From the pages of the diary he kept aboard the destroyer he served on– the USS Beale (DD-471) — Ray Pomeroy of Rotonda, Fla. was able to recreate two of the biggest sea battles of World War II he fought in: The Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Okinawa.
“I was in the Number-4 Lower Handling Room in the bowels of the ship passing five-inch shells up to the guns. It was hot as hell. I was part of MacArthur’s navy for the next six months off New Guinea,” the 86-year-old former sailor said. “The ship would get up to speed and zig-zag. When our main guns went off there was a terrible roar.
His diary picks up his story from there: “Dec. 23, 1943: Big Day, fleet went into action for the first time. We heard our guns open up and I began to get scared. After the first bark of our guns I was okay.
“USS Brownson (DD-518) sunk by Jap bombardment. She was struck between her stacks and went down in 15 minutes. She was in our destroyer squadron,” he wrote as a teenage sailor more than 65 years ago.
“The biggest battle I was involved in was the Battle of the Philippine Sea. By then they found out I was a quartermaster. They put me on the bridge steering the ship during general quarters.
“There were two Japanese fleets coming toward Leyte trying to break up the American invasion of that Philippine island. It was late October 1944 and our group was headed south for the Surigao Strait to face Vice Adm. Kiyohide Shima’s fleet.
“This is when we attacked a Japanese battleship. We fired five torpedoes at three battleships. According to the people aboard our ship two of our torpedoes hit. The history books say all our torpedoes missed,” Pomeroy explained.
“There were more than 100 torpedoes fired from our fleet toward the Japanese fleet. During the battle two of their battleships blew up,” he said. “After our torpedo run all our cruisers were in a semi-circle firing their six and eight inch guns at the Japanese. When the cruisers got the range you could see their shells flying through the air and landing smack on target.
“Behind the cruisers were six American battleships, some of whom we recovered from Pearl Harbor,” the old salt said with satisfaction.
By the time the shooting ceased the Japanese had suffered a resounding defeat at the Surigao Strait. What was left of the emperor’s fleet retreated toward Japan and safer waters. The American amphibious landing on Leyte was saved from Japanese destruction.
The Beale and other ships in the fleet returned to the U.S. for repair.
“When we reached San Francisco I got a 30-day leave to go home. I took a 19-hour flight from San Francisco to New York,” Pomeroy said. “It was the first time I had ever been in a plane. When we took off I was so excited my toes were digging a hole in the belly of that airplane.”
When he and the Beale sailed under the Golden Gate for the war zone they were headed for Okinawa and the biggest battle in the Pacific during World War II.
“The big attack started for us about 3 p.m., April 6, 1945. That’s when three Jap torpedo bombers came in low, about six feet off the water, on our port bow,” he said. “We opened up with everything we had on the three torpedo planes. We splashed two of the planes. The third one kept coming and getting bigger and bigger. She finally went down 3,000 yards off our port bow.
“Shortly thereafter we joined the fleet. We were no more in position when we were surrounded by Jap planes that kept coming at us from all directions. The destroyer beside us was hit by a Kamikaze amidship and burst into flames,” he said.
Pomeroy and the Beale stayed off shore during the entire 82 day battle for Okinawa and escaped without sustaining serious enemy damage. After the second American Atomic Bomb obliterated Nagasaki and the Japanese surrendered aboard the Battleship Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, the Beale was dispatched to Sasebo, Japan.
“One of the days we were at Sasebo they decided to take all the sailors from the Beale to see Nagasaki. We went by Army truck. There was nothing left of Nagasaki,” Pomeroy remembered six decades later.
Like millions of other men and women who served in World War II, Pomeroy took advantage of the G.I. Bill and went to college. He graduated with an engineering degree. For the next 31 years Pomeroy worked for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad retiring as a railroad superintendent.
He and his wife, Betty, have been married 57 years. They have two children: David and Laura, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
This story first appeared in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, March 19, 2012 and is republished with permission.
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