Timeline USS “Hope” AH-7 – Colonel Thomas B. Protzman 215th Medical Hospital Ship Complement - Part III
Monday, 16 April 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The struggle really began yesterday and none of us slept. We have seven operating tables going continuously. The decks of the “Hope” were filled with the wounded and besides the ones on the OR tables, the floors were covered with the most severely injured waiting for treatment. There was no time to change operating gowns. We worked stripped to the waist and only changed gloves for each new patient, never even taking them off the stretchers they were carried on, there simply was no time. Some of our cases haven’t had first aid before being sent to us and some shouldn’t have been moved because of their wounds. The Navy screen ships must have taken a terrible beating from the kamikazes as we’ve received many sailors. 11 men died in the operating rooms and many more will go by tomorrow. They were the worst burn cases and they looked a reddish purple, almost unrecognizable as being human, with eye balls cooked a dead white. As very few of the burn cases had their dog tags on it was impossible to identify them. Even their hands and feet were totally burned beyond recognition. They will be buried as ‘unknown’ dead.
Tuesday, 17 April 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Fourteen of the burn cases are in the morgue now and I have sent for a Graves Registration detail to take them ashore for burial. All operating tables are still occupied and we have set extra tables in the wards on wooden saw horses to handle the minor cases. The wards are filled with plasma and blood transfusion sets and both Nurses and doctors are all at work in the surgery.
We pulled out at 1700 with 646 patients accompanied by a heavy air attack and considerable fighting ashore. We have been ordered to evacuate the casualties to Guam.
Wednesday, 18 April 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Four more burn cases died during the night. We’re exhausted, but the work is still going on and may not even be over when we reach Guam.
Thursday, 19 April 1945: Pacific Ocean. Our orders are changed, we’ll go to Saipan in the Marianas. We buried 4 of our patients at sea this morning and received word that Ernie Pyle had been killed by a sniper on Ie Shima yesterday. Another of our wounded passed away.
Friday, 20 April 1945: Pacific Ocean. One of the gun shot wounded in the belly died of peritonitis, although we gave the kid all the care needed. Nurses and Enlisted Men fall asleep on their feet and we try and keep everybody going on gallons of strong black coffee.
Saturday, 21 April 1945: Pacific Ocean. We buried two more patients today, all burn cases. We are still operating but were able to cut the work down to eighteen hour shifts as the most serious cases have been finished. At 1820 we received a radio message that Japanese subs were operating in our area and that we were to take extra precautions.
Sunday, 22 April 1945: Saipan, Mariana Islands. We arrived around daylight and went right into a dock where we were unloaded in exactly fifty-four minutes, the fastest time ever, and were out in two hours as we were badly needed at Okinawa. I made a very quick trip ashore and briefly saw Frank Specht, George Birkins, and Howard DeJong. There will be no rest for us as the ship needs to be cleaned and prepared for the next operation.
Medical Support on Saipan Island (1944)
31st and 38th Field Hospitals
96th, 97th, 98th Portable Surgical Hospitals
102d Medical Battalion
148th General Hospital
176th and 369th Station Hospitals
743d Sanitary Company
Monday, 23 April 1945: Pacific Ocean. I operated on one of the Nurses down with acute appendicitis. During the last operation we used almost 400 pounds of vaseline and about ten thousand dollars worth of penicillin.
Tuesday, 24 April 1945: Pacific Ocean. Uneventful day. Routine preparations continue.
Wednesday, 25 April, 1945: Pacific Ocean. Routine cleaning and preparations.
Thursday, 26 April 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. We reached the island at dawn. Heavy shelling was continuous and a steady stream of Navy and Marine dive bombers were strafing and bombing Naha, the island’s capital. Only trickles of wounded get through from the intense inland fighting. They only came later and in such numbers that we had to work all night.
Friday, 27 April 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. We can only get a snatch of sleep and a bite to eat when the opportunity permits. Each ship has a small boat assigned to it to produce some artificial fog in case of enemy air raids. The problem is that this is often sucked in by the ship’s ventilating system causing it to fill the boat. At 0700 I went ashore in an attempt to try and locate the Captain’s son, young Jim Richards, who serves with the Marine Corps. His outfit is on the island. I accompanied Val Pepscher, borrowed a carbine, and we both went on an exploring trip in search for the Marine camp. Ed Birkins is also on Okinawa with the same outfit so I hope we can find them. During my trip I talked to one of the local girls, educated in Manila, who helped our troops to talk to the civilians hiding in the caves to come out, before they get murdered by the Jap military or killed by our flamethrowers and hand grenades. She has saved many a life this way.
We finally located the Marines but it was impossible to go further as it was getting dark. We also took the opportunity to visit the aid stations at the frontlines and found they were not only understaffed but had problems with evacuating casualties to the rear. I got back to the ship at dusk and shortly afterwards a Jap heavy shore battery gun opened fire on a cruiser not far from us. As the shells fell much too close for comfort, less than 100 yards away, all ships in the area were ordered to move away to the northern end of the anchorage area. Air raids started after nightfall and soon the whole bay was covered with dense fog obscuring everything. Only tracers and the red glow caused by the many explosions accompanied by a deafening noise was all we could see and hear. Two kamikazes were shot down in the vicinity with a merchant ship in the next anchorage hit and sunk in a matter of only minutes. We saw and heard nothing but bright flashes and loud explosions. Only three out of 97 crewmembers were rescued and we took them on board. They were on an ammo ship carrying tons of explosives. We really didn’t sleep much during that night because of the enemy raids but also because large groups of wounded were being brought in for treatment.
Saturday, 28 April 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. At daylight I went ashore and took a jeep to the north end of the island and found young Jim Richards. I brought him back to the ship and to his father. I wasn’t however able to locate the other person, Ed Birkins but will try again later. On the way up we stopped to watch the Sherman flamethrowers go into action and they seem to be the only weapon capable of forcing the Japs out of their caves. At one of the hills, I saw such a tank shoot its jellied gasoline mixture into a cave at the bottom of the hill and smoke came out off different parts showing that they were all connected. It’s a terrible weapon as the stuff sticks to everything and burns fiercely.
Young Jim Richards went into battle, and had his first taste of the real action today.
Sunday, 29 April 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. In the early morning we were called to another anchorage where we arrived at 0900 to find out that the USS “Pinkney” (APH-2) had been hit by a suicide plane and was out of action. My first thought went to Harold Stedman. The worst had happened. He had just finished operating and was having a shower when the Jap plane hit the ship, covering his naked body with blazing kerosene. Although he remained conscious he wasn’t recognizable. There were only two small unburned spots on his shoulder. I went to see him and he recognized my voice so he knew it was me right away. We carried him to the OR and cut down on his legs to find a vein for plasma and saline fluids. Stedman’s mind was clear and he remained conscious till about an hour before he died. He was blind, with both eyes gone, and his body was all swollen. Before he passed away he asked me to write to his wife. One of the Pinkney’s crew was on the operating table and opened up, when the attack took place. In total 18 crewmen were lost and all wards amidships burned out. The Surgeon and the Technician assisting him were killed by the explosion but he wasn’t touched. We took him to our surgery and finished the operation. He lived! We loaded their 250 patients on to the “Hope”.
We then returned to our anchorage just as a new artificial smoke screen was put up for another night of work, uncertainty and fear. I had just gotten to bed when the Skipper woke me up and said he had received news that the “Comfort” had been hit by a kamikaze and the crew were abandoning ship and that it was likely that we might have to attempt to go out in the fog to help them. A few minutes later another message came through that they had been hit in the OR and that nearly all the doctors and many of the Nurses had been killed (the Comfort was hit by a kamikaze off Okinawa 29 April 1945 –ed). Not knowing more about possible losses our spirits are at a pretty low ebb now. Last night was bad but this terrible news was a real nightmare.
