The Seaweed

USS Champlin DD-601  

Winter 2001

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of the camp that was not occupied and plenty of room for twelve of us. Also it was near a storage area inside a chain link fence that had boxes and boxes of K and C rations. As soon as we became acquainted with the guards this became a good source of food that supplemented our meager regular mess. We were also within visual and shouting distance of the compound area where the drafts were called. We were comfortable, relaxed, nobody bothering us and waiting for our name to be called.

A few days later I was visiting another area of tents. This consisted of rows of tents in an area about 100 yards square when somebody yelled 'Look out! Look out!' and everybody started running. Not knowing what was going on, I started running with everybody else. I soon found myself face down on the ground, along with several other servicemen as a result of a large explosion that blew a big hole in the side of a hill behind us. There was no evidence of the tents where I had been. All that remained were seabags, cots, and mattresses strewn all over the area. I later found out that somebody had built a bonfire in front of the cave. The fire had slowly spread into the cave and had ignited a Japanese storage cache of ammunition. I survived.

A few days later the rains came. Then we found out why the three-pole tent was vacant. It was in the middle of a wash and when the rains came, the water washed right through our tent. By then it was midnight and the water level was up to the bottom of our cots. All we could do was lay there and pray that it wouldn't get higher. I could put my index finger over the edge of the cot and feel the water. This wasn't all. Next the rats came through the tent and, trying to escape, they would grab our blankets with their feet. The solution to this was to cover our heads and let them crawl where ever they wanted to. There was some awful screams during the rest of the night but we knew why and there was nowhere to go or help anybody. We figured the rats came from the K and C ration area, which was adjacent and above us. But we all survived until morning. The next morning as we were trying to salvage some of our belongings, the wind started to blow, and by afternoon the typhoon was upon us. Our next job was to endeavor to save the tent. So we divided up and placed four men on each of the three tent poles. It soon became apparent that the wind was so strong four men could not hold a pole. So we decided to sacrifice one pole and place six men on each of the two remaining poles. This worked for a while but soon we had to sacrifice another pole and put all twelve of us on the last pole. No way! We counted to three and abandoned the tent. Next decision, where to go. I think most of the fellows headed for the theater which was still standing. But it too never survived the typhoon. I had seen a USO show a few days before in the theater that included Leo Durocher and a Hollywood actor whom I can't recall his name now.

I decided to cross the ball field to a Quonset hut about one hundred yards away. I think my feet hit the ground about three times on my way. Debris and corrugated galvanized sheets of roofing were going the same way I was going so I got safely to the lee side of the hut which was in line with the typhoon wind. There were seven or eight other fellows seeking refuge there too. While we were standing there the wind picked up a jeep and it tumbled past us on the road. So we were temporarily safe, right? No way. We soon heard screams from inside the hut and people came running out our end of the hut screaming, 'Look out! Look out!' and we heard the other end of the hut blow in.

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We just cleared our end of the hut when it blew out. What to do? I was in some large trees and I saw a Quonset hut crosswise to the wind and thought maybe this would survive. So I blew over there. Well what do you know? The door was open and the hut was a storage place for bales of blankets. I quickly arranged the bales to form a protected area and there I spent the rest of the time until the typhoon was over. I had survived! Again!

The next day the survivors of our three-pole tent returned to the site, and the sun having come out, we salvaged what we could and spent the day drying things out and putting the tent back up. A few days later my name came up on a draft list and the next day I, with seventeen hundred other servicemen, boarded an LSD (Landing Ship Dock) and headed for San Francisco. Food was minimal and there was no coffee. However, there were big vats of hot tea available at all times. Seventeen days later we were put ashore on Treasure Island. Let it be known that I was damn glad to get off the island of Okinawa. The food on Treasure Island was the best Navy chow I had ever enjoyed. Just when we were leaving! I think they were trying to bribe us.

When I left Okinawa, I somehow had seventeen dollars. But by the time we reached the 'States' I was broke. I never was any good at playing cards. Well, I borrowed five dollars from Mark Stringham and wired home for some money. My dear wife promptly sent me fifty dollars and I tried to find Mark, but he had already shipped out. But I figured I had his address in my book, and would send it to him when I got home. But looking in my book his name was not in it. In 1992 his name and address showed up in our reunion muster role. I promptly wrote him a letter of apology and sent him his five dollars. He replied that he had not forgotten the five dollars and was still wondering what had happened!

I think I only beat the Champlin back to the states by thirty or forty days so I guess the decision to get off at Okinawa was not the best. Who knows?"

Now, back on board the Champlin for a few more typhoon memories, as recorded on the USS Champlin's web site:

Harry Wilson Cuthbert, Jr. RdM3c wrote: "What about the typhoon off Okinawa. I seem to remember that those swabbies still aboard from those terrible rough days in the North Atlantic were all tied in their racks while some of us calm Pacific cruising types were eating their C-rations."

Francis Charles Koster EM3c remembered: ". . .that sailing back to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, after the typhoon and finding the Quonset huts floating in the bay and the landing crafts beached."

Nathan Robert Lerner TM3c said, "That typhoon off Okinawa-unbelievable!!!

My own memory of the typhoon was having the signal watch on the bridge and unable to be relieved. Assured by the OOD that there would be no visual signals that night, I laid down on the deck in the chartroom. It was a learning experience. I found out the ship could go in thirty different directions simultaneously and that my earlier seasickness was as nothing. During the night I was continually sliding from one place to another in the chartroom as the ship pitched, rolled and yawed. I opened my sleep-filled eyes, looked up to see a brown clad leg lifted to permit me to slide under. It was Lt. Owen F. Keeler, Jr., Exec., at the charts. A kindly man indeed.

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