I was one of the 1st 100 hit and injured (burns on arms and shoulder, left side and a piece of shrapnel in the stomach, nothing compared to Bob Hoopes (my best man at my wedding), who almost lost his leg and a lot of other marines and sailors. We lost 6 marines that day (January 21st, 1945) and many more sailors. It took one week for us marines to search and find all the dead bodies. It took us a whole week to bury them at sea. We played "Taps" for each one as we dropped each into the ocean. I still fill up heavy when "Taps" are played and I still hear "the sound of the Plunk in my head when each body hit the ocean water. It stays with you. -Dave Kelley
Dave Kelley was a marine on USS Ticonderoga CV14 1944-45 who later for his
family, wrote his life story which included memories of his days on the "T"
Reprinted here in part for those who may not have had the chance to hear
what life was like for a family member or friend they knew who served.
I was in an accelerated collage/military training program. Graduated June 1943 from High school, then left for Penn State University in July 1943 and was training to be a Marine Corps officer/college degree in an accelerated program. We went to classes / trained 8 hrs. / Day 6 days/wk. Left Penn State Dec. 1943, went thru Parris Island, S.C. for Boot Camp and than in Jan. 1943 on to Sea School in Portsmouth, VA.
THEN ON TO THE "TICONDEROGA" the two months before it was commissioned as a 20mm/40mm gunner, made runs on Trinidad as part of training, then thru the Panama Canal to the South Pacific to fight the Japs. Fought in The China Seas and South Pacific on the "T" thru 5 battles with the Japs Till we got hit bad on Jan 21 1945 by two Kamikazes and 2 other bombs. And some near misses, which causes a lot of damage in the lower decks. We were listing badly and had a lot of damage on the superstructure (they call it the island on a carrier.) The got us out of there with the help of destroyers and air fighter cover. This was off the Philippines where we just bombed Luzon and Leyte early that morning. We were sent home to Bremerton, Wash. Naval Yard for repairs. Other jobs on ship were Guard duty, 4hrs. on and 8hrs. off, Ship Captain's orderly, worked maintaining and cleaning my gun battery.
Bodies had to be buried at Sea or on the local islands within 7 days. In Europe they made gravesites for the dead whatever country you got killed in. You couldn't ship bodies back to the USA in those days. It would take too long to ship bodies back to the USA (they would rot) and no big cargo planes like today. Needed ships and planes in the war zones. That was how war was in those days. The parents or wives got a Telegram saying you were "KILLED IN ACTION; Very Heavy!!!!
SOME OF THE THINGS WE DID ABOARD SHIP; We played cribbage a lot. Many played poker, I didn't. We listened to "TOKYO ROSE" on the inter-com. She played alot of our favorite songs thinking it would make us lonely. We loved it and hearing them made us sing along. She would then tell us a lot of propaganda, E.G. The Imperial Navy knows where we are and is going to sink us soon. Stuff like that. When we talked to each other, we always talked about our families and/or girlfriends. That's how we all became so close like brothers. We'd help each other with good or bad news, like family deaths, Dear John letters, shared all packages from home whenever we get mail call, Sometimes months between mail calls.
We boxed alot on the flight deck. Some of the guys i can remember are Billy Gilbert (we were close but we would fight a lot too).He was from Elmira, New York. He got a Dear John letter while we were over there, it was tough on him. Goose Gosslin from Manchester N. H. my close pal, I even visited his home after we both got stationed at THE Portsmouth N. H. NAVAL PRISON. Jim O'Connor from Harrisburg, Pa. and Bob Hoopes, from Media, Pa. (my best man at our wedding) who was wounded badly the day we got hit (Jan, 21,1945). The old man, his name slips my memory right now, who was 35 yrs. old (milkman from Conn.). Ted Italian from the coal region of Penn. Great guys!!!!
My duties from Feb 1944 when I went on board ship were: Capt. Dixie Kiefer's orderly at his call 24hrs/day), also training as 20mm gunner & 40mm crewmember. When in Norfolk, Va. Naval Yard had liberty occasionally in town. Maneuvers in Trinidad. Then thru the Panama Canal, got a night's liberty in Panama City (wild time at a slotshoot named Kelly's) then to the South Pacific, Hit Pearl Harbor, had 6hrs liberty in Honolulu, Waikiki beach (Wild time). WE did work parties ----- loading ammunition from barges to nets to ship's ammunition rooms. Gun watches -- 4hrs. on 8hrs. off.
When General Quarters was sounded, you manned your guns and fought the Japs during attacks on different islands like Guam, Ulithi, Eniwitac, Formosa, The Philippines (Leyte, Luzon, Mindanoa). During the Typhoon (early Dec "44") in the China Seas, we had 40mm guns ripped right off their mounts, the forward end of the flight bent upright by the ferocious seas. We lost 3 Destroyers and all but 8 men were gone from them, one minute you would see a Tin Can (destroyer) then the next minute it was gone completely, and much damage to many ships in the task force you had to hook onto the gun wales to keep from getting washed overboard. Back to Ulithi for repairs and a strange Christmas meal. We were eating it and drinking bottle beer shipped into the island when small 2 man Japs subs snuck in under the nets and blew up all the small ships that brought us into the beach. It ended Xmas "44" quick.
Repairs fixed, out to combat again. We made raids on the Philippines on the China Sea side in the early morning, (Jan 21,1945) sailed back to the Pacific side and most were at noon chow below deck when the Japs came out of nowhere and attacked. They had about 98 planes, 6 were used as observation planes, the rest were Kamikazes loaded with explosives ready to dive into any ship of ours. I ran up on our gun battery, holding a 20mm gun magazine ready to load when the 1st Jap kamikaze plane hit us. It went thru the flight deck and exploded on the hanger deck killing and wounding a lot of guys running to their battle stations. I was lucky I was holding a heavy magazine to load. I got blown up in the air and then down, but the weight of the magazine saved from getting blown overboard.
Now strapped in guns, we were able to start busting ass. We were knocking their planes out pretty good when one more got thru and hit the ship's island where all the officers are running the ship. Capt. Kiefer got 68 separate shrapnel wounds, the executive officer was killed, many others wounded. We are now listing badly and fires all over the ship, gasoline flowing all over the deck causing more fires, blow up some of the planes on deck. We had to get out because the fires were hitting us. The Marines, who were able, helped the fire control guys push all the remaining planes off the end of the ship before they caught fire. We then help put out the fires, flood ammunition rooms, help wounded. We got out of there with the help of destroyers firepower. The following week we searched and collected all the dead putting them in mattress sacks, burying them at sea during though next week. It was hell. We worked ourselves back to Ulithi, then back to the States for repairs. Hit Bremerton Navy Yard around the end of Febuary, then home on a 30 day leave in March "45".
After we got hit on Jan 21, 1945, the names of the dead, wounded, and the ones who were transferred off the ship after we got hit and got back to the States for repairs in March 1945 are all missing from the ship's muster list. Guys like Bob Hoopes (my best man) who was wounded and put on a hospital ship right after we got out of the trouble area and guys like me who were transferred before ship returned to the South Pacific for more combat in the invasion of Japan. I got a 30-day (home) leave in March 1945. I went back to ship after April 2nd and got transferred to San Diego R and R center where they then shipped me by train across the country for another 30 day leave in June. I was stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Prison from June 1945 to Jan 1947 when I got discharged once my 4 year hitch was up.