The new Fourth Edition with 44-page Index
Death, Survival, and Leyte Gulf
Kurita Turns Back. Philippines Retaken: End in Sight for Pacific War Effort
(see "A Real Event; An Imagined Conversation" part way into this segment)
Copyright 2012 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
A casualty statistic. In World War II, the U.S. killed-in-action (KIA) count numbered about 300,000. Of these, the U.S. Navy lost 20,000 and the U.S. Marines 25,000.
After re-visiting World War II, I find that I have developed a sensitivity to rounded off casualty figures that I was not conscious of before.
Death is such a final matter. It came to me in the course of the reading I did to refresh myself on events of over 50 years ago, that the battle stories always used the qualifiers, "about" or "approximately" or "light" or "heavy" in their recounting of killed-in-action figures. In another case, the phrase "six dead and one missing" remains in my mind. And if I were to go back now and make a conscientious search of my own phrases in this story, I am certain to discover that I repeated some of those approximations of casualty figures.
The dead were dead. The missing, in the context of most sea disasters, were certainly dead. There were really no "approximately" dead sailors. The soldier who was killed in an action in which we took "light casualties" represented an irrevocable loss to his loved ones. Whether they numbered nine hundred and one, or just one, each time I was confronted by death in World War II, it made me sad. The German Warrant Officer of U-73 whom we could not revive in 1943 is a much a part of my memory as the death of my own mother in 1992. When a man or woman dies (while not always shown as combat casualties, women who died serving in World War II, many of them nurses, deserved to be considered combat casualties) that person is entitled to be identified and counted as precisely as our knowledge permits. In war, that has not always happened. At World War I's Verdun in France nearly one million soldiers died. Verdun's caves are a tomb for thousands of Unknown Soldiers from both sides. These men have no specific cross or star to mark their loss. Beginning with the Korean Conflict, and reaching a crescendo in the aftermath of Vietnam, the citizens of the U.S. began to demand more accountability in behalf of the individual who lost his or her life. I can understand that concern better now that I have told this story.
Edison did lose a young sailor named Foley. He was a striker in the fire control gang. While on liberty, Foley fell off a cliff in Oran on 20 July 1944. He was killed instantly. As his department head, I was the officer in charge of the burial platoon and the honors firing squad. I had to find a military Burial Manual and read it hurriedly because I had no prior experience, thank God. I borrowed a sword. We wore blues with leggings. We were a little ragged in marching behind the coffin, and none of the three rifle volleys actually sounded quite like a single shot. But, it was a dignified, somber, service. Seaman Foley, I have always wondered if your family had you brought back from that cemetery in Oran. We did our best. I have never forgotten your enthusiasm to learn. In some datasets, a significant number of wartime deaths are so-called "operational", meaning not due to enemy action. Those statistics remind us that both war, and preparation for war, are dangerous. The life given is just as courageously lost irrespective of the statistical segment it occurs in.
There is a possibility that the finality of the naval death is one reason why some chose to be wartime sailors. The vacant faces we saw on the U.S. combat soldiers in the North African "rest" camps foretold a life that none would want. A poem by Wilfred Owen, the famed World War I poet, provides one look at what lay ahead for many men.
Now he will spend a few years in Institutes.
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?
A sinking is sudden death for a ship as well as for many in the ship's company. Ships die in other ways too. Stanley Craw, my last Executive Officer on the Edison, who went on to command several U.S. destroyers after the war, visited the mothballed USS Edison in Charleston, SC. He told me that it was eerie. His telling words were, "None of the people who were supposed to be there were there." From that visit to a haunting relic in a river of decommissioned ships, waiting for their turn in the scrap yard, springs the thought that there is a positive meaning for the warrior hulls left on the bottom of the sea. Those sea graves do much more to perpetuate noble memories than scrap yards.
Ludlow, Woolsey and Edison, of the original DesRon 13's nine destroyers, survived the war. Both Woolsey and Ludlow, the latter twice, took serious shell hits and fatalities. Edison alone went unscathed except for Frank Barber, the gun captain of Gun 2. Frank received the Purple Heart for a flesh wound from a near miss during a shelling we took during the Southern France operation in August 1944.
