By Jane Ernsberger
Editor’s note: Veterans who served in WWII are dying at a reported rate of 1,000 per day, according to the Associated Press. They are taking their stories with them. Gurdon Bores said he wanted to tell his. This is part two of a three-part series.
Gurdon Bores was a young sailor in 1944. He had been drafted a few months earlier and in August found himself as a crew member on a Landing Ship Medium in the Pacific. Two torpedoes had just been shot at his LSM but missed. On Aug. 21, 1944, his ship crossed the international dateline and four days later they arrived in Noumea.
"We had a good liberty here," he noted. "The best we’d had since we left the states. We unloaded our cargo here and took on a small diesel generator, stores and supplies."
When his LSM left four days later, Bores said they were accompanied by four other LSMs. On Sept. 1, 1944, Bores was promoted to First Class as the five ships went past New Guinea and on to Manus in the Admiralty Islands.
"We took on lube oil and stores," Bores recalled. "We also had the second mail call since we left the states.
"High ranking Army officers came aboard and looked the ship over," he added. "They couldn’t figure out how we ever crossed the ocean with such a ship, but the amphibious have lots of guts and what it takes."
On Sept. 24, 1944, the LSM carrying Bores and his shipmates left Manus. They towed LCT #1036 (Landing Craft Tank) from Manus to their destination. Six LSMs went, all towing a LCT.
"We arrived in Hollandia in New Guinea on Sept. 26, 1944," Bores said. "Two admirals and four captains came aboard and looked the ship over. We were the first LSM to hit Hollandia."
Four days later, Bores’ LSM went to Aitape with a few soldiers and equipment.
"We were the first LSM in our group to carry mechanized equipment," he noted. "We were also the first LSM to land at Aitape. We took on equipment then took them across Humboldt Bay.
"On Oct. 8, the captain announced that day we would hit the Philippines," Bores recalled. "We took on tanks and crews at Aitape. Six tanks, one half-track, gasoline and ammunition."
After returning to Humboldt Bay, the war was going to truly start for this young sailor from a small town in Ohio on Oct. 13, 1944.
"We left Hollandia on a cloudy afternoon to form an enormous convoy of battleships, cruisers, flat tops, cargo and troop transporters," Bores said. "Destroyers, destroyer escorts, patrol craft, LST, LSM, LCI (Landing Craft Infantry), sub chasers, sea-going tugs and PT (Patrol Torpedo) boats. There were 12 LSM all together.
"We invaded the island of Leyte in the Philippines," he remembered. "The first wave went in at 10 o’clock. We went in on the third wave at 10:30. We hit White Beach carrying tanks, gasoline and 75 mm ammunition."
The LSM took on a load of guns from a cargo ship on Oct. 21, 1944. Bores said his ship took them to the beach.
"We anchored in the bay," he recalled. "A big air attack of (Japanese) bombers. One bomber made a suicide dive in and hit a LCU about 100 yards from our ship. It set several ships on fire and also sunk a tug. Planes fell like dead birds.
"We had 26 air attacks in six days, but everything was pretty good," Bores said. "A big battle was going on about 50 miles out."
The first Army planes came in on Oct. 27, 1944. Bores said that wave included 23 P38s. His LSM went on to Yellow Beach and took on supplies from cargo ships.
Two days later, Bores said he injured his left knee, but he kept doing his duties as a sailor. The first mail also left the ship since the invasion.
"On Nov. 12, we had the biggest air attack since we’ve been here," Bores noted. "All suicide squads. About a dozen ships got hit. At the time, we were tied up to a cargo ship loaded with bombs and ammunition. We had a full load at the time, all 155 mm and 105 mm shells.
"A suicide plane started to dive directly at us," he recalled. "We gave him all we had, but in spite of all the lead flying at him, he kept coming. A 5 mm shell jarred him a little before he got to us, which caused him to hit the boom on a cargo ship. He busted all to hell. During all this excitement, the shrapnel was coming down like rain. Two of our men got hit, one pretty bad."
Thanksgiving in 1944 was celebrated at White Beach. Far from his home in Huron County and from his family farm. There were 54 sailors on his ship, Bores said. They truly became a band of brothers.
"We had a swell dinner," he recalled. "We had turkey, sweet potatoes, dressing, gravy, peas, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, sweet bread, butter and coffee. We had the day off but went back to Yellow Beach late that night. There were three (Japanese) air raids at various intervals.
"Three raids at night strafing and bombing the beach," Bores noted. "Three planes downed by radar, five from the beach. One that was hit crashed about 100 feet from our ship."
Two planes, he pointed out, were downed in dog fights by P38s during the afternoon. A single enemy plan flew over to look things over. Bores said 17 planes went after the single plane, including 11 P38s and six Thunderbolts.
On Nov. 27, 1944, Bores said his LSM took five water buffaloes to the Sunagio Strait under the cover of darkness.
"We had two destroyers and an LCI gun boat for escorts," he said. "They were three-fourths of the way with us. It was so dangerous that they wouldn't go the rest of the way. We made it okay and left the guys off."
There were rumors of another invasion. Bores said his ship took on paratroopers and truck drivers and equipment, along with men for the coming invasion on Dec. 2, 1944.
"We unloaded equipment and men," Bores retold. "We were scheduled to leave for the Mindoro Invasion today, by the presence of the Jap fleet on our course necessitated a postponement."
His ship went back to Yellow Beach to load more equipment. Their new destination was Bay Bay in Leyte which they hit on Dec. 4, 1944.
"Our ship was strafed while we were trying to unload our cargo because we were drawing too much water which prevented us from getting to the beach," Bores explained. "The next day we were attacked by a suicide squad in the Surgio Strait. Eight (Japanese) planes got four of our ships. We really had a close shave.
"The first LSM sank that day," he added. "It went down in 10 minutes. A destroyer and two other LSMs were damaged badly."
Several days later, some LSCs returning from Ormoc were sunk by a suicide squad, according to Bores. Two ships were damaged when they were hit with bombs. Three destroyers were sunk.
"Three suicide planes hit one destroyer," he noted. "It went down in about two minutes. We loaded up for the Mindoro Invasion with engineers. This is supposed to be a decoy to draw the (Japanese) power over our way. The real spot is supposed to be Luzon."
In the final story, Bores recalls the end of his service in the South Pacific during WWII and his return home to marry the love of his life.