Monday, April 1, 2013

War Diary - Post Two - The Panama Canal

We arrived at Panama City, Florida about Jan 15, 1945 and commenced our 16 day “shakedown”.  It was a tough go.  We beached daily, towed other ships, re-fueled at sea.  Fired all guns many times – had night maneuvers, mooring and innumerable inspections.  About Jan 29th we had an official final inspection – we passed with excellent marks – the best record on any LST for 6 months – our fire drills, fire & rescue, mooring to dock, to 9 mooring buoy, towing and re-fueling at sea were done in record time.  We had maneuvers with the army during this time.  We met a bunch of “ducks” amphibious trucks – at sea (5 miles) at midnight.  They came aboard via our bow doors and at 4:30 AM left the same way and rendezvoused and a beaching at dawn and we beached with 8 other LST’s an hour later.

After shakedown we proceeded back to New Orleans La.  We were there about 1 week in which we had various alterations and repairs to the ship at Todd-Johnson Shipyards in Algiers, La.  I had several pleasant liberties in New Orleans again.  Called Ethel one day from there – very nice to hear her voice and Andy’s – but not so good to hear her cry.

Left New Orleans Feb. 6 1945 for the last time and went to Mobile, Ala. Again for dry-dock.  We had a broken part-screw that was replaced.  As mail clerk I once again got ashore – no mail though.

On Feb. 7, 1945 we headed out of Mobile Bay into the Gulf of Mexico on a course about due south for Panama, C.A.  We had a good 6-day run – fair weather and moderate seas – it got real warm as we got to the lower latitudes and on Feb. 13th, 1945 we arrived at 2 P.M. at Coco Solo, Canal Zone, Panama.  I went immediately for mail on the bas and got two bags for the crew – everybody happy.  That night I was assigned to Shore Patrol duty in Cristobal, and had a very interesting evening.  The natives were celebrating a 4-day holiday Fiesta and were on the final night – everyone drunk and raising hell.

Next day I had a swim in a beautiful palm tree-ringed pool- water temp about 80 degrees- sun terrific – have a swell tan.

Feb. 16, 1945:  We started thru the Panama Canal – a hot, clear day – the canal was very interesting – a great feat of engineering – a series of locks raises the level 84 feet and drops down again to the Pacific side at Balboa.  We passed thru a series of fresh water inland lakes – Miraflores Lake where we flushed out all the fire hoses and mains.  The Culebra Cut was some job and dredging as a continual operation.  We had a crew of “Spics” handle the lines going thru so we enjoyed the scenery.  We hit Balboa and the Pacific at dusk and headed south until we reached 300 miles north of the equator – very hot.  Crew all stripped, some got burns – I got a swell tan and feel great.  The heat below decks is wicked; damp and stifling.  It makes sleeping difficult.  We had a fairly good trip up the coast of Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, lower California up to San Diego in 13 days.  At San Diego we were diverted and went on to San Pedro, where we arrived at 10:27 P.M. Feb. 27, 1845. (Los Angeles Harbor)

Next day I went ashore via small boat (LCVP) for mail.  Went across San Pedro to Terminal Island to Naval Base but found no mail for us.  That night I had liberty from 5:30 P.M. to 7:30 A.M.  I went via street car to Los Angeles – about 30 miles – I bought some cards, sent them home and went on to Hollywood via street car.  Got off at Sunset Blvd. & Vine St., walked down to Hollywood and Vine St. to the famous Hollywood canteen.  It was swell.  Ted Lewis and his band were playing – free seats & pretty gals to dance and to talk all free.  I left there and made a voice recording that I sent home and than headed back to L.A. thence to San Pedro and the ship.

 A letter to Judy, his 5 year old daughter

Next day I got 8 sacks of mail that was forwarded from San Diego and was I busy!  An Hour later we pulled out of San Pedro past the Wilmington breakwater and headed west for Hawaii at 6 P.M. March 1st 1945 – Oh yes – I called Ethel at 12:30 AM from L.A. (it was 4:30 AM at home - she evidently had a good connection but I didn’t.  As for me it was another unsatisfactory long distance call – she was upset.

On Friday Mar 2, 1945 – one day out of San Pedro headed for Hawaii, Pearl Harbor it started to get rough and San & Sun & Mon it was very rough – rain, high seas and winds.  The ship rolled heavily. We got a 20 degree roll at times – many were sick – I was OK.  Tuesday the 6th the lookouts were lax and missed a plane.  We had G.O. and caught hell from the skipper.  Wed the 7th he put us on 4 hours on watch and 4 hours off and made us turn-to on ships’ work too.  The crew is very resentful and trouble is brewing.  Thurs- March 8, 1944 [1945] – an enemy plane & ship reported sunk 100 miles north of us – another enemy supply ship sighted – all evidence of subs operating in vicinity.

From Daddy to You - All My Love

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