Archive for August, 2013

Submitted for the Daily Prompt: Country

Assignment: Are you patriotic? What does being patriotic mean to you?  Photographers, artists, poets: show us COUNTRY.

When I think of country, I think about the servicemen and women who risk their lives so that we can have the life we have today.  I also think about those that continue to serve.  I write this blog in honor of my father who served in World War II.   So through him, I define country.  I am currently telling his WWII story and there is a link to the beginning in the blogroll on the left panel.

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

USS Hornet (CV-12) after the Battle of the Philippine Sea June 1944

USS Hornet (CV-12) after the Battle of the Philippine Sea June 1944

I also cannot define country without thinking about the people that came from all over the world to live in the United States.  My country truly is a melting pot.  So to help me define country, I add my mother immigrating from the Ireland in the 1950s.

My mom in the 1950s

My mom in the 1950s

Passenger Ship of the Greek Line,  The New York

Passenger Ship of the Greek Line,
The New York

Enjoying the Vogage

Enjoying the Voyage

Leaving the family farm in Ireland

Leaving the family farm in Ireland

Leaving all that she knew

Leaving all that she knew

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John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

October 1944 continues and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

20-26 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Leyte supporting invasion of the Philippines as stated in the ships log for the USS Hornet (CV-12).

Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf) – largest naval battle in history.  I will tell this part of the story in multiple parts (anticipating five parts) because the Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions.  For Part 1, I will cover background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the Battles for Leyte Gulf, and formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.

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It was fought in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar and Luzon from 23–26 October 1944, between combined US and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy. On 20 October, United States troops invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in Southeast Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil supplies. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion, but was repulsed by the US Navy’s 3rd and 7th Fleets. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never afterwards sailed to battle in comparable force. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions. It was the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks.  ka·mi·ka·ze (kä m -kä z ). n. 1. A Japanese pilot trained in World War II to make a suicidal crash attack, especially upon a ship

A Japanese Kamikaze suicide plane shown swooping down on a U.S. warship in a dramatic action in World War II. In the three-day battle of Leyte Gulf, in Oct. 1944, the Japanese threw the suicide planes into action for the first time in a desperate effort to save their fleet. (AP Photo)

A Japanese Kamikaze suicide plane shown swooping down on a U.S. warship in a dramatic action in World War II. In the three-day battle of Leyte Gulf, in Oct. 1944, the Japanese threw the suicide planes into action for the first time in a desperate effort to save their fleet. (AP Photo)

By the time of the battle, Japan had fewer aircraft than the Allied Forces had sea vessels, demonstrating the difference in power of the two sides at this point of the war.

Background

The campaigns of August 1942 to early 1944 had driven Japanese forces from many of their island bases in the south and central Pacific Ocean, while isolating many of their other bases (most notably in the Solomon Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Admiralty Islands, New Guinea, Marshall Islands, and Wake Island), and in June 1944, a series of American amphibious landings supported by the US 5th Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force captured most of the Mariana Islands (bypassing Rota). This offensive breached Japan’s strategic inner defense ring and gave the Americans a base from which long-range Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers could attack the Japanese home islands. The Japanese counterattacked in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The US Navy destroyed three Japanese aircraft carriers (and damaged other ships) and approximately 600 Japanese aircraft, leaving the IJN with virtually no carrier-borne airpower or experienced pilots.  You can read about many of the 1944 engagements especially the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot in my previous posts.

Admiral Ernest J. King

Admiral Ernest J. King

For subsequent operations, Admiral Ernest J. King and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff favored blockading Japanese forces in the Philippines and attacking Formosa (Taiwan) to give the Americans and Australians control of the sea routes between Japan and southern Asia.

