1942 - 1949
U. S. S. CHILTON (APA-38)
Building, Modifying and Training
During the early years of World War II one of the most important efforts of the civilian population was buying War Bonds to finance a war of unknown proportions. No one knew how far and wide our troops would be send, how long it would take to win the victory that would be ours, how many men would be needed, or how much money it was going to cost. People of every stratum of our society dug down hard and bought many millions of dollars worth of these bonds without knowing in advance how deep their commitment was going to be. The good people of Clanton, Alabama did much more than their share. They didn't just raise money for Savings Bonds, but also gave 75 of their sons to the war's casualty list of dead including three men who were killed 7 December 1941 at Pearl Harbor, HI.
Because of their resourcefulness, ability and faith, these kind-hearted and gentle people supported their government, not only with their sons but also with their dollars for War Savings Bonds. During one Bond drive alone in 1942 they exceeded their goal and the government of the United States gave them the honor of selecting a name for a U.S. naval vessel soon to be launched in San Francisco, California.
It was decided to name the ship after their county which had been earlier named for a former Tennessee native who, in the early 1800's had moved to Alabama, rose to become a Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, served in the Confederate Congress as Alabama Representative during the Civil War, and who died in 1870. His name was William P. Chilton. Chilton County had formerly been known as Baker County, but that was changed in honor of their most important adopted son three years after his death, even though he had only lived in the county a few short years.
The S. S. Sea Needle, built by the Western Pipe and Steel Company in San Francisco, CA for the Maritime Commission, had her keel laid 10 September 1942 and was launched on 29 December 1942 after 110 days of near-record construction time. Her sponsor was Mrs. W. A. Reilly, Jr., the wife of a shipyard worker. After another five months of fitting-out work, the "Sea Needle" was turned over to the U. S. Navy and commissioned on 29 May 1943 as the USS CHILTON APA-38. She had a C-3 hull design, originally displaced 8100 tons, was 492 feet long by a 69 foot 6 inch beam, had a 26 foot 6 inch draft, a top speed of 18 knots, and a complement of about 100 officers and men. She had five cargo holds and was one of only six built of the unique hurricane-bow "Bayfield" class. (For a very short time, and only on paper, she bore the temporary hull number of AP-83!)
Roger Edison Perry, LCDR USN, of APA Ferrying Crew Number One was her first commander. His orders were to take CHILTON from San Francisco to the Brooklyn, NY Navy Yard for modifications. This first trip thus became her shakedown maiden voyage. CHILTON cleared Oakland 8 June and arrived 9 June at San Pedro. On 13 June she cleared San Pedro bound for Balboa, CZ which she reached 21 June of 1943. Enroute CHILTON encountered her first deck court martial (no charge noted) with a F1c being confined for 20 days and a loss of $52.00 in pay. Executive Officer Charles E. Reilly, LCDR USNR presided.
When the first crew went aboard this brand new ship they had to check out where everything was located and make sure that it was in working order prior to her maiden voyage. "Sparks" as the radio man is always called, noted there was no public address system and notified the Captain of this not insignificant detail that was not taken care of by the workers who had built this ship at the San Francisco yard.
"I Remember...................(by Harry Pilafian, RM1c '43 Ferry Crew #1.) When I found out we had no P.A. system to communicate with the crew in an emergency or even for routine orders to be passed. I notified the Captain. He asked me to see what I could do so I went ashore, visited some friends, found a coil here, some wire there and other parts, spare or otherwise, from several "sources" and jury-rigged all this into a semblance of a P.A. system. It didn't matter what it looked like as long as it worked - and it did!! Captain Perry was happy with it, said he wouldn't dare to ask any questions and was even happier when I told him it had only cost me the measly sum of $25.00 which he quickly paid out of his own pocket! We had our first P. A. system at last!"
While in Panama some of the crew had liberty and picked up a number of souvenirs and gifts to take home with them. One of the crew had found some tropical delicacies he wanted to take north as special hard-to-find gifts for some friends.
"I Remember..................by Harry Pilafian, RM1c '43 Ferry Crew #1. I had carefully stored the individually wrapped coconuts and bananas under a table in the radio shack where no one would find them. Another radio man did find the goodies,tried to smash open a coconut on the deck and made so much noise a voice called out of the darkness, "What have you got there sailor?" The man answered, "A coconut, sir!" "And what do you intend to do with it?" "Eat it with the bananas we brought aboard at Panama, sir!" Needless to say we lost all goodies and were severely reprimanded for smuggling contraband food aboard against all orders. My friends and relatives in New England would never know what a rare treat they missed because of a greedy shipmate who nearly got me into trouble too."
CHILTON cleared Cristobal, CZ on 30 June and headed for New York which was reached 6 July. One significant incident enroute was her course change 3 July to evade three enemy submarines. In New York CHILTON was decommissioned on 10 July 1943 and work began to convert her to serve in three categories: as an attack transport, a relief command ship and a primary casualty hospital ship in the Amphibious Force. The conversion was done in Brooklyn, NY at the Todd Erie Basin Shipyard over the following 5 months.
This conversion required modification of her superstructure, interior compartments, deck machinery and rigging to a configuration known as "yard and stay rigging" which was the fastest way to move cargo at that time. Hold #1 became berthing space and a light cargo hold, hold #2 was to berth troops and limited cargo and ammunition, hold #3 remained as a large cargo hold with the addition of considerable refrigeration capacity for cold storage needs, hold #4 became an enlarged sick bay with operating suites, x-ray room, laboratory, pharmacy, plus more troop (or casualty) berthing space and hold #5 was equipped to handle heavy cargo and gasoline. Also added were more compartmentation, a built-in CO2 fire fighting system, enlarged fire mains, rearranged booms and king posts, a jumbo boom at #5 hatch to lift two LCM(3)s and Sherman tanks. There were four Welin triple bank gravity davits which allowed her to carry a total of 24 LCV(P)s which, with the two LCM(3)'s could be launched in as little as thirty minutes by her very efficient deck crew.
To meet flagship requirements, there were provided extra living space for a Commodore and his staff, fire director control room, combat information centers, enlarged radio rooms for the increased communication traffic and a separate bridge from which the Commodore could direct his squadron. This necessitated adding some extra ballast in the form of cement poured into the bottom of the ship to counter-balance the added topside weight. CHILTON was then fitted with two 5"/38 caliber dual purpose guns directed by gyroscopic directors, two 1.1" quadruple AA guns aft with gyroscopic directors and eighteen 20mm AA machine guns each directed gyroscopically. She also had both air and surface radar installations.
CHILTON now displaced 16,100 tons fully loaded, could make 18.8 knots and was manned by a wartime crew of 651 officers and men. Her combat load consisted of an Infantry of Marine battalion made up of 82 officers and 1495 men plus all of their equipment and sustenance for a sixty day operation. Her power plant was a high pressure steam turbine of 8500 HP, she held 370,000 gallons of fuel, had a cruising radius of 9000 miles at 15 knots and an economical speed of 11.5 knots. After re-commissioning on 7 December 1943, under the command of Commander Arthur C. Geisenhoff, she carried the "APA-38" designation for Auxiliary, Personnel, Attack and was outfitted and crewed for close-up beach operations.
It is interesting to note that CDR Geisenhoff had been charged with supervising all Ferrying Crews moving new and damaged ships back and forth from coast to coast as shipyard space became available for the many modifications and repairs that had to be done to keep our fleet growing. He eventually received his assignment as a commanding officer of one of his favorites - USS CHILTON APA-38!
On 18 December CHILTON cleared Brooklyn and headed for Norfolk where on 20 December she picked up the full complement of her amphibious landing crew which was made up of 13 officers and 125 men with their boats which were originally 23 LCVP's, 1 LCL and 2 LCM's. Most of the boat crew were experienced men off the USS Mary Lyon, AP-71, which had seen action earlier in North Africa, Gela, Sicily and Salerno, Italy. This crew was rated fast and efficient at its tasks and their training results often showed new records for time trials.
