1 June 1943 to 30 Sept 1943
Invasion of Sicily by Frank Krall RM 459
Picked up twelve bodies in the Chesapeake Bay. A Tanker and Freighter loaded with ammunition collided early this morning in the fog. We thought the ships had been torpedoed. Not many survivors.
Anchored out in the bay. Saw our convoy which we are to take over. Looks like an invasion force. Had swimming parties.
June 8. 1000.
Left Norfolk with convoy. I wonder where we are going?
We are a hundred miles north of Bermuda.
June 21. 1300.
Passed thru the Straits of Gibraltar. Boy, this rock and the coast of Spain and Africa is an impressive and welcome sight.
June 22. 1100.
Arrived in Oran. High mountains. City looks modern, all of stone. Left at midnight with a few destroyers.
June 23. 1000.
Arrived in Algiers. Left 1600.
June 24. 0900.
Arrived in Oran.
Arrived in Algiers.
Liberty in Algiers, (first one).
British ships fired a 48 gun salute in honor of the 4th. Still in Algiers. The Invasion, - July 6, 1943.
Left Algiers, presumably for patrol. This afternoon, our orders came through. The captain passed the word that we are on our way for the invasion of Sicily. We are part of a large armada, 2,500 ships, 500,000 men and 5,000 airplanes; But, of course, this is just estimated, not confirmed, officially. I guess we will play a leading part, as we are designated to bombard the beach, and, if necessary, go right in to within 1,000 yards. After expending 50% of our ammunition, we are to get the heck out for it will probably be quite a hot spot. The crew is quite calm about the whole thing, but there is a general feeling that we don't have a chance against the shore batteries at such a close range, and, if we do survive, our casualties would be heavy. Well! We shall see. There is still a general amount of laughing and joking going on and the biggest subject now is having meatballs and spaghetti as a steady diet soon. I hope and pray for our ship to come through safely, but it will be a miracle! Word was just passed that all hands are to keep what they may know to themselves in the event we are torpedoed or sunk. Our convoy has formed and we are on our way.
July 7, 1943.
We are well on our way now and so far things have been going quite well. We have fourteen destroyers and seven troop ships with us. I wonder where the rest are? This evening we sighted two more convoys to the rear of us. They are slightly larger than ours. Also spotted a formation of planes, but they veered away before identification was possible. We passed small islands and are sailing within sight of the African coast. Our speed is eight knots. Everyone is on the alert and the tension is slowly mounting. From widely scattered ports, ships are coming to join us at the zero hour somewhere off the Sicilian coast.
July 8, 1943.
This morning I saw a seemingly unending line of ships coming out of the Gulf of Tunis. We are passing the Tunisian coast through a mine swept lane. We see the lights from the city of Bizerte. The famed island of Malta should appear soon and that is only sixty-two miles from Sicily. This afternoon, we test fired all our guns. They work ok. We have been test firing the 5 inch 38 by primers and will continue to do so until the time of battle. A squadron of PT's crossed our bow, and disappeared over the horizon. Guess they're on the lookout for E-boats and subs. We went to GQ tonight at 2100 and had a very good submarine contact almost on our course. We dropped 3 600 pound charges while the ship was doing only 10 knots. I had orders to keep my 40 mm trained on the spot where the charges exploded. It's hard to see it in the dark, even as we came about, to port, to see what effect the charges had. No sub surfaced but several of the crew said they saw a film of oil on the water. I think I could smell oil. We picked up a contact and would have fired more charges, but the Murphy cut across our path and we had to reduce speed and change course and, of course, lost the contact. We are not positive we sank the sub but we surely must have damaged her. The ship was badly shaken because of our slow speed and the elevation control of the rangefinder was damaged. If too much load is put on the contact heads they might melt and hence no power in elevation. Boy what a fix to be in. This was the best sub contact we've had, since the ship was placed in commission!
July 9, 1943.
