Maribel Martin Kilmartin - A Rare Athletic, Multi – Cultural Navy Wife (Alfred Kilmartin '34)
by CAPT Grayson Merrill, USN (Ret.
This story is listed under Heritage Class 1934 because she outlived her husband and that honor fell to the President. Thanks to her family, the American Memorials organization drafted an obituary that is unbeatable.
Wartime Patrol -- December, 1941
It is primarily the life history of his father - Enrique (Henry) Jurado, a Graduate of USNA Class 1934. His life is entwined with the history of the Philippines during WW II
Submitted by Gene Jurado, son of Enrique "Henry" Jurado '34
The Philippine Fleet traces it origin from the pre-war Offshore Patrol – the forerunner of the Philippine Navy. On December 4, 1941 Enrique L. “Henry” Jurado, USNA ’34 became officer-in-command of the OSP, right at the start of the WWII.
Henry Jurado graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy the year the United States agreed to grant Philippine independence in 1934. Henry was a sports lover, a football fan, and he tried his hand at several teams during his Annapolis days. He settled on wrestling after quitting boxing because it was too unrefined and soccer because it was too easy to twist ankles, said his yearbook, The Lucky Bag.
Student records also show that Henry was a freshman participant in soccer but a four-year mainstay in wrestling, earning letterman honors his final three years. He was a tiny, stocky grappler on Coach John Schutz’s squad, weighing no more than 127 pounds but with a chest that expanded to 35 inches.
Sidney D.B. Merrill, a wrestling teammate, said Henry was muscular, quick and a fast learner on the mat.
“I never was able to beat him twice,” Merrill recalled. Roy Smith, a Naval Academy student, did not socialize with Henry but knew of his reputation:
At the U.S. Naval Academy, it was common to see him propped up comfortably in his chair during a lecture, said his Yearbook, which added he had “… a… great capacity for making friends” and was “… easygoing to the last degree.” “Everybody liked Enrique,” Smith said simply.
“He was a little reserved, but on the other hand he could be outgoing if he knew you,” said classmate James E. Johnson. “He was a good little wrestler. Strong. And he had a good personality.”
After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, went back home to teach mathematics at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Ramon Alcaraz, who entered the PMA in 1936 and later joined the Off-Shore Patrol, remembered Henry as a “very strict and very professional” faculty member.
Henry was a PMA Tactical Officer whose job was to supervise military-drill instruction. He also was “Master of the Sword” or Athletic Director and he coordinated calisthenics, exercise and sports. His specialty was wrestling and he coached the PMA team to a national championship. Later, he went back to the U.S. where he briefly attended flying school at Randolph Air Force Base, then earned an MS in Metallurgic Engineering from MIT.
At that time (1937), he met his wife, Danday Martinez, who had just finished her Masters from Columbia Univeristy. Henry then began his Ordnance training at Piccatiny Arsenal in New Jersey and then continued postgraduate studies in Ordnance training at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Maryland. He returned with his new wife to the Philippines in 1939, just at the time when the Off-Shore Patrol was formally launched as the naval arm of the Philippine Army.
The new Off-Shore Patrol was part of the “Orange Plan”. U.S. military experts had speculated, even as early as 1905, — when the Russo-Japanese war ended when the latter surprisingly gained control over Korea and recognized as a world power — that United States supremacy in the Pacific would be challenged someday by Japan.
A contingency plan for a U.S.-Japanese War was thus developed and became know as the Orange Plan. It predicted fighting would occur mainly at sea and made few provisions for protecting the Philippines. The Orange Plan was revised in 1924 to order that the U.S. garrison in the Philippines, roughly 11,000 U.S. troops and 6,000 Filipino auxiliaries, secure the Bataan peninsula in time of war — keeping Manila Bay from enemy hands — until the American fleet could arrive to rescue the Philippines. It was a longshot defense plan at best, based on token forces, minimal spending and wishful thinking.
Leonard Wood, then-U.S. Governor General to the Philippines, predicted in the 1920s that war with Japan could lead to an “abandonment of American posts, American soldiers, an American fleet.” But he admitted that to say that to the U.S. public could have a “disintegrating and demoralizing effect.”
MacArthur was named Military Adviser to the Philippines on creation of the Commonwealth in 1935. He said the Philippines surely could repel foreign attack and that disbelievers “…knew nothing of war themselves and next to nothing about the actual potentialities of the Filipino people.”
According to MacArthur, even with fewer troops and weapons, Philippine forces could fend off enemies through cunning, perseverance and sound defensive strategy. The general and two of his top officers, Majors Dwight D. Eisenhower and James B. Ord, helped develop a Philippine National Defense Act which was quickly passed by the Commonwealth’s legislators. It was signed into law by President Quezon on Dec. 21, 1935.
Joint maneuvers in Manila Bay were conducted in 1941 by the Q-boat squadron of the Philippine Army and a similar group from the U.S. Navy -- PT Squadron 3, commanded by Lt. John Bulkeley (later V. Adm.).
In September, President Quezon signed Executive Order No. 368, calling for recruitment of Off-Shore Patrol officers and men, either by voluntary application or by draft. Q-boat assignments were reserved for men 30 or younger, who had taken an Army physical, completed required training, and had either a Bachelor’s Degree or had passed a Board of Marine Examiners test. The letter “Q” in the name of the torpedo boats stood officially for “quest of mystery” but unofficially for “Quezon.” Each vessel was assigned two sets of crew, which alternated after each day of patrol.
The mosquito fleet was small, fast, agile — capable of penetrating minefields, thwarting harbor defenses, and moving undetected among enemy warships to fire their weapons and race away unscathed. These tiny vessels also were known as “Suicide Boats.” Officers were taught how to ramrod enemy ships, sacrificing themselves, if necessary to ensure that torpedoes hit paydirt.
Not all military planners, however, were convinced the fleet would be an effective weapon of war. The Off-Shore Patrol had flaws that could be exploited by a large enemy navybecause it had too little firepower, too few bases, and no battleships or submarines for backup in fighting. Also, the torpedo boats also had no armor protection, were unable to navigate effectively in heavy seas, and had limited range due to high gasoline consumption by their powerful British-made engines. The mosquito fleet was too small to defend the massive shoreline under even the most optimistic projections — 50 boats — and could easily be outnumbered and overpowered, critics claimed.
But the flotilla was a symbol of something greater than its numbers or firepower — it stood for a changing Philippines, a nation taking steps to defend itself, an era of patriotism, nationalism and hope.
DECEMBER 8, 1941
Rushing home from the Off-Shore Patrol, Henry broke the news to Danday that morning: Pearl Harbor had been bombed. The Japanese had attacked. War had come.
“He was shocked,” Danday recalled. “He was thinking about what will happen next, but he was concerned about his family first.” Henry told her to pack up and get ready to leave the Manila area — time was of the essence.
“I don’t think this is a safe place to stay, because I’m sure the Japanese will not just attack Pearl Harbor,” he said. His words were prophetic. Within hours, bombs would drop on the Philippines.
As the Philippines stood on the precipice of war, Henry found himself commanding the tiny torpedo fleet that was the closest thing his country had to a navy. He tried to prepare Danday for the separation he knew was coming, as the Philippines braced for attack in the hours after Pearl Harbor was decimated by Japanese bombs.
“Because of the movement of the boats, I will not be here,” he told Danday. “I’ll be wherever the soldiers are.” As troops made their way to Bataan, the Off-Shore Patrol was also ordered to relocate there. The tiny Filipino unit of 3 torpedo boats would operate in seas infested with Japanese aircraft and naval vessels which were attacking enemy craft and blockading ports.
Henry knew very little about the future: whether he would survive, when he could return, what side would win or lose, how the Philippines would weather the crisis. But he knew his country needed him. There was no time for a dramatic sendoff or flowery speeches or tender confessions of love.
“Tears? Of course there were tears,” Danday recalled later. “But it was something he had to do. He said something like, ‘You’ll be on your own. Keep your chin up. Be brave.’ What else could he do?”
His message was clear: Duty called.
Philippines President Manuel L. Quezon, vacationing in Baguio, had been informed of the assault on Pearl Harbor in a frantic telephone call from his Executive Secretary, Jorge B. Vargas.
Quezon quickly issued a war manifesto to the Filipino people: “The zero hour has arrived,” he said. “I expect every Filipino — man and woman — to do his duty. We have pledged our honor to stand to the last by the United States and we shall not fail her, happen what may.”
Nine hours after bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor, Japanese warplanes attacked Clark Air Base northwest of Manila, site of the United States’ largest fleet of overseas planes. It was Monday, December 8th in the Philippines.
The skies were crystal clear over Clark. Dozens of P-40 fighters and B-17 bombers sat idly on the airstrip, and the Japanese invaders met with only token resistance. Clark’s air warning network, based on visual observation and telephone, had broken down and the attack surprised U.S. pilots at the base, many of whom were eating in the mess hall as bombs began falling about mid-day. The result was disaster.
In the aftermath of the assault on Clark and Iba air bases, Japanese pilots met with little resistance as they bombed strategic targets around Manila, the capital of the Philippines. “Have you ever seen a rat trying to find a hole where it can hide? It was something like that,” she said of the frantic reaction to Japanese bombing missions. Luzon Island, which encompasses Manila, was the focus of fighting in the Philippines.
The United States quickly pulled its naval fleet, apart from some patrol boats, out of the Philippine waters to avoid total devastation. The warships were sent to the Dutch East Indies. Within days of launching war in the Philippines, Japanese bombers scored a major victory off Malaya by destroying the British battleships REPULSE and PRINCE OF WALES, the two largest Allied vessels in the western Pacific.
The Japanese conducted five small troop landings — with little opposition — on Philippine soil prior to December 22, when it launched a major assault on Luzon by dumping 43,000 troops at Lingayen Gulf.
On Christmas Eve, 2 days later, another 10,000 Japanese soldiers landed at Lamon Bay, creating the last prong of a pincer movement that began closing quickly on Allied troops in the Manila area from the north and south.
Japanese Lt. General Masaharu Homma, who had served with the British army during World War I, planned to capture Luzon within 50 days to meet a Japanese schedule calling for conquest of the entire archipelago in 7 weeks.
MacArthur’s troops outnumbered the invaders but these troops were poorly equipped and many of the Filipino reservists had not yet completed extensive training in basic infantry fire and movement tactics.
Most of the FilAm soldiers fought valiantly. But others fled to the hills at the first sight of enemy troops. The situation quickly reached crisis proportions. MacArthur realized he couldn’t keep the Japanese from landing on the beaches, he couldn’t defeat them from the hills, and he couldn’t stop their march on Manila.
Fifteen days after the outbreak of war, MacArthur abandoned the Filipino defense plan he had helped develop and reverted on Dec. 23 to the old Orange Plan, which he had once vilified. On Christmas Eve, MacArthur moved his headquarters from Manila to Corregidor, an island fortress at the mouth of Manila Bay, to coordinate massive troop withdrawal into the Bataan peninsula. Henry’s Off-Shore Patrol was called upon to assist in the evacuation of President Quezon from Manila to Corregidor, marking the naval unit’s first major accomplishment of the war.
The voyage was short but perilous because Japanese warplanes were a common sight in Philippine skies. Bitter fighting and heavy losses marked the logistically tricky. It had taken a full two-weeks of preparation and effort. Ultimately the withdrawal was successful — but the troops were stunned, battered, weakened. Prospects were bleak.
Two days later, Dec. 26, Gen. MacArthur proclaimed Manila an “open city” — no troops, no resistance — in hopes of saving it from widespread bombing and massive destruction by Japanese troops advancing rapidly toward the capital.
“In order that no excuse may be given as a possible mistake, the American High Commissioner, the Commonwealth government and all combatant military installations will be withdrawn from its environs as rapidly as possible,” MacArthur announced.
The proclamation was a public concession that seizure of Manila by enemy troops was imminent. For nearly a week afterward — from Christmas to New Year’s Day — the capital city was in limbo: not controlled by the Japanese, not controlled by the United States, not controlled by the Commonwealth.
The mood was tense, apprehensive, uncertain. Some Japanese bombing occurred. Some U.S. troops wreaked havoc by igniting anything that might help the invaders. Some Filipino looting of Army and private warehouses were reported.
For Henry, the time had come to say goodbye. As troops made their way to Bataan, the Off-Shore Patrol was also ordered to relocate there.The tiny Filipino unit of 3 torpedo boats would operate in seas infested with Japanese aircraft and naval vessels which were attacking enemy craft and blockading ports.
Though far from his wife, Henry cherished her memory. When the Off-Shore Patrol recovered a Philippine motor boat half-submerged from a Japanese bombing attack, Henry ordered the vessel refitted within 48 hours for combat duty. He named it the “DANDAY.”
If he could not have his wife by his side, at least he would have a constant reminder of her. Henry personally christened the vessel after watching a successful test run following its refitting, which included installation of 30-caliber machine guns at the bow and stern. Henry’s training in ordnance came into play. Thus, Danday’s name became a part of Philippine maritime history.
But she knew nothing about it — then.
Only after the collapse of the Off-Shore Patrol did Danday learn of the 45-foot-vessel that bore her name.
“I felt honored. I felt Henry was really close to me and that in his moments of danger, he thought of me,” she said later.
For Henry “Hank” Jurado USNA ‘34 and his Off-Shore Patrol, the fall of Manila was a call to arms — against overwhelming odds. Their time for combat had come.
Within 100 days, the Off-Shore Patrol would cease to exist and its vessels would never again serve the Philippine armed forces. Grandiose dreams of building a 50-boat fleet vanished with the ravages of war.
But what wouldn’t die, couldn’t die, was the Off-Shore Patrol’s fighting spirit — its courageous stand for freedom amid constant danger and overpowering naval foes. It carved a niche in history.
Decades later, the late President Ferdinand Marcos said, “The legend of the Q-boats was the preview of the story of magnificence that was yet to unfold in the post-war career of the Navy…. It is a story that continues to this day, furnishing us regularly with the spectacle of versatility and steadfastness under fire or under some stressful challenge.”
U.S. Commander John Morrill, captain of the QUAIL, an American gunboat, put it more bluntly, “The Philippine Q-boats patrolled further than we did out in the bay and nothing ever got by them. They were fighting terrors and loved nothing better than chasing Jap armored barges.”