Medical Support on Okinawa Island (1945)
31st Field Hospital
51st and 67th Portable Surgical Hospitals
52d and 66th Portable Surgical Hospitals
68th and 69th Field Hospitals
74th and 76th Field Hospitals
82d Field Hospital
96th and 98th Portable Surgical Hospitals
Monday, 30 April 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. We loaded 448 more patients today and found out that most of them hadn’t seen a doctor on shore. Air attacks and gunfire are getting worse every day but we are so busy and so tired we hardly notice unless a shell hits pretty close and rocks the ship.
This time we will go to Guam and we will take Harold Stedman’s body along to bury it on the island.
Tuesday, 1 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. We took on our last case this morning and left with a destroyer-escort, the USS “Compton” (DD-705). The Navy has finally decided that a Hospital Ship on her own isn’t safe and is giving us some protection for the trip.
Wednesday, 2 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. One of our burn cases died today. He was a crewmember of the “Pinkney”, and had barely recovered from a severe burn, when the ship was hit again. In one of our wards I talked to a GI who had been severely wounded and through the heroism of a medic was dragged out of his foxhole and saved. He said the aidman gave him first-aid and went on to help others, and he surely would like to know if there was a way to try and know who he was in order to thank him. In another ward I found a chap who told me a similar story, and sure enough after inquiring, he was the medic who had saved the chap and had been wounded while attempting to save another soldier. What a tragic coincidence.
Thursday, 3 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. A young Navy Ensign died of bullet wounds through the pancreas and kidney.
Friday, 4 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. A belly case died today. Our orders are changed. We will go to Saipan in lieu of Guam.
Saturday, 5 May 1945: Saipan, Mariana Islands. After arrival we stayed in port all night. This is one of the most efficient island ports that we have ever been in. I spent the day with Frank Specht and we had dinner together. We sat at his quarters till late in the evening watching 20th USAAF B-29 Superfortresses return from their bombing raids over Tokyo (first B-29s arrived 12 October 1944, as part of the 73d Bomb Wing –ed). Now we understand that the losses to conquer the islands were not in vain, because some of the bombers make emergency landings on them. The distance is shorter and our aircraft can reach the Japanese islands more easily and in less time which limits the danger of such operations. I was told that they are plastering the hell out of Japan with incendiaries and explosives.
Sunday, 6 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. We departed Saipan this morning and are preparing for another ordeal.
Monday, 7 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. On to Okinawa Island.
Tuesday, 8 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. Peace has been declared in Europe and V-E Day announced. We’re all very happy, but there is no thrill in it for us as we’re heading into another very hot spot in the war.
Wednesday, 9 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. We picked up our destroyer-escort and will be back in action in the morning.
Thursday, 10 May 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The fighting continues and we can see that considerable progress has been made on the combat line. Patients started coming in before we dropped anchor. Marines and Army personnel have been fighting forty days without relief. I went ashore to contact the evacuation party and to try and locate Jim Richards but the heavy mortar fire got so intense that I had to go back. Jim’s Regiment is on the frontline and catching hell. I came across several Marines from I Company and they told me that Jim’s outfit is in a hot spot, but I didn’t tell his dad, our Captain, as he is worried enough.
Many patients are being assembled from ships sunk or damaged by kamikaze planes on the “Picket Line”.
Friday, 11 May 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Our boys took a hell of a beating last night and as we’re the only Hospital Ship in the area the wards and operating rooms are loaded. Fortunately air activity was light and we weren’t under such heavy fire. I talked to some of the men in Jim’s Regiment that we are treating on our ship and they don’t see how he can get out alive as the area he’s in has been hit repeatedly by heavy mortar fire. We have no other news of him.
Saturday, 12 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. We’re out again with another destroyer-escort, and rumors are that we’re going back to Leyte in the Philippines, and then with the Aussies into Borneo. Our load is 676 patients.
Sunday, 13 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. We passed the USS “Mercy” (AH-7) during the night and got the list of people who were killed on the “Comfort” (6 Doctors, 6 Nurses, 9 Army Medical Corps personnel, 1 Navy crewman, and 7 patients were killed in the attack and 38 Army and Navy EM injured –ed). Besides killing all those present in the operating room, the plane’s engine continued its way down three decks killing one of the Comfort’s cooks in the galley. It did prove that our ships are fireproof as the whole side of the ship was ablaze and burned itself out without too much additional damage. The ship didn’t sink as previously stated.
Monday, 14 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. Another belly case died today. Our orders are to go to Guam.
Tuesday, 15 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. We almost finished with the surgical cases and have gone back to an eighteen-hour schedule. We will be mighty glad to see land and get this human load off our ship, so as to enjoy a brief breathing spell. I can tell that some of my crew are on the point of cracking up if the pressure isn’t lightened.
Wednesday, 16 May 1945: Guam, Mariana Islands. We came right into the dock and it took all day to unload our patients, which in Saipan had taken less than an hour. The place is full of brass and there’s a lot of saluting and kowtowing. You wouldn’t think there was a war going on and that we had just brought in a shipload of shattered and broken bodies.
Thursday, 17 May 1945: Guam, Mariana Islands. We are getting a short-distance radar for navigating between the many small islands as well as a special direction finder. The island is full of rumors of invasion of the East China coast and even of Japan, and some are taking bets on the island where the Japs will fold up within ninety days! From what I’ve seen on Okinawa I can’t believe this crap, as the enemy is putting up a terrific fight!
Friday, 18 May 1945: Guam, Mariana Islands. I’ve been all over the island driving on fine asphalt roads with five lanes and I understand reconstruction has just begun. We visited the cemetery and graves of the men and women lost on the USS “Comfort”. We have also received our orders to be in Leyte by the first of June so my outfit will get the rest they so well deserve and this will take off some of the heat and stress they’ve been going through.
Saturday, 19 May 1945: Guam, Mariana Islands. The day was uneventful till 2200 when my Chief Nurse advised me that 4 of the girls who had gone on a shore picnic with some Navy Officers hadn’t reported on the ship. We tried for an hour to contact the ship from which the Officers had come but they didn’t answer our signals so I took one of our Navy Officers in the small boat and went to the ship, to find out no one was on watch and the duty Officer asleep. The Officers weren’t in their quarters and he didn’t know where they had gone. I then went to Navy Headquarters ashore and secured a car to tour the island. This we did for several hours with no results. I returned to Headquarters and after a great deal of difficulty had them contact the destroyer screen outside the anti-submarine nets by radiotelephone and have the latter look for any small landing craft adrift. Good, as one of the destroyers had located an unidentified ship by radar. They were rescued and returned to the ship mighty scared and shivering with cold, having been adrift since 1400 hours with a bad engine.
Medical Support on Guam Island (1944)
36th Field Hospital
95th Portable Surgical Hospital
289th Station Hospital
302d Medical battalion
Sunday, 20 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. Off to Leyte Island.
Monday, 21 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. Nothing special to report.
Tuesday, 22 May 1945: Pacific Ocean. Uneventful day.
Wednesday, 23 May 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. We arrived in San Pedro Bay this morning and find we are once more attached to the Seventh US Fleet and are to await orders. They have 18,000 hospital beds on the island and 14,000 patients to care for. There’s some talk about our going to Biak. A large fleet comprising many fully loaded LSTs left this morning. The AHS “Maetsuycker” and AHS “Tasman” are returning to Australia for repairs and the USAHS “Emily H. M. Weder” has broken down again. Since GHQ is now in Manila, we can’t get any correct information as to what is going to happen to us.
Thursday, 24 May 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. I had dinner with Ike Wiles and Peg Carbaugh and tried but in vain to obtain new seersucker uniforms for my Nurses. No luck. Filipino Government supervision of the numerous whorehouses has ceased and the VD rate has jumped from 1.9% to 65%. The locals who have Singer sewing machines can’t get any needles. One enterprising GI got a supply from home and is selling them for $ 2.50 a piece! Rumor has it that we may return to the South Pacific, or maybe to Singapore…
Friday, 25 May 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. Uneventful day.
