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James Fahey: Diary excerpts
Excerpts from "Pacific War Diary," 1942-1945 by James J. Fahey Copyright(c) 1963 and renewed 1991 by James J. Fahey. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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James Fahey kept this diary from October 1942 to December 1945, on loose sheets of paper closely covered with writing on both sides. Sometimes entries were made several times during one day, sometimes not for weeks; sometimes several days were written up at one time. After the war he put it away until 1960, when he copied it in legible form, filling out his sketchy notes where necessary. Whatever errors it may contain, it reflects what he believed to be true at the time.

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November 23, 1942

It was a great feeling as I staggered up the gangway to the ship with my sea bag in one hand and the mattress cover loaded with blankets, mattresses, etc. , over my shoulder. At last I have a home -- and a warship at that.

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January 26 1943
New Hebrides

Last night they said we were about 2-1/2 hours from the Jap fleet but let them come. I came out here to see action and I hope this is the biggest battle of all time and it is also an honor to be on the flagship so I think this baby will give a good account of itself. Most of the crew would rather keep on going and see action than go back to the States. As for me, I would not trade me place with anyone back in the states. I...do not know how I will feel when we run into action, but right now I feel in the pink of condition and don't care how many Japs I run into.

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February 19 1943

The press news said that our forces have complete control of Guadalcanal. Everyone was very happy to hear this. This is number one in the long climb up the Solomons that faces us. One of the fellows was electrocuted when he accidentally touched a live wire. We had church services for him, and his body was lowered over the side.

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June 30 1943

The Solomons are over five hundred miles long and most of the islands are Jap-held fortresses. We call this going up the Slot. It is like going up an alley at night in the tough sections of any city... We will be away up in the Solomons; (attacking) the Shortlands south of Bougainville, the largest of the Solomons...While we are hitting the Japs up here... the Army and Marine Raiders will be landing, about 100 miles south of us on the island of Rendova and New Georgia...Our job will be to bombard the Japs on shore and prevent Jap subs and warships from attacking our transports, minelayers and troops...Our bombardment will take place in darkness as usual right in the Japs' backyard. It will be a bad place to get hit because if you land in the water the sharks will get you, and if you land on one of the islands the Japs will get you and of course that means torture and death.

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July 15 1943

A big LST pulled alongside today...[with] close to 300 wounded troops from Munda...A lot of the wounded were cut very badly by Japanese knives. Many had to be strapped down because they were insane, they were given something to make them sleep. They said our troops go for days with very little sleep. They live in foxholes and when they get wounded...cut their clothes off to bind their wounds...Fighting the Japs is like fighting a wild animal. the troops said the Jap is not afraid to die, it is an honor to die for the Emperor, he is their God. A lot of the fighting is done at night and you can smell the Japs 25 yards away... The Japs watch from coconut trees in the daytime and then when it becomes dark they sneak into your foxhole and cut your throat or throw in a hand grenade...The Japs take all kinds of chances, they love to die. Our troops are advancing very slowly. It is a savage campaign...You also hear all sorts of noises made by animals and you think it is the Japs. This is too much for some men and they crack up.

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October 1943

One night we went up the Slot and ran into a group of barges loaded with Jap troops plus some destroyers. When it was all over the ships in our force sank three destroyers and many barges. We lit the place up with star shells so that our destroyers could go in and slaughter the Japs... The action against the Japs lasted about one hour and during that time it looked like the fourth of July...Warships were blazing away ... and lighting up the place with star shells. Explosions could be seen all around us as our shells hit their targets. The Japs lost a great many troops and the sharks and fish ate good that night... For many nights the Japs tried to evacuate their troops and every night the loaded barges would be destroyed this way. The Japs never give up. They fight to the finish.

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October 19, 1943
Sidney, Australia

It was quite a feeling to be back in civilization for the first time in almost a year. It was just as if we were coming home. A feeling came over us that we could not explain. It seemed like paradise... This was the first time in over 10 months for some of the men to leave the ship and put their feet on land...

When you leave the ship you go through a beautiful park to get to the business section of Sidney... The first thing that catches your eye are all the beautiful girls. The place is full of them. There are supposed to be 5 girls to every man but I think there are even more than that. Everyone is so friendly down here. I never saw such friendly people. The girls in the states could really learn something from the girls here. They treat you as if you were related and invite you home to meet the family...

