- A.N. Other
- Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Manoora I, HMAS Assault
- March 2022 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The late Arthur Lunan maintained a diary of his service in the RAN from 1941 to 1946. His brother in law William Moody digitised this and added some family photographs. William and his sister (Arthur’s widow) have given the Naval Historical Society permission to publish this material which is being serialised. This second part of the story covers Arthur’s Special Service training at HMAS Assault and posting as a Midshipman in the Landing Ship Infantry HMAS Kanimbla.
Special Service at HMAS Assault.
There were 13 starters for Special Service awaiting disposal to HMAS Assault. While waiting at Flinders a toughening up course was devised leading to future ‘commando’ type training. Finally, we were sent for a few days leave and ordered to report at Newcastle for transport to Assault. Now commissioned, I could keep my original kit. With clothing severely rationed, my sister was happy to get the sailor suits to convert into skirts etc.
On 15 March 1943, our group of Subs and Mids arrived at Newcastle. The seemingly inevitable delay occurred before a truck arrived, three hours late. By this time, we were feeling the effects of a pub crawl, however the 30-mile trip, including a ferry crossing at Stockton, cleared our heads and we appreciated the beauty of Nelson Bay. We were also impressed at the amount of military activity and the presence of many Americans.
The depot was new, completed in 1942, and was home to 600 sailors and 80 officers from all branches of the service. Our quarters consisted of cabins in blocks of sixteen, each block named after a famous Royal Navy admiral. I shared with Berry Spooner, continuing a friendship that began when we slung our hammocks side-by-side at Flinders.
Next morning, we met our Commanding Officer – CMDR F.N. Cook DSC, RAN – who lectured us about naval traditions, of loyalty to the CO, and conduct becoming officers. His reference to the permanent service as the ‘active service’ did not endear him to us. He was proud of his DSC gained after a combined ops raid in occupied France. With his experience, we expected a dynamic leader but in reality we had a social butterfly.
Our first training was in handling small boats known as Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVPs). These were American, of plywood construction with steel loading ramp and powered by a 225 hp Gray marine diesel, designed to carry one Jeep and trailer or 36 troops and crewed by coxswain, stoker, and bow and stern hands. Another workhorse was the Landing Craft Mechanical (LCM) with twin Chrysler petrol engines, all steel construction to carry one tank or 130 troops. These did great work in later operations, taking all types of vehicles.
Our instructors were from a nearby US Naval Base and were a rough bunch of older men. It didn’t take long to pick up the basics of boat handling but it was obvious our blue uniforms and white caps were unsuitable. A supply of khaki battledress uniforms was obtained for which we paid £2, and second hand at that. That was nearly a week’s pay for a midshipman on 7/6 a day. These were for winter use – in summer we wore shorts and shirts.
The other big thing at Assault was unarmed combat and silent killing. Many hours were spent on the sports ground trying to disable an opponent by various acts of savagery. Assault courses were devised climbing trees, jumping from heights, sometimes with full packs, or walking a tight-wire at least twenty ft above the ground. We learned about radio communications, demolitions, booby traps, small arms fire, with a variety of weapons.
We took part in several training landings with Army units. By the middle of the year it was becoming clear that whatever plans there had been for an Australian assault force had come to nothing. The Yanks were moving out, CMDR Cook had gone, replaced by the second in command LCDR Lewis – a bomb happy type. Some officers with a bit of pull had transferred from ‘Special’ to ‘General’ service and moved on. The rest of us were carrying out rostered daily duties and trying to stay out of trouble. Assault ratings often found accommodation in Garden Island (Sydney) in cells for various offences, which mostly came down to boredom.
The Catalina incident
It was a cool day in May 1943 when Bill Featherstone and I were duty officers on the wharf at Nelson Bay. Two Catalina flying boats from Rathmines were cruising about. Nothing unusual as many planes from Williamtown RAAF Base used the bay for exercises.
