While in Kojo-Do we had a little excitement. During the night a storm blew up and a bum boat tried to take
refuge at the fantail of a ship anchored in the harbor. The storm blew the boat out into the open and blew it
over, one South Korean swam away and the other two climbed upon the over turned boat. The swimmer
accidentally swam to our gangway where the Quarterdeck watch helped him to the ship to quiz the guy for
we thought him an escaped POW. We learned that his brother and a friend were still out in the water so at
once the ship’s search lights scanned the area but no floating boat could be seen in the rain and darkness.
crew was dispatched at once but it was a job for the undertaker for both Koreans had died of exposure of
the rain and coldness.
The next day we loaded up a Military Transport Service Ship (MSTS) with Army personnel from Kojo-Do. They
have no docks there and must depend on small craft to act as ferries for transportation to and from ships that
come in, thus the Winnie had to make use of her boats.
We loaded up with ex-POW guards and on the 23rd of March, sea detail was set and we headed for Inchon,
Korea. Arrived there early in the morning of the 23rd of March. Only took a day to unload, was so cold that
the fellow just didn’t want the cargo hatches open any longer than they had to be. Besides the Army was
starting to eat us out of house and home, just had to get rid of them or starve ourselves. We were due to
stay around in Inchon but about time that 30 ft tide went out a storm blew in. Sea detail was set so many
times that day that it would have been better to have stayed at it all day. We just couldn’t stay the proper
anchor so SOPA ordered all ships to head for the open sea. Well our old man just didn’t care anymore about
returning then we did so he requested. We proceed- independently to Yokosuka, Japan. Affirmative was the
reply so four days later the Winnie moored alongside the USS Seminole AKA-104. May repairs were badly
needed not only on the boats but the engine room and fire room needed work before we could pull another
operation. The Ship Repair Facilities of Yokosuka worked around the clock in the engine room tearing down
and rebuilding the machinery. The 4th of April the Seminole moved out and the Winnie moored port side to
While we were alongside the dock twice a ship tied up to the Winnie. First time was the George Clyler APA-
27, the flagship of our squadron, Condivronll, and the second time was when the hospital ship USS Haven
came in. The Haven had just returned from a tour of duty in Korean waters and really looked to be in bad
shape. The crew all got a big kick out of all the nurses who had to cross our quarterdeck to get on the dock.
On the 16th of April one of the fellows was returning to the ship from liberty in a taxi, the taxi stopped at
the foot of the gangway, Bill were alighted from the taxi, took a step or two and fell into a open manhole on
the pier. He struck his head on an iron beam while falling and crushing his skull. Most of the crew knew Bill for
he was an old timer aboard the Winnie and after finding that it would be no trouble to get his wife over here
in a few hours a collection of $1600 was made. His wife arrived in the 21st and Bill lived until the 25th of April.
A guy can go through all sorts of battles but yet get seriously injured at his own front door.
On the brighter side of things was the two ships parties of 10th and 11th April. They had held at the EM Club
in Yokosuka. Plenty of eats and beer were on hand. taxi dancers to dance with end a good floor show to
keep you entertained.
From the 30th of March to the 25th of April we were alongside dock which made it much easier to go on
liberty, no uncertain boat schedules to put up with, just walk off the gangway to a waiting taxi-cab which well
could be a new Chevy. or Plymouth. There was nothing to keep us from getting out to seeing Japan so that’s
what I did. One weekend I took a train to Kakakura, The Temple City. Kamakura is about half way between
Tokyo and Yokosuka. This at one time, over 700 years ago, was the capital of Japan. A world famous sight at
Kamakura is the Dai-butsu or Great Buddha. This huge bronze statue, 42 feet high and 87 feet around, was
cast in the 13th century and is one of the outstanding works of its kind. Another famous shrine I visited was
the Hachiman, the god of war, and formerly the most powerful of Japanese gods.
I waked over six miles visiting various shrines and ended my tour on the beautiful island of Enoshima. This I
believe is the Coney Island of Japan. Things weren’t booming yet but they sure showed signs.
