Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

More D-Days 70 Years Ago: Ralph Robinson, Landing Ship Medium 34 and the Campaigns to Liberate the Philippines

January 29, 2015


Below deck on Landing Ship Medium 34
probably somewhere in the Philippines.

Date and sailors unidentified.


70 years ago after Ralph E. Robinsson and Landing Ship Medium participated in that other major D-Day, the landings at Leyte in the Philippines, they continued to serve in the campaigns to liberate the Philippines.

Ralph’s account from October, 1944 to January 1945 (Editing details in note at the end.):

1944

OCTOBER

On October 23, 1944 we saw the first Japanese dive-bomber. It dropped its bomb and missed. A few seconds later, it was hit by anti-aircraft and its engines began burning. Seeing that he was going down, he headed for an Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) with a Wildcat right on his tail, but nothing could stop him. He crashed right into the LCI which immediately burst into flame. It burned for about an hour and a half, rolled over and sank.

That gave us an awfully queer feeling. It was the first ship we had ever seen going down and we hoped it was the last.

After that day, it was one raid after another–morning, noon and night. There were certain things that stood out more though.

On the night of the first sea Battle of the Philippines, one of our light carriers was sunk.

(Ralph is referring to the three sea battles of the Battle For Leyte Gulf from October 23 to 27, 1944: Battle Of Surigao Strait, Battle Off Samar, and Battle Off Cape Engano (East Of Luzon).

It was about nine PM when the radio message came in that around twenty-four Wildcats would be landing on the unfinished air strips at Tacloban. At this time we had no land-based planes in the Philippines. The particulars were that we could identify them as they would have their landing lights on. In a short while they began coming in, landing one after another. We were not more than a mile off shore. We could watch everything that was going on.

As the last plane was coming in, he suddenly zoomed up and there was a large explosion in the center of the air strip. Immediately all the guns around opened up on him, and they shot him down back over the island.

That was one of the Japanese. They picked up our message immediately, sent out one of their own planes to follow our own planes in under cover of the darkness to join our planes, turn on her running lights and bomb our air strip that we were trying to build as quickly as we could. I could go on telling these things by the hour, but writing them all down would become very tiresome and lengthy.

NOVEMBER

All through the month of November we continued to unload Liberty Ships and weather out the air raids.


Landing Ship Medium 34.

Date, place and sailors unidentified.


DECEMBER

About the first of December we loaded up with army engineers and equipment and prepared to leave for the invasion of Mindoro, but about then the second sea battle of the Philippines started. This blocked our passage to Mindoro, so we unloaded, and on the third of December prepared for another mission.

The Japanese were reinforcing their troops in Leyte through Ormoc on the other side of the island, so we were to take reinforcements to Bay Bay about forty miles below Ormoc.

The trip around the island was uneventful, but on landing we found that our navigation had been faulty. We had landed about Bay Bay, almost on the Japanese beach.

We landed about one AM and it was very dark that morning on the fifth of December.

The Army told us that we would have to pull off and rebeach at Bay Bay. Our commander told them that either we unloaded there or were taking our loads back to Dulag. We unloaded.

Kamikaze Attacks

About ten AM we were rounding the bottom of the island, and I was sitting topside leisurely watching our small convoy–three destroys, six LCIs and 12 LSMs. There was a spotty covering of clouds and the day was bright and hot. I happened to glance back and saw a plane diving at top speed not five hundred feet above a destroyer. It was Kamikaze. The destroyer never altered course or fired a shot as it all happened too quickly, but the plane exploded in the water, missing its target by at least a hundred feet.

Our GQ (General Quarters) buzzer sounded and then all hell broke loose.

Two planes headed for us almost at the same time.

Our guns got one about fifty feet from the starboard side of our ship.

The second one exploded and crashed a few yards from our bow. Gasoline, water and parts of planes were flying all over the place.

Then a third came in straight for our conn (area of the ship where steering and engine orders are given) from the starboard side. The skipper had stopped, and the Japanese shot in from our conn down over the lifelines on the port side, into the water and exploded. The ship lurched the other way.

This all happened in about five minutes, but it was almost lifetime. The attack continued on furiously. A plane had crashed into the stern of the LSM 20 and she was taking on more water than she could stand. A plane had crashed into the radio shack of the LSM 23, and she was burning from the splattered gasoline.

In about twenty minutes, the 20 began going down stern first. We began picking up survivors s and the planes were still coming in. Our ship picked up three men, two badly burned, and the third unharmed. They were blown off a destroyer by an explosion.

We had several other raids before the day was over. They hit two of the destroyers, one just behind the conn, and flame shot up the ship all the way to the bow. The second, at just about dark, was hit by two bombs midship, and we ended up towing that destroyer for four hours until she got one of her engines fixed.

Upon arriving at Dulag, we loaded again and left again, only this time for the invasion of Ormoc. We went out with twelve LCIs, four APDs (World War I destroyed converted to carry troops and land them, with attack boats that they launch), three destroyers, six LSTs and twelve LSMs. If those aren’t the exact numbers, it is close and to the best of my memory.

The morning of December seventh, we hit Ormoc with little opposition on the beach.

Only a few snipers were there, but while pulling off the beach, a few planes came over and one hit an APDs. It began burning badly. They had to abandon it and our destroyers sank it.

We found out then that when we were pulling in, three Japanese transports and three Japanese destroyers had been coming in. The were only about twenty miles away when we landed, but our planes went out and sank them all that day. We had been just in time.

We pulled out about ten leaving three LSMs and 1 LCI stuck on the beach Two of the LSMs and the LCI came back. The third LSM was sunk that day.

