When self checked out this book from her local library, she knew exactly what she was getting. On this rather dull Tuesday afternoon, self reads:

  • Now that I have a fighting ship, I will never retreat from an enemy force.

These words were spoken by the “first and only Captain” of the USS Johnston, Commander Ernest E. Evans, a man who had been present involved in the disastrous February 1942 Battle of the Java Sea, “in which a Japanese heavy cruiser force made short work of an Allied fleet . . . he never expunged from his mind the sting of having to flee from the Japanese.” He was Cherokee.

In February 1944, the Johnston‘s duty was to “support Marines advancing against stiff enemy opposition on the islands of Kwajalein and Eniwetok.” The Johnston then participated in “the Marianas campaign” and “the bombardment of Guam.” In the year since her commissioning, the Johnston participated in six invasions.

There were seventy men in the Johnston‘s gunnery department, “only seven” of whom “had ever been to sea before coming aboard the Johnston.” Training such “a green deck force” was no mean feat, but it was accomplished “by rote and repetition” and by “ruthless, repetitive drill.”

These green troops had a first-class boatswain who was twenty-four, and he commanded teen-agers.

These were the men who were going to win the Battle of Leyte? Now, this self would like to see!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Crossing the Equator

To get to Leyte, the ships of Operation King Musketeer II (!!!), the name given to the invasion of the Philippines, had to cross the Equator, “an event that is of some distinction in Navy tradition.”

There was some elaborate cosplay revolving around a mock trial of “pollywogs” (crew who had never crossed the equator before):

The pollywogs were ordered to the fantail, stripped down to their shorts, and faced “prosecution” for their offenses. Fire hoses were turned on them . . . until they were all duly soaked.” Characters in this drama included a “royal devil, wielding a pitchfork,” a King, a “royal judge,” a “royal dentist,” a “royal barber”, and a “royal baby.” Then the pollywogs had to run a “royal gauntlet”: “a fifteen-foot canvas ventilation tunnel filled with a two-day-old compost of eggshells, coffee grounds, and potato peels . . .” while shellbacks (crew who had crossed the equator before) pounded them “through the canvas with large wooden paddles.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Boats Themselves

The Sammy B. Roberts “was rated for twenty-four knots but could make nearly thirty when her two six-thousand-horsepower Westinghouse turbines were spinning under full steam pressure. Her armament was light. A Butler-class destroyer escort’s main battery consisted of two single-barreled five-inch/38-caliber naval rifles, one fore and one aft. A triple torpedo mount amidships was her most powerful weapon against enemy surface ships. A well-located torpedo blast could cripple a large capital ship. But with a range of not more than ten thousand yards, the torpedo’s effective use required that the ship maneuver to virtual point-blank range — and survive that approach despite her complete lack of armor or other self-protection beyond the whims of luck.”

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, p. 29

The crew was “mostly teenage.” (Tin Cans, p. 30) Despite their youth, they were considered fully capable, because of rigorous training, of firing torpedoes.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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