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Rescue - Surigao Straits

On November 11, 1944, the USS BUSH was on patrol in the Surigao Straits, near Leyte Island in The Philippines. Allied forces had invaded Leyte a couple of weeks earlier. On this morning, BUSH sighted a raft containing two US Army B-25 pilots whose plane had been shot down after a bombing run near Ormoc Bay on the other side of Leyte Island.

Lt.(jg) Howard West recorded the following in the BUSH deck logs, "1006-Maneuvered on various courses and speeds to investigate flashing light bearing 233 oT. 1014-Flashing light identified as signal from rubber life raft containing two men. 1025-The following survivors were brought on board: 2nd Lieutenant R. R. Seay, USA, (Pilot) and 2nd Lieutenant J. H. Gamble, USA, (Co-Pilot), both attached to 822nd Bomb Squadron, 38th Bomb Group, 5th Bomber Command, Morotai. These officers were the only two survivors of B-25, No. 953 which was hit by anti-aircraft fire while on bombing mission over Ormoc Bay, Leyte Island, Philippine Archipelgo." (EDITOR'S NOTE: The twin engine B-25 typically carried a crew of six.)

The rescue of these pilots was captured on 16MM film. The film, originally shot by the ship's doctor, Lt. George Johnson, was found in the US National Archives, and a copy transferred to videotape. The still images on this page were made from the videotape copy of Lt. Johnson's original 16MM film. Although these images did not convert as well for web use as other pictures on this website, they turned out pretty well considering the age and quality of the original film. It is interesting to note that the Navy was using color film for the 16MM cameras aboard the USS BUSH, and likely other ship's as well.

Lt. (jg) Earl Sechrist recalled of these rescued pilots, "They ... had been watching the BUSH patrol for a few days and didn't know if we were a friendly or enemy ship."

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Rescue2 - Nov. 11, 1944 About 10AM - The USS BUSH patrols the western portion of Surigao Strait.
Rescue2a - Nov. 11, 1944 BUSH crewmen scan the sea on top of the forward most 5-inch gun, the #1 Gun.
Rescue5 - Nov. 11, 1944 Crewmen line up to get a better look at what's been spotted.
Rescue6 - Nov. 11, 1944 The flashing light is coming from a yellow rubber life raft.
Rescue8 - Nov. 11, 1944 A BUSH sailor, with tow line, swims for the raft.
Rescue9 - Nov. 11, 1944 Almost there!
Rescue10 - Nov. 11, 1944 Help at last.
Rescue12 - Nov. 11, 1944 Pilots safely in tow.
Rescue13 - Nov. 11, 1944 Alongside, and in the shade of, the USS BUSH.
Rescue16 - Nov. 11, 1944 One of the Army pilots is secured in a metal litter by BUSH crewman.
Rescue18 - Nov. 11, 1944 Hoisting the litter.
Rescue19 - Nov. 11, 1944 Looking good, nearly aboard!

B-25, No 953 Crew
B-25, No. 953 Crew:
2nd Lt. R. R. Seay (Pilot); 2nd Lt. J. H. Gamble (Co-Pilot); 2nd Lt. R. L. Crane;
S/Sgt E. J. Nolan; Sgt. R. K. Wickliffe; Sgt. L. G. Donohmo

Crane, Nolan, Wickliffe, Donohmo all perished as result of action
resulting in plane's crash into the sea.

Special thanks to Casey Rummerfield for B-25 Crew picture and crew information.

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