis was the attack transport, USS Bayfield. Seeing Marblehead, the cruiser he'd helped rescue from near annihilation by the Japanese in a very early Pacific engagement, must have made Captain Pearce a proud man. For some reason, historian Samuel Eliot Morison labeled Marblehead a light cruiser in Volume XI of his History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. She had an eight inch main battery and that was the standard that differentiated a "heavy" cruiser from the six inch gun "light" cruisers. But, Marblehead was quite old, witness her sponson guns, so Morison may have downgraded her a bit. (Note entered 01/14/2001: A sailor who was on a sister ship of the Marblehead before Pearl Harbor has written to me that Morison was right and Dailey was wrong. Marblehead and her sponson gun class of cruisers were light cruisers. In a beautiful letter this man told how the Marblehead came to be in the Asiatic Fleet at the outset of hostilities in the Far East and in a very diplomatic way corrected my grievous error, giving her an eight inch battery. Sorry, readers.)
Here , thanks to a U.S. Navy recognition photo in World War II, is a look at France's Emile Bertin.
Here, thanks to Drake Davis, are two U.S. light cruisers, with whom Edison spent considerable time in 1942-1944. The first picture is the USS Brooklyn. The one following is the USS Philadelphia.
The Operation Begins
In our training for Dragoon, we tried to apply lessons learned from our four earlier assault operations beginning with Casablanca. Admiral Hewitt and others who joined him in a special pleading, which had been ignored in earlier invasions, succeeded in getting a powerful pre-landing bombardment, and an 0800 daylight assault landing time. The sea bombardment took its place as a continuity in an orchestrated series of air bombing operations begun in April, 1944. These airborne operations were gradually stepped up in intensity and covered the shoreline from west of Marseilles all the way to Genoa, Italy. Despite the broad extent of the air bombers target shoreline, and the judicious employment of "equal bomb" treatment to all sectors along that shoreline, the Germans were able to correctly anticipate that the Rhone River delta and the Rhone valley would be our main thrust. And with the nearly 900 major vessels underway, "in their own bottoms" as some put it, carrying nearly 1500 craft, not in their own bottoms, Allied timing was no puzzle to the Germans. The German forces were just now spread too thin to do too much about it. They had too many fronts to defend. They were where Marshal Stalin wanted them. To give Prime Minister Churchill, who could see postwar Europe better than we could, his due, our forces were disposed in the west, and not in some Adriatic-Aegean front where the Allies could become involved in countries closer to "Uncle Joe" Stalin's objectives. Eisenhower's armies were primed to shorten the War in Europe and shorten it they did. The Allies were not primed to become involved in central European politics. Destroyer folks did not muse about these matters. It would have been distracting and non-productive. If these musings are distracting to this story, I plead guilty. This author is in a bit of a discovery process as the connections between events in World War II becomes clearer.
Here is an August 14, 1944, CINCMED dispatch, readdressed by CTG 87.7 (Camel Bombardment Group) to Edison and all ships in this command:
-QNL- -A- 7Y3 141745 7YY3 -A- CINCMED BT
TUSCALOOSA AND CAMEL FORCE GENERAL WILSON AND ADMIRAL CUNNINGHAM WISH YOU GOOD LUCK, YOUR ENTERPRISE WILL MAKE HISTORY AND WILL GIVE A FATAL BLOW TO THE ENEMY.
The time of receipt (TOR) of this message was August 14, 1944 at 1645, a quarter to five p.m. local time. The dispatch originator was Rear Admiral Deyo.
The first night landings were made by a force of 5,000 paratroops from 396 transport planes which departed from airfields near Rome. Pathfinder planes, night fighters and airborne jammer aircraft preceded them. The Allied aircraft took a path from the northern point of Corsica to the French coast, along which they were guided by three beacon ships located along the shoreline well clear of our approaching sea forces. The air drops, both of the chutists and the gliders, were targeted around Le Muy and were completed almost perfectly by shortly after 0500 on the fifteenth of August. This group had Le Muy in hand by afternoon, had seized a German corps command quarters, had taken several hundred prisoners, and were linked up with the 45th division which had landed over the beaches, all before the end of D-day. Every one of the 396 planes got safely back to base.