300px-Douglas_MacArthur_lands_Leyte1

“I have returned” — General MacArthur returns to the Philippines with Philippine President Sergio Osmena to his right, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo at his rear, and Sutherland on his left. Photo taken by Gaetano Faillace

US Army General Douglas MacArthur championed an invasion of the Philippines, which also lay across the supply lines to Japan. Leaving the Philippines in Japanese hands would be a blow to American prestige and a personal affront to MacArthur, who in 1942 had famously pronounced, “I shall return.”

The considerable air power the Japanese had amassed in the Philippines was thought too dangerous to bypass by many high-ranking officers outside the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Admiral Chester Nimitz. However, Nimitz and MacArthur initially had opposing plans, with Nimitz’s plan centered on an invasion of Formosa, since that could also cut the supply lines to Southeast Asia. Formosa could also serve as a base for an invasion of mainland China, which MacArthur felt was unnecessary. A meeting between MacArthur, Nimitz, and President Roosevelt helped confirm the Philippines as a strategic target, but had less to do with the final decision to invade the Philippines than is sometimes claimed. Nimitz eventually changed his mind and agreed to MacArthur’s plan.

Pictured above: MacArthur, Roosevelt & Nimitz on board USS Baltimore, July 1944

Pictured above: MacArthur, Roosevelt & Nimitz on board USS Baltimore, July 1944

It was also estimated that an invasion of Formosa would require about 12 divisions of US Army soldiers and Marines. This was more land power than the Americans could muster in the whole Pacific Ocean area at that time, and the entire Australian Army was engaged in the Solomon Islands, on New Guinea, in the Dutch East Indies, and on various other Pacific islands. The invasion of Formosa would require much larger ground forces than were available in the Pacific in late 1944, and would not have been feasible until the defeat of Germany freed the necessary manpower.

It was eventually decided that MacArthur’s forces would invade the island of Leyte in the central Philippines. Amphibious forces and close naval support would be provided by the 7th Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid.

Vice Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid had had a distinguished naval career when he took command of the United States Seventh Fleet, also known as MacArthur’s Navy.

Vice Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid had had a distinguished naval career when he took command of the United States Seventh Fleet, also known as MacArthur’s Navy.

The 7th Fleet at this time contained units of the US Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, including the County-class heavy cruisers HMAS Shropshire and Australia, and the destroyer Arunta, and possibly a few warships from New Zealand and/or the Netherlands.

The US 3rd Fleet—commanded by Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., with Task Force 38 (TF 38, the Fast Carrier Task Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher) as its main component—would provide more distant cover and support for the invasion.

For the Leyte operation,  as 'Task Force 38,' and constituting almost all of the US Third Fleet,   the Fast Carrier Force contained nine large fleet carriers and eight light carriers.   Of the nine heavy carriers eight were of the new Essex Class,  the ninth being the old Enterprise (of the Yorktown Class),  a ship with a matchless combat record.

For the Leyte operation, as ‘Task Force 38,’ and constituting almost all of the US Third Fleet, the Fast Carrier Force contained nine large fleet carriers and eight light carriers. Of the nine heavy carriers eight were of the new Essex Class, the ninth being the old Enterprise (of the Yorktown Class), a ship with a matchless combat record.

A fundamental defect in this plan was there would be no single American naval admiral in overall command. Kinkaid and his 7th Fleet fell under MacArthur as Supreme Allied Commander Southwest Pacific, whereas Halsey’s 3rd Fleet reported to Nimitz as C-in-C Pacific Ocean Areas. This lack of a unified command structure, along with failures in communication, was to produce a crisis, and very nearly a strategic disaster, for the American forces.

By coincidence, the Japanese plan, using three separate fleets, also lacked an overall commander. The American options were apparent to the IJN.

Soemu Toyoda is an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy

Soemu Toyoda is an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy

Combined Fleet Chief Soemu Toyoda prepared four “victory” plans: Shō-Gō 1 was a major naval operation in the Philippines, while Shō-Gō 2, Shō-Gō 3 and Shō-Gō 4 were responses to attacks on Formosa, the Ryukyu and Kurile Islands, respectively. The plans were for complex offensive operations committing nearly all available forces to a decisive battle, despite this substantially depleting Japan’s slender reserves of fuel oil.

