9 a.m., 25 October 1944

Battle was joined at 7:30 a.m. Approximately one hour later, the USS Hoel was sunk, and the USS Johnston showed every sign of following.

End of Chapter Thirty-one:

  • As wicked as the crossfire was, a sight now commanded everyone’s attention on the Johnston’s bridge: an escort carrier, listing to port, dead in the water and taking heavy fire. It was the Gambier Bay. She had lost her boiler and could do only eleven knots.

Beginning of Chapter Thirty-two:

  • There was no telling how many ships had drawn a bead on her now. Under fire for nearly ninety minutes . . . the Gambier Bay took her first hit at 8:20 a.m., when a shell penetrated her forward engine room.

Ironically, this is when the first rescue ships sent by Admiral Stump arrive. The Gambier Bay’s signal officer opens the shutters of his lamp and blinkers, We are under attack, please help.

The rescue ships turned and withdrew to the south. Admiral Stump “had decided against risking his most capable escorts in a dicey offensive action. If the Japanese destroyed Taffy 3 and continued south, he would need them for his own defense.”

Edward Huxtable was commander of the Gambier Bay’s air group, VC-10. Seeing “the carrier taking concentrated fire from Japanese cruisers . . . Huxtable turned, descended, and leveled off in a mock torpedo attack.” Actually, he had taken off from the Gambier Bay in such a hurry that he had no time to load his bombs. “He made four” dummy runs, “each time . . . flying level with bomb bay doors open.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Me, Myself, and Self

Self was interviewed by The Museum of Americana.

Read the interview here.

Still Chapter Thirty: The Awful Steering of the USS HEERMANN

One good thing about taking forever to finish TLSOTTCS is that self is acquiring all this shipping lore, which is proving very useful in her seagoing stories (Oh, did self fail to mention she’s now into writing seafaring stories? They’re full of adventure and the exhilaration of discovery. Exciting! It is apparently a genre that has quite a few devoted followers) Anyhoo, she’s still on Chapter Thirty, which is still about the USS Heermann. For the third time since this book began, the Heermann finds itself on a collision course with another American destroyer. This time, it’s the hapless USS Johnston, which had only one working propeller after being hit by a barrage of Japanese missiles. “All engines back full!” the Johnston‘s skipper shouts, and the hull shudders, and a couple of crew on the Johnston‘s deck nearly get pitched into the water. A collision is avoided (but just barely) and the Heermann continues on its majestic way until . . . it nearly collides with another “tin can steaming alongside close to port.” They think it’s another American destroyer until they get really close and realize all that shouting from the other ship is in . . . Japanese! Oh my bacon! Luckily for the Heermann, the Japanese destroyer has its eyes on another target, and slips right by the Heermann.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Rear Admiral Felix Stump

Admiral Clifton “Ziggy” Sprague manages to raise ONE admiral in response to his transmission of Come in please. Come in please . . . To any or all.

Don’t be alarmed, Ziggy, remember we’re back of you. Don’t get excited. Don’t do anything rash!”

Rear Admiral Felix Stump, commander of Taffy 2

There is something ‘off ‘ about Admiral Stump’s tone. Self can’t figure out what it is right away.

Oh! No expletives! If this were happening today, Stump’s response might be: “F@@ck! Don’t get excited!”

The American battleships in Leyte Gulf had also heard Ziggy Sprague’s transmission, but were prevented from coming to his aid by their superior, Admiral Kincaid, who made it clear that it was more important to protect MacArthur’s invading troops than to come to the aid of Taffy 3. Ziggy Sprague’s 13 destroyers and six carriers were on their own.

Oh my bacon! Stayed up half the night reading.

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.

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.


His father looked at him. “Willem,” he said, “he won’t know whether you’re there or not.”

He felt his face go hot. “I know you don’t fucking care about him,” he snapped at him, “but I do.”

A Little Life, p. 48

Your Typical ‘Noir’ Conversation

Sheriff to her Deputy:

  • “We are law enforcement professionals, Johnny Boy. You best remember that. If we have to talk about a man getting his peter bit off by a rattlesnake, we do.”

A Conversation b/w an Iraqi War Vet and a Sheriff’s Deputy

The conversation is so deadpan! Love it. The poor sheriff’s deputy can’t seem to stop talking when he’s in the presence of his boss’s brother, an Iraqi war vet named Mick.

“What’s wrong with your arm?”

“Mule bite.”

“Lucky it wasn’t a snapping turtle,” Johnny Boy said. “They won’t let go till thunder hits. Sometimes you have to wait a week for a storm. Is that duct tape? Might not be sanitary. Want me to take a look at it? I took a course in field medicine up in Frankfort. Learned all manner of things.”

“Can you do something about him?” Mick says.

“Not really,” Linda said.

“Hey,” Johnny Boy said. “I know y’all are brother and sister but you don’t have to talk about me like I’m somewhere else. I’m standing right here.”

“We know that,” Linda said.

The Killing Hills, p. 49


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