John Fuller Goes to War


†††† I
knew I was about to be drafted into the service so decided I would go home for Christmas then join the Navy.After Christmas Tead Weaver and I went to the recruiting office in Deadwood, and joined the Navy.I remember mom and dad were apprehensive about it but knew I was going to have to go sometime.We had to go to Souix Falls, South Dakota to take our physical and to be sworn†in.
††† †It was January 16th 1943.Tead had to have a tooth pulled so he was delayed and I went on alone by train, to Athol Idaho via Minneapolis.I had to change trains in Minneapolis and it was terribly cold there.The government had built Farragut Naval Training Center in the Rocky Mountains north of Coeur díAlene Idaho.I spent 8 weeks taking boot camp training there then was shopped to San Diego California to go; to Radar school.While there I got the mumps and was in isolation till I got well.I started the radar class over and graduated number one I my class.

†††† I was shipped to Bremerton Washington to be assigned to MTB Squadron 16.I was assigned to the119 boat.While in Bremerton the Radars were installed on the boats.The squadron was on their way to the Aleutian Islands.I was not assigned to a boat for the trip but went with the base force on the USS Chaumont.We left Seattle on August 1, 1943.

††††† We arrived at the PT Base at Finger Bay, Adak, on August 11,where I joined the crew on the 219 boat.The boats had made the trip under there own power with a short crew.From Adak we went under our own power to the island of Attu.We arrived on Attu on September 9th. Attu is the most westerly island in the Aleutian chain.

†††† It was while in Bremerton that when I was on Liberty in Seattle that I met Esther Arensmeyer.A friend, Al Johnson, had met Estherís sister Edna, who was in high school but had come out for a visit, at a U.S.O. or someplace.He had made a date with Edna and asked if I would come along with him as Edna had a sister.We seemed to hit it off and we had several get togetherís before I was shipped out for Attu.She was staying with her cousin Charlotte in an apartment.Esther had come out to Seattle just out of high school from Choteau Montana.Her aunt Meta, Charlotteís mother, lived in nearby Kirkland.Esther was working for the Army Corp of Engineers.She was a very good secretary and could take shorthand.It was while I was in Attu that I wrote to her quite often and through our letters we got better acquainted.

†††† Back to my Attu experience:The CBís had built a PT base in an area called Casco Cove which was in a larger area called Massacre Bay.CB was short for Construction Battalion, a division of the Navy.My brother Ed was a Machinistís Mate in the CBís.Five days after we arrived on Attu a big storm came up with winds blowing 40 knots with gusts up to 55 knots.The wind was blowing directly into Massacre Bay so we moved out of the Bay and across Casco Cove to be in the lee side of the Island.During the day the wind shifted around to where we were being hit directly.We had moored to a submarine anchor, which had a steel cable to hook on to.We pulled the eye of the cable through the bull-nose then over the post that was used to tie the anchor line to.There is a rod through this post, which keeps the line from coming off.The wind was so bad†and the waves were rocking the boat so bad that when we tried to get the cable off, we couldnít.We knew we had to get out of the wind so I took an axe, and on my belly, I chopped the post off.Then the post, with the cable around it, was caught in the bull-nose.††
PT 224 crew: †Iím 4th from the right
By getting under way, moving forward, I was able to get the post out of the noose in the cable.We then went back to Casco Cove and dropped our own anchor.††
During the night the man on watch hollered that the anchor was not holding.We were being pushed toward the shore.The motors were lit offbut it was too late, the screws were hitting rocks and we could not move.†††

†††† The waves were bouncing the boat and it was breaking up.We were close enough to shore so we could jump ashore.There was a Seaplane Tender, The Casco that pulled the 119 off of the rocks and started to bring her along side.The bottom was badly holed and as the ship brought her along side the boat filled with water and she sank in 25 feet of water.A few days later, when the weather subsided, the boat was raised and put in dry-dock.PT 219 was eventually scrapped.I was then transferred to the 224 Boat, where I stayed for the rest of my time with the squadron.We spent the winter on Attu with very little to do, except fight the weather, not the Japanese.I became good friends with Al Clark and Dick Stanton who were both in my crew.There is a†good accounting of what happened during the Attu campaign in the Motor Torpedo Squadron 16 History written by Alfred Piotter.I have given copies of this to all my children.

††† On May 5, 1944 the squadron got under way to go back to the USA.May 31, the boats pulled into Bremerton Navy Yard.I of course was anxious to see Esther.During the preceding year she had moved in with her aunt Helen Kathman.I got a leave while there so I asked Esther to go with me to Prosser Washington to meet my parents.My dad was working on a dirt-moving job for Northwestern Engineering Co. from Rapid City at Prosser.While there, we took a trip to Cove Oregon, where my dad was born.By this time and because of all the letters we had exchanged I bought an engagement ring for Esther.She accepted it with the condition that we get married before I went overseas.

†††† We were married on June 23, 1944. We were married in the Lutheran Church in Kirkland Washington and had a reception at Estherís aunt Metaís.We often marveled that it lasted for 59 years under the conditions that we were married.My best man was Al Clark, a shipmate from New York State and Esther had her cousin Charlotte for a bridesmaid.Her and Esther remained very good friends throughout their lives.

