In the Beginning
Fred boarded Lipan at the ripe old age of 19, hailing from a small New Jersey town where he enjoyed a Tom Sawyer childhood. It was the fall of 1943 right after she had gone through her initial shakedown and he had left Basic Training at Great Lakes, where he was designated a baker. Lipan was green and so were the new guys who came aboard. She was green not only because she was brand new but she was also green because of the dark shade of paint that she was covered with. It had a green hue and the crew nicknamed her "The Green Dragon".
"It didn't take long", writes Fred, "to figure out which old salts were real and which were simply trying to scare us." They worked us hard and in short time we were "ready to kick the crap out of anybody who looked at us sideways." Fred got tagged with the nickname "Joisey" because he was from NJ. By the end of the first week they had gone under the Golden Gate Bridge at least twenty times. Drills, drills, drills .... they went out to sea for fire drills ... they went out to sea for gunnery drills ... they went out to sea for any drill that their skipper could dream up.
The Chief's and the Officers aboard Lipan stayed with them throughout the war but their first skippers had much shorter stays. The first captain was transferred when a barge full of 500 pound bombs that Lipan was towing sprung a leak. They checked the barge with the ship's boat and determined that some bombs had slipped into the sea and decided to bring the tow back into port. They salvaged what remained on the barge but the skipper's command couldn't be salvaged and he was shipped out right after that.
The next skipper didn't fare much better. Fred writes that this Captain had "True Love" tattooed on his knuckles and a pig on one foot and a rooster on the other. He was barrel-chested and it too was covered with tattoos as were both his arms. "He walked around deck with a china cup filled with Torpedo Juice and barked orders at everyone he saw," remembers Fred. He assembled the crew for inspection and told them, "We're headed for the Front and if we come through it all we might get a few medals." Within a few weeks this skipper also was removed because he had fallen sick from all the "Torpedo Juice" he drank and died shortly thereafter. The next skipper was fine and stayed with Lipan throughout World War Two.
We headed for Guadalcanal where there was some action going on but as luck would have it, we ran aground the day before we were to arrive. By this time I was Leading Seaman and the ship's divers asked me to go down with them to check the ship's sonar to see if it was damaged. We wore masks with attached air hoses and belts with 14 pounds of lead to give us neutral bouancy. Once we got under the ship the sonar looked to be okay and the chief diver tapped it to signal the soundman to retract it. He then re-extended the sonar and all seemed fine. We got underway for Guadalcanal and upon arrival found the beaches littered with sunken ships and stranded landing craft.
We first pulled a grounded LST off the beach and then turned out attention to a stuck Troop Ship. We waited for high tide and then yanked them free, as well. Then we got orders for a place called Tulogie .. I'm not sure of the spelling but it sounded like that. It was surreal as we headed up a stream there in our ship's launch and on both sides we saw poles with heads of Japanese soldiers impaled on them. The Japanese treated the islanders harshly and this was payback for the misery they caused.
We left there and headed upstream past Savo Island to Bouganville, the site of a huge volcano and a key airfield. Everyday the Japanese would try to raid and retake the airfield and Admiral Halsey had had his fill of this and ordered a group of Destroyers to lay down a few thousand rounds of 5" shells on the Japanese positions and after that bombardment the airfield was ours for the duration of the war.
Ulithi, Leyte & Okinawa
After Guadalcanal we were sent to Ulithi and from there we went on to Leyte to assist in all the action going on there. The Japanese air raids were constant, sometimes attacking with twenty or more planes. The kamikazes, if they made it through the hail of anti-aircraft fire, crashed into any ship they could single out. Lipan and the other ATFS on scene were busy running about assisting damaged ships and putting out fires. The Cruiser Houston got hit badly in the stern section, killing all hands in that area of the ship, and she started to to go down by the stern. We got a line on her and along with the Arapaho ATF 68 we towed the stricken vessel out of harm's way and then all the way to Manus, where we dropped her off and headed back to San Francisco for a brief shore leave.
We got orders for Okinawa and on the way we dropped off some barges at Pearl Harbor and at Guam. When we hit Okinawa we had no idea of the action we were in store for. Everyday there were air attacks and we put quite a few holes in those planes with our ship's guns, dropping quite a few of them. Our skipper wouldn't let us paint a Japanese plane on our ship unless we shot it down all by ourselves but with all the ammo being expelled by all the ships in the area it was difficult to say who did the actual downing. We spent many days and nights between the attacks performing rescues and fighting fires on the other ships from the planes that got through.