Memories from World War II
The following memories are from our shipmate Earl Shaffer who generously shared them with Dennis Hager and Barry Pearson when they visited with Earl at his office in July. Earl was a member of the original crew which reported aboard when the LST 848 was launched in the Pittsburgh area in Dec. 1944. Earl also is sharing with us his photographs from that era which we will be adding in the near future.
TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL INTERVIEW OF EARL SHAFFER, FORMER CREWMAN ON LST-848 1945-46, by CAPT DENNIS L. HAGER USNR (RET) on July 15, 2013
Was the LST-848 your 1st LST?
It was and it wasn’t – I was on another LST (LST-773) and we got into a hurricane off Cape Hatteras and the ship had a lot of damage. We then went to Baltimore and were transferred from there to Pittsburgh after some holiday (leave). I went home (Shinnston, WV – close to Morgantown) for Christmas and then to Pittsburgh.
Did you enlist in Shinnston?
No I got of school and enlisted in the Navy in 1944. I went to Great Lakes and did preliminary stuff –training (boot camp) and was then assigned to LST-848 which was under construction. (Note: apparently he went from Great Lakes to LST-773 first possibly for some OJT as he went home for Christmas and then to Pittsburg before reporting to LST-848. He states later others from LST-773 also went to the LST-848).
How long were you onboard?
I reported to LST-848 right after Christmas – it was being built by American Bridge Company. There were a lot of women welders working on the ship. It was at Ambridge. I was one of the first to report aboard. We went down the Ohio River. I was on her until discharged. I was on ship when she went up to Oregon to be decommissioned, I left ship from there. I was onboard LST-848 for her entire WWII and post war service.
What was your rate/job?
Seaman –I think I made it to S1/c. I ran the ships Post Office. When we entered port it was my duty to get the mail out. Was a great job –got to know everything that was going on. I loved that job – I had an office on the forward right side of the ship. I was looking for things to do – to make a little scratch and keep busy – ran the post office and for awhile did the laundry but then had too much to do and couldn’t get any sleep.
What was trip down the river to New Orleans like?
It was a wonderful trip – we were underway (not towed). We anchored one night next to Art Lubic’s (fellow crewman) home up near Wheeling WVA where he had been born and raised – we were very close looked like 25 ft. I don’t recall making any other stops until New Orleans, Had a fabulous time in New Orleans – would have liked to spend more time there. Very lively. Fabulous liberty –everybody got ashore. Got drunk – played piano a couple of times – lots of ladies –
When was ship actually commissioned – Ambridge or New Orleans?
I don’t have any idea.
Do you remember the Captain –Bentley?
Hell yes I remember him. He was a hard ass. Was damn good! Guess I was lucky. I got along with him pretty good. I was his voice talker (probably the 1JV) – he would give orders and I would relay them. He was the number one horse’s ass of Americana. He didn’t take any s… from anybody. It was his way or the highway. I did not know anything about his background. But everybody was scared to death of him. Don’t remember what rank he was. He seemed to get along with me because every time we got underway I was standing right there with him relaying whatever he wanted relayed. He was tough – that was good –would rather go into battle with someone like that.
How did the other officers get along with him?
The other officers got along well also –they didn’t have any other choice.
Do you remember any of the other officers? Who was the XO?
I don’t remember who XO was. I remember Kommers (Note: LTJ William J Kommers – he was probably the XO) – he was a nice guy. He was onboard for awhile before he relived Bentley in Hawaii. He took ship back to San Francisco. I also remember a Lieutenant Smith (possibly LTJG Luther J. Smith who was later an interim CO during decommissioning.)
Who else do you remember?
Art Lubic. (S1/c Arthur J Lubic)
Who did you report to?
The Captain. (Doesn’t remember admin chain/supervisor)
Did you stay in contact with any of the crew after you were discharged?
Yea, for awhile, but everybody was busy getting on with their lives and I immediately got back into school. I went to GW (George Washing University) law school. They had temporary buildings at 23rd and G streets where we (vets on GI Bill) were housed. Preceding this when I left service I went to Potomac State, a junior college near Kaiser WV. At that time all you needed to get into law school was 2 years of college.