I was in a landing barge when one of the crew called out that a plane had crashed. Flat out at 10 knots we immediately headed for the site. Bill was also on the way in another barge. These barges were designed for beach landings and were not equipped for rescue work. An airman was sighted trying to swim ashore, but fully dressed and without a life jacket, he was not doing too well. As a strong swimmer I dived in and helped him aboard.
By now, some fishermen had arrived and helped load two bodies and one injured airman into Bill’s barge and he headed back to Nelson Bay. We went alongside the partially submerged plane and banged on the hull but could not detect any sound from within, so we hurried back to the wharf. As the depot’s ambulance was unavailable, the two survivors were taken to Assault by car. Bill still had the pilot’s body on his barge. I jumped down from the wharf to help, just as the barge rolled, and fell across the body. It was soft and spongy, that feeling still troubles me. At 18 we weren’t such tough guys after all.
On the way back to the wharf our survivor, Air Gunner Ken Stowe, told us there were nine in the plane, so seven had died. He had been lying in a bunk reading which probably saved his life as the bunk absorbed much of the impact.
The other survivor was Wireless Air Gunner Johnson. The pilot Flt Lt Brian Higgins DFC is buried at Sandgate War Cemetery.
HMAS Kanimbla – Brisbane
On 12 January 1944 Arthur Lunan joined Kanimbla at New Farm in Brisbane. Kanimbla was a former coastal passenger liner converted to an Armed Merchant Cruiser and later to a Landing Ship Infantry. As a Midshipman, he kept a journal which he retained after the war. As the journal entries are extensive we shall concentrate on the compelling observations including the landings at Langemak Bay, Megin Harbour, Wadke Island (PNG) Tanahmerah Bay, Humboldt Bay and Morotai Island (Dutch New Guinea) and Panaon Island (Philippines).
In summary, Kanimbla proceeded to New Guinea in January 1944 and for the next month was involved in exercises in Trinity Bay, near Cairns. After proceeding again to New Guinea she carried out exercises with the US 24th Infantry Division at Goodenough Island in preparation for landings at Hollandia. On 22 April, in company with HMAS Manoora, five other transports, 16 Landing Craft Infantry and seven Landing Ships Tank, Kanimbla landed troops at Tanahmerah Bay without incident.
Arriving at Aitape on 1 September, Kanimbla began preparations for the Morotai landings. On 10 September, with 36 other landing ships and supporting vessels she departed for Morotai. The landings took place on 15 September with little opposition and few casualties. On 16 September, Kanimbla departed for Humboldt Bay, arriving on 18 September.
At Humboldt Bay, in company with Manoora and Westralia, Kanimbla embarked troops and supplies for the landings on Leyte. A full-scale rehearsal was carried out at Tanahmerah Bay on 10 October. On 13 October the three Australian LSIs departed for Leyte as part of a large assault convoy escorted by a covering force of American and Australian cruisers and destroyers. The Australian landing ships were part of the Attack Group which detached from the main group and arrived off Panaon early in the morning of 20 October. Again, no Japanese resistance was encountered. Troops and cargo were discharged by early evening and the ships sailed for Humboldt Bay arriving on 25 October.
16 Jan 1944
Before proceeding to sea, I was given my action station, Starboard 3, 20 mm gun, and ‘abandon ship’ station – Raft 13. A large number of troops was embarked, consisting mainly of American Negroes. LEUT Lane and SBLT Dick instructed the junior officers in their duties in the Plot and on the Bridge. At 1115 tug Forceful made fast as we proceeded down river stern first. During the 1st Dog I was Plot Midshipman. The work was rather strange to me but proved quite interesting. Our escort was PC 1123.
19 Jan 1944
0530 Kanimbla anchored eight miles off Cairns. She was met by two MLs and new American barges to be exchanged for our own. The exchange was delayed by a number of boats failing to start but eventually the new boats were hoisted. About 1600 weighed anchor and set off for Milne Bay, under escort of HMAS Mildura. Exercise action stations and fired Oerlikons.
