Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the guytons

The following letter was sent to me from my aunt, Mrs. Jennie Llew Guyton, back in April of 1998. It’s a wonderful telling. Last year, Jennie Llew sent me my uncle Guytie's (Clarence Lee Guyton) service hat, as well as his discharge from the United States Army... I have the hat in a prominent place in my studio downstairs. I was just a child when he died, but I remember my uncle Guytie. I wish that I had a picture of him to share with you. This is a long letter Jennie Llew and I didn’t omit a word of it. This post might be a bit much for those who are not related, but to those who are, this is filled with plenty of interesting family history.

Dr. Clarence Lee Guyton, Jr came to Cheraw when I was in high school. He practiced medicine there and later, when I was at Columbia College, he moved to Monroe, N.C. (25 miles from Charlotte).
The surgeon at the Ellen Fitzgerald Hospital there in Monroe had cancer and realizing he couldn’t live long, came to Cheraw to ask Guytie to come take over for him. He had heard that Guytie had had training in surgery. So Guytie moved there. All this was during the Depression – the early 30’s. While there a year or so, we were married, in October 1935, in our church in Cheraw.
Later when the hospital became embroiled in politics, which Guytie couldn’t stand, we moved down to Chesterfield, S.C. (12 miles from Cheraw) – Guytie opened a practice there and I enjoyed the little town 0 near home. I did lots of singing n the churches and for women’s afternoon club meetings and civic affairs.
But 00 Dr. Wyman (South Carolina State Health Commissioner) came to Chesterfield and begged Guytie to join the South Carolina Department of Health – and he did. They assigned him the position of Medical Director for Colleton County and we lived in Walterboro, SC, a nice town only 40 miles from Charleston. We loved it. Guytie enjoyed the work and I drove around to the country schools with him when he went to vaccinate the school children. I took the crippled children once a week to clinics at the Charleston hospitals. I did loads of singing there, too, and we made many good friends.
Guytie did such good work there and was so highly respected. The state senator wrote Dr. Wyman who was considering moving us to Columbia. He gave him a glowing recommendation – unbeknownst to Guytie. Later a letter came from Dr. Wyman, asking Guytie to move to Columbia to establish the first Cancer Control Division of the South Carolina Department of Health.

