Late May, Early June

5-21-16

May 27-31, 1945:  Today we are tied to the navy yard pier.  We are taking on ammo and provisions.  Liberty is up to 0800 hours, and I am taking advantage of it, returning just before time runs out.  I was A.O.L. on my last liberty and I probably will get extra duty for being late.  After we loaded ship, we pulled away from the pier and anchored inside the breakwater about one mile off shore.  People were jumping ship and stole the whaleboat.  They floated ashore on empty ammo cans.

June 1, 1945:  This morning we weighed anchor pulled out of the breakwater and out to sea.  This is our last look of the California coastline, probably for a long time.  I was looking at the coast line till it was out of sight.  We are on our way to Pearl Harbor.  The ship has a new paint job, blue hull with gray superstructure.  We are minus of over 100 crew members, who are A.O.L.        Frank Studenski

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Excerpted from Samuel Eliot Morison’s Victory in the Pacific 1945 (Vol 14 of his History of United States Naval Operations in World War II):    This attack (the eighth kikusui assault of 27-29 May) coincided with the relief of Admiral Spruance by Admiral Halsey on 27 May, when Fifth Fleet again became Third Fleet, and TF 58, TF 38. Since 17 March Fifth Fleet had been at sea dishing it out and taking the rap, exposed to the threat of deadly air attack day and night.  With a count so far of 90 ships sunk or damaged badly enough to be out of action for more than a month, this Okinawa operation had proved to be the most costly naval campaign of the war, seldom exceeded in any war.

And . . . .  Thus, as the war against Japan drew to its close, Okinawa became a giant air and naval base which was destined to play a major role in the cold war that followed the war with Japan. For it we paid a heavy price.  Thirty-two naval ships and craft had been sunk, mostly by kamikaze attack, and 368 ships and craft had been damaged.  The fleet lost 763 aircraft.  Over 4900 sailors were killed or went missing in action, and an additional 4824 were wounded.  This was by far the heaviest loss in any naval campaign in the war.

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June 7-July 1, 1945:   This afternoon we pulled into Pearl Harbor.  We will be here for about three weeks.  The anchorage and piers are crowded with ships.  We are tied up to a pier at the navy yard.  Every time we pull in or out of Pearl we have to shift into whites.  While in pearl, we had a change of command, we also had an Admiral’s Inspection.  The ship is still Flagship of Cruiser Division Ten.

Our sister ship, the St. Paul, pulled into Pearl and tied up alongside of us.  I ran into an school buddy, who is stationed aboard the St. Paul.  We pull out of Pearl early in the week and are back by the weekend.  We have anti-aircraft practice, and day and night eight inch and five inch firing.  On liberty I went shopping for non-perishable groceries.  I think of those mid-watches, when these snacks will really taste good.  We will be pulling out of Pearl on July 2nd.  Some of the A.O.L. men were picked up and returned to the ship.

Frank Studenski.  RIP.  I’m really glad you decided to keep a diary, Frank.

 

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Meanwhile, back in the States . . .

5-14-16

A couple of bits from Frank Studenski:

May 8-19, 1945:    Today is VE Day with the war over in Europe.  This does not mean very much to us, because we still have to go back to a war in the Pacific.  I don’t know how long this war will go on, another year or two.  Right now it seems like it will never end.

May 20-25, 1945:    This morning we put out to sea off Long Beach, we will be out here for about a week testing out and training on the new equipment.  Some of the people jumped ship yesterday, I guess they know what is ahead of us and will not go through this experience again.  The new radar for the 40mm guns are very interesting.  My battle station is now located below Quad 5 in the Control Room.  I man the radar scope and the only target I see is on the radar screen.  Civilian yard workers went out with us to check for bugs in the system.

As I’ve mentioned many times, Frank was one of the original shipmates that I was so fortunate to have met.  In addition to his amazing diary, Frank was a skilled and gifted model maker.  His scale models of ships that he donated to the Boston Shipmates are fantastic!  Here is his model of Quad 4, the 40mm quad in which he was a fire director.

quad4FS

Amazing, right?   Below is a picture that his friend, Laurie Wasilewski, daughter of plankowner of Frank Wasilewski, sent me after Frank passed away:

Frank Studenski working on one of his models (2008). Compliments of Frank's friend, Laurie Wasilewski

steve

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Floating Chrysanthemums

4-30-16

On April 6, 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched the first of ten massive air attacks  –  featuring kamikaze planes  –  against Allied ships (yes, the British Navy did have a small task group of their ships as part of Task Force 58 and 38 at the very end of the War) off the coast of Okinawa. 524 planes attacked. Sixteen ships were heavily damaged; Destroyers Bush and Colhoun were sunk.

