By: Earle Flynn
Around March 1943, I was assigned to the USS Walker, a destroyer, at Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine. We had our shakedown cruise in Casco Bay, Maine. We sailed to Aruba and Trinidad a few times, escorting oil tankers away from German submarines. All over, the German submarines were sinking our ships, especially within sight of the New York and New Jersey coasts. We sailed to San Juan, Puerto Rico and then with the USS Chester, a cruiser, with the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull aboard, we escorted the Chester to Casablanca for the big three conference (Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin).
Once we were at Port of Spain, Trinidad, we had general quarters, to rush out and intercept a German sub that was crippled by a Navy blimp. We arrived at daybreak and the blimp had him under control. When we got close, they scuttled the sub and jumped into the sea. We picked up the men and one German sailor died. We let them bury him on our ship with full military honors. Then he slipped over the side in the sea for God to have. A sailor is buried in canvas and sewn with twine with the last stitch through his nose with a 5-inch projectile inside. This is tradition for all the navies of the world. The five-inch projectile is for weight so that the body will sink to the bottom of the ocean. Around June 1943, we started our trip to the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal arriving in San Diego, CA then on to Pearl Harbor.
During that past year, I received my promotions: to advance to second class seaman, to fireman third class, fireman second class, fireman first class then to Petty Officer Second Class as motor machinist. On the USS Walker, I was in the after fireroom where there were two boilers at 600 pounds steam pressure. The other fireman also had two boilers of the same. In Pearl Harbor, I was transferred to Service Pacific Administration which is to help to disperse personnel to locations where needed. I was then assigned to Commander Service Squadron Four Pacific Fleet. During my brief stay at Pearl, I worked on the capsized USS Oklahoma.
Lost at Sea : By Robert Hudson
Lost at Sea - Another View By: David W. MacManiman
By Earl Connite
I mentioned that first engagement with the enemy the Walker was involved in at Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, November, 43. I remember the first five salvo's from out 5" 38's was fired at a very high flying jap plane that was caught in the cross beams of three searchlights. There must have been every gun in Gods creation firing at that poor pilot. But it turned out that fire control on our bridge screwed up and failed to set the fuses and all our rounds of the five salvo's were duds! Can you believe that. Over the years I have met and spoke to two marines of the 2nd Marine division that first went ashore at Tawawa.
I am grateful that the memories remaining in my mind, as bad as they are, will not compare with those who waded ashore on those forgotten islands and atolls spread out in the Pacific. I know what those men went through, but on the other hand I do not KNOW. I can only surmise. I can recall the first time I smelled the sweet acrid aroma of the rotting bodies of both American and Jap dead. The odor came drifting out to the ships along with the hugh green flies that were swelled and bloated with the blood of the dead. Yeah, these are part of the memories that I wish would go away. But then again, maybe not. It seems the world is forgetting what went on out there. And, too there were opportunist among the Marines that suffered through the terrible battles out there.
They would show up on the ships selling pickled fingers, toes, penises, testicles, even eyeballs taken from dead Jap dead. And worse than that they found buyers for that stuff. It was to repeat its self many times. Yes the Walker had its share of the war. Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas (?). I remember the great "Turkey Shoot" . I remember standing at my battle station on a 20mm and watching the 16" projectiles fired from battleships a few miles off shore sail over head then a few moments later see them explode on the island, and I recall wondering who and how many died in the explosion.
We knew that there were literally thousands of civilian men, women and children on that island that were being killed and maimed. We knew that mothers were throwing their children off of high cliff to their deaths on the rocks far below than following them to their death. The Japs had for years known the time would come when Americans would storm the beaches and chose to face death rather than face what they had been told to expect from the Americans; rape. tortured, murder and age would save no one.