S/S Morrison R.Waite
Dulag , Leyte, P. I.
November 13, 1944
U.S. War Shipping Administrator
Finsch Hafen, N,G.
Port Attack Dulag, Leyte, P.I.
The S/S Morrison R. Waite was anchored 1.35 miles 113 degrees True from the town of' Dulag, Leyte, P.I. on November 12, 1944 D plus 23. Having arrived in the Philippines area October 29, 1944 D plus 9.
At 1125 Shipping in the harbor was attacked by three (3) Japanese
Zero planes, which approached from the E.S.E. Planes came in deck strafing.
The first vessel struck was the "Leonidas Merrit" EC-2 bearing 30 degrees
T. 2700 yards from the "Waite". The next was the S/S Thomas Nelson EC-2
bearing 35 1/2 degrees T. 1900 yards from the "Waite". An enemy plane apparently
landed on the after deck of the "Nelson", as she broke into flames. The
Thomas Nelson had some 600 troops of the 345th Bomb Group on board. With
the Morrison R. Waite having the remainder of the Group. Casualties on
the"Nelson" Quote: "Over one hundred dead and over one hundred wounded."
A third plane apparently tried to crash the S/S Joliet Victory bearing
45 degrees T. 875 yards from the "Waite". However Stbd 20MM guns of the
Morrison R. Waite (and possibly the S/S Matthew Deady bearing 342 degreesT.
920 yards from the "Waite" was also firing) were on the target and several
U.S. Army pilot officers signed an affidavit that tracers of the"Waite"
were hitting target. Jap plane fell astern of the Matthew Deady and port
bow of Morrison R. Waite.
At 1430 heavy ack-ack fire towards Tacloban. At 1612 secure from alert. Cleared all canvas and woodwork off of decks and took lashing off of motor vehicles to clear passage ways and ect. Hoses already lead out all over ship.
At 1720 sneak attack by Zero from NW. Plane brought down in flames. At 1730 Jap Zero hit the stern of S/S Wm. Coulter, port side. At 1732 being attacked by Zeros which circled shore ack-ack fire, coming in from NE and then coming up from astern headed North. Morrison R. Waite aft 4" gun fired, with 20 MM. Jap in flames and landed on Stbd quarter-passing over the S/S General Fletcher. Plane hit the Fletcher's aft port boom.
At 1823 another Zero from astern (south). Plane landed in water near port bow of Wm. Coulter.
At 1824 another Zero from astern. Plane hit deck of S/S Alexander Major (Ec-2). Major burst into flames for'd. Fire burned until 2200 and main mast of Major gone. At 1826 1/2 another Zero from astern (south). Note: All these planes come up astern of the S/S Morrison R. Waite which was firing continuously.
At 1829 Jap Zero in flames, hit the hull of the Morrison R. Waite on the port side abrest #1 hatch. Ship in flames for'd.
ChiefMate Wm.A. Schultz, Z-1000766 was on ford deck at Masters direction with several seamen and soldiers-increasing pressure on hoses when vessel was struck. About 1845 fire out on deck forward but some flames coming from #1 hatch-as for?d 3" magazine was getting hot- Master ordered magazine flooded.
The Morrison R. Waite had about 600 troops on board including 60 pilot officers. About 400 troops were from the 345th Bomb Group and the balance, about 135 men were attached to the 892nd Chemical Company. Troops were sheltered in #1,3,5, tween decks, with officers on boat deck.
At the time vessel was struck there was about 130 to 140 men in #1 tween decks. Jap Zero had apparently side slipped into hull of vessel and gas tank exploded (wreckage of tank found in #1 tween deck). Explosion sheared side plating off flush with thedeck from forms #26 to 35 inclusive,and plating was bent inward in a Vee slit-the apex being about 9 feet from deck of tween deck.
All hatch covers on the tween decks and top hatch were blown ogg. Wooden ladder resting on tween deck covers fell into lower hold and trucks on top hatch rested on hatch beams. These hatch covers no doubt accounted for many injuries as it was dark, with no ladder, it was most difficult to get injured out of hatch. Hold being filled with smoke from smoldering bedding. As there were jeeps in lower hold (gas tanks never drained) Master had ordered plenty of water thrown in lower hold.
Many soldiers jumped overboard through hole in ships side and were fished out. The balance, injured and uninjured, were taken up the ladder on cots, Officers mess room was used as an emergency dressing station. Fortunately some L.C.M.'s and ducks came alongside and the most seriously injured taken to a hospital. A check showed the following casualties:
Total Missing 5
Total injured 41
U.S. Navy Injured 2
Grand Total 64
Men were kept below during alerts and strafing attack by Masters orders. The casualties on the Thomas Nelson were heavy as so many were from all accounts on deck-and if plane had landed on deck instead of striking side there would have been few injuries if any. During the days battle a definite pattern of attack was noted.
