A Sailor in the Dirty Navy- Gene Bos
I was born August 22, 1926, in the Hollywood Hospital, to John and Lillian Bos. My dad was a U.S. Postal Mail Carrier in Los Angeles, California. I was pictured on my third birthday in a sailor suit, destined even then to join the U.S. Navy.
That Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, I had just completed my paper deliveries and was playing the pinball machine at Poncho's Mexican Restaurant on Blackstone Avenue where my mother worked. Almost sixteen and hearing the unbelievable news of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, even then, I wondered if I could join the U. S. Navy when I became of age.
The day after my seventeenth birthday, August 23, 1943, my dad consented, and signed for me to join the U. S. Navy. I had eight weeks of boot camp at Farragut, Idaho, in Company 714, Camp Hill before becoming Seaman 2/C.
Assignments took me to Chicago, Illinois, Philadelphia, Virginia, back to California, Oxnard, and Twenty Nine Palms, all "dirt navy" assignments. In April, our unit became ACORN 52, (code name for standard advanced naval base units), training for naval airbase occupation. We provided shore logistics for aviation, including assembly of airplanes ashore, ground combat, live fire, and combined arms training at the marine base in Twenty-Nine Palms.
Carrying 782 gear, we boarded the troop ship, USAT Mormacsea on May 31st, 1945, and waved good-bye as we left San Francisco Bay. I was finally on the sea.
My letter home was heavily censored, written on both sides of the pages, and arriving home full of holes, for I had described our South Pacific convoy route. Our convoy was routed through Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, Ulithi, Leyte, Cebu, and Samar. On the 7th of July 1945, we landed on the shoreline of Mochlan Island on Palawan of the Philippine Islands, where we began base operations.
I recalled reading a story about American prisoners on Palawan dated December 1944. One hundred and fifty men as POWs suffered atrocities while building the airstrip at Puerto Princess by pick and shovel and other crude methods, undernourished and subjected to extreme cruelty, then herded into makeshift bomb shelters and set fire with aviation fuel. The escaping prisoners were machine gunned or hacked with sabers and bayonets. Only eleven men survived. Never did I imagine I would be based on this same island, which since had been secured. We were warned to look out for Japanese soldiers coming out of hiding places in the hills. Some had been discovered waiting in our own chow lines!
I was on Palawan on August 6, 1945, when the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and also on August 9,when the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. America celebrated as President Truman declared August 14th, V-J Day, and General McArthur signed an unconditional surrender in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri on December 2, 1945.
It seemed that I was destined to stay in the dirt navy forever, until I spied an opening on the bulletin board on Palawan for Fireman 1/C and applied. In August, I was flown from Palawan to San Jose, Mindoro and on August 12, signed on board the USS Half Moon AVP26 in Mangarin Bay. Our duty was in the Lingayen Gulf for maintenance and refueling PBY seaplanes.
After taking on supplies, we left Subic Bay for Okinawa on August 30, 1945. The sea was fairly calm, only quiet ripples. Within twenty hours, a raging sea was tossing my ship unmercifully. As the typhoon progressed for twenty-seven hours with sixty-foot waves, 120-knot winds, rolled the Half Moon at fifty-eight degrees maximum, creating structural damage, leaking in the octane fuel tanks, bent lifelines and lost lifeboats. Bottles of Acetylene, Oxygen, and Carbon Dioxide rolled from port to starboard bulkheads, along with other miscellaneous gear, and equipment washed into the sea. A huge freezer below deck bounced from bulkhead to bulkhead as they tried to contain it. Men on the bridge complained of aching eardrums, due to low atmospheric pressure, and the men at the master throttle control required bridles of manila line to maintain their positions. During the storm, our ship became separated from the convoy, arriving in Okinawa a day late, September 3rd. It was a miracle our ship and men survived!
The typhoon damage was mostly repaired before the Half Moon left Manila. From that point we were on duty in the Cavite and Linguyan Gulf area of the Philippines. On the 8th of November 1945, we headed back to the good "ole U.S.A., stopping off at Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Our ship arrived December 1st, in Seattle, Washington, anchoring in Winslow Harbor on Bainbridge Island scheduled for preinactivation overhaul.
I became Electrician 3/C Petty Officer on December 7th, and was formerly discharged. The offer of a thirty-day leave and extra pay influenced my decision to re-enlist in the regular navy for two more years. I operated the movie projector, often driving a jeep into Seattle for film, and ran the ice cream machine aboard ship.
On April 9th, the Half Moon left Seattle for Alameda, then San Diego, California. She was placed on inactive status with San Diego Group Pacific Reserve Fleet, then decommissioned September 4, 1946.
I was assigned to COM Alameda Naval Group, 19th Fleet, for the mothballing operation, sealing compartments and installing dehydration systems on decommissioned ships. A large repair barge tied on the docks next to the airbase was our quarters. Here I was, in the dirt navy again! I lived there for thirteen months before my discharge.