Soldiers, sailors and airmen breathe life into their units. Bomber crews are an example, be they ten men in a Liberator or two men in a dive bomber. Army Divisions or Battalions or Platoons take on lives of their own. In Darby's Rangers, they came Battalion-sized. The story that forced its way back into my consciousness after 55 years was that of the USS Edison, a destroyer, and her crew.
A destroyer crew forms a mutual protection society. These past chapters have shown how this worked so well for destroyers in combat roles. Cruisers also received deserved attention in this narrative. I have not done justice to the brave minesweepers in this story. Names for fleet minesweepers like Auk, Osprey, Raven and Pioneer remain in my memory. Their smaller wooden hulled brethren, known usually only by hull numbers, were also expendable, and expended. Carriers and battleships have been mentioned though the venue of the Edison and her sister destroyers rarely included them.
Our Captains, including 'Hap' Pearce, who turned in the longest stint as skipper of the Edison, were men of active minds who were forced to try new ideas when protocol was lacking, either because a Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, did not exist or did not work. Captain Murdaugh pioneered the outreach search for U-boats shadowing a convoy on the surface, and success led to new escort-of-convoy tactics. Captain Headden put tremendous emphasis on lookout training, not always popular in cold, driving precipitation when effective radar had already been installed on the Edison. But lookouts could see underneath the scan of the radar beam, and at night would report a ship hull-down over the horizon, sometimes moments before the radar "confirmed" such a target.
Captain Pearce was constantly absorbed by the challenge of survivors in the water where depth charge explosions led to life-ending concussion. With shipfitters, and carpenters, and electricians, he tried a number of home-built propelled raft schemes. Though Edison never perfected a workable solution, the motive that so absorbed him in these efforts never left our thoughts. Edison's watchstanders learned to set and unset depth charge patterns in seconds. This story comes to an end with just one persisting question. After examining many World War II records, I never discovered any wartime Navy order to leave depth charges set on "safe" until needed.
With mechanically expert teams augmented by advice from radar operators and fire controlmen, Captain Pearce successfully deployed an Edison-built radar reflecting target to be anchored as a fire control aiming offset. (He had some deployment help from accomplices in landing craft.) These "targets" were effective along coasts where the gradients were so shallow that tides alone could make the charts fib enough to throw off our shore gunfire support effort. Edison usually required just one "ranging" salvo in shore bombardment before going to rapid fire.
Though I did not serve aboard with Edison's last skipper, Lieutenant Commander Caspari, I knew him and liked him as a First Class Midshipman at the Naval Academy. I am sure that he worked to continue and enhance Edison's performance, and that he was concerned with the well being of her crew. Edison's leadership would have been nothing without the Edison bluejackets. Insights reported in this story from seamen who served aboard other destroyers have confirmed that their officer-crew relationships developed with the same crucial mutual respect and support.
A destroyer is an instrument of death in its mission to sustain the life of the country it fights for and the life of the men who crew her. There are many paradoxes here. The life jackets we wore were a daily part of one paradox. Human habits, combined with government-issue, made life at sea in wartime even riskier than it needed to be. The pneumatic belt type life jacket was worn by everyone as a more comfortable choice than the kapok jackets that came up behind the neck. It did not take many weeks of wear before the belt type jacket would crease so sharply that small holes became visible along the folded edges. The two carbon dioxide cylinders would discharge quickly into the jacket and just as quickly out the holes. Useless! I would estimate that a third of the men at any one time had no life belt protection whatsoever. Between issues of new jackets, I put in my time as one of those who blithely overlooked the anomaly.
