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article number 696
article date 12-21-2017
copyright 2017 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (Book) - Part 3: Manila is Falling . . . Corregidor is Shaking . . . But Our PT Crews Attack
by W. L. White

EDITOR’S NOTE: As 4 or more [sailors] tell their story, the author switches between them, sometimes abruptly as needed. This editor repeats text regarding who is about to talk, before the switch, in the hope that it makes for an easier read.

* * *

. . . “But it was getting on toward New Year’s, and bad news began to come from Manila. The Japs were closing in.”

said Akers

“But very few of them realized it in Manila,” said Akers. “I was there with my boat on courier duty from December 13 until Manila fell. Staying with Admiral Hart until the seaplane took him out to join the Dutch East Indies fleet.

“You certainly couldn’t criticize morale. The average Filipino had a childish belief in us. He was absolutely certain that the Americans would be there next week with plenty of equipment. Dead-sure that our American soldiers would throw back the Japanese. Believed all the optimistic broadcasts and rumors.

“When a raid would come, of course, they were pretty excitable. We slept aboard the boat, and when the bombs started down, we were supposed to get away from the wharf and out into the bay. Sometimes people used to stow away, to get away from the bombs.

“They never lost faith, though. Right up to the end there were big dances at the Manila Hotel, and you could watch the Filipino boys in uniform, telling their girls about their heroic exploits. And there were plenty of them to tell, too.

“But over at the American Army and Navy Club, they knew what the score was. They didn’t feel like dancing there. Their faces were plenty long.

“Of course the higher-up Filipinos knew the truth. If you’d see one with a long face, you could be sure he was a Senator, or better.

“I had a girl there—Dolores was her first name, and by American standards she was good-looking as hell. Her father was a Spaniard from Catalonia and her mother was a mestiza. She’d been elected Miss Philippines a year or so before. Fairly tall and lithe, with big black eyes and enough of the Oriental so you’d never forget her face among the other brunettes you know.

“Her father I think was a Senator, and the family had a hell of a lot of money. His brother owned a lot of mines. They had a big colonial house in the suburbs.

Usually when I was invited out she’d send a car down for me, but the first time I was coming out alone she said never mind about directions—and so it turned out. Every traffic cop I met knew just who they were and could point me on my way. So they were really big shots on the island.

“Her father knew what the score was, although Dolores didn’t dream it was coming so soon. The last time I saw her, just before the Japs came in, she knew Manila had been declared an open city, but she thought that only meant there wouldn’t be any more bombs. All that night the southern army had been moving through Manila, trying to get to Bataan before they were cut off, but she didn’t know what the marching meant.

That night her uncle, a tough old Spaniard who had mines all over the world, got pretty drunk and almost had a row with her father, the Senator.

“The uncle said the whole mess was the fault of this opposition faction of Filipino politicians hollering their silly heads off for independence—no wonder the Americans, if they were getting out in four more years, hadn’t socked a lot of money into fortifications.

Then he cussed the Filipino politicians out for not appropriating money for the army—they’d set MacArthur up with a big salary and a penthouse, and then hardly given him a dime to train and equip an army—it was all window-dressing.

“He said he wasn’t so worried about himself because he owned plenty of property outside the islands. But he told the Senator he’d probably end up pulling a ricksha for his part in this independence foolishness, and serve him damned well right. So I could see there were a few natives who knew what the score was.

“Twelve hours before the Japs entered the town I was sent back into Manila to pick up the remnants. I had just eighty gallons of gas to go those thirty miles—finally got back with ten.

A curious thing happened during those closing hours; nobody had given orders to blow up the oil reserves. Maybe some of them belonged to private companies; it would go against a businessman’s grain to blow up good oil.

Finally a little junior-grade naval lieutenant noticed it. He had no authority, but he gave orders he had no right to give, and presently the oil was blazing. I hear he got a Navy Cross for doing it.

“There had been quite a few pro-Jap Filipinos—not a lot in terms of percentage, but more than you might guess. They hated the Americans because they felt inferior to us, and they weren’t quite sure we’d really give them independence in four more years. But they weren’t organized, and they’d run around in the most childish way doing silly things—such as flashing mirrors from the rooftops, when the Japs knew perfectly well where the town was.

