|Jack Clark USN Lunga Boat Patrol & Beachmaster|
|College Lift & The Navy
Closer to War
College Life & The Navy
September 1930, I enrolled in Northwestern University, Evanston Illinois. At that time we were just 12 years out from WWI Armistice, and Germany had a loud mouth spellings about the great Aryan race which would rule the World. The University required A Major field and at least two Minor fields of concentration. I had always had but one idea in mind, I wanted to design Buildings and things Mechanical, hence the Major was easy. We were offered a course sponsored by the US Navy, which would lead to an Ensign's Commission in the Naval Reserve. That was one Minor, others I elected were Physics, Philosophy, Bus Ad, and English.
In June 1934, complete with mortar board and gown, I was graduated with a BSc Eng, and one bright and shiny gold stripe on my Navy blue uniform. After several starts(these were depression days) I finally became employed by a US Major Oil Company in their Chicago Regional Office. In Chicago, we had a very strong Naval Reserve Group of nine Divisions, each of which was training to man a Destroyer.
Closer to War
In early 1940, The US Navy sent out an invitation to Reserve Officers to request Active Duty. Later in the year our generous President, viewing the hardship Great Britain was enduring, gave our Destroyers in exchange for bases all over the world. Then the Navy sent out a sequel to their first invitation stating that it was disappointed with the response, and so stated, then added a footnote that if the results did not pick up, the Reserves would be activated. They weren't kidding. Halloween 1940 we were in the Navy. But we had no Destroyers to man. Four or five Chicago Divisions were chosen to man a new type of Combat Transport. My Division was picked to go aboard the USS Fuller, then converting in Seattle. So off to Seattle.
We sailed with about ten other Combat Transports under the Flag of Commander Landing Force One. Following Commissioning, we departed for San Diego to pick up a load of Marines, supposedly for a practice landing. The group we picked up became later The First Marines, and we finally landed them in Iceland. We returned empty first to Boston, then to Norfolk. We practiced landing exercises with the Army and the Marines until a Santa Claus trip to the Caribbean. Our Commanding Officer assured us that we would be home for Christmas 1940. It was at this time the Jap decided to bomb Pearl Harbor, we were at war. We did have a final Christmas with the family. Then up to New York to pick up the Second contingent of US Army to move them to Belfast, Ireland and across to Glasgow to pick up assorted passengers and return the to the New York. As soon as we unloaded we were sent to Norfolk to pick up a Marine Defense Battalion for Apia, Somoa, this was rush rush.
After Apia we departed for Wellington to await the First Marines. They turned out to be a lot of the same crowd we took to Iceland. Thence in a very well protected Convoy to Koro Island of the Fiji Group to meet up with additional Marines from Pearl and the West Coast. We had a disastrous practice landing, which was called short. We then left for Guadalcanal. I was detached to serve with the shore base (you will have read about my fun and games on the beautiful tropical paradise).
I rejoined the USS Fuller and sailed the milk run, Suva to Noumea to Gaudalcanal 13 times (after the third trip, we didn't have to have a helmsman) I held a Deck and Engineering Commission so was eligible to serve in any capacity. My duties on the USS Fuller were Engineer, Boat Repair, and Beachmaster
You must remember that back in the early days, we landed only the First Marines and a few Second Marines. Also a part of the First took Gavuto, Florida Island which housed the main portion of the Jap fighting force. The landing there was a much stiffer one than ours, the exercise was short and sharp. Our reports had shown that there were a couple of thousand Japs on Guadalcanal and only about 200 on Gavutu. The reports were correct, except that they mistook the force on the Canal, they were mostly a labor force, and few fighting personnel. This balance soon altered with new Jap landings below Red Beach. After the Marines had taken the airport [ Henderson], and withdrawn all the supplies on Red Beach, they established a perimeter to cover the airport and Kukum. Beyond those areas it was suspect.
Marauding Japanese Submarine
We did have boats stranded on the beach at Red Beach and used to continue to go into the area to remove them. There was a nasty Jap Submarine which used to come up about 6:00 AM and 3:00 PM to shell us, then about midnight really tear up and down the water front sending up a wake which put the abandoned boats further up on the beach, just to make our jobs harder. We did manage to get most of them off, but there were a few we couldn't get, so at a later date managed to disable with gun fire from a small Patrol craft.
We were requested to have boats available the take our Marine pals behind the Jap lines at Matanikau. They would land beyond the village, closing the escape route. As this was a daylight raid, and volunteers were not called it was an ordinary expedition for us and I did not go along. As usual, we armed the boats, loaded them and sent them off. I believe that our friends had an idea that the boats would lay off waiting for them to complete their games. This would not have been healthy for my crews, as we did not have air coverage, so they came home. Later in the day we returned to pick the Marines up. The Jap of course had followed them back, and we were a bit pushed to get them aboard. Finally, we decided that we would engage with our Lewis guns, and we got our passengers loaded.
The Jap Unit they encountered was a Special Naval Fighting Force. They had also been the proud owners of the Headquarters of the U.S.Naval Defense Force Kukum, but now we were. The attack was in retaliation for Col. Frank's ambush. There was little time time look around. Of the ambush, there were three survivors, who escaped by swimming back to Kukum. They were Corp. Joseph Spaulding (New York City), Sgt. Charles G. Ardnt (Okolona, Miss), and Sgt. Frank L. Few (Buckeye, Ariz).
The Patrol was a write off. I did take them down as directed. I wanted to lie off, but he insisted that I return to base, as I might upset the whole scheme. Directly after we departed, it would seem that they walked into an ambush. From later reports the Colonel was the first, and received it on the head. We heard no noise as our boat engines would have drowned out any rifle reports. The night was pitch black on the beach, but we always had sufficient light at sea. And we had traveled that coast many times picking fire fights with the Japs, for amusement after dark.
From the many later reports, the bodies were never found, though there were many searches. It was believed that the Jap buried them close to the river, and in shallow graves, then at high tide they were washed out to sea. Just after we returned to Kukum, and secured the boats, one of the Patrol arrived back at our headquarters, and told us of the ambush. Lt Comdr. Dexter, USCG, my boss took him to General Vandergrift's headquarters immediately. According to my friend Dick Tregaskis, Guadalcanal Diary, there were two others to escape. We had a very late night that night, but finally gave it away.
I kept a diary while on the Canal. It was the only one I kept as they were forbidden because of the information they might contain to aid the enemy. It covers the two months I spent on the Canal and the time in Hospital on Villa.
Leaving the Canal
I left the USS Fuller in Noumea and was sent to Brisbane, the Townsville to make up a unit for a landing in New Guinea. After a year, I was transferred to Auckland and on to Dunedin for R&R. New Zealand became a back base, so back to the Islands. This time to Santos as a Repair Officer on a Repair Ship. We then left to sail to Manos Island. In the meantime, the Navy was running out of Sea going Officers, so after two and a half years out here I was returned to the States.
V-J Day & Honorable Discharge
I turned my jat around and headed back to sea again. This time as the Executive Officer of a Hospital Ship. I ended this duty after watching the Jap sign the Capitulation (we were anchored next to the USS Missouri). Back to the States and Chicago and Great Lakes Naval Training Station where I was released from active duty, awaiting orders to active duty. By this time I had amassed three stripes to replace the one I started with back in 1934. I had 5 1/2 years sea and foreign station. I finally received an Honorable Discharge in 1961 and had completed 27 years in the Reserve.
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