Saturday, 26 May 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. The USS “Texas” (BB-35, commissioned 12 March 1914 –ed) is in the harbor on the other side of the bay and I went to visit my good friend Jack Mewersen and brought him to the “Hope” for dinner. The battleship has been in most of the action as we have. The Nurses and ARC staff are invited for a dance at the 126th General Hospital.
Sunday, 27 May throughout 30 May 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. Very dull and inactive days. We all rest until we’re ready to go again. All the ships are being moved from Ulithi atoll and will be based here.
Thursday, 31 May 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. I visited the Benedictine Convent today and had a very interesting conversation with the monks and sisters. They are all German, but had to disperse into the hills when the enemy occupied the Philippines. They lived with the locals and some were priests with the guerrilla bands. I was able to take them a few supplies and they were very grateful. The soap was particularly welcome as they hadn’t seen any for several years.
Friday, 1 June 1945: Surigao Strait, Bohol Sea, Sulu Sea, Philippines. We left for Manila, capital city of the Philippines at 1500 hours with a ship full of rumors, from going home, to invading another island. We sailed through the Straits at night for the first time with all navigation lights on. We can see many fishermen in their boats with oil lamps. It’s pitch dark and there are many of them around us.
Saturday, 2 June 1945: Sulu Sea, Mindoro Strait, South China Sea, Philippines. Uneventful day at sea.
Sunday, 3 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. The place looks a lot different than when I took a quick trip to the suburbs during the invasion fighting. The fires have all gone out and most of the smoke is gone but they’re still digging Japs out of the rubble and the tunnels of the walled city and there still are many booby-traps and abandoned munitions and explosives around. Manila has been ruined and most of the ancient buildings and lovely homes are gone. The VD rate is appalling and there’s no attempt to control it. Liquor is at a premium and a bottle of scotch brings $ 80.00 and any sort of bourbon gets $ 40.00. Many young people have been killed and there’s a lot of counterfeit and guerrilla money on the market.
Monday, 4 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. Today I met Brigadier General G. B. Denit (USAFWESPAC Chief Surgeon –ed) who asked for some of my pictures. They still aren’t certain at Headquarters what is going to be done with the “Hope” as the planning with respect to Japan is still some distance away. No attack will take place during the typhoon season of September and October. I would rather wish they send us home for repairs before it is too late and we get sucked into another invasion without any rest from the last. We could do with a couple of weeks in the Zone of Interior before going into Japan. Manila looks much as Naples did after we liberated the place and Corregidor Island is still a mess of stench and decaying bodies.
Philippine Bases (1945)
Base “K” – Tacloban (Leyte Island)
Base “M” – San Fernando (Luzon Island)
Base “R” – Batangas (Luzon Island)
Base “S” – Cebu (Cebu Island)
Base “X” – Manila (+ Philippine Base Section Headquarters)
Tuesday, 5 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. We took 669 patients on board, mostly ambulatory cases and they certainly don’t need the trip to Biak, but Colonel Walker tells me that as there aren’t enough beds in Manila to hospitalize all the wounded they have to be sent over elsewhere (to rear echelon hospitals) to recuperate and convalesce and then return to the front. At first the seriously ill and wounded were evacuated to Leyte, but as soon as the hospitals were full, they went to Biak. LSTs (H), specially-equipped Attack Transports and Hospital Ships carried them on slow journeys and airplanes made similar trips be it with greater speed. As very few docks and installations are usable, lost of the supplies come in by DUKW or by barge, the goods are then transferred onto trucks and carried to the warehouses for stocking. The black market is thriving and the civilians seem to be in favor of the business. When a civilian is caught stealing US property he’s turned over to the Filipino authorities and given a fine.
Wednesday, 6 June 1945: Lingayen Gulf, Philippine Islands. We have left Manila Bay and have with us a US Major who will accompany us to Biak Island for a rest. He suffers from a plain nervous breakdown. He was the Chief of the Civilian Police in Manila and his stories are legion. He commanded a force of 1,400 policemen and 399 detectives and nearly all police personnel were corrupt. He just couldn’t take it anymore.
Thursday, 7 June 1945: South China Sea, Philippine Islands. We have some very confused patients on board, some don’t even know why they’re here.
Friday, 8 June and Saturday 9 June 1945: South China Sea, Sulu Sea. Uneventful days.
Sunday, 10 June 1945: Celebes Sea, Geelvink Bay, Biak Island, Netherlands East Indies. We arrived and unloaded rather quickly as the majority of our patients could walk. I went to the 28th Hospital Center (grouping 3 General Hospitals –ed) which has over 8,000 beds capacity, and found Helen Ringenberger, Ann Bellis and Steph Capewski, Nurses I hadn’t seen for over three years. I got hold of a jeep and visited the island, native villages, Jap caves, and hidden guns in the hills.
Monday, 11 June 1945: Biak Island, Netherlands East Indies. I was invited by a Javanese doctor for a wonderful meal, (a rijsttafel) although I don’t know what I ate and it’s probably just as well. We enjoyed a good meal with music and had to go through thirty-five courses, while the doctor apologized because current war conditions prevented him from serving a full dinner. After dinner, we were entertained by dancers, very graceful and very good looking girls. I went back to the Englewood girls and we talked of home and when we might get back there. The Nurses were still living under tentage, while the local WACs had wooden barracks. In the afternoon we took off for Woendi Island a few hours away to get oil and stop for the night. A Dutch pilot took us out of the harbor while telling us about local conditions.
Tuesday, 12 June 1945: Mios Woendi, Padaido Islands, Netherlands East Indies. We filled the “Hope” with fuel oil last night and took off this morning with destination Manila.
Wednesday, 13 June 1945 throughout Friday, 15 June 1945: Pacific Ocean. This part of our trip to the Philippines was uneventful, except for Friday when we had a real thunder and lightning storm. It proved quite spectacular but I only mention it because some of our Nurses who have been in heavy battle and seemed unafraid became almost hysterical when going through the storm.
Saturday, 16 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. I went ashore and was informed that we may be sent home next month after all, in order to be back in time for the invasion of Japan.
Sunday, 17 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philipines. I picked up a fine piece of Japanese propaganda today, a magazine somewhat like our “Life”. It had a lot of pictures and was wonderful reading, calling the Filipinos brothers and how they would be freed from the oppression of the US Colonialists, how they would prosper under the Japanese, and how their standards of living would be raised. It’s indeed beautiful to read but the catch is that they didn’t practice what they preached.
Medical Support on Luzon Island (1945)
6th, 11th, 15th, 20th, 21st, 24th, 31st, 33d, 38th, 55th, 56th, 57th, 61st, 62d, 63d Portable Surgical Hospitals
7th, 21st, 29th, 54th, 92d Evacuation Hospitals
5th, 23d, 24th, 37th, 41st, 43d Field Hospitals
70th Medical Battalion
135th Medical Group
263d and 264th Amphibious Medical Battalions
604th, 607th, 608th, 894th, 895th Medical Clearing Companies
408th, 409th, 410th, 505th Medical Collecting Companies
Monday, 18 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. I went ashore and visited Santo Tomas University and the prison where so many internees were kept. Everything seemed intact, the nipa huts, the mess kitchens, even the inmates, as their homes were destroyed in the battle for Manila, and there was no place for them to go. Food is supplied by us. Many had to live on nothing but fish heads and a handful of rice. Additional huts are scattered all over the University grounds. I also visited the Leper colony. I took some more time to visit the Filipino and Chinese cemeteries in the afternoon accompanied by our Captain (the second time he came ashore since we left the States).
On the way back I stopped at GHQ and the first people I saw where Generals Douglas MacArthur and Joseph W. Stilwell (Tenth US Army CG –ed) coming from a conference with General Guy B. Denit. I think something big is cooking.
Tuesday, 19 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. The Captain and I visited the Elisaldo Rope Factory and saw the famous Manila hemp being made into rope of the finest quality. The company is owned by one the wealthy families as is also the distillery. Both establishments are intact and running. The Japanese used them for their own consumption, while we now have to pay for the products. This is a fine piece of collaboration indeed.
