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

Friday, April 3, 2015

George Herbert's birthday, 1593

In honor of the poet George Herbert's birthday, one of my favorite of his poems, The Holdfast:
I threatened to observe the strict decree
Of my deare God with all my power and might:
But I was told by one, it could not be;
Yet I might trust in God to be my light.

Then will I trust, said I, in him alone.
Nay, ev’n to trust in him, was also his:
We must confesse, that nothing is our own.
Then I confesse that he my succour is:

But to have nought is ours, not to confesse
That we have nought. I stood amaz’d at this,
Much troubled, till I heard a friend expresse,
That all things were more ours by being his.
What Adam had, and forfeited for all,
Christ keepeth now, who cannot fail or fall.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Okinawa Campaign on land and sea, 1945

As the U.S. Navy's Task Force 58 began its 1945 operations east of Okinawa in preparation for the invasion of that Japanese island, my dad's repair ship, USS Hector, was returning to TF 58's base at Ulithi from deployment in the Philippines. Dad arrived at the atoll on March 31st, and remained there repairing battle damaged ships and completing other jobs until leaving for Saipan on April 21st.

Located only 350 miles south of mainland Japan, the Okinawa was vital for the planned invasion, which was going to be necessary to end the war. For 5 days prior to the invasion of Okinawa, the U.S. Navy conducted bombing attacks of coastal batteries on the island. These were designed to prepare the way for mine sweeping operations and the amphibious landing of troops. Battleships also bombarded the beaches and enemy installations. All was done without any Japanese air opposition. That would come later in the form of the dreaded kamikaze bombers.

Then on today's date in 1945, Easter Sunday, the Battle of Okinawa, the final amphibious landing of the war began  as U.S. Soldiers and Marines landed on the beaches. It was the last and largest of the Pacific island battles of the war. It also was one of the bloodiest.

From April 1 to June 22, 1945, 287,000 troops of the U.S. Tenth Army and the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions battled against 120,000 soldiers of the Japanese Thirty-second Army. At stake were air bases essential for an invasion of Japan.

The Japanese employed mainly defensive tactics and fought from caves and pillboxes, thus forcing the American invaders to take and destroy each one at a time. The fighting also occurred in more populated areas than earlier Pacific island battles. Consequently, civilian casualties were extremely high, nearly 100,000. Many of these were by suicide.

The ground campaign lasted 82 days. By the end, Japan had lost more than 100,000 soldiers. The Allies suffered more than 65,000 casualties, including 7,000 dead.

Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, Jr.
Interestingly, although tragic, the commanding generals of both sides were killed in the closing days of the campaign. American Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., son of a Confederate general and Kentucky governor, was killed by enemy artillery fire on June 18, 1945. Japanese Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima died in ritual suicide when all was lost for the island's defenders.

The Navy's Task Force 58, commanded by both Admirals Raymond Spruance (5th Fleet) and William Halsey (3rd Fleet), continued to play a significant role in the Okinawa Campaign. While in the initial phase of the invasion Japanese air opposition had been light, by April 6th, enemy air attacks against the fleet commenced. The Japanese kept up periodic heavy air attacks, including kamikaze strikes. These suicide bombings continued through the end of the campaign, taking a huge toll on the fleet.

From the start of naval operations on March 23 through the end of April, 20 ships were sunk and 157 were damaged. Several fleet aircraft carriers were severely damaged, mostly from kamikazes. By the end of the campaign, Task Force 58 suffered more than 4,000 in killed or missing aboard 34 ships that were sunk and 368 that were damaged. Another 6,000 sailors were wounded. The fleet also lost 763 aircraft. At sea and in the air, the Japanese navy lost over 10,000 men. Also destroyed were 2,800 aircraft, a battleship, a light cruiser, and 4 destroyers.

The U.S. fleet's high combat losses at sea influenced the decision against an invasion of the Japanese mainland. The Allies will opt for the atomic bomb to bring about Japan's surrender.

It was during the Okinawa Campaign, on April 12th, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died at  the "Little White House" in Warm Springs, Georgia. He was succeeded by Harry S. Truman. Victory in the Pacific and in Europe was close, but not imminent. Truman was resolved to continue the fight. In his address to the U.S. Congress 4 days later he declared, "So that there can be no possible misunderstanding, both Germany and Japan can be certain, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that America will continue the fight for freedom until no vestige of resistance remains!"