On 12 October 1944, the US 3rd Fleet under Admiral Halsey began a series of carrier raids against Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands, with a view to ensuring the aircraft based there could not intervene in the Leyte landings. (See a previous blog post) The Japanese command therefore put Shō-Gō 2 into action, launching waves of air attacks against 3rd Fleet’s carriers. In what Morison refers to as a “knock-down, drag-out fight between carrier-based and land-based air”, the Japanese were routed, losing 600 aircraft in three days, almost their entire air strength in the region. Following the American invasion of the Philippines, the Japanese Navy made the transition to Shō-Gō 1.

Shō-Gō 1 called for Vice-Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa’s ships—known as the “Northern Force”—to lure the main American covering forces away from Leyte.

Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa of the Imperial Japanese Navy

Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa of the Imperial Japanese Navy

Northern Force would be built around several aircraft carriers, but these would have very few aircraft or trained aircrew. The carriers would serve as the main bait. As the US covering forces were lured away, two other surface forces would advance on Leyte from the west. The “Southern Force” under Vice Admirals Shoji Nishimura and Kiyohide Shima would strike at the landing area via Surigao Strait.

Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita

Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita

The “Center Force” under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita—by far the most powerful of the attacking forces—would pass through San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea, turn southwards, and then also attack the landing area.

Photographed just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ships are, from left to right: Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser and Nagato.

Photographed just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ships are, from left to right: Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser and Nagato.

This plan was likely to result in the destruction of one or more of the attacking forces, but Toyoda later explained this to his American interrogators as follows:

Should we lose in the Philippines operations, even though the fleet should be left, the shipping lane to the south would be completely cut off so that the fleet, if it should come back to Japanese waters, could not obtain its fuel supply. If it should remain in southern waters, it could not receive supplies of ammunition and arms. There would be no sense in saving the fleet at the expense of the loss of the Philippines.

—United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) – ‘Interrogations of Japanese Officials’

The submarine action in Palawan Passage (23 October)

As it sortied from its base in Brunei, Kurita’s powerful “Center Force” consisted of five battleships (YamatoMusashiNagato,Kongō, and Haruna), ten heavy cruisers (AtagoMayaTakaoChōkaiMyōkōHaguroKumanoSuzuyaTone and Chikuma), two light cruisers (Noshiro and Yahagi) and 15 destroyers.

centerforKurita’s ships passed Palawan Island around midnight on 22–23 October.

Map of the Philippines with Palawan highlighted

Map of the Philippines with Palawan highlighted

The American submarines Darter and Dace were positioned together on the surface close by.

USS Darter (227)

USS Darter (SS-227)

USS Dace (227)

USS Dace (SS-227)

At 00:16 on 23 October, Darter‘s radar detected the Japanese formation at a range of 30,000 yd (27,000 m). Her captain promptly made visual contact. The two submarines quickly moved off in pursuit of the ships, while Darter made the first of three contact reports. At least one of these was picked up by a radio operator on Yamato, but Kurita failed to take appropriate antisubmarine precautions.

Darter and Dace traveled on the surface at full power for several hours and gained a position ahead of Kurita’s formation, with the intention of making a submerged attack at first light. This attack was unusually successful. At 05:24, Darter fired a spread of six torpedoes, at least four of which hit Kurita’s flagship, the heavy cruiser Atago. Ten minutes later, Darter made two hits on Atago‘s sister ship, Takao, with another spread of torpedoes. At 05:56, Dace made four torpedo hits on the heavy cruiser Maya (sister to Atago and Takao).

Atago and Maya quickly sank. Takao turned back to Brunei escorted by two destroyers—and was followed by the two submarines.

Sunk by planes from the U.S.S. Natoma Bay CVE-62 on October 25, 1944 at the battle of Leyte Gulf.