GHQ just informs me that the USS “Hope” isn’t returning to the Zone of Interior but will join in another invasion with the Australians. The place is Borneo. I have been promised again that the main invasion of Japan will not take place before November 1945 and that we will be sent home first and later return before the assault takes place. It’s but little comfort as so much can happen between now and then.
Wednesday, 20 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. Today I started early and took a trip to the Bataan Peninsula, and saw the area of the “Death March” (May 1942, forced 61-mile trek to Camp O’Donnell of American and Filipino PWs characterized by inhumane treatment, abuse, and murder by the Japanese –ed), where so many of our boys suffered and died. The scenery however is beautiful and I enjoyed the ride through the rice fields seeing the local population at work, so picturesque and slow. Business is back and we witnessed many small boats taking loads of greens, fruits, and rice to the market.
Thursday, 21 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. I had a very pleasant surprise this afternoon when Louis, the chief cook aboard the USAHS “Acadia” sent word from the “Emily H. M. Weder” that he and his gang were aboard. I went right over and we had a feast. He thinks my old ship the “Acadia” is still in the Atlantic but should be coming over real soon. The black market is riding high here, and almost anything is for sale.
Friday, 22 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. I took some time to visit President Sergio Osmeña, Sr. (4th President of the Philippines –ed) palace this afternoon and it’s very beautiful with magnificent furnishings. The place is almost untouched except for a few MG bullets as it was occupied by local collaborators during the Japanese occupation.
We have been ordered to take a load of eightballs to Biak Island and then continue to Morotai Island and wait there for word of the invasion of Borneo with the Aussies.
Saturday, 23 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. I invited some Filipino friends on the ship for dinner. Many children are trying to attend school again, using any old buildings that are still intact. Classes will no longer teach Japanese.
Sunday, 24 June 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. We left for Biak Island and have Commodore Owens aboard. He’s the Chief Medical Officer of the Navy for this Theater. We took aboard 635 wounded for this trip.
Monday, 25 June throughout Thursday, 28 June 1945: Pacific Ocean. We passed Mount Mayon, a volcano, (situated on Luzon, one of the 5 major volcanoes in the Philippines –ed) on Monday, but for the rest of the time the trip is very dreary as there’s no work for us and the patients look better than my own unit! It seems such a waste of time and money to bring these fellows on a tour of the Pacific.
Friday, 29 June 1945: Biak Island, Netherlands East Indies. The “Hope” docked at 1030 in the morning, and all patients debarked very quickly. I had my old hands, Bellis, Ringenberger and Capowski on board for dinner.
Our ship already left at 1730 for Morotai Island. On leaving Manila, I was told to be in Borneo by the first of July, which implies that the planned invasion must start at that time.
Saturday, 30 June 1945 and Sunday, 1 July 1945: Pacific Ocean, Celebes Sea. Late during the night we received orders to proceed directly to Borneo and get there as quickly as possible. We sailed past Morotai and Halmahera Islands early on Sunday and saw the AHS “Manunda” (which would participate in the Balikpapan landings –ed). We’re on our way through the Celebes Sea to lie off the shores of Balikpapan in the Makassar Strait, Borneo, where the invasion started this morning.
Monday, 2 July 1945: Tarakan Island, Borneo. We are now off the coast of Borneo but our gyro compass has gone out of order and we don’t just know where we are exactly. A few hours ago a couple of planes were sighted but we can’t tell whether they are friend or foe. It looks pretty bad as no ship is there to escort us through any minefields. With the enemy holding the island, except for one spot, it would be tough to be captured at this stage of the game. Captain A. E. Richards has dropped anchor and decided to wait until he’s certain that we’re at the correct location before we get too close to shore and we have to run for it. After a considerable wait we made contact with the Allied fleet off Balikpapan (center of Borneo’s oil industry –ed) and find it safe to come in. Within a few hours the “Hope” was in the harbor of the battered island and we get a good view of the destroyed oilfields, refineries and storage tanks. We’re very close to shore and I take off with the small boat to contact the Australians. I went up to Lieutenant General Ennis C. Whitehead’s Headquarters (USAAF).
The assault on Balikpapan began yesterday morning 1 July and so far there was one casualty, a soldier broke his leg getting out of the landing craft. The attack went unopposed so I expect that some fierce fighting will develop as the Aussies catch up with the Japanese. General E. C. Whitehead is an extremely tall chap and very drole. The Aussies had just brought in their first Jap PWs, among them one Tetsuo Hamuro, the former 1936 Japanese Olympic swimming champion (won a gold medal during the 1936 Berlin Olympics –ed). He declared to be disgusted with the war and hoped it would end soon, but couldn’t believe that his country was being bombed by us.
Tuesday, 3 July 1945: Tarakan Island, Borneo. The Japs don’t seem to want to fight, instead they move further inland and into the hills and are showing no resistance except when cornered. Perhaps they have seen the writing on the wall and have decided to quit. If it’s true, it certainly is most encouraging. The Dayaks have been given arms by the British to fight the Japanese but they prefer to do it with their blow guns and poison arrows. Last night a small group of enemy soldiers entered a hospital area, planted a bomb in one of the wards killing one patient and wounding several others, and then left. They missed the large gas dump close to the hospital which would have destroyed the entire hospital killing all, patients and personnel.
Wednesday, 4 July 1945: Tarakan Island, Borneo. It’s been raining like hell and very hot too, but it isn’t as uncomfortable as we expected this far below the equator.
Thursday, 5 July 1945: Tarakan Island, Borneo. The Dayaks are terrible fighters, very fierce and not very friendly. Headhunting is their main sport, though it was prohibited by both the Dutch and the British. The hunt has been unofficially opened, and they are encouraged to bring in Japanese heads by the bagful for which they receive a pack of cigarettes. This is good business as they killed over 2,000. I had dinner with the Dutch Resident and couldn’t recognize most of the food we had. What tasted the best was sate sauce.
Friday, 6 July 1945: Tarakan Island, Borneo. The Japs came in once more and shot up the hospital again last night injuring one man but were themselves put out of commission. The oil on Borneo seems to be of such fine quantity that it can be pumped directly into the ships. Shell Oil have the necessary experts on site now and are trying hard to get the wells back in working condition. Eighteen are pumping right now. Villages are clean and picturesque, and possess an excellent drainage system because of the severe rains.
Saturday, 7 July 1945: Tarakan Island, Borneo. We got four inches of rain last night. During the day we moved to the remaining dock where a tanker is tied up and gave them several thousand gallons of fresh water, as she’s taking a number of Jap PWs to Morotai. I had lunch with Lieutenant General E. C. Whitehead and he offered me some beer. As we sat there eating we occasionally heard loud roars of a great crowd. He replied to my question by stating that the Javanese were yelling at the Jap prisoners as they were being entrucked for transportation to the dock. Every once in a while someone recognizes a Jap soldier who mistreated some of the villagers, they all then grab the prisoner and pull him from the truck and tear him to pieces. Even these friendly people have learned to hate.
Sunday, 8 July 1945: Tarakan Island, Borneo. AHS “Manunda”, the Australian Hospital Ship, came in and took over the Jap wounded and are off again, bound for Morotai. Most of the prisoners have dysentery in the worst way and many died shortly after capture. I once more had dinner with the Dutch Resident, and in the evening General Whitehead came aboard for a meal. He thinks that we should soon be leaving as there are practically no casualties. So far we only received 5 patients and the Aussies have cleaned up the area around Balikpapan without significant losses. The “Hope” is no longer required to stand by to pick up Australian casualties.
Monday, 9 July 1945 and Tuesday, 10 July 1945: Pacific Ocean. We’re on our way to Morotai this Sunday morning after a good rest, some good food, and some decent sleep.