After many debarkation and embarkation drills and practice firing all her guns in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River mouth areas, CHILTON was attached to the Amphibious Training Command of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet on 1 January 1944, arrived at United Nations Pier, Lambert Point and began taking aboard her first contingent of troops in training. With CHILTON on her first mission were the USS Fremont, Bayfield and Samuel P. Chase under CAPT Richardson, Commander of Task Group 20.1. These troops began training in the complicated intricacies of making beach landings. It is interesting to note that her first troops were from the 305th Regimental Combat Team of the 77th Army Division who would meet up with the CHILTON a year later in the Philippines preparing for the Okinawa invasion! From 31 January 1944 to 15 October 1944 more than 16,000 crewmen, soldiers and Marines were trained by her officers and men, then transferred to other ships where they served placing men and their equipment on beaches in such places as Italy, southern France and Normandy and in many of the island campaigns about to take place in the Pacific.
"I Remember...............(by Howard F. Gates, RM1c 1943-1945.) While anchored under the George Washington bridge in New York on the balmy spring evening of 28 May 1944, the crew was watching a movie with Lawrence Melchior, the noted operatic tenor, when suddenly, one by one, the viewers began to disappear toward the heads which soon were fully occupied. The cooks had used some bad chocolate in their dessert that evening and most of the enlisted men suffered from varying degrees of diarrhea. It was quite incapacitating and embarrassing, especially when this event made New York radio headlines the next day. It wasn't but 6 or 7 days later when the officers who dined in the ward room mysteriously suffered from the same complaint! From then on it became the less said about the whole incident the better!"
Most of her experiences as a training vessel were out of Newport until she was detached from training in October of 1944. Hugh Weber Turney, CAPT USN, had assumed command 29 September 1944 from (now) Captain Geisenhoff. Captain Turney was a survivor of a horrible double tragedy in February of 1942 when the freighter Pollux and the destroyer Truxton were cast on the rocks in Newfoundland in a bad winter storm. After refitting at Boston Navy Yard where two twin 40mm AA guns replaced in the obsolete 1.1 quads and another jumbo boom was added to #3 hatch for two more LCM(3)s, the entire crew celebrated with a final Ship's Dance which was held at the Hotel Bradford in Boston. CHILTON embarked her Beach Party at Norfolk on 17 November 1944. This crew consisted of 3 officers and 42 men who had the unenviable task of directing beach landings during an operation which meant landing with the first wave of Army or Marines at H-hour. All of these men had received specialized training at Fort Pierce in Florida during the previous 12 months on how to handle themselves under fire while directing landing operations by Marines or Army after which their commanders would take charge of the operation at hand.
U.S.S CHILTON (APA-38)
Ready for Action In The Pacific
CHILTON left Norfolk 20 November, arrived Colon, CZ, made the passage of the Panama Canal on 26 November and departed Panama, CZ, with transient troops for San Pedro and San Diego, CA. Somewhere off the coast near Tehuantapec, Mexico on 29 November CHILTON experienced a violent storm which damaged three or her boats, three davits and tore two of her life rafts loose which were lost. Subs were detected just off the coast of California on December 3, but depth charges from her escorts apparently chased them off. CHILTON arrived 4 December at San Pedro and the next day she docked at San Diego where she spent Christmas. It was there COMTRANSRON 17 came aboard 7 January 1945 when Commodore Thomas B. Brittain raised his one-star flag with Captain Theodore G. Haff as Chief of Staff. This was the first of more than 30 flags of Commodores and Admirals that were to fly over CHILTON during her long service. At this time the CHILTON was modified again slightly to accommodate an Army Headquarters Company which meant that a general's office and a stateroom had to be added as well as a dozen more bunks in the staff officers quarters.
Captain Turney took CHILTON to Pearl Harbor on 16 January where she arrived 23 January 1945. There she embarked the last of her full complement of battle crew and supplies and loaded troops at Honolulu next to the Aloha Tower all night long the 27th, then set sail heading due west on Sunday, 28 January, at 1330 hours. At midday 1 February she crossed the 180th meridian known as the International Date Line where 1230 hours 1 February became 1230 hours 2 February! Little did anyone know that the CHILTON would go again and again through the procedure known as "The Order of the Golden Dragon" for another dozen times in her long life crossing and re-crossing the Pacific Ocean, and each time initiating a few more men into that mystical order.
It was nearly noon on the eighth day out that land was sighted on 5 February. If our navigators hadn't made a new perfect landfall we might not have seen this low-lying atoll, called Eniwetok, with an elevation of about 12 feet above sea level. In fact, anyone could see all 360 degrees of horizon from the forecastle deck. Over the next three days everyone got a day's liberty to "see" the island. All one could do was walk the sand (hot and deep), drink a beer or two (warm and foamy), and take a quick dip at the beach (the whole island was a beach). But at least the crew got off the ship for a few hours and felt sand under their feet.
CHILTON left Eniwetok around noon of 9 February, skirted by the largest Japanese supply base at Truk without incident and made another perfect land-fall at Ulithi at dawn 13 February. On leaving Ulithi early on the 15th, we changed course to the southwest to avoid the island of Yap, still in Japanese hands, and anchored in Kossol Bay off the north end of Babelthuap, the largest of the Palaus. We now understood why the Japanese had never allowed anyone near this nearly perfect anchorage for the past ten years. As they were already planning a war, their charts were "doctored" to show reefs and shallows that didn't exist to keep out all but the smallest Japanese fishing boats and all foreigners. It wasn't until after our successful invasion did we know the basin depths were from 18 to 40 fathoms, perfect for any naval vessel, including the CHILTON. We stayed there two days watching the air show where our planes were continuously bombing and strafing the well dug-in Jap survivors still putting up a fierce resistance after all these months. (This invasion "Stalemate II" was supposed to have been a two day warm-up for the First Marine Division with the support of the Army's 81st Division but lasted seventy-two days until secured November 27 with mopping up still going on in January!)
Early in the morning of 18 February we headed north to get up above Babelthuap and then west-northwest toward the Philippines which were spotted at dawn 21 February. It was Samar, one of the largest of the Philippine Islands. Skirting a large minefield, we turned south and anchored of Tarraguna, Leyte. The next month was spent loading men and equipment of the 77th Army Division which had been resting up after cleaning the enemy out of Tacloban and Ormoc. Our time was spent on practicing maneuvers, making landings on two or three different beaches, bartering with the natives and creating good will with the local population. After BGEN Edwin H. Randle, vice commander of the 77th Army Division, came aboard on 9 March, Transport Squadron 17 was loaded, formed up and ready to go on 16 March. It was heartening to see our escort vessels now increased to three small jeep carriers, and twenty-five destroyers of various types instead of the two or three that usually accompanied us. But to offset this advantage, we now knew our speed would be slightly diminished since we had several LST's attached and they were notoriously slow and cumbersome vessels. When we left Samar on 21 March hearing north over the Mindanao Deep trench were the water was seven miles deep, our destination was where no American troops had been before: Japanese home Islands. There was a new seriousness in every drill and general quarters we hadn't experienced before now. There was also a lot of concern that everyone knew his job well and was mentally prepared for whatever was ahead of him.
For several hours each afternoon the men had a chance to talk to Ernie Pyle who liked to sun himself on the fantail. He dislike any public display as a VIP and his wishes to remain quiet and nearly anonymous were respected. He didn't "pump" you or ask questions, but rather carried on conversations in a way that told him more about you than you might have realized. Rarely did he make any notes in the small notebook he always carried, but he always had all the details of his story down accurately. Little did anyone know that the career of this world famous correspondent would very soon come to an end on a tiny island none of us had ever heard of before.
Our convoy was spotted by a lone Japanese patrol plane late in the afternoon Sunday 25 March about 100 miles off Keramma Retto, but four of our CAP (Combat Air Patrol) planes took care of it in no time. During the recovery of our planes on the carriers, it was reported that one pilot of two who went "into the drink" was saved, but the other one was lost.