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Atago sunk by planes from the U.S.S. Natoma Bay CVE-62 on October 25, 1944 at the battle of Leyte Gulf.

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

On 24 October, as the submarines continued to shadow the damaged cruiser, Darter ran aground on the Bombay Shoal. All efforts to get her off failed, and she was abandoned. Her entire crew was, however, rescued by Dace.

Takao returned to Singapore. She was joined in January 1945 by Myōkō.

Atago had sunk so rapidly, Kurita was forced to swim to survive. He was rescued by one of the Japanese destroyers, and he then transferred to the battleship Yamato.

In my next post, I will continue with this campaign in Leyte Gulf with the The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea (24 October, 1944)

In my previous posts, I wrote that my father, Seaman First Class, John T. Ryan enlisted in October 1942 and was received on board of USS Hornet (CV-12) on December 10, 1943.   I didn’t know when and where he reported to boot camp and what else he experienced between October 1942 and December 10, 1943.  This week the copy of his Naval file came in the mail.  It is a lot of pages and many of them are duplicates but I have been able to construct a timeline of the period between enlistment and coming on board the USS Hornet (CV-12).  If you are new to my blog, you may wish to start at the beginning.  There is a link to the introduction on the right panel of the site.  I have also put what I am about to write into the original post where it fits in the order of chronological events.

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

Through completing a form and as I am a direct descendant of the veteran, I was able to obtain a copy of his US Navy file.  I have gained a little more information by getting this file.  As stated before, my father, John Thomas Ryan enlisted in the United State Navy on October 28, 1942.  This is actually the date that he reported to the Naval Recruitment Center in Philadelphia.  On October 30, 1942 he was transferred to USNTS, Bainbridge, Maryland.  His rank was A.S., V-6.  (Apprentice Seaman).

SEAMAN–Performs ordinary deck duties in connection with the upkeep and operations of a ship. Stands watch as look-out, telephone talker, messenger, or simillar duty. Member of gun crew.

V-6 — Enlisted men required for mobilization in addition to other classes of Volunteer Reserve.

General View of Bainbridge (Md.) Naval Training Center

General View of Bainbridge (Md.) Naval Training Center

According to my research, this training center had been active only a month when my father arrived.  His commanding officer upon arrival was C.F. Russel, Captain USN.

Bainbridge Naval Training Station, Bainbridge. Capt. Russell's house. Architects: Eggers & Higgins

Bainbridge Naval Training Station, Bainbridge. Capt. Russell’s house. Architects: Eggers & Higgins

United States Naval Training Center, Bainbridge (USNTC Bainbridge) was the U.S. Navy Training Center at Port Deposit, Maryland, on the bluffs of the northeast bank of the Susquehanna River. It was active from 1942 to 1976 under the Commander of the Fifth Naval District, based in Norfolk, Virginia.

Located on the appropriated campus of the Tome School for boys, the training center sat between various important naval centers of World War II: about 35 miles (56 km) northeast of Baltimore, Maryland, and 75 miles (121 km) from Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was reached via Maryland Route 222, about halfway between US 1 and US 40.

Tome School for Boys

Tome School for Boys

The center was activated on October 1, 1942, and the first batch of recruits arrived 10 days later to begin “boot camp” training and indoctrination. They came in busloads from transportation collection points at Havre de Grace and Perryville, Maryland. The recruits were given a battery of tests to determine their educational and skill levels, then trained in indoctrination, ordnance and gunnery, seamanship, fire fighting, physical training, and military drill.

Halfway through boot camp, recruits had a “service week”, which generally included kitchen duty, peeling potatoes, mopping, picking up cigarette butts, etc. Recruits with desirable skills, such as typing, could end up on an office typewriter rather than in a kitchen.

Recruits were also trained in shipboard duties aboard the R.T.S. Commodore, a relatively large “ship” built on dry land. The trainer was equipped with most of the facilities found on a real ship, including deck guns, pilot house, davits with whaleboats, and mooring lines fastened to earth-bound bollards, so that crew members could learn casting off hawsers and other lines connecting the ship to its dock.