We are nearing the island of Malta and our course is almost due north. We expect to reach Sicily about 2330. The sea is rising. Those two convoys behind us have come up and pass us as we sight the island of Malta. It looks like a block jutting out of the water shrouded in mist. A long line of LST's and LCI are coming out. They are British, but do not join us for they are landing to the South and East of us. I wonder where our small landing craft are? The sea and wind have steadily risen approaching gale proportions. We are shipping water heavily and the sprays come over the 40's. Some of the crew are sick. I pity the poor soldiers crowded on deck and down below. They're in for a hell of a time. I wouldn't be able to invade anyone seasick. We all hope the sea will calm. Why does it have to be this day of all days. It has always been as calm as a lake. Work was just passed that a group of 225 planes carrying paratroopers will fly overhead tonight and not to fire. The place of our landing is to be a small town on the southern coast called Gela. The sea is rough as hell; three-quarters of the crew is sick. We had a battle supper of steak, eggs and all the trimmings. I downed it all, but it came up a lot faster. I just made the rail from the mess hall. T hat last big drop was just too much for my queasy stomach. Took a shower, shaved and put on new clothes just in case. It is sunset now and we go to GQ. At approximately 2300, our planes started their heavy bombing of Sicily. They really gave them hell. Long lines of flares light the coast. Bombs explode and slowly the flames of the conflagration increase. The sky is full of AA tracers and looks like the fourth to us. The whole coast is aflame; gosh what a sight.
July 10, 1943. 2400.
We have been steadily moving in. We are in the lead. It is 2430. The range is 11,000 yards and decreasing steadily. We expect to open fire on their batteries at a range of 2,000 or 3,000 yards. But no. We slowly cruise around the whole bay. The shore lights finger their way into the night and several times my heart sank. I thought they had us spotted, but no they swept up and went out.
The following is data taken down during the first night:
0215. We are now going in with the first wave of landing barges. If the enemy uses searchlights, we have orders to shoot them out; Also to knock hell out of the shore batteries. We are the only destroyer with the barges. The cruiser Savannah is following us up.
0245. Searchlights have been playing around, and one of our ships has opened fire. The exec just ordered all bands to be on their toes.
0250. Guns 1 and 2 matched up and shifted to automatic. Searchlight dead ahead.
0300. All guns in automatic. We just fired two shots at searchlight. It went out promptly. 3 and 4 did not fire.
0335. Shell bursts, close but don't know range.
0414. One of our ships dropped depth charges.
0435. Enemy planes attacking our transports. We are told to be on the alert. Can't see anything in the sky.
0506. Enemy planes nearing us. I can hear much AA fire. Expect to be attacked soon.
0514. We just had another plane scare, but it turned out to be ours. All this morning, we have been bombarding shore emplacements, with army spotters ashore spotting us on. The army reports that we have knocked out several German tanks and have done considerable damage on enemy held areas. So far the going has been fairly easy, without much opposition, except for planes, that is, for us, ashore. I guess the fighting is pretty hot if artillery fire is any indication. It's just a continuous roar, like the surf at Jones' Beach. Planes have been reported attacking the main part of the task force behind us, as I am writing this. It is now 1035 Saturday morning and we have been at GQ since 2015 last night. We expect to remain at GQ until all troops and equipment have been landed and we are clear of this operational area. Earlier this morning planes dove on us and we, along with the Savannah, opened fire. They were directly overhead. I was just beginning, to get it on, when they broke formation and scattered. We stopped. They turned out to be Spitfires. Lucky we missed. But it was close. We expect to see considerable air activity later in the day.
1320. The situation now is that we had taken over Gela Hill with all its shore batteries. The destroyer Maddox was hit (in the tubes) by a large bomb in the raid at 0530. Only 69 survived. The Swanson and the Rowe collided. Don't know extent of damage yet. At the moment German M E's are attacking two of the Savannah's S O C's. One has just been shot down. The Germans and Italians are reported to be bringing up a large division of tanks and troops, but ours will do a thorough job of cleaning up. The Savannah and us have started firing on this new column of tanks. Now we are waiting for the army to designate a new target for us. We have already expended 503 rounds of 5 inch 38 ammo. The Germans have tanks behind buildings in the town but they won't last long even if we have to blast the buildings to get at them.
