Contrasts day by day during WW2 in the Pacific

I was experiencing one of my insomniatic nights, and found myself musing on how during WW2 in the Pacific one day could contrast so much from another.

Serving in the heavy 8 inch cruiser HMAS Shropshire, we were used as a bombardment ship during many of the landings against Japanese held territory.

Several days before US Marines stormed ashore, we would stand off the landing site with other cruisers in a US Navy Taskforce, and pound away with salvo after salvo of main armament gunfire, come the landing day, our invading forces usually had little trouble in gaining a footfold, and advancing quickly to consolidate their position.

The ship always went to Action Stations prior to dawn and sunset, thus after a long day, often harried by Kamikaze attacking aircraft, one watched the extreme beauty of a sunset whilst closed up at your Action Station.

The sun would slowly sink on the western horizon until it dipped below it leaving a blaze of colour and a peaceful feeling. Then the stars would come out of hiding, blinking in their bright way in a clear sky.

It was good to be alive, but you never knew what awaited the dawning of the next day, once again the whole ship's company awake, alert, wondering what a new day might bring, perhaps nothing, just the sheer boredom of one more day of steaming the Pacific Ocean.

On the other hand it may hold a determined attack on your ship from a dedicated Kamikaze pilot, ready to die for his Emperor.

If the AA guns crews did not perform at their peak and despatch the attacking aircraft before it crashed on board, you just may have seen your last sunrise.

Shropshire shot down 11 Japanese aircraft, and played a part in sending another 8 crashing into the sea. Many of these attacks were very nearly successful, but sheer efficiency with a modicum of luck took us all the way to Tokyo.

We were present in Tokyo Bay on Sunday the 2nd. of September 1945 when Japanese delegates signed a surrender document on board Admiral Halsey's flagship USS Missouri.

All that flogging around the Pacific, all those bombardments, and air attacks survived had been worthwhile, the ship had not lost a single crew member to any enemy action.

Future sunrises and sunsets could all be enjoyed for their sheer beauty, without any threat of impending disaster hanging over one's head.

I must admit, I never see the sun rise or set without it takes me back to my time in the Pacific during WW2, and I utter a quiet thank you for my survival.


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