27 The Final Voyage of LCS 11

December 18, 2010

from ABOARD  LCS 11 in WWII by L. B. Smith

During the occupation of Japan, we had visited Aomori, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Tokyo, and Sasebo. Then we exploded mines behind mine sweepers off the Pescadores Islands and visited Shanghai for Christmas in 1945.  The crew of  the Lucky Eleven went our separate ways from Sasebo, Japan, in early 1946.   A few stayed aboard the ship a while longer, and some new members were assigned to help bring her  back to the States.  I went to the Philippines on PGM 13 and took a flight with Creekmur and Borsch to Neilson Field at Manila.  From there I sailed in LCI 464 to Cavite and on to Subic Naval Base.  Then aboard Santa Monica,  I went by Samar and Guam to San Francisco. I left San Francisco on my birthday, April 8th, and arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, on April 13th. I had a physical exam on Sunday and was discharged and went home on Monday, April the 15th.

Shipmate George Blasius stayed with LCS (3) 11 to her final port, and below he summarizes the ship’s activities in 1946:

Left Shanghai, China, at 0940 on the 3rd of January;
Arrived at Sasebo, Kyushu, Japan, at 2000 on the 5th of January;
(Throughout the entire mine-sweeping operation in this period,
            we sank 3 mines, and 4 buoys)
Detached from Mine Pack at 830 on 21st of January; 
Left Sasebo, Japan, at 1400 on the 25th of January;
Arrived  at 1930 on 31st of  January at Saipan, Mariana Islands;
Left Saipan  at 1745 on 9th of February;
Arrived at 0815 at Eniwetok, Atoll,  Marshall Islands, on 16th of February;
Left at 0715 Eniwetok  on 17th of  February;
Arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaiian Islands, on 28th of February;
Left Pearl on 21st of March;
Arrived San Francisco, California, on March 30th.

At San Francisco George Blasius was transferred from the ship on the 16th of April to  Treasure Island.  Next he traveled to the Great Lakes Base, Illinois, where he arrived April the 23rd.   He was discharged from the Navy on April 28, 1946.

Some crew  members joined the ship and served just long enough to help bring her back to the States.  Gerald “Jerry” Hoye  writes in a letter:  “my assignment on the USS LCS 11 was very brief.  In February and March of 1946 I had enough points to be discharged, and I was transferred to the LCS 11 for a voyage home from Sasebo, Japan.  I remember it was a long, long, long trip with many engine breakdowns on the way.  For a period of several days, the sea was absolutely calm, flat as a mirror.    We arrived at San Francisco on April 1, 1946.  I’ve never forgotten seeing the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge appearing above the cloud and fog bank.  I had a hard time believing I had actually survived the war.”

Paul Weir, Scotty Rogers, Kellogg, and I among others, were transferred to different ships at Sasebo, Japan.  Scotty, a quartermaster from the Lucky Eleven, went aboard  PGM 22 which was bound for Hawaii.  Scotty says, “I remember I conned the captain into not making me stand watch by agreeing to take morning and evening position sights.  Paul Weir would come down and wake me an hour before sun-up, and when I’d dressed and put on my shoes, he would tell me it was raining and there were no stars visible.”  Scotty adds,

I remember I spent the whole trip playing cribbage in the engine room with the chief motor mac.  I seem to remember Paul Weir and Reginald Hill swinging baseball bats trying to kill rats in the officer’s cabin;  and I remember Knock-about and me squirting bug spray.  Boy, that ship was dirty!

Paul  recounts  that he left Sasebo on a PGM but that he didn’t know which one it was. Scotty Rogers replied that the PGM was number 22.  That puts Kellogg, Rogers, and Weir on the same ship destined for Hawaii. Weir says,  “We left  Sasebo, Japan, on that PGM at flank speed” and remembers his trip to Hawaii and  the States this way:

We traveled alone for a while.  But that didn’t last too long as we got orders to escort a crippled APD to Pearl.  The skipper of the APD outranked our skipper, and we toured the Pacific Ocean while he took pictures for a book he was going to write.  I recall Gunter was a cook on there.  The range broke; it was over-worked, and I don’t remember how many days we ate corn beef hash. We finally arrived at Pearl.  A few days out of port our skipper decided that the PGM should be sharp when it got to Pearl.  The Bosun broke out the paint and everything that went with it and ordered all hands to turn to.  All that happened was that the ocean depth rose from all that paint,  hammers, and so forth, that went overboard.  Seeing no progress, the skipper asked Boats [the Bosun] what was wrong, and Boats told him all hands were petty officers going home for discharge and couldn’t care less about the ship.  Upon arrival at Pearl, the skipper went ashore and got replacements for all hands.  We didn’t spend a night in the outgoing unit.  We flew out that night on a C-54 for San Francisco. Because of weight limits, I left all my souvenirs there and took just a suitcase.

