Since publishing All Came Home—a story about my Dad and the crew of the USS Leon APA 48—in 2015, I’ve heard from several people whose fathers also served aboard the Leon. Somehow they heard about the book, read it, and contacted me afterwards.
I’m always glad to hear from you! Sometimes I am fortunate and your Dads are still alive today.
Such was my good fortune when the daughter of Dwight Huddle contacted me from Napoleon, OH, last year (see post above). Dwight was a Boilerman 2/c aboard the Leon from 1945 – 1946. While visiting Dwight, I learned of another surviving crewman of the Leon: Printy Arthur from Sylvania, OH. Printy was a corpsman, a member of the Leon’s Beach Medical Team at all five of the Leon’s amphibious assaults. I later spent a great afternoon with these two new friends: Dwight (center) and Printy (right).
Printy gave me copies of pictures that he had acquired over the years from families of other shipmates. Two pictures—shown below— jumped out at me IMMEDIATELY. They portray attacks on the Leon by kamikaze bombers on the afternoon of November 23rd, 1945, when Leon was anchored in the harbor at Leyte Gulf.
The description of those attacks is quoted below from p. 234 of All Came Home. I have inserted the newfound pictures where I would have placed them had I found them before publishing the book:
“On November 23rd, a month after her first appearance, the Leon was back in Leyte Gulf…
Friendly clouds hid us that first day in the Gulf and the troops unloaded without incident. Not all the ships were able to unload and we stayed on a second day—a clear day.
It started uneventfully. We had orders not to fire our guns with friendly planes in the air and in such close quarters with other ships (an order that was later rescinded). About 1100 there was a sudden noise of a speeding plane. Men looked up, interested. And those with good eyes ducked more quickly than they looked – “He’s a Jap!” and already the bomb was falling.
It seemed to take its time falling, and it crossed over the ship in its angle and missed by 50 yards on the far side. Water splashed onto the deck. Men scrambled for guns, even though they couldn’t fire.
The Jap had come low through the hills and raced out over the ship before the alarm could be passed. Now two P-38 Lightnings got on his tail, splattered him with machine gun bullets. The doomed Jap had come around and, passing over the transports again, burst into flames.
Still the pilot was not dead. He headed squarely for another transport. Then the flames won out and he crashed into the water and disappeared.
To prove it could happen here—it happened again that afternoon. The air-raid warning signal – “Flash Red!” – came seconds before the plane broke through ahead. Guns tracked him but did not fire.
Down over the bow he came, only a few hundred feet high, and dropped his bomb. No fire went out to stop him. Friendly planes were knifing in again, but the bomb was falling. For some reason, just before he dropped it, he swerved and just enough. The bomb missed, landing off the starboard side aft, but not by much. Lighting circuits were knocked out in the engine room and were back in use in five minutes.
The P-38s tailed him, chasing him out to sea, and finally got him.”
Such a coincidence that I should find these pictures seventy-one years later. How unfortunate I did not find them before I published the book!!
(The original source for this account is: A War History of The USS LEON APA 48 by Lt. A. A. Smyser U.S.N.R.)