1. Enter from ahead or astern(A.M. attacks from ahead (North) and
P.M. Southwest. Morrison R. Waite bearing brunt.
2. All planes attempted to strike ships on port side.
3. Pilots werw committing deliberate suicide hoping to accomplish as much damage as possible.
4. They avoided winged out cargo booms and slide slipped in to strike.
5. Main attack on troop carriers or possible troop ships.
The following is a list of planes brought down-in so far as personal observation went or was possible to observe accurately:
1. Off stern of Matthew Deady-Port bow of "Waite".
2. Hit S/S Leonidas Merrit-hit stbd, side bridge house.
3. Crashed deck of Thomas Nelson.
4. Hit near port stern of Wm. Coulters.
5. Hit near port bow of Wm. Coulters.
6. Hit deck port side #3 Alexander Major.
7. Hit water left of Matthew Deady.
8. Hit water ahead of General Fletcher.
9. Hit port bow of Morrison R. Waite.
10. Hit in air west of Thomas Nelson (down in flames).
11. Hit an L.S.T. amidships on port side.
12. Hit after chase by a P-38 three miles south.
13. Possible hit by P-38 south of harbor.
Japanese planes attacking had little or no trouble avoiding shore ack-ack they came in from the NE and circled ack-ack and the first thing we knew they were headed in for us. It is truly remarkable how they avoided being hit squarely. It was also very demoralizing to our gun crews.
A U.S. Navy gunner was blown out of #1 20MM gun tub with no apparent injuries other than shock. Another navy man had his knee injured. The Carpenter was sitting on apron plane for’d and was blown overboard, however he came up amidships stb'd latter and never lost his cap. There were some 12 members of the Merchant crew serving as volunteers on the guns and I am proud of their behaviour and performance of duty.
After vessel was hit-it was too dark to do any effective shooting and members of the deck force rushed forward to fight the fire. Anthony L. Martinez, O.S. acting able seaman, Z-275283, age 40 home address 3280 Cleveland Ave., New Orleans, La. and a stevedore foreman was outstanding in his services beyond the call of duty. Martinez as a loader on #3 20MM gun and from personal observation of Master performed his duties cooly and cheerfully. When the fire broke out Martinez rushed forward and in spite of the danger of an exploding magazine or gas tanks in cars stored in #1 L.H. assisted in fighting the fire below decks and getting injured and uninjured soldiers out of #1 hatch. It was Martinez who kept the Master informed of what was taking place foreward as well as the amount of damage. Martinez also assisted in getting soldiers out of the water.
The U.S. Navy gun crews (mostly boys) were a credit to the service.
20MM gun crews cooly changed gun barrels in the midst of action and held
their fire until it would do the most good. The guns of the S/S Morrison
R. Waite definitely brought down two Jap Zeros and possibly three.
The Stewards department (mostly colored) performed their duties as if nothing had happened..
At 1150 Sunday Nov. 13, 1944 and after the morning attack the following message was sent to the Port Command; "Insist troops be removed from the S/S Morrison R. Waite. Under present circumstances impossible to give adquate protection. Further, massing of troops has materially obstructed manning of guns and fire protection. Fire and explosion hazard excessive due to trucks, canvas tents and awnings about decks. (Stripped before P.M. Attack) Experience of S/S Matthew P. Deady (loaded with troops: 32 dead, 62 injured) and S/S Thomas Nelson (200 casualties amongst troops) et al., should be self evident.”
A letter containing the above was also addressed to Major General John R. Hodges, U.S.A.,Commanding XXIV Corps, in Dulag, Leyte Sector.
The keeping of troops on some six or eight ships for two weeks in the Tacloban, Dulag, Leyte, P.I. area, under the most primitive conditions (vessels not equipped as troop carriers) without adequate protection was nothing short of criminal.
During the night of November 12, 1944 there were recurring fires from Kapok life jackets in #1 hatch but as men were stationed there all night, a shot of water kept fire under control.
The dead were not removed until 1200 November 13th as much debris had to be cleared and some bodies had fallen into lower hold. At 1430 Nov. 13, 1944 an L.C.M. came alongside to take off troops (after waiting all morning). The morale of the men is on the whole very poor.
The Morrison R. Waite, in a light condition, is perfectly able to
make an extended voyage. Repairs will require renewal of several plates,
frames and ect. also renew degausing cable. Not possible to make a detailed
survey-however, any good yard should be able to effect repairs within four
Very truly yours
F. F. BOYD, JR.
S/S Morrison R. Waite
c/o Port Command, Tacloban, Leyte
U.S.C.G. Investigation Section, Finsch Hafen
Capt. V.D. Trout, San Francisco
Click here to return