Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

In honor of those who served and are now gone from us, this haunting verse written by Herman Melville in 1866, shortly after the Civil War. "Shiloh" is from his Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War, a collection of poetry inspired by that harrowing conflict between the states.

Shiloh: A Requiem (April, 1862)
Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
The swallows fly low
Over the field in clouded days,
The forest-field of Shiloh—
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
Through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
Around the church of Shiloh—
The church so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
And natural prayer
Of dying foemen mingled there—
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve—
Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
And all is hushed at Shiloh.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

After great pain, a formal feeling comes —
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs —
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before? 
The Feet, mechanical, go round —
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought —
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone — 
This is the Hour of Lead —
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow —
First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go — 
Emily Dickinson

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hector's belated return home | Epilogue

Following Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945, my dad, Frank Dolan, a crewman on the repair ship USS Hector, continued his work in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan. The war now over, the myriad returning ships had to be repaired and readied to return to ports in U.S. and for service elsewhere in the Pacific. Dad remembered that many of these repairs were to ships damaged at Okinawa. Hector will have to wait until the new year for her return voyage.

On November 1, 1945, Dad received another promotion. His rating was changed from M1c to CMAA or Chief Metalsmith. It was an “acting appointment,” since, all Chief Petty Officers were acting appointments for 1 year until made permanent.

Finally, on this date in 1946, Hector steamed away from Saipan for the United States. The ship’s log for that date reads simply but poignantly, “Homebound.”

On February 3, Hector arrived in San Pedro, California. The ship went into drydock for a complete overhaul. She stayed on there to make repairs to ships. At some point while stationed at San Pedro during this period, Dad made a trip to his home near San Diego. This was the first time in nearly 2 years that he had seen his family.

On September 26, Dad was transferred from Hector for discharge at the rank of Chief Metalsmith. His formal discharge came on December 16, 1946, just twelve days short of his 24th birthday. His departure from the Navy came 5 years since he had been thrust into the war with Japan’s surprise attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor.

The USS Hector continued in active service decades after the war ended and long after other triumphant ships of WWII, like Dad's previous ship, the USS Vestal, were retired or recycled. After serving as a repair ship on the West Coast, Hector sailed for her first WestPac cruise in May 1947. With the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950, Hector again saw service during conflict. After the Korean War, she operated out of Long Beach, California, in support America’s far-flung Pacific and Asian defenses that included Vietnam. Finally, she was decommissioned in 1987, and sold as scrap in 1994. 

There are a thousand new questions I would love to ask Dad about his Pacific War experiences, but that opportunity ceased when he passed from us to his eternal reward. The foregoing blog posts over the past few years will have to suffice as the best record I could muster of his Pacific War experience, 1941-1945.

Frank Dolan, at home, days after discharge, December 1946

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Lamb

For our son, Josh... This little poem, a choral version he heard many times growing up in our home, especially at Christmas. Our little lamb was taken from us last night. May he rest in the eternal arms of the Lamb of God who made him.

The Lamb
William Blake

Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee? 

Little lamb, I'll tell thee;
Little lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Little lamb, God bless thee!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

V-J Day for USS Hector

As the formal surrender was taking place in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, Dad was 1,400 miles away in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan. He was entirely unaware of the ceremony. In fact, he told me that he didn’t actually remember hearing a formal announcement that the war was over. Neither did he see pictures of the surrender ceremony until months later.

While the world celebrated this important date in 1945, Dad was hard at work with crews from Hector making repairs to at least three ships simultaneously—the minesweeper Quail, the destroyer Downs, and the destroyer escort Engstrom. WWII may be over, but for Frank Dolan and the rest of Hector’s crewmen, the interminable responsibility for repairing the fleet that won the war in the Pacific continued day in and day out.

Dad & buddy Billy Barnett on Hector, 1946
V-J Day came and went, yet the work continued for Hector’s crew at Saipan. In fact, in the month of September, Service Division 103 at Saipan repaired 160 ships. On September 15, ServDiv 103 was reorganized again. The major part of the maintenance unit was shifted forward to Okinawa and elsewhere. Hector was one of the repair and maintenance vessels left in Saipan to prepare ships of the Fifth Fleet for their return voyages to the states.

It will be another six months before Hector is given her opportunity to sail for home.

Sources: Frank L. Dolan’s personal account; Commander Service Squadron Ten War Diary, September 1945

V-J Day

Although Japan effectively capitulated on August 15, following the annihilation of two of its industrial cities, the formal surrender didn’t take place until this date in 1945. The ceremony was observed on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. A thousand carrier-based planes flew overhead in a magnificent martial display. From Washington, D.C., President Truman declared September 2 to be the official V-J Day.