The second landings, still in the darkness, involved 3,000 U.S., British, Canadian and French commandoes with a special mission on the western flank of the landings. Prior to the deployment of this "Sitka" Force, smaller groups landed on the group of offshore islands, capturing prisoners and discovering that some of the heavy fortifications were in fact wooden dummy guns. Others were real and Augusta had to pound away with her main battery. One had sufficient encasements to call for the 15 inch shells from the HMS Ramillies. Landings on the coast itself at Cap Negre began about 0200 on the 15th of August. One objective was to cut the defender's communications and access between Toulon and our assault beaches to the east. With some more help from Augusta and HMS Dido, these landings accomplished their mission and linked up with U.S. 3rd Division units shortly after noon on D-day.
Edison's Fifth D-day Begins
First, of course, the sweepers. Their day began at 0515, with the objective to clear boat lanes for the three main attack forces. Drone boats to clear explosive underwater obstacles were then employed. The use of this technique still presented problems but worked better here than during the pre-invasion training exercises in Italy. With first light appearing, heavy Allied land based bombers came over just before 0600. This continued in waves until about 0730, overlapping the sea bombardment commenced by HMS Ajax. Scout planes from the U.S. light cruisers Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Quincy were catapulted into the air when the low mist obscuring targets dissipated..
The "Alpha" Force, embarking the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, would land in the Baie de Pampelone. This was the westernmost of our main forces, except for the Sitka Force which had been clearing the islands off Cap Negre were getting astride the coast road to Toulon to prevent the enemy from moving forces toward our landing beaches. Delta Force, with the 45th Division would land in the center, on the eastern promontory of the Golfe de St. Tropez. The Camel Force, with the 36th Division, would land at Beach Red in the Golfe de Frejus and at Beach Green to the east on Cap Drammont. This Division's primary responsibility was to get moving along the road up the Rhone Valley toward Vichy and Lyon and lead the charge to the linkup with Eisenhower's forces moving east from their successful Normandy invasion beaches. The 36th also presented a right flank, toward Cannes, Nice, Monaco and eventually toward Genoa. While we had no inkling at my level of the overall strategy, I learned-by-doing that our sea forces were to protect this right flank, to assist in modest advances of our troops into Cannes and Nice, and to help erect the holding wall to keep the main northbound 7th Army free of flank attacks and harassing artillery from the eastern flank. This part settled in on us something like Anzio, although the weather was better and we were now supporting a winning hand rather than a bogged down force.
Edison took up her fire support station just before 0400 on the 15th of August, 1944. At 0746, we were fired on by a shore battery and at 0800 returned fire. At 1605, our War Diary states that we fired on and destroyed a pillbox. We were under air attack just after dusk at 2110. We could see a DO-217 in one pass. We fired at it but did not hit it. It wasn't the Director crew's fault. By mistake, I had left a 5 mil deflection spot in the computer from a previous shore firing mission.
Again, thanks to Drake Davis, webmaster for the USS Savannah website, for this valuable picture of a Dornier-217 with an Hs-293 remote control rocket powered glider bomb under the right wing (on the left in this view) and an exterior fuel tank under the other wing. The Hs-293 sank the Rohna as we learn in another page in this folder. (see list of pages on the left side at the beginning of eaxh page.)
Beach Red presented a plethora of obstacles, mines, heavy weapons, and well protected defenders. Several minesweepers were sunk and the sweeper force did not get the first phase of the sweep accomplished. Our forces were therefore impeded in getting personnel ashore to deal with underwater demolition responsibilities. The landing craft were coming in on schedule so the decision was made to move the Beach Red stream of boats to Beach Green, which had been heavily defended, but which had yielded. The destroyer Ordronaux took up landing craft re-direction tasks here and did a marvelous job under tight circumstances. Beach Red was still badly needed-every beach was needed for the logistics challenge- so the 36th Division resolved to take Beach Red from the rear and they did. But it was the 19th of August before the Golfe de Frejus was cleared of most of the defender's death traps. Other units of the 36th proceeded east to the west shore of the Golfe de Napoule. The city of Cannes was situated on its eastern shore.
All in all, the Alpha and the Delta forces met all of their D-day objectives and then some. Camel Force was held up momentarily by their Beach Red impasse. But by the end of the 16th, all major units of the 3rd, 36th and 45th Divisions were ashore with full supplies. St. Raphael fell on the morning of the 16th. Strong forces began to move westward toward Toulon and Marseilles. We still had to get two follow up French Divisions ashore to go with General de Lattre's French II Corps, to which had been entrusted the vital mission of taking Toulon and Marseilles. The supply chain that Eisenhower counted on was stretched out in already-loaded bottoms all the way back to the U.S. east coast. Marseilles was a more critical port than any other. Moving men and materiel across beaches would never work for the million man thrusts needed to defeat Hitler.