Sources: The Two-Ocean War, Samuel Eliot Morrison; Report of Operations of Task Force 58 at Okinawa; Marine Corps Association & Foundation

Monday, March 30, 2015

21 days at Ulithi

During much of February and March 1945, my dad, Frank Dolan, serving aboard repair ship, USS Hector in San Pedro Harbor in the Leyte Gulf, assisted in repairing ships for ongoing naval operations in the campaign for the Liberation of the Philippines. Hector remained there on duty until March 27th, when she was ordered back to Ulithi. Escorted by the Australian frigate, HMAS Gascoyne,* Hector arrived at the atoll on today's date, 1945. The next morning the ship was assigned to anchorage in the northern part of the lagoon.

For 21 days in April, Hector's crews performed various repairs to ships assigned to Service Squadron 10. Hector's services next were required for supporting the naval forces in the Okinawa Campaign. So on April 21st, she was ordered to Saipan in the Mariana Islands.

* The HMAS Gascoyne was one of the ships honored to be present in Tokyo Bay for the formal Japanese surrender ceremony on September 2, 1945. She also received 5 battle honours for her WWII service.

Sources: USS Hector War Diary, March & April 1945

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Taking Iwo Jima, 1945

On the same day that my dad's ship, USS Hector, arrived in San Pedro Bay in the Leyte Gulf, northwest across the Philippine Sea U.S. Marines began their renowned amphibious invasion of the small island of Iwo Jima. That assault began on this date, 70 years ago.

Both Japan and the United States placed high strategic value on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. For the Japanese, Iwo Jima, only 575 miles from the main Japanese coast, was part of its Empire. For the U.S., Iwo was vitally important for its location midway between the Japanese home islands and American bomber bases in the Marianas.

Since the summer of 1944, the Japanese homeland had been reeling from strikes by the new, long-range B-29’s. The problem for the U.S. was that its protective fighters did not have the range to escort the big super fortresses, and many of these bombers fell prey to Japanese interceptors. Iwo Jima, with its airfields, was ideally located as a base for fighter escorts. It was also an ideal sanctuary for crippled bombers returning from Japan. But before the U.S. could use those airfields, it had to take control of the island.

The Japanese Commander of Iwo Jima, Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, had thoroughly prepared the island for an invasion. Correctly understanding that he could not hold Iwo against the overwhelming military forces of the United States, Kuribayashi planned a protracted battle of attrition in the hope of delaying the inevitable loss of the island and the bombing of Japan.

Already, by November 1944, the U.S. Navy had been bombing Iwo Jima and continued it into the longest sustained aerial offensive of the war. But the ingenious Japanese had engineered an 11-mile tunnel network under the solid rock, connecting 1,500 dugouts and installations below ground. The American bombing had little effect.

The 23,000 Japanese defenders had no thought of surviving an invasion. Rather, they intended to annihilate the American invaders before they themselves were killed.

Anticipating a serious struggle to wrench the island from the enemy, America sent 110,000 Marines as an invasion force, more than any other battle. The Navy committed 880 ships to convey them from Hawaii in the largest armada invasion to date in the Pacific.

Shortly before 2 AM on today's date in 1945, Navy ships began bombarding Iwo Jima, signaling the beginning of the invasion. After an hour of punishing bombardment by the Navy's big guns, 110 bombers were sent to add to the devastation. After the planes had dropped their payloads, the big guns on the ships opened up again.

At 8:30 AM, the first wave of Marines was ordered toward the deadly shores. Eventually, 3 Marine divisions would make the landing. On the beach, however, the invaders were incredibly vulnerable to hidden Japanese gunners. Heavy fire by the enemy made it impossible for the Marines to land in an orderly manner, so confusion reigned on the beaches.

Mt Suribachi is visible in the background as waves of U.S. Marines
are delivered to the beaches in landing craft by the U.S. Navy landing craft

Mount Suribachi was the prominent geographical feature on the island. Its 550-foot volcanic cone towered above the southern tip of the island. From that position, Japanese gunners zeroed in on every inch of the shore. On the beach, fortified pillboxes with heavy weapons flanked the landing areas. Machine guns also had been prepositioned to crisscross the beaches with deadly fire. Rockets, anti-boat, and anti-tank guns were also trained on the beaches. With Japanese defenders fighting from below ground, the Americans rarely saw a living enemy soldier. However, the Marines were rarely out of their enemy's line of sight.

