Earl Thomas Meyer, Coxswain V-6 USNR. Served aboard the USS Tazewell A.P.A 209 in the South Pacific 4-19-44 to 11-13-45.
Victory Medal Asiatic-Pacific 1 Star Philippine America Area
Facts as told by Earl Thomas Meyer to his son Derald Meyer
Provided to the website by Jamie Meyer
When Earl Meyer moved from Fairland, Oklahoma to Marionville, Missouri in 1943, he was still registered with the Ottawa County, Oklahoma Draft Board, Miami, Oklahoma. Their draft quota was high and he was drafted from there April 13, 1944, when he was 36 years and 10 months old. He was almost past the upper limit of the draft age, which was 38.
His brother, William H. Meyer and his wife took him to meet the bus in Aurora, Missouri for his physical in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His mother, Rose Dora Meyer was certain that he would be back because she knew he couldn’t pass the physical. She was wrong.
Earl Meyer was inducted into active service in the United States Navy on April 14, 1944. He left Tulsa by train to San Diego, California where he entered the Naval Training Station on April 23, 1944.
At home he left his wife, two teenage sons, a few cows, a mortgaged farm and a very old Oldsmobile. His son Derald had to give up his after school job at the Sullen’s Drug Store in Marionville, Missouri. His other son, Merlin graduated from the 8th grade while his dad was gone.
On May 31, 1944 Earl finished Basic Training as the oldest trainee. He was supposed to receive leave when he finished Basic Training, but was instead sent to the Coronado Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California for amphibious training. He completed the amphibious training as a Coxswain and was assigned to the USS Neville A.P.A 9 on August 27, 1944 in Long Beach, California. He finished training as a Coxswain in charge of an LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel). This was a 36’ boat powered by a 259 horsepower diesel motor. It could travel at 30 mph. The crew consisted of the Coxswain, a signalman and 2 deck hands that operated the 2 machine guns mounted on the boat. It could land 36 fully equipped Marines. Earl’s boat was number 13.
While in Long Beach, his wife Mildred was able to spend 10 days with him. He was able to get shore leave during the evenings of her visit.
On September 27, 1944 he returned to the Coronado Naval Amphibious Training Base until October 15th. He then left for San Francisco where he boarded the USS Tazewell A.P.A. 209; which was his home for the next several months.
The USS Tazewell was constructed in Richmond Shipyard No.2 in Richmond, California. The ships keel was laid on June 2, 1944 and she was launched at 5:00 p.m., August 22, 1944. It was commissioned at pier 27, San Francisco, California at 2:00 p.m., October 25, 1944. The gross tonnage was 7,408, length 455 feet and 3 inches, with a beam of 62 feet. The vessel had a light displacement of 6,330 tons and when loaded 11,760 tons. It was capable of making 18.6 knots with a full load displacement. The ship mounted one single 5” /38 dual-purpose gun, four twin 40mm AA guns and ten single 20mm AA guns.
Complement 56 Officers 480 Enlisted Troop Accommodations 86 Officers 1,475 Enlisted Cargo Capacity 150,000 cu. ft, 2,900 tons Boats two LCMs, twelve LCVPs, and three LCPUs.
After the USS Tazewell was commissioned, it was towed across the San Francisco Bay by Navy tugs to the Naval Supply Depot at Oakland. Supplies were loaded day and night until all stores were aboard. From the supply depot they again crossed the bay to the U.S. Naval dry-docks at Hunters Point. Here minor repairs and alterations were made and the ship was clothed in her first war painted suit. Zigzagging lines of every shape, size and color covered the ship’s contours from stem to stern. Next stop was Mare Island, where the ammunition was loaded, taking almost an entire day. Then they returned to San Francisco and awaited further orders. In a short time, they were ordered to sail to San Pedro, California. Of f the coast of Southern California, the Tazewell was put through her shakedown cruise. Early each morning they would put out to sea cruising southward past Catalina and San Clements Island. Each day they would return to San Pedro, this lasted for 14 days. All the guns were fired and the ship was tuned up to perfection.
On December 2, 1944 they headed back to San Diego for Amphibious Operations for two weeks. Earl was Coxswain on landing craft #13.
