LEISURE TIME WELL SPENT
“April Fools” day found us at anchor in San Pedro Harbor, Leyte Gulf, waiting for orders and hoping they would be for onward routing to the “Promised Land.” Once again we were disappointed as our next assignment was carrying mail, freight and passengers to various ports in the Philippines. We sailed 4 April on our first trip, making deliveries at Mindoro, Manila and Subic Bay and then returning to San Pedro. On our first trip into Manila Bay proper we were amazed, in spite of all of our past experience in this area, at the number of sunken ships and the damage to the waterfront. The large number of Jap ships sitting on the bottom was a wonderful tribute to the ability of our fast carrier pilots who worked over the bay. The mopping up of El Caballo and Fort Drum was still going on and we could see mortar fire at El Caballo as we passed. Completed our first trip on the 8th, and on the 10th, after a beach party at San Antone, (during which our friends the Filipinos learned that not even the water buffaloes were safe with ABBOTEERS around), we set forth on another trip, which was as were the third and fourth trip, repetitions of the first. In between, time was passed with stores working parties and beer parties. During our various calls at Manila we managed to acquire a large quantity of Jap invasion currency by bartering old clothes, cigarettes, etc., some of which was disposed of, at handsome profit, later to the members of other ships who were unable to visit the ports we had been in.
On our final trip, which was completed the 25th, much rejoicing was heard when we transferred part of our ammo to the U.S.S. Jenkins, but hopes were again dispelled when we returned to San Pedro and proceeded to reload. After replenishment was completed the “Dabbler” proceeded to Cebu Harbor, arriving on the 27th, where we relieved the U.S.S. Thatcher (DD514) which was engaged in fire support duty with the American Division, then completing the mopping up of the northern part of the island. Although there was much bemoaning our fate at being cut off from the outside world in this forsaken anchorage, a short time later our attitude was changed when we realized how pleasant the duty we were engaged in was in comparison to the Okinawa push. Too, we learned that the Thatcher got in the way of a “Die for the Emperor” enthusiast shortly after her arrival on the scene of our latest thrust at the Japs. The next 11 days were spent in routine work aboard ship with daily swimming, movies, fishing parties (when the beach was restricted) and trips to Mactan Island, the burial place of Magellan, and Cebu City. For several days the beach was restricted to us due to the effect of the sudden influx of such a large number of liberty seeking sailors on the native economy and the plans of the Army for reconstruction. On the 3rd, and again the 6th, we proceeded to the northern part of the island where we bombarded reported concentrations of Nips in the vicinity of Toga, Tobogan village and Ilihan.
All good things must come, to an end, thus on the 8th we departed, with many fine memories such as the special mass Father McCarthy celebrated for the Abbot crew, the afternoon he and Father Dunford spent aboard ship; also others such as the bumboats, the hospitality of the inhabitants of Mactan (at $8.00 per quart), Raphael’s Romona, etc.
Our next stop was at Ormoc Bay, from which place we sortied on the 9th en route to make the Macajaler Bay landing in northern Mindanao. On the 10th we bombarded the beach and adjacent hills in preparation for the landing. Initial opposition was light; the Japs retired into the hills. Due to the large entrance of the bay we spent the next five days on anti-sub patrol screening the landing craft and supply vessels. On the 15th we returned to Leyte to pick up fuel and supplies for the ships which were to remain at Macajaler. After discharging fuel, provisions and ammunition upon our return, we were returned to San Pedro Bay for further assignment. By this time the “Dabbler” had navigated Surigao Straits so often that the wheel watch was secured when we approached the southern entrance and she proceeded along on her own initiative.
