213 2ND VOYAGE
Those of us who didn't get to see our families while we were in San Francisco at least talked with our homes by long distance telephone. We had so much to tell and so many things to ask about that the hours seemed like minutes and days like hours. On June 12th we shifted to Dock No. 2 in Oakland's outer harbor and, since this move indicated to us that soon. we would be underway, we tried with renewed vigor to make the most of every moment of liberty. On the 16th we loaded 80 officers and 1391 enlisted men and made all the necessary preparations for the new voyage. That night each officer and man celebrated his last liberty as fancy dictated; the always difficult farewells were said, and we returned to the ship on the following morning, weary after a sleepless night of celebrating or "mourning," as the case might be.
Casting off our lines at 1414 we steamed slowly down the bay standing at the rails and memorizing every detail of San Francisco's skyline. As we passed under the span of the Golden Gate Bridge we cast pennies into the waters in conformance with the tradition that these offerings to the sea would be accepted by Neptune as insurance for a safe and speedy return. Our bow lifted to meet the first swell and we were officially on our way to Leyte. The first leg of our trip took us North of the Hawaiian Islands and close to Midway. From there we steered sharply to the South. Nine days out of the states we crossed the International Date Line and to celebrate the event all hands, passengers and crew, gathered topsides. The Golden Dragon flag was unfuried from the foremast while Neptune and his royal retinue opened court on number two hatch. It should be noted that ladies of the court were all stunning creatures, full bosomed, and with a gay lascivious charm about them, although, a few of the less discreet observers did call attention to the fact that the queen could stand a shave.
The first to be initiated were six Lieutenant Colonels, who, we were surprised to find, looked little different than the more common breeds of homo sapiens when they had been stripped to their shorts. The charges and accusations were solemnly recited and each Colonel was found guilty on all charges regardless of his plea. In turn each had his head clipped of all hair (that is those did who had some) and their bodies were given a bright new lustre with a fine grade of bunker oil, then all were unceremoniously dumped into a large coffin, filled to the brim with salt water. Spluttering and cursing they were carried to an operating table that had an exposed copper plate for them to rest their weary posteriors upon. A small but provocative charge of electricity was sent crackling through their bodies which seemed to immediately bring back their lost youth and make them frisky as ten year olds. Colonel and Yard-Bird received the same fair, impartial treatment although some of us did give special attention to a couple of gorgeous 2nd lieutenants. Tortured and torturers alike had a whale of a time (we like to believe) and the gruesome festivities lasted until the evening meal.
Four days later we dropped anchor in Berth I in the lagoon of Eniwetok, We remained there a couple of days and on July 1st sortied through the coral-bound entrance and continued to the Westward, arriving without incident in Ulithi on July 5th. We remained here overnight leaving at noon of the following day.
The heat and humidity again had swept their oppressive cloaks about us so we were uniformly happy to sight cooler rain drenched mountains of Leyte on the morning of the 9th. We anchored in San Pedro Bay which is the Port for Tacloban, provincial capital of the Island, and where General MacArthur landed his first assault troops for the reconquest of the Philippines. The next day we debarked 1023 officers and men on a beach that still showed the ravages of war.
Our boats returned to the ship and we left the next day on our way to the Capital of the Philippine Commonwealth, Manila. We passed Southward along the broken shoreline of Leyte, past the Islands of Cabugan, Chico and Cabugan Grande, and then turned to starboard into the Surigao Straits with the rolling hills of Mindanao close at hand to the South, We slid rapidly through the Mindanao Sea and rounding the Southern tip of Los Negros Island, headed North through the Sulu Sea. At no time were we out of sight of land. We saw in turn the shorelines of Panay and Mindoro and often changed our course to avoid one of the small, jutting, jungle covered pieces of land which go to make up this 6000 island archipelago.
On the morning of July 12th we passed through the narrow entrance of Manila Bay. To the North we saw the hallowed ground of the Bataan Peninsula, a misty halo of clouds ringing its towering mountain peaks. Within a half mile of our port beam was the rocky, barren fortress of Corregidor with its topside blasted and torn by thousands of tons of cordite and steel. Near the Eastern shore of the huge yellow bay was a forest of masts, while shimmering on the sun drenched plain behind we could see the City of Manila, bedraggled "Paris of the Orient."
We weaved our way across to the anchorage, avoiding native lateen rigged sailing boats and the sunken hulls of dozens of Japanese war and merchant ships. Our carrier aircraft had, some months previously, made this shallow, muddy bay the grave for over three hundred Nip vessels. In places their fire and bomb torn decks and superstructures were visible as they lay rotting and rusting in the shallow water.
