USS Fremont APA-44

The War Diary of William Ritchie


Introduction

This is a transcript of the war diary of William Ritchie made aboard the USS Fremont APA 44. These entries were made upon departure from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on through the invasions of Saipan, Mariannas Islands, Palau, Ulithi, Philippine Islands and Iwo Jima.


U.S.S. FREMONT

AT SEA

1 June 1944

Been aboard 19 days today and am more or less accustomed to the ship. Not much has happened of interest but this will be the start of my real Navy combat life, for we are shoving off today. There isn't anything definite yet but with units of the 27th Division aboard, we know we are not going on a picnic. The rumor has it as being the Marianas - we shall soon know.

3 June 1944

Got my first feeling of being under fire today for we had AA firing practice. Got a big kick out of it and surprisingly I don't think I flinched much even with a battery of 20MMs less than 20 feet from my General Quarters station.

4 - 8 June 1944

Not much except getting confused with turning clocks back and keeping my mind off my stomach. Confidentially I sort of like this sailing business.

9 June 1944

Anchored in Kwajalien Atoll, Marshall Islands. Feel like and old salt already. Made inquiry of Jack's outfit but no one seemed to recognize it.

11 June 1944

Underway again. This time there will be no stopping until Saipan, Mariana Islands. Get a little chill when I think of it being about 1500 miles from Manila and 1600 from Japan but suppose I will be a lot closer before I next see the United States. Even that's close enough when one considers the ranges of planes. Had first real call to Battle Station at 7:30 PM when report of sub contact was received. Part of our escort dropped charges, observed oil slick but we continued on our way. At 11:30 PM there was another sound contact but this one didn't materialize. Incidentally, I almost knocked myself out going to GQ when I bumped into a ladder on the deck. See where I'll have to practice walking and running on the deck with my eyes closed for moments like these.

15 June 1944

D Day at Saipan, we go in tomorrow. Listening in on Air Support Circuit of the play by play description, it appears like we are getting stiff resistance. 8:15PM Radar picked up Bogey and we went to GQ. Our first probable air attack. My heart was beating in my throat. About 20 minutes later our Radar reported bogey had disappeared and we secured. That's how they should all be, for my money.

16 June 1944

Happy Birthday, Bobby. Here it is 9 years later and another memorable day in my life for at 2 AM we got our first glimpse of Saipan, silhouetted by star-shells and tracer fire. At 5AM more tracer fire from one of our ships which turned out to be quite a show for she destroyed 5 Jap oil barges. During the day we passed nothing but wreckage and some Jap survivors, probably the results of Task Force 58 strike of the 14th and 15th. Escorts picked up survivors. Situation ashore serious and we were ordered to land our troops to reinforce Blue Beach who is suffering heavy casualties from enemy mortar and artillery fire.

17 June 1944

7AM Commenced debarkation. All day at ONE-ABLE and underway at 5:40PM when we went to GQ. Enemy planes over Saipan. Ships threw up big AA barrage which was beautiful. (What a time to see beauty). Oil dump was hit on the beach which added to the glow in the sky. At 7:30PM we had planes closing 5 miles astern of us and we waited but did not fire as they passed directly over us, not seeing us in the darkness. We heard them but couldn't see them.

18-19 June 1944

Several calls to Battle Stations but no planes came near enough to be taken under our fire. Mostly over the island at dusk and dark.

20 June 1944

Started taking on casualties and continued unloading. Observed terrific explosion on the beach, presumably an ammunition dump had been hit at 9PM the explosions continued off and on for the next 3 hours.

21 June 1944

4:30AM Japs tried to land some barges but were stopped dead. Several shells from Tinian fell among us (the Transports) at this time causing no damage.

24 June 1944

One of our planes was hit from fire from the island and small boats went out for the pilot.

26 June 1944

Finished unloading and taking on casualties. 6:30PM, Underway to Eniwetok, Marshall Islands. Everyone very happy about the whole thing.

30 June 1944

Arrived at Eniwetok. Although we were not attacked by enemy planes, which was no fault of ours, we were constantly at GQ (General Quarters) or ONE-ABLE and everyone is pooped.

6 July 1944

Underway for Hawaii, all alone. No escort or anything.

12 July 1944

Good old Pearl Harbor - sight for sore eyes.

23 July 1944

At 2:59AM we went to GQ. Large Task Force was reported 180 miles North of Hawaii. Secured at 8:30AM with no explanation of what it was all about.

11 August 1944

Commenced embarking units of 81st Infantry Division. Looks like its off the races again. Hear it will be the Palau Islands this time.

