Five Rising Suns
By Cpl. OZZIE ST. GEORGE YANK Staff Correspondent
SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC—Five neat little Jap flags painted on the nose of a B-24 are nice to look at, but they're scarcely anything to write home about. Five little Rising Suns on the bridge of a lumbering LST are something else again.
It happened not long ago. The LST was lying at anchor with a detachment of Coast Artillery aboard. At 8:22 AM a shore station flashed "Red Alert." Seven minutes later the LST was underway, her guns manned. Reginald E. Gressley QM3c, Los Angeles lawyer, was on watch, keeping the ship's log. What he logged that morning reads like a "Thrilling Adventure" yarn less the adjectives.
Eight Jap dive bombers (Val 99s) came out of the sun and peeled off, beaded for the ship. The skipper, Lt. Harold M. Graham of New Orleans, ordered hard left rudder. As the LST swung to port, her star-board guns opened up.
Floyd E. Knowles Y2c of LaFayette, Ind., forward "talker," remembers that: "I should have been scared, but there was too much happening."
Louis R. Dively S1c of Los Angeles, Earl F. Rarney F1c of Portsmouth, Ohio, and Glen C. Williams S2c of Portland, Ore., got their 20-mm on one Val and filled it full of flak. William W. King F1c of Portland, Ore., Curtis O. Hanson MoMM2c, and Paul R. Hansen MM2c, both of Los Angeles, got another with their 20. Both Japs went into the bay before they could release their bombs.
Coxswain Edmund A. Kurdziel of Toledo, Ohio, and Nelson A. Minor F2c of Minneapolis picked off a third. Fred F. Doty S1c, Harold F. Hull F1c, both of Los Angeles, and Marvin Krueger S1c of Dale, Wis., got a fourth. The Army, firing four .50s and two 40-mms, got another.
And that accounts for the five little suns on the bridge of the LST.
Ensign Charles Macmurdo of Baton Rouge, La., on the conn during the attack, murmured later that he had watched three 250-pound bombs, released to port, sail over his head so low he ducked. They struck the sea 100 yards off the starboard beam. Two more landed 10 yards to starboard, the concussion springing leaks in some of the ship's piping. That was the only damage.
Damage inflicted on the Imperial Japanese Air Force was more apparent. Boson's mate John Stephenson, former light-heavy and heavy-weight Golden Glove champ of St Paul, Minn., counted seven pillars of smoke within 3,000 yards of the ship. P-38s had accounted for the odd two. The eighth, the crew decided, was let off that he might get home to spread the glad tidings.
In the official report of the action it was stated that "the Japanese pilots appeared surprised at the amount and accuracy of the antiaircraft fire." No doubt.
The LST was one of the first Ts to see action in the SWPA. In on the initial landing at Lae, it made five more trips to that hot spot, was bombed twice with no results. Three trips to Finschhafen were made without incident. As LSTs are considered more or less "expendable" once they reach the beach, this one is somewhat ahead of the game.
The LST and her crew were at Cape Gloucester, too, their third action within four months. Action, in their case, means, more than anything else, no sleep. Hours in advance of reaching the beach the crew goes to general quarters, and stays there until the T is safely off the beach again.
At Lae, Ship's Cook Tim Keziak SC2c of Mineral Springs, N.C., sprang from gun to galley and back again, snatched five hours' sleep in 65. Ensign Louis Curra of Smithton, Pa., former tackle on the Western Reserve Sunbowl team of '41, and James Glenn F2c of Dallas, Tex., beat even that record with 56 straight hours of duty.
Call it bells or call it hours, it's still a long day.