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BUCKET & SWAB ARTICLES

SEA TALES & STORIES

The following is a chapter from a book on the Lowry's WWII 'cruise', from before it was commissioned until it was mothballed (44-47). It is being put together by two Gunners Mates, John Acord and Jim Holbrook, who both had 40MM mounts on the ship. The book is due to be published at the end of 1998.

Jim L. Holbrook , WWII GM and

     

John Acord, WWII GM

THE LOWRY'S FIRST KILL

The Lowry's first Kill-- December 21, 1944 (Happy Birthday MOM!) In the SULU Sea. Scratch one Betty Bomber!

We were on our first assignment since arriving at the front, 'where the action is'. Eleven of us DDs were assigned to escort duty with a convoy of 6 LSTs (a shoe-box with the bridge at the stern, a 'mouth' in the bow that disgorged tanks, trucks, field guns, etc.) The main deck which ran from bridge to bow was crowded with troops & their lighter equipment. Loaded to the 'gunnels' as we used to say. When we joined the group 12/19, one Liberty ship was in the process of sinking, only her bow above the surface.

The Liberty ships were low in the water, showing they were also heavily laden. I believe there was also one Tanker in the convoy. The convoy could only travel at 5 to 6 knots, in pace with the slowest ship. They steered a straight course, two rows, single file. The eleven escorting Cans were like playful Dolphins, zig-zagging from close aboard at a 45 degree angle for several hundred yards and then back close aboard again, keeping pace with the slower vessels. One Can stayed out front, leading the pack, zig-zagging at approximately 10-12 knots.

In the a.m., two Zeke Zeros made a bombing run. Even though out of range we 40mm mounts fired at the low-flying targets. Their bombs missed the targets and they didn't do the Kamikaze Dive but ran home to live and fight another day. (One of the very few times we weren't suicided.)

We stayed at GQ from 16:15 to 07:00 next a.m. At 17:00 the convoy was attacked by 12 to 15 planes. They came at us from dead ahead. We could see puffs of smoke and falling fire-balls as our Combat Air Patrol (P-38s) took their toll. In the twilight all we could see were tracers and fire-balls at a distance as they closed in on us. When they were closer, we could see them make their bombing runs on one ship and then a suicide dive on another. Three Jap planes were successful in their dives, crashing onto their targets with fire and explosions. The damage was unbelievable. The crashes resembled giant auto wrecks.

The planes crashing with their gas tanks bursting and exploding looked like a scene from Hell.

Two LSTs and one Liberty was hit by the Kamikaze after missing the targets of their bombs. Only one LST was hit by a bomb. One LST sank while trying to 'beach' itself. Although damaged, the remaining Liberty ships and two LSTs made their destination. Two more planes tried suicide dives. One lost his nerve and was shot down. The second, a twin-engine Betty bomber missed her mark and circled for another 'run'. As she flew down our port side, low on the water, we could see men's heads and shoulders in the cabin windows. She banked and started around our stern. My mount #42 was firing but missing. But as she crossed around our stern I could watch the tracers belching out of Mt. 3 (5" 38). All were missing except the last two. They entered the plane but didn't go out the other side. Instead, it looked like someone turned on all the lights in an apartment house just for a brief second, and the plane simply blew up in all directions. I mean exploded like a fire-cracker. And then it was gone. Just little splashes in the water astern of us as flying pieces came back down. It was quiet for a few seconds and then a voice came over our head-phones, 'Scratch one Betty Bomber." And then you could hear cheers from the open gun-mounts as Gunners and Gun Crews and Lookouts, everyone topside cheered.

Next, someone was up alongside the Director painting on our first Kill. That's why, if you look at the picture of our smiling Captain Miller, you will notice the plane in front of our 17 kills is a twin-engine Betty Bomber - the Lowry's first Kill.

Side Note: A short time later, Gunners Mate Shoffit, Mount Captain of the guns that made our first kill, was transferred off the ship because he had given the order to 'Fire!' without being ordered to do so by 'Control'. Only in the Navy!

Articles Continued