21 Jan 1944
During the morning watch, RDF picked up an echo of possible submarine. The escort searched in vain and finally the echo ceased. At dawn, action stations exercised and a convoy of 10 ships sighted. After passing Samarai Island we anchored in Milne Bay. What a great surprise packed with ships of all types including a large number of tankers, some carrying deck cargoes of planes. HMAS Stuart lay alongside HMAS Shropshire and USS Phoenix anchored that afternoon. The waterfront consists of US and Australian Army depots. Coconut palms grew in profusion and a large amount of rubbish, wooden boxes etc. was floating about, making navigation, dangerous for small boats.
22 Jan 1944 – Langemak Bay
0830 Kanimbla anchored in Langemak Bay, two miles south of Finschafen. Nearby was the seaplane tender USS San Pablo and two Liberty Ships. Boats were lowered and, when filled with troops, stood off until ordered to beach. My boat beached next to three others on soft mud about ten yards from shore. When the ramp was lowered water rushed in so rapidly that I ordered the ramp to be raised. The troops didn’t seem able to comprehend that they had to keep off the ramp and their officers were no help. After a few hectic moments the troops were disembarked. The next difficulty was to get the boat off the mud. The only way was to run the boat ahead, then put her hard astern. Eventually we were clear and pumped bilges. On returning to the ship, the boat was again filled with troops. This time they disembarked without incident at a jetty.
On the northern side of the bay was an abandoned Japanese camp. We found some paper with Japanese characters but on being handled, it crumbled into powder. During the afternoon Action Stations was sounded but nothing eventuated; a small ship was seen on the horizon, being strafed. About 2100 heavy gunfire broke out and Action Stations was again sounded. Shore batteries threw up a long barrage but we held fire so as not to disclose our position. However, San Pabloopened fire, lighting up the bay with gun flashes. Luckily the raiders’ objective was a few miles south. Shortly after Secure from Air Raid Warning, two red Verey lights were seen and Action Stations were again closed up. This time we weighed and proceeded to sea.
Seeing New Guinea is a revelation of growing Allied strength. War materiel and troops are pouring in, practically unmolested by the enemy. Harbours are packed with shipping, unloading day and night, not bothering to extinguish powerful arc lights until an air raid warning is given, even though Jap airstrips are only minutes flying time away. Anchored near us was USS Blue Ridge, a modern amphibious operations control ship.
25 Jan 1944 – Goodenough Island
At 1045 we commenced embarking troops taking 1,090 including 56 officers. It was quite a change to hear Aussie voices and see their slouch hats, many stained and battered from long hard use. We slipped at 1700. At dusk Action Stations was exercised and a practice shoot conducted. After a slow trip we arrived at Townsville at 0700 on 31 January.
2 Feb 1944
About 0700 slipped from Townsville bound for Finschafen. At dusk I went to my new action station, Damage Control Headquarters. Embarked troops seem to have settled down to shipboard life. During the afternoon HMAS Arunta passed to starboard, she made a picture of streamlined strength, travelling at speed on a bright blue sea with an equally blue sky.
8 Feb 1944
Embarkation of troops was carried on from 0700 to 1000, about 2,100 officers and men embarked from 2/33 Infantry Battalion, 1/2 Pioneers, some engineers. They related interesting experiences, that Jap soldiers seem to be terribly afraid of capture. After a day or so of absolute terror, they realise they are not going to be mistreated and become sickeningly servile, bowing and scraping before their captors. Apparently Japanese propaganda is very powerful and effective.
10 Feb 1944
HMAS Warrego resumed her station while we were between Cairns and Townsville. A tragic incident occurred about 0700 when one of the embarked troops was shot through the head. It is not definite whether it was suicide or an accident. Why should a young married man, with 24 days leave in sight commit suicide? To save overcrowding the gangway, a sergeant was posted to stop every fifth man. It was amusing to watch the uneasy look on each man’s face when stopped turn to relief as he stepped off the ship. Many of these men have been on active service for four years with very little home leave. At sunset we slipped, bound for Cairns.
