Timeline USS “Hope” AH-7 – Colonel Thomas B. Protzman 215th Medical Hospital Ship Complement - Part I
This concise Timeline is based on the “Journal” of Colonel Thomas B. Protzman, MC, Commanding Officer, 215th Medical Hospital Ship Complement serving on board the United States Navy Hospital Ship “Hope”. The Journal with day-by-day entries covers the period from 23 September 1944 to 31 October 1945, during which the USS “Hope” served in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
30 August 1943 > ex- C1-B freighter, launched by Consolidated Steel Corporation, Wilmington, California, and acquired by US Navy for conversion to Hospital Ship of the “Comfort” class
15 August 1944 > commissioned at US Naval Dry Docks, Terminal Island, California, designated USS “Hope” AH-7 (second Hospital Ship manned by Navy crew and operated by Army Hospital team)
23 August 1944 > personnel of the 215th Medical Hospital Ship Complement reported on board for duty
30 August 1944 – 30 September 1944 > builder & shakedown trials
23 September 1944 > maiden trip as Navy Hospital Ship, USS “Hope” (AH-7) nickname “The Lucky 7”
Saturday, 23 September 1944: San Pedro Harbor, California, Zone of Interior. 0800 hours, we are off at last after months of preparation and training, the fog horn blowing and the sun trying to get through the California mist. Our orders are to proceed to Pearl Harbor (Territory of Hawaii) and return, unless otherwise ordered. Both the USS “Comfort” (AH-6) and the USS “Mercy” (AH-8) have been pulled into nearby ports. With the Navy operating the ship and with the intensive training my outfit, the 215th Medical Hospital Ship Complement, has had, I feel that we can face any situation and handle it in a creditable manner. The “Hope” is bulging with supplies. In my first heavy combat action with the USAHS “Acadia” (see Timeline “Acadia” –ed), there were only 500 plasma units on board and we used that in 24 hours after rescuing survivors of a vessel torpedoed in our vicinity. We now have 4,000 plasma units. Commander Albert E. Richards (USNR, corresponding Army rank > Lt. Colonel –ed), our Captain, is a Naval Reserve Officer of considerable experience and was the navigation Officer aboard the USS “Vestal” (AR-4) when she was attacked at Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941. The ship was tied alongside the USS “Arizona” (BB-39) at the time she blew up and capsized, while the “Vestal” had a Jap bomb go through her from top to bottom and her mooring lines burned. The ship moved up the harbor and was later successfully beached. The USS “Vestal” (commissioned 3 September 1913 –ed) was repaired mid-February 1942 and eventually resumed operations. The Skipper has given us splendid cooperation in all our work and planning. Lieutenant Commander Elmer C. Hurley (USNR, corresponding Army rank > Major –ed) is the Skipper’s Executive Officer.
215th Medical Hospital Ship Complement
146 Enlisted Men
1 Hospital Dietitian
2 ARC workers
Sunday, 24 September 1944: Pacific Ocean. We are having rough weather and heavy swells. Most of the green crew are sick and some of my Nurses and Doctors who have had considerable transport service are under the weather. We have five days to get our hospital in complete order to accept patients or to go into a battle area.
Monday, 25 September 1944: Pacific Ocean. The ocean is quiet and all hands are busy cleaning up the ship and getting the supplies distributed.
Tuesday, 26 September 1944: Pacific Ocean. We have been following a clouded sky since we left port and our Navigator, Lieutenant John D. Rively (USNR, Radio Communications Officer, corresponding Army rank > Captain –ed) has been unable to determine our position except by dead reckoning. He is a Naval Reserve Officer, a graduate law student from Pennyslvania, and is very upset because we have been kidding him about his capabilities.
Wednesday, 27 September 1944: Pacific Ocean. We can get Radio Tokyo very clearly with “Tokyo Rose” and her broadcasts. The program is pretty good though the news is just the opposite of the one from the States, but we don’t get bothered by this enemy propaganda. This afternoon, one of the engineers found a wooden plug in the outflow line of one of our evaporators. We now have a full water capacity since this sabotage has been discovered. A few days ago a gasket blew out in the high-pressure steam line barely missing killing our Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Albert Dunkley (USNR, corresponding Army rank > Captain –ed). When it was removed it was found to be another case of sabotage, like the steel filings we discovered in the main bearing. I hope not many more of those things will come up in the next few days. When we tested the electric stoves in the diet kitchen today, we found out that all but two of the heat control units had been stolen by the dock workers. Everything can be remedied after our arrival in Pearl Harbor.
USS “Hope” US Navy Officers (1944)
Commander Albert E. Richards, USNR, Commanding Officer
Lieutenant Commander Elmer C. Hurley, USNR, Executive Officer
Lieutenant J. S. Gravely, Jr., USNR, Navigation Officer
Lieutenant B. F. Buck, USNR, First Lieutenant
Lieutenant John D. Rively, USNR, Radio Communications Officer
Lieutenant Albert Dunkley, USNR, Engineering Officer
Lieutenant E. E. Richards, USN, Supply Officer
Lieutenant Commander Winthrop S. Frantz, USN, Medical Officer
Lieutenant Brian D. Mahedy, USNR, Chaplain (ChC)
Lieutenant R. B. Richardson, USNR
Lieutenant, Junior Grade, J. Heyden Coker, USNR
Lieutenant, Junior Grade, C. D. Colby, USNR
Lieutenant, Junior Grade, E. F. Schlick, USNR
Lieutenant, Junior Grade, J. D. Burke, USNR
Ensign, Jack O. Heustis, USN (T)
Ensign, M. R. Easterling, USNR
Ensign, L. M. Hilsinger, USNR
Ensign, Joel H. Santrock, USN (T)
Ensign, J. J. Babinski, USN (T)
Ensign, A. B. Williams, Jr., USN
Boatswain, B. M. Dufour, USN (T)
L. H. Callaway, USN (CPC) (T)
James B. Roark, USN (APC) (T)
C. E. Travis, USN (CARP) (T)
L. R. Baker, USN (ELCT) (T)
|H. W. Aaron||S2c|
|L. H. Abbott||S2c|
|J. D. Ambers||StM2c|
|A. H. Anderson||QM3c|
|J. A. Anderson||CEM (PA)|
|W. R. Andrews||SM3c|
|C. A. Antonson||SSMT3c (T)|
|P. A. Appling||EM2c (T)|
|L. Arevalo, Jr.||Cox (T)|
|S. H. Armstrong||F2c (MMS)|
|J. August||RM3c (T)|
|T. L. Avery||SM1c|
|P. F. Banker||MM3c (T)|
|M. R. Barbarich||S2c|
|G. E. Baur||S2c|
|J. W. Bean||S1c (Y)|
|A. W. Berggren||B3c (T)|
|A. E. Bermudez||SC1c|
|S. D. Betts||F2c|
|H. D. Bishop||S2c|
|W. F. Boege||S2c|
|A. J. Bonderenko||F2c|
|T. T. Bonner||SC3c (B)|
|J. L. Boughan||MoMM2c|
|C. R. Boughn, Jr.||S1c (Y)|
|R. M. Bradford||MM2c|
|G. O. Brady||F1c|
|W. M. Bright||Ck2c|
|Jack E. Brighton||F1c|
|C. A. Bruning||SF2c|
|S. H. Bussell||SK1c|
|I. C. Carlson||S1c|
|P. R. Cates, Jr.||MoMM3c|
|J. B. Chance||Ck3c|
|W. S. Clark||MM1c (T)|
|H. W. Clem||CCS (PA)|
|J. A. Clement||S1c|
|J. H. Clifford||Cox (T)|
|Roy C. Cody||MM2c (T)|
|L. G. Collum||F2c|
|H. L. Comstock||S2c|
|J. E. Conley||S2c|
|P. F. Connelly||CBM (PA)|
|L. Cormier||F2c (EM)|
|A. J. Corso||S1c (M)|
|G. L. Cotter||S2c|
|D. G. Curtis||F2c|
|J. Danila, Jr.||MM2c|
|J. R. Davis||Cm3c|
|C. D. Davis||SSML3c (T)|
|T. L. DeCino||BM2c|
|W. R. Deuel||F2c|
|W. L. Duggan||F2c|
|J. O. Dunn||St2c|
|H. W. Eckhardt||BM2c|
|J. F. Edwards||Y2c (T)|
|C. M. Efferson||F2c|
|C. C. Ellis||S2c (SSMB)|
|H. W. Eastabrook||S2c|
|W. G. Fee||F1c|
|N. D. Fuller||F2c|
|R. D. Fuller||CY (T)|
|L. F. Girrard||S2c|
|Jess F. Goheen||EM1c|
|I. L. Goodman, Jr.||S1c|
|G. A. Goodrich||F2c|
|J. T. Goodrich||S2c|
|D. Gray||CMM (PA)|
|M. R. Gray||MM1c|
|G. G. Greeley||QM3c (T)|
|G. W. Griffin||F1c|
|H. L. Grissom||F2c (EM)|
|I. Guerrero||CCK (AA)|
|M. Gutierrez||Cox (T)|
|R. E. Hall||S2c|
|S. L. Hammond||StM2c|
|R. S. Hampton||S1c (PrtrM)|
|J. A. Hankins||MM3c|
|J. E. Hardy, Sr.||StM1c|
|H. G. Harkness||Y1c (T)|
|E. L. Harmon||StM2c|
|G. E. Harmon, Jr.||Sm2c|
|M. E. Hart||StM2c|
|J. J. Hayes||StM2c|
|P. Helton, Jr.||S2c (SC)|
|M. J. Hemness||F1c (EM)|
|P. E. Hicks||Em3c (T)|
|S. C. Hill||MM3c (T)|
|N. A. Hinker||WT3c|
|W. A. Hobbs||MM3c|
|B. L. Holland||S1c|
|T. C. Hollister||Cox|
|J. R. Homedew||S1c|
|V. M. Howard||CWT (PA)|
|I. E. Howmann||F2c|
|R. J. Inglés||RM3c|
|E. L. Jackson||St2c|
|G. A. Jecmen||S1c (SC) (B)|
|W. F. Jensen||S2c|
|C. Johnson, Sr.||StM1c|
|H. W. Johnson||S2c (RM)|
|C. P. Jones||S1c|
|M. Kasternakis||SC2c (T)|
|S. P. Keith||SC3c(T)|
|Roger E. Kerr||QM2c|
|C. L. Kienenberger||S2c|
|David J. King||StM2c|
|K. W. Kirk||Cox|
|P. F. Krathovil||Em3c (GY)|
|R. W. Kurth||MoMM1c|
|W. C. Lawrence||StM2c|
|M. D. Lawson||SK2c|
|T. J. LeBrun||MM2c|
|J. F. Lilly||CSF (T)|
|W. H. Logan||StM2c|
|A. B. Longtin||QM1c|
|W. D. Love||StM1c|
|W. E. Lucey||MM2c|
|P. C. Lund||S2c|
|D. E. Lynch||MM1c|
|J. W. Lytle||S1c|