July 11, 1943. It's now 1200 and still continued air activity. We haven't fired since yesterday. However, the Germans kept up a pretty steady bombing of our LST, LCI and transports. We have fought them off. No damage. The M E 109's come out of the sun or flying very low and drop one or two bombs on our landing boats then return. It seems they still hold an airfield near the town and by means of an observation post on the hill can see our boats coming in, also our planes for they attack just as soon as our planes have turned off to resume patrol. Yesterday morning two low level bombers attacked and set fire to one of our LST's. One bomber escaped, the other was brought down by heavy AA fire. All this morning planes have been attacking us, mostly M E 109's and J U 110's. Another LST has been hit as well as a transport. Considerable damage was done, but operations continue. The Savannah and Boise have been shelling hell out of the hills all morning Boy, they sure can lay it down! We were joined by fresh convoys this morning. Now this area is really filled with ships. The men are doing a splendid job of getting troops and equipment ashore under almost continuous bombing and strafing. We have not experienced a large scale air attack aimed at us. We have been at GQ for 40 hours now. I've had about five hours rest in the last 70. We started to set the regular condition watch, but planes attacked again. So back to GQ we went. The air is full of smoke, barrage balloons, planes and AA fire. A lot of bombs are being dropped by high level bombers. The beach is blacked out with smoke and the LST's are still burning.
1440. We secured from GQ and set condition watch again only to go back in eight minutes. (God I wish it would stop we need a little rest.) It seems that there are Italian tri-motored bombers overhead. Just as we secured again, A.A. guns opened up and the air was filled with bursts and falling shrapnel. This is the first air action since noon. Three mine layers have just come in. Guess they have just finished mining the coast so I guess most of the destroyers will be leaving soon.
1515. Second section condition watch was set in order to give the crew time for a much needed wash and rest. We are now on patrol duty with several other destroyers outside the landing area.
1555. We just suffered a heavy bombing raid by 32 enemy planes. Bombs rained down on the transports, but not many were hit. One liberty ship is burning now. The transports were almost obscured by columns of water thrown up by the exploding bombs.
1610. We are standing by for another bombing attack. I hope our planes get here soon and drive off these attacks.
1630. Secured form GQ and set condition watch. Didn't bother to wash up just laid down on deck for a few minutes rest.
1650. The 2 M.C. woke me out of a stupor "Here the come again, all hands man your battle stations." The planes passed overhead but were out of range. Enemy planes reported over MT Lunge. (?)
1700. One of our ammunition ships just blew up. It was the liberty ship hit in the last raid. It was very spectacular. That's putting it mildly!
2130. Our section was on watch. A few of us were drinking coffee when off to the port a string of flares lit the sky. They were here again! We sent in the report, finished our coffee and as the general alarm sounded, manned our guns. The planes came in from all sides, dropped bombs and strafed the convoy. As the planes would come over each particular section either of the beach or convoy; the night would literally explode in flames. The A.A. fire would go up as a solid sheet of flames. We laid to and kept as much as possible in the dark till several bombs fell close, then the five inch went into action with flashless powder. But the planes were flying low and fast, hedge hopping and dodging between the ships. One came within fifty yards of our fantail and Derrah and I opened up on him, but he was gone in a flash. Another came in several minutes later and again we opened up on him, firing a few short bursts before he was gone. These tactics caused us to endanger the surrounding ships but war is war - "if you see him, shoot" was our orders. And we did.
0135. We have been at GQ for almost 52 hours. Most of us haven't had more than a few hours of broken sleep. We're tired as hell, but we'll keep going until it's over. It seems that we are fighting more Germans than Italians. I'd guess there is really heavy fighting going on ashore for we can see fires burning on the hillsides and hear the dull explosions of shells continuously. The bombs that hit near us were 50 yards off the starboard bow.
0630. Secured from GQ and set 3rd section on deck. We've not had any more trouble since the raid last night. Our fighters are overhead supplying protection.
