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Natoma Bay Crew Updates
Harold Clark Adams

The following material was submitted in December 2009 by Tami Montgomery, daughter of Harold Clark Adams. 

Harold Clark Adams Harold Clark Adams Working on Plane

Harold Clark Adams
Additional photos can be seen at the Natoma Bay Photogallery.

Harold Adams AMM2/6 Avenger Plane Captain

Following are transcriptions from Tami Montgomery's conversations with her father about his WWII/Natoma Bay experience as well as his comments on other documents he shared with her.  Thanks to Tami and Harold for sharing these memories and bits of history with us!

During World War ll,  I joined the navy because I was about to get drafted.  The navy was not yet taking drafters.  After boot camp I went to aviation machinist school at Navy Pier Chicago for flight deck training on the U.S.S. Wolverine on Lake Michigan.  Then I went on to Seattle, Washington to wait for the next Liberty Ship with a flight deck that Kaiser Shipyards was building.  They were building 2 a month and by the wars end they were building 4 a month.  While I was in Sand Point I went to firefighters school and then to aerial fire gunners school.  I sure didn’t want to be an aerial free gunner.  They said the life of a gunner was 6 minutes combat time.  Then we commissioned our ship the U.S.S. Natoma Bay CVE 62.  She was a ship with all kinds of names…..among them being, Two Torpedo Ship With The Second One Over The Top, Kaisers Coffins, Jeep Carriers .  I was a plane captain for Avenger Torpedo Plane number 81. It weighed 8 tons and was the largest single engine plane in the world. It was a job I dearly loved.  We could launch our planes and take them back quicker and much more efficiently than what our big carriers did.  The big carriers had all them planes on one ship, and we had them scattered out on 6 ships.  But I sure didn’t care much for the scary battles we had.  The biggest battle was the second battle of the Philippine Sea.  I can only tell it the way I remember it, not what was written in history books. The U.S.S Natoma Bay was the first CVE to enter Japanese mandated waters.  We enlisted men were never told where we were going until we got there.  On October 24, 1944 our group of escort carriers were in the Leyte Gulf.  It was the scuttlebutt that we would be going through the Surigao Strait under the cover of darkness to the Mindanao Sea to avoid any possible shore batteries.  But that didn’t happen.  G.Q. sounded about midnight and we were told there were enemy ships nearby and the hope was that they didn’t discover our presence.  The Natoma Bay was the only ship on G.Q at that time.  With my battle station being the deck, I could see all the action.  We had 3 groups of escort carriers, six in each group with our escort destroyers.  Up until now, I thought we were the only group.  We were about to be attacked by the main Japanese fleet.  At daybreak they started shooting at our northern group and the southern group was under kamikaze attack.   We were the only group able to launch planes.  We had 6 torpedo’s and never had any use for them during our previous operations.  It didn’t take long to make use of them now.  We had about 11 torpedo planes and 15 fighters.  They were making runs and coming back to reload within minutes.  We had enough bombs to last a couple of weeks of normal operations, but they were all gone by noon.  Over the speaker system came word that we had only depth bombs left and that only God could help us now.  Off our portside, shells began bursting in techno-color (green, red, purple, yellow, and white).  Each of their ships had dye in their shells to find their range. Bob Fullbright was standing beside me and said “they are laying the poles”. We were going 17 knots and they were going 27 knots.  They were really gaining on us.  Admiral Stump was on our ship and told a couple of officers, I can’t remember their names, to go below and get what they wanted to take with them if we had to abandon ship.  Just then, 2 of our planes in the air were still carrying torpedo’s and decided to make a run on the Yamato, the prize ship with the largest gun afloat.  The Yamato turned and the torpedo’s went on each side of it.  The pilots said “how did we ever miss that big s.o.b.”.  Then the radio came alive, “banjo’s got a cruiser”!  The torpedo’s had went on to sink a large cruiser.  The Yamato was a flag ship with Admiral Kurita on board.  When the Yamato turned, the whole fleet turned with it and kept on going.  This was the biggest sea battle of all time.  When we re-armed, they would not give us any torpedos because it was not our job to fight ships.  Later, 40 Jap planes came to attack us but our fighters turned them back, shooting down 17 of them.  It was reported 3 times by Tokyo Rose that the Natoma Bay had sank.  Tokyo Rose was on the radio telling propaganda.  She was from California but she happened to be over there visiting when the war started.  So they got her to broadcast propaganda during the war.  When she came back she went to jail and served time for it.  But really…..if you was over there you was going to get your head chopped off or do what they said.   The U.S.S. Natoma Bay was the only U.S. ship to see the operations from pre-bombard to all secure at the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

