May 1944

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LCI 222 about the time I came on board (Note alphabetical order)

May 2, 1944 – Tuesday

I met the “222”on May 2, 1944 on an obscure island in the South Pacific called Florida Island (now Nggela Suie Island).  This emerald green spot of paradise lies 19 miles directly north of  the infamous and bloody beaches of Guadalcanal.   I saw my ship for the first time at a place called Hutchinson Creek.  I came aboard the day after our new captain, Lt. Henry S. Thompson[ii], U.S.N.R. reported aboard for duty as commanding officer, having relieved Lt. Walter L. Stisulis[iii] of his duties.  Over the next 2 dozen months, Captain Thompson and I would spend a great deal of time together aboard this “tin can” but I would out last him in the end.

I came aboard and my name was entered in the log books between “Kinnune” and “Kissinger”, which is, of course, where “Kirkham” falls alphabetically.  Imagine – the U.S. Navy just assigning all of us alphabetically like that.  There was no rhyme or reason why I was there.  Like so many things the Navy does, my assignment had nothing to do with my skills or intelligence.  My last name started with “K” so I ended up on 222 that day in May 1944.  I was there just because that is where warm bodies were needed at the time.  Kinnune, Kirkham, and Kissenger.  We were 19-year-old ciphers, mere numbers, that’s all.  We were even all classified the same – Seaman Second Class (S2c).  Think about it.  If I had been a Smith or a Johnson I probably would have been assigned to a completely different ship, maybe a battle ship or a PT Boat.  Who knows, as a result I might have ended up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean somewhere.  But my name is Kirkham and I was needed on the 222 so I lived to tell about it. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the randomness of the world determines what happens to us in life?  Who knows what might have happened if I had been born with the name “Anderson” or “Williams”? I guess I’ll never know because my name is “Kirkham” and this is my story about what happened starting in May of 1944.

FLORIDA ISLAND

I came aboard the 222 at 10:45 in the morning, having transferred from Com LCI(L) Flotilla Five.  Our ship was beached at Hutchison Creek on Florida Island which is near a larger more embattled rock of an island known as Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.  Guadalcanal lies 1,750 miles north of Sydney Australia.  Australia was the ultimate goal for our adversaries in the war – the Japanese.  With a lot of American blood we managed to stop our determined foes at Guadalcanal, a place they ripped away from peaceful island natives and savagely occupied in May of 1942, just two years before I arrived there.

On August 7, 1942, despite America’s inadequate preparations, marines made an amphibious landing on Guadalcanal.  The goal was for control of the Japanese airfield built on the island.  Fierce fighting over the airstrip continued for 6 months before the Japanese finally ceased trying to contest control of the island. After they retreated, we repaired the badly damaged airfield that had been partially built by the Japanese.  We named it Henderson Field.  Navy and allied aircraft known as the ‘Cactus Air Force,’ defended the airfield and threatened any Japanese ships that ventured back into the vicinity during daylight hours. But night was another thing altogether.  The Japanese tenaciously held on to small pockets of resistance in the jungles all over the Solomon Islands.  Their naval forces would sneak in and shell the airfield at night while delivering supplies to their well-hidden troops that were embedded in the jungles on the island.  They then slipped away quickly before daylight.

The Japanese used very fast ships to make these runs that were nicknamed “The Tokyo Express”. So many ships from both sides were sunk in the many engagements in and around the area where I came aboard the 222 on Guadalcanal that we called those deadly waters “Ironbottom Sound”.[iv] I knew when I looked out there that a lot of other guys my age were actually entombed in the depths below.  That was an ever-present thought in the back of my mind and I never forgot that “it’s a long way to the bottom.”

Officer on duty, R.W. Corrigan, noted my boarding the ship in the log that day.  I was assigned a bunk below deck with about 23 other men. We were stacked one on top of one another like a bunch of sardines in a tin can.  I found my bunk, stowed my gear, and settled in for the duration.

At 6:10 pm we retired colors and then a group of sailors went a shore to watch a movie.  They got back at 9:45 and lights went out at 10 pm.  Maybe being on the ship  wasn’t going to be as bad as I thought.

MY FIRST FULL DAY ON LCI222

May 3, 1944 – Wednesday.

As routines go, I learned that there is a certain rhythm to everything that happens on board the 222.  Every four hours the ships logbooks, called a ‘war diary’ are updated.  A ship’s log contains vital information about everything that happens on the ship both above and below deck and everything imaginable is entered into the logs. For example, we record where we are, what time of day it is, how much fuel and water we have, which other vessels are on our port and stern, who gets on and who gets off and why, the names of the officers and the names of their next of kin (in case of emergency), and any drills or exercises we may engage in that day.  When we are at sea the logs note our position, the distance and course we travel, which engines are running, the pitch of our prop, how fast we are traveling, the direction of travel, and — of vital concern — what is going on with the weather, including wind direction, temperature, clouds  (whether low, middle or high) and visibility in distance.