Wednesday, 11 July 1945 throughout Monday, 16 July 1945: Pacific Ocean, Morotai Island, New Guinea. Morotai and Halmahera are very close to each other. The 93d Infantry Division are on the latter island and well isolated. I understand they didn’t perform very well in combat and were moved here to keep them out of trouble. We let the boys and the girls go ashore on leave on Morotai. No matter how small a port the Navy always has a club, so we spent the afternoon there drinking beer and watching their pet goat eat peanuts and drink beer too. He was really cute and didn’t smell too badly.
Tuesday, 17 July 1945 and Wednesday, 18 July 1945: Pacific Ocean. We left at 1400 hours on Tuesday and are on our way to Leyte in the Philippines. Perhaps they will send us home now, as promised. Manila is such a mixed-up affair that I hardly know what to expect. It seems there must be some need for a Hospital Ship like ours, and if not, why can’t they decide to send us back to the States for repairs. The first thing we know, another operation will start some place and we will be stuck once more. Most of the other hospital ships have had a trip to the Zone of Interior with the exception of the USS “Mercy” (AH-8).
Thursday, 19 July 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. We reached Leyte Island around noon and the Base Surgeon now is Ike Wiles and the Base Chief Nurse, Peg Carbough. It’s like coming home. There are no patients here barely enough to supply the air evacuation guys. My Nurses have been invited to a Base K (Tacloban) dance tomorrow night and as we’re off White Beach it won’t be much of a job to arrange transportation from the ship.
Friday, 20 July 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. I had a very pleasant surprise as young Walter Phillips signaled me from his ship which has just entered the harbor. I went over and got him a permission to stay on the “Hope” for the night. We had dinner, the Skipper, Walter, and me and then I took him ashore with the Nurses for the dance.
Saturday, 21 July 1945 throughout Friday, 27 July 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. Here we sit again, doing nothing and slowly going nuts. Yesterday Friday, while in at Headquarters, I was called back to the ship and thought we had received orders to leave, but it was for an appendix. We picked up a floater who had been in the water for quite some time, took him to the morgue for an autopsy to determine the cause of death and try and identify him. The stench was awful and started filling the whole ship. After due examination, we did find out he was a sailor and managed to get some fairly decent fingerprints. The man must have been killed in a plane crash.
Saturday, 28 July 1945 throughout Tuesday, 31 July 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. Saturday, Arnold Lewis, Henry Payne’s nephew came aboard and spent several hours on our ship and in the afternoon I got off to visit Jack Mewersen on the USS “Texas”. There’s some talk about them going home for repairs, as the battlewagon is pretty old and in poor shape. While at Okinawa, we watched them fire an eight-gun volley and Jack tells me that it loosened a number of water pipes causing internal flooding in the ship. Sunday night we all dressed, the girls put on their civilian evening gowns, and we all went to Admiral’s Sewell’s dance at the Admiral’s Club. The band was excellent and our girls looked mighty swell in civies.
On Monday I visited the 44th General Hospital and after that went to see Corporal Floyd at the 76th Station Hospital. There’s a lot of dysentery around, and some ships have been quarantined. The Army Research Lab on the island helped naval authorities trace the bug. It was finally determined that the Navy boys are eating too much native food ashore and sometimes bring it to the ships. We have none on the “Hope” at present, except for some patients who contracted it before boarding.
Wednesday, 1 August 1945 throughout Sunday, 5 August 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. “Duchess”, our dog, jumped down a hatch and broke her hind leg. We took her to the OP and put in a plate and I hope this will get good results. On 3 August, the USAHS “Marigold” arrived directly from the States with 239 ‘green’ Nurses, having dropped another 400 in Hawaii. It seems that the CO had a pretty tough time with some girls, as there were a number of pregnancies and some cases of VD on board. The best news however was that all personnel received a full three weeks of leave at home during the ship’s repairs. I hope we can get that much rest too, and someone finally thinks about sending us home. It’s becoming depressing sitting over here doing nothing. Some visitors came aboard and a Filipino magician entertained us on the ship. Sanitation among the Leyte population is dreadful with many infections developing. The only solution is education.
Monday, 6 August 1945 throughout Saturday, 11 August 1945: Leyte Island, Philippines. I visited the Municipal Hospital today. It is jammed full with civilians with very little treatment and almost no attempts at sanitation. For instance the toilet is in the kitchen, and personnel are not always available. You can see what a tough job it will be to educate the people and the medical staff before they realize what they need to do.
On Wednesday we were told that we might bring the remaining members of the 135th General Hospital to Lingayen on Luzon Island. This will at least give us something to do and perhaps will allow me to get to Manila and stir up the people at GHQ to send us home. On Thursday we picked up 10 Medical Officers, 63 Nurses, and 50 GIs and left in the morning of Friday heading for Lingayen Gulf.
While we were watching a movie at night, word came over the radio that the Japanese Government has asked for peace negotiations and that it is ready to surrender. You can imagine what racket we all made. Most of us stayed on the radio all night to follow the news from the States.
Sunday, 12 August 1945: Luzon Island, Philippines. The USS “Hope” entered San Fernando Harbor in the morning, unloaded supplies and personnel and departed for Manila at 1530 hours.
Monday, 13 August 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. Manila Bay. I went right to GHQ and found nothing like instructions. All current orders have been cancelled and all building in and around the city has stopped. The Japanese are about to surrender and we wonder what’s going to happen to us. I visited Mary Bennett at the 314th General Hospital and upon my return I noticed that the “Refuge” (AH-11) was anchored near us and a message from Rita Clark confirmed that she was on board. Rita and other Nurses have been flown here to replace ANC personnel who had served their time. We are finally advised that even if the surrender doesn’t materialize we will remain in the region as there aren’t enough Hospital Ships in the Theater. Most of the other ships have returned to the Zone of Interior for repairs.
Tuesday, 14 August 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. We took on some oil today and are ready for another long voyage with undoubtedly Japan as our next destination. During last night we went through a severe thunderstorm and our ship was struck by lightning. Many of the crew and our men were on deck. It was a hair rising crash and we all thought the “Hope” had been hit by a bomb. Nobody was hurt, just scared.
Wednesday, 15 August 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. The Japs have finally surrendered, and the news was confirmed today. I had dinner with Ralph Specht and he tells me that even GHQ didn’t know about the Atomic Bomb until the first one was dropped on Hiroshima (6 August 1945 –ed). They heard about number 2 only days later (dropped on Nagasaki 9 August 1945 –ed). General G. B. Denit’s office tells me that we may sail within a few days and to be ready to take on extra personnel as passengers. We’re highly excited at the prospects of moving soon and hope it will be to Tokyo.
Thursday, 16 August 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. We’re being sent to Osaka, Japan (situated on Japan’s main island of Honshu –ed), take a Station Hospital with us and we are to function as ‘station’ till the unit we carry is ashore and has becomes operational.
Friday, 17 August 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. I had dinner with high-level personalities, Rear Admiral Thomas W. Kincaid and Commodore Oliver O. Kessing at the Navy Club and Kincaid told me that it will be impossible for the ships to enter Osaka or Kobe harbors as they are still full of uncharted mines. The mines will remain operational and activated until next February and there’s now talk about sending us to Nagasaki instead. An Army Colonel and myself were the only outsiders of the party, with the exception of our Nurses.
IJN “Tachibana Maru” (AH-31), a Japanese Hospital Ship was brought into the harbor today and I had the opportunity to visit her. She had been intercepted by two destroyers in the Banda Sea, inspected, and taken over by a prize crew that brought it to Morotai (destroyers USS Charrette, DD-581, and USS Conner, DD-582 –ed). Although painted and registered as a hospital ship since 7 October 1943, she had 1,600 soldiers on board, approximately 30 tons of ammunition, and many boxes marked with red crosses and labeled medical supplies containing shells and cartridges. The crew became PWs and were turned over to the 93d Infantry Division on Morotai. The vessel was unloaded and taken to Manila where it arrived today.