The Biggest Explosion I Saw

After the battle of the Philippine Sea, we were all out of ammunition so we went to Espirto Santo to get more.  Our ordinance crew told of the Mount Hoods crew handling the bombs rough.  They said they were sliding them bombs down that ramp and they was glad to get out of there, as the bombs were old and seeping out of their nose cones. The next day our crews were loading the second load onto our ship when the Mount Hood blew up.  It sank every craft within 200 yards.  The only survivors were 18 of her crew members who were on the beach at the time.  It left a trench in the harbor 300 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 30 to 40 feet deep.  They didn’t ask us why the Mount Hood blew up…….they didn’t ask us.

A Truth In History

I was a plank owner on a C.V.E, a small aircraft carrier built on the hull of a liberty ship, intended for submarine patrol to protect our shipping.  The Keiser shipyard started building these ships so fast, the big brass decided it would be a good idea to send us to soften up the islands first and save our big ships.  On the morning of October 5, 1944 we had been at G.Q. since midnight because a large enemy flat was near us.  Admiral Oldendorf was guarding the Surigao Strait and had sunk a group of Japanese war ships.  Admiral Halsey was supposed to be guarding the San Bernardino Strait but he had disappeared, being led away by a Japanese decoy fleet.  He ended up 300 miles north.  The main Jap fleet came through the San Bernardino Strait where 2 of our submarines sank 2 of their ships.  Fleet Headquarters in Hawaii announced 3 times, “where’s Halsey”?  The first 2 times he didn’t respond.  The third time Fleet Headquarters announced “Where’s Halsey…..the world wonders”!  They said Halsey started cussing and threw his hat down on the deck.   Halsey missed out on the biggest sea battle ever fought.  Admiral Halsey’s force was our best battleships, cruisers, and big carriers, but it was our 6 escort carriers of the U.S.S Natoma Bay that had to fight the main Jap fleet until help arrived.  You see, he (Halsey) was at Pearl Harbor.  And when they sunk all of our ships he proclaimed “wait till we catch ‘em”.  He just couldn’t wait until we could get out there to catch them.  At that point we didn’t have any Navy left……they was all bombed……they was all wrecked and we didn’t have any Navy.  And when we got them, the funny part was, Halsey got away.  He didn’t get to show ‘em what he was gonna do to ‘em.

(on speaking again of the biggest battle)

That prize battleship (Yamato) got away you see……..cause it came back and it had orders from Japan…..they had ordered it, regardless of what happened, to take our ships off of Okinawa until the end.  So there wasn’t no way they could quit.  And on the way down….why our navy planes sunk it before it got to Okinawa. But our crews planes got there to late.   When we sent our planes after it, the other planes had it sunk before we got there. Somebody made a lucky hit on it and the whole thing blew up……that whole big ship.  It was said that Halsey detached from the star fleet and come south and had joined in sinking or damaging every one of the fleeing Japanese ships.  But surely he didn’t damage them all.  He wasn’t there till the next day.  That was propaganda, that wasn’t true.  They just wanted to give him some credit.  I heard somewhere that Admiral Kurita had said, that was the best pilots (our pilots) he ever saw.  But our planes had orders to keep making runs on them battleships and cruisers…..without any ammunition……no bombs, not even any guns… ammo…….nothing.  They had orders to keep making them runs and harass them.  And I think that’s what scared Admiral Kurita………that’s what scared him into leaving.

On the kamikaze hit

When we got hit by that kamikaze we were in the Ryukyu Islands.  After the Philippines was over with we were going up toward Iwo Jima.  But we went up to Sakishima and knocked out those two airfields.  Two of us knocked out them two airfields at the Ryukyu Islands.  That’s where the kamikazes were coming from.  Sakishima……..that’s where the kamikaze crashed our ship.  There was another carrier there but we didn’t see it, we thought we were the only ones there really.  But there was another carrier and it got hit too.  From there we went onto Okinawa.  The propeller of that kamikaze plane was melted down and made into small horseshoes and everyone on our ship got one.  Me and Donald White, the plane captain of 91, we was on liberty together in San Diego after that.  So we had ours engraved.  (my dads lucky horseshoe was engraved with Sakishima on the left side of the shoe and his name on the right side).    

There was this man who fell overboard.  It was a soldier and we was taking soldiers to Hawaii.  When we left out of there it (the water) was very rough between Hawaii and the States.  And they all got seasick.  He was a heaving over the fantail and just fell overboard.  The last time I saw him he had both hands up in the air.  There was no way to get him back, that water was so rough and he was in the water with both hands up and disappeared.     