The 15th found us underway for Puerta Princessa, Palawan, assigned as A/S screen to a resupply convoy bound for Zamboanga and Parang anchorage on Southern Mindanao. After discharging supplies, fuel ammo and picking up stateside-bound passengers (among which were two recruits for Raphael’s first post-war Broadway production), got underway arriving at San Pedro on the 29th. The odds were now 2 to 1 that we would receive stateside orders before the middle of June, with no takers. Someone missed an opportunity for a cleanup as the 31st brought orders to report to ComServRon 10 for duty. This meant farewell to MacArthur’s Navy, and that we were joining the “big boys,” none other than Admiral Halsey’s famed Third Fleet. The anticipation of new areas, and traveling with such an outfit offset the disappointment in being slated for “just one more operation, boys.”
June 1st was ushered in with much speculation by the crew and every imaginable form of scuttlebutt making the rounds. Rumors were of everything from a strike against Singapore to a landing in the Kuriles. The latter having some foundation by reason of an order for all ships to replenish foul weather and winter gear. Some die-hards held out that maybe we were still going home, even in the face of the fact that we had 10 days availability with our old friend, the U.S.S. Piedmont. On the 7th we replaced all of our bombardment ammunition with anti-aircraft projectiles and moved alongside the Piedmont in company with the Bullard, Walker, Stembel and Black, the first time we had been in company with our old squadron mates since the squadron abandoned the “Dabbler” and Stembel in December and sailed off to sample the pleasures of Vallejo and points east. Many a tall tale was swapped and much ragging given back and forth. We learned how rugged the Okinawa push had been and passed on to the, others how fortunate they were to have missed the Philippine campaign, particularly the mail trips. After four days alongside we anchored out with the Chauncey and settled down to ten days of routine work, with movies, beach parties at Osmena Recreation Center, Samar Island, and occasional special liberties on Leyte. During this period Lt. (jg) Winkworth received orders and on the 11th departed, bound for home and a probable tour of stateside duty.
On the 18th we departed San Pedro Bay once more, bound for various ports, this time carrying passengers, Filipino naval personnel who had been given leave and transportation by Admiral Halsey to return to their homes for the first time since the war started. After short stops at Cebu City and Loay, Bohol, we arrived at Iloilo, Panay, on the 20th. Iloilo, the third largest city in the Philippines, though not damaged quite as much as Cebu City, was suffering the pangs of inflation and reconstruction. The people welcomed our liberty party with open arms, though the Army security force was not so cordial. The stories brought back by the members of the first real liberty since Pearl Harbor the previous year, whetted the appetites of everyone aboard. On our return to San Pedro Bay and reporting to Commander Task Force 38 for duty we learned that not only would we, make the trip to pick up the men on leave, but would also have three war correspondents along, getting material for stories of destroyer life and the experiences of the people during the Jap occupation. The 22nd and 23rd were spent in training exercises with our new Task Group at sea and on the 24th after fueling ship and welcoming aboard George Jones, New York Times; Ernie Hoberecht, United Press; and Dick O’Malley, Associated Press, we departed from San Pedro Bay bound for Iloilo. The correspondents made an immediate hit with everyone aboard by their congeniality, as they had a stock of new (to us) stories and tales of other scenes of the war operation. We arrived at Iloilo the morning of the 21st and half of the crew was shoved off at 1300 for town with liberty to expire at 2200. The second half being scheduled for liberty the following day. Iloilo will long be remembered by every Abboteer, and probably the Abbot will be remembered as long by the good people there as well as the Army personnel stationed there with the unpleasant duty of maintaining order. Statistics are not available as to the quantities of fried chicken, ham and eggs and the bottles “good stuff, Joe!,” but few returned without full stomachs, empty pockets and unanimously agreeing we had had the best liberty since we left Boston in ’43. Our guests were right along with us, stating how much the occasion had been enjoyed.
On our return trip we were tendered an invitation to come ashore for a dinner and dance by the inhabitants of Loay, Bohol, but duty calling and not having recovered from the effects of Iloilo, we regretfully declined and steamed back to San Pedro Bay. The 29th and 30th were spent by all hands in replenishment and preparation of the ship for the forthcoming operation.