| USS DREW APA 162
Drew sailed from San Pedro, Calif., 10 December 1944 with passengers for Seattle where she loaded cargo, departing on the 18th for Honolulu. She sailed from Pearl Harbor 8 January 1945 to deliver cargo Guam and Ulithi during her passage to Leyte where she arrived 10 February. After training and rehearsal landings, she sailed 21 March for the invasion of Okinawa, and on 26 March began landing her troops Kerama Retto and other small islands off Okinawa.
The USS Drew had never been to sea. It was commissioned in San Diego and
was named after a county in Arkansas (I believe) whose citizens had donated
the money for her construction. APA stands for Assault Personnel Attack
and once we reached a battle zone it would be our task to take Marines
or Soldiers to a debarkation point, take them to the invasion spot in
our small landing craft which were hanging on the side of our ship. Except
for some officers and some chief petty officers I would guess that everyone
else was getting on a ship for the first time. I had arrived at San Diego
after a two or three day train ride across the country. My Dad had taken
me to the station since my mother was too upset to come along. Dad was
never a demonstrative man but he, of course, was very concerned about
the future. But when I left all he could do was shake my hand and say “good luck”. I knew no one else on the train but as servicemen
do we all got acquainted real fast and had a good time on the trip. People
were assigned to different locations although a lot went right through
to San Diego.
Contrary to recent wars when we pulled into a station there were hundreds
of people on the platform waving at us and telling us “to go get
em” and as we pulled our there was always a great cheer. I had never
been on a ship so this was a new experience for me. I boarded, met the
chief Pharmacist Mate and was directed to the bunk room where (I picked
out my bunk. The bunks were four deep and very little room between them.
I think I ended up with the third from the bottom. We were shown our quarters
and given a tour of the ship. We had liberty each night for two or three
nights when we were told we were leaving. We found that our first leg
was from S.D. to Seattle where we would load up and take on Marines and
Soldiers. The trip to Seattle was rather calm but many men got very seasick
so we in the sickbay were busy. For some reason (I had no trouble as was
the case throughout all our months at sea. For some reason we went then
to San Francisco for one day and then left for sea sailing under the golden
gate bridge. Doing this gives you the real troublesome feeling in your
stomach. As we watched the bridge disappear behind us we knew that we
were leaving the good old USA and who knew when we would be back.
There were about twenty pharmacist mates on board, twelve assigned to
the ship and 8 assigned to what was called the beach party., Once we reached
an invasion spot it was their duty to go ashore after the initial landing,
set up a first aid station and temporarily patch up the casualties until
they could transport them to our ship where we would then take further
care of them. When we had no casualties our duty was very pleasant. We
had to stand our watch but very seldom since there were so many of us
so we had time to sunbathe learn to play bridge and poker or to read.
I never cared for poker but I did learn to play bridge and pinochle. I
have forgotten pinochle but of course play bridge to this day... We did
have training everyday and a number of calls to battle stations so we
could learn the procedure when there was a real attack. We never knew
whether the battle station call was real or not until after we had gotten
to our position. If it wasn’t done fast enough it was repeated until
it was right.
Our first stop was Hawaii which took about 6-7days. We stayed there a
few days so we all got to see the islands which we had heard so much about.
Honolulu was a Navy town. There were thousand of sailors there most of
the time and the bars and dance halls were crowded all the time. I remember
being so disappointed in Waikiki Beach. I had seen many pictures of it
but when we got to it the beach was very small and the only large hotel
on the beach was the Royal Hawaiian. When Dave and John and our wives
went back there in 1981 the beach was huge and there were dozens of hotels
all up and down the beach.
Surprisingly we were ordered back to the States
to obtain more men and supplies and we docked in San Francisco harbor.
We were there for a few weeks during which time I was able to visit with
my Aunt Laura (my mother’s sister) and Uncle Chick who had moved
to the west coast. I t was nice that I could visit with them because Laura
died soon after the war and I never saw her again. Back to Hawaii eventually.
We next went to Guam for a short visit and then headed to a small group
of islands known as Ulithi and specifically on island named Mog-Mog. Here
we were given liberty and a few hours off the ship. Mog-Mog had no one
living on it and everyone on the ship was given two cans of warm beer
and were allowed to go swimming and play baseball on the island. At this
point we joined a huge armada of ships of all kinds from Carriers, Battleships,
and cruisers. While waiting here we heard the report of President Roosevelt’s
death and I remember everyone saying ‘who’s this guy Truman
who is the new president?’
We set sail the first part of April 1945 and headed north. It is hard
to describe the sight of this huge armada as we headed for Okinawa. Just
before we reached Ulithi we had stopped at the Philippine Islands and
it was there I had an appendicitis attack. I was operated on just before
we left and told not to move for a number of days. Once we got in battle
I was needed so got up and helped.