We did not like to leave. When you know it's your last night in civilization you could walk on the soil all night, and just breathe the fresh air. It feels so good. You know it will be some time before you put your feet on anything like this again...It is an experience you will never forget. You will put Australia down as the best liberty port in the world.

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November 10 1943

This afternoon, while we were south of Bougainville...we came across a raft with four live Japs in it...As the destroyer Spence came close to the raft, the Japs opened up with a machine gun at the destroyer. The Jap officer then put the gun in each man's mouth and fired, blowing out the back of each man's skull. One of the Japs did not want to die for the Emperor and put up a struggle. The others held him down. The officer was the last to die. He also blew his brains out. The Spence went in to investigate. All the bodies had disappeared into the water. There was nothing left but blood and an empty raft. Swarms of sharks were everywhere. The sharks ate well today...We went to battle stations...and at 10PM we were attacked by enemy planes...Later darkness descended and the rains came.

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Dec 4 1943

I received shocking news today...My brother John's aircraft carrier was sunk in the battle of Tarawa in the Gilberts...This wasn't the first close call for my brother John. My brother Joe and he were both at Pearl Harbor, December 7 1941, when the Japs pulled their sneak attack. The ships that John and Joe were on had been sunk...but we did not know that they had been transferred a few weeks before the attack. When we wrote to them our letters were returned. We thought that they went down in their ships.

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January 5 1944

I received a letter from my sister Mary. She had heard from our brother John whose ship had been sunk during the invasion of Tarawa...She said that John was lucky to be alive. He is now in a hospital in California where he was operated on for a head wound. His back was also in bad shape. Before coming back to that states he was taken to an island and who was there but my brother Joe...It was one for the books...The carrier Liscomb Bay was hit early in the morning. It went down very fast, 900 men were lost from a crew of 1100.

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March 6 1944

A chaplain's call for me was issued over the loudspeaker system this afternoon....When I reached his office he told me he was very sorry to relay to news to me. It was a message from the radio shack from the Red Cross. It informed me that my father had died February 21 l944, about two weeks ago. It came as a shock for I always looked forward to the day when I would walk in on him without letting him know that I was in the States. The last time I saw him was almost 18 months ago. I never thought that would be the last time. My sister Mary will be all alone now.

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May 14 1944

A destroyer pulled alongside and I spent some time talking to the crew on board. They took part in the Gilberts Campaign when the Marines landed on bloody Tarawa. One of the Marines was holding his stomach in his hands and it was not long before he died. The leg of another Marine was held together by a single thread of flesh. It was later amputated. One had a bullet through his eye and was lodged in his beck. He was holding a pad over it to stop the flow of blood. He died shortly after. Another had his knee blown wide open. Part of the leg had to be cut off. Many boarded the destroyer blind. They were all doped to help combat the pain. The Marines were mowed down like grass. Blood covered the ship in all corners as Tarawa was considered one of the bloodiest in the history of the Corps. The Japanese thought Tarawa was impregnable. The Marines, paying for every inch taken in dead and wounded, secured the bloody atoll...Went out tonight at 6 PM for gunnery practice. We are having all this practice so there will not be another Tarawa.

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June 4 1944
(en route to the Mariannas Islands " Invasion of Saipan, Guam etc)

Captain Hoffman spoke to the crew and said...it will be the largest [invasion] of the Pacific war.. While on watch I told Edgerton, Tojo Bonnette and the rest of the crew that I might sound crazy for saying such a thing but if I had my choice of leaving now for the states, that I would turn it down rather than miss this big invasion. I would not want to miss this for anything, and they felt the same way. I might be scared stiff before it was over, but I want to be there. I think that is the way most of the crew feels. It gets into your blood, after you have been down here a long time, you want to get into all the campaigns, you do not want to miss any.

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June 6 1944

At 6:30 PM this evening, the announcement came over the loudspeaker that the Allies landed in France. Everyone gave a big cheer when they heard this. I won $40 from the boys because some time ago I bet the invasion would come off about the middle of June. The air is a lot fresher now. Since we crossed the equator it is not so hot and sultry...

