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Thread: Sunday December 7, 1941

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    Sunday December 7, 1941

    USS LCI (G) 450 John L. Manuel USNR 202-78-07

    A Gator sailor's Biography starting December 7, 1941 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sunday December 7, 1941, a day of infamy when the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day December 8, George Wood, a close friend and I bussed to Boston to enlist. The weather was very frigid, 20 degrees below zero and we had to walk approximately 1 mile to the Federal Building where we could sign up. George was a ward of the state so was immediately accepted to a Naval Air Machinery School. I was sent back home with permission papers for my Dad to sign. He refused to sign the papers and in retrospect, this probably saved my life. Eight to ten months later my entry was inevitable. I preferred to join the Navy despite my Dad's objections. He preferred the Army, as he was a Corporal during World War 1. I indicated to him that I preferred to sleep between clean sheets and also have 3 square meals each day. I recall the 24-hour long train rides to Chicago and then to the Great Lakes Training Center. The train was loaded with many Marines and a few Waves. I wonder today just how many of those Marines made it back home. I was assigned to Company 1917 with Chief Boatswain Larry Lance in charge. It was rumored that he was a former professional football player. I remember a Romeo Gaudet from Lynn, MA who Goldie' Goldstein knows and also an older fellow, Richard Mauke from Webster, MA. I recall having to stand 4-hour watches on each of the Barracks landings -to get used to discipline I assume. I also remember the numerous hikes we went on, some at full time and then at double time. Just before Company 1917 graduated, I was hospitalized with a sinus condition diagnosed as "Cat Fever" as all questionable illnesses were labeled. My Company 1917 graduated, left and traveled to Portsmouth, VA assigned to the new USS Yorktown, which was a large carrier. I was then assigned to Company 1919 where I completed my Basic Training. After Graduation, I was sent to the Receiving Station in Portsmouth, VA. I recall the ride through Virginia, passing many beautiful southern mansions sparkling in the spring air. After a short stay in the Receiving Station, I was assigned to the large Cruiser, USS Mobile (CL-63). I recall her heading out on her shakedown cruise; straight out into the Atlantic Ocean and watching the speed of this vessel hit 37 knots, which is in excess of 40MPH in your car. Wow, did her fantail shake, rattle and roll. Just before the "Mobile" left Portsmouth, I was admitted to the Norfolk Naval Hospital diagnosed with Dr. Hodgkin's disease, a form of Cancer of the lymph nodes. My Mom later told me she wasn't that concerned as all the symptoms pointed to Scarlet Fever, which is what I probably had at the Great Lakes Hospital. After a 2 to 3 week stint at Norfolk Naval Hospital, I returned to the Receiving Station to learn the "Mobile" had sailed to the Pacific. I was finally assigned to the USS Almaack (KA-10), which had just returned from Africa where she had been torpedoed. I spent the next 2 to 3 months in Portsmouth while new engines were installed. This gave me many opportunities to enjoy Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and of course Norfolk, or the ass-hole of the Universe as I heard it was called. The Almaack finally sailed from Portsmouth to Jacksonville, FL where we took on a cargo of fruit juices destined for the west coast. The new engines were in great condition as we maintained 21 to 22 knots south through the Caribbean. One evening while standing bow watch, I saw two wakes heading towards our starboard bow. I immediately reported the torpedoes to the Bridge -not so! They were two playful Dolphins who played tag with us all the way to the Canal. No time for liberty here, but a few brave souls did go ashore at Cristobal, Colon to test the waters so to speak. It was interesting passing through the Canal as our ships sides were very close to the sides of the locks. I watched intently as the small engines hauled us through the several locks. Then we started the long trip up the west coast to San Pedro where we off-loaded our cargo of fruit juices. One evening while there I decided to take a little unauthorized leave to make up for my error at not taking liberty at Cristobal. While the officer of the deck was busy talking with other officers, I just sauntered down the gangway and then off to town for a few hours of recreation all by myself. When I returned later that night I noticed the OD was on duty all by himself and no one around him, so if I came up the gangplank, I was 'dead meat'. I decided the only way to board the ship was via the bowline, I would just shinny up the large hawser. Bad idea! When I left the ship, the tide was low, but now it was at high tide, which meant I had to shinny up some 100 to 150 feet. I had no alternative, it was a do or die feat to get back aboard the ship. How I made it up that hawser I'll never know but I did make it up and aboard the ship, even though