A Touch of Class
I want to take a few lines here to relate something about the man we knew as Admiral Hewitt. It comes from Morison's Volume XI, The Invasion of France and Germany. Admiral Hewitt went ashore on the morning of the 16th of August, 1944, with James Forrestal, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, General Patch, commanding the 7th Army, and Admiral Lemonnier of the French Navy. Provided with two jeeps, this party drove into St. Raphael. The townspeople peered out of windows and doors with curiosity. Admiral Hewitt stood up in his jeep, and pointed at the officer's cap of Admiral Lemonnier, which was quite French and quite noticeable. With that, the townspeople formed an immediate crowd, and spontaneously broke out in song, The Marseillaise. That event tells a lot about Admiral Hewitt.
We Move East
It was toward the Golfe de Napoule that Edison's main attention was drawn after D-day. A heavy battery on an island just offshore presented danger to the flank of the 36th Division. Edison would be involved in dealing with it. The character of the shore and the land behind it changed dramatically as one moved eastward toward Cannes.
This visual splendor of red stone sand and blue Mediterranean was not lost on me. Salerno's shoreline was just as beautiful in its way, but at Southern France I was the Gunnery Officer and could see so much more through the Director's optics than with 7X50 binoculars. Chief Fire Controlman Jackson and I jabbered all the time by yelling or through the sound powered phones as we would discover one land feature after another. I particularly recall the rail yards on the north side of the Golfe and the spur line that reached west from there, right to one of our Camel Force landing beaches. We took out our share of box cars and locomotives until our troops had secured the area.
Where Are Those Batteries Firing From?
That is surely what Rear Admiral Deyo wanted to know. I can tell you how we helped him find out. This came after we were directed to draw enemy fire, and received assurance that we would be backed up by the Tuscaloosa. On one trip into the Golfe de Napoule (we referred to it as the Gulf of Cannes then) on an assigned mission, our skipper pointed our ship straight in. For example purposes, let us say our heading was North, or 000 degrees true. From where we suspected the major battery harassing our troops was located, our target angle, to them, would be 045. In other words, they were broad on our starboard bow. Sure enough, we drew their fire. As the splashes drew closer, and we could see from the height of the splash plumes that these were big shells, the Captain went from 10 knots ahead, to 5 knots astern, by giving appropriate commands to the engine room. Hap Pearce was giving the German fire control people credit for good ranging, and for getting a "solution" to our forward speed at something between 5 and 10 knots. Sure enough, the next salvo of splashes was way out ahead of us. They had been fooled. They had not thought to put "minus 5 knots" into their solution. This trick will only work once in awhile so other times we used speed ahead, course changes, and smoke. While we were directed to draw their fire, we were not directed to get hit. It was clear to bridge personnel that our skipper was not at all keen about such tactics.
Military teletypewriters printed in all CAPS. The military message form, the `daddy" of our telegram and even our e-mails, is not highly embellished. Some dispatches used AR, to mean Acknowledge Receipt, a feature still missing in most of our e-mail systems in 1998. Some messages reveal a BT, to denote end of transmission. Most used X, in lieu of periods, or orally, as "stops". All come with a date/time group. The first two numerals are the day of the month, the last four are the time of day in a 24 hour day. An alphabetic suffix is sometimes used to reveal the time zone. The ones below with the suffix B, are in the second time zone east of Greenwich, or two hours after Greenwich Mean Time. That time zone was local time for Southern France. Like e-mail, when the sender is under some pressure, spelling suffers. Not to worry, the meaning was usually clear. I had been scanning these into our story in earlier chapters but often the faded carbons left something to be desired. So, here, I will re-key them and I promise to indicate with parentheses where I alter them.
The first one, reproduced earlier, was a general "pump up the troops" message from the high command. The first line showed that the entire chain of command, four levels, joined together in the message. British General Wilson was CINCMED.
This next dispatch is an early situation report for DRAGOON.
