Laurence Fletcher Talbott

USS Ozark LSV2, USN

    I served on the U.S.S. OZARK (LSV 2) and participated in the initial landings at Linguyan Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. We were one of the first outfits to free allied prisoners of war and were near the Missouri during the surrender.

     I enlisted in USNR September 7, 1942. After training I was assigned to the Section Base at La Playa, California, a base of the Western Sea Frontier. Yard Mine Sweepers, and P.C.'s (sub chasers) were stationed there. Some P.C. were converted tuna fishing boats. This was a time when the Japanese navy had submarines on our Pacific Coast. Oil tanks north of Santa Barbara were shelled and a tanker was sunk a short distance north of San Luis Obispo.

     I transferred to Naval Air at the USN auxiliary air station at Holtville, California in June 1943 and participated in activating the base. My rank was Electricians Mate 2nd Class. One other Electricians Mate and I wired the airfield and continued the maintenance of electrical systems and equipment.

     On November 1943 I transferred to the Naval Repair Station in San Diego, California and from there to the USS Ozark (LSV 2). LSV is a Landing Ship Vechicle. They were named after mountain ranges, i.e. Ozark, Catskill, Osage et cetera. I can tell lots of stories, but do not have time to write a comprehensive article. At a later time I will have the opportunity to do more. Right now the following history of the USS Ozark, which we used to call "The Mighty O", will serve to describe my service until I have time to add more detail.

     The Ozark's overall length is 453 feet with a 60' beam, displacing 9000 tons at a draft of 20 feet. She carried two 5" gun mounts and numerous automatic weapons. She had a very good cruising speed, and she carried 31 dukws on her vehicle deck and 788 troops in her compartments plus 80 troop officers.

     The construction of the USS Ozark was authorized by Congress on 19 July 1940. On the 12th of July, 1941, her keel was laid and on 23 September 1944, she was placed in full commission at Willamette Iron and Steel Corporation, Portland, Oregon as a Landing Ship Vehicle. After the commissioning ceremonies on 23 September 1944, there was much to be done. The commanding officer, Captain Frederick P. Williams, USN, had many problems to solve. The crew, some 400 men, were "green" and had to be trained. Provisions and stores had to be taken aboard. Last minute alterations had to be completed. On 2 October 1944, all was in readiness, except for ammunition which would be picked up downstream, and the Ozark got underway for Astoria, Oregon and sea. On 4 October 1944, she crossed the Columbia River bar and entered the Pacific Ocean, headed for San Pedro, California for shakedown training via San Francisco, California to pick up landing craft.

     In San Pedro from 9 to 18 October much was accomplished toward getting ready for duty with the fleet. Target practice was held, the crew was exercised at various drills, speed trials were made and combat conditions simulated. The time spent was short, but much experience was gained from "shakedown".

     On the 25 October 1944, overseas cargo was loaded and on the 28th the Ozark put to sea for Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. The voyage across was uneventful, save for deviating from course to safely clear an area where an enemy submarine was reported on the 30 October. On the third of November 1944, the Ozark was moored in Pearl Harbor, where she was inspected by Vice Admiral R.K. Turner, USN, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet. On the 5th of November 1944, orders came for the Ozark to proceed to Manus Island, Admiralty Islands, for duty with the Seventh Fleet. The voyage was uneventful, except for a steering casualty which occurred in the Marshall Islands. The escort, USS Norman Scott (DD 690) steamed slowly around the Ozark while the casualty was repaired. On the 16 November, Manus was sighted. There the Ozark reported for duty to Commander Seventh Fleet; in accordance with his orders, the Ozark was assigned to the Third Amphibious Force. After delivering cargo at Finschaven, New Guinea, she proceeded to Cape Torokina, Bougainville Island, Solomon Islands and arrived there 26 November 1944. Upon arrival, she joined Transport Squadron 13.