for a while, I didn't think I'd make it. I'll never forget that incident while at San Pedro. Now the decision was made, the KA-10 was over complemented, so the last 8 men aboard were the first to go. So be it, it was fun while it lasted. Once again I was transferred to the nearest Receiving Station for one to two weeks. I was finally assigned to the USS LCI 450 and recall the following. I'm not sure but I believed we sailed out from San Diego. The first day was eventful as I 'tossed mv cookies' as we entered the coastal swells. The same thing had happened to me earlier on the 'Mobile' during her first day out in the - Atlantic Ocean. I was seasick twice in my life; first time was aboard the Mobile and then aboard the '450' that , first day out. I wasn't quite as bad as Lance Aired though. He was chronically each day all the way to Kauai. The poor guy was in agony and immediately asked for a transfer only to be refused, I guess the officers felt he was indispensable? Kauai is the smallest and most northern island of the Hawaiian group, and was very beautiful with luxurious foliage everywhere; it was there we prepared for our first invasion, the Marshall Islands. We steamed in convoy approximately two week to our destination. As the Battlewagons, Cruisers, and Destroyers shelled their assigned targets, we lined up to proceed into the lagoon. As we approached the narrow entrance we found the '450' lagging somewhat. Naturally we were at General Quarters and I was on the bow 40mm with our crew. As I glanced downward, we were headed directly toward the reef. I called the Conning tower to report our predicament. We couldn't reverse our engines, as there were several gunboats behind us so the skipper ordered "All ahead full" hoping to skim across the reef. All of a sudden we struck the coral reef and rested high and dry for the next 4 to 5 days. Meanwhile several marines 'Ducks' approached I our starboard some 200 feet or so away and immediately capsized. One marine officer, Ira Hardy, M.D. and a few other marines were able to get to a buoy by the reef, which saved them temporally. Knowing that we were out of this invasion, I went and threw a line to rescue these marines despite orders from the Conning tower to "Cease and desist, we have to get off this reef'. Nevertheless we ignored these orders and pulled Doc Hardy and a few of the marines aboard. Most of them drowned but we saved Doc Hardy and a handful of those that made it with him. All were taken to a hospital ship where they recovered. Strangely enough Wally Brady found Doc Hardy and invited him to attend our first reunion at Elroy WI. Eventually we made Doc Hardy an honorary member of the '450'. Now back to the reef where we sat high and dry for 5 to 6 days before a tug pulled us off at high tide, and it sure wasn't easy getting us off. Then the parade began. A cargo ship was towing the USS Anderson (DD-411) who in turn had a line to our bow. One evening at dusk, the towline from our bow to the DD-411 snapped so we were 'floating free', so to speak. Actually it wasn't that funny for the swells of the Pacific caused our bow to all but ram the stem of the DD-411. Our bow was raising and then falling r dangerously close to the depth charges mounted on her stern. The Anderson's crew was livid and I hesitate to quote the slings and arrows that were sent in our direction. Eventually the problem was solved and we endured a very long and tedious tow back to Pearl Harbor for repairs. While in dry dock, we worked our butts off scraping the ships bottom. No liberty here, at least until old Chief Sellers arrived to 'straighten us out'. The Chief, an old 30 year Veteran from Cambridge, Mass inquired as to which side had liberty today. We advised him that we hadn't been to town since our return from the Marshall's. He immediately drew up a list for shore leave and presented it to Kennedy saying, "these men are going ashore tomorrow, 9 am to 4 pm, and that was that! God bless Chief Sellers. While at Pearl we all had a three to four-day 'recuperation' leave at Andrews Rest Home where we had great swimming in surfs 30 to 40 feet high. I recall Mike Ross diving in first only to be picked up and slammed down into the beach, and his chest and stomach was bloodied severely when he finally rose to his feet. I dove in at about the same time only to meet about the same fate. I arose up only to discover my swim trunks were missing. I immediately sat down in the water until another swimmer 100 feet or so down the beach held up a pair of shorts and hollered "does anyone belong to these?" Yep! They were mine so he kindly walked up and returned them to me, whew! Nick Grosso and myself recently recalled some of the most memorable experiences on our first trip to Honolulu as we both spent many hours standing in long lines at one of the Hotel street establishments. We must have spent half of our liberty just standing in lines. Nick (Cookie) Grosso might be able to expand on further details. You may request graphic particulars from Nick if you're interested. After all the repairs were completed to our ships hull components, we sailed again towards our next goal, the Mariana's -Guam, Saipan, and Tinian. This voyage turned