152230B SITUATION REPORT 152000B
OBSTICALS AND ARTILLERY FIRE ON SHORE NAVY DID NOT LAND 142 INF ON BEACH 264A AS PLANNED X 142 INF WAS LATER LANDED OVER BEACH 264B X AT 152000B 142 AND 143 INF WERE TO ATTACK FROM A LINE OF DEPARTURE U-566372--584346, 142 INF ATTACKING FREJUS AND 143 INF ATTACKING THROUGH ST RAPHEL AND BEACH 264A TO ARGENS RIVER TO CONTACT 45 INF DIV X 141 INF ADVANCED NORTH FROM BEACH 265A, LEADING ELEMENTS REACHED APPROXIMATELY S 295600 X 180 INF ADVANCED NORTH NORTHWEST AGAINST SLIGHT OPPOSITION, LEADING ELEMENTS REACHING U 460290, U 490315 AND U 5530 X 157 INF ADVANCED WEST AND SOUTHWEST, LEADING ELEMENTS REACHING U 440177, U455215 AND U 465255 X 179 INF LANDED AND ASSEMBLED VICINITY U487226 X ELEMENTS OF 117 CAVALRY RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON REACHED U 415242 AND U 450280 X SEVEN INF OF THREE INF DIV CONTACTED FRENCH COMMANDO FORCE ALONG WEST ROAD AT U365308 X 30 INF REACHED AREA U 3913--- ( u 3916 ) X 2 BT 15 INF ATTACKING ST TROPEX AT END OF PERIOD X NO CONTACT BETWEEN DIVISIONS OF FRECN COMMANDOS LANDED SUCCESSFULLY AT CAP NEGRE AT 150230B X DESTROYED BATTERY AND BLOCKED COASTAL ROAD TO THAT AREA X ONE COUNTERATTACK REPULSED X PASS TO CONTROL OF 6 CORPS AT 150800B X COMBAT COMMAND SUDRE OF FRENCH ARMORED DIV ARRIVED IN ASSULT AREA PERPARED TO LAND OVER 45 DIV BEACHES PRIOR TO MIDNIGHT, 15 AUGUST X ADVANCE INLAND PROCEEDED VERY SATISFACORILY DURING THE AFTERNOON FROM BEACHES WHICH WERE ASSULTED DURING MORNING X
That has to be one of the earliest situation reports for DRAGOON. It is good news because it fit the plan very well, even showing that our forces were ahead of the plan schedule. Every staff officer to any ranking officer would rush this into his boss, and would hope that the "good" part of the good news, would in some way rub off on the messenger.
The next message is from COM WNTF, Commander Western Naval Task Force, Admiral Hewitt.
SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF INITIAL PHASE OF DRAGOON HAS BEEN MADE POSSIBLE BY EXCELLENT PRELIMINARY TRAINING AND MATERIAL PREPARATION AND BY EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE OF DUTY IN ACTUAL OPERATION BY ALL CONCERNED. WELL DONE TO ALL. WE MUST NOW MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO LAND FOLLOW UP TROOPS AND SUPPLIES WITH MAXIMUM RAPIDITY AND SUPPORT ADVANCE.
It was good to hear from the man who has led you since the beginning of the Mediterranean operations and to learn from him that a "phase" has successfully transpired. I doubt if there was a hard and fast time line in the plan. I think that the leadership made these decisions ad hoc. The initial "phase" at Anzio took much longer and ended on the note of settling down for the long haul; we did not push the Germans out. At Southern France, the defenders were pushed out of there quickly and Hewitt sounds the note that our Allied forces' momentum requires the supply train to function on all cylinders. I must admit that during the combat period itself I really did not comprehend all that. While our forces at sea made some mistakes along the way and I could see those, I should have been giving greater credit to our leadership for the vision they had about how to win the war.
This next message is from Rear Admiral Deyo who is passing along what our "customer", the 36th Division Commanding General, thinks about our work.