     December 1944 marked a period of intensive training for the Ozark. Preparation for the coming operation in Lingayen Gulf had to be made. Troops were taken aboard at Cape Torokina, and exercised at debarking drills and abandon ship drills. Paravanes were streamed, so the most expeditious methods of getting them over could be learned. Practice firing of automatic weapons was held to sharpen the eyes of the gun crews. On the 16 December, Transport Squadron Thirteen got underway for Huon Gulf, New Guinea, to make a dry run before the execution of the Lingayen operation.

     On the 18 December, Transport Squadron Thirteen entered Huon Gulf in assault formation. At the break of day, unloading of vehicles and troops began. Troops and cargo were loaded into LCVP's and dukws. Boat waves were assembled and sent to the rendezvous area from where they were sent directly to the beaches. Prior to sunset all transports were again loaded, and in the evening exercised at making a complete smoke screen. The results were very good, and this first rehearsal proved of great value in the later operations.

     The Ozark with Transport Squadron Thirteen sailed for Manus Island, Admiralty Islands, on 19 December. The time spent there from 21 December to 31 December was used to replenish supplies and provision ship.

     Orders came 31 December 1944 for the Ozark to get underway for Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippine Island. This was the beginning of her first taste of combat. Enroute tactical exercises were held to give new officers experience in ship handling in formation, paravenes were streamed and practice firing of automatic weapons was held to season the new gun crews.

     The 7 January 1945 marked the first day in the lives of many aboard the Ozark for experiencing visual contact with the enemy. About 1706 that day an enemy aircraft flew at masthead height across the formation pursued by four U.S. Navy fighters, and was shot down seconds later. Much tension was relieved by witnessing that sight. The next day, the 8th of January 1945, proved to be more exciting. About mid-morning a twin-engine Japanese bomber flew out of the sun over the formation and narrowly missed hitting the ship next ahead with its bombs. About dusk the same day Japanese bombers and suicide planes attacked the formation from all points. Several dive bombers were shot down by the Combat Air Patrol. One suicide plane singled out Transport Squadron Thirteen in particular. He circled out of range of the automatic weapons to the port quarter of the formation. Then he started his death plunge. All guns on the port side of the Ozark opened fire. The Kamikaze was headed for the ship on our port beam. Tension mounted. The amount of flak being put up was uncanny, but still the plane headed for its target apparently unaffected. The Ozark's 40MM and 5"/38 cal. Were nippin at the tail of the plane all the way in its downward plunge. The climax came when a burst at the tail rocked the plane in its path of flight and sent it to a firey end a few feet from the stern of the vessel it had intended to crash.

     The next day, 9 January 1945, the formation approached Lingayen Gulf for the assault. The area was frequented by enemy aircraft, suiciding combatant and transport vessels, in a vain attempt to halt the operation. The Ozark landed her personnel and equipment according to plan. Casualties and survivors from damaged and sunken ships were taken aboard and the Ozark left Lingayen Gulf that night with Transport Squadron Thirteen for Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands.

     After arriving at Leyte a brief period for ligistics was available and patients were transferred to a hospital ship. On 14 January 1945, Commander Transport Division 33, Captain S.M. Haight, USN, hoisted his broad command pennant in the Ozark. The 19 January found the Ozark at sea again, this time headed for Ulithi, Caroline Islanded. The voyage was uneventful, and the 23rd found her safely anchored in Ulithi's southern anchorage, where repairs, replenishment, and relaxation were found in plentiful quantities. At Ulithi, Commander Transport Division 33 transferred his flag.

     After completing logistics and repairs in Ulithi, the Ozark sailed for Guam on 5 February 1945 to embark Company "D", 3rd Marine Medical Battalion, for the invasion of Iwo Jima. Arriving there on the 7th of February the group was embarked and on the 8th February the Ozark sailed for Saipan to join Transport Squadron 15.