So- we moved to Columbia, lived here a year, then, the state sent him to Boston to study cancer at Harvard. Since the medical part of Harvard is in Boston (near the hospitals, of course, and the rest of Harvard is across the Charles River over in Cambridge (naturally, we lived in Boston near the medical school. We were there a full school year and had not been there but a few weeks when I discovered that the New England Conservatory of Music was only seven blocks down the street, towards downtown Boston. I immediately enrolled and studied there that year – two lessons per week and had access to the practice rooms, which I used most every day except when I was attending functions such as “The Harvard Dames”, an organization of graduate student’s wives (who) received special invitations and faculty wives.
Guytie received his masters in Public Health degree there in May – on top of his B.S. from College of Charleston, Medical degree from Medical College of South Carolina and internships in New York City at Bellevue Hospital and a hospital on Staten Island (Seaside, I think it was called back then). Guytie also interned at Florence Infirmary, Florence, SC before coming to Cheraw. This was, of course, his early training. He graduated from Bailey Military Institute in Greenwood, SC (no longer in existence) before his father, also and M.D. and for whom he was named, sent him to College of Charleston. We stayed for the elaborate graduation at Harvard – I felt like we were at Oxford University instead of the United States. It was all in Latin!
We came back home to Columbia in May and lived in Singley Apartments and were there almost a year when we bought a house on Trenholm Road. Before we bought the house, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (December 1941). Ainsworth was at University of South Carolina as a senior and Murdoch had graduated and was working for T.V.A.
Guytie received his commission as a Captain and, despite this, bought the house on Trenholm Road, right off of Gervais – thinking we’d have a place to store our furniture and, if all went well, we’d have a home to come back to after the war. He was stationed at first at Fort Jackson - then was sent to Carlisle, PA., the army training ground for medics. Later we were stationed in Salina, Kansas, almost the geographical center of the United States. Brrrrr! (I thought Boston was cold, but Kansas was bitter, and different! It was while there that Guytie was promoted to Major.
After Kansas, Guytie was assigned to Washington, DC to the Surgeon General’s Office which, at that time, was in downtown Washington. We rented a room out near Walter Reed Hospital. They soon sent Guytie to Walter Reed where he took a course in tropical medicine and received his degree – another one! We attended that graduation ceremony, also. Then, off to Florida for more training – for 2-3 weeks. I went home (Cheraw) and stayed during this time. Then, he was stationed in New Orleans – After arriving there, he called me and told me to get on the train in Hamlet, NC (18 miles over the line into NC from Cheraw) and come on to New Orleans. I got ready immediately for I know he’d gotten orders to go to the Pacific Theater of Operations.
I stood up all the way – the train was so jammed with soldiers and mothers with babies, etc. Couldn’t bend legs to even sit on a suit-case! There were air-conditioning and heaters back then but not in homes till 1950’s. The air conditioner on the train was broken! Terrible trip! I prayed with every revolution of the wheels that Guytie wouldn’t have to go. And, when I fell off the train, exhausted, he said, “I don’t have to go. My orders have been changed. We’re going back to Washington, DC!!!
We went back to Washington and Guytie was assigned again to the Surgeon General’s Office which was still downtown. We went back out where we’d rented before. Guytie found out about apartments (new) being built to house Army & Navy officers and their families over in Alexandria, VA., we looked at them and rented one. By this time Guytie had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. They moved the Surgeon General’s Office to the Pentagon which was more convenient to where we lived. Murdoch was sent home from overseas first and found our apartment in the night one night; there, later, when Ainsworth came home on his crippled ship (Murdoch came on the Queen Mary), he came to our apartment too. They were glad to be almost home and back in the USA. And we were glad they were back in one piece in the USA.
Rutha was visiting us when peace was declared – and Guytie and Rutha and I went to the wrought iron fence of the White House for the big celebration. It was interesting being in Washington during that time and especially, with news popping all the time. You see, we were there when Roosevelt died down at Warm Springs, GA and, of course, when Truman took over and dropped the BOMB that ended the whole mess!
After the war, we moved back to Columbia where Guytie resumed his work with the Department of Health. He headed several agencies of it and later was made Assistant Medical Director for the South Carolina State Department of Health. We had sold the Trenholm Road house during the war and rented and apartment again at the Singley.
In December of 1960 we moved to 322 Wateree Avenue into our new house. Guytie had a heart condition but enjoyed his new home for four years till he died in October 1964. A fountain was erected in his memory and is in front of the present State Health Department building on Bull Street here in Columbia.

Friday, April 25, 2008

happy birthday mother

Sunday is my mom's birthday. Don and Jennie are in town and all of the family will be meeting up at a local restaurant late Saturday afternoon for an extravaganza in her honor. I am looking forward to it.

The above photo was taken during Mom and Dad's honeymoon. I believe mom said that this picture was taken upon arrival at Cheraw, SC. Mom said that Dad drove her all over the place after they got married...huge-long road trip. Seems to me there would be more enjoyable things to do during a honeymoon than a state to state trip in a car without A/C. Oh well, what ever floats your boat.
It was a job at The Gadsden Times that brought Dad to town in the early fifties. He was a graduate of Mercer Law School and it was Frank Helderman, SR that hired the young legal eagle. Mother at the time worked as a receptionist for The Gadsden Times and Dad would pass her desk every day while heading to his office upstairs at the old Times building. The Gadsden Times in those days had a great deal of offices upstairs- dad's faced Broad Street. Anyway, Dad asked mom out one day and the rest is Finlayson history.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Boomerville, USA

The old fashioned way of treating ADHD

Michael has inspired me with his new Monsters-R-Us blog. I've just launched yet another blog at http://boomervilleusa.blogspot.com/. Don't leave this one though, http://burruss.blogspot.com/ will remain my regular and most frequent blog. Boomerville, USA is a place to visit from time to time for a little fun and baby-boomer nostalgia.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

today is tax freedom day

Tax Freedom Day is the first day of the year in which a nation as a whole has theoretically earned enough income to fund its annual tax burden. - Wikipedia

I was listening to Paul Harvey (Ron Chapman filling in) today. He said that the American taxpayer pays more in taxes than we do for food, clothing, and housing combined. I mentioned what I had heard from Ron this morning to Gina and she said, "Why isn't somebody doing something about this?" You've got me Gina...you've got me.

