10-16th January 1945 – Navy

Movements of Task Force-38

Except for submarines, Task Force-38 was the first appreciable presence of U.S. forces in the South China Sea.  The ‘Great Fleet’ under VAdm. John McCain consisted of 8 carriers, 4 light-carriers, 19 other capital (war) ships, 56 screening vessels and various logical support ships.  Their mission, Operation Gratitude, was to disrupt the Japanese Navy and interrupt the vital support lanes from Singapore and Indochina.

TF-38 spent 2 days avoiding detection from the enemy and staying clear of the typhoon brewing over the island of Mindanao.  On the 12th, they arrived 65 miles off Can Ranh Bay in French Indochina (Vietnam).  Halsey’s intelligence proved false as to the activity in the area, so alternative plans were put into action.

USS Essex pilots: Hartsock, Parker, Finn and Libbey, Jan. 1945. US Navy photo

Waves of US aircraft scoured the Indochinese coast from Qui Nhon to Saigon.  Clusters of merchant ship and escort vessels were attacked, as were concentrations found in Saigon Harbor on the Mekong River.  Convoy HI-86, north of Qui Nhon, consisted of 10 merchant ships and 6 escorts and drew attention that was an average for the day.

2 freighters and i tanker sunk by Ticonderoga aircraft, Saigon

The full strikes of 30-40 planes each from the carriers Hancock, Hornet (Essex-class), Ticonderoga, Essex, Langley, Lexington (Essex-class), and Independence.  The result was that only 3 smaller enemy escorts remained afloat, the rest were either sunk, left beached or burning.

USS Sullivans & Astoria fuel up from the Taluga 62. Halsey’s flagship New Jersey in the background.

The absence of air opposition allowed all this damage to be accomplished.  At the end of that single day, a total of 41 ships throughout the region were sunk, 31 damaged and 112 aircraft were destroyed on the ground.  In addition to all this, docks, oil storage tanks, and airfields were heavily damaged.

USS Astoria guad-40mm hun crew

The results of this day drastically reduced the Japanese ability to ship goods along this route and Japan would feel the effects for a long time to come.  Robert Sherrod, a Time Magazine correspondent, flew as an observer in one of the Essex aircraft, summed up the day by saying, “By any accounting, 12 January 1945 must be regarded as one of the greatest days of the U.S. Navy.”

With the typhoon now moving westward, TF-38 moved across the South China Sea and northward.  After they refueled, they were in position to strike Formosa again on the 15th.  These strikes were successful, but not as dramatic as the previous ones and they proceeded to backtrack westward again.

Japanese convoy off French Indochina, 12 Jan. ’45

On the 16th, they launched strikes against Hong Kong and the island of Hainan.  The Formosa, Hong Kong and Hainan missions encountered a better organized anti-aircraft fire than Indochina, but it did not hold back the attack.  During these 2 days, another 14 Japanese ships (mostly warships) were sunk and 10 more were damaged.


Navy Humor

TF-38 avoided the typhoon, but still experienced very rough seas.  On 13 January 1945, they created their own humor!! 

USMC Captain Gerard Armitage was washed overboard from the USS Astoria‘s port beam; Herman Schnipper took the photograph. Joe Aman drew the cartoons for the USS Astoria ‘Morning Press News’.

As you can see below – Capt. Armitage was rescued from the sea, but the seamen on board were not satisfied to simply do that for the Marine.  When he got back on board ship the men serenaded him with their own version of a popular song….

The Captain of the Marines went over the rail, parlez vous

It happened in a terrific gale, parlez vous

He slipped on the deck and slid on his tail

You’ll never teach a Marine to sail

Inky-dinky parlez vous.

                                               _____ J.Fred Lind

Once dry and having a meal in the mess, Capt. Armitage was awarded the “Extinguished Service Cross” –  It just happened to be his 24th Birthday!!

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Farewell Salutes – 

Gary Asles – Long Beach, CA; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

John Balog – Wichita, KS; US navy, WWII, PTO, Yeoman, USS Anthony, gunner

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 24, 2011) Ceremonial honor guard during the funeral for retired Vice Adm. Paul F. McCarthy. McCarthy passed away on October 5, 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Carlos M. Vazquez II/Released)

Charles Cooper – Dover, DE; US Navy, WWII, Captain, USS Hornet, Washington & San Diego

Harry Doerfler – Amarillo, TX; US Army, WWII, ETO, 424/106th Infantry Division

Jay Ewing – AR; US Army, WWII, PTO, ambulance driver

Joseph Hanoon – Philadelphia, PA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Enterprise

Merv Martin – Paeroa, NZ; RNZ Navy # 13636, Korea

Frank Nolte – Albuquerque, NM; US Army, Korea, Co.K/187th RCT

Marvin Peters – Longmont, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 gunner

John Turek Sr. – brn. POL/Newington, CT; US Army, WWII, Cpl., mechanic




About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 14, 2017, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 99 Comments.

