AMERICAN RED CROSS
Saturday, 13 October 1945, 11:00 AMDearest Eleanor,
Now I'm all squared away and comfy with nothing to do. Well what could be better than a visit with you? So here goes.
Now that all is calm and secure I'll try to give you a blow by blow description of the storm. Since the typhoon on September 16, we had several warnings about typhoons heading for Okinawa. Each the storms veered south and missed us completely. This last one was supposed to pass way south of us, but instead it veered north and we were right in the middle of it again. I've lost track of time but I believe it was 4:00 AM Monday morning when our special sea detail alarm went off. Our buoy chain had broken and all that was holding us was a 1-1/2 inch wire cable. All we could do was wait and pray for the cable to hold. The sea was too rough to try to secure a new chain or wire to the buoy. At about 10:00 AM the wire snapped. We were adrift at the mercy of the sea and winds which reached somewhere around 125 knots velocity. Although our propeller was broken, we got our engine started and tried to maneuver the ship so we wouldn't hit anything. We didn't. However the ship was getting out of control so the skipper decided to beach her. He did a beautiful job of bringing her in. We beached at about 11:00 AM. Suddenly the wind caught the stern of the ship and swung her around so that the sea and wind were hitting us broadside and rolling the ship from side to side with the jagged reef giving the hull a terrific beating. The holds began to flood so we decided to abandon ship. Dr. Bushyager and I got our medical records together and prepared to go over. Life rafts were lowered. Then we went over the side down a manila line into the rafts. The sea was washing over the rafts and we had to hang on or be washed adrift. Anyway we finally got ashore. Each officer took a group of men with him and went to find shelter. We found a large Quonset hut that was a mess hall and got some hot food and coffee. Just as we were sitting down the roof began to fly off. We had to get out fast. There was lots of corrugated steel flying around, so we headed for the hills to find shelter. We found a place in front of a native burial tomb and though it was wet we were protected from the wind so we stayed there. It was beginning to get dark and the storm was abating, so I left the men and went back to the mess hall to see if it would be safe to return there for shelter. It was. There we spent the night, cold and wet but protected from the elements.
The next morning we headed back down the road to the ship and ran into other groups of men. We were directed to the temporary quarters assigned to us. After I had left the ship, several other vessels had been blown against us. A depth charge from a PCS (Patrol Craft Sweeper) had gone off and blew our stern off. One officer had his leg badly mangled and it had to be amputated. Another had a badly fractured leg which he'll probably lose. In addition we had a skull fracture case and many minor injuries and bruises. We were plenty lucky not to have suffered any loss of life. Many lives were lost in the storm.
Shore facilities were demolished. I saw a fifty foot long Quonset hut picked up by the wind and carried along as if superman was supporting it in the palm of his hand. Then it was set down on its end and collapsed like an accordion. Complete camps were blown away. At the present time, the food and clothing situation on the island is very critical.
The camp where we are billeted at is up in the hills. Tree growth and shrubs are abundant. Here the mud and dust are at a minimum. The locale reminds me of Lake Arrowhead. Clean, dry clothes and shoes have been issued to all of us. Now all we have to do is wait for orders to a ship and then home.
The local camp's laundry was wrecked in the storm. Because we have few clothes, arrangements have been made with the natives to do our laundry daily in exchange for food and clothing they need. All in all I am happy and feel very fortunate that we all came out so well and I hope it won't be long before we are on our way home.
Goodbye for now and please don't worry about me.
GilP.S. The Red Cross is really on the ball. Just as we got settled last night, they came over with shaving gear, cigarettes, writing paper, tooth brushes and paste, etc.