My bookkeeper told me last year that "if you can pay your taxes - you can stay in business." It's the truth. It's amazing what a small business has to pay out in local, state and federal taxes. The government has become the biggest obstacle for the survival of small business.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

look ma - four hands!

Time for a musical interlude.

Monday, April 21, 2008


David, I did not get to see the damage to this area before our captain (Lt. Charles Haslup) directed me to go to the flotilla communications message center at Deptford and stop the death message before it reached my parents in Cheraw, SC. Just before this, I had been told (either by the captain or some of the crew) that Bill McRae, who slept in the bunk just below mine in our stateroom, was one of two officers of our ship who were killed. I was believed to have been the third officer. Two bodies had been removed from my stateroom. There was shock after shock to me in every direction. Moreover, the captain or some of the crew took me over to one of the buildings at Deptford (I would guess that Dick Braman was with us, and perhaps as dazed as I) to view the corpses of the dead officers and enlisted personnel on the LST 312.

Afterwards, I began my immediate search unaccompanied to where our captain had instructed me to go and get that death message regarding me halted. Everything is as foggy as it can be in my memory at this point, but one of the most ironical experiences of my lifetime occurred when my storekeeper older brother, Murdoch, approached me. along my way. He was a part ot our amphibious flotilla (the same to which our LST had been designated as convoy flagship), and that land-based half of our flotilla organization had been moved from down near Plymouth up to London's Deptford area. I don't think he really knew that our ship had been struck, but we obviously were greatly excited and glad to see each other again. The two of us found our way to where I was supposed to go, and ended up sending a telegraph message to our parents. It stated: "Ignore any message you may receive regarding me. Am well and with Murdoch. Not a scratch on me." (More later, David)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

dead man walking

On the day after the German robot bomb struck our LST and others moored alongside it at the Deptford dock, Dick Braman and I returned - in absolute shock - to see the superstructures of the two outboard LSTs as a mass of twisted and mutilated steel, hardly recognizable to either of us. I don't, at my present age (87), recall where Braman's stateroom was, but mine was the rear stateroom for officers on the port side of the ship. I shared it with the ship's first lieutenant (Lt. j.g.) Bill McRae. Officers' quarters had been on both starboard and port sides of these vessels, but what had happened in our overnight liberty period was simply startling and unbelievable.

Some of our ship's crew were still alive, but their dazed expressions said a lot to us. One or two of them looked at me, and said to me ". You've beem reported as dead." We were all standing aboard the main deck just forward of what was once the superstructure (that part constructed above the main deck that included the officers quarters, wardroom (dining area for captain and officers), galley (officers kitchen),a yeoman's stateroom (office), head (toilet for officres). The commanding officers and executive officers of LSTs, of course, had separate staterooms from the other officer personnel. Above these living quarters, etc. were the operational portions of these ships (the wheelhouse for the helmsman), radiomen in "radio shacks", navigational operations rooms. Further topside (or above) this level was a rather large deck for the quartermasters and signalmen, and an enclosed conning tower for the captain or the duty officer of the
deck. (I surely trust that my memory has served me right since my release from active duty back in March, 1950). Below the superstructure of the damaged ships were the crews' quarters where separate galley facilities and living accommodartions for up to 125 to 130 enlisted personnel were located.

David, I did not get to see the damage to this area before our captain (Lt. Charles Haslup) directed me to go to the flotilla communications message center at Deptford and stop the death message before it reached my parents in Cheraw, SC. (More later from this point)


Friday, April 18, 2008

Abbott and Costello - Math

Unfortunately...I can relate all to well with Lou Costello when it comes to math.

My favorite line of this bit -
Bud: "Didn't you go to school stupid?"
Lou: "Yeah, I came out the same way."

I'm playing for Aroma Fridays tonight. Bruce had to back out. I'll get him to do another Aroma in the near future. You all have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

a tidbit of info

I spoke with Pat yesterday. He was delighted to have recieved the photographs from Mr. Creekmore. Pat indicated that he did not remember LST-981 being there but thought that the other ship might have arrived while he was on shore leave. He also recalled that the 312 and 384 were positioned differently and it made sense that the damaged ships might have needed to have been moved out of the way. It is possible that the photos were taken of the three ships in a different location.