  1. What a fascinating account. I have never known anything about this before.Well done indeed!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a 24th birthday party for Captain Armitage! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on KCJones and commented:
    Great that they had a sense of humor: “The Captain of the Marines”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A great achievement. Loved the photos. Loved the song. :)))

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey who doesn’t want to go for a dip during their birthday? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What a grand sight the 87 ships of the TF 38 must have been. Adm McCain must have been bursting with pride as he surveyed all those ships under his command.

    An Armada of that size and force must surely have deserved an Admiral of The Fleet in overall command,

    Bull Halsey was I believe one of the USN few 5 Star Admirals equivalent to an Admiral of The Fleet.

    Must admit to singing that little ditty aloud, love it:D

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Which was rougher? The seas or the humor?

    Liked by 3 people

    • The needed humor through everything that was going on around them and to them. Sometimes I think that perhaps the old adage, “You’ve to laugh to keep from crying” came from the generation that went through the Great Depression slap into a world war!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank-you for sharing these stories and help us understand what happened in the Pacific during the war.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Spannend verhaal en de humor er in bracht me aan het lachen.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dear GP Cox
    the commentary of Nasuko made me think of how can we write about war without idealising it. As you know I am German. Actually the German student revolution started with the critique of our parents fighting in the war and speaking about heroes. Well, a poor country that needs heroes. Fortunately I never experienced a war but I talked to the old boys in English pubs who had to fight. From my accent they immediately noticed me being German and after few pints I quite often I heard “we didn’t want to go to war and we know your people didn’t want it neither.”
    On the other hand I agree we have to know the history of wars to learn. But how to present it?
    There has been quite a discussion about Ernst Jüngers bestseller “Storm of Steel” that raised this question about how to present war without falling into the trap of presenting heroes or heroic deeds. I like that you don’t present ‘heroic’ action or heroes on your blog. It’s not that easy writing about the horrors of wars …
    Thank you very much, dear GP Cox, for your detailed history lessons and all this rechearching.
    We wish you a cosy and wonderful pre-Christmas time
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • I thank you very much, Klausbernd. This critique of my presentation means a lot to me. I dislike the way Hollywood presents the stories, all glorified and romantic, when we all are aware that no one wins in a war. It was my father who first told me after I found his scrapbook that it wasn’t difficult to get along with the Japanese people, even being one of the first to step foot on that nation as a “conqueror” because the civilians were happy that it was finally over! He never had a complaint about how he was treated in Japan.
      All the very best wishes for my Fab Four of Cley for the weekend and throughout the holiday season!!
      GP Cox

      Liked by 3 people

      • Dear GP Cox
        thank you so much for your kind reply!
        We agree in quite a lot and I really like your attitude that no one wins in a war.
        Today we start baking our Christmas cookies. We love it when the whole house smells of cinnamon and all the other goodies.
        With lots of love and finest fairy dust
        The Fab Four of Cley

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dear Klausbernd,
          The mention of cinnamon brings back those days of watching mom bake (and don’t forget the nutmeg!) and the scents of pine from the tree all coming together to spell the magic that makes strangers smile and enmies shake hands.
          All my very best hopes for an outstanding future…
          GP Cox

          Liked by 1 person

  11. The Japanese cannot have had any idea of the power of the United States when they initiated Pearl Harbor. Task Force 38 turning up like that must have seemed to them like July 8, 1853 when Commodore Matthew Perry turned up with his warships in Edo Bay.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We had to create that power since our military was downsized, as usual for ‘peacetime’. After the Battle for Leyte Gulf, this had to have IJN pulling their hair out for sure! Thanks for stopping in, John.