We had plenty of excitement that day, but we had better cover of our own planes. Out of sixty planes that the Japanese sent for us, forty were shot down by our planes, mostly P38’s. They kept coming in the rest of the day. Every twenty to thirty minutes we could expect three or four of them the rest of the afternoon. The sank one destroyer and hit an LSTs with little damage.

However, after those exciting times in such a short number of days, our ship had not been hit. No one was hurt on our ship so they decided we were ready to go on the invasion they had listed us for a week before.

Our fleet had chased the remainder of the Japanese fleet away and our way to Mindoro was clear.

This was a much longer convoy with several cruisers and aircraft carriers along. This was a much longer convoy with several cruisers and aircraft carriers along.

On the way up, two Japanese planes hit the cruiser Nashville. They had one hundred twenty-some killed and over two hundred injured.

Rescue Operations

Nothing else happened until D Day, December fifteenth. When, just as we were pulling off the beach, five Japanese planes came over and hit two LST (Landing Ship Tanks).

They started burning badly. As the LSMs started warming up to pull out, we got a call from the Admiral in charge to pick up survivors from one of the LSTs so we headed for her.

The ammunition on her began going off by then, and it looked like regular fireworks. The tracers shot out in all directions and splashed in the water. There were little streaks of fire all over the where oil and gasoline had poured out. The water was filled with men in life jackets, both Army and Navy.

We opened our bow doors and lowered our ramp and began picking up men from the water and PT boats.

In about an hour, the well deck was full of wet and frightened men.

Just as we began picking up the men, the “T” blew straight up with a huge explosion blowing a big black rolling smoke ring into the air about a thousand feet. It looked as though any men left on the ship when it exploded would be gone. But, I talked with many men afterward that were on her then and were not even bruised.

We picked up about five hundred men, mostly Army. We put all the Army men that could walk off on PT boats, and they were taken ashore as our troops hadn’t even met any Japanese on the beach yet.

We had ten casualties, aboard, nine Army and one Navy. They were all badly burned, and one had a broken back and almost died. We had most of the ship’s crew aboard and some were aboard a destroyer. The Navy men got their heads together, and as far as they could tell, none had been killed. The planes hit midship where she was loaded with eight hundred Air Force ground crew, aviation gasoline and five hundred pound aerial bombs–a hot load.

When we finally left, the convoy had been gone about two hours and we were all alone. It didn’t make us feel so good as we knew there was a continual threat of air attack. One lonely LSM wouldn’t be able to do much about it so we took out at flank speed, cutting all the corners the convoy had taken. The engineers put screw drivers in the governors and held them down. We caught up to the convoy without seeing another planes, and we felt greatly relieved. Our navigator figured we made seventeen knots, as far as I know, it is still the record for LSMs. That thirty-six hundred horsepower did its job.

The trip back to Leyte was quiet, and we were glad to be back. Even though they were still having air raids every day, the planes were more interested in the air strip and the larger ships than us.

We were still in Leyte at Christmastime . Christmas Eve we had a movie in the aft troop compartment.  It was the first movie I had seen since we had left Manus.  There was an air raid that night, but we did not go to General Quarters (GQ) as the planes were a long way off.  We never went to GQ any more unless it looked as though the planes were coming close to us.

Christmas Day was a day we had looked forward to for a long time like a bunch of kids waiting to open their packages.  To build up the feeling of surprise, the deck force, the ship’s control and the engineering force had each separately planned a program for entertainment of the rest of the crew.  A prize was to be given for the best program.  It wasn’t really much, but it was something to keep our minds off the Japanese, if that were really possible.

After a wonderful meal of turkey, sweet potatoes, ice cream, pie, and all the extras such as nuts, celery and cranberry sauce, we put on the program.  (I ate so much that I was uncomfortable for the rest of the day).  The program was really funny-one of our fellows sang a song that he had made up about the ship, another did a southern shuffle.  Between singing songs and imitating our engineering officer going to GQ loaded down with life jacket, two rifles, two forty-fives, a pair of binoculars, and a trench knife, the show was a success.

That night we had the usual air raid.

1945

JANUARY

New Years (1945), we were still in Leyte Gulf, but we were getting restless, and the day was rather dull.  Although we had another big meal and the day off, the coming of the New Year didn’t seem much to look forward to.  It was just a time to rest and think about the last year and how much longer the war would last.

On January we left on a long, rough and tedious trip to Lingayen Gulf in a large convoy made up mostly of LSTs.  Our average speed was from three to five knots.  The LSTs were towing LCMs which took a terrible beating.  One lost its ramp and had to get underway under its own power and pull out.  Another, that had a LCM loaded in her, was swept by a big wave.  The LCM, including a truck that was in her, was swept out to sea.

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:

Philippines


Photos by Ralph E. Robinson © The Robinson Family

Ralph E. Robinson is Cheryl A. Robinson’s late father and my father-in-law.


Links, sources, and more information:

Animated map of the naval battles of Leyte Gulf. The U.S. Invasion Fleet off Letye first appears in slide 12. Ralph and Landing Ship 34 are in the U.S. Invasion Fleet.

Battles that changed the course of history, Part 2. Filipino journalist Ignacio Bunye‘s account of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, January 11, 2015.

Ralph E. Robinson and LSM 34 in WWII


Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-GD

70th Anniversary of Ralph E. Robinson and Leyte Landings

October 28, 2014

ralphgizmo

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.


blacksymbol

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

Republic of the Philippines Presidential Museum and Library


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:

Philippines


lsm34practicec

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:

Philippines (unedited) from Ralph E. Robinson and LSM 34 in WWII

Information on “conn” from Naval Terminology, Jargon and Slang FAQ


Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-DJ


%d bloggers like this: