Becoming a Boat Officer

Inaudible Segment

USS Bladen (APA-63)

Preparing for Iwo Jima

Invading Iwo Jima

Supporting the Iwo Jima Invasion


Samuel Goss had no idea that he would become a boat officer. Before he graduated as an ensign [Annotator's Note: lowest rank of commissioned officer in the US Navy and Coast Guard], he was asked where he would like to serve. He said a battleship or destroyer plus some other type of ship but never anticipated the Navy's decision to send him to amphibious school in Coronado, California. Today, that school is a Navy SEAL [Annotator's Note: United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams; primary special operations force] training center. The swimming requirement for the volunteers discouraged Goss on the idea of volunteering for the newly formed outfit. Goss was in amphibious training between July and October of 1944. He reported aboard the USS Bladen [Annotator's Note: USS Bladen (APA-63)] as a boat officer. He had never been aboard a ship before. He was overwhelmed by the ship. Previously while at Coronado, he had been trained on boat handling, physical education, semaphore blinker lights, and small arms fire, the latter three of which occurred at Camp Pendleton [Annotator's Note: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, California]. The physical education training with the Marines was strenuous. He passed all the requirements. While on the rifle range, the '03 rifle [Annotator's Note: .30 caliber Model 1903, or M1903, Springfield bolt action rifle] was not his friend. It gave him a nasty bruise on his face. When he trained on the LCVP [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP; also known as the Higgins boat], he became horribly seasick. Out all day in the surf, Goss was fine while the boat was in motion but when it stopped, he had problems. The men practiced landing then retracting. Whenever they took a break, several of the boats would be secured together and rock in the waves as the men ate C-rations [Annotator's Note: prepared and canned wet combat food]. It was horrible. He would lay on the bottom of the boat and wish he was dead. He was fine after the boat got going again. After three weeks of that, he was over his seasickness. Because the training was intense, he thought his fellow trainees would deploy together as a unit. That was not the case. He did not know any of the boat officers when he boarded Bladen at night with the enlisted boat crew. Goss missed the ship's commissioning in Wilmington, California because he had been ordered to escort the enlisted men to the ship. The APA was not prepared for the cadre of new enlisted men Goss brought aboard. Goss had to make provisions for them. The ship was freshly painted and brand new. Everything was steel and blue. Goss shared his small stateroom with four other ensigns who had previously picked the best bunks. Goss had a hot, top bunk about a foot from the overhead. He had one locker for his personal items. Being on a ship was all new. He got something to eat and went to bed.


Samuel Goss boarded the USS Bladen [Annotator's Note: USS Bladen (APA-63)] as it entered into a trial period prior to being deployed. The ship's equipment and instruments had to be fine-tuned to assure alignment and accuracy. Since supplies were sparse in the Pacific, Goss was tasked with getting supplies for the 15 Higgins Boats-LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP; also known as the Higgins boat] onboard the ship. The boat group commander, Tony Armeano [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling], and an enlisted man, David Shepard [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling], accompanied Goss to obtain supplies. They took a Navy van and went to San Diego [Annotator's Note: San Diego, California]. On the way, they stopped at a Coast Guard Station for lunch. Armeano made disparaging remarks to the Coast Guard officers who were having lunch in the same room. Goss was relieved to get away from there. They made their way to San Diego where Armeano had a girlfriend. It made Goss anxious because Armeano was married. They had volumes of requisitions the boat crew specialists had developed to turn in to the supply depot. They had time to kill before the orders were filled so Armeano visited his lady friend and Goss and Shepard stood by. Goss felt roped in by the situation. The Bladen was to rendezvous with them offshore at Coronado in a few days. The executive officer sent a message to the two officers to report to the ship, but Armeano was in no hurry. A liberty boat [Annotator's Note: small boat] came for them and a terse message came to report aboard immediately. Goss had trouble getting Armeano to the pier to get picked up. They missed the liberty boat returning to the Bladen. When Armeano finally arrived with his girlfriend, they had to find an alternate way to the Bladen. Armeano found his friend at another pier who took them to their ship. After much ado, Goss and Armeano made it back to Bladen very late. The executive officer wanted to see them first thing in the morning. Goss is now friends with the executive officer, but he was angry with him at the time. Goss was reporting to Armeano, so he did not get into serious trouble. Following that incident, the ship went out for amphibious maneuvers. Returning to Wilmington [Annotator's Note: Wilmington, California] for supplies, the Bladen then made way to Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii] for resupply. Making their way to Guam [Annotator's Note: Guam, Mariana Islands], they turned around and returned to Pearl Harbor to load out in preparation for Iwo Jima [Annotator's Note: Iwo Jima, Japan]. Goss had gotten over his seasickness on the big ship. The crew worked hard on the ship. Goss had the first task on the ship of assisting the gunnery officer in filling out a Watch Quarter and Station Bill for individual assignment of every person on the ship during the different conditions the ship could anticipate and for standing watch. There were no computers then, so it was all manual and laborious.


Samuel Goss sailed [Annotator's Note: aboard USS Bladen (APA-63)] from Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii] for Iwo Jima [Annotator's Note: Iwo Jima, Japan] at the end of January 1945. Prior to departing Pearl Harbor, the ship had practice landings on another island at Hawaii. It was a complete failure. Boats did not find their destinations. Admiral Kelly Turner [Annotator's Note: US Navy Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner] was very irate and sent blistering messages to those captains in command. The beaches did not resemble Iwo Jima. The second practice run went much better. Tokyo Rose [Annotator's Note: nickname given by Allied servicemen to any English-speaking female radio personality broadcasting Japanese propaganda in the Pacific Theater] announced to the flotilla that they were headed to Iwo Jima. Goss did not know where they were headed but she did. During the training exercises, Goss had command of four or five LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP; also known as the Higgins boat]. He had to arrange them into a wave and take them together to the beachhead then retract and return to the ship. Arriving at Saipan [Annotator's Note: Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands] after Pearl Harbor, there were Japanese soldiers who were still active. More practice amphibious dress rehearsals were conducted off Tinian [Annotator's Note: Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands]. The Marines had previously been loaded in Pearl Harbor. Many different units were carried on Bladen. She was designed as a shallow draft ship for landings, so APA-63 was not as big as other APAs. Consequently, it could not fully load a normal large unit of assault troops. For Iwo Jima, there was a bomb disposal unit and a field hospital on the ship. Bladen served as a hospital ship at night. There were ten physicians and five operating rooms onboard. The only neurosurgeon at Iwo Jima was aboard Goss' ship. That surgeon had also participated in the invasion of the Philippines. There was even a Hollywood doctor, Dr. O'Neil