The legacy of the Off-Shore Patrol is not one of military might but of courage. It was not of superior technology, but of innovation. It was not one of winning the war, but of serving as a beacon of hope to a nation thirsting for freedom.
At a time when Japanese troops dominated the skies and waters of the Philippines, with U.S. troops bunkered in Bataan, the Off-Shore Patrol dared to make the ultimate sacrifice — putting lives on the line, mission after mission. Only 100 days of combat, yes, but each day was historic. This small unit earned the highest percentage in individual awards for heroism and gallantry in action. Sixty-six percent of the officers and men received the silver star from Gen. Douglas MacArthur in January, 1942. When the United States hurriedly pulled its warships from the Philippines after Pearl Harbor’s bombing, only the Off-Shore Patrol and a six-boat PT Squadron under U.S. Lt. John Bulkeley were capable of providing even token resistance to the mighty Japanese fleet. Goliath won, but not without casualties. This became the basis for one of the most popular wartime films starring Robert Montgomery, John Wayne and Donna Reed, and directed by John Ford: “They Were Expendable” (1945) -- A bitter reference to the men who were left behind in the scramble to flee the Philippines after the Japanese conquest. As one of Bulkeley's unit remarked in White's book, after having been presented the DSC by Gen. MacArthur, Bulkeley and his crew learned they were to be left behind while MacArthur fled to Australia:
“Of course to us this meant that the China trip - our last hope of seeing America and escaping death or a Japanese prison - was gone forever. Now the MTB's were like the rest here in the islands - the expendables who fight on without hope to the end. So far as we knew, we would now finish up the war in the southern islands, when the Japs got around to mopping up the last American resistance there.” recalled V. Adm. Bulkeley.
Henry’s unit on the OSP, more than 60 in all, were divided into two main groups: sea duty and shore. They were generally in their late teens or 20s, close-knit, representing all walks of Philippine life — from farm families to city dwellers; some with college educations, others not. There were marine officers, naval architects, drydock superintendents, engineers, pilots, clerks, radio telegraph officers. Not one had fought in a world war -- until now.
Gathering together shortly after the announcement that Pearl Harbor had been attacked, the OSP braced for hostilities by preparing machine-gun belts and making sure the patrol boats were mechanically sound and finely tuned. Ten days earlier, the Q-boats had been placed on red alert under war footing, so torpedoes, ordnance, fuel and supplies were packed and ready for action.
As Japanese bombers swept down on Manila and Cavite, December 9 - 10, the Q-boat squadron was determined not to be “sitting ducks” — easy marks — for enemy warheads. The torpedo boats were rushed out to the bay to present difficult moving targets for bombardiers. The strategy worked and not a single Q-boat was lost.
The OSP’s first serious wartime blow, in fact, came not from the Japanese — but from its own men. To keep its 2-story headquarters out of enemy hands, the OSP deliberately burned down the base at Muelle del Codo, Port Area, Manila, as the squadron prepared to flee Manila. The self-induced arson followed a Dec. 23rd Japanese attack on the OSP base that caused no casualties but served as a grim reminder that occupation was near and nothing could stop it.
Henry’s men evacuated 40 OSP personnel from the base December 27th, setting the stage for its destruction. The departure was accomplished amid “…heavy bombing and strafing from three squadrons of enemy airplanes,” Henry stated in war records.
The OSP was relocated to Corregidor with whatever torpedoes and vital equipment it could salvage. For several days, Henry stayed behind in Manila and established a temporary headquarters at the Manila Hotel. He and several key officers finally left on New Year’s Day for Corregidor and Lamao, Bataan, aboard the Q-113 Agusan, the OSP’s only Philippine-made torpedo boat. In Lamao, a new headquarters was established at the Lamao Horticulture Center.
For Henry’s men, moving would become routine. The Q-boat squadron would ultimately transfer from Corregidor to Limay to the sandy beaches and makeshift tent-offices of Sisiman Cove, Bataan, while unit headquarters would switch from Lamao to Alasasin Point along the Dinguinin River, Bataan.
OSP personnel not assigned to Q-boats were attached to the 2d Regular Division of Brig. Gen. Guillermo Francisco and given beach-defense duties, manning 50-caliber machine guns along the coast from Lamao to Mariveles until disaster struck.
The beach defenses were overrun by Japanese forces and OSP personnel assisting Francisco’s troops — including Castro — were captured while trying to withdraw along a creek leading to Mariveles.
Henry’s torpedo crews were more fortunate. Not one of the unit’s 3 tiny gunboats — sometimes called devil boats, green dragons or mosquito boats — was sunk during the 3 months of Allied resistance on Bataan, during which time it ferried officials, gathered food and patrolled the coast. But there was much hardship.
Wartime feats of the Off-Shore Patrol included a mission on New Year’s Day, 1942, when Henry’s torpedo squadron was asked to sink every vessel along the Manila waterfront and the Pasig River to prevent their seizure by enemy forces. The mission was extremely dangerous. In one single day, they destroyed about 50,000 tons of shipping without a hitch. Henry was Chief of the Off-Shore Patrol and Navarrete was the Commander of the Q-boat squadron, but they were only small vital local cogs in a much larger war effort. Shortly after the outbreak of war, the OSP was placed under the operational control of MacArthur Headquarters and inducted into the United States Armed Forces Far East (USAFFE).
Rather than map-out war missions, Henry’s job was to make sure his men could carry them out. He coordinated with various OSP divisions, which were effectively split up, and he made sure they received clothing, equipment, military pay and whatever else they were due. While supplies often were sparse among U.S. and Filipino troops, Henry somehow managed to get his crews steel helmets and goggles, which were absolutely vital for high-speed operations at sea. Henry also monitored his men and was aware of their performance, problems and achievements.
When OSP headquarters were in Lamao, Q-boat pilots stopped by every day for instructions from Henry, which prompted criticism from U.S. Col. C.L. Irwin in a Feb. 20 memo to USAFFE headquarters. Irwin claimed the daily ritual appeared unnecessary and forced shoreline defenders to hold their fire, and could “…invite attack of Japanese planes, which will happen sooner or later.”
Days later, OSP headquarters were moved to Alasasin Point. For the OSP, the war brought panic, terror, anxiety and uncertainty — but not every day was fraught with fear. There was boredom and drudgery. Long hours with little to do.
Typical of a slow night was this patrol summary submitted by Nuval of the Q-113 AGUSAN to Headquarters:
“Area covered: 7 to 8 miles off Lukanin Point and 7 to 8 miles off Balanga shore, a distance of about 15 miles. Time: 10 hours.
“Observations: No bancas, barges, boats or ships were sighted ... No lights were seen around the vicinity. ... No tracers or artillery shells were observed from floating objects. ... Regular radio communication was made with the shore units.”
Serving on Q-boats meant crammed quarters, no privacy, no laundry, thunderous engines, churning propellers, gulping food on the run — clutching the boat for safety — and getting hit in the face with shards of whipped water. And amid the separation, uncertainty and shark-infested seas, however, were perks for serving offshore.
Unlike some of their colleagues on Bataan’s beleaguered shore — who ate pancakes three times a day until monkey meat and edible plants could be found — the Q-boat crews had no problem with food. There were plenty of dead fish when Japanese bombs exploded at sea. From ships stranded and abandoned at harbor, the patrolmen were able to salvage numerous blankets, food stocks, military uniforms — even Chinese mah jong sets.
Among the OSP’s most vital tasks was to help carry food and supplies, including ammunition and medicines, from nearby provinces to the battered, isolated troops on Bataan and Corregidor.
The torpedo-boat crews often carried out assignments with total disregard for their own safety, thwarting Japanese warships that blockaded Manila Bay and enemy aircraft that fired upon the speedy Philippine gunboats.
In describing one such mission, Alcaraz wrote of shoving off at sunset from Corregidor with the supply ship KOLAMBUGAN, hugging the shore to escape enemy patrols, dropping anchor about midnight at Looc Cove, Batangas, then camouflaging the ships and contacting officers ashore via prearranged signal.
After sailing triumphantly back to Corregidor one day later, Alcaraz said the shipload of rice and cattle was “… probably equivalent to their weight in gold to the starving USAFFE troops.”
Of all the tasks accomplished by the Off-Shore Patrol, perhaps the most heroic came Jan. 17, 1942. This date will always be remembered in the history of the little patrol-boat squadron with pride.
The Off-Shore Patrol’s Q-111 LUZON and Q-112 ABRA were patrolling off the east coast of Bataan when enemy aircraft spotted them and quickly took the offensive. Nine Japanese dive bombers swooped down on the heavily outgunned torpedo boats.
Capt. Navarrete, Henry’s Squadron Commander and skipper of the Q-111 LUZON, OSP’s flagship, later was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Star for his aggressive response to the attack, described extensively in military documents supporting the honor:
Without thought of seeking cover, Navarette maneuvered the boats
of his squadron at high speed to positions from which he could attack the
hostile planes. When subjected to a dive-bombing attack by the enemy
planes, he continued the fire of his machine guns with such accuracy that
three hostile aircraft were hit and badly damaged and the enemy was
forced to discontinue the attack.”
Other Off-Shore Patrol officers involved in the Jan. 17th gunbattle also received medals of valor.
The Silver Star was awarded to Capt. Navarrete’s Executive Officer on the Q-111 LUZON, Lt. Alano, and to the two top officers of the Q-112 ABRA — Lt. Alcaraz, Commanding Officer, and Lt. Gomez, Executive Officer.
No written record exists of Henry’s personal recollections while on Bataan, or his thoughts of the OSP, or any self-evaluation of his performance as head of the Q-boat squadron. But Campo credited Henry’s rigid rules of conduct and no-nonsense leadership with helping mold the wartime Off-Shore Patrol into a distinguished fighting and ferrying unit. Henry was friendly, fearless and respected, according to Campo, but he also was a strict disciplinarian who led “by the book” and did not hesitate to berate his men for minor infractions.
“He was very, very strict with regulations. He refused to accept any violations,” Campo reported.
“The performance of the Off-Shore Patrol was exemplary because of the strictness of the chief. I had all the respect for the late Col. Jurado. He was my commanding officer and a good one. ... Nobody would dare not do his duty,” Campo later recalled.
One of Henry’s final OSP memos to USAFFE headquarters noted that Sisiman Cove had become a hotspot for enemy attack, dropping bombs about 6 or 7 times a day.
“Most of the bombs have fallen so far on the hillsides and on the bay,” Campo also recalled. “No material damage has been suffered in the area. The ships in the bay, however, are now dispersing during daytime to avoid congestion.”
That same month, Henry was promoted to major. A very small consolation for what was to come. On April 9, 1942, the day Bataan fell, Henry and his fleet of four boats fled to the open sea shortly before dawn. The plan had been hatched the previous day, when Henry gathered his squadron together and proposed to break through the enemy blockade between Batangas and Mindoro to avoid becoming prisoners of war. Henry ordered his men to flee to Panay.
The men of the Off-Shore Patrol liked the idea of leaving with the Q-boats and unit intact. “We wanted to continue the fight. We didn’t want to surrender,” Lt. Alcaraz recalled.
Even before the tiny fleet of patrol boats left Bataan, however, its plan began to go awry. Requesting fuel on the day before departure, the Off-Shore Patrol was turned down by an American Depot Officer, who claimed his instructions were to secure all gasoline and lubricants. This hoarding turned out to be a monumental waste. As Henry departed from his base at Sisiman Cove, he saw the sky turn a flaming red on the southern end of the peninsula and knew the military depot — and its stockpiled gas — had been bombed and was burning out of control.
Henry sped away from Bataan in the OSP’s flagship, the Q-111 LUZON. Perhaps mistaken for enemy craft, the Off-Shore Patrol was fired upon by Allied troops on Corregidor but the 65-foot-long patrol boat managed to elude the hailstorm of shells by zig-zagging. Henry, puzzled by the fire from Corregidor, turned to Lt. Campo and asked, “What’s that?”
“Maybe Corregidor wants the OSP to return,” Campo replied.
“To hell with them, full speed ahead” was Henry’s answer.
At the mouth of Manila Bay, the squadron slowed to cruising speed, assuming the danger was over. It was not. Somebody almost immediately spotted Japanese zero fighters approaching. Within minutes 7 planes circled ominously overhead. Machine gunners on the Q-boats opened fire and one of the aircraft was shot down, prompting the others to cease strafing but continue circling the LUZON. The zero fighters finally left after a second plane was hit.
As the OSP continued its perilous journey, it came under attack from a Japanese cruiser, 3 destroyers and 6 motor launches near the boundary of Cavite and Batangas. The patrol boats increased speed and zig-zagged, with gunfire erupting around them. The OSP would not survive intact. Racing desperately, the Q-112 ABRA’s engine died and was scuttled by Lt. Ramon Alcaraz in Hagonoy, Bulacan. The crewmen, captured swimming ashore, were imprisoned temporarily. Many later joined the guerrillas.
The squadron’s converted motor launch, the BALER, was overtaken by the Japanese warships and its crew of more than 30 men under Capt. Carlos Albert and Lt. Felix Apolinario were made prisoners of war.
The only Philippine-made vessel in the patrol unit, the Q-113 AGUSAN, managed to veer away and land in Corregidor, where its crew joined Allied forces there until Corregidor was seized May 6.
Henry’s flagship was crippled in the heavy naval attack and had no chance of reaching Panay. Struck by a Japanese shell, the control room of the Q-111 LUZON caught fire which was controlled before it could reach the gas tank, leaving only a trail of thick black smoke.
When the LUZON began taking in water, Henry ordered the limping vessel ashore but it hit a shoal a mile from Nasugbu, Batangas and destroyed.
Japanese warplanes continued their attack on the helpless Q-boat, forcing Henry to order his men overboard. So the Japanese helped to keep the LUZON from falling into their hands, Henry ordered his men to jump overboard. “The last order of Jurado was, ‘Every man for himself. Destroy everything,” Campo recalled.
“I tore my secret maps. We threw everything classified into the water. And then we swam.”
While in the water, Campo said he was stunned temporarily by an enemy shell — perhaps a rocket.
