My uncle George Sinclair (married to my mom’s sister Ella) served in the Navy during WW II as a Sound Man (Sonar) on the USS Casco III (AVP-12) – Sea Plane tender. He was on this ship when it was torpedoed on 30 August 1942 with the result of 5 men killed and 20 wounded. Quick action brought flooding to a halt. Casco was beached and later salvaged. Casco was floated on 12 September, and after emergency repairs at Dutch Harbor and Kodiak, she received a thorough overhaul at Puget Sound Navy Yard and returned to fog-bound Aleutian duty in March 1943.
My uncle George died in December of 1969 and my aunt passed away in1991. After my aunt died we went through her things and we found George’s diary from the Battle of the Aleutians, spring, 1943.
The diary is a small notebook and written in pencil and some of it was hard to read, I typed it out exactly as it appears in the diary. Much thanks to WW2 Navy men, Bob Heyer and Bill Guymer for helping me with this.
It starts on March 29, 43
March 29, 1943————-Constantine Harbor on the island of AMCHITKA S.O.P.A. (Senior Officer Present Afloat) 73 miles from the Jap held island of KISKA which is being bombed every day at least once. The Jap task force encountered and turned back at the expense of one damaged cruiser S.L.C., one damaged Destroyer or sunk. Jap loss? No dope.
March 30———–As before. Sighted enemy plane in morning. The Japs have 8 or 7 clumsy sea planes at Kiska. Against our modern fighters and bombers. No dope on task force. Standing sound watches with Cambell, Seattle boy, swell guy, decent. Seen old movie.
March 31———-Army reports strange craft on opposite side of island after is too late to investigate. Orders of home port, not S.O.P.A. Small scow sighted, believe to be one we fired on in ocean – at least 100 miles from our land. Believed to be Jap tramp or oil supply. 8 miles away. Seen old movie. I want Marge.
April 1———–Routine General Quarters 0700. Army Air Transports to arrive under P-38’s escort. Then destroyer arrives for patrol duty in channel mouth. Middletdon freighter still on beach – high and dry – moved today. High hope of getting off. Standing watch with Smalken, 21 year old L.A. Jew College Graduate, journalist, speacialty history – is new on ship – off on wrong foot. Mason – Jew, looks like on stupid side. I can’t figure him out. Believe him to be a ___?_____. Mid watch with Smalken. Am rather disgusted with him, an officer’s responsible for him going to sound school. I hate him. War is a gigantic economic upheaval. I have a secret dislike for Smalken an I’m trying to get him off the sound gear.
April 2———–Moored as before. Tugs are tugging on Middelton. Wind 54 knots in morning. Seen the best show I’ve ever seen maybe, “Strike up the Band” in the ship’s mess hall. Still no dope on craft opposite side of island. No dope on small scow.
April 3———-Radio Direction finder reports interference in Kiska area. Believed to be task force. Wind 45 knots – snow.
April 4———-Beautiful day. I have developed a routine – giving myself plenty of sleep and no work. Bombed Kiska. Talked of taking Kiska with a force from our ship. Sward an gun practice today. Search for source of direction finders interference in vain. Nothing is found.
April 5———-Payday. Didn’t send Margie any. Army reports Sub 10 miles west. Heading our way an did not drop bombs on it. Beautiful day. Bombed Kiska. Airdales bomb it without permission.
April 6———-Teel both 150 feet. The tug Moon Light Maid arrived here. No mail. Haven’t received any mail since we left – March 14th. Wind 50 knots. No planes up. Teel broke her moorings and drifted into the nite. Tug pulled her clear. Tug’s captain arguing with our Captain S.O.P.A. Sound conditions terrible. Did not hear Teel or tug pass our ship.
April 7———–Middleton moved off beach. Damaged an will be towed to repair base. Talk of getting mail on – Destroyer coming to relieve patrol destroyer. SNOW. Radar reports reliable 37 miles toward Kiska Airfield. Almost done, Middleton’s 7 Million Dollar cargo unloaded. Also unloading of Ainsworth on Yukon continuing. Blasting road work.
