Cruise of the Cap-Toothed Turtle

Article excerpt

DAY ONE 6 OCTOBER 1944

I first saw the "Gap-Toothed Turtle" on 6 October 1944, at 1800 Navy time. Navy buses had brought myself and a group of 282 officers and men down from Seattle, Washington, to Astoria, Oregon.

She lay alongside one of two finger piers sticking out into the Columbia River. My first impression was that she was about 450 feet long with a slight rake to her bow and slightly tubby at the stern. Her topside was cluttered with booms and tackle required to handle heavy cargo. Below decks she carried hundreds of suspended steel bunks to berth troops en route to invasion beaches plus four holds for heavy gear. The Navy designated her as APA-196, USS Logan, attack transport.

Her crew was made up mostly of Reserves like myself, Merchant Marine Academy graduates, and few old mustangs from the regular Navy who had been commissioned from the ranks. These older regular Navy seadogs would be invaluable to the rest of the crew of the Logan.

The only Naval Academy graduate on the Logan was our captain, Joseph H. Foley. Captain Foley was a short, rosy faced Irishman who quickly acquired the nickname of "Silent Joe." In all my time on the bridge with the captain, I never recall him saying anything except to give me some sage advice on how to con the ship. I had deep respect for Captain Joe.

After looking over the inexperienced roster of the Logan, Capt. Foley must have gone back to his quarters and taken two aspirin.

Among the officers on the Logan would be an executive officer whose greatest aptitude would be exhibited in holding fire drills, and a reserve lieutenant who would stand his night watches sitting in the captain's reserved seat on the bridge. This, coupled with the fact that more than half the officers and crew of the Logan had not been to sea, did nothing to bolster the captain's confidence.

The Logan was not the fast cruiser that I had requested for my next duty. Although she was rated at 17-plus knots, she would do about twelve to possibly 15 if you put the whip to her. She would be my home for 389 days, cover many thousands of miles, and bring us back home safely.

The Navy, showing great wisdom, had matched a green, inexperienced j.g. with a new, unproven ship. We would learn a great deal from each other during the next year.

I was 22 years old.

THE MONTHS BEFORE 8 JULY 1944

This story, will tell the stories left out of all the stirring battle accounts.

The stories about the in-betweens the times between the guns shooting and troops landing. The story about the nervous night watches, the liberties in some forgettable spots, and the daily duties aboard ship.

The rendezvous with the Logan, for myself, started in Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands. On 5 July 1944, I was detached from the USS Sperry and ordered to the States for new duty.

I flew from Majuro to Kwajalein and from there to Hawaii via Johnson Island. From there I took the USS Elliot arriving in San Diego 21 July 1944. Here I received orders to the Logan and 15 days leave. I flew home to Texas and, on 28 July, Leatrice Webber and I were married in Nacogdoches, Texas. Our honeymoon consisted of a short trip to Ft. Worth and a two-day train ride to Seattle, where I would be temporarily attached to the APA Precommissioning School.

We arrived in Seattle on 11 August 1944, and I reported to Precommissioning School on 12 August. Here I secured housing in Kirkland, Washington. This was across Lake Washington, and was a nice livable apartment which would be our home for our stay in Seattle. Here we met Walt and Grace Disharoon who lived in the same area. Walt would be one of my fellow officers, and Grace became a traveling companion for Leatrice.

The Navy started sending Walt and I to school, one of the first being Gunnery School at Pacific Beach, a most isolated spot. Leatrice and Grace managed to bribe a mail carrier who transported them to Pacific Beach. …