We anchored about four miles from shore to await our turn to discharge. On the 16th we moved alongside pier 13 and all hands went ashore on liberty. We soon discovered that Manila was no longer anything, but a caricature of a city, a Memorial to the destruction of modern war. Flame. steel and high explosives had glitted every structure of any size; the jagged skyline presented a pitiable and terrifying scene of destruction. Our liberty boats took us up the Passig River which is a heavily traffic waterway that roughly divides Manila in two. On the Northern shore near the waterfront, were the slums teeming with tens of thousands of ragged Filippinos and a scattering of Chinese, each trying to resume their normal lives. This was the least damaged area of any we saw. Farther inland on the same side of the river is the business district which the Japanese fought for from every corner, alleyway and rooftop. Only the unleashed fury of our artillery and flame throwers had been able to blast and burn them out. On the right bank of the river were the shattered structures of the government buildings , the ancient walled city, and farther back, the residential and apartment house areas where a hierarchy of Jap officialdom had lived like the Oriental despots they were. As we stepped ashore we were astounded by the numerous bars, bistros, and gaudy night clubs that enterprising natives had built out of rubble and palm fronds. ' These establishments with victrolas blaring mid-thirties jazz were everywhere. "Mary's Joint," "The Golden Slipper," "Pedro's
Greasy Spoon," and "Dirty Girties,' were typical of the tin wallboard signs that beckoned the G.I. and sailor to come inside and try poisonous cocktails made of wood alcohol, or a full course meal featuring "real beef steak," (which the old timers recognized at once as being water buffalo) smelly eggs, and in addition, with the compliments of the house, you could at any time get a side order of amoebic dysentery. On the muddy streets urchins were selling genuine Manila-manufactured Jap flags for ten pesos or five dollars American. Nipponese invasion currency of every denomination was the stock in trade of each peddler. However, don't get the impression that the population as a whole were trying to fleece their American cousins, most were far too busy trying to clean up and rebuild this city that they had always been so proud of and which they still loved with a fierce pride.
We visited the walled city which was where the Japs, who had been; trapped in Manila, had made their final bloody stand. It is the most ancient section of the city, and is an area about a mile and a half square enclosed by a huge wall of stone and earth that in places is thirty feet thick. Inside there had originally been numerous churches, schools, and homes, but what we saw looked like a scene from the seventh ring of hell as described in Dante's "Inferno." For days artillery fire had swept every square foot of ground, probing with the relentlessness of doom for the entrenched Japs. Very few slant eyed Sons of Heaven lived through this murderous barrage to surrender, and many who did, were babbling pieces of shell schocked flesh little resembling men. We left this scene of destruction and continued our sightseeing along the once fashionable Dewey Boulevard which now carried a constant stream of every imaginable type of Army vehicle.
Battle weary troops were being returned to the city from the fierce fighting that still raged in the Northern mountains while fresh units were being moved out on their way to the front lines. Huge supply dumps and staging areas were being set up for another major operation. We also passed other camps, covering acres of muddy swampland, in which had been deposited the shattered wreckage of thousands of Japanese aircraft of every size and description.
We visited Santo Tomas University which the Army had converted to a modern military hospital with hundreds of tents pitched around the main buildings to accommodate the recuperating patients. The Monkey Men had used it for the much less humanitarian purpose of incarcerating the hundreds of allied civilians who had been trapped in the Islands at the outbreak of the war. Bilibid prison with its forbidding stone walls and barred porticos was now the cage for Japanese prisoners of war who observed all the niceties of military conduct by religiously saluting us as we walked through its guarded yards. We ignored the salutes of me who had been responsible for the Death March from Bataan and whose brothers in arms had nearly taken our lives on April 2nd off Kerama Retto.
Our sightseeing was abruptly halted on July 19th when we set sail for our return to the United States. Our order were, to hurry back to the States, pick up a load and return to Manila where we would be assigned to a combat squadron to go into training for a new operation that was being secretly planned. This hush, hush attack, we now know, would have carried us to an amphibious assault on the Jap's home Island of Kyushu. From the bay entrance we turned South into the Sulu Sea, this time our route to the Pacific through the Island barriers took us by way of the Straits of San Bernardine. I was through this passage that the shattered remnants of proud Jap naval force had fled after our old battleships many of them being the vessels that had been salvaged since December 7th from the mud and slime of Pearl Harbor, had destroyed the greater portion, a major portion of their fleet
We, as the fleeting Japs had done, passed through the Strait at night, feeling and groping our way with radar and the skill of our skipper guiding us. At dawn we traveled through the last few miles of the narrow passage bounded by Luzonand Samar, then with a pitch and roll settled on a eastern course through the Pacific.
Seven uneventful days later we refueled at Eniwetok and impatiently got underway again. We polished and painted the ship so that we would be presentable in San Francisco and the Captain inspected the results of our efforts the day before we arrived. It was after dark on the night of August 5th that we saw the beckoning light of the city of Saint Francis shining through the narrow straits that have watched millions like us sail out of and return through from the war.
We were home again. LIBERTY COMMENCED AT 2100