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Stories

Alliteration

A story from Charlie Dahdah, Yeoman, USS Elmore (APA-42), as told to ship's historian Gregg Dudash.

Your father hired me to be a yeoman. When I came onboard Elmore, I was just a seaman. I did all the dirty jobs on the ship like scraping old paint. One day, your dad came up to me and said, “Hey, kid, I see from your records that you graduated from high school.” That was actually a big accomplishment back in those days. I told him that I had indeed graduated from high school in Philadelphia. He already knew that and was offering me a job as a yeoman. And that’s how I became a yeoman on the Elmore. It was really a great job and I never had to scrape paint again. Your dad was a real gentleman. I enjoyed working with him.

One of our quartermasters was a short, pudgy guy, from Virginia by the name of Walter Hite. I liked him. He was always smiling and kidding around. Well, he focused on the sound of our last names – mine and your dad’s – Dahdah and Dudash. Whenever Walter came by the yeomen’s office and ran into me, he would inevitably ask,
“Hey, Dahdah, where’s Dudash?” And, of course, if he ran into your father, he would ask, “Hey, Dudash, where’s Dahdah?” He always laughed and got the biggest kick out of that!


A Faulty Wish

A story from Carl J. Mullen, Motor Machinist's Mate, 2nd Class, USS Elmore (APA-42), as told by his son, Dick Mullen.

When the war started, my dad was worked in a steel mill at LaSalle Steel, outside of Chicago. His younger brother also worked there as well. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and, as he put it to my dad, "wore out his duffle bag going from one training base to another." He was never deployed. When he was discharged from the Army, he came home and handed his good conduct medal to his mother and said that this was all that he got out of the war. Later, when my dad got home, my uncle said to him, "I wish I’d seen some action." My dad looked at him, stoned-faced, and said "Be glad you didn’t!"


Get Off Your Lardass

A story from Joe Ermer, Yeoman, 1st Class, USS Elmore (APA-42), as told by his grandsonson, Justin Curtis Ermer Lacche.

We had a great Skipper, Captain Drayton P. Harrison, an Annapolis grad. Captain Harrison was well-liked and respected. One time, he was sitting with a bunch of other officers outside the officers' mess (the Captain had his own). One of the Junior Ensigns came up after putting in a hard four hours training in the landing craft and was tired and sweaty. The Ensign announced, "OK! One of you deadbeats get off your lardass and let a working man sit down." Without a word, Captain Harrison got up and walked away.


Recollections

Recollections from Michael Annunziato, Quartermaster 1st Class, USS Elmore (APA-42), as told in an oral history recorded in 1995 by his daughter, Cat Michaels.

Question: What was your involvement in World War II?

After I enlisted in 1944, they asked me what I wanted to do. I told them I wanted to be a quartermaster because I had a cousin who was a quartermaster. It was the right choice. I advanced rapidly, but it was war time and we didn’t have a choice. You had to learn a lot of things very fast. I obtained a First-Class rank in two years by jumping from a Seaman Second-Class to a Petty Officer. (When I was discharged, they told me that if I wanted to stay in the Navy, they would make me a Chief, but I didn’t want to stay.)

We were off Pearl Harbor, all set to attack the Japanese mainland just before they dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The captain told us what happened in Hiroshima. He must have sensed the end of the war was near because he gave us a Holiday Routine that day—a work schedule normally reserved for Sunday where you just lay around and there’s no work to be done except for those on duty. You get the best chow then, too.

The next day, we dropped the Nagasaki bomb and disrupted another Holiday Routine. A couple days later, it was all over. So, thanks to Harry Truman, I’m here today, because there were a lot of troops who might not have made it back if we attacked Japan.

Each month you got so many points for being active duty and for each battle or going overseas you got so many points that you accumulated toward mustering out. I finally got enough points and was discharged as one of the fortunate ones. Even though I never got the experience of sailing around the world, I came back, and I didn’t suffer any pain. There were many of them that didn’t. That’s the tragic part of the war. But someone like myself, I came out with 44 months with good experiences. I met my wife! I regret I didn’t see more of the Asiatic or Pacific. Back then, it was just hot and there were a lot of natives. But today, those islands have developed into terrific resources. I went to the Fiji Islands. I have a whole list of the places I visited.

Question: How did you meet mom [Margaret Elizabeth Taft]?

It was 1945, and I was in the Navy stationed in Seattle. One day, I walked into the USO as Margaret was coming in the door. She was carrying a birthday cake with her name written on the box. I called her by her first name, and she was surprised. She took one look at me and that was it. After that we went out every chance we got. We got married by a justice of the peace in November 1946.


