Typhoon Off Okinawa
(Typhoon Louise)

     On October 9-10, 1945, Typhoon Louise swept through Okinawa area.  The typhoon did a great deal of damage to the U.S. Fleet in the vicinity of Okinawa, and resulted in 83 men killed or missing.  You can read more about Typhoon Louise on the LSM-137 website here.  This site also has many photos of the  aftermath of the typhoon in Buckner Bay.  The official Navy website about Typhoon Louise lists 265 ships grounded, sunk, or damaged.

     Captain Cain had put  the LST 794 into Buckner Bay, Okinawa, to get the screws changed, when the typhoon warning was issued on October 9:

Typhoon Warning

Carl Carlson, coxswain of one of the '794's LCVP's remembers it this way:

     That morning I was up early, had chow, then out to watch the changing of the screws. All I could see was air hoses going into the water. The frogmen were changing the screws underwater.

     At eight o'clock the loud speaker blared out  "Now hear this - Carlson and boat crew lay up to the gangway."

     As Cox'n of the small boat, I was given orders to to take three or four men to different ships in the harbor. We did this and returned to the '794 in time for noon chow. My boat crew and I sat down to eat, when the loud speaker blared out  again:

     "Carlson and boat crew lay up to the gangway on the double."

     Leaving our lunch on the table, we reported to the gangway. We were given orders to go pick up the men we had dropped off previously, and return as soon as possible. As we got into our L.C.V.P. and headed out, we noticed there was a change in the weather. We went from ship to ship and picked up our shipmates. When we changed direction back toward the ship, the wind was picking up and the sea was very choppy. We were heading into the wind and sea.  My crew and passengers went under cover in the well deck.  I raised the wheel and stood on the gunnel so I could see over the bow ramp.  We couldn't run full speed, and the spray was flying.

     When we finally got back to where the ship had been, it wasn't there. We looked around and saw her just clearing the mouth of Buckner Bay - we were being left behind. Well, we took off after it, sea flying. When we got into the open sea, our ship was a good distance from us.  As we began to close on it we could see them on the con waving us off, but we ignored them . As we got closer we saw the davits being lowered. The ship was rolling and pitching - we knew this was going to be a rough lift. We got under the davits and hooked on to the boat falls while we were on top of a wave. We were jerked out of the water, then back into the water as the ship rolled. This happened a coupleof times before I could shut the engine off. We grabbed for the life lines and hung on for dear life. As the ship rolled we smashed into her side a couple of times before we were snug in the davits. My two man crew's section was already on underway watch, which left me to secure the boat alone. Captain Cain called out to me to double up on all the lines as we were going into a typhoon. That was the first I knew of the typhoon. After securing the boat I went down to the galley . The galley crew was tying down and securing as much as they could (the top of the range did jump off during the storm). Evening chow was just baloney sandwiches and coffee. Even that tasted good when we weren't able to finish our noon chow.

     My section was scheduled for the eight to twelve midnight underway watch. I was supposed to start as bow lookout, but this was canceled because of the high wind, with the ship rolling and pitching and the spray coming over the bow. What made our run in the storm so rough is that we were completely empty, we just bobbed like a cork.

     When my turn came to take the wheel I was given a magnetic compass bearing to steer by, but the compass was spinning like a top. The Captain gave me steering orders from the con, and we also used the engines to steer.  I recall the radar man came out to the bridge and said we were twenty five miles from the center of the storm.  I remember that when we were going up a wave I was holding the wheel at arms length,  and going down I was laying on the wheel.

     The wind reached a velocity of one hundred and fifty knots, approximately one hundred and seventy three miles per hour, and the barometer dropped to a record low of twenty five point fifty five inches. The waves reached a height of seventy five feet. When I got off watch at midnight I remember looking out at the waves. All I could see was a wall of water going straight up. I know we were all glad when things quited down. One of the quartermasters told us that when we got out of the storm we were twenty five miles behind where we were when we started. We had been running full and flank speed just trying to keep the bow heading into the waves. The engine room telegraph sure got a workout that night.

     I couldn't believe it , When I was relieved from the wheel , the Captain called down the voice tube "Good Steering Carlson." I thank God for getting us through that storm.