April 8———–As before. S.O.P.A. of Harbor. Captain Kiener – 73 men come aboard off Middelton to await transportation to Seattle after almost 4 mo. on beach sand. Radar in condition 3 watch stood. Smalkin writing radical politics on watch, very good journalist. Stupid in several ways. A genius in others. NO MAIL.
April 9———-Mail. Heard from Louise, Margie and Margrett cousin. Feel swell now. Several frustrations cleared up. Moral of the ship is at a medium high. Sandy – Winner $600.00 I don’t play dice. Plenty money in crew hands. JAPS captured Kiska, Attu and Islands without firing a shot.
April 10———-Snow. Getting used to the same scenery. Captain’s Inspection called off till later date. 73 miles from Kiska. Change watch to 4 to 8. ___?____ night an day for a week. Middleton, 7 million dollar freighter towed out this morning under escort of one destroyer – skeleton crew. Whats on Attu. Rumor – Starve out Kiska. Ainsworth unloaded. Aircraft 25 miles away. All army planes in air. All our guns cocked – No G.Q. No Mail. Continuous sound and radar watch’s good, – Smalken. Jap sea planes are moved out of Kiska harbor. Japs building landing runway on Kiska.
April 11———-Cloudy – Fluries of snow. Routine material inspection. I quote – Ship in excellent condition. Middelton’s men transferred to Ainsworth an left. Marines arrived from States and Solomens. Finland’s war effort convoyed thru Germany’s war machine to exterminate U.S. allies, although U.S. has not declared war on her. World War 1 debt installment was paid by Finland in 1940 to U.S. One year after (1941) U.S. was at war with Germany.
April 12———-Beautiful Day – All day sunshine. Unmerciful bombing of Kiska by Army base planes here at Atku planes. Aprox 60 tons of bombs unloaded over Kiska. P-38 with wing shot up, P-40 made perfect emergency landing on north end of island, saving both pilot and plane.
April 13———–Beautiful day all day. Landing field finished. Road almost thru to end of channel. Avast, Tender. North Star, freighter. Wood, Mine Sweeper. Monahan, Can – arrive. No mail. Bomb Kiska Aprox 60 tons of bombs today. Russian cooperation necessary for early victory. I’m inclined to believe Japs are underestimated. Kiska my opinion 1000 to 5000 men about 10 to 15, 12in. and 20 in. anti aircraft guns.
April 14, 15, 16, no diary entries.
April 17———–4 to 8 Smalkin. Change Watch to Med, 4 to 8. Smalkin improving, slowly by continuous teaching. Lent him $5.00 to buy shoes – sends all his money home in allotments. Personal inspection today. Undress Blues. I am wearing mustache against Kitchanoes orders. Captain has permissioned all crew to raise beard and mustache. All’s well after inspection. Beck – machinist – distinguished metal. Planes report sub 14 miles north coast. Freighter Monahan – Departed – can.
April 18———–Perfect day, N. Dak. Spring. Bombed Kitska with a grand total of 114 planes, 3 freighters have transported Marines and soldiers in Mead – can from Solomons, Shazor, Can from Solomans. Garrison – Freighter. No Mail – No movie reels. Rigid Sub Patrol maintained. Tanks are being unloaded. Kiska bombed from high altitude strafed with opposition. Unloading of garrison continued. 3 Air transports arrive unknown cargo. News reports favorable in Soloman Islands appears to be near crisis.
No entry for April 19
April 20———-Payday. Took a bath – combed my hair. P-40 cracked up taking off. Pilot uninjured. From 4 to 12 planes in air all day. Bombed Kiska. Air reports arrive – 6 of em. Capps S2c and Enger, Radioman 3 c fight.
