June 1945

Map of Saipan

June 1, 1945 – Friday.  TANAPAG HARBOR, SAIPAN ISLAND, NORTH PACIFIC.  We are moored between piers A-2 and A-3 at Tanapag Harbor.  Tanapag is also called Garapan Harbor.  Our sister ship, LCI(223) is moored along side us to our port.  We were mustered to quarters at 7:55 am; no absentees. Right after lunch a working party brought aboard five barrels of lubricating oil and two barrels of gasoline.  A crane on the dock removed 2 spaire engines and a propeller assembly from our well deck, meanwhile our port-outboard-aft engine was replaced by a new one.

June 2, 1945 – Saturday. We remained in port today, moored alongside LCI(L)223.  Provisions were brought aboard and the General Store Keeper also came aboard.

June 3, 1945 – Monday.  We cast off from LCI223 at 9am this morning, proceeding with out the use of our main engines, to the boat repair station with the aid of three Higgins boats.  We tied up at the boat repair pier, with LCI 330 and LCI 332 on either side of us.

June 4, 1945 – Tuesday.  Ensign Stuart Erlanger took over the duties of writing the logs today.  Log duties rotate from officer to officer.  One day Erlanger will do them, the next day D.D. Diers will do them, the next day C.M. Dotterrer will do them, and the next day G.E. McNeill will do them. Then all of a sudden several of them will all sign them throughout the day.

June 5, 1945 – Wednesday.  A working party brought aboard 20 cases of 20mm ammunition and I found a few minutes to write some letters today.  Here is my letter home explaining the souvenirs  that I had sent home a while back.  I explained that the little boat and the canes all came from Santa Isabel Island in the Solomon Islands and were made by the natives there, all inlayed with mother of pearl.  I got news that my brother, Dean Kirkham, was about a mile away from where I was and I never knew it so I didn’t get to see him.  I thought it was kind of funny that my mother wondered if I wanted a map.  I had to laugh because I take care of all the maps and charts for our ship!  In fact, I correct them, put the reefs on there, chart the wrecks, and so forth.  Thats my job! Any time the captain needs a map, I go and get it for him.  Here is my letter:

Letter Home 6/5/1945 - Click on letter to read all

June 6, 1945 – Wednesday.  While we remained docked at the repair station we got rammed by LCI(L)329 on our starboard side amidship.  Fortunately we sustained only minor damage.  The GSK (General Stores Keeper) came aboard.

June 7, 1945 – Thursday.  We remained moored at the repair port.  At 10:00 am Jesse Gregory, Seaman 1st Class, left the ship for the Hospital. In the afternoon we pulled away from the Boat Repair Beach in Tanapag Harbor and using various courses and speeds we proceeded to a mooring in the harbor along side Y.M. 69 (a Y.M. is a radar beacon).

June 8, 1945 – Friday.  We took on fresh water this morning while moored along side LCI1062.  1062 is the newest LCI that I have seen out since I’ve been out here.  She was being built while I was in the Solomon Islands and was sent out here last year.  The last purchase order to build LCIs, numbers 1099  to 1139, was cancelled on August 19, 1944, so I’m not sure they are even building any more at this point.  After taking on some 5000 gallons of fresh water, we got underway from YM 69 and proceeded to a mooring in the Tanapag Harbor, moored along side YOG 109, the fuel barge, where we took on 12,605 gallons of fuel.  After fueling up we took our ship out for a test run. After lunch we returned back to the Harbor, anchored, and a working party came aboard with provisions.

June 9, 1945 – Saturday.   We remained anchored at port today.  We had a Captain’s Inspection this morning.

June 10, 1945 – Sunday.  I sent a letter home today.  My mother has been asking me about whether or not I am going to church.  The fact is that it has been hard to go to church out here, but they do have church.  I also have a Book of Mormon that they gave me when I left home.  Its a military version, that is to say its small and can fit easily into my pants pocket or be stowed easily in duffel bag and not take up much room, which is where mine is most of the time. You can easily carry it with you where ever you go if you want to. I seldom read mine but it nevertheless is comforting to have it.  I picked it up once and I can prove it because I was doing some painting that day aboard the ship and I got paint all over it. Anyway, church is held at 7pm in the evening here and if I go I have to get a small ship to take me to shore and that isn’t always easy.