Recruits training on the "USS Neversail", USS Commodore (401B), at USNRTC Bainbridge.

Recruits training on the “USS Neversail”, USS Commodore (401B), at USNRTC Bainbridge.

USNTC Bainbridge--BARRACKS INTERIOR

BarracksBainbridgeRecruitBarracksInterior1954

By the end of World War II, the center had trained 244,277 recruits who transferred to various ships and stations throughout the world.

On January 26, 1943 while at the USNTS, Bainbridge, MD, John Thomas Ryan was promoted to Seaman Second Class (S2c, V6).

On February 22, 1943 when my father completed training in Bainbridge, Maryland, he was transferred to the Naval Shipyard in Long Beach, California.

The life of the Long Beach Naval Shipyard began in 1940 when, for $1, the Navy acquired 104 acres of oceanfront on Terminal Island from the city of Long Beach. Later, landfills and dredging increased the shipyard site to 396 acres. It was located at Terminal Island between Long Beach and San Pedro about 23 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport.  It opened in February 1943 with 300 workers.  It was established to repair and refurbish U.S. naval vessels. During World War II, the naval dry docks did routine and battle damage repairs to tankers, cargo ships, troop transports, destroyers and cruisers. It also served as a depot for fuel and supplies for U.S. Navy ships on their way to war or deployment.

On March 20, 1943, Seaman Second Class, John Thomas Ryan was received on board the USS Dashiell (DD659).  According to my research, this would be on the ship’s commissioning date.  According to the US Navy WWII Muster Rolls, he remained on board through October 17, 1943.

USS Dashiell (DD-659) Spring 1943, NA 80G60026.

USS Dashiell (DD-659) Spring 1943, NA 80G60026.

Although my father was only on board for a part of the USS Dashiell (DD-659) war history, here is a little about her.  You can read more about the ship at this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Dashiell_%28DD-659%29 or other internet sources.

The USS Dashiell (DD-659) was a Fletcher-class destroyer of the United States Navy, named for Robert B. Dashiell (1860–1899).  Dashiell was launched 6 February 1943 by Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J.. sponsored by Mrs. R. B. Dashiell, widow of Assistant Naval Constructor Dashiell; and commissioned 20 March 1943, Commander J. B. McLean in command.

In World War II, the USS Dashiell (DD-659) arrived at Pearl Harbor 24 July 1943 to join the Fast Carrier Task Forces for the raids on Marcus Island of 31 August to 1 September; Tarawa, 18–20 September; and Wake Island, 5–6 October. Arriving at Efate, New Hebrides, 5 November, she prepared for the invasion of the Gilberts and was one of the first to enter the lagoon in the assault on Tarawa 20 November. She passed into the lagoon under heavy enemy fire, took up position just off Tarawa’s reef, and opened return fire on shore batteries, enemy strong points and an ammunition dump to aid the troops ashore for three days. Following the cessation of hostilities on Tarawa, the Dashiell was sent to the US’ west coast for an overhaul.

On October 17, 1943, my father was transferred to C.O. RecSta, Pearl Harbor, T.H. FFT.  I don’t know what these abbreviations are but according to the papers from his file, he was granted 8 days leave in accordance with BuPers c/L No. 167-43 and additional orders to report to Recship at San Francisco, California which he did on November 7, 1943.

How did enlisted personnel get from one place to another during the war.  Nothing in the papers says how he traveled from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to San Franscisco, California.  Is it the reason for the leave?  Did the men have to find a means of transport?  If anyone reading this blog has the answer, I would like to know.

On November 19, 1943, my father reported to the station at Newport News, Virginia.  Again, how did he get there, clear across the country?  Was it the Recship mentioned above.  Could a ship get from California, down through the Panama Canal and up to Virginia in twelve days?