Experiencing initial success on shore, the Marines got bogged down in costly fighting. The underground tunnel system had to be destroyed by flamethrowers and hand grenades before the island could be rid of the enemy. After a month of grim and determined fighting, victory on Iwo Jima, was finally won on March 26. Americans lost 5,900 dead and 17,400 wounded, a staggering casualty rate of 1 in 3.1  The enemy, unwilling to surrender, lost essentially all of its 23,000-man force with fewer than 2,000 survivors.

Photographer Joe Rosenthal, who followed the victorious Marines up the mountain, took one of the most iconic photographs of the war when he captured the raising the flag over Mount Suribachi. This enduring image was actually the second flag raised. Late in the morning on February 23rd, after Marines had managed to secure Mount Suribachi, they initially raised a smaller flag. One of the Marines was sent to the beaches below to find a larger flag to replace it.2 Regardless, the dramatic image that Rosenthal captured galvanized war-weary Americans into rededicating themselves to the cause for which the Marines and Navy had fought and sacrificed so much.

Iwo Jima proved a costly victory for America. However, it did provide a vital link in the chain of bomber bases needed to defeat Japan. Not only did Iwo Jima shorten the war, but also by war’s end, it had provided a haven for 2,400 stricken B-29 bombers and 27,000 crewman who made emergency landings there.

1 Twenty-seven U.S. servicemen were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the 2-month-long battle (14 posthumously). Of the 27 medals awarded, 22 were presented to Marines and 5 were presented to Navy sailors, 4 of whom were Pharmacist's Mates (Hospital Corpsman).
2 The second flag to fly on Mount Suribachi was procured from one of the landing ships, LST-779. A couple of months later in Tanapag Harbor on Saipan, Dad's ship, Hector, did repair work on the LST-779 along with numerous other vessels.

Sources: Flags of our Fathers, James Bradley; The Two-Ocean War, Samuel Eliot Morrison; Historynet.comHistory of LST-481

USS Hector arrives in the Philippines, 1945

For several months in 1944-1945, my dad, Frank Dolan, was stationed on his repair ship, USS Hector, at Ulithi in the Western Caroline Islands. As part of Service Squadron 10, which had converted the lagoon there into a major naval facility, Dad's ship next was ordered to the Philippines. The progress of American forces closer toward victory throughout the Philippine Islands required advancing support elements, like repair ships, into closer proximity to the fighting afloat and ashore.

Hector sailed from Ulithi on February 16th, as part of Task Unit 50.9.6, escorted by the destroyers Bancroft and Bailey. Also joining this task unit were the attack cargo ship Fomalhaut, destroyer tenders Dixie and Markab, and repair ship Prometheus.1 The task unit was the vanguard of Service Squadron 10, of which the main force would follow in May.

On today's date in 1945, Hector arrived with Task Unit 50.9.6 at her new location in San Pedro Harbor, off Tarragona, in the northwest end of Leyte Gulf near where the Leyte Landings occurred the previous October. While the Battle for Manila raged nearby to the north, Hector's crews began repairing ships and readying other craft for continued operations against the Japanese occupiers.2

Hector remained on duty in Leyte Gulf until the end of March, when she returned to Ulithi for 21 days. Then in late April, Hector was shifted to Saipan in the Mariana Islands, while the main body of Service Squadron 10 was moved to San Pedro Harbor.

For his role in the Philippines Campaign from February through March, Dad received the Philippine Liberation Campaign Ribbon.

1Prometheus was the sister ship to Dad's previous repair ship, USS Vestal.
2Also on today's date in 1945, American Marines began their assault on Iwo Jima, preceded by 5 days of naval and air bombardment. Dreadful fighting there will last for 5 weeks.

Sources: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships; USS Hector and USS Prometheus War Diaries, February & March 1945

Monday, January 26, 2015

Repairs to battle damaged USS Langley

On today's date in 1945, my dad's ship, the USS Hector, stationed at Ulithi Atoll, received the carrier USS Langley alongside for battle damage repairs. The ship had been participating in the 3rd Fleet's daring raid into the South China Sea when off Formosa it was bombed by a Japanese fighter.