Pat mentioned during the phone conversation that the officers and the crew were relocated to a rest camp for two to three weeks after the bombing. He said that the officers were kept with the crew to watch over them. Pat said he was later temporarily assigned to another LST but couldn't recall the ship. It wasn't long before he was back on the 312 - to take her back on a slow voyage for repairs.


For the complete story of Rev. Edward W. McElduff, please read the entire story published in the Morning Call. Rev. McElduff was aboard one of the LSTs the day of the buzz bomb attack. I urge you to go to the site and read the rest of his story. I did not include all that relates to his LST and that day in Deptford, England. Reading another man's account will give you a clearer picture of that day. -David

They had tied us up at a place called Deptford on the Thames River. It could only accommodate two ships. There was another LST alongside of us, so close you could step across to it. The Germans were using buzz bombs, V-1 rockets, or "Doodlebugs." They were a frightening thing. You'd hear the engine roar, then it would suddenly stop, and you'd wait a couple of seconds, because that was when it was falling with its ton of explosives. We were in what was called Doodlebug Alley, one of the bombs' major routes. They were dropping all around us, day and night, coming out of nowhere. So this one night in July or early August, I was the only officer aboard, because I was the officer of the deck. The crew was in their quarters below. The officer of the deck on the other ship had been in my Officer Candidate School class at Northwestern University. His name was John something, I can't remember. It was about 11 and we were talking, and I said, "I'm gonna get a cup of coffee," and he said, "Well, I'm gonna check something," and he went to check it. I had just left the galley, where I went for the coffee, when a buzz bomb dropped right on the aft part of John's ship. The blast blew me down a passageway about 30 feet, and I was reaching out to try to stop myself from going over the side. My back hit the railing, making my injury from D-Day worse. I grabbed onto the railing. A fire started over the ammunition. I was badly hurt -- my spinal column is wrecked from that -- but I had to get the fire out. The crew was trapped down below, so I worked while they were freeing themselves. I got the hose unfurled and the water going, and by then the guys had cleared themselves out. So they took over fighting the fire, and I went over to the other ship to see what I could do about casualties. The captain was aboard that ship, but his quarters were pretty well blown open. I heard groaning and had to get some debris off him. I tried to pull him back, because I was afraid more debris was going to fall on him. But I couldn't find any substance to him. The concussion was so much, his bones were shattered into small pieces. When I held him, it was like holding a soft mass. He looked like a rubber man. I didn't want him to die without someone there with him. Within three minutes, he died in my arms. The next thing I remember, I looked at the life raft on my ship and saw parts of my friend's body on it. I assumed it was John, because he had been standing with me and I hadn't seen anybody else. I took my utility knife out and scraped his remains off of the life raft into a paper bag. Anything I could find of him, I put in the bag.I didn't want to leave him on the raft.Someone came up to help me, and I said, "No I'll do it, I want to do it myself. "What I intended to do with the remains, I don't know, probably drop them over the side. I might have done that. It would have been a logical thing. The rise and fall of the Thames River is rather remarkable, so the remains would have ultimately gone out to sea. That would have been appropriate. But I had a great deal of pain, and I think it was overwhelming me. After I got done scraping, I put the knife back in my belt. And then I blacked out.
....After the buzz bomb hit and I was hurt the second time, I went up to London and stopped at an American Army hospital. They gave me a shot and some painkillers.Our LST was wrecked, it had no power. We were towed back to the States, across the Atlantic in tandem with another LST by a seagoing tug called the Choctaw. It took 37 days. There were dead rats in our water, so it was contaminated, so we had no water. We got the desalinization machinery working enough to keep body and soul together. We lived in filth. If you wanted to bathe, you had to throw a bucket over the side and just clean yourself off with sea water. The British had given us some rations, which were horrible. A lot of it we had to throw over the side because it wasn't edible. In New York, the ship was repaired. Then we went out to the Pacific, and that was kind of uneventful because the war had wound down. Click here to read the entire article at Morning Call.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

LST-981 in August

A few months following the Deptford gliderbomb hit the 312 & 384 - the USS LST-981 was damaged by a mine off Cherbourg - 50°45'N, 00°43'E on August 16, 1944.

