Moving Day

Throughout the island-hopping campaign of the Pacific, units had to pick up and move from one base to another as they drove the Japanese northward. Just like a household move, it was organized chaos. Personal items and equipment used by the different sections were packed up into crates, hauled down to a beach and loaded into a waiting Landing Ship Tank (LST). Vehicles were driven on board and tarps were placed over stacks of crates.

Loading LSTs

Airmen of the 312th load Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) in preparation for the voyage to Leyte in November 1944. (Russell L. Sturzebecker Collection)

After a day or two of getting everything and everyone not flying a plane to the next base on board, the men settled in for their sea journey, which could last a week or more. Sleeping quarters might be somewhere below deck or up top, under a tarp. Navy food was typically much better than what the airmen were used to, and on one trip, Adrian Bottge of the 89th Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group noticed how the sailors “look much healthier than we do. Never realized before how beat up, underfed and jaundiced looking we are.”

On a good trip, the men were able to move to their new location without Japanese interference. There was one terrifying trip when the 345th Bomb Group was attacked by kamikaze pilots on the way to Leyte in November 1944. Tragically, 111 members of that group were killed in that attack.

Upon arrival at the new base, it was time to unload and set up camp. Unloading was always a frenzy. The shipcrews were on a strict schedule, rain or shine, and anything left on board would be taken away when the LST departed. The 312th Bomb Group was also subject to Japanese raids the night the men arrived on Leyte on November 19th. This particular move was not easy for the 312th. Besides the raid, they expected to stay at their temporary camp for a few days, not seven weeks in the rain. Twenty-three inches of rain fell that month, the food was terrible and there was no mail delivery. It took until the end of December for the 312th’s base at Tanauan to be ready for the men.

Unloading LSTs

A section of the 43rd Bomb Group unloads their cargo. Judging by the muddy conditions, this was probably taken at Leyte. (Leon D. Brown Jr. Collection)

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12 thoughts on “Moving Day

  1. My Dad was with the 390th Bomb Squadron when they were told to pack and get ready to move. He and his Group were loaded on a LST and headed for New Guinea in 1943 and while entering the Harbor they hit a mine on the Fantail and my dad said the ship lifted in the air and came crashing down injuring about 100 men below deck. He carried the wound all those years and never received a Purple Heart for it.

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  2. This dateline suggests that the 312th landed the same day as the 11th Airborne Division.
    Organized chaos it is! I remember my father telling me that when they packed up their personal items on New Guinea (before going to Leyte), they didn’t get those crates until 3 months later. But then again, they had other things to worry about at the time!!

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  3. After interviewing 200+ WWII vets, I’ve never understood how anyone returned home in one piece, nor in their right mind. Navy guys have good memories of their food. Not Army. I’ve not heard complaints from AAC, but will ask in next interview. God bless them all.

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