12 to 18 Mar 1944
Being Sunday, divisions and prayers were held on the quarterdeck. The hospital ship Wanganella passed abeam, she was ablaze with lights, having a band of green neon around her to make clear her mission of mercy.
Monday morning we passed through the beautiful China Straits. A noticeable feature was the large number of merchant ships, most bound for Milne Bay. Allied forces are concentrating for the decisive blow which will eventually befall our enemies. On Tuesday morning the embarked troops were landed. Anchored in Megin Harbour and ‘Away all Boats’ was sounded at 1045. K1 to K12 were lowered loaded and proceeded independently to the beachhead. It was a very poor beach with rocks close to the shore. However, owing to the beach party’s good work, no boats were damaged. After discharging troops, the boats returned with cargo. Anchor was weighed and we cleared Megin Island. At 1705 Manoora took station abeam to starboard.
19 to 25 Mar 1944 – Gladstone
Today we were fortunate to attend Church Parade in HMAS Manoora where Rev. Symens, the only Chaplain available to Australian landing ships, is accommodated. Both ships’ companies were present. In the afternoon the township of Gladstone provided entertainment with cricket, a swimming competition and, at night, a concert. The town lost the cricket but won the swimming. Most of the artists in the concert were ship’s company.
Throughout our stay the people of Gladstone have been amazingly hospitable. The police sergeant showed much sympathetic understanding by seeing that a quantity of beer was available for libertymen but in moderation, preventing the unpleasant incidents that occur when servicemen feel the influence of drink. Appreciation by the ship’s company was shown by their excellent behaviour.
3 to 22 Apr 1944 – Goodenough Island
Exercising on Goodenough Island with most of Tuesday taken up with a march. Dust and heat made the going uncomfortable but most completed the twelve miles. Lack of exercise found many out resulting in stiff muscles. On Saturday morning troops were loaded and at 0830 weighed anchor. All ships proceeded to the exercise area and formed into a convoy consisting of Henry T Alien and Carter Hall (US ships), Kanimbla, Manoora, 14 LCIs and 8 LSTs, escorted by 2 destroyers and 2 sub-chasers.
At 1140 on 11 April weighed and proceeded from Goodenough bound for Cape Cretin. The convoy consisted of Henry T Alien, Carter Hall, Manoora, Kanimbla, and USS Swanson carrying Admiral Barbey was guide and escort. Later, USS Grayson joined with Gannymede, a Liberty Ship.
At 1600 the Captain outlined the operation to the ship’s company. Three simultaneous attacks will be launched, one at Aitape, another at Humboldt Bay and our attack on Tanahmerah. Our escort will consist of about 30 destroyers and 5 cruisers. 8 escort carriers to provide air cover, while on ‘D’ Day, the US 5th Fleet, including 4 large carriers, will be 200 miles northward. The Japanese Force in the Hollandia area is estimated at 27,000 troops and they have eleven air strips.
Cape Cretin was reached about 0630. We were joined by 7 LSTs, one salvage tug and US destroyers Hoppy and Nicholson. Course was then set for Manus Island to rendezvous with the other forces. A number of lectures on first aid were given and each boat was equipped with a comprehensive first aid kit. Boats’ crews received instruction on aircraft recognition and gunnery and spent much of their spare time in bringing their boats to the peak of perfection.
On Wednesday afternoon, escorting vessels astern opened fire on two Jap reconnaissance planes which turned away. At 0615 on Thursday we, Red Force, were joined by White and Blue Forces. White Force included HMAS Westralia and the large escort included HMA Ships Australia, Shropshire, Warramunga, Arunta, US Ships Nashville, Boise, Phoenix and 8 escort carriers.
