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 Author  Topic: Memories of Vella La Vella
CJ Willis

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of CJ Willis  Posted on: Apr 21, 2008 - 6:46pm
The P.T. Base at Vella La Vella was by far the most premitive of any in the Solomons. I believe Ron 11 opened the base originally. Ron 19 and our boat 242 operated out of Vella La Vella from November 1, 1943 until December 14, 1943 when the fuel dock fire burned the base and P.T. 239. It was then abandoned. Patroling out of Vella La Vella was some of the toughest we encountered. We patroled every other night and sometimes every night. Sleep was always welcome. The invasion of Bougainville was November 1st and we were patroling the southern end of Bougainville and Choisel. The base consisted of one rusty sheet iron building and 3 native grass huts. The building was used for the few spares for the boat, torpedoes and guns. The 3 huts were for storage - one was the armory with all the ammunition. The dock was very small - only one boat could tie up to it and Captain Smith had a strict rule that no more than two boats tied together be at the dock at any one time. The boats fueled from 55 gallon drums. Fueling was done with a gasoline pump set on a drum until pumped empty then moved to the next drum. Water in the fuel was a problem. The gasoline was filtered through the funnel with a chamois sheep skin. It was a slow process - took 2-3 hours to refuel a boat. ( sometimes we would go to the air base at Beloa to refuel) The fuel drum storage of about 600 drums was located in a swamp next to dock area. Fuel was brought in about once a week by LCT. The ramp would be lowered in about waist deep water. All hands including the boat crews not busy would roll the drums out into the water - float them into the swampy storage area and stand them up together. We would load the empties back on the LCT.
The base personnel tents, com tent, officers tents, sick bay, galley etc. was about 200 yds. along a coral path back in the woods. We ate outside the gally in the open under coconut trees on picnic type tables rain or shine. The boat crews ate at the base not on the boats. Food was BAD. It wasn't the cooks fault, they just didn't have much to cook. However on Thanksgiving an APC brought in fresh turkeys. The first fresh meat we had had since our arrival. The cooks fixed a great turkey dinner. The medical officer brought out gallons of Grade A alcohol - poured it in a big pot with grapefruit juice. We filled our canteen cups and enjoyed a good Thanksgiving. Captain Smith called off all patrols for the night.
On Sundays a chaplain from the air base would come up to the P.T. base and conduct services.
Lambu Lambu Cove was small - approx 500 yds deep 300 yds wide but only 50 yds wide at the dock.. All boats berthed around the perimeter. Our 242 boat tied up to mangrove trees that grew out in the water. We rigged a tarp up in the trees over the bow permanently so we could pull right in under it for shade and protection from the rain. We cut the head out of a barrel to catch rain water from the tarp for bathing and washing clothes. In front of the boat we cut some poles and made a deck on the mangrove roots - put a tarp over it - some guys slept there in cots. I slept on the bow of the boat. The 59 gunboat berthed alongside us on the starboard. They had a similiar set up as ours. They left sometime before the fire and gave us all their gear. they had rigged. A couple of days later the 60 gunboat showed up and we had to give it all back.
Most of the officers slept on the beach in tents but Mr. Raney our exec stayed on the boat with the crew. He was an enlisted mans officer. He worked right along with us.
The fuel dock fire which I have written about before on this message board occured about 14:30 on December 14, 1943. It took the lives of two of our comrades and destroyed P.T. 239 The next day we gathered up what was left of the base and moved up to Treasury to operate with Ron 9. The Vella La Vella base was then abandoned. We left the remains of P.T. 239 in the water at the dock. I suppose it is still there.

C. J. Willis

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Gary Szot

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Gary Szot   Send Email To Gary Szot Posted on: Apr 21, 2008 - 7:10pm


CJ Do you know where this picture was taken? Its of the 243 and 244 boat.


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CJ Willis

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of CJ Willis  Posted on: Apr 22, 2008 - 11:12am
Gary: I don't recognize the dock as any in the Solomons. Maybe New Guinea or Philippines. Not base 17 in the Philippines.

C. J. Willis

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EARL RICHMOND

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of EARL RICHMOND  Posted on: Apr 22, 2008 - 1:46pm
CJ hello again your memory seems a lot better than mine.i was on several base forces before i was assigned to ron 5 and pt 108.i was on guadalcanal,rendova, tresury, emirau later samar and leyte,base 17 and ron 12 o n ormoc. the galley top of the hill with a path leading down to the boats that were berthed into and under the trees and brush.we slept in tents and had a foxhole just outside the tent.i had to go on duty about 4 am every day to start chow.we ran out of sugar one time and had to ration it to the men going thru the chow line.you can imagine the reaction when i asked the men did they want the one spoon allowed on their cereal or in their coffee.we were surrounded by anti-aircraft guns(90 MM,i think) and there was one little army guy that came to the base whenever he could.he felt more at home with the navy men than he did with the army guys.boy did they ever light up the sky at night when the japanese planes came over.can u refresh my memory as to which base this was?thanks.as ever, you bring back a lot of memories. we hadraids just about every night.we had barrells to catch the rain and used our helmets to wash out of. thanks earl
p/s also on sterling

earl richmond

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  TED WALTHER

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TED WALTHER   Send Email To TED WALTHER Posted on: Apr 22, 2008 - 2:33pm
Gary;
I believe Wayne sent me this photo before my computer crashed and I think it was taken late 1944 early 1945 and I think the photo was taken at Mindoro P.I.
Talk to you later,
TED