†††† On July 19, 1944 the squadron went to San Francisco and were based at Treasure Island.We shipped out for the South Pacific on September 9.During the time we were in San Francisco many of the menís wives came and stayed in Hotels, Esther included.The wives got acquainted and had a good time with each other while the men were on the base.The men were able to go ashore most nights so we had lots of opportunity to see the sights and do fun things.

†††† The worst thing that happened during this time was that I contracted Mononucleosis.I was in the hospital at Treasure Island for about a week or more.During this time Esther found a job working as a pool stenographer at the hotel we were staying at.She would transcribe and write letters for salesmen that came and stayed at the hotel.

†††† When I was shipped out to the South Pacific, Esther went to Phoenix Arizona.Her sister Dorothy, who had lost her husband to T.B, was working at Luke Field.Esther was able to get a job with the Army Air Force as a secretary in the hospital on the base.Dorothy had a son, Ronny, who Esther helped take care of.She worked there until I came home from the Philippines in April of 1945.

†††† My first stop in the South Pacific was in New Guinea.I got there on a troop ship.The boats were shipped on tankers.I then joined the 224 Boat and the squadron next went Biak Island.† I again refer back to the History of Squadron 16 for a thorough accounting of this part of my adventure.This now took us to the Philippine Island of Samar where we were involved with the Battle of Leyte Gulf.We next went to the Island of Mindoro.A full accounting of this is in the†History.
†††† Most days I would write to Esther.Our chance to mail letters was intermittent so she got letters in a feast and famine order.That is how I got her letters also.Our squadron had a quite a few casualties during this time and it, being through Christmas time, was kind of tough on the guys.I read a report showing the Deadliest U.S. Campaigns of World War II in the Pacific Theatre was the Leyte/Luzon/S. Islands in the Philippines with 20,569 deaths between Oct. 17, 1944 thru July 4, 1945.I was relieved of duty in April 1945 and got my orders to report to The United States for 30 days leave and report to Melville Rhode Island for further orders.I made my way under my own efforts to Manila, Samar, Guam, Honolulu and into San Diego.In San Diego I was issued my thirty days leave and I headed for Phoenix to see my wife Esther.

†††† I was able to fly to Phoenix.I took a bus from Phoenix to Luke Air Base where Esther weas living with Dorothy, Ronny and Edna.They were in Off Base Housing.What a wonderful reunion.My brother Ed was stationed at Port Hueneme California so he took the bus over to; Phoenix to see me.He had not met Esther before.We spent a few days there then took off for Choteau, Montana.On the way there Esther got a bad cold, or pneumonia, and was really sick when we got to her folks in Choteau.We spent some days there till she felt better then we took the train to Hettinger North Dakota and sister Mary and her husband Kenny met us and took us to Spearfish.We stayed in Spearfish for the rest of my leave.

†††† When I got to Melville, Rhode Island I found I would have some time their so Esther took the train to Boston to where I had been transferred.We spent our first wedding anniversary in Boston.We rented an apartment from a lady that was going to a girlís camp as a nurse.We sublet a room to one of my shipmates and his wife.He was the radioman on the 222 boat, George Johnson and his wife, Adrianne. While in Boston we were able to visit my aunt Isabel and uncle Les in Natick Mass.They took us on a short trip to Kittery, Maine where my cousin Ken Chase and his sisters Mary Ellen and Margery lived.We spent about six weeks in the Boston area and then I got orders to report to Shoemaker Naval Station near Oakland, California.For the trip west we of course took the train.I was able to get a Pullman sleeping compartment provided we would share with someone.We took the lower bunk and a young sailor took the top bunk.He didnít stick around the car very much.

††††† When I reported to the base there were no accommodations for the two of us together so Esther could stay in a hotel but I couldnít stay with her.I stayed on the base for a couple of days until we were able to get into a Quonset hut.Esther was thrilled to be able to set up housekeeping and I remember she fixed a special dish.We were in this apartment (one room) for two nights and I got orders to report to Treasure Island for transport overseas.Esther packed up and got a train for Seattle so she could pick up our wedding gifts and go back to her folkís home in Choteau.While I was on Treasure Island the war with Japan ended.My orders had been cut so I was sent back to the Philippines.I was stationed on Samar Island waiting for my points to accumulate so I could go home and start life anew.When I got enough points I was put aboard the Battleship Mississippi and sailed to San Francisco.I then went to Bremerton, Washington to be discharged Dec. 9th 1945.I had been in the United States Navy two years ten months and 23 days.

"John Fuller Goes to War" is part of his longer autobiography describing growing up in South Dakota, attending Rapid City High School, and later raising a family.† Be sure to check out his PT commander's story "At Close Quarters" by Robert Bulkley to fully represent John Fuller's wartime story.† Even so, one reviewer asks: "There is little or nothing about the men that sailed these boats into harm's way. Where did they come from? Why did they choose the dangers of a PT boat? What led them to go up against destroyers in plywood/mahongeny boats?"† John Fuller seems to know the answer.

Read†even more†about John†Fuller†during WWII.