USS BUSH (DD 529)

"Ensign John E. Littleton"

Executive Officer and Navigator LCS(L)-64

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Ensign John E. Littleton

Ensign John E. Littleton's part in the events of April 6, 1945 played a major role in the rescue of many USS BUSH sailors. Like the USS BUSH, Littleton's ship, the LCS(L)-64, was also assigned to radar picket station #1. An LCS was not a large ship. With a crew of about 65 enlisted men and 6 officers, the LCS(L) 64 had been commissioned less than four months earlier on December 18, 1944 in Portland, Oregon. Twenty-one years old, Ensign John Littleton was made the Executive Officer and Navigator of the 64.

Ensign John Littleton
Ensign John Littleton - 1944

On April 6, 1945 after the BUSH was hit by the first of three Japanese suicide planes, the BUSH lay dead in the water. Littleton recalls, "... the BUSH was out of sight to our northeast, but soon, as we proceeded in that direction, the sight of circling planes and the sounds of gunfire guided us to her. As we neared, we also saw the COLHOUN somewhat to the south of the BUSH coming up from the east. About 4:30 we went alongside BUSH's port quarter to take off wounded and otherwise assist. She was lying on a westerly heading, listing to port and down by the stern. We had just got a line over when we were ordered off as a new wave of planes was coming in. During the brief time we were alongside we managed to get a bearing (using our PPI radar scope) on the eastern end of the largest island of the Iheya Retto which lay to the south. This proved invaluable later when we sought to find survivors." The LCS(L) 64 would be driven off by enemy planes and unable to return to this spot until after dark; after the BUSH had been struck by two more planes and sunk.

John Littleton expanded upon the events of this day and the efforts required obtaining the bearing that would be so important in saving lives. Noted Littleton, "As navigator I tried to know generally where we were through whatever means were available, particularly when near land and at important junctures in the ship's life. Both of these were the case alongside the BUSH. I was in the chart/radio room in the deck house directly below the conning tower and told Cannon, the radarman, to take a bearing on the island. We worked together to identify the points of land on the scope (I had the charts at hand). In fact, we tried to get bearings on at least two points to get a cut, but usable additional points proved elusive."

Littleton continued, "I seem to remember that Nelson, the radar technician, helped Cannon and me in reading the scope and, since radar bearings are relative and I do not remember there being any gyro repeater in the chart/radio room, we must have gotten our true heading from the helmsman, Javins, in the wheelhouse before marking the chart. The conn couldn't have given it to us as they were busy preparing to pull away from the BUSH. We ended up with one bearing and a very murky estimate of range. I then marked the spot on the chart, and it was this spot we were steaming slowly toward in the dark around 8pm when we made contact with the gig. In the next 3 hours we recovered 95 men, including a badly burned stretcher-case from the gig."

These memories from John Littleton provide a great glimpse into the duties of a ship's navigator and the teamwork required to carry them out. The LCS(L) 64's work enabled her to return and find survivors and to help direct other rescue ships that arrived on station to likely spots to find survivors.

Littleton went on to share the following: "The chart with BUSH's position still marked was on board when I left the 64 in June, 1946, in Green Cove Springs, FL, where she was being prepared for moth-balling. I remember thinking of taking it with me as a keepsake. I did not. I must have considered it too brazen an act. I wouldn't later in life and now, after the last week or so of intense recollecting and recording all this, I very much regret not doing so."

John Littleton was one of five Ensigns assigned to the LCS(L) 64 on her commissioning date. Along with her commanding officer Lt. Charles Fogg these 6 men comprised the 64's compliment of officers. When asked how does a 21 year old Ensign get selected to be the second in command and ship's navigator, Littleton said, "I had spent the last four summers before College in Sept., 1941, racing and cruising in 28' sail boats in the waters off southeast MA so the rudiments of piloting and chart reading were second nature. At Harvard before going into uniform (in V-12) I had taken a college course in celestial navigation. An experienced test-taker, I passed out of Midshipman School with good marks and again upon reporting to Solomons ATB took, with all other just-commissioned arrivals, a whole new battery of tests. Thereafter, when they were making up groups of officers and men to train together as an LCS crew (we used old LCIs, as LCSs were not yet available) I was assigned to act as XO despite being junior in date of commission to some others. I can only guess that the Navy, faced as it was with hundreds of college boys streaming out of ... Midshipman Schools at the same time, with commissions dated within minutes of each other, decided to use test scores rather than its time honored seniority. The sequel to this is almost funny. In May of 1945, after victory in Europe and with the end of the Pacific war in view, the Navy thought better of its departure from tradition and directed commanding officers (at least those commanding LCSs) to "... reassign officers to duty as necessary to have officer next in rank to commanding officer designated executive officer..." As a result John Jubell became XO, Albert Jewell became Gunnery Officer and I became First Lieutenant. I remained Navigator, however."


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