| Radar Tech
Operator E. C. Woodward
Guam, Okinawa, Japan
US NAVY on the USS CALLAGHAN DD 792
I joined the navy while still in high school in
Minnesota. It seemed to me they took too long to call me up so I
signed up again. This came back to haunt me later. I was sent to
boot camp in Idaho. When I finished there, I was sent to CA to San
Pedro to work on the USS Callaghan. She was commissioned on Nov
27, 1943 and attached to the Pacific fleet. We sailed to Hawaii
for our shake down cruise. While my ship was being outfitted, I
attended radar school. Feb 5, 1944 we sailed to join the 5th fleet.
We joined in on the air raids on the Palaus, Yapi, Ulythi, and Woleai
Atolls in the Pacific Carolinas. It was our job to protect the carriers,
battleships, etc. We surrounded the fleet searching for subs and
on the lookout for enemy planes. We were expendable, the other ships
were not. When attacking an island, our position was as close to
shore as possible so we could shoot over the heads of the landing
troops helping to soften up the enemy and clear the way ahead.
After the Atolls, we were involved in one battle
after the other: Saipon, Tinian, Guam, Indo China, Hong Kong, Palous,
Minlaseo, Luzopn, Formosa, Okinawa, Leyte Gulf, Nansei Shito, Iwo
Jima and the Tokyo Area. One time 3 of us were assigned to help
the Marines during one of their training sessions on taking an island.
We took our radar gear ashore and set it up the day before. We were
to direct their landing crafts onto the beach. We decided to sleep
on the island that night instead of on a rolling ship in a narrow
bunk. The next morning, the marines landed and started their assault
training. Suddenly Japs popped up out of the sand using live ammunition.
You never saw three sailors run so fast. One of the fellows with
me was a little short fellow who made it into the water faster than
we did. He said later that it was because he had less ground to
cover being so short. The marines had to send for live ammunition
quickly but, in the end, they took over the island. I learned that
you can run on water pretty far if you are fast enough and I was!!!
One day, I was talking with one of my shipmates
who were very depressed. He had just received word of the birth
of his daughter. He kept saying, Woody, I have to go home
now! I told him we would be going soon but he insisted
he had to go and see his daughter right then. He put out his hand
to shake mine and said, Thanks Woody. Youve been a
good friend. With that he walked to the ships rail and
before I could move jumped over it into the water. I yelled, Man
overboard! but, although the skipper searched for a long time,
we never saw him again
We had shore leave only one time, on one of the
little islands. On that leave, about 20 of us were going on a beer
raid on another ship. We were on our way back to our ship with all
these beer cases when an officer from that ship saw is. He yelled
and about 50 of his men came running. A fight started and the officer
fired a shot at the foot of one of our men and the fellow turned
around and decked the officer. We were all on report. Our skipper
restricted us to the ship while at sea. He told us that if we had
lost the fight or the beer, he would have restricted us while we
were docked. We had a good skipper. He was a good leader.
One of our jobs was to rescue downed pilots, something
we always enjoyed. We hated having burials at sea. I always thought
of the families at that time. I still think the ones at home had
a. harder time of it, as they didnt know where we were or
what we were doing. We were young and invincible. We rescued two
Japanese men from their planes. One died but the other lived. He
has come to several of our reunions and always hosts a cocktail
and dinner party for everyone on the last night as a thank you.
One day while we were at sea, I was told the Capt.
wanted to see me. Wondering what I had done wrong this time I went
to report to him. He informed me that he had received papers from
the draft board in Minn. stating that if I did not report to them
by the next day I would be declared a deserter! My skipper said
that if I left the ship HE would declare me a deserter. He asked
me what happened so I told him about the two enlistments. Im
not sure what he thought about my story as he turned away for a
moment. He finally said he would look into it and would get back
to me. We were in the middle of the war by then so I didnt
have much time to worry about it. We were at battle station most
days now. It was common to be at General Quarters for two days at
a time. Once we were on ?for five days. We would take turns running
down to get a shower and clean clothes, also to take a nap on deck
by our station. One of us would run to the mess at meal times and
get sandwiches for all of us. Planes would be coming in wave after
wave. Quite a bit later the skipper told me he had friends in Washington
who were taking care of my desertion.