The Filipino police caught and shot quite a few of them.”

said Cox

“I was in Manila about that time,” said Cox. “A big air attack was going on, although it had already been declared an open city. For that reason I had gone in with the guns on my boat with their canvas covers on—for welfare reasons. Yet, open city or not, the big air raid was on—streets deserted except for a few people running nowhere in particular like crazy, planes crisscrossing the sky above.

The big church, about a mile from shore, was just beginning to burn. In the harbor, boats were burning and sinking on all sides—five- and ten-thousand tonners. But not a single shot was fired at the planes—which came down as low as five hundred feet.

“I went on up into the city, and everywhere people were kind and helpful. The Japs were right outside the town, and yet the storekeepers would give me anything we Americans needed without either money or a voucher—just sign a paper, that was all. They trusted us.”

The Scott-Paine PT 9 paces PT 3, the Fisher Boat Works’58-foot boat. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part II - Development - A New Type Emerges.

said Bulkeley

“I took my boat into the harbor just as the Japs were entering the city,” said Bulkeley. “It was night, and we could see the town burning—a huge death-pall of smoke hanging above and oil six inches deep over the water. It looked like doom hanging over a great city, and it was. Made you feel bad.

We stayed out there from nine o’clock at night until about three in the morning. Didn’t dare go ashore, and anyway our job was to destroy harbor shipping—so what was left of it wouldn’t fall into Jap hands.

The little boats we’d just knock in the bottom with an ax. The big ones we’d climb aboard and set a demolition charge to.

Between times we’d turn and look at the doomed city in the light of its own fires. The streets were deserted, and it was very quiet.

Now and then, way off down a street, we’d see a column of Jap infantry or some cyclists go by. There was still some firing from the direction of Nichols Field.

The big American Army and Navy Club was dark and deserted on the water front, but presently lights began to come on—the Japs were taking over. They made it their headquarters. Watching those lights come on made you plenty sore.”

said Akers

“I had to leave all my spare uniforms in my locker there, damn them,” said Akers. “I hope none of them fit.”

said Bulkeley

“Watching them take over made you feel pretty sick,” said Bulkeley. “We finished up and started home, to get back before dawn, now and then looking back at the fires over the water. Every time it made us sore.”

said Kelly

“It was a tough New Year’s Eve for me, too,” said Kelly, “because we knew more or less what was going on. Then there was another reason. Some of the army officers were throwing a little New Year’s party with the nurses that night, and since this medical officer Peggy had been going with was just back from Bataan, of course I knew where she’d be.

“Along in the evening after sunset I walked out to the mouth of the tunnel and sat down, to watch the twilight of the old year die away.

It had been a tough year, but the one ahead looked worse. And here was I, useless for the war, in an army hospital. From away off I could hear them playing the portable at the officers’ party, and I remembered how cute Peggy had looked in her civilian dress when she danced, and that didn’t help any.

Pretty soon one of the other nurses I knew, Charlotte, came out and sat down near me. She wasn’t at the party because she had to go on duty soon, but that didn’t matter, because her boy friend had just been wounded three days before, and she was worried sick about him.

She told me, and began to cry while she was telling it, that they were planning to load him on a hospital ship which was due to sail for Australia soon. She said she wouldn’t mind being left behind and being captured by the Japanese—it wasn’t that, it was because she was afraid his ship would be torpedoed—never get through.

“Just then I noticed someone sitting down on the other side of me—I turned and, by George, it was Peggy. Not in uniform, either. She was wearing that cute cool-looking cotton-print civilian dress.

“I couldn’t figure it. ‘Didn’t you like the party?’ I asked. “Wasn’t it any good?’

“‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I didn’t go to the party.

“’Weren’t you asked?’

“‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I was asked. But it was New Year’s, you see, and I thought it might be nice here.’

“Not very many nice things happen to you during a war, but this was about the nicest that ever happened to me then, or any other time. It made me feel so good that between the two of us, we managed to get Charlotte cheered up. She had to go back on duty presently, and she managed to sneak us out a couple of fairly cold bottles of Pabst beer, to celebrate on.

But Peggy had been preparing. The island was on two meals a day, but she’d managed to hold back a couple of apples and a whole box of marshmallows. That was our New Year’s Eve supper, and I’ll bet that yours, wherever you had it, couldn’t have tasted any better.