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

It is the autumn of 1944, my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

Overhead view of an ammo ship replenishing USS Hornet (CV-12), October 1944. Note the forward antenna masts half way up.

Overhead view of an ammo ship replenishing USS Hornet (CV-12), October 1944.
Note the forward antenna masts half way up.

U.S. carrier-based torpedo bombers are seen during an attack on Japanese airbases at Okinawa, Ryukyu islands, on Oct. 9, 1944. AP Photo/U.S. Navy

U.S. carrier-based torpedo bombers are seen during an attack on Japanese airbases at Okinawa, Ryukyu islands, on Oct. 9, 1944.
AP Photo/U.S. Navy

10-19 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Okinawa, Ryukyu Retto, Aparri, Luzon and Formosa. 13 Oct 1944 – First Japanese plane confirmed splashed by HORNET anti- aircraft fire.

The Ryukyu Islands, known in Japanese as the Nansei Islands and also known as the Ryukyu Arc, are a chain of volcanic Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan: the Ōsumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima Islands (further divided into the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands), with Yonaguni the southernmost. The largest of the islands is Okinawa.

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Planes from fast carriers of Admiral Nimitz's Pacific Fleet hit targets in the industrial area of Naha City on Okinawa Island in the Ryukyu chain south of Japan. These vast plumes of smoke stem from stricken ships and warehouses, at least four ships having been fired.

Planes from fast carriers of Admiral Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet hit targets in the industrial area of Naha City on Okinawa Island in the Ryukyu chain south of Japan. These vast plumes of smoke stem from stricken ships and warehouses, at least four ships having been fired.

The Formosa Air Battle took place between October 10 and 20, 1944, off the eastern coasts of the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa, and Luzon. It was fought by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and the approaching Task Force 38 of the United States Third Fleet and was one of a series of air raids on Japan during the Pacific War. The attacks served to prevent the Japanese aircraft from involvement in the Battle of Leyte Gulf later that month.

The battle was one-sided, as the Americans practically dominated air warfare due to the superior training and weaponry that they possessed at that point. The Japanese air power in the region was battle exhausted, giving the Americans air superiority and weakening Japan’s ability to defend the Okinawa Islands in the upcoming Okinawa Campaign. However, in an effort to boost morale and to cover up the defeat, Japanese headquarters claimed to have sunk 45 Allied ships, including 11 aircraft carriers and four battleships.

The U.S. Third Fleet started carrier-launched raids against Formosa on October 12, 1944. The Japanese response was to send waves of aircraft against the U.S. carriers. On October 13, the cruiser USS Canberra was seriously damaged by a torpedo bomber while for one of the first times in the war a kamikaze aircraft was used, which lightly damaged the carrier USS Franklin. The following day saw the island all but neutralized but the light cruiser USS Houston was damaged by an enemy torpedo,

View looking aft showing the damage to the starboard catapult after the first torpedo hit.

USS Houston CL-81 – View looking aft showing the damage to the starboard catapult after the first torpedo hit.

while the carrier USS Hancock, the light cruiser USS Reno and two destroyers had all incurred some form of damage. However over three days the Japanese had lost approximately 500 aircraft and countless ships, which was almost their entire air strength in the area while American losses in aircraft amounted to 89.

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At this point I am going to take a break from my father’s story and write about my uncle and the Battle of Formosa. If you recall from my introduction, my father had a twin brother, James Ryan.

James RyanAround the time my father was boarding the USS Hornet (CV-12), his brother was on board the USS Houston (CL-81), a Cleveland Class Light Cruiser.

USS Houston (CL-81) 1943

USS Houston (CL-81) 1943

In a biographical account of his naval career, my uncle mentions that he and my father did get to meet once when their ships were anchored in Saipan Harbor. Both ships were part of the same Task Force. My uncle passed away this year at the age of 90 but he had a written account of his experience in the Battle of Formosa. I now share his words.

