Toward Great Events with Battleships
November 1st to November 30th, 1943

November 1, 1943, steaming on base course 050° True, speed 17 knots in company with Task Group 53.2, consisting of Washington (OTC), Massachusetts, Alabama, South Dakota; screen Nicholas (ComDesRon 21) Fletcher, La Vallette, Jenkins, Taylor and Radford.

I had the 04 to 0800 watch, slept until 1030, back on watch 12 to 1600.

A new scuttlebutt item: Halsey had communicated to the Squad Dog that we will get a Stateside availability. Halsey did send a message published to all hands: “GOOD LUCK & GOOD HUNTING TO SMALL BOYS OF DESRON 21.”

The immediate task group destination is Fiji, an island group not especially near to anything except Truk.

The rough weather is tiring to muscles; there is the involuntary tensing against the roll and pitch. One becomes tired and listless very quickly.

November 2, 1943, Tuesday, steaming on base course 100° True, speed 17 knots in company with Task Group 53.2.

We have gone to Condition II, watch-and-watch, four hours on and four hours off. I had the midwatch then slept two hours before going back on watch.
We have joined up with another task force, cruisers, carriers and three old BBs, Tennessee, Maryland and Colorado. With the naked eye one cannot see all the formation of ships!

November 3, 1943, Wednesday, steaming as before with various elements of the Pacific Fleet.

Off watch at midnight and not sleepy, I got in two hours of study. Dawn alert at 0515, I stayed up afterward to await the forenoon watch.

The news has it, Halsey sent a message to the Jap Base at Truk: “If anyone is there, come out and fight!” That man has the touch. A year ago we were tentative about talking loudly.

November 4, 1943, Thursday, steaming on base course 050° True with various elements of the Pacific Fleet.

We are back to Condition Two Mike watches, a watch-in-three. But now, although tired, I don’t sleep well. On watch 20 to 2400.

November 5, 1943, Friday, steaming on base course 300° True, with elements of the Pacific Fleet.

There are frequent position and formation changes. I guess that the object is to drill the ships in really large formations. Since ’41 there has been no such numbers available in the same ocean. In the South Pacific, ten ships including destroyers had been large.

I had both eight-to-twelve watches today, and not much work.

November 6, 1943, Saturday, steaming on base course 270° True, with elements of the Pacific Fleet.

Drills and exercises were held throughout the day. Watches were routine if you don’t count hanging on to rails to prevent a fall. After a few hours of rough weather there is unremitting fatigue that even a bunk can’t remove. While prone, the roll and tensing to meet the roll continue.

Routine maintenance has been kept up, like housekeeping, clean but not shined. I haven’t heard a joke in a week.

November 7, 1943, Sunday, steaming on base course 095° True, in company with vessels of Task Group 53.3.

On watch 04 to 0800.

We made a landfall by radar after 0500 at 65 miles by Sail Charlie radar.

In the forenoon the destroyers patrolled Navula Passage while the battleships proceeded to anchor in Toma Ko Nandi, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands.

I had all morning to study and turned out three assignments.

After even chow we went alongside USS Neshanic to fuel ship.

November 8, 1943, Monday, anchored in Berth 19 in Toma Ko Nandi anchorage, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands.

We are not close enough to make out any details on the shore. The tropical foliage and distance mountains are the same or similar to what we have been looking at for more than a year.

Worked in the plant all day on preventive maintenance and cleanup.

November 9, 1943, Tuesday, anchored in Berth 19 in Toma Ko Nandi anchorage, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands. Senior Office Present Afloat is Commander Battleships Pacific Fleet in Washington.

Nicholas has the ready duty, flying Roger at the foremast.

Worked all day and wondered what next.

November 10, 1943, Wednesday, anchored in Berth 19, Toma Ko Nandi anchorage.

In the morning watch, we got underway to go alongside USS Neshanic in Berth 6 Able in Nandi waters.

November 11, 1943, moored in nest with Neshanic in Berth 6 Able in Nandi waters.

0905 Underway and began patrolling to seaward awaiting the sortie of the heavy vessels: Washington (OTC), Indiana, South Dakota, Massachusetts and Alabama. DesRon 21 less O’Bannon formed the screen.

I was on the fantail when the ordnance gang began to make a kite for machine gun and gun practice target. Obviously they had had a deprived childhood, furnished with store-boughten kites; probably didn’t know about stick-horses either. They didn’t know how to begin.