“Running any kind of romance, no matter how mild, was a real problem on Corregidor. About the best place to sit was right where we were, at the tunnel’s mouth. But the road ran right in front of it, and every five minutes an army truck would barge tactlessly around the curve, shining its dimmed-down headlights right on you. Then for another three minutes you were choking with dust.

If you got tired of this and tried to go for a walk, you’d hardly get started when you would realize that eleven thousand men were trying to sleep all over that little island, and if you went far, you would step on most of them in the dark, and not many of them would thank you for it. There wasn’t an unoccupied square foot anywhere.

“We proved that later on when the doctor prescribed walks for me—to build back my strength, because I’d lost thirty pounds—and Peggy was assigned to go along. The troops swarmed on that island—every pond was crowded with them bathing, and I would always have to go ahead to take a look over hilltops and be sure Peggy wouldn’t surprise them.

“Meanwhile Bulkeley was reporting to the Admiral daily and was formulating a plan—which he would talk over with me, as I was his second officer—for what we would do when our gas ran out. We had damned little left, and the army couldn’t spare us any.

Squadron 5 boats, in a training run from Taboga to the Galapagos Islands in November 1942, fueled at sea from seaplane tender Pocomoke. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part II - Development - A New Type Emerges.

“Our first plan was, when we got down to our, minimum, to get out to Australia. The navy patrol bombers had planted caches of gasoline among the islands like steppingstones, and the Admiral gave us their location.

But the first steppingstone was Singapore, and the Japs were working their way down the peninsula, closer and closer to it. Could we get there first? Of course we wouldn’t leave the Philippines until all of our torpedoes were gone and we had just enough gas left to make the final run.

But then, as you know, Singapore fell and also the southern islands—Celebes and Zamboanga. The route with the cached gas was closed— that plan was out.

“So then we said, who wanted to go to Australia anyway? Our job was to defend Manila Bay—wasn’t that our part in the war plan? Yet even then it kept coming up: suppose the worst came to the worst and Luzon folded up—the whole archipelago—even Java—what then?

“Then Bulkeley here hit on a real plan. When our gas was down to just what we could carry on our decks, instead of waiting around to get captured by the Japs, we’d take our boats to China to continue the war.

At first glance you’d say that was crazy—the Japanese holding most of the Chinese coast—but not the way the skipper had it thought out. He knew China from the years he’d spent out there on a gunboat while I was there on a destroyer.

“The Japs were closing in on Hong Kong—that was fine for us! We’d make our dash—shoot our last few remaining fish at their gathered transports just where they least expected an attack, and then head north toward the region of Swatow.

“Of course the Japs held that coast too, but Bulkeley had worked out an answer, all in the utmost secrecy. He’d gotten in touch with Colonel Wong, the Chinese military observer. Wong had cabled Chungking to investigate the vicinity. Chungking cabled back that it could be done.

“They said the Japs held the Swatow region thinly—at no point did they go more than ten miles inland. So, at an agreed time, and at an agreed rendezvous on the coast, Chungking would send a raiding party down to fight its way to the beach and meet us.

“There we would burn our boats—now useless with all torpedoes expended against Jap targets. The Chinese couldn’t hold that point long—but long enough to hustle us through that ten-mile Jap-held strip onto free Chinese soil. There trucks would take us to the nearest airfield, we would fly to Chungking, and from there a four-motored American ferry-command plane would bring us back to the States.

“Where was the flaw? We couldn’t see one, unless somehow it leaked out. Besides myself, only four living people knew. They were DeLong of our squadron, Captain Ray, chief of staff, Colonel Wong, and of course the skipper here, who had worked out every detail.

“But before we left we knew there would be plenty of action ahead for us here, and I told Bulkeley I was crazy to get out of this hospital, and asked for his help. If they’d let me get back to duty, I’d agree to anything—promise to soak my hand for so many hours a day—anything they said, just to get back even on a semi-duty status.

“So we staged it for the next morning, when the ward doctor would be dressing my hand at about the same time the head surgeon made his rounds. We tackled him. I made my talk, and he seemed to waver. ‘Tell this bird you need me,’ I said to the skipper. ‘We really do,’ said Bulkeley, but just then Peggy overheard and queered the whole thing.