1200. 2nd section on watch. Everything is going smoothly. We are laying to amidst the convoy. The ammunition ship is still burning. The two cruisers are laying down a barrage using alternate fire. The gunfire and fires are dwindling day by day as the army advances. The army landed paratroopers last night and managed to take over the last of the airfields in enemy hands around here. We heard a BBC broadcast this morning and it seems all the credit for taking Sicily is going to the Royal Navy, Marines and Canadians. Hey! What about us? A report from the Murphy. "My fantail punctured several places. (stop). dive bombers last night technique very vicious.(stop). dive, glide then level off at 50 feet actually pulling up to 100 feet to release bombs. (stop). suggest ships fire immediately on sound as plane is first heard diving.(stop)"
1730. A few of us were standing around the 40's talking, when the lookout spotted two planes coming in fast (300 or 350 knots), one dropped a bomb on a ship about 3,000 yards off. Two of the fellows manned our guns and opened fire. Came close, but not close enough. The other was out of range of the 40's when GQ sounded but our five inch opened up. The first to do so and both went down in flames one after the other.
July 13, 1943.
0800. Am now on watch We were at GQ all night. We had no raids and everything has been going smoothly. No enemy aircraft sighted in this vicinity as yet. Most of the ships have landed troops and equipment and returned last night, though there are still a few late arrivals unloading and a few under repair. Last night heavy fighting took place on the beach and again numerous fires were started. The Limey Monetor shore bombardment ship with a turret of 2 15" guns) and the Boise opened up again firing far inland. We've received reports of 2,000 prisoners being taken the second day of fighting. The boys on the beach radioed for boats to take care of them. According to reports the population of Gela is friendly towards us and haven't caused any disturbance.
2100. Went to GQ and will remain all night. The Captain announced that we would stay here with the Boise, Savannah, and Birmingham and several other destroyers to act as A.A. protection till the army gets set.
July 14, 1943.
0220. Usual amount of gunfire no air attacks as yet.
0800. Skipper passed the word that the Italian fleet was out. We are going alongside the Savannah to refuel and then go out to intercept them. Doesn't look too promising with two cruisers and six destroyers. Oh Hell! Last night the Brooklyn hit a mine. We don't know the extent of damage, but the scuttlebutt is enough to make anyone leery. Thank God! The report that the Italian fleet was out has proved false. Phew!
1415. We are leaving Gela with the Boise and Savannah to go back to Algiers for fuel, ammunition and supplies. Our speed 25 knots. Hurray. Our task force was commended, by the commanding general, for the magnificent support we gave, which contributed greatly to the success of the invasion. The Shubrick's Score:
2 M E 109's, German.
1 Searchlight, Italian.
3 Coast guns, Italian.
3 German tanks.
The Battery was one of the toughest they had.
July 15th. We should arrive in Algiers sometime tomorrow morning Things have gone quite well since leaving Sicily and we've had no trouble. Today we had field day.
The following is a report to our forces:
1130. July 15, 1943.
Due to careful planning, excellent seamanship, gunnery and engineering, and a high standard of proficiency and devotion to duty, by all hands, the most difficult and complicated task of landing our forces on hostile shores, has been successfully accomplished. Informed reports of specially meritorious acts and accomplishments have been many. Well done! It is now our duty to support, maintain, and build up the forces which have been landed. -- Carry on.
Commander 8th Fleet.
Western Task Force.
All Ships and Units.
July 16. Arrived at Algiers this morning and tied alongside a French tanker to refuel. 1230. Now anchored in the bay expect to take on ammunition sometime this afternoon.
1525. Tied up alongside the Vulcan. Was on watch when we heard a tremendous explosion. All hands automatically it seems went to GQ Gela still fresh in our minds. Later we learned that a British munitions dump and ship blew up. The cause is not known as yet. Survivors were brought on the British battleship near us.
July 17. A Liberty ship which was caught in the blast yesterday, is still burning furiously out in the bay. It was dragged out of the rest by a British destroyer.
1230. All hands were up to handle lines and prepare to go alongside the Mt. Baker to take on over 600 rounds of ammunition. We expect to get underway again sometime today.
1200. All ammunition on board and are underway for Gela, Sicily. Boy, I'm due for a little rest. The explosion on the liberty ship was caused by a boiler. The ship was loaded with high octane gas and not ammunition. But boy, it sounded like it did.
1530. Just heard a German and Italian news broadcast. According to them, we ain't got a chance, but we know different. Also heard a British broadcast. Seems as if they are winning this war. They deserve a lot of credit, but, not that much.