The landfall off Kuba Shima was made on 26 March at 0300. This was "Love Day minus 6" of a much larger operation to free the entire Okinawa Gunto of the enemy. The purpose of it was to eliminate Japanese artillery, suicide boats and rocket bases from hitting the backside of the much larger landing which was scheduled for Easter Sunday, April 1. It was more or less uneventful and troops were landed on one island after another from the ships of TRANSRON 17. About thirty casualties of the 77th Division troops were from our sister ship, the USS Henrico APA-45, and we were asked to take six or sever of them, all of a very minor nature. The night of March 26 we pulled up anchor and circled around south of this tiny island group, as we did every night for the next week, coming in only during the daylight hours and using a different anchorage each day. Our second day's anchorage was off the largest island of Takashiki Shima where the 77th Division's 305th, 306th and 307th battalions (of our first Chesapeake Bay trainees) were taking the second largest town, Akan. We left in a hurry before dark again and headed south because a typhoon watch was scheduled for that night and the third day. There was a heavy sea running but the squadron was well out of danger from the storm. The third and fourth day day's anchorages were between Hokaji Shima, Geruma Shima and the east side of Kuba Shima. The battleship Nevada was hit and one destroyer was sunk by Kamikazis on 28 March and on the 29th one of our ships, the Wyandot AKA-92, hit a mine at 0415 and was badly damaged.
Reciprocity was extended in both directions by Army and Navy toward each other - the landings were easier with the softening-up done by the Navy and the Army captured suicide boats hidden on the island that could have done considerable damage running around the daytime anchorages. They captured 38 on the first day and 40 more the second, then we lost count but there were literally hundreds of this type of suicider.
"I Remember...............(by Harold Hilliard, BM1c 1945.) As the Commodore's coxwain in Flag Division, I was often asked to run errands among the squadron's ships and some of the nearby islands. One day I found a Japanese suicide boat hidden along the beach loaded with about 200 pounds of dynamite. In my eagerness to claim this rare "prize" I succeeded in starting the engine and headed for the good old CHILTON. In very short order nearly every American machine gun in sight was homing in on my discovery and I quickly headed back for the trees along the beach! I had forgotten to remove the Japanese flag that was flying as a flaunting, inviting target on my capture. I abandoned the entire effort and headed back home to safety."
Our 77th Division Army friends had captured a Korean laborer who had seemed relieved that his war was over. After a physical and some new clothes, he asked for a cup of coffee and put at least eight teaspoons of sugar into it, saying that he had not seen any sugar in many months. He was finally transferred to the Mount Mc Kinley AGC-7 for further interrogation for information about some Japanese placements which he seemed quite willing to provide. Our MAA's watched him carefully since he was a prisoner, but one had the feeling that his man was a laborer who had no real part in the fighting at all.
Carriers provided daily air cover (CAP or Combat Air Patrol) and also bombed out tough spots that the Army had trouble with on the ground. The troops were really glad to complete their ground operations and get back on board ship for showers and good food beginning with the fifth and sixth days. Occasionally you would find a soldier or two who objected to coming back onto our ships where they didn't feel as safe as they did on dry land. It became a near standard question quite soon: "Where in hell do sailors dig their fox-holes?" and we didn't even have an answer.
We were not completely without Navy casualties as we found out later. In the Okinawan area since March 25, we have sustained damages to the Hinsdale APA-120, Kimberley DD-521, Porterfield DD-682, O'Brien DD-725 and Callaghan DD-792, Foreman DE-633, the DMs Admags and Robert Smith, the Southard DMS-10, Dorsey APD-9, Skirmish AM-303, APD Gilmer the Biloxi CL-80, Indianapolis CA-35 and the Nevada BB-36 which had a gun turret wiped out. There were also two LSIs damaged, the 724 and the 884. A casualty report showed more Navy mean have died and been injured to date than all the Army and Marines combined.
This particular amphibious landing did not follow the usual pattern with beach defenses firing on the landing craft and larger ships then turning their guns on the beach defenses. Instead, they were silent, and ships could move in quite close making shorter runs to the beach possible. The enemy did attempt night attacks using plywood "radar-proof" boats loaded with explosives and torpedo-like devises (some paddled by hand) to crash into the larger ships. These were almost total failures since at night we circled all of our ships with our LCV(P)'s armed with 30 caliber machine guns and rifles to destroy any Japanese who tried these night time attacks.
The land war was surprisingly easy, as if the enemy were holding back. But then we realized they had put a lot of faith into their kamikazes and in their suicide boats. They had lost most of them before they ever go to us. On the morning of 1 April, Easter Sunday, we travelled around to the northeast side of Takashiki Shima and saw the largest fleet of ships ever assembled in the Pacific area. You could not see them all or begin to count them although it was rumored there were some 1400 ships of all kinds with six division (nearly 100,000 men) of Army and Marines set to land on Okinawa, less then 325 miles from Kuyushu, Japan. Included were the 2nd and 6th Marines (on the left to sweep northward) and the 7th and 96th Army Divisions to sweep southward. Our own 77th and the 24th Divisions were held in reserve for reinforcement if needed. They were both used very soon.
On 2 April the CHILTON led TRANSRON 17 out of the 22 mile wide strait between Okinawa and Keramma Retto at about 1530 hours for our usual night retirement. The squadron headed east this time in three ranks with CHILTON in the center, Henrico on her port side and Goodhue on her starboard, each leading a file or division of ships. This pattern allowed for rapid changes in formations which were regularly exercised due to sonar contacts with enemy subs.
There is a Navy procedural rule about convoys that says ANY plane flying over a convoy is subject to anti-aircraft fire from those ships in self-defense even before the convoy makes any identification of that plane. Our Navy and Marine pilots were usually very careful to steer clear of our convoys for that reason.
As men finished chow some of them went on deck for a breath of fresh air before returning to their watch while others headed for the ice cream counter in the ship's store.
At 1839, suddenly and without any warning, eight Jap kamikazis came at our squadron from the northeast and the southwest.
"I Remember........John E. Bujanowski, GM3c 1943-1945. I had gun watch on the after 40 mm mount about 1830 hours when I noticed several planes lining up to land on one of our carriers about 10 miles off our stern. Several planes appeared to have been "waved off" and circled our way. I notified the bridge there were planes approaching our convoy in direct violation of all procedures. The bridge reassured me there were "friendlies." I repeated my warning once more and was again assured they weren't enemy planes. When these planes started strafing (one of them obviously one of ours by the way he wobbled his wings while still trying to shoot down the twin engine bomber he was chasing), I dropped down to the deck and a tremendous explosion took place portside of #3 hatch. I started to turn on the electric power for the 40 mm gun when GQ alerted the ship to battle stations and I ran to my forward 20 mm battle station. All sorts of debris, gasoline, pieces of flesh and huge chunks of aluminum were everywhere. We even found one of the Jap's machine guns on our deck!"
"I Remember........by LT Andrew C. Moe, Flag Division 1945. As Flag Aide and Signal Officer for COM Brittain I was at my station on the flag deck with a turn signal on the signal hoist when the kamikazi struck. There wasn't enough time to be alarmed but I thought the pilot had us made as his target. Fortunately he was just a few feet too high and exploded portside of our number 3 hatch."
"I Remember......by John H. Donald PhM2c H Division 1945. Charlie Koscherak HA1c and I had just finished supper and gone through the aft starboard hatch toward the fantail on the main deck to get some fresh air before returning to our watch in sick bay. Before we had gone ten feet we saw smoke tracers hit the deck next to us and jumped or fell behind #5 cargo hatch for cover. A Navy fighter pilot was trying to shoot down a Jap bomber and stray shells happened to come our way. Almost immediately there was a loud explosion where the bomber hit the water and disintegrated next to #3 hatch forward of the bridge. Charlie lost his voice from shock and didn't speak for two or three days."
It is amazing now to look back and realize how fast our lives could have changed within 30 to 60 seconds or so. Some men were so oblivious to what was transpiring around them they didn't realize how close they were to injury or death. Others did their duty almost automatically without any forethought - a trained response to a situation that didn't allow time for any thought or planning.