|J. C. Mahan||BM2c|
|D. K. Malloy||S1c|
|E. V. Malone||S2c|
|C. Martineau||CMM (PA)|
|J. F. Martino||CM2c|
|R. A. Mattson||S2c|
|W. F. McCool, Jr.||MM3c (T)|
|E. N. McElfresh||S2c|
|M. F. McEnaney||SK3c (T)|
|T. F. McMahon||S1c (QM)|
|N. J. Mellor||BM1c (T)|
|W. R. Mewis||WT2c|
|J. W. Michael||S2c|
|A. P. Miller||StM2c|
|C. E. Miller||Cox|
|J. R. Minick||PhM2c|
|H. R. Minzghor||S2c|
|V. R. Monroe||CPhM (T)|
|C. W. Moore||S2c|
|R. R. Moreland||S2c|
|A. R. Morgan||S2c|
|D. D. Morgan||F2c|
|E. C. Morgan||F1c|
|R. A. Morgan||S2c|
|O. T. Morley||F1c|
|A. R. Morris||S2c|
|G. G. Morris||F1c|
|D. F. Morton, Jr.||S2c|
|J. R. Moses||S2c|
|C. E. Mowrey||CMM (PA)|
|D. Moxley||CK1c (T)|
|H. F. Mozley||S2c|
|T. E. Muck||StM1c|
|J. L. Mueller||S2c|
|V. W. Mulder||EM1c|
|D. E. Mullendore||F1c|
|M. R. Mullins||S1c|
|C. D. Muma||F2c|
|H. D. Mundy||S1c|
|D. L. Munsell||F2c|
|J. Music, Jr.||S2c|
|C. T. Musselwhite||S2c|
|D. J. Myers||S2c|
|H. A. Myers||S2c|
|R. R. Nail||S2c|
|C. H. Nale||S2c|
|A. R. Neel||S2c|
|A. W. Nelson, Jr.||Bkr1c|
|T. B. Nelson||S2c|
|J. H. Nessmith||S2c|
|G. A. Neugin||S1c|
|G. G. Nichols||S1c (QM)|
|W. T. Oliver||S2c (SC)|
|E. E. Parshall||S1c|
|J. Parziale||CBM (AA)|
|C. Patrick||EM3c (T)|
|W. R. Patterson||S1c|
|M. U. Pellerin||MM3c|
|D. E. Pendleton||Y1c|
|H. Petroff||MM (S) 3c|
|C. V. Phemister||F2c|
|D. E. Pickinpaugh||F2c (EM)|
|J. J. Pinch||S2c|
|Robert G. Popperwell||S1c|
|C. R. Pratt||S2c (RM)|
|H. E. Robinett||S2c|
|J. T. Rogers||SCK (PA)|
|J. Rozeboom||Bkr3c (T)|
|H. F. Sears||F2c|
|G. E. Schuppert||CM1c|
|E. R. Schultz||S1c|
|W. W. Sheble||SKd1c|
|C. O. Sidwell||BM2c|
|R. E. Solomon.||RM2c|
|W. H. Sorenson||QM2c (T)|
|L. R. Sowers||S2c|
|J. B. Stallworth, Jr.||WT2c (T)|
|J. H. Stephens||WT1c|
|H. J. Stout||CRM (PA)|
|M. D. Strong||F2c|
|P. W. Succarotte||Em2c (T)|
|J. T. Sutliff||M2c|
|J. D. Tait||SF1c (T)|
|W. H. Tankersley||SSML3c (T)|
|C. C. Taylor||SCSc|
|C. P. Terrell||F1c|
|E. H. Thompson||WT3c|
|T. F. Thomson||S2c|
|B. L. Thornton||SKD3c (T)|
|C. S. Timlin, Jr.||WT2c|
|D. J. Tranchina||F1c|
|J. M. Turley||F2c (EM)|
|J. M. Turner, Jr.||F1c|
|O. R. Unzicker||S2c|
|R. Vecchie||SC3c (T)|
|J. F. Veilleux||SC3c|
|T. W. Virgle||StM1c|
|E. J. Visel||MM3c|
|F. E. Voeltner||MME3c|
|J. B. Walsh||MM3c (T)|
|R. J. Walter||S2c|
|W. W. Walton||SSMC (T)|
|W. W. Weatherbee||F2c (MM)|
|A. C. Weaver||Y2c (T)|
|L. D. Whalen||SC3c|
|K. R. Wiley||S2c|
|R. L. Williams||StM2c|
|C. W. Wilson||SK3c (T)|
|R. D. Wiseman||S1c|
|L. E. Woodcock, Jr.||SF2c|
|L. E. Woodruff, Jr.||SF2c|
|W. O. Young||StM2c|
|Donald S. Yuen||S2c|
|J. T. Zimbaro||Bkr2c|
Thursday, 28 September 1944: Pacific Ocean. A general inspection showed everything in good shape and the possibility to be in port tomorrow afternoon.
Friday, 29 September 1944: Pacific Ocean, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. At 0800 we can just see Molokai in the distance and the Captain expects to be in the harbor early this afternoon. Our speed for the past twenty-four hours has been over sixteen knots with the aid of the current, but we have burned a great amount of fuel. Our most economical speed is about fourteen knots which will give us a cruising range of over fifteen thousand miles.
1400 hours and we are well in sight of “Diamond Head Point” (lighthouse on Oahu Island built in 1917 –ed) and should be in within the next couple of hours if we can get hold of a pilot. The mountains are all covered with beautiful luxurious green foliage of many shades, which look much more inviting than North Africa or California. We can see the famous Waikiki Beach with the field glasses, covered with people, probably soldiers and sailors.
1600 hours and we are tied up to a buoy in the channel of Pearl Harbor. The Captain and I have just returned from shore. There is a rigid curfew, with Enlisted personnel leaves ending at 1800 hours; NCOs as late as 2130 hours; and Officers passes ending at 2200 hours. Fines and penalties are quite severe for all, including civilians. We were able to get our currency changed to the Hawaiian issue (special overprint HAWAII for the Territory of Hawaii, issued in 1942 as financial precaution to possible invasion and capture of US currency by the Japanese –ed).
Saturday, 30 September 1944: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. We have just returned from Base Headquarters and find this place is entirely Navy, so we will get our orders from here. We are not to return to the Zone of Interior, but to proceed to Manus Island (Admiralty Islands –ed) and bring back some patients from the Navy Base Hospital there. The “Hope” is to remain here until Thursday morning and get the necessary repairs to the engine high-pressure steam lines and the plaster table previously received and installed in the new OR.
In the afternoon I took Captain Max E. Kaiser (MC, Chief of Surgical Service), Captain Norman Silverstein (MC, Chief of Medical Service), Captain Ira I. Kaminsky (DC, Chief of Dental Service) and First Lieutenant Charles W. Kersten (Medical Administrative Corps) over to visit Ft. Shafter and meet Brigadier General Edgar King, MC, Chief Surgeon, Hawaiian Department. From there on we went to the 1,000-bed 147th General Hospital (activated 1 May 1941, embarked for Hawaii 16 June 1942, served the south sector of Oahu –ed) just beyond Waikiki and saw 4 of the girls from Monmouth who have been here for over two years. They have not received any leaves so far and are totally disheartened, as the island is small, and daily restrictions severe. They have a good setup here and are getting excellent results with burns treatment. Pearl Harbor is full of soldiers, guns, and ships. I forgot to mention that I had twelve letters waiting for me and the rest of the ship received comparable numbers. It was a great surprise as one of the letters was mailed from New Jersey (Colonel Protzman’s home state –ed) which is as fast as the mail received when in California. I hope this keeps up. We visited Waikiki Beach and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel run by the US Navy. The other large hotel that bounded the beach has been taken over by the US Army. A room and a meal only cost $ 0.50, while just a few years ago prices ranged between $ 25.00 and up! On our way into the harbor we passed the remains of the USS “Arizona” battleship, jutting out of the water. Our Skipper, Commander Albert E. Richards, remembered the Japanese attack.
USS “Hope” US Army Officers (1944)
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas B. Protzman, MC, Commanding Officer
Captain Max E. Kaiser, MC, Chief of Surgical Service
Captain Norman Silverstein, MC, Chief of Medical Service
Captain Ira I. Kaminsky, DC, Chief of Dental Service
First Lieutenant J. L. Spicer, MAC, Adjudant
Captain J. A. Buchmeiyer, MC
Captain Milton M. Kurtz, DC
Captain Russell H. Patterson, Jr., MC
Captain W. F. Richmond, MC
Captain Morris J. Steinman, MC
Captain R. Wurman, MC
First Lieutenant T. A. Griset, SnC
First Lieutenant Marion J. Kerns, MC
First Lieutenant Charles W. Kersten, MAC
First Lieutenant M. E. Taylor, ChC
Second Lieutenant A. F. Castle, MAC
Warrant Officer, Junior Grade Clarence L. Ashlin, USA
Sunday, 1 October 1944: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. Late yesterday we were moved alongside an LST near the coal docks, in the vicinity of Hickam Field (Horace M. Hickam Field built on Oahu in 1935, activated 15 September 1938, strafed and bombed on 7 December 1941, losses: 139 killed and 303 wounded –ed). Some work has already been started. Our telephone to the engine room hasn’t worked since our departure and there are several other minor repairs to be made throughout our ship. All the repairs we have asked for in the Hospital area have been turned down as Headquarters want us to sail for Manus Island (largest island of the Admiralty Islands, after its capture in May 1944 it was turned into a large air and naval base including fleet anchorage and major repair facilities –ed) and return immediately to the States with a first load of wounded. The island has a Naval Hospital and is not far from New Guinea. The Naval Commander at Pearl feels that we can get the necessary repairs back home.
Both Chaplains, Lieutenant Brian D. Mahedy (ChC, USNR) and my Chaplain, First Lieutenant M. E. Taylor (ChC, MC) had a good turnout as we are tied up between two ships and there is no shore leave. It is difficult to secure extra supplies, but in the end we finally won our point and are getting everything we asked for including 300 more penicillin vials. When the “Mercy” left, she had on board an extra crew of 8 Surgeons, 4 anesthetic Nurses, and 54 Enlisted Men to be used in the combat areas. As we are not supposed to join in the fighting, we are taking on no extra personnel.