“When I came to, I continued swimming. Meanwhile 6 Japanese planes continued to strafe us in the water and went round and round. We just prayed that no bullet would hit us,” Campo continued.
The men were “crawling like crabs” to the Nasugbu beach, Campo recalled.
Even on shore, the Q-boat crewmen were in danger. Japanese shelling continued from warplanes and ship.
“I was shouting, ‘All hands freeze. All hands freeze. Everybody keep quiet. Don’t move, don’t move’ — to make the Japanese believe we were all killed,” Campo said.
He heard of one colleague nicked in the right thumb but nobody was seriously injured by gunfire, Campo said. To avoid detection, the crewmen separated. In the confusion, Campo lost track of Henry, who hid underwater at a fish pond along the coast until darkness fell and he could slip away from the heavily guarded area.
Japanese officials informed residents of Nasugbu that they were looking for crewmen of the wrecked boat, and some members of the stranded OSP unit were captured by a patrol unit. But Henry was not one of them. Weak with malaria, he spent about a week hiding in a local barrio, Wawa, while planning an escape to the home of Danday’s half brother, Dr. Felino Salazar, who owned a farm about 25 kilometers away.
The driver of a horse-drawn rig agreed to risk reprisals by the Japanese and provide the transportation Henry needed, but there was a catch. He wanted payment. Henry had no money. The two finally agreed on a deal in which Henry got what he needed most by giving away something he valued most: His wedding ring.
The OSP only lasted 100 days and Henry Jurado joined the USAFFE/Guerrillaforces from Panay which numbered around 8,000 and which had direct contact with MacArthur in Australia. In late 1943 or early in 1944, Henry was sent to Mindoro to establish observation posts covering Verde Island Passage and to establish a base for intelligence penetration into southern Luzon.
The rest of Henry's life (he died on Oct. 19, 1944 -- one day before MacArthur returned to the Philippines) was spent with the Panay guerilla forces, trying to consolidate the remnants of the diverse guerilla elements, each laying claim to be the undisputed power on each island. The natives were frightened of the Japanese and also distrustful of factions of the guerilla forces who were armed and unruly and who, at times, expropriated (in the name of the country) whatever food and livestock which was available. In the nearly three years when Henry fled to the mountainside and organized his band of fighters, he maintained contact with American forces in Australia and there was a semblance of an actual guerilla/USAFFE organization operational in many places. Henry's territory was near the area where MacArthur waded gloriously ashore with no opposition -- perhaps a tribute to the good intelligence reports which Henry and his group provided.
Along the way, Henry was weakened by malaria and attacked by spears by his countrymen.. His wife and small boys were jailed by countrymen who wanted to give them up to the Japanese as a peace offering. In the end, Henry was doomed by his unwillingness to surrender to Japanese troops and was ultimately killed by a competing band of Filipino guerrillas. Henry’s legacy has been ensured in ways ranging from the naming of a Philippine Navy patrol gunboat after him to the designation of the Philippine Military Academy’s gymnasium as “Jurado Hall.” Another gymnasium at Camp Bonifacio is named after him. His name is written on the shrine at USNA’s Bancroft Memorial Hall appropriately, with the large motto: “Don’t Give Up the Ship” etched in golden mosaic tiles above the altar; and on a bronze plaque on a staircase at USNA’s Dahlgren Hall, as well as a bronze plaque at Rizal Memorial Coliseum, a major sports arena in Manila.
1934: Collection of Sea Stories
Fire In The Gallery!
The sea story below has been abstracted from a USNI Oral History, "Reminiscences of Captain Grayson Merrill, US Navy (Retired)
”Oh, yes, there was the time when Heliodor Aimé Marcoux flung a burning wastebasket out of his room in Bancroft Hall.
His room was right next to mine on the fourth deck , and he had a roommate named Red Lennox. Both of them were just as screwy as you can imagine, but great fellows just the same. They loved a prank.
It was a dark night in the summer of 1933. We were studying in our rooms. All second classmen were required to experience simulated air combat and we had just received our souvenir movie films taken from a gun-mounted camera. As gunners we sat in their places on a two-engine seaplane while another plane towed a sleeve target past us. We put the cross-hairs on the sleeve and pulled the trigger to start the camera.
The night was quiet as we studied. All of a sudden Pooch Davis and I heard a fire engine coming down the street with siren shrieking, lights blinking and engine roaring. We looked out the window and saw a fire going on the ground below. As it turned out, Heliodor had loaded a wastebasket with their films, fired them with a match and pitched the whole lot out the window.
Then, of course, different people reported the fire, and this great commotion took place. The fire was quickly put out and the truck departed but the duty officers took over.
All hands were mustered and interrogated. I don't remember that they were caught and punished. Nobody was about to talk. In the first place no one saw what caused it and we had no code of ethics requiring us to speculate or report any prank like this. Most duty officers realized that pranks would occur, no matter what.
When it was time to go through the Pearly Gates they were not detained.
Rest in peace Helidor and Red."
Courting Mary Elizabeth
by then Ensign, USN Grayson Merrill, '34
In 1935 I was transferred from the battleship West Virginia to the San Diego based destroyer USS Brooks. The skipper, LTCDR Fielding, was a WW I mustang who thought well of me, especially as a former apprentice seaman. In a couple of months I had qualified as a watch officer with primary duties in communications. No longer was I learning; I was doing and self-confident. I was also aged 23 and tired of being a celibate bachelor, even though Navy regulations forbade marriage until two years after graduation.
This was my frame of mind one summer evening when I shed my uniform and went ashore to visit the San Diego World Fair. By late afternoon I wandered into an exhibit of native San Diego semi-precious stones and joined a small group listening to a tour guide. She wore a colorful Mexican dress that set off her magnificent figure and spoke with authority about the stones. The chemistry of my youth tuned out the lecture - I was smitten by the girl. Dare I ask
her for an after work date?
When the group departed I lingered on and was rewarded with a smile. I blurted out, "Can we do something together after work?"
"Sorry, but I have a meeting to attend. Can you come back about 8 PM?" "You bet", I replied as I walked away on a blanket of air.
Two weeks later we were engaged and I found out she was in the same sorority as my sister Eunice at Occidental College.
It was there later that my warped sense of humor tested our relationship. Suspecting that the whole sorority knew "MaryE" was engaged to this hot-shot ensign on a San Diego destroyer, I parked my car in front and started up the walkway to the front door. I could see the window shades were open and girls were peeking out so I deliberately exaggerated a limp to the front door to appear as a cripple. That was the whole prank, but it was enough to start a rumor that their sorority sister was going to marry this cripple from the Navy.
Fortunately she too had a sense of humor and our date was one of many to come because marriage was forbidden until June of 1936.
MaryE's engagedment was startling news to her father Andrew Wilson, a tough winner of the west who lived in Escondido and wanted more assurance that his daughter had picked the right man. One morning the coxswain of DD 232 Captain's gig came to the landing to pick up mail and found himself confronted by a hugh, determined civilian who demanded to be taken out to the ship for a meeting with the skipper. The small coxswain had no other option and wound up introducing Andrew to LCDR Fielding - equally forbidding in appearance!
Once the two men understood that I was to be checked out as a suitor they shared coffee while my fate was sealed - I was in my room studying for my "commission continuance exam".
After Andrew went ashore the skipper told me I had passed. Also he had just received word that classmate Ben Oakley and I were to swap destroyers. I was to relieve Classmate Ben on DD Dorsey to stay in San Diego. Ben then would replace me on Brooks to join the Atlantic Fleet. This made sense to BUPERS since I was slated for flight training and Ben for Sub training. Fielding had arranged it for me and Mary E to accomodate our marriage. I'm sure he recieved credit for this when he transited the Pearly Gates.
Two days after the two - year marriage ban expired we were married at her sister's home in Los Angeles. Four sword - bearing classmates tsent us off to our San Diego honeymoon and Pensacola, Florida. She bore me four sons before passing on after 42 years of marriage!
The Navy takes care of its own!
Early Memories of Grayson Merrill At The Covina Masonic Children's Home
This Sea Story has been abstracted from an oral history published by the United States Naval Institute in 1997 under the title, "Reminiscences of Captain Grayson Merrill, US Navy (Retired). My good friend Paul Stillwell, Director of the History Division was the interveiwer. His questions are prefaced with the letter "Q".
Q: Captain, I'm delighted that we're having a chance to get started here, after our previous meeting, to begin to cover your life. Could you please start at the beginning, telling me when and where you were born and something about your family?
Captain Merrill: Okay. I was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1912--on the first of January, incidentally--and was raised in California. My grandfather was a developer, one of the early developers in Los Angeles. We lived in a home on top of Mount Washington, which is just above the county courthouse. At any rate, I can barely remember my first four years there. At the fourth year, my father died of appendicitis while on a trip. And that, of course, changed the whole life-style of my family.
At that time I had one sister, Eunice, three years younger than I, and my mother was obliged to work in a hamburger stand down in Los Angeles to support her family. Fortunately, the Masons of California learned of her situation, and I eventually entered the Masonic Home together with my sister. It's a semi-orphan home in Covina, California. That would be when I was about ten, I guess. We were raised there, going to public schools--Covina High School, in my case.
I became oriented toward the Naval Academy when I was forced to think ahead by the Superintendent of the Masonic Home, John Downen. It was sort of a last resort; it was the only thing I could come up with at the moment.
Q: How good a student had you been in the years coming along?
Captain Merrill: I was quite a good student. In a class of perhaps 50, I was about number two. I worked pretty hard because it was a disciplined school and a disciplined home. I felt loved and cared for there very much. The people wanted me to succeed, and I knew it; I responded to that. So I set that goal for myself, about halfway through high school.
Q: I suspect that going to that home made an enormous difference in your life, compared with what would have happened had you continued to live with your mother.
Captain Merrill: Yes, it certainly did. And, as I say, I have great respect for the Masonic Home and others like it.
Q: Did you have an inclination toward sports in those years?
Captain Merrill: Yes, quite a bit. In high school I played "lightweight" football, was on the track team and so forth, even though I probably weighed about 115 pounds. So I had a fairly active athletic program going.
Q: What sorts of hobbies did you have?
Captain Merrill: All inexpensive! It was a fairly austere environment, and the lack of money forced us to be innovative. One hobby that I can remember emerged from the fact that the Masonic Home was located on a farm. The farm had some orange trees, and it also had a stock of animals. I can remember horses and hogs; I became quite fond of the hogs. They were friendly. So I was commissioned to take the garbage from the dining room, which was perhaps 1,000 feet away, down to the hog pens and feed them. At one point, when it became evident that I would probably go to the Naval Academy, I learned that I had to arrive there with at least $200.00, because they wanted to be sure that they had enough money to send me back to California if I flunked out. So the way I got the $200.00 was by breeding and selling these hogs. That worked out just fine.
Q: Was doing chores at the farm understood as part of the whole arrangement with the home?
Captain Merrill: Yes, definitely. We were required to do spelled-out chores, outside of school hours of course. And there was no nonsense about it; we did them, albeit with little enthusiasm.
Q: How much of an influence was your mother in your life after you had moved to the home?
Captain Merrill: I would see her about once a week. She worked in a department store, in charge of the art department. She had a gentleman friend but never married again. This friend would drive her out, in a Model-T Ford, from Los Angeles to Covina. I remember having many visits with her there. So, even though we were out of touch, we had those visits. Later on, when I went to the Naval Academy, we wrote frequently back and forth. So I didn't lose
touch with her.
Q: And it sounds as if there was enough contact to sustain the emotional bond.
Captain Merrill: Yes, definitely.
Q: What was the process by which you got to the Naval Academy?
Captain Merrill: Unbeknownst to me, the superintendent of the home had made arrangements with a leading Mason who had contacts with Senator Shortridge of California; he received an appointment semi-commitment from the senator. At this point I was a junior in high school. As time went on, I never knew this was going on, because they didn't want me to be disappointed.
In the meantime, I was looking into things on my own hook. I made a trip on the "Big Red" electric car that went between Covina and Los Angeles and there visited the naval recruiting station. There I was convinced by the recruiter that the thing to do was enlist in the Navy and try for an appointment. The Navy had 100 fleet appointments at that time. That was what I decided to do. So I enlisted in June of 1929. They put me into a sort of black paddy wagon,
along with several other youngsters, and drove us down to San Diego. There I went through boot camp, probably the most educational experience of my life.
Meet Robert Merry: The Man Who Pursued Happiness and Caught It
By Grayson Merrill
With a name like that what else could he do? Robert was born and raised on a farm and recruited into the Navy at its lowest possible rank – “apprentice seaman”- as was the author. We swapped emails to compose this Old Navy Yarn, he at age 84 and me at 93.
Grayson to Bob:
I’ve enjoyed your email sent to your STAG One shipmates with photos of the TDR-1, the Navy’s first cruise missile attacking enemy targets during WW II, circa 1944. I have the feeling you did not get the response you expected so I will attach a couple of files that you might enjoy - despite no connection to your shipmates.
Keep being friendly, the world needs more people like you.
Cordially yours, Grayson Merrill
Bob to Grayson:
Thank you so much for your reply and kind comments. Yes, it would have been nice to hear from some of the others but I am not terribly disappointed. There are some of folks who are more generous with their time than others and that's OK. For some, as you know, writing a letter is pure torture. I derived unexpected pleasure for myself by reminiscing and sharing my thoughts with others.
I imagine my feelings would be similar to an author who has written a story and it is published in a magazine. Other than the check he gets for his/her efforts, there is usually very little feedback from the people who read it. I was hoping to motivate others, and that still might happen. I was happy to receive the response that I got from you, J.J. and Norm and Nick. The very long letter from Hurst's daughter was special for me too. I have heard from Nick and we will be getting together for an interview when his schedule allows.
I have a dear Stag One friend who lives in St. Louis. His name is Richard Howell and he was an AP. We were in Cape May in the 40s together so you know that he is also an old-timer. We have been writing to each other for many years.
Today I gathered up and printed the recent correspondence that we have shared with each other. I have it in a manila envelope with a cover letter to send to him. He does not have a computer so he does not communicate with others in this manner. I know that he will thoroughly enjoy reading the messages in addition to seeing the pictures. I'm just about as happy doing it as he will be in receiving it. He too, is in his eighties. I can't think of anything that will cheer up a person any more than finding a letter or an unexpected package in the mail box. Checking the mail is a high light in each day for me.
