SS Adoniram Judson Survives 56 Air Raids in Philippines.
Delivers Vital Steel Airfield Landing Mats to Tacloban
|Rudy - Maritime 62||
PR 2101 (W)
WAR SHIPPING ADMINISTRATION
Cleared and Issued
Through Facilities of the
|December 10, 1944||
Office of War Information
In one of the most dramatic stories of the U.S. Merchant Marine at war, War Shipping Administration today told how the [SS Adoniram Judson] first American Liberty ship to unload cargo after the initial invasion of the Philippines survived a minimum of 56 individual bombings and strafings while its merchant seamen and Navy gun crew shot down two and a possible four other Jap planes.
A report to WSA by the master of the vessel, commending officers, seamen, and Navy personnel aboard for their valiant work, described the almost unbelievable bombings and strafings encountered by the merchant vessel.
The ship was carrying steel airfield landing mats, among other vital cargo, used to build the airstrip at Tacloban which has become the base for P-38 Lightnings. With the arrival of the landbased P-38s there was a sharp drop in the number of enemy planes that slipped through to attack shipping in the area.
Three merchant seamen and seven Navy gun crew members were injured while operating the guns, also two Army stevedores working cargo aboard the ship were injured by flying shrapnel from the Jap planes.
The master reported that for a few days the Liberty ship’s guns were one of the main anti-aircraft defenses in the area. When ammunition ran low he sent his Chief Engineer from ship to ship in the bay to try to replenish the supply. A Navy vessel provided a sufficient amount to keep the merchant ship’s guns blazing. During the six-day period approximately 8,500 rounds of ammunition were fired at the Jap Zeros and Bettys.
The 56 individual bombings and strafings took place during a six-day period, starting shortly after the original landings at Leyte. The heaviest and most concentrated attack occurred on the second day as the ship was discharging the airfield mats.
“A group of enemy bombers, 12 in number, came over the top of a low range of hills overlooking the bay,” the master reported. “The planes headed out over the bay in an attempt to attack the vessels. Anti-aircraft shore batteries and, ship’s ack-ack opened up and nine of the Jap Bettys were seen to fall, four along the shore and five into the bay.
“One plane, flaming from the ship’s ack-ack, crashed into the bay at our stern. One bomber passed over this vessel, with a Hellcat on its tail and was brought down by the Hellcat farther out in the bay. Two more planes passed over us, one of which looked as if it would crash into our ship, but pulled out at the last second to just clear our funnel and hit an LCI anchored about 500 yards off our port quarter. Both planes were burning from ship’s ack-ack as they passed over us. This ship fired and scored possible hits and near misses on all the above planes,” he said.
The master revealed that merchant crew members assisted the Navy gun crew as loaders, ammunition passers, and reloaded the empty magazines for the 20 MM guns throughout all the raids.
One Jap Zero that dropped a bomb only 25 feet from the bow of the Liberty ship, damaged the hull and rigging with shrapnel. But the ship’s gunners scored a direct hit as the Zero passed ever her. Later a piece of the plane ‘s aluminum was picked off the bridge. It was this attack that injured two Army stevedores aboard, and injured five others and killed two ashore by flying shrapnel.
The Liberty ship’s Captain said the attacks were by day and night during the six-day period, adding, “It was miraculous that the bombs did not hit the ship.”
Name of the vessel and that of the master were not disclosed for security reasons, the vessel still enroute to another, port, WSA said.
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The President of the United States takes Pleasure in Presenting the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal to Charles A. Jarvis Master of SS Adoniram Judson 10/24/44 to 10/29/44
For heroism in the line of duty.
His ship, SS Adoniram Judson, was the first United States merchant vessel to dock at Tacloban, Island of Leyte, during the initial invasion of the Philippines, and was subjected to unrelenting enemy air attacks. Her guns provided the principal air cover for the landing area for two days until joined by other ships participating in the campaign. The accurate and continuous gun fire which she maintained repeatedly repelled the vigorous enemy, during which action the unloading of her vital war material, including steel airfield landing mats, was successfully carried out. Captain Jarvis' courage, leadership and utter disregard of personal danger not only contributed greatly to the success of the invasion, but also to the safety of his ship and crew.
The entire crew of the SS Adoniram Judson received the Gallant Ship Award, awarded to only 9 ships for World War II service.
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