Chapter 24

I had a spare low frequency aircraft radio that covered the broadcast band which was never used in the fighters so I tore it apart, made a new chassis and rebuilt it completely from scratch.  About the second night I tried it out it was after lights out and no one complained as we had some nice soft music.  This was interrupted with the announcement of the bomb drop and the possible unconditional surrender of the Japs.  All the lights came on and there was very little sleep the rest of the night.

 

We wasted no time in packing and getting ready to board a couple of  LSTs, the 1139 and the 867.  They had a bow ramp that after running up to the beach would be lowered permitting vehicles to be run ashore.

 

Below decks the loading went on into the night with the final equipment being shoehorned in.  Topside we had crates piled high, a “follow me jeep” for leading aircraft in and sailors everywhere climbing over a mountain of gear.

 

The mess compartment in the lower deck, after end was doing double duty as an office with a ladder to the wheelhouse.

 

My sleeping quarters was forward on the port side and also served as a passageway between decks to get topside.

 

We sailed for Japan on the 1139 along with the 867 and a screen of destroyers, constantly zig zagging day and night when during the second night out one of the LSTs didn’t get the signal to zig and we took a hit on the port side amidships.  It broke through the hull and we immediately pumped all the fuel into the starboard tanks to control the list.  At daylight we were slowed to about 8 knots and put a scaffold over the side so that we could get a welder down there.  With all the fuel and water in the starboard tanks we just managed to get the breach in the hull above the water line so that we could get a patch welded on.  We took turns with rifles keeping the sharks away from the man on the scaffold.  I had to borrow a carbine as I had been issued a 45 automatic.

 

It was quite a sight as we sailed into Tokyo Bay and beached the LSTs on the ramp at Yokosuka.  We could see what I think was the Japanese battleship Nagato and other ships over by the submarine base.

 

We had not let down the ramps and were told that we would wait till morning.  We didn’t sleep much that night wondering what lay in store for us on the beach.  Next morning we lowered the ramp and started off loading equipment, tools, parts and personal gear.  Four of us chiefs were assigned to a large building just behind the Jap administration building but getting our priorities in order, we sneaked over to the hangars and what a sight.  There in the middle of the floor was a huge pile of arms, electronic equipment, tools and I even found a sextant.  We found a couple of their “BAKA” bombs in which they sealed a pilot and carried him aloft aboard this bomb with a seat and no engine, only to release him over ships with orders to aim at the largest one.

 

Next a couple of us discovered a cave in the large hill adjacent to our area.  It had multi levels and aircraft repair shops on the lower level with shops and sleeping quarters above.  One of the fellows found a hastily dropped camera and a few personal possessions in one of the quarters.

 

Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945 the U.S.S. MISSOURI flanked by the U.S.S. IOWA stood ready for the formal signing of the Japanese surrender.  Chester Nitiz’s flag was flown from the aftermast and was flanked by Macarthur’s flag but one flag that day outshone them both.  It was the flag Admiral Perry had flown from almost this same location in 1854 and it had been delivered to MISSOURI by special messenger from the President of the United States of America.  The formal signing took place at 0903 followed by a flight of 450 carrier planes coming masthead height over the MISSOURI.  One of Japans large battleships which I believe to be the NAGATO was in the background.

 

About this time we headed back for the quarters only to find that there had been a foul up and McArthur had not as yet signed the surrender.  Our building was a large three story concrete affair with a map of the world painted on the whole side of the building with naturally, Japan right in the center with spokes radiating out in all directions.

 

We soon found one of the large hot tubs these people were known for.  However, there was no hot water and only the bravest would dare bathe and soak in them.

 

One of my first projects was to get a tower going on top of a large building near the breakwater for arriving aircraft.  Next I was given two local Japanese telephone workers in order to get some phone lines going.  We also had one interpreter we shared by the name of Suzuki.  When we first landed we saw no one at all and then one at a time would peek out from around a building.  One of my workers had expressed a desire through the interpreter to learn a bit of English so I was to teach him some English in return for him teaching me an equal amount of Japanese.  I first taught him to count, Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatro, Cinco, etc. and he taught me to count in Japanese.  He was a bit concerned when no one could understand him.

 

I had one worker that would do my laundry in a concrete trough and I gave him a pair of GI shoes.  They stopped him going out the gate that night with them and he came back indicating they wouldn’t let him out.  I ended up carrying them out for him as he was a hard worker.

 

My little radio worked better than expected on the Japanese current which was only 50 cycle and 90 volts.  I was glad I had used heavy parts in the power supply.  I got a lot of comments on that radio, it also had an aircraft 24 hour clock in the front panel, one I had rescued from an F4U Corsair in New Caledonia.