One plane missed our ship but knocked out three
radars and an antenna. We had to climb up the mast, tie ourselves
down and repair everything while under fire. We couldnt let
them go as we used the radar to warn the carriers of incoming planes.
Our radar extended further then theirs so it was up to us to alert
them and get the planes up. One of the most stirring events was
the flag raising at Iwo Jima. We were in as close to shore as possible
as it was our job to shoot ahead of the marines when they landed.
In fact, our skipper took us in so close we got hung up on the on
the bottom. The Japs were firing on us and we were sitting ducks!
On July 25th we were sent to join the battle at
Okinawa, the last battle of WW2 and the largest Pacific campaign.
On July 28th we were all happy and celebrating as we were to be
relieved at midnight and head for home. Our ship was worn out and
needed repairs. The destroyer that was to relieve us was late.
At a little after midnight, radar spotted a plane
coming in low and slow. It turned out to be an old biplane. I was
with the crew at the 20mm guns on the starboard side and we could
see the plane coming up behind us on our side. We kept shooting
and shouting, There it is! We had shot at it before
and hit it, but it had turned around and was skimming the water.
Even though it was crippled, it was coming back to us intent on
suicide. It exploded on the starboard side of the ship and its bomb
let loose and skidded across the deck and penetrated the after engineroom.
Our ship flooded. My crew was all killed and blown overboard except
me. I could never fathom why I was the exception. I was blown down
the deck towards the bow and through a narrow passageway where I
finally came to rest. I knew I was hurt badly and was gasping for
breath so I crawled under the ladders to avoid being stepped upon.
I kept thinking I would try to get down to my bunk to die. My mind
is pretty blank after that but I do remember crawling into the radar
room beside me.
The next thing I remember I was out on deck again
with my life jacket on. Then somehow either someone picked me up
and threw me or maybe I jumped myself. Either way, I was in the
water. There was oil and blood all around me. More Jap planes had
appeared and were strafing everyone they could, survivors and boats.
I could see my ship burning and I could hear her crying and groaning
for help as the planes were everywhere bombing and strafing us.
The other ships were too busy defending our fleet to be able to
give us any help. I saw a shark coming toward me and I thought it
was the end for sure. I knew they were attracted to blood and there
was plenty around me. He kept circling around me and I tried to
keep an eye on him and one on my ship. I could hear her cries and
groans and then there was a huge explosion and the USS Callaghan
sank. It was 2:29 AM July 29th. I couldnt stop the tears when
I saw my ship disappear under the water, but just then I felt the
shark bump against me. I reached out a hand and tried to push him
away. He circled one more time and then left. I dont know
what kept him from attacking me but I thank God for whatever it
was. Perhaps he didnt like the blood and oil mixture or maybe
he didnt like the smell of my sox. This I will never know..
A whaleboat came along but didnt see me
in the water and I was unable to call out. Awhile later, two of
my shipmates came floating past. When they saw me they stopped and
stayed with me. When the next rescue boat came along they hailed
it. The people in the boat said there was no more room. Don Bell,
one of my shipmates and a good friend to this day, reached up and
yanked one of the uninjured out. Now you have room,
he said. They got me into the boat and took me to the Cassion Young,
another destoyer there. The men in the boat climmbed up the rope
ladder but when they realized I was unable to do so myself, they
had the boat lifted to the deck and took me out of it on a stretcher
then laid me on the deck and a corpsman stayed with me. A doctor
came along and told him to leave me as I wasnt going to make
it. He got angry and told the doc to go to h
. Finally, they
put me on a table in the wardroom. I remember a corpsman putting
compresses and an IV into me and a black steward turning white from
the sight of me.