With Knight’s help we ran down the materials to make a six-foot kite. We tested it in the wind across the deck for balance and tail length, then we painted a Jap red ball in the center.

A name? Yeah! An inspiration . . . sailors knew the passing mark for an exam was 2.5. If a man failed to pass he didn’t readily admit how much, so he exaggerated: “zero-point-shit.”

That is what we named our kite. ZERO above the red ball, POINT SHIT beneath it.

About thirty people took turns flying and maneuvering the kite. I hated to see it shot down so easily by the 20mm guns.

November 12, 1943, Friday, steaming on base course 065° True, with Task Group 53.3.

I had the midwatch, and after dawn alert, spent a lot of the morning in the USAFI assignments.

At 1830 we crossed the 180th meridian going eastward, which means tomorrow is a repeat of today: 11-12-43. We are in the Western Hemisphere for the first time in 18 months.

November 12, 1943, Friday, steaming on base course 056° True, with Task Group 53.3.

Midwatch and the dawn alert to 0630. This day was the same in other ways, formation exercises. We held an interior ship battle problem while at battle stations.

We encountered two fleet auxiliaries that are not often away from base: PYC 15 Garnet and YO46 Bullwheel.

Studied before dinner, and afterward until going on watch at 20 to 2400.

November 13, 1943, Saturday, steaming on base course 350° True, speed 15 knots.

On watch 08 to 1200. We had gunnery exercises in the forenoon with battle problems at all stations.

During the exercise in the plant we discussed the attempt of Aaron Ward to steam eight miles (after the bomb hit in Sealark Sound) using sea water in the boilers. The boilers had plugged up halfway, but we thought that a method could be found to use in emergencies.

After watch I took the idea to the Chief Engineer. He showed me that the CinCPac Intelligence Summaries had studied the problem; however, the solution—if any—was in the file stamped “confidential,” a higher clearance than operators were allowed to read.

Wrote some stuff this afternoon on current conditions, morale, morality . . . then soon felt appalled :at such brooding, self-centered bullshit and tore it up.

November 14, 1943, Sunday, steaming on base course 080° True, speed 15 knots with Task Group 53.3.

We exercised machine gun batteries in the forenoon while I had the 08 to 1200 watch.

I slept in the afternoon, but still felt wiped out with no energy.

From scuttlebutt and appearances we are on a preliminary to big events. The past year we have been on a shoestring and didn’t realize it, in the Solomon Campaign. Now we hear ship names that didn’t exist a year ago. Our current task group has more ships than we saw the past 18 months, anywhere at once or collectively. It is very encouraging.

Started reading The Wandering Jew. On watch 20 to 2400.

November 15, 1943, Monday, steaming on base course 300° True, speed 18 knots, in company with ships of Task Group 53.3. Up and around at 0700 ready to fuel ship. Tankers were sighted among the 16 ships joining the formation. The fleet tankers are USS Neosho and Lackawanna. The combat vessels were: BatDiv 6, BatDiv 8, BatDiv 9, CarDiv 3, plus Enterprise, Monterey and Belleau Wood, anti-sub screen in two DesRons of 12 destroyers: La Vallette, Jenkins, Taylor, Radford, Nicholas, Fletcher, Izard, Boyd, Charrette, Brown, Bradford and Conner.

It is too rough to fuel now. I was looking at this big fleet, six carriers, six battleships and sixteen destroyers. Not since Pacific Fleet’s Problem XVI in 1936 have I seen so many ships together!

Our noon position was 172° E Long. and 5° N Lat., we’ve crossed the equator going north without mention. We’d been a long time in the Southern Hemisphere, too. On the second dogwatch, 18 to 2000.

November 16, 1943, Tuesday, steaming on base course 275° True, Lackawanna is Fleet center and guide.

Three of the carriers are the small, converted types and three are fleet carriers, CVs.

I had the 04 to 0800 watch then slept the forenoon. In the afternoon we went alongside Lackawanna to fuel. I saw Chief Biggs hanging on the poopdeck rail of the tanker. I knew him in Omaha, 1940 and 1941.

On watch 16 to 2000.

There is universal disgust with general mess mismanagement. Worse, there is a serious shortage of food that I could not believe other ships are enduring: meat has been used up, canned fruit, onions and potatoes mostly pilfered. The soup bones were reused over three days, so that the soup became progressively more watery.

My hunger brought to mind the other extreme, a small bistro that Joe Mot, Sola and I frequented while on leave in Paris, December ’38, even to remembering the address: La Canebière, 9 rue de Lyons, Paris 12e.