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June 13, 1944

In about 14 hours now, we will start bombarding Saipan. We are only about 1200 miles from Tokyo. I guess I will go down and buy some candy. The candy has been our old stand-by when we have nothing to eat at battle stations, for long hours.

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Sunday, June 18, 1944:

Off Saipan. All hands got up at 4:45 A.M. I had a swell sleep last night even if it was only for about six hours. We had church service topside this morning, even though we are so close to Japan, and the Jap fleet might be close by.

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June 19 1944
(Task Force Between Saipan and Guam, 600 miles off coast of Japan)

Jap planes attacked our task force at 11 AM this morning, they attacked us from all directions. Jap planes were falling all around us and the sky was full of bursting shells, big puffs of smoke could be seen everywhere. Our ship was leading the rest of the ships, we were up front in the force, with some destroyers screening us. Bombs were falling very close to the ships, big sprays of water could be seen and Jap planes were splashing into the water. One Jap plane after dropping its load and with a charmed life flew through a hail of gunfire as it flew over many ships, but when it got to us, we riddled it with shells, and sent it into the blue Pacific...When we passed the spot where the Jap plane was sunk, the water was all green, the pilot's goggles were still floating in the water...

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June 20 1944 " Battle of the Mariannas

At 4 PM this afternoon we got the good news we have been waiting for, they finally know where the Jap fleet is, they said it's heading for the Philippines. Our carrier planes picked them up this afternoon, everyone was glad to hear this. The Jap fleet is running away from us and heading to their base. We picked up speed and are after them. This news has put new life into the men. It is getting late and our only hope of doing any damage to them is to send our planes after them. Some of the men on this mission will not return, the Japs will give them a hot reception. It was 4:30PM when our [300] planes took off...The time dragged as we waiting to hear from our pilots, everyone kept his fingers crossed, hoping for the best. It was like waiting in the death house for a pardon, and then it happened.

About 6:50PM word came that our pilots had caught up with the Jap navy and it said three carriers were damaged...at about 9PM tonight our planes were returning. It was dark and they would have a tough job landing on the carriers... they were low on fuel and some were damaged, many had to make forced landings in the water. Then something never done before in war time happened, all the ships in this huge fleet put their lights on, and flares were dropped into the water... This would make it easier for our pilots to land, and if they did hit the water, they could be saved...It was a shame to see our planes hitting the water. I saw one pilot on the wing of his plane waving his shirt...A Jap plane also tried to land on one of our carriers...It was quite a sight to see all the ships lit up, flares and rafts in the water and some planes crashing into the water, pilots and crews also in the water. You could see the planes circle and then land on the carriers...The Japs would never do anything like this.

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June 25 1944

We got very close to Saipan today, some of our ships are still bombarding the Japs and our planes are doing a job on the troops. Most of the Japs are crowded up north on Saipan. It was funny to see some of the fellows fishing from the side of the ship, others laying in the sun getting a tan, and up forward on the bow some of the officers are boxing, while on the beach men are killing each other, some are in agony from wounds. Our planes are strafing and bombing and our ships are bombarding the Japs. The two scenes are so close to each other and yet it is from one extreme to another or two different worlds.

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June 26 1944 " off Saipan while the battle rages on shore

I was talking to one of the men from the ammunition ship who was on the beach and he said some of the Japs are up in caves with beg steel doors. They open a slide and fire at our troops and then close them. Our troops sneaked up on the Japs and when they opened the steel door they put a flamethrower in and wiped out the Japs. The bodies smelled when the flamethrowers hit them and the smell of burnt flesh is very strong. He said 1500 of our troops were killed the day before yesterday.

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July 3 1944

It will be quite a treat for us when we return home and go to sleep in a bed with nothing to spoil our sleep. It is just the little things in life that you look forward to when you go home. When you had them you thought nothing of them, you took them for granted. Now you look forward to meeting your family and friends, being able to go the corner store and get the morning paper, and read your favorite topics, or visit the drugstore for a big ice cream soda, looking at buildings and going to the Parish Church, and the local theater. Eating plenty of good food. You want to be free again and do what you want to do and go where you want to go, without someone always ordering you around. You want freedom.