 

I did venture off base into the edge of Yokosuka one day and there was a cold rain coming down.  I marveled at the health of the Japanese infants who were riding on their mothers back in a scarf.  I figured it must be only the extra strong ones who survived.

 

One day the mayor of the town came out in his most prized possession, his automobile.  He had a little fellow walking ahead of him steering him around the potholes.  He came to invite some of us to dinner that night.  Five of us were to go over to his house for an evening of dining and entertainment.  Not being too anxious to partake of a menu that we were not familiar with we sent some of our best steaks on ahead in the afternoon so that we might treat them also.

 

Arriving there in the evening we were led into a room after divesting ourselves of shoes and seated on the floor cross legged with a very low table in front of us.  His daughters were to serve us and provide the entertainment.

 

One of the things on the first course was what I had dreaded the most after discovering that there would be no steaks.  Yes, fish heads and rice.  Apparently there is a small piece of meat just behind the eye socket.  The next thing looked like a hamburger patty and I worked on it with my chopsticks for a while and it flipped over on my plate.  Lo and behold a pair of birds legs were looking at me.  I think I ate some seaweed and this was without dressing.  We got through the evening somehow and politely thanked him and left.

 

They had the honey bucket people on the streets going from house to house collecting fertilizer for their gardens, I was glad we had not had any fresh produce.  These men would have a long pole across their shoulders with a bucket on each end.  One day Fussel came tearing down the narrow street in his jeep and avoided the man but hit one of the honey buckets, spinning man and buckets around like a child’s top.  Everything for several feet around was painted in earth tones.

 

One morning my sinuses were bothering me quite badly and I made a trip to a wood and straw shack they were using as a temporary dispensary.  It appeared its main function was the dispensing of APC tablets as I didn’t see much around the room in the way of equipment.  A pharmacist mate asked my trouble and proceeded to get a couple of long wires and wrapped cotton around the ends.  He then placed them up my nose as far as they would go.  While I was sitting there trying to protect the ends from being bumped by someone,  the whole place broke into flame.  The alcohol heater for the sterilizer had been knocked over and the wood and straw construction took off immediately.  People were scurrying around like ants from a stomped on ant hill.  I finally found my way out with my arms held in front of the swabs for protection.  I removed them myself and decided to risk being a social outcast with a runny nose.

 

Time came for us to move around the other side of the bay to Kisarazu and for the trip we found a Jap fire truck that didn’t appear to have any immediate duties to perform so we loaded it up and headed out.  Well, we got into downtown Tokyo without too much trouble but getting back out again was another thing.  I got off and stopped a gentleman walking along the Ginza for directions, I said “Kisarazu, you know, you show me”.  He looked at me for a while and said in the king’s English, “oh, that is quite far”.  The next person I asked told me in broken English that there was no way of giving directions as all the buildings were bombed out, everything gone, no landmarks.

 

We found that we had not been lied to when told that these people used the center of the street as a toilet.  They would stop in mid stride and urinate.  I have forgotten the way they said it but it was to the effect that you leave it where the sun can dry it.  Women would come running out of the house holding a child and into the street thereby saving on diapers.

 

Kisarazu was a big disappointment.  It was barren of any conveniences whatsoever and they would bring food across the bay for us which consisted of only one thing, boneless turkey and crackers and so help me I can’t stand the thought of that stuff today.  Well, here we were, a complete CASU outfit and one airplane, it soon became evident that we were overstaffed.  One day on a trip to see the yeoman I learned that orders had come in to transfer two men out of the outfit to Bering Strait.  Isn’t that by Alaska?, a chance to get back to the states.  I found out the skipper was off base and the exec was drunk.  I talked to the yeoman to put my name and that of a buddy on the orders and get the exec to sign them before he sobered up.  We packed and got out of there in a flash.  What the yeoman didn’t tell me was that this was the “U.S.S. BERING STRAIT” a ship.  Well, too late now and we arrived just in time to sail. It was a destroyer escort hull which had been made into a sea plane tender but one of the small ones that were not able to bring a seaplane aboard but refueled them and furnished spare parts.

 

I discovered that they did not really have an opening for an aviation chief radioman so I really didn’t have a job.  I did volunteer to copy radio messages in the radio room now and then but mostly I enjoyed doing the cooking in the chiefs quarters which was clear up forward just aft of the paint locker.

 

We chiefs had our own mess for which we paid a nominal fee and we could come down after the movies and fry up cheeseburgers or whatever we wanted.  One night I made a pot roast with potatoes and carrots and everyone overate.  I fell asleep on the leather couch and when I awoke I discovered that some change had fallen out of my pocket so I proceeded to remove a cushion and came up with three dollars and seventy five cents.  What a windfall, but I donated it to the mess.

 

Copyright ©2004-2007 Lynn R. Forshee.  All rights reserved.
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