Monday, 2 October 1944: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. Technician 4th Grade Orlando B. Aramini and I took off early this morning and walked a couple of miles to the bus line to Honolulu. The distance is only eight miles and the buses are good. There seem to be no restrictions on driving here although the citizens complain of the shortage of gas. While I was walking around, my ship tried to reach me, on calling back I found out that a Navy Admiral wanted to see me and inspect our ship. We hurried back to the harbor to find that all the necessary repairs are going to be implemented in the operating room.
Tuesday, 3 October 1944: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. We spent all morning with Rear Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, District Medical Officer, Fourteenth Naval District, and Captain Edward D. Hightower, Medical Inspector. They combed the “Hope” from top to bottom and asked a million questions. They both seemed well satisfied with our work and invited me for dinner. I hope I convinced the Admiral that our Hospital Ship was ready for action and shouldn’t be sent back to the Zone of Interior until after the next invasion. I hate like hell to be used just as a kind of ferry boat, shuttling casualties, when there are others that want the job. Admiral L. W. Johnson loaned me his car and with Captain E. D. Hightower to drive, we toured the island.
Wednesday, 4 October 1944: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. I have received orders to proceed to Guadalcanal, pick up a load of wounded and return to the United States unless otherwise directed, at 0700 in the morning.
I tried to buy some souvenirs for my girls but the prices were prohibitive. Table mats, manufactured here and sent to California, cost $ 0.15 in L.A., and are sold here for $ 2.00 a piece. A cigarette lighter that I bought at Cp. Anza, Arlington, California (Staging Area for Los Angeles Port of Embarkation –ed) is sold here for $ 16.80! They are all OPA-controlled prices (Office of Price Administration –ed).
Thursday, 5 October 1944: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, Pacific Ocean. We departed Pearl Harbor at 0700 this morning and I had hoped to take some pictures of the island from a distance, but it was covered with clouds. The required minor repairs and adjustments were finalized prior to our taking off. About 1000 hours I heard some yelling aft and went to see what had happened and found one of the boys up near the top of the mast in a bosn’n chair (Boatswain or Bosun, foreman of deck crew –ed), being sprayed by the ship’s fire hose. It seems we are entering King Neptune’s domain and all those who haven’t crossed the Dateline are subject to many indignities until that time. The “shellbacks” (veteran sailors) are building a large water tank at the ship’s aft.
Pollywog > a larval amphibian that undergoes a metamorphosis to an adult toad
Shellback > a person who has crossed the Equator and been initiated in the traditional ceremony
Friday, 6 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. During last night, one of the boys on watch thought he saw an orange flare, and when the Skipper was awakened he put the ship off course for two hours trying to find the source, thinking it might be a small raft or an aviator in distress. 2200 hours and we have just been informed by radio to change our course and head for Manus Island (in lieu of Guadalcanal), in the Admiralty Group. I hope this means that we are going to be used for something else than just a carrier.
Saturday, 7 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. Everyone is in a state of expectation this morning as they all noticed the ship was taking a different course and all sorts of rumors are springing up. But none of us will know until we reach Manus Island. The Court of King Neptune served papers today appointing me “Inspector of the Meads” (read of the Toilets) and I am to appear in Court with a necklace of toilet paper rolls and a toilet plunger. The water tank has been supplemented by a tilting chair and a slide. The ceremony will start at 1300 hours next Monday and last 24 hours.
We just picked up a message that the USS “Solace” (AH-5) was coming into port with a load of over 600 wounded. As this makes two such loads in only a few days, we may be heading that way to supplement her work.
Sunday, 8 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. Our awning has been stretched over the sun deck giving us a wonderful place to cool off and as both church services were held there, there was quite a crowd. As the “Hope” nears the equator, the heat and humidity increase and become worse, and as I write in my Journal, sweat is dripping from my nose. We have warned everyone to take some salt tablets, eat more salt on food and avoid over exposure. Just to make sure the air conditioner works when needed, we turned it on this morning, and like many of these wartime jobs, it has gone out of commission. Perhaps someone can repair it, but there are so many important things to repair that we will most probably have to work in the heat. Everyone is bustling around preparing appropriate costumes for the Monday ceremonies. Mine consists of a necklace of seventeen rolls of toilet paper, a toilet plunger, a pair of bathing trunks, and sneakers. I will be assisted by the ship’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander E. C. Hurley, USNR, who will go through the mill with me.
Monday, 9 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. We will first cross the International Dateline and the Equator some time tomorrow. The Nurses who haven’t been initiated before are walking around with their slacks rolled up, their uniform blouses on backwards, and their hair done in pigtails. Tomorrow King Neptune will take over the ship.
Tuesday, 10 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. Nothing to report.
Wednesday, 11 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. We really lost a day yesterday when crossing the International Dateline. Today is the BIG celebration. It started last night at supper when all the junior Officers (those still to be initiated) had to appear at the mess in their full dress uniforms put on backwards, and serve the evening meal. It almost turned into a riot. This morning at 0430 they were all driven back into the large cage at the ship’s aft (used for insane patients) and the fire hose was turned on them. After this they cleaned up and dressed again serving breakfast at 0630. At 0800 hours the “skull & crossbones” flag was raised over the USS “Hope” and we were all driven forward to watch the royal procession climb out of the paint locker and go aft to hold Court. Commander E.C. Hurley and I were the first to be tried. On the way to our trial, we were greeted with the full force of a fire hose and knocked down losing what little dignity that was left. Tried and found guilty, we were then subjected to some rough treatment. Tabasco sauce in the mouth, an electrically-charged knife to the belly, and some swabs of red paint over our face and we were then pushed to a place where a monk with a large cross and a bible met us. From there on followed a short tour through a forty-foot tunnel filled with garbage. As we emerged from the tunnel, a large colored boy met us with some scissors, clipped off a few locks of our hair and passed us on to the barber’s chair to receive a shampoo of eggs and graphite grease. We were then precipitously dumped backwards into the sea water tank and pushed down a slide onto the deck accompanied by some good paddling. We now are no longer “pollywogs” but full-fledged “shellbacks”, entitled to all benefits!
It took me three hours to remove the major part of the grease and muck from my body, but the Nurses who have been initiated will have a sweet time getting their hair properly cleaned. In fact, the crossing of the equator has brought us all together and has made a monotonous week pass quickly and with a lot of fun. The Captain wanted to get the ceremony over with, so that we could clean the ship and be ready for any action that might come. In the morning, we will pass close to one of the Jap-held Marshall Islands, but feel that our Army Air Forces will be near enough to take on any enemy planes that might want to take a pot shot at our ship.
USS “Hope” ANC Officers (1944)
Captain Leona A. Soppe, ANC, Chief Nurse
First Lieutenant Alvine L. Schmidt, ANC, Assistant Chief Nurse
Second Lieutenant Lelia H. Merrick, MDD, Hospital Dietitian
Miss Dorothy Dewey, ARC, Staff Worker
Miss Margaret Postma, ARC, Staff Worker
First Lieutenant Thelma M. Blakemore, ANC
First Lieutenant Ann M. Dunbar, ANC
First Lieutenant T. Kornacki, ANC
First Lieutenant Helen J. Renkes, ANC
First Lieutenant Elizabeth A. Wilde, ANC
Second Lieutenant Blanche B. Aust, ANC
Second Lieutenant Ellen G. Bartolomei, ANC
Second Lieutenant Francis B. Bonnell, ANC
Second Lieutenant Florence L. Brown, ANC
Second Lieutenant Elane R. Burgeson, ANC
Second Lieutenant Marion E. Burns, ANC
Second Lieutenant Mary F. Chase, ANC
Second Lieutenant Margaret H. Clift, ANC
Second Lieutenant Ila R. Curtner, ANC
Second Lieutenant Marie A. Gartner, ANC
Second Lieutenant Marion J. Grandy, ANC
Second Lieutenant Thelma E. Hadlock, ANC
Second Lieutenant Rinalda B. Hansen, ANC
Second Lieutenant Charlotte J. Helfand, ANC
Second Lieutenant Jordi S. Holter, ANC
Second Lieutenant Nola J. Hotchkiss, ANC
Second Lieutenant Harriet M. Kellen, ANC
Second Lieutenant Dorothy A. Lynch, ANC
Second Lieutenant Nellie G. Marsch, ANC
Second Lieutenant Dorothea M. Milburn, ANC
Second Lieutenant Veronica L. Oliver, ANC
Second Lieutenant Evangeline A. Perrier, ANC
Second Lieutenant Yolanda J. Raboli, ANC
Second Lieutenant Anita M. Rees, ANC
Second Lieutenant F. Pauline Schreffler, ANC
Second Lieutenant Esther C. Schultz, ANC
Second Lieutenant Nancy I. Shirk, ANC
Second Lieutenant Mary M. Thrush, ANC
Second Lieutenant Eileen Walden, ANC
Second Lieutenant Lois J. Wall, ANC
Thursday, 12 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. We are now passing between the Marshall and Gilbert Islands but may not see any of these as the Skipper doesn’t want to take any chances. If we continue at this speed the “Hope” should be opposite Manus Island about 17 October, and from there we will get further instructions.
The ocean is really deadly. I can now understand why airmen dread flying over this vast expanse of water with practically no chance of being rescued should they be shot down or experience engine trouble.
The boys, my men and the crew, are busy cleaning the grease and paint from decks and bulkheads. By tonight we should have a clean ship again. Just a few minutes ago a Navy bomber passed over us and near enough for them to take a good look at our ship. It gave us a strong sense of security as we are only sixty miles from the Jap-controlled island of Mili (atoll of the Marshall Islands –ed). Some of the Nurses we took on board before we sailed are beginning to give us a little trouble, as they won’t stay away from the Enlisted Men, and I had to discipline some of them today. I cannot let them disrupt the efficient function of this ship.
Friday, 13 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. We are nearing the equator today and will follow north of it until we are opposite Manus Island. The last two days the weather has been perfect, and we spend most of the time under the awning on the sun deck. It sometimes seems more like a pleasure cruise than a ship going in to pick up wounded soldiers and sailors.
We finally found a lot of dirt in the air conditioner for the OR and it seems to work at present. I’m certain that the double doors into some of the wards will have to be removed if we intend to put patients into them. I tried to introduce this change before sailing but was overruled. We can now do as we please here and have full cooperation from Commander A. E. Richards.
Saturday, 14 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. We are riding almost directly west along the equator now. There aren’t any cool breezes today and the Captain has ordered all the rest of the awnings put up around the ship thus increasing the deck space the men can use for sleeping purposes. I can foresee that a good number of patients are going to suffer from the heat on the ship if we have to lie off the islands and don’t put out to sea at night.
