I have been communicating recently with Dawn Jaminet, a daughter of WWII seaman, Paul Polson. Polson was stationed in the Pacific aboard the attack transport USS COLBERT APA 145. According to his discharge papers, Polson was a Coxswain Sv6 USNR, so I’m guessing he was in COLBERT’S boat group division.
We believe the (undated) picture below of Paul Polson was taken aboard his ship. What a handsome young guy!
Dawn and I exchanged some fascinating stories and documents about the COLBERT’S experiences in September and October, 1945. At the time, the ship was a member of CTD 59, an amphibious task force during occupation landings at Jinsen, South Korea, after the war’s end. My Dad’s ship, USS LEON APA 48, was also a member of that unit.
On September 17, 1945, COLBERT was struggling to ride out Typhoon Ida when she struck a Japanese mine. She was carrying a shipload of recently liberated American POWs and headed stateside. Can you imagine? As if a typhoon wasn’t bad enough, she struck a mine… while carrying a ship load of just-freed POWs. Yikes!
The following picture—taken later when she finally got to a dry dock for repairs—shows the mine damage.
I was familiar with the mine collision story. That very incident is described in the War History of the USS LEON and in my book ALL CAME HOME. Also, in Spring 2016 I had located and talked with Dwight Huddle, a crewman from LEON who actually saw COLBERT strike the mine. His account is described at my blog post below (February 11, 2016)
The explosion flooded COLBERT’S engine compartment, killing three crewmen. But the crew managed to keep her afloat even though she had lost all power. The next day USS BUTTE towed her to Okinawa, probably to Buckner Bay. The following Minneapolis Star Journal newspaper account dated September 28, 1945, reported COLBERT’S story.
As COLBERT lay anchored in Buckner Bay awaiting repairs, another typhoon blew through on October 9 and 10. This one was the monster: Typhoon Louise, reportedly described by Samuel Elliot Morison as the most furious and lethal storm ever encountered by the U.S. Navy in its entire history.
In my next post I want to share with you an amazing letter written by a COLBERT crewman while her crew rode out Typhoon Louise… aboard a ship with no power. I have read numerous accounts written by typhoon survivors, but this letter is the most extraordinary narrative that I have ever read about two days of terror at sea during a typhoon. With Dawn’s permission, I will include this letter in my next post.