What was best liberty port overseas?
I think I enjoyed Japan. Good liberty. In Yokohama and Tokyo.
Other liberty ports?
I don’t really remember any.
You mentioned in previous correspondence that you had gone through the Panama Canal and there had bee a casualty there.
Yes, I can’t remember his name but he was a good buddy. He was standing on stern of ship helping to load some boxes from the pier and he slipped and fell overboard onto his back on some floats/small craft. Broke his back – tore him up – he died. Broken hearted over it since he was such a nice fellow. Happened in Panama before we entered the Canal. Crew was all shook up over that. Just plain carelessness.
Were there any other casualties while you were onboard?
I don’t remember any – had a lot of guys get drunk.
When you got to Okinawa (after the battle) and war was still on what was the threat situation? Kamikazes?
Hell yes the war was still on but that was one thing about LST’ – they (Japanese) wouldn’t waste anything on them – they were after the “big stuff”. I do not recall any other action except when we beached on an island about 50 miles off Okinawa called Kumi Shima. We were offloading a marine air raid warning squadron there – this is not recorded anywhere about the 848 – there was big hill behind the beach – I was up on the Conn with the Captain relaying orders and all of a sudden two airplanes came over the hill –and a spotter – a guy named Taliaferro (RdN3/c Raymond L. Taliaferro) who was up forward and suppose to ID aircraft was unable to ID them – We thought he would never say what they were and we were ready to start shooting – anyway we didn’t shoot and planes just flew over us – I thought we were going to meet our waterloo there ; poor old Taliaferro –he would take about three days to tell what the hell kind of plane it was – fortunately they turned out to be ours. Many years later I was sitting in my living room with a guy named Eugene Luther ; he was a law student here then – were good friends and I happened to mention that we had taken an air raid squadron to Kumi Shima and two crazy SOB’s had flown over us – and he said that was me – we were coming back from a raid –looking for targets of opportunity – I was totally satisfied he was there – he confirmed that by relating the ships in the harbor at the time; he thought we were going to unload on him and got the hell out of there –
What was Okinawa like when you were there?
I saw quite a bit as I rode in on an LCVP to the Post office – Mail run was very important – those guys wanted their mail right away – so we tried to get it first thing- as a result I went all over – I did not see bodies but saw lots of bomb damage, wreckage etc. There were no Japanese (military) but lots of Marines. I was one of few guys that got off the ship. I thought Okinawa was just going to be a training ground for the invasion of Japan. It was obvious to anyone with an eye that this was all leading up to an invasion of Honshu – I wanted that like a hole in the head…
How did you feel when you heard that the atom bomb had been dropped?
Holy Sh.. we were ecstatic when we heard ; we were at Okinawa on 5 August –we were rehearsing for a d… invasion of Honshu – we would have been part of that – knew it would have been bloody – I was a happy camper when they dropped the big one – everyone was tickled to death – we celebrated – because everybody knew what we were rehearsing for and nobody wanted to do it – it would have been bad – when we went into Tokyo Bay later we saw little white flags all around the bay which the Japanese had been instructed to place on gun emplacements and there were thousands –which we would have had to face –
What was Japan like when you went in?
For some reason September the 9th strikes me – we went into Yokohama – more pathetic than anything else because they had bombed the living sh.. out of that place ; the only thing they didn’t kill was the electric railroad down to Tokyo from Yokohama – I could never figure out how they did that- I rode that train to get the mail – liberty was regulated pretty strictly –
How did the Japanese people treat you?
I couldn’t believe it – they all seemed to speak English – white Russian settlement there that probably contributed to that – I was flabbergasted – could carry on conversation with them – sad part of it was they were living under pieces of tin – everything but the railroad was just blown away – they were friendly – starving for goodies – so when I went on a mail run I would take a box of chocolates, stuff like that – don’t remember seeing any troops, soldiers – they (Japanese people) were just beat to pieces – we tore them a new a.. –
How did crew feel about the Japanese?
