Category Archives: Posts

The Legacy – Survivors Stories of the USS Indianapolis

My second post about the USS Indianapolis.  This time you get the testimony of its survivors, a look at the commander of the sub which sank it, and other facts, not the Hollywood version.

They carried the components for Little Boy to the island of Tinian on July 26,1945, the first Atomic Bomb later dropped on Hiroshima.

Their mission was so secret, they were denied a proper escort to protect from submarine attack, because “they weren’t there”.  A distress signal they sent was ignored as a Japanese ruse.

While over 900 of the 1,100 plus crew survived the sinking, only some 300 were rescued.  Hundreds were killed by repeated shark attacks.  Just 317 survived, only to band together again in a fifty-year fight to clear their captain’s name.

The original post:

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage


Bougainville – The Battle of the Coconut Grove

An important element of the island hopping campaign, but like many other battles seldom mentioned, was one which took place after the securing of Guadalcanal.  This episode (video link at bottom) is one of a series entitled Battle History of the U.S. Marine Corps: Marines in the Pacific.

Courtesy of Wikipedia (most links disabled):

The Battle of the Coconut Grove was a battle between United States Marine Corps and Imperial Japanese Army forces on Bougainville. The battle took place on 13–14 November 1943 during the Bougainville campaign, coming in the wake of a successful landing around Cape Torokina at the start of November, as part of the advance towards Rabaul as part of Operation Cartwheel.

In the days following the landing, several actions were fought around the beachhead at Koromokina Lagoon and along the Piva Trail. As the beachhead was secured, a small reconnaissance party pushed forward and began identifying sites for airfield construction outside the perimeter. In order to allow construction to begin, elements of the 21st Marine Regiment were ordered to clear the Numa Numa Trail. They were subsequently ambushed by a Japanese force and over the course two days a pitched battle was fought. As the Marines brought up reinforcements, the Japanese withdrew. By the end of the fighting, the Marines had gained control of a tactically important intersection of the Numa Numa and East–West Trails. A further action was fought around Piva Forks in the days following the ambush.


In early November, US forces had landed around Cape Torokina and established a beachhead, as part of Allied efforts to advance towards the main Japanese base around Rabaul, the isolation and reduction of which was a key objective of Operation Cartwheel.  A Japanese counter landing at Koromokina Lagoon was defeated in the days following the US landing, and the beachhead was subsequently secured.  Following this, a blocking force was pushed forward towards the Piva Trail, a key avenue of approach towards Cape Torokina, to defend the narrow beachhead while further supplies and reinforcements were landed.   The Japanese commander on Bougainville, Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake, ordered the 23rd Infantry Regiment to advance towards Cape Torokina from the main Japanese position around Buin Heavy fighting subsequently took place during the Battle for Piva Trail as the Japanese advancing from Buin clashed with the Marine blocking force. The battle resulted in the capture of Piva by US forces, after which a small reconnaissance party of naval construction personnel, escorted by a force of Marine infantrymen, was sent out in search of of a site suitable for an airfield. Led by Commander William Painter, a Civil Engineer Corps officer, the party identified a suitable location about 1 mile (1.6 km) beyond the perimeter, about 3 miles (4.8 km) inland, and they set about preparations for the construction of several landing strips for bomber and fighter aircraft.

E04: Bougainville – Securing the Solomons  23 min

Legends of Air Combat: B-52

It was the B-52 G model (1959)  I used to see as a child.

Memory serving correctly, several times a day, flights of them at near treetop level, passed directly over my house (!) on their long approach for landing.  Many just beginning to lower their landing gear; close enough I could clearly see the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit.  I’d wave at them.  On one occasion, a pilot waggled the giant plane’s wings in response.  Strategic Air Command logo painted on their side, the mailed fist clutching lightning bolts, the roar of their eight engines reverberating in my ears.  I occasionally heard the unmistakable “whine” of a U-2, but seldom saw them.