My military Book of Mormon - Note grey paint from painting the ship

Letter Home 6/10/1945 - Click on letter to read all

June 11, 1945 – Monday.  We left Saipan today for escort duty, departing Tanapag Harbor at 1:40 pm.  We were out for about 6 hours and we turned around and came back, arriving in harbor at 1:50 in the morning.  We have to escort the submarines away from the area of our airplanes because the pilots can’t tell the difference between a Japanese sub and US Sub and they might accidentally attach one of our own ships.  To prevent that, an LCI will accompany them to sea because an LCI is very recognizable and not a highly desirable target for the enemy.  At this point in the war they are running low on ammunition and aren’t like to waste a shot bearing down on us.

June 12, 1945 – Tuesday.  In spite of a late arrival back at port last night, we were mustered at 7:55 this morning for duty.  This afternoon we proceeded out again on escort duty.  On our way back to port we had another electrical steering casualty and were forced to use emergency steering while the repairs were made.  With the problem solved, we resumed electrical steering and headed back for port, anchoring at 3:30 am.

June 13, 1945 – Wednesday.  After lunch today a working party brought aboard provisions and supplies in preparation to move out to Marpi Point. We spent the rest of the day making preparations for departure.

June 14, 1945 – Thursday.  BANZI CLIFF.  At 3:45 am we got underway from our anchorage in Tanapag Harbor using various courses and speeds to Marpi Point, Saipan.  Our job today is to patrol off of Point Marpi on the North end of the Island, the point nearest to Japan.  All the B-29s that come into the island, or leave from the island fly over this point.  Sometimes those planes are pretty badly shot up.  Many don’t make it back to the air field.  There is an emergency landing strip on the Northeast shore, just in case. Our job is to watch out for these planes and pick up anybody who ditches out here if we get word.

Throughout the day we sailed back and forth along the North end of the Island, making our patrols along this haunting coast line.  For me this is a somber experience.  This place is called ‘Banzai Cliff’ or Suicide Cliff. This whole area is literally a great watery cemetery for an estimated 1,000 Japanese civilians that committed suicide here when the the marines and army invaded last June.   Saipan Island was occupied by The Japanese after World War I and was an important defense post for their homeland as well as an expansion point for their imperial ambitions. On June 15, 1944, the Marines and Army landed on the beaches on the southwestern side of the island, and spent more than three weeks fighting the Battle of Saipan to secure it from the Japanese. Japan considered Saipan a part of the last line of defense for the homeland, and thus had heavily committed to defending it. Nearly all of the 30,000 Japanese defenders were killed; thousands of Japanese civilians also died, many threw themselves off Banzai Cliff where we patrol today.A great self slaughter took place here making it one of the singular scenes of needless destruction to take place during the war. Now as we are closing in on Japan, I wonder; if they will do this here, what will the really fanatical citizens of Japan do when we invade their homeland?  Will the whole Japanese race choose death rather than surrender ? The question will soon be answered as we surely are close to the end of this conflict now.

Mundi Point or Banzai Cliff on the North Shore of Saipan - Click here to see the brutal story as told by the History Channel

We returned to port and anchored at 7:05 pm after a sobering day on the North shore of Saipan.

Years later, after the way, I got a chance to return to Saipan with my friend Jeff Eastman.  Jeff worked for the U.S. Government and had the responsibility to check on US sponsored schools in the Marianas.  While we were there we visited Marpi Point.  I went back to those caves and visited those cliffs.  I remember finding several rusting relics of  machine guns that I lined up on a rock and took pictures of them.  I wanted to bring them home and give them to my kids but that sort of thing wasn’t permitted by that point in time.  The trip back with Jeff Eastman gave me a chance to see the war from a more mature perspective.  So many things have changed since the days I was just 19, 20 and 21 years old.  We now buy cars and trade with our former enemies.  I even had a chance to go to Japan later in my life, to the city of Iwamizawa, sister city to Pocatello, Idaho where I now live. I certainly prefer these latter days to the former days when we were at war with them.  The Japanese are amazing people.