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July 4 1944

The Press News said that in the first couple of weeks, over 6500 Japs were killed. There is a very strong odor from the beach. It smells like burnt flesh...Today is the 4th of July and a good way to celebrate it is by killing Japs... We will fire all day again. Whenever I hear some of the fellows complain about how tough it is, I tell them that if they were on that beach with our troops it would be a lot tougher, that usually shuts them up.

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July 10 1944 " end of Battle for Saipan

When the Jap General in command killed himself, the Japs were disorganized and did not know what to do. A lot of them left their guns when it was almost over, the Japs were jumping off the high cliffs committing suicide, rather than be captured, hundreds of them landed in the water. Our destroyers tried to pick them up but they refused. Our ships then opened up on them, and they were dying like rats.

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July 13 1944

Today the water was full of Jap bodies, you could see them floating by, men , women, and children. The north section was loaded with floating bodies...We went out on patrol again tonight as usual, and almost ran over a lot of Japs. One Jap was floating face up and he had a goatee, an arm also floated by. I never saw anything like it for bodies floating around. The water is full of them, the fish will eat good...(July 14) After supper while we were out patrolling Saipan the fellows passed the time running from one side of the ship to the other, watching the Jap bodies float by. You could get a good look at them as they passed, because they were very close to the ship. Some were on their stomachs, others on their backs, they floated along like rubber balls. Some had army uniforms on, and others had no clothes at all. They were bloated and their skin looked white. One looked like his back was all burnt...If this was in the South Pacific, those bodies would not be floating around very long, maybe the sharks are full. I got the midnight to 4AM watch.

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Sunday, July 16, 1944

It was a warm sunny day although it rained a little during church services. It was the first time I ever went to church services and saw dead bodies floating by. It is nothing to see men, women and children floating. There must be thousands of Japs in the waters near Saipan. The ships just run over them.

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July 18 1944

This afternoon...we were talking to...one of the Marines...[who fought in Saipan.] The Japs had a lot of those big giant Imperial Marines on Saipan, and they were very hard to kill. They had a great habit of making believe they were dead and when you turned your back on them they would attack you , they would also sneak back to their own lines at night. The Marine I was talking to was bent over a big Jap going through the Jap's pockets, he thought the Jap was dead, but noticed his stomach move a little. He reached for his gun and shot the Jap in the head, he was still moving around, so he finished he Jap off by shooting him in the heart. One Marine liked to pull gold teeth from dead Japs. He had 17 of them. The last one he got on Saipan, the Jap was only wounded, while he was pulling the gold tooth the Jap was still moving his hands.

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November 17 1944

The Captain spoke this evening and said we would pull into Ulithi early Tues. morning. He also said the Japs are sending suicide planes against our ships in larger numbers now, they crash their planes against our ships, the pilot stays in the plane also. The Japs did this before but on a small scale. A suicide plane with its bombs can do a lot of damage when it hits a ship, you have to destroy it before it reaches you.

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November 27 1944
(Account of 2 hour long attack by 70 Kamikazes near Leyte, Philippines)

At 10:50AM this morning, General Quarters sounded, all hands went to their battle stations...General Quarters has an awful loud frightening sound, it has trouble written all over it. It is enough to put the fear of the Lord in you... It was not long after that when a force of about 30 Jap planes attacked us. Dive bombers and torpedo planes...They had only one thing in mind and that was to crash into our ships, bombs and all. You have to blow them up, to damage them doesn't mean much...A Jap plane came in on a battleship with its guns blazing away. Other Jap planes came in strafing one ship, dropping their bombs on another and crashing into another ship. The Jap planes were falling all around us...

One suicide dive bomber was heading right for us while we were firing at other attacking planes and if the 40mm mount behind us on the port side did not blow the Jap wing off, it would have killed all of us. When the wing was blown off it, the plane turned some and bounced off into the water and the bombs blew part of the plane onto our ship...A Jap dive bomber crashed into one of the 40mm mounts...parts of the plane flew everywhere...Part of the motor hit Tomlinson, he had chunks of it all over him, his stomach, back, legs, etc. The rest of the crew were wounded, most of hem were sprayed with gasoline from the plane...The explosions were terrific as the suicide planes exploded in the water not too far away from our ship... the water looked like it was on fire. It would have been curtains for us if they had crashed into us...