     At Saipan last minute preparations were made before getting underway for Iwo Jima. The 16th February found Transport Squadron 15 enroute for Iwo Jima. No enemy opposition was encountered enroute. Arriving in Transport Area off the eastern beaches on 19 February 1945 at 0600, the Ozark was present at predawn bombardment and strafing of the beaches. She remained in the area until 27 February 1945, during which time 622 wounded Marines were received aboard and cared for by the reinforced medical staff that the Ozark had embarked at Guam. Feats never before attempted by medical sciense were attained off the bloody beaches of Iwo Jima. Serious and delicate operations were performed and turned out successfully. The Ozark returned to Guam on 4 March 1945 and discharged three hundred and eighty three wounded Marines to hospitals for care at Guam.

     After leaving Guam on 7 March, the Ozark sailed ultimately for Leyte, via Ulithi and Kossol Passage to arrive there 13 March. Upon arrival, the Ozark reported to Transport Squadron 13 for duty and the commanding officer was designated Commander, Transport Division Thirteen (temporary). Preparations immediately began for the invasion of Okinawa. Equipment and supplies were taken aboard. Practice exercises were held to familiarize each ship with the operation plan. By 27 March 1945, the Task Force was ready for the Okinawa Gunato Amphibious Operation and the Ozark started from Leyte in company with Transport Squadron 13. Enroute the fleet course had to be changed to avoid a typhoon.

     Regarding typhoons, we were in several including the big one at Okinawa in 1945. Hard winds, rough sea, the rustolium bottoms of the ships around us showing bright orange. Life rafts torn from the ship. Another nut and I used to go to the bow and laugh and yell when it went under. We had to leave the harbor because of the possibility of ships crashing together in a confined space. One of my friends was out of life for a long time when a large piece of lumber hit him as it flew through the air while he was on shore. Can't think of anything else; you had to be there.

      En Route to Okinawa, mines and submarines were encountered. Near the objective enemy planes were met and repelled.

     On 1 April 1945 the squadron arrived in the Transport area. The usual shore bombardment and aircraft tactics were employed. Remaining in the area until 10 April 1945, the commanding officer of the Ozark was given temporary command of the ship of Transport Squadron 13 remaining in the area and was in charge of unloading these ships. During the period of our stay at Okinawa the Ozark was constantly threatened by attacks from enemy suicide planes.

     Upon completing this duty, the Ozark departed for Guam on 10 April 1945 and arrived there 14 April 1945 for a brief rest.

     The 5th of May found the Ozark underway once again--- this time for Noumea, New Caledonia. The voyage into the early theater of the war's first sea battles was uneventful and routine. The Ozark arrived in Noumea on 14 May 1945 and left there 17 May 1945 for return to Guam with troops. After receiving and expending the troops at Guam on the 26th of May, orders were received sending the Ozark to the rear area for overhaul. She arrived in Pearl Harbor, 6 June 1945.

     Upon returning to the forward area in July the Ozark was again ordered to Okinawa with reinforcement troops. The journey was uneventful in so far as contact with the enemy was concerned. Troops were delivered safely, and the Ozark was returned to Guam, arriving there 10 August 1945.

     About this time, the atomic bomb made its historic appearance. Rumors of Japanese peace feelers were circulating rapidly. Each day they began to appear more authentic. Upon arrival at Guam, the picture of the world situation took shape for the Ozark. Orders were received to proceed and join the Third Fleet with necessary medical supplies and food as an evacuation ship should the Japanese surrender. The orders were rapidly executed, and on 13 August 1945, the Ozark, as OTC, was enroute to join the Third Fleet with the USS Shadwell (LSD-15), USS Healy (DD-672), and the USS Dortch (DD-670).

     The trip was most eventful. On 16 August, the Healy had a sound contact of positive nature. Attack was made after repeated challenge, and after searching the area oil was found on the surface, indicating a possible sinking. On the same morning, while the Healy was still attacking her contact, the Dortch sighted the wake of a torpedo crossing the bow of the Ozark. Emergency maneuvers were guickly executed. Evasive tactics were followed to maneuver past the area. No damage was done, and the remainder of the voyage was calm.