At 5:00 am the ship’s cook is called up and a 6:00 am reveille is blown.  Colors are hoisted at 8:00 am and routine duties are assumed by all hands on board.  Today we were assigned to serve as the ‘guard ship’ on the beach at Hutchinson Creek.  Logs record that at 1:40 pm we took 5 empty 20mm ammo cases ashore.  Later, at 4:30 pm, our Boatswain’s Mate, W. M. Shepherd (BM 1/c) reported aboard for duty having just come from the hospital.  The Boatswains mate is the fellow with the whistle who supervises the maintenance of the ship including upkeep, painting, rigging, deck equipment and so forth.  I’m not so sure why he was gone and I am also not so sure that I’m glad he is back, but time will tell.  In the evening another group left the ship to watch the movie ashore.  We retired colors at 6:10 pm and taps were blown at 10:00 pm.  So much for my first day.  We never so much as left the beach.  At least I can say I didn’t get seasick!

I took time to send a quick letter home to let my mother so she knows that I made it. These types of letters are called V-Mails, a sort of early email system.  we would write the letter and turn it in where it was photographed and the film was taken back to the states, developed and then sent out as addressed.  The mail moves pretty well with this system, at least in that direction.

v-mail to Mother - May 3, 1944

Dear Mom,

I finally got down here.  It wasn’t much fun though.  I don’t know how much they censor, but I’m now on one of the New Hebrides Islands in the Pacific, not far from Solomon Island, but no danger here.  I won’t be here long though.  I don’t think, but don’t know.

It will take a month or so for my mail to catch up to me, but I’ll finally get it, I hope.  There isn’t much I can tell you.  Except, I’m feeling fine.  Although, I miss the good old USA.  I hope you are fine and the folks.  Take good care of yourself and don’t work too hard.  Tell Banjo and the kids hello.  I hope they’re all right.  Have you still got the colt?  If you did sell it, how much did you get out of it?  Well write soon.—Love Son, Dale

MY FIRST DAY AT SEA ON 222

May 4, 1944 – Thursday.

The buzz aboard ship this morning is that we are heading out to sea.  In preparation a bunch of us went ashore to bring on fresh and dry provisions, which we retrieved, from LCI(L)359.  Just after noon we pulled up our ramps and pulled ourselves backward away from the beach at Hutchinson Creek.  We set course to Tetere on Guadalcanal.  Our orders came from the Command of LCI(L) Flotilla Five.  We struck a course and headed South.  It takes about two hours to cross Iron Bottom Sound. We anchored on Guadalcanal at 2:50 pm.

At Tetere we picked up a recognizance party. Our mission was to take them to Montgomery Island some 200 miles East of Guadalcanal.  Six men came on board:  Major Rice, Lt. Col King, Captain Foote, First Lt Ghahm, Commander Bellerby and Lt.[v]. By 5:00 pm we were underway on our first leg from Tetere to a little village a few miles West on a heading of 280º called Tassaforanga (now Ruaniu). There we stopped and picked up Major Bird who joined the recon party at 5:30 pm.

Early photo of the north shore of Guadalcanal showing Tasafaronga

We immediately continued on our way to Montgomery (Tetepare[vi]) Island.  It would be dark in about an hour so we would do most of traveling in the dark. At 11:30 we spotted the West end of Murray Island (today Mborokua[vii]) where we sighted four ships off our starboard bow.  I just hope they are ours.

RECONNAISSANCE ON TETEPARE ISLAND

May 5, 1944 – Friday.

At midnight we were about two thirds of the way to Montgomery Island then at 2:10 am we sighted Gatukai Island off our starboard beam.  Gatukai is about 170 miles from Hutchinson Creek where we started yesterday at noon.  Now we are less than 50 miles away from our destination.  Montgomery Island an uninhabited island just off the Southern coast of New Georgia Island and may be a strategic location for our troops movements as we continue our Westward campaign to drive the Japanese out of the Solomon Islands.  As the sun begins to rise easily over the Eastern horizion we make our way nearly due North though the Balfour Channel  and proceed on to Waugh Bay where we dropped anchor at 7:40 am. Within a few minutes the recon party had gone ashore to scout the island.

Reconnaissance missions are a curious thing.  An enlisted man like me is not really privy to anything that is going on.  Our job is to pick ‘em up and drop ‘em off.  They don’t tell us what they are looking for and they don’t tell us what they might have found when they come back.   All we know is that while they were doing whatever it was that they were doing on the island, we waited around.   Three hours, in fact, we waited and then they suddenly came back.  After a couple more hours we got underway, moving through the narrow channel once more, hoping we wouldn’t draw any sniper fire along the way. This time we made our way to the Southwest tip of the island.  Again the recon party went ashore.  In the hot afternoon soon we wait again, about 2 hours this time.  Finally we hauled up anchor and got on our way back to Tetere via Tassaforanga.  At 5pm we changed course slightly, then headed due East back to Guadalcanal, reaching Murray Island by 10 pm.  We again sighted against the dark horizon just off our port bow.  We were a little too close for comfort, so we were forced to change course to avoid colliding with it.  We made good time, and soon sighted the Russell Islands off our Starboard bow.

May 6, 1944 – Saturday.

We traveled through the night and then around six in the morning we were back at Guadalcanal.  Major Bird of the US Marine Corps went ashore at Monora and we made a beeline back to Tetere in time for reveille, which was called at 7am.  The remaining recon party went ashore and by 8:25 we were once again headed back to Hutchinson Creek, where we put in at birth 9.

