World War II in the Pacific
Stories of Some Who Were There
Only thru "internet luck" did I find your webpage that helped me learn of my late, Dad's,
WW2 involvement. He was a turret gunner with VT-88 part of Air Group 88,
flying missions off the coast of Japan from the USS YORKTOWN, CV-10 during
July-October 1945. William K. Ream, AMM3/c along with Robert G. Harrison, ARM2/c and
the late Lt. H. Deane Hoyt as the pilot in the TBM-3 Avenger. Mr. Harrison is
alive & doing well and has provided me with much detail about my Dad's
missions to include a copy of his Aviators Flight Log Book.
Referencing your page; http://www.ww2pacific.com/japbb.html, the Japanese
Battleship NAGATO was sunk on 7/18/45 and the Light Cruiser Oyodo was sunk on
July 28. I thought you might be interested in Mr. Harrison's log entry for those
(1) 3rd Strike, July 18, 1945. Strike made against battleship Nagoto at
Yokosuka Naval Base, Tokyo Bay, Japan. Was my (20th) birthday and received the
best present ever-a direct hit on the battlewagon with our 1000 lb. bomb, five
hits with 1000 lb. bombs were made by torpedo squad 88.....As a result of our
direct hit on the Nagato, we were transported to the Battleship Iowa by
destroyer to make a broadcast and statement...
Lt. Hoyt earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts that day.
(2) 6th Strike, July 28, 1945. Went back to Kure to pound that Jap fleet.
Carried four 500 lb. general purpose bombs and dropped on Jap cruiser Oyoda
(which was reported sunk by afternoon strike). The anti-aircraft fire was
intense. Anti aircraft fragment from five inch gun caught us in the engine. We
smoked badly and were losing oil quite rapidly. Had to fly all the way across
Shikaku (40 miles) with bad engine. My new nylon flight suit was oil from tip
to bottom. (Really sweat this mission out). We were the third hit in the
division. Jap fleet was rendered useless. Almost every ship was hit. Lost VB-88
Fenton and pilot who went down in flames.
Followup : January 20, 2004, the enlisted crewmen were awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and six Air Medals in memory for the missions flown as turret gunner and radioman almost 59 years ago!
Sinking of the army transport General Frank.
On Jan. 29, 1942 the Transport Gen. R. T. Frank was
sunk by a Japanese submarine, just north of Kohala, on the Island of Hawaii
-- in the chancel between Hawaii and Maui. The transport had been used prior
to the war to transport Army troops and dependants from Honolulu to Hilo for
R & R at KMC in the Volcano area. It was a small ship and the torpedo
demolished it . There were no survivors. I was a young boy on a sugar
plantation on Hawaii and heard the explosion.
COL.(Ret) JAMES W. CAMPBELL
29 January 1942 : Hawaiian Islands.
During the evening, the I-71 attacks a three ship convoy bound from Kahului, Maui for Hilo, Hawaii that includes the 622-ton Army transport GENERAL ROYAL T. FRANK carrying army recruits and the small freighter KALAE with a barge in tow. Both ships are being escorted by an old flush-deck destroyer. The I-71 torpedoes the FRANK. She explodes and sinks in 30 seconds in the Alenuihaha Channel about two miles W of Maui.
The sinking of the General Frank is also not mentioned in any of the naval records I checked. Possible reasons are (a) because she was so small , smaller than a corvette, gunboat or landing ship, and only a third the size of a destroyer or submarine, or (b) my sources are all Navy and do not include the Brigadier's boat-ship.
I am happy to add your story to the website because it again shows I-boats attacking transports and putting the lie that the ethical Japanese submarines only attacked warships. In fact, they were fairly inept and soon relegated to resupply of remote islands. Only a few of the best subs remained in the attack role and those few were effective.
More -- we just found there were survivors. Check back next week.
First Days of the War on Pyro I was glad to see my ship, Pyro (AE-1), that was at West Loch Ammunition
Depot. With tons of ammunition on board for the Nevada and on the dock we were
attacked buy four Jap planes. Three strafed us and one dropped a bomb that
penetrated the pier along side the ship by 14 feet. You can see further details
at Pyro. It must be noted here
that history neglects reporting this attack ! The Pyro was attacked by submarine four
days after departing Pearl Harbor. There was no cargo on board and the torpedo
passed under the bow. We fired our 4" 50 and with the flash of the gun they thought
they had hit us.
Pyro survived the war. She carried 3,600 tons of explosives,
one-third that of the atomic bomb.
Izard was Lucky I was a radioman 3rd class aboard the USS Izard (DD-589) just east of Taffy 3. In early
hours of the morning as were at Condition Baker with, I believe, two CVEs and
about six destroyers when I got a massage in plain language, "Where the hell is
Halsey?" As we were at Condition Baker, when off duty personnel could catch a shut eye,
General Quarters sounded. The Japanese battle force with the Yamato passed within
fifty miles of us and we didn't know it. Taffy Three wasn't so lucky as they meet them
head on and as history shows those destroyers fought a heroic battle and went down
in history as the Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors.
