The nucleus crew was formed in San Pedro, California, and the rest of the crew formed at San Francisco, California in Treasure Island on March 15, 1944.
I came from New Orleans and was put in the LOWRY Draft. After a period of schooling the crew was sent to San Pedro to Commission the LOWRY on May 21, 1944. The LOWRY was commissioned on July 23, 1944 at Bethlehem Steel, across the bay from San Pedro. After the Commissioning, which lasted not more than 30 minutes in itself, we made a few speed runs out of the bay. We then went to San Diego, California to start our shake down cruise. Incidentally, that run (our first and longest run up to that time) took us a little less than twelve hours.
Our shakedown lasted about five weeks and seemed long and tiresome. We made AA attacks, Speed-runs, Flag-hoist drills, Night-firing, Torpedo launching, and countless other drills. I got rather tired of them as we all did.
I am a Signal Striker, work hard but I like it. Our complete bridge crew consisted of Don Brown SM1/c Red O'Rourke SM3/c, Easy Smith SM3/c, Willie Kinnaman SM3/c, Pappy Hayes QM1/c, Lanky Enlow QM2/c, Terry Byrnes S1/c, Ken Prewitt S2/c, Victor Engle, and myself S2/c.
We are like one family and have lots of fun. I almost forgot our Chief QM, he's a swell guy and sticks up for the gang 100%. After the shakedown was completed we came back to San Pedro to the dry dock. This is the first day in dry dock and I have had quite a good rest today. So far I have not been sea-sick yet. "lucky me"
I have three great goals to a accomplish on this cruise. They mean more to me than anything I can conceive of at the present. Perhaps only death can keep me from reaching them - I wonder?
1. To get my high-school diploma while on the ship.
2. To make SM3/c by my return to the states.
3. To quit smoking. That's quite a bite- Isn't it R. J.
The Officers are also swell guys in every respect - I like them all. We have two weeks before we leave these United States and then I suppose we will be in a strangely different world than I have ever known before. I'm not scared, I just wonder what the future holds for me--
Today, December 17, 1944, I dug this little book out of the bottom of my locker while looking for a piece of leather for my scabbard. As I read back over the past events in this book, I now realize how precious they were and how I should like to go back over each of them.
To bring this book up to date, we left the United States October 26, 1944, went to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, then to the Marshall Islands and Enewetok, then to the Caroline Islands at Ulithi. We then proceeded to the Philippine Islands at Leyte.
We are now on our way back from Mindoro. We are bringing back what is left of the Convoy that we took up their, back with us. The Convoy consisted of eight Cargo ships, eleven LST's, and ten other Destroyers besides ourselves. We left Leyte December 19, 1944. Around noon of December 20, 1944, two Jap fighter planes flew over the convoy, one dropped two bombs at one of our LST's but missed, while the other plane flew over low and fast to distract our attention from the one doing the bombing. We fired at both of them but they were well out of range and got away.
The first suicide dive hit a LST amidships and the explosions of cargo that caught on fire finally caused her to be abandoned and later she sank. The second hit was on the Cargo ship just aft of the bridge and she too was set afire. The fire was put out and she continued on her course. The third hit on the Fan Tail of an LST. She too was saved.
The complete raid lasted approximately five minutes. In the last two raids we shot down three Zeros by Radar Control. I shall never forget that first suicide dive by a Zero. The Jap Squadron came over our convoy in formation and fairly high in the sky. The leader changed his course from horizonally to straight down. It was our first battle and we had heard but very little of the new suicide tactics the Japanese had taken up. We all thought when the planes went into their dives it was a dive bombing run and each of us kept looking for them to pull out of their dives as we were really slinging hot lead at them.
Their Squadron Leader made the first dive on an LST and the others followed after, he hit, like a string of bees. My battle station is on the port side of the after stack. We were on the starboard side of the convoy screening for them so consequently I saw everything that happened. I watched the leader in his dive and was firing my 20 MM at him as I am a Gunner at that station. I kept looking for the plane to pull out of its dive - it didn't! It hit so hard it almost went through the bottom of that LST. It hit hard enough to sink it. Just as it hit someone shouted over the loudspeakers "a suicide plane"! And then, horror struck me like nothing ever done before! I froze and couldn't move for almost a minute. I have never been so terribly scared in all my life. I know what it is to be so frightened your muscles paralyze and ache.
