In the early 40’s, our country was still trying to shake off   the devastation of the Great Depression.   Whole sections of Rural America were still not yet Electrified, nor did they have telephone service, or highways for that matter.   For those Americans who had electricity, listening to the radio was their link to the outside world.

Hundreds of thousands of kids, still wet behind the ears, flocked to recruitment centers everywhere to join in the fight against our enemies in Europe and in the Pacific (Japan). Young men who never been away from home — never been off the farm or out of the hills were now training to be soldiers and sailors. Imagine finishing boot camp with orders to ship off to Boston for assignment.   A new ship was almost ready there.   Maybe you take a train to New York City en route to Boston.   After a night in the Big Apple, you take a train north to Boston.   You see the ocean for the first time in your life.

Months later, after making trial runs up and down the eastern seaboard, you transit the Panama Canal   –   you can hardly believe such a thing could exist.   Later, you arrive in Pearl Harbor.   Two years after the Sneak Attack, you are stunned to see sunken ships still spewing oil. You berth up next to the Battleship Arizona. Her upper gun turrets still stick up out of the water.   More than a thousand dead sailors are forever entombed below within her bulkheads.

After joining up with dozens of other warships into a Task Group, you head off across the VAST Pacific into an unknown and uncertain future.

After the Boston spent half a year ranging up and down the coast of Japan on Occupation / Demilitarization Duty in the Fall of 1946, she steamed back to California and most of the remaining crew left the ship.   Then she headed north to Bremerton and joined the “Mothball Fleet.”

From commissioning in Boston to retirement in Washington three and a half years later, the “Mighty B” traveled 286,000 nautical miles     –     330,000 land miles for all you drivers out there.

No wonder the guys didn’t talk about it much after the war.



1944: April opens with the men still involved in Operation Desecrate, the raid on the Japanese stronghold in the Western Carolines (halfway between The Marianas and the Philippines).   The men had spent most of their time between March 29 and April 2 manning their battlestations and shot at and shot down many attacking planes.   On April 4, the ships enter the anchorage at Majuro (southeastern Mariana Atoll) and remain there until the 17th.   During that time, Majuro fills up with arriving ships for the Next Action   –   the invasion of strategic enemy bases in New Guinea (the Hollandia Invasion — Operation Reckless.)


In my early research prior to writing A Bird’s Eye View, I was struck by the magnitude of the logistics of the Pacific War — the moving of men, equipment and materials.   For example, Task Force 58 (and TF38) was a collection of 97 warships that ranged widely all across the Pacific, attacking enemy bases over hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean. There were about 100,000 men aboard those ships.

When the Task Force combined with other fleet components for the invasion of Iwo Jima, for example, there were more than 650 ships steaming toward that tiny volcanic island — ferrying Marines and equipment in a massive armada.

At some point, I read that it took one metric ton of materials per man per month to prosecute this war. The Navy (combined Navy, Naval aviators, Coast Guard and Marines) totaled over 3,000,000 men (and yes, there were some women).   [We’re not even factoring in the ARMY and all the other personnel involved in the Pacific.] Thirty six million metric tons of fuel, bombs, food, equipment and supplies a year flowing across the U.S. and over the waves . . .


I was lucky to receive my late uncle Wilson’s “Navy stuff” a few years ago from his wife, my aunt Marge.   Wilson was a coxswain aboard the destroyer Erben during the war.   The Erben was mostly attached to the Seventh Fleet, also known as “MacArthur’s Navy” and had about 100 men aboard. Their duty was mostly screening the Invasion Fleet that delivered Marines and Infantry soldiers to their destinations.

I have some of the ship’s newsletters. Gleaned from the 1 year Anniversary issue (5/28/44): [Engineering] “During its first year, the ERBEN traveled 68,964.7 miles at an average speed of 15.8 knots.” “We consumed 3,082,056 gallons of fuel oil, at an approximate cost of $88,000.” “Every man on board uses almost 20 gallons of fresh water a day.” [Communications] “The Radiomen and Signalmen have used up 50,000 message blanks” [Supply] “The Supply Division has prepared and served 328,425 individual meals at a cost of $71,427.03.”   “339 tons of food have been consumed.” [Ordnance] “We have fired 3,420 rounds of 5”/38 ammunition [5” guns], 7,834 rounds of 40mm, and 12,694 rounds of 20mm ammunition [anti-aircraft] . . . The total expenditure on ammunition was $328,537.50.”   [C & R] “While in drydock [6 times], four and one third tons of anti-fouling paint have been applied to her bottom . . . the paint would completely cover five and one-half football fields.”

In a future blog, I will share comparable stats about the Boston, gleaned from the first year anniversary issue of the weekly newsletter The Bean Pot, sent to me by the family of Seaman 1st Class Augustus Harris.

Late March aboard the Boston

1944: The men, still sore from their Crossing the Line hazing, pull into anchorage at Espiritu Santo (in the New Hebrides) on March 10 and remain at anchor with liberty ashore until March 24.   On the 25th through the 31st, CA-69 participates in the Task Force raid on the Japanese stronghold of PALAU in the Caroline Islands (Operation Desecrate).

1945: While the rest of the Task Force is engulfed in the action at Okinawa, The Boston steams home to San Pedro CA (Long Beach / Los Angeles) for major overhauls in preparation for the planned final push — the massive invasion of the Home Islands of Japan.   (Japan surrendered before those operations were launched.)   The ship arrives on March 25, 1945. The men were split into two groups — each had three weeks leave. The first group left that afternoon. THE MEN WENT HOME — only to return aboard the ship and face the grim task of grinding the enemy into eventual surrender.