Long before the invasion of Iwo Jima, the Salt Lake City was sent on missions to that island without support. Our mission was to sink any ships in the harbor and scout the Jap defenses for the coming invasion.
The ship was at battle stations, mine being on the first deck under the well deck and directly over the forward boiler room. We were linked by phone with the bridge and both boiler rooms and engine rooms. Soon the bridge passed the word that three Jap torpedo boats had left the harbor and were headed in our direction. The men in the boiler rooms anxiously asked which side the Japs were coming in ... port or starboard. A torpedo hit below the waterline in the boiler rooms or engine rooms is deadly for the crew manning those spaces. The only defense was to move to the opposite side of the ship from the torpedoes. After a prolonged lack of information from the bridge about the torpedo boats, my phone "talker" asked and was told they had turned back. The sigh of relief was almost audible.
After we had sunk all shipping we headed South back to Tinian. In retaliation, Jap land based bombers from Japan would reach us in the twilight hours. Then came the deadly game of zig-zag to avoid their bombs. We were never hit although we bombarded Iwo Jima six times by ourselves.
After the first such mission the ship's dentist was heard to exclaim that he had learned that the Salt Lake City was considered to be "expendable" because of her age and that he was "getting off". In a matter of months he obtained a transfer off the ship. It pays to have friends in the right place.
Written by Robert J. Serazin, Lt. (jg)
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