-P- -A- 7W4 171413B 7WW4 GR 72 BT
GENERAL DAHLQUIST INFORMS ME THAT FROM HIS OWN OBSERVATIONS AND REPORTS FROM HIS COMMAND THE FIRE SUPPORT OF THIS GROUP WAS MOST EFFECTIVE AND WELL EXECUTED X GERMAN PRISONERS UNIFORMLY EXPRESSED ADMIRATION OF THE NAVAL GUN FIRE X I WAS PARTICULARLY PLEASED WITH THE INITIATIVE EFFICIENCY AND BOLDNESS OF THE ORDRONAUX (a destroyer) IN PROTECTING THE BOAT WAVES DURING THE DELAYED LANDING X YOU HAVE ALL PERFORMED YOUR TASKS SKILFULLY AND THOROUGHLY X WELL DONE AND BEST LUCK BT - TOR: 1315
We still had tasks to perform, but nothing compared with the tasks of the 3rd, 36th and 45th Infantry Divisions of the U.S. Army as they became swallowed up in the land mass of Europe. They were not likely to see or hear or experience naval gunfire again in their lifetimes. Some of those lifetimes were short. The dispatch also contains "GR 72", which is a word count. Military communication was often interrupted and incomplete so the word count helped the addressees figure out if they had received the entire message. This is a redundancy, like the parity count in today's computer communications. Those readers who worked in some aspect of communications in war time will note that today's protocols owe much to practices developed in the military.
The final message is in two parts, one from SAC, the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, up there in England or occasionally at the front with his Generals. One can sense in this exchange that Ike knew he would not be in touch with his Admirals like he had been over the past two years.
COMMANDER IN CHIEF HAS RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE FROM THE SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER BEGINS "WILL YOU PLEASE CONVEY TO ALL RANKS OF THE ALLIED NAVIES UNDER YOUR COMMAND MY CONGRATULATIONS AND THANKS FOR THE MASTERLY MANNER IN WHICH THE INVASION FORCES HAVE BEEN MARSHALED TRANSPORTED LANDED SUPPORTED AND SUPPLIED SINCE THE INCEPTION OF THE OPERATIONS IN SOUTHERN FRANCE THE REMARKABLE SUCCESS OF THE OPERATION COULD NOT HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED WITHOUT HAVING ALL BEEN DISPLAYED IN SUCH MARKED DEGREE. 251600 AUGUST. THE FOLLOWING REPLY HAS BEEN MADE TO THE SUPREME ALLIED NAVIES UNDER MY COMMAND. ALL OFFICERS AND MEN CONCERNED IN THE OPERATION OFF SOUTHERN FRANCE WILL BE HONORED BY YOUR PRAISE. THEY ARE PROUD OF THE PART THEY HAVE PLAYED IN CONTRIBUTING TO THE SUCCESS OF THE OPERATION UNDER YOUR SUPREME COMMAND WHICH HAS (led) TO THE 7TH ARMY GREAT VICTORY.
The Right Flank
There was still work to be done. I will reproduce a few words from the Edison's War Diary.
"The period from 17 August through 22 August was spent in giving close fire support to the post assault phase of Operation Anvil. Edison fired on an enemy observation post on 17 August and the SFCP reported `fire very accurate.' On 18 August she fired on anti-aircraft batteries and an enemy pillbox with direct hits reported. The grand climax came on 21 August when she trained her guns toward enemy occupied buildings. Sixty rounds of 5-inch ammunition were fired into the buildings and a very elated SCFP reported, `Direct hits, very good shooting.'
"Again on 22 August Edison moved in to fire on an enemy strong point. Results for this bombardment were not observed due to a radio casualty. Later she was called on to destroy a concentration of enemy trucks. So effective was her fire that after 48 rounds, the shore party reported, `Mission successful, no vehicles left. Good shooting.' Two enemy gun emplacements also took the brunt of Edison's guns later in the day."
It was on the 22nd of August that Frank Barber, the gun captain of Gun #2, was hit by shrapnel from an enemy shell that landed up forward near the ship, and whose plume contained not just water but some "hard" stuff.
The period from 22 August to 22 September was extremely busy for the USS Edison. Cannes fell on the 24th of August and Nice on the 30th. All of the French coastline eastward from the landing beaches belonged to the Allies by 9 September. Edison was on fire station at all times except for a very short liberty time at St. Tropez. I can recall sitting in the Edison's Division Commander's cabin, my stateroom as long as we had no brass aboard, doing a little praying. I prayed The Memorare for those who know the prayer. It was, and is, my favorite prayer. I did not sleep much, but hung around the bridge even when I was not OOD. The calls for gunfire kept coming in, and the bridge crew would provide me early clues that I had better get back up into the Director for General Quarters. Edison had tried Condition II's "watch and watch", keeping two guns manned, instead of the single ready gun during Condition III's "watch in three". WW II will never be replicated but if it were, as CO, I would never use "watch and watch". Helmsmen and others, including this author, would simply fall over onto the deck in a dead sleep. The human body just cannot manage it, so my wish was always to go to GQ and if necessary, eat cold rations there. At General Quarters, the ship is ready for anything, the water tight integrity is at its best, and the full crew is at the ready, whereas all other "conditions" involve a compromise.
