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USS BUSH (DD 529)

Second Set of Memories

Tragic Accident, the Philippines and Iwo Jima

These memories recall significant events from July, 1944 through the battle for Iwo Jima in February and March of 1945. Memories include the tragic 5-inch shell accident; combat in the Philippines (Leyte Gulf, Surigao Strait, Ormoc Bay, Lingayen Gulf); and Iwo Jima.

Material on this page can be read in consecutive order, or just click on the underscored area of interest described noted below.

The ratings shown for those individuals making comments were their last ratings aboard BUSH.

Tragic Accident: 5-inch projectile mishap kills five and wounds many more.
Leyte: Enroute to Leyte Island for the initial invasion to retake the Philippines from the Empire of Japan.
Surigao Strait: The BUSH spent a number of days patrolling this important and narrow sea channel. On November 1, 1944 the BUSH was one of several isolated destroyers under heavy air and suicide attack. Several were damaged or sunk. Also, the former BUSH Executive Officer explains the rationale for the Ormoc Bay landings on the other side of Leyte Island.
Mindoro to Iwo: Combat during the "Slow Tow to Mindoro", Lingayen Gulf, and Iwo Jima campaigns are remembered.

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5-inch Shell Accident July 23, 1944:

While exercising at general quarters, we were told to take a break from our stations in the forward boiler room. We went topside and were cooling off on the starboard side, main deck near the No. 1 stack and the forward torpedo tubes. I was with my buddy, Ray Lockhart, another Water Tender. When the accident happened, shrapnel from the blast nearly blew my left leg off, and also hit my face and left arm. My friend Ray was dead, having been hit in the head and upper body.
... Richard "Robbie" Robertson, WT3c, July 29, 2001

There was an explosion on #3 gun. I remember a guy leaning on his arms at the rail. A bunch of stuff flew, he fell backwards, like a chicken, twitching, jumping. A big hunk was out of the back of his head. There was a hauser spool with a canvas cover on deck (fueling lines), and a guy sitting there on that, leaning back. Half his head front to back was blown off. Killed people on the torpedo tubes. I got a sheet and covered him. Doc Johnson in the wardroom said, "We got problems." Bob Sharp showed up and took care of the guy flopping on the deck.
... Bob Thompson, SC3c, June 1993

I was very lucky because Gene Lukowski took my place on the forward torpedo tubes about 5 or 10 minutes before the accident and he was killed.
... Ray Mayhugh, CTM, September 26, 1993

One of the Chiefs got the crew's attention properly focused by telling us to "Hose this place down!"
... Ben Libassi, S1c, June 2, 2001

We came back to Pearl at flank speed and into port with all kinds of press and people there. We were told not to speak to anyone!! So word got out we had just come in from big sea battle.
... Frank Grigsby, WT3c, March 15, 1999

The BUSH had taken on new 5"/38 caliber projectile ammunition with a magnetic fuse that would explode in close proximity of the target. While the ship was engaged in the shelling of Kahoolawe Island under the direction of a shore fire control party, a 5"/38 shell exploded prematurely as soon as it left the muzzle of gun #3. This horrible accident killed or wounded ten sailors exposed in the amidship starboard 40MM gun crew and others on deck..... The BUSH returned to Pearl Harbor.....For those who died a military honor guard from the BUSH took part in the service. It was a very impressive ecumenical service with a Protestant Minister, Catholic Priest and Jewish Rabbi officiating.
... Earl Sechrist, Lt.(jg), October 1, 1991

Captain Westholm came to visit me in the hospital after we got back to Pearl. I told him I'd finally gotten my transfer. He said, "Yeah, you got off, but you got off the hard way!" I spent a total of about 18 months recovering from the accident, the first several months in Hawaii until I could be transferred to San Leandro.
... Richard "Robbie" Robertson, WT3c, July 29, 2001

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Leyte Invasion:

