"THE MAD ANTHONY"
Page 2 of 5
The Story of A Ship and Her Crew
By Lieutenant Jere D. Lustig, USNR
BEARDING THE LION IN HIS DEN
Shortly after the middle of February, one of the squadrons of destroyers who was acting as the covering force was ordered to bombard Rabaul, New Britain Island, to destroy supplies and any enemy shipping found in the harbor. It was really something for a group of destroyers to steam right into the mouth of the vaunted enemy stronghold of the South Pacific, but the raid was very successful and not a ship was damaged. We sighed with relief for them, and the comment was freely passed that they had been lucky to catch the enemy by surprise, but woe-be-tide the next ones to try it. Two nights later we were speeding up St. George Channel for that very purpose!
We left Purvis Bay on the 23rd for Treasury Island, practicing torpedo attacks enroute. It was a grand sight watching the squadron steam out of Purvis Day, trim grey little warships, bristling with guns and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to trade punches with the enemy. The next night we left Treasury Island and headed up St. George Channel between New Ireland and New Britain. At the entrance to the outer harbor our division headed in while the other division steamed on, looking for shipping and waiting in reserve just in case.
As we approached Credner Island, we saw a light blinking as if to warn of our approach, but for some reason we were allowed to steam in unmolested. Opening fire with all five guns, we poured the shells out at almost machine gun rate of fire. Our sister ship was doing the same, and in but a matter of seconds, there was a brilliant fire blazing in what had been an enemy supply dump and barracks area. Still the batteries on Credner Island were silent, and we were thankful. A battery in the Vunapope area fired a few shells at us, but we put it out of business before he got the range.
As we steamed back and fourth pouring shells into the blazing supply area, PT boats were reported heading our way, and we decided that it was time to withdraw. Shifting our fire to the inner harbor area where we struck what possibly was a supply ship at anchor we started to retire. Again we safely negotiated the most dangerous part of the harbor, right under the very muzzles of the shore batteries and out to comparative safety. We continued to sweep north in the hope of running into enemy shipping, but we had no luck, and soon it was time to turn our bows toward friendlier waters. Miles away, our other division could see the fires we had started, and pictures of the area taken the next day proved the success of our venture. So ended our second bombardment. We never could figure out why the shore batteries didn't blast us out of the water, but there are many of us who are satisfied to give the credit to some higher power looking down on us and protecting us as our guns spoke out in the name of humanity and freedom.
WE JUMP RIGHT PAST KAVIENG
Our next invasion took us beyond Kavieng, that other stronghold of the enemy, and the morning of the 20th of March found us covering the landing of Marines on Emirau Island, one of the St. Matthais Group about 75 miles northwest of New Ireland. The trip up was uneventful, and our principal hostile act at the objective was to strafe the south end of a small adjoining island when machine gun fire from this island was seen to be endangering our landing craft. The reports on the actual presence of Japs on this little island were contradictory, and it was even reported that there were no Japs on Enmirau at all; however, the effect of our 40 MM fire must have made the Marines feel better, and when we ceased firing, there were definitely no further splashes near our boats. We don't claim this for a bombardment, but we sure made a lot of noise and we almost made a landing ourself as we approached within 1000 yards of the beach.
With the marines firmly entrenched, and the Seebees hard at work on the airstrip, we steamed between Guadalcanal and Emirau to bring in supplies. This continued until the 20th of April, when we left Purvis Bay on a surprise escort trip with a merchant ship. Upon being detached at sea, we were ordered to proceed to Havannah Harbor, Efate, for duty with the battleship task force -- Something was in the air and we hoped that it would be good.
BACK TO CIVILIZATION
We had not reached our destination when the news came in that we were going there to escort the Battleship Task Force to Sydney, Australia, for "Rest and Recreation". That was good news if there ever was good news. We left Havannah Harbor on the 24th of April and arrived at the entrance to Port Jackson, Sydney on the morning of the 29th after a journey that was spent in getting our "blues" cleaned up and our plans made for one riotous stay in that most famous metropolis. We had planned for this moment during our entire stay in the South Pacific; now we were there.