LCS 11 went to San Francisco to be decommissioned, arriving at the end of March.  The deck log for Saturday, March 30, 1946, reports in the midnight-to-0400 watch, signed by B. B. Vedder, Jr., that the ship was underway in formation 500 yards to port of APC 27, the guide ship for the formation.  LCS (L) 17 was 500 yards astern of LCS 11.  How about that!  LCS 17 was the ship I lived aboard for several days at Aomori without its skipper and my own skipper knowing about it.  The 0800 to 1200 watch says: “Underway on various courses and speeds entering San Francisco Harbor.”  And finally at 1245  LCS 11 “Moored  starboard to LCS (L) 16” in Anchorage 6-3.

On Tuesday April the 2nd twenty men were transferred off LCS 11 to the US Naval Receiving Station at Treasure Island for discharge.  Gerald Hoye was in that group that included the LCS 11 regulars Sidney Darion, Elmer Jensen, Everitt L. Terwilliger and George Robert Waldron.   The next day, ten more were transferred off.  Among them were Dewey Fussell and James E. Hayes.

LCS 11 reached San Franciso under the command of Walter Cameron.  He was the second skipper of the ship, having been moved up from executive officer when White took command of Group 8 in the fall of 1945 at Sasebo.  It’s fair to say that Cameron did not put as much of a barrier between himself and the crew as White had done as skipper.  Darion remembers “leaning over the bow rail one evening while Skipper Cameron told me about his experiences in Normandy.  I was amazed that he could be moved from one active war theater to another so quickly.  I also remember having very good feelings about him as our C. O.  There were no airs or bullshit about him.  He was a friendly, competent commander who got our respect without a sledge hammer.  I know I felt comfortable with him on the bridge.”

Other officers still aboard the Eleven when she got to San Francisco were Vedder, Henry, and Kehrwald.  Some enterprising  photographer took a picture of  LCS ll  as she came into San Francisco Bay.  About that photograph  Mr. Vedder says, “You’ll note at least one hose hanging over the side discharging water, an example of the many mechanical failures the Eleven suffered on the long voyage home.”

By April 15, 1946, most of us were civilians again. We sent each other Christmas cards for a while and then we drifted away. Fortunately, while we were at Shanghai, Sid Darion and Willis Rogers thought of writing and distributing a "yearbook" of our crew.  Sid, one of the really good writers in our crew, wrote the following about the log:

The war over and time on our hands in Shanghai, Scotty and I got the idea for writing a ship’s log something like the graduation books we got in high school.  We got enthusiastic support from the communications gang and out came that booklet with everybody’s name and address and a paragraph about each of the crew members.  Scotty and I spent long and happy days and nights putting that together.  I’m amazed at the quality when I look at it today.

As an example of the paragraphs written about crew members, here is what the Log says about Ernest G. Kupfer, EM 1/c our electrician story-teller from Cleveland, Ohio: “The Old Man was always ready with a sea story, and he’d split a pint with anybody. Always popular, Kup was respected as an electrician who really knew his job. He was always ready for a spot of tea in the evening, and anyone who thought Kup was really old, changed his mind if he happened to be in the passageway when the Old Man made one of his famous dashes for the generator room.”

The mast-head page shows that Sid and Scotty wrote most of the text for the 42-page Log;  Bob Faller and Jim “Spanky” Creekmur did the art work;  Chuck Hammond, Junior Dennis, Lawrence Smith, and Curtis Pace typed and produced  it.  We used stencils and a mimeograph machine. The Lucky Eleven Log  (or as it has sometimes been called The Shanghai Log) was to be a great help to me when I began to search for members of the crew on June 26, 1987.

The value of our experiences together on the ship through the war is remarkable.  It may partly be explained by the intensity of sharing life-threatening dangers and of living in close proximity to each other.  We grew to depend on one another in times of danger and became good friends in times of recreation.  In the process, our days together took on  a large importance in our lives. Our reunions forty-odd years later confirm that. As Blair Vedder put it, “The crew of the Eleven is one of the finest, friendliest groups of people I’ve ever had the luck to be associated with.  The  experience on that rust bucket created an amazing family.”