Typhoon Louise in Buckner Bay: A First Hand Account From October 9 and 10, 1945

November 29, 2016

Paul Polson was a Coxswain, a member of the Boat Group aboard the USS COLBERT APA 145 during WWII. (For background information about Polson and the COLBERT’s travails during the 1945 typhoon season, see the  previous Blog post November 9, 1945.) Paul’s  daughter, Dawn, recently discovered a treasure trove of his memorabilia from the WWII era. One of these documents is a first-hand account of the COLBERT’s struggle to survive Typhoon Louise, a terrible storm that swept across Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on October 9 and 10, 1945.

That letter is presented below. It is not signed; it appears to be a first draft. So we aren’t sure who the author was or to whom the letter was to be sent. We realize fully that one saves history one story at a time, and we believe the story below is worth saving. So, we are researching this subject and hope to have definitive answers soon.

What we do know, however, is that several details in this account confirm that the author was a member of the COLBERT crew. We can also confirm several key details in this letter because they are also found in Polson’s personal letters sent home immediately following the storm. The question is: Who wrote this riveting account of Typhoon Louise?

The pages below are exact replicas of the original document. The text clarity improves steadily after the first page.

Colbert Letter pg1 original.jpg

colbert-letter-pg2

 

colbert-letter-pg3

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This is the most riveting account of  the struggle for survival “at sea” that I have read.

There are a few loose ends here that we would like to tie up.

  1. Can anyone out there help us to learn the name of the ship whose crew members were rescued by the COLBERT’s boat crews (see pp. 3 – 4 above)? Was it, in fact, a P.C. as mentioned on p. 3? If so, which P.C.?
  2. Can anyone out there help us to identify the sailor who was pulled from the water by COLBERT’s crew and gasped “God bless you!” (p.4)?

We will research these questions further with the membership of the Small Boat Sailors’ Association (SBSA). Does anyone have a suggestion where we might research further?

Also:

3. Can anyone out there help us to identify the author of this letter? Sounds to us like        he was a member of the communications division aboard Colbert.

We save history one story at a time. Help please!!

USS COLBERT APA 145 and Typhoons Ida and Louise

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!

paul-polson-aboard-the-uss-colbert

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.

 

Mine_damage_to_the_USS_Colbert bLarge

Mine Damage to USS Colbert

 

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.

colbert-newspaper-article

 

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.