Sitting on deck one afternoon .... looked up from whatever and saw a mine floating by about 10-20 feet from us. Ship turned around very slow and spotted mine again. The officers wanted to shoot at it to explode it. There we sat for about 30 minutes with rifles and pistols hitting hit but not exploding it. You have to hit one of the fingers on the end to set it off. Captain said it was time to go, so he told the 5-inch gun crew to hit it. One shot and mine was gone and water splashed on us.
... Frank Grigsby, WT3c, March 15, 1999

Then the big WORD came we were going to the Philippines. Boy, I was really scared. And I mean scared. We were operating with the BOSIE, PHOENIX, and the NASHVILLE, which MacArthur was on. We stood by him for 15 days in Leyte, Philippines. Nothing happened the first two days. Then all of a sudden it happened: The Japs came in handfuls. We got our first plane to our credit.
... Charles J. Taly, S2c, from pocket dairy written December 4, 1945

The BUSH was part of a destroyer screen around the cruiser USS NASHVILLE (CL43) that was the task force flagship taking General Douglas MacArthur back to the Philippines for the initial landings at Leyte Island. Major General Charles F. Stivers and Lieutenant Colonel J. R. McMicking, US Army Air Force were aboard BUSH. They had come out of the Philippines with General MacArthur. They were returning to the Philippines anxiously wondering how their families had fared under Japanese occupation and hoping to be reunited with them soon.
... Earl Sechrist, Lt.(jg), October 1, 1991

We shall never forget the tremendous flotilla enroute to Leyte. Ships could be seen in every direction and into the horizon .... The BUSH missed the first big battle when the Seventh Fleet intercepted the Japanese fleet intending to attack US forces at Leyte. Instead of going into Surigao Strait, BUSH and another destroyer were assigned to escort the USS NASHVILLE.
... Robert Aguilar, SKD2c, Summer 1999

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Surigao Strait - November 1, 1944:

We had been on air alert all night because of snooping aircraft and daylight didn't relieve the strain much. We were at Condition of Readiness to repel air attack and the enemy didn't disappoint us.
... Robert Aguilar, SKD2c, Summer 1999

BUSH was picket destroyer in Surigao Strait all by our lonesome. We had a very busy morning. We were dispatched to that station the day after the Battle for Leyte Gulf when the old battleships crossed the T of the Japanese force coming up Surigao Straits.
... P. A. (Tony) Lilly, jr., Lieutenant & Executive Officer, February 26, 1998

After 5 days sitting in the harbor we were ordered to go to picket station 1. We stood out there 2 days and nothing happened. But that third day was hell and I mean hell. We were attacked by 6 Bettys and 4 Zekes, Jap planes. We fought them over 4 hours. They dropped 4 torpedoes, 2 bombs and machined gunned us twice. They hit our Exec and also one of our men on #41 forty. That was our first air strike and boy what an air strike. Well, we got 3 more planes in that fight and damaged the rest of them. When we came back in port the next day, MacArthur gave us a "Well Done" and the rest of the ships said the same thing. That was the first time any one destroyer ever held off so many planes. I gave all my life to the Captain of our ship who saved all of us.
... Charles J. Taly, S2c, from pocket dairy written December 4, 1945

In the Surigao Straits, I was pitching the shells out the back of the #4 5-inch gun. One got crossways, and the shells started piling up in a hurry. Had 3 or 4 there, and the smoke inside was getting hellacious. Finally kicked them all through.
... Ed Bennet, Cox, August 16, 2001

All hatches and vents of the room were secured, the tropical climate was no help and the body heat was unbelievable! Toward the end of the attacks the deck was so slick with perspiration that we couldn't stand up and were handling ammo on our hands and knees.
... Robert Aguilar, SKD2c, Summer 1999

We had been at general quarters .... and had been under intermittent air attack. I and the others of the repair party were serving .... sandwiches, soup, and chocolate cake to gun stations. I had this big sheet cake. I was on the starboard side, starting up a ladder on the after deck-house to the #4 5-inch gun, balancing the cake. I heard a plane, looked aft, and out of the sun came a zero. Probably as soon as I saw him, he started a strafing run. This caused very little damage. One of his bullets took a very small nick out of my right ear. One creased the butt of a sailor who was sitting in the hatch to the galley as he was working the potato peeler. One hit Mr. Lilly in the shoulder. The strafer flew off .... I never could find the cake after things settled down.
... Jack Day, CM2c, January 9, 1999