The first liberty party left the ship about noon, and from then until we staggered up the gangway at midnight six days later all hands cooperated to banish all thoughts of the war and to have one grand vacation. It wasn't the states, but some thought it was even better. We didn't have our families there, but no one can say that the friendly people from "down under" didn't do their utmost to make us feel at home. In turn, we invited a good number of their fair sex to help us celebrate at the two ship's parties which were held at one of the halls in the heart of the city. Both parties were smashing successes.
The following Saturday was a sorry one indeed, for we had grown very fond of this beautiful city and its inhabitants, but the war couldn't wait, and we turned our bow once more toward Havannah Harbor. At least, we had our memories of a week of heaven, and that would help until we could finally head toward home.
WE HEAD NORTH AGAIN
After a short period of training and rehearsals, in company with the rest of our squadron and escorting the battleships and joining cruisers and carriers enroute, we headed for the Central Pacific. When we got underway on the morning of June 2nd, we did so for the first time without our first Division Commander, Commander Edmund B. Taylor, USN. He had gone ahead to take over the duties of Squadron Commander, and Commander Frank J. Walsh of the USS WADSWORTH was acting Division Commander. It was truly a period of change, enroute we got orders for a new skipper as well.
The group arrived at Roi Anchorage, Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshalls on the 8th, fueled, provisioned and on the 8th headed westward toward the Mariannas. We had a new member in our ship's company, Commander Clyde J. Van Arsdall, Jr., USN (then Lieutenant Commander) who was to be our new skipper. We had done our job in the Solomons, where the enemy had been checked and then turned back; now we were heading for his own territory, Saipan Island in the Mariannas.
Arriving at Saipan with the bombardment force, we lost no time in getting into action. The heavies bombarded until the middle of the morning, when they headed out to sea, and in company with the WADSWORTH, we closed the coastline. Steaming along just off shore, we poured 5 inch shells into the various machine gun emplacements and other targets of opportunity. We had been given the privilege of being the first destroyers in the group to bombard the island.
The morning of the 15th found us once more screening the heavy units as they covered the initial landing on Saipan Island. Thus we added one more major bombardment to our record as we covered our fourth invasion. The day passed swiftly and nightfall found us ready for more action. We headed south and the first light of the 16th found us off Guam. Here again, the heavy units began the "softening-up" process that made it possible for the Marines to land.
Our bombardment was broken off by orders to head north to await further orders. The Jap Fleet was going to accept our challenge, and we were going to be privileged to be there. Our orders came in later in the day, and that night we left our group to join Admiral Mitcher's already famous Task Force FIFTY-EIGHT. This was indeed a far cry from playing guardian angel to LST'S, but both jobs were necessary and we went where duty called.
There could have been no one on the ship who didn't thrill to the first sight of this mighty task force as we first sighted them in the distance. They covered the entire ocean, and no matter where one looked, there were more carriers, battleships and cruisers, and of course, out in front of all were the sleek grey destroyers. The Mighty "A" was proud indeed to be a part of this mighty striking force.
The reports of the Jap Fleet were proved correct when on the morning of the 19th, the reports of "Many Bogies" began coming in from all directions. It was the all out attack of the air arm of the Jap fleet. Needless-to-say, we were ready for them, and the raids were broken up by our gallant flyers long before they approached within striking distance of our force. Those few who did manage to break through were quickly disposed of, and by 1400, even the few remaining sporadic attacks had stopped. The final score, 369 planes shot down meant that the Jap force now had little or no air cover available for protection from our own attack.
As our planes searched for the Jap fleet, accompanied by the BRAINE, we made a short trip toward Guam to rescue the personnel of two cruiser planes who were reported down on the water.
We found the planes afloat just north of Guam and after futile attempts to assist them in getting into the air, we took on board both the crewmen of the seaplanes as well as the carrier crewmen whom they had landed to assist. After destroying the planes by gunfire, we headed back to the task force at high speed. Bogies were reported in the area, but we were unmolested and, just after dark, once again took our places in the formation.
The next day found us still searching for the Jap fleet, and when the word came in as to their whereabouts, about 250 miles away, our own planes took to the air for the kill. Meanwhile, we waited impatiently, praying that they would have the best of luck, and that all could return and make safe landings. Our prayers must have been answered as they found their quarry and made the most of the opportunity. Then came the long trip back, and when they finally did reach the force, It was well after dark.