I have indelible memories of my early days in the Navy. For the better part of my young life I had been raised on a farm in South Dakota, with a strict father and stepmother. In the Navy I had no problem with authority and ease of following orders. I went through boot camp at Great Lakes in June of 1939. Upon completing the training, many of us went to Norfolk Virginia. My orders were to the “old' battleship USS Texas for a short period of time. In contrast to the farm life, it was an exciting time for me. I was aboard long enough to sleep in a hammock, which I didn't care for, and went to sea and became seasick....big time.
After about three months I was transferred to the USS Vincennes, (1940) a light cruiser. I was in the deck crew and worked on the foc'sle. It was here that I learned to "holy stone" the teak wood decks.
This is also where I learned the meaning and power of a "leading seaman." On occasion I would be called for duty as a side-boy. You are a senior of a military career; hopefully you will appreciate this part. In those days, the officers were held in such high esteem, at least by me. The captain of the Vincennes was Captain Beardahl, a tall, thin dignified gentleman who later became a military aide to President Roosevelt. He was awe inspiring and must have had a seat right next to the Almighty.
We were making a trip from Norfolk to France to load the ship with gold and return to New York with it. On the way over, we stopped in the Azores and a guest of great importance came aboard. To greet him, there were eight side-boys and I was one of them (Scared to death). Captain Beardahl was dressed to the high heavens with gold applets, a fore-and-aft hat, a sword, and white gloves. Such formality I will never forget.
Even after all these years I have such respect for those days. Later, when I made 3rd class "aviation storekeeper" my division officer, a Lcdr. Claireholm transferred me to VJ-4 at Gitmo. I was heart broken. I remember his exact words. "Someday you will thank me for this transfer." And I did, a million times. Ha. There is more, but sea stories can get out of hand. I thought you would like to read this from an enlisted point of view.
So now back to the real world. After reading Nick's writings, even at my age I feel motivated to do something along those same lines. My sweet Judy has been encouraging me for a long time but, it's hard to find a starting time. And I don't have the stamina and endurance I used to have.
After I retired from Civil Service in 1973, I became a hospital volunteer and served for 17 years. I was privileged to build up several hundred hours (actually 10,500) and gained an education I would have never had in any other way. I worked the floors as a patient representative. In addition to the hospital work, I became an editor and produced the auxiliary newsletter, "Scrippsline." I was fortunate to win three State awards under the umbrella of California Hospitals and Healthcare Systems. The headquarters were in Sacramento. So I have smelled the wonderful odor of slight fame and recognition and I truly loved it.
It's amazing how much time can be spent in writing one simple article. How Nick must have worked to produce such a story that he told in the interview of Margaret Thatcher. What an honor for him. Thank you for attaching those articles.
This is more than enough, Captain Merrill. I feel comfortable in writing to you, but please don't feel obligated to answer. I'm sure time gets heavy on your hands so this is just one way of helping to take up some of your time. This is where a person such as me, reaps the rewards of generosity.
My Judy and I share similar feelings so we get along especially well. We have an older couple that we have become friends with. Bernie is 94 and has macular degeneration and we are familiar with his limitations. I can't think of anything that would be harder to adjust to. I have done this letter in larger and in bold print. I hope this hasn't worn you out trying to read it.
Again, I appreciate your kind thoughts. I will work on the group a little and see if I can encourage someone to write.
Take care of yourself.. OK??
(84 on the 14th of May. Wow, am I catching up with you??)
Grayson to Bob:
Believe it or not I was flying JRS seaplanes in 1939 across Guantanamo Bay from you and CDR Bobby Jones with his highly secret VJ -3 assault drone squadron.
With your permission I will share your inspirational Sea Story with the USNA Alumni Association. Many thanks,
/S/ CAPT Grayson Merrill, USN (Ret),
President, Heritage Class 1934
Who Will Pull the Trigger First?
By CAPT Grayson Merrill, USN (Ret.)
In the year 1981 I was a retiree of 28 years service in the Navy and seven in the Defense Industry. As the first Technical Director of the Navy’s “Special Projects Office” I managed the development of FBM Polaris - Poseiden and Trident were later developed, tested and deployed to the Fleet after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Other Sea Stories and the Class 1946 History on web site www.usna.com tell how these systems have made our nation a super power. In one word it is deterrence. and here’s the reason:
For the life of me I cannot understand why our people will unquestioningly entrust their lives to medicine, as practiced by our best trained physicians, but not defense, as planned by our best trained military men.
As a retired carrier pilot, first technical director of the Polaris missile development and author of the conceptual specification for Regulus, the first submarine-launched cruise missile, I would like to offer a brief comment from a somewhat historic perspective.
I well remember the years prior to World War II when the same, arguments were used to oppose the growth of aircraft carriers in the Fleet. Yet they fortunately were added and gave us victory.
In a non-nuclear war with the Soviet Union, an attacking U.S. carrier task force would face about the same relative threat as it did from Japan in 1943. The capabilities and costs of all the weapons have increased but so have the defenses. The notion that cruise missiles are invulnerable because they fly below the radar horizon is not valid for a carrier with a combat air patrol flying high above. Russian submarines would have a very tough time penetrating modern ASW defenses to launch torpedoes.
Of course, the use of nuclear warheads against such a carrier task force would change the picture because a much smaller percentage of hits is needed to destroy it. But what do you think Washington would do in this event? The usual word for it is escalation and the end point of escalation is mutual annihilation.
Who will pull the trigger first? I asked myself the same question when writing a nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capability into the specification for Regulus. In WW II both sides had WMD capabilities and neither side pulled the trigger. The same deterrents were present then as now: Fear of retaliation, moral condemnation and massive genocide.
I pray and believe no one will pull the trigger.”
No one has pulled a nuclear trigger since Nagasaki – some 62 years ago. After their embarrassing withdrawal from Cuba the Soviet Union gave it one more try. They deployed the nuclear Galosh anti-ballistic missile system around Moscow. US intelligence predicted that there could be a country-wide deployment of many such missile defenses.
The Navy response was to replace Polaris wit Poseidon missiles, each carrying multiple independently targetable warheads which could overwhelm any conceivable ABM system deployment. This feature was retained in the later Trident SLBMs.
The Soviets tried to match our effort but just did not have the money, dictatorial political power or help from others of the USSR. The margin of deterrence remained. In short, the Cold War was over.
No one has pulled the trigger in 62 years...
Can diplomacy and deterrence give us lasting World peace?
Genesis of Regulus
The US Navy’s First Nuclear Cruise Missile
Note: This is an abstract from “Reminiscences of Captain Grayson Merrill US Navy (Ret.)”, USNI Publisher
During WW II Captain Del Fahrney, then BUAER’s Class Desk Officer for “Pilotless Aircraft, drafted me in 1943 to help develop, test and deliver to the Fleet the Navy’s first cruise missile, termed TDR-1. It had a checkered career, starting with an up-front order by COMINCH ADM Earnest King for 5000 to be used against Japanese ships. Competing with conventional planes, only some 100 finally made successful attacks against AA facilities in the South Pacific. Del left me in charge when he transferred to the Pacific in a top logistics billet. With his help I arranged for many of the people and their remaining drones to reappear in the post war Regulus program.
In 1945 Del relieved me in his same job at BUAER. He was a senior captain and I a junior commander but we faced the awesome task of applying new technologies to post-war pilotless aircraft. At first money was short so we decided to let a number of study contracts for preliminary designs of missiles specified by BUAER. Thus, aircraft industry engineers would get educated on how to design guided missiles, and we'd get some solid ideas on what these guided missiles were going to look like and do and how much they would cost.
I put together missile specifications for some 18 different study contracts that were approved by the chief. When I went to Point Mugu, Del had approval to go ahead and let these contracts. Such missiles as Bullpup, Regulus, and the Sparrow family emerged from these studies. You readers already know how Regulus became the primary weapon system for a number of submarines whose deterrent presence contributed to victory in the Cold War, especially in resolving the Cuban missile crisis.
Regulus I and II were my concepts as “Class Desk Officer” for Pilotless Aircraft in BUAER from 1943 thru '45. The next year I became Point Mugu’s Director of Tests and watched many Loons fly into the Pacific sunset from Cusk and Carbonero. Loon was the Navy's first sub-launched cruise missile. They were armed to deliver one ton of TNT each on Japan; its surrender preempted that.
My last Navy job was Technical Director of Polaris, the first nuclear ballistic missile for subs. Here I must apologize that Regulus had to be terminated to fund Polaris but, in the end, both missiles deployed on boomer subs and helped win the Cold War.
Looking Astern And Ahead At Point Mugu
By Grayson Merril, ‘34 and Robert Wertheim, ‘46
This Sea Story was delivered at the 60th Anniversary of the Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu, CA. Grayson’s portion looks astern in a DVD - covering his experiences as the “Father of Point Mugu”. Bob’s portion looks ahead as first Director of the Strategic Weapons Office- covering the post Cold War viewpoint in a supplemental text.
“Good evening Friends, Jack Broome, Plank Owners and all workers at Point Mugu. I greet you wearing the uniform I last wore on retiring in 1957 as Technical Director of the Special Projects Office - developer of the Polaris nuclear ballistic missile.
It still fits but I must ask your patience as I read this brief talk. I am legally blind and hard of hearing as I approach my 95th birthday - next New Years Day.
Ten years ago I was honored at Point Mugu’s 50th Anniversary to be named the “Father of Point Mugu”. What I said then is now posted as a “Sea Story”, entitled “The Birth and Boyhood of Point Mugu”. It is on the Naval Academy Alumni Association’s web site, usna.com. What I say tonight probably will be similarly posted. History buffs should know that this Sea Story feature is an ever growing (50 essays) library of Alumni personal experiences.
Probably most of you did not attend the 50th Anniversary so I will synopsize some Sea Stories that cover the milestones of my own experience:
In a 1944 letter I composed and RAM Towers sent to COMINCH (ADM King) a letter explaining the need for a Sea Test Range to speed up the development and evaluation of new weapons such as Project Option’s TDR -1. It asked that a Site Selection Board be established as a first step. It was quickly approved and a group of members from the Army, Navy and various R & D organizations rode a DC -3 around the US coastlines for a week or so. The Board’s report was approved by President Truman in late 1944 - it selected Point Mugu.
I never dreamed the impact this would have on many people, Ventura County’s economy and, most of all, the Navy’s role in our WW II victory. The DVD to come will give you some idea.
In retrospect, I wonder about the role of pure chance in this selection. For example, we had not planned to visit Port Hueneme until an alert Captain Marshall Gurney (USNA ’26) heard of us, called me and so put Point Mugu on our agenda. Thereafter we appreciated how Mother Nature has tailored the area and its Pacific geography to our needs.
I wanted to visit Laguna Peak as a possible instrumented site. But the President of the Board had been coached not to discuss our mission with local civilians. Marshall Gurney was disappointed. Somehow he arranged a jeep for us to go to the top. He pointed out Jack Broome’s home enroute!
Before I left BUAER in 1945 I wrote a report, “Pilotless Aircraft (18) for Fleet Use in 1950”. Its impudent timeline was offset by its foresight. It was used by my mentor, then Captain Del Fahrney, to pursue post WW II technical feasibility study contracts. These served to educate the engineers in several aircraft companies on the emerging technologies of guided missiles and provided specs for development contracts. Of the 18, Regulus, Sparrows I and III, Lark III and Bull Pup survived testing at Mugu and deployed to the Fleet. This process saved time while we competed with the Soviets.
Somehow I found the time to edit and co-author a prize - winning 13 book series called “Principles of Guided Missile and Space Flight Design”. It helped the educational process in the weapons community.
In 1945 I moved to NAS Mojave and joined the remnants of Project Option and other units working on WW II developments. While the Sea Bees closed down their training we phased into their assets at Point Mugu.
Loons were being fired off subs and rockets from the beach. Temporary buildings became Headquarters for Captain Hatcher, the Director of Tests and the Engineering Support Department. A pioneering spirit smoothed out the difficulties we faced and made a team of us. It was time to celebrate a birth after a hard labor.
Something like one hundred plank owners were mustered on October 6th, 1946 to attend the commissioning ceremony. Thereafter little effort was devoted to recording local history. So again I will just tell some of my memories of Point Mugu’s “Boyhood”, knowing that you will see and hear more in the program to come.
One day a retired CPO returned from Sacramento after liberating two British SCR–584 radars. One of these guided Loons and their escorting Marine fighters to Begg Rock, 50 miles away. After Hiroshima, Marine pilot “Dirty” Dalby and I conceived the idea of converting our system into the Navy’s first Close Air Support System. Doing it without BUAER’s OK was risky but a phone call to Del Fahrney took care of that and the paper work to follow. Its descendents gave the Navy its all-weather precision air strike capability - a vital step in war-making power.
At the end of WW II the Navy emerged with NAVAIR’s TPQ- 2 Close Air Support System as developed by Marine LCOL Dalby and Dr. Herbert Wagner at Point Mugu. Ultimately it was essential in precision air strikes during the Korean War. Verify and enjoy this by reading “Innovation Wins Wars” on the Naval Academy Alumni Association’s web site.
In the Vietnam War it positioned Marine fighters armed with Bull Pup missiles to wipe out the heavy artillery in Ko Roc cave tunnels. This restored US ground advance near the border between the two Vietnams.
In October, 1962 a Soviet convoy of ships carrying nuclear missiles and support materials for launch sites in Cuba was detected by spy planes. President Jack Kennedy declared an immediate ship embargo that halted its progress until diplomatic discussions could resolve the issue. The penalty was described in words clearly covering nuclear responses from deployed US submarines – Polaris in the Atlantic and Regulus in the North Pacific. Both graduated from Point Mugu.
The Soviet convoy headed home and the alliance between Cuba and the USSR faded away. FBM Submarines had become the epitome of “deterrence” in International Politics and Nuclear weapons have not been used since Hiroshima in 1945.
Trident FBM subs have relieved the above two classes. They were tested on the Pacific Missile Range in varying degree.
All of the above measures Point Mugu’s contribution to the Navy’s war making power.