My one lung had been blown open and had lead in
it . Lead also filled my chest. I was then transferred to a converted
hospital ship and again laid on the deck. A toe tag was put on me
and I was left with the dead and dying. My skipper came along and
asked if he could do anything for me. I tried to tell him that I
wanted to be washed but couldnt get it out. I could get one
word out at a time but it took me a long time. The corpsman with
me finally figured out what I was trying to say and told the Capt.
My Skipper stayed with me while they tried to clean me up. My friend,
Don Bell, came along too. I told him to write to my parents and
tell them I just had a scratch. I didnt want them to get the
telegram from the service about me being wounded and they worry,
wondering what had happened. Don wrote them and my parents told
me later they were so thankful to get my letter saying I was ok.
They knew I wrote it so they were spared all the worry.
The doctor came out of the wardroom, took a look
at me and said, You still here? I might as well look at you
then. They put me on a table and the doctor punctured my chest
with something. You could hear the air rush out. He waited a moment
and let me get my first good breath since I had been wounded. He
opened my chest up and found one lung collapsed and my chest filled
with lead. He examined the rest of me and found lead all through
my body and extremities. He repaired my lung and tried to remove
as much lead from my chest as possible. He had them remove me from
the table and put me back on deck. I was loaded onto a stretcher
and somehow got sent to the airport instead of the hospital. I was
put onto a plane that was loaded with wounded and it was headed
for the states. We landed at Guam to refuel. A doctor came aboard
to check everyone. When he came to me he called a corpsman and told
him to take me off as I would never make it. I told him to let me
at least try and he said NO as I couldnt possibly live that
I was removed and put into the hospital at Guam.
I couldnt seem to keep any food down so a nurse there made
me a special mixture of peanut butter and bananas. That seemed to
work and I was able to keep that down. She would give me some every
couple of hours and had them do it for me when she was off. She
saved my life. A marine was in the bed next to me who was pretty
well shot up too. One day a Red Cross lady came along and asked
if I wanted a pack of cigarettes. They were those little packs that
held four cigarettes. I said sure and she said that would be 1 dollar.
Naturally I didnt have any money since my clothes and everything
else were at the bottom of the ocean. I only had the pair of shorts
I was wearing. The marine next to me got so mad at the Red Cross
person he hustled her down the ward and practically threw her out
the door. Then he collapsed and they had to carry him back to his
bed. Another day, an officer came by my bed, stopped for a second,
said something, put his hand on my chest, then walked away talking
to the pretty nurse who was with him. After he left, the marine
asked if I knew what the officer had done and I said no. He said
I had just received the Purple Heart and how did I like the officers
presentation of it.
Three months later I was put aboard another plane
and sent to the states. When I arrived in Ca., I was taken to Mare
Island Hospital where I stayed until my discharge the following
spring. I left the navy with a purple heart, 12 campaign ribbons,
14 battle stars and lots of metal throughout my body but I am just
proud that I was able to serve my country..
Our ship was tied up at the pier, Were always in the forefront,sir,
Our watch was all in town, Of any battle fought.
And I reclined upon a beach We rush right in and fight to win
To watch the sun go down. Without a wasted thought.
I see you are a sailor,son, For when the battles raging,
An old man said to me. And our line is wearing thin,
You have the look of someone The admiral shouts the order,
Who has spent long days at sea. Send the small boys in.
I sail aboard a tin can, sir, In war or peace while others rest
I answered him with pride, Weve hardly just begun.
We always get the toughest jobs, We answer with a hearty,Aye,Aye,
And take them all in stride. What job do you want done?
Im in the dungaree navy ,sir,
Theres nothing we cant do, So when I go to heaven sir
No matter what the job is,sir, Saint Peter will take my hand
We always see it through. And offer me a special place,
Cause I am a tin-can man.
E. C. Woodward
The USS Callaghan DD 792
E. C. and the rest of the crew:
Woodward, Light, Albert, Ball and