We’ve had to slow down considerably this morning because it would bring us in the vicinity of Manus Island by next Monday night and as it isn’t safe or possible to enter that area in the dark we will carry a slower speed so as to arrive early Tuesday morning. It’s really hot tonight, and I’ve just come from a tour around the ship. The boys have nearly all removed their mattresses to the top side and are sleeping on the decks now. Of course, we won’t be able to do this when near the shore on account of the mosquitoes. Due to the excessive heat and change in climate, a great many of my Nurses are having menstrual difficulties. We never had this in North Africa or in the Mediterranean, so it’s probably due to the high humidity.
At this minute, I’m listening to Radio Tokyo, telling their audience about the destruction of 4 aircraft carriers and 100 aircraft and boasting that Japan finally has total air supremacy. We get a big kick out of this as we are right in that area and haven’t seen a single Japanese plane, also, one of the ships “Tokyo Rose” claims to have been sunk, is still at Pearl.
Sunday, 15 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. Church services were a big hit today as it’s hot as hell and the only cool place in under the awnings where the Chaplains officiate. We are right on the equator, going west.
We should arrive at Manus Island Tuesday morning and I hope we move on from there. There seems to be a lot of activity near the sector and I certainly want to give this crowd a work out. In the morning I’m going to issue .45 cal automatic pistols to my Officers and I also want to make sure they know how to use them. This day has been unbearable and I honestly dread leaving deck and returning to the heat of my cabin. The Skipper doesn’t seem to mind the heat and we will probably get used to it also.
Monday, 16 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. We have slowed down considerably so as not to reach our destination before tomorrow morning. The weather has cooled a little. Nothing eventful has taken place. Radio Tokyo keeps on telling of great battles and the large number of American ships and aircraft sunk by them. It is now 1900 hours and searchlights and ack-ack fire can be seen on Miray Island. This kept us busy for over two hours, but so far away we couldn’t really determine what was going on.
Tuesday, 17 October 1944: Pacific Ocean, Manus Island, Admiralty Islands Group. We can clearly see the island. It is 0600 in the morning. As early as 0700 hours we received a radio message requesting what we needed and to be prepared to take on fuel and leave at once. By 0800 the USS “Hope” was off the harbor signaling for a pilot, and by 0900 the ship was at anchor. This looks like some sort of action is going on. As we came into the harbor we passed the USS “Bountiful” (AH-9) which had just delivered about 400 patients coming from the Palau Islands Group (ex-Japanese Mandate, some 500 miles east of the Philippines –ed). There seems to be considerably more going on than we heard about. From a panoramic view Seeadler harbor is a beauty; it’s semi-circular with small palms covering coral reefs scattered here and there; the harbor itself is 6 miles wide and 120 feet deep. This is my first close view of a southsea island and it looks like the jungle is coming right down to the sea with some even growing into the water. The place was once an Australian Mandate that was destroyed by them when they had to evacuate the place. It was later recaptured by American and Australian troops 18 May 1944. The Admiralty Islands Group consists of eighteen islands all located in the Bismarck Archipelago. The local natives are very friendly and cooperative and will give anything they possess for a jeep ride or for a bed sheet.
At noon we had dinner with Commodore J. C. Boak, Commanding Officer of this group of islands. He was interesting to speak to and well liked by all the Officers under him. He was loud in his praise for the “Seabees” (Naval Construction Battalions, or CBs –ed) and pointed out the fine roads they had built in just a few months, converting the island into a well developed and huge base for troops, supplies, repair facilities, and an excellent harbor. On top of a nearby hill I had a view of the very modern water processing plant with an output of 2,000 gallons/minute that supplied enough water for the nearly 30,000 troops still on the island and the ships in the harbor. The 15th Naval Base Hospital (capacity, 1,500 beds) under command of Captain H. E. Robbins is doing a magnificent job, although being greatly understaffed. Last week they received that number of patients in one day! Only litter cases are received at the installation, with the ambulatory patients being assembled to a pool and flown out immediately, either to Guadalcanal or Brisbane, Australia. As soon as the litter cases can be transported they are air evacuated.
Our greatest surprise upon arriving was to receive a bag of airmail. This is the best medicine in the world for the job we have, and a real boost for morale.
I found out that on Saturday 14 September 1944, a fleet of 701 ships and attack transports had left here for the Philippines and that D-Day is set for 20 October (participation of US Seventh Fleet and Australian warships –ed). At our rate of speed the “Hope” should be there about D+2. Our orders are now to sail at 0800 the next morning and go directly to Ulithi (Caroline Islands –ed), a small atoll island near Yap, that was captured by American forces on 23 September. We are expected to receive further orders at this point, and to just what location near Leyte Island in the Philippines we are to proceed.
At the routing office I was told that our plans are changed and that we’re going to Peleliu (Palau Islands Group –ed), and then on to where ordered. Landings took place last month, 15 September 1944. I tried to get a few extra surgeons for our ship, but none were available. Captain Ghent Graves, the Executive Officer for this area took me around the hospital and gave me much valuable information that we, new men in this region, are badly in need of. It was based on diseases and ailments quite prevalent in this part of the tropics.
|USS “Hope” US Army Medical Personnel (1944)|
|Sgt Charles A. Ackley, 32855335||Pvt Felton P. Adams, 34266985|
|Tec 5 Robert A. Alsop, 36576812||Tec 4 Norman K. Anderson, 39017278|
|Tec 5 John J. Andrews, 32984979||Pfc Abraham Anter, 32779008|
|Tec 4 Orlando B. Aramini, 31280113||Tec 4 Joe E. Azparren, 39017599|
|M/Sgt William W. Baker, 17020556||Pvt James D. Bartie, 33577665|
|T/Sgt John F. Bean, Jr., 31082169||Pfc Claude F. Bell, 34604610|
|Tec 5 Robert E. Blanke, 37602916||Pvt Walter J. Bogdziewicz, 31271111|
|Tec 4 Joe F. Bonds, 34644393||T/Sgt Francis Bram, 32242463|
|Pfc George C. Brown, 34443705||Pfc Joseph A. Buhler, 32790940|
|Pfc Sidney L. Bunton, 37408862||Pfc Gerald E. Burgess, 39296360|
|Pfc Peter Calandrino, 32611115||Tec 3 George W. Cannon, 32340704|
|Tec 5 John S. Chandler, 31258444||Pvt Leland F. Clark, 35552915|
|Tec 5 Paul W. Coffey, 35308096||S/Sgt Raymond C. Coker, 37102401|
|Pfc James M. Coll, 33692622||Pfc Clarence S. Conrad, Jr., 39573824|
|Pvt U. Z. Cowart, 34576295||Pvt Emmett R. Cox, 38057374|
|Tec 5 John E. Curotto, 32763408||Pvt John U. Curran, 33580617|
|Tec 4 Doil E. Dalton, 38048624||Pvt Claude D. Davis, 14083026|
|Pfc James DeFillippo, 32785602||Pfc Leonard L. DePalma, 35673860|
|T/Sgt Charles A. Dewey, 39605897||Tec 5 Leo L. Dialessi, 38423963|
|Tec 5 Timple H. Diew, 39227089||Tec Josiah S. Dilley, 35752226|
|Pvt Edward A. Donahue, Jr., 31989000||Pfc Pete Dyal, 34400304|
|Pvt Virgil E. Edwards, 34443136||Pvt Nicholas España, 39417240|
|Tec 5 Robert J. Evans, 38047520||Tec 4 Urtel A. Francis, 39129266|
|Pvt Edward Frankian, 31183747||S/Sgt Philip N. Gale, 39113380|
|Pvt Nicholas Gannecile, 32719705||Pfc Edmund C. Garcia, 39134148|
|Pfc Tom Gavigan, 36625085||Pvt James S. Geomel, 36526383|
|Pfc Theophile J. Gerard, 31219578||Pvt Charles W. Gerwe, 35683474|
|Pfc Stanley J. Glogowski, 6584614||Tec 5 Albert A. Goldberg, 36892037|
|Pvt Jacob Goras, 31279952||Tec 5 Van D. Grady, 34279773|
|Tec 5 Edward J. Gray, 39841885||Pfc Theodore H. Greer, 39294500|
|Pfc Laurence H. Gridley, 39116938||Pvt Morris Gulino, 32789830|
|Tec 5 Bill M. Hamra, 18161251||Pfc Clarence S. Hamrick, 38368266|
|Pvt Delbert R. Hanks, 39342054||Pvt William W. Harmon, 34102555|
|Pvt Edgar E. Harris, Jr., 32211090||Tec 5 Thomas B. Heggie, 33631497|
|Tec 5 Frank T. Hensley, 34123972||Pfc Will C. Hewitt, 37040881|
|Pfc Everett D. Horn, 37442411||Pfc Walter R. Houseworth, 33247005|
|Tec 5 Albert L. Howard, 39454400||Pvt Oscar M. Hyatt, 39714338|
|Tec 5 Nicola Iannone, 31225025||Pvt Joe E. Jackson, 14092543|
|Pvt Henry Jager, Jr., 39458093||Pvt Wallace J. King, 32843863|
|Pvt Robert J. Klenck, 32224286||Tec 4 Charles Kowalewski, 32223954|
|Pfc Joseph D. Kraichely, 37601276||Pvt Harold J. Ladue, 32742758|
|Pvt Raymond J. Langlais, 31169279||Pfc Samuel Levy, 32594322|
|Tec 4 Curt Lewis, 38414942||Pfc Réal J. L’Heureux, 31219559|
|Pfc John R. Marino, 7007385||Tec 5 Adelor L. Matson, 39531874|
|Sgt William N. McClenahan, 37518938||Pvt William R. McClure, 39289316|
|Pvt Pedro A. Medina, 37350578||Pfc Clyde A. Melvin, Jr., 39327942|
|Pfc Jerome Meyer, 32883027||Pfc Albert J. Moricko, 35315988|
|Pfc Thomas I. Moran, 37415256||Pvt Billie T. Morgan, 34587612|
|Tec 4 Paul Mose, 35374678||Pfc William J. Mulcahy, 36637707|
|Pvt Hoyle D. Neaves, 34624995||Tec 5 Ziegfried M. Newman, 32189612|
|Tec 5 Roy E. Newton, 33518246||Pfc John G. Nichols, Jr., 34194582|
|Pfc Enrico C. Nottoli, 36357819||Pvt Joseph F. Noynaert, 37200421|
|Pfc Edmund L. Oppenheim, 32625008||Tec 5 Orvis M. Orr, 38137419|
|Pvt William J. Pahler, 35313117||Tec 4 Edward M. Painter, 33478338|
|Tec 5 William C. Peirce, 35612583||Pfc Earl J. Pennington, 35787041|
|Pvt Michael P. Pierro, 32761945||Pvt George L. Placido, 39041125|
|Cpl Rico Ponzi, 32832662||Tec 5 Carmine Posillico, 32641545|
|Pfc Ervin Priest, 36456118||Pfc James F. Ray, 34236267|
|Pvt Doyle W. Roberson, 34257143||Cpl John C. Russell, 32586602|
|Pvt William F. Sanders, 33462032||Pfc Frederick L. Schaefer, 32624407|
|Tec 5 Irving Scholnick, 32656234||Pvt Arthur F. Schwartzkopf, 36746396|
|Pfc Hoyt Scroggins, 34256960||Tec 4 Leon M. Sherman, 31237729|
|Pvt Hurschel T. Sivadon, 36440861||Tec 5 Howard L. Smith, 34363395|
|Pvt J. W. R. Smith, 38095157||Tec 5 Luther B. Smith, 39291546|
|Pvt Homer E. Speulding, 37505419||Pfc Harold C. Starcher, 35600828|
|S/Sgt Edwin N. Stephenson, 33489518||Tec 5 William Tabilio, 33072142|
|Tec 5 Eugene D. Thompson, 35719385||Pvt Billy E. Turner, 18080765|
|Pvt Cecil Vance, 32636803||Tec 5 Pete Van Noort, 39685843|
|Pvt Gross Whaley, 34394786||Pvt Howley M. Williams, 38569457|
|Pvt Rew A. Wilson, 39125448||Tec 4 Harold A. Winslow, 16015023|
|Tec 3 Robert J. Woeste, 35675740||Pvt Harold P. Wolfe, Jr., 32778972|
|Tec 4 John P. Woolcock, 32699164||Pfc Robert B. Wright, 34188296|
|Pfc Charles A. Zambas, 32690409||Sgt Alfred J. Zeronda, 32741658|
Wednesday, 18 October 1944: Manus Island, Admiralty Islands Group, Pacific Ocean. We left here right at 0800 hours, and behind a large supply ship. You can feel the tension increasing on the “Hope” as everyone (except the few of us who know) is trying to guess just where we’re heading. When we were several miles out at sea, two of our aircraft began dropping depth charges on a sub that surfaced. We must have passed very near to it, so you can see that it isn’t Hospital Ships they’re hunting. We didn’t have any trouble with enemy submarines in the North African Theater. It was just the enemy aircraft and stray cannon shells, with an occasional floating mine.