This force, 166 ships, is the largest ever gathered together in the South West Pacific. The convoy proceeded at about 8 knots throughout Friday without incident. About 0530 on Saturday (D Day) we arrived off Tanahmerah. At 0600 a light flashed from the shore. It was answered by a salvo of 8-inch shells. This was the signal for a terrific barrage which lit up the shore for half an hour.
While this was going on, boats were hoisted out in record time. The two assault waves loaded quickly and left for Red 1. The remaining six boats loaded jeeps and trailers and left for Red 2. While running in, this wave was fired on from a small island to starboard. USS Kalk effectively dealt with the machine gun nest. By the time the wave reached the beach, 4 LSTs had commenced unloading and several beach roads laid. The ferrying of supplies continued rapidly although sometimes boats had to wait about ten minutes to unload. All Kanimbla boats were hoisted in by 1500.
We sailed at 1600 and were later joined by Westralia. The convoy then consisted of Henry T Alien, Manoora, Kanimbla and Westralia, escorted by 3 destroyers and 2 APDs.
01 to 14 May 1944- Humboldt Bay
Loading of troops and stores was carried out throughout Thursday and well into the night.
Negro signal units and white US Engineers comprised the troops. Stores consisted of a large quantity of TNT, sandbags, foodstuffs, vehicles, timber and barbed wire. Amidst terrific rain, we sailed for a rendezvous off Langemak Bay on Friday morning. There the convoy formed up – Henry T Alien, Kanimbla, Manoora, Westralia and 5 escort vessels.
On Sunday morning arrived at Humboldt Bay. Boats were lowered on reaching the shore met with nothing but confusion. Finally, the boats were beached and, as no working parties were provided by the US forces, the boats’ crews had to do the unloading. It was very tiring work but no-one complained. After about two hours of this, a few negro troops were provided as well as volunteers from the ship. Near the beach were the remains of a huge ammunition dump. When evacuating the area, the Japanese had buried a quantity of ammunition behind the beach. On top of this, the US troops placed a huge dump. Eight well placed bombs on ‘D’+1 caused a terrific explosion.
The destruction was appalling. About forty soldiers were killed, all the trees in the area were levelled. Huge trucks, cranes and bulldozers became masses of twisted, blackened metal. Shell cases, live shells, bombs, rockets, bazooka projectiles and small ammunition were strewn throughout the area. On one side was a stack of Japanese rice surrounded by hundreds of shattered American petrol drums. Over all hung the sickening smell of decomposing flesh. Unloading was completed about 1330 and the last boat was hoisted at 1710. Westralia took 25 evacuees and 39 Indian ex-prisoners who had been used by the Japanese as a labour unit. They were suffering badly from malnutrition and lack of medical attention.
15 May 1944
At last the long awaited stripe. No more ‘Snotty’.
31 May 1944
Working in heavy rain, the boats picked up the last of the cargo. At 1500 troops commenced to embark and kept coming till 2030. In all 1,946 officers and men embarked. As our capacity is 1,200 living quarters had to be improvised. The quarterdeck and ‘C’ deck passages were all filled. Troops’ gear and supplies brought our cargo to 700 tons.
3 Jun 1944
During the forenoon, USS Foreman had a submarine contact. An emergency turn 90° to port was made, however the alarm proved false. Our designation is Sarmi, about 15 miles from Wadke Is. 3,000 US troops in the area are being pounded by a superior Japanese force. It was thought we might load for combat but time too short to allow readjusting all the cargo. These troops are badly equipped for assault, having little ammunition.
4 Jun 1944
At 0530 Wadke was sighted and action stations sounded. At 0643 the first wave beached, followed at seven minute intervals by the second, third and fourth waves. I was leader of the fourth wave. On returning to the ship my boat was filling up. The ship was underway and proceeded a short distance to Toem and anchored. More troops were disembarked some minutes later. We were about halfway between the mainland and Wadke and a continuous stream of fighters and bombers took off from the mainland.