As the senior Allied officer, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, presided over the affair. When the signing of the Instrument of Surrender was complete, the general delivered the first of two speeches, powerful for its poignant rhetoric and remarkable for its conciliatory tone:
We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored. The issues involving divergent ideals and ideologies have been determined on the battlefields of the world, and hence are not for our discussion or debate. Nor is it for us here to meet, representing as we do a majority of the peoples of the earth, in a spirit of distrust, malice, or hatred. But rather it is for us, both victors and vanquished, to rise to that higher dignity which alone befits the sacred purposes we are about to serve, committing all of our peoples unreservedly to faithful compliance with the undertakings they are here formally to assume. 
It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past—a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.
The terms and conditions upon which surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces is here to be given and accepted are contained in the Instrument of Surrender now before you.
After the ceremony was officially closed, MacArthur then delivered a stirring and discerning radio address to the American people and to the world:
Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death—the seas bear only commerce men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly at peace. The holy mission has been completed. And in reporting this to you, the people, I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles and the beaches and in the deep waters of the Pacific which marked the way. I speak for the unnamed brave millions homeward bound to take up the challenge of that future which they did so much to salvage from the brink of disaster. 
As I look back on the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that He has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war. 
A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.
Men since the beginning of time have sought peace… Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh… 
And so, my fellow countrymen, today I report to you that your sons and daughters have served you well and faithfully with the calm, deliberated determined fighting spirit of the American soldier, based upon a tradition of historical truth as against the fanaticism of an enemy supported only by mythological fiction. Their spiritual strength and power has brought us through to victory. They are homeward bound—take care of them.
How right the general was in 1945, and his far-sighted wisdom rings just as true today. “The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character,” he observed. “It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.” I’m mindful of God’s message to Zerubbabel when he faced the impossible: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Ultimately, carrying out the work of God will not come through human power, but by the strength of the Almighty. True peace comes only by way of the Prince of Peace.

Gen. MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers to head the occupation forces in Japan. He was given remarkable governing powers with which he helped to rebuild Japan, wrote a new constitution, instituted a parliamentary system of government, brought about land reforms, and set the country upon a new path to become one of the world's leading industrial powers. MacArthur remained in Japan until the end of the formal Allied occupation in 1951.

Sources: American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank (; The History Reader (

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The bomb that ended the war

Today is the 70th anniversary of the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. This time, the target was Nagasaki, a shipbuilding and repair center. The bomb, codenamed “Fat Man,” was delivered on a B-29 flown by Maj. Charles Sweeney and his crew.

The first atomic bomb on Hiroshima demonstrated America’s capability to deliver massive destruction. This second bomb proved the U.S. capable of repeating the destruction as often as it took to bring about Japan’s surrender.

In a radio address on this date, President Harry Truman spoke to the American people and also warned Japan:
[W]e knew that our enemies were on the search for [the bomb]. We know now how close they were to finding it. And we knew the disaster, which would come to this Nation, and to all peace-loving nations, to all civilization, if they had found it first. 
That is why we felt compelled to undertake the long and uncertain and costly labor of discovery and production. 
We won the race of discovery against the Germans. Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans. 
We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.
The response came quickly. Emperor Hirohito and Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki decided to seek an immediate peace with the Allies. On August 15, the emperor announced his country’s surrender in a radio broadcast. The formal surrender ceremony came on September 2.

My dad, stationed on board the USS Hector in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, got news of the second bomb while at work on another ship. Like the report on August 6, he remembered a lot of celebration:
I was on another ship when I learned about the second A-bomb. After a lot of shouting the crew also quit for the day.
Sources: Frank L. Dolan’s personal account; Commander Service Squadron 10 War Diary, August 1945; “The American Experience” (

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The first atomic bomb over Japan

Today's date marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, the first of 2 of these weapons used against Japan. The destructive blast obliterated everything within a 2-mile radius and caused unimaginable destruction over 5 square miles of the city.

As the leader of the United States, President Harry S. Truman made the final decision. The alternative favored by MacArthur and other top military advisors, was a massive invasion of the Japanese homeland. However, the projected cost of such an operation was a staggering million Allied causalities.

Hiroshima was the chosen target since it had been largely untouched by recent bombing raids, and it also provided the U.S. a location where the bomb's effects could be measured. While Truman preferred a strictly military target, some of his advisers believed that destroying an urban area would break the enemy’s will to continue the fight. Hiroshima was a strategic military target, as well. It provided a major port and supported a military headquarters.