"‘Certainly not!’ she said. ‘You can’t let him go back to duty with his hand wide-open!’ That swung him back. ‘Duty!’ he growled. ‘Who said anything about duty? Two weeks of it and you’d lose your whole arm.’

“I tried to argue—point out that if the MTB’s went out on a mission, I could hold on with one arm as well as two, but Peggy had done it, and now he wouldn’t listen.

“‘One of these days you’re going to find an empty bunk,’ I said. I was gloomy all that next week, but Peggy said I was a fool. That there were plenty of well, fit men to do my job. And that if I hadn’t been so damned stubborn in the first place, and had got that hand treated in time, I’d never have come to the hospital, and never met her, and she would never have been able to break up my plan to get out, so it was all my fault!

“She always had that cute way of seeming to storm at you and dress you down, so that you ended up by grinning and couldn’t stay mad at anything long.

“So it went along for another week, she leading me out for walks every day to get some of those thirty pounds back, and then one day we returned to find that Bulkeley had been by looking for me—said he was going out on a raid that night, up to Subic Bay looking for a Jap cruiser, that he’d waited hoping to take me, but finally had to leave.

“It set me almost crazy. If I hadn’t been out on that god-damned health tour with a pretty girl, I wouldn’t have missed the raid! So here I was while my gang was up there tangling with a cruiser, maybe getting killed, because the Japs had Subic Bay so thick with guns that it was almost suicide to go in.

“All that night there was no news. I was up at 5: 30—’Any dope from the torpedo boats?’—still nothing. But at seven they said, yes, Bulkeley had come back, managed to sink a cruiser and get away, but the other boat was missing—probably lost.”

explained Bulkeley

“It was a job we did for the army,” explained Bulkeley. “A couple of Jap ships, one of them an Imperial Navy auxiliary cruiser with 6-inch guns had been shelling out 155-millimeter emplacements on Bataan—blasting them with heavy stuff. The major in charge had been wondering how to get rid of them and had phoned Admiral Rockwell, who gave us permission to tackle the job.

We knew they were based in Subic Bay, probably in Port Binanga. Subic is on the west coast of Luzon, just north of Bataan. I decided to send two boats—the 31 boat, which was Lieutenant DeLong’s, and the boat, which was Kelly’s, now commanded by Ensign Chandler. I went along in it for the hell of it.

“We tested everything—tuned the motors, greased torpedoes, and got under way at nine o’clock, chugging north along the west coast of Bataan. It was very rough. We throttled down to thirty knots, and even then we were shipping water, but we got off the entrance to Subic Bay about half an hour after midnight.

PT’s leave the Morobe base at dusk to patrol in Huon Gulf. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part IV - Southwest Pacific - Conquest of New Guinea.

"Here, according to plan, the two boats separated. DeLong in the 31 boat was to sweep one side of Subic Bay and I the other. We were to meet at Port Binanga, at the end. If something happened and we didn’t meet there, then we were to rendezvous at dawn just outside the mine fields of Corregidor.

“So we separated, expecting to meet at dawn. It was the last I ever saw of the 31 boat. But here’s what happened to our 34 boat in Subic. First, remember it was darker than hell, and the shore line was loaded with Jap field guns. None of us had ventured in there since the Japs took over.

We had got in just a little way when a Jap searchlight spotted us and blinked out a dot-dash challenge, asking who we were. Since we didn’t know the Jap code reply, naturally we didn’t answer, but changed course, veering away. But the Japs were getting suspicious by now, and from over by Ilinin Point a single field piece opened up.

"None of it fell near us—maybe they were shooting at DeLong in the 31 boat.

“When we were about abeam of Sueste light another light came on to challenge us—this time from a ship, maybe that cruiser. We changed course to go over and have a look, but she was small fry—not worth a torpedo—the hell with her—we were headed for Binanga and the cruiser.

“By this time the Japs over on Grande Island realized something funny was going on—their light challenged us, but of course we didn’t answer. Then they broke out some 50-caliber machine-gun fire at us from Ilinin Point. We could see the tracers feeling for us, and then the fun started—big 3-inch shore batteries rumbling all over the bay and lights feeling for us.

"We could hear the shells whistle over our heads in the dark, and could have done without some of them. But the lights and flashes from the shore batteries were a real help, for they enabled us to pick out the shore line, so, in spite of the fact that it was blacker than hell, we knew where we were.

