CHAPTER FOUR

TO THE SOUTH PACIFIC

The beginning of May found us still in the vicinity of Hollandia, in company with a task force consisting of the heavy units of the Seventh Fleet, and the Australian Cruisers HMAS Shropshire and Australia. Our own group comprised of two divisions of CVE’s screened by DesRon 48. This group rendered air support to the assault troops in the Hollandia area. The Japanese Air Force very conveniently ran out of gasoline two weeks previous to the landing on April 22, and their Navy was unable to penetrate the allied blockade imposed around Hollandia to re-supply them. This operation came off more smoothly than any previous one to date, causing General MacArthur to consider himself nothing short of a miracle maker. The carriers launched several strikes each day commencing with the dawn strike, and their planes were on call for photographic missions as well as bombing and strafing. During the support phase of this operation, we became more salty than ever by crossing the equator back and forth three times.

Map of Seeadler and the Admiralties

On the fourth of May we retired to Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island, for replenishment of logistics. The harbor formed by Manus and Negros Island was large enough to accommodate the entire Pacific Fleet, and reminded one somewhat of Majuro in the Marshalls. Indeed, some six months later, practically the entire fleet sortied from this same harbor for the Leyte Gulf operation.

On May 7, we made the usual destroyer sortie ahead of the heavy ships and departed from Seeadler Harbor for Segund Channel, Espiritu Santos Island, New Hebrides. This was a trip of 1800 miles, and consumed some five days. On Friday, May 12, we entered Pallikulo Bay, Espiritu Santos Island, fueled ship, and next day screened the Santee in operations off the island. The Abbot returned to Segund Channel for dry docking, limited overhaul, and replenishment of logistics, giving all hands a chance to catch up on beer drinking. During this period the fleet was preparing for the Marianas Islands operations, and in the latter part of May we proceeded to the “Slot” for gunnery exercises and training for future operations. We returned to Espiritu on the 29th of May.

On May 29, amid the confetti, boos, and Bronx Cheers of the crew, “Broadway Ray” Raphael was welcomed aboard. He displayed his many usual and unusual “campaign” ribbons of Boston’s “Shangra Lia,” Honolulu’s Fleet Radio School, the battle of the “Rex” and “New Bronx,” the brawls of the “Royal Hawaiian” and “Breakers.” His first two questions upon coming aboard were “Have you seen “Best Foot Forward, yet?” and “Who is this guy McKenzie?” But after he had displayed his newly acquired album to all unacquainted hands, he reclined to begin fighting his part of this war and desired to win his first star on the Asiatic-Pacific bar.

At 1300, June 2, we sortied from Espiritu Santos in company with Carrier Divisions 22 and 24, the oiler Pocomoke, DesRon 48, plus DesDiv 22. Northeast of Guadalcanal we rendezvoused with various transport divisions and their Support units, and proceeded in company with them to Kwajalein, conducting various drills en route.

On the 8th of June we anchored in Kwajalein Atoll. The next four days were spent in a last minute check-up on equipment, while the Supply Department attempted to get still more stores on our loaded decks. We were going off to war again. Little did we know!

At 0545 we passed through the southwestern entrance to Kwajalein and proceeded to patrol station to cover the sortie of the carriers and transports, our destination being Guam, in the Marianas. The voyage proceeded without incident until the night of June 18 when we were due north of Truk Island, and several Jap planes, either on patrol out of Truk or procuring reinforcements for Truk, passed over the formation. Range never close enough to permit opening fire.

Map of Saipan

On the night of June 21, we were directed to proceed to Saipan Island in the Marianas and provide air-cover and support for the assault forces then engaged in securing the island. The sortie of the Japanese fleet from Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines, the air battle at Guam on the previous day, the tenacity and ferociousness with which the Japs were defending Saipan all had direct bearing on the postponement of the Guam landing.

Commencing with the night of June 21, we experienced nightly harassing raids by Japs from Guam and Yap Island. Saipan was also under nightly attack and things were definitely looking upon the action side for the Abbot. It seemed as if we went to General Quarters at least ten times a day, but in reality it was only two to four. During this period we retired every fourth day to fuel, returning to our designated operating area east of Saipan to continue air support for the troops.

On the night of June 26 and 27, our group was under attack by several Jap planes. On his initial run, one Jap threw a fish at the Sangamon and then passed up her flight deck on a parallel course, much to the consternation of the Admiral. The “bogies” seemed to clutter the area at this time and the Abbot fired on two going down the starboard side with unobserved results. At 2350, a bogie closed from the port side and was brought under fire by our port forty millimeters. The firing was seen to bracket the target which was later identified as a Betty. The U.S.S. Hale also opened fire on this bogie, and both ships received credit for an “assist” as the Nip joined his ancestors in a blaze of flame. This explosion caused much rejoicing on the Abbot for she was no longer considered an untouched maiden.

The latter days of June were spent in the same area doing the same job, and on the 30th we departed for Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshalls, arriving there on the 7th of July. We got underway again on the 9th of July for Guam to provide air-support in the same manner as at Saipan. The Guam operation was not as difficult due to neutralization of Japanese air power in the Marianas area. Ground forces had very difficult going for the first few days, but resistance soon lightened and the island of Guam was secured on the 21st of August.

On the 26th of July we went into Saipan in company with the Sangamon and the Hull, (later lost at sea in a typhoon). Highlight of the day was our evening sortie when we passed down Saipan channel to the accompaniment of the “long toms” of the Marines who were in the process of bombarding Tinian Island in preparation for its invasion. All hands were rather awed at the broadsides of the long toms when fully thirty of them were fired at one time directly over the Abbot.

August was to be our lucky month again. In the early days of the month we started for Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshalls, arriving there on the evening of the fourth. On the morning of the fifth, we departed for Pearl Harbor in company with the Corregidor and the Stemble. The trip was uneventful except that the Captain received his orders for transfer and word was received that his relief was in Pearl. During the evening of August 11th we arrived at Pearl Harbor and moored alongside the Sierra for tender availability and for ten days of rest and recuperation. Inspection was held on the 14th of August and Commander Dornin was relieved by Lieutenant Commander F. W. Ingling, who we soon learned, was known to his intimate friends as “Waffles.”

During the latter part of August we conducted training exercises for the Yap Island campaign which was to be part of the Palau operation. The dwindling of Japanese air power in the central Philippines caused the Yap operation to be cancelled, but little did we know of that in late August 1944. We were much too busy borrowing automobiles, staying at the Royal Hawaiian, getting new people aboard and transferring old, spending our days in what is laughingly called the “paradise of the Pacific” Honolulu — beering at the Breakers, stuffing steaks at PY’s, and all those other things we said we would do when we returned to the bulwark of island civilization.

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