"I Remember.......by Nicholas Colongeli, SM2c Beach Party 1945. I had just assumed signal watch on the bridge when at 1835 I noticed two aircraft off our starboard quarter. I looked through the OD's glass and saw "meatballs!" I ran to the squawk box, notified the Pilot House to sound GQ then ran to the starboard 20 mm to man it till the regular gun crew showed up. The loader failed to put the magazine in right and the first shell jammed. As I was unstrapping myself from the gun, I looked up and saw the pilot's face as his wing tip struck the radio antenna and smokestack just before he exploded into a million pieces alongside #3 hatch."
"I Remember......by Granville Smoot, Jr. SM1c N Div 1943-1946. We had just finished evening chow and I decided on getting in line for some of the ice cream that was on sale at the ship's store. No sooner had I put my money down on their counter and waited for the clerk to serve up my delicious treat when a tremendous explosion seemed to lift up the whole ship. When the ship steadied, I found myself on the way to my battle station topside without my money OR the ice cream I had long anticipated!"
"I Remember.......by Sgt. Paul J. Miller USMCR 1944-1945. I was fortunate to be a member of COM Brittain's Flag Division along with Major Walter Cooper USMC as sort of liaison between the Squadron and the invading 77th Army Division. It was our job to have all ammunition, medical supplies and emergency supplies in positions within the Squadron so they could be transported to the beach in a matter of minutes. I was on the bridge when the Japanese "Betty" came straight at our bridge with a Navy Hellcat fighter right on his tail with machine guns blazing. Evidently one of his bullets had hit the Jap causing him to veer aport just before hitting our ship. He did take out a couple of davits and some rigging. The explosion when he hit the water sprayed all of us on deck with oil and all sorts of debris, but miracle of miracles, no one was injured. Later I examined the bulkhead where I was standing and found it impossible to imagine how I could have been standing there and not been hit by one of those bullets."
One twin engine bomber, type-named "Betty" (later called a "Francis") was hit with our 20 mm AA machine gun fire as well as fire from one of our own pursuing fighter planes. A bomb, which fell 200 to 300 yards off our starboard beam harmlessly, was misdirected prematurely probably because the Japanese pilot had already been hit by our own Navy pilot friend. This bomber then hit our signal halyards, radio antenna, stack and commission pennant before diving into the sea on the port side at number 3 hatch. Gasoline, sheetmetal, plastic, body parts and even a machine gun wound up on the CHILTON'S decks.
Simultaneously, another bomber came at us from off the port bow which our forward 5" /38 gun splashed with 11 shells in about 45 seconds. The enemy's intent was probably to hit or sweep each file from the rear, then to turn back and crash into the lead ships of each file, knowing one would be the commander of the division or a squadron. The Goodhue, APA-107, had splashed a kamikazi off her starboard quarter but was hit by another almost dead ahead. This second one hit the mainmast and landed on her stern causing many fires with about 144 casualties and 17 dead. Our sister ship, the Henrico APA-45, took a direct hit on the starboard bridge with two bombs which exploded below decks. She had an unknown number of injured plus 49 dead, including her Captain, Executive officer and an Army general. The Telfair APA-210 shot down one bomber but was then hit a glancing blow by a second with no casualties. Aboard the flagship of TASK GROUP 51.1, the CHILTON APA-38 fortunately had no casualties but sustained considerable damage as described above. The LST 599 took some very severe damage and many casualties at the same time. These ships were hit at 26 degrees 00 minutes N, 127 degrees 17 minutes E. A post-war Japanese historian, Nakajima, in a book "The Divine Wind," said 45 kamikazis of their Fifth Air Fleet flying out of Kanoya had been on this raid and he claimed 31 of them returned to base safely. But we know first hand what had happened to at least eight of the fourteen missing kamikazes since CHILTON had shot down her first and second "bogies" of the eight enemy aircraft that tried to destroy TRANSCON 17, not one of whom survived their disastrous attempt to sink the Squadron!
The next morning, April 3, we pulled back into our anchorage and sent some damage control crews over to assist the LST 599. On the 4th there was a report that the Dickerson APD-21, an escort of our squadron, had been hit the evening of 2 April shielding us and was in danger of sinking. We had reports that she had been cut in two by two Kamikazis and lost 54 officers and men including her Captain. Later she was sunk by our Navy since she was declared a navigational hazard as well as a total loss. On the 5th another 200 kamikazis came into Okinawa area and did a lot of damage. We lost 2 DDs and a DMS and suffered damage to a CL, 10 DDs, 2 DEs, a DMS, 4 AMs and 2 YMs while splashing over 170 "bogeys" in one of the largest attacks yet on our fleet. We had very high Navy casualties.
We had learned to have GQ's every morning and evening when the enemy was most apt to use the low-lying sun as a backdrop to fly from since visibility was difficult then. They came out of the east in the morning and from the west in the evening hoping that our gunners would not see them as well. But our radar and outer ring of picket boats picked them up anyway. The only problem was that picket boats were taking more than their share of hits. The sole consolation was that the troopships with their valuable cargo of men were being protected. We averaged five GQ's a day during this period with some lasting more than five hours long and coming day and night without letup. Several days we spent more time at battle stations than at normal work stations, but the ship's work still had to be done. We were circling off Okinawa every day, coming closer in at night for the protection provided by the guns of the fleet. Tokyo Rose was broadcasting now, giving grossly exaggerated details of how badly we fared, the names of ships sunk and commanding officers killed, and for good measure, how our wives were misbehaving behind out backs in the United States! Chaplain Owens usually had pretty good attendance most night after chow at 1800 hours at his "evening chats" on the weather deck. This helped many to put things that they could not control or understand into the hands of the powerful Source that surely must have wanted us to succeed in the task in which we were then engaged.
On 10 April CHILTON left TRANSRON 17 and came into the anchorage under cover of darkness and dropped her hook about two miles off the town of Naha. Over the next few days the fleet anchorage of auxiliaries and warships changed constantly with supplies and men landing at the beach areas north of Naha and empty ships going out. The battleships, cruisers and destroyers would then come in close to shore and blast trouble spots on the southern end of the island between Naha and the town of Yanabaru on its east coast. It is so difficult to describe the awesome power one sees and feels when a trio of 16 inch shells in a salvo from the battleships off shore of CHILTON pass wobbling overhead trying to gain even trajectories as salvo after salvo flew just over the tops of our masts on their way to the low-lying beach two miles away. The enemy was putting up a fierce battle and we were using all or parts of six divisions, four Army and two Marine, against an enemy estimated at one time to be more than 100,000 Japanese Army, Navy, and Air Force troops who were well dug in, supplied and fortified. These combined Japanese were surely giving our men a rough time.
On Sunday, 15 April there was a special five minute period of silence during church services aboard ship in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who had died of a stroke on 12 April in Warm Springs, GA where he was taking a brief rest from the strain of his wartime duties. He had been a friend to the Navy all his life and the Navy will miss his concern and interest in naval affairs.
During the evening of 15 April our Beach Party transferred to Samuel P. Chase (APA-26) which would make the primary landing on tiny Ie Shima a couple of miles off the west coast of Okinawa near Motobu Peninsula. the enemy had dug in there with tunnels through a sharp peak that we called "The Tit", and were now shelling behind our lines and trying to destroy the two airfields we had repaired and put into operation at Yontan and Kadena in the initial landing. One of our boats received the "honor" of sounding the reefs for a channel on 17 April, the day before the landing were made. They became subject to continuous mortar fire from Japanese batteries which, because of the boat's constant movement, could not draw a good bead and consistently "near-missed" this crew. Their gunners came close enough to drench the crew with spray several times but never did succeed in stopping their mission. Their charting gave several approaches that allowed straight runs for the troops that hit the beaches early in the morning the next day, 18 April.
This time the landing by the 77th Army Division was definitely not an easy one. There was a sharp peak right in the center of the island that was honeycombed with caves and tunnels full of Japanese with their big guns, mortars and rifles. As the troops came ashore they were under immediate attack from this mountain that we called "The Tit". It has to be literally blown apart before a victory was assured.