It is a tough job to hold back this tidal wave of suicide planes. They come at you from all directions and also straight down at us at a very fast pace and come of the men have time for a few fast jokes, "This would be a great time to run out of ammunition."? "This is mass suicide at its best."?...How long will our luck hold out?...

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November 27 1944
(Gory details of aftermath of the Kamikaze attack)

Planes were falling all around us, bombs were coming too close for comfort. The Jap planes were cutting up the water with machine gun fire. All the guns on the ship were blazing away, talk about action, never a dull moment. The fellows were passing ammunition like lightening as the guns were turning in all directions spitting out hot steel. Parts of destroyed suicide planes were scattered all over the ship. During a lull in the action, he men would look around for Jap souvenirs...I got part of the plane. The deck near my [machine gun] mount was covered with blood, guts, brains, tongues, scalps, hearts, arms, etc., from the Jap pilots. One of the Marines cut the ring off the finger of one of the dead pilots. They had to put the hose on to wash the blood off the deck. The deck ran with blood. The Japs were spattered all over the place. One of the fellows had a Jap scalp, it looked just like you skinned an animal...

I picked up a... pie plate with a tongue on it. It The pilot's tooth mark was into it very deep. It was very big and long, it looked like part of his tonsils and throat were attached to it. It also looked like the tongue you buy in the meat store This was the first time I ever saw a person's brains, what a mess. One of the men on our mount got a Jap rib and cleaned it up, he said his sister wants part of a Jap body...The Jap bodies were blown into all sorts of pieces.

These suicide or kamikaze pilots wanted to destroy us, our ships, and themselves. This gives you an idea of what kind of enemy we are fighting.

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January 1, 1945

Happy New Year. Today is the first day of l945. It is just another day our here. I think the war will be over this year. We are too strong and powerful now, nothing can stop us. We expect plenty of trouble from the enemy, but we have too much on the ball for him to win. We passed a big convoy today, it consisted of 116 ships. It was quite a sight. It means another big headache for the Japs. We got a big pan of cake from the bakers today. We had a party for ourselves, nothing is wasted out here, especially if it's sweet. Tennessee and Southern California play in the Rose Bowl today. The sea was very calm and the sunset was beautiful. What a sight.

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January 4 1945

They told us we will leave Leyte this afternoon for the invasion of Luzon...the biggest invasion in the Pacific so far...General MacArthur is [with us] on the light cruiser Boise No. 47.... It must bring back memories as he sails along through the Philippines. It is over 3 years since he came through these same waters that we are passing through. The last time he came through here he received orders to leave Bataan and Corregidor on a PT boat for Australia. Now his orders are to return and capture all the territory from the Japs....This time he is riding on a big cruiser...

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January 8 1945

This evening... a Jap suicide plane flew through all kinds of exploding shells and crashed into [one of our escort carriers.] There was a great explosion and the stern of the carrier looked like a big red furnace, black smoke was also coming from it. It was an awful sight. It looked liked it would be impossible to save it, everything was exploding on it and with all that high octane gas and bombs on it you never knew when it would be blown sky high. The casualties must be very high....This happened on our starboard side and not too far from MacArthur's ship. By now I'll bet MacArthur has his fingers crossed. He must be wondering if he'll make this invasion before his ship is hit by suicide planes. The Japs have been hitting all around him with subs, suicide planes, and warships. Maybe Tokyo Rose knows what ship he is on

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January 9 1945

It is very quiet, everyone is asleep... We must be close to Lingayen Gulf. Our troops did not sleep very good last night. This will be the last day on earth for a lot of them. They are so young and healthy now, and in a few hours many of them will be dead or wounded or crippled for life. Some will not even reach the beach. The Japs must have about 200,000 troops on Luzon...

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February 21 1945 " Subic Bay

The supply ship [that brought us food] had a group of various servicemen who were captured by the Japanese in l942, and have been prisoners for all of these years. Many of them were wounded and all had white hair. They were nothing but "bags of bones."? Their arms were like toothpicks. Some were very young, but looked much older than their years. All were very weak. Now, they can have all the food they want. One of the fellows gained 50 pounds in two weeks. Most of them have a faraway look in their eyes. They must have gone through hell under the Jap treatment...One of the men who had spent 36 months under the Japs on Corregidor said that...the only food given them was a bag of rice and a little warm water. Whenever they took sick, no help was given to them by the Japs. They either became better or they died. At least 60% of the prisoners died in captivity....The Press News reported that the 4th and 5th Marines landed on Iwo Jima.