In the matter of life and death, timing takes many dimensions. 48 of my Naval Academy classmates were killed in action in World War II. That represents nearly 10% of our graduating class lost between June 19, 1942 and August 1945. Just thirty of our class perished in Navy operations during the next 15 years after World War II, a period which included the Korean conflict. The number of World War II KIA from the Naval Academy classes of 1940 and 1941 was proportionately higher than the number lost from my class. These two classes supplied the Junior Officer cadre for the battleships lined up and sunk at Pearl Harbor. Comparable statistics would be apparent for Naval Reserve officer classes, and Naval Training Station "boot camp" classes. Servicemen were transferred from ships that survived, only to be lost on ships that were sunk. Other servicemen transferred from ships that were eventually sunk, but made it to ships that survived. Some men were survivors of two sinkings; some survived one sinking but not the next.
The Edison was in mined waters, but a mine was not in her critical space at the moment of Edison's passing. Our ship's successful passage through mined waters was enormously helped by the minesweepers who faced heightened peril on every sweep through the mine-populated Mediterranean. In like manner, the enemy torpedo was there but the Edison had not quite gotten there yet. The bomb struck water that the Edison had just passed through. Salvoes of shells groped for the Edison without quite finding her. As the USS Savannah demonstrated at Salerno, a superbly led and trained crew can help a ship survive the effect of near-catastrophic damage and even revive the ship's vital systems. The destroyer Mayo demonstrated similar survival instincts. But aside from the practice of always keeping your ship underway, "dodging the bullet" mostly means that it wasn't marked for you.
I have written about the success of the Allied High Command in pursuing victory in Europe. Victory in the Pacific against Japan involved sacrifices by the Dutch, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Chinese, Solomon Islands' natives and Philippine men and women. Even in a quick assessment of manpower and logistics, however, one can quickly see that there was no "Allied Command" effort in the Pacific involving the magnitude of the inter-nation coordination required with Britain, Russia, Canada, India and later the Free French in the struggle to defeat Hitler. This does not mean that decisions by King and Marshall for the Pacific theatre came any easier than those in the battle to defeat Hitler.
The same two U.S. military leaders, wearing their Allied "hats", who helped make V-E day a reality, General Marshall and Admiral King, were concurrently the architects of Pacific War resource allocations and command choices. The delegate operational commanders in the Pacific were Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur. While dealing with the rationing of forces and the rationalization of objectives in the Atlantic War, Marshall and King had to keep hopes and initiatives alive in the Pacific. Even the U.S. Presidency had a "change of command" when Vice President Harry Truman was sworn in as President of the United States to replace the fallen Roosevelt. Truman, Roosevelt and Churchill had "rank" on Marshall and King, but to their great credit listened to both. In the Pacific, though they in turn had the advantage of "rank" over MacArthur and Nimitz, the role assumed by Marshall and King was not exercised by rank. It is a tribute to Admiral King and General Marshall that they kept a winning focus in two very different and very complex war theatres while directly engaging the persons of two Presidents and a Prime Minister in one effort, and two war heroes in the other.
The relationship between General Marshall and Admiral King in the conduct of World War II is worthy of study by historians. Each was a hero. Together, they moved our armed forces out of the impotence of isolationism.
A Real Event, An Imagined Conversation
Lieutenant Commander W. J. Caspari had relieved "Hap" Pearce as Edison's skipper during a May 1945 sound gear overhaul in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It is now 27 June, 1945. The USS Edison has just entered the Panama Canal on her way to the Pacific. The war in Europe was over in May but the war in the Pacific rages on.
An Edison plank owner and a young bluejacket, the latter underway in a Navy warship for the first time, have been passing some time reading a newsmagazine about a Pacific sea battle that took place in the Fall of 1944 while Edison was concluding her duties in the Mediterranean. What follows is my excerpt from published eyewitness accounts of one phase of the engagement. The account I reference was written by Rear Admiral C.A.F. Sprague and Lieutenant Philip H. Gustafson and appeared in "The United States Navy in World War II", published by William Morrow and edited and compiled by S.E. Smith. The Sprague/Gustafson story was titled, "They Had Us On The Ropes."
The day is October 25, 1944. The time is 0600 local time. The umbrella name for the action is the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Our troop transports and their men and supplies were in the second week and most critical phase of getting assault forces ashore. Leyte was the first step in reclaiming the Philippines from the Japanese. Those islands had been "home waters" for the Japanese Fleet since early 1942, a period of over two and one half years.