I had a general meeting with all my Officers and Nurses and gave them the information I had obtained from the base. Since we did not obtain complementary personnel, the medical Officers have been allotted operating tables and the Nurses will act as anesthetists and first assistants. Nights will be covered by 2 Nurses familiar with diagnostics and they will patrol the wards constantly. Captain A. E. Richards, our Skipper, is proceeding at full speed in the hope that we may pass the “Bountiful” and get on site first.
Thursday, 19 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. Our ship has been passing all sorts of flotsam and jetsam the entire morning. Life belts, gas cans, smashed life boats, and large pieces of debris and wreckage. This stuff must have come a considerable distance. The Skipper has placed extra lookouts to make sure we don’t miss any survivors. At 1000 I’m going to talk to the Enlisted Men to pass along the information given to the Officers yesterday. The rest of the day will be dedicated to instruction and practicing taking on and distributing the wounded. We may have to take them in on both sides of the ship, so we will use the forecastle, the main deck, and the fantail, for admission and distribute the patients to the wards from there. Our shock teams can work on the decks with orders coming from the diagnosing Officer.
Friday, 20 October 1944: Pacific Ocean. The sea is so quiet that the only disturbance is caused by schools of flying fish that break out now and then. It’s hard to believe that we’re only thirty-six hours away from one of the greatest invasions in history. At 1300 we received the first news of the Leyte Island landings (Philippines –ed) and are picking up the two-way broadcasts from ship-to-ship. I hope we keep on going as it is no fun to be so near of the action and not be able to help!
Saturday, 21 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. The time is 0600 in the morning and I can just make out the island. We’re right behind the “Bountiful” which made the distance in one day less. As we near the island we see considerable aerial bombing but no return fire. We will have to find out about that later. The horizon is dotted with numerous ships of all classes; and there are several repair ships and floating dry docks, large enough to take a ship our size. There is a certain permanency about the place. Kossol Roads (also designated Kossol Passage, large reef-enclosed waters north of Babelthuap, Palaus, used as location for a USN floating resupply and repair base –ed) lie in a tremendous basin or lagoon almost surrounded by a coral reef just below the water surface, which forms a natural protection and barrier for the ships. As we came into anchorage right in the center of the fleet, we could see a large group of amphibian flying boats used for patrol and cargo. There were over fifty of them strung out in a line on the horizon and at anchor.
As soon as we had dropped anchor, small boats began to come over with casual patients to be treated. Some of these kids have been here many months and are in need of a doctor or a dentist. These boys are always a good source of information and from them I learned that Babelthuap Island still has many thousands of Japs who have been isolated there after we captured Peleliu. The intention is to starve them out. The island is surrounded by destroyers and PT boats (Picket Line) ready to pounce on anything that shows up and lies just outside of the range of the enemy 5-inch gun they still have intact. Moreover, there is a constant air patrol (CAP) that keeps the Japs from fishing or growing anything in the fields. An estimated 25,000 enemy soldiers are thought to be trapped on Babelthuap.
The sun drops out of sight shortly after 1800 hours. There’s no twilight, you see the sun and suddenly it’s gone! The ships are in a total blackout, including the “Hope”, except for the Navy repair ships that are patching up some torpedoed destroyers. I learn from the “Bountiful” to expect a number of bad chest and abdominal wounds, and to leave the chest cases alone, and go first for the bellies. The chest cases are complicated by severe hemorrhage and the treatment is to leave these alone, give them morphine and oxygen as required and only to aspirate enough blood from the area to relieve the pressure. They have found that great hemorrhagic areas will absorb in a few weeks and leave no ill effects. With the increase of gas infections, all wounds are to be cultured and my laboratory expert, First Lieutenant T. A. Griset (SnC, Chief of Laboratory Service –ed) has been on the USS “Bountiful” all afternoon collecting info and discussing their technique for the six-hour culture method for the bug. We are now all keyed up listening to the field reports and waiting for instructions to come in. If we are still here in the morning, I’ll take a trip to the “Bountiful” and try to get some more information about the situation.
Sunday, 22 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. I took some more of my staff and visited the “Bountiful” today and enjoyed their spacious decks and larger treatment and operating rooms. They have much finer equipment than ours, but I feel we can do just as good a job and our wards are more comfortable and much better ventilated. Also we can carry a greater number of patients (680 vs. 480). We learned several new tricks. By turning the beds up side and presenting a flat surface we will be able to transport our double spica cases with a great deal more comfort. By cutting the plasma cans in half and attaching them to the sides of each bed, we obtain a container to hold a glass of water or cigarette ash. Here as in the other Theaters, the common stretcher, or litter, is the Army canvas-covered type. We have very few Stokes litters on board.
Monday, 23 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. This morning the troop transports began returning from the Philippines. The Gunnery Officer aboard the USS “Leonard Wood” (attack transport, APA-12, commissioned 1 February 1943 –ed), which landed 2,000 troops on Leyte without a casualty told me they received no opposition. Now we understand why our ship hasn’t been called into that area. It’s wonderful to hear that the landings went unopposed. From his report, only 2 cruisers and 1 LST sustained any damage. The Japanese seem to have been taken completely by surprise. If 2 of our cruisers have been hit and are damaged they should be coming our way for repair or be on their way to Manus Island, where there’s a floating dry dock large enough to take them.
Tuesday, 24 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. The first of the damaged ships came in this morning. One was HMAS “Australia” (heavy cruiser, commissioned 24 April 1928 –ed) which just passed us a few minutes ago with her bridge structure, fire control, and radar completely smashed and bent backwards after being hit by a Jap dive bomber. We can’t see any other damage even with strong binoculars, and we may never know what really happened unless they send some wounded aboard. The second ship was the USS “Honolulu” (light cruiser, CL-48, commissioned 26 August 1937 –ed) which just came in too but she is so far away and obscured by other ships that it’s impossible to tell what happened to her (she was also hit by a Jap land-based torpedo bomber and later by accidental friendly fire –ed). Practically all our news now comes from Radio Tokyo, so we don’t really know what happens. Last night “Tokyo Rose” announced that there were 16 US Hospital Ships in the Palaus, while there are only two of us.
I just finished dressing Captain K. D. Ringle’s foot and leg. He, together with five other men of his crew came over for general medical care. They all have shrapnel wounds, and the Captain also has a badly injured left ankle with torn ligaments with which he’s been walking around since D-Day (20 October 1944 –ed). From him I got the following story about the Leyte Invasion.
The Invasion Forces comprising 701 warships, transports, and other vessels, came into San Pedro Harbor, Leyte Island, without any opposition. The one string of mines across the entrance had been cleared by the minesweepers accompanying the fleet. Two minor attacks consisting of only a few enemy aircraft were dealt with. After the preliminary barrage by the warships and the carrier-based aircraft, Sixth United States Army troops landed unopposed, except for some mortar fire in a few sectors. HMAS “Australia” was put out of action by a bomb from a Japanese plane. Nearly everyone was killed on the bridge including the ship’s Captain. She was hit on the port side just below the waterline, forward of her engines, destroying the evaporators and wrecking the sick bay. The junior medical Officer sustained a fractured skull. There were over a 100 casualties and over 40 men trapped behind a submerged bulkhead. 7 men of the gun crew were killed when a 20mm shell hit some of their 40mm ammo, with 6 more injured. Casualties were taken aboard the USS “Hope” and other ships for treatment. Both damaged cruisers left for Manus late this evening.
Wednesday, 25 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. We’ve had two air alerts during last night, but nothing happened, except a little strafing of Babelthuap by friendly planes. Early this morning, the USS “Solace” (AH-5) arrived from Peleliu and our own radio announced that our ships off Leyte were being attacked by a considerable force of Jap warships (Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944 –ed). We will get but little news until the fighting is over, or are called nearer for medical support. The “Solace” just came up here for refueling. She has on board approximately 500 casualties from Peleliu and will take them back to Manus or Guam. Some wounded were also evacuated by air or sea to Guadalcanal.
There is still heavy fighting on “Bloody Nose Ridge” (Jap position on Umurbrogol Mountain, Peleliu, Palau Islands –ed), and we can seen many fighter planes come over us every so often from some aircraft carriers just over the horizon. Occasionally they hesitate and then strafe our island or drop a load of bombs.
