My grandfather, Raymond Dale Kuhns, was a clerk aboard the cruiser USS Metevier for 6-9 months during World War 2, based out of San Diego, California. His typewriter was bolted to the desk, the desk to the floor, but his chair was on rollers; so he’d type a few letters before rolling away, and wait to roll back; ever after he typed with the hunt and peck method, as it apparently didn’t do much good to learn touch typing.
The document below is the on-board journal that he kept during that time, beginning in November 1944, through May 1945. This first installment is November 1944 through February 1945, with more to follow in the coming weeks. There are a few notes for clarity interspersed, written by my mother Connie, of stories he told her; she was three at the time. While the journal entries are very matter-of-fact, without many personal “memoir” elements, it is still a fascinating historical insight to life aboard a ship during the Second World War. My grandfather was the biggest practical joker I will ever care or dare to come into contact with; any practical jokes that happened aboard were more than likely instigated by him…
Ray Kuhns’ Shipboard Diary: November 1944 – February 1945
[Note of interest: On board they slept in hammocks; once the guy above him jumped up at the call for general quarters, and knocked himself out on the overhead beam; needless to say he didn’t make it to his station on time…]
3 Nov. 1944 – Underway in heavy fog.
4 Nov 1944 – Loaded ammunition. Dropped some down hatch! Whew!
9 Nov. 1944 (mail sent) Passed through gate to Limon Bay, Canal Zone, Panama. Moored Coaling Pier, Cristobal. Left (Nov) 10th, went through Miraflores Lock.
13 Nov. 1944 (mail sent) Crossed equator at 0756. Now a “Shellback”. (Connie’s note- Dad told stories about the hazing men endured first time to cross the equator. – had to run a gauntlet of fire hoses in action, a “swat-line” between the “old timers” hitting them with paddles, all kinds of practical jokes, etc.). Entered Deolian Cave, Baltna Island, Galapagos. Saw 2 seals, fishing. Left 14th.
25 Nov. 1944. (mail sent) Entered Bora Bora, Society Island. Beautiful. Purchased 2 grass skirts, bracelet, 2 sets beads. Were they made in U.S.??? Left 26th (Connie – “We probably still have the grass skirts – and I know there is a picture of AJ and I with them. Also, the “beads” were small conch shells – probably also a pic somewhere, I’ll try to find it”).
Summary: Month was uneventful. Seasick first night out. Never set my foot on land. Received no mail.
3 Dec. 1944. No such date for us. Crossed the International Date Line.
6 Dec. 1944. Missed wife on her birthday. Great gal. Made landfall on Solomon. Skirted NW tip of Guadalcanal. First liberty. 4 Cokes!! Left 8 Dec.
11 Dec. 1944. Entered Humbolt Bay, Dutch New Guinea (“Hollandia”) Left 19th
14 Dec. 1944. Connie’s birthday. Miss the rascal.
25 Dec. 1944. Miss my wife and kiddies especially. First enemy contact. Dropped bomb. One plane. Undamaged or undamaging.
26 Dec. 1944. Entered Leyte Gulf. Left 27th.
Summary: Looks like business is picking up. I forgot to mention that Dec. 24th, we made our first depth charge attack. No luck! Amazed at mass of ships in Leyte. No attacks while there.
15 Jan. 1945. Leaving Lingayen Gulf for Leyte??
16 Jan 1945. Friendly plane came out of clouds. G.Q. called (“general quarters”). Came near firing. From angle it approached, we couldn’t hardly of missed. A real scare.
17 Jan. 1945. 0300 D.Disn. Convoy destroyed Jap barge. Search light revealed several Japs in it. Used 5″ and 40 mm. Did not try to rescue any.
20 Jan. 1945. (mail sent/ mail received) Entered San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippines. Hope wife receives letter I wrote today.
26 Jan. 1945. Left Leyte for invasion of Luzon, just north of Subic Bay.
29 Jan. 1945. 14 hours minus 1 or 7:30 naval bombardment of beaches to begin. However, 10 minutes before, Philippine guerillas came out and informed us territory taken. So this invasion force of 60,000 landed without a shot being fired. We are sitting 60 miles from Manila. It is now mid-afternoon, and Japs have not contested invasion at all. Things look good for us here. Left 2000 for Leyte without once contacting enemy.
30 Jan 1945. Ship in convoy was struck by torpedo. No casualties. Ship towed in and repaired.
This month really went fast!
1 Feb. 1945. Arrived back in Leyte. No action or alerts on return trip from Luzon. Too late to go after mail!!! SHUCKS!
2 Feb. 1945. Liberty in Leyte. 6 Cokes!! Learned foot soldiers’ view of our enemy.
3 Feb. 1945 (mail received/ mail sent) Brought 2 monkeys and 2 roosters aboard. Had to get rid of them.
6 Feb. 1945. Left Leyte without getting any more mail.
11 Feb. 1945. Arrived Woendi. This is a group of coral islands near New Guinea. Beautiful. Like a vacation here.
12 Feb. 1945. Liberty. Played basketball, then went swimming.
13 Feb. 1945. Received special liberty to play on baseball (softball) team. Defeated tug 4 – 3 in 10 innings. Won 4 cases beer and got 5 cases from ship. The boys all came back stewed. I had to drink one for thirst. No fresh water available.
14 Feb, 1945, Left this “rest camp” with memories of best time since leaving dear wife and kiddies. Going back to front in all probability. Feeling ready now. Hope to get mail SOON!!
20 Feb. 1945. (Mail received/ mail sent) Arrived back on Leyte. Trip back uneventful. Received 24 letters. Boy oh Boy!
21 Feb, 1945. Liberty. Sold beer for $1, gave other 3 away.
24 Feb, 1945, (mail sent/mail received). Received 16 more letters.
25 Feb. 1945. Attended church USS Wasatch. Refused liberty. Stayed aboard and wrote letters.
27 Feb. 1945. Left Leyte for Mindoro. Glad to get away. Poor liberty.
Summary: This month very uneventful. Enjoyed liberty at Woendi more than anything else. Got fairly well caught up on mail.
Here are a few extra bits of trivia from my mother:
“4 Nov. ’44 – the “Whew” was probably praise that the whole load had not exploded when some got dropped!
3 Feb. 1944 – He was probably one of the instigators bringing the monkeys and chickens aboard. ;o) Knowing him I’d say he was THE instigator…
I only heard your grandpa talk once about the horrors he must have seen. – ships blown out of the water, etc. He and my uncle Victor talked one Christmas when I was a teen about picking surviving mates off an adjacent ship in the fleet that had been torpedoed – and picking survivors out of the ocean.”
13 Feb ’45. Your grandpa didn’t drink beer – of course his father (Reverend H.D. Kuhns) wouldn’t have liked it – although before H.D. was saved, he had “owned a dance hall” your grandpa told me after we were grown women. So I’m sure beer at least was part of your great grandpa’s experience B.C.
25 Feb. ’45 – Of course “liberty” for most meant finding liquor and women, which were not for your grandpa. I am so thankful for the Christian heritage we have!!!!!”