The weekend of the 18th and 19th of April, a friend and myself took a long train ride to Gotemba on Mount
Fujiyama (Mt.Fiji). We stayed with Bob Frye and Tony Lombardo who are from Columbus and station at Camp
McNair which is located at the sloop of the mountain. They said it had snowed the Thursday before and to top
it off we slept in tents, something odd for a sailor to do. Fijiyama, the sacred mountain, is 12,365 feet high,
and it’s snowcapped, cone shaped peak is visible on a clear morning for more than 70 miles. It is sometimes
called Fuji-san, since the Japanese have two words for mountains, san and yama. Climbing it is a tough job,
but the Japanese have a proverb: “He who fails to climb Fuji in his lifetime is a fool; he who climbs it twice is a
bigger fool”. Many service personnel stationed in Japan are planning on reaching the top, included are Bob
and Tony, but this can only be done during the summer months – late June to the first of September – when
the peak is relatively free of snow.
On the way to Gotombe, Dave Veigard and myself had a few lay-overs. We left Yokosuka on an electric train
more crowded than a New York subway. These trains pull into a station, bells ring, a strange language blares
over the P.A. system and crowds begin to push and shove, before you realize what has happened you have
either gotten on the train or have been pushed back to the ticket gathers. The two stops we had were Ofuna
and Kozu. At Kozu we switched from an electric to a steam line. This was the long leg of our journey even if it
was the shortest distance but due to the steep grade that old steam engine just couldn’t do the knots but
we did make it. Bob and Tony showed us around and we visited two famous hotels, the Fuji-View and the Fuji
New Grand. Those two places are operated by Special Services of the Armed Forces and prices are well within
the pocketbook. For example, a dinner, all you can eat at that for only $.50. One thing that amused me was
the good memory of the Japanese waitresses. They were able to take the orders of Bob, Tony, Dave, and
myself, all five courses, each one a little different, and not forget who ordered what. No memo pads
whatsoever were used.
Easter Sunday I went to Yokohama to attend church services and while up there I ran into an anchor-klaner
that I went through boot camp with. He has been stationed over here the past two years and not only knows
his way around but also the language. After eating a big dinner at the EM Club of Yokohama we took a train
to Tokyo which is 18 miles from Yokohama. This I believe is the largest and most Americanized city in Japan.
Here are the official residence of the Emperor, the seat of the Japanese government, and the one time offices
of the occupation forces.
Emperor Hirochito still lives in the Imperial Palace, surrounded by a series of moats such as those which
existed in medieval times. Only a certain part of the grounds are open to the public and it so happened I was
there at the wrong time to visit them, but we did drive around the outer moat. Across this outer moat from
the Palace is the modern Dai Ichi Building. It also was closed, just wasn’t my day.
Tokyo’s main shopping street is called the Ginza. It is not too different from our “main drag” or High Street –
bordered by large department stores with modern merchandise, and also by small sidewalk stands with
novelty goods. Tokyo has felt the influence of the Western customs much more than have smaller towns and
country districts. Here most women wear Western-style dresses, but in the country they more than likely will
appear in colorful, sashed kimonos, or in “mompei” – a kind of baggy pantaloon made of rough cloth, and
drawn tightly at the ankle.
When I first walked down a Japanese Street I was impressed immediately by three things, they were so small
in stature, so many of them, and they try to be so formal and polite. The size certainly fools you but as I
traveled through the country I saw plenty of evidence that they are tough and hardy. They are used to heavy
loads and one can see men and women – even boys and girls- pulling carts, and carrying on their backs all
kinds of gear and equipment that we’d consider too much to handle.
As you might have guessed I was interested in the houses that they live in and took extra time around
Yokosuka in inquire and visit them. Japanese people are poor and, by American standards, they live in
primitive fashion. Most Japanese homes are bungalows, or, at most, two-story frame houses. They have no
foundations; the houses sit right on the ground. In the cities the pillars of the homes are made of wood, and
the walls of mud or plaster. The roofs are usually tile, or thatched with thick straw. There are few walls in a
Japanese house. The house has partitions in the form of sliding panels, “shoji”, which can be removed in
warm weather, so that the Japanese practically live outdoors. The “shoji” are usually frame doors covered
with thin rice paper though, in better homes, they may be of glass.
