Undated photo of Ralph E. Robinson with Gizmo and LSM34 somewhere in the Philippine Islands.
From the collection of Ralph E. Robinson
© The family of Ralph E. Robinson
70 years ago on October 20, 1944, Ralph E. Robinson, my late father-in-law, served as a Seaman First Class aboard Landing Ship Medium 34 (LSM 34) during the Leyte Landings to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese.
Lower right: October 20, 1944 location of Landing Ship Medium 34 on which Ralph Robinson served.
Click for larger MAP.
LSM 34 location added to public domain image from the
Ralph’s account (Editing details in note at the end.):
October 20, 1944 — San Pedro Bay, Leyte
Having breakfast at about four AM was a ritual which we carried on through the rest of our invasions. The army cooks fixed breakfast. The main food was pancakes with syrup which we later nicknamed “Invasion Cakes”.
At five AM we went to GQ (General Quarters). Everything was quiet at sunrise but at about eight a Japanese plane flew over. It was higher than gun range. All hell broke loose as all the ships shot at it. However, it went over undamaged but passing over the convoy it came lower. One of our outlaying destroyers downed it.
Soon we were far enough up in the bay to see and really hear the battleships and cruisers firing on the beach. They were really pounding it, and had been for a good many hours, Coming closer we could the little destroyers running up and down the beach firing everything they had.
One thing we will never forget is a little black destroyer which was shelling a small island just off from Tacloban, between Leyte and Samar. After firing his forward batteries, he would swing around to give his after-batteries a chance. She kept swinging around and around cutting loose all hell. It look like she was putting out more ammunition in fifteen minutes than any other destroyer in the whole invasion. With her and the two LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) rocket boats, every palm tree on the island was shattered.
About 9:45 the noise really began as the rocket boats cut loose on the beach. It was just a steady roar.
At 10:00 the noise stopped and the first small boats landed. We were the second LSM to hit the beach at 10:30. The first LCM (Landing Craft Medium), dropping her anchor too far out, had too much cable out and was afraid she would lose her cable. She retracted and hit again, so as far as I know we were the first LSM to make a successful landing on an enemy beachhead.
There was practically no trouble on White Beach that morning, only a few snipers and one pillbox which we heard the story of later.
A soldier, seeing a pillbox, approached it to look it over and was shot. Several soldiers, upon seeing this, opened up on it with machine guns and rifles, shooting into the door as much as possible. Another solider, thinking all the Japanese were dead, walked up to it and was shot from within the pillbox. The rest of the soldiers, seeing this, made up a bomb with hand grenades and dynamite and threw it into the door. Two of the Japanese flew right through the heavy screen and dirt sides of the pillbox, throwing one of them more than fifty feet. That was the end of that.
There was only one trouble with the invasion that morning. If the Japanese had known we were coming, they would have been fortifying their base on White Beach. They would have been practically demolished but as it was, they were holding maneuvers near Dulag (Red Beach) which was not bombarded so much.
A lighter force landed there and really had a surprise to meet a large Japanese force. It was really tough at Dulag. That was our first of may lucky happenings in the Philippines. We hadn’t been chosen for Red Beach.
After unloading we pulled out about a mile off the beach and anchored. Everything remained quiet that afternoon except for an occasional rifle shot, rattle of a machine gun or mortar burst.
We had General Quarters that evening but it was still quiet. As it got darker we could see that bright flares, Japanese flares, landing near the beach. Hours after, the flares disappeared behind the hills. As it got darker, things got quieter. Only the occasional crackling of a machine gun was audible from back in the jungle.
About midnight, one of the officers on the com said “It looks like they’re firing this way”. He was right. It went over us with an angry hissing and exploded about a half mile beyond, near the water. They were shooting at a group of LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks) setting in a group. They were falling short, and we were directly between the gun and their target. From the appearance of the explosion, it must have been about a three inch shell. After several more shells went over we called the captain. He came up on the conn (area of the ship where steering and engine orders are given), sat down, and after a few more shells went over, he said, “disconcerting, isn’t it?”. It didn’t seem to bother him a bit.
The next day and night were quiet for us, but was very noisy on shore. We remained at anchor.
Note on editing:
As are almost all wars, WWII was racially charged. My late father-in-law’s original language reflected that.
The Ralph I knew and loved valued civility and politeness. He strove never to hurt or offend.
To respect that and to avoid outmoded language from distracting from his story, I have made slight edits.
An unedited edition is on our family history web site at:
Orange arrow: LSM 34.Unloading of troops and supplies on White Beach at Leyte in the Philippines
(Source: Navsource Naval History)
Public domain photo.
Links with sources and for more information:
Information on “conn” from Naval Terminology, Jargon and Slang FAQ