R.P. Merriman, Boatswains Mate Second Class, reported aboard with his gear for permanent duty.  We spent the rest of the day back ‘home’.  A movie party went ashore just before colors.  They reported back at ten minutes to ten and lights went out at 22:00 hours.   That was an interesting experience for my first offical mission at sea.

A CELEBRITY COMES ON BOARD

May 7, 1944 – Sunday.

We had a short night last night, reveille being called at 4:15 am.  What on earth is all the fuss about?  In total darkness our little ship retracted from the beach and got underway heading back to Koli Point on Guadalcanal.  Koli Point is near the infamous Henderson Field just West of Honiara today.  Many lives were lost taking and defending that airbase about year before I got here.  At 7:50 am we found out why we pulled out so early.  Today it was our privilege to take on some of the most important brass in the entire U.S. Navy. Rear Admiral George H. Fort[viii] along with 19 of his officers and two enlisted men walked right on board the deck of the LCI222.  Admiral Fort is one of five Admirals over the entire Pacific.  He literally commands every landing craft in the Pacific along with every man and every operation that those ships carry out, and there are thousands of them.   Seems we were going to get a front row seat at some shelling exercises that are going on today.

Admiral Fort is a seasoned and experienced amphibious force commander and was a key player in so many of the bloody battles that were fought in the Solomon Islands in the months before my arrival.  He more than any other man was responsible for issuing the comprehensive Doctrine of full instructions and information for the dozens of classes of Landing Craft used by the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He literally wrote the book on LC operations[ix].

Rear Admiral Fort shone here at far left

By 8:00 am we were underway, along with our distinguished passengers, following the coastline due east along Guadalcanal till we came to place called Gura Point (Vanuagobu), a beach area about 30 miles from Koli Point. We got to watch them blast the devil out of that beach.  We anchored there from 10:30 am till about 2:30 in the afternoon.  LCI(L)336 tied up along our starboard side for the duration of the drill.  At 2:45 we pulled up anchor and beached at Gura Point so Admiral Fort and his party could go ashore and inspect the results of the firing.  About a half an hour later they returned, we retracted from the beach, and then, embarrassingly we got our anchor caught in the rudder.  Of all the days to have such a thing happen we had to do it today with the Admiral and all his boys aboard.  I am glad I wasn’t Captain Thompson that’s for sure!  It took us about 30 minutes to finally secure the anchor and then get on our way.

By 5:15 we were back at Koli Point where we beached and dropped off Admiral Fort and his party.  We immediately headed back to Hutchinson Creek and beached about an hour after dark.  Commander J.S. Raukin was the only one to leave ship that night. The ship’s log noted that we ran the generator, fire and bilge pumps, and the ventilation system throughout the night.

May 9, 1944 – Monday.

UPGRADES AND REPAIRS

After reveille and colors we retracted from the beach at Hutchinson Creek and proceeded to Carter City, Florida Island, arriving there at 10:30 in the morning.  Carter City was comprised of a cluster of small prefab plywood huts, located on a peninsula at the southern tip of Florida Island, to the south of Purvis Bay (Tokyo Bay) and Halavo. In 1943, US Navy Seabees built workshops and a Marine railway and landing craft repair Base at this location.  It seems our ship was going to be upgraded with radar equipment.  I wonder if Admiral Fort’s visit had anything to do with that?

Once we were at Carter City, a work party came aboard with several welders started installing the new equipment.  At 6:10 we had colors and a movie party left ship while the rest of us helped bring provisions aboard from Tulagi. After the movie was over, taps were sounded and lights went out at 22:00 hours.

Air photo of Tulagi Island, which lies just off the coast of Florida Island

May 9, 1944 – Tuesday.

We continued to be beached at Carter City and the installation of the radar equipment continued into the day. After colors, 30 gallons of green paint was brought aboard and an hour later another 15 gallons of paint arrived. We also got some new gyro equipment.

May 10, 1944 – Wednesday.

The work on our ship was completed this morning and at 11:12 we got underway but we didn’t move move very far.  We beached at berth #9 in Hutchison Creek. I was able to find some time to write a few letters home today.  I told her about my innermost feelings.  I know i’m just a kid, new to the navy, a boy really who is half excited, half scared, and growing up very fast a half a world away from the home I missed so much. Here is that letter:

Letter home 5.10.194

Dear Mom  — I’ve finally got settled down aboard ship so the address I give you now will be permanent.  I think!  I’m aboard a landing craft ship called an LCI.  Which lands or beaches Marines, Army, etc.   I’ve really been kicked around the past month or so, but I think this is where I’ll be from now on.  It’s really not so bad here though the food is very good.  I have to work pretty hard, but time goes faster that way.  I’m at a place where there is no recreation at all.  I see a lot of natives.  They come to the ship and trade big bunches of bananas for a couple boxes of crackers.  They talk English, but not very good.  They are smaller than the average white man by quite a bit.  I haven’t seen any women natives cause they have shipped them out.  That’s what they tell me anyway.  They sure are smart about trading, though.

