This story picks up after Eugene has made one Atlantic crossing as a radioman aboard the tanker Malvern Hill.
Armed Guard Center - Brooklyn
Since there were so many radiomen awaiting transfers they had to do something with us so they gave a great number of leaves.
Each day there would be several radiomen assigned to drafts going to destroyers, cruisers etc. However, I was placed in the station guard for two weeks. Part of the time I guarded prisoners there on the base, and the rest of the time I was on the docks or on one of the many other guard posts around the base. We had four hours on watch and eight off every other day. On our day off we had all night liberty. It wasn't too bad but I didn't relish wearing leggings, guard belt, and carrying a rifle with the bayonet fixed.
On or about April 30th I packed up my gear and was on my way to Little Creek, VA with some 80 or 85 other radiomen for amphibious training. This was the one thing I certainly did not want.
On the first of April I made RM3/C after taking every type of test imaginable. From 8 AM until 6 PM I was taking tests. Sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. That did mean 78 dollars a month rather than the 66 dollars for S1/C.
Amphibious Training Base - Little Creek, Virginia
The crew was formed here that would go to some spot in the US to pick up an LSM (Landing Ship Medium). Each man was trained to do a certain job. I was sent to school for two more months to become accustomed with the types of radio sets used on LSM's.
On July 29, 1944 the entire crew left the base to go to Chicago to pick up a new ship. The trip was made via the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and was very miserable. We had sleepers but they were terrible.
We arrived in Chicago on a Sunday and without even unpacking our gear at the Navy pier we were granted liberty until midnight. I, of course, went to North Chicago to see the girl I had dated while there in radio school.
On August 1st fourteen of the crew, which included the Petty Officers of each branch, were sent to the shipyards south of Chicago where our ship was being built. Since I was the leading radioman I was sent also.
The set-up we had was great. We were paid 29 dollars subsistence and permitted to live anywhere we chose. We had to be at the yards from 8 AM until 4 PM and the remainder of each day was our own to do whatever out little hearts desired.
Six of us decided on a hotel on 63rd Street while the others lived at YMCA's and other hotels. This was to last for only ten days and then the ship would be completed. What a ten days!
If you do not believe in love at first sight then you had better not even read the following five paragraphs.
At the shipyard there was a cafeteria in which a certain young lady attracted my attention considerably. She was the cashier. Just one glance at her and a guy could see she definitely was not the rough type or the so-called "flirt". No, her beauty and build were not all that attracted me. In fact, I think it was more her actions than either of the other two. She was quiet and yet she displayed a wonderful personality.
Day after day went by and finally I decided to ask her for a date even if she did turn me down. On afternoon she was counting tokens which were used to insure the return of bottles. When I approached her she was saying "Three hundred and --" and I cut her off by saying, "What are you doing, giving me your address?" She smiled and replied "You know, that was almost my house number." I came back with "Why don't you give me your address and I'll drop you a line from the South Pacific sometime? She said, "Will you?" and proceeded to write her name and address on a slip of paper. I then responded by "I may come back from the Pacific sometime and want to call you so I'll need your phone number." Without argument she also wrote it down. I figured I had done well for one day and left without asking for a date at all.
She appeared to be at least twenty but when I finally asked for a date and she said, "I'll have to ask my parents" I thought she must have been kidding. I learned later she was only eighteen. Well, I'm no old man.
When she came to work the following day I immediately asked what the verdict of her parents was and she said "Well, my mother says O.K., but my father is an ex-sailor and he says no." You can see the Navy doesn't have a very good reputation. Especially in the mind of those who have worn the Naval uniform. However, she said "My mother says that while father is working nights next week that I can go out with you if you wish." That made me very happy indeed.
The one date I had with her was spent in Hammond, Indiana. We bowled, stopped for a sundae, and then I walked her back home. By the way, she had to be in at midnight. Somehow I respected her more than any girl I had ever dated before. When I put my arm around her back suggesting that I kiss her goodnight and she shook her head no, I respected her even more. I politely took her hand, kissed it and said "Goodnight madam."