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CJ Willis

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of CJ Willis  Posted on: Apr 23, 2008 - 11:13am
Hi Earl; I was never on Emirau, Leyte or Ormac. The base in Treasury we tied up to huge trees. The limbs overhung out in the water. The chow hall was up the hill from the dock. I don't remember the tents or foxholes because I never stayed on the base only on the boat. You cooks had tough duty trying to please meals for 2 officers and 12 men with no more supplies and equipment than you had to work with. My hat is off to you. I recently talked with Mrs. Knapp, our cooks widow,. I asked her if Bill cooked after the war, she said "not very much" He wound up in the Forest Service in Up-State New York

C. J. Willis

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EARL RICHMOND

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of EARL RICHMOND  Posted on: Apr 23, 2008 - 12:39pm
THANKS cj I THOUGHT IT WAS TREASURY BUT I WAS NOT SURE.
I DID NOT DO MUCH COOKING EITHER AFTER I GOT OUT.NOT TILL ABOUT 11 YEARS AGO WHEN MY WIFE BECAME ILL AND I HAD TO DO IT ALL.SLACKED OFF SOME NOW THAT SHE HAS PASSED ON.GET TIRED OF MY OWN COOKING NOW. EARL

earl richmond

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Thurman

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Apr 30, 2008 - 6:19am
I thought you would like to read this story about my father's "CB" Section at Vella Lavella.

Under enemy fire- 6th Special Seabees, Second Section's Echelon One at Vella La Vella - October 1, 1943 - November 22, 1943

Second Section's Echelon One was called upon to handle cargo for 1stMAC, (First Marine Amphibious Corps) at Vella La Vella. A thirty-day supply of rations, gasoline and oil was to be stocked there. A convoy of LST’s was shipping out from Guadalcanal on September 29, to deliver more supplies and troops to the new staging base, the Sixth would help load it up and discharge it. For the first time the men would be working on an unsecured island. The men were given K-Rations and ammunition. They would go in with full combat equipment. Although the Seabees did not know it, the Japanese ground troops were not a big worry even though they were stubbornly resisting the New Zealand's Third Division's efforts to pocket them in the northwest corner of the island. The major threat was Japanese air attack. Enemy flyers bombed the staging base everyday, clearly the base anti-aircraft defenses and the combat air patrol were inadequate. The Sixth's Echelon One was responsible for loading and unloading LST 460. The trucks and drivers of Company B, First Corps motor transport battalion, a Marine unit, would assist them. Knowing that every minute their LST remained on the beach it was at serious risk of air attack the officers of Echelon One plan loaded the ship so that it could be discharged in a minimum amount of time. They knew that no LST had yet been fully unloaded in the five hours time it was allowed to stay beached at the Vella La Vella staging base, and they were determined to show that it could be done.

In a driving rainstorm on September 29, the seven LST supply convoy left Guadalcanal for Vella La Vella with Echelon One and the Marine truck drivers aboard Large Slow Target 460. At one mile from the beach the LST crews completely un-dogged their doors and ramp and unclutched the ramp motor so that when the brake was released the ramp would fall of its own weight. The men on the deck watched for enemy planes. Navy gunners hung from the straps of their 20mm cannons, eyes skyward. To beef up their anti-aircraft defense, the Sixth men deck loaded the two New Zealand 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft cannons as well as all their own 50 caliber machine gun-equipped 6x6 trucks. A few hundred yards from shore the LST’s dropped their stern anchors and paid out the cables until seconds later they were crunching onto the beach. LST 460 grounded a little short of dry land, but Echelon One was prepared. As soon as their ramp splashed into the surf at 07:15, their bulldozer was disembarking immediately followed by their five-ton tractor crane. As their bulldozer pushed a coral road up to the ramp, the Marine truck drivers on the tank deck waited with their engines idling. After the first trucks rushed out the Seabees installed the LST’s elevator guides and lowered the 40mm cannons to the tank deck where they were attached to their prime movers and driven ashore. The Sixth men wasted no time in getting their own 20mm cannon and truck mounted 50 caliber anti-aircraft guns emplaced in positions ashore.