It was during these operations that everyone noticed the frequent suicidal attacks of the Japanese pilots and realized that we were witnessing a new phenomenon of war, the kamikaze! The AMMEN and the ABNER READ were victims of such attacks that day .... The skys were clear of enemy aircraft at noon .... Commander Westholm won a special commendation from Rear Admiral Weyler and Tokyo Rose complained that "A lone American destroyer had automatic 5-inch guns."
... Robert Aguilar, SKD2c, Summer 1999

Surigao Strait - November 1944:

On a few occassions the BUSH was ordered to patrol Surigao Strait, an important narrow sea channel between Leyte and Mindanao Islands. On one of these occassions while zig-zagging across the strait on the far reaches of our patrol, the crew spotted some debris and objects in the water. Upon further investigation, we picked up the survivors of B-25 Bomber that had dive bombed the Japanese military stronghold at Ormoc. The B-25 was badly shot up and was ditched in Surigao Strait. We picked up two or three survivors in a rubber life raft. They were the only survivors of their crew and had been watching the BUSH patrol for a few days and didn't know if we were a friendly or enemy ship.
... Earl Sechrist, Lt.(jg), October 1, 1991

While patrolling Surigao Strait we had wonderful mail service. Commander Westholm, the BUSH Captain, had been a squadron commander of P.T. boats in the Solomon Islands. He knew several of the P.T. boat skippers who were making raids on Japanese installations on Mindanao Island. The P.T. boats would bring mail from Tacloban to the BUSH on their way to Mindanao. In return, BUSH provided them with fresh bread and pastry items while passing through the Strait. During the day to avoid enemy aircraft, they would sometimes seek air cover protection from the BUSH.
... Earl Sechrist, Lt.(jg), October 1, 1991

Ormoc Bay:

This was the first resupply convoy to Ormoc Bay where we had landed a day or more before. A terrific battle ashore & afloat took place there on the day or second day of the landing. Ormoc Bay is on the west coast of Leyte. The landing was to bottle up the Japs and also to prevent any more reinforcements.
... P. A. (Tony) Lilly, jr., Lieutenant & Executive Officer, January 13, 1997

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Mindoro:

Our Liberty the SS FRANCISO MORAZAN had been anchored at Dulag from November 15 until we sailed for Mindoro on the 27th escorted by the USS BUSH and seven other destroyers ... the fire power of the destroyers was awesome and especially those of the quad 40MM's. Although when those followed the 5" and were followed by the 20MM's we knew the enemy had closed the convoy.
... Robert E. Tassinari, SM2c, on the SS FRANCISCO MORAZAN (Armed Guard), May 30, 2002

This was the first resupply to the landings in Mindoro. We called it the "Slow Tow to Mindoro". It consisted of a number of miscellaneous ships, tugs, tows, etc... limited to a very slow speed. At times, instead of DD's patrolling station they raced around the whole convoy. And it was so slow that at one point with tide and current against us we were going backwards. The JOHN BURKE was loaded with ammo & completely disappeared. The shock was so fierce that I (in CIC) thought we had been hit. The fighting & air attacks were so fierce that I thought our chances of surviving that Slow Tow were pretty small.
... P. A. (Tony) Lilly, jr., Lieutenant & Executive Officer, January 13, 1997

Every plane we got, missed us by feet, and I mean feet! We always got them at the last minute. We made three runs up and and down from Mindoro. I saw an ammo ship go up and it is no fun to look at.
... Charles J. Taly, S2c, from pocket dairy written December 4, 1945

The S.S. JOHN BURKE, a liberty ship in the convoy with a cargo of ammunition, exploded after having been crashed dived by flaming Japanese "suicide" dive bomber. All hands were lost. The concussion from this explosion some 3,000 yards away from the BUSH was so great that personnel on the bridge of the BUSH were nearly knocked off their feet.
... Earl Sechrist, Lt.(jg), October 1, 1991