“By one o’clock we were off the north entrance to Port Binanga, where we were to meet DeLong in the 31 boat and go in together for the attack, and when he didn’t show up, I began to be afraid something might have happened, yet I couldn’t be sure.

“But there was nothing to do but go on in alone. To make the sneak, we cut the speed down to eight knots, skirted Chiquita Island, rounded Binanga Point, and entered the little bay on two engines at idling speed.

"Everything was quiet, no firing down here, and then we saw her ahead in the dark not five hundred yards away. Creeping up on her, we had just readied two torpedoes when a searchlight came on and in dot-dash code she asked us who we were.

“We answered, all right—with two torpedoes—but they had hardly been fired when I gave our boat hard rudder and started away. It isn’t safe for an MTB to stay near a cruiser.

"One torpedo hit home with a hell of a thud—we heard it over our shoulders. Looking back, we saw the red fire rising, and presently two more explosions which might have been her magazines.

“But we had no time for staring, for we were into plenty trouble. One of those torpedoes had failed to clear its tube and was stuck there, just at the entrance, and was making what we call a ‘hot run,’ its propellers buzzing like hell, compressed air hissing so you couldn’t hear yourself think.

"But worst of all, a torpedo is adjusted so that it won’t fire until its propeller has made a certain number of revolutions—I shouldn’t give it exactly, but let’s say it is three hundred. After that, the torpedo is cocked like a rifle, and an eight-pound blow on its nose would set it off—blowing us all to glory.

“So what to do? Somehow that torpedo propeller had to be stopped and stopped quick, or else a good hard wave slap on the torpedo’s nose would blow us all to splinters. And at this point our torpedoman, Martino, used his head fast.

"He ran to the head and swiped a handful of toilet paper. He jumped astride that wobbling, hissing torpedo like it was a horse, and, with the toilet paper, jammed the vanes of the propeller, stopping it.

“We’d stopped for all this, but we couldn’t afford to wait long. The cruiser’s fire was lighting up the bay behind us. Ahead, all over Subic, hell was breaking loose. So we started up, gave her everything we had to get through that fire.

“With four motors roaring, and us skipping around in that rough water with everything wide open, I guess we made considerable commotion.

"Anyway the Japanese radio in Tokyo, reporting the attack next day, said the Americans had a new secret weapon—a monster that roared, flapped its wings, and fired torpedoes in all directions. It was only us, of course, but we felt flattered. We got the hell out of there, and that was all there was to it.”

A PT maneuvers off the German fort at Cherbourg to see if its guns are still active. They were. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part VII - The English Channel - D-Day and After.

said Kelly

“Nell,” said Kelly, “MacArthur wouldn’t quite agree. He gave you the D.S.C. for what you’d done.”

insisted Bulkeley

“But DeLong has the real story,” insisted Bulkeley. “I pulled up outside the mine field off Corregidor to wait for him. Neither of us could go in until it got light, because otherwise the army on shore, hearing us in the dark out there, would think it was Japs and set off the mine field.

"But when the sky got light and I saw my boat was alone, I realized DeLong was in trouble. And since he’s now a prisoner of the Japanese—if he’s alive—we’d better tell his story for him.

“After we parted company at the entrance to Subic Bay, he started around its northern rim as we’d planned. But just before midnight he developed engine trouble—the saboteur’s Wax had clogged his strainers. He cleaned them and had just got under way when more trouble developed—the cooling system went haywire.

"They stopped, and were drifting as they repaired it when there was an ominous grinding sound under the boat—they were aground on a reef in Subic Bay. At any minute a wandering Jap searchlight might pick them up and artillery fire would blow them to bits.

“They rocked the boat, and finally started the engines to get themselves unstuck. But the noise now attracted the Japs, and a 3-inch gun on Iinin Point opened up on them—splashes coming nearer and nearer. They worked frantically, finally burned out all reverse gears so that the engines were useless.

DeLong gave orders to abandon ship. They wrapped mattresses in a tarpaulin to make a raft, and all got aboard but DeLong, who stayed to chop holes in the gas tanks and blow a hole in the boat’s bottom with a hand grenade before he jumped. That was the end of the 31. Then he couldn’t find the raft in the darkness, and being afraid to call out, swam to the beach.

“The raft had shoved off with all twelve aboard at three o’clock.