The major invasion of the Philippines was scheduled for late October so our Task Force was sent North to intercept the Jap Fleet if they tried to interfere with this landing. We then supported air strikes on Okinawa and Formosa (now Taiwan). We operated in the China Sea and were the first Task Force to penetrate so close to the Japanese Homeland. This meant we had to be within range of land-based planes in Formosa and China.

At about 6 p.m. on October 14th, our Task Force was attacked by about 90 enemy fighters and bombers. The fighter planes from our Carriers destroyed most of these planes, but about 7 p.m. a bomber launched his torpedo and struck us amidships (between the forward fire room and the after engine room). I was extremely lucky that General Quarters sounded (the alarm that enemy planes are approaching) when I was not at my regular station, i.e. the after engine room. I proceeded to my battle station, a Damage Control Unit, just one deck above the engine room. The initial blast killed about a quarter of my division.

Ordeal of the U.S.S. Houston by Jack Fellows

Ordeal of the U.S.S. Houston
by Jack Fellows

About 8 p.m. the Captain passed the word to “Abandon Ship”. So I made my way up three decks to the topside to my “Abandon Ship” location. I jumped in with my life jacket on and clung to the side of the raft type float that had several severely wounded men in the center. [They had burial at sea for two men from rafts who did not make it.]

USS Houston (CL 81) Burial at sea for crewmen killed when the ship was torpedoed off Formosa on 14 October 1944. Photographed while Houston was under tow on 15 October. The following day, 16 October, she was hit in the starboard quarter (just aft of where this view was taken) by another aerial torpedo. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. - 19-N-110835.

USS Houston (CL 81) Burial at sea for crewmen killed when the ship was torpedoed off Formosa on 14 October 1944. Photographed while Houston was under tow on 15 October. The following day, 16 October, she was hit in the starboard quarter (just aft of where this view was taken) by another aerial torpedo.
Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. – 19-N-110835.

We drifted for about 6 hours in heavy seas until we were picked up by the Destroyer Grayson. The next day we saw that our ship did not sink and was being towed by the Cruiser Boston. They eventually got the ship back to Manus in the Admiralty Islands (above Australia) about a 2,000 mile trip.

View looking aft, showing damage to the ship's stern area resulting from a torpedo hit amidships received off Formosa on 14 October 1944. This photo was taken while Houston was under tow, but prior to the second torpedo hit on 16 October. Note OS2U floatplane that had been jarred off the port catapult, breaking its wing on impact with the aircraft crane. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives #19-N-106304.

View looking aft, showing damage to the ship’s stern area resulting from a torpedo hit amidships received off Formosa on 14 October 1944. This photo was taken while Houston was under tow, but prior to the second torpedo hit on 16 October. Note OS2U floatplane that had been jarred off the port catapult, breaking its wing on impact with the aircraft crane.
Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives #19-N-106304.

Japanese aerial torpedo hits the ship's starboard quarter, during the afternoon of 16 October 1944. This view shows burning fuel at the base of the torpedo explosion's water column. Houston had been torpedoed amidships on 14 October, while off Formosa, and was under tow by USS Pawnee (ATF 74) when enemy torpedo planes hit her again. USS Canberra (CA 70), also torpedoed off Formosa, is under tow in the distance. The original photograph is in the USS Santa Fe (CL 60) "Log", a very large photo album held by the Navy Department Library. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 98826.

Japanese aerial torpedo hits the ship’s starboard quarter, during the afternoon of 16 October 1944. This view shows burning fuel at the base of the torpedo explosion’s water column. Houston had been torpedoed amidships on 14 October, while off Formosa, and was under tow by USS Pawnee (ATF 74) when enemy torpedo planes hit her again. USS Canberra (CA 70), also torpedoed off Formosa, is under tow in the distance. The original photograph is in the USS Santa Fe (CL 60) “Log”, a very large photo album held by the Navy Department Library.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 98826.