"Here on the 3rd she loaded Army equipment and British troops proceeding to Area Zebra, off Isle of Wight on the 5th. On the 6th at 0035 she was en route across the English Channel to Beach King, Area Gold, Normandy, France when the LST-981, abeam and to starboard of her, struck a mine. " - U.S Coast Gaurd USS LST-176 Log

day at deptford

A heartfelt thank you to Wynne L. Creekmore, Jr for sending me four images of the buzz bomb damage at Deptford. Mr. Creekmore's father was the Captain of USS LST-384. It was kind of him to mail copies of these images to Uncle Pat, who I know will be very excited to find them in his mail box. I scanned them into PhotoShop and did a little clean up. Click on the ship names to read more about about each LST at the navsource.org site. USS LST-384 USS LST-312 USS LST-981

The above crewman unknown, more than likely this was taken aboard LST-384. Pat said that the bomb did a good bit more damage to the 384 that was moored closely aside LST-312.

The Invasion of France and Germany
Author: Samuel Eliot Morison
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
IV. Miscellaneous Bases / Page 61

"Deptford, on the Thames below London, established February 1944. Advanced amphibious maintenance base, especially for LST and other beaching craft from the Mediterranean for assignment to the British follow-up force for NEPTUNE; 25 officers and 425 men by 1 May. Owing to the location, this base was exposed to frequent enemy bombings, but on 1 June was able to report that the 38 American LST attached to Force “L” were 100 per cent operational. It became a main target for German V-1 bombs on and after 13 June. LST-312 and LST-384, when moored abreast, received a direct hit on 8 July, were heavily damaged and lost 14 men killed and 11 badly wounded."

Monday, April 14, 2008

an LST loaded

The above image is the upper deck of a loaded Landing, Ship Tank.
Below is the tank deck of the LST.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

LST-312 piggy-back piggy-back

LST-312 at HRPE Newport News VA, between Piers 5 and 6, 16 April 1943 with LCT-420 (Landing Craft Tank) loaded on deck. Note the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel aka: Higgins Boat) loaded in LCT-420's well-deck. Original source of this image is from The Library of Virginia US Army Signal Corps Photograph Collection.

About the Higgins Boat: General Eisenhower said of Andrew Jackson Higgins, “He is the man who won the war for us.” Without Higgins’ landing craft the Normandy Invasion and other large Allied amphibious operations would not have been possible. Ike also said, "If Andy Higgins hadn't designed and built these landing craft, we never could have gone in over an open beach. I don't know how we ever would have gotten back into Europe."

"Those Higgins boats may have won the war for us, but every man who went in on one hated them. They were flat-bottomed, they did this in the waves, the gunnels were only 6 feet high, the waves were washing over. Everybody was seasick -- everybody. The decks were just awash in vomit. There was no place to sit down on these boats. They were like sardines packed into them, and everybody was sick." - Stephen Ambrose

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

day with the ducks

April 1943, a DUKW is being loaded aboard the USS LST-312. The guys that road these DUKWs called them Sitting Ducks. Basically, it was a 2 1/2 ton (deuce and a half) GMC truck with a hull and a propeller. They are very slow in the water. A few year ago Gina, Katie and I took a ride on one at Chattanooga Ducks. The captain of the craft even let Katie behind the wheel while venturing around MacClellan Island. I highly recommend the experience. The hour long tour starts driving the streets of historic downtown Chattanooga and the rest of the tour is on the river.
D = 1942;
U = Utility (Amphibian);
K = Front Wheel Drive;
W = Two rear driving axles.

Ducks come from DUKW, a military acronym that designated the vehicle as amphibious military personnel carriers. DUKW's were created following the attack on Pearl Harbour as a means to transport supplies from ships to areas that did not have port facilities. DUKW's were first used operationally in Europe during the invasion of Sicily. Nearly 90% of all supplies came in by DUKW on the vital second and third days of the invasion. D-Day brought a force of 2000 DUKW's to the Normandy coasts. The fleet was an essential element in the strategic surprise of the enemy, which assumed the Allies needed a port to make an effective landing. Considered to be one of the most successful amphibious vehicles ever made, there were ultimately over 21,000 produced by a work force consisting mainly of women working in the war effort.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

LST-312 waiting to load

LST-312 at HRPE (Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation) Newport News, VA, 16 April 1943, waiting to load DUKWs and self-propelled artillery. Photograph source from The Library of Virginia US Army Signal Corps Photograph Collection. This image was found on-line at www.navsource.org.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A+ for Sara

Pat told me that my niece Sara Noojin had written a report a few years back. Again, some of this information repeats what I've already posted but there's something to glean from her writing. I am glad that Dan and Florrie Noojin still had a copy of the following essay still on their hard drive. -David

Patillo Ainsworth Finlayson, born in Cheraw, South Carolina, served in both World War II and the Korean War. He served on active duty in World War II during the years of 1942 until 1946. He was then later called back for service in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.