That is what I call "Love at first sight" and if I'm not in love with her then I'm as crazy as a loon. I'm very anxious to return to the states and see her again. We have written to each other for over a year but my letters were just friendly ones until recently when I have finally explained my true feeling toward her. The only reason I'm putting this item in this story of my Naval life is because it seemed extraordinary to me and is the only time I have been involved in such an incident.
Commissioning of the LSM-319
On August 10, 1944 the new ship was commissioned. We had a small celebration with crewmembers and officers inviting their families, sweethearts, or friends to attend. It was held aboard ship. There wasn't much to the commissioning. Our skipper took the oath of Commanding Officer and the Chaplain said a prayer for the ship and crew. After that we had lemonade and cookies, and showed our guests around the ship. My guest was the girl whom I had gone with while in radio school at Northwestern. I would have liked very much to have had my family there but it was impossible.
After twenty-one wonderful days and nights, probably the most wonderful days I've spent in the Navy thus far or will spend, we were forced to leave Chicago. It was only by chance that we had gone to Chicago to pick up the ship, for LSM's at built at least a half dozen other shipyards along the east and west coasts, and in Texas. I was actually a "walking dead man" for I had all night liberty for nineteen of the twenty-one nights spent in Chicago.
Trip from Chicago to New Orleans
This trip was made via a canal through the heart of Chicago to the Illinois River and on to the mighty "Muddy Mississippi" and thence to New Orleans. Even though we were not granted any official liberty during the entire trip we took "fantail liberty" occasionally while tied up at the dock. "Fantail liberty" is going off he stern of the ship without permission. It was a nine-day trip for each night we were tied up at some small town. The only two large towns we stopped at were Memphis and St. Louis.
Upon arrival at New Orleans we pulled into another shipyard to get our camouflage paint job and also a few additions to the structure of the ship. We only spent two days during which time I had one night liberty. I can't say much for or against New Orleans for I wasn't there long enough to really learn anything about it.
From New Orleans we made the trip to Galveston through the Gulf of Mexico. The purpose of going there was to have our shakedown cruise. During the shakedown we were really put through the paces. We had drills of every type which might be used in battle or in case of an emergency. They included fire, general quarters, abandon ship and collision. We went through them so often that I think we could almost do them in our sleep.
On September 24th we were given our final inspection and had our final liberty in the United States for a long time. By the way, even though some of the guys like Galveston, I considered it almost as bad as Norfolk, Virginia, and that is pretty bad.
On September 25th we received orders to proceed to Panama through the Gulf of Mexico. We left the same day. I'll always remember that day for it was my mother's birthday as well as the girl's back home whom I had broken up with just a month previous.
I've failed to mention just what type of ship an LSM is. Well, it is about two hundred feet long, fifty feet wide, flat bottomed and used for hitting beaches. At the bow there are doors which open and also a ramp which can be dropped to permit vehicles etc. to move from the ship onto the beach. Believe me, it is anything but a smooth riding ship. The least little ripple in the water will make it roll. As a soldier once told me "You have to be a darned good man just to ride on one of these ships."
The voyage from Galveston was made alone and proved to be anything but glamorous. It was almost as bad as my earlier trip across the north Atlantic aboard the Malvern Hill. The seas was not nearly as rough but the ship was much lighter and did not respond to the rough seas nearly as well as the tanker had. The trip lasted for seven days before we finally pulled into Coco Solo, Panama.
All our radio gear had not been installed up to this time and while in Panama it was my duty to install them or see that they were installed before we headed in the broad Pacific. The other two radiomen and I did the installing during the two days we were tied up at the docks there in Panama. I'll admit it wasn't the best job, but when a radio technician could not be had there was nothing left for me but to do it myself.
I could have gone on liberty in the town of Coco Solo but didn't leave the Naval Base at all. I went swimming and to the base canteen and drank milk shakes in my spare time. We also enjoyed movies in the evening. The other fellows told me I missed some good liberty in not going ashore there.
On the morning of October 4th we commenced the trip through the world famous Panama Canal. It is really something. It was also the day of the first World Series baseball game so we listened to it on the way through the canal. I enjoyed seeing the structure very much. It took us the entire day until sundown to reach the last lock and we met the broad, blue Pacific Ocean just at dusk. It was a beautiful sight.