"I Remember.......Nicholas Colongeli, SM2c 1945. During the landing at Ie.Shima in our LCVP my TBS radio conked out. Our engine went out next and we started to drift toward the beach. Our Boat Officer, LT Carpenter, told me to send a semaphore message to the beach. I got up on the engine cover and started to send the message. The small arms fire was so hot my right hand signal flag was knocked out of my hand in splinters. I said "To hell with this" and dove for the well of the boat. We beached safely however through the skill of our Coxwain and I was put temporarily under the command of the Beachmaster, LT Sloan."
Beginning Thursday 19 April we were called in close to start taking casualties aboard. Using three embarkation stations, our deck crews slung stretcher harnesses out, and over two hectic days took aboard 132 men with every type of wound imaginable. We now had cared for a total of 139 wounded over the past three weeks and eventually a grand total of 156 during the entire Okinawa operation from Keramma Retto to Ie Shima.
"I Remember.........John M. Donald, PhM2c 1945. Because of my surgical training I was assigned to perform triage on incoming wounded to prioritize and categorize all patients on deck. We had stretcher harnesses rigged out at three stations: #4, # 5 and #7 with about 40 stretcher bearers standing by. The diagnoses were double-checked with the medical tags, as were morphine and other medications used, then our top priority cases were moved below to the pre-planned surgical stations where our surgical teams would received each patient for the various kinds of treatments needed. Over the next five hours 115 patients were admitted in this way. The seven doctors and thirty corpsmen hardly slept over the next five days except for all too short naps that didn't help much. The S Division stretcher-bearers handled the patients with a tenderness they had never shown us before and did a remarkable job. "Deck apes" and boat crews also treated these injured in a way that made our total efficiency absolutely the best. With all hands doing their utmost, only one soldier died over the entire medical operation which lasted from 19-23 April when the last of our patients were transferred back to duty or to the Navy Ship USS Mercy AH-14."
There were a few brief moments which will be long remembered: When on corpsman was readying a patient for surgery, a live hand grenade fell out of his pocket to the deck and was unceremoniously kicked under a table where it was later found and carefully disposed of; when yet another corpsman was suturing the backsides of a corpulent Captain of some 280 pounds plus who had dived into a foxhole but left his rear exposed, he wanted an explanatory letter for his wife from the staff to verify how he got nearly 200 stitches in his rump; and the young 17 year old soldier who dictated his last letter to another corpsman outlining his plans for the future with his girlfriend not knowing in his state of shock that he was dying of extensive internal injuries far beyond modern surgery to repair. Another casualty told us this man had covered a hand grenade with his body to protect his fellow soldiers. This soldier was the only man to die aboard CHILTON during the entire Ie Shima Invasion.
CHILTON became a boat repair ship 25-26 April for the dozens of small craft damaged in the Ie Shima landing. Many had to be lifted aboard for new engines, screws, ramps and armor, while others had the holes and dents fixed right alongside.
"I Remember.........by Sgt Paul J. Miller USMCR 1944-1945. On 26 April I was sent ashore on Ie Shima to check on some problems. I landed on a small beachhead with about 30 men of the 77th Division. Among that group was Ernie Pyle, perhaps the war's most famous and certainly the most popular war correspondent. In an instant, the group opened up and out jumped a Jap "trap door" sniper. These snipers would dig a hole, cover the top with him in it, use a hose for air and wait for his chance to do as much damage as possible in that brief second. Ernie was dressed in green garb of a war correspondent whereas the rest of us were in combat clothes. I imagine that the sniper thought a green uniform meant a high ranking officer, so fired his few shots at Ernie. In a brief second the sniper was blown to bits, but all too late for our good friend, Ernie Pyle. Ernie Pyle will be remembered by the whole nation not only by what he wrote but by the interest he showed in the common GI. While on the CHILTON he always seemed to enjoy himself more while shooting the breeze with the enlisted troops and sailors on the fantail than in the officers' mess. He was known for getting the names and addresses of GI's he'd meet and writing to their families back home. He is buried in the Punch Bowl Cemetery in Hawaii where his grave is visited by thousands of tourists each year."
On Friday 27 April CHILTON moved back off Motobu Peninsula and became SOPA (Senior Officer Present Afloat) and also Communications Control Center for the operation. Flag and our communication crew now had their hands full to the extreme carrying out the battle plan. Later that day an enemy shore battery lined up on CHILTON and dropped two shells which bracketed the ship - one on the starboard side and one port side to get our range. The third shell landed harmlessly in the water astern as we dragged anchor to get out of that spot in one big hurry! Only a few minutes later another ship then became an unlucky target and was hit before the gun emplacement could be located and eliminated. The impact of the shells rocked CHILTON so violently that one crewman descending a ladder slipped between the treads and peeled the skin off both shins from knee to ankle before he regained his balance. Scarcely nine hours later an officer and two men on the flag bridge were watching the "fireworks" and were struck by flying shrapnel from our own guns. These three were awarded Purple Hearts, the first and only ever given during this whole operation.
During this period there were even more kamikazes hitting the fleet night and day. One casualty from CHILTON was a gun crew member with bad burns on both hands. It seems that by the time he got to his assigned gun position during a GQ his gun had been firing continuously and needed the barrel changed out. Before he could get his asbestos gloves on the order "Change barrel" came and he removed it barehanded! Needless to say, he walked around for a few days with "pillows" of bandages wrapped around his hands.
Tokyo Rose was heard on local (Japanese) radio again claiming we had been eliminated from TRANSRON 17, this time with all hands lost! We had already gotten used to her ridiculous claims of how their illustrious pilots were decimating the American Fleet with their superior fighting skills. And no one ever told her the real truth of what was actually happening to their few remaining aircraft, we are sure.
Saturday, 28 April was not a good day for us. The Comfort AH-6 and the Pinckney APH-2, both hospital ships caring for casualties they had aboard, were hit by kamikazes. Their new casualties now included doctors, nurses and corpsmen. There were 48 wounded and 28 killed including 6 nurses. Of the 50 or so planes that took part, very few got away this time, and CHILTON participated in the horrible barrage we sent up to them. We also had taken hits on four DDs and a DMS. Hospital ships had never been targets before and were not only painted white with huge red crosses visible from every angle, but were also lighted at night. But Geneva Convention Rules of War have never been followed by the Japanese throughout this war.
Back Home For Repairs
At 0930 hours Monday 30 April CHILTON left Okinawa and headed straight westward into the East China Sea, then turned south and set course for Pearl Harbor for repairs. Friday and Saturday were spent at Saipan and we left for Pearl at 0730 hours Sunday 6 May. Another stop at Eniwetok on 10 May (5 hours of refueling) and we were on our way once more. Before we made Pearl Harbor on 16 May, our orders were changed again, this time because port availability was to be had in San Francisco. CHILTON left Pearl 19 May and arrived at Golden Gate on Thursday 25 May 1945 for repairs and reoutfitting. All hands were given 5 day leaves plus 5 days travel time. War does have its good fortunes, too, and the entire crew came back with renewed spirits and ready for another chance at the enemy now backed up to his own home islands of Japan proper.
While CHILTON was in San Francisco our soldiers and Marines ably assisted by the big guns of the Task Force had wiped out all Japanese resistance by the end of June. Lieutenant General Mitsura Ushijima, Rear Admiral Minoru Ota and Air Force Captain Tenamachi had lost their lives in the final fruitless banzai charges against American troops surrounding them at the southern tip of the island. There were very few Japanese prisoners taken. While in San Francisco having our damages repaired, the Western Pipe and Steel Co. (who built CHILTON in 1942) replaced twelve of the single 20 mm AA guns with double barrelled gun installations and four of the 20 mm AAs were replaced with two 40 mm mounts giving added firepower up forward. They also added a new Mark 52 radar gun director to the two 5" /38 caliber batteries improving their effectiveness quite substantially.
When all hands had completed their five day leaves we took our departure from San Francisco and the friendly Golden Gate 24 June, bypassed Pearl Harbor, and made yet another perfect landfall on Eniwetock on 5 July. CHILTON laid over at Eniwetock (5 July through 14 July) and Ulithi (18 July through 29 July). Here, our wartime Commanding Officer, Captain Hugh W. Turney was relieved at Ulithi by Warner W. Angerer CAPT USN 28 July. We sighted Okinawa August 1 and this time we anchored on the east coast of Okinawa in Buckner Bay which had been named for the general who had been killed in June by shrapnel at Shuri Castle, one of the Japanese strong points in the middle of the battle line across the southern tip of the island. The crew was not very happy to lose their good friend, Captain Turney, but were pleased later after they found out he had received a commendation and promotion to Rear Admiral for his leadership at both Keramma Retto and Ie Shima in keeping his ship and the flag safe from serious harm.