Thursday, 26 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. We have picked up a lot of information on our short-wave radio and learned that just around the corner, our Seventh Fleet (to which we are attached), has just given the Japs a hell of a beating, crippling the enemy fleet. If there are serious casualties on our side we should be getting them soon and receive some first hand news as well. If we are still here by Sunday and the enemy permits, the Captain is going to stage a lifeboat race between the Army and the Navy. My boys are out practicing right now.
Friday, 27 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. Our LSM (R), Landing Ships Medium (Rocket), and carrier-bone naval aircraft have been raising hell at Babelthuap all morning and started several fires. There was considerable return fire from shore. We heard there was an attempt to send reinforcements to the rest of the Japs on Peleliu, but our ships and planes are on the job all the time. A radio message came in from the Fleet that some casualties were being sent in on a destroyer, but we don’t know to which ship. Practically all our current work has been patching up minor casualties, and the USS “Bountiful” has just been standing by. It is 1600 and the “Bountiful” has just received 37 casualties from a destroyer-escort. It gets dark here at 1730 so we won’t get any wounded until tomorrow morning. 1830 hours; Captain N. Silverstein, my Chief of Medical Service, has just returned from the “Bountiful” and they already have 109 cases, most of them burned. Both the destroyer and the destroyer-escort that evacuated the wounded are pretty well shot full of holes. The wounded are some of those saved from the “baby” aircraft carriers (designated escort carriers or jeep carriers –ed) that were hollering for help last night. According to some men aboard the destroyers, we lost about ¾ of our small carriers that ran into the enemy fleet, with only the protection of a few destroyers. Of course their reports are garbled or incomplete but there must be some truth in it. One of the wounded doctors said that he saw the USS “Comfort” being torpedoed amidships, and that she had to be towed into Leyte. This supports her emergency call indicating that she was under air attack! We will need more substantial proof as rumors fly thick and fast in the area.
Saturday, 28 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. A “baby” flattop came in early this morning and delivered about 100 wounded to the “Bountiful”. The front of the ship was badly burned and had several holes. At first we thought a shell had come through the top deck and exploded inside the ship, but later, after talking to some of the patients we heard that a Jap kamikaze plane dove at its superstructure and hit the vessel. The wings were torn off and the plane’s fuselage went right through the carrier and out the other side into the sea. At least this carrier got away from the Jap trap. According to some of the reports quite a few of our flattops were lost! It will be some time before we know the truth (US losses at the Battle of Leyte Gulf included; USS Princeton (CVL-23); USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73); USS St. Lô (CVE-63); USS Hoel (DD-533); USS Johnston (DD-357); USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), and 4 more American ships damaged, with nearly 900 crewmen killed in action, and numerous wounded –ed). 1300; the “Mercy” just arrived with over 500 wounded. She had just seen the “Comfort” and the rumor about it being torpedoed is false! The Japs had bracketed her with bombs but none had hit near enough to cause any damage. The USS “Mercy” had an enemy aircraft fly low over her and drop a bomb several hundred yards from her stern. Both the “Mercy” and the “Comfort” had come up here five days after us from Australia and were circling around the ocean two days away from the Philippines, going right through a Jap TF without being molested. They did undergo some heavy shelling off Leyte Island, although not directed at them. They used up 250 pounds of vaseline on the burns in that one mission.
Sunday, 29 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. The 2 Chaplains (Lieutenant B. D. Mahedy, USNR, and First Lieutenant M. E. Taylor, MC) had a field day. The imminence of the Japanese Fleet, the uncertainty of our naval victory, the unknown number of casualties, and the fear that any minute the enemy might come over the horizon made the boys all conscious of a need to lean on something more substantial than just their own courage, so they turned en masse for the services. The “Bountiful” transferred its worst cases to the “Mercy” and at 1500 she took off for one the bases, either Guam or Manus.
After our sister ship had left, we had the boat race between the Army’s Enlisted Men and the Navy, followed by the Officers. The Army was badly beaten by the EM team, but the Officers were barely nosed out by the Navy. The waiting is becoming monotonous and I’ll be glad to be on the move again.
Monday, 30 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. This day has been absolutely uneventful.
Tuesday, 31 October 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. We watched our bombers and fighters attack enemy positions on the island and the return fire. Nothing further to report.
Wednesday, 1 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. A “tin can” (destroyer –ed) came in with a load of wounded from the sea battle and were taken onto the “Bountiful”. As we are nearly empty we have decided to stay in the area so as to get out with a fairly number of patients. Later in the day, another destroyer came by and transferred one patient to the “Hope”. He is an 18-year old kid who was knocked overboard one of the “baby” flattops when it was attacked by kamikaze planes. He found a floating life preserver and stayed alive until a destroyer picked him up and brought him to us. He suffers a badly broken leg but will come out alright. The “Bountiful” buried 8 blast wound victims at sea this afternoon and expects 5 more to die by tonight. These boys served on a destroyer sunk by enemy fire and were almost killed by their own depth charges when these went off as their ship sank.
Thursday, 2 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. We pulled alongside an oil tanker and filled our fuel tanks. Nothing else happened today.
Friday, 3 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. Captain M. E. Kaiser, MC, my Chief of Surgical Service, and I took several of our Nurses to visit the USS “Prometheus” (AR-3, recommissioned 15 May 1942 –ed) Navy Repair Ship, commanded by Captain C. C. Laws, a grand old man with 42 years of service in the Navy. He had been called out of retirement to take on service. We took the girls all over the ship and it was a real joy to watch the reactions of the crewmen who hadn’t seen a woman for over a year. The Nurses stopped and talked to the sailors, and though we cut down production a great deal, it certainly boosted morale on the ship. Everybody truly enjoyed the visit. During the afternoon I went out with several of my Officers and rowed one of the lifeboats for about an hour. It’s hard work, but the exercise was welcome. Captain Laws promised to send over a boat and take some of our Nurses fishing this coming Sunday.
Saturday, 4 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. I visited the “Bountiful” again today to see some of their cases. They have nearly 300 burns, most of them severe ones. The heat in the region is so harsh that the medical personnel are unable to put the tight pressure bandages that do the most good as the boys can’t stand the discomfort. Only a single layer of cotton bandages is used. It doesn’t control the oedema as much as the heavier bandage or light plaster. Practically all cases are from the damaged destroyers and destroyer-escorts. Navy casualty figures are quite high and certainly belie the news bulletins we receive on the radio.
Sunday, 5 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. Our Protestant Chaplain, Captain M. E. Taylor, MC, is having excellent turnouts as he preaches a good sermon and has a lot of good hymns that we all know and enjoy singing. He has again been asked to conduct services on another ship in the afternoon. 1400 hours; the Army Officers won the other lifeboat race. At the end of the last race we received a blink message stating that we had immediate sailing orders and we wonder where to. I ordered Chaplain Taylor to stop his sermon and return to the “Hope” and also called the girls in from their fishing trip. As the loudspeaker on the ship announced that we were to sail at once, everyone cheered. You would think we were going on a picnic. Later in the evening we all sat out on the fantail in the rain watching an old movie “Frisco”. We leave Kossol Roads today.
Monday, 6 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. The ship is ready for action and all beds have been made as in warfare anything can happen. Our ARC room has been set up as a blood donor and blood classifying laboratory and my shock teams are there now drawing blood for our Blood Bank that we always prepare before going into action. Blood, unlike plasma, will only keep two weeks in a refrigerator, so we furnish our own blood from volunteers. Everyone on the ship has offered to give some. We will collect 50 pints to start with and get more as we need it. An aircraft just flew over us but was too high to determine whether it was friendly or not.
Tuesday, 7 November 1944: Leyte Island, Philippines. 0630 hours in the morning, we can see the islands that mark the entrance to the harbor, lined with a number of destroyer-escorts across it. The channel is about fifty miles wide and about thirty miles into San Pedro Bay. As we approach we can see a battle group lined up several miles to our left, consisting of 3 battleships, 4 cruisers, and several destroyers. I know that they aren’t going to let another Jap fleet sneak in on them. The USS “Mississippi” (battleship, BB-41, commissioned 18 December 1917, many overhauls, extensive career –ed) has just blinked us that she’s sending over some badly wounded men on a destroyer and we are heaving now to receive them. From where we’re now we see a long line of attack transports and large landing craft loaded with soldiers, just off the coast, while the bay is filled with all kinds of ships, large and small. A cargo ship near us is now being unloaded by small craft which then head for the beaches. The “Mississippi” just sent us 3 badly wounded sailors. Two with shrapnel wounds to the brain and one with a broken back. We have just been ordered in closer to the beach to receive more wounded. It reminds me a lot of Salerno in Italy, with the exception of the tropical growth. Behind the lowlands are hills covered with foliage much the same as in Italy. The sky is overcast and it’s impossible to see anything of the fighting that is going on overhead and inland. Navy fighters are going up all the time and only antiaircraft fire can locate the fighting. That we have complete control of the skies is unfortunately untrue. The artillery on the beaches is continuously firing into the hills.
The Battle of Leyte (17 October 1944 > 1 July 1945 –ed) launched the Philippines campaign of 1944–45 for the recapture and liberation of the entire Philippine Archipelago intended to end almost three years of Japanese occupation of the islands.
We just finished loading 447 wounded from LSTs and small boats in a period of two hours. The block and tackle installed by Captain A. E. Richards has done a good job. The Navy did all the loading and furnished half the litter bearers and we worked together like a team. The water is very calm. LST 464, under Commander J. L. Chapman, brought 200 patients, and I mention this, as the ship has been fitted as a floating Hospital (78-bed capacity, 6 doctors, 1 dentist, 40 Navy corpsmen, commissioned 25 February 1943, re-designated LST (H) 464 in January 1945 –ed) with operating rooms and the necessary equipment of a small field hospital. They have already performed over 85 operations in the past two days. The Commander told me they had had 15 air alerts and several attacks during the past few days. A lot of small craft just transferred 50 more casualties from the landing beaches and we will have enough work for several days ahead. The wounded I saw didn’t look in very good condition and our shock teams started preparing blood transfusions and plasma at once. A great many of these patients are bad burn cases. 2100 hours, we have all been working like mad. There seems to be some heavy fighting going on in the hills at our left and the skies over that particular area are constantly filled with star shells. Another heavy gun on the beach is firing every few minutes and tracers announce the presence of enemy aircraft. We are working in total darkness with only dimmed lights inside our ship. Two hundred more casualties will be evacuated from the hills in the morning. The “Hope” has moved its anchorage away from the ammunition ships nearby.