April 21———-Windy – up to 40 knots – cloudy, poor sound conditions. Convoy of 4 ships arrive: Teel – Gale – Destroyer, Tank Carrier and freighter. News brought by teel of task force of Navada – two battleships. New Richmond – Plane carrier. Atlanta – Six cruisers. ?Destroyers. Also 1000 Soldiers, 500 Marines, Tanks, Trucks, Jeeps and guns. Sub contact by channel patrol. Several depth charges dropped. Atka – no dope as to the whereabouts of this force said to be around Attu.
April 22———-Tank transport arrived yesterday. Tanks are amphibian type are swimming ashore today. Nice day. Sub contacts in channel. Bombed Kiska. Mail – 8 letters. Everybody’s happy. Ice cream for chow.
April 23———-Cloudy – mist. Slept through G.Q. had to report to O.D. a petrol officer. Soundmen to stand messenger watches. Material inspection. Good Friday – No meat. Marge thinks I’m near Kiska. Mit Ferguson M.M. hear Tokio news broadcast. Very radical – 1400 miles to Tokio, good reception. Air supremacy in all fronts reported. Thin absolute no competition.
April 24———-Nice day. Bombed Kiska with usual 40 tons of bombs. Amphibians Jeeps unloaded and we have one as a gift from Army. Germany preparing for gas warfare and air war effort in Constantine harbor alone is beyond comprehension. Aprox cost $70000.00 per day. Our existence seems unnecessary. Tension rising in crew. Terrible flood in No. Dak. Left hundreds homeless in Mandan.
April 25———–Usual – nice. Bombing weather. My routine and consist of 10 minutes work a day – exercise is necessary by most men. 8 hours per day watch is stood by most men including myself. Our abnormal life, lead without female companionship is beginning to tell on most of us. 4 unidentified ships reported by Army at 10.00 O’clock Report slow in taking affect. Planes do not get off by dark. 0930 O’clock as they are loaded with bombs and gas. Our Captain scolded Air Commander of Amchitca for Slip up.
April 26———-After one month in harbor we leave. After unloading 60 bombs and all torpedoes during night. Spotted 4 ships to Armys report. Transports U.S. convoy. Arrived in Adak – 1000 Large offense base about 10 freighters. 5 cans, various small craft, several P.T. boats. Adak is about 3 times as big as Amchitca. Loaded stores till the 0000 hour. Filled our gas tanks to 86,000 gallons from the tender. Freighter Platte had also supplied the Mackinac in Guadicanal, which is now post office for that area.
April 27———-Received Mail. Moored to buoy inside torpedo nets behind a sub patrol. After one month two days on the Aleutian battle front we have never fired a shot or seen a Jap. Received word, the Salt Lake City cruiser reported to have been damaged seriously is now with our task force some where in the Aleutians.
April 28———-Crews Payday. Perfect day. Bombed Kiska. 12 P-40’s, 12 P-38’s several times, 8 B-24’s today. 18 b-24’s Atka. Lost 2 40’s, 1 p-38. Our biggest loss is today on this Aleutian front.
April 29———-Nice Day. Got Supplies. Bombed Kiska. 18 B-24’s sighted Sunday/Hours 1000. I’ve quit all gambling. Studying for second soundman. Jap radio broadcast heard as interpreted in Japan. Outrageous propaganda. They are most certainly going to win.
April 30 through May 17 entries missing or not recorded.
May 18———-Fog lifted – No clouds, calm sea. Hulbert, Old converted destroyer arrives in our little bay to assist in caring for the planes. Resistance continues. No prisoners will be taken. Five sleeping Jap officers were demolished last night in a tent with a hand grenade. 2 Jap nurses were captured and were not killed. Half Jap forces reported dead. Holtz Bay is completely captured. Col. that so brazenly killed 13 Japs by talking their language to gain confidence is now dead. War Correspondent Eugene Burns is aboard. We replenished P.B.Y.’s depth charge supply as they have sunk one sub, damaged one with help of destroyers.
