More Eniwetok

8-8-16

The following are a couple more snippets from the one-month-anchorage (August 1944):

While at anchorage, I had to pull duty on one of the Higgins boats.  I was the bow man, and we had to make a trip to the battleship Indiana to pick up a passenger.  The lagoon was choppy and as we came alongside the starboard gangway, the Coxswain was having trouble coming alongside; we tried 2 more passes, but we could not get close for me to grab the lines.  The Captain happened to be standing on the quarter deck watching us.  He finally  yelled down for us to stay where we were and he would up anchor and bring his ship alongside us.  We were looking for a place to hide, because several hundred people were watching us.  (Frank Studenski)

Being parked in the lagoons was kind of dreary and dull and boring.  Depending on which one you were in, they would send you ashore.  They had a limit – only so many guys at a time from each of the ships.  So what they’d do is give you two warm cans of beer and send you on the island.  But these guys got together – they’d carry a green tablecloth like you’d find in a gambling casino and they set up either a crap game or a card game . . . they had some real games going too.  (George Pitts)

And, later in  the War . . .

We got a chance to swim once in a while when we were anchored in the lagoons.  The Boston was out there for a long time.  Twenty nine months of fighting.  A lot of guys came out and went back  –  they got some relief.  We didn’t.  We were vital to the Navy’s strategy.  After a while we were so homesick and so . . . psycho . . . I guess ‘difficult to get along with’ would be a good way to describe us.  The Admiral put out a warning to the other ships while we were in the lagoons to stay clear of the Boston’s crew when we were on an island.  Really!  It was an order!  And we had to be careful on the lagoons ’cause we were getting into fights all the time with guys from the other ships.   (Pat Fedele)

Lagoon liberty was nothing more than a beer party.  They’d give you two cans of beer and a sandwich.  Sometimes four cans of beer and two sandwiches. There came a time, at one point, where they wouldn’t let us go ashore to the same beach as all the other sailors from the other ships.  Both us and the guys from the New Jersey had to go to our own beach.  We were considered ‘Asiatic’  –  out there too long . . .  trouble.

In one of the lagoons, the Wasp was out there on liberty.  They had beer left over at the end of their liberty and they buried it in the sand.  Some of our guys saw what they were doing.  Our guys went ashore and drank all the beer that they hid.  They knew it was us;  we were the only other ship to come ashore there.  We always had fights after that – the Wasp and the Boston.  We drank their beer – the stuff they were saving for next day.  (John Farkas)

 

 

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August 1944

7-31-16

July 31, 1944:   We are continuing course back to Eniwetok, all our fresh meat and vegetables are almost gone.  We are eating Spam almost two or three times a week, powdered eggs and dehydrated vegetables.  It will be good to eat fresh fruit again.

August 1, 1944:  Today we anchored in Eniwetok Lagoon.  I am looking forward to getting my feet in some sand.   (Frank Studenski)

The ship anchored in Eniwetok for the entire month, weighing anchor on August 30 [at which time TF58 became TF38 – under command of Wm Halsey] [note: last blog I said they arrived in Eniwetok on Aug 6  . . .  my bad].  The ship and crew were not idle for the entire month, spending most days practicing firing and fleet maneuvers.  There was some down time, however:

swim1

swim2

They let us go swimming in the lagoons.  I dove off the ship once  –  I got stuck in a really strong current;  it dragged me down and away from the ship.  There I was struggling like hell to get back and the guys in the whaleboat saw me struggling so they held out an oar and helped me back towards the ship. You get caught in one of those undertows  –  bad news.  I never swam off the ship again after that.  (John Farkas)

One day while we were at anchorage in Eniwetok I had liberty and went walking along the beach on the lagoon side and I came across a waterlogged paper box.  I turned it over and to my surprise it was a kotex box.  I could not believe it  –  what was this box doing in the lagoon so far away from civilization?  I dried it in the sun and took it back to the ship and showed it to some people who offered to buy it.  (Frank Studenski)

 

 

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Operation Forager

7-10-16

The Task Force (TF58) left the anchorage at Majuro (Marshall Islands) on 6/6/44, beginning operations to take the Mariana Islands from Japan.  They focused on Guam, Tinian and Saipan, bombarding strategic targets and supporting the landings.  By mid June, the activities of the American ships triggered a defensive plan that pitted the bulk of the IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) in a defensive counter-strike against the Task Force that culminated on June 19 in the “First Battle of the Philippine Sea,” aka “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

After spending 4 days in anchorage at Eniwetok (Marshall Islands), Boston, a unit of Task Group 58.1 departed for the Bonin Islands.  Japan was using Iwo, Chichi and Haha Jima to send planes and reinforcements to Guam, Tinian and Saipan. On July 3, TG58.1 and TG58.2 launched massive airstrikes against the Bonins, damaging and sinking transport ships and planes on the ground. (Two months later, George H Bush, an Avenger pilot on the San Jacinto, was shot down over Chichi Jima.) From July 6 to July 21, Boston’s task group pounded Guam with airstrike after airstrike, supporting the landing that day (and for 20 more days of bombing.)  The men saw plenty of action and plenty of manning their battlestations (General Quarters) until they left the area on Aug 6, arriving at Eniwetok for an extended anchorage.

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The Temple Bell revisited

6-24-16

Vol. 3 of Baked Beans has a section near the back about the Japanese Temple Bell.  I’ve seen it in the Emerald Necklace string of parks in Boston  –  it is in the Back Bay Fens, right across the street from the back of the Museum of Fine Arts.  It is a beautiful bell, whose nearly half a millenium  history includes escaping meltdown by the IJN to be used for artillery casings, a boat ride to San Francisco, a train ride to Boston, being on display for years in the Common / Public Gardens, and a late night roll down back streets in Boston by thieves wanting to sell it for scrap.