Finlayson acted as a Naval Reserve officer and later took part in a 60-day training on the campus of Princeton University to become an ensign.

When asked what his responsibilities and duties were during the war, he stated, “The urgency and demand for our nation to reach a war readiness posture before another enemy attack, such as the Japanese launched at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, required quick preparation of manpower and equipment.” He was assigned to the LST 312, built at Naval Shipyards earlier, in the years the country had just begun to fight in the war. He was one of the eight officers on board the landing ship tank. His job was over quartermasters, radiomen, and signalmen – communications officer.

Being a part of the LST 312 required extra months of training for the eight officers and approximately 100 crewmen. The training took place in Norfolk, VA at the Little Creek Amphibious Training Site from the month of January until the month of April in 1943. They then joined other LSTs and naval vessels in New York City. They all headed for North Africa on May 1, 1943.

Finlayson and the men landed in Arzew, Algeria. From there they worked at transporting troops and equipment from larger ships onto a beach in Sicily. “LST 312 experienced many near misses from shore batteries before paratroopers and cruiser fire were able to silence the guns. A near miss on the fantail caused damage to the ship’s stern and turned the stern anchor over, eventually causing the ship to broach on the beach.” During this time of being on the beach, they were, at times, under direct attacks. At one point, the LST 313, only several hundred yards away, was hit and burned. Much later than night, the LST 312 was towed to the anchorage area and went on transporting more troops and equipment.

One of Finlayson’s most memorable experiences was the opportunity of attending a show in which Bob Hope appeared with Frances Langford, and Jerry Colonna in a live comedy performance.

While all these events were taking place in North Africa, his family at home was sending him letters and coca cola. He learned about what his brothers were doing while he was away. One brother, Murdoch Finlayson, was a Navy storekeeper who eventually rose to be Chief Warrant Officer. Finlayson was hardly ever separated from his brother, who served in the same Navy Flotilla as the LST 312.

Finlayson and the other men aboard the LST 312, sailed to England and landed in Fowey. They stayed there for several months in the European Theater of Operations. On June 5th, the convoy sailed through rough seas to Normandy, France. At one time during the trip, a U.S. Patrol Squadron turned over three or four of the highest-ranking German Army and Navy prisoners-of-war to the LST 312 captain. They, as well as hundreds of other German soldiers, were taken into captivity.

Finlayson and the other men were ordered in July of 1944 to sail to London to a British repair depot. The Germans had, at this point, begun launching robot buzz bombs across the English Channel. Finlayson stated, “It was a spectacular sight to see British aircraft shooting down as many of those so-called ‘buzz bombs’ as they could strike.” They received a direct hit within the first two or three days of their arrival at Deptford. He described it by saying, “It twisted and curled our superstructure beyond one’s imagination. Both LSTs sustained incredible damage, but worse of all was the number of dead and wounded.” Six men enlisted were lost and two officers. “I would certainly not have been alive today to tell this if I had not been ashore in London for the overnight period this incident occurred. “ he said. “ Our officers had drawn straws on the day of our arrival to determine the liberty schedule during the time we were to be there.” After his services in the war, he finished his career at Warner Robin’s Air Force Base as an historian.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

a 60 day wonder

USS LST-312 Launched December 30, 1942
Commissioned January 99, 1943

Pat called late this afternoon. I took some notes but didn't take as much as I should've. He went over the email he sent me yesterday. There's a lot more to come in the coming months, mostly pieces to a puzzle that I'll fit together in chronological order when I feel I've gathered enough history to tie the strings together. This blog has been helpful in gathering email, and posting my Google findings. Please bare with me, I am posting everything find out there on the world wide web. If there are inconsistencies, I hope to iron them out in time. Take for instance the rocket bomb incident in Deptford, England. There are some sources that state that it was a V1 that hit the USS LST-312 and other sources state that a V2 was the culprit. I'm going to just keep posting and researching and see what comes of the venture. I welcome those who've Googled themselves to this blog - those who have stumbled across me online while searching for the wake of their father's ship. I welcome your input, your correction, your submission, your much welcomed connection, your piece to this story's telling.