Let me emphasize that this period was no one-destroyer show. A dozen or more destroyers under Rear Admiral Deyo worked these same waters and each experienced success, and each encountered some bizarre happening. One report that 80 fire missions had been undertaken has to have been a major, and for military publicists, unexplained, understatement. Some destroyers could count nearly to 80 by themselves.
The Final Days for Edison's Primary Mission
We had guns. We had torpedoes. We had depth charges.
While I was aboard, Edison never fired a torpedo in anger. We dropped hundreds of depth charges. We fired thousands of 5 inch shells and used up three sets of gun barrels. A look at the Edison or any other destroyer of her class, a look at how space was allotted above decks and below for ordnance, and a look at the war records, all of those looks make the case that the designers got it right. Edison's primary mission involved her firepower. My last month aboard found me totally immersed in that mission. I was also the beneficiary of the care and feeding of Edison's crew and their care of her equipment. From Lambert through Boyd and Hofer, Edison had the right leadership for her primary gunfire mission. Edison's Chief Petty Officers were outstanding and they worked to indoctrinate and inspire a crew second to none. That crew executed, in every way called upon. If the ship's gun power and its use validated the designers and the ordnance gang, Edison had the supporting cast and propulsion systems that never failed to get her to the scene of action, on time, and ready. And also, out of trouble, when it came our way. We were lucky too.
We fired during the night of the 23rd of August on a railroad gun and other gun emplacements. The SFCP could not ascertain the final damage because of darkness. On the 25th of August, in the Bay of Anges three miles southwest of Nice, Edison fired on a gun emplacement that was giving our troops a going over. After 60 rounds, we got the message, "Very good shooting. Several direct hits." from our SFCP. Edison fired again on the 26th on enemy troop concentrations with no confirmation of effect. Our most likely targets were now being found to the east toward Monaco and Italy.
The 31st of August found Edison at the Southern end of Cape Martin firing on a gun emplacement. "Very good shooting.", was the verdict. Later that day, another gun emplacement was pounded but ended in a "cease fire" when fire obscured the result. We were taking very little counter battery fire now, and there was very little enemy air activity. Because the water was deep, mines were much less of a problem. We had a couple of days excitement defending against one-man human-guided torpedoes. One of our destroyers captured a German operator. This prisoner conveniently told where a second such weapon/operator was maneuvering and he too was captured and his weapon sunk. On 1 September 1944, Edison went back to the scene of the earlier gun emplacement where the results had been in doubt and after 55 rounds, the shore spotters reported, "Mission successful." We had three more targets that day. For the first of these, fire again obscured the results. For the second, the result was, "Target completely destroyed." This was an enemy gun in a house, and took 36 rounds.
Edison was very busy on 2 September 1944. The first mission involved a dual purpose defense gun (likely, an 88mm gun) and earned us a, "Mission successful.", after 48 rounds. It took more rounds and more time for the next target but the SFCP gave us a "cease fire" and then a, "There is no more activity there." German mortar platoons were dealt with next and the effort deemed successful after 60 rounds. Late in the afternoon we went back to GQ at 1832. We expended 120 rounds to help our advancing troops take out a fort with the result, "pretty well destroyed." Edison also made enemy use of a highway a bit hazardous and ceased firing when our shore spotters told us, "That is good for now, will call later if we need you."
On 8 September, Edison was pulled out of the firing line and according the record, moored alongside the USS Denebola in the Gulf of St. Tropez. I do not recall this respite and was a little surprised when I did the research and discovered that the Denebola was over here with us. She is the support ship whose "embrace" we had left in April in Casco Bay, and a ship I had consigned forever to Casco Bay. I am sure we used the three days for upkeep and then it was back to firing station on the 14th of September, 1944. I am almost sure there was no liberty ashore during this period, but we caught up on our sleep, and most likely had to "air bedding", always a way to keep us occupied when we had "nothing else to do." Our departure from St. Tropez was also the occasion for praise from ComCruDiv Eight, most likely Rear Admiral Deyo, on USS Tuscaloosa. "The Edison, in the execution of fire support missions, both day and night, displayed an aggressive spirit. Her effective fire caused much damage to the enemy. Her intrepidity under fire of hostile shore batteries was of the highest order." Although Hap Pearce got a little hot under the collar when Rear Admiral Deyo's name came up, the latter must have observed the little backing down maneuver in the Golfe de Napoule when Pearce fooled that battery off Cannes. That is the only way I can interpret the phrase, "intrepidity under fire".