During the next ten years the Mugu staff learned the power of high tech media and prepared a DVD video for you that needs no embellishment. Tom Brokaw will tell you about testing “Weapons That Work”.
Looking ahead at Point Mugu’s future “is reading NAVAIR’s mind.” In my day we had to dig it out. Somewhere in Washington there are papers or people who know what’s coming and you can contact them. It used to be the “Class Desk Officers”. OPNAV Requirements is another source. Beyond that you can look at where the Navy stands as one member of the DOD triad fighting terrorists.
With Marines embarked, we are now the world’s most powerful Navy and got there with superior weapons before our enemies did. Above all, we must retain our position of unquestioned deterrence against a possible nuclear war with nations subservient to terrorists or seeking power through WMDs. That means keeping our FBMs up to date as a deterrent force. The Ohio class SSGNs are doing this.
So make “secrecy” ambivalent and let the media tell both the world’s bad and good guys that Trident subs are out there somewhere in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Never will they pull the trigger first but always ready to respond, gain, and hold the upper hand. With the UN, we can protect the world from a WMD Armageddon.
Enjoy! I’ll observe the 70th Anniversary from the other side of the Pearly Gates! And remember that the Naval Academy Alumni Association’s web site posts “Sea Stories” by combat - tested alumni detailing much of what I said and other retirees have to say.
The foregoing text was read by Grayson Merrill into a DVD to be displayed at an October 5th luncheon celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Point Mugu. Later It was decided to create a post – Cold War text supplementing my experiences. RADM Robert H. Wertheim, USN (Ret) as former Director of the Navy’s Strategic Weapons Office has written this addendum.
“Given that the deterrence of major warfare between advanced states was a key 20th century success story, and that the Navy's submarine launched ballistic missiles were an important enabler of that success, how can we deter the emerging threats of the 21st century?
At this point the combination of terrorism and nuclear proliferation is fast becoming the most horrific threat to civilized society. It is the sort of threat our national leaders hoped to avoid when, at the end of World War II, they offered to make the new United Nations sole custodians of nuclear weapons -- a proposal promptly vetoed by the Soviets, who were by then already well on their way to building their own nuclear capability.
Clearly, the rules of the two-handed, US vs USSR cold war game now OBE. But then how do we deter rogue states, nuclear wannabes and terrorists?
How many and what kinds of advanced conventional as well as nuclear weapons will we need in our strategic arsenal?
Are cold war treaty agreements still relevant or should they be modified or even abrogated?
And how can the promise of non-polluting nuclear energy be realized in meeting the world's growing energy needs without adding to the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation?
These are some of the issues that will challenge a new generation of civilian and military team mates at Point Mugu to serve our Navy in meeting its responsibilities as custodian of our nation's sea based strategic capabilities.”
A Day That Will Live In Infamy
by CAPT Grayson Merrill '34, USN (Ret.)
I was a new student in the Naval Postgraduate School in Annapolis flying a JN seaplane trainer over the Chesapeake to earn my flight pay. Few people were out of bed, either here or in Hawaii. When I landed an enlisted man at my wing tip on the ramp yelled, "The Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor!" I drove our Essex sedan back to Weems Creek to find an ashen-faced wife hovered over the bedroom radio. FDR was talking and I heard him say the above title. Time proved him very right.
In year 1938, before the attack, I had flown off USS Saratoga to make a mock attack on Pearl Harbor as part of a war game. At the debriefing I remember the pilots unanimosusly worried about the capitatl ships moored in a row dockside, like sitting ducks. Obviously no one paid much attention. Lester Stone was at Pearl Harbor during the attack. Our sea Stories are listed under: "A Day of Infamy: Mock Attack On Pearl Harbor, Circa 1938, And The Attack On Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941".
My classmate Bob Crowell also experienced 'The Day of Infamy'. His Sea Story is posted as "Collection of Robert B. Crowell, '34."
We owe Norman Tengstrom, one of few Project Option survivors, our sincere thanks for getting this dramatic set of photos into our hands, together with a summary list of damaged or lost ships.
On Sunday, December 7th, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii . By planning his attack on a Sunday, the Japanese commander Admiral Nagumo, hoped to catch the entire fleet in port. As luck would have it, the Aircraft Carriers and one of the Battleships were not in port. (The USS Enterprise was returning from Wake Island , where it had just delivered some aircraft. The USS Lexington was ferrying aircraft to Midway, and the USS Saratoga and USS Colorado were undergoing repairs in the United States). In spite of the latest intelligence reports about the missing aircraft carriers (his most important targets), Admiral Nagumo decided to continue the attack with his force of six carriers and 423 aircraft. At a range of 230 miles north of Oahu , he launched the first wave of a two-wave attack. Beginning at 0600 hours his first wave consisted of 183 fighters and torpedo bombers which struck at the fleet in Pearl Harbor and the airfields in Hickam, Kaneohe and Ewa. The second strike, launched at 0715 hours, consisted of 167 aircraft, which again struck at the same targets.
At 0753 hours the first wave consisting of 40 Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bombers, 50 high altitude bombers and 43 Zeros struck airfields and Pearl Harbor Within the next hour, the second wave arrived and continued the attack.
When it was over, the U.S.losses were:
USA : 218 KIA, 364 WIA.
USN: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
USMC: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.
TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.
USS Arizona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
USS California (BB-44) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.
USS New Orleans (CA-32) - Light Damage..
USS San Francisco (CA-38) - Light Damage.
USS Detroit (CL-8) - Light Damage.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
USS Helena (CL-50) - Light Damage.
USS Honolulu (CL-48) - Light Damage..
USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Cassin - (DD-372) Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.
USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps.)
A Collection Of CDR Robert B. Crowell '34, USN (Ret.) Stories
Preface by Grayson Merrill '34
This is a first instance of a progeny of Heritage Class 11934, taking on a task that his Dad's disabilities prohibit. I hope the Presidents of other senior classes will look into Heritage Class benefits offered by the Alumni Association."
The stories that follow are a compilation of the memories of Commander Robert B. Crowell USN (Ret) '34. They were related by Bob to his son-in-law Colonel Earl S. Piper Jr. '57, USMC (Ret) during visits in 2006.
In the autumn of 1941 I was stationed in Pearl Harbor. My wife Beth, daughter Nancy, and son Bob Jr. were living in a bungalow in Pearl City and I was aboard USS Benham (DD-397) assigned as the ship's gunnery officer. This was a busy time; there were numerous warnings of impending Japanese aggression in the Pacific and since Benham was operating with the Enterprise Task Force under Admiral Halsey we were at sea more than in port.
In late November of 1941 we were ordered to deliver Marine fighter planes (F4F Wildcats) to the U.S. forces on Wake Island. It was on our way back to Pearl that we learned of the Japanese attack on December 7th. We all wondered what would await us on our return to port.
Beth and the children had witnessed the entire Japanese attack. Beth had been out in our yard and seen the Jap planes swooping in low and heard the explosions out in the anchorage area. She could actually see the Jap pilots in their cockpits as they flew over. Ironically, our next-door neighbors were Japanese - a Christian pastor and his small family. They immediately helped Beth and our children to get under cover and later drove them to a bomb shelter on the Pali ridge.
When we returned to port the harbor was in chaos and still smoking. My reunion with Beth was short and sweet as we were back at sea within a day. Admiral Halsey's task force went hunting. The pace of things was greatly intensified and I remember how that the lack of sleep began to wear on us as we shifted the watch schedule from four-on and eight-off to watch-on-watch with frequent calls to general quarters.
As we settled in to the sea patrols of those early months of 1942 time fairly flew. It was early April when we received orders to move west; we didn't know it then but the Benham was to be counted among those U.S. warships conducting the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. Our task force joined up with the Hornet Task Force and radio silence was strictly observed. Benham was to assist in plane guarding and anti-submarinescreening. We didn't know what to expect by way of surface action. Benham was new (3 years since commissioning), fast, and armed with four five-inch guns - two turrets forward and two open mounts aft. Our gunnery training, in hindsight, had been good but we lacked experience with our torpedoes and depth charges. As it turned out our B-25 bombers had to launch early from Hornet due to our force's having been observed by Jap fishing vessels; after dealing with them we turned east for Hawaii.
The tempo of our schedule didn't slacken one bit and in late May we were steaming for a rendezvous with Admiral Yamamoto in the waters north and east of Midway. Most of those days at Midway are now a blur but there are highlights that stand out clearly even now. We were newly commanded by Admiral Spruance whom I had known before the war during some shore time in Haiti; he and I both took evening walks and had enjoyed each other's company on a number of occasions. I recall the flurry of repair activity at Pearl in getting Yorktown patched up and ready to sail in time for battle. I remember the tension during our first Jap air attack as we realised that we were not only taking Jap fire but friendly fire as well. I remember seeing the body of a Jap pilot floating face up off the starboard beam of our ship. I remember the noise and confusion of battle and the sudden quiet after the attacks. I remember the heart-wrenchingsight of our sailors crying for help in the water. Men from Yorktown and Hammann (DD-412) who had abandoned ship were brutalised by internal trauma from torpedo explosions and the detonations of depth charges from the sinking Hammann. Benham took aboard over 700 survivors covered in black fuel oil, many dying from unseen injuries.
On our return to Pearl we conducted scores of burials at sea; many of these men could not be identified and there was barely any space topside to move about.
Benham's shell-pocked, oil-stained hull was a pitiful sight back at Pearl. We were met at dockside by Admiral Nimitz, and Beth was there too - a sight for sore eyes. (Rather than return Stateside Beth had found a "defense related" job at Pearl that allowed her to be close to the children and remain there for my precious few homecomings. I will always admire and respectthat wonderful ladyforher faithful devotion under considerable stress). Ambulances ferried the wounded to local hospitals and Benham's crew was able to refit and get some much-needed rest. There is no way to describe the elation we all felt when the news of our great victory at Midway became known.
These are some of my memories, fading with time, but still a part of me these 64 years later.
Admiral Robert B. "Mick" Carney '16, USN (Deceased)
by CAPT Roy C. Smith '34, USN (Deceased)
As originally written in Captain Smith's book: Old Navy Yarns
One of the greatest story tellers and fascinating characters of the 1916 – 70 Navy was Admiral Mick Carney USNA who retired as Chief of Naval Operations but often said that the billet he had most enjoyed was Chief of Staff to Admiral Bull Halsey in the fast carrier Task Force of the Pacific War when he was a prominent member of the “Dirty Tricks Department.” Since his department had been in destroyers and a later cruiser command he might have found himself out of place in a carrier force, but not Mick. He fitted right in and did a superb job.
When I was editing the USNA Alumni magazine in the late 70s Mick began sending me the wonderful anecdotes that soon became a monthly feature in the letters to the Editor’s section. The time came when I had more letters than space and decided to hold the Carney letters over to give me the space to a new contributor. A storm of letters and phone calls flooded my office asking where the Carney letter was; something wrong with them? Mick had the same problem and told me so in some detail. No contributor was ever missed so much, which was a perfect expression of the respect and affection in which he was held throughout the Navy. Here are some typical examples of the yarns he wrote, in his own ignitable style.
The first came when Capt. Joe Taussig, USN ’41 suggested that I persuade Admiral Carney, an old family friend, to recommend for Shipmate the story of how he had competed with his friend and classmate, Admiral William B. Fechteler, for the honor of being anchorman in the class for conduct and for why Carney was marched off the Reina Mercedes (the station ship where midshipmen who had misbehaved were confined for appropriate periods) to his graduation. Such a story, involving two Chiefs of Naval Operations, was too good to miss so I promptly wrote Admiral Carney asking him to write it. This was his reply.
“My Dear Roy:
“My son-in-law, Joe Taussig, like the Yorick of Hamlet, a fellow of infinite jest but also, like the fabled Bastard King of England in song and story, his mind is weak and low – well, at least low. He has intimated to you that I was “marched off ‘the ship” to graduation and competed fiercely with Bill Fechteler, even to the third and fourth generation, for the honor of being anchorman on the demerit list. To spare my progeny, even unto the third and fourth generations unnecessary mortification I must set the record straight.
True, as a spirited young plebe who underestimated the experienced savvy of my superiors (RCS) – like many Navy juniors, I suffered numerous unsuccessful disciplinary encounters and wound up one demerit short of the turn-back unit. Collateral side effects of my impressive list of demerits included valuable experience in marching with a rifle and some sea duty in the Reina Mercedes. It is also true that a second class caper earned me another opportunity to evaluate the Reina over a thirty day period.
Thereafter, Love appeared on the scene and I came under the influence of a Good Woman (who is still struggling to exert a good influence effectively). Academics and behavioral rectitude were accorded top priority. I studied and became such a paragon of virtue that I only received one demerit First Class year: That was for “Room In disorder, one particular”, assigned for leaving some tobacco juice on the lower deck. Obviously no such model first classman would have been marched off the Reina Mercedes to graduate.
Finally, Bill Fechteler; classmate, friend and best man at my wedding, never caused me one moment of anxiety as a competitor for the top merit honors. His conduct was never frowned on by Joesephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, who probably did 100 rpm in his grave when I became CNO.
“Does that answer Joe Taussig’s indictment?
Some time later Joe replied with a two-part letter, of which this was the beginning:
“Since I first started to woo his lovely daughter forty years ago, Admiral Mick and I have exchanged correspondence but twice. In 1942 I addressed a truly superb letter begging his daughter’s hand in marriage. In due course, from the south Pacific, I received this reply: “If my daughter’s hand is all you are interested in perhaps we should review the entire courtship.
Admiral Carney told of being a junior officer in the World War I destroyer Fanning when a mess attendant, accused of sleeping on watch, asked Mick to defend him at summary court martial. After learning the man’s story he was convinced of his innocence and took the case.
His defense was that (1) the lookout was stationed on the bridge, (2) It was an open bridge, (3) Concave windshields deflected the wind over the lookout’s head to protect his eyes, but (4) the rush of air was noisy and prevented the lookout’s hearing a question from the OOD. In short, his failing to reply was because of the wind noise and not from sleeping on watch.
The court found him not guilty. And in thanking Mick with great gratitude he promised never to sleep on watch again.
Here are others of the Carney jewels with their Shipmate titles.