The Japs were 600 yards from the beach and the previous night had attacked. The Americans, in three weeks, had been forced back from Sarmi. The Colonel ashore was considering evacuating and did not want green troops. However, it was decided to carry on. By 0810 all troops were ashore and cargo was completed by 1950.
The beach was poor – shallow and ridged, made more difficult by a short surf. Many boats broached and the newly acquired LCP had a busy time towing off boats throughout the day. Many boats suffered damaged screws and steering gear. LEUT Paulsen and SBLT Le Page were in charge of the beach and worked valiantly. Manoora‘s boats at the western end of the beach were in just as bad a spot. Throughout the landings machine guns, mortars and Bofors could be heard cracking away in the jungle. However, the boat crews were too busy to pay much attention. There were a few worried looks when a plane swooped low overhead but it was a RAAF Beaufort.
During the day a US destroyer shelled the Jap HQ at Sarmi about ten miles west of us. In the afternoon, SBLT Bourne and myself went for a stroll through the ‘safe’ area. About 150 yards from the beachhead was the place where the previous night’s battle had been staged. Six Japs and five Yanks were killed. The rabbit kings had done their job well and very little was left to see except bloodstains. The Nips were buried in a common grave marked ‘KIA SIX JAPS 6.6.44’
Before attacking the Nips laid a number of mines. These were detected and when examined proved to be Australian. No doubt relics of the Malayan campaign. I obtained the firing mechanism from one and its workmanship is far superior to that of the Japanese.
The method of burying Tojo’s defunct warriors is rather grim but necessarily so. Even in death the Nips are dangerous. Many cases have occurred where grenades have been hidden in bodies so as soon as the corpse is moved the burial party or souvenir hunter is met by death himself. A bulldozer scoops a large hole, a wire is attached to one leg, then the body is dragged into the hole.
At 1950 discharge of cargo was completed and weighed anchor. About dusk the barrage for the night opened up and shells could be seen bursting in the Toro River area. Mitchell bombers commenced strafing Sarmi and fiery streams of tracers could be seen tearing into Jap HQ.
5 June 1944
At 0600 anchored two miles from Point Djar. A number of passengers were taken aboard bound for Langemak. These included 35 wounded, including12 cot cases. They were survivors of a Sub Chaser sunk at ‘The Beak’ by a Zero which crashed on it.
18 June 1944
After divisions this morning, the Captain made a short farewell speech to the ship’s company. He was deeply moved at having to leave when things were becoming so well organised. CMDR Norman H. Shaw RAN went overside, farewelled by all the ship’s officers and with the ship’s company’s best wishes. He was temporarily relieved by the Executive Officer LCDR Stanley Crawford RANR (S) until the arrival of CMDR Andrew Bunyan RANR (S) on 10 August.
18 July 1944
At 0230 ship was found to be dragging port anchor in 40 knot onshore wind. Starboard anchor let go and manoeuvring commenced with main engines. USS Ward dragged across our bow so engines put astern, port anchor hoisted so ship could be swung to seaward. Although every effort was made to steam out the wind took charge and swept ship aground at 0352.
A small US Army tug arrived. Whyalla anchored off port quarter and a 5-inch wire was passed to her. This parted 25 minutes later, so a 3-inch wire was passed from Whyalla and two 8-inch manilas were passed ashore. At 1020 one headline parted and at 1130 3-inch wire parted. A third headline was passed ashore. Both headlines parted at 1130 so a 3-inch wire doubled was passed ashore. At 1210 a 5-inch salvage wire and one shackle of anchor chain was passed to Whyalla. This parted at 1345 so towing was abandoned pending further assistance. HMAS Bundaberg arrived at 1605 with two 4-inch LST kedge wires. Both ships commenced towing at 1744 but could not move Kanimbla, so attempts were abandoned till daybreak.