In spite of everything, the U.S.S. Natoma Bay became a very famous ship.  It took part in more operations than any other ship……..13 plus the battle for Leyte Gulf.  It was the most decorated ship of World War II, having earned a total of 10 stars, 9 battle stars, a presidential unit citation, the Philippine liberation ribbon, the silver star, bronze stars, air medals, purple hearts, distinguished  flying cross, and navy commendations. It is classified as a historic ship.  After the war it was sold to Japan in 1959 for scrap iron.  But she continued to stand dedicated and true to her shipmates and refused to go to the mills. A mile off the coast of Japan, the tow line broke, and she turned over, and went to the bottom of the sea.

Everything is all mixed up.  Everyone remembers it different.  But another battle star is supposed to be on the Pacific.  It says 10 but there is supposed to be 11.  This guy, Bruce Leininger, who is writing a book, found out there is another one they didn’t give us credit for.  There was 2 on the Philippines but there is supposed to be 1 more on the Pacific.  I counted 7 battles before we even got started on the Philippines.  

Additional Notes from Tami Montgomery

To my dad, Harold Clark Adams, you are my hero. It is an honored to call you my dad.   I thank God every day that you are still on this earth with me.

My mom told me that when they went to the Natoma Bay reunion in Columbus, Ohio, that when some of the men saw my dad, they hollered “heh, there’s Killer”!  “How ya doing Killer”?  Dad never let us know that this was his nickname during the war……..and he still won’t talk about that to this day.

This is dedicated to all the veterans of World War ll who did not receive proper acknowledgement of their heroic efforts.

“In no engagement of its entire history has the United States Navy shown more gallantry guts and gumption that in those two morning hours between 0730 and 0930 off Samar”

Samuel Eliot Morison History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume XII, Leyte

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Comments on a description of the Battle of Leyte Gulf published for the folks at home

[the complete Associated Press article published in a Honolulu paper can be found at: —LD]

Harold Adams' comments regarding descriptions of The Battle of Leyte Gulf sent to folks at home appear in bold below.

[. . .]

Rear Admiral T.L. Sprague was in overall command, with Rear Admirals C.A.F. Sprague and Felix B. Stump cooperating.

Some of the other CVE’s were damaged, but they were not identified.

The force expected no outside aid (although it did get some in mid-afternoon). Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf’s battleship force still was in Leyte Gulf after sinking an entire Japanese force of two battleships, two cruisers, and four destroyers before dawn. (TRUE)

Admiral William F. Halsey’s 3rd fleet was engaging the imperial carrier task force northeast of Luzon Island. (FALSE)

However, shortly after the naval observers noted that the situation was ominous, grim, these things happened in quick sequence:

“The Japanese forces split and turned away….

“Our torpedo planes stopped the Japanese.  At least one Japanese cruiser has been torpedoed and sunk………..Other cruisers and battleships had been hit.”

All morning the CVE pilots bombed and torpedoed the Japanese, returned to their carriers, armed, gassed, gulped sandwiches and were launched again and again for further attacks on the Japanese.  Many of the pilots were engaging in their first combat.

The naval observers final entry in his diary: "The Japanese force has been whipped by our planes.  Japanese ships lie crippled in their pools of oil . . . . Surviving ships are running for their lives, leaving their wounded behind.  The battle has turned and we are no longer the pursued but are now the pursuers….A Jap battleship, a cruiser and a destroyer are ignored by our pursuing planes as they lie crippled in the sea.  We are harrying them ( the moving enemy ships) in their retreat."

At 4:30 in the afternoon, the Japanese sent more than 40 land based planes against the CVE’s, but they were turned back after 16 had been destroyed.  Meantime, carriers Admiral Halsey had detached from his 3rd fleet and had come south and joined in sinking or damaging every one of the fleeing Japanese ships. (NOT UNTIL THE NEXT DAY)

Today, Admiral T.L. Sprague sent this message to all ships which had participated in the CVE action:

“These ships not only met and defeated enemy attacks in the air but they have turned back a large enemy fleet composed of his most modern ships….Never have fighting men preformed their duty with greater determination and distinction….Against such teamwork the enemy could not prevail….

”to the mother’s, father’s, sister’s, brother’s, wives and the sons and daughters of those who were lost, I say:  Do not be sad.  Be comforted and inspired in the thought that victory for which these men so freely and courageously gave their lives has contributed immeasurably to final defeat of the enemy.”

[. . .]

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