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March 2 1945 - Subic Bay

No news. Had recreation today. I saw 10 nurses on the beach. It was the first time we ever saw anything like that since leaving the states.

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April 13 1945

It came over the radio this morning that President Roosevelt died Thursday at Hot Springs, Georgia... He was sitting for a portrait before severe pains in his head overtook him. A few hours later he was dead. The people all over the world were shocked by the news of his death. On board ship we could not believe it at first. The flags on all the ships will be at half mast for a month in honor of this truly great American. We lowered ours this morning.

In the European War the Americans crossed the Elbe River, west of Berlin and only 50 miles from the capital city. The Russians are 30 miles from the gates of Berlin. Fighting on Okinawa is fierce.

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August 8 1945
Off the coast of China

All hands reported to stations at 1:30AM...Jap planes were spotted in the immediate vicinity....I almost forgot to mention that the greatest invention of the 20th century has been achieved. It's an atomic bomb. It was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan a couple of days ago, August 6. It wiped out everything for miles around. President Truman conveyed a warning to Japan to stop hostile actions but the Japanese refused. The Jap Premier ordered a special cabinet meeting right after the news of the bomb was relayed to him. The atomic bomb has the heat of the sun at its core. The pilots ten miles away could sense the concussion from it. Debris flew 40,000 feet into the air. Everyone is discussing the topic on board the Montpelier. The war may end soon now.

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August 10 1945

We are still at Okinawa...At 8:50PM Captain Gorry spoke to the crew. He said that Japan would agree to our terms but wanted to keep the Emperor. They do not want anything to happen to him. When the Captain finished speaking, everyone gave a big cheer. Some of the men were whistling and yelling. There was plenty of rejoicing. Everyone went wild. Right after the men on Okinawa were informed of the news, we could hear guns firing, flares of all colors and star shells lit the sky... They went wild over there. Some of the ships here fired heir guns and others blew their foghorns. It was quite a celebration. This was the happiest day of our lives. Everyone on the ship was having a great time. We did not have much sleep but we did not care.

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October 22 1945

During our two month stay in Japan, we visited many places and met many Japanese. The most famous place we visited was Hiroshima. We were one of the first to see the extensive damage caused by the atomic bomb... When we saw Hiroshima, a city of approximately half a million people, it was deserted except for a few people walking through with white cloths over their nose and mouths. I will never forget what I saw there. You have to see it. I cannot explain it. A few frames of buildings were the only thing that was left standing. Everything was ground to dust... We passed a mother nursing her baby in the cellar of a destroyed house. She did not pay any attention to us as she sat there in the dust. Her whole family might have been wiped out and both of them might die later from the effects of the bomb. We felt very sorry for them. The only thing they owned was the clothes on their backs, and that was not much. We saw a few stumps of trees that were barren. They were completely black from burning. The trolley cars were blown off their tracks. Only they did not look like trolley cars anymore. They were completely destroyed. I could just see pieces of them. ..Everything was reduced to a lot of rubble...The enormous buildings with walls over a foot thick were all in small chunks...As far as the eye could see there was nothing but destruction. The force from one of these bombs is fantastic. There is only one defense against the bomb, prevent it from falling.

The Japanese people are honest, hard working people who were bluffed along by their cruel leaders. They were helpless to do anything about it. It was the Military Men. Their greed for power brought destruction down upon Japan. If they let the people run the government it will be in good hands. The Japanese people are no different from the people in any other part of the world. The people all over the world are good. It's the leaders who are to blame.

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December 18 1945

We docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Most of the crew left the ship for their home towns and in a few days they would be civilians again. Before we departed there were plenty of handshakes and goodbyes. We would not see the old gang anymore. We would be carrying memories of the many friends we met and the places we visited for the rest of our lives. When I look back over the years I spent in the Pacific, it seems like a dream.

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December 24, 1945

This will be my first Christmas in the states in four years and the best Christmas gift I ever received.

No harm came to me during my years in the Pacific and I am very grateful to the Good Lord.