"All the superstructure was blown away from the planes diving right in with the pilot and all, the kamikazes"
I joined the navy out of sea cadets, June 1942. I went to Cornwallis [Nova Scotia], drafted and took a six month gunnery course for DEMS [Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships], which was the gun crew on the merchant ships. Well, they put gun crew, you see, all our ships had guns them on, especially later on. Earlier on, they didn’t have too much in the way of guns or that, they just put a couple of small guns on each wing of the bridge and they just had a fake gun on the stern mostly, for low angle stuff for submarines and that. So there wasn’t too much on those ships in the early part, before we got in there. They were picking up and putting the bigger guns and training these navy gunners. Like, the course I was on was six months course before we’d even go on a ship. So only 17 to 20 years old, we had to be able to take ten guns apart, blindfolded, and put them back together again. Yeah. It was quite a deal because once you’re up there, you’re on your own. The reason blindfolded because you couldn’t have lights on the ship in convoy, you’re making yourself open to danger. So we had to be able to do it blindfolded.
We left here on December 28th, 1944, and we were tasked to go to South Pacific. The five ships, two Canadian, five American, and we went from there on escorts of three ships to San Francisco, picked up more, went out through Hawaii to the South Pacific and we ended up being in the task force that retook Manila [Philippines] in February 1945.
When we went to the South Pacific and being involved in that task force that we took Manila, we went from Victoria [British Columbia] via San Francisco, Hawaii, to Papua New Guinea. And we had to wait for a convoy leaving up to go to the southern part of the Philippines and we’d stop in at Tacloban [City] on the island of Leyte [Philippines] to discharge our military cargo, and on our way up to go there, we were attacked with a Japanese submarine. But we were lucky enough to see the submarine’s periscope and then we saw the wake of a torpedo coming our way, so the captain, or chief [first mate], was up on the bridge and the chief noted the torpedo leaving and he said to the captain to turn hard to starboard right now and it was lucky. The torpedo missed us by 30 feet, very close to being hit. And it just kept on going. I was up on the gun pit on the bow of the ship and I witnessed the torpedo go by at 30 feet away.
Then when we got up to Tacloban, the other thing was that Mindanao Island, the island of Mindanao was held by the Japanese at that time and we had to go around the top end of Mindanao to get into Tacloban and as luck would have it, it was fogged in. So the Japanese planes weren’t taking off then, but they did later, and the Americans were just beside Tacloban there and their airport, and they were taking off out of the jungle there, the air base, and accosting the Japanese. So we seen quite a few air battles going on, protecting our ships that were anchored, unloading. And so we were pretty fortunate in that part, but we were able to see lots that went on, the ships getting hit with the suicide planes and all that sort of thing. We saw lots of them happening and, of course, it was foggy. We were lucky when it came around the top where the Japanese airfield was. Like I said, it was fogged in, but there was some ships that had come up on the previous trip, not landing, they were preparing to reach the landing strip and the kamikazes had come down and hit some of those and you would think the ships were just being launched. All the superstructure was blown away from the planes diving right in with the pilot and all, the kamikazes. So it was quite an experience.