One of my most vivied memories..... We watched a plane dive at one of the ships carrying equipment and ammo. Everyone was shooting at the plane and we saw flame coming from the plane before it hit the ship. When it hit there was a large explosion, and the ball of smoke that looked like pictures of atom bomb explosions I have seen. When the smoke cleared there was only space where the ship had been.
... Ray Mayhugh, CTM, September 26, 1993

I was in the fireroom and we could feel the blast and we could tell something was hit. By the time I could get topside all that was left was smoke going up, less than a minute in time. Nothing was left to see in 2 minutes.
... Frank Grigsby, WT3c, March 15, 1999

While the supply ships discharged their cargoes, we patrolled the coast of Mindoro under Army Air Force cover and things were routine again until late afternoon when all hell broke loose. The PRINGLE and GANSEVOORT were hit by kamikazes .... On the return trip the convoy sustained additional air attacks but we had air cover by four Navy Hellcats .... ComDesDiv 48 endured six days of around-the-clock intensive warfare with little sleep, meager subsistence and heroic physical exertion.
... Robert Aguilar, SKD2c, Summer 1999

In action I served as a loader on a bridge 20MM so I kept busy those days. The merchant marine crew were critical to the maintaining a supply of ammunition at the gun sites. I had the highest regard for their cooperation and attitude .... The 28th saw the crash diving of the SS WILLIAM SHARON. I have a vivid memory of the plane crashing the rear of the stack and the destruction of the SS JOHN BURKE.
... Robert E. Tassinari, SM2c, on the SS FRANCISCO MORAZAN (Armed Guard), May 30, 2002

Staying alert in The Philippines while at GQ for long periods of time was tough, really tough. Drank a lot of coffee .... sorry coffee. I had a hammock swung up under the bridge, 10 feet from my gun. We were young and didn't know any different. Ship's cooks, like McKinney, would bring us sandwiches and sometimes we'd get K-rations. We couldn't go to the head, so we'd wet in a 40MM brass cartridge casing and pitch it over the side.
... Bob Shirey, EM3c, April 17, 2000

I just had to reflect on my memories of the eight destroyers as they maneuvered about the convoy. I am grateful to have survived that event and owe my many years to the USS BUSH and the other escorts.
... Robert E. Tassinari, SM2c, on the SS FRANCISCO MORAZAN (Armed Guard), May 22, 2002

I turned 19 on New Years Eve that year, I think I aged a few years in one week.
... Bob Wise, S1c, April 27, 2001

Lingayen Gulf:

A Kamikaze plane crashed so close to the BUSH that parts of the suicide plane landed on the fantail. The BUSH picked up the surviving Japanese pilot. He was held as a prisoner aboard the BUSH for several days until we returned to Tacloban, Leyte. He was a young Japanese youth about 16 years old.
... Earl Sechrist, Lt.(jg), October 1, 1991

Passing by small bay we saw a Jap transport unloading troops and supplies to beach. We passed by the opening of bay and turned around and came back to entrance and stopped. The transport could not get out, or "out gun" us. Barges were going to beach with troops and supplies. We started firing on barges, a train on beach started to move. We got the train, then barges, then transport with not one shot fired at us.
... Frank Grigsby, WT3c, March 15, 1999

BUSH participated in support of the landings at Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945. Many of the destroyers were kamikaze victims as the task group approached the gulf, but BUSH's luck held up. We were attacked seven times by kamikazes but escaped, thanks to high speed maneuvering and accurate gunfire.
... Robert Aguilar, SKD2c, Summer 1999

In the Philippines, I had a hammock slung up under the bridge. A jump plane was making a run on us and the #2 gun swung around and fired right next to me. I fell out of the hammock, and boy was I moving. If the ship had been rolling the other way, I would have gone over the side. My ears were ringing for sometime, and are still ringing due to tinnitus .
... Myarl Rose, RdM3c, April 8, 2000

I was in on the Mindoro and Luzon invasions. We have a few more planes and also a few small Jap ships to our credit. Had our first real eggs today in two months. I was getting to like those dehydrated ones.
... Lt. (jg) Richard P. Anderson, Engineering Officer, letter dated January 27, 1945