2015. Spotted something in the water that looked like a mine. Rangefinder said it looked like a mine to him, but Bridge disagreed and so nothing was done about it. Some day these people will wise up and give things like that a thorough check.
July 18. Had holiday routine today. Boy, this is great. Had movies this morning and another this afternoon. Chicken dinner was swell. Our main reason for going back to Gela is to act as A.A. protection for the supply and hoop ships and for shore bombardment if necessary.
1300. We have just passed Bizerte and Tunis and picked up a convoy of LCI on their way to Gela.
1045. We are now passing close to the island of Pantelleria, another mountainous rock. The Butler just exploded a floating mine. Word was just passed that intelligence reports we can expect a torpedo plane attack tonight.
July 19. Lucky we weren't battered by any planes last night. Many floating mines were spotted. Hope we can keep on doing as good. We are in sight of Sicily and are now going through the mine swept channel toward Gela. Licata is just behind us. There are so many ships in this area so the soldiers are assured of plentiful supplies. They'll need them. Many barrage balloons have been set up along the beach. Good thing. They'll help to stop low bombers and planes strafing the beach. We've received a report that there was a heavy air attack in this area beginning at 0100 and ending at 0500. The extent of damage is not known as yet. We move up the coast today, 40 miles north of Licata.
1500. We are now off Siracusa (still in Italian hands) patrolling.
July 20. Everything went quite well last night with no air attacks, no E-boats. We will continue patrolling. The cruiser Savannah and the Herndon are the only ships with us. Italians still hold this area and the threat of air attacks is very great.
0530. A fleet of C-47's (troop transports) escorted by fighters just passed flying very low over the water. They are headed for central Sicily.
July 21. Last night we had GQ. Only lasted an hour. No GQ this morning. Still patrolling. There seems to be a high fire on the beach far from here. We can see a pillar of smoke going hundred of feet in the air. Just learned that we are here to support the 32nd division and the 2nd armored corps. This dispatch was received. From Comdesron 17. To - Desron 17. McLanahan. It is with deep pleasure that the squadron commander wishes to express his gratification for the fine aggressive spirit exhibited by all ships of this squadron during the recent attack on Sicily. All ships companies conducted themselves splendidly throughout. It is an honor to command such an outfit. We all mourn Gene Sarsfield and his crew in the Maddox, but we know he went down fighting. Let the loss of the Maddox be an inspiration to us to greater effort to prepare ourselves for exacting toll from the enemy when next we meet him. W.R. Gordon, Lt. U.S.N.R. Communication officer.
1530. This afternoon, we discovered another mine and used it to do a little target practice, fired 20 mm and 30 cal machine guns to sink it. The Herndon discovered another mine. This place is well sown with mines.
July 22. Still on patrol duty. Everything going okay. We've received reports that these shores are now in American hands. We've seen tanks on the hillsides and several fires. Not too much opposition as the two Italian divisions are without mechanized equipment. It seems the Germans stole all theirs and took it to the Catania front.
1630. We're leaving this area and going back to Gela.
1900. Arrived in Gela and going alongside the Savannah to fuel. Had trouble with the sluice valves. Salt water leaked into our oil and we've had to put a good deal of it out. We'll have to do without ballast this trip. I hope it won't be rough.
2045. Through with fueling and are headed for Bizerte. Bizerte is a city on the north African coast and had a population of 25,000. It was very badly damaged in the recent fight for Tunisia. It was also one of the largest French naval bases and had an inland lake some twenty miles in diameter.
July 23. 1300. Arrived at Bizerte. Standing in for fuel and further orders.
1745. Word was just passed that we'll get underway. We will act as anti-submarine patrol for the night and refuel tomorrow morning.
1230. Plans were again changed. We are now leaving Bizerte for Algiers. Maybe we are going back to the states we hope!
July 24. 1500. Arrived at Algiers. The honorable USS Herndon has painted an American flag and a barrage balloon on her director just to spite us just because of the flags we have on ours. Incidentally, she shot the top off her mainmast with her 40 mm during an air attacked. Fueled.
