On 9 January 1945, the US Pierce, APA 50 was approaching Lingayen Gulf. It had been an uneventful morning and the ship was unloading for a beach landing when three enemy planes came out of the sun unobserved. My dad was a medic assistant on the ship and his general quarter’s station was looking after the captain of the ship. They wanted someone nearby to care for the Captain should he be injured in an attack.
In dad’s words, “It was about 2 in the afternoon and I was sitting on the flying bridge, one deck below was the pilot house and the captain. I looked up and here came three Japanese planes flying pretty low and out of the sun. I watched one of the planes make a suicide run at an Australian cruiser and hit the ship’s third smokestack. The second plane, of all targets, took out a little old landing craft out in the harbor. The third plane made a bombing run at our ship. I saw the bomb when it was released from the plane. It seemed as though it was coming straight toward me as it floated through the air. I jumped up and ran down the ladder. By the time I got down, the bomb had landed. It blew glass out of the pilot house windows and knocked me off my feet.”
Fortunately for dad, the plane didn’t make a suicide run and it’s pilot had let loose his bomb too soon and it fell abreast the port side of the ship near the No. 5 hatch, demolishing one of the ship’s landing craft that was being loaded with ammunition and supplies. The landing craft was destroyed, “blown into a thousand pieces”, by dad’s account. Two men were killed. One sailor that was on the stern of the boat was thrown clear and survived the hit.
This is just one of many harrowing stories that dad told of his tour of duty in the South Pacific during WWII. It was one of the memories that haunted him for the remainder of his life. And it’s just one of the many examples of how small the difference between life and death is for those whose service and sacrifice allows us to know the freedom and opportunity that is America. For those of you who have served, thank you for your bravery, thank you for your sacrifice, thank you for your time of service. God Bless Each of You, and God Bless America!
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