VIA AIRMAIL RUDOLPH ELIE JR .WAR CORR NO 119 (6 August, 1945)
ON BOARD APA 216, AT SEA (Delayed) - "This is a very interesting situation," said Captain Andrew Mack, Commodore of the convoy of which the Neshoba was the leader, as the heavy seas smacked into the bow of the ship and the 65-mile wind drove the spray into our eyes, "The question is, where is the typhoon?"
As a matter of fact, the question in my mind was where was the convoy. Our ship was riding the increasingly heavy seas very well. I’ve had to hold on to take a step, we would aim our forks at our mouths and hit thin air, and things were in general awkward. But of the original 74 ships in the convoy I could only see a dozen LSTs off to starboard, lurching up out of the seas, poising for a moment, and disappearing below the enormous, spindrift-topped rollers. Sometimes it didn't seem that they’d ever come up into sight again. Meanwhile the tiny LSMs, the tugs and the freighters had vanished entirely into the dismal grey dark overcast which shrouded the horizon.
"Well, I'll tell you," said the commodore in response to my question, "this is what happened. When we left Okinawa the best reports on the weather was that a tropical typhoon-they 're very common in these waters between May and September-had developed somewhere off Saipan and was moving due West. If this were true, we would pass each other 100 miles apart. It would be rough and stormy, but not especially dangerous to our small ships. We hadn't logged more than a hundred miles, however, when new reports indicated the typhoon had reversed itself completely. This meant we and it were going to meet and cross. All right. One thing to do. Turn around and head back.
"Now you don't turn a convoy like this around on a dime," the commodore went on. "First thing you know you are like alphabets on a soup. It takes a lot of sea room and a lot of time. And already the seas were so heavy we kept getting urgent messages from the Mickey Mouses (as he called the LSMs) to ease off on our course because the ships were taking water over the bow. So little by little we made a wide turn and finally we were headed back. The typhoon would now pass a hundred miles to Eastward. Now according to Hoyle everything was all right. But," the commodore said, as we both steadied ourselves for c. very steep pitch, "typhoons don't always play according to Hoyle."
(It was easy to see, as the Commodore talked, that his love for the sea was no short-term infatuation. He's the fourth generation of Navy men in his family-one of the original families in Londonderry-and even his father in law, is a retired Navy man, Adm. Reginald Belknap, of North Sea mine barrage fame. Both his sons are in the Navy, too: Robert is an Ensign on the Cruiser Astoria, John an Aviation Cadet. And all the-while he talked he moved quickly about, pointing at charts, fingering messages, whisking specks from his navigating dividers, completely absorbed in his task of outwitting the seas).
"So there we are," he went on, "perfectly safe, you might say, but there was something fishy. The wind wasn't right. It didn't jibe with the reports and it didn't jibe with our experience of the sea. So I sat down and thought about it and I said to myself, we're going the wrong way. We're heading for real trouble, now. That cussed typhoon hadn't reversed itself, it had made a complete turn and had shot off at right angles to its original course and was now headed north, straight for us; everything pointed to it. So I told my vice commodores, Capt, D. H, Johnson, commander of the LSTs group, and Comdr. R. H. Graft, commander of the LSM group what I thought over the radio, and asked for their comment. They said they'd been thinking the same thing. And at that time we were in a very bad spot to ride out a typhoon as we couldn't maneuver north if it caught up with us because of enemy-hold islands and so on,
"So I ordered the convoy to come about and head east again, knowing we'd have a rough ride for a while but believing we'd miss the worst of the wind. So now we're in the worst of it if my guess is right-and while the wind may go up another ten knots in the next few hours (it did) the sea'll be a mill pond two days from now (it was)."
“But where,” I said, “are those little ships?” “Oh,” he said. "Well, last night when we were turning around they just couldn't take it. They asked to reduce speed another half knot. I said all right. But when they did, some of them wouldn't respond to the wheel, and there were ships all over the ocean. So I gave each group a new course and told them to shave off, keeping contact and rejoining us when they could. They are all out there now, doing fine. "What bothers me now," he continued, completely unconcerned by the violent shuddering of the ship or the tremendous savagery of the waves sweeping our decks from time to time, "is this; did that typhoon split in two, one section going behind us, the other going ahead? No, he said, bending over his charts and messages and forgetting everything else, "I don't fancy it did."
(I met him a couple of days later after I had gone out on deck to see the great convoy as neatly arrayed in its original position as it had been the day we sailed. I asked him if he had counted noses and found all present. "Yes," he said, "ail here but the two tows. They're catching up now. Funny thing. The Hadley (the wrecked destroyer under tow) and her tug came through the typhoon without parting a line. I don't think she could have survived if they'd lost that line. But this calm morning it did part. Oh, that reminds me, I must write a letter about that LST. She lost her tow and secured a new one right in the middle of it. A most remarkable feat of seamanship. Let's see, that was the LST 517 and the tug 267. I must write a letter this minute to their commanders. A very extraordinary feat."
It probably didn't occur to him, his own was pretty extraordinary, but to us, who got enough of the general idea of a typhoon to explain their reputation, it did.