The doctor saw me carrying a stretcher and really reamed me out but there
was nothing he could do about it; Just before Easter we arrived at the
island group called Ie Shima which the US decided it must take before
the principle invasion. Some of the ships were diverted here for this
purpose. It was the first time I had been involved in an actual battle
and the noise of the guns and planes attacking the island was unbelievable.
Ie Shima was a small island and was taken without too much trouble although
it was on this island the Ernie Pyle was killed. Ernie Pyle was a newspaper
writer who was very popular with the troops. He wrote about them and sent
many heartfelt stories home to the states. He insisted on being on shore
with the troops and during an air attack he was killed. A very popular
man who was really missed by the fighting men. On Saturday night before
Easter all ships were in place for the invasion of Okinawa.
It’s funny how after 58 years you can’t remember the entire
operation you went through during the invasion. I remember the tremendous
bombardment that took place prior to our landing troops and the hundreds
of airplanes flying over the island trying to soften up the Jap defense.
Our troops were taken off our boat in small landing craft and we then
returned to our battle stations to await any casualties sent to us by
our beach party which consisted of a number of corpsmen from the ship
that went ashore after the initial Invasion.
Our biggest fear was the Kamikaze fighters who were attacking all the
ships in the harbor. For that reason we left the harbor each night and
went out to sea so as to make the target harder to find. We would then
come back to the harbor during the day to pick up casualties. I obviously
don’t remember all the wounded but I do remember the bravery of
many of the men. One man came in with both feet blown off and as he was
carried in he was smiling and saying he was much luckier than some of
his buddies. Another came in after having his leg run over by a tank.
His leg needed amputation and I participated in the operation taking the
leg down to the boiler when it was off. This man died after the operation.
He appeared to be fine, smoking a cigarette and talking when suddenly
he died. I had the experience of attending the autopsy and saw how the
blood clot had completely collapsed his lungs. There were so many more
and we treated them the best we could and then took them to a hospital
ship in the area before coming back for more.
One day while we were there we moved over to a destroyer that had been
hit by Kamikaze planes. It was a disaster. The entire bridge was gone
and all officers appeared to have disappeared. The plane had hit both
the bridge and the side of the ship killing all the corpsmen on the ship.
WE were transferred to the ship (The O’Brien) to find as many wounded
we could to bring them aboard our ship. Those that were hurt were burned
for the most part, some severely and we carefully transferred them back
to our ship. I just mention one of the men I took care of. His entire
face was burned and his eyes were burned shut. The doctor gave me some
lotion and told me to gently wipe the burn from his face. I will never
forget as I wiped the burn from his eyes when the suddenly popped open
and he cried “I can see, I can see”. Many died during our
stay at Okinawa and we had daily burials at sea. After ten days or so
the army and marines had the situation well enough at hand that we filled
our boat with casualties and set sail for Hawaii.
From there we took troops to the south pacific as replacements and it
was during this trip that we crossed the equator and went through the
initiation which turned those of us who were “pollywogs” into
The initiation was an experience. We were all standing on deck and on
the bridge four shellbacks walked up to the center one dressed as King
Neptune, another as the Queen, another as the royal baby and I believe
on other. Each of us had to walk in front of these people, bow to the
King and Queen and kiss the royal baby’s belly which had been covered
with grease. We then went back down to the deck and were greeted by the
royal devil that carried a pitchfork which was charged and he prodded
us to the next station which gave us quite jolt. We then went to the royal
barber who cut most of our hair off. One story which is amusing: One of
the young ensigns on the ship complained to the Captain that he should
not have his hair cut. The captain then told the royal barber to cut every
strand of hair off the officer which gave many people a great laugh.
We then went to the royal doctor who laid us on a mess hall table and
ran a charged knife over our bodies and since the table had metal on it
the initial reaction was to grab the sides which gave you even a greater
shock. The royal dentist came next and he proceeded to spray alum into
our mouths which of course puckered you up quite a bit. We next got in
line and were told to crawl through a canvas tunnel while shellbacks hit
you with clubs made of canvas and paper. At the end of the tunnel a sailor
was shooting a fire hose into the tunnel which you had to fight against.
When you were through the tunnel you were taken to a slide from one deck
to another and slid down into a large vat of greasy water. When you came
up for air someone shouted “What are you? For a week before when
this question was asked you answered “I ‘m a *#** pollywog”.
When you gave this answered this time you were shoved back under the greasy
water until you finally figured out that you were now a shellback. I have
a picture of myself as I came out of the tank and I am completely black.
At that time we simply took off our clothes, threw them overboard and
the changed to other clothes. There were so many soldiers on board who
were pollywogs that after you were dressed you could come up and participate
in the hazing as you were now a shellback.
After we delivered our troops and supplies in New Guinea we again headed
north and I believe we anchored again at the Island of Ulithi where we
stayed for few days being allowed to go on shore once or twice, given
two scans of beer, and told to have fun. AS I think I mentioned there
is absolutely nothing on the island so we played baseball or just sat
under a tree and drank beer enjoying the feeling o being on land again.