“He waited on the sands until dawn. Then, in the gray half-light, he picked up the tracks of nine men. He followed these until they led into a clump of bushes, where he found most of his crew. They explained they had stayed with the raft until dawn was about to break.

"Fearing sunrise would expose them to the Japanese, they had decided to risk a swim to the beach, where they could hide. But Ensign Plant and two men, who couldn’t swim very well, decided to stay. What became of them the nine didn’t know, and no one knows for sure to this day.

“But the first thing DeLong did was to post lookouts, and all day they stayed in that clump, with an eye on the Jap observation planes which flew over them in relays, watching a hot little skirmish between the Americans and the Japanese on the far shore of the bay.

"At one point the Japs were falling back, and there seemed to be a chance that they could make a run for it in daylight, rejoining the American lines. But never was it quite possible, and in the meantime they had spotted a couple of bancas, native boats, farther down the beach.

“Two men who were sent out to investigate, crawling on their bellies through the grass, returned to report the bancas were in fair condition. So when the sun had set they crawled to them and started getting them in shape. For rowing they had two paddles, a couple of spades, and a board. They had to work fast and quietly, for the Japs were all around them—just as they were launching the bancas they heard Japanese voices not two hundred yards away.

“But a heavy wind came up, and at nine o’clock at night, both boats capsized. They righted them, but the shovels and the board were lost, and they now had only one paddle for each banca. Yet with these they continued to fight the head wind until three in the morning, when they were so exhausted that they decided to try the shore.

So DeLong landed on what he hoped was Napo Point. They picked their way through the barbed-wire entanglement on the beach, and then found themselves up against a steep cliff.

“They kept very quiet until dawn, not knowing whether daylight would find them surrounded by Americans or Japanese. But when it became light, the first thing they saw was a Filipino sentry.

“‘Hey, Joe—got a cigarette and a match?’ they called out. And an hour later they were telling their story to Captain Cockburn, in the Ninety-second American Infantry’s field headquarters tent. The nine were back with us at Sisiman Cove the next evening.”

Boat captains report to intelligence officers at Morobe after a night’s patrol. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part IV - Southwest Pacific - Conquest of New Guinea.

said Kelly

“But we’d never really expected to see them again,” said Kelly. “And when I heard only one boat had come back from Subic Bay, I got hold of my doctor.

“‘Now you’ve got to let me go!’I said. ‘Here we’ve lost the third officer of the squadron. There’s a war on, and I’ve spent all the time I intend to nursing a sore finger.’

“That afternoon Bulkeley came over to tell me the story of the engagement. When he was through, ‘Kelly,’ he said, ‘we need you.’

“‘Let’s get ahold of that doctor,’ I said, ‘and you tell him that.’ This time it worked. The hole in my finger was still almost three inches long and about an inch wide, with some of the tendon exposed (but in a month it was healed, except that I can’t move my finger joints). I had to promise them faithfully I would show up every other day for treatment, but the point of it was I got out of that place.

“Two days later I took the boat out on my first patrol from Corregidor up along Bataan toward Subic Bay—Bulkeley, who as squadron commander rode all boats on patrol, of course was with me. It was a calm night—and chilly. Sweaters were comfortable over our khakis, although in the daytime we wore only shorts or trunks. The rest of the men were burned black as natives, but I was still pale from the hospital.

“Everything was going well, in fact it was monotonous. But when we were about twenty-five miles up the coast, hell suddenly started popping. Our own batteries were shooting at us. Bulkeley explained to me that was the main excitement these days—to keep from being sunk by your own side—and calmly altered course to get out of their range, which we could tell by the light of their tracer bullets.

“‘’Half the time those dumb dastards don’t know friend from foe,’ he explained.

“Five minutes later we saw a dim light, low in the water, and headed toward it. Was it a Jap landing barge, trying to get ashore behind General Wainwright’s lines? Then it occurred to us that it might be Ensign Plant and the two other men of DeLong’s boat who had disappeared in Subic Bay. They might have stolen a boat and now be headed home—we couldn’t take chances.

"So without firing we drew nearer, watching the light.

“Presently it began to blink—dots and dashes, all right, but no message that we could read. Bulkeley ordered general quarters as a precaution, and the men were crouching behind their machine guns. It was about twenty-five yards away now—a queer-shaped boat, low in the water—and suddenly its light went out.

