George Pitts – Iwo Jima 1

2-9-16

Readers of this website know that several years ago, as I worked on the Baked Beans books, I had the remarkable blessing of meeting, interviewing, and becoming friends with several original crewmembers (and one officer) – all in their late seventies / early eighties. It was fascinating!  You have seen me quote Frank Studenski’s diary on many occasions.  Frank was not the only one who kept notes and/or a diary!  Over the next many posts, I am going to share with you George Pitts’ diary entries, in his own hand, of the lead-up to Iwo Jima and the subsequent actions while the Boston helped support the Invasion. Enjoy!

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George Pitts, who sadly is no longer with us:

Pitts1 copy

George was a signalman, and knew my dad and was in the same division (CS).

steve

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More “Before Iwo Jima”

2-3-16

The Boston dropped anchor in the giant lagoon anchorage at Ulithi (Caroline Islands, south and west of Guam) on January 25.  The men rested and the ship was reprovisioned and rearmed over the next several days.  The Task Force changed again from TF 38 to T 58, with Admiral Halsey (aboard his flagship, the battleship New Jersey) relinquishing control for the next 6 months

(from Frank Studenski’s Diary:)  February 10, 1945:  This morning we weighed anchor and by early afternoon formed our task group.  We are Task Group 58.2, which includes carriers Lexington and Hancock, CVL [light carrier] San Jacinto, BB’s [battleships] Wisconsin and Missouri, CA’s [heavy cruisers] Boston and San Francisco, and 19 destroyers.

For the next six days, the Task Force sailed northwesterly from Ulithi.  Before reaching Iwo Jima, they would spend several days supporting the carriers as they launched wave after wave of bombers and fighter planes in attacks on plane manufacturing plants, airfields and ammo depots in the Tokyo area  –  hamstringing Japanese mainland air support as the U.S. landed invasion forces on Iwo Jima.

By the time the Boston joined into a bombardment group (Feb 21) to bombard Iwo Jima in support of the Marine invasion, it marked the third time she had visited the Bonin Islands in the previous year.

(from the Diary of George Pitts:) June 16-17-18 1944  Our planes hit Iwo Jima, ChiChi Jima and HaHa Jima for the last three days. 

(Also:) July 4-44  We celebrated the 4th of July with a bang with the japs paying for all expenses. Three or four cruiser divisions including ComCruDiv 10 in the Boston left the task group to bombard Iwo Jima.  We blew the hell out of them with our five inch.  Took care of bombers and fighters.  Our big eight inchers blew up shore installations.  We came in close enough to see the planes on the island. One of the cruisers lost her observation plane due to a Zero.

steve

 

 

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Before Iwo Jima

1-24-16

In early January 1945, the ships of Task Force 38 were not quite done with the Philippines yet.  They spent much of the early part of the month bombarding Formosa and other targets.  On Jan 9, the Task Force headed into the South China Sea.  Halsey believed the bulk of what was left of the IJ Navy was anchored near French Indo China (Vietnam). On the 11th, the Boston joined up with some ships from TG38.2, and formed a Bombardment Group consisting of: 2 battleships (New Jersey and Wisconsin), 2 heavy cruisers (Boston & Baltimore), 4 lights cruisers (Wilkes Barre, San Juan, Pasadena and Seattle), screened by 26 destroyers  –  all screening the carriers Enterprise, Lexington, Essex, Hancock and Independence.  The Japanese fleet was gone, but this group struck and shelled Saigon, Canton and HongKong, before returning to further attack Formosa.  This was all part of the lead-up to the Iwo Jima Invasion.

Frank Studenski’s account of January 21, 1945:  This morning planes took off to hit Formosa, so far everything has been pretty quiet.  About 0900 hours torpedo defense sounded, some bogies were reported in the area, we were at battle stations for about one hour.  Several planes were shot down during the day by our fighters.  Task Force 38.2 was the hardest hit, the Langley took a bomb hit on her flight deck and the Ticonderoga’s air defense was wiped out and her main battery put out of commission.  One destroyer was badly strafed.  Of the 17 planes that came in, 13 of them were shot down. About 1730 hours torpedo defense was again sounded, but no planes came in. We secured one hour later. During sunset torpedo defense planes were reported all around us.  But our night fighters kept them at a distance.  Around 2000 hours we had an alert, but everything was quiet soon after. A plane’s engine could be heard, which did not sound like a Hellcat fighter or Avenger bomber.  It flew right over us at low altitude and could be clearly seen.  It had two engines, which of course was a Jap plane, because we did not have any twin engine planes in the area.  After he flew over us he swooped down and dropped a fish, he was trying to hit the carrier Cabot.  We immediately opened fire.  We were the only ship firing.  He got over to our port quarter and then the five inch opened fire and then the 40mm batteries opened fire.  He was quickly hit and he was a ball of flames and hit the water.  The other ships started firing, but we had already hit him.  Several other bogies were reported in the area.  This plane was a twin engine “Irving.”  We secured from general quarters about 2100 hours.  Tonight we are heading for Okinawa Islands.