While their shipmates worked the ship the Seabee gunners stood by their weapons. Inside LST 460 tank deck 32 Stevedores worked at top speed to load the returning trucks. At 09:20, less than two hours after starting, Echelon One completed unloading their LST. The now empty LST 460 pumped out its ballast and prepared to haul in its stern anchor cable and retract from the beach. The Seabees began dispersing into the jungle, where they would dig their foxholes. LST 448, beached a half mile north of Echelon One, was still unloading. Marines had charge of the operation and it was not proceeding as quickly as it should have. Echelon One sent a work detail to assist discharging LST 448. At 09:30, a large force of Japanese fighters and dive-bombers raided the staging area. One veteran recalled how he was walking on the beach to retrieve his rifle and gear and saw a ‘V’ formation of about sixteen aircraft come out of the sun. He first thought they were allied planes, but the sudden cry "air raid" and the formation's nosing over into a dive convinced him otherwise. The Seabees and Marines ran for the cover of the jungle as the anti-aircraft guns on ship and shore sputtered to life. Some men fired their rifles at the incoming planes. Two Japanese dive-bombers swept down and released their payloads on LST 448. The men watched helplessly as the bombs fell into the beached ship. Their was a muffled explosion and the Sixth men could feel the ground tremble from the force of the blast though the exploding ship was half a mile away. Seconds after the impact of the bombs, the Sixth men took to their feet running down the beach toward LST 448. When Japanese fighters swept in and strafed the beach the 20 or so running Seabees dived into the jungle for cover, re-emerging to continue their dash as the enemy fighters passed. The Japanese planes bombed the dispersal areas too, wounding many among the work parties and gun crews. LST 448 was a twisted burning wreck when the Seabees got to her. Ammunition was exploding in her hold and magazines. Marines were helping the wounded, assisted by the Sixth's medical officer who stayed on board throughout the afternoon despite the fires, exploding ordinance and a second attack. Many men were wounded. Of the work detail the Sixth had dispatched before the raid, eight men were wounded by shrapnel, two seriously, and another could not be found at all. Though he was listed as missing in action, it was clear two days later, when 21 unidentified bodies were pulled out of the wreckage, that Echelon One had lost one of its own.

The Sixth's first experience under fire was costly, but the men did not lose their sangfroid. They dug foxholes near their work area on the beach and waited for the next supply echelon to land. The Japanese attacked intermittently throughout the day and into the night, until about 22:30. The second Japanese air strike came at 10:00 at Ruravai about two miles up the beach from where the Sixth landed and LST 334 had still not finished discharging its cargo. It sat on the shore as an inviting target. The Japanese hit it with a bomb but fortunately the damage was light. As the enemy planes swarmed over the beachhead, one Val dive bomber came hurtling across the cove at a very low altitude only to find cannon fire from the Sixth's 20mm anti-aircraft gun slamming into its nose. As the crippled plane reached the far end of the cove it suddenly exploded into pieces and fell into the sea. Later in the day the airsols (air solomoms command), combat air patrol was on station above the staging base, and they helped deflect the worst of a 60-plane raid. Some enemy bombers still got through, and LST 448 was hit again. For the Japanese pilots there was no mistaking where the beachhead was as long as smoke belched out of the burning LST 448. In the last raid of the day the Japanese scored again, destroying 5 heavy trucks and two jeeps. The violence of the air attacks on Vella La Vella that continued, vividly illustrated for Echelon One the importance of anti-¬aircraft guns. While on the island the Sixth set about acquiring more 20mm cannon .50 caliber machine guns, and trained men in their operation when there was spare time. The corps staging area on Vella La Vella was considered secured by October 8. Air raids continued but the anti-aircraft defenses were by then beefed up. During Echelons One's seven and a half weeks on Vella, their gunners were part of the bases anti-aircraft defense.



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newsnerd99

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Apr 30, 2008 - 8:47am
Hey Gary! That's one of my grandfather's pictures; It's the 243 and 244 on a post-Palawan "hey how ya doin'" mission to Romblon Island, PI late in the war (April 1945?).




I'm pretty sure they were operating out of Mangarin Bay at the time...it was nearby.

The locals brought them a slew of bananas to take back with them:



Grandson of James J Stanton
RON 15 PT 209 and RON 23 PT 243
Check out: www.pistolpackinmama.net

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Frank J Andruss Sr

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Frank J Andruss Sr   Send Email To Frank J Andruss Sr Posted on: Apr 30, 2008 - 10:31am
I just love that shot of the guys with the Bananas. They seem so happy with their loot. Hey, those were great items to have. Not many Bananas on the boats I bet. I wonder if those same guys like Bananas today. How lucky we are to have so much food within reach. We take for granted that it will always be available to us. Most of us never dealt with not having good food to eat. The PT BOAT boys in the Pacific sure did not have great food that's for sure..........


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