We then headed back to Hawaii where we stayed a while. You must realize
that the Pacific is a large ocean so it took a long while to get from
place to place. In fact I believe we were told that The Drew traveled
some 26,000 miles from the time we left San Diego to the end of the war.
After Hawaii we returned to the States and anchored in Seattle where we
were given a weeks leave.
“Bones” Hubbell and I went down
to Portland and spent the time there. It was a great liberty town and
we had a great time. It was around this time that the first Atomic Bomb
was dropped. I had called my folks who were in Canada when we got back
from Portland and Mother said the next time you are home I am coming out
to see you. I told her the next time I came home it probably would be
for good because of the “bomb” She said” what bomb”.
They had not heard of it at Cedar Croft so they had to go to the Mag to
We left Seattle the next day fully loaded and I am sure assigned to the
fleet that was to invade Japan. While on this trip the second bomb was
dropped and the war ended.
of us though we’d be sent home in a short time but my situation
turned out differently. I was taken off the ship, assigned to the first
Marines and told I would be going to the island of Truk which we had bypassed
on the way to Japan. So I changed uniforms, got on a ship and landed on
Truk where for the next two and I2 months I trained for an invasion. We
probably all knew it wasn’t going to be a real invasion since everyone
was very casual about the activities. We did however practice landing
on shore and running on the beaches of Guam to simulate an invasion. On
November 1st we set off for Truk and an expected it was not a real invasion.
Any of us who had been in on a real invasion knew immediately so because
there was no prelanding bombings or shelling.
We ran ashore and were greeted by hundreds of Japanese running onto the
beach asking for cigarettes
. . Just by chance the ship had a store full of moldy Raleigh cigarettes
we all bought and gave to the Japs. They must not have had a smoke in
sometime or else Japanese cigarettes are terrible because they all bowed,
thanked us and were very grateful.
My stay on Truk lasted until May 1st, 1946. As pharmacist mates we were
assigned the duty of cleaning up the island. The Japs were bad housekeepers
and there were no latrines and the water supply was undrinkable. For the
next two or three months we built latrines and worked on the water supply.
During this time we had Jap workers and I have many pictures of myself
herding some Japes holding a gun. If I had had to use it I wouldn’t
have know what to do. The latrines were simple but curing the water supply
took some time. A huge container was constructed 0on top of a large hill
with a pipe running down to a reservoir, which filled, from a stream on
the island, which was not clean. We worked to clean the stream, treated
the water in the reservoir and then pumped it up the hill to the large
tank. This in turn had many arms going down hill to water faucets or drinking
bags. The bags were for drinking but they were again constantly treated
with chemicals to make sure the water was safe. Taking care of the water
was a continuing thing but once the system was established we turned to
The natives on the island had a variety of diseases all of which the Japs
had ignored. These included leprosy, Elephantiasis and Yaws. Yaws was
the easiest to cure. The symptoms of yaws was the rotting away of fingers,
toes and sores over the body. We had antibiotics that stopped the spread
of the disease although it did not revive the lost parts. This was contagious
but once under control it caused no great damage. For the other two diseases
we had to move the victims to another island in the atoll.
The pharmacist mates inspected the villagers and those who were ill were
assigned a boat and taken to another island, one for each disease. We
went along on the boats and settled the natives in their new location.
There were many trips and it took quite a while. Leprosy is like Yaws
but more serious and Elephantiasis causes the limbs to swell a great deal
to the point where they cannot move about. One interesting little ditty
about the natives: In order to make money the ladies from the villages
would come into our camp to do our washing. They were accompanied by a
man named George who was their boss, who did nothing but stand around
and joke with all of us. We paid the girls 10cents a day for their work
and George took a nickel of it. The women were topless but very unattractive.
One young girl however was rather cute. Her name was Mitzigo (?) and she
was the favorite of the group. Not that you’d want to but no one
touched these girls. Not only were you afraid of disease but the Marines
had very heavy penalties for anyone who touched a Native or went into
their village. I don’t remember anyone violating this rule but I
am sure some of the Marines were foolhardy to do so.
By May 1st I had accumulated enough points to be discharged and I was
sent back to Guam for processing. This took some time so I worked at the
hospital on Guam until my orders came through. Once received, I was lucky
enough to get a cargo flight to Hawaii and another to the states. I was
then sent to Great Lakes where my Navy career started to receive my “ruptured
duck” the emblem given to all dischargees.
Before going home I visited Mr. And Mrs. Argo, Caryl’s parents who
really took a shine to me. Caryl had taken up with some young man who
Mr. Argo didn’t like and he asked me to try and break up their relationship.
I wasn’t successful and took the train for home. Caryl was a very
fine girl who I have not seen of course since May 1946 and I often wonder
what happened to her. I arrived in Cleveland on May 31, 1946 and remember
walking up the stairs from the train to see my family waiting at the top.
I had not seen them since December 1944 so the reunion was very exciting.
So my naval career was over after 2 years and 5 months which except for
a few weeks was actually very interesting and enjoyable.