May 19———-Beautiful spring day. General Quarters is held as usual at 0530 O’Clock. The first indication of war comes back to us today as a O.S.2.U. comes back to us with two holes in one wing. The pilots hand crushed with shrapnel. One Army B-25 is shot down today. We see Jap forces as they are scouted out of their nests an hiding by our soldiers by use of binoculars. We can not fire our big guns as they would kill our own men. Col. Erickson, Col. Burbank are aboard. Payday for crew. 350 wounded soldiers are being cared for on transport Hayward being used for hospital ship.
May 20———-25% of our soldiers that landed are reported killed, some by our own shells and shooting at one another. Japs lay dead in piles waiting burying by mongrels.
Our men have, for the most part, trained in Calif. A few he says don’t know what island they are on. What to expect an are in a complete daze. Some of the soldiers don’t know the ships when the flag is not in sight an too far away. Altho U.S. ships are the only ones present.
May 21———–Beautiful day. In our little bay anchored with Hulbert. Was disturbed by 6 two motor torpedo planes from their base in Paramushiro, a distance of 700 miles, at least 4 hours flying time on there attacked on our task force which is surrounding the island. They loosed all their deadly mission on one of our aprox 40 ships. 6 torpedos on the Charleston which all missed. A terrible loss to the Japs. One plane was shot down by the Charleston Cruiser. CBS a communication system between all ships gives us a first hand description of the battle also warning us of the approach of the enemy so they are installed in both Army an Navy Planes, patrolling the area. Bombing of certain areas of island by base planes from Adak an Amchitca is seen thru long glasses from ship.
May 23———-Our little bay has been named Casco Bay after our ship. G.Q. was sounded today. While I was in shower, my clothes on my bunk one deck below me. I jump out of the shower an had to wait till the rushing line of men manning their battle stations passed me then go to my bunk thru three compartments down a ladder, all naked, jump into my clothes while I was still wet, expecting a bomb, torpedo or shell fire to come thru the bulkhead any moment. Steele SM3C had taken my jacket, someone had taken his life jacket. Altho he could have taken mine. It would have endangered any ones life to do so. He wasn’t with out while I took another jacket hanging by our bunk a pair of cold weather pants an was off to my gun where I stayed for about one hour in the cold wind. A alarm had been sounded when our Armys Amchitca or Adak planes were sighted coming to the Island and were thought to be enemy. However, we and the transport got underway almost every time GQ is sounded.
May 24———-Routine GQ. Fueling planes, unloading transports an systematically overcoming enemy on Island. Was interrupted today by the Jap’s usual Sunday attacked GQ was sounded today as the C.B.S. from a patrol plane reported definite enemy bombers in area. All ships including us got underway to maneuver in case bombers attacked out respective areas. Flying fortresses also in the air. P-38’s came here today for first time from their base 200 miles away at Amchitca after hunting thru thick clouds back and forth over and around the island the p-38s finally found them to be 17 Jap two motor bombers. Easy meat for a P-38. They shot down 5, damaged several so they turned tail for the base in Permacherio. The air at this time was roaring around the island with Navy O.S.2U.s, PBYs, P-38s an flying fortresses. One P-38 was hit in battle with Jap bombers. Flying on one motor which sputtering was about to stop in mid air. No place to land within 200 miles. He put down his flaps or brake came close to our ship to attract our attention to him came lower to the water an as if it was a landing field he came to a perfect landing by skipping along on top of the waves. Finally, slowing, sliding into the water it stop in about 10 feet of water. The pilot standing in water up to his knees was the next an all we could see thru binoculars. A O.S.2U. flying above him also attracted to its funny actions was hovering over him. The O.S.2U. plane took a sharp nose dive from his aprox 700 foot level and came to a landing along side P-38 pilot, picked him up. The gunner of the Navy plane climbed out of the cozy cockpit an gave it to the wet soaking P-38 pilot. The gunner climbed onto the wing and the plane, pilot taxied to our ship where photographers waited along with the crew for a look at this hero. We all grouped about the gangway ladder. Having been secured by GQ to see the pilot. Pictures were taken as he climbed aboard. Officers aboard our ship hurried him down to sick bay for a check. He was not hurt on questioning where he was given quarters and dry clothes. The hero of the day. The name we will try to get? The rest of the P38s returned to their base dangerously low on gas.