June 15, 1945 – Friday.  We continued our patrols of Marpi Point today, pulling out at 3:25 am and returning again 6:05 pm.

June 16, 1945 – Saturday.  We repeated our patrol of past several days again today.  When we got back to port at 7:30, Frank E. Giudice, Cox, reported aboard for duty.  He will probably replace Nelson W. Allen, Cox, who was disciplined and transferred off the ship on May 28th.

June 17, 1945.  Sunday.  Again we went out on patrol of Marpi point today.  While there, off the coast of Marpi Point, we ‘Lightened the Ship’.  We got bak to  the harbor by 10:00 am and moored where we could take on water.  After receiving 5,642 gallons of fresh water we anchored and got the rest of the day off.  I took advantage of the afternoon and finally got to church where I was able to meet some other guys from Utah!  That was really exciting for me.  I met one guy from Draper, Utah.  I got some Deseret News papers too. What a shame that I wan’t in church last week because there was a guy there from my home town of LEHI UTAH!  I wish I could have been there cause I know everyone from Lehi. Unfortunately nobody there this week knew what his name was. I didn’t even think about it being Father’s day till I got to church tonight.   I felt a little bad about missing mother’s and father’s day so I apologized about that in my letter.  I also wrote to my dad today, something I haven’t done much since I have been out here in the Pacific.

Letter Home 6/17/1945 - Click on Letter to read all

June 18, 1945 – Monday.  We left port again at 3:30 am to resume our patrol of Marpi Point returning again to port at 7pm.  At 9:30 tonight we had a practice air raid and everything was blacked out.  I hope we don’t get caught in a real air raid anytime soon.

June 19, 1945 – Tuesday.  We remained in port today.  Jesse Gregory, Seaman 1st class, left the ship for the hospital.  I took some time to write a letter home. In the letter I sent home a sketch of me that was made by a fellow in the New Zealand Air Force.  I sent it home for mother to see because he really was a good artist. He did the entire sketch in about 15 minutes.  Amazing.

Letter Home 6/19/1945

June 20, 1945 – Wednesday.  We remained in port today till afternoon at which time we received orders to escort USS Pilotfish.  The USS Pilotfish (SS-386) is Balao-classsubmarine, was a ship of the United States Navy named for the pilotfish, a carangoid fish, often seen in warm latitudes in company with sharks.  Back on May 21, 1945, Pilotfish departed for her fifth patrol and spent fifteen days on lifeguard duty off Marcus Island, before proceeding here to Tanapag Harbor, Saipan. Today she is leaving for the second half of her lifeguard patrol in the vicinity of the Japanese Home Islands.   At a note, Pilotfish was eventually disposed of by use as a target for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll. She was decommissioned 29 August 1946 and was struck from the Naval Vessel Register 25 February 1947.

Serving as escort for the submarine USS Pilot Fish

Jun 22, 1945 – I finally got my birthday package from home today.  Its about a month late in catching up to me.  She sent me a shaving kit and some sun glasses and candy that was spoiled. I felt bad since I haven’t had any candy in months. It was really just like christmas!

Letter Home 6/22/1945

June 27, 1945 – I got a letter from my oldest brother, Reed Kirkham, today.  I don’t hear from him very much. I told him that our chow is good here and that we get lots of fresh food because we are up close to the front lines and they try to get the best stuff there first.

Letter to my brother Reed 6/27/1945 - Click on letter to read all

June 29, 1945 – VISIT WITH CLIFF BECK.  Today I finally got word that my cousin, Cliff Beck, is here somewhere.  I went to try to find him but I came up short.  He is over one of the mechanics crews that works on the large B-29 bombers that fly in and out of here.  There is a huge air base here.

Letter Home 6/29/1945