I haven’t got any money since I left the states, but I’ve still got that $20 you gave me.  There isn’t any place to spend it there.  Probably be able to save a lot of money.  I don’t know what I’m going to be yet.  Don’t look like much of a chance to be a motor machinist though.  There are too many aboard here now, but I’m going to try and strike from electronics mate or something.  I’ve got a good chance if I study hard.

I sure will be glad when I get a letter out here.  I haven’t got one letter since I left home.  I left the Hebrides so fast.  I had about a half a day in letters wrote and left them laying on the table.  I had some pals there.  I don’t know rather they found them and mailed them for me or not.  I hope so.

I think I got your letter mailed anyway.  So that’s all that matters.  Be sure and write right back, cause it takes maybe two months maybe for me to get my letters or for my letters to catch up, where it only takes maybe two weeks for my letters to get home.

As I said before, I’m sure getting a tan down here.  It’s pretty warm and I very seldom wear anything except shorts.  They really had me worried for a while.  They gave me all this combat gear, such as Marine uniform rifle, bayonet, full army pack, knives, and every thing, but I won’t have to use them I found out.  It was really a relief when I found out I didn’t need them.

Guess who I met out here on a troop transport.  I was never so surprised in my life.  It was Mick Eastmond going the same place as me, so I got to see him four or five days.  I’ll have to write and tell Jeff about it. 

We sure learned a lot since I got away from home.  I’ll bet I could come home now and run the farm and be glad of it.  I wouldn’t be ashamed to do anything now.  Boy, this kind of life really changes a man.  I sure would like to go to a good dance or show now or something or have a dish of your homemade ice cream.  But it’s really not bad here.  One thing I said, I’ve really kept my word on and that’s smoking and drinking.  There are only two men on this ship who don’t smoke and I’m one.  I don’t even have coffee.  I think that’s pretty good anyway.  So when I do come back, I’ll be a good clean boy anyway that’s something.  I guess I’d better sign off or I won’t be able to get all of it in my envelope.  Have you sold my colt yet?  Please send some picture of some kind out here. – Your loving son, Dale

THE RUSSELL ISLANDS

May 11, 1944 – Thursday.

Map of the Russell Islands

Lt. Commander Rankin and his staff came aboard at 8:00 am sharp and we got underway for the Russell Islands.  The Russell Islands (Pavuvu) are strategically important islands about 75 miles due west of our home base.  Obscure but important history took place here last year.  When the battle for Guadalcanal grew to an end in February of 1943,  Admiral Chester Nimitz, the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, announced Operation Cleanslate.  The operation resulted in the seizure of the Russell Islands.  The islands have been converted into a forward operating base and training center for the Marines.  Nimitz and Admiral William F. Halsey, the commander of the South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force, saw the capture of these islands as the first step in the conquest of the central and northern Solomon Islands. Ultimately, success in the Solomons would provide one element in the isolation of the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul on New Britain.[x]

During April 1944 the Old Breed (Marine 1st Division) deployed to its new home on Pavuvu in the Russell Islands. Pavuvu was a far cry from the bright lights of Melbourne and the Division’s Marines were bitterly disappointed when they first set eyes on Pavuvu. It was a tropical hole infested with sand crabs and covered by coconut plantations. The first order of business was to erect a tent city and clear out the millions of rotting coconuts that covered the ground. Entire battalions turned to in working parties to lay crushed coral roads and trails without any mechanized support. It was backbreaking work, but at least Pavuvu was free of malaria.

After eight hours at sea we moored to a buoy in Renard Sound at 4:05 pm.  At 5:40 Commander Rankin left for shore followed shortly thereafter by a movie party.

Ships leaving Russell Islands - view looking South

May 12, 1944 – Friday.

We spent the day moored to our buoy, while our neighbor, LCI(L)330 who was tied to us, cast off at 9:30.  At noon we brought supplies aboard and at 2:30 we were cleared to take a spot on the beach at L.C.R.B #2.  We sent a blower over to LCI(L)330 and brought 23 gallons of paint aboard.  In the evening a party went ashore to watch the movie.

I just want to say a thing or two about buoys.  First, there is no automatic system for tying a ship off to one.  The buoys don’t come to you so someone has to go to the buoy.  We do that either in a boat or, as I preferred, by swimming over to it.  A small line is thrown out and it is attached to larger line is a bit more difficult to pull while treading water.  Second, buoys can be nasty things. They attract barnacles and moss and can be disgustingly slimy and encrusted with sea life.  Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from volunteering whenever possible to tie our ship off to one.

I love the water and I also loved to dive. When I was a child growing up in Lehi, Utah where I spent a great deal of time at Saratoga Springs where there was a swimming pool.  The family of a friend of mine owned the resort.  The pool was a hot springs and was indoors so it could be used year round.  I used to love to crawl up into the rafters of the building and dive down into the water below.  The twenty-foot dive was a challenging feat because you had to land just right in order to avoid going down too deep and hitting the bottom.  One time I was attempting the dive and I became distracted.  I entered the water at too steep an angle and head first I went straight to the bottom of the pool.  Fortunately my face stopped my descent, but to my regret I ended up left my right front tooth at the bottom of the pool that day.  Nevertheless that did not dampen my enjoyment of the water and of diving so in the Navy I made it my responsibility to tie us up to the buoys.