Back on station on the 14th, our first target was a self-propelled gun and 50 vehicles. After 72 rounds, the SFCP message was, "Mission accomplished. Very good shooting, all targets destroyed including self-propelled gun." The day's remaining two targets were exceptions to our diet of land targets. One was an enemy merchant ship with another, unidentified object, in the water near that ship. Both took several hits from Edison's guns. The merchantman was left settling, the other target sank before it could be identified. Writing almost 54 years later, the possibility that this was a human torpedo with its mother ship occurs to me. On the 15th, we took a bridge south of Cape Mortola under fire. This bridge was important because it could support German armor being brought in to harass our landing force. We used 28 rounds, and in effect damaged the approaches to the bridge so that the bridge itself was temporarily "out of service." A convoy of trucks was then disabled mostly because the road they were on was made impassable.
On the 16th the Edison was at work five separate times. A gun emplacement, a supply warehouse, a storage tank, a troop concentration with trucks and support personnel absorbed 91 rounds. The storage tank took 14 rounds by itself but smoke obscured results. The heavy concentration of troops and trucks, all near the gun emplacement, brought this evaluation, "Tore hell out of battery. Every round counted. Men and trucks are dispersed." This had taken an additional 89 rounds. The 17th was a similar day. There were five targets. Three enemy coastal guns, troops and trucks, and a bridge were reduced.
Liberty at St. Tropez
We were sent back to St. Tropez, this time for liberty ashore. While anchored off a now peaceful St. Tropez, I was among those who were given liberty. I went with the Captain and a couple of others to a villa owned by an American and commandeered by some military unit as an "entertainment club." They had a pool and we swam. They had wine and we drank. I drank too much, much too much. I realized I needed to get back to the ship so I left on foot to go to the landing we were using. I took a short cut, I was told later, through fields that had not been swept for land mines. The luck of the inebriated, I assume, got me to the dock. I was noisy aboard the whaleboat (gig) and insisted on sitting on the engine cover, a no-no. The Executive Officer had come from some other duty and was also aboard and properly objected to my "condition". When I got back on Edison, I was informed by the OOD that the Exec. had confined me to my quarters and relieved me of my duties. This occurred, according to my 1985 inspection of the Edison's log at the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., on the 20-24 watch on 20 September, 1944. The next entry of interest to me in that National Archives visit 40 years after the incident, appeared in the 08-12 log of 21 September, 1944. I discovered that Dailey was returned to duty in view of "present operating conditions", and the Edison was underway at 1546 on the 21st to relieve the USS Ludlow on firing station.
It was good for me that we were busy again, firing on the 22nd. Remorse is better handled with some distracting "activity". And heaven knows if I would have been sent back to duty had it not been for the need to go back to the firing area. I saw Captain Pearce a couple of times in later years, and Stanley Craw once, and neither seemed to have had my inappropriate episode on their minds. Mostly, I was ashamed and shame is with oneself.
The first targets on the 22nd of September 1944 were a storage dump containing gasoline and equipment, enemy artillery emplacements, troops and a mortar platoon. A bridge and a rail terminal were also fired on. Flames at or near the storage dump gave us an indication of success there. One last target deserves "special mention".