     I recall when I was stationed in Hingham Ma. They were building LST's in the shipyard there. Every time I went on watch I walked past all the different sections of the ships.  I would say to myself, "I wouldn't want to be on one of these ships."  I never expected that I would soon be heading for amphibious training and ending up on LS T 794.  I have to say, it was a good ship to be on, even if it did bend in the middle in a rough sea. Having a good skipper also helped. Our captain was cool, calm, and collected in all situations.

Photo taken from LST 794 during Typhoon Louise

This photograph was taken from LST 794 during Typhoon Louise.  Notice how high the trailing LST is on the wave crest, relative to the '794.

George Gross relates his turn at the midnight to 0400 watch on the morning of October 10th:

     "I think I had a destroyer ahead of me and a couple of cargo ships on either side. I could see them for the first half hour of the watch. But when the wind got up to about 100 knots or more they disappeared. Radar was ordered to give constant ranges and bearings on the ships ahead, astern, port, and starboard. The distinction between sea and air became imperceptible. Everything was white foam, on the sea, in the air, and on the deck. The waves which broke over the bow and rolled aft to the wardroom bulkhead were like the head on a mug of beer. The rippling deck we expected, but it was a new experience to see and hear the mast vibrate like a tuning fork.

     The high bow of an LST acts just like a sail. Flooding a pair of forward compartments adds a little stability. Even though our best helmsman did his damnedest, it was impossible for him now and then not to slide a few degrees off the wind. When this happened another interesting LST ship handling characteristic was revealed: unplanned 90 degree turns.

     Even full contrary rudder could not bring the bow back to course. The only thing to do was to steer with the engines, one ahead full, the other back full. Slowly, slowly, slowly, the bow grudgingly inched its way back into the wind. But watch out! If you were not careful, the bow swung 90 degrees the other way and you had to bring her back with the engines all over again from the other side.

     The flotilla commander decided LST's were a menace and ordered the space between ships to be increased. Not necessary. The ships astern had already increased space in self-defense.

     The engine room telegraph procedure was too slow for all the engine orders. The telephone talker and engineer of the watch had to be in constant phone communication. This gave the engineer the opportunity to bitch about the screws coming out of the ocean, and why the hell can't you bastards on the bridge make up your minds.

     After four hours, I was delighted to turn the watch over to my relief. Over the roar of the typhoon I shouted the course, speed, radar positions of other ships, and, for the first time, added a new bit of information: "Steering by engines." That shook him up.

     The next day, when the wind abated and the visibility improved, it was possible to see some of the damage. I saw one LST with the bow doors ripped off. Anybody who was on that one must have a story to tell. I hope he does.

     All we lost was a large awning. Chips, the carpenter's mate, welded a new frame in a few hours. Boats, the boatswain's mate, sewed the canvas the next day. Back at Buckner Bay the remains of ships which hadn't made it out to sea were strewn on the beach."

Wendell Armstrong wrote about the typhoon in a letter home

“That typhoon we went out to play hide and seek with played tricks on us and instead of getting out of it’s way, we ran smack into it. Last night about midnight it was at its worst, and I never knew an LST could take such a beating. I understand many weren't so fortunate. It’s still rough as all hell out right now, but compared to yesterday evening, and all last night, it’s like a millpond. We had all kinds of trouble but we managed to keep her headed into the wind. Our gyro compass went out, everything was really snafu, but here we are! The ship bent so much, it chipped all the rust and nearly all the paint right off her, tore away all canvas, washed her down clean as a whistle. Right now we are riding out the diminishing sea, tomorrow we will head in and anchor at Hagushi in the evening. We are just off the northern tip of the island.”

I'm banged up, bruised, and last night I was a little dopey too, but you can't guess the feeling I had when the barometer stopped its decline and started on its way up again. No matter how bad it is, if you can see that its getting better, it sure feels good. As soon as that old barometric pressure began to increase I was sure happy to log it.

This typhoon was a force 17, which is as high as they go. Force 12 or over is of hurricane force. You know I have quite a bit of confidence in these old LSTs now. Last night I quite jokingly said, ‘Well, I’m not the least bit curious, but it looks like we'll soon see just how much these LSTS will take.’ And I can say that they can take it. Why she was up and down, rolling, tossing. It was all you could do to hang on and ‘climb’ from one compartment to the next. In a typhoon, the sea becomes mountainous and the crests of the waves are breaking and blown into a froth, the spray fills the air, and other ships nearby are completely lost from view. We would dive into a wave and the shock would make the whole ship quiver like a diving board, knock you out of your bunk or off your feet. Wow!”

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