With the arrival of the first planes, the mighty armada put aside all fears of submarines in favor of the safety of the flyers, and all ships turned on their truck lights. At times as directed, we turned our 36 inch searchlights on and their brilliant beams shot up into the clouds to guide the planes to us. We hadn't been able to help them strike the Japs, but we could assist them to return safely. As all were extremely low on gas by this time, many failed to make it to their carriers, and were forced to land in the water. Their rescue was assigned to our division, and as the force sped onward toward the Jap Fleet so as to be ready to strike again in the morning, we remained behind scouring the waters on a mission of mercy.
By morning, we had covered the area thoroughly, and with our rescued airmen aboard, we headed for a rendezvous with the tankers. Then, since the Jap Fleet had fled, we were to return to our bombardment group to continue our work as a covering force. Our part in the First Battle of the Philippines had been one of mercy, but we felt that we had done our bit.
CHANGE OF COMMAND
Hardly had the excitement of our latest activity worn off, when on the 30th of June Captain Fondeville L. TEDDER (then Commander) of Berkeley, California, came aboard, via a "boatswain's chair", from the escort carrier which had brought him out to our operating area. He assumed the duties of Commander Destroyer Division NINETY and we were once again a flagship. Meanwhile, we were getting ready for the ceremonies to be held the next day.
On the Ist of July, after general drills had been completed, the crew and officers assembled on the fantail in much the same manner as they had done sixteen months previously. This time it was to be good-bye, and after a short speech, Captain Van Mater read his orders. He was followed by Lieutenant Commander Van Arsdall, Jr., who read his orders and who then relieved him as Commanding Officer. The new skipper made a brief but impressive talk, and we were certain that we would have at least as much confidence in our new skipper as in our old one who had found us an inexperienced and untried group of individuals and had welded us into the trained fighting tean that we now are. A few days later the old skipper left in the same manner as Captain Tedder had arrived.
Things had just begun to get monotonous when we got orders to proceed to Guam and commence the "processing" which was to make it ready for the Marines. Our little group of cruisers and destroyers arrived at Guam on the morning of the 8th of July and the cruisers began their bombardment. That night, the group retired, and the ANTHONY remained to bombard during the night and harass the Japs with star shells. One of the other destroyers of our squadron was performing the same mission on the other side of the island, and between us, we made life very interesting for the Japs on the island.
We continued the bombardment for several days, and at
night two destroyers would remain to harass the enemy. This continued until
we were relieved by one of the other divisions. We then escorted
two "baby flattops" to Eniwetok in the Marshalls where we refueled, provisioned,
took on board more ammunition, and on the morning of July 17th, we
left for Guam.
WE TAKE A BREATHER
Our arrival at Pearl Harbor signalled the beginning of our first real liberty since We left Sydney, Australia, and everyone made the most of it. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel had its share of visitors from our crew, and while the ship was getting a needed "going over" in the Navy Yard, the crew was getting a well deserved vacation from the rigors of war. We also managed to get our first package and magazine mail in 4 months, and the excellent air mail service made this truly a pleasant time.
THE WESTERN CAROLINES
The stay in Hawaii was broken by participation in rehearsals for our next operation -- the Capture of the Western Carolines; and it ended by our departure in company with an Escort Carrier Task Group. This new and interesting duty ended rather abruptly when we were detached at Eniwetok, "on the Road to Tokyo" and assigned to escort a somewhat varied service group to Ulithi Atoll. This change caused speculation, and rumors sped through the ship. The "scuttlebutt" that we were going back to the states proved to be "good dope" when we received our orders while enroute to our destination in the Carolines. Although the fighting in the Carolines was still in progress, we were able to enter Ulithi safely, and after fueling began what was to be practically a non-stop trip to the states. This was to be our sixth invasion, but under the circumstances, we were willing to forego any claim to it. Besides, going home was the topic of the day.....