The video states “The tail unit is large…” – what they don’t tell you is- it was something over 40 ft tall at the top.  These variants predated the use of later developed rockets and other weapons such as the Hound Dog.   I am not sure, but these may have been the ones to use JATO units when taking off; their engines alone not powerful enough to lift their massive weight off the runway.  Also, no mention of their great wings flexing as much as six feet.

The video makes no mention whatsoever of their SAC base nearby during this time period.

I saw both the USAF Thunderbirds, who were flying the North American F-100 Super Sabres, and the Navy Blue Angels, who flew the Grumman  F-11 Tiger jets at that base, before the October ’62 Cuban missile crisis.  Much later, it became a TAC (Tactical Air Command) base during ‘Nam, and the only planes one would see were the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms.  I also saw -perhaps the first- A-10 Thunderbolt ground support fighters before they were deployed.



Logistics involved in conducting the Pacific Campaign

Apart from abysmal ignorance of the vast territories which western countries had colonized in southeast Asia, the logistics of conducting the Pacific Campaign are staggering.  The China-Burma-India (CBI) campaign is no less daunting.  Using overlay maps of countries shows the magnitude of this endeavor.  Google prevents showing the actual maps, links provided must be used.   First, an overlay of Australia on the U.S.:

The Philippines overlayed on Australia

Indonesia overlay on Australia

Overlay of Indonesia on the U.S. gives another perspective.  Apparently, it’s much longer than the 3,000 miles wide area of the U.S.

Google’s limited list precludes any ability to show the CBI area overlayed on the Pacific island chains extending from say, New Guinea to Okinawa.

However, China overlayed on the U.S. would provide a crude idea of the distances.

You can contract (-) each overlay to show the surrounding areas.

Courtesy of the Nations Online Project

Map of Southeast Asia Region



Taffy 3: The Dragons of Samar

Obtaining the most appropriate material to remember our vets, in place of the usual fare, took more time than I had thought; which is why this is being posted at 0145 hrs on November 12th.

One of the most famous last stands of the Second World War.  In the waters off Samar, 13 escort carriers, destroyers and destroyer escorts were the only elements of our fleet in place to defend the Leyte Gulf invasion forces.

October 25 1944:

The US Third Fleet, having fallen for a decoy operation, left the American Invasion beaches of Leyte Gulf all but defenseless, with the exception of a small group of escort carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts known as Taffy-3.  For the better part of the day, Taffy-3 endured the full power of the Japanese counter-attack.  Despite overwhelming odds, managed to stop the Japanese fleet, but at a price.

By the time the guns of the Battle off Samar fell silent five of Taffy 3’s 13 ships: USS Gambier Bay, USS St. Lo, USS Johnston, USS Hoel, and USS Samuel B Roberts had been sent to the bottom, along with 898 sailors, airmen and marines, many of whom would fall victim to shark attacks over the next two days.

When the War Got Personal: The Story of the Men of the USS Hoel

This video doesn’t actually start til 0:26; the essential part begins at 2:08. Made in 2015, these were some of the survivors of the Battle off Samar.

Published on May 21, 2015

In October 2014, twelve First Class Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy (all History majors) attended the reunion of Taffy III in San Diego to conduct oral histories of those World War II survivors from the Battle off Samar. This documentary reflects part of that work.

USS Johnston Survivor’s Story Part I

Skip to 1:14:30 in this documentary; emphasis being the battle of Leyte Gulf, and the heroic stand by Taffy 3. Only four destroyer escorts, a few destroyers, and the slow, small, escort “jeep” carriers, with no armor, would find themselves taking on a large Japanese force of battleships, cruisers and destroyers.

The Norwegian Resistance – Max Manus: Man of War

I only just today found out about Max; a Norwegian saboteur and others with him who fought the Nazis after Quisling’s betrayal.  While the film makers may have “created situations for dramatization”, this is a true story, and testament of their gallant, courageous resistance.

Red title is a live link.  English subtitles.

Max Manus: Man of War