19 July 1944
Wind had dropped considerably but sea still rough. Ship settled firmly in sand. Both vessels commenced towing 0800. Bundaberg‘s towing pendant carried away. Both vessels towing again at 0830. Boats lowered from port side and No 4 hatch in trying to roll ship. Tug James Wallace commenced with 10-inch manila and ST 458 towing from aft with 8-inch manila. 1030 – two 10-inch manila kedge lines passed, one forward, one aft and two four-ton kedge anchors dropped.
20 July 1944
At 0030 ship commenced to move sideways and at 0325 she was finally afloat. In coming off the beach we struck Whyalla‘s stern. All vessels slipped by 0400. In doing so James Wallace fouled Whyalla‘s starboard screw. At 0436 port anchor let go in 23 fathoms. During afternoon a salvage tug Caledonian Salvor arrived and a diver was sent down. After a thorough examination he reported no damage sustained to hull.
12 to 17 Aug 1944
Weighed anchor 1630 bound for Alexischafen and arrived 0730 Sunday. Padre from Manoora held first church service aboard for some months. This is to be a fortnight’s rest period and it appears to be in the most beautiful spot in NG. To set it off, we are amongst Aussie troops again as 4th and 30th Battalions and subsidiary units are camped in the area. The rubber boat salvaged at Milne Bay was inflated and many a happy swimming party disported themselves around the small islands. During his time the ship was open house to Australian troops. As many as 320 came aboard each night for supper and pictures. Capt. Waldport 30th Battalion organised a tour of Jap army camps and native villages. Although dusty it proved very interesting. Some troops lived aboard for several days. At night a fleet of small boats secured astern – amphibious trucks, rubber boats, native canoes, anything that would float.
18 to 30 Aug 1944
Anchored about 20 minutes run from Madang. A few days later, a party of Australian nurses from 113th AGH were guests of the wardroom. A wonderful time was had by all. The hospital was a favourite spot after that.
A few nights later a dance was held on the AX for ship’s company only. The boys did a splendid job decorating, our own band played and everyone happy. I reckon an Aussie girl will suit me after meeting such a fine bunch as the nurses at 113th AGH Madang.
The next entertainment was provided by the ‘Tasmanians’, an Army entertainment group. They spent a weekend aboard and gave a number of concerts – musical, comedy, magic and a lightning artist. One outstanding musician was Laurie Smith who played the harmonica as well as Larry Adler. It was with many happy memories and much regret that we left Madang bound for Aitape in preparations for Morotai landings.
10 Sep 1944
0730 took station 3 cables astern of USS Wasatch. The convoy consisted of Wasatch, Kanimbla, 5 APDs, 4 LSTs, 2 SCs, 15 LCIs. Escorts USS Russell, McKee, Martin, Morris, Anderson and Steward. The next day Red Force joined the convoy, they included Manoora, Carter Hall, LCTs, APDs, LSTs towing LCTs and miscellaneous craft. Now about 98 ships in convoy.
13 Sep 1944
At dawn this morning we picked up remainder of convoy consisting of 5 Cruisers, 8 Aircraft Carriers and 20 Destroyers. Formed cruising disposition and proceeded to Morotai Island. Next day at 1400 action stations sounded. Ten unidentified aircraft were reported, however they were friendly.
15 Sep 1944 (D Day)
At 0612 Warramunga opened fire on two Jap barges which were sunk. Cruisers and destroyers bombarded beaches and surrounding islands. It was spectacular but there proved to be no Japs within range except the barges previously mentioned. I had charge of the third wave onto White Beach. First wave left ship at 0827, followed at five minute intervals by the second and third waves on a seven mile run. Luckily no opposition was encountered as the troops had to wade about 30 yards waist deep to the beach. Many vehicles were stuck amongst the coral and had to be hauled out with bulldozers. Most cargo was unloaded onto LCTs and by 1440 everything was out and boats hoisted. At 1600 we were underway with Manoora in company, escorted by USS Stevens and PC 467.
15 Sep to 9 Oct 1944
Now commenced a period of hard work at Humboldt Bay storing, watering, oiling in preparation for the coming Philippines landings due on 20 October. We embarked 162 officers and 1200 enlisted men of the 21st Infantry Regiment US Army 24th Division.