July 25. Tied up alongside of a Dutch freighter. Word has just been passed that we are now attached to the Mediterranean fleet. Home huh We can dream anyway. The next few days are to be spent in recreation swimming, ball games, etc.
July 28. Underway this morning. Darn the luck. Just as I was going on my first swimming party. Tied up alongside the Mt. Baker. Then went out into the bay and anchored.
1715. Underway for Northern Sicily to aid in landing troops and shore bombardment. We'll be fighting Germans this time and the going will be tougher this time. We expect to arrive at Palermo at 0600, July 30.
July 30. - 0600. Arrived at Palermo and patrolled outside the bay. Looks like a large town.
July 31. Went into the harbor and anchored. We had quite a few aircraft contacts last night on the radar. Don't know whether they were friendly or not. Wish I could describe the town as it looks from here (1,000 yards away). Pretty badly battered along the docks. Hope we get a chance to go ashore!
August 1 Went to GQ. Saw the flares the moment I got out of my hammock and knew that we were in for it. All guns manned, more flares being dropped. We've already had several near misses and we can feel the ship shake. Still at anchor. "Let's get the hell out of here." We put out over 300 rounds of 5 inch 38 ammunition, but not much machine gun ammo as we have orders not to fire unless we see them and it's hard to spot a thing tonight. The 5 inchs are just laying up a barrage. They can't see much either even with the director. It's almost dawn now. There goes the observation plane of the enemy. Our flaks are all around it, but it's still going on. Just saw a long string of bombs drop to our port beam about five hundred yards out. We laid down a smoke screen earlier this morning to cover the ships in the harbor. Got underway at 0445 and are now in the outer harbor.
0530. Secured form GQ. We don't know the extent of the damage but expect it to be light. We are now patrolling outside Palermo with the Savannah and another destroyer.
1415. We are going back into the harbor and await further orders. We expect to land troops behind the German lines. Yesterday some of the fellows were allowed ashore for a short time and some brought back a few souvenirs. Palermo is one of the most bombed cities I've seen. All along the water front buildings are all torn up by bombs and the few who went ashore said that the rest of the town was just as bad almost a ghost town. The civilians are straggling back from the hills. From here, we can see long lines of them walking, carrying their meager possessions. Many ships have been sunk inside the breakwater, most of the Italian and German. In the streets are many Italian prisoners cleaning away the debris, repairing roads and air raid shelters. They seem very friendly and one or two soldiers are there to guard them. They are glad the fighting is over for them, for now they'll have plenty of food and maybe a little peace. (This was told to me by Cardille, a member of the crew who had talked to the people.) Things have gone quite smoothly. Today, no more raids. We had usual evening GQ and the general feeling is speculation of a raid tonight or tomorrow morning. This morning's casualties were an ammo train, 2 Y.M.'s and a British coastal steamer sunk.
August 2 Went out for shore bombardment with Savannah forty miles up toward Messian. Cruiser fired a number of salvoes at various targets on the beach. Returned to the harbor. Expected raids again tonight, but none materialized. Scuttlebutt has it that we are to return to the states soon.
August 3. GQ this morning no raid. Took on fuel from a Limey tanker inside the breakwater. Had to maneuver carefully to avoid sunken ships.
1300. on our way up the coast again for bombardment.
1545. Savannah opened fire on the beach. Noticed several splashes in our wake a thousand yards astern. Must have been from shore batteries. We about faced and went off full speed.
1900. Back at the bay again and anchored at our usual place.
August 4. 0405. Awoke to the sound of that old familiar GQ, and saw that flare in the sky. Many more are in the sky now over the hills, but slowly working this way. The shore installations are putting up a hell of a barrage. Now, it's apparent they are after the ships in the bay for the flares are all around us, and we're still standing still.
0415. 5 inch 38 battery opened fire on a radar target. We are now lit up like a Christmas tree. Those flares off our port bow, several oft, several forward, and five off our starboard beam. We can see each other's features in rays of the flares. Still we are not allowed to fire these damn guns. Boy I'd like to be doing something other than just sitting here like this! Let's put up a barrage? We are getting many near misses. A stick of about six bombs just landed about 100 yards off our starboard quarter.