Many of our crew can’t even swim and others were deathly afraid of sharks and other creatures of the deep.  Not me.  I enjoyed the thrill of diving over the side and swimming out with the line and tying off the ship.  This was a fun diversion for me.

[Post Script:  I have rehearsed this story over and over for many years since my children were small, so finally on my 85th birthday in 2010, my boy, Kirk, gave me a buoy! What a great gift!]

May 13, 1944 – Saturday.

This morning we took on more provisions and in the afternoon welders came aboard to do some repair work.  In the evening a group went to watch the movie.

May 14, 1944 – Sunday.

Finally! I got a letter from home!  It was great to hear the news about all that is happening back home.  My brother got engaged to be married.  Hes a marine and plays football for them.  I’d think should wait till after the war but thats not my business.  I wrote a letter back home.

Letter to home

 

 

 

 

Dear Mom – I just wanted to tell you I received your letter, my first letter in two months.  It sure seemed nice to hear from home.  I’m still doing all right.  So Dean’s going to get married.  Who I he going to get married with?  It sounds all right to me, but if I were him, I’d wait till after the war.  Only it’s not of my business.  How is Dona and how is the job you got coming?  Well hope you are well and happy.  – Love, Son Dale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The welders were back again today and we took on some fresh water. At 7:30 APc#32 pulled up along side us.  An APc is a small coastal transport.   Unlike the LCI which runs a total of 8 diesel engines, an APc runs only 1.  I would hate to be in an APC when one of THEIR engine quits!

APC32 moored along side LCI222

May 15, 1944 – Monday.

After reveille and colors more equipment arrived on board.  They are here to upgrade and modernize our primitive little vessel.  The gyrocompass requires mercury to operate and so six pounds of the liquid metal were brought on board along with some centering springs and screws.

The gyroscope or compass on a typical LCI

 

The gyrocompass would eventually be a very important instrument for me.  Later in the war I advanced to the rank of Quartermaster Second Class and was required to take daily readings from the compass. A “radio” was also brought aboard.  Now in addition to semaphore and signal light communications we have electronic 2-way convenience.  At 1:00 Kenneth G. McDonnald Fireman Second Class came on board and reported for duty.  Welders and electricians continued their work till about 2:45 pm and in the evening a group went ashore to watch the movie.

May 16, 1944 – Tuesday.

After 5 days in the Russell Islands, we were mustered to our stations and at 10:10 am we were underway from the beach.  Our trip was short however.  We needed to get out of the way for someone else.  We moored once again at a buoy in the harbor awaiting further assignment.  Another group went ashore in the evening to watch the movie and the group returned at 8:50 pm.

I got a whole bunch of letters from home today.  I got 4 letters from Mother, 1 from Sis and a very unexpected but pleasant letter from Carol Ball, my old high school flame!  I wrote this letter back to mom.

Letter Home May 16, 1944

 

 

Dear Mom – I received some more letters today, four from you, one from (Dona) and an unexpected one from Carol Ball.  I’ve never been more thrilled in quite some time to hear from you.  The letter Dona sent had a picture of her riding a horse.  I was glad to get it.  Were the pictures from Calif. good?  I sure wish I could see some of them.  If you have any pictures of any of us, please send them.  My address will be the same now.  Here it is, D Kirkham, USS LCI (L) c/o FPO, San Francisco, Cal. 

It’s not bad now. —  Love Dale — If you can’t read these very good tell me.

RETURN TO KOLI POINT

May 17, 1944 – Wednesday.

Early this morning APc34, which had been pulled up along side us overnight, pulled out so we could get underway.  By 6:30 am we were steaming back to Koli Point, our next assignment. We cruised across and by noon we were anchored off Koli Point on Guadalcanal so it took us about 5 hours to cover the 70 miles which means me travel about 12.5 miles per hour.  Our standard cruising RPMs are 525.  Captain Powell and seven other officers came aboard and we back tracted to Tassaforanga where we disembarked the officers at about 5:30 pm.  We anchored there overnight.

May 18, 1944 – Thursday.

By 8 am we were underway again maneuvering and awaiting the return of the PA27, an attach transport, to pick up the officers for their return to Koli Point. We continued our maneuvers until 1:10 when 8 officers came aboard for transport back to Koli Point.  At 3:15 a small boat came up along side and took the 8 officers away while we continued to maneuver near by awaiting further orders.  At 4:45 we dropped anchor off Koli Point but by 7:30 pm we were obliged to pull up anchor and reposition ourselves as we were drifting badly.  LCIs are prone to drifting because they sit up high in the water, and with a good cross wind the ship becomes something of a sail that can push it around quite a bit.   In our case it was more the current that was to blame because the wind was only a force was only rated at a level 1 and the weather was normal.   After reanchoring we let out 60 fathoms of cable, or about 360 feet.

BACK TO TULAGI

May 19, 1944 – Friday.

We slept off Koli point and at 8:00 am we pulled up anchor and headed back to Tulagi and beached at Green Beach at 9:30 am where we took on fresh and dry provisions.  By 4:00 we pulled back out of the harbor and returned to berth #4 at Hutchinson Creek.