The bomb, codenamed “Little Boy,” was dropped on Hiroshima from a B-29 Superfortress, Enola Gay, flown by Col. Paul Tibbets. This was the first nuclear weapon used in wartime. “Little Boy” was quickly followed three days later when the plutonium bomb, "Fat Man," was detonated over Nagasaki.

My dad, Frank Dolan, was stationed on Saipan, neighboring the island of Tinian where the bomb was assembled and from where the B-29s took off. He remembered well when the announcement came of the successful bombing of Hiroshima:
I was with a crew on a ship doing welding. At the announcement, all the men threw up their hats in rejoicing. And, they quit work for the day!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

On today’s date in 1945, a Japanese submarine, the I-58, sank the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis. The tragic loss of 881 crewmen was America’s greatest single loss of life at sea.

Indianapolis had been ordered from San Francisco on a secret mission to Tinian in the Marianas, near where my dad was stationed at Saipan, to deliver components for the “Little Boy” atomic bomb, which would be dropped on Hiroshima. Her mission successful, she was making her way to Leyte when she was torpedoed.

The doomed ship sank in only 12 minutes, before a radio message could be sent out. Of the 1,196 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 900 or so survivors were left adrift without lifeboats. One by one the men perished through exposure, dehydration, and horrific shark attacks. Only 317 survived to be rescued four days later.

In 1942, Dad was temporarily assigned to the Indianapolis, one of many ships he repaired at Pearl Harbor in 1941-1942.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The first atomic bomb test, 1945

On today’s date in 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb, codenamed "Trinity," was successfully detonated on the Alamogordo Test Range Ground in the New Mexico desert. From 2 miles away, scientists and other observers watched as the Manhattan Project culminated in a mushroom cloud of blazing light rising 40,000 feet into the air. The blast generated the destructive power of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT. From this moment, nuclear fission was no longer a theoretical possibility. Here was now a fearsome new force for either good or evil.

With Germany’s earlier surrender in May, the only remaining unvanquished enemy was Japan. America now had in her hands the means for bringing the war with Imperial Japan to a rapid close.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The beginning of the naval bombardment of Japan, 1945

In 1945, while Japan’s home islands had been subjected to U.S. Army B-29 Superfortresses heavy bombers, so far they had not seen the U.S Navy in force along their shores. However, on this date in 1945, ships from Task Force 38 of the Navy’s Third Fleet began their bombardment of the islands of Kamaishi and Muroran. Then on the 17th and 18th, both U.S. and British ships bombarded the city of Hitachi. Allied battleships, cruisers, and destroyers continued to shell cities and industrial targets on the Japanese islands through August. With Allied warships attacking off their coast, the Japanese now clearly realized their vulnerability.

One of the battleships that comprised the force that fired on the iron works at Kamaishi was the USS South Dakota. Dad did major repair work on the South Dakota in the fall of 1942 while serving on the USS Vestal.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Philippines officially liberated

In October 1944, the Allies began their Invasion of Leyte to liberate the Philippine Islands from Japan’s dominance. Next, came Mindoro in December. In January 1945, was the invasion of Luzon, the main Philippine island. It took until March 3 for Manila to be liberated from the Japanese. But still there was fierce fighting to finish into mid-April. The last of the major islands, Mindanao, wasn’t finally taken until August 15.

Nevertheless, Gen. Douglas MacArthur announced on this date that the forces under his command had succeeded in liberating the Philippines from Japanese rule. Of course, less than a month later, MacArthur unequivocally settled the issue when he accepted the formal surrender of Japan on the deck of the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Repairs to battle-damaged USS Macomb

On this date in 1945, crews from Dad's ship Hector began making repairs to the minesweeper, the USS Macomb, badly damaged in the Battle of Okinawa.

The peak in the dreaded Japanese kamikaze attacks came during the period of April–June 1945, at the Battle of Okinawa. The Macomb, participating in the entire operation, shot down many attacking planes without falling victim to a kamikaze strike like so many of her sister ships had. However, on May 3, while she was engaged in a twilight enemy raid, a suicide pilot flew his aircraft into her at gun #3, causing extensive damage and fire. Amazingly, the 500-pound bomb that the plane was carrying passed through one side of the ship and out the other without exploding. Nevertheless, 3 of her crew died, 3 were missing, and 14 were injured. Macomb was relieved on station and proceeded to a safe harbor nearby. After transferring her wounded and taking on fuel, she was ordered to Saipan for repairs, arriving there May 18.

