AUGUST 15, 1945

August 15, 2014

From Frank Studenski’s Diary:

August 15, 1945:    This morning we returned to the Tokyo area and the carriers had launched their planes for the first strike when we heard the final news of the Japanese surrender.  So the war ended for the U.S.S. Boston, 21 months after we left home port.

The next day, the ship celebrated:

Cover of the Armistice Day Celebration (8/16/45)

Cover of the Armistice Day Celebration (8/16/45)

 

And, the menu:

ArmDayMenu

Compliments of Bob Knight

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Aug 9, 1945

Aug 9, 2014

The Boston, along with cruisers: Quincy, Chicago and St. Paul, split off from Task Group 38.4 at 0300 hours, and met up with battleships: Massachusetts, South Dakota and Alabama by 0500 hours and formed a formidable Bombardment Group.  By 1200 (noon), they were within 20 miles of the Japanese mainland in Kamaishi Bay (northern Honshu) for a daylight bombardment of the industrial city (Kamaishi).

Meanwhile, some 800 miles south, Norm Bayley and his unwilling translator approached Kyushu in a commandeered Japanese Army truck.  They were headed for Nagaski, knowing that another Atom Bomb was going to drop.  As they crossed the Inland Sea bridge from Honshu to Kyushu, despite the fact that it was after 11:00 in the morning, the sky was pitch-black and the truck was being pelted by heavy clumps of mud.  Not certain what was going on, they stopped on the side of the road.  The mud was so thick, the windshield wipers could not keep up.  Norm stuck his hand out, and was drenched in mud.  He looked at it, smelled it, and in abject horror, realized that the city of Nagasaki, evaporated in the Hydrogen Bomb fireball, was raining down on him.

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August 6, 1945

August 6, 2014

Discussing the last days of the war, Pat Fedele says this: We were ordered to prepare for ship-to-ship battle with the Japanese. The Quincy, the Boston, the destroyers – not the carriers though, were going to go in and shoot shells at the Japanese Navy.  It got called off.  The very next day, we saw the flash in the sky.

Frank Studenski’s Diary entry for August 6:  The weather is getting better and we are on a course for the Jap mainland.

As the Atom Bomb detonated over Hiroshima a few minutes after 8 am, Captain Norman C. Bayley, USMC, commander of  CA-69′s Marine detachment, was aboard a captain’s skiff in the Inland Sea, along with his unwilling translator, the twice (or thrice) sunken destroyer captain who he calls Takai, headed for the shoreline. His top secret mission was to  provide an eyewitness account of details of the destruction of the first nuclear weapon unleashed in any war:  locate and identify “ground zero”  and record the extent of the damage.  When Norm arrived,  there was nothing to see except for a few buildings that did not evaporate, a few smokestacks still standing, and thousands of badly wounded and horribly burned people streaming toward him and away from the city.

Norm was equipped with a .45, two notebooks and a camera.  I have always assumed he was in civilian clothes – you know, inconspicuous (as inconspicuous as a white American could be in a Japanese industrial/military wartime city.)  In fact, he was in full uniform.  The reasoning was that if he were captured, he might stand a chance of surviving as a prisoner of war if he was in uniform.  If he was in civilian clothes, he would be tortured and executed as a spy.

The second part of his mission was to make his way from southern Honshu to the island of Kyushu and repeat the process for the second bomb, dropped on the 9th of August, over the industrial city of Nagasaki.

I met with Norm again a few weeks ago.  He is 96 years old.  He has not forgotten.

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Working on it . . .

Aug 2, 2014

The calendar is lining up in a weird way for me.  As July ends and August begins, the story of the Boston and all the other ships of the Task Force shuffles headfirst into the forthcoming Armistice Day (Aug. 15).  The ship participates in the shelling / bombardment of the Honshu industrial city of Hamamatsu on July 29.  By the 30th, the weather is so bad that refueling has to be cancelled and the ships head south out of the typhoon and for the next several days, sort of “tread water.”  By August 6, the ships have worked their way north, and are roughly back at the same latitude as they were on the 29th, but several degrees longitude to the west.

So why is this weird for me?  In the last days of July, 1945, Marine Captain Norman C. Bayley arrives on the ship and replaces the Marine detachment Commanding Officer, Lt. Nesbitt.  Norm’s arrival and Nesbitt’s departure do not appear on the ship’s decklogs.  Over the following two and a half weeks, Norm, a veteran of Guadalcanal,  is visited by two Admirals with “special assignments.”  The first is to recon and report the destruction of both Hiroshima and then Nagasaki  -  arriving at both cities hours after the bombs drop – while thousands of badly wounded escaping citizens were streaming toward him.  The second operation was about a week later, and involved him and a handful of Marines “demilitarizing” a kamaikaze training base just outside of Tokyo, prior to the Signing of the Surrender in Tokyo Bay.

The Boston decklogs show Norm coming aboard the day after he finished the Katsuura Wan “forage”  -   August 18.  Norm and his service records are “invisible for three weeks – from late July through August 18.

The confluence of all this for me is that I’m doing research right now trying to flesh out two major story line details before I begin writing Norm’s biography.  Just before the bomb drops on Hiroshima, Norm is visited by an Admiral, who convinces Norm to go to, despite the fact that “we don’t know what medical problems will develop, but we think at the least you will be sterile….”  (this to a guy who suffered debilitating malaria contracted in Guadalcanal who spent three quarters of a year “recuperating” in an experimental Malaria Hospital run by the Marines in Klamath Falls, Oregon  -  before being assigned to the Boston  -  afloat thousands of miles away off Japan.

Norm agrees to go, and is assigned a Japanese interpreter, an English-speaking UCLA educated destroyer captain, who survived the sinking of his ship by Task Force carrier planes and was “fished out of the water a few days earlier.”

I have agreed to Norm and his family to write his biography, which I humbly say is an honor.  His grandson, Patrick Masson is working with me on this project.  So my challenge is this:  without identifying both the Admiral and this Japanese ship captain who Norm calls “Takai,”  the telling of this part of Norm’s story is hugely problematic.

So, as the calendar moves in synch with the impending A-bomb days, I am busy trying to find both the Admiral and the Captain.  Research is a painstaking adventure, and there are MANY challenges to this adventure.  I have a very strong Takai candidate, but cannot yet corroborate . . .  I have two strong Admiral candidates  -  but all the threads are not yet in place for either of them.

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Paul Block, RM3c

7-31-14

Got an email from Rick Block informing me that his grandfather, Paul Block, passed away on the 27th.  Paul was a radioman who came aboard in early August, 1944, and stayed aboard until mid April, 1946  -  part of the mothballing of the great ship in Bremerton, WA.

After I published A Bird’s Eye View, I got an email from Paul saying he wanted to buy a book, but did not want to do an online purchase.  He told me that he knew my father (who was a signalman), and he remembered him well.  After Paul read the book, he sent me a letter, telling me how much he liked it. He enclosed a check for five more copies, with the addresses of his five sons.

As of this writing, I have not found Paul’s obituary in any of the three places Rick mentioned in his email.  I will follow up when the information becomes available.

Rest in Peace, Paul

 

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