May 1944 Revisited
Before the destroyer escort England was commissioned in December of 1943, many eventual crewmembers had been engaged in training exercises, which helped create skills that became second nature. Even after the commissioning ceremonies these skills continued to be practiced in the anticipation of perfection.
By mid-May of 1944, young or older, rookie or veteran, most of the crew had settled in to life aboard a ship that was intended basically to live up to it's description, an escort vessel. After seeing two or three islands appear from over the horizon and after experiencing the boredom of routine for about three months, life was a tad monotonous. Lit~ was little more than carrying on with duties we were supposed to be carrying on with.
What you are about to read is an account of, I guess you could call it, 'a break in the routine' --verbatim entries from the diary of quartermaster Harry Roy that he maintained while serving aboard the USS England. These particular entries cover the period from May 18, 1944 though May 31, 1944.
Bob Mc Cleary (April/May 1999 DE-635 Newsletter)
Day Minus One Thursday, May 18, 1944
After refueling in Port Purvis we got underway with the DE's George and Raby. We are going out to try and intercept a dap sub off Bouganville.
Day Zero Friday, May 19, 1944 We contact the 1-16
This morning about 0330 we got a sound contact and went ahead with a hedgehog attack. On the second attack an explosion resulted and we went to G.Q. We made three more runs and three more hedgehog attacks with another explosion on the fifth attack. Two minutes after the last attack there was a terrific explosion that shook the whole ship and had everybody a bit scared After this we didn't regain contact so I think we got the sub. Later in the afternoon we commenced looking for wreckage. We found a lot of cork and some wood and a mattress affair with Japanese insignia. There was a great quantity of oil covering a diameter of about 5 miles. The sharks were also thick around there. We felt happy about getting the sub and it provided a very good topic of conversation. When I went on watch at 2000 we started heading North but we turned around and headed back shortly before midnight.
Day One Saturday, May 20, 1944
When I got up in the morning we were in the middle of the oil slick which had gotten much larger than it was yesterday. We are all confident we had gotten that sub. This morning while I was on watch we started for an area between the Admiralty Islands and Truk where there was supposed to be a Jap sub blockade. The George, the Raby and ourselves were supposed to go after five of them.
Day Two Sunday, May 21, 1944 We contact the RO-106
I stood a quiet watch on the flying bridge from 08-12 this morning. 0 'Neil was busy painting a sub on each side of the flying bridge. In the evening we dogged the watch so I got the 18 - 20 watch.
Day Three Monday, May 22, 1944 We contact the RO-104
Just as I went on watch at 0400 General Quarters was sounded. The George and ourselves had a radar contact on the surface at 4 miles. When we closed to 2 miles the George turned their searchlight on it and it crashdived. We got the first sound contact so we proceeded in to attack. We hit it with our second hedgehog pattern and the hit was followed by an explosion similar to the one after we hit the other sub. At daybreak we passed through the explosion spot and noticed a fair amount of oil. We wanted to stay around to look for debris but the George, who is the OTC made us join them in a retiring search plan. We never did come back to the explosion spot but went on to the next sub later in the afternoon. We believe we got this sub also.
Day Four Tuesday, May 23, 1944 We contact the RO-II6
I was up early this morning to stand my 04 - 08 watch. We had a dawn alert this morning and the Raby got a radar contact soon after the start of the dawn alert. The George made a sound contact and made a dry run because she got mixed up on her bearings. She told us to come in and we hit it on our second attack. The hedgehog attack was followed by that familiar large explosion and several smaller ones. We stayed around the explosion area while the George and the Raby started a retiring search plan. We found an oil slick and some wreckage in a short while so we went on for the next sub. We informed an airplane of the posit. of the previous sub attack and he will look for evidences of oil and wreckage. I spent a quiet 16 - 20 watch while we were all very happy and surprised about having sunk three subs. 0 'Nell can hardly paint them on fast enough and the paper work is piling up for the officers.
Day Five Wednesday, May 24, 1944 We contact the RO-10877
This morning we were at GQ at 0130. The Raby had contact on a sub by radar and later by sound. They made four consecutive unsuccessful hedgehog attacks followed by the George who made five consecutive unsuccessful runs. We then made a run and hit it on the first attack. The usual explosion did not follow the hedgehog explosion so we made another attack. We didn't hit on this one but we soon lost contact and the soundmen said the sub appeared to be slowly sinking. As soon as it was light we started looking for wreckage but we only found a few pieces of deck planking so the OTC did not concede that we got this one but we believe we did About 0800 we started for the next sub and we got contact about 1030. I had spent the intervening time discussing the situation with the boys on the signal bridge despite the fact I didn't have any' sleep since 0130. We made several dry runs and two attacks on the sub with no success. It seems the sub knew all the tricks of the trade. We finally decided to stand dead in the water and ping on the sub while we would conn the George in on an attack while we were waiting, dead in the water. The soundmen noticed the sub was starting to surface so the George decided to make an embarrassing attack. We were all anxiously watching while the George went in and dropped depth charges to scare it down. We were the obvious target for the sub because we were pinging and were only about 400 yards from the sub. After the George dropped her charges we contacted the sub heading for the explosion point to hide itself in the disturbance of the water so we went in and dropped charges on the same point. We couldn't get contact after that so we started a retiring search plan. We were doing this while I was on watch from 16 --20. I didn't have much trouble falling asleep after I came off watch.
