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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Okinawa--Typhoon Ida

Lieut. Gilbert Steingart
U.S.S. Ocelot, F.P.O. San Francisco
Monday 17 September, 1945, 9:35 PM
Dearest Eleanor,
     So much has happened since my last letter (Saturday night) that I'd better start with Saturday night so you can follow me. After I wrote my daily letter to you, I went forward to see the movies, but instead I heard the word passed to prepare to get underway. That meant rigging in the deck awning, bringing all the small boats aboard and securing everything for sea. A typhoon was headed for Okinawa and all ships were to leave the area as soon as possible.
     Sunday morning dawned with an angry ocean whipped up to greater fury by strong winds coming in from the sea. The captain decided, and thank God he did, to stay in the harbor and try to ride out the storm. All morning long boats, small craft and ships were breaking away from their moorings and washing up on the beach. About noon an APL (barracks barge) with about six hundred men snapped her buoy chain and headed for the beach. First she grazed a floating dry dock and then headed toward a merchant ship riding at anchor. This merchantman upped anchor and moved out of the barge's way. All this time the sea was getting rougher and the wind stronger. The merchantman went out of control and headed straight for us. He pulled one of our anchors loose, we had both down, and we began to shift from our mooring. So we had to get underway and try to re-anchor in a safe area.
     Thus began as harrowing an experience as I ever want to encounter. By then the gale reached a wind velocity of fifty knots, and the sea was mountainous even in the harbor. It was impossible to control the Ocelot and her bow went whichever way the wind drove it. We had several collisions with other ships riding at anchor, but fortunately they were all glancing blows without serious damage or injury. For awhile we'd seem to be making headway and then the wind would catch our bow again and off we'd veer once more. In one of the collisions we lost one anchor. The other was damaged when the merchant ship pulled it loose. We had no way of anchoring to ride out the storm and had to cruise around the harbor until the storm abated. After about four hours it began to get dark and visibility was so poor that all hands, with life jackets on, were ordered topside ready for any emergency. By then waves about forty feet high were breaking over our bow and into the navigation bridge. Suddenly we scraped bottom and stopped. We were aground but didn't know where or how far from the beach. The ship shuddered with every blow of the giant waves and soon both the #3 and #4 holds were filled with seven feet of water. Just then the word was passed for all hands to stand clear of the starboard bow. Wham! Something solid struck up forward. A liberty ship, in the same predicament we were in, had lost its anchor and was blown up on the same reef. Our bows came to form a "V." The bows were lashed together with heavy line and additional lines were passed aft as well. Then we knew we were safe unless the typhoon continued at a high intensity for a long period of time. By 9:30 PM the wind had reached a velocity of 78 knots with additional gusts going up as high as 109 knots. Lines (8 inch manila rope) between the ships snapped like too taught strings on a violin. New lines replaced them immediately. After 9:30 PM the wind and sea began to abate in ferocity. By 1:00 AM the wind velocity was down to 35 to 40 knots. All this time the sea was crashing our bow against that of the liberty ship and pounding up and down on the reef. Our pumps were just holding their own. At 1:30 AM I lay down to relax. No sleep in me. Just as I was getting comfortable a call came for all ship's officers to report to the wardroom. The water was rising in the engine room too fast for our pumps to handle. Something had to be done or else all our power generators would be flooded and we'd really be in hot water. The solution was a bucket brigade. We got together all the gallon buckets on the ship and started a line down in the engine room and extending up to the main deck (equivalent to three stories in height) and then over the side with water. My job was to keep the buckets moving and relieve tired men with rested ones. I acted like Captain Bligh in "Mutiny on the Bounty" and really drove the men from about 2:15 AM until 7:00 AM. Most of the men were willing and anxious to do their part, but there were several shirkers so I didn't always have fresh men to relieve the tired ones. No sooner did a man get out that I had to send him back in. The important thing was to keep the water at a low level and from flooding the engine room. Even though they did complain a little, the men understood and did their part. By 7:00 AM we had won. The water level was way down. With the cessation of the heavy swells and wind gusts, our pumps were able to carry on from there without additional help. Dr. Bushyager got out the medicinal whisky and every man got a stiff drink before breakfast. I personally retired to my room, stripped off my wet clothes and gave myself a brisk rubdown with a bath towel. Then on with some dry clothes and a hot breakfast. 
     A survey of the damage done to the ship indicates that the Ocelot will never put to sea again. Her steel ribs, stanchions and keel are twisted and warped. Her fuel tanks are all cracked. Half of the fresh water tanks are full of sea water. But still, she floats. I personally am very proud of her and the way she carried us through those perilous hours. Now the salvage officers are trying to figure out what to do with her. She can be used as a barracks or receiving ship in a harbor but I, personally, think that the old girl is though and that all that can be done is to remove all gear and equipment aboard and then lay her to rest in the briny deep. However the Navy is funny and will spend millions to salvage we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
     At 10:30 AM I turned in until 11:30 AM when I ate some lunch. At 1:00 PM I turned in again and slept until 3:00 PM. That is all the sleep I've had. There is a lot of diesel oil about the ship so no smoking is allowed due to the fire hazard. Because there are a few who just won't comply with orders, officers have to patrol the ship and keep an eye out for violators.
     Tonight we had the movie we were to have on Saturday night. "Swing Out Sister" is very amusing and I did enjoy it.
     Now Sweet, don't worry about me. We didn't have any casualties and I'm safe and sound. Even my "tochos" doesn't bother me anymore. Maybe it was the hand of fate. The Ocelot will be surveyed and I'll come home. Could be.
     Wow, what a letter. Now I'm going to say goodnight and turn in. I'm really sleepy. See you in my dreams.
Your only,
P.S. From the time we started, the bucket brigade of about 150 men dumped 100 gallons of water over the side every minute. Quite a record!
Excuse my not writing last night. I really had other things on my mind.
Goodnight again darling,