0420. 3 near misses on starboard beam.
0422. A direct hit about two feet aft of the back of the torpedo tubes and two near misses about 20 feet of my gun. My gun was trained out to port while this was going on. Heard the roar of the engines of the diving planes. Could distinguish at least two and wanted more than anything to train around and open fire, but orders are orders. The effect of the bombs exploding almost threw me off the gun, caused the ship to jump like a strickened deer. I bunched up and for several moments didn't know what had happened as water, sands, etc poured over us, blinding us. I guess I expected to get hit and I suppose was surprised that nothing more happened. The power all over the ship went off instantly. All but three men got out of the after fire room and some men in the forward engine room. Most of the men were badly burnt by 600 lbs of steam as the bomb passed through the main steam line, hit the electrical switchboard and passed through the hull, exploding on the outside. On its downward path the bomb hit the torpedo officer, Mar Adams in the back. Parts of him were found all over, on the stack, machine gun, lines, under the tubes and on the main deck. There were several cases of shell shock. The men were taken by an army transport plane to the nearest hospital. We are now tied up alongside of the Mayrant who received a near miss ten days previous while on patrol just after Palermo had fallen. Her exec is F.D.R., Jr. Boy he's a tall fellow. Nice guy. The dive bombing technique of the Germans is very effective and very vicious. They illuminate their victims with bright yellow flares and then make their attack and are away. We don't know how badly we've been hit except that we have no power, steam, tow compartment flood (the fwd engine room and after fire room) and many casualties.
1200. This afternoon a friend of Derrah's came over. He's in the army port battalion. He's working on a liberty ship near where we are tied up. He also came over with us at Gela. He said that if it hadn't been for the naval guns at Gela, the invasion would have failed or seriously slowed up. Most of his company has been killed or wounded (or else sick or suffering from nervous disorders) by bombs and strafing during these landings. He said that Sunday's raid on August 1st was the worst he's been in.
August 5. We are eating on the beach with the Mayrant's crew. We get two meals a day 0900 and 1600. Army rations aren't so bad, but there is little variety. The conditions are pretty bad, no water on the ship. We are moving all topside weight torpedo tubes, and munitions, etc. They are to be shipped to the states on a liberty ship. We expect to be towed out of here to the nearest dry dock by a seagoing tug if and when it comes. The risks and our chances well are? I had a chance to sneak out of the dock yard today. Went in search of a rifle. Traveled about six miles or so and found one in a dump. Italian prisoners do all the work around here under the supervision of a few yanks. One Italian broke out a box of ammo for me. They seem very friendly.
Aug. 6. We are to go to a hotel to live two out of three nights. The risks of air raids are very great. The Mayrant's crew are nervous as cats and twice as jumpy. As soon as an air raid warning goes up they abandon ship except for the duty gun crew. We are getting as bad. This is my duty night. I hope it's all quiet.
Aug 7. Boy, this "hotel" is nice. It was the home of an Italian prince, beautifully built with all tile decks, murals painted on the ceilings and many carvings. All the buildings on this island are made of a soft stone.
0420. Another air raid very few planes got through. As we have many more night fighters "Beaufighter" stationed here. Only a few bombs and flares were dropped no damage. Boy, I was glad to be here at this home. For once I could turn over and go back to sleep.
Aug 8. Nothing much happened today. Just looked around and had guard duty at the hotel. Boy I got drunk and fell asleep. Arrived back to the ship several hours late. No one missed me. I needed that!
Aug 9. 2000. This evening the tug arrived and we are to head for Malta, the nearest dry dock for temporary repairs. As we pulled out we say long lines of prisoners being loaded on a liberty ship. We are only making seven knots. They are afraid that more speed will pull us apart. The sea is getting a little rougher. The chain broke just before dusk and we wallowed in that sea. Phew, I sure was glad to get underway again.
Aug 10. All quiet today.
Aug 11. Last night we had a little scare. The Benson (our escort) challenged a surface craft which did not answer properly. She fired two star shells for illumination, then two salvoes. The target burst into flames. We went to GQ but secured shortly afterward. Later scuttlebutt had it that it was a small tug either British or American.