Wednesday, 8 November 1944: Leyte Island, Philippines. I took a quick trip into Tacloban, the temporary seat of the new Philippine Government (liberated by US forces 21 October 1944 –ed). Everything seems alright, but I didn’t really have time to talk to anyone. I wanted to contact Sixth United States Army Headquarters but inclement weather conditions have made this impossible. We don’t know for certain how many patients are coming or when. We worked all night and my green teams have come through magnificently. No one has died during the night although we have many seriously wounded in our wards. The joy on these kids’ faces is wonderful to see, after having traded their dirty and miserable foxhole for a nice clean bed on a hospital ship. I had been back on the ship only a short time when the sky began to darken and the barometer dropped rapidly. By noon the place was whipped into a fury of high waves and foam and we couldn’t see a hundred yards away. The Skipper had to change anchorage twice as some of the other ships were drifting too close to us. We’re in for a pretty rough time. It’s impossible to take on wounded now as we can’t see the boat that might approach. Fortunately because of the weather, there will be no air raids today.
The worst of our patients have had some treatment and we can now start cleaning up the minor cases. I hope that by next morning everything will be pretty much under control.
Thursday, 9 November 1944: Leyte Island, Philippines. The wind has subsided to a great extent ant at 0900 we received instructions that the weather conditions and the heaving fighting during the night have blocked all the roads and that the casualties could therefore not be evacuated in time (as a result 200 patients had to be left behind on Leyte –ed). We are to sail for Hollandia, in Humboldt Bay, Netherlands New Guinea. There are several General and Station Hospitals operating there and also General Douglas McArthur’s Headquarters (CG > SWPA –ed). I hope to be able to bring one of my Nurses to Hollandia; she injured her spine and I think it would be better to have her flown back to the States as soon as possible for appropriate treatment. We just admitted 3 known gas gangrene cases with another load of patients and they unfortunately had progressed so far that amputation became necessary. This morning, 3 new cases have developed and we are giving these boys heroic doses of sulfathiazole, penicillin, and IV polyvalent antitoxin, along with blood transfusions and plasma. I hope we can control them, especially the one kid with a bad lung infection.
Friday, 10 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. Now that the “Hope” is out from the protection of the islands, the ocean isn’t being too friendly to us. The ship is pitching a great deal but doesn’t affect the patients, though several of my Nurses and some of the Enlisted Men are seasick, but they’re going right on with their work. We only have 6 psycho and 12 battle fatigue cases on board. When I was checking through one of the wards, an MP recognized me. He had seen me with the High School football team in Rutherford. Being ambulatory, I took him out and filled him with ice cream and coke and we had some reunion. He had been caught in a mortar barrage almost losing his entire outfit. Although badly shocked he will come out of this nightmare alright. Another gas gangrene case meanwhile developed. The others are pretty well under control. We also have a poor colored fellow with over 60% of his body burned, he was caught in the hold of a ship when it was torpedoed and barely managed to escape. The fellow is swathed in bandages and is in constant misery, but doesn’t even moan. The men who suffered brain wounds are still alive, but the one who has half the back of his head shot away is now totally blind. What a tragedy!
Saturday, 11 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. Ice cream, plain milk, good food, and nursing care have done so much for our patients that they don’t seem like the same people we took on a few days ago. Three more gas gangrene cases have developed, but so far no more amputations are required. The boy with the bad lung infection is still with us, but we had to keep him on oxygen all night. Our Blood Bank ran out some time ago, but there’re plenty of volunteer donors. The medical personnel are so dead tired that we go to sleep anywhere and in any position. I’m afraid the colored boy will not make it through the night, his fever is very high, and his arms and legs are so swollen we can’t find a vein to give him more blood or plasma.
Sunday, 12 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. Two of my Nurses and one of the doctors stayed up all night with the colored boy and he seems just a little better.
We will reach Hollandia by 0800 and should be able to see land by daylight. New Guinea is supposed to be the hottest place this side of hell. A good many of the boys we have with us now had been part of the invasion troops that assaulted and captured Hollandia, 22 April 1944.
Monday, 13 November 1944: Hollandia, Humboldt Bay, Netherlands New Guinea. We have just come into one of the most beautiful places I have seen in a long time. Humboldt Bay is surrounded by a string of mountains rising right out of the sea and covered with lovely trees and foliage. The area is dotted with many small islands and it’s difficult to realize that the place is populated with deadly mosquitoes that cause malaria, yellow fever, and filiariasis, and that the insect causing false typhus abounds here. Also dengue fever is common as well as the unpopular fungus infection, or “jungle rot” that gets into every wound unless watched constantly. Hollandia (designated Base “G” –ed) in western New Guinea was set up in mid-1944 to prepare and support future operations in the Philippines.
We can see a small Dutch Hospital Ship at the end of the harbor (AHS “Maetsuycker”, 250-bed capacity, Dutch-registered vessel, operated under Dutch Flag, but designated an Australian Hospital Ship –ed) and she looks so tiny in comparison to the “Hope”. We were blinked and requested to identify ourselves; who we were, and what we were bringing into the bay. With plenty of radio traffic, the local authorities hadn’t received word of our coming, so this means that there will be no mail for us. I’m amazed at the number of ships in the harbor, but unlike the battle areas, these are nearly all supply ships and the place really looks like a beehive. We tied up alongside an improvised dock and started unloading our patients into the waiting ambulances. The colored boy is still alive thanks to Captain N. Silverstein and one of the Nurses who did double duty all night watching and caring for him. He will be sent to the nearest hospital in a special ambulance, and I sincerely hope he makes it, his courage is admirable!
I called Major Ralph Specht on the phone at General D. MacArthur’s Headquarters and he’s coming right down (I met him and his brother Frank, two and one half years ago in Monmouth). We unloaded the ship in three and one half hours, and are thinking about the gas cases, will they fully recover?
The Army operates hospital beds with a capacity of 8,930 and can expand to approximately twice this size if necessary. Many hospitals located here are waiting to be moved to Leyte in the Philippines as soon as it is safe over there. We found out from Headquarters that the enemy managed to land a complete division with all their equipment during the foul weather we encountered there. This means that the fighting is going to last much longer than expected. Apparently the boys aren’t taking any prisoners and the going is very tough. When I called Ralph Specht, a woman operator answered and on enquiring it looks like there are about 2,000 WACs on the island. The Army with the help of the Construction Battalions built six fair-sized docks to accommodate several large and small ships. All the installations will revert to the Dutch Government when the Americans leave. As soon as we finished unloading we pulled into the harbor and dropped anchor. As it gets dark suddenly in the tropics it gave us a queer feeling to see the place all lit up, with the colored lights of the many ships looking like Christmas. Imagine all this incredible activity and full lighting with the Japanese only a few hundred miles away. Fortunately Hollandia hasn’t had an air raid for months.
Tuesday, 14 November 1944: Hollandia, Humboldt Bay, Netherlands New Guinea. We are to return to the Palau Islands and will wait there for further orders. The Captain radioed Manus Island to send our mail to Palau and I hope to heaven we will receive it once there. Early this morning I went ashore and took a jeep up in the mountains and visited General D. MacArthur’s Headquarters. His place is about forty miles back in the hills and over tough red dusty roads. The place is surrounded by jungle. I stopped at the 27th Hospital Center (concept developed 30 June 1944 and set up by Lt. Colonel Everett King, MC, with an aggregate of 3,650 hospital beds –ed) to visit one of my Nurses, Miss Vikunas, the one who injured her spine, and who’s to be air evacuated to the States. She’s been in a tight plaster cast for the past month in such a climate. I don’t envy her; it’s a lot cooler in the hills but you can’t step outdoors without wearing mosquito-proof and insect-proof clothing, and sleeping must be done under a mosquito net! Mosquito control is done by trained natives, and you can see these guys everywhere along the roads and near the buildings with their spray guns. Nearly everyone over here has the “New Guinea Tan”, a yellowish jaundice appearance caused by the constant use of atabrine. It goes away after a few weeks, as soon as use of the drug is discontinued. General D. MacArthur lives in a very modest two-room bungalow much less pretentious than some of the Navy Admirals in this area are using. He’s absent for the moment, visiting the Leyte area. His entire staff is expected to move over there by Christmas.
Wednesday, 15 November 1944: Hollandia, Humboldt Bay, Netherlands New Guinea, Pacific Ocean. We left Hollandia at 0600 in the morning and it still looks beautiful even from a distance. We replaced our Nurse with another girl who’s just so happy to get away from New Guinea. I counted over 200 ships in the harbor, all from the United States. On our way out we passed a convoy of empty LSTs; they only had a single destroyer-escort with them, just in case they would encounter any Jap planes or subs on the way. First Lieutenant Charles W. Kersten, MAC, my Supply Officer, was able to get everything we needed including 2,000 bottles of penicillin and 800 pounds of vaseline. We used over 200 pounds of the latter on this last trip alone and all of our penicillin.
After sailing approximately six hours we crossed another large convoy consisting of many LCIs and LSTs with 2 destroyer-escorts en route for Hollandia.
Thursday, 16 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. Uneventful day, nothing to report.
Friday, 17 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. We reached Kossol Passage arriving here around noon to watch an ongoing air attack on the island with a number of fires started. It’s very difficult to assess what damage has been done as the foliage blends with the green waters from the coral reefs. The bombing is at low level and it looks like there’s very little return fire. The Japanese must either be running short of ammo by now, or they’re saving some for more important issues. It was from this island that reinforcements were sent on to Peleliu a few days ago. All we hold on that island is the lower third with the airfield which is important for the fighting on Leyte, as the captured airfield near Tacloban is too short and unfit for our large planes.
There’s a shortage of hospital clothing and all we were able to give the wounded we returned from Leyte was a pair of pajama bottoms. The ambulatory cases were able to walk off our boat (in Hollandia) in pajama trousers, a pair of slippers, and a Red Cross ditty bag. If we receive a new load of wounded without clothes (particularly the burn cases), we will have to send them off with only a bed sheet around them, as all the pajama sets have now gone.
Saturday, 18 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. We had all hoped that some mail would have been flown to us from Manus Island, but no such luck. Most of my boys have never been to sea before and don’t know the heartache of going from port to port, week in week out, with no word from home. I won’t tell them as I hope that tomorrow will bring some mail.
Sunday, 19 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. First Lieutenant M. E. Taylor, ChC, our Protestant Chaplain, is getting so popular with his sermons that we had to break out fifty more chairs on deck and erect another loudspeaker. Small boats come from a great many of the ships anchored in the area and the ship’s fantail is crowded. The “Hope” Catholic Chaplain, ChC, USNR, Lieutenant B. D. Mahedy, is also an excellent speaker but he doesn’t provide music or singing and his turnout is not as high. After Sunday services we had the excitement of a Jap sub coming into our coral-locked anchorage. We were watching one of the small destroyers, when suddenly 4 fast Navy ships swept in from nowhere and began dropping depth charges on the reef. It was an awe inspiring sight and we enjoyed it immensely as we thought they were just widening the passage until the destroyer we’d been watching, began to take part in the show. Unfortunately the submarine escaped. A single sub armed with torpedoes could certainly raise hell in this ‘locked’ place in a short time and we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it (the area is so constricted by natural coral barriers that one can only get out at one end, and then only during daytime). Last Friday night, a small boat approached one of our oil tankers in the dark and when challenged without response, the tanker fired upon her. The small boat returned the fire and got away in the dark. There are still Japs on the island, and there’s real danger. At Peleliu, several Japs swam out to some of the amphibian planes anchored offshore and destroyed them with hand grenades and explosives, before being killed.