Typewritten account that Eleanor sent to newspapers.

Typhoon Ida
Category 1 typhoon (SSHS)
Duration September 10 – September 20 1945
Peak intensity 130 km/h (80 mph) (1-min) 969 mbar (hPa) 

Hurricane Network Map--16 September 1945

BJ Cunningham, Jr. Y3/c was also aboard the Ocelot. Here is his account from Navsource

Monday, July 26, 2021

Okinawa--No Letter

Sunday 16 September 1945 Lt. Gilbert Steingart did not write to his wife Eleanor.

At 6:45 PM on Saturday 15 September he wrote "Another dull, uneventful day is gone. I'm really getting on edge. This not knowing what comes tomorrow isn't easy to take but I guess there is nothing to do about it."

The day wasn't quite over.

Map from Hurricane Watch Network

16 September 1945

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Okinawa--Shore Leave

U.S.S. OCELOT (IX-110)
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California
Saturday 15 September 1945, 6:45 PM
Dearest Eleanor,
     Another dull, uneventful day is gone. I'm really getting on edge. This not knowing what comes tomorrow isn't easy to take but I guess there is nothing to do about it.
     There are so many men ashore waiting for transportation back to the United States that they aren't allowing ships to send any more men over. The demobilization problem is tremendous. There is a pitiful lack of transport service back to the United States. Maybe when the admiral moves they'll give us a load and send us on our way.
     I did put in a full morning's work but took it easy this afternoon. I read two books, one called "Shore Leave" and the other a historical novel "Gambler's Hundred." Now I'll go back to reading some of the Ellery Queen detective stories you sent me.
     There was no mail for me today but after yesterday's haul, how can I complain?
     Last night's movie "Patrick the Great" was very good entertainment. See it. Tonight we have "Swing Out Sister" but I don't know a thing about it.
     I had intended to write more letters today but didn't get around to it. Maybe I will tomorrow.
     In the meantime Sweet, keep your powder dry and be cheerful. There is a guy out here who still loves you and misses you and hopes to be home real soon.
     Goodnight Darling and until tomorrow, adios.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Okinawa--God Bless You

15 September 1945

Dearest Linda and Norma,
     How are my two girls today? Did you have lots of fun up at Lake Arrowhead? Sorry I couldn't be with you but next summer we'll all go on our vacation together. Won't that be swell?
     Daddy has been busy and not very much in the mood for writing letters but I promise to write again soon.
     How is school now Linda? Do you like your new teacher? I'll bet she is swell. That with dancing school for you and Norma, too, must keep you girls pretty busy.
     No more now darlings, so goodbye and God bless you.


Linda and Norma at Lake Arrowhead

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Okinawa--One Hundred and Two

