Sioux County

James Kass, Yeoman 3rd Class





James Kass, Yeoman 3rd class, writes his mother, Mrs. Mina Kass, from aboard the U. S. cruiser on which he was serving during the bombardment of Leyte island before the invasion of the Philippines.  His letter gives a good description of the terrific bombardment and of the excitement which followed when the Japs started sending their planes after ships.  He writes, in part:

“The Navy has broken down and given us the green light on giving out a little dope about where we have been.  I have had excitement upon excitement, which I shall never forget.  I can’t say that I was fortunate in being in the initial attack on Leyte island and the surface battle of Surigao Strait.  I was merely a victim of circumstances, without any choice.  But now that it has passed, I wouldn’t trade anything for being around at the time it happened.  However, I can live the rest of my life without any more.”

“By the grace of God and the United States Navy, General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines.  Just like the movies, huh Mom?”

“The preliminaries which began a few days before the main event afforded no thrills but the main show which started about ten in the morning was certainly not without its moments.”

“From where I stood, the naked eye could see all worth mentioning but the binoculars one felt that he had a ringside seat.  There was no pushing for seats.  Every man had a side seat and a good view.”

“The cruisers and battleships opened up first with their powerful guns.  The smoke was really thick.  Sometimes we couldn’t even see the because of it.  We could hear the SWOOSH of the rockets as they roared into the sky from the planes and the rocket launchers.  Then the dive bombers would start strafing and bombing the beach and the Jap positions.  Then we would start in again. After over an hour of firing, the ICIs and other landing craft started disembarking from the transports and moving toward the beach.  The roar was terrific and I’m not kidding.  How a Jap could have lived after that pounding is something that I can’t figure out.”

“While we were watching the show as if it was a movie, the soldiers were preparing to make a landing.  If I had had to go through all that smoke and fire, I think I would be minus seven years growth. (Little did we know that our turn for excitement would come.)”

“After the beach head was made our trouble just started.  The Japs began sending their planes after us, and they really kept us on the go.  For 2 or 3 days they were continuously making nuisance raids on our ships, and I’m telling you they were a nuisance.”

“Well, anyway the Japs didn’t get near us.  Our AA gunners were too good for them.  Then the news arrived that a Jap task force was approaching Leyte Gulf to wipe out our beach head.  There again we saved the Army a disaster.  We had to fight. Well, Mom, for my part, I would just as soon have returned home, but as it was I stayed with the crowd and saw it through.  I thought of a heck of a lot of places I would rather have been, but it didn’t do any good at the time.”

“We went to G. Q. about 7:00 for an all night session, about the wee hours of the morning we came in range of the Japs and after about 25 minutes of exchanging broadsides with the, the Japs started retiring minus 2 battlewagons, 2 cruisers and 6 destroyers.  The following morning, we could see Japs swimming around in the water.”

“Those 25 minutes were about the longest 25 minutes of my life.  The Japs had a considerable force there, but it was definitely a victory for the U. S. Navy. We came through and we shall return.”

Source: Alton Democrat, December 21, 1944 (photo included)