Saturday, 18 August 1945 throughout Wednesday, 22 August 1945: Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines. On Sunday we went into a dock for the first time inside the harbor and loaded medical supplies and some 400 personnel of the 364th Station Hospital. Only the housekeeping equipment was taken and not so much as an aspirin tablet. I tried my best to convince the CO to request supplies but he said he didn’t need them as everything he required would be in Japan by the time we get there. If they are on site upon arrival it will be the first time in my experience, but it is his problem and I have done all I could to help. On 20 August we departed for Okinawa and once there we will await the results of the surrender conference. Hospital ships are required in China, and we may be sent there.
Thursday, 23 August 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The Seventh US Fleet is in the harbor when we came in and I can see the old USS “Pennsylvania” (BB-38, commissioned 12 June 1916 –ed) with a big hole in her side (hit by a Jap torpedo plane 12 August 1945 –ed). She took a torpedo while at anchorage off Okinawa and is out of commission. I remember her as one of the ships that was in the convoy with us into Casablanca. She probably is too old for repair and as she can’t move on her own power, it will be quite a towing job.
I located the 27th Station Hospital and went to see an old friend.
Friday, 24 August 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The Captain and I picked up George Heller of the 27th Station Hospital and went directly to the Sixth Marine Division Cemetery and spent some time there taking pictures of the site and more particularly of Jim Richard’s grave. Captain Richard’s son was killed on 7 June 1945 almost at the end of the fighting on Okinawa.
The civilians are still segregated from the military and work for the US Army now. Naha was flattened and there’s nothing to see except the fine and well-drained roads that our Seabees built. The only drawback is that they’re made out of coral and become terribly dangerous and slippery when wet. We found this out on our way back as several trucks were in the ditch and we also slipped a few times.
Saturday, 25 August 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The USS “Mercy” (AH-8) arrived this afternoon with on board another hospital bound for Japan. The USAHS “Marigold” left for Tokyo, Japan, this evening and we’re utterly mad because they’re newcomers in the region. The “Mercy” ”Hope” and “Comfort” did all the work and these new chaps are getting the honor of being in on the surrender signing.
Sunday, 26 August 1945 throughout Friday, 31 August 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The remainder of the Seventh Fleet sailed on Monday and the USS “Pennsylvania” (BB-38) was towed out of the harbor by two tugs to Apra Harbor, Guam, on Tuesday, 28 August. Two more Navy Hospital Ships came in the same day. They were the USS “Consolation” (AH-15) and the USS “Haven” (AH-12), they look new and are really swell jobs indeed; fully air-conditioned, with rustless steel beds, new equipment, and the most modern surgery and treatment rooms. General Douglas Mac Arthur and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz are here also today aboard the Battle Cruiser USS “Alaska” (CB-1).
Last Friday, the “Mercy”, contrary to expectations, left for Japan in lieu of Korea. The poor “Hope” meanwhile just sits here and waits. It’s a shame to let a ship like ours remain inactive. We could easily debark this hospital ashore and go to Japan or China to bring back our men and then pick up the 364th Station Hospital again and bring it to its destination. Instead they’re bringing servicemen and ex-prisoners in any old sort of ship, even dismantling aircraft carriers to take them out.
Saturday, 1 September 1945 throughout Monday, 3 September 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The USS “Tranquility” (AH-14) came into port on Sunday, 2 September. We just picked up a radio message ordering the “Mercy” to Okinawa as there’s a big typhoon in the offing. On 3 September, the USS “Sanctuary” (AH-17), the “Mercy” (AH-8) and the “Relief” (AH-1) came into Buckner’s Bay. All the hospital ships are now anchored over six miles off shore. As the waters are rough it is a hell of a job to get onto the island. Blackout rules are no longer necessary and we can now scrape the black paint off our portholes and let the light in during day and the air in during night. Four Navy personnel and four members of the 54th Portable Surgical Hospital went home today on points. I can’t get any response to my queries here and get any satisfaction for my outfit and when I write to the States, I’m told that the authority and the decision are out here! It certainly has raised hell with the morale of my kids to see others go home who haven’t seen any action nor spent any serious time overseas…
Tuesday, 4 September 1945 throughout Thursday, 6 September 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. On 4 September, official censorship was lifted and I’ll bet there are now a lot of red hot letters going home. Wednesday, the “Mercy” left for Korea, bound for the old Port Arthur captured by the Japanese from the Soviets years ago. Today I went ashore and visited some of the units including Jackie Walsh, Auckley’son. He usually is a quiet and shy guy but when he mentioned shooting three Japs through the head with his carbine, he complained that the weapon didn’t stop them. His outfit has been selected to move to Korea.
Friday, 7 September 1945 throughout Sunday, 9 September 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The rumor is that we’ll be stuck here until 25 September. This Sunday I went to SPA (South Pacific Area) Headquarters and had a talk with Commodore T. J. Keliher as to our status, and he replied that I should go and see Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf on the USS “Tennessee” (BB-43, commissioned 3 June 1920, renovated and rebuilt in 1942 –ed). I went to see him and he told me outright that we might not get out till 1 October as everything is SNAFU in the lower part of Japan. He couldn’t help me and said the “Hope” would just have to wait. Well I took a long shot and went aboard the USS “New Jersey” (BB-62, commissioned 23 May 1943, rebuilt and finally decommissioned in February 1991 –ed). My God what a formality! When we approached the gangway, the OD asked my rank and when I came aboard, I was piped on the ship, with 8 sailors at attention, and a Captain to meet me. I ignore whether they knew who I was, but as I indicated that I had to see Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, a Commodore came down to escort me to the Admiral’s conference room. When I walked into the room I found the place full of Admirals vividly discussing the evacuation of American internees and prisoners from China and Japan. The Admiral was very gracious. He allowed me to tell him my story, that we were loaded with a Station Hospital and couldn’t therefore take on any sick or injured patient, and that we wanted to help evacuate the prisoners or at least not turn away patients, and that we felt we couldn’t do it with our beds filled with sound people. The Admiral said he wanted and needed our ship badly and while I was there, he had a radio message sent to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz requesting him to ask for immediate release of the USS “Hope” from the Army for urgent duty at Nagasaki, Japan. I hope it works, at least we will get some sort of action…
Monday, 10 September 1945 throughout Thursday, 13 September 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. I went ashore accompanied by Major Walsky and Captain Seppe in another attempt to get some of my men and girls home on the point system. It was a six-mile trip on water and a very rough one. This is the first time I’ve been seasick in three years and poor Walsky was out of the picture completely. 1,500 former PWs of the Japanese are coming to Okinawa for screening while we just sit here with nothing to do. Last Wednesday, the battleship “King George V” came into the bay and anchored near us. Today Thursday, the Navy put out a call for volunteers to man three Liberty Ships to go into Osaka harbor and attempt to sweep the place so we can get supplies to the Army. 50 of the boys on our ship volunteered but no one has been called as yet.
Friday, 14 September 1945 throughout Monday, 17 September 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. A typhoon warning came in Saturday late afternoon and the sea was very rough. The “Relief” entered the anchorage with 750 RAMPs. Her decks were crowded and the Captain wanted to transfer 150 men to the “’Hope” but we have no room. Our Skipper, Captain Richards, told him that we would take them if we could receive permission from USAFISPA.
During the worst part of the typhoon an LCT signaled that she had a man with acute appendicitis on board and would we take the case. Of course we would; and it became a very thrilling transfer. It took many an attempt to have him on board, but with plenty of experience on hand, the job was done. A destroyer is out of fuel and adrift in the rough seas. I don’t know what will happen to the ship as the wind has reached ninety miles per hour. Our anchors weren’t holding and we continuously bucked the storm the rest of the night. An LCI which had run loose succeeded in getting a line to our stern, so we had company throughout the night. The lost destroyer ran on a reef. We only returned to our regular anchorage 17 September and were very fortunate to get through the storm with neither damage nor loss of life. Tonight the moonlight is wonderful and the sea is as calm as a millpond. It’s unbelievable.
