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After striking Japanese home islands since July 10, 1945, and battering Tokyo Plains on the 17th and 18th of July, we were low on ammunition, fuel oil, gas and supplies. While underway and zigzagging at sea it took three days for the Third Fleet to receive over 6,000 tons of ammunition, about 400,000 barrels of fuel, 1,700 tons of provisions, 100 replacement aircraft and over 400 replacement officers and men. This was probably the largest transfer operation ever completed on the high seas.
One night at midnight the battleships of the Third Fleet sneaked near the beaches of Japan and shot off their 16-inch guns, cutting down trees and creating a lot of destruction. The next day suicide planes made the battleships their target. A battleship near our ship had three Jap suicide planes dive at them within 15 or 20 minutes. The battleship gunners shot down the first and third planes before they made a hit but failed to get the second plane, which made a hit on the battleship.
Heavy seas hit the area and we spent several days the first of August sidestepping a typhoon. South of Japan the sea forced waves over the top of our 64-foot high flight deck. One night the side of the ship caved in because of the heavy weather one deck above where I was sleeping. The storm lasted three or four days and nights. Most everyone became seasick and we lost our desire to eat.
From July 10, 1945, until Japan surrendered Jap suicide planes dived at the carriers in our fleet. Mines floated in the water and were destroyed by Marines on our ship during the day. We zigzagged at night without lights but never hit a mine. We sailed without lights because the Japs had submarines below the surface of the water. The dead were buried at sea because we did not know how long we would be at sea.
When a man was killed, if we had a body, my shop was ordered to make a canvas bag big enough to hold the body and a five-inch shell to sink the body and bag at sea. “All hands bury the dead!” was heard over the loudspeaker. The body was placed on a table at the back end of a side elevator, covered with the American flag. After a brief ceremony by the ship’s chaplain, and the firing of the guns, the table was lifted and the body slid beneath the flag into the sea.
We were steaming about 100 miles from the coast of Japan when Capt. Robert F. Hickey read over the loudspeaker the message from the Secretary of the Navy, which informed us that Japan had surrendered. I had been at sea for two months on Sept. 2, 1945, when the surrender was signed on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri.
A few days after the surrender was signed, Admiral Halsey issued the order for our ship and other ships to go into Tokyo Bay to see if the Japanese meant what they had signed. He ordered every man at his battle station and every finger on the trigger. Our ships anchored in Tokyo Bay but found no resistance.
My parents knew I was somewhere in the Pacific but they did not know where. The Courier-Journal printed a list of all the ships that were anchored in Tokyo Bay so they knew where I was.
I saw the destruction the bombing had inflicted on Yokohama. Most every building in that town was destroyed. There were caves dug back into the hills to act as bomb shelters.
We left Tokyo Bay and went south to Okinawa, Japan, where we filled our hanger deck with 1,500 servicemen. These men slept on the steel deck on mattresses but they didn’t care because we were heading for California! After we left Okinawa, we went north toward the Aleutian Islands, where we hit a typhoon that lasted several days and nights.
It took 11 days and nights to arrive at Long Beach, California.
While our ship was in Long Beach, C.E. Elkins from Myra, Ky., and I were trying to get to Los Angeles and were picked up by a man and his wife in a Packard car. The woman did all the talking and asked where we were stationed. I told her we were aboard the aircraft carrier tied up in Long Beach. She asked where we had been. I told her we were back from Japan. She got excited saying she had not met anyone back from Japan. She asked how we felt about the Japanese people after fighting them. I said the war was over and we didn’t feel bad about their people but couldn’t understand the language. The lady said before gas was rationed they got lost in Kentucky and could not understand the natives of Kentucky. Then she asked where we were from. We said we were both from Kentucky.
She stopped talking for about five minutes.
The men who served on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hancock were proud of her scoreboard. 732 Japanese flags were painted on the side of the island structure to represent the Jap planes destroyed by our ship. She also destroyed 32 merchant ships and nine warships in the final 10 months of the war.
Editor’s Note: Wilbur Ginn remained in the Navy for several months following the war and ultimately was discharged from active duty in July 1946 at the Great lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago, Illinois. He was in the inactive reserve for the subsequent four years.