Junior Officer Indoctrination
In January 1917 (then) Captain J.R. Poinsettt Pringle, USN, class 1892 (for whom the flower poinsettia was named) was commanding the destroyer tender Dixie. He demanded proper performance and strict compliance with Navy Regulations, and was himself a sharp- eyed inspector: of my performance as a junior officer.
I gave him plenty of opportunities to exercise Mick’s critical talents.
On a Saturday morning inspection he came into the barber shop for which I was responsible. I stood correctly at attention, confident that the shop was immaculate. He looked the place over and said, “Take down that sign”. I had not noticed the sign to read, “Flies spread disease, keep yours buttoned.” Score: Skipper 1, Carney 0.
One morning he called me to his cabin, showed me my fitness report and asked me to read carefully what it said under REMARKS. I read carefully. It said, “This young officer accomplishes maximum results with minimum effort.”
So, bit by bit, under his benevolent lash I moved along the learning curve.
CDR Fred Halstead Poteet, USNA 1903 was skipper of the destroyer Rarthburn in the Asiatic Fleet, a dashing figure of a man who wore his beautifully tailored uniforms impressively.
He was also the senior skipper in our destroyer division, addressed respectfully with the title of Commodore).To my delight, he decided to confine his activities (aboard ship at least) to ‘commodoring’ and turned to me, the Exec, for the ship’s handling and business.
One day at Cavite, Rathburn was laying back waiting for a good angle to go alongside a tanker that was riding to one anchor and yawing with the wind. At the right moment Rathburn moved forward, but once irrevocably committed, the steering gear failed. Like any torpedo boat man I had often mentally handled such an emergency So I put Rathburn alongside with some sharp and demanding bells to the engine room. With unbecoming modesty I said to the watching Commander Poteet, “Commodore, you just witnessed a snappy bit of seamanship.”
The Commodore said, “Yes, a damn good seaman can usually get out of trouble.” I puffed up a bit. He took a couple of steps down the ladder, stopped, turned around and added, “But a goddamn good seaman avoids getting into trouble.” I unpuffed. Poteet’s Law has subtle implications far beyond ship handling and its sobering effect stayed with me forever.
The Captain and the Lieutenant
Mississippi ’s skipper was Captain Thomas C. Hart, USNA 1897 (Known hen as Teetotal Tommy). Later, as CinC Asiatic Fleet at the beginning of World War II, he was famous for insistence upon stern discipline. Lt. Carney was the Senior watch Officer, charged by the Captain with setting and monitoring all watches, excepting for the Black Gang, and holding watch standers to high performance standards.
The Missy was a very special ship - winner of the “Iron Man” symbol of Fleet athletic superiority and known for her race boats and smokers. She was the proud home of her brotherly ship’s company. A fife and drum duo often paraded through officer’s country announcing the impending dinner hour with a rousing version of “The blood and guts of the Royal Navy” (The roast beef of Old England). A broken watch was sent to messmates as a cryptic invitation to partake of preprandial liquid contraband.
One morning loud and raucous noises emanated from the junior officers’ country. As Senior Watch Officer, with self-appointed responsibilities for selective law and order, I investigated. My suspicion was confirmed. Noisy drinking was going on – a threat to the more discrete ritual of the broken watch. Outraged and explicitly deploring their legal transgression, I chastised the culprits in language far more colorful and forceful than officially permitted and told said culprits to go to their rooms and stay there until I gave them permission to leave. Having delivered myself from righteous indignation and taken appropriate corrective measures, I turned to leave and came face-to-face with Captain Hart. He must have heard everything. I knew that moment that I was faced with a bleak future, if any. The Captain looked at me - he had a chilling way of looking. Finally he said, “Mr. Carney, at your convenience, I would like to see you in my cabin.”
I found it immediately convenient and soon the Captain’s orderly was announcing me. I can see that cabin, as if it were yesterday, not 55 years ago. The Captain’s desk was so placed that he sat with his back to the door. I trembled, waiting for him to turn around. Well, turn around he finally did. I braced myself. At last he spoke: “It would seem that we do not need a captain in this ship. That will do. “ Exit a reprieved Lieutenant Carney. That is how Tough Tommy Hart’s slightest wish became Lieutenant Carney’s unquestioned command. A matter of Timing Gallantry Gone Agley.
Bar Harbor Toastmaster
One summer in the late twenties the Admiral was Senior Officer Present Afloat of some ships visiting Bar Harbor, Maine for tennis week but something untoward happned. RAdm Brooks Upham, USNA 1893, Chief of the then Bureau of Navigation (OK so I am a name dropper), received a stiffly formal letter from a Bar Harbor Summer Brahmin reporting that the Admiral had overstepped the bounds of propriety, had behaved in an ungentlemanly manner, and offended some ladies. Not wishing to launch an investigation of a single, even if grave complaint, he asked me, whose ship had been there, if I could find out what really happened.
No problem. My sources, between guffaws, said it was all due to a technical error in the mechanics of proposing a toast. There was supposed to be an appreciable pause between raising the gentlemen’s’ glasses in a chivalrous gesture to the ladies and their subsequent draining in warm endorsement. Sad to say, the Admiral forgot the mid-process pause and said it all together in one breath, so it came out, “Here’s to the ladies bottoms up.”
Tip” Merrill, USNA ‘12
I remember Aaron Stanton Merrill with affection, amusement and respect. As a human being he was a joyous personality but as a professional he was a relentless perfectionist. He also was a beautiful wing shot. Given a palm fringed beach on a jungle island in the South Pacific he would set up his current version of “Tip’s Tavern” for the edification of his friends and subordinates. But make no mistake! The only passing mark for his task force tactical, gunnery and other drills was 4.0 – which paid off in combat.
One day, putting his four cruisers and Arleigh Burke’s destroyers through their tactical paces, my Denver did something that puzzled and/or displeased our Task Force boss. The Flagship’s halyards whipped Denver’s call pennants to the yardarm over two other flags in a strange, unlisted signal CHURCH PENNANT over INTERROGATORY flag. Strange, yes, and definitely not to be found in the signal book, but its meaning was abundantly clear to all: “ DENVER, FOR GOD’S SAKE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
Sharp criticism, tempered with humor. Typical Tip.
Delicate CNO SECNAV Relationships
I was a Deputy Chief of Naval Operations and the Hon. W. John Kenny was Secretary of the Navy. One day John called me on the phone and asked how soon I could be ready to accompany him to New York. I inquired as to the reason for the trip but John said that it involved nothing that required advanced briefing for me. The following dialog ensued.
Carney: I would like to know ..”
Kenny: “I’m in a hurry and no briefing is necessary.”
Carney: “Well, I’m not willing to go on some such expedition and ..”
Kenny: I’m telling you that I’m in a hurry and that you need no briefing.“
Carney: “Well, I’m not willing to risk making a fool of myself uninformed on the subject warranting your hasty attendance.”
Kenny: “Listen, you stupid (technical but usually derogatory description of one born out of wedlock), I have two tickets to the World Series.”
Carney: “I’m ready now.”
The Wisdom of Silent Carney
While I was CNO, pundit Joseph Alsop made periodic visits to Southeast Asia and his political reports of those visits added a believable touch to official appraisals. I wrote and told him so. Shortly thereafter he sought an interview and we set up a meting.- one to which I looked forward with considerable interest. At the appointed day and hour Mr. Alsop arrived. Then and there began an “an “interview” unique in my case but possibly normal by his lights. To the best of my recollection, the only words I uttered were “Good morning Joe” when he arrived and “Goodbye, Joe” (or words to that effect) when he left. Between the hail and farewell he did all the talking. Some days later the syndicate eulogized Admiral Carney’s superior mentality and judgment. In this instance, at least, it paid to be listening instead of talking.
RCS note: That letter was signed ; “R.B. Carney ’16 (not widely known for maintaining silence)” It would be fitting here to recall that one story that Mick sent me had an attachment: Some of my classmates and friends have accused me of writing stories without a grain of truth in them. I wish to assure one and all that there is a grain of truth in every one.
Navy Divorces Jupiter - Marries Polaris
By CAPT Grayson Merrill, USN (Ret.)
Preface : By permission, this is an abstract from the US Naval Institute Oral History Program entitled "Reminiscences of Captain Grayson Merrill, USN (Ret)", circa 1997. Paul Stillwell queries me to keep the conversation on track. Until now I have not permitted its release in public media because it might detract from the image of VADM “red” Raborn, USN (deceased) as the successful manager of Polaris - which he deserves. He was also a normal human with short comings;
I am currently supporting the USNA Alumni Association’s Shipmate and Web Site feature called “Sea Stories’. It is primarily for military students of history who are looking for examples of Navy leadership more than entertainment.
Q: Well, your quiet period ended with the advent of Polaris. That had to have a great deal of challenge to it.
Captain Merrill: Oh, yes. However, let me make some preliminary remarks here. In a previous discussion of my experiences while serving in BuAer I told of witnessing several V-2 firings at Cuxhaven, Germany, in late 1945. On returning I wrote a report to CNO, via the Chief of BuAer, which recommended that the Navy set up a program, i.e. issue an operational requirement to develop nuclear ballistic guided missiles for firing from ships, including submarines, against strategic targets. This was favorably endorsed by the Chief but was never acted on by CNO. The concept resurfaced in the mid-1950s. At first it was called the fleet ballistic missile (FBM) and later evolved to Polaris and its progeny.
During the war I approached the Chief of ONR with a plan to use excess assault drone funds to continue his ballistic research missile which was well along as a research tool. Anticipating an operational requirement, this missile could yield much useful hands‑on experience. Unfortunately, the Chief of BuAer found a better use for the funds, which was understandable in view of the deafening silence from CNO on my report. Ten years later, during my two-year stint with Polaris, I often regretted this outcome. The four years I spent puttering around in BuAer and Johnsville could have been spent on ballistic missile development. Well, man proposes and God disposes.
Q: Was Raborn aware of your letter?
Captain Merrill: No, I wrote the letter to CNO in 1946. I didn't join Raborn until '56.
Q: No, but you had said that you had an acquaintance with him in the meantime.
Captain Merrill: Oh, yes. We knew each other during the SATFOR assault drone years. I doubt if he even knew that I wrote such a letter.
Q: But he was aware of your technical capability.
Captain Merrill: Yes, he was aware of that, and that's why he selected me to be his technical director.
Q: Well, please proceed with that story.
Captain Merrill: Okay. As I have outlined, my first awareness of the creation of Raborn's Special Projects Office was simultaneous with my orders to get down there and work in it. There I was, up at Johnsville, out of the Washington stream of communications. Then the President directed a Navy top-priority development of a submarine launched, nuclear armed missile for use against strategic targets. Thereafter, Raborn was chosen as Director of the Special Projects Office (SPO). Shortly after that he asked that I be detailed down there as his technical director. That, of course, is what happened.
When I reported aboard, I found an embryonic organization, so to speak. I estimate there were ten officers and five civilians that Raborn had selected and brought in. They hadn't reached the point where they were organized. But they did have, in hand, directives from the Secretary of Defense as to cooperate with the Army in using its Jupiter ballistic missile.
I soon perceived a consensus within the technical staff and Raborn that Jupiter had features that virtually prohibited its use in submarines. It used liquid oxygen as part of its propellant. Once the missile was fueled, we faced the problem of disposing of oxygen bleeding within the submerged sub. In his 1972 oral history interview, Vice Admiral Raborn stated, "The thought of putting these missiles in the confined spaces of a submarine under the water, would make an internal combustion engine of the whole submarine." Next, because the payload always determines the size and weight of a missile, Jupiter was too large to house, let alone launch from our largest sub. Finally, its structure was too fragile to withstand the stresses expected in heavy seas.
Q. Why weren't these fatal defects recognized before you got the directive to use Jupiter?
Captain Merrill: I can only surmise, but one function of SecDef is to ensure that an expensive development in one service is not undertaken if the operational requirement can be met at less cost by a weapon already available in another service. We presumed that some competent organization had made such a technical evaluation of Jupiter and found it to be qualified. Who did the study? Was it von Braun's group? Lacking knowledge on the submarine environment, did "whoever" consult the Navy?
But I do know that SPO wasted many months trying to make Jupiter a feasible solution. Every conceptual analysis only reinforced our conviction that a solid-propellant missile was best for the Navy, but we lacked proof on two points: first, we wrongly assumed that we were stuck with Jupiter's warhead weight (about 1,500 pounds, as I remember). This translated to a missile at least as big as Jupiter. Second, the specific impulse of available solid propellants was not sufficient to overcome assumption one.
Q. Did you work with von Braun on this task?
Captain Merrill: Yes. We had numerous conferences with him and his staff, mostly in Huntsville, Alabama. No one could question his command of missile technology or his genuine desire to find solutions. He knew the political value of having Jupiter used by both the Navy and the Army and did not give up, even as he better understood the submarine environment. He was willing to beef up Jupiter's structure, even when the changes would delay his own program and shorten Jupiter's range.
I can even remember a tentative proposal that he made to us on an exploratory basis. He had his engineers draw sketches and plans for a huge barge that could be towed submerged by a submarine. The launchings would be made from the barge when surfaced in model one, and submerged in model two!
Chrysler also tried to sell Jupiter to the Navy. They staged several presentations which were quite professional from a marketing point of view but ineffectual to the hardheaded and technically competent SPO staff.
Q, how did SPO organize during this time?
Captain Merrill: Raborn, of course, was the director, and Captain J. B. Colwell was his deputy._ J. B. was acting as director of administration, and I was appointed technical director upon arrival. The three of us met one day to outline the desired organization chart. Administration was to handle budgets, personnel, housekeeping, and public affairs. The technical department was to have sections broken down by the missile and its subsystems, such as propulsion, guidance and warhead plus ancillary equipment or services such as launching, navigation, fire control, tests, training and ship liaison. There was also a section responsible for warhead liaison with the AEC._
This organization proved valid for staffing purposes and operations with the Army, Navy, and organizations relating to Jupiter. It even survived when we finally shifted to Polaris.
Captain Levering Smith, a recognized expert in solid propellants, arrived shortly after me and was asked to head up the propulsion section. He was actually senior to me, but, to his credit, was content not to ask for my job, probably because he knew that moving us away from Jupiter to a new Polaris depended upon his functioning well in his solid propellant field. He succeeded me when I retired in 1957 and finally succeeded Raborn. We worked well together.
