- Symes, Chaplain N. H.
- Ship histories and stories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Arunta I, HMAS Manoora I, HMAS Kanimbla I, HMAS Warramunga I, HMAS Shropshire, HMAS Australia II
- December 1983 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
D Day dawned the same as any other day, even our shrewdest C-in-Cs fail to trick mother nature. There were indications that it would be hot, in more than one way. The convoy, without haste and with stately dignity, moved into enclosed waters, each unit steamed into position for the real thing. The destroyers went towards the shore like ferrets going into burrows, and there was an inspiration of confidence in watching the big cruisers getting into range of marked targets. The sun appeared over the horizon as the bombardment commenced. We expected to see a display of pyrotechnics with shells and tracer bullets lighting the sky but all we saw were dirty smudges of brown smoke over the target area. However, they were right on target and spoke highly of our gunnery. Incidentally, mother nature with what seemed like resentment of man’s attempt to make a commotion, hurled forth a gigantic jet of steam from the crater of a nearby volcano and very nearly stole the limelight.
The landing operation was a pushover. It must be presumed that our strategists had fooled the enemy completely into anticipating and preparing to repel our attack at another point. At any rate, the Japs were, in navy parlance, ‘adrift’ from Morotai on D Day. ‘Ducks’, ‘Alligators’, LCIs, LCMs, barges and other types of landing craft ran onto the beaches in numerous waves like surf. The shallow and rocky approaches to the beaches made it compulsory for the assault troops to plunge into waist deep water, wade ashore, and then fan out to form the perimeter and take possession of the somewhat overgrown airstrip. There was not one challenging enemy shot fired.
Aerial Umbrella and Anti-Insect War
The flights of fighters and bombers overhead had no aerial opposition and swooped to tree top height looking for Japs bombing and strafing to settle any doubts. Other flights of these busybodies had taken up high gallery seats over the useful enemy airstrips within a long radius: prevention is better than cure. The Allied chemists used aircraft to spray the whole operation area with a fine powder, like a mist. This was warfare against the myriads of tropical jungle wogs and germ carrying mosquitoes and flies. The landed units worked fast to establish a base. On the day Old Sol was a more fierce enemy than Old Tojo.
A member of the crew of the barge in which I went to the beach read a novel during the journey. I stole a glance and noticed the striking title, The Prince of Trouble. The Able Seaman, despite his apparent nonchalance, must have been looking for trouble. His name I shall withhold. An American sailor was busy painting the name Norah on the awning above the Captain’s cabin in an LCM. I suspect Norah to be a cherished girlfriend and, I hope, much more attractive and comely than the rusty and clumsy looking LCM. On returning to the ship after landing troops, we found that a mail had been received in the ship. Very quickly composed apologies for hasty remarks concerning dilatory postal officials were just as quickly belayed when we found the mail was not nearly up to date. However, hope springs eternal and even postal officials have their moments.
The World Was Told
The noon news session surprised us with an official statement of the success of the landing operation. Actually, we were still busy landing equipment for the initial assault troops. As we steamed away from the scene, a column of thick black smoke suggested that somebody, somehow, somewhere had found something of erstwhile Japanese occupation, and some clouds of dust suggested that bulldozers were busy making the neglected airstrip useful again. In later news sessions we learned that our operation had coincided in time with an invasion of the strong Japanese base on Palau Island by a US Marine force, which was making progress against stiff resistance. Thus two more daggers are pointed towards the enemy’s vitals, and successes in the Pacific zone blend with the sweeping victories in the European zone.
This article was originally printed in the Naval Historical Review – December 1983 Edition
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