On watch 16 to 2000. Sent to bed hungry.

November 17, 1943, Wednesday, steaming on base course 320° True, in company with Task Group 50.1. (We have assumed the TG number of the senior group.)

On watch 04 to 0800. Fueled ship from Lackawanna in the forenoon.

At morning quarters all hands were urged to conserve food. We are indeed short of raw food. However, if the prepared product is so distasteful that the men prefer the raw product, then it follows that the expenditure is doubled: prepared food passes from the messhall into garbage; nourishment is derived from raw stores. On watch 16 to 2000.

November 19, 1943, Friday, (we jumped November 18th, passing the 180th Meridian westward) steaming on base course 265° True, with vessels of Task Group 50.1.

I had the 04 to 0800 watch, thus no sleep loss for the dawn alert. I love to cheat that dawn alert with no sleep loss.

Fleet exercises all day.

Began reading Walter Lippmann’s U.S. Foreign Policy.

On watch the first dogwatch. To bed at 1900 to read and to sleep in anticipation of the midwatch coming up.

November 20, 1943, Saturday, steaming on base course 290° True, with vessels of Task Group 50.1. OTC is Rear Admiral Pownall in Yorktown.

On the midwatch. Lighted off No. 2 and No. 4 boilers and cut them in for full power at 0330; we are going to watch-and-watch.

Air operations have continued for the past five days in the bombardment of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. This morning the target was Mili.

We sure enjoy listening to the tactical radio net. It is not necessary to get a tight puckering string until the raiding aircraft get close. The Fighter Director was saying: “Bogies coming in bearing two-seven-niner, angels fifteen . . . “

Levitsy assumed his dumbfounded expression: “Bogie? What does bogie mean . . . Japanese boy?”

On watch 08 to 1200, then slept until 1500, whereupon we went alongside to fuel from Washington. After fueling, back on watch until 2000.

At 1600 a couple of returning Yorktown planes crashed astern of Yorktown. Taylor stood over and picked up the aviators.

November 21, 1943, Sunday, steaming on base course 280° True, in company with vessels of Task Group 50.1.

On watch 00 to 0400, again 08 to 1200, watch-and-watch for full power. General quarters was in effect all during the mid-watch due to unidentified aircraft on radar: “Bogies.” If they can’t find you in the dark they can sure keep you awake, and they do.

Alongside Washington in the afternoon for fuel.

The evening meal was bread and beans. There was no meat or bone stock in the beans, just flat bean flavor. The Commissary Stew said that when we were alongside Washington he had asked for some soup powder. They sent over on the high-line six cases of soap powder . . . We have been out sugar for two weeks and the coffee drinkers feel that.

Hank Gallagher sat down at the table and sniffed at the serving bowl of unflavored beans.

“Hot damn! This is just what I would order if I was ashore!”

We stayed on four boilers until 2200.

It was announced that landings were made on Makin and another island this morning. That means we are not just raiding, we’ll take them and hold them.

November 22, 1943, Monday, steaming on base course 000° True, in company with vessels of Task Group 50.1.

On watch 04 to 0800. At 0800 cut in all boilers, back to watch-and-watch: 12 to 1600, then alongside Washington to fuel.

We were amused at seeing a Bureau of Personnel circular complaining about wild recommendations for medals. A cited case: Legion of Merit was recommended for, “getting off three salvos in excellent time before the cease fire.” This was on a ship off Morocco. I guess that was enough to offend the desk men in Washington. But the promotion policy for officers that is automatic without exam and in months benefits the desk men. We’ll hear nothing about that unless the first-class-to-chief rule gets adopted ashore and for all grades.

November 23, 1943, Tuesday, steaming on base course 245° True, in company with Task Group 50.1.

Dawn alert came at 0530. On watch 08 to 1200. General quarters sounded at 1010 for “Many planes!” The Combat Air Patrol intercepted, and the count reported was 12 Zeros shot down. One of our pilots parachuted, and his plane fell into the water 250 yards off our starboard bow.

It is getting hungrier. The soup stock has been the same bone for five days. I went to look at it, like it was a monument. It had no bone marrow at all.

The sea has built up since early morning. There is a lot of vomit on deck with no one well enough to clean it up. That makes a secondary nausea that doesn’t come from the motion sickness. While fueling from Washington today, there were several falls while handling rigging lines. Replenishment underway in rough weather has lots of dangers.