(Just in case you though it was dull and boring out there . . . .  Steve)

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Full Speed Ahead

1-7-16

Inside joke.  No, really.  Bill is working on the officer list for the site.  He automated the crew list years ago, and was able to access crew data in a way that was relatively “user-friendly”.  Through programming and various tedious cross-checks, he put together the crew records database that so many visitors to this site check out regularly.  Unfortunately, he is forced to extrapolate Officer Info from the decklogs  –  a tedious and daunting mess that is not for the faint of digital heart.  I’ll let him explain it himself  –  as I am certain I cannot do it justice even slightly.

Lisa is working on the website –  overhauling the way it looks and the way it works.  I’m sure I’m not doing justice to the effort she’s putting in, so I’ll just shut up and say thanks.  (She has also been working on the “look” of the site as it appears on people’s cell phones  –  a whole new reality that I had not even considered.)

Bill’s been nagging me for the last couple of years to join Facebook  –  which I equate with root canals, knee surgery, going to church, enduring Presidential campaigns and colonoscopies.  However, I finally relented, capitulated, surrendered.  Yup, I’m in.  Bill’s been posting stuff to the CA-69 Facebook page all along, oftentimes starting his post with words such as “Steve posted this on the website…..”

Lisa is adding several new pics of the ship onto the website masthead.  It was my job to search our digital USS Boston files for pictures of the ship  –  which was a lot like looking through a gigantic pile of stuff in the garage for a screwdriver.  Anyway, I found this cool shot of the ship from January 1946 as she left Japanese waters, heading home to San Francisco for the last time.  She’s looking a bit shabby  –  needs a paint job for sure.

Scan 43

steve

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History is a long, slow, burn

January 1, 2016

Happy New Year

History is a long, slow burn.  The story of our species on this planet is piled high with ethnic hatreds – sometimes centuries in the making; ambitious and ruthless conquests of peoples and territories, colonialism and long-simmering resentments.  Oh, and the story is also piled high with megalomaniacal characters who have added their own spice to history.

The foundation of World War II was laid down on the ruins of WWI  –  the Great War to End All Wars.  All the ambitious fires of nationalism still glowed in the embers of defeat and the redrawing of the world’s map and the redistribution of conquered territories.  The rise of unquenchable nationalism in post-war Japan (our ally in WWI) and Germany in the early 30’s led directly to War a decade later.

The redrawing of the Maps of Europe and the Middle East after WWII has directly led to everything we see unfolding in the Muslim World today – from Afghanistan to Palestine and from North Africa to Syria.  Old resentments, old colonial alignments, ancient tribal hatreds . . .  a long, slow, burn.

And we have the problems that Japan created in China and Southeast Asia when it decided eight decades ago to expand its territory and conquer the countries (and peoples) needed and wanted to support its ambitions for their Asian Axis of Prosperity, centered, of course, in Tokyo.  The horrors they inflicted on the Chinese, Burmese, SouthEast Asians, Indonesians, and all the Pacific Island nations they conquered have not been forgotten. While our relations with Japan “normalized” after the war and they have emerged as a strong ally of the US, the Koreans have not forgotten.  The Chinese have not forgotten.  Their emergence as a world economic power and a center of international influence, combined with their increasing military power and their actions in the South China Sea should cause everyone to “keep their fingers crossed.”  History is a long, slow burn.

New Year’s Day marks a day of hope across the globe.  Let us continue to hope that we have all become a little smarter over the last century, and that we have actually learned something from our garrulous history, and that maybe, perhaps, we can find better ways to inch forward.

Happy New Year (I really mean it.)

steve

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