As a brief rest was scheduled before the next stage which was to be the final invasion, CHILTON became a training ship for naval officers who would be part of the greatest invasion in the Pacific scheduled for 1 November. In her holds were models of all the landing sites that were to be used, marked in colors with tiny flags denoting which beachheads would be hit. We saw many officers of all ranks coming and going daily in these extensive briefings. It was almost an enjoyable stay in Buckner Bay even though we were still having some GQ's nearly every day and night.
Meanwhile, President Truman made repeated request through our General Douglas MacArthur for the enemy to submit to peace, all to no avail. He then made the fateful decision to drop the first ever atomic bomb used in wartime on Hiroshima on 7 August to show the Japanese what devastation would follow if their surrender were not forthcoming soon. It apparently did not impress the Japanese military too much because it took a second bomb on the city of Nagasaki on Thursday 9 August to convince the enemy annihilation was all the future they had. President Truman's decision to use these awesome atom bomb certainly succeeded in saving tons of thousands of our troops' lives by causing Japan to now sue for peace. This scheme worked to the benefit of all Americans who did not have to invade the Japanese mainland despite the fact the enemy did not know that we had no other spare atom bombs, only those two that were actually dropped! There is no way of knowing what the Japanese response would have been if they had even suspected that we could not have followed up right at that time on our threatened advantage by using more of those atomic bombs.
Even as the white truce plane with its green cross markings was flying over on its daily trips to Manila carrying the Japanese negotiators taking part in the truce talks (with a short layover on Ie Shima for refueling), we were subject to the occasional die-hard Japanese kamikaze pilot who tried to take out his frustrations on the anchored fleet. On the morning of 12 August a Japanese seaplane with a torpedo hanging between its pontoons flew just over our Commodore's pennant in fog so thick he missed the CHILTON but succeeded in diving into the battleship Pennsylvania moored about 300 yards off our starboard beam damaging her after wheel house, fantail, rudder and after storage rooms.
"I Remember.........by Richard Fritz, BM2c 1943-1945. Our orders were to search for wounded swimmers and bodies around the stern area of the battleship Pennsylvania which had just been hit with a torpedo from a Japanese kamikazi. We found no bodies but there was a whole side of beef from the food locker which had been split open. It was floating in the water and we reported it to the OOD on the Pennsylvania who was very upset and ordered us to bring it to him immediately. We did so and left it tied up to the gangway so he could verify our report for himself! We believed we knew the difference between a whole side of beef and human body - even if he didn't."
Three of these suiciders in their death dives struck a ship of our Squadron, the LaGrange APA-124, in Buckner Bay on 13 August eliminating her from any further action in the war. Some of our boat crews were detailed to assist in a search for possible bodies in the water around the La Grange also. Two men from the La Grange were taken aboard CHILTON the following day for medical treatment of shrapnel wounds. They were LT W. McLeod and CHPharm W. Dorosz.
The 20 men who died the morning of the 12th and the 21 who died on the 13th may have been the last casualties of the war since Pennsylvania and La Grange were, to our knowledge, the last two of our ships hit at Okinawa on the last two days before the truce took effect on the 14th of August 1945.
A brief recapitulation is in order here to put Okinawa in its proper perspective for those who follow American history closely. It is, at the same time, a lesson for all people the world over of what could happen again when two very well equipped, finely trained and dedicated forces face each other in a "do or die" situation. The Japanese ground force of 110,000 men was almost completely annihilated during those ninety days surrendering only about 10,000 prisoners. American Navy, Marine and Army land forces totalled 180,000 men of whom 50,000 were killed or wounded. The American Navy suffered its greatest loss in history in both men and ships, losing 4900 mean KIA, 4824 men WIA, 736 aircraft lost, 30 ships sunk and 368 others damaged of a force of 40 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships and 1400 other support ships in those few short weeks. Air Force bombers also struck from neighboring island bases. More than 4232 Japanese aircraft were lost and the innocent Okinawan civilian population was reduced by more than 150,000 men, women and children while 7,560,000 rounds of artillery and naval shells gutted every inch of the sixty mile long island. We learned a lesson at Okinawa which showed all American, and the whole world, what the invasion of Japan would likely cost in lives and casualties. With carefully calculated predictions of 1,000,000 American lives and 20,000,000 Japanese lives lost if we went through with our planned invasion in the fall of 1945, our American and Allied leaders decided to use a new weapon - the atom bomb. Two of these were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing 135,000 people and led immediately to the surrender of the Japanese military but saved another 20,000,000 Japanese and 1,000,000 Americans from certain death.
It is difficult to find Okinawa's historical and military significance because of a scarcity of written material about it considering the size and scope of this particular phase of the war. Perhaps it was because we were so happy to get out of this terrible dilemma through the use of a horrible weapon created expressly to stop the war. The relief the world felt when it ended caused us to turn our backs perhaps on even trying to justify the bomb which did eventually save so many lives on both sides. There is no question in the minds of those of us who were participants that these two bombs did in fact save at least twenty million American and Japanese lives. Historian Hanson Baldwin has said, "Never before in so short a space had the Navy lost so many ships; never before in land fighting had so much American blood been shed in so short a time in so small an area." And Bernard E. E. Trainor, LGEN USMC, Retired wrote, "In fierceness and scope it even dwarfed such epic battles as Stalingrad, Normandy and Iwo Jima. The last American battle of World War II, it was the worst." The size of the planned invasion of Kyushu due the following November would have involved ten times the manpower, vessels and equipment seen at Okinawa with more than ten times the casualties as the consequence if the intensity of enemy resistance increased proportionately as we neared the capital cities on the Japanese homeland proper.
The First Korean Expeditionary Force
The treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September ending World War II. CHILTON was not invited to the ceremony because we still had work to do. Our orders now were to proceed to Jinsen, Korea with 7th Division, XXIVth Army Corps troops under MGEN Archibald G. Arnold as TF 78.1.15, to make the first-ever landing of Americans in that country. Were were to display the flag, recover prisoners of war, secure the port and assist the civilian population in establishing their own government again after eight years of occupation and 35 years of domination by the Japanese. Only there were two problems facing the squadron: seven uncharted minefileds in the Yellow Sea and an uncharted approach channel about 100 miles long to the port of Jinsen. Sharp eyes of lookouts got us through the mines until we heard "All Clear Mine Line Seven!" and a Korean interpreter and Japanese pilot who knew the way through all the channels and shallows got us through until we were all safely into Chemulpo Po anchorage off Jinsen Ko on 8 September. Our navigators were kept on their toes updating all of our obsolete pre-war charts of these channels and hazards of this port. (These charts would come in handy soon when GEN Douglas MacArthur used them to make his famous outflanking movement that helped drive back the Chinese Army during the Korean "police action" only seven years later.)
Our 7th Army Division troops were landed against only mild re-resistance of a few Japanese who either didn't know that the war was over or who had decided to resist on their own. COM Thomas B. Brittain as the senior officer present at Jinsen accepted the surrender and the sword of the Japanese general in Korea. The anchorage looked like a giant puddle after the 24 foot tides had receded. Korean women were digging for clams and fishing these dirty puddles only a few yards away from the ship.
As usual there were a few Japanese holed up on Wolmi Island in the bay of Chemulpo Po who refused to quit and tried to defend the city practically to the last man. They didn't believe the war was over. Otherwise the city was quiet and people began to venture out of their homes. One corpsman visited what had been the police station and found German microscopes and medical laboratory equipment as good or better than we had aboard ship which he gave to a local two-year medical student who had treated the Japanese soldiers but was not allowed to treat the civilian population.
