Sentence of the Day, TLSOTTCS

Sorry, self just got so tired of writing the whole title out. Incidentally, the author, James D. Hornfischer, was a resident of Austin, TX and passed away just this past June.

In this excellent book, self learns that the US Navy was under the impression that they had destroyed the main Japanese navy at Surigao Strait. They didn’t know that the Japanese attack was two-pronged: the main force had snuck into the archipelago through the San Bernardino Strait, completely unchallenged. If not for the sighting by Ensign Bill Brooks, just minutes before contact was made, the Americans would have been caught completely flat-footed. In fact, the crew were mostly engaged with having breakfast and folding laundry. Then, someone spotted masts over the horizon. A gunnery officer, known for having “an especially sharp eye for ship silhouettes,” was called to the deck of the USS Roberts. The officer said he was certain that “the mystery ships on the horizon belonged to Imperial Japan.” His captain at first thought that these enemy ships were the survivors straggling from their defeat at Surigao Strait the day before.

Sentence of the Day, p. 149:

  • The revelation that the enemy was not fleeing but advancing had the surreal quality of a dream.

When the shelling began, some officers were still wearing their sleep attire: slippers, chinos, and a T-shirt.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

On the US Destroyer JOHNSTON

Part I is done. Part II begins at 7:30 a.m, October 25, 1944. There’s quote from Samuel Eliot Morison: “In no engagement in its entire history has the United States Navy shown more gallantry, gut, and gumption than in those two morning hours between 0730 and 0930 off Samar.” (Self wishes she could show dear blog readers a map of Samar but, uh. She doesn’t want to stop reading. Maybe later. On the map of the Philippines that hangs in son’s room, Samar is one of the bigger islands in the middle of the archipelago. She wishes she could do a red arrow pointing, but she doesn’t know how)

We’re now with crew of the Johnston, just lining up for breakfast.

“Ellsworth Welch, the Johnston’s junior officer of the deck, was leaning over the rail on the port side of the bridge taking in the warm aromas of breakfast when he first saw the columns of water towering over the decks of an escort carrier.”

Down in the Johnston’s combat information center, Lt. Fred Green has picked up a transmission. He tells Lt. John C. W. Dix, who’s just walked in with a cup of coffee, “Listen, the pilot’s coming in again.” A burst of static washed through the speakers, bringing a distant voice (the voice of Ensign Bill Brooks): I’m drawing fire.

Oh, my bacon. Speechless.

After Sounding the Alarm

Ensign Bill Brooks lined up his Avenger behind the tail of the column of Japanese battleships and released four depth bombs (which did little damage). He pushed his Avenger down to the water, and built speed for his exit, “just 50 feet above the wavetops.”

He knew he could no longer return to his carrier because, after he gave the alarm, it likely would “be fleeing under fire, probably to the south, zigzagging to dodge shells, out of the wind.” He headed for the open ocean.

Oh my bacon, this is such a good book. Even with such a vast cast of characters, James D. Hornfischer still manages to make the reader care about individuals involved in the drama.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Photographing Public Art Challenge (PPAC) # 13: the Robinson Jeffers Tor House and Hawk Tower, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Still playing catch-up with the PPAC Challenge! Self spent last weekend in Carmel. One of the main purposes for the visit — aside from meeting an aunt she hadn’t seen in 20 years! — was seeing Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House, which had just re-opened for tours. Self is a lover of gardens, and the garden of the Tor House has been featured in several gardening books she owns.

To get to it from the north (the San Francisco Bay Area), you take 101 south, then 85, then 17 north, and finally pass through Salinas. Driving the 25 miles through Salinas to the Carmel turn-off will take almost an hour, because this area has perennial stop-and-go traffic. You will see fields, many fields! All in all, the drive took self almost 3 hours. She arrived about 15 minutes before the 1 p.m. tour she’d signed up for.

The tour of house and tower takes about an hour. Our guide was David, and he was really good. It will make you weep when you learn that Jeffers bought his lot for something like $200.

The views from Hawk Tower, right next to the house, are spectacular. Watch your step, the stairs are very narrow.

To think Robinson Jeffers built the house and tower all by himself! Tours cost $12.

The house is truly unique. Don’t miss, if you’re in the area.

6:43 a.m., 25 October 1944, a Philippine Sea

Ensign Bill Brooks, at the stick of an American Avenger, spies a hole in the cumulus clouds that have obscured his view all morning. He drops down through the opening and finds:

  • Enemy surface force of four battleships, four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and ten to twelve destroyers sighted twenty miles northwest of task group and closing in at thirty knots.

“Black clouds of cordite smoke begin to appear around his plane as the Japanese gunners drew a bead” on him.

Hearing the report from Brooks, Admiral Ziggy Sprague thinks: “Now there’s some screwy young aviator reporting part of our own forces.”

“An angry voice on the other end of the frequency laid into Brooks with some choice Navy language.”

Frustrated, Brooks then decided to enter the “bramble of flak.” He “went into a thirty-degree dive” and “dropped down to two thousand feet” so his radioman could take pictures. At some point, realization sank in and Admiral Sprague realized his small fleet was the only thing standing between Japan’s main battle force and Leyte Gulf, where McArthur was landing his troops. With daybreak, Sprague’s ships could now see “black puffs of flak grasping” at Bill Brooks’ Avenger. Brooks himself was “sober with fear.” His two crew were suddenly “quiet as mice.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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