UNDER THE GOLDEN GATE
After an uneventful trip of over 6,000 miles, during which dress blues were embellished with the extra stripes and "crows" that had been acquired since they had been last worn, and during which we speculated and planned for this long awaited moment, we steamed under the Golden Gate Bridge at 06:12 on the morning of the 25th of October 1944. After 17 1/2 Months, we were once more in the good old U. S. A. Even the men from Boston, were glad to be in California and only one who has been out of the country for so long can hope to know the thrill of once again setting foot on American soil.
As the yard workers swarmed over the ship and department heads held conferences with the yard officials, the first leave party got underway. We had the very latest in equipment when we left the states in '43; now by the process which made it impossible for the Japs to have any possibility of keeping up with us, were once again to be re-equipped with the most modern of weapons and accessories, and when the time to return to the battlefront would come, we would once again be as modem as the very newest destroyers.
During our stay in the yard, some of our officers and crew were detached, and new faces took their places. Among the new officers to come aboard were Lieut. Herbert P. Carrow, Jr. USNR, of Evanston, Illinois, Lieut. (jg) Eldon G. Elder, (MC), USNR, of Vandergrift, Pa., Lieut. (jg) John W. Govanus, USNR, of Chicago, Illinois, Lt. (jg). John E. Johnson, USNR, of Quincy, Mass., and Lt. (jg) Donald W. Thomton, USNR, of Georgetown, Kentucky. By the time we were ready to sail, these new shipmates knew the ship almost as well as the old timers.
But just as all good times have to come to an end, so did our stay in the United States an(I altogether too soon. But, while we were getting our valves ground, and a new set of spark plugs, our sister ships had been dealing out the blows that were to hasten the end of the war. The Philippines had been invaded and was now the scene of a bitter contest.
It would have been much more fun to remain at home, but the Navy had a job, and we were a small but important part of that Navy, so on the 3.2th of December, just 47 days after we had sailed in, we once more passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and headed out to sea.
We made a short trip down the coast and arrived at San Diego the next day, where we spent a few days in intense training. Then came a speedy return to San Francisco to make a last liberty in the U. S. and pick up a convoy. At noon, on the 20th, we headed out to sea and as we dropped our pennies under the Golden Gate Bridge, we hoped that it would be a speedy return that they would bring for us.
CHRISTMAS AT SEA
Now, a completely modernized destroyer, the "A", like her sister ships who were with her, chaffed at the slow speed of the convoy, btit that was our job for the moment, and we made the best of it. Although Christmas at sea might be a dismal prospect for some, the fact that the previous one had seen us spending the day at our battle stations off Bougainville made this seem relatively pleasant. Our presents brought from home; the gift packages provided us by the Red Cioss and the excellent holiday dinner that the Supply officer, Lt. (jg) Samuel New, USNR, of South Bend, Indiana provided, made the day a memorable one. The holiday atmosphere was stimulated by Xmas carols and music, both via radio and from a special recording prepared for the day. As we steamed through the night, we could hear the carols and other music from the other ships, and while it made us think of our families, it made us realize the necessity for our job, so that never again would there be a wartime Christmas.
AT THE ENEMY'S DOORSTEP
With our arrival in Pearl Harbor on the 30th of December, we were ushered into the hustle and bustle of a fleet getting ready for a truly bigoperation. We celebrated New Year's eve at sea, firing night exercises. Then came rehearsals, conferences, and all of the other preparations for the coming invasion. Meanwhile, the men made the most of what would be their last liberty port before they arrived in Japan, or returned to the States.
The morning of the 27th of January found preparations complete and our force on its way. It was a -igantic task that was ahead, and this was a gigantic force. Yet, it was but a part of the force that was to be thrown at the Japanese doorstep. It was hard to believe, but we were actually on our way to invade Iwo Island in the Volcano Islands. This was indeed a stepping stone on the road to Tokyo. It was to be a tough struggle, and how tough is now a matter of common knowledge.
The trip was uneventful, and upon arrival at Saipan, the "A!, was detached along with the WADSWORTH, and we proceeded to Guam where we marvelled at the changes that had taken place since we had last been there. What had been a relatively complacent little island now was a miniature Pearl Harbor and the airfields could but awe us when we compared what the Japs had done with this Island in 2 1/2 years and what we had done in 8 months to create a base for operations that would ultimately lead to Tokyo itself.