Three powerful Japanese fleet forces undertook a coordinated thrust in an attempt to undo all that Nimitz and MacArthur and our Pacific ground, sea and air forces had accomplished beginning at Guadalcanal in August of 1942. In their boldest foray, the Central Force of the three Japanese fleets had swept around the north end of Samar Island heading on a southerly course at high speed to completely disrupt U.S. landings in progress in Leyte Gulf. A carrier based ASW patrol pilot reported to Rear Admiral C.A.F. Sprague's flagship, "Enemy surface force of 4 battleships, 7 cruisers and 11 destroyers sighted 20 miles northwest of your task group and closing in on you at 30 knots." Somewhat irritated that the young Ensign was mistakenly reporting a main component of Admiral "Bull" Halsey's U.S. Third Fleet, Sprague called for the pilot to re-check his identification of this fleet. Sprague turned his thoughts back momentarily to the day's first worry, his mission to support, with carrier air strikes, our troops consolidating the Leyte beachhead.
The young pilot's next report was, "Ships have pagoda masts." After this electrifying report, the Ensign then made a dive bomb attack on a Japanese cruiser, striking close to it with his two depth charges.
Sprague knew immediately that a never-before event in naval history was about to occur. Thin walled U.S. CVEs ("jeep" carriers created by converting merchant ship hulls to small aircraft carriers) were about to be annihilated by what turned out to be one of the most heavily gunned surface fleets of all time. Sprague's force, even as it turned abruptly eastward at 0650, away from the Philippine islands and away from the Japanese, could make at best 20 knots. The Japanese at 30 knots would close fast. Here are the force strengths. Rear Admiral C.A.F. Sprague's unit was part of Admiral Kinkaid's 7th Fleet, with the mission to cover the Leyte Gulf landings. Known as Taffy 3, this Sprague's force (another Admiral Sprague commanded another group in Kinkaid's fleet) consisted of 6 escort carriers, 4 destroyers and 3 destroyer escorts. Japan's Admiral Kurita had four new battleships (he began with five, but the Mushashi had been sunk by our planes and submarines the day before), 7 cruisers, and 11 destroyers. The Japanese force's "pagoda" masts began poking up on the Sprague force's horizon at about 20,000 yards. Visual contact!
Although many of his carrier planes were over Leyte Gulf supporting the landings, at 0656 Sprague ordered all of his planes that were still available to launch a torpedo or bombing strike on Kurita's Central Force. Fortunately, for launching its remaining planes, Taffy 3's course change to the east was into the wind. At 0657, Sprague ordered his vulnerable carriers to make smoke from their stacks and to augment it with chemical smoke from tanks normally carried by their aircraft. All escorts were directed to cover the rear of the retreating carriers and make all smoke possible.
Rear Admiral Stump with the next light carrier group to the south launched bomb and torpedo strikes, as did units from Rear Admiral Thomas Sprague's force, 70 miles to the south. Proceeding east had another benefit for Taffy 3, a Pacific squall. Carrier-launched Avengers and Wildcats, operating singly or at best in pairs, and scrambling to get airborne and into the action, began to draw a wall of Japanese flak, but a U.S. Air Group Commander quickly scored a hit on the battleship Nagato. With salvoes from the Japanese now reaching an intensity around Taffy 3's escort carriers, the U.S. force darted into the squall at 0713. The shelling abated and there was a moment to think. Mainly, what was the best course to prolong the action and extract the most damage before all U.S. ships were sunk? Sprague turned southeast and then south. Sprague's objective was to draw this Japanese Force away from Leyte Gulf, its real target, and hopefully draw them into range of U.S. carrier aircraft forces which could punish them, irrespective of Taffy 3's losses. Although his track resembled the right half of a circle, and he was sure that the Japanese would shorten the distance by using the diagonal, Sprague wanted to get between the Japanese and the assault landing areas. He ordered his destroyers and destroyer escorts, now between him and the Japanese Center Force, to make a torpedo attack as a delaying barrier.
