Monday, October 31, 2005

Diary Entry #3 July/August '43 Tulagi

. . .But now to get along on our voyage. Sometime in the latter part of July we met up with two other task forces consisting of aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers, innumerable destroyers and a couple of A.A. cruisers and nearly 20 transports and cargo ships.

The sea was burdened with fighting ships and fighting men. For all we knew we may be headed for Tokyo. We as yet had no orders.

After the first of August this force split up with our cruiser staying with the transports. Finally our orders arrived. Every man in our division rushed below to hear from our C.O. just where and how soon we would hit Guadacanal and Tulagi Islands in the lower Solomons, on August 7th. Well that didn't mean much to me at that particular time, but I have since learned and seen much of the Solomons.

Finally after three days and nights of condition II watch, four hours on and four off, every man and instrument ever on the alert for the enemy, we sailed into the large harbour which was later to be the scene of many a vicious and bloody battle. Just before day break a tin can ahead of us opened fire on a small Jap patrol vessel and scored direct hits. Then just before dawn our tin cans and cruisers opened fire on the beach. It was a beautiful awe inspiring sight to behold the brightly colored tracers of an eight inch projectile arcing across the water then crashing into the earth with a terrific explosion. We cruised up and down the beach for three hours shelling at anything and everything.

at 0900 the first waves of marines hit the beach without resistance. The Japs had withdrawn from the beach, but only temporarily. But that is not my story -- you all know of the courageous fight put up by the marines and later the army for possession of Guadacanal.

Over on the Tulagi side other cruisers, cans and transports were behaving in much the same manner as the ships on our side. But on the beach our marines and naval landing boats were met with stiff resistance. But our men were not to be denied for this was America's first attempt to invade enemy held territory. Only after months of heavy fighting large sea and air battles were we able to secure the lower Solomons.

Early in the afternoon of August 7, the Japs tried to drive our invading forces out with two waves of bombers and fighter-escort. This indeed was a thrill of a lifetime with ships steaming around the harbour with guns ablaze from stem to stern, as if they themselves were on fire. In the distance you could see dog fights now and a plane in a dog fight would receive a vital blow and go plummeting earthward like a great bird diving on its prey, only to crash, never to fly again. Our ships were also giving a good account of themselves. Jap bombers were everywhere being blasted from the skies. After the smoke had cleared away we could see Jap planes bobbing up and down in the water--some sinking, others smouldering or ablaze. Only one ship had been hit: the transport Elliot was burning. She was later abandoned, scuttled and sunk.

The rest of that day and night was spent with the transports still unloading their precious cargo and supplies.

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