  12. Does write to rejoice that have defeated Japan in the war?
    The winning war equal “justice”?or be said to be “All correct”?
    It is “No”.
    If All the countries do not realize what did wrong the “war”, the world repeat the same “failure” forever.
    I can not find the meaning of recording past wars.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I grew up with the US military, they had always “justice”.
      A country losing the war can be bent the facts, the evidence is destroyed,
      History be rewritten beneficial to Win country.
      People all over the world know such a thing.
      The American soldier I know had “justice”.
      I am a bit disappointed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for commenting, Nasuko.
        Can you possibly tell me how the serviceman who stopped to help a car crash victim and got hit himself is doing in the hospital? I can’t believe the only report I’ve seen so far on it here is from the Stars and Stripes magazine about 3 servicemen helping him.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dr.GP Cox,
          Is it About the condition or Medical treatment of Master Sergeant Hector Trujillo?

          He seems to be unconscious because brain’s damage.

          “Gastrostomy” take nutrition, this will not be a problem ,because it can remove when he recuperate.
          Other complications (Pneumonia etc) have caused , but it will be cured of antibiotics etc.

          We just hope to recuperate from his cerebral function .


          [Updates]His wife write about him.↓

          December 11, 2017
          ~ Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) is an endoscopic medical procedure which a tube is going into Hector’s stomach through the abdominal wall so they can feed him. They are also conducting an electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in the brain. ~Early today they have been letting him breathe with out the machine but it does bring his blood pressure up so they are also trying to keep that blood pressure balanced~

          December 12, 2017
          ~As far as his EEG test they don’t see any major changes with each test. So neurologist team will keep monitoring daily.So it’s not getting worse and to early to diagnose anything severe. He did run a fever last night and they think it might be an infection in the lungs so they did not go with the PEG procedure till a later date~

          Liked by 1 person

    • We can always hope that by re-learning the past wars, we will NOT repeat the same mistakes. Of course the Allies rejoiced in defeating the enemy, just as the Axis powers rejoiced in their successes. Both sides always feel they are right in their beliefs, but in my opinion, it takes 2 to make an argument. I thank you for coming by. It is good that we can compare both sides now that our countries are friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. GP – I enjoyed this post – especially the Navy humor about the overboard Marine!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. It’s posts like this that keep me coming back for more. What an interesting history lesson. Thanks, GP, for sharing your research.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Well Captain Armitage sure looks like a good sport – – the Pacific is a pretty big ocean to get washed into, I’m glad it had a happy ending, and he lived to laugh about it.
    I was looking at the pictures of the airstrikes, and thinking there must have been oil, diesel, gasoline just everywhere on the coast of Vietnam etc. So the war was kind of an environmental disaster, too. But as far as the war effort, pretty good shootin’ that day, that’s quite a tally!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Environmentally, I really would not want to even try to figure it out!! But we sure put a dent in what ships the enemy had left after Leyte Gulf! With his birthday and all, Capt. Armitage was a champ!!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. A very interesting story, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. The comic and story that goes with it both made me smile.

    The damage inflicted by the task force, in a matter of a few days, had to be unthinkable by the Japanese years, perhaps even months earlier. This was like Sherman’s march to the sea.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Enjoyed this post, GP, learning the strategies and accomplishments of these military heroes. I looked it up, and learned that Vice Admiral John McCain was U.S. Senator John McCain’s grandfather. A celebrated and patriotic family.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Such frightening times. And awfully close to my son in Okinawa. Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story, innit.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. If indeed Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had said: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” At this point in the war, the Japanese must have realised that the game was up, despite their refusal to surrender. Even so, there was a long way to go and a great struggle ahead for Allied forces until the final surrender on August 15. Great post GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I believe that the Vice Admiral John McCain you mention was Senator McCain’s grandfather. Is that correct? Great post. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Amazing.
    Being swept overboard – probably not a good experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. That’s really funny about Capt. Armitage, although I’m sure he was scared to death after being washed overboard. It has always amused me how men in a combat situation could be so light-hearted at times. But I guess that’s how they survived. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Great post! I always enjoy reading your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I liked the humorous song

    Liked by 1 person

  26. In reference to Navy humor: My Dad was transferred to the Philippines via a Liberty ship early in 1946 for mop up duty. He said the effort to avoid the tropical storms along the way was ‘up to but not exceeding the minimum distance necessary, and usually not that much’. He said there would always be dozens of soldiers hanging their heads over the railings during the entire trip – day and night!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Well, that’s one way to celebrate a birthday!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. A very detailed and interesting account.

    These actions in the SCS again prove that air supremacy back then was vital.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. A marvelous bit of history, GP. Have a thriving Thursday!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Wonderful article, thanks GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. This really illustrates the power of air supremacy, a lesson also learned by the Germans in 1945. Once the allies had command of air operations, the end was inevitable, on all fronts.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Inky dinky parlez-vous ! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I’m honored to have such a friend!


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