VIA AIRMAIL FROM RUDOLPH ELIE JR WAR CORR NO 118 (6 August, 1945)
ON BOARD APA-216, AT SEA (Delayed) - It was clear from the beginning that our convoy was 1. unusually big, 2, unusually unwieldy, 3. unusually miscellaneous and 4. unusual. It was also clear-from the report of typhoon-that it would have to be unusually lucky to get through without serious trouble,
You could see it was going to be big from the time we lifted - anchor and led the procession out through the gate in the minefield. We had passed the night undisturbed in the harbor, the first night in weeks there had not been a Kamikaze attack there, and at dawn it seemed 'as if every ship in the harbor had upped anchor and was trailing along after us.
"Are those things going with us?" I asked of a young Ensign who was watching through his binoculars. By "things" I meant the little LSMs and tug boats, none of which seemed to be more than the size 'of a good dory. He said they were. I said I thought there was a typhoon coming. He said there was. "Hell," I said, a little alarmed, "do you mean that those rowboats can weather a typhoon?" 'We don't know," he said, "but it won't be long before we find out."
Even without glasses I counted 68 ships in the convoy (there were actually 74), LSTs, LSUs, Merchant Ships, Tugs, Freighters, Destroyers, Destroyer Escorts and Patrol Craft. Even the Hadley, a famous Destroyer which downed 25 Japanese planes before 60 of her men were killed and she was herself devastated by two of them, is with us. She's being lowed home, they say, so that people at home can see her and know (if the object lesson of the Empire State building crash didn't teach them), what a suicide plane can do. But there are other ships under tow too.
As they saw the weird conglomeration of ships forming up on either side the men and officers of the Neshoba groaned, and clapped their hands on their moist foreheads, "lay God," they said, "eight knots, (Nothing makes a Navy man madder than having to travel on the sea at about a third of his ship's cruising speed). But now-five days out-eight knots seems to them like a giddy speed. As the Commodore of the convoy. Captain Andrew Mack of Londonderry, N.H. put it, "with this brood of clucking chickens we've been lucky to make four." It seems there was a typhoon, and it put the Commodore and his convoy through the wringer before it got through.
Like the skipper, the Commodore has been put through many a wringer on the sea, so when he told his brood of chickens to line up and follow him, typhoon or no, they lined up and followed. The skippers of all these silly ships figured he must know what he was doing.
Captain Mack, who will be remembered in Boston as the operations officer who put on the big Army-Navy show in Boston in 1939-and who made his home on Adams Street, Belmont, during his three years of duty with Admiral Tarrant in the First Naval District-has had a good deal of experience with miscellaneous convoys,
It was he who accomplished the biggest lowing operation ever undertaken: the hauling of the largest floating drydock ever built-it can handle 100,000 tons of ship in any condition--across 6500 miles of open sea. It was he, too, who managed to beach the stricken cruiser Erie when she was torpedoed in the Caribbean. Nonetheless the typhoon gave him and those little ships a couple of pretty bad days. This was chiefly because nobody quite knew where it was or where it was going.
It was rough enough when we started. All the first day it got rougher. The sky to the east was as black as only a hurricane sky can get, and by dusk, when the ship's company went to general quarters in case of air attack it looked like a bad night. It cleared during the night somewhat, and the next day was bright, the wind steady from the southeast and the seas moderate. All the ships were right in place and everything looked fine. Then came the first direct report of-the typhoon, located by the weathermen in Guam. It was coming for us all right, but its course paralleled ours and it was about 100 miles south. If it behaved as 99 percent of tropical typhoons do behave in this area, it should curve north behind us, out across Okinawa and head for Japan.
By supper time of the second night, however, the seas were reaching 15 or 20 feet, and things were beginning to slide around on tables. On either side of us the LSTs, the LSMs (which seem to be the size of a swan boat but are actually 100 or so feet long), the tugs, the freighters began to holier. "We can't keep up," they said. "Request reduced speed." And from the Neshoba you could sea the little ships, their decks awash as the seas broke over them. Then came a new report from Fleet Weather, The typhoon had turned completely around and was going our way. Our paths would converge about a hundred miles ahead.