Part of the fleet's Task Force 38 (TF 38), Langley was helping to provide cover and support for the Philippine Campaign through air strikes over Formosa, Luzon, and the Visayas. She was also assisting TF 38 in destroying Japanese vessels which might threaten the landings on Luzon. From January 10-20, TF 38 went out in search of an enemy fleet that could menace the ongoing Battle of Luzon.

While TF 38 did not encounter any enemy warships, planes from its force sank 44 enemy ships, mostly merchant marine, with very few of its own planes lost. On January 21st, the carrier planes attacked Formosa, but here the Japanese used their kamikazes in striking back. USS Langley was hit, the bomb penetrating the forward flight deck and exploding in officers' staterooms. Furniture, bulkheads, piping, and deck were damaged or destroyed.*

USS Langley, March 1945, shortly after receiving repairs from USS Hector
Source: Navy Historical Center

In addition to the Langley, the carrier USS Ticonderoga and the destroyer USS Maddox were also damaged, along with 201 aircraft destroyed. In terms of human loss to the fleet, 167 pilots and air crewmen and 205 sailors were killed in the kamikaze attacks.

Langley remained alongside Hector for repairs through February 5th when she was returned to service with the Third Fleet continuing its carrier operations in the South China Sea against the Japanese Home Islands and the invasion of Iwo Jima. More combat activity followed in March through May, as Langley's planes again hit targets in Japan and supported the Okinawa operation. Back to the U.S. for overhaul and modernization in June and July, the carrier was returning to the Pacific combat zone when the war ended in August.

For a couple of months, Langley transported home veterans of the war in the Pacific. Then the ship sailed to the Atlantic where she carried out similar missions from November 1945 through January 1946. Following months of inactivity, Langley was decommissioned in Philadelphia in February 1947. In early 1951, the ship was refurbished and transferred to France under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. After more than a decade of French Navy service under the name La Fayette, the valiant warship was returned to the United States in 1963, and sold for scrap a year later.

The USS Langley received 9 battle stars for her World War II service.

USS Langley leads a very impressive force returning to Ulithi in
December 1944, from strikes on targets in the Philippines.
Source: Naval Historical Center

*The Japanese plane from Formosa that hit the Langley likely carried a 200-pound bomb. The plane narrowly missed the flight deck and crashed into the sea. The pilot may have intended a suicide attack and just missed the deck; or it is possible that he tried to escape after releasing his bombs but ended up crashing after his plane was hit. In either case, the bomb killed 3 of Langley's crew and seriously wounded 11 others.

Sources: The Two-Ocean War, Samuel Eliot Morrison; USS Hector War Diary, January 1945; USS Hector AR7- Ship's Log (WWII); USS Langley War Diary, January & February 1945 and Action Report January 1945: Naval Historical Center

Monday, January 12, 2015

Second kaiten attack at Ulithi

Throughout the first couple of weeks of January 1945, my dad's repair ship, USS Hector, brought the subchaser, USS PC-1130, alongside for emergency repairs. The patrol craft's sonar equipment had been damaged and required Hector's attention. Even while receiving repairs, however, the ship still carried on patrol duties as required. One of the big concerns was the ever-present danger of another attack like the one on November 20, 1944. In that attack, Japanese submarines launched human torpedoes, or "kaitens," toward the anchored fleet, destroying USS Mississinewa and killing 60 of her crewmen.

Nearby, on today's date, the ammunition ship, USS Mazama, which had only days before arrived at Ulithi with a full load of cargo, sighted a suspicious moving object off its starboard side. Moments later, around 7:00 AM, an explosion rocked the ship, causing severe flooding. It had been attacked by a kaiten.

Around 9:00 AM, the PC-1130 was ordered underway from the Hector to patrol for enemy midget subs within the harbor. At 10:15, the subchaser witnessed an explosion about 200 yards away. Although its sonar was temporarily knocked out in the explosion, nevertheless the subchaser immediately altered course to intercept and ram the sub if it surfaced. As it passed over the spot, it dropped 3 depth charges for good measure. Leaving follow-up work for an arriving destroyer, the PC-1130 proceeded on outside the lagoon to continue its patrol.

