South China Sea


After the devastating Typhoon Cobra shredded the Task Force in late December, the ships hunkered down in Ulithi.  On December 30, the ships left Ulithi to dust up Formosa again.  Their immediate path led them to enter the South China Sea north of the Philippines.  The remains of the Japanese Fleet were reported to be at rest near CamRahn Bay.  Halsey, ever-itching for a ship-to-ship battle against the enemy, jumped at the chance.  They had enough time, since the invasion forces for Iwo Jima were en route, but still weeks away from reaching the Bonin Islands.

January 12, 1945:   This morning we are probably on our largest operation so far.  We have been heading north through the China Seas for a raid on a base the Jap fleet uses in French Indo China.  We may bombard Saigon Bay.  We will probably be in sight of land, and get a glimpse of the Asiatic continent, completing the trip across the Pacific.  It is still dark and we may not have been discovered.

At 0900 hours we were within range of eight inch gunfire.  We formed a surface task force of battleships and cruisers, the carriers stayed out of range.  The carriers launched a big strike.  We were disappointed, because the planes reported the Jap fleet was not in CamRahn Bay.  They continued to launch strikes all day.  Later on in the day we left 38.2 and returned to our own task force.  We also have with us two war correspondents, we picked up two days ago. Tomorrow we expect to fuel, one hundred and fifty miles closer than we did the day before.  During the night we had several sub contacts and destroyers were dropping depth charges.   Frank Studenski

carrier planes bomb Hong Kong, Jan 15, 1945


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1957 Reunion


Diane Balsam, daughter of Joe Pulaski, mailed this to me.  It’s the Boston’s 1957 reunion, held in the Hotel Bradford in Boston.  The ship had been reclassified a guided-missile cruiser on Jan 4, 1952, and recommissioned on Nov 1, 1955.  I scanned the 4 pages and the cover letter and turned it into a pdf file.  For technology reasons way beyond my little brain, I cannot embed the pdf file, but I can embed a link to it.

click on this link for the whole document:


Thanks, Diane, for sharing this with us.  Happy New Year.

PS.  readers of the Baked Beans books should recognize Lt. Walter Logan, aka Lem Suggs and his talking blues.

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There’s an old adage: history is written by the winner(s). While that may be true of battles and warfare, it completely misses the mark about history itself.

History ( noun

  1. Branch of knowledge dealing with past events; 2. Continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account; 3. Aggregate of past events.

As such, history is not a simple, one-size-fits-all politically or culturally expedient view of the world. It is, in fact, a systematic narrative of past events, with comprehensive understanding of all contributing aspects to that story. Passage of time is a necessary component of history. How can we understand history or historical events unless sufficient time has passed? Context is essential to understanding history.

Another old adage: Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.  History, if we allow it, speaks to human nature; a really wide-angle view of the history of mankind reveals cyclical behaviors that haven’t changed much over the millennia.

I’ve been thinking about Walls lately, for obvious reasons. I will not engage in the politics of our current events in this forum, but I’d like to take a quick look at two historically important and well-known walls. There is no detailed written account of why either of these wall was built. History fills in the gaps of “why,” once we look at context.

HADRIAN’S WALL:  Construction began around A.D. 120, under Emperor Hadrian.  It was 80 (Roman) miles long, stretching coast to coast (east to west) “to separate the Romans from the barbarians.” Theories of why it was built include military fortification as well as checkpoints for trade and taxation. Hadrian died in 138, and the new emperor began construction of a new wall (Antoine Wall) a hundred miles north in the vicinity of Edinburg and the Forth of Fifth. It was 40 (Roman) miles and was heavily fortified against those pesky Northern Tribes. Unable to conquer the Celts, Antoine Wall was abandoned and garrisons fell back and Rome refortified Hadrian’s Wall.  By 410, Rome abandoned Britain.  Sections of the wall still stand today. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.   After 3 centuries, the Romans were gone. The walls failed to “keep the barbarians out.”  Whole sections of stones from Hadrian’s Wall were plundered during the 18th century to build military roads to quash insurrections. England still stands, much of the wall still stands.