12 August 1944

Underway for Guadacanal, B.S.I.

22 August 1944

Crossed Equator at 12:05PM. Held initiation ceremonies. Some fun.

24 August 1944

Anchored at Guadacanal.

25 August - 5 September 1944

Held various landing operation drills for troops. Going out at evenings and putting troops ashore in rehearsals at dawn.

8 September 1944

Underway from Guadacanal for Palau Islands.

15 September 1944

First sight of Peleliu at 4:38AM. Star shells etc., was sighted. Sailed around all day, apparently or reserve troops aren't needed.

16 September 1944

At 8:40AM we anchored in the Transport Area off Anguar Island. Not needing our troops at Peleliu Island we were ordered to disembark them at Anguar just across the channel. Number of small shells landed in the water off our bow. Just close enough to make us duck for cover.

17 - 19 September 1944

We went to GQ several times but no planes came over.

20 September 1944

Started and finished unloading.

21 September 1944

Left Anguar and underway for Ulithi Island. We, the crew didn't know much about this island but knowing it was just above Yap which was supposed to be one of the Japs stronghold, we thought we may find some trouble in this invasion.

23 September 1944

Anchored off Ulithi. Occupied without opposition or a shot fired. Don't think there was a Jap on the whole atoll.

25 September 1944

Underway from Ulithi.

28 September 1944

Anchored in Hollandia Bay, New Guinea.

1 October 1944

Underway from New Guinea for Manus, Admiralty Islands.

2 October 1944

Anchored in Manus, Admiralty Islands.

7 October 1944

Embarked more troops. This is it. We are all for it, this time it will be worth while for we are getting set for the Philippines. Either Mindoa or Leyte.

8 - 11 October 1944

Drilled troops at debarkation etc. and held several AA practices.

12 October 1944

Underway --- Philippines here we come.

15 October 1944

Joined Task Force 78. What a sight. Stretched out over 40 miles of ocean and the mighty F. leading the right hand column. All kinds of ships from little subs chasers to the biggest carriers and wagons.

20 October 1944

Another memorable day in the life of the great Ritchie. At midnight we passed Dinogat Island and entered Surigao Strait and Leyte Gulf. Tight squeeze for a convoy of this size with little or no maneuvering space. 5:30AM went to our first GQ. At this time we had a steering casualty and by losing control for a few seconds, we missed a mine which was picked up by the ship directly astern of us, in her paravane. Lucky, already? 6:30AM Saw our first Jap plane which flew over our convoy and was fired upon but not hit. Much too high. 8:00AM Anchored in San Pedro Bay near Tacloban between between Leyte and Samhar. 10:23AM Troops debarked and we moved in closer to the beach. The beachhead had been secured with slight opposition. The pounding that beachhead got and was getting paid dividends in saving many soldiers lives. Several GQs during the day but we didn't fire.

21 - 23 October 1944

Kind of quite during these days and we were reminded of the calm before the storm.

24 October 1944

A day to remember for the storm broke. The Jap air force really came out of hiding. From 5:30AM up until 11:PM it was one GQ after another. Many planes were hit and fell all over the transport area. It was a sight I'll never forget and to try to put into words the certain cruel beauty of the scene would be impossible. Several planes suicide dived our ships and though the material loss was very light (only two ships that we could see, actually sunk) the loss in personnel was pretty high for a lot of the ships were still unloading and the crews were on deck. The bay was smoke and flames all day. Several small calibre shells hit our ship doing no damage. One hit about 15 ft. behind my General Quarters station and 7 men were injured. Upon securing from the last GQ, several of us went to the Mess Hall for coffee and listened to a broadcast from Australia telling of the Jap fleet coming out in force and on the way to us. There was a strange silence for we knew Admiral Halseys' Carrier force was keeping them busy around Luzon and Formosa and between the Jap fleet and ourselves, stood only a few of our older battle ships. This bay wouldn't be hard to bottle up and at this range, they could just sit at the entrance and pick us off like sitting ducks.

25 October 1944

Same thing as yesterday with little variation. Things started at 5:05AM and continued on and off all day, up till midnight. To say we were tired, would be putting it mildly for we had a couple of GQs during the night and early morning, one of which lasted 3 hours but didn't fire on one plane. There were times during the day when we didn't even open our eyes as planes out of our range were taken under fire by other ships. Just bored to death with the whole affair. Falling Jap planes became a regular occurrence and lost its appeal. Believe it or not.

26 October 1944

Started at 4:40AM today and worked through until 11:30PM. Had a close one when a plane made a run on us off our bow. Every gun in range fired and didn't stop until he disappeared in the water just even with us.