The picture below is the one that confronted the escorts as they formed for the torpedo attack. It is reproduced here from an uncredited photo on page 359 of "The U.S. NAVY An Illustrated History", by Nathan Miller, as it appeared in the Bonanza Books Edition of the volume originally published by American Heritage.
Admrial Kurita's "pagoda mast(ed)" Battle Line
Even though the Japanese, for unexplained reasons, had followed Sprague's carrier units around the half circle and did not take the shortcut, when the carriers emerged from the squall heading south, the range to the Japanese began to close dramatically. 20,000 yards was very soon down to 15,000 yards, at which range it became peashooting time for the 16 inch guns on Kurita's battleships. Taffy 3's destroyer torpedo attack turned them away for a brief period and one torpedo found a Japanese battleship. The U.S. escort ships survived that first run. The carrier USS St. Lo, using its one five inch gun, scored three hits on a Japanese cruiser running ahead, which had closed the range to 1400 yards! Just as effective was the like battery on the CVE USS Kalinin Bay and the one on the CVE USS White Plains. On the latter, Admiral Sprague's account notes that a battery officer sang out, "Just hold on a little longer boys; we're sucking them into 40-mm range." (Although a humorous observation, it was also the only time anyone who reported on this battle noted what a triumph Sprague had achieved by drawing the Japanese into the tail chase. Some accounts noted the enormous gun barrel advantage that lay with the Japanese. From enumerations of the Japanese 16 inch and 8 inch gun barrels, one can calculate an even more overwhelming weight-of-shell advantage that the Japanese could deliver. Each U.S. CVE had one five incher which fired aft. The odds dramatically improved for Sprague when the Japanese could only fire their forward guns while Sprague kept every one of his out-manned force's guns, though of smaller caliber, able to shoot.)
With the Japanese battleships holding the center stage astern, the Japanese finally split their cruisers and destroyers into two forces, one on each quarter of Sprague's force, now giving the Japanese three arcs of fire. The U.S. carriers were in a rough circle, their escorts in a larger arc around the rear, and every ship in the U. S. force was maneuvering violently to shake off the intense Japanese shelling. All the CVEs were now taking a pounding. Flagship USS Fanshaw Bay was hit 6 times. USS Kalinin Bay took 16 hits. USS Gambier Bay was hit and lost one engine reducing her speed to 14 knots. At 2,000 yards range to the nearest Japanese warships, in a rain of 8 inch shells, Gambier Bay finally was holed so many times she sank. The situation was now desperate. Sprague ordered the escorts to run directly between the Japanese once again for smoke laying. U.S. destroyers Hoel and Johnson, and the U.S. destroyer escort Roberts were fatally hit during this maneuver and dropped back out of sight. Planes from the other escort carrier groups used every torpedo and every bomb and then in final acts of desperation used every bullet in strafing attacks on the Japanese ships. Except for the Gambier Bay which had sunk, all of Sprague's remaining 5 carriers could still make full speed. At 0925, the Japanese main body centered on their battleships, still at an inexplicable 10,000 yards, made a wasteful torpedo attack. With those torpedoes running out their courses harmlessly, some being strafed and exploded by our aircraft, the Japanese then just as unexpectedly retired. They could actually have rammed and sunk Taffy 3's five remaining carriers.
Commander Amos Hathaway, skipper of the U.S. destroyer Heermann tells in "United States Navy in World War II", what it was like to execute the final stage of the escort intervention commands that Admiral Sprague ordered to save his carrier force. At the rear of the formation when the USS Heermann broke out of one of the smoke palls, Hathaway could see that he was directly astern of one of his own carriers, and saw a Tone class 8 inch Japanese cruiser pummeling that carrier. The Heermann first had to get the Japanese cruiser on a bearing different from the carrier so Heermann could open fire and be sure that only the Japanese warship was in Heermann's line of fire. 12,000 yards is ideal range for the 5" 38 battery, and a U.S. destroyer is still a pesky target at that range for an 8 inch battery. Notwithstanding, a red 8 inch splash was 1,000 yards short of the Heermann, and the red splashes were walked closer in 100 yard steps until the Heermann took a damaging but not fatal hit. Somehow, reported Hathaway, the Japanese did not realize that they had found the range. The following salvo was an "over" and destroyer Heermann was not hit again. Twelve minutes later, the Japanese Center Force turned back toward San Bernardino Strait leaving one of their own blazing cruisers behind.