The LST turned away from the Convoy like a crippled bird and finally sunk. The remaining four planes went into their suicide dives, two hit, two missed.
We were on general quarters all night last night and shot down two planes by Radar Control. Today we had one suicide dive at LOWRY. It was a Zero and came at us on our stern. We cut loose on her with all we had and she rolled over and plunged into the sea about 2,000 yards from us so, we think we hit the pilot.
Today, December 25, 1944, we celebrated Christmas all day. The rest of the convoy and ships, including the LOWRY, came back safely Christmas Eve. Christmas dinner this afternoon consists of turkey, candy, and nuts - a rare dish in this part of the world.
December 26, 1944; The LOWRY has been overseas two months, and today T.T. Byrnes, Shorty McDermid and myself had the distinguished honor of painting a Jap Flag on the LOWRY's director just above the bridge on both sides for the Jap plane we shot down.
This is the morning of the 27th, we are heading back towards Mindoro where we had our first battle not with a Convoy, but four heavy Cruisers, eight Destroyers and ourselves. Incidentally, one of the Cruisers is the Phoenix, my hometown in Arizona.
We have word that a Japanese Task Force having one Battleship, two Cruisers and six Destroyers are 6 miles off the beach firing salvos at our boys that have been recently landed there. When we arrive at Mindoro, the Jap Task Force had left taking a course due West so we stayed at Mindoro hoping they would come back - they didn't so, we came back to Leyte gulf.
We left Leyte Gulf January 2, 1945 with a Task Force of the following - six Battleships, 8 cruisers, nineteen Destroyers, six (APDS) High-Speed Transports and a few Cargo ships and Aircraft Carriers - a total of 69 ships. We have passed Mindoro so, two + two equals Luzon! I am not positive yet for the Captain has not told us as yet.
Tonight, January 4, 1945 we are under heavy air attack by more Japanese suicide planes. There were two planes that dove, the first hit one of our Aircraft Carriers and sunk it!!
The Jap plane went down its elevator shaft and hit one of its magazines and blew up all of its bombs and torpedoes and exploded in a catastrphic mushroom cloud. Results; one Aircraft Carrier sunk, all planes lost, 335 men killed and wounded against one Japanese pilot and plane with a 500 lb. bomb! That ratio is quite favorable for the Japanese. It doesn't seem possible but, I saw it with my own eyes. The second dive was on another Carrier but missed by a few feet and exploded in the water off the port side of the ship.
Today is January 10, 1945. It took us three days to get here (Lingayen Gulf) and we have been here four days. The first day we bombarded the beach which had nearly 30,000 Japanese Soldiers on it. We also fought off suicide planes all day and night the first 20 hours we were here. Our Task Force shot down almost 20 planes, one of which was scored for the LOWRY and we were the only Destroyer to shoot down a plane that day.
About 2:00 PM in the afternoon a suicide plane came in off port beam, almost 20 feet above the water an at about 250 knots air speed. We were at General Quarters but it came in so fast we did not have time to train our 5" around and let him have a few salvos. It was left up to the 40 MM and 20 MM. He headed for our bridge, we changed speed, and it threw him off enough to miss of our after-stack (my GQ station) and believe me it's quite an ordeal to look down the barrel of your 20 MM gun and see a Zero within stone throwing distance.
All the 40 MM and 20 MM on the port side were blazing away with tracer bullets and we hit it approximately 50 feet away. We shot its left-wing off. The plane flipped over on its back and dove into the water after missing our Fan-Tail by about fifteen feet. We really got a view of the Rising Sun on her wing as she crashed. The wing came tumbling down ablaze. One of our guns hit the plane's engine and something from it fell and hit a sailor 15 feet from me and killed him. He was a new fellow who had recently came aboard and I did not know him personally. The ship had sharpnel holes all around me. One officer was also wounded and the rest of us we're terribly lucky to get through it alive.