27 October 1944

Just another day of GQs and again we were lucky, as a crippled Jap missed us and hit the ship on our starboard beam exploding several times on her deck.

28 - 29 October 1944

More GQs but caught some sleep on top of an ammunition box. Devil may care.

30 October 1944

The barometer dropped drastically and the wind rose to 71 knots. Quite an experience for I was on watch (12AM - 4AM) when it came up and what a time we had. Some ships broke from their anchorages and drifted about the bay. With the congestion of the bay, this was bad. Thanks to the bad weather, air activity let up and much rest was had by all.

1 - 7 November 1944

Much the same as before with Japs becoming scarcer each day but still making nightly appearances one at a time. This was more or less just nuisance raids to keep us up at night.

18 November 1944

The good word has come. We're off for Humboldt Bay, Hollandia, New Guinea. Goodbye San Pedro Bay.

22 November 1944

Arrived in New Guinea and even that looked good.

1 December 1944

Still in New Guinea. Had a little excitement today for around 5PM our mooring buoy became adrift and we went aground. It was somewhat windy and some heavy swells. This was it for if we could get a decent hole in our bottom it would be our best chance of going back to the States. Our luck wasn't good in this respect for after 3 hours of tugs pushing and pulling we were floated again. After sending a diver down, no damage was reported. Oh well, we have had our share of good luck to date and we can't have everything.

12 December 1944

Underway from Hollandia, enroute to Sansapor.

14 December 1944

Arrived at Sansapor.

15 - 26 December 1944

Nothing exciting. Just routine ships work. Christmas was spent quietly and sadly with all the trimmings of a turkey dinner.

27 December 1944

Embarked 6th Infantry Division troops. Philippines here we come again.

30 December 1944

Around midnight the General Alarm sounded and sleepily we dashed to our battle stations. This was a surprise for the Jap's air force hadn't come down here for over a month. At 12:30AM a plane was picked up in a searchlight and taken under fire. It was hit, burst into flames and crashed into the water. 3:30PM Underway for Luzon. Still that same thrill of getting started and off into the unknown. Knowing what Leyte was like, we expected even more this time for Luzon has many airfields. We are to hit Lingayen Gulf.

1 - 6 January 1945

Still underway with no incidents worth repeating. Several sound contacts were made but none materialized.

7 January 1945

Went to GQ several times during day but no planes sighted. We were now in South China Sea, a little south of Manila. At 11:30PM one of our destroyers made contact with a Jap destroyer off our bow. Several starshells were thrown up and upon spotting the Jap our DD proceeded to sink it, hitting the forward magazine almost immediately. She went up with a bang.

8 January 1945

We were now in dangerous and narrow waters off the coast of Luzon, so it was no surprise when GQ was sounded at 2:40AM. Nothing was observed, however. At 7AM a Jap bomber came over us and dropped several bombs between us and another ship. We took her under fire and hits were scored. It crashed on the bridge of the other ship. We took her under fire and hits were scored. It crashed on the bridge of the other ship. The plane just turned from us at the last moment and it could have just as well been us. Shortly after, AA fire was seen astern and another plane crashed into a carrier. Little or no damage was done. They buried the casualties at sea (from the other ship) later in the afternoon we on the Fire Control felt very queer for it was that very spot that the Jap crashed on the other ship. Had a couple of more GQs during the night but no planes came close enough for us to fire on. Probably just getting a line on the size of our convoy.

9 January 1945

(D-Day) We entered the mouth of Lingayen Gulf at 3AM and at 5AM had our first air raid. This was the start of a full day but nothing like Leyte for the Luzon airfields had received a real pounding during the preceding two weeks and besides, we had hundreds of planes in the air. At 8AM the troops disembarked and from all accounts, the beachhead was established with very little opposition.

10 January 1945

Several GQs but none materialized. The ships were unloaded and we stood around watching the action on the land, through binoculars. Even there, there wasn't much to see. Kept waiting for that "all out" air attack from Formosa but it didn't come.

11 January 1945

At 5:30 we got underway for Leyte but we knew that place was secured and looked forward to the rest. Route was through the China Sea, Mindoro Straits, west coast of Panay, west coast of Negros, through Sulu Sea and between Negros and Mindanao, through Suriago Strait.

14 January 1945

Arrived at Toloso, Leyte, P.I. at 5:30PM.

19 January 1945

Underway at 1PM for Ulithi Is., West Caroline Group.

23 January 1945

Anchored in Ulithi after uneventful trip. Had several sound contacts and GQs but they turned out to be phonies.