Other officers arrived who were the best the Navy had to offer, in my opinion. Bob Wertheim headed up warheads and ultimately became Director, SPO in its Trident era.
Inevitably any organization evolves to fit the management style of its leader. Raborn described his style in these terms in his oral history, "Not being burdened with a great deal of knowledge about anything, I just depend upon a lot of people to do the work for me. I would never do anything if I could get somebody else to do it because, one, the other fellow probably knew how to do the job far better than I, and two, it gave me time to do the things that only I could do. It gave me time to find the soft spots in performance or in part of our military-industrial team or in protecting our political lines in Washington and go do something about them. My deputy ran my show. The deputy, the chief civilian and the technical director were known as the 'Board of Directors.' Do you think I attended the Board meetings? Hell, no! I didn't want to get into the minutiae."
This self-appraisal was honest and accurate. By using this management style, he achieved remarkable success in the Polaris and follow-on missile programs, all with top‑priority Navy backing.
What "only he could do" was to use his sales and social skills and his Navy-wide top priority to "do something about the soft spots?" The "something" usually required a major change, such as more money, fire a lagging contractor or subsidize a winner, prod another service, etc. Many of these required selling his need and persuading government or industrial officials in power to give up something in order to help him. If the official was in the Navy, the task was simpler because he had the backing of CNO and SecNav. If the official was in the executive branch of government or Congress, the task was harder.
In this process he realized, early on, the need for modern presentation and program management visual aides. So he established a Program Management Center, under GS-17 civilian Gordon Pehrson._ It featured a large conference room in which dozens of progress/milestone PERT charts were displayed on the walls._ Each Saturday morning officers representing all functions of the organization gathered to present progress and answer questions directed mostly at "soft spots." The same room served to brief VIPs ranging from senators and government bean counters to scientists, engineers, or top administrators Raborn was trying to hire.
My officers and I doubted the value of these Saturday morning meetings. Pehrson was known as "Omar, the chart maker," because his staff had to get the information needed for the charts from us only for us to see the same information on the walls the following Saturday. Once I convinced Raborn to use a weekday for a couple of months, but Saturdays were reinstated. However, I conceded the room's value for VIP briefings, and it was often from these VIPs that major "political" decisions flowed.
Q. What precipitated the shift from Jupiter to Polaris?
Captain Merrill: Two events triggered the shift. First, Atlantic Research Corporation, a contractor to ONR, was encouraged by Levering Smith to try a solid propellant mix with a greatly increased portion of powdered aluminum. It worked, yielding a specific impulse about equal to the liquid propellant used in Jupiter, with no apparent ill effects. Second, Dr. Edward Teller, speaking for the Atomic Energy Commission at ONR's NOBSKA advisory group, said essentially, "The Atomic Energy Commission can get you a warhead with a one‑megaton yield for 600 pounds."
When I heard of this from our officer attendee, I felt he had found the key we needed to justify going ahead with Polaris, as it was later named. Raborn, I, Levering, and the warhead officer met the same day and agreed to go for it. The next step was, of course, a letter to the AEC asking confirmation of the statement made by Dr. Teller._ Meanwhile we arranged for the preliminary design of a missile using these gorgeous new parameters. Both were in hand within a week.
In his oral history, Raborn describes what happened when he presented his proposal at the top of the Pentagon: "I very proudly carried this over to Admiral Burke and the Secretary of the Navy, and then to Secretary of Defense Wilson. I contrasted it with the previous program which he had approved for us to go ahead and showed him a series of slides of what it would do for size and costs of the vessels, where we could use it and how we could use it in submarines. The last slides showed the contrast with the program he approved, how we could put it into submarines and how we could save upwards of $50,000,000.
"When I finished the presentation, the Secretary of Defense looked most appreciative and he said, 'Well, Admiral, you've shown me a lot of sexy slides this morning, but I tell you that last slide, where you showed that tremendous saving, was the sexiest of all.'
"In due time, he indicated that he would give his approval to the dissolution of our working partnership with the Army and to proceed on our own."
Q: Were there, at that point, any precedents for solid fuel missiles?
Captain Merrill: Oh, yes. The World War II JATO (jet‑assisted takeoff boosters) was not rockets, but they pioneered solid propellant technology. Then you had the air-launched HVARs plus the Terrier and Tartar missiles._
We envisaged Polaris, using the 600-pound warhead, having a height of 28 feet with a diameter of about four feet. This required a solid propellant package considerably larger than any then in use. Our propulsion contractor, Aerojet General, ultimately came through on that problem.
Q: Was Teller's contribution that he had made the warhead more compact and thus able to be carried in a smaller missile?
Captain Merrill: Definitely. As you know, he was the architect of the hydrogen bomb and knew, technically and management wise, what AEC had to do to achieve his parameters.
In retrospect I blame myself for not recognizing early on that AEC would have at least two years to reduce the Jupiter warhead's dimensions to those needed for Polaris. All we needed immediately was assurance that the warhead would be there on time and dimensioned as promised.
Q: He gave you the assurance.
Captain Merrill: Yes, his stature and knowledge of the business were enough to get us out of the dilemma we were in. I don't know if even he realized it at the time. Is he still alive?
Q: Yes, as far as I know, he is.
Captain Merrill: Well, he sure ought to be credited for that.
Q: You have already covered Raborn's personality and working style. Can you elaborate on how that affected internal SPO day-to-day operations?
Captain Merrill: Okay. Raborn was a superb salesman; that's the first thing to be said about him. He inspired confidence in superiors who had to make a judgment on him, whether he knew what he was talking about and could produce results as promised. It's those qualities that sold him to Admiral Burke, who was then CNO. The two were much alike in some ways. Raborn also had experience with the wartime missiles,
He had one other quality that was important; he could spot officers and civilians with the qualifications that he needed and recruit them into SPO-people like Levering Smith, Bob Wertheim, Gordon Pehrson, Deke Ela, etc._ The quality I most appreciated was full delegation to me for all technical aspects of our day-to-day operations.
On the downside, I feel he demanded personal sacrifices as to overtime, excessive travel, and immediate attention to problems of dubious priority.
I retired in 1957 after 28 years of naval service. Frankly, I was "burned out." Like Levering, I seldom got "home" before 7:00 P.M., but Levering had a wife at home. Mine was in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, caring for our sons. The Saturday conferences usually kept me in Washington for most weekends. Running diarrhea was often with me.
When I finally decided to retire, I so informed the boss. He was aghast that I would not honor the Polaris top priority by staying put. I pointed out that Levering Smith was fully qualified to take over as technical director, which he did. After two or three sessions, Raborn finally accepted my decision, but I feel sure he ranked it with but after desertion! However, he never voiced his disapproval in public, and for this I was thankful.
We worked well together for almost two years. At the least, I helped free him from the Jupiter yoke, organized and jump-started the technical division and helped select the contractors who are the real heroes for Polaris going to sea in Khrushchev's face. For this, Raborn awarded me a Legion of Merit and wished me Godspeed on the last day of my naval service.
The Funchal Madeira Caper
USS Arkansas, Circa 1931
By CAPT Grayson Merrill, USN (Ret.)
After surviving plebe year in year 1931 our class looked forward to the traditional summer cruise. We would be free of the close supervision (hazing?) of Class 1933 and could cook up a prank to foil lessened Navy discipline. Here’s an example, courtesy the Naval Institute’s 1996 oral history on me.
I remember one example. We had a fellow in our class--still alive and kicking -- whose nickname was Screwy Lewis. We also had his great and good friend Peyton Magruder (1).
At any rate, we were on the battleship Arkansas , at anchor in Funchal Harbor, Madeira, when these two hatched up a plot (2). One of them would leap over the side at night when everybody was watching a movie, and then the other would cry out "man overboard" and create a furor. So, on schedule, Screwy dove over the side and started swimming out, allegedly towards a commercial ship on which he'd met some girls. He was going over there but didn't have the steam to make it.
So, what with everything, the lights went on all over the ship. The movie stopped, and after things calmed down, they called a muster. Every midshipman had to muster and be interrogated. Sure enough, nobody knew who had jumped over the side. As far as I know, to this day, he went unpunished. (Laughter)
Q: How would the muster not detect his absence?
Captain Merrill: That's a good question. These were ingenious fellows. I think Screwy got back on board via the boat boom before the muster.
Q: I see.
Captain Merrill: There were ways to defeat the system. It was a great triumph to get away with a prank like this and increase his reputation. Also, here we are, about 55 years later, as a class talking about this wonderful achievement and laughing about it. Well, that's part of human nature.
(1). Midshipman Hugh Howard "Screwy" Lewis, USN, stood next to last among the 464 graduates in the class of 1934; he retired as a captain in 1962. Midshipman Peyton M. Magruder, USN, left the Naval Academy prior to graduation; he died in 1982.
(2). USS Arkansas (BB-33) was commissioned 17 September 1912. Following modernization in 1925-26 she had a standard displacement of 26,100 tons, was 562 feet long and 106 feet in the beam. Her top speed was 21 knots. She was armed with 12 12-inch guns and 16 5 inch guns. The ship was frequently used for midshipman training cruises in the years between the World Wars.
A Day of Infamy: Mock Attack On Pearl Harbor, Circa 1938, And The Attack On Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941
Co-Authored By Captains Grayson Merrill and Lester J. Stone USN (Ret.), '34
YEARS OF PREPARATION
Two Apprentice Seamen, USN, reported to the Naval Academy Preparatory School in San Diego , CA , in 1929 – Lester J. Stone and Grayson Merrill . Undisturbed by the stock market crash and spellbound by their recruiting officers’ assurances that their financial future was in no danger from a depression they reported for training and possible selection as midshipmen.
Actually, when Lester finished boot training, he took the examination to go to the Naval Academy Preparatory School and failed it. He decided to try to become an enlisted pilot, having always wanted to fly. Interestingly enough, during a physical, exam the psychologist assured him that he would be better off in bugler’s school. Fortunately, while waiting to find out his fate he spent some time out in front of the barracks flying little wooden model airplanes that he had built. He would toss them into the air, they would catch a thermal, sail around, and they would then come back around and land.
A young naval officer stopped to find out what he was doing. Lester told him everything that was going on. He said, “Be in my office at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.” So, the next morning Lester went down to his office and walked in. The officer said, “Go get your sea bag. You’re going to the Naval Academy Preparatory School .”
Who could imagine, thanks to FDR, that both would dodge the “Great Depression,“ graduate as Ensigns from the Naval Academy in 1934 and spend two celibate, unmarried years aboard surface ships?
In June of 1936 Ensign Grayson Merrill married Mary E. Wilson shortly after her graduation from Occidental College and the couple set off for flight training the next day. Similarly, Lester married Peggy King of Annapolis and joined the Merrills as renters of a duplex apartment in Pensacola , FL. After Grayson finished flight training in 1937 he reported to SARATOGA at anchor off Long Beach in California and Lester did likewise to Torpedo Squadron 2 in LEXINGTON . They were destined not to meet again until after retiring as Captains – Grayson in 1957 and Lester in 1964 – 27 years later!
TRAINING FOR WW II
Now it is time to talk about what happened aboard these ships as they readied for a dress rehearsal of FDR’s “Day That Will Live in Infamy”. The stage is best set by this quote from the US Naval History Center.
“On 15 March 1938 , Saratoga sailed from San Diego for Fleet Problem XIX, later conducted off Hawaii . During the second phase of the problem, Saratoga launched a surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor from a point 100 miles off Oahu , setting a pattern that the Japanese copied in December 1941. During the return to the west coast, Saratoga and Lexington followed this feat with "strikes" on Mare Island and Alameda . Saratoga was under overhaul during the 1939 fleet concentration, but, between 2 April and 21 June 1940 , she participated in Fleet Problem XXI, the last to be held due to the deepening world crisis.”
Grayson tells the how his aviation career was first defined in 1937. “When I joined SARATOGA my squadron, VT–3, was commanded by LCDR Marian E. Crist, a man of towering ego, not well suited to the lumbering TG–1 1torpedo bombers built by the Great Lakes Aircraft Co. They were easy to handle but slow as molasses with two wings and much wire and struts between. I qualified in them as a carrier pilot but welcomed the arrival in 1938 of replacement TBD-1s from Douglas Aircraft. They were the first monowing aircraft to fly off Navy carriers. As the squadron’s junior Ensign I flew Number 18. It gave me my first misadventure enroute to Pearl Harbor for the Mock Attack to come.
It was an era in the Navy when the striking range of battleships was being replaced by early aircraft carriers out to some 100 miles. Our War Games pitted two opposing Task Forces, each with one carrier plus accompanying cruisers and destroyers. Scouting aircraft were used to detect the enemy and call out the dive bombers and torpedo planes for an attack. We were rehearsing the scouting mission.
While all pilots were in the ready room the deck crew topped off the TBD–1 fuel tanks - one was embedded in each wing. Fuelling required removal of a flush screw cap on top. After its removal the hose nozzle was used to top off and the crewman finally reinserted the cap flush with the surface.
Unbeknownst to anyone, my crewman forgot to recap the opening on #18. Checking this error was not on the pilot’s list that he uses after getting into the cockpit. I took off, without catapult, on a 100 mile scouting mission with the port wing tank open to the sky.
On a scouting mission one maintains radio silence for obvious reasons. My track over the sea was figured before take off and involved a long radius out, a short concentric arc to the right and a long radius back to where the moving SARATOGA should be. It wasn’t there!
Following doctrine, I flew a “retiring search curve” and looked around for my home–sweet–home. Instead of the ship I saw a hole in my port wing with no cap on it! What to do? I had found no enemy ship, no home ship and now no cap on the port tank. I needed help – not radio silence!
Sara’s radio controller tracked me at once and vectored me toward the ship, which I soon saw. Then the open tank became the problem. After some verbal exchange it was agreed that I would be the last plane to land. That would put me in the landing circle and provide time to burn off most of remaining fuel. We posited that when I hooked the landing gear deceleration would force the fuel forward in its tank and probably out the filler hole. A mixture of fuel, wind over the deck and hot engine exhaust probably meant a fire on deck. A prayer was said.