out to be a long tedious voyage for several reasons. As we proceeded westward someone decided we shouldn't disclose our destination to the enemy. Therefore we were to sail eastward towards Pearl Harbor during daylight hours only to reverse course and head westward toward Guam once darkness set in. As I recall, this maneuver was repeated for approximately 30 days and hopefully it confused the Japís as it did the '450' crew. D-Day at Guam wasn't too eventful for the '450'. We approached the beach, shot our rockets and covered the Marines with our gunfire as- they landed on the beaches. I recall only sporadic gunfire from the Japanese and none of our crew was injured. A day or so after the initial assault, we were sent to the back of the island to rescue some natives who had just been assaulted by the enemy. I recall picking up an elderly native man who had been tied to a tree and "worked over" with a Japanese machete. His injuries were so serious he died on our return to Apra Harbor. I believe it was here that we adopted a small dog that lived aboard the ship for a short period of time. While anchored in Apra Harbor shortly after 'D' day, I recall eating chow one evening and watching the LST's unload their tanks and etc. All of sudden the Japís on the end of Orote Peninsula opened up and put 9 out of 9 4 or 5Inch shells Into the port side of the LST closest to us, and wow, were they accurate -never missed a shot. Early next morning the LST opened up with it's stern 3 or 5-inch gun and sprayed up and down the peninsula trying to silence that gun. No such luck as the Japís was holed up in a cave. The next day we were given orders to sail close to the peninsula to try and bring out the gunfire. We were assured that the USS Black, a Destroyer was behind us and to protect the '450' in case the Japís "took our bait". That was one harrowing situation! I recall the Skipper repeatedly giving the following orders "All ahead 1/3 - stop all engines", "All ahead 1/3 - stop all engines". Thank God the Japís didn't take the bait. This was one of the scariest moments of my life. Eventually the marines worked their way down to the mouth of the cave and played the waiting game. Finally they heard the door squeak open and the gun was rolling out which signaled another attempt to harass our operations on the beach. The marines immediately lobbed their grenades and opened up with rifle fire destroying the gun and killing the Japanese gun crew. A few days later the Skipper gave us permission to swim in Apra Harbor. We threw two ladders over the side so we could climb back aboard easily and dive in again. I brought my towel topside, dropped it on the deck and then dived over the side. We swam for 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour before climbing back aboard refreshed by our nautical excursion. While toweling off, I gazed down into the blue water I had just left and saw 6 or 8 ten-foot sharks swim by seeking an easy meal. Needless to say we never swam in these waters again. It was noted that the crew of an adjacent destroyer hooked one of the sharks, hauled him aboard with the stern winch and then killed it on the fantail. I would assume that shark soup or stew was on the crew's menu that evening. When Guam was finally secured, we sailed south to the Philippines. The voyage Page 4 was beautiful and very eventual as many dolphins and whales decided to accompany us. One afternoon during this voyage, some of us were topside scraping paint and wire brushing the gun stations aside the Conning tower when "Bucky" Buchanan lost his balance and fell overboard. Ivy Roberts had the only level head in the group for he took the life-saving Donut and tossed it in the sea towards Buchanan before the ship could stop. It was a good thing that our vessel was last in the Convoy because by the time we stopped and turned around to pick Bucky up, he was 1/2 to 3/4 mile behind us. When we finally reached him he was beat but was hanging onto the donut that Ivy threw towards him. We finally got him aboard and then we returned to our position in the Convoy. This was one of the first days that Bucky was clean, as he was noted as having the dirtiest sack in our compartment. Actually he was so dirty we took him into the shower one day and scrubbed him down using a piece of canvas with sand from one of the fire buckets. Finally Bucky was clean and remained so the rest of the voyage. I also remember how we did our laundry -specifically our dungarees. We merely tied a line through the belt loops and tossed them over the stern. I recall one day when two or three pair were being laundered, the Skipper ordered, "Back all engines full", and needless to say some of us lost our jeans. When the ship reversed, the lines and jeans were wrapped around the screws and shaft and had to extricated when we found a temporary dry-dock. We didn't make much money but sure had fun. As we crossed the equator all we "Pollywogs" had to be initiated into the Solemn Mysteries Of The Ancient Order of the Deep and become "Shellbacks". Valentine was the only Shellback aboard so he assumed the roll of King Neptune. He wore his paper crown and carried his spear (broom) with great dignity. We were