Hector received Macomb alongside on today's date to begin replacing the ships 3- and 5- inch antiaircraft guns and addressing other battle related damage. Macomb remained at Saipan for almost 3 months undergoing repairs. She finally got under way from Saipan on August 1. The ship rendezvoused with the Third Fleet on the 13th, en route to the Japanese home islands. She entered Tokyo Bay just ahead of the USS Missouri, and was on hand to witness the formal surrender on September 2.

Source: NavSource Online

After the war, Macomb continued in service on the East Coast before taking up tours of duty with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean in 1949. In 1954, she was decommissioned and transferred to the Japanese government as part of that country’s Maritime Self-Defense Force. Returned to U.S. custody in 1969, she was sold to the Republic of China shortly thereafter.

The USS Macomb received five battle stars for her WWII service.

Sources: USS Macomb War Diary, May 1945; USS Macomb War History

Friday, May 8, 2015

Victory in Europe, 1945

Victory in Europe Day or “V-E Day” finally came on this date in 1945. The despised Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich were finally thrown down. America and her Allies finally crushed the ruthless Nazi regime that from 1933 to 1945, had terrorized Europe and slaughtered millions of people. Indeed, it was a day of great celebration for soldiers like Dad's brother Elwin fighting in Europe, and also for the rest of the world.

But there was still a war against Japan that had to be won.

On V-E Day, Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors like my father aboard the USS Hector in Saipan, were still hard at work trying to defeat Japan. Although the war for America began with Japan’s attack on December 7, 1941, the Pacific Theater had taken a back seat to the European Front. Now with Hitler dead and Berlin in ruins, attention rightly began to turn toward winning the war in the Pacific as soon as possible.

When years later I asked my dad about his reaction to the V-E Day announcement, he could barely remember it. It certainly made no difference to his daily schedule. In fact, when the announcement arrived, there were several ships moored alongside Hector, each with urgent repair needs. In the Pacific Theater, the Battle of Iwo Jima had only recently concluded, and the U.S. fleet was ramping up for the invasion of Okinawa. There was simply too much going on concerning the war against Japan to take more than a passing notice of the hard-won victory in Europe.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sailing for Saipan, 1945

On today’s date in 1945, Hector steamed toward the new Navy base at Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, where she will be stationed with Service Division 103 of Service Squadron Ten. Taking a standard zigzagging course, the ship passed Guam the next morning and the islands of Aguijan and Tinian that same afternoon. That evening she entered Tanapag Harbor at Saipan, Dad’s new home for the balance of the war and beyond.

The plan for a Navy base on the island called for the establishment of a mobile repair facility sufficient to maintain and repair hulls and engines of smaller boats. In the harbor, ServDiv 103 was assigned to repair countless vessels that would be sent there. Many of these boats and ships were essential for ongoing and future amphibious operations against Japan. Before the development of the base on Saipan, Navy Seabees had to upgrade and expand waterfront facilities at Tanapag Harbor for the arrival of Dad’s division and the ships that would need to be serviced and repaired. They dredged the entrance channel and cleared it of coral heads in order to develop the inner harbor.

LST'S, LCI'S, small boats, and other vessels at Tanapag Harbor carried much of the
transport required by the escalating action in the Pacific by May 1945. The work
assigned to Hector’s crews for repairing and maintaining these vessels was daunting. 
SourceThe U.S. Army in World War II:  The War in the Pacific

Seabees also constructed a shore base of Quonset huts and other metal buildings with access roads and utilities. Medical facilities were built, including a hospital for casualties from the Iwo Jima and Okinawa Campaigns. And, of course, airfields for long-range bombers were also created on Saipan as they were on the neighboring islands of Tinian and Guam. Work on the Saipan facilities was ongoing when Dad arrived in Tanapag Harbor on this date. 

A key factor in the success of the Okinawa Campaign was the Navy’s ability to ship personnel and materiel where needed. Of course, a mobile maintenance force, like the service division of which the USS Hector was a member at Saipan, helped to make the operation possible.

Hector will spend the rest of the war stationed in Tanapag Harbor, but that is still a long and difficult five months into the future. After Japan’s surrender, Hector will remain here on station until January 21, 1946.

Sources: USS Hector War Diary, April 1945; Building the Navy's Bases in World War II: History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946, Department of the Navy; Beans, Bullets and Black Oil, Worrall Reed Carter; The U.S. Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific, Philip A Crowl; Victory in the Pacific, Samuel Eliot Morrison