Our first stop in the Pacific was Bora Bora, a small island in the Society Group which was exactly sixteen days from Panama. Those sixteen days were enjoyable for the sea was calm. I like being at sea as long as it isn't rough and I'm not seasick.
This island is very small and very beautiful. In fact, I haven't seen any other islands in the Pacific that would even compare with it in beauty. The only servicemen there were one outfit of Seabees and a few soldiers. The natives were anything but dumb and they certainly knew the value of money. They came alongside the ship in small boats selling grass skirts, beads, bananas, etc. I must have eaten three dozen bananas in the two days we spent there.
Espiritu Santo (New Hebrides)
After another voyage of seven days were came to the island of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. Here there was a more advanced base for the Navy. We had liberty at the fleet recreation center where we could have ice cream, beer and cokes. Of course all items were rationed. We played a couple of games of softball while there also.
Most people who have never been to the Pacific have the idea that the natives here are well illustrated by the Dorothy Lamour pictures. Let me tell you, the natives are only about half civilized and a female to resemble Dorothy Lamour has yet to come into my sight.
Manus (Admiralty Islands)
The day we arrived at Manus in the Admiralty Islands the Japanese had just finished a small raid on the airstrip. The harbor was full of large units of the Pacific Fleet. There were aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, battleships and all types of smaller craft.
While we were at anchor one morning we heard a terrific explosion and across the harbor about a mile from us we could see fragments flying hundreds of feet into the air accompanied by smoke and flame. It was the ammunition ship Mount Hood that had been blown to bits by its own cargo. We never learned the cause but we did learn that bombs were being unloaded when it happened. The only men out of the entire crew who were left alive were ten enlisted men and one officer who were ashore for mail and supplies when it happened.
The explosion was so great that it seriously damaged three or four other ships anchored nearby and even caused an airplane which was flying directly overhead to go out of control and crash into the sea. A great tragedy.
Before departing Manus we loaded thirty large torpedos on our deck. In company with the LSM-54 and LSM-268 we then proceeded to Hollandia, New Guinea. All the time we were getting nearer and nearer forward areas and we soon expected to be put in an invasion force to hit one of the many islands still held by the Japanese.
Hollandia, New Guinea
Thanksgiving of 1944 was spent in the harbor at Hollandia and we had a very good dinner. The cooks went all out to make it as good as possible. After eating I didn't have enough energy to do anything except hit the sack. In the evening we played a few games of pinochle. We spent slightly more that a week in Hollandia and I didn't go ashore at all. During that week we made a short run to Aitape, New Guinea and brought back a load of soldiers.
Just prior to leaving Hollandia we took the commander of LSM Flotilla Two and his staff aboard to take them to Leyte in the Philippines which had just been invaded a month before. We knew we were headed for action then.
December 7, 1944 is another date I'll remember and you should know the reason. We pulled into Leyte Gulf. There weren't many ships in the harbor at that time and the Japanese were still attempting to regain possession of the island which the Americans were well underway at controlling. The first thing we did was to tie up alongside LSM-258 and put the commander and his staff aboard his own ship. I was certainly happy to get rid of him for he was always complaining about something.
Every ship in the harbor would be blacked out every night and we considered ourselves fortunate if the Japanese didn't come over at least once a night. However, most of the time they bombed along the beach and didn't bother ships at anchor in the harbor.
On either December 9th or 10th we prepared to make our first run into truly dangerous territory. The same day a number of ships invaded Ormoc bay just around the coast of Leyte. It was the strong point of the Japanese at that time. Our sister ship, the LSM-318 was sunk in that invasion. We were to make the same run with supplies on the 11th.
On the morning of the 11th we were loaded with ammunition and some ten or twelve drums of gasoline at the Dulag beach on Leyte by soldiers. At 2:00 PM we got underway for Ormoc with seven other LSM's and five LCI's along with six destroyers for escort. Just after finishing evening chow I heard the general quarters buzzer and supposed it was just a drill. I lingered for a second about going to my station in the radio shack but when I looked up and saw shells bursting overhead I quickened my pace. I operated the radio from the Conn by means of a remote control box and saw the whole show. One Japanese plane came in and without even being hit dove straight down on the destroyer directly ahead of us. It was the destroyer "USS Reid". The plane hit the depth charges on the stern of the ship and in less than three minutes the ship and a great number of its crew were headed for Davy Jones' locker. Out of seven Japanese planes which attacked, only one got away. It was truly a happy sight to see those planes go crashing into the sea after being hit by the fire of one of the many gunners on the ships. Maybe I'm too silly to be afraid but I didn't seem to be at all afraid at the time. After it was over and the survivors of the sunken destroyer had been picked up I began to think, "If they would have scored just one hit on this ship we would have all been blown sky high."