My Last Go At Gunnery; An "Interested" Spectator
On 22 September 1944, the day after being released from my deserved "confinement to quarters" of 20-21 September, we were working up the coast well east of Cannes, past the Italian Riviera toward a place called Ventimiglia. This trip began had begun on a stunning Riviera day and the first "shoots' had been rather routine. (See paragraph above.) We had been told that there was an active 88mm battery at Ventimiglia (I never found out what that place was twenty miles from, and would wish later that it had been twenty miles from us) and the Edison and the Woolsey were told to find the battery, and "take it out." Finding enemy artillery emplaced and camouflaged ashore is not an assignment for destroyers. The only way to do it without a SFCP or air spotting, and we had neither, was Admiral Deyo's Southern France D-day prescription to "draw their fire". So we worked our way east, and gradually closed the shore to five or six thousand yards. Suddenly, we were in the fight of our lives. A four-gun, 88mm, radar-controlled battery opened up on us and their "ranging" salvo was right on. That battery could fire as fast as we could. He knew where we were, obviously, and we had little idea where he was. No flashes and no smoke were visible ashore. Yes, we fired, but like the sweepers that the Ludlow guarded at Anzio, we could only shoot at where fire "might be coming from". Unlike Ludlow's sweepers at Anzio on their final pass, these Germans were firing rapidly, and accurately, at us.
Like cornered animals, Woolsey and Edison twisted and turned and built to top speed of over thirty knots on two boilers. Our only strategy was to open the range, but we had to change target angles and hope the accuracy of the German radar was not matched by a rapid calculating fire control system. To mask our target angles, both destroyers immediately made "smoke" from the chemical generators first, and then with their power plants too. I estimate that we were within easy range of a four gun 88mm battery for fifteen agonizing minutes. We finally abandoned shooting at them, knowing that the shoreline itself was now out of our range, in addition to not being sure where they were.
Salvo after salvo landed right alongside Edison and Woolsey. It helped that there were two of us. Two targets to track, both behind smoke and both changing course at high speed, prevented the shore battery from picking us off one at at time. My final assessment is that the German MPI-Mean Point of Impact- was too tight. Four shells missed over and then four shells would miss short. The Germans were not getting a straddle with a single salvo. We escaped, with prayers, and a sheepish feeling of having accomplished nothing worth talking about or recording. I am almost embarrassed to present it here.
On the 24th at 2202, Edison rendezvoused with USS Philadelphia and sailed for Marseilles, arriving on the 25th. It was my only visit to that great port, now in our hands, and I did not get ashore. On the evening of the 25th, we left with the Philly to go to St. Tropez, leaving on the 26th for Oran, where we moored alongside the SS Yankee Arrow at Mers el Kebir on 28 September, 1944.
My shipboard duties were over. I had had orders to flight training for some time. I was awaiting a relief (stipulated as a necessary requirement for my detachment by our Captain) in the person of an officer from a South Pacific minesweeper, who of course, never came. To the consternation of the Captain, I was then detached "without relief" in a modification of my original orders. Along with Lt. (jg) John Perry who was also ordered to flight training, I was directed to wait in Oran, Algiers for an Army Air Force (MATS-Military Air Transport Service) C-47 to take us to Port Lyautey in Morocco. Then, as it turned out, I would leave on an American Export Airlines-crewed Army Air Force C-54, for Patuxent River Maryland, via landings in the Azores and Newfoundland. That crew were part of American Airline's early international operations.
Edison left Oran on 1 October, 1944, and resumed escort duties along with some training exercises. She made ports in Gibraltar, Oran, Toulon, Marseilles, Naples, Horte in the Azores, and New York where she arrived with a convoy on 17 January for an extended yard overhaul. On 16 February, while backing out of a slip at Earle, New Jersey, Edison was struck by the SS Benedick, and though no personnel were hurt, Edison was badly rent and required immediate and extensive yard repairs. These took until 7 March 1945 when she again went to Earle for ammo and resumed her place in active duty. On the 17th of May 1945, Lieutenant Commander W. J. Caspari, USN relieved Commander H. A. Pearce as CO, USS Edison. Craw had left earlier. In an amazing coincidence, Pearce and Craw were reunited as CO and XO respectively of the destroyer USS Sarsfield in their next duty. (Lieutenant Commander Sarsfield had been the skipper of the Maddox, lost in the Gela landings at Sicily. He did not survive the bombing by a Nazi plane.)
I will cover a few more details of the Edison's career from the beginning of 1945 until her decommissioning in 1946 in the next two pages in that left side list. For the remainder of Edison's career I will be relying on official records and the memories of other officers and men. Let me offer one sobering result here of the records search made many years later. That 22nd day of September 1944, at Ventimiglia, Italy, both Dailey and Edison fired their last round in anger in WW II! By late October 1944, the Mediterranean Basin was clear of the enemy and convoys could proceed without escorts. To borrow from a wonderful song, had I not lleft the area, my words might have been, "I scarce can take it in."