May 20, 1944 – Saturday.

Our return home was short lived.  We pulled away from the beach at 6:20 and headed back to Koli Point where we anchored at 8:00 am awaiting passengers.  Six officers came aboard and we headed out to Tassaforanga where we rendezvoused with PA-27.  At 10:15 we were “lying to off PA-27” and our six passenger officers left the ship for Tassaforanga.  We anchored there and waited till 4:30 when our officers again returned.  We took them back to Koli Point, dropped them off, had colors and stayed there for the night.

May 21, 1944 – Sunday.

We continued anchored off Koli Point all day.  I wrote a letter home.

Letter Home May 21, 1944

 

Dear Mother

It’s Sunday and I had a little time, so I thought I’d write you a note.  Hoping it finds you well and happy.  There are a few things I’d like you to send me you can’t buy out here.  And that’s a comb.  Buy two or three and send them.  If you could buy me a cheap wrist watch and send it, I’d greatly appreciate it.  There are sure a lot of times I could use one.  My watch I never got fixed, so I’ll send it back.  I’m also going to send my uniform and coat home. If I get someplace I can send it.  Well, I’ll sign off for now. – Love Dale – Please send some pictures too if you can.

 

May 22, 1944 – Monday.

Same as yesterday.

May 23, 1944 – Tuesday.

After reveille and colors we prepared to return back to Tassaforanga.  At 1:08 pm, low and behold, Admiral Fort and his staff of officers came aboard again.  Apparently the cable in the rudder thing didn’t seem to bother him all that much and it was once again, an honor to have him aboard.  We took him back to Koli Point where at 3:45 we dropped him and the other officers off.  We dropped anchor for the night and a movie party went ashore.

May 24, 1944 – Wednesday.

My 20TH BIRTHDAY!  When you are in the Navy, it turns out, a birthday is nothing special.  In fact just staying alive another day for many guys out there, especially the marines who are the ones doing the really heavy lifting, every new day is a birthday of sorts.  What you want to avoid is a death date.

At 10:15 seven officers came aboard for transport over to Tassaforanga.  At 10:20 we secured the anchor and got underway.  By 1:10 we had all the officers delivered to their destination and proceeded back to Koli Point.  We anchored once then pulled up and then anchored again in a better spot as we were there for the night and we needed a better anchorage.  A group went in to watch the movie.

May 25, 1944 – Thursday.

We made another trip to Tassaforanga today.  We brought passengers aboard and took them back to Koli Point.  We anchored again for the night and another group went ashore at 6 pm to watch the movie.  At 7:25 the liberty party returned and we had lights out at 8 pm.

May 26, 1944 – Friday.

We remained anchored all day off Koli Point.  In the evening a movie party went ashore and returned.

May 27, 1944 – Saturday.

At 11:15 Lt. j.g. Grafe came aboard for transportation to Lyons Point on Florida Island.  I’m glad to be moving again.  I’d rather be at sea than just sitting around waiting all day.  We brought up and secured our anchor and then we were off by 11:45 heading almost due North for Lyon’s Point.  At 1:50 we anchored off Carter City and at 4:00 we hoisted anchor and headed to Water Hole, Govana Inlet, where we beached.  We started taking on water supplies at 5:45 and continued pumping till 7:35.  A movie party went ashore and returned at 22:45.

May 28, 1944 – Sunday.

After reveille we prepared to back out off the beach and moved to Port Purvis.  It took us about 20 minutes to get there.  We anchored and let out 25 fathoms of anchor cable and waited till 10:00 for officers to arrive with radio school equipment.  Once on board we pulled out and headed for Renard Sound in the Russell Islands.  We used all six main engines and by 3:05 we had arrived at our destination.  We moored along side LCI(L)330 at L.C.R.B. #2 beach.  At 4:30 the 3 officers went ashore with the radio equipment.  After colors a group went ashore to watch the movie.

May 29, 1944 – Monday.

At 6 am an APc pulled away from our port side, reveille was called at the normal hour and at 8 am we retracted from the beach and proceeded to moor in Renard Sound.  At 10:40 a work party came aboard and brought us two nice tables.  We traded 3 of our crew for the tables (just kidding).  E.P. Calvi – Radio Man Second Class (RM 2c), G.S. Pitts – Motor Machinist Mate Second Class (MoMM2c), and H.H. Moerschell – Motor Machinist Mate Second Class (MoMM2c), all transferred to Com LCI Group 15 along with their gear.  So long fellows.  All I can say is those poor guys all have it really bad.  The radio guy gets stuck inside a tiny little room below deck about mid ship below the conning tower,  with no windows and hardly enough air to breathe.  The raidos are filled with vacuum tubes and put out a lot of heat and take up most of the radio room.  Then there is the hell that the Motor Machinists work in.  Like rats they are confined to a smelly, dirty, little engine room where the horrific heat of the engines and the noise they put out are enough to drive a sane man crazy.  Combine that with the heat of the sun baking down all day on the thick metal exterior of the ship and its like being in a pressure cooker.  Now that’s rough duty by anyone’s standards to say the least.  When I first came down here my goal was to become a machinist mate since I had some experience with that back home. I even got a letter of recommendation from my old employer at Bradshaw Auto parts.  After seeing what these guys go through, I am rethinking what I might want to do.