Day Six Thursday, May 25, 1944
The most noteworthy thing on my 04 - 08 watch was a very beautiful sunset I couldn't try to describe. After quarters Cagle, Hoff and a few other fellows and I talked right on the quarterdeck where mustered until noon. In the afternoon we accidentally ran across a box we threw over at the scene of the fourth sub we sank. We soon stopped and found a good deal of wreckage and some oil. OTC on the George now decided also that we got that sub. We also got confirmation by radio that we sank the second sub. The rest of the day we spent cruising the Jap scouting line and my 16 - 20 watch was uneventful.
Day Seven Friday, May 26, 1944 We contact the RO-108
When I got up this morning our ship was alone because we detached ourselves from the other ships to rendezvous with an aircraft carrier and 4 cans. We are to tell them the situation out here because they' are going to relieve us. We met them about 1000 and passed mail to the carrier and one of the cans. I guess we stayed with them for a while but I went to sleep after noon chow and when I woke up we were alone again. About 1730 we met the Raby and the George again and we started for Seeadler harbor in the Admiralty Islands. I was fairly busy on watch but Blechl, who is standing watches with me now, helps quite a bit. I talked for a while on the bridge after coming off watch and then I went below and hit the sack. Much to my surprise GQ sounded at about 2300. The Raby had a surface contact which soon disappeared We got first sound contact, made a quick run, and hit the sub on the first attack. After that we circled the spot of attack while the George and Raby went out on a retiring search plan. I was back asleep by 2345.
Day Eight Saturday, May 27, 1944
When I came on watch at 0400 we were still going in circles but as soon as it was light enough we sent our boat out to look for debris. In less than an hour they had enough deck planking and interior wood and objects that we know we had the sub so we didn't linger. I sat up on the signal bridge and shot the breeze all day. We arrived in Seeadler Harbor at about 1600. We refueled from an oiler and the Raby and the George were there too. There was a lot of razing between the ships, which I thought, was rather adolescent.
Day Ten Sunday, May 28, 1944
I got up about 0730 this morning and spent most of the morning cleaning up charts and doing odd jobs. In the afternoon we pulled alongside the Spangler to load hedgehogs which they brought out for us. I didn't do anything but loaf and talk and razz the George because they painted a Jap flag a potbellied sub and four hash marks on the side of their ship. About 1800 we left Seeadler Harbor with the Raby, the George, and the Spangler. I guess we're going to hunt the subs we left behind From about 2000 to midnight I shot the breeze with Hoff, Rau, (Windy) 0 'Nell, and Mr. Turbovich in the chart house. I went on watch after that.
Day Ten Monday, May 29, 1944
Soon after I came on watch at 0000 the Spangler got a radar contact on their quarter which they lost in 5 minutes. Nevertheless we searched the area all during my watch. I slept all morning after quarters. In the afternoon while on watch we rendezvoused with the carrier and 4 cans. The George got guard mail from the carrier and then passed it on to each of us. After evening chow I listened to records in the compartment for a while and then hit the sack.
Day Eleven Tuesday, May 30, 1944
After I came on my O0 - 04 watch the Raby and the George left us to join the aircraft carrier and the cans. We continued to run up and down the Jap scouting line. After quarters in the morning I slept on the RDF platform until noon. I had a quiet watch in the afternoon and I talked up on the signal bridge until about 2100, when I hit the sack.
Day Twelve Wednesday, May 31, 1944 We contact the R0-105
While on the 00 - 04 watch we heard a conversation between the George and the Raby and they seemed to be making a sub attack. We closed a little in the direction of flash of light (their searchlight and then asked if we should come to the scene. The O.T.C said no but we came to within 5000 yds. and started to circle, gradually getting closer. We made out from TBS conversations that they had been attacking the sub for a long time and were making runs on it all night. I stayed up until 0600 listening to the progress of the battle over TBS It was like listening to a ball game and itching to get in there and play. At 0615 we had a dawn alert. About 0630 the George made a run and missed, then the Raby made a run and missed, then the Spangler made a run and missed and then the England finally made a run and hit as usual. The hedgehog explosion was followed by another terrific underwater explosion. I imagine they are really seeing red on the George now. In the morning we picked up debris which was plentiful, as was the oil. I was tired this morning but I couldn't sleep so I took a shower, which made me feel better. In the afternoon the George and ourselves left to patrol the scouting line while the Spangler and the Raby stayed in the vicinity of the sub kill. The watch was quiet this afternoon and I hit the sack right after evening chow.