Meanwhile, the damage and flooding on the Mazama had caused the ship to list. Immediately, pumping was started to handle the flooding. For a while, the crew thought the ship may have to be beached to avoid sinking, so it got underway for land. However, tugboats and other fleet vessels came to assist the struggling ship. A diving crew from Hector also arrived to inspect the damage and effect temporary repairs. Hector's divers confirmed that the explosion had indented a significant section of the ship, and its seams had separated. The next day, a repair party from Hector caulked and plugged the open seams enough to pump out the water.

The Japanese submarine that had launched the attack against the Mazama was the I-36, the same ship that launched its manned torpedoes against Ulithi the previous November. This time, a Navy PBM patrol bomber spotted one of the attacking kaitens in the lagoon and destroyed it by dropping 4 depth charges. But the other 3 managed to attack targets within the harbor. In addition to damaging the Mazama, killing 1 and seriously injuring 7, another of the kaitens sank the infantry landing craft, LCI-600, killing 3.

Temporary repairs to the Mazama were completed by March 6 when the ship steamed for San Francisco for permanent repairs. By June, she was back in the Philippines with 5,000 tons of ammunition. In July, she entered San Pedro Bay where she remained through the end of the war. After participating in the American Occupational Force of the Japanese Home Islands, she enjoyed a long period of service until her permanent decommissioning in 1970. The USS Mazama received 5 battle stars for her WWII service.

PC-1130 also survived the war, and after spending some time in reserve, was transferred to France and then to South Vietnam. She was struck from the Naval Register in 1965.

The I-36 continued to see service in the Japanese fleet, surviving until the surrender in September 1945. On April 1, 1946, as part of "Operation Roads End," the I-36 was towed to sea and scuttled.

Sources: USS PC-1130 War Diary, January 1945; USS Mazama War Diary, January 1945

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Invasion of Lingayen Gulf & The Battle of Luzon, 1945

The Liberation of the Philippines began on October 20, 1944, with the landing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's troops on the beaches at Leyte. Next was Mindoro, a major steppingstone to a successful land invasion of Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands. But to take its objective the U.S. 6th Army needed to land in Lingayen Gulf, the same area where 3 years before the Japanese successfully invaded and defeated the American and Filipino forces.

The goal was to take this area from which the Americans could then strike at the heart of the enemy defenses in the Philippines. A successful invasion at Lingayen would provide bases to support further operations against the Japanese, as well as deny them shipping lanes in the South China Sea. The U.S. landing force was scheduled to be put ashore on Luzon on S-Day, January 9th.

Source: The Stamford Historical Society
As a prelude to the scheduled landing on this date in 1945, ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet began a devastating ship and air bombardment of suspected Japanese defenses at Lingayen as well as the invasion sites on Luzon. But the fleet paid a heavy price for the role it played. By January 12th, a total of 24 ships were sunk and another 67 were damaged by Japanese kamikazes.

As planned, on the 9th, about 68,000 soldiers of MacArthur's army under Gen. Walter Krueger landed on the Luzon coast without opposition. Over the next few days, upwards of 203,000 troops were brought ashore, securing a 20-mile beachhead, capturing the coastal towns, as well as penetrating up to 5 miles inland.

The successful invasion at Lingayen Gulf allowed for a vast supply depot for supporting other major landingsin the Battle of Luzon. By March, the Americans controlled all strategically and economically important locations on the island,2  although small groups of Japanese held out in the mountains until Japan’s surrender in August. In all, 10 U.S. divisions and 5 independent regiments fought on Luzon, making it the largest campaign of the Pacific war.

1Two more major landings followed: One to cut off the Bataan Peninsula (captured February 16th) and another that included paratroopers and amphibious units to capture Corregidor at the entrance of Manila Bay on March 2nd. Fighting in Manila was harsh, and it took until March 3rd to clear the capital city of Japanese troops.
2In February, the U.S. Navy began shifting its mobile service force, Service Squadron Ten, from Ulithi in the Western Carolines, to Leyte Gulf in order to provide closer support to the fleet in the naval operations against the Japanese. My father's repair ship, USS Hector, arrived in Leyte Gulf on February 19th, and remained there until the end of March.

Sources: The Two-Ocean War, Samuel Eliot Morrison; Naval Operations in the Pacific from March 1944 to October 1945