At 2130, safely into San Bernardino Strait from whence they had come, the Japanese Center Force retired. Adding up all the engagements that made up the Battle for Leyte Gulf, tonnage sunk greatly favored the U.S. side. Most U.S. destroyers had used up all their torpedoes. Sprague's Taffy 3 escort force lost two destroyers and a destroyer escort. Taffy 3 had lost one carrier, but they had kept the powerful Japanese Center Force from their primary mission to stop the U.S. re-occupation of the Philippines.
Destroyers had made a difference. So much so, that the destroyer radar picket ship in the Pacific became the first target for a "new" Kamikaze weapon. "Kamikaze" translates to "Divine Wind.". A force of Japanese aviators had been carefully selected and briefly trained to dive their bomb-laden aircraft right into U.S. warships. The day of Admiral C.A.F. Sprague's story, October 25, 1944, also marked the first intensive use of the Kamikaze forces that the Japanese air strategists had been planning for several months.
Early Kamikaze success kept more than one U.S. student pilot in the Navy flight program. Forced attrition "washouts" had been in progress from the beginning of October 1944 at U.S. Navy Primary Flight Training fields, due to an excess number of pilots in training in the U.S. Naval Air Training Command. With the advent of the Kamikaze, the high rate of washouts in the Navy's aviator program tapered off immediately. Some U.S. Navy student pilots with so-so flight marks, surely marked for a "Down" in C-stage aerobatic flight checks, took new hope. I know. I was one of them.
So, what did the experienced Edison plank owner tell the new recruit in this imagined conversation after both read about U.S. destroyers and destroyer escorts in the Battle for Leyte Gulf? I have always felt that some medal should be given for the tension, the nail biting, and the dire forebodings that precede battle. Once in the battle, you are fighting for your life and really do not have time to think about danger. Perhaps it occurred to the veteran to tell the recruit that the Edison was just one gun short of being a Fletcher class "flush deck" destroyer and could actually move faster than her slightly bigger brother. Edison never lacked for rate of fire. Edison never lacked accuracy. Edison never lacked speed. The Edison had led a charmed life. Perhaps the veteran then engaged the recruit in an upbeat conversation. Edison was on her way to a new environment. She would stand on her own.
Perhaps only those of us who had served aboard a Mediterranean destroyer and been detached to other assignments would have failed to have been upbeat for the recruit. For we might have reflected, that shorn of squadron or division mates, or even a convoy to keep her occupied, Edison' passage across the Pacific found her for the first time a loner.
Final Sailing Days
Most of June 1945 found Edison involved in training exercises operating out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, often in company with the USS Eberle. Edison left Cuba for the Panama Canal on 25 June 1945 and went through the Canal on 27 June 1945. More repairs were attended to in San Diego beginning on 6 July. On 27 July, 1945, Edison sailed for Pearl Harbor. She arrived there on 2 August and engaged in Pacific Fleet training exercises. The USS Edison sailed for Saipan on 1 September 1945. World War II had concluded with V-J Day on August 15, 1945. Edison seamen rescued a man overboard from the USS Dawson at 2103 on 12 September 1945. He had been in the water over two hours and Edison's superb lookout tradition worked again in spotting him.