1200. Reached Valletta, Malta. Boy was I glad to get here. Moored in the Grand Harbor. Looks like the whole Limey fleet is here.
Aug. 15. Went into dry dock today. Boy what a hole we have in our side. You could drive a truck through it. Most of the underside was split in two. Lucky we didn't have much farther to go. The last body was brought out today. Frenchy Lassaigne.
Aug 16 thru 23. Not much doing. Plenty of work clearing out the debris. We are going to a rest camp out at Saint Paul's Bay. One day out of every three for each section, so that means about once a week for me. Liberty isn't very good here. Nothing to do. Drinks are very high and they all seem to think we have plenty of dough and charge us accordingly especially the Hack drivers and the gondoliers (bum boats) There is also one forgotten Battalion of American soldiers stationed here. Every mother's son of which wishes he was back in the states. They are sick of everything, the English, tea, food, etc.; We gave them what cigarettes we could spare, also a little coffee. The girls here are not very friendly, but you know our boys they'll learn. Incidentally, they think we're all crazy. I do too, sometimes!
Aug 24. The Maltese workers have gone on strike and we are now operating the crane, steam engines and generator. Boy what a hell of a time to strike with us wanting to go home. Many of the crew are or have been sick with the Maltese dog (diarrhea), etc.
Aug 28. Went to a stage show held at the Manuelo Theater in Valletta. Given for the sailors for Maltese relief. Lord Gort was present. Boy it was a crazy show. The Maltese girls who took part are quite talented. Had a swell time.
Aug 31. The workers returned for a ten day period while the King of England ponders over the wage increase situation. So far, we have had many air alerts but no raids over the island. The night fighters sure are handy things to have around. The sirens are the same as those used in London. Weird! We have been eating on the beach again. Conditions aren't to sanitary. The yard workmen take what we don't eat off our plates which isn't much as we only have two meals a day. No cold drinks. I think we miss that most. The officers have ice cream (you should hear the crews' comments?)
Sept 5. We are now getting three meals a day and cold drinks. Boy it sure is good to get back on the old schedule. The drinking water is awful. Glad when our evaps will be making fresh water. Many more of the crew are sick. The officers have been getting their water from a Limey battle wagon. You can see a lot of things brewing here. I guess we're about due for the invasion of the mainland. It's safer not to write of such things and they are of little interest. The Italian navy's here.
Sept 25. Completed work on the ship. Held dock trials, etc. Most of the crew is better. It won't be long now.
Sept 26. Out for our trial run just outside of the Grand Harbor. Everything is swell. Made 25 knots on our single screw. not bad. Had target practice.
1800. Left Malta for Algiers. Weather is stormy and rough looks like rain.
Sept 28. 0600. Arrived in Algiers at 0900 tied up to U.S.S. Vulcan. Taking on stores, water and fuel for our trip back. Navitt (typhoid) was transferred.
Sept 29. Underway to anchor out in the roads. Waiting for the Knight to pass as we are to go back with her. 1600. Underway for Oran.
Sept 30. Arrived at Oran at 0600 refueled, took on water.
1645. Underway for the States at last. We will cross using the north route expect rough traveling. Have to save on water and fuel.
Oct 1. 0800. Passed the Rock of Gibraltar. Now we are on our own.
1200. Almost out of sight of land. Just passed a convoy of American ships. There's a D.E. with them, the first I've seen so far. The swells are getting larger. Evaporator cut out this morning but everything's okay now. Have to conserve on water this trip. Nothing much of interest to write about on the way back except the excitement of the crew on the prospects of getting home, length of leave, the girls back home, and liberty in New York. Just a lot of talk all the way home. The sea has been very rough all the way. We rolled as much as 40 degrees and pitched 20 degrees.
Oct 9th. 1100. In sight of New York. We're all dressed up for the occasion in undress blues. Ought to sight Miss "Liberty" soon. It sure is a wonderful sight. Some of the fellows rate liberty but not me! I'm restricted for two liberties as are sixty of the others (caught us with ammunition in our lockers). 30 sacks of mail came aboard. Boy I did all right. Plenty to read, but I sure wish I could go home.