I joined the landing circle at its end. As a junior Ensign I was used to that but now I pondered the inevitable encounter with the landing gear! Should I close the sliding cockpit canopy to avoid being burned or open it to enable escape? I chose the open option. Likewise I chose to kill the engine once in the landing gear to reduce the exhaust gas temperature.
After all aircraft on deck were parked well forward and I was down to minimum gas I was cleared to land. The upper deck was lined with on-lookers but my full attention was on the landing signal officer; between us the landing was wobbly but good.
As expected, the gas shot forward out of the tank, dispersed in the 25 knot wind over the deck and created a spectacular fireball to port that blew harmlessly aft. I felt the heat from radiation but experienced no skin burns. A great cheer arose from the onlookers. No words can describe my relief.
MOCK ATTACK: Grayson’s Story
A few days later we arrived off Pearl Harbor and prepared for War Game XIX. SARA was to attack and LEXINGTON defend. Neither I nor Lester was party to the wardroom tactical planning. It turned out to be a dress rehearsal for the Japanese attack on December 7th.
As fate would have it, I had a grandstand seat in the Squadron commander’s plane – the bombardier position. In practices I had proven more adept than the enlisted bombardiers so he skipper used me whenever the entire squadron dropped bombs in formation. This angered the enlisted folks, and me as well, but that’s the way it was for the mock attack in April, 1938.
We launched all planes from a position 100 miles north of Pearl - undetected by defenders. The day was clear when VT–3 flew over battleship row in Pearl Harbor without dropping even small inert bombs. All I can remember was the amazing fact that the battleships were mostly docked alongside a pier, as were the cruisers - a pattern of maximum vulnerability to bombs. Later I reported this at a debriefing conference but I doubt anything was changed by 7 December, 1941 . We did not stick around to watch the “Hell Divers”; all-in-all an uneventful day.
Unfortunately, On February 14, 1940 , while stationed with Torpedo Squadron (VT-2), I had an airplane accident that wiped out most of my memory for the preceding two years, which included the Mock Defense. So I shall defer that subject while I cover the accident itself.
At the time of the accident I was going out on a mission without any other planes, and I really do not remember the mission. I do remember that we were training with the fleet off the coast of San Diego , engaging with fighters. We made at least one torpedo practice in which we launched torpedoes with inert warheads.
The TBD-1's had folding wings. To operate the wings we had to unlock them by turning a crank. Then we had to push a button and a hydraulic system folded or unfolded the wings. When my copilot, who was sitting in the pilot’s seat, taxied into the line, he unlocked the wings. Then someone came out and told us we had to go back out. I don’t remember what we were going back out for, but I got in the pilot’s seat, taxied out and took off. Neither he nor I remembered that he had unlocked the wings but not folded them. We taxied out, took off and the wings folded.
From then on it’s pretty much upside down! The engine broke off and rolled on across the field, so there was no fire and then people were all around and suddenly I was out of the airplane.
I do not remember the event -- about being pulled out of the airplane, but I was told about it so many times, I have a picture of it in my mind. I had two passengers, a copilot and a radio man. The copilot had unfastened his seatbelt when the plane was upside down, fell out and broke his collar bone. The radioman stayed where he was till they got him out.
My wife Peggy requisitioned a room right across the hall in the hospital. She was there all the time. I was unconscious for about ten days. It took three months to heal and when I went back to duty, I knew that my memory was not working very well. When I would meet someone just walking around the station, and they would say, “Hi, Les,” I would not know who they were. After experiencing that a number of times, I decided that whenever I ran into someone, whether I remembered him or not, I’d treat him like a long lost friend…and that worked. I made a lot of extra friends.
After I was released from the hospital, I was ordered to the utility squadron VJ-1 on North Island . The squadron was flying training flights and providing services to the fleet such as towing targets, taking photographs, and some passenger flying. I really do not remember more than that. In June 1940, VJ-1 moved to Ford Island , Pearl Harbor .
MOCK DEFENSE: Lester’s Story
As I said above, the accident wiped out most of my memory for about two years preceding the accident. I do however remember a few facts and have assembled other facts from Naval Institute sources that fill in the years to War Game XIX.
I went to squadron VT-2 in 1937 and remember some of the exercises that we did then. We were getting the Douglas Torpedo planes. In our training exercises we operated with torpedoes, dummy torpedoes, and we did high altitude bombing in the dessert.
We also did exercises off San Diego with the fighter squadrons. That was when I became friends with Jimmy Thatch who was a squadron fighter pilot. I remember a few of his tactics, including the “weave”. The fighters would take positions higher than the bombers and then dive to shoot down the bombers in a vertical dive; this was a perfect way to do it, because the bombers could not shoot straight up. Jimmy had worked that out sitting at the kitchen table, using match sticks as airplanes, a brilliant device and the tactic that they actually used against Japanese bombers in WWII. The guns were synchronized with cameras, to keep track of who was “winning” the confrontations.
I was in LEXINGTON , with VT-2 in 1938. LEXINGTON and VT-2 were deployed to participate in war games during that time. According to Naval Institute documents, the Mock Defense commenced at 1007 hours when VF-2 commenced machine gunning three destroyers of the outer screen and then at 1014 hours shifted in to three destroyers of the inner screen. While doing so it came under simulated fire of destroyers of Squadrons Eleven and Twelve aggregating eighty rounds of 3” and 1400 rounds of cal.50.
At 1016 hours VT-2 approached under cover of smoke screen lay simultaneously by three smokers and fired 15 inert torpedoes at the TENNESSEE and OKLAHOMA . The simulated group attack was very well coordinated. The attack of VF-2 was shifted to the battleships anti-submarine screen at the time when doing so supported VMB-2’s dive bombing attack very nicely.
7 DECEMBER 1941 : Lester’s Story
Why were we surprised on December 7th? We in the Navy were not surprised. The public was surprised. All operations were in anticipation of an attack. The PAC Fleet’s entire home base was changed from San Diego to Pearl Harbor in anticipation of an attack. That’s why we put it there, in general anticipation. Also we were, at this time, keeping track of what the Japanese were doing in Asia . They had invaded Manchuria , and had captured Shanghai and invaded China . We were searching 360 degrees around Oahu out to 400 miles daily in anticipation of attack.
Two weeks prior to attack, we were received an “Estimate of the Situation” - a thick report that described what was believed true at that point, e.g., where the Japanese Fleet was, where our operations were, what was leading into the situation to date, and what was expected. A few days before the attack I, as communications officer, received a radio message that “War is imminent. Do everything to get ready. Do not alarm the public.” I gave this to my boss, Commander Murphy.
On the other hand we were not engaged in war although we were in training exercises. When we went to Pearl Harbor the fleet did training exercises in the air and at sea in anticipation of these attacks – critical. So in planning we had the fleet divided into three parts, - two parts at sea and one part in port. Those that were in port were in for logistics, for overhaul, and to check for watertight integrity since we were expecting a submarine attack.
One third of the battleships were in port, one third of the cruisers, and one third of the destroyers. These were the general arrangements.
We had two carriers based in Pearl, LEXINGTON and the SARATOGA. Sometimes there would be one in port and sometimes neither.
I was the communications officer for the utility squadron and so I got all of the messages and papers, decoded, and distributed them And I set up a training exercise for the pilots who were on duty to enable them to communicate properly in case of an attack.
During that time, I worked to get my little department going. We had a radio station, and a room about 10-feet square for communication with the Fleet, I noticed that we that had a power station on Ford Island that generated electric power for the island, and I wondered what would happen if we were attacked, if we would lose our electric power. So I went over to the Naval Base and scrounged a motor generator about as big as an automobile, put it just outside my radio shack so that I could be quite certain that we had power.
The battleship CALIFORNIA was sunk when the Japanese attacked, and when it sank it broke the water connection to the electric power station, so that Ford Island then had no electric power. We used that motor generator to provide power to the radio station to provide communication for all of Ford Island and collected all the bicycles on the island to run messages. This included communications to the Fleet, including that from the Patrol Wing of several Squadrons housed at the eastern end of Ford Island . That lasted for two or three days until we got power from the naval base.
Meanwhile Admiral Kimmel, who was in command of the Fleet had prepared an estimate of the situation, in which we realized that we would probably have an attack by the Japanese -- that we could expect perhaps 100 Japanese submarines to attack and that with that there would be an air attack. So it was decided that weekend to keep all the battleships in port to check their watertight integrity. In doing that, he made sure that both of the carriers were at sea, along with most of the cruisers and destroyers. Unfortunately, the battleships were kept in port that Sunday morning.
In the months prior to the Japanese attack, the US Navy was engaged in a massive training and positioning program to be prepared for a clash with Japanese. As mentioned above, we had moved the Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor and set up continuous training programs off the shores of Pearl Harbor . The training programs included actual firing of the guns at targets of various kinds, all kinds of maneuvers, antiaircraft maneuvers, etc. The Utility Squadron VJ-1 and a two other similar squadrons were providing services for that training. We towed aerial targets for the ships to shoot at with their antiaircraft guns. And we provided photographic coverage for the training exercises.
In the months preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor , search flights were flown every day covering the area 360 o out to about 400 miles around Pearl Harbor , using patrol planes and some of the airplanes from VJ-1. I flew almost every day on those search flights – 13 hours – that’s exhausting. A couple of weeks before the Japanese attacked, we transferred half of our patrol planes to Midway Island , so that they would be closer to the Japanese. That left us with enough planes to search only one half of the area that we had been searching. Sunday morning, the Day of Infamy, we could search only half, and our search was to the south. The Japanese came in from the north!
That morning, 7 December 1941 , I was just getting dressed and heard an airplane. I went outside and saw a Japanese plane flying just over our house … about 50’ above the house. My neighbor, a Japanese Presbyterian minister, with a church in the cane fields watched with me. We could see the pilot.
Ensign Zimmerman had stayed over that night with Peggy and me in Pearl City on the North side of Pearl Harbor . We both jumped into the Studebaker and drove around the island to get to the boat landing to get to Ford Island . It probably took about a half hour.
I went to my hangar and found that I was the senior officer there at that moment. I ordered three airplanes to be prepared to go out on a search mission. I ordered the photographic laboratory, which was part of our squadron, to send out photographers to cover the battle.
Then an officer senior to me arrived at the squadron and cancelled the search flight. He might have assumed that our airplanes would have been shot down by our own ships, or perhaps received orders, I don’t know. My boss, Commander Murphy, rescheduled the flight a few minutes later, but I was ordered to take my name off the list of pilots and to stay on the ground to handle the communications.
During the attack -- the bombing of the battleships - I had placed machine guns with gunners in about a half a dozen planes that we had parked just off the runway. We were engaging the Japanese planes that at that moment were strafing the field. We hit one, which was also hit from other guns and flew into one of the logistics ships, killing a number of seamen.
While these guns were shooting at the strafing planes, the ARIZONA blew up. Things started falling on the field from the explosion. One was a big sheet of steel that stuck in the ground between some of the airplanes. A burning object fell down at my feet. I stamped out the fire and picked it up; it was a Damage Control Pamphlet from the ARIZONA . I put it in my pocket, thinking that someone might want it some day, I kept it for several years, and when they built the ARIZONA monument I sent it to them.
As communications officer, I was busy as hell, and I guess everyone else was busy too. I had gone up to the BOQ to get some lunch. We were standing out on the porch watching what was going on. We knew that one of the Japanese midget submarines had taken refuge under our hospital ship that was anchored in Pearl Harbor . We also knew that the submarine would have to come up for air. At the moment when we were watching from the BOQ we could see a motor launch with a man in the bow, with a long pole plunging it into the water trying to find the submarine. The water in the harbor was only about 40 feet deep, so the submarine had to be between 0 and 40. The pole that the man had was about 20 feet long. He finally contacted the submarine and depth charged it as I went back to work.
Our airplanes were coming in from the carriers. The smoke from the ARIZONA was moving across the runway, and I noticed that three friendlies were coming in aligned with the smoke rather than the runway. Our ships were shooting at them not knowing that they were ours. One of them crashed into the house across the street from where we lived and burned it down. I got on the radio and told our ships to stop shooting, they were friendly. The other two planes figured out where the runway actually was and got in safely.
We had been expecting the major Japanese attack to be from the submarines. As it turned out, the submarine attack was a complete and total failure and the air attack was a success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Destroyer USS BROOKS Dodges Head-on Collision Penetrating War-Game Smoke Screen
by CAPT Grayson Merrill '34, USN (Ret.)
After graduation in 1934, I was assigned to USS WEST VIRGINIA under overhaul at Bremerton, WA. It was a dreary, rainy and boring year where I traced steam lines in the engineering spaces, served as JO Mess Officer and lost my appendix at the nearby hospital.
Then I received orders to USS Brooks, a World War I four-pipe destroyer whose hull corrosions didn’t bother its crew one bit. At the time I did not realize I was entering a new phase of my life and the mustang Commanding Officer, LCDR Charles Fielding, USN was the coach.
“Skipper” chose me as his Duty Officer on the bridge when we next went to sea. Brooks was the last of four vessels in the Davison practicing maneuvers off San Diego. After watching my USNA PT boat skills for an hour he said, “You are qualified as OOD, take the corn.” Then he went to the deck above the bridge for sun bathing – actually keeping an eye on my actions!
War Games in those times reflected the pre-aviation vision of sea power. There were two columns of battleships, and the "”enemy destroyers" laid a smoke screen to protect their battle line from a torpedo attack. Our job was to penetrate the screen in column, upon emerging turn and launch torpedoes, then continue turning and retire back through the screen. Brooks was number four in the column.
For this event the skipper wisely returned to the bridge wing. The first three ships disappeared into the screen and did their thing. Then we penetrated and emerged, only to see the division leader charging directly at us at some 22 knots. Obviously, he had turned more than 180 degrees, but there was no time to argue. I called out "right full rudder" and "all engines full astern." The skipper saw a different solution and yelled "left full rudder." He did not formally relieve me as OOD; there was no time for that since we shortly went roaring by each other at a separation of some 20 yards!
After we had safely avoided the other two ships the skipper turned to the ever- present mess attendant and said, "Joe, go below and get me a cup of the blackest damned coffee you can find."
I hate to put it this way, but I suspect there were a lot of soiled britches on the bridge and in the engine room that day!