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA: Construction of what was to become the Great Wall started as early as the 7th century B.C.E. It was added to, modified and shored up throughout Chinese history, reaching its current state by the early 1600’s. “Apart from defense, other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. . .    The Great Wall helped defend the empire against the Manchu invasions that began around 1600. Even after the loss of all of Liaodong, the Ming army held the heavily fortified Shanhai Pass, preventing the Manchus from conquering the Chinese heartland. The Manchus were finally able to cross the Great Wall in 1644, after Beijing had already fallen to Li Zicheng‘s rebels. Before this time, the Manchus had crossed the Great Wall multiple times to raid, but this time it was for conquest. The gates at Shanhai Pass were opened on May 25 by the commanding Ming general, Wu Sangui, who formed an alliance with the Manchus, hoping to use the Manchus to expel the rebels from Beijing.[35] The Manchus quickly seized Beijing, and eventually defeated both the rebel-founded Shun dynasty and the remaining Ming resistance, establishing the Qing dynasty rule over all of China.[36] Wikipedia.

Two and a half millennia later, sections of the Great Wall (also a World heritage Site) still stand. China still stands, it’s history modified of course by centuries of invasions. Like Hadrian’s its dual purpose was military and taxation, as well as controlling immigration and emigration.

Walls are interesting things. If you’re on the outside looking in, they keep you out. If you’re on the inside looking out, they keep you in.


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Yesterday I got a phone call from Pat Fedele.  We played phone tag for a couple of days, so when the call came through, I was expecting it.  He was sitting in his car, waiting for his beloved wife Sandi while she ran an errand.  There are no quick calls with Pat.  We covered a lot of territory.  About a half an hour in, the almost-95-year-old tenor belted out one of his favorites  –  Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon.  Full voice.  No breaks, no missed words, no wavering voice.  Naturally, I was mesmerized.  I knew a song was coming, but, did I have the presence of mind to hit  “record” on my phone?  ‘Course not.

I do, however, have a cd of songs he made as a present for his doctor 6 or 7 years ago, which he gave me.  I can’t give you the Fly Me to the Moon he sang me, but I can give you another of his Sinatra favs: I’ve Got the World on a String:

As I listened, I imagined someone walking by Pat’s car, seeing this old man, head thrown back, belting out Fly Me to the Moon, wondering what that was all about.  An unusual thing, to be sure.  They didn’t see me, on the other end of the phone, smiling and grateful I can call this wonderful man my friend.



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Dec. 19 & 20, 1944


(Cobra track, 12-18-44, USS Yorktown.  Retrieved from USS Boston folders, National Archives, by Bill Kelly.)

December 19, 1944:  This morning we met with the tankers and refueled, a couple of DE’s are also missing.  After fueling we started looking for survivors.  The smaller ships are picking up survivors.

December 20, 1944:  This morning we are back in the area where the ships were lost.  The carriers are launching planes for an extensive search of the area.  This morning one of the planes from the Yorktown reported sighting three destroyers about 80 miles south of us.  Two of the destroyers are dead in the water and the other is making about 5 knots.  Another destroyer has been reported lost, the Monaghan.  Planes continue to search the area. Tonight we are heading back to Luzon for a one day strike, before going back to portDuring the night, orders were cancelled, on account of bad weather, the typhoon is just ahead of us.  We are heading back to Ulithi, we will be in port for Christmas.   Frank Studenski.

On December 18, the USS Spence (DD-512), took a 72° roll, capsized and sank.  Only 24 men survived.  The USS Hull (DD-350), took a 70° roll and sank.  Seven officers and 55 bluejackets survived.  The USS Monaghan (DD-354), took roll after roll to starboard and sank.  Only six men survived.   In all, 790 men of the Fleet lost their lives in that typhoon, mostly men aboard the three ill-fated destroyers.


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