Saturday, March 30, 2013

Military Service Diary of Richard Andrew Steele, Sr.


This is the diary of my father, Richard Andrew Steele, Sr. (1913-1995). It chronicles his service during World War II as a Boatswains Mate, First Class.  Most of his service was spent aboard LST 899.  It begins November 14, 1944 and ends January 5, 1946.

The book itself measures 8”x 5”, is bound in khaki green cloth.  The front page has a printed number 50174 and reads “Manufactured by U.S. Government Printing Office”.
The pages are lined and are not numbered.  The pages of the entire book have been cut diagonally at the upper corners. His words were written with a fountain pen.

Inside Front Cover:  In case of anything happening to me – please forward this to my wife – Mrs. R.A. Steele, 9 Kernwood Ext., Beverly, Mass.

I will transcribe this just as it has been written.

Sandra Steele DeFord. March 26, 2013

The Journey to the Pacific Begins

The crew of 105 men and 7 officers was formed at Camp Bradford, Va. (Norfolk) Nov, 14? 1944.  We underwent extensive training as a unit for two weeks – on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 28th 1944 we left Little Creek, Va. on the LST 985 for a two weeks training cruise.  We went to Baltimore, Md. and cruised in adjacent waters for two weeks.

Upon return to Bradford we went to Pittsburg, Penna. on Sunday Dec 12, 1944 to pick up our new LST 899.  At Pitts we stayed 11 days at Carnegie Tech awaiting the completion and commissioning of the ship. (Ethel came back with me after I had two days at home and stayed 5 days with me).  We were happy just to be together – she attended the commissioning exercises held on a gloomy, frigid snowy day Dec. 23, 1944 at Dravo Shipyards, Neville Island, Pa.

We pulled out into the Ohio River at noon of that day and headed down river for New Orleans, La.  That was the last time I saw Ethel – waving goodbye from the dock (God knows I miss her).  I’m writing this March 9, 1945 and will be in Pearl Harbor in two days.

The trip down-river was gloomy – icy – wet – went thru about 60 locks in the Ohio and handled icy lines all the way – a tough trip – ship covered with ice.  The Miss. River proved smoother, muddier but no locks to contend with – we arrived at New Orleans on Dec. 31, 1944 and the next day, Jan 1st 1945 we were fully commissioned and our Capt Thornton officially took command.  That was the day he said “Let this be known as a happy ship.”

We got supplies, ammunition & fuel at New Orleans and I had some excellent liberties there – a very quaint, interesting city.

About Jan 10, 1945 we left for Mobile, Ala. where we dry-docked for 8 hours and I went into Mobile for mail and sent Judy picture post cards of Mobile.

Leaving Mobile at 7 P.M. that evening – unbeknownst to our Capt. we had a drunken pilot aboard.  Our Capt. Saved the ship from ramming a dredge in mid stream by putting all engines “full astern” and having me let go the “stern anchor” – we stopped inches from the dredge – got a new – sober pilot aboard and made the Gulf of Mexico in early A.M.

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