Guam:

The officer I was to relieve had to leave shortly and there wasn't much time for turnover. Of course, I called on the Captain, Commander Rollin E. Westholm, and met the other officers of the ship. We left Guam the next day escorting a dredge to the Philippines. On a destroyer, the Exec. is the Navigator as well. I learned navigation in ROTC but had never taken a star sight. The Quartermaster was curious to see what kind of a fix I could obtain. I went ahead the first evening and shot three stars and we went below to plot our position, I was not acquainted with H.O. 214 as I had learned H.O. 211 in school. I went ahead and plotted. I didn't get a point fix but managed to have a very small triangle. I don't think the Quartermaster was too impressed. We continued on our course and I took pains to learn H.O. 214 (which was much easier). One day at noon when we were to hoist the noon position to our escort, he came back with his position about 15 miles away from mine. I went back to check my work and found that I was a minute off on the chronometer reading I had used. Embarrassed, I re-signaled the position which then agreed with that of the escort. I could almost hear the old seadog who captained the dredge laughing at those dumb Navy types.
.... Tom Owen, Lt. Commander, Executive Officer & Navigator, 1989

While in Ulithi, just prior to the Iwo Jima campaign, my motor whaleboat was tied up to a boat boom. We thought we'd be there awhile, but wound up leaving port sooner than expected. As they were preparing to raise the MWB (at night, in choppy waters), a problem with the lines and block occurred which dumped the stern of the MWB into the water, and the engineer and I went swimming. A searchlight was used to spot us and we re-hooked and they began to hoist us out. The engine was submerged and I had to pull two plugs to drain the water from the MWB. As Cox, I wound up putting hours and hours of work into refinishing and painting the woodwork, giving a special striping to the gunnels that matched the Captain's gig.
... Ed Bennett, Cox, April 6, 2000

Iwo Jima:

I remember the intense activity in the CIC on the first day of the invasion .... The first wave of Marines were having a very rough time trying to even get off the beach because the soft volcanic sand made rough going and the landing area was under very heavy fire. Most of us were surprised by the situation for we knew of the intense pounding the island had taken for months. The Bush was close inshore to give direct fire support so we kept up to date on progress. The situation was so uncertain that there was even talk of withdrawing the Marines by early afternoon. Then somehow they managed to start moving inland and the operation went ahead.
... Coit Butler, Ensign, part of Fighter Direction Team aboard USS BUSH, August 17, 2000

The BUSH helped escort the first detachment of Marines that would land at Iwo Jima. It was a general practice that a communications officer would go ashore to help set up the lines of communications so the ship could provide effective fire power for troops on the island. I hit the beach in landing craft. I sank up to my knees in the volcanic ash that lined the shore. It was like sugar in consistency.
... Dan Tontz, Lt.(jg), Assistant Communications Officer, April 20, 1999

I don't remember just when (probably 3 or 4 days after D-Day) but I was sent ashore as Fire Support Control Officer. I was met by a couple of Marines with backpack radios. I can still see the mess on the landing beach which was only 20 to 40 feet deep until there was a steep 5 to 10 foot rise we had to climb to get off the beach and onto level ground. All of this was black, powdery lava sand which was very difficult to walk in. The three of us then went only 50 yards or so inland and crawled into a shallow depression. We hunkered down there and that is all I remember.
... Coit Butler, Ensign, part of Fighter Direction Team aboard USS BUSH, August 17, 2000

At Iwo, the Marine radioman of the Shore Fire Control party had been knocked out. They needed someone who knew how to handle the job and properly communicate with our ship. Commander Westholm ordered that several of us would each spend one day with the Shore Fire Control unit. Lt. West went first, then me, and then Coit Butler. I don't know who followed Butler. Later on, after all Bush personnel had finished with that chore, I learned from a Marine friend of mine that everyone in the Shore Fire Control party had been wiped out one night.
... Hilliard Lubin, Lt.(jg), Assistant Gunnery Officer, August 16, 2001