In the afternoon we held five boat races. It was a lot of fun and a way to let off some steam, though some of the Nurses returned with blisters on their hands.
Monday, 20 November 1944: Babelthuap Island, Palau Islands Group. Weather reports announced a hurricane that would hit our area some time tonight. There was however a chance that it might bypass the Palau Islands. Several of our aircraft were lost here during the last typhoon. In the morning Captain Albert E. Richards, USNR, and I visited an Australian attack tug and invited its skipper and chief engineer for supper and movies. Their ship is a small steel vessel with powerful engines that goes in with each echelon of assault landing craft and pulls them off the reefs when they get stuck, and all this takes place under hostile fire. A nice job for someone with a strong heart, and indeed, all the crew looked like old men due to the danger, the shock and the strain brought about by their occupation.
Time is 1800 hours, and we just received word from the USS “Prometheus” (AR-3) that we are to sail at 0600 in the morning for Leyte Island. This definitively fixes the mail situation, there won’t be any! The Good Lord only knows when we will get mail, but the wounded come first!
Tuesday, 21 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. At 2300 last night, I was awakened by some light shining into my porthole and at first thought it was already day, but on getting up I went to check. Our motor whaleboat was lost with 3 of our sailors and 5 electricians who had gone to the “Prometheus” to collect some of the repaired pieces of equipment. On their way back in pitch dark they lost their bearings and took the chance of turning on some lights to find the “Hope”. They had gone more than five miles out of the way and might have landed on the island. We sure were very glad to see them back again.
After leaving for the forward battle area and Leyte Gulf, we filled our Blood Bank in the afternoon and had enough donors. Nothing else happened during the day.
Wednesday, 22 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. The sea is a little rougher than usual and a few of the crew are seasick, but nothing serious. Several times during the day, many cargo planes protected by a number of fighters passed overhead in the direction of the Philippines. Nothing unusual has happened.
Thursday, 23 November 1944: Leyte Island, Philippines. After reaching Leyte Gulf, we pulled into the harbor just before daylight and in the tail of a typhoon. The water in the harbor wasn’t rough, but the sky was dumping torrents of water on us, and hardly had we dropped anchor, when we became surrounded by small craft and barges loaded with wounded. This belies the radio reports stating that our casualties were light. 602 were brought on board in the drenching rain. Loading was difficult and dangerous and the downpour added even more discomfort to the patients who had already stood about all that was humanly possible. Army and Navy teams worked around the clock and we soon had the boys moved from hell, into what they thought was paradise. These soldiers have been in the tropics long enough to have developed diseases so now the wounds are more complicated to treat in this hot and humid climate.
It was impossible to celebrate and serve a Thanksgiving dinner during this turmoil, but our Dietitian, Second Lieutenant Lelia H. Merrick, had hot soup, beef steak and potatoes all ready to serve, and it was amazing the quick work these kids made of the food. Many of our casualties were the victims of kamikaze planes. There’s almost no way to stop suicide planes, and yesterday, two of our friendly aircraft were shot down by our own ack-ack batteries.
Another invasion is under preparation as Leyte Gulf is full of warships. It looks a lot like Lake Bizerte in Tunisia, just before we took off for Sicily. The skies are filled with planes, fighters and fighter-bombers, rushing over the hills to strafe and bomb the enemy, and gunfire is almost constant. Before dusk we received orders to bring the wounded to Hollandia, Netherlands New Guinea, and we departed the same day. As we passed the outer mouth of the bay we could see the large battle fleet lined up to protect the area from another Jap surprise attack.
Friday, 24 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. The ocean has quieted a lot and things are working smoothly. During last night we passed through a large battle group and later on were ordered to change course so as not to interfere with a fleet consisting of attack and assault ships, all heading towards the Philippines. It looks like serious business. We have a high percentage of medical cases with us: dengue fever, filiariasis, malaria, tsutsugamuchi, and many skin diseases which thrive in the region, as well as two cases of gas gangrene, several self-inflicted wounds, and the usual high number of burn cases. We will have to cut away most of the heavy plaster casts on the compound fractures as many of them harbor the gas gangrene bacillus and they are only put on in the field to facilitate transportation and evacuation.
Saturday, 25 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. My teams have been busy all day removing plaster casts and devising means to keep the wounds exposed in order to hold down gas gangrene. Some of the patients are badly shattered and will require many months to recover. Our ward with eye and head injuries is full with some soldiers having been hit by enemy snipers. With the dense foliage around, war is so much more deadly than in the European and North African Theaters. Here it is a fight to the death! There’s no surrender and atrocious and merciless killing takes place on both sides of the fence. Our boys are shooting Japs struggling in the water from sunken barges and boats. The few prisoners brought back are those needed for questioning by the CIC teams and they are very few as the enemy is reluctant to surrender. It certainly is not a nice clean war at all. It can’t but produce deep mental scars that will never heal. There’s nothing we can do about it now, as the job has to be finished first: annihilation of the enemy is the goal, there seems no other way.
Sunday, 26 November 1944: Pacific Ocean. The ambulatory patients have been around to the ship’s PX all day. They swallowed 90 gallons of ice cream and drank 1,500 cokes. Our supply has been exhausted until the steward can bring in more. These luxuries and the excellent care provided by our medical personnel have worked miracles. Captain Milton M. Kurtz, DC, made a complete set of new teeth for a man who was blown from his ship during one of the sea battles and lost his denture during the action. Most of our surgery has been finished and only the burn cases are giving us much work. A merchant mariner who was badly burned when a suicide plane hit his ship shot a temperature as high as 107° F during the night, so we removed all his dressings and put him in a saline bath chilled with ice. The fever has broken and we all hope he may live. We need to find enough veins in his feet to administer plasma and blood transfusions, as they are the only part of his body not burned.
Monday, 27 November 1944: Hollandia, Humboldt Bay, Netherlands New Guinea. The “Hope” dropped anchor at 0800, and has been instructed to be at the dock at midday. We recognized our sister ship, the USS “Comfort” (AH-6) several miles further in the harbor. What strikes me once more is the enormous number of ships around us, it’s almost unbelievable. I count 125 vessels from the narrow viewpoint of my porthole. Over the horizon two large convoys are approaching. How disheartening it must be to the Imperial Japanese High Command to receive their aviator reports and photographs of this area and others with such large amount of American warships. They certainly must see the writing on the wall this time.
As soon as we reached the dock and the appropriate pier, I borrowed a jeep and took off into the hills and to the 334th Station Hospital where I found my friend Fred Crump, my eye surgeon in Monmouth. He has lost considerable weight and has the yellow hue from taking atabrine, yet he looked mighty good to me. He tells me that Brigadier General Guy B. Denit, MC, Chief Surgeon USASOS, will come out to our ship for dinner. There are now about 4,000 WACs here, but to me, this is no place to send a lot of unconditioned women. Nurses can stand this sort of life as their training makes them better prepared to deal with adversity, but these girls and young women are being shipped from the States to this hell hole, totally unprepared, and can’t stand up under the strain of living in the dust, in the mud, with almost no conveniences. About half of these WACs were trained mechanics, bus drivers, and clerks intended for a civilized job in Australia, but by the time they reached Australia they were transferred to Hollandia (buildup of new bases in line with future operations in the Philippines –ed) where administrative personnel was needed. A temporary School was set up for training and turning them into some sort of secretaries. I also found out that Arthur Weiss is on Leyte, serving with an advance unit together with Ike Wilkes, both of Monmouth, New Jersey. Hope I can meet with them when we return there.
Tuesday, 28 November 1944: Hollandia, Humboldt Bay, Netherlands New Guinea. We successfully debarked our load of wounded with the splendid cooperation of the port authorities under command of Colonel Mattingly. The Chief Nurse on Hollandia is taking my girls ashore and on a tour of the island. Our mail boat has come back empty so I went ashore to check and founds thousands of mail bags piled at the Fleet Post Office with insufficient personnel to handle it. As I was leaving the pier, an LST came in loaded with more incoming mail to be piled on top of the other heap. It may now be weeks before we see any mail and by that time our station may have changed. The first group of Nurses returned from their tour of the area and some of the medical installations, where they visited some of our former patients who seemed delighted to see them. The USS “Comfort” (AH-6) is in port now and I was showing Colonel Joseph F. Linsman (CO > 205th Medical Hospital Ship Complement) some of the changes we had made, when he received orders to evacuate his patients to the Zone of Interior. Some lucky patients boarded before it departed for the States, including our Nurse, A. Vikunas. The “Comfort” will first stop at two other places in New Guinea to complete her load and then sail for home.
Wednesday, 29 November 1944: Hollandia, Humboldt Bay, Netherlands New Guinea. Early this morning I went ashore in a small boat together with Captains M. E. Kaiser, N. Silverstein, and First Lieutenant T. A. Griset. A car was waiting for us. I stopped at the Base Surgeon’s Headquarters and was told that possibly we would take along 120 Nurses of several Hospitals operating on Leyte Island, if we could get the necessary authority to send them over. From there on we went to USASOS where I met General G. B. Denit who greatly impressed me. As we had mutual friends there was plenty to talk about. While I was with him, he gave the order to embark the Nurses, and also a Major Lloyd E. Clark, SnC, who is expected to take charge of the water supply after the invasion of Luzon in the Philippines. Rumor has it that it will take place soon. We will also take Colonel Tracy S. Voorhees, JAGD, from The Surgeon General’s Office in Washington. He is over on an official survey in the region.
We returned to our ship on the Port Surgeon’s boat and brought with us 200 pints of whole blood for the Hospitals on Leyte. The Nurses of the 36th Evacuation, 116th Station and 117th Station Hospitals and the Chief Nurse of the planned Base “K” (Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines –ed), Captain Mary Parker, ANC, came aboard and were delighted to see the clean beds and showers of the “Hope”. Some of these girls have been on New Guinea for over thirty months.
Thursday, 30 November 1944: Hollandia, Humboldt Bay, Netherlands New Guinea. We finally had our overdue Thanksgiving dinner today and at 1400 hours sailed out of Humboldt Bay for Leyte where we should arrive by Monday at 0800.