Pat spoke today of his earliest days in the war. As mentioned in an earlier post, Pat went to Navy officers training corps at Princeton (N.J.). Pat said that because of the rush to get officers to the front, he was what you would call a 60 day wonder (as opposed to the 90 day wonders). That's right, Pat went in the front door and came out two months later an Ensign. Pat said that promptly upon graduation, he was charged to the newly built USS LST-312. Newly built was right - Pat arrived to find workmen at the ship's ramp and workmen aboard the ship still riveting her together.

Upon boarding the LST-312, Pat met a handful of other wonders. A ranking officer was there telling who was going to be who and what who was going to be doing where. The officer in charge asked Pat what was his major in college. Pat told him that his major was in journalism. The officer told Lt. Patillo Ainsworth Finlayson that he was now the ship's Communications Officer - yep, just like that! So Pat was over all the ships communications, from the signal man to radioman. As mentioned in an earlier entry, Pat's final rank was that of Lieutenant Commander.

Pat said that they all fell into the routine of keeping watch four hours at a time. They were 'on" four hours and were "off" eight. Sailors enjoyed mail call and uncle Pat was no exception. He enjoyed getting news from home via V-Mail (Victory Mail). He said that he would sometime receive the occasional care package of a six pack of six ounce Coca-Colas from one of his sisters. I meant to ask him if it was Rutha that sent him the Cokes. Aunt Rutha couldn't go a day without a Coke.

Pat said the his older brother, Chief Warrant Officer, Murdoch was in the same flotilla (not on the same ship) that Pat was. James Murdoch Finlayson had a real important job...he was the guy that wrote the paychecks for the fleet. I'm sure he got a lot of love and respect from everyone. Anyway, Pat said that Murdoch was in the same flotilla during both the North Africa Campaign and the Normandy Invasion. There were times when Murdoch would visit Pat, and if docked, would go and have coffee or lunch together. Pat said that he went to visit Murdoch at his office while the 312 was moored at Deptford. I know that was nice to spend time with a brother - being so far away from home.

Regarding the Deptford bombing - the officers drew straws to see who would stay aboard ship on watch and who would get liberty. It was that luck of the draw that Pat got off the ship the day the rocket bomb hit the 312 - hit right over his stateroom, killing his friend. I believe it was the day that Pat had ventured toward Piccadilly Circus with Lt. Braman, (from Connecticut).

Pat, please correct me via blog comment or e-mail if I am wrong.

We covered various ground today and I will post more tidbits as I rehash the phone conversation in my head. I know that I am being a little redundant with some of the information in these posts. Sometimes I may retell an event, just to add a new piece. Please indulge me, as I am pulling it all together and sometimes you have to move the same factoid around on the table in order to positon into the correct context and moment.

Final Preparations

The following information found at a site dedicated to Wilmon (Bill) W. Worth, JR, who served on USS LST-493.