April 12 saw the second kikusui: 478 planes attacked and damaged the carrier Enterprise, and battleship Missouri.  Destroyer Mannert L. Abele was split in half and sunk by a kamikaze piloted V2 rocket (“Ohka”) that hurtled in on the ship at speeds exceeding 500 miles per hour.

Kikusui 3 on April 16 unleashed 507 planes against our ships, damaging the carrier Intrepid, the battleship Missouri (again) and sinking destroyer Pringle.

From April 21 to 29, Operation Kikusui 4, consisting of 856 planes, damaged many ships: minelayers, destroyers, and the clearly marked hospital ship USS Comfort.

On May 3, Operation Kikusi 5 began, unleashing 449 planes. In the mayhem that followed, many minelayers, minesweepers, destroyer escorts and LSM’s were attacked and damaged or sunk. Destroyers Little and Morrison were sunk, Ingraham was badly damaged.  On May 4, the light cruiser Birmingham, previously damaged in the Battle for Leyte Gulf, took a kamikaze hit in the forward gun turrets. Losses: 50+ sailors killed, more than 80 injured. The escort carrier Sagamon was hit: 11 dead and more than 30 injured.  British carriers HMS Indomitable and HMS Formidable were both hit; Formidable losing 8 men and another 47 injured.

Kikusui 6, (345 planes),  began on May 11.  On that day, the carrier Bunker Hill, fleet commander Admiral Marc Mitscher’s flagship was hit:

BH

The plane crashed into the flight deck, which was loaded with gassed-up planes ready to take off. Seconds later, another kamikaze slammed into the flight deck next to the island, releasing its bomb below decks.  Massive fires took the lives of 389 men and seriously wounded another 264.  The Admiral was not wounded, but he lost fourteen staff members. He was forced to move his flag to the carrier Enterprise.  She was so heavily damaged she was towed off to Bremerton WA for repairs and never made it back to the War.  On May 14, Admiral Mitscher’s new flagship, the Enterprise, was slammed into by a kamikaze at the forward elevator. A spectacular explosion blew the elevator several hundred feet into the air, killing 14 men and wounding 67 more. Mitscher’s second home in three days was also towed off to Bremerton for repairs.  He was forced to move his flag to yet another carrier, the USS Franklin, just recently repaired from a kamikaze attack while she lay at anchor in Ulthi two months earlier on March 11th.

Sources: Wikipedia, A Bird’s Eye View of Heavy Cruiser USS Boston and Task Force 58 in Combat Operations Against the Empire of Japan  (S Kelly)

The amazing photo was among the amazing photos in the CA-69 folders at the National Archives, retrieved by Bill Kelly and with the help of Rivka Kelly.     80-G-323712 widesteve

 

 

 

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San Pedro

2-28-16

Our friend Bob Knight also talked about San Pedro:

I had a twenty-one day leave and I came home.  At that time, they had the DC3’s.  I spent most of the time on the flight home sitting on the coffee urn talking to the stewardesses.  We stopped in Texas and another place or two on the way home*.  After I went home, I headed back to San Pedro.  One of my old girlfriends from high school was married and living in San Pedro.  I visited her a couple of times.

My aunt had a cousin who lived in Hollywood, right next door to Walt Disney.  I got to meet Walt and tour some of the studios.  Jane Russell was just coming in at the time and I got a quick peek at her in the studio.

* Home for Bob was Medfield, Massachusetts, almost 20 miles south and east of Boston.

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While Okinawa raged on . . .

4-23-16

While Okinawa raged on, the men of the Boston were stateside, enjoying their hard-earned and well-deserved 21 day leaves.  While they were away, the ship was being worked on around the clock as she lie at anchor in San Pedro.

As you probably know, I had the rare and awesome opportunity to meet, interview, and becomes friends with six crewmembers (and one officer) of CA-69 while I was working on the Baked Beans books.  Each one of them told me amazing stories, many of which ended up in the books.  They all had great stories about what they did and where they went on leave.  They also had plenty of liberty time between when the ship arrived in San Pedro and left again right back into the War three months later.  John Farkas told this story:

We had lots of leave and liberty after we got back to San Pedro.  Me and a couple of buddies decided to hitchhike to Tijuana, Mexico.  So here we are bumming a ride on the freeway out of LA and we get picked up by none other than Bing Crosby.  When he found out where we were going, he had his driver bring us to a hotel.  He paid for the room and all we could eat and drink for our whole leave.  That kept us out of trouble.

One of the guys on the ship also went down to Tijuana.  Days later, they found him dead in a ditch by the side of the road.  Never did make it back to the ship.  I guess we were damned lucky.

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