Tuesday, 18 September 1945 and Wednesday 19 September 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. We picked up a man, a survivor of a minesweeper which had capsized in the typhoon. There were twelve of them grouped in the water, and when a great wave hit them, the others were all gone. On 19 September, a human torso without a head floated by. There’s a tiny chance that we may leave tomorrow or next Friday. I hope we can get rid of the extra 364th Station Hospital and do some real work!
Thursday, 20 September 1945 and Friday 21 September 1945: East China Sea. We left for Wakayama (Wakanoura Wan) this morning at 1030 hours with a destroyer-escort which is to help us through the minefields and clear or destroy any sea mines we may encounter on our trip. We passed the Third US Fleet during the night of 21 September on her way home with all her lights on, it was quite a sight.
Saturday, 22 September 1945 and Sunday, 23 September 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. One year ago, it was 23 September 1944, we left the coast of California and little did we think we would ever arrive in Japan without an invasion. As we entered the harbor, our escort discovered a mine and destroyed it with cannon fire. I went ashore as soon as possible; we are way ahead of Sixth Army and only a few American ships are in the harbor. There are no docks here just an anchorage, as this really is the entrance to Osaka’s harbor. We cannot enter in there and some ships have already been lost in the attempt to clear the entrance channel. There are several minesweepers at work in the harbor area. I took a quick trip into Wakayama to find I Corps Headquarters (jurisdiction over the Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto area –ed), but there was only one Officer and a couple of Army clerks. They have been trying to control the place with a small colored Dump Truck Company. There’s not much left of the city that used to hold a population of 200,000. B-29s blasted the place last July with fire bombs and the city was devastated; there is nothing that obstructs the view. The Lord only knows how many people were burned alive. I visited the ruins of a civilian hospital that must have held several hundred patients, it’s gone. The Japanese people are very cooperative, it seems as though we’ve entered a friendly country. They walk around in a sort of daze and bow and scrape to all of us, Americans. One local interpreter, a young girl born in Los Angeles, told me that the people didn’t know of the country’s defeat until the Emperor had the word sent out. They hadn’t the slightest doubt that Japan would win the war! The population in general doesn’t appear to be starving, but they certainly don’t look healthy.
Monday, 24 September 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. It looks as though we may be here for some time. I had a closer look at the city. The heat from the fires must have been fierce as it melted down iron work throughout the city. When Sixth United States Army comes in they will have to make a beach landing as there’s no place else to unload troops and supplies. There is still one steel works along the shore line and electric power seems OK. I went as far as Kobe and Osaka but the roads are in a terrible state and so are the many cities on the way. So far we have 80 patients aboard, all from local ships in the area.
Tuesday, 25 September 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. A large fleet of ships is entering the harbor this morning and tomorrow the Sixth US Army will land officially in Japan. We have Colonel Laurence A. Potter, MC, and Brigadier General William A. Hagins, MC, on board (Colonel A. Potter would become XXIV Corps Surgeon in Korea, while General W. A. Hagins would be appointed Sixth Army Surgeon in Japan –ed). They will accompany the Army ashore tomorrow morning, which is supposed to occupy Kyushu and southern Honshu (Operation “Blacklist” > Eighth US Army was to occupy Honshu, while Tenth US Army would move directly from Okinawa to Korea –ed).
Wednesday, 26 September 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. I went ashore with ASCOMO (Army Service Command “Olympic” > component of Sixth US Army with Headquarters in Manila, P.I., assigned with planning of phase 1 of Operation “Olympic”, the forced invasion and occupation of Japan –ed) and landed with the initial invasion party on a very soft but difficult beach. The landing operations moved very fast as this movement must be done as quickly as possible for a typhoon would wreck everything in a few hours. I missed Brigadier General W. A. Hagins by just a few minutes and am so sorry. He could have given the order for the removal of the Station Hospital personnel. Now I’ll have to travel to Osaka or Kyoto to get some action. The crewmen were permitted ashore for the first time and you see the sort of junk the Jap civilians are unloading on them for souvenirs. Money is no good so soap, chocolate and cigarettes are the only means of exchange.
Thursday, 27 September 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. I was gone for the rest of the day in a seaplane and flew over Tokyo and Nagasaki. Surprisingly, Tokyo has a few spotsthat haven’t been touched by our bombers; otherwise, it looks very much like Osaka, another proof that the end for Japan was close at hand. Nagasaki on the other hand, was the scene of terrible destruction by just only one bomb. Some remote areas in small valleys were untouched. I know it’s difficult to judge from a plane, but I wanted to see these places.
Friday, 28 September 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. At last I got to meet with General W. A. Hagins and received a promise to get at least the male members of the 364th Station Hospital off our ship in a few days. It seems that Lieutenant General Walter Krueger (CG > Sixth US Army) doesn’t approve of Nurses and we may experience difficulty in getting them ashore. At least with the men and the equipment off the “Hope” we will have room for patients.
Saturday, 29 September 1945 and Sunday, 30 September 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. The USS “Consolation” (AH-15) came in empty this morning, returning from Buckner’s Bay, Okinawa, where she had debarked a number of RAMPs evacuated from Japan. I was told that the “Sanctuary” is still in Okinawa with three Station Hospitals aboard, waiting to depart for Japan.
Monday, 1 October 1945 throughout Sunday, 7 October 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. Our Chaplain, Captain M. E. Taylor may have a throat cancer so I’m trying hard to get him air transportation to the first General Hospital and from there to the States. We’re certainly going to miss him as he has ever since been the backbone of our morale.
The Officers and Enlisted Men of the 364th are finally debarking. Captain Taylor didn’t get away as all the planes have been grounded on account of another forthcoming typhoon coming this way from Okinawa. The “Hope” may also come in within a few days. The typhoon hit us, but it wasn’t that bad, we just put down an extra anchor. Our Chaplain left us for Okinawa last Saturday on a destroyer. Saturday, 6 October, the last male personnel left the “Hope”, and we may get rid of the Nurses soon. Yesterday another convoy consisting of warships and troop transports arrived at Wakayama.
Monday, 8 October 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. I took a trip ashore to inspect the off-limits areas. There used to be a lot of prostitution around, and the whorehouses were perfectly divided into two classes. Young girls were bought and instructed to sing, dance, play music instruments, and taught how to entertain guests and customers. An official business which ran efficiently and from which the Japanese Government collected 60% of the income thus generated. I received a thorough historical briefing from the VD Officer in charge, Major Nathan Noble.
While we were on the beach a Jap policeman caught two guys pilfering. He walked over to one of our Army Officers, borrowed a .45 caliber auto pistol and before we knew what was going on, he shot both thieves through the head.
Tuesday, 9 October 1945 throughout Thursday, 11 October 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. On Tuesday we were ordered out to sea to fight off another typhoon, but stuck it out until 10 October, when our anchors began to slip. After the full force of the storm hit us, without causing any damage, we were able to return to our original anchorage. The USS “Consolation” then left for Okinawa with 150 patients on board and to help the Navy there which had suffered a great deal from the typhoon (typhoon “Louise” hit Okinawa 9 October 1945 with winds of 92 miles an hour, sinking 12 ships & landing craft, grounding 222 vessels, severely damaging 32 ships and 60 aircraft; human losses were 36 killed, 106 injured, and 47 missing; 80% of houses, buildings, and military installations were destroyed –ed).
Business is picking up as we received two men with a ruptured appendicitis and another with a double pneumonia. One of my men fell and broke both his wrists, and a sailor broke some ribs.
Friday, 12 October 1945 throughout Sunday, 14 October 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. Some mail came in today, I only received a single letter, but it was from the right place and I feel much happier now. I contacted Headquarters and was promised that the Nurses (364th Station Hospital) will leave this Wednesday.