The end of World War II in the Pacific provided more symbolism for a Navy man than the victory in Europe with the destruction of Hitler's armed might. Most everyone has the memory of the Marines on Mt. Suribachi at Iwo Jima because of the famous photograph, irrespective of whether the original or the staged picture actually made it into print. The sailor kissing the girl in Times Square on V-J day is memorable, and again not because of the controversy it sparked many years later. For me, no other symbolism matches the Japanese signing the surrender papers on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in September 2, 1945. I have reprinted one view of it below. It is a picture credited to the U.S. Army and it appears in The American Heritage Picture History of World War II by C. L. Sulzberger, edited by David G. McCullough, copyright 1966. (A new edition has been announced.) I can almost talk myself into believing that the lone destroyer in the background of this signing ceremony is a Benson/Livermore destroyer.
In Europe they had signed earlier armistices in railroad cars. The city of Versailles was a symbol both of European victory and defeat. I do not know who would have been in the U.S. Navy's official representation party had there been a formal surrender of Hitler's forces in Europe. One of our top generals in Europe noted that it was instead a "battlefield surrender." In any event, the Benson/Livermore "delegate" would have been far down on any official list of guests.
Those in the U.S. Navy will have to take their symbolism from the surrender of the Japanese in Tokyo Bay. There, the U.S. Navy was well represented, and the scene, the quarterdeck of the U.S. battleship Missouri, will do just fine for Navy men. I have seen many photos of the scene, but none better than the one below. This photo is reproduced from the right panel, page 621, of a two panel color photo credited to the U.S. Army. The complete photo can be found on pages 620,621 of C.L. Sulzberger's "American Heritage Picture History of WORLD WAR II", in the Bonanza Books Edition, copyrighted in 1966 by American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc.
Edison arrived in Saipan on 13 September 1945. After high winds caused her anchor to drag on 13 September, Edison took on supplies and ammunition (either out of habit or to get it shipped back to the U.S.) in Tanapag Harbor on the 14th, sailing for Sasebo, Japan on the 16th. She arrived there on 22 September 1945. Edison made the Far Eastern ports of Nagasaki, Japan, Nagoya, Japan, Matsuyama, Japan and Mindanao in the Philippine Islands. On 3 November, 1945 Edison departed Nagoya for Adak, Alaska. En route she served as North Pacific weather station before entering Adak harbor in December 1945. On 2 January 1946, the USS Edison departed Adak for the Canal Zone, transiting the Canal for the Atlantic on 11 January 1946.
The Edison dropped anchor next at Charleston, South Carolina and was placed out of commission there on 18 May, 1946. Woolsey, Ludlow, Edison and Ericcson were later removed from Charleston to berths in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In 1965 all were sold to scrap dealers. Exit Benson/Livermore WW II destroyers with hull numbers 437, 438, 439 and 440 from U.S. naval history, expendable from the beginning to the end of their glorious careers. Lipsett of New Jersey paid $87,000 in 1965 for Edison for her scrap value.
The End. Web Edition of "Joining The War At Sea." 3 May, 1998.
If there is ever a bound book of this story, this dedication will go in the front. The story is dedicated to the wives and parents and children and relatives and neighbors who stayed home and provided the support that enabled the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the U.S. to emerge victorious from a long, costly war.
I'll begin with my wife of nearly 55 years. Here's to you Peggy. You gave up a Railroad Retirement pension from the Norfolk Southern Railroad in April of 1944 to marry me. You were a secretary in the Traffic Department of that railroad, which was hard work, but surely nothing like raising eight children and living in 17 apartments and homes. Peggy's picture is below. I'm hoping that each reader can reflect for a moment on someone they know who was left behind and who kept the ship of home on course, through the good news and the bad news.
In writing this story I have had Peg's encouragement all the way. She is not a "yes" man, however. My webmaster partner is a young writer who runs a midnight website question and answer feature on PC upgrades. These are short-titled, FAQs, for Frequently Asked Questions. I suggested to Peggy that after completion of this story, she and I might work together on a website feature, entitled, "Family Questions: Ask Peg and Frank." She spoke right back, "Our children will get right on the Internet and tell people, don't ask Peg and Frank." That idea went down in flames.