"I Remember.......by John H. Donald PhM2c USNR 1945. Andy DiNoto Phm1c, Don Frattone Phm3c and I went ashore to check out hospitals and clinics in town. We found a complete lack of any modern medical equipment available and were told by the one Jap-trained "doctor" the Jap Army stripped him of the limited equipment with which he could treat only their soldiers while they were there. The civilians were pretty much on their own all those years. I remember noting that surgical and osteopathic "tools" were badly needed and reported this to our Senior Medical Officer when we returned to the ship. Our S.M.O. arranged for us to off-load some "surplus/expendable" equipment as well as a Jeep to deliver it to the one clinic in town. I'll never forget the look on the Korean doctor's fact as this was unloaded. We had to show him and his wife (the nurse) how many of these items were used, and assembled the Gatch frame for the one elderly woman with two broken legs lying on a box with sandbags hung over a metal pipe for weights to maintain traction. Before we left he brought out a bottle of triple distilled apple juice and toasted the U. S. Navy. We toasted to success for him and his wife in return and discovered two shot of this powerful liquor were all that we could handle.!"
LT George H. Gurley became our Executive Officer on 20 September replacing LCDR Raymond T. Traut, LT Edward W. Gutsell relieved LT Edwin T. Merrick as First Lieutenant, and LT(jg) John W. Keller replaced LT(jg) Elwood R. Brubaker as Chief Engineer.
Our next task was to transport elements of the First marine Division to Tientsin and Peking to their pre-war "home away from home" assigned duty stations. Leaving Okinawa 26 September we made another run up through the mine fields toward Port Arthur (Dairen) where some Russian aircraft made things tense making some "practice runs" over us and leading to a few anxious moments. We had no idea of their orders, but ours did not call for initiating any action either. We did track them however with our guns and made it so obvious they had to take heed! We proceeded into Po Hai Wan (Bay) on 30 September until the shallow waters precluded getting in any closer to shore than 17 miles or so off Taku. From that offshore anchorage we used small boats to unload our Marines who then travelled northwest to Tientsin and Peking. Several Chinese barges were chartered to carry their equipment ashore and the only casualty was a Chinese sailor who, as a result of rough seas, had a hand crushed between his barge and the CHILTON. The hand was so badly damaged an amputation had to be performed in a sick-bay passageway by doctors who didn't want to contaminate our operating suite. The man insisted on taking his bloody appendage with him in a plastic bag, apparently as part of a religious belief. CHILTON cleared Taku on 9 October and went through the mine fields for the fourth time and headed south toward the Philippines.
Arriving Manila on 15 October for supplies allowed us a limited liberty for all hands who saw how war can ravage what was obviously a beautiful city only 4 years before. Clearing Manila 20 October CHILTON arrived at Hong Kong two days later. The entrance of Victoria Bay was "protected" by pirate gangs in sampans, bum-boats and even dug-out canoes who made a very noisy assault on several of our ships. As they discovered they couldn't board us or keep up with our speed they gradually gave up the chase and allowed us into the Bay. We found out later that these pirates have been living off the "tolls" and blackmail they demanded of the world's shipping for centuries!"
The formal welcome tendered to CHILTON by the British men-o'-war (as befitted a flagship of the U.S. Navy) was returned again and again. CHILTON was the first American ship to arrive in Hong Kong since the Japanese takeover in 1937 and these citizens were hardly ready for our sailors on liberty. Great care was taken to protect the crews from roving gangs of criminals, money-hungry restaurant and hotel owners and the ever-present "ladies" who even tried to come on board our ships. What you couldn't buy for a five cent Hershey bar!!
Our first shipload of passengers were from President/General Chiang Kai-Shek's southern 13th Army under the command of LGEN Shih Chiao with vice commanders MGEN Shu and MGEN Tsai. There were 237 Officers and 1437 men but only 65 tons of cargo! These troops were in shorts and sneakers and practically in rags. Not every man had a gun and their equipment consisted of a few old trucks and a handful of old water-cooled machine guns that didn't appear to have been cleaned for years. But they did bring their own food supply with them - bags and bags of dark rice which they cooked and ate on deck twice a day. We cleared Hong Kong on 26 October and immediately discovered these farmers had never been to sea before! The evidence of it was with us for weeks afterwards. We went through the mine fields once more, this time to Chinwangtao where the 1400 mile long Great Wall of China ends at the sea. Entering port on 31 October to drop off our Chinese passengers, we wondered how they could possibly survive the fast approaching winter dressed as they were or repress the powerful northern Communist army who were comfortably supplied and adequately armed by the Russians. We cleared Chingwangtao 2 November and spent the return trip scrubbing compartments and pumping them out with fire pumps until we saw Hong Kong again on 8 November.
Once again CHILTON was accorded honors from the anchored ships in Victoria Bay as we came to rest among them. Liberty on a port/starboard watch schedule was still used so that men had plenty of time for sightseeing, shopping and drinking Aussie beer at the huge China Fleet Club near the south end of the city. As we shopped in the market areas it became obvious these people had no refrigeration and didn't cover their food from the millions of flies that hovered about the open stalls. Some of the food establishments had cleaned up their shops and kitchens so that in a few instances it was safe to eat lunch out for a change. There was something about the red cross on a corpsman's sleeve that led these vendors to open their kitchens wide for him to inspect, and then try to encourage his shipmates to join in the meal he was invariably given! There was no formal inspection procedure, but if the medic were to sign his name and rating on the menu, the owner went ecstatic. There was a small two-story restaurant right on the bay near the ferry building where many men found good, safe food and drink.
"I Remember.........by John Donald PhM2c H Division 1945. Andy DiNoto Phm1c, Jim Edwards PhM3c and I went into what we believed to be a fairly clean restaurant near the ferry dock. We made a point of looking through the kitchen to see details of how they prepared food such as washing, temperature used, condition of utensils, absence of flies, roaches and other vermin. We were satisfied that their product was probably safely edible, and jokingly asked for a hamburger and a Coke for each of us. The owner went immediately into his basement beneath his kitchen and dug three Coke bottles out of the sand! The man said he had buried them when the Japanese came (in 1937) and had forgotten about them until we asked. He had to charge us $1.00 each though (3400 yuan) because he didn't know what the current price was on Coke. The "hamburgers" looked, smelled and tasted like hamburgers and none of us was ill afterwards so we assumed they were just that. We ate our lunch on the balcony overlooking the main restaurant and our waiter even provided us with little black Chinese skullcaps as souvenirs that resembled Jewish Yamulkas! I kept mine for many years before it disappeared."
It came time to move to a new dock area at the "godown" in Kowloon in order to load up more Chinese Nationalist troops. Some of the men had not completed all of their shopping on the Hong Kong side of Victoria Bay and began to wish they had shopped earlier.
"I Remember ..................by George A. Polyard PhM3c 1944-1945. Another Pharmacist's Mate and I had been spraying DDT as precaution against lice on the Chinese troops over the better part of the evening when I realized I had promised my wife a kimono as a souvenir from the Orient. Even though it was approaching 2200 hours and was very dark out with no street lights, we decided to ask the Scot who was guarding the gate if we could go out and find a store. He said that he couldn't be responsible for our safety but there was a store about 100 yards from the gate. We managed to wake up the proprietor, made the purchase and headed for the gate when about 30 hoodlums appeared out of nowhere and blocked out path to safety. all we could think of was to shine our flashlights on the knives we both carried to show that we were "armed" when the Scot on the gate saw our lights and fired a shot over their heads that thankfully took all the fight out of them. As they ran off we ran to the safety of the gate and thanked the guard. We'll not soon forget his name either, believe me: Tom Mac Donald from Glasgow."
Our second trip with more of the Chinese Southern Army again involved spraying the Chinese troops at dockside before they boarded CHILTON and swabbing decks, frequently. The order for a "Clean sweepdown, fore and aft" truly had a new meaning for our deck crew. On this trip we only carried 64 Chinese enlisted men and 28 officers led by LGEN Li, who was known as "the hero of the Battle of the Salween River" on the China-Burma border which had kept the Japanese from over-running Burma. He commanded the Southern 8th Army. As before, the sickest men taxed the medical department with diagnoses and treatments around the clock. But even General Li could not prevent his men's almost universal seasickness.