From our position, our CVE's pilots took off to help Taffy Three and Thank God that
Japanese Commander decided to turn back as my shipmates and I might not have been able to
give you these facts.
We on the Izard were the luckiest ship in the navy as we survived twenty three
operations with twelve battle stars. And lost only one man.
JB, over and out
Izard joined the war for the Gilberts, Nauru, Marshalls, Truk, and Mariannas campaigns, During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 19-20 June 1944, Izard was part of the screen for Hornet in the battle which broke the enemy's mighty naval air force,. She was lucky at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October where the enemy battle fleet was broken. At Iwo Jima, Feb 1945, she rendering fire support, screening, and radar picket duty. And ended the war in northern Japan, liberating POWs.
Monster Submarine In either September or November of '45 an I-400 sub stopped off at Guam. I guess to
refuel since other Japanese warships were stopping to refuel.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this monster passing by in the harbor.
Later on that day I went to see it after it tied up. I heard this Japanese officer
speaking English so I asked to come aboard. He said, OK, however do not go below
deck. Two or three of us walked around and I don't believe I'll ever forget seeing
the "bank vault" door on the sail, and the railroad tracks, and on the rear of the
sail, on the port side was a head. One would crawl into the head and squat on two
boards on either side of an opening and "do their business".
I was member of the 301st CB battalion. We were strung out to other locations such
as Saipan, Peleiu, Okinawa. etc. Our work was primarily dredging the harbor at Guam
as well as diving at other locations.
The I-400 's massive container was to secure three aircraft these supersubs were intended to carry, the railroad tracks were for moving the aircraft and extended into a lauching track. These underwater aircraft carriers were intended to attack the locks of the Panama Canal. As the Japanese position deteriorated after Guadalcanal, more and more Japanese submarines were stripped of arms and converted to transports ships for resuppying troops isolated on various islands that had been bypassed by the Marines.
The I-400 class subs were commissioned late in the war. The rails and large container were easily recognised as perfect for a supply sub and these monsterous war machines were converted to transport duty. The I-400 you saw, as with the others, was on its way to destruction by the USN. The Japanese thought big - capture the Pacific quarter fo the world ; build the Yamada class battlship of 64,000 tons vs. 45,000 Missouri ; the I-400 of 3,530 tons vs. 1,526 USS Baboa class submarine.
Real War After 60+years I'm a little more than PO'd. at the War time documentary's
that have been on TV and sold by TV networks. They clam they are going
to show us what it was like to be in a war. They may do a good job on the
ground troops, I don't know because I have no knowledge of that kind of
warfare, but life on a ship I know about. Every job on the ship was
important even if it was just a job standing by and knowing what to do
when you are called on. In 1944 I once stood by holding a sledge hammer
for 2 hours waiting for the order to hit the breakaway chain link that
would let the anchor chain drop to the bottom of Ulithi lagoon. It was
at Ulithi Atoll Nov. 20 1944. We thought a two man sub had gotten into
the anchorage because a tanker, the U.S.S. Mississinewa had been torpedoed
at daybreak. All the ships in the Lagoon were prepared to drop there
anchor chain so they could get underway without waiting to haul anchor
which would take up to a half hour and end up with a lot of mud in the
chain locker. In case we dropped the chain we attached a buoy to it so we
could locate it later. I got the "stand by" job because I spoke up when I
should have shut up. Everyone was having trouble pronouncing or spelling
the name Mississinewa. I was familiar with it because the Mississinewa was
a river that ran through my home town of Marion, Indiana. I believe it was
named by the Nation of Miami Indians It was the center of their lives
and the center of interest for all us boys growing up there. I offered
my expertise to the Boatswain's mate and as you know, a good deed never
goes unpunished. "Good." the Boatswain said, "You're the man to stand by with
this," and handed me a 12 Lb. sledge hammer. After 20 minutes he said I
could rest it on the deck, then in an hour he said I could sit on the
capstan, Later he said I could be relieved but I declined the offer. By
that time I had decided I would be proud to be in the chain of events
leading to our safety by getting us underway without delay. What did I
know? I had just turned 18 a few weeks before. After a few hours it
was decided there was no danger. The two-man sub had escaped.
later I find out, thanks to the computer and google, the U.S.S.Mississinewa
had been sunk by a Japanese secret weapon called the Kaiten. A suicide
torpedo with a one man guidance system in it. It was probably small
enough to go through the submarine net. There were 63 men lost that day.
