Base 17 and MTB Ron 23
Jim enjoyed two weeks “rehabilitation leave” after his time with Squadron 15. Before reporting to MTBSTC in Melville, RI, Pop got together with his future wife and mother-in-law for a short time before he received his orders. He was to report to the receiving station in Boston, then to California and eventually the Pacific. He boarded the Matson Lines ship S.S. Matsonia on January 22nd, 1945 from Treasure Island, California and headed west. The Matsonia brings me to a brief side story:
|The Matsonia was built at the Cramp Shipyard in Philadelphia in 1926. Jim and his father worked there at separate times but not in 1926; by then Jim's father was a Philadelphia firefighter and Pop would have been three. (Photo with permission from ssmaritime.com.)|
|The commercial liner-turned-troop ship stopped in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on its way toward the front lines. It was on-board the S.S. Matsonia that Jim underwent his Shellback initiation into the Domain of Neptunus Rex. This humorous and unofficial ceremony is performed on "pollywogs" - sailors who have yet to cross the Equator - to bring them into the world of the experienced sailor - "shellbacks." I have no idea what the ceremony entailed and only recently found a sailor who was on the ship at the same time as Pop...so more to come on what exactly went on.|
Regardless, Pop was given a business card-sized certificate to mark the occasion and certify his endurance of the ceremony sometime in February, 1945. I would imagine it was a highlight on an otherwise slow cruise.
|The ship crossed the Equator, stopped briefly in the Admiralty Islands before finishing its trip at Hollandia in New Guinea. Pop arrived on February 13, 1945 and reported to the receiving station near White Beach, one of the invasion beaches used in 1943 to liberate that part of the island. Pop spent roughly a week while he awaited orders.|
|While Jim waited to hear where he would be placed, he got the chance to see and photograph the remnants of the invasion operations on the beaches and in the jungles of New Guinea.|
On February 24th Pop was transferred to the relatively new Base 17 on Samar in the Philippines and reported there for duty on March 2nd. It would be a while though before Pop would find his way back onto a PT boat; the base was awash with PT sailors and there weren't enough boats, or more importantly missions, for all of them.
|According to Henry Beazley, another Ron 15 sailor who found himself at Base 17 in the Spring of 1945, most the sailors who were in limbo would be gathered up into work parties or assigned short-term duties while they awaited a new assignment. Pop was at Base 17 for roughly two months before he was needed back at sea.|
|On May 8th, Jim was shuttled to the advance base in Maragin Bay on Mindoro and reported for duty to Ron 23. He was assigned as the quartermaster on PT 243, another 78-foot Higgins boat. He was back patrolling at night, looking for enemy supply barges and any other targets of opportunity.|
|I don't have much on Ron 23 operations this late in the war; I need to go to the National Archives and read the squadron diary to get the official details. Looking at operational timelines, Pop arrived at the very end of Palawan operations in support of Operation VICTOR III. Other than routine patrols, there are only two things I know about Pop's time in the Pacific. The first is a story he told me about a fellow sailor who picked a terrible time to have to go to the bathroom.|
|The story goes that this sailor, who was on deck at General Quarters with the rest of 243, got a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. The problem was his timing; the crew was on high alert as they were slipping between islands looking for any Japanese resupply barges trying to use the night as cover for their ferry runs.|
|Apparently the sailor was in dire danger of soiling himself, so the skipper begrudgingly let him go below to use the head. While this sailor was using the facilities, the 243 came into the crosshairs of a Japanese shore battery. They opened up without warning, peppering the PT with shells. One of these shells pierced the wood side of the boat, went directly through the side of the toilet that was in use and out the other side. While the sailor was not hurt by the shell, he found himself falling into a pile of shattered porcelain! Meanwhile, a brief battle raged above him as gunners returned fire and the skipper moved the boat away to a safe distance.|
|The hapless sailor laid below, seriously cut by the toilet shards. After some howling and yelling, someone came to his aide and the boat quickly returned to base so his injuries could be treated.|
Other than that anecdote, the only thing else I know is that Ron 23 was tasked with helping to facilitate the coaxing of Japanese soldiers out of the jungle at war's end. The squadron took over the duties from Ron 33; they apparently went to an island with a translator and convinced the enemy that the war was over and it was OK to come out.
|Jim remained with Ron 23 for several months and was promoted to Quartermaster First Class. In December of 1945, Pop received orders to report to Okinawa. He boarded the USS Venus (AK-135) in the Phillipines on the 18th and spent Christmas at sea, landing on Okinawa on December 26th. It was here that Pop learned the war was not over for him yet; he was selected for duty in Japan itself.|
|D-Day, Palawan Island, Phillipines. Aircraft appear to be Aichi E13a "Jakes." Ship on top left appears to be ARL-41, a landing craft repair ship. Note PT's in background.|
PT Control Tower at MTB Base 7, Green Island, 1944. "Give me a fast ship for I intend to go into harm's way."
|All I know for sure is that this photo was taken on Palawan Island in 1945. My guess is this is the location where 150ish prisoners of war were herded into caves or trench shelters and burned alive. I believe this scene was depicted at the begining of the recent movie Flags of our Fathers. The real incident happened on Palawan after an Allied convoy passed near the island and the Japanese panicked, fearing an invasion. Their panic prompted the atrocity.|
|Japanese Ki-43 Oscar, left behind after Palawan Island occupation, 1945.|
A poor copy of a great photograph; PT 243 underway somewhere in the Phillipines, 1945.
|The 243 becomes the Banana Boat! A hilarious picture of the crew of PT 243 on their way back from Romblon Island, the Phillipines, grinning at their cargo of local bananas.|
|Japanese suicide Shinyo, or "Sea Quake," boat at Base 17, Samar, the Phillipines. A one-man motor boat packed with explosives, the idea was to replicate on the seas what the Japanese were doing in the air. From the reports I read, it was only effective in reducing the number of hostile Japanese.|
|A great picture of my grandfather "hanging out" on the back end of PT 243, underway somewhere in the area of the Phillipines, 1945.|
|Jim's caption for this photograph was "Liberty's unloading, Calicoan Island." Calicoan is on eastern Samar, the Phillipines.|
|PT's returning to Base 17, Samar, the Phillipines 1945.|
|This photo is from Henry Beazley's time at Base 17 and shows one of the officer's quarters on the base in 1945.|
|Mr. Beazley also had this photograph, showing the destruction of oil storage areas on Balikipapan, Borneo, after invasion operations in 1945.|
|A late war Elco boat, racing along side the photo boat, somewhere in the Pacific.|