In June of 1948, I was ordered to the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Annapolis, Maryland. We went into Navy Housing, which is not the same as Navy Quarters. Still available in Annapolis, three years after the World War II ended, were row upon row of huts called, The Homoja Village. Each family was entitled to one half of one of those corrugated, stifling, half-cylinder shaped huts. In June of 1948 we moved into one of these dwellings with two small children. My wife Peggy, after making a fast trip in labor to the Naval Hospital on the Severn River at the Naval Academy, and after being ordered by the Chief Nurse when she arrived, "not to have that baby until the Doctor gets here", brought an infant back to our steamy summer cubicle, making us five in all. Navy wives, officer or enlisted, quickly form a number of helpful small groups. How to get to the Commissary. How to get to the Infirmary. How to get to the Ship's Store or PX. How to get to a movie and who will babysit. Children's birthdays were frequent and well remembered. The wives needed those children's birthdays too.
Other less visible relationships developed among wives of servicemen. Of trust. Of support. Adjacent huts were right next to each other. A thin wall separated you from the other end of the one you were in. Babies crying were understood, accepted by all, and not even commented upon. But male adults screaming in the night? Somehow these women could quietly say, "Joe woke up screaming last night." Discreet conversations brought forth advice on what the screams meant and how to help Joe, or Tom or Dick. With their intuition, these women knew that Navy medicine was not the way to go. These women learned that time and understanding were the answers.
Epilogue: Makeover For The "Surly Draftee"
I saw a letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal in its edition of January 9, 1998. The Letters Editor hit just the right note on the headline for the letter which the Journal reprinted. The editor's headline was "WW II Vets Fought for Their Special Ladies." I am sure the subject has intrigued you readers, so I'll reprint the entire letter. Stephen Ambrose's book, "Citizen Soldiers. How They Fought - and Won" had just been published and John Lehman, a former Secretary of the Navy had reviewed it in the journal's edition of December 22, 1997. Bud Markel, President of the 484th Bomb Group Association, of the 49th Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force, wrote to the Journal from Redondo Beach, California.
"John Lehman's review of the book struck a warm note with this humble Army Air Force engineer-gunner. Mr. Ambrose says in the introduction to his book that the World War II citizen soldier, whether enlisted or drafted, fought not for cause or for patriotism, but for the safety of his buddies and the pride of his unit.
"I would like to add something else - the strong identification with our war vehicles. As a World War II veteran tells his war stories, inevitably his ship, tank or aircraft is mentioned. In effect, our vehicles represented all of the people in our lives. That is the reason these vehicles were humanized. One could observe mechanics and air crew members pat the side of their aircraft and talk to it. A gunner might mutter under his breath, `old girl, don't forget your promise to bring us home today."
"We decorated the slab side of our venerable B-24 Liberators with paintings of scantily clad females or with mottos that were personally important. My own ship, a Ford-built B-24L, was named "Roll Me Over" after a bawdy song of the time. We pasted a pin-up from Esquire magazine just below the name. This quarter-million dollar aircraft was handed to our crew of 10 mostly high school graduates in Topeka, Kan. In 1944. We were so proud of the confidence that Army Air Forces bestowed on us with this gift, it would be a matter of personal disgrace if in our inexperience we damaged the ship while in our charge."
This story's Prologue began with my absolute disgust with a feature piece which appeared in the Wall Street Journal in early 1997 in which an author quoted some senior brass in the volunteer Army as pleased that they did not have to deal with "surly draftees." It leaves me in a better frame of mind as this story concludes to see that the Wall Street Journal, in its coverage of the Stephen Ambrose book, has left its more recent readers with Ambrose's balanced view of citizen soldiers.
For insights not available when these chapters were completed, please read Appendices A,B,C,D,E and F.
Acknowledgments (Revised 05/14/10)
Please anticipate that these addresses may no longer work.)
Bob Swanson..Son of Harold Swanson, crewmember USS Augusta WW II..firstname.lastname@example.org
Stanley Craw, Exec. Officer USS Edison, 67 Maple Drive, Spring Lake Heights, NJ 07762
Jean Whetstine, Editor Edison Newsletter, 10635 Byron Road, Byron, MI 48418. Jean's husband was Larry Whetstine, crewmember USS Edison WW II..