At 1:47 we cast off from our buoy anchorage and beached at L.C.R.B #2 along side LCT156.  An LCT is a landing craft for tanks and large heavy cargo.  These ships can handle 5 M4 Sherman Tanks or 150 tons of cargo.  They are 117 feet long and have a 2 foot 10 inch draft.  They move along at about 8 knots, have 1 officer and 12 enlisted crewmen.   They only have one 75 mm gun and a few Browning machine guns for protection.  You wouldn’t want to get caught in a fight with one of these unless you could fire a tank and happened to have one aboard at the moment you needed one. I really didn’t think life could get any worse than an LCI, but looking over at the LST I guess I could be wrong.

At 6:30 a movie party went ashore and at 7:30 we dropped anchor and put out our breast line.  At 8:30 an LCT pulled in beside us. The movie party came back at 8:55 and lights were out at 22:00.

Let me say word or two about mooring lines or docking lines.  There are a variety of names for them depending on their particular function.  Breast lines, for example, are led perpendicular to the keel or centerline of the ship.  Spring lines ‘spring out’ and are led forward or aft from a given point on the vessel.  Bow lines are, of course, led forward from the bow and are forward of the bow spring, while stern lines are let aft or towards the back of the ship from the stern aft of the stern springs.  All mooring lines are further identified by the part of the vessel from which they are orginate.  For example, a forward bow spring leads forward from the bow and an after quarter spring leads aft from the stern quarter while a waist breast line is led perpendicular to the keel from the waist or beam[xi].  While I am at it, the words ‘port and starboard’ are terms that apply to the left and right sides of the ship respectively.  The beam is the part of the ship where it is widest.  Generally speaking, the wider the beam the more stable the ship.  I had to know all sorts of nautical terms, the lines, all the knots, the flags, and eventually I learned semaphore and Morse code for communication purposes as well as many other things in order just to function on board the 222.  There was always something to learn and something to do.

I wrote several letters home today.

CLICK ON THE LETTER TO SEE THE ENTIRE LETTER

Dear Sis – Sure am sorry to hear you got to have your appendix out.  I hope you’re not too sick.

I received your most welcomed letter and pictures.  I really appreciated those pictures.  They are better than anything you could send me.  All the guys looked at your picture and “boy what a good lookin sis” they said.  I think you better send me a picture of you.

Say you really get around, Clara Creek, gun…, etc.  I really get around out here, but I can’t tell you where I’ve been.  I received both letters the same day.  You see we get all our mail at once when we hit port.  Where are you going to have your appendix out at?

So your pal Dick came down to see you huh?  Good time no doubt.  I think it’s a good idea teaching in Nevada.  Another year sounds all right.  You’re becoming quite the cowgirl aren’t you? 

I don’t know rather those pants are going to fit me or not when I get home.  I weigh 170 lbs the last time I weighed about a month ago.  I’m still putting it on.  Boy they really work me hard where I am though.  But with a lot of luck I can make rate fast.  I do all the buoy tying up you know.  I dive off the ship and tie it up to a buoy.  Today I dove off and there was a storm.  The ship couldn’t get up to where I was and there I was stranded.  In a little while a small boat came and picked me up.  Some fun huh?

When the guys seen those pictures, they asked how old you are and said about sixteen, seventeen.  I was sure surprised.

Please don’t bother to send me a birthday present cause you’ve done too much for me now.  Anyway, there isn’t anything I need.  You could send me a picture of you though.

You’re probably in the hospital by now.  I sure wish there was some thing I could do.  You’ll be all right though.  Well, I’ll say goodbye for now.  I do hope you get better soon. – As ever Love, Dale

 

Dear Huck-Sema—I received your letters today, surely  glad to hear from you.  Boy am I glad Huck got another deferment.  That’s quite a relief to me too.  Since I’ve been on this ship, I’ve been pretty busy.  That is they work you pretty hard, but I really like it outside of that.  You know how I like to work.

They have me do all the ship’s swimming for them.  Today we were tied up to a buoy out in the bay.  I dove down to turn her loose and there was quite a wind and a current.  After I turned it loose, she drifted away from me.  The Capt couldn’t get her close enough to pick me up.  So there I sat, out in the bay.  Well a little later a small boat picked me up and took me to my ship.  Some fun huh?

Say those rolls sound all right.  I wish I could have some too. Since I left the Hebrides, I’ve seen a lot of places and things.  It’s really all right down here though.  I kinda like it in some ways.  The address I have now will be the same as I’ll have now for the rest of the time I guess.

No I haven’t had any mess duty yet.  I guess I won’t have any now either.  We have a very good cook and we eat the same as officers.  So that’s something.

Boy don’t worry about me coming back to see you.  I’m on my way there just as quick as they turn me loose from this place.  Well, I’ll close for now.  Write soon. – love Dale—Give my regards to Red and Gert

 

 

Dear Mother – I received some more letters was surely glad to hear from home.  Boy I was surely going to be disappointed if there hadn’t been any mail when I hit port.