"On Saturday, April 22, 1944 LST-493 became the Group 28 LST Flotilla flagship per Secret letter Serial No. 50-125-44 dated 21 April and Confidential Sailing Order 50E435 from C in C Plymouth, England. Accompanied by U.S.S. LSTs 17, 30, 47, 264, and 503, the ship joined Task Unit 123.1.1 with L. F. Teuscher, Commander, USN, aboard as C.T.U. At the rendezvous, LSTs 73, 75, 25, 229, and 279 formed into two columns in route to Weymouth. At 2218 the anchor was dropped with other ships in Weymouth Road, Weymouth, England. No bearings or landmarks were available due to total blackout conditions. Several days passed as many other U.S. and British ships dropped anchor near the convoy. April 27, Secret letter 28/A4-3 was received from Commander Group 28 dated 27 April 1944, Serial No. 009. Per orders, the convoy proceeded to The Solent, Isle of Wight, England. LSTs 279, 229, 44, 52, 345, 344, 370, 308, 312, 21, 72, 17, 264, 73, 30, 503, 287, 280, and 25 got underway on various courses and speeds conforming to the channel under Material Condition X-ray, cruising condition III. The 493 passed through the nets to the Solent off the Isle of Wight and let go anchor at 2150. Two days later, 493 got underway and moored at Sugar Two Dock, Southampton, England to take on board 5 officers, 68 enlisted personnel and 32 vehicles of various Royal British Army groups. Included were the 346 Co. RASC Infantry Brigade, 522 Co. RASC Infantry Brigade, 186 Field Ambulance, 8 Durham Lt. Infantry, 9 Durham Lt. Infantry, 25 Lt. A.A.R. Artillery, 120 Lt. A.A.R. Artillery, 102 Anti-tank Battery R. Artillery, 233 Field Co. Royal Engineers, 35 Field Dressing Station, and 980 Squadron 54 B. Flight Balloon Unit.On May 4, the convoy got underway per Top Secret Orders Operation Plan One Letter LST Group 28/A2-11/A4-3 dated May 1, to Hayling Island, England. The 493 was Task Unit Commander for five other LSTs, 344, 308, 287, 30, and 279. All ships were streaming Barrage Balloons on 100 feet of wire rope and were bound for amphibious maneuvers."

I found USS LST-312 listed among Convoy MKS.31.

Pat's E-mail 04/02/2007

David, I chose to compose this one to you, rather than do it as a reply; because you really amazed me by such quick responses to some of the most troubling questions I've had about my experiences aboard our LST since I was detached from duty aboard it back in, I believe, April, 1945. What were these "troubling"

First, whatever became of the German general, said to have been the senior officer commanding the military forces at Normandy in the temporary absence of General Rommel, who was said to have been somewhere in Germany for his wife's birthday? Our chief quartermaster kept a personal diary (or log) that identified the captured general as von Schlieben, and I don't recall off hand the admiral's name or whether it was entered in the log. I'll re-check to see. Thank you, David, for your unbelievably quick action in obtaining a color photo of General von Schlieben from some of your sources, as published in your blog. It has taken me some 64 years for what you have accomplished in just a few hours.

Second, what was the name of a lone German prisoner, who was brought aboard the LST 312 for transfer back to England on another of our shuttle round trips? My curiosity had me walking up to the bow of our main deck where the prisoner stood surrounded by the guards. I looked at him, and surprisingly he said, in his German accent "Max Schmeling - twelve rounds!" Our guards and myself quickly shouted to him "Joe Louis - one round!" This is one incident I have told over and over, for it was my first and only conversation with a prisoner-of-war.

David, guess which one of your published blog stories gives me the answer to my second question above? Many, many thanks for this one, too.

I told you that a group of U.S. Army Rangers (2nd Ranger Battalion) met a bunch of our ship's officers near the open bow doors of the LST 312 (I was among our officers, curiously and excitedly looking on). Our ship was in the process of receiving the captured German general and admiral, who had been in charge of all the enemy forces during the Normandy landings. There were hundreds of German troops (captured, of course) heavily under guard to walk up the incline ramp at the bow doors of our LST. The general's name I gave to you, but I'll have to refer to my memorabilia documents to identify the admiral. I don't put it past you to get as much on him, as well.

Must stop and go to supper.
Thank you Pat! I am very proud of you - David

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Good The Bad The Ugly

For those of you who loved the man with no name. The Spaghetti Western Orchestra!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Berry Merry Christmas

David, George E. Berry, Jr was our very likeable Executive Officer on our return to the USA. Yes, I remember he hailed from Greenburg, PA. He reported aboard our ship just a month or so before I and two others of our original officer assignees were detached from the ship on which we had been serving since its commissioning date in Jan., 1943. Each one of us was reassigned to our respective home Naval District . I was so happy to get back to my home state of South Carolina and to be in Charleston at the time the war ended.- in August, 1945.

Incidentally, Lieutenant Berry, Lt. j.g. Dick Braman, and myself were the three wise men on a Christmas Day party aboard our LST 312 on that memorable return crossing of the Atlantic in 1944. I have a picture of the three of us standing on the ship's main deck joyously singing carols. I'll save it for your Burruss blog. You would not recognize any of us in the makeshift costume and cottony beards the crew made for us.

More later, Pat