     On rendezvousing with the Third Fleet, on 17 August, the pace quickened and many things were about to happen in the history of the Ozark. Orders were received on 19 August to transfer 1000 Marines and Bluejackets to the Ozark from the various ships of the Third Fleet while underway.

      The ships from which we transfered the marines were all warships large enough to rate a fleet marine contingent aboard. As I remember them they were all battleships or cruisers, ships large enough to have a real band. One ship's band was playing the song "Don't Fence Me In" when we were transfering fleet marines to our ship via breeches bouy. These marines were the ones who were to be landed in Japan to do the initial occupation. The transfer to our amphibious ship was to get them ashore when we arrived.

     These transfers were the task of the Ozark from 19 August until 22 August. Not a single man was dropped into the water and lost. The record is one the Ozark is proud to hold.

      The night of 22 August almost shattered that record completely. Smoke pots were stored on the superstructure deck aft. One became ignited through spontaneous combustion or was opened by a curiosity seeker which set off many more. A large volume of smoke resulted in a very short time. Before it was discovered, large amounts were taken in by the ventilators which led to the sleeping spaces. The draft of 1000 Marines and Bluejackets who were just transferred to the Ozark were threatened with suffocation. The commanding officer's request for the OTC to change course and bring the wind on the beam and the fire fighting of the fire parties brought the matter quickly under control. The serious cases were treated with fresh oxygen, and all personnel affected by the smoke were back to normal in a few days.

     A slight period of waiting followed the receipt of personnel aboard before the Ozark proceeded to Sagami Wan and ultimately Tokyo Bay, with the Third Fleet. Then orders were received. On 27 August, the Ozark sighted the Japanese main islands, and by nightfall of the same day, the Ozark was safely anchored off Hayama. Security patrols were rigidly enforced in case sly tactics were employed by the Japanese.

     On 30 August, the Ozark was underway for Tokyo Bay with the Occupation Forces. At 0723 the Ozark entered the Bay and shortly thereafter disembarked troops. By 1400 all troops were debarked, and the ship was made ready to receive recovered Allied prisoners-of-war. On 31 August the first were received aboard. The Ozark remained in Tokyo Bay until September 8, 1945, when she was loaded with 950 recovered prisoners-of-war.

     It may be useful to add my own impressions of the POW's that we freed. Some were in bad shape with beriberi and/or other ailments, but others seemed to be in much better condition. All had been abused. The death rate in Japanese prisoner of war camps was about 25% compared to about 4% in Nazi camps. Some had been in the Bataan Death march, some of the British and Canadian prisoners had been captured at Singapore. The crew of the USS Sculpin, a submarine that the Japanese had forced to surface were there. They had been tortured for information. The prisoners responded well to medical treatment, showers, and good food. The USS Missouri was at about our latitude and about one half mile away on the day that the surrender was signed. We watched the dignitaries coming aboard, including the Japanese in their formal civilian wear. Admiral Halsey had as his guests at the signing the crew of the Sculpin, rather than doing as others who invited politically important guests. When the lads form the Sculpin returned to the Ozark, we got a first hand account.

     We brought the POW's back home to San Francisco via Guam and Pearl Harbor. As we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, the morning fog lifted and we saw our country for the first time since leaving. For the ex-POW's it had been a long, long time. We docked at Richmond and most of us got leave.

     I was discharged on November 24, 1945 in San Diego. I later accepted a commission in the USAR as an artillery officer and was on standby during the Korean War, but never called to duty.

Respectfuly,

Laurence Fletcher Talbott

Mr. Talbott has passed away since posting his well written story.  He will be missed - Curator

lftalbott@aol.com

LINKS

Biography of Frederick P. Williams, Cpt, CO/ TranDiv 13, USS Ozark

U.S.S. Ozark, LSV2, Photo

USS Ozark, LSV 2, Unit History

Back To Justin Oral History, Navy Biographies

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