by Bill Owens SM3/c 

First voyage

As you can see all was not fun and games for me aboard ship but if nothing else I was becoming educated (the hard way) by my exposure to a wide range of different personalities and circumstances.

To condense “my” voyage on the Chilton to an itinerary of travel and events I offer the following:

June 1945 San Francisco.

Struggled up the gangplank of the Chilton with a Sea Bag encircled with a hammock containing blankets and lashed to look like a rubber life raft weighing just about as much as I did. I was instructed to descend into the bowls of the ship along with five or six other replacements to a filthy compartment lit by one 40watt bulb. The area was one of those used by troops during operations but not if ever cleaned up after disembarking its former guests.

Left to our own devices except for those assigned to other divisions who were promptly moved to other quarters another shipmate and I ( also a signalman) wandered up to the signal bridge to see what we were to do next. Disaster at least for me waited there in respect to my initial meeting with the “boss” described earlier.

About a week after our initial meeting we were still housed in the squalor of our quarters and spent most of our time scratching.

Ultimately we were assigned to a compartment of communication division people and led a more normal shipboard existence.

July 1945: San Francisco

We set sail on the Chilton for parts unknown and after entering the open sea began to form (as squadron commander) a gigantic convoy of sixty or more ships using signal flag hoists and messages sent to and from the vessels by signal light and semaphore. A thrilling and impressive sight to behold and my heart swelled with pride and anticipation of what lay ahead.

August 5th 1945

We sailed into Buckner Bay, Okinawa on my eighteenth birthday under an air raid alert. Okinawa had been secured after the invasion that took place in April 1945. The Chilton took part in this invasion and was nicked by a Kamikaze and credited with downing two enemy aircraft during the operation.

August 6th 1945

While anchored in the bay being readied for an invasion of Japan the “Enola Gay” dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima .

August 9th 1945

The aircraft “Bock’s Car” dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. An incorrect report of the wars end caused land batteries to open up causing casualties aboard naval vessels.

August 12th & 13th 1945

My shipmate through boots, service school and our current assignment and I were on watch on the signal bridge during a moon-less night on the twelve to four AM watch and observed an aircraft with running lights on flying over the fleet anchorage.

Even though no actions were apparent by the other ships we were in the process of reporting the event to the officer of the deck when the aircraft moved off out of sight.

As things turned out in respect to our own ship, had we sounded the general alarm and shown lights aboard as a beacon we would probably have suffered the fate of our sister ship the USS LaGrange that was hit by this aircraft (a Kamikaze) and lost twenty one killed and eighty nine wounded.

We had earlier been reported by Tokyo Rose to have been sunk and may well have been the true target of the Japanese plane.

During this same time framework the USS Pennsylvania was torpedoed by an enemy sub operating in the same bay as ourselves losing twenty men.

August 15th 1945

At 0700 hours a cease fire took effect and the war wound down ( additional U.S. casualties however were suffered on August 18th and 19th and as late as September 20th .)

Japan signed a formal Surrender Treaty on September 2, 1945.

Thus ended our confrontational wartime activity. We were spared by the atomic bomb from the need to invade Japan and probably suffer the worst casualties of the war.

Well as far as I was concerned I was ready to go home but of course that was not to be. I signed for the duration plus six months (Ha Ha) or somewhere in that vicinity as the Navy would determine.

The rest of my time aboard ship was interesting with significant improvement in my relationship with the “boss”. For some reason we had few encounters. The animosity existed however especially on his part and true to his previous proclamation I never received a promotion while he was aboard. (Of course at this time I could care less).

The Chilton became a busy little beaver . We loaded elements of the US 7th Army Division aboard and weighed anchor on September 5th for Jinsen Korea where in a formal ceremony the Commodore received the surrender of the Japanese forces by the General in command. Our trip took us through mine line seven but we were advise it had been swept the day before our entry into the area. Unfortunately not well enough as we had missed one by a foot and our destroyer escort found the need to dispose of several by 20 millimeter gunfire. In disposing of one of he mines shrapnel wounded one of the DE crew and we were required to send a doctor over in a bos’n chair attached to lines rigged from both ships.

On the 15th of September we pulled up the hook again and sailed back to Okinawa.

On the 26th of September we again weighed anchor sailed from Okinawa and disembarked the !st Marine Division troops we had loaded in Okinawa in Tientsin China. September 30.

On the 9th of October we left Tientsin and sailed to Manila arriving there on the 15th of October. I drew the first liberty with the uniform of the day dictated as dress whites.

Off we went into the LCVP landing crafts and up a canal that took us to the city wharves which were bustling with activity. We immediately saw the damage that had been inflicted in the previous actions and smelled the result of broken sewer systems. Regardless of the condition of the city we forged on and were soon besieged by donkey cart drivers promising us all sorts of fabulous times if we used their service. The primary promises were those of guiding us to destinations where we could fill our needs in respect to pom pom (the local description for the sexual act) Some promised they would produce their “virgin” sister for this purpose.

I shall plead the fifth amendment at this time in respect to weakening to temptation and move on to the dance hall we were carted to. If my recollection is correct music was furnished by a phonograph and our activity consisted mainly of dancing and sharing drinks with the girls that inhabited the place.

Our trip back to the dock proceeded without incident except for the demand of the donkey cart driver for an exorbitant fare. We resisted this highway robbery until five or six donkey carts and drivers surrounded us and capitulated and met the demand.

As we neared the dock we saw dozens of sailors laid out like corpses on the ground in the mud and boat crews hunting for their own among them. We at least were a few rungs up on these fellows in respect to sobriety but closer than we should have been. The next morning there was many a headache aboard ship, yet the desire to have at it again when our turn for liberty arrived once more.

on the 20th we sailed again this time to Hong Kong arriving there on October 22. There we loaded a really rag tag Chinese Army unit and were introduced to some new (for me anyway) experiences. We shoved off the morning of October 26 bound for Chinwangtao in Northern China touching port on October 31st. The voyage was very eventful. To begin with the entire Chinese contingent became seasick before we cleared the harbor and at our station on the signal bridge th
for further preparation.

This process consumed enough time that we could barely finish our chore for one meal and the next one was upon us. Ingenuity to the rescue....By increasing the number of potatoes we put into the machine as well as the time they spent there we were able to cut our on the job effort( at least of having to be in attendance at the spud locker) to a fraction of the time needed to do it the old way. Our biggest fear of course was that the cooks would notice the size of the potatoes we delivered to them. Or we would run out of potatoes. Neither of these things happened but our happy days ended ( at least mine ) when one day as I lay on a coiled hawser (while potatoes tumbled) up on the bow reading something to improve my mind I glanced up at the signal bridge and guess who was looking down at me with a pair of field glasses. Your right! What was the result of being detected? ... well....

Moving right along to my next assignment I found myself doing what I considered one of the worst jobs in the Navy. It's called the scullery. My job in this position was to receive the dirty tin mess plates from the guys, tap the leftovers out into a G.I. can, place the tin tray on a rack and run the rack through a very hot steam machine.( I estimate the temperature in our work area was about 140 degrees,) About the time a clean-up after one meal was complete it was time to get at it again. This torture may have worked on me except I think I was spared further duty when we loaded troops. The troops believe it or not volunteered for this type of duty to escape the boredom of having nothing to do. (this of course was a state I worked diligently however unsuccessfully to realize. )

Looking back over the years and at the time I spent aboard the Chilton sometimes with fondness sometimes not, I came to the conclusion that the association between G and myself was a mutually beneficial experience. It looks like Two hard heads found their own paths to a successful and happy life.

Again, our best to all of you.

Maxine & Bill Owens