The enemy raiders were particularly active during the forenoon. We are plane guard on Cowpens. La Vallette and Charrette picked up two downed pilots from the water.

November 24, 1943, Wednesday, steaming on base course 285° True, with vessels of Task Group 50.1.

I was unable to sleep after the! night watch so I wrote V-letters to friends instead. V-letters are somehow so impersonal as to be inferior correspondence. Mail is mail, though.

Dawn alert 0520 to 0620, no time to sleep before the watch at 08 to 1200.

We have a landfall on Makin Island, one of the invasion targets. The news is not good on the other one, Tarawa.

At 0900 to 0940, half-masted colors for burial services on Yorktown.

From 12 to 1300 we went to battle stations to defend against attacking Bettys and Zeros. They didn’t penetrate the screen of Combat Air Patrol.

The First Lieutenant came to the CPO Mess to complain about the sailors raiding the life raft emergency rations, thereby endangering everyone. Nick Carter spoke up quickly and firmly: “Hell, man, they’re hungry!”

November 25, 1943, Thursday, steaming on base course 285° True, in company with vessels of Task Group 50.1.

Rendezvoused with refueling group of fleet tankers: Tappahannock, Pecos and Sabine escorted by Dionne and Dempsey. At second group were Guadeloupe and Platte, escorted by Sadfield. With these were San Francisco and Minneapolis, fully repaired.

I had the 04 to 0800 watch and the 16 to 2000. A relatively routine day, except the new additions to the Task Force brought mail. I got books, magazines and letters. Mail delivery is excellent when it is considered that the Fleet Post Office has to anticipate ship movements to get the mail to them by replenishment vessels.

I hit the sack with a two-week-old Time Magazine.

November 26, 1943, Friday, steaming in company with vessels of Task Group 50.1. Minneapolis, San Francisco, New Orleans, Oakland and Kidd joined the formation.

On watch 04 to 0800. We have been having quarters for muster almost every day recently (?). We are getting a lot of peacetime trappings when quarters-for-muster begins. I have been doing little except read, study and sleep when off watch or battle stations. The watch-on does the housekeeping.

Last night I dreamed of the two Ellefsen girls, Gladys and Helen, who were our neighbors when Bill and I were growing up. I seldom think of them awake, but dream about them at fairly regular intervals.

Air raids began at 1830 today, or rather radar contacts. The planes are dropping flares to illuminate targets. So we were at battle stations while they tried to penetrate our AA defenses.

Secured from general quarters at 2000.

November 27, 1943, Saturday, steaming on base course 090° True, in company with vessels of Task Group 50.1. Baltimore joined the formation during dawn alert.

I had the 04 to 0800, and a free dawn alert.

Borrowed a phonograph and listened to some of the records I bought in Nouméa and Brisbane. Some, because general quarters sounded and the morning was spent standing by.

The subject had been argued for nearly a year: one day while we were in Tulagi between raids, a five-man working party had been sent ashore to pick up some stores. After they had loaded the boat they took to the woods and thereby missed that night’s raid up the Slot. Punishment? One liberty in our next port!

That used to be called “desertion in the face of the enemy” and caused a lot of discussion pro and con.

November 28, 1943, Sunday, steaming in company with vessels of Task Group 50.1.

I had the midwatch and stayed up for the dawn alert. At sunrise La Vallette left the screen to rescue a downed aviator. He was found and returned to his ship.

I went to bed after morning quarters, then on watch 12 to 1600. Luckily, today’s drills occurred on my watch.

To the sack at 2130, read and slept before the midwatch.

November 29, 1943, Monday, steaming in company with vessels of Task Group 50.1.

On the midwatch and stayed up for the dawn alert. Slept the forenoon, then on watch 12 to 1600. While on watch I got some repair work done on No. 2 boiler. Tested the job afterward and it came out fine.

We had the Exec up to the CPO Mess to hear the food complaints. He didn’t listen long: “You are eating like kings!”

The engineer chiefs who had known him predicted a short answer, for his contempt came shining through on every occasion.

To bed early in preparation for the midwatch.

November 30, 1943, Tuesday, steaming in company with vessels of Task Group 50.1.

After the midwatch, I stayed up for the dawn alert. During the dawn alert period a rendezvous was effected with fleet tankers and escorts: Cacapon, Kaskia and Canfield.

On watch 12 to 1600; we dogged the watch, so I am on again 20 to 2400.