We left Leyte and in company with other ships arrived on D-Day. We fired on an almost continuous basis for the next several days. It was difficult to pinpoint fire because the charts we had were not very current. My job at General Quarters was in the Combat Information Center (CIC) to advise the Captain on the radar situation and, in this case, to provide range and bearing for the computer so that the guns would know where to shoot. We would get the target coordinates from the Fire Support Officer who was on the front lines with the Marines and then I would from piloting determine our position. Knowing the two points I could then get the right range and bearing for the guns. Daytime firing is not bad because one could use visual marks to determine position. At night we had to depend on radar fixes.
.... Tom Owen, Lt. Commander, Executive Officer & Navigator, 1989

Boy that was really some show. We bombed them night and day, day after day, and there there was still a lot of them left. We never had any trouble with Japs in the water unless it was a sub. There were plenty of Jap subs there, but none of them got through.
... Charles J. Taly, S2c, from pocket dairy written December 4, 1945

On gun #1, we fired a star shell by mistake one night. It was dark in our 5-inch gun, and we didn't notice a starshell come up by mistake. As the shell exploded over Iwo, it illuminated the Japs who were moving for an attack. The Marines really liked the effect and were soon calling for more star shells.
... Jim Collinson, GM2c, April 6, 2000

I vividly remember the star shells, fired by our ships surrounding the little island, to illuminate the entire island for the Marines. It seems now that the only real excitement for us occurred when that Japanese artillery piece kept coming out of a cave to take pot shots at us. A 16 inch shell, laid directly on the cave by one of our battleships, ended that skirmish.
... Robert Aguilar, SKD2c, Summer 1999

While we were providing day-long fire support for the struggle for Iwo, we also fired star shells off and on all night to illuminate designated battlefield areas. Because we were not underway, there was very little ventilation and it was very hot below decks. We were all very tired, being essentially at GQ all day and night, so many of us tried to sleep on deck somewhere. I somehow managed to sleep most of the nights even though we were firing 5-inch star shells every ten minutes or so. Every shot would bounce me up off the deck and waken me momentarily but I would go right back to sleep.
... Coit Butler, Ensign, part of Fighter Direction Team aboard USS BUSH, August 20, 2000

We had Marine officers on board who were equiped with maps and radios so they could give us data on where we should aim our 5-inch guns. Several times in the few days that we had this duty the Marine Officers on the island had to be replaced because of injuries.
... Ray Mayhugh, CTM, September 26, 1993

At Iwo, our ship had worked closely with an English spotter, who'd help direct 5-inch gun fire towards targets on the island. I recall hearing this spotter on the radio asking us to adjust our fire in "feet" rather than by "yards", as was customary. We were 3 miles or so offshore. Lt. Starr was listening in as the instructions "3 feet to the right and/or 3 feet to the left" were coming in over the radio. Starr was looking quite surprised about the need for direction in "feet". Pretty soon the English spotter reported, "We just got a Jap outhouse!".
... Dan Tontz, Lt. (jg), Asst. Communications Officers, August 16, 2001

At Iwo, I was the Guard Mail Petty Officer and had to go ashore. Guard mail duty was a way to send ship's messages. In this instance it was being used to coordinate fire support between the Navy and Marines. I went aboard an LST on the beach and commented the gunfire sounded "heavy and close". The officer on the LST said, "Well, we only control about 500 yards of this beach."
I jokingly said, "Well then, what the hell am I doing here?"
The officer handed me the guard mail and jokingly replied, "There you go. Now get the hell out of here!"
... Al Blakely, SoM2c, April 7, 2000

The marines were always very appreciative of the fire support we gave them. After several days and frequent ammunition replenishment we finished our job and returned to Leyte.
.... Tom Owen, Lt. Commander, Executive Officer & Navigator, 1989

Received your letter and it sure takes a long time. It was sent Jan. 2 we were in the landings at Lingayen and also at Iwo Jima. We sure get around.
... Lt. (jg) Richard P. Anderson, Engineering Officer, letter dated March 22, 1945

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