given Royal Haircuts, which left about Y2 inch of hair on our heads. Those that complained were shaved completely. These 'Baldies' really suffered later as the sun at the equator is very hot. Next we had to partake of the royal food and drink. The former was collected from Nick Grosso's garbage and the latter didn't help to chase it down. It was a vile concoction! What a day but by that evening we were "Shellbacks". As we entered Tulagi Harbor in the Philippines I recall seeing a large sign up on the hill saying, "Kill Japís, Kill Japís, Kill More Japís. That's the quickest way to end this war". This signature below these words read -Admiral Wm. Halsey. The natives lived in small thatched huts and most of them were topped with henna red hair obtained from bottles and bottles of hydrogen Peroxide. I recall "Smitty" climbing a coconut tree and knocking several to the ground for his buddies. The white meat tasted real good once we broke into the shells. The milk was refreshing but would have been better if cold. I'm not sure but believe we then returned to Saipan to prepare for Iwo Jima. One afternoon I was heading aft when Bos'n Valentine exited the Galley munching on a monstrous roast beef sandwich. The Captain was exiting his cabin and immediately asked what the Bos'n was eating? "Boats" immediately answered the Captain. Kennedy then said that he, Valentine, had no business in the Galley and attempted to confiscate the sandwich. Now Valentine had been in the Navy for over 20 years and wasn't about to take that from a 90 day wonder. He took the sandwich and shoved it into Kennedy's face, backing him into the Captain's cabin while continuing to grind it into the Skippers face forcing him against the bulkhead and then walked away. Needless to say Bos'n Valentine was detached off the '450' the next day, never heard of him again, but what a sight to witness. We finally left Saipan and headed for Iwo Jima where the weather was considerable cooler than we had previously experienced. 'D' day for us was February 17, 1945. All the LCI's lined up perpendicular to the shore where our mission was to launch 500 or so rockets which would blow up any land mines and/or barbwire entanglements and support the UDT swimmers with our 20 and 40mm guns. The only problem here was that we had to be within 1000 yards of the beach. I still believe we were the nearest vessel to Mt. Suribachi. In preparation we on the number 1 40mm had our clips of ammo spread allover the deck so as to be ready to load the gun quickly. Just as we started launching our rockets, we were hit with 7 or 8 shells, which probably came from a 3 or 4-inch gun. The first shell struck the port bow leaving a 8 to 10 inch Page 5 hole, knocking me to my knees, passing through the bow severing our anchor cable and leaving a hole 3 to 4 foot as it exited the starboard bow. Since then, we've always kind of prided ourselves as being the first US ship to drop their anchor at Iwo Jima in many years. A fire was started in the forward paint locker causing the deck to heat up immediately. I reported this condition to Captain Brady and suggested we throw the now hot shells overboard before they blew up in our faces. The Skipper agreed and I recall that Tom Elmore and I jettisoned the ammo into the ocean immediately. We then backed all engines full to vacate the area before we were hit again. I believe that all but one of our LCI's was hit several times. The '474' was hit in the engine room and was drifting towards the beach when Captain McCaffrey passed a line to her stern and towed her out of harms way. Later our Destroyer USS Capps sank her. Then we had time to assess our damage. First casualty was Jack Musselman who was seated on the port gundeck 40mm. As we reached him, he was lying on the deck severely wounded. The first shell that hit our port bow might have ricocheted, sending a piece of shrapnel into his left nipple. We took off his shirt, turned him over and discovered an exit hole the size of a grapefruit. We transferred him to another ship and the word came back later that he died while being treated on the USS Nevada. Ensign Kingsley, Ray Coggins and several others received superficial hand and etc wounds, but no one else was seriously wounded. I guess the rest of us were all lucky that morning. That evening on the other side of the Island, we heard a shot ring out, we looked in that direction and watched as 19 bodies were being buried at sea, one turn and a half and they entered Davy Jones locker. It was a somber moment that all of us that observed it will never forget. The Marines invaded Iwo Jima February 19, 1945 at 09:00, we had a ringside seat to watch as we had been hit and was out of service. We sailed out of there approximately that noon but before we departed, we all took turns watching the marines through the Skippers binoculars. A lot of the poor Gyrene's never had a chance as they were pinned down on the beach with not a single tree to hide behind. Their tanks would try and climb the sandy banks only to be hit and then roll back down to the beach. I believe that more men were killed and wounded at Iwo than in all previous Pacific engagements. We then sailed back to Saipan for our