U.S.S. OCELOT (IX-110)
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California
Friday 14 September 1945, 6:40 PM
Dearest Eleanor,
     Okinawa may be one thousand miles north of the Philippines but it certainly isn't any cooler. The temperature went up to one hundred and two this afternoon. Because of the lower humidity, it seemed cooler than Leyte. 
     My "tochas" is still sore but I've been comfortable except for a few minutes after a BM. Anyway tomorrow I'm going back to work. I have quite a backlog of patients to take care of so I'll be quite busy for the next week or so.
     This afternoon I settled down and wrote letters to both mothers, Libby and Ruth. Tomorrow I'll write Uncle Mike, Uncle Bill and Deb. Then I'll be about caught up.
     Mail came aboard in the late afternoon and I really hit the jackpot. I got eleven letters and a card from you, a letter from Libby, two letters from your mother and my electric shaver to boot.
     I know how disappointed you must feel at my not coming directly home. However I do expect to be back in the United States before the end of the year and maybe long before. Here is the situation. A service force supplies troops and ships with fuel, food, clothing and repair necessary for maintaining an active force. Naturally there are no establishments ashore yet but as soon as they are built, the headquarters will be established ashore and we won't be needed anymore. That is the long way of looking at it. Admiral Smith should have another flagship within three weeks. There is a very good chance of our returning home then. Believe me we are all praying that will be so. Anyway you needn't be concerned about my safety because Japan is well under control now.
     It sounds like your last days in Arrowhead were quite full. I hope you didn't let Ruth spoil your stay by hurrying you home before you had planned. My guess, however, is that you were fed up with the inconvenience of the place and that you were ready to get back to decent comfort.
     I received the gold braid and the tailor will go to work on it in the morning.
     The war is over but there is still a hell of a lot of work to be done. Did you know that Marine Corps officers need sixty points to get out? I wouldn't be at all surprised, even if Leon doesn't think so, to hear that he was sent out again. He has had a tour of duty overseas but he's been back in the United States a long time and there are still many doctors out here who'll need relieving. Now you know about the extra quarter point per month for sea duty. I'm expecting extra points for children to be announced soon. Of course it doesn't hurt for civilians to write their congressman. I bet they are doing plenty of writing.
     Tonight's movie is "Patrick the Great" with Donald O'Connor and Peggy Ryan. It should be amusing. 
     Now Sweet please try to hold on a little longer. The going has been rough and you've been alone and unhappy. But deep down, we were always together in spirit and very soon now we'll be together physically. Keep smiling and one of these days I'll be writing you the wonderful news you've been looking and praying for.
     Goodnight my love. I'll see you in my dreams.
P.S. We are supposed to sail from here on Tuesday 18 September so there'll be another break in mail.

Friday, July 16, 2021

At Sea--Underway to Okinawa

U.S.S. OCELOT (IX-110)
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California
Sunday, 9 September 1945, 8:45 PM
Dearest Eleanor,
     Hello Darling here is that guy again. We got underway at 7:00 AM this morning. The Philippines is another place I never want to see again. We've had a brisk, fresh breeze all day and most of us spent most of our time on deck enjoying its cooling effect.
     Now that the war is over we don't have to black out, so sailing at night is quite pleasant. You can see where you are going and the lights of the other ships (forty-one in all) make it feel a lot safer than before.
     We had movies tonight even though we are underway. The picture was "Smith of Minnesota," a football story with Bruce Smith, All American, as the star.
     I really hit the jackpot in the mail this morning. Our mail was picked up at 6:00 AM. I got the Santa Monica Evening Outlook of August 1 and five letters from my own sweet wife. There was one letter of the 23rd and the rest were marked 28, 29 and 30.
     It does sound like your vacation didn't turn out so well. That's another thing I'll make up to you when I get back.
     It just began to blow and rain. I had to dash to my room and close the ports. Did I get wet going out on deck! Anyway here I am again.
     There isn't much more to write about so I'll sign off till tomorrow. Goodnight darling and pleasant dreams.

Monday, 10 September 1945, 7:00 PM
     As long as we're underway the letters I write will go in one envelope. Today has been a very uneventful day. I did put in a day's work. I saw five patients in the morning and two in the afternoon. As a result the day went very fast.
     We got cholera shots this morning and my arm is sore--I'm toxic. Hope I feel better in the morning.
     We just heard about the additional points for sea duty. Including September I have forty-two. The next step will be additional points for children and I'll be out. I don't think it'll be long.
     Tonight's movie is "Dancing Over Manhattan," a repeat on our ship. Sea movies, that is movies shown while the ship is underway, are always old. We won't see anything new until Friday or Saturday.
     Just think Sweet by June I'll be a civilian even if they don't make any more changes in the point system. The way things look now, I may even be out before my previous guess of March. I hope so.
     Dr. Bushyager got orders back to the United States and will leave as soon as relieved. His relief is flying out and may see us when we arrive in Okinawa. That'll leave Kuhn and Aspinwall as the only officers aboard the Mighty "O" longer than I. Even if we don't head home soon I should be back in the United States before many weeks.
     That is thirty for tonight Darling. Goodnight and keep smiling. Happy days will soon be here again.