I had lots of great stuff about the bell when the Baked Beans books were published, but I was missing a critical piece.  There were newspaper accounts of the bell’s journey by train en route to being presented to the city on behalf of the crew of the USS Boston (by her former skipper, Capt. M.R. Kelley [no relation].  There was collaboration by plankowners Bob Knight and Pat Fedele that the bell had been lowered into the “gooney bird” hangar in the rear of the ship.  But there was no “proof”.

As I mentioned in my last post, Robin Tougas and his brothers had exactly what the doctor ordered.  It was in among dozens of pictures in a trunk of their dad’s Navy stuff (Roland Tougas) and I spotted it when Robin posted a bunch of pictures of his dad on the CA-69 Facebook page.

Salvaged Temple Bell being lowered into the fantail hangar deck CA-69 Boston

Salvaged Temple Bell being lowered into the fantail hangar deck CA-69 Boston

When I first got the picture from Robin, I reached out to our friend Lola Heiler at the Emerald Conservancy.  She responded, after she caught her breath, by forwarding these pictures of the installation of the restored Temple Bell (the email thread includes Rika Smith McNally (the bell’s restorer) and Paul Craeger (documentary director about the Temple Bell(s) journey to America).  I have the email originator’s [Rika McNally] permission to share the photos.  (Permission from Robin and his brothers as well.)

The restored bell (after it was recovered by Boston Police on it’s way to a scrap yard) was installed in its current location on Nov. 15, 2006.

install2

Fumiko, who translated all the writing on the outside of the bell, checks for any writing inside before it is fixed into position.

Fumiko, who translated all the writing on the outside of the bell, checks for any writing inside before it is fixed into position.

Here are a few links you might find interesting: emeraldnecklace.org and resonancefilm.com

peace

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Random stuff

6-4-16

Too young to retire . . . to old to . . . whatever.  So the writing of books about the Boston, and my participation in this blog, and the other Kellys (Bill and Lisa  –  who put a lot of behind-the-scenes energy into the websites)  –  for us, this is all a labor of love.  For us, as I’m sure for all of our readers, we are engaged in the day-to-day activities of our lives first.  The Boston stuff, while important, is second (or third, or fourth, or . . .)

I have these ideas and plans and projects, which may line up and get done, at some time or other, in some order or other:

Book revisions:  New facts, new pictures, new documents have unfolded to me over the last several years, and basically, each book could have a couple of additions.  My first book, A Bird’s Eye View, was created as a giant MS Word file – my all-time most hated software.  I have never been happy with the formatting – especially the photos –   and someday I hope to redo it.  The book is 99%  accurate, but I did make a couple of assumptions about the ship’s location that proved to be incorrect.

Other books:  Currently back-burnered but part-way finished:  a book about the six months of hell starting with the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and ending with Typhoon Cobra.  CA-69 is portrayed as a unit of Task Force 58  –  one capital ship in a force of 100 battle ships.  Wish list: a fourth Baked Beans just about the ship and crew’s role in Occupation Duty.  The Occupation of Japan was a gigantic bit of legal, structural, economic and military organization carried out immediately after the signing of the surrender documents.  I would have to do a boatload of research to do this book justice.     I want to . . .  but it moves to the furthest burner back on the stove.

Website(s):  Behind the scenes maintenance and security of just this one web/blog site is challenging enough. The Kellys are talking about and kinda planning and kinda starting a website about Task Force 58/38.  At any given time during the Central Pacific War, there were about 100 warships divided into (usually) four task groups.  While there were “core” ships in the TFs (Boston being one of the “constant” heavy cruisers), ships were moved around the Pacific like chess pieces.  Ships drifted in and out of the task groups based on operational needs  –  so there are ‘fluid’ ships in and out throughout the War. Point is – there were more than 100 ships and there were more than 100,000 sailors in the TFs at any given time.  To do such a website, we would have to approach this incrementally and have modest expectations.  The potential is there for this to quickly become too much for the Kellys to manage.

Other Things: There are several other things I’d like to do about the Boston, but if I list them, I’ll just get tired and feel like I should be doing more!  But, Pictures: I always encourage folks to get in touch with us and send pictures.  Every now and then I choke a leprechaun and hit the jackpot.  The most spectacular jackpot was when Bernie Oster’s (ship photographer assigned to the Captain) son, Dirk, reached out to me.  He had this stack of pictures . . . might I be interested in seeing them?  Many of his photos grace the pages of Baked Beans Vol 2 and 3.  Invaluable, to say the least.  So a couple of days ago, one of our Facebook page members (Robin Tougas, son of Roland Tougas, and one of my father’s pals) posted a series of pictures on the Facebook page. I took a quick look and was stunned by one of them. After a couple of emails, Robin sent me a higher resolution scan.  It is a picture of the Japanese Temple Bell, confiscated and salvaged from a giant scrap pile at the Yokosuka Naval Base by the officers of the Boston  –  being lowered into the hold on the back of the ship.  Three things will come of this:  1. I’ll post it to this site soon(ish), 2. I’ll force myself to go to the National Archives (help me, Bill!!!) and retrieve more photos (which will include the official Bell photos, I am sure), 3. I’ll have to revise the Baked Beans Books after all.

 

p.s.  I just re-read this post.  Let me clarify:  there were about one hundred warships in Task Force 58 and Task Force 38 at any given time.  It is not accurate to say there were 100 warships in the Pacific at any given time  –  there were thousands and there were scores of Task Forces and Fleets across the length and breadth of the Pacific.  The most notable:  The Third and Fifth Fleet (Task Force 38 and 58) and The Seventh Fleet (aka as MacArthur’s Navy.)

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