On December 22 the ship headed north. Three days later, on Christmas Day, the ship entered the snow-blanketed port of Seattle, Washington. It was here that Army troops were taken aboard. On January 2, 1945 the Tazewell began to head west. On January 9th the island of Molokai came into view and at the Island of Oahu a tug pulled them to a pier along Honolulu’s waterfront. The Army troops were unloaded and welcomed to Hawaii. The next day the Navy was granted liberty from 1000 to 1700.
Troops boarded the ship and on January 17, 1945. They left Pearl Harbor realizing the serious mission there were on and soon they would be in enemy waters. The next 8 days they sailed through calm waters and on January 25th they entered the East Channel of the Eniwetok Atoll. Eniwetok is the northernmost island of what is known as “Sunset Chain” of the Marshall Islands. They remained there only long enough to be refueled. Tension on the ship increased because they knew they were within easy striking distance of the enemy raiders.
On January 31, 1945 they arrived in Ulithi in the Carolines. On February 1 they made their way to the Island of Pelelieu, one of the southernmost islands of the Palaus. On the way they had to veer off course in order to avoid hitting sighted floating mines in their path. While at Palaus, Earl had to take the body of a 1st Lieutenant to the island for burial. The 1st Lieutenant had committed suicide on the ship.
Here the soldiers and supplies were lowered over the side into landing boats, while the ship was underway. The operation, much to the surprise of everyone, was performed flawlessly as it had been practiced many times in amphibious training.
The soldiers were to be quartered on Pelelieu, which had already been captured by the Americans. The island had undergone terrific bombardment from sea and air. It was on this islet that the “Battle of Bloody Nose ridge” was fought and dearly paid for with the lives of almost a complete Marine Division.
A few miles north of Pelelieu is the Island of Babelthaup, where 20,000 “sons of heaven” were slowly starving to death. When the tide was down these hunger crazed Japs would swim and stumble across the coral reefs to attack the soldiers on Pelelieu.
As soon as the soldiers were unloaded, the Tazewell was ordered to sail for San Pedro Bay, Leyte, P.I. February 9th they anchored on the harbor bottom of San Pedro Bay. The next day they left the bay and tied to a tanker to be refueled. They remained in San Pedro Bay for over a month, unaware that soon they would be part of the largest invasion fleet ever assembled.
They spent many sleepless nights while waiting for orders. In the early hours of the morning, “Alarm Clock Charlie”, a Japanese reconnaissance plane would frequently fly near the ship and cause all ships to sound General Quarters.
Once again the ship was loaded with troops of the 306th Infantry of the 7th Division, all well primed for combat. The remaining time in the Philippines was spent practicing battle drills in preparation of the forth coming operation.
March 21, 1945 they pulled out of San Pedro Bay in the Philippines with Task Group 51.1 to a secret destination. They were traveling in a convoy of twenty ships, mostly APA’s with Destroyer Escorts. They were loaded for an invasion with many supplies, provisions, ammunition, and army equipment.
Earl knew that this was what he had been prepared to do, help land these men and their equipment on an enemy island.
March 25th the convoy was growing larger, but so was the danger from enemy mines and suicide planes. Some of the planes got by the outer barrier of the convoy and reached the transport area.
March 26th they reached Kerama Retto in the Ryukyu Islands. At 0515 all the landing craft were lowered to the water. Here Earl landed troops and equipment from the 420th Field Artillery Group. They were to setup on the west side of Okinawa. They were setup to lob shells across Okinawa to the east when the main invasion force landed on the island from the east.
On April 1st one of the largest invasions of the war took place on the East Coast of Okinawa. The USS Kimberly DD521 was hit by a suicide bomber. Two suicide planes hit the water near the Tazewell. On one occasion the Captain of the Tazewell ordered the ship to move from its position. A destroyer moved to the position vacated by the Tazewell and was hit by a suicide bomber. The Tazewell continued to circle in the waters around Okinawa.