Tuesday 11 September 1945, 8:00 PM
Hello Dearest,
     I awoke this morning feeling 4.0. That shot didn't knock me out for long. At 10:00 A.M. I let Dr. Law take a look at my "tochas." What I thought were "piles" turned out to be a small fistula. He cauterized it for me and I've been miserable ever since. I can't sit, stand or lie down comfortably. I took some codeine at 11:00 AM and dozed until 4:00 PM--even missed lunch. I did go down to see the movie but gave up. I'm going to take something and turn in.
     Excuse the short note, but I don't feel up to any more now. Goodnight Darling until tomorrow.
Yours forever,

Thursday, 13 September 1945, 6:35 PM
My Dearest,
     Here is the guy with the sore "tochas" again. I hope you'll forgive me but I was so miserable yesterday that although I did sit down to write, I gave up before I even got started. Instead I went to my room took a sedative and dozed all afternoon and evening. I did get up for chow but hit the sack in a hurry soon thereafter. Today I feel much better and have been up and around practically all day. It hurts like blazes when I go "toidie" but I get relief with a bautzen ointment. I inject it immediately following the bowel movement. Anyway there was no bleeding. This evening the doctor looked and said it's healing fine so I'm glad that I over with.
     We are now anchored in Buckner Bay, Okinawa. We had a nice, smooth and uneventful voyage. I hope we don't stay here long. In a few days, we'll probably move on to Japan where Admiral Smith should get his new flagship. Then I hope the Ocelot will be homeward bound. What a happy day that'll be.
     We sent a boat off for mail and movies, but so far they haven't returned. I suppose I'll get a bagful in the morning if not tonight.
     By the time you get this letter I'll have had just about fourteen months on the Ocelot. I do hope that my remaining days aboard can be counted in a very few weeks. However you and I can only hope and pray that the wheels of fate grind out the future as I say (quite poetic, eh? Phooey).
     Well Sweet I've little more to say except those three little words, "I love you." Goodbye now and until tomorrow.
Your lover,

USS Orvetta with the USS Ocelot in the background

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Leyte--Ocelot is Seaworthy

U.S.S. OCELOT (IX-110)
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California
Saturday 8 September 1945, 6:45 PM
Dearest Eleanor,
     Hello Darling, here I am again. No rain today but it has been overcast. Looks like we're leaving in the morning. I hope this letter gets off before we do.
     In all the time we've been out of the states we've been very fortunate that we never ran into any real storms. However according to the weather man we'll have a rough trip this time. Who cares, the Ocelot is seaworthy and we'll have lots of company. A rough trip (not too rough of course) would be something of a change.
     All my appointments this morning were broken because the ships sending the men over for treatment had departed. Instead of dentistry I worked up the menu for next week and made an inspection of officers' country. Some of the rooms were clean but others were not so I turned the stewards to. They scrubbed and polished all afternoon.
     At 4:00 PM I returned to my room and visited with Dr. Law (my roommate). Soon it was time to shower and dress for dinner. I miss the cribbage games we used to have in the captain's cabin. The new skipper Lt. Cmdr. Warwick is a swell fellow and hails from Whittier, Calif. but he has been busy learning about the ship and getting her ready to sail.
     I was surprised again today by three more letters from you. We never expected to get mail after the 6th because our previous sailing date of 7 September. Guess now that the fighting is over they are very interested in morale.
     I'm sorry that you are so nervous and upset. Wish I could write that I'm on my way home but that is beyond my control. I heard more scuttlebutt today to the effect that sometime this fall all Servron 10 ships will return to the US for thirty days leave. If the Ocelot does go back she'll never go out again. I've got it all figured out. By January I'll have 60 days mustering out leave and after that 2 1/2 days for every month thereafter. When I return this fall I'll take 30 days leave and that'll still leave me 30 days or more when I muster out. That'll give me about $330 over and above the $300 mustering amount and that is nothing to be sneezed at.
     You can stop wondering about how we'll feel when we're together again. We'll feel like newlyweds and act like them too. But after all, we were together for about ten years and only apart less than one and a half years so we'll just forget that unpleasant period and enjoy our being together more than ever before.
     I'll always think you look nice. My nerves haven't changed and the kids won't worry me at all. I'm still a big kid at heart myself. I doubt that I've changed any except that I'll want to enjoy life with you and the kids even more than ever before. No my Sweet, you have nothing to worry about. It would take more than a war and a year or more of separation to change my feelings and love for you and the kids. I know that you'll feel the same towards me. Forget it Sweetheart, nothing to worry about there.
     We have a movie of an unknown quantity tonight. It doesn't sound good but one can never tell. It is "Trouble Chasers" with Maxie Rosenbloom and Billy Gilbert. From the cast it will be lousy but who can tell.
     Adios my Sweet and it'll be five or six days before you get my next letter. Keep your powder (on your face--no tears) dry and be of good cheer. It seems like a long time since I sailed. Soon we'll be together and forget the unpleasantness of it all. Goodnight Darling. I'll keep writing daily even if I can't mail the letters.

The Ocelot is Seaworthy