6 February 1945

Left dear old Ulithi, my favorite invasion, enroute to Guam, Mariana Islands. Sort of anxious to get there for there should be decent liberty and that is something we haven't seen since leaving Pearl Harbor, Aug. 12, 1944.

8 February 1945

Arrived at Guam and commenced embarking troops again. What's the rush? We hear it is to be the Bonins this time.

17 February 1945

Here we go again for today we set out at 9:30AM for Iwo Jima, less than 700 miles from Japan. Each time it gets closer. Wonder how this one will be for its within fighter range of Japan.

21 February 1945

Arrived at Iwo Jima but did not go in. Seems as if we are reserves for a change. Looks like the fighting is tough from what we see and hear.

22 - 24 February 1945

Sailing around Iwo Jima during the day and going out each night to retirement area. Unloading was difficult because of the heavy surf at the beach and ground swells in the transport area. Had a few GQs but no action. We can see why -- Japan proper is taking an awful pounding from B-29s and carrier planes. Heard that as many as 1700 were over there regularly. They are being kept too busy at home and in the surrounding Volcanos and Bonins Islands to get any planes to us.

25 February - 1 March 1945

Still anchored off Iwo Jima and unloading as the surf permits. Pretty slow process for only the larger boats can be used. Had a couple of G.Q.'S but no action. Didn't get much sleep during this period due to unloading, for condition ONE-ABLE was in effect most of the time.

3 March 1945

We are going in closer to the beach today. Now we can really see the action ashore. Believe me, its no picnic in there from what we see and hear.

4 - 5 March 1945

Still unloading and watching the action ashore. What a sight, especially at night, for the Japs have a couple of rocket launching positions and they are nice to watch, if not to catch. Look just like shooting stars only on a larger scale.

6 March 1945

At 10:30 AM the little so and so's decided to raise a little hell with us and due to near misses by small caliber shell fire from the Jap held portion of the beach, we hauled anchor and went out of range. At 5 PM we formed up and set off for Saipan. From the way we hear about the fighting ashore, the island is more than 3/4ths ours now but the mopping up process will be slow for they are certainly dug in.

8 March 1945

Another day to remember for a B-29, crippled and returning from Japan crashed off our Port quarter about a mile away. We saw her falling. We left the convoy with a DD and went to the rescue. The DD picked up the survivors and we put a boat over to search the wreckage for any others that might be caught. We went right alongside of the plane and by this time only about 1/2 of it was above the water, sticking straight up and down. What a giant she is, just the tail is enough to make you gasp. There was still 3 of the crew inside her when she finally sunk, four hours after the crash. Things were partially evened up during the day for we buried one of the Jap prisoners of war at sea.

9 March 1945

Arrived at Saipan and wondered at the change since last we saw it back in June 1944 on D Day.

10 March 1945

Got rid of the prisoners and set out for Guam.

11 March 1945

Arrived at Guam, Apra Harbor. Beautiful spot.

12 March 1945

Off again after a one day stand. Where to? Who cares?

13 - 14 March 1945

Nothing but sea, sea and more sea. Getting warmer again.

15 March 1945

Had a sound contact but nothing developed. Probably a large fish or something. We are bound for Tulagi, Florida Islands, we find out.

18 March 1945

At 3PM today we anchored in Gavatu Harbor, Florida Islands, British Soloman Islands. Old stuff, we've been here before and its pretty damned hot.

20 March 1945

Thank the Lord we're not staying for we're off again. Its off for Noumea, New Caledonia and we hear its swell liberty. We can surely stand it for its been a long time.

23 March 1945

Entered Dumbia Bay, Noumea, New Calendonia, Loyalty Islands, (what a mouthful) and anchored at 10 AM. This tops them all for beauty. The town itself is all on a gradual hillside and the background is huge cloud-encased mountains. Swell climate too.

24 March 1945

Made the first decent liberty in 8 months. Overdid it a bit for that "3 Feathers" took affect very quickly. Five of us hit the first bar we saw and two of us were left after the first 3 hours. The others were taken back to the ship by the Shore Patrol, stiff and that's no exaggeration. Lynch and I made it standing up but that's all. Didn't know a thing until I awakened at about 3AM the next morning. We'll visit that bar again for the bartenders were four very pretty girls and to make it perfect, they were WHITE.



USS Fremont Home Page | USS Fremont Specs | Ship's History | Ship's Bell | The War Diaries | Commanding Officers | Ship's Roster the 40's | Ship's Roster the 50's | Ship's Roster the 60's | Ship's Photo Album | Ship's Reunion | Deceased Shipmates |