April 2nd at 1830, General Quarters was sounded and the convoy was again under attack by enemy planes. Of the twelve planes that attacked, 8 were either shot down or fulfilled their suicide mission. One plane crashed on to the USS Henrico APA 45. It started a fire that caused the ship to drop out of the convoy. There were several ships on fire around the Tazewell. A suicide bomber also hit the USS Dickerson APA 21, just off the port bow of the Tazewell. Another plane was headed for the bow of the Tazewell but was hit by their 40mm “quad” overhead and exploded at the stern of the USS Goodhue APA 107.
A 5 inch shell hit another plane coming in. the pilot made a dive at a Destroyer, but overshot his target and crashed into the ocean. The wings of another plane heading for the Tazewell were shot off and it made a big splash in the ocean near the ship.
Earl and the crew of the Tazewell had survived their first battle experience on the 2nd and 3rd of April, 1945. This was less than a year after Earl had entered the Naval Training Station in San Diego, California.
April 3rd it was decided that the Japanese were getting too rough and it was whittling Task Group 51.1 down too much. They were sent to a waiting area in the Pacific, east of Okinawa to sail around in circles for the next ten days awaiting further orders.
On April 13th they received orders to sail back to Okinawa. Earl helped land the rest of the troops and equipment on Ie Shima. He made many trips back and forth between the ship and shore.
The main event of the operation occurred on April 16th. The invasion of Ie Shima was on. The Japanese sent 200 planes to stop the invasion. Only 9 planes got past the screening vessels to the transport area. Fighter planes and surrounding ships took care of them.
During one of the landings, Earl and his crew were returning to the ship and got lost in thick fog. They were unable to locate the Tazewell and were out all night. When daylight came the Tazewell was already under way back to sea. He caught up with it and was picked up while traveling.
April 19th the Tazewell joined a mock invasion on the southeast shore of Okinawa. Task Group 51.1, along with battleships, cruisers, destroyers and many planes put on a spectacular show to encourage the Japanese to draw their defenses, enabling the Marines to advance from the other side of the island. Earl’s landing craft was sent out on a very rough sea. From that time until April 30th, they cruised around Okinawa avoiding mines, suicide planes and a suicide boat.
On April 30th they departed Okinawa in a convoy and arrived in Saipan May 5th.
During the battle of Okinawa, 12,250 American fighting men lost their lives and 36,361 were injured. 30 ships were sunk and 223 ships were damaged.
In Saipan, Earl was ordered to the Naval Hospital. It was very hot and the hospital was hugely over-crowded. There was a waiting period to even be seen, except the critically injured. Earl did not want to wait, so he took his records and orders and got back on the ship, just as they were preparing to leave for San Francisco.
On June 6th, the Tazewell dropped her anchor on the floor of San Francisco Bay. They spent 2 days in San Francisco and then sailed north to Seattle where they tied up at Vashon Island on Sunday, June 10th.
On June 27th the USS Tazewell returned to the south Pacific with the 304th, the 309th and the 310th General Hospital units. They went to Tinian in the Marianas, where the Army was planning a large hospital in preparation for the invasion of Japan.
Earl left the ship and was sent to the U.S.S. Naval Hospital in Seattle, where he underwent surgery.
September 12th Earl was transferred from Bremerton, WA to St. Louis, MO. He went home on leave on the way to St. Louis. From St. Louis he was sent to New Orleans and then back to the west coast and was preparing to be sent out on another ship. Since he had almost enough points for discharge, he was sent back to St. Louis and was given an Honorable Discharge on November 13th, 1945.
After Earl returned home, he was very active in the Marionville Memorial Post #7566 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Marionville, MO. He served as Post Commander and was Service Officer for many years, in which he received many certificates and citations.
He drove many miles and spent many hours helping Veterans getting their pensions, hospitalization when needed and many other services required by veterans.
November 14th, 1968 Earl was appointed as an Aide de Camp to Department Commander James T. Hitch, which was a great honor.
Earl Thomas Meyer, Cox, USNR was a member of the original crew which commissioned the good ship USS Tazewell APA 209 and is therefore entitled to all the rights and privileges of a Plank Owner of said ship, including a clean and unencumbered title to one plank on the deck.
Earl Thomas Meyer, Cox, was duly inducted into the Silent Mysteries of the Far East, having crossed the 180th Meridian on 21 January, 1945 on board the USS Tazewell, APA 209.