Monday, 15 October 1945 and Tuesday, 16 October 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. I purchased a lovely doll for Marriet today. It’s the first real nice day too. Colonel Kisner, the Kobe Base Surgeon, says I’m allowed to take twelve of my men as baggage detail to Kyoto with me on the trip to the city where we’re taking the Nurses of the 364th Station Hospital. Today, Tuesday, I took my 12 NCOs ashore and we loaded the Nurses’ baggage onto a freight car, which will leave for Kyoto tonight with six of my boys. The other men will accompany me tomorrow morning. Major Noble and Colonel Kisner joined me for dinner on the ship, but I had little time to entertain them as another ruptured appendicitis case was rushed in, and after finishing this operation, a destroyer brought a sailor who had been hit by an aircraft propeller aboard a flattop.
Wednesday, 17 October 1945 and Thursday, 18 October 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. We left the “Hope” at 0700 with the 63 Nurses and the rest of my men and entrucked for the steam railhead. The General had ordered Pullman cars for our trip which provided more comfort than the common wooden coaches. The railway stations seem to be jammed with people all the time, rates are very cheap, and there are numerous travelers arriving and going. The girls were the first white Nurses in this part of Japan and created quite some excitement. The passenger crowds gathered around our group and gazed at the sight of foreign women sitting in private railcars, till the station master ordered them away. There’s a lot of bowing and saluting. We stopped many times on the way to Kyoto and this gave us the opportunity to have a good look at the countryside. There isn’t a spot of bare ground, everywhere plants and greens are growing, even on the railroad embankments. We saw thousands of acres of rice ready to harvest but all blown flat by the recent typhoon. Because of the destructions by war and by nature, it looks like we’ll have to feed Japan this coming winter or thousands will starve.
Upon arriving in Kyoto, we were met and interviewed by the Japanese press. There are very few factories, and buildings, houses, streetcars, and roads are very similar to those in New York. The 364th Station Hospital people are located in the Red Cross Hospital. The building is still there, but it is filthy and dirty as there wasn’t enough soap for the last years and the central heating hasn’t been working for at least three years for lack of fuel.
We damn near froze last night with three blankets each and were eaten by fleas and bed bugs. The place used to be the great Winter Sports Center for Japan. While there, we visited the installations, the Medical School, and the patient wards. I saw one of the patients of the atomic blast dying slowly from the effects of the bombing of Nagasaki. What I saw was terrible, the body appeared burned, with teeth and hair falling out and a severe anemia of the red and a great loss of the white cells developing. Many, many people are still dying and since I have seen this I don’t intend to return for more.
Friday, 19 October 1945: Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka, Honshu Island, Japan. Up at daylight and out to the Emperor’s Imperial Palace with Master Sergeant William W. Baker and Technician 4th Grade Curt Lewis. They both measure over six feet. When we arrived at the grounds we found all the gates closed. We finally raised a guard with a lot of noise, who at first told us no one could come in, but this didn’t work and it wasn’t long before the three of us were inside and shown around. From there we went to General Krueger’s office to try and obtain a date to get our ship to return home. I was advised to radio USAFWESPAC in Manila and tell them that in accordance with the present calculating method of points, the entire 215th Medical Hospital Ship Complement was eligible for discharge. This was done! We have now been transferred from Sixth US Army jurisdiction to USAFWESPAC.
A little after noon we boarded a special coach for Osaka and in less than one hour we were in that city. From Osaka, the trip continued to Kobe by means of an electric train system. Upon arrival we found all the coaches packed with passengers. I called the station master and complained. He made all the passengers get out of one coach and the fourteen of us had it all to ourselves now. I put in another request for our return trip, was served tea while waiting, and received a special deluxe coach. The trip back only lasted 2 ½ hours, while we had spent 6 hours going there. When I got back to our ship, I found the brain case (the sailor hit by a propeller) was able to move his left foot and could distinguish light.
Saturday, 20 October 1945 and Sunday, 21 October 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan. The brain case on board can move the fingers of his left hand and starts talking quite coherently. On Sunday, our pet Duchess jumped down her last hatch and was killed.
We received a radio message from Sixth United States Army that the USS “Hope” was no longer needed in the area and that we are to sail for Okinawa in the morning, load patients there go to Manila, and from there return to the Zone of Interior. We don’t believe this as we have received too many promises.
Monday, 22 October 1945 and Tuesday, 23 October 1945: Wakayama, Honshu Island, Japan, East China Sea. Our departure took place at 0600 on 22 October and the ship entered the roughest weather we had ever experienced, short of a typhoon. The x-ray drying machine was thrown across the room from its moorings and a lot of Nurses lost their precious china bought ashore. The brain case is doing well. he can talk and move his limbs as well. His eyesight has fully recovered.
Wednesday, 24 October 1945 and Thursday, 25 October 1945: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. We came into our familiar anchorage at 1000 in the morning and note the number of wrecks and ships on the reef. Typhoon “Louise” must have hit Okinawa hard. They’re still looking for an undetermined number of missing men. We were mighty fortunate not to have been here. Captain J. L. Spicer, MAC, our Adjutant, contacted the Base Surgeon who advised him that there was only one PN patient waiting and that we were to sail for Manila to pick up another load of patients, and then travel to the States. We learned that Chaplain M. E. Taylor had been sent to Manila for shipment to the ZI which is excellent news. On my way to the ship I stopped at the 76th Station Hospital and found that the outfit had already packed and was on its way to Korea. When we were back on board, the “Hope” was ready to sail, not for Manila, but for Saipan. The “Going Home Pennant” was hoisted with considerable difficulty as it was 526 feet long and we started on our homebound trip at 1400 hours. Such pennants can only be flown from Navy ships that have been beyond the International Dateline for over one year. Everyone will receive a foot of the pennant as a souvenir.
Friday, 26 October 1945 throughout Monday, 29 October 1945: Pacific Ocean, Guam, Mariana Islands. A radio sent at 12200 hours last night ordering us to pick up 50 Officers for Manila in the Philippines came in this morning. I honestly hope we don’t have to return to Manila. Last Sunday we received another order diverting the “Hope” from Saipan to Guam and then head for the States. It looks as though we might just make it this time. We came in at 1300 and went right into a dock where we were advised that we would be loaded and off the next morning! A great many permanent changes have been carried out on the island and the harbor is being protected against typhoons.
Tuesday, 30 October 1945 and Wednesday, 31 October 1945: Guam, Mariana Islands, Pacific Ocean. We left in the morning with our greatest load – over 900 patients and passengers, including 40 Nurses. The ocean started getting rough right away and most of the Nurses we picked up are already sick and unhappy.
Thursday, 1 November 1945 throughout Sunday, 11 November 1945: Pacific Ocean. On the night of 4 November we passed the USS “Pinkney”. She looks better than last time when she had a big hole that needed to be patched. On 6 November 1945, it was Tuesday, we crossed the International Dateline and during the following night we passed the USS “Refuge” (AH-11) going the same way we did. On 11 November we received a message asking for the number of people serving on the USS “Hope” and to be removed .
HOME – The USS “Hope” (AH-7) arrived in San Francisco, California, Zone of Interior, 15 November 1945. After repairs and refurbishments she made two more voyages, one to Guam, and another to the Philippines. The Hope’s final arrival in the United States took place on 22 March 1946. The Navy crew received letters of commendation for their excellent service while the medical complement saved many precious lives by their medical skill and experience. The Hospital Ship sailed 51,000 miles, carried a total of 8,400 patients, and practically remained in a war zone for its entire existence (USS “Hope” was decommissioned by the Navy 9 May 1946)
The MRC Staff are still looking for additional period photographs relating to the World War Two service of the US Navy Hospital Ship “Hope”. They also welcome any personal data concerning Colonel T. B. Protzman, MC, and his military career with the US Army Medical Department. Our special thanks go to Robert C. Semler, son-in-law of Lieutenant Commander Elmer C. Hurley, USNR, Executive Officer on board the USS Hope who provided them with some vintage photos taken aboard the Hospital Ship, and Patricia Parker, daughter of Jess F. Goohen, EM1c, USNR, who also served on the USS “Hope”, who offered some documents and photos for our article. US Navy Roster courtesy Adrea Scholnick, daughter of Tec 5 Irving Scholnick. All deserve our utmost thanks for their precious help.