Japanese eat, sleep, and entertain on the wooden floors of their homes. Covers of straw matting are placed
on the floors. By placing simple cushions on the “tatami”, or matting, the room becomes a living room. The
same cushions, places around a low table (about a foot high) make it a dining room. At night the table is
removed and “futon” (sleeping quilts) are placed on the floor. One or more of these makes a mattress, while
other quilts are used as covers. A hard block of wood, or a cloth cover, packed tightly with wheat husks,
serve as a pillow. Because of these uses, the Japanese are particular about keeping the matting clean – and
you must remove your shoes before entering a home.
Small formal gardens surround most homes with any pretension toward yard space. These reminded me of
the small potted “garden” sold by florists in the States with miniature trees, bridges, and a shrine. Every rock,
every plant in their gardens is placed a special way which is supposed to bring the house good luck. Cultured
Japanese women are artists at flower arrangements, in which the position of each blossom and twig has a
special meaning. I once saw a flower show in Tokyo and will vouch that they really know how to raise
beautiful flowers. But the cherry blossoms are just as nice as those around Ohio in the spring. It was nice to
see spring come to Japan for it was a little different that in the states, something that’s hard to put down in
Early Monday morning of the 27th of April, Special Sea Detail was set and the old Winnie headed south for
Okinawa. Okinawa lies in the same latitude as Mexico, but is considerably cooler. One thing it does have and
that is a great deal of rain all the year round, hardly a day goes by that it doesn’t rain for an hour or more.
We arrived in Buckner Bay late the evening of the 29th. Our main purpose was to take part in a big
amphibious operation later this month in which the Army will get in on. Until then it’s just a matter of loafing.
This past Monday and Tuesday we went out and sailed around the island while the George Clymer (APA-27)
held an ORI on us (operation readiness inspection) and the next day we held one on them. Neither one
amounted to anything for it was just for the records.
This isn’t much of a place for liberty but several DD’s and two aircraft carriers are in here. With only a finger
pier and it’s used for cargo unloading only these ships are depending upon us for water-taxi service so that’s
all we are doing.
We have gone on tropical working hours and the daily routine now followed is:
0530 Reveille 1200 Dinner – Liberty commences to
0545 Catholic Morning Devotions expire at 2400
0630 Protestant Morning Devotions 1700 Supper
0700 Quarters for Muster 1950 Movie
0715 Turn to – Commence Ship’s Work 2200 Taps
1130 Knock off Ship’s Work
We’ll be around here during the month of May so I’ll not write anything about the Okinawas until I observe
them more and get around and see what the place really looks like. Thus far all I’ve done is to go swimming
over at White Beach and chum around at the EM Club. With every afternoon, plus all day Saturday & Sunday I
wouldn’t mind sticking around a little while longer.
Think I’ve said enough so best I end this for tonight and try again someday. Hope to hear from you and the
best of luck to all of you.
U.S.S. WINSTON (AKA94)
Buckner Bay, Okinawa
7 May 1953
It has been close to two months since I last wrote one of these general letters. At that
time the Winnie and her crew were on their way to Korea for some amphibious
Korea was very cold when we arrived in Pusan the 14th of March. Only stayed in Pusan
for a day and then we were on our way to Sokeno-Ri to pick up troops from the front.
The ship stayed close to the coast as we headed north, so close that at times it looked
as if one could reach over the rail and touch the mountains. Was around 0940 the 16th
of March when we dropped the anchor and in less than an hour all boats were
unloaded, the cargo hatches unbuttoned, and the One Able crew were ready to
commence loading the First Calvary’s equipment. These boys were very happy to be
aboard ship where the chow was good and plenty of warm water to take a shower in.
This wasn’t to last long for the 18th of March early in the morning the anchor was
dropped in Inna Harbor, Koje-Do, Korea. Most of you know this to be the POW camp.
The troops we had aboard were to assume guard duty for a three month period while
the personnel they were replacing took a tour of duty on the line.