Of all this tension and drama going on all over the ship and the
documentaries only show pictures of muzzle blast. Which is less than half
a second and they show mostly night time shots on cruisers and battle
wagons to get a larger, brighter flash. Have you ever seen men
handling the ammunition, or how those guns get loaded, who aims the gun
who orders it to fire? Where do they sleep, where do they eat? Hundreds
of times I have seen Quad 40's loaded and fired. There is something
about that scene they like in Hollywood where I am guessing most of the
documentaries are put together. I have never seen a 20MM loaded nor a 5''
loaded or even seen the inside of our 5'' twin gun mounts. You seldom see
a scene in a shipboard documentary that is longer than 3 seconds. The
average scene is 2 seconds and less. We have all seen the F6F that hits
the aft gun mount or the Island and broke in half behind the cockpit.
The pilot was OK, but did you see him get out of the plane and walk way?
I'm sure the camera man didn't say, "The excitement is over." then shut his
camera off. He probably followed the pilot until he was out of sight.
When the cameraman is shooting, he is trying to tell a story. I'm sure
every scene you see in a documentary was 5 to 20 seconds long when it
went into the archives. The film editor is the culprit. He pictures
himself as a director or film editor on a big Hollywood war film. To get
noticed he decides he will make this the most exciting war picture ever.
They were told in film school that to build excitement You make scenes
shorter and shorter. They figure "I'll just make all the scenes short
and have a really exciting movie." They don't know that people don't watch
a war documentary to be excited, they want to see what fighting a war
looks like. Outside of diving on an enemy ship that is throwing
everything they have at you, or if you are in a dog fight, Fighting the
enemy from the decks of an aircraft carrier has to be the most exciting
wartime experience there is. I don't need some dummy in an editing booth
using every trick he learned in film school to make it exciting for me. I
want to see what others were doing while I had my head down loading my AA
gun, thinking just one more round may be the one that knocks the Jap out
of the sky. The nearly 3,000 men were not put on the Essex to twiddle
there thumbs during a sea battle, I think they have the right and
expectation to have the public see that there job was important and in
many cases did save there ship. Cooks, bakers, laundry workers, barbers,
and yeomen all had there jobs during general quarters. Their main job
was fire fighting and damage control. The ship was our mother, father, and
brothers. I would like to see someone pull a lot of combat camera
film from the archives and make a realistic film about life on a warship.
Not unlike "The Fighting Lady" But a lot more realistic. In other words
not have the Captain shouting orders to the airdales on how to re-spot
the deck. "The Fighting Lady" was not a bad film it was just not very
informative. It was made to bolster confidence and patriotism at home.
In that respect it was an effective film. But could be improved on with
a little reality.
Jack Ormsby Essex Gun #4
Beginning January 1944, four Kaiten, manned torpedoes, were chained to the deck of special submarines and launched to enter harbors or to chase a ship while the sub escapes. Directed by its pilot, the waterline view was bad and few hit anything. But it was scary to US ships
to have an intelligent torpedo out there. The Mississinewa (AO-59) was one of the few casualties when four Kaiten were fired 20Nov'44 by I-47 to enter Ulithi lagoon.
The Japanese thought Kaitens were more successful than the were because any explosion was counted as a ship sunk,
when actually it may have been hit by gunfire or the pilot ran out of fuel and self detonated.
Mississinewa (AO-59) was a new Cimmerron class tanker that was loaded with
404,000 gallons of aviation gasoline and some fuel oil when attacked just about reveille. She exploded, burned and went down with 60 of her men, the first Kaiten causualty.
USS Essex (CV-9) was the first of a new class of 14 larger carriers that entered service in 1943 thru 1945. Essex earned 13 battle stars for World War II service and 4 more stars for Korea.
Ulithi in the Carolines was taken unopposed in September 1944 and became the final, advanced base for the Pacific Theater, October 1944--April 1945. Its large lagoon assembled the largest contingent of ships and sailors, thou
only in service for the final few months of the war.
"The Fighting Lady" is a 1944 documentary about a newly commissioned carrier going into battle. Unidentified because of wartime security, it is actually the Yorktown II (CV-10) shown with much
onboard and combat footage.
Your webmaster's pet peeve is that the movies are all about the glorious end to the war when we overwhelmed the enemy. The most telling part of the war was the beginning when a few career men and the remnants of
a depression era fleet had to stand up to a trained enemy with superior equipment and greater numbers.
Even Jack just told of the war as he saw it when 4,000,000 sailors participated and went home to write stories about it.
The few men of 1941-42 did not write much, one of the reasons is that they were few in number to start with [ USN 1938: 100,000 officers and men, a 40-fold increase ], and
fewer still after the combat that held the line while millions of men and thousands of new ships and high performance planes and magical electronic devices were introduced.
Jack died 01Nov'09 -- one of the many of the greatest generation.
Return to: WW2 Pacific Menu or to : Reader Stories About this page: true.html - Stories of some people who were there
in World War II.
Last updated on 7 Sept 2009.
Contact us at