No entries May 25 to 30
May 31———-Anchored as before. ATTU Ships present and surrounding island are all Battle Ships, Cruisers and Cans, transports, Tugs and mine sweepers as before – except Nevada. Loss of the island by the Japs was acknowledged this morning after 20 days. No men escaped death except the few that were captured this morning by surrendering. One man’s hand was said to have been frozen and was shot for not taking it out of his pocket to raise above his head in surrender. Our heavy bombers, B25 Fighters, P38 patrol PBY and O.S.2U.s are keeping the air and sky roaring with their motors over the small island. We on Casco have not been fired at by any Japs. Construction is well underway with buildings, air field, tents, roads. Completed unloading of transports continue. Hospital ships are the transports.
May 26, 1943 Copy of “TENDER PRESS”
UPDATED PACIFIC WAR On attu Island a trapped Japanese force continued to die slowly and stubbornly in the grim tradition of other Japs at Guadalcanal and Papua. Snow and cold hampering the American troops, but the end was never in doubt. The enemy troops were crowded into a tight corner on the northeast tip of the island. We have those corralled out there on the peninsula said Secretary of the Navy Knox. It was revealed that the effort of a Japanese bomber force to mix in the struggle on Sunday was even more costly than had been supposed. A Navy communiqué said that twelve of the sixteen Jap planes were probably destroyed by six lightning fighters that ambushed them before they even reached the battle zone. It previously had been announced that five of the bombers were shot down and the communiqué listed seven other probably. A Navy spokesman denied flatly Japanese claims of the previous day that a battleship and cruiser of the American force supporting the Attu operation had been sunk or damaged. Secretary Knox termed the enemy claim a fishing expedition. The belief grew in Chinese Quarters that the present Japanese drive westward through Hupeh province in China might be the start of a serious attempt to reach Chungking. At one point the enemy forces were with two hundred seventy airline miles of the Chinese capital. A Chinese communiqué said, Large numbers of well equipped troops were reinforcing the invaders in the Ichang area, main enemy base on the upper Yangtze. On the Burma front RAF warplanes make three bombing attacks on Jap troops south of Maungdaw on the Bay of Bengal coast and straffed the enemy near Buthedaung. No land fighting was reported. In Washington Prime Minister Churchill taking over a presidential press conference at the White House, declared today that it is indisputable that the tide of the war has turned and he said, that British and American leaders have arrived at good conclusions on prosecuting the war in the Pacific with the greatest vigor.
London: Heavy forces of allied planes pounded at axis Europe from the West Tuesday amid accumulating evidence that inhabitants of the enemy’s Mediterraneans Islands and the toe of the Italian boot were being rolled back by the terrific blows from American and British air units based in Africa. The Britain baced Bombers roared out across the channel by daylight for new attacks in the Spring offensive which informed observers regard as a demonstration of power to break down Germanys war making ability and give the poised ground forced of the allies clear roads toward Berlin. Monday nights operations in western Europe were confined to many small scale intruder patrols over Northern France by RAF fighters as British heavy bombers remained in their hangars fallowing the unprecedented assault on Dortmund. In the Mediterranean the Sardinian capital of Cagliari was reported being evacuated because of the devastating allied aerial attacks which gained force as more then three hundred heavy medium bombers battered nine important targets on that German garrisoned island and Pantelleria, the first stepping stones to Europe from the south.