We arrived at Ormoc at shortly after midnight and were instructed where to beach and unload. Our skipper fouled up a bit and we hit the beach in enemy held territory. Whether they didn't realize we were there or they just didn't want to do anything about it is still a mystery to me. Flares were being shot up occasionally which lit up the entire area. It didn't take us long to get off that beach and move a hundred yards or so when we saw Japanese soldiers when a flare would go up.
We commenced unloading of the ammunition about 12:45 and the escort commander said if we were not unloaded by 4 AM that we would be left behind. His message came to me by radio. Every officer and enlisted man on the ship was helping the soldiers unload that ammunition and gasoline. I was on watch in the radio shack and I'll bet I smoked at least three packs of cigarettes during that night.
Just before sunup we retracted from the beach and commenced forming up the convoy for the return trip. Six Japanese planes decided to give us a little trouble but the fire from the landing craft and destroyers repulsed that attack in about five minutes without any ships being sunk or damaged. I am not sure but I think three of the six planes were shot down.
At approximately 6:30 we secured from general quarters and prepared for chow. I no sooner went below and got my hands in a basin to wash then the G.Q. buzzer sounded and we were off to our battle stations again. This time I thought my end had come for everywhere one looked in the sky there seemed to be a Japanese bomber. It states in the action reports sent to Washington D.C. that there were 15 but there seemed to be more than that. Another destroyer was hit and caught fire, but after burning for about a half-hour the flames were extinguished and the ship managed to get back to Leyte Gulf. Other ships were hit, but none so seriously damaged as the destroyer. Only on one occasion could I feel the presence of bullets in our immediate vicinity and that was when one of the bombers came down rather low and straffed us. However no one was injured.
It was in this attack that the LSM-319 got credit for shooting down its first and only plane. That made our skipper as well as the entire crew feel rather proud. A few bombs dropped rather near us but none hit and that was the important thing. I can't say how many of the planes were shot down for I didn't stop to count them. Several were sent to meet their ancestors though, and this is for sure.
That was the most action I encountered during the war although it wasn't the only time the Japanese made it uncomfortable for us. I didn't think they would actually crash-dived into ships, but after I has seen it with my own eyes there was nothing left for me to do but believe it. They are either crazy or doped or something terrible.
We made runs to Omroc until the middle of January when it was totally in the hands of the Americans. The Japanese had lost the first island in the Philippines and I think they realized that the Americans would take all of the Philippines once they had a base in the group.
From Leyte we went to the island of Mindoro, also in the Philippines. We were not in the invasion, however. It is said the Japanese also offered rather stiff resistance there as well. Our equipment, guns, ships and practically everything was far superior to theirs. I can't see how they even expected to win the war when they started it.
After lying in Mangarra Bay of Mindoro for nearly a week we were given sudden orders to go to Subic Bay immediately without a load. Upon arrival we learned that the rush was for the invasion of Battan and Corregiedor. It was to be a combined operation.
On February 14, 1945, we, along with approximately one hundred fifty other landing craft, twenty destroyers and six cruisers, headed for the mouth of Manila Bay. We arrived on the morning of the 15th and the time for commencing beaching was 8 AM. We had a load of medical corpsmen aboard so we didn't go in until almost the last wave. Our bombers and fighter planes had complete control of the air and not a single Japanese plane was sighted all day. The cruisers and destroyers surrounded the island of Corregidor and shelled it while the planes bombed and straffed it. This continued for at least eight hours. I could hardly see how there could be a living enemy soldier on that island. We didn't have much trouble there other than slight enemy fire. The only ship damaged was the LSM-169, which hit a mine on the way to the beach. While on the beach unloading the Japanese gave us a scare when they dropped two large shells right in front of the ship. All in all it wasn't as tough as I had anticipated.