I guess Dona has been operated on by now.  I’ll sure write her.  I got two letters from her the same time as I got yours.  She had some pictures in them.  I was surely glad to get some.  You probably have already sent me something for my birthday.  If not, please send me a cheap wrist watch, not a good one.  Take some money of mine out of the bank.  If you do be sure and wrap it good or it might get wet or something. 

I sure hope Dona will be all right in her operation.  Be sure and let me know as soon as possible all about it.  I am now getting some of your April first part mail now so you can tell how long it takes to catch up.  I’m doing fine on this ship so far considering everything.  In a week or so I’m going up for first class seaman.

Mrs Luara Smith wrote me a letter that just got here. I’m going to answer it right back. How’s Banjo and kids – fine I hope?  So Dean’s in love huh?  He sure is something cause I haven’t heard from him since I left home.  A fine brother he is. 

That’s fine about renting the pasture to Lloyd Gray.  I’m not very homesick yet mom, so don’t worry about me.  I’m all right.  The reason Dad never went to the shop to see me off, he couldn’t.  Nobody sees you leave or supposed to know when you leave.  I also received Myrt’s letter.  He say’s he’s going over seas.  You don’t need to worry about me drinking or being good.  I’m in a place now where you have to be good so you can just forget that part.  Well, I guess I better sign off for now.   I’ll write you again soon. – Your loving son, Dale

May 30, 1944 – Tuesday.

We remained beached at Renard Sound throughout the night and the entire day.  We brought provisions aboard and performed various duties.  at 5:30 pm LCI(L)336 came up along our starboard or right side just before drawing down our colors.   336 seems to follow us around a lot.  A movie party went ashore as usual and returned at 8:40. Taps sounded at 10:00 pm.

May 31, 1944 – Wednesday.

At 8:00 we were mustered to our stations and at 10:25 we started taking on fuel from LCI(L)223.  In an hour we were secured from fueling after transferring 1803 gallons of fuel that’s an average of about 30 gallons a minute or 1 gallon every 2 seconds.   Now that’s pushing some fuel but these ships do go through the fuel. Unfortunately they also go through the paint!  We transferred another 40 gallons of paint aboard and that meant more work.  Painting is a constant chore aboard ship because the salt penetrates quickly to the metal and corrodes it.  So its vital to keep a ship painted and, well, ship-shape!

Just afternoon the 223 pulled away but we remained beached as before, staying the night again on the beach at Renard Sound. So that marks the end of my first month in the Solomon Islands on the LCI222.

<April 1944<   > JUNE 1944>

See the Actual Log Book for May 1944


FOOTNOTES

[i] LCI(L)222 was commissioned on December 3, 1942 in the Neponset, Massachusetts Shipyard of George Lawley & Sons. On Feb 25, 1943 the 222 came through the Panama Canal.   Upon reaching the Solomon Islands in May of 1943, the 222 was assigned to Group 15 of Flotilla Five.  The commander of all Landing Craft Flotillas in the South Pacific was Rear Admiral George H. Fort who we would have the pleasure of transporting one day aboard the 222 on May 7, 1944. The total number of LCI(L)s sent to the commissioned to the Pacific Theater of Combat between 1942 and 1944 was 905, of which 16 were lost during the war. See The Amphibians are coming by William L. McGee

[v]

[vi] http://www.tetepare.org/tetepare-photo-gallery.html

[vii] Also known as Baruku, Buraku Island, Buraqoi, Mborukua Island, Murray Island

The Timezone in Mborokua is Pacific/Guadalcanal see

http://travelingluck.com/Oceana/Solomon%20Islands/Solomon%20Islands%20(general)/_2105809_Mborokua.html#local_map

[viii] Admiral Fort took command of the USS Trever on June 29, 1943 attaching the Japanese at Oliana Bay in the Russell Islands.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Trever_(DD-339).  See also History of the Western Pacific Operations

[ix] Through the leadership efforts of Rear Admiral George H. Fort (1912), his Chief of Staff, Captain Benton W. Decker (1920), and after arrival in SOPAC his senior landing craft subordinate, Captain Grayson B. Carter (1919), the Landing Craft Flotillas, PHIBFORSOPAC, were trained under forced draft. After only 12 months of war, the landing craft were manned to a marked extent with officers and men who had entered the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. To assist in the training, Commander Landing Craft Flotillas in due time issued a comprehensive Doctrine full of instructions and information for the dozens of landing craft moving into the SOPAC command during the January to June period in 1943. The LCT “Veterans” of CLEANSLATE became the nuclei for this massive training effort.  See http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ACTC/actc-13.html

and   http://www.nps.gov/archive/wapa/indepth/extcontent/usmc/pcn-190-003121-00/sec1.htm

[x] The Journal of America’s Military Past, Obscure but important: The United States and the Russell Islands in World War II, by David L. Snead

[xi] Mariner’s Employment Guide by James Laurence Pelletier

[xii] See Captain’s Mast, Wikipedia

[xiii] The Battle for Empress Agusta  Bay, Wikipedia

<April 1944<   > JUNE 1944>

See the Actual Log Book for May 1944