“Bulkeley stood up with the megaphone. ‘Boat ahoy!’ he called. He got a quick answer. Br-r-r-r-r-r! They opened on him with machine guns. It looked like a fire hose of tracer bullets headed for our cockpit, and now they speeded up, trying to head for shore.

"But we were pouring the fire back at them. Our four 50-calibers were rattling away, Bulkeley had picked up an automatic rifle and was pumping it into them, and even the men down in the engine room, hearing the row, had grabbed their rifles and come up to fire over the sides.

“Now we could see it was a Jap landing barge, packed with men. It had armor on the bow and the stern, and kept twisting and turning, trying to keep those thick steel plates pointed toward us. Of course our maneuver was to come in from the side, and let them have it where they couldn’t take it, as we circled them.

“All this had been going on for about thirty seconds when I heard a cry of pain from behind.

"It was Ensign Chandler. ‘I’ve been hit,’ he said. A Jap bullet had gone through both of his ankles. We pulled him out of the cockpit and laid him down on the canopy, meanwhile circling the Japs and pouring the steel down into their vulnerable sides.

Forward deck of PT 152, showing effect of enemy 4.7-inch shell in the Battle of Surigao Strait. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part VIII - Southwest Pacific - Return to the Philippines.

"We could soon see we were getting them. The barge sank lower and lower in the water and presently gurgled under, while we pulled off to lick our own wounds, give first aid to Chandler, and locate any other boats in the vicinity. Surely the Japs wouldn’t attempt a landing with a single barge.

"All we got, though, was more fire from our own shore guns—a swarm of tracers and then 3-inchers began whistling over—one of them landing two hundred yards away. But we didn’t mind. The army seemed to enjoy it, and it wasn’t hurting us.

“We fooled around until almost dawn and were headed for home—we couldn’t have got Chandler through the mine fields to the hospital until sunrise anyway, when Bulkeley happened to glance back.

“Through the half-light he could see, bobbing in the swell, another low-lying flat craft. Should we go back? You’re god-damned right we should, the men said—to get even for Chandler by sinking some more of them.

“As we got closer, sure enough, it was another landing boat, this time apparently leaving the coast of Bataan, and we opened up on her with everything we had from four hundred yards away.

“But their return fire was curiously light and spasmodic. So we closed to about ten yards. Their fire had stopped, but their boat wouldn’t. Our bullets would hit its armor and engines—you could see the tracers bounce off and ricochet one hundred feet into the air, but still it kept going.

"Suddenly a tracer hit its fuel tanks—up they went in a blaze, the motor stopped, and now the boat was only drifting.

"But even as we pulled alongside, those Japs, nervy devils, gave her hard rudder and tried to ram us. So Bulkeley tossed in a couple of hand grenades from about twenty feet away, and that took the fight out of them. We went alongside, and Bulkeley jumped aboard her—into about a foot of water, blood, and oil, for she was sinking fast. We’d been firing almost diagonally down through her sides and bottom.

“She was empty except for three Japs—must have discharged her landing party and been headed home. One was dead, two were wounded, and one of these two was a Jap officer.

“Bulkeley had his 45 in his hand when he jumped aboard, and immediately this Jap officer went to his knees and began to call, ‘Me surrender! —Me surrender!’”

said Bulkeley

“He was talking fast,” said Bulkeley a little grimly, “and he had his hands stuck up very high and stiff, and that ought to stop the myth about how Japs are too noble ever to surrender. I put a line around his shoulders and we hoisted him aboard the 34 boat.

“Then I began rummaging around in that sludge for papers, brief cases, and knapsacks. I collected, among other things, the muster list of the landing party and their operations plan, before the boat sank beneath me—Kelly pulled me into his boat as the barge sank.

“One of our men was standing guard over the Jap captain with a 45, and the captain was kneeling with his eyes closed, waiting for what he was sure would be the final shot. He would hardly believe it wasn’t coming even when I wiped the oil out of his eyes and looked at his head wound.

"When he found we weren’t going to shoot him, he got a little surly. The soldier asked for a cigarette, but when I offered the Jap captain one, he shook his head. Pretended he didn’t speak English, but when they got him back to base, Intelligence found he spoke plenty, but wouldn’t tell them anything.”

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