repairs. After arriving there I met Jack Davoran, a native from Milford, MA who was the Beach Master for the island. I was invited to his tent where we shared several cold beers. When he heard of our exploits at Iwo Jima, he sent a photographer to take a picture of the '450'. That's how and where the picture of the port side of the '450' took place. I also wanted a picture of the starboard bow area showing the gaping hole but the photographer couldn't take that view as a Minesweeper was alongside the '450'. I later learned that when Jack returned home to Massachusetts, he called my folks and reported our meeting on Saipan, a very nice gesture. He eventually went into politics and became the Speaker of the House in Massachusetts. He passed away approximately seven years ago. We then sailed from Saipan to Ulithi, a small atoll of islands that had a good and deep anchorage. When entering the anchorage, we were once again tail end charley, the last ship in the starboard line. All of a sudden we noticed our 'lead destroyer' suddenly take off and started firing up at a *** plane. General Quarters was sounded and we all took our battle stations. All of a sudden Ivy Roberts pointed astern at a Japanese 'Kate' torpedo bomber bearing down at the rear of the convoy approximately 30 feet above the water. I remember seeing the release of his torpedo aimed directly at the center of the convoy. After the release, he banked sharply off our stern. I can still see the two Japís staring down at us. Needless to say, we all opened up and hit him so he dove into the sea not far from our stern. I believe to this day that Joe Kvidera's 20mm was the gun that knocked him down - nice going Joe! As we entered Ulithi you could not believe the sight that greeted us. The combined fleets of all the Allied Nations were present. A line of Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, and destroyers were all there preparing for the Okinawa invasion. We were also scheduled to go with them but our orders were changed and we were to return to Saipan or Pearl Harbor. It was Page 6 on this leg of our journey that we ran into "The Typhoon". The swells were 20 to 30 feet and almost broke the '450' in two. As I recall there were 2 or 3 LCI's and 1 Sub-chaser accompanying us. The Sub-chaser had one swell hit her foredeck and peeled off the vessel's forward hatch. She would have sunk if we hadn't sailed alongside and passed a 'Handy-Billy' pump over to her. This extra pump enabled her to stay afloat until the storm subsided. The typhoon stayed with us most of the week. The '450's Cook, Nick Grosso was kept very busy, as all we had to eat was sandwiches and coffee. We can never thank Nick and his Galley staff enough. Oh yes, we passed a Battleship, which was headed to join the Okinawa fray. She was sailing at about 8 knots when she usually made 30 to 35 knots, that's how bad the storm was. I'm not sure if on this voyage we returned to Saipan or Pearl Harbor. Anyway, we then boarded a large troopship, which took us stateside to LA. I believe that within our group were Nick Grosso, Roy Gladen, Jack Lassiter, Joe Duran, and I that made this homeward trip together. I remember climbing up to the 4th bunk for sleeping. When we reached LA we were given a 24-hour leave, but I had to leave early in the AM so I stayed in to get some sleep. The others chose to go out on the town and celebrate. You might ask me sometime about Jack Lassiter, he returned drunk as a skunk and brought a 'flossy' in with him, and she was in worse shape than he was. 'Nuff' said about that night. We boarded a train the next morning for our final trip home. The train took us via the southern route, Albuquerque, Kansas City I Chicago and etc. I recall our first stop saying goodbye to Joe Duran, I can still see him standing there waving to me as the train pulled away. That's the last time I ever saw him and no one has ever located him to this very day. I imagine Roy Gladen and Jack Lassiter left at this stop or the next one. Then up to Kansas City, Chicago and onto Albany, NY where I said goodbye to Nick Grosso, our Cook of renown whose destination was the "Big Apple" and "Mott street". I continued on to Worcester, MA, which was closest to my home in Milford, MA. I arrived there approximately 10 or 11 PM and decided to hitchhike home and surprise my folks, another bad decision. Due to the late hour, I eventually was picked up and driven to Grafton, MA where I met Ed Fleming who was just leaving the Grafton Tavern. He turned out to be a very kind soul as he drove me into Milford and then right to my backdoor. Now the reunion begins. I knocked on the backdoor and my Mom and Dad appeared shortly thereafter. They greeted me with tears in their eyes and my water spaniel "Dixie" nearly turned herself inside out with joy. We all entered the kitchen to get re-acquainted. Dad found a bottle of 'Four Roses' and invited Ed to join us. We all had a drink or two but as I recall, Ed emptied the bottle before returning to Grafton. Never did find out whither he made it or not. I'm alive and home at last.

    John (Jack) Manuel
    Hamp
    USS LCI (L) & (G) 450
    WW ll Gator Navy

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