Kamikaze Attack on the USS Alpine (APA-92)

Recollections from Harvey P. Parry, Jr., Boatswain's Mate, 1st Class, USS Elmore (APA-42), as told in an interview by the Veterans History Project with other supporting material.

Question: Did you have a lot of air battles, I mean, over there, did you have a lot of air problems?

Harvey Parry: "Yeah, we did. The biggest air [attack] was over in Okinawa when we were there. That's when we got the word they were sending, like, three or four hundred kamikaze pilots there. And, one of the ships traveled with us, they went right through their deck, right in the mess hall and everything. And then we had to send some boats over there to help finish unloading their ship and everything because they just knocked too many of the ship's company out of there, you know. It was [a] troop transport, which carried 3,000 troops like our ship did. Same thing but just [a] different name [USS Alpine (APA-92)]. There was about 50 [men killed], I think, because they were having mess. That's where they hit the number five -- number three hatch. They hit in there. That was just above the … wheelhouse of the ship."

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From the Elmore’s War Diary for 1 April 1945: 1855 [6:55 pm] Underway to carry out retirement plan for the night. 1909 [7:09 pm] General Quarters to repel enemy air attack. 1910 [7:10 pm] Enemy plane dropped bomb on the USS Alpine (APA-92), distance 800 yards from this ship. 2015 [8:15 pm] Secured from General Quarters.

From the Alpine’s War History for 1 April 1945: Alpine's next assignment was to support the invasion of Okinawa and Nansei Shoto. She loaded Army troops and got underway on 12 March to conduct a week of landing exercises off the southern coast of Samar. On 27 March, she sailed with TG 51.13 for Okinawa. On 1 April, Alpine began lowering her boats. At 1908, a Japanese plane approached Alpine from the port quarter. At 1910, she took a bomb hit on the starboard side of her main deck. The plane itself then hit the ship, causing fires in the number 2 and 3 holds. By 2200, the transport was listing seven degrees to port. Another ship came alongside and assisted Alpine's firefighting efforts, and, by 2300, the fires were under control. The crew then began their search for casualties and discovered that 16 men had been killed, and 19 were injured. On 2 April 1945, USS Gear (ARS-34) came alongside to assist the ship's force in making repairs. [USS Gear was a Diver-class rescue and salvage ship tasked with coming to the aid of stricken vessels.]


Locker Key

Recollections of Mike O'Connor, Boatswain's Mate, 2nd Class, USS Elmore (APA-42), as published in a newspaper interview with the (Lakeland FL) Ledger, published on May 23, 2010.

In May 1945, the battle for Okinawa began and Mike O’Connor’s boat was among three picked to take Navy frogmen in close to shore to blow up coastline defenses.

“My crew wouldn’t speak to me for a long time,” he said. “They thought I had volunteered the boat for the job.”

It was one of the time when O’Connor heard the orders he didn’t want to hear.

“They’d say, ‘Take out all the stuff you wouldn’t want you family to see and leave your key in your locker,’” he said.

The meaning was obvious: The key was left in the locker so if the sailor didn’t return, his personal items could be returned to his family.

In one of the runs on the beach there, he was in formation and could not turn left or right.

“We were headed straight for a pillbox (a concrete machine gun bunker) and there was no way I could move out of its path. Fortunately, it was not occupied,” he said.


Docking Maneuvers

Recollections of Charles R. Auchmutey, Jr., Lieutenant, USS Elmore (APA-42), from an interview with the Veterans History Project, conducted on August 25, 2004.

After Elmore passed through the Panama Canal in October of 1943, we went on up the coast to San Diego. And then when we got to San Diego we went through another couple of months of training. At San Diego we docked, actually tied up alongside Broadway Pier, in downtown San Diego. We would go out two or three times a week to San Clemente Island, out about 25 or 30 miles, out of sight of land, and the reason being is San Clemente had high surf, real high surf, and we wanted to practice at high surf. And we had troops. We would take troops aboard. As a matter of fact, we had 2,000 troops come aboard, that's how many we were going to haul. And we practiced with them for three or four weeks to get them used to how to get off the boats, things like that. And we'd come back into San Diego. As you reached Point Loma as you enter San Diego harbor, ships were supposed to have a pilot come aboard to take them into the harbor. We didn't have to do that. Our captain, Captain Drayton Harrison, was one of the best in the world and they knew it, and they would allow him to bring the ship all the way in and dock it himself. He was that good. And let me tell you, sailors aboard our ship had a lot of pride and they rubbed it in on the other ships. Look what our captain can do! Yours can't do that!


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