CHILTON cleared the "godown" at Kowloon 10 November and, after one of our escorts, Weber, had blown up another mine on 14 November we tied up at a dock in Tsingtao on 15 November to discharge the last of our Chinese troops. Our 6th Marine Division had already set up a military presence here and we were fortunate to be able to spend several days on liberty in a safer environment. After another good "hosing down and pumping out" CHILTON departed Tsingtao 22 November and headed for Nagoya Japan where she arrived 25 November. Carrying 1400 or so "magic carpet" servicemen of all branches, we cleared Nagoya 26 November, took the northern "great circle" route to Tacoma and home arriving there 8 December 1945. The northern route was cold and windy with a great danger of frozen spray adding weight to the super-structure, so only the ice-chipping crew was allowed on deck to prevent any accidents. While taking this shorter route home CHILTON set a new record by making the fun across the Pacific in 11 days and 21 hours! While at Tacoma CHILTON lost a good part of her wartime crew via the system of points used at that time to discharge Navy Reserve servicemen back into civilian life. On 11 December COM Thomas B. Brittain hauled down his one-star flag and TRANSRON 17 was detached from CHILTON. At the age of 47 he was reported to be the youngest flag commander in the Okinawan area of operations.
CHILTON remained in Tacoma until 21 December 1945 when she left for another "magic carpet" non-stop trip to San Pedro Bay, Leyte in the Philippines where she docked 14 January 1946. CHILTON cleared San Pedro 26 January but engine problems forced her to divert from Guam to Saipan where she arrived on 30 January. She made repairs, cleared Tanapag harbor 9 February and headed non-stop for Los Angeles where she anchored 24 February and unloaded her 1485 passengers. She made another trip to Okinawa and returned to San Francisco 10 May 1946 with more of our returning servicemen.
On 2 June 1946 CHILTON joined JOINTTASKFORCE ONE under VADM William F. Blandy and headed for the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands where Operation CROSSROADS was now scheduled to take place. This was the operation where two atom bombs were tested against actual ships. Due to the attrition of "high point" servicemen from the Navy after December 1945, CHILTON had to supplement her crew with nearly 100 "hash mark seamen" taken from the disciplinary barracks at Terminal Island in San Pedro, CA. This term is applied to men who had been court-martialed, reduced in rating (usually to Seaman 2/c) and served their punishment. They were released on probation with the understanding they were to receive no liberty for six months whenever CHILTON made port. These men had been petty officers and were a tough, experienced and capable crew.
After preparations had been made for the atomic bomb tests at Bikini in June and July 1946, CHILTON headed for Majuro for a short stay then returned to Pearl Harbor and the west coast. Meanwhile on 1 August two A-bombs were set off at Bikini, one in the air and the other under water, amid many obsolete U. S. and captured enemy ships in order to study the blast effects on shipping.
CHILTON departed the United States 7 September 1946 for Yokosuka Japan as flagship for CAPT C. L. Tyler COMTRANSRON 13 taking part in joint amphibious exercises there. Following these, CHILTON departed for Tsingtao, China where she jointed COMSEVENTHFLEET for duty on arrival 30 September. On 20 December she left Tsingtao and headed for Chingwantao, China to remove U. S. Marines from a very hostile environment that was getting worse. At least one Marine was wounded and taken prisoner by the Northern Chinese Communists during December of 1946 a short fifteen months after the treaty ending World War II had been signed on board the USS MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay! CHILTON departed 3 January 1947 after several shots had been fired and several more Marines had been wounded. The temperature had dropped to 60 degrees below zero and ice formed over the waters in the harbor to a depth of nearly 12 inches which ice-bound many of the smaller ships there. But CHILTON kept up a constant stream of hot water pumping continuously around the hull to keep her free from the ice jam. As our Marines had to be evacuated under fire there was, obviously, no liberty granted on this her last ever visit to the port of Chinwangtao. She cleared the port of Chinwangtao 3 January and arrived San Diego 22 January 1947.
Captain Angerer was relieved by Captain Roy W. Lajeunesse on 4 February 1947 and CHILTON underwent two months of much-needed maintenance and repair at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard. Hunter's Point, then returned to San Diego where she received COMPHIBGRU ONE under RADM B. J. Rodgers, USN who was aboard from April to 25 June 1947.
"I Remember............by Donald G. Ferrell, BM2 1946-1947. This CHILTON Coxwain took a boat-load of civilian and Navy observers and photographers throughout the anchorage to see and to photograph the damage done by the atomic bomb. King posts and jumbo booms on the APA's and AKA's were wrapped and twisted around each other like pretzels. Some of the older carrier flight decks were rolled up like carpeting while many of the target ships's decks and plates were buckled and showed clearly where the struts, frames and support were located beneath the plate sheathing. One first class electrician's mate from another ship was electrocuted while checking on the damage to NEVADA and his body was returned to the west coast in a casket aboard the CHILTON. Also returned were the measuring devices exposed to the radiation blast including one "ticking bomb" device carried home up forward in #1 hold. These were the first items removed from CHILTON after docking 16 September 1947 at San Diego and were sent immediately to White Sands, NM for study and disposal. The crew received "short snorter" bills which were good for any drink in local bars whenever you could get someone to sign his name on it."
On 1 July through 11 September 1947 Captain Roy W. LaJeunesse took CHILTON back to Bikini where she was assigned as a "floating laboratory" to do a scientific resurvey of the atoll to determine the damage done by the two atomic blasts Able and Baker a year before. There were teams of scientists from all disciplines who lived aboard and conducted their tests and experiments both ashore and in the water to determine the effects of the blasts on everything dead or alive.
CAPT Oliver Franklin Naquin relieved CAPT Lajeunesse in September 1947 following the Scientific Survey of Bikini. As a Lieutenant, Naquin had been the commander of the ill-fated submarine Squalus which dove to the bottom in February 1939 off Portsmouth, NH during sea trials when an air intake valve failed to close completely. He managed to rescue half of his crew before leaving the ship himself.
CHILTON cleared San Diego 15 November 1948 bound for Shanghai which was reached 10 December. On board we had Rear Admiral G. C. Crawford's COMPHIBGROUP THREE. Her assignment was to prepare for the evacuation of the 3rd Marine Division and all American civilian personnel who wanted to leave the strife-torn city. The advancing Communists were systematically killing all those Chinese and foreigners who had sided with Chiang Kai Shek over these past three years. In this period the Communists had wiped out all the troops that CHILTON and her task group had moved north in October and November of 1945 and were moving down into central and southern China. CHILTON combat loaded the 3rd Marine Battalion and as many civilians as desired to move out, then left Shanghai under constant threat of the Communist guns. Some of the British ships were not so lucky and took many casualties as the Chinese Communists sank one patrol craft and damaged two other British ships. CHILTON was able to provide medical assistance to the crews of HMD Black Swan and HMS London which had been further upriver on the Yangtse and had been ambushed when the former went aground. There was a wholesale exchange of doctors, corpsmen and stretcher-bearers from CHILTON and the 3rd Marine Battalion when they arrived back in Tsingtao. During the four hours it took for CHILTON to go down the Whangpoo River from Shanghai to the open sea was an extremely tense period for every man aboard including Admiral Crawford. Our CHILTON was the last American ship to leave Shanghai. She remained in Tsingtao until 6 May, left Yokosuka 14 May, Pearl Harbor 25 May and arrived back in San Diego 31 May 1949.
Following her return from Asia CHILTON underwent three months of intensive amphibious training in the San Diego area then was assigned to Operation MIKI with units of the 2nd Army Division out of Olympia, WA. These troops were embarked in September 1949 and MIKI took place in Hawaii beginning 25 October. CAPT Naquin was relieved on 21 November 1949 by CAPT Theodore C. Aylward.
Captain Aylward's orders were to take CHILTON through the Panama Canal to her new home port of Norfolk, VA where she became once again part of the Amphibious Force of the Atlantic Fleet where she had done her training duty in 1944. She arrived Norfolk 10 December 1949 just in time for holiday leaves for the men.