All too soon our sea cruise was
over. I quote from my diary, “We landed about 8 miles below Dulog. We had quite a time unloading. All our equipment got wet,
soaked. We got two Filipinos to clear our area and dig fox holes. We camped
in a large coconut grove. We got our pyramidal tent set up and a pretty
We landed at
Tarragona (also sometimes referred to as Maragona), Leyte which is 8 miles
south of Dulag. The
seas were heavy. The landing craft were hard to get into from the Jacob’s
ladders. The boats were bobbing up and down several feet and bouncing from
side to side, too. If one jumped just as the boat shot out sideways they
could easily miss the craft and get crushed against the side of the ship by
the boat bouncing back into the side.
bags and equipment were floated in. They were then stacked on the wet beach
for several days and a heavy rain every afternoon did not help. When we did
get our belongings they were wet and mildewed. This period was the monsoon
season for Leyte. Every day at 1400 hr rain began and lasted about two hours.
During this period the rain came down hard.
We had to dig
slit trenches beside our cots under the edge of the tent for easy access.
The Japanese Air Force was desperate. They were after the ships out in the
bay, but they would make an occasional at the cantonment areas along the
beach. The greatest danger was from our own planes. Many times in chasing
Jap planes along the route would be along the beach, and in their firing at
the enemy they strafed us. We saw many aerial dogfights, some were very
close. One took place within a few hundred yards of our area, right out in
front over the bay. The Jap was coming in on fire trying to crash into a
ship. P-38’s were attacking in swarms to stop his run. The plane missed,
crashed into the sea and exploded.
In my diary I
spoke of our using native labor. After about two hours of this orders came
down that the area was “Off Limits” to natives and that was that. Ed Flash,
Sleepy Miller, Walter Massey and I put up our pyramidal tent in a driving
rain. It leaked like a sieve. We took it down, took it to supply and
exchanged it and raised the new tent. About the time we finished the job the
rain stopped. This tent did not leak.
many warships and merchant ships in the bay. The 7th Fleet was there, and
some of its ships were plainly visible. We could see a few scort carriers
which usually were on the horizon. The big boys, the 3rd Fleet’s fleet
carriers, were out there for a while, but much too far away for us to see.
One ship did loom big out there the first day. That was our largest
transport, the “USS West Point." This ship, the “SS America” in peacetime, was
our pride and joy. A Jap tried to suicide it and the Jap plane burned nearby
for several hours. We could see the ship and the burning plane as we
unloaded the “Custer.” I had come overseas on the “West Point” and was acquainted
with some of the crew. In the late fall of 1943 the crew was somewhat aloof
from the war. After all, they were serving on our largest liner, and "our
liner will never be placed at risk by sending her into harm’s way."
what they were thinking now that they were in a real combat zone and under