13 Oct 1944
Today weighed at 1505 and proceeded towards the Central Philippines – Leyte and Panaon Islands being our destinations. Our convoy consists of 118 ships of all types. Altogether there are 600 ships taking part including the US Pacific Fleet. On ‘A Day’ (20 Oct 44) 80,000 troops will land and by A+15, 250,000 will be in the Philippines. Proceeded at 9 knots on the first leg of our course 320°- this remains the same for 745 miles. On Sunday a convoy from Manus Island joined, making a total of 148 ships.
16 to 19 Oct 1944
We are expecting opposition by air and land, so everyone has been busy checking guns, ammunition, firefighting equipment etc. Many church services have been held for varying denominations. HMS Ariadne, a fast minelayer, had gone ahead to land US Rangers and HMAS Gascoyne to buoy the channel.
20 Oct 1944
We entered the Central Philippine Straits in darkness guided by lights rigged by the US Rangers. Everything went smoothly until 0710 when a plane streaked out of the clouds and dropped a bomb which fell harmlessly astern of the Attack Group. All boats were lowered at 0825. I accompanied LEUT Hatcher, leading the first wave onto Green 2 (Leyte). ‘H Hour’ was advanced to 0930 and the first wave left the ship in two columns of four, with the LCS leading formost of the run, with rocket tubes loaded. Everyone waited quietly for sounds of opposition.
When near the beach a large crowd of Filipinos raced to meet us. Some waved our boats to the best beaching places. As the first soldiers stepped onto the beach, the natives clapped and cheered shaking them by the hand like long-lost cousins. There was no doubt about the genuineness of their welcome. It made all the arduous, monotonous work of past months worthwhile. I felt for the first time that special feeling reserved for liberators of the oppressed.
Things went much the same way on Green (Panaon) to which most of the troops and all the equipment went. I landed there about 1030 and had a look around. The natives were very embarrassed at having to greet us in torn and threadbare clothes, some even made of old bags. The Japs had taken their reserves of clothing along with all their rice, burning many of their huts into the bargain.
Guerrilla troops had done good work during the eight months of Japanese occupation. US subs provided arms and ammunition and Filipinos killed a number of Japanese. They had also sunk an enemy barge. All day a constant crowd of well-made canoes clustered around the ships, the natives begging or bartering for clothing, soap, etc. Quite a few fowls found their way on board in exchange for shirts, blankets or anything else. Bananas and straw hats were also popular items. One lad was brought on board completely rigged out in a blue uniform, even down to a first class stoker’s badge. The Yanks, having learnt from the Humboldt Bay disaster, shifted their ammunition off the beach very quickly.
We were underway by 1800 but Action Stations were sounded when a destroyer opened fire on an enemy twin engine torpedo bomber. Twice it attempted to dive on the convoy but was driven off by intense AA fire. The attack lasted about twenty minutes. Reports from other landings further north on Leyte show that some opposition was encountered but casualties were light. By morning we were well on our way back to Humboldt Bay.
21 Oct 1944
It is Saturday and a typical tropical morning – a bright blue sky above and a calm glittering sea.
Suddenly the lead ship of the second division pulls out of line. Her flag at half mast, her poop and after gun pits crowded with silent bareheaded sailors. Although far away we can hear the band playing hymns for burial at sea. Suddenly the flag flutters and in the sunlight two white bundles splash into the blue sea and sink to their lonely rest. Silence for a moment, then three volleys crash out, the last tribute of fighting men to fallen comrades. Two more of America’s sons have paid the supreme sacrifice for a cause they believe just.
Somewhere, thousands of miles away, there will be two telegrams: ‘The Secretary of War desires to express his deep regret…’ Stereotyped you say! Yes, but they will still break the hearts of two mothers, wives or sweethearts. Why should their men be taken?
End of journal entries.