After we completed the operation we went back to Subic and stayed for a week or so. Then we received orders to go back to Mindoro. Three or four main islands had already been invaded and the Philippines were well on the way to being under American control.
On March 8 we were loaded with an Army Engineer outfit, and on the morning of the 9th proceeded in the direction of Mindanno along with at least 100 other landing craft and also a large number of cruisers, destroyers and other support ships. On the 10th at 10:00 AM we were scheduled to begin the end for the Japanese on the island. Our group of LSM's were the first to hit the beaches. Just before we beached a squadron of B-24's came over the island and dropped bombs which vibrated our ship even though it was at least two miles away. The Japanese had quite a few mortars and during the half-hour we were on the beach unloading they came awfully close but couldn't hit us. As I sat in the radio shack on watch I could hear all the firing and was expecting one to hit the ship at any time. On an operation such as this the radioman is very busy. In fact, he is so busy that he doesn't have much time to worry about being hit. It was a relief when we were unloaded and anchored out in the bay out of the reach of the enemy shells. Other than a few LST's being hit the losses were really slight.
After this invasion we made three re-supply runs from Mindoro to Mindanao and after the third remained at Mindanao. On April 3rd we learned that we had been included in a small group of ships to invade Jolo, a small island in the Sulu Archipelago between the Philippines and Borneo. This was the easiest operation we participated in during our stay in the Philippines. We beached, unloaded and retracted without seeing a single Japanese on the island. Yes, there were enemy soldiers back in the hills.
About this time I was able to see with my oldest brother who was in the Army Airborne Engineers at Palo on the island of Leyte. He was very surprised when one of my shipmates and I walked in on him one morning and awakened him. He was working the midnight to eight shift that week so he was sleeping during the forenoon. We spent four days together in all. Three at his camp and one night aboard my ship. It was a very happy meeting indeed.
On May 10th the LSM-319 participated in its last invasion of the war. This was a second invasion on the northern tip of the island of Mindanao. It was also very easily carried out and there was practically no resistance offered at all. The Philippines were now in American hands. Well, of course the Army was still hunting out Japanese soldiers on various islands, but it was just a matter of time.
The next couple of months were spent making runs to all the largest islands in the Philippines. In all we hit Leyte, Samar, Luzon, Mindoro, Mindanao, Palawan, Cebu, Negros, Panay and Bohol. Our duties were transferring Army personnel and equipment from point to point.
On July 22nd I was transferred from the LSM-319 to the LCI-503. The LSM-319 acquired a radio technician and the crew complement for radio operations was only four. The reason I was transferred rather than one of the other operators was that I didn't like our skipper and he knew it. I guess there wasn't much love lost. At the time I thought I was receiving a raw deal but I've learned that I really should be thankful he transferred me.
Today, Thanksgiving of 1945, we find many things to be thankful for. The war has ended and we were victorious. It was a long and hard fought war. I consider myself fortunate to be here to tell of my "Life in the U.S. Navy". Many others were not so fortunate. I guess it was just God's will.
My life in the Navy does not close here but the story does. In a short time I expect to return to the United States and be discharged. It may be two months and maybe more or less. After spending almost a year in the Philippines it will certainly be a happy day when we pick up anchor and say goodbye to them for good. My discharge cannot come too soon to suit me.
This time spent is something I will undoubtedly treasure highly in later years. It has been a great experience and there is no denying that. However, I've missed out on practically three of the best years of my life by being in the Navy. They can never be regained. I've been nearly around the world and I find that there is no place like the United States and home.
Epilogue - May 17, 2002 - by Jeff Popp - Eugene's son-in-law
Eugene Carey returned home, and after a brief stay moved to Hammond in order to be near Norma Butler, the base cashier who so captured his attention. They were married in 1947. Eugene worked in the oil industry most of his life and lived a majority of this time in Hastings, Minnesota. He and Norma raised 7 children, and their descendents now number more than 30. Eugene and Norma reside in Sierra Vista, Arizona. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking for all of Eugene and Norma's children, we are all proud of his service and humbled by his dedication to duty in W.W.II. We are deeply grateful for the sacrifice of he and all the other men and women who have served to protect our country.