Edited by board administrator March 29, 2017, 11:50 am
Thank you for your inquiry. With some careful Internet sleuthing I have been able to identify with considerable certainty the ship your grandfather was aboard and a description of the attack for which he received his medal.
This web page, http://www.usmm.org/sunk44.html#anchor412649, from the web site American Merchant Marine at War, lists six ships that were damaged by kamikaze attack on November 12, 1944, in the Philippines. (A seventh ship is also listed as having been damaged in an attack on the same day but the nature of the attack is listed as “Unknown.”) Information about the six ships indicate that three suffered Army deaths from the attack: JEREMIAH M. DAILY had at least 100 Army casualties, MORRISON R. WAITE had 21 Army casualties, and THOMAS NELSON had 164 Army casualties. Thus one of these three vessels most likely was your grandfather’s ship. (Further down on the same web page noted above you will see that GILBERT STUART suffered a kamikaze attack on November 17, 1944, with five Army casualties. Assuming the date noted in your grandfather’s commendation is correct, he was not aboard GILBERT STUART.)
I made Google searches on each of the three ships. It appears to me that most likely your grandfather was aboard MORRISON R. WAITE. The most useful piece of information I found was a written report of the attack, made by F. F. Boyd, the master (captain) of MORRISON R. WAITE; see https://500thbsq-b25s.com/mem/waite.html. The report goes into some detail. From the report I ascertained the following:
The attack occurred off the village of Dulag, Leyte, Philippine Islands, at 1829 (6:29 PM) on November 12, 1944.
Among the Army troops embarked on MORRISON R. WAITE were these units: the 499th Bomb Squadron and the 501st Bomb Squadron, both part of the 345th Bomb Group, 5th Air Force, and the 892nd Chemical Company, which may also have been assigned to the 345th Bomb Group. There were about 600 Army enlisted men and officers aboard. It is likely that your grandfather was a part of either of the two Bomb Squadrons or of the Chemical Company.
The enlisted troops were berthed in tween deck #1 (bow of the ship), tween deck #3 (midships), and tween deck #5 (stern of the ship). The tween deck is the deck immediately below the main deck of a Liberty ship, with the cargo holds below the tween deck; the name comes from the fact that the tween deck is BETWEEN the main deck and the cargo holds.
The master describes damage and fire to the port side of the ship forward, especially in the area of #1 tween deck and hold. At the time of the attack the master estimates there were 130-140 men in #1 tween deck, presumably most or all being Army troops.
The master singles out by name one member of his crew for his courageous actions and commends other crew members, without naming them, for their action. He does not mention your grandfather, either by name or by a description of his actions. This is understandable. The master was well aware of the identities of his crew (about 75 men) but would not have recognized or known the names of any of the 600 Army passengers, other than perhaps the most senior Army officer(s).
In all the master’s report tracks well with the description of the attack found in your grandfather’s commendation. The latter states that the kamikaze aircraft struck the bridge of the ship, and that a bomb was responsible for the damage in the forward hold. The master’s report does not mention damage to the bridge and clearly indicates it was the kamikaze plane itself, not a bomb, that penetrated the ship on the port side forward.
Other component units of the 345th Bomb Group were apparently also aboard THOMAS NELSON, where there were some 164 Army deaths. However the descriptions of the attack on THOMAS NELSON that I was able to find differ significantly from the description of the attack on MORRISON R. WAITE. This leads me to conclude that what is described in your grandfather’s commendation and in the master’s report points to your grandfather’s presence aboard MORRISON R. WAITE.
On this web page, https://www.armed-guard.com/cbdm.html, there is a photograph of MORRISON R. WAITE showing damage to the port side forward; scroll down about 1/3 of page. The photograph does not seem to show any damage to the bridge of the ship. The photograph states it is from 1945 but most likely it was from 1944 soon after the attack. MORRISON R. WAITE was repaired and returned to service in rather short order, despite the damage she suffered.
I came across limited information about two books by Lawrence J. Hickey, "Warpath Across the Pacific: The illustrated history of the 345th Bombardment Group during World War II," and “Warpath: A Story of the 345th Bombardment Group (M) in World War II,” that apparently describe the kamikaze attacks that the 345th Bomb Group endured. Amazon currently has copies of these books available for purchase although at significant prices: about $43 and $35, respectively. Other online sources (Barnes & Noble, Abe Books) also have one or both books available although I found none with lesser prices than Amazon.
Of possible interest to you is that there is a 345th Bomb Group Association, with both a web site (http://www.345thbombgroup.org/) and a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/345th-Bomb-Group-Association-358993024120604/). The Association has a mailing address of P.O. Box 8755, Roanoke, Virginia 24014 and an e-mail contact of email@example.com, apparently the address and e-mail of the Treasurer of the Association, Mr. Clint Roby. The President of the Association is a Mary Roby, at the same address and e-mail. The Association holds yearly reunions, with the most recent in August 2016 in Oshkosh, WI. (I Googled you and I’m guessing you are located in Chicago. Note that the Experimental Aircraft Association Aviation Museum in Oshkosh has an exhibit about the 345th Bomb Group; see https://www.eaa.org/en/eaa-museum/museum-exhibits/featured-exhibits). Information on a 2017 reunion for the Association is yet to come, according to the February 2017 newsletter at http://www.345thbombgroup.org/Strafers/2017/February2017newsletter.pdf. My point in mentioning all of this to you is that you may be interested in becoming a member of the Association. Who knows what you may find out about your grandfather and his buddies? A membership form is found in the newsletter; dues are $35 for a family member of a 345th Bomb Group veteran. Also note that the last page of the newsletter has address and e-mail contacts for representatives of all of the squadrons in the 345th Bomb Group, although not the 892nd Chemical Company. If your grandfather was in either the 499th Bomb Squadron or the 501st Bomb Squadron, these representatives may be able to confirm that information.
For your information, MORRISON R. WAITE was constructed in 46 days in October-November 1943 by the Kaiser Permanente Metals Corporation's #1 shipyard in Richmond, California. She survived the rest of the war and was scrapped in 1963 in Kearny, NJ. See http://shipbuildinghistory.com/shipyards/emergencylarge/kperm1.htm and scroll to hull number 503. Also see http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/LibShipsM.html#MorH and scroll to the name of the ship. The ship was named after Morrison Remick Waite (1816-1888), Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1874-1888.
I hope you find the above information useful.
Your grandfather was a brave man; they all were.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website