I was transferred at sea from the Grayson to another Cruiser, the Santa Fe, and to the Troop Ship Dashing Wave that took us back to Pearl Harbor.

USS Grayson (DD-435)

USS Grayson (DD-435)

USS Santa Fe CL-60

USS Santa Fe CL-60

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They ordered the “Black Gang” (workers in the engine room) to rejoin our ship, so we got a ride on a carrier back to Manus. We worked on a giant loading dry-dock to repair the ship to make it seaworthy enough to take us back to the United States.

Seaworthy in February 1945 USS Houston CL-81

Seaworthy in February 1945
USS Houston CL-81

By Mid-February we left Manus and limped back to the Brooklyn Navy Yard arriving about the end of March. The war ended in early September but our ship wasn’t finished until October. We took another shake-down cruise in the Caribbean and arrived back in Norfolk, Virginia. I was discharged in Mid-December 1945.

Today’s post is not my normal post on this blog.  It is for the Daily Prompt: Origins Story.

I usually submit for the Daily Prompt from my other blog, IF I ONLY HAD A TIME MACHINE

The Assignment: Why did you start your blog? Is that still why you blog, or has your site gone in a different direction than you’d planned?

I just started my other blog in late June of this year so I am very new to blogging.  My other blog is fairly simple as I translated an interest in history into a daily blog about historical events on the date in history.  On my “about” page, I received a comment from a fellow blogger who I had started following.  It was the following comment and the online conversation that followed that resulted in me blogging to honor my father.

 9 comments to About

gpcox says:

June 24, 2013 at 6:08 am  (Edit)

I love looking for those little known facts and I know a lot of other people who enjoy reading them as well. Sounds like a great idea for a blog. Pleased to meet you.

Reply

Maryann Holloway says:

June 24, 2013 at 7:36 am  (Edit)

Thanks. I like your posts too. My father served in WWII in the Navy on board the USS Hornet CV-12. We lost him when we were all pretty young so I never had the opportunity to hear his WWII stories. I pieced together his time on the Hornet through muster rolls from Ancestry.com so I know what battles he went through but it is not the same as first hand stories.

Reply

gpcox says:

June 24, 2013 at 7:37 am  (Edit)

Do you plan to post this info? I think it deserves attention.

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At the time, I did have a start of something for such a blog.  On Ancestry.com, I had built an entire database of the Muster Rolls from my father’s aircraft carrier during WWII and maybe the timeline and information about the aircraft carrier could be a basis for telling the story.

First I had to set up the blogs appearance.  I wanted it to be different from my historical facts blog and I wanted it to visually say “Military and War”.  I needed to choose a theme that was free of cost on WordPress.com.  I am happy with the theme I chose and I have added widgets as I became more familiar.

Next came the “About” page and I think this really answers the question in today’s daily prompt assignment.

My father, John T. Ryan (Jack) was born in the early years after World War I and due to heart failure, he passed away before the Vietnam War was in the history books.  In between he grew to manhood in Philadelphia, enlisted in the US Navy, went to war serving on the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier (CV-12), met and married my mom in the late 1950s and fathered five children. Due to my age when he passed away, I never really knew my father and so I never had the opportunity to hear his stories of World War II.  In this blog, I attempt to tell his World War II story through the history of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12). It will lack the personal stories that I just don’t have.  I welcome any comments to make it better.

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

To date, I have written about ten months of my father’s war experience and there are many more months to go.  I am really learning a lot as I look up the various battles, look at maps of islands in the Pacific Ocean that I never heard of before and view images of people and places from more than 60 years ago.  I don’t have a lot of followers yet and I am working on techniques with the categories and tags to get more followers but to me it is not the most important reason to blog.  For me, this blog helps me to get to know a father I was never allowed the opportunity to know.  That is how and why I began this blog.  If you like to read about the war in the pacific, I encourage you to follow me as I tell my father’s story.  If you want to start from the beginning, there is a link in the left side panel, under blogroll.