We were not destined to be there for the initial landing, but we were close by, escorting a Reserve Unit, and it was not long before our guns were blasting away at the Japs. We had more than a fair opportunity to test our new equipment against the enemy, and we were pleased at the opportunity to do our bit to help the Marines who were putting up such a courageous fight ashore. This was our 7th invasion and our 5th major bombardment, and just as the coming operation was to overshadow this, so did this bombardment overshadow all that we had done before in both number of days so employed and in number of rounds fired. We were able to leave the area with a sense of satisfaction over a job well done, and the knowledge that the Island was now secure.
A STONE'S THROW FROM TOKYO
Upon arriving at our base in the Philippines, Captain Edward Young, USN, of Coronado, California, Commander Destroyer Squadron TWENTY-FOUR came aboard and hoisted pennant, thus making the "A" a Squadron Flagship. We had left Captain Tedder just shortly before we left Iwo and were now completely a unit of our new squadron. With the Commodore came his staff of officers and enlisted men, and it wasn't long before these new faces were as familiar as any of our older shipmates. Here, we also made friends with the men and officers of the other ships of our new unit, and by the time we had completed rehearsals and logistics, we were completely at home in our new role.
We left for this next operation on the 27th of March, escorting one of the transport groups and expecting to do some more bombardment when we arrived at the objective. We had been somewhat awed at the prospect of this invasion as it truly was but "A stones throw from Tokyo" or at least from Kyushu. We expected that this was to be something to make all of our previous efforts look feeble, but it would have been impossible for anyone to imagine just what was actually in store. Even now, just the name of Okinawa Island brings back the memories of moments that one thought couldn't happen, and even time itself can't erase some of the scenes that we witnessed there.
We arrived at the objective without incident, but the picture of things to come was portrayed by an air attack on one of the other groups as we arrived. We were in a position where we could see the tracers going up and the burning, diving planes coming down.
Having brought our transports safely into their unloading area, we took our place as a fire support ship in time to commence the initial "D" day bombardment, and to help out with the curtain of fire behind which our troops landed. They encountered little opposition, and, although slightly surprised, we were thankful. We continued our bombardment duties for the next nineteen days, before we left for a "time out" trip south. This made 8 invasions and 6 major bombardments.
During our first stay at Okinawa as a bombardment ship, we learned what it really was to spend long hours at our battle stations, and just as we had secured, the alarm would come and back we'd rush to man our battle stations before a prospective air attack could become a reality. It was during this time that we saw our first Kamikaze attacks, but we were still being looked over by that protecting power who had looked over us at Bougainville, Rabaul Iwo and at the many other places where we were in danger but came through safely.
As we saw our first batch of "cripples", we realized just what this "sure hit-sure death" business could mean. It was unbelievable that a ship such as a destroyer could take a hit like these ships had, some by several planes, and still fight back. It made us both proud and humble; proud to be destroyer men serving on one of these "light units" and humble in the presence of the heroism shown by the men who served on these sister ships. But as yet no "Kamikazy" pilot had looked our way, and we were just as happy about it.
On the 19th of April, we headed a convoy to the rear area or what is called the rear area now. Here we got a chance to see some movies and relax a bit while the ship got a few "kinks ironed out" and then back to Okinawa. We brought our convoy into the transport area on the morning of the 10th of May, and we lost no time getting back to work.
No longer a fire support ship, we reported to the screen commander and for the next several days moved around the various screen stations. Each time we moved, we seemed to get out just ahead of an attack, and the climax came on the evening when ships in the stations on both sides of us were hit. By now, we had begun to get the idea, and wondered when our time would come to go out to a picket station. By now the newspapers had written up these courageous ships who had been doing picket duty and who had either been sunk or damaged. We were proud to be associated with them, but we'd have gladly forgone the opportunity to become one of them. Never have any ships been called upon to serve as these ships had done.
ON THE PICKET LINE
Our number came up on the 23rd of May, and we headed out for our picket station for duty as a support ship. We were somewhat soothed by the fact that we were heading for a "quiet" station. In the next 4 days this "quiet" station was under attack at least once each day, 7 planes were shot down, 1 bullet riddled attacker crashed harmlessly close aboard us, and the ship with us was hit.