It was such a strange thing to all of us – we were just kids – kind of hard to describe – women would get up and give you seats on train – just a different custom – then you walked down street – people just relieved themselves when they wanted to – don’t recall a single thing about any hostility – more feeling sorry for them – they were pathetic – because they were hungry – they would jump over a fence for a chocolate bar –
What were your best memories of the ship and the war?
Wasn’t much about ship I didn’t like because it was well run – I liked Bentley – the crew was close – good friends – we had a piano on the ship – had it down in the Tank Deck – I played it by ear –
The Hurricane when I was on LST 773 before the 848. We came up the east coast and got into a terrible hurricane, it tore the hell out of that ship. We went into Baltimore and never did anything else on that ship. From there I went home for Christmas vacation in Stinson, WV and from there went to Pittsburg and the 848. A number of us transferred from 773 to 848 together. I believed we stayed at Duquesne University before going to ship (848). The hurricane scared the s…. out of me. We were in another one later when we were going from Leyte to Japan which was real bad. Miserable. Bad news. Everybody got sick but I don’t remember getting sick but I was scared sh…….
Any mechanical problems with the ship? With fresh water?
Not really – wouldn’t expect it with Bentley as CO. I don’t remember having a problem with water.
Every once in awhile we had to put on dress uniforms for inspections and stuff like that. I thought the food was pretty good. All the food was good. I used to think there was too much mutton. It was awful. Some went over the side but I didn’t participate in that. Bentley had his own mess. He was a tough customer and I always treated him with the greatest of respect. He had a purpose and by God he was going to carry it out and nobody was going to stop him. Very knowledgeable of ship, you didn’t want to be late with him. I was late one time and he immediately put me on report and he didn’t care what the reasons were. That’s the way he was –he was a hard a.. but nothing ever happened – he withdrew it or something.
We had radio. One of the first thing we looked for when we were coming in was where do we get the mail. Everybody wants their mail. Period. Couple of places we had to go to for mail I didn’t like, one was a place on Okinawa. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was scared sh…… but nothing happened.
First place we hit. I don’t remember anything about it one way or another. We went from Guam to Saipan, hit Tinian, all those places hauling stuff around. One day we would machinery and then troops –
We had a guy who was supposed to be a DR (Dr Louis Brenner). He didn’t stay on the ship very long. He was a young guy and didn’t seem to know much. He didn’t do well. Any time someone had a serious illness we had to go alongside a big ship and transfer them. He didn’t seem to know what he was doing. Thank goodness he had presence of mind to request help. He was a doctor and not a pharmacist’s mate –so they said.
Never had trouble with any of them. We carried a lot of them. One time we took a bunch of blacks, not sure which service they were with, somewhere. About 150 of them. No problems with them. I don’t remember any black crewmen.
One of my buddies was Herm Dikkers (Cox Herman J. Dikkers)
I have a picture of the ship up somewhere (probably Oregon) before we put her in mothballs –.
I have a letter from crewman about the Kumi Shima fly over – he was in the LCVP chasing a pontoon at the time and he was scared too.
I have a whole bunch of pictures went to me by Herm Dickers. They are yours. Please footnote that I provided them.
There is nothing in histories I’ve seen about us going to Kuma Shima. I was there and I will never forget it because of Taliaferro who was so slow to report –but the planes weren’t much different than Jap zeros –so luckily we didn’t shoot Gene Luther down – we laugh about that when we get together – I don’t totally agree with one of histories of ship I have seen (NFI).
I have a Ltr from Mark Nelson. He was the XO on the LST-8448 circa -1963. He told me the CO then left for a couple of months and he was acting CO.
Another interesting story – I was usually up on the conning tower but I also worked operating radar gear one deck down – and the guy working with me was named Unglesbee (S1/c James H. Unglesbee). Years later I found out that he was from Maryland when his son Kevin sent a letter trying to find about his father – I worked with his father on radar when I was not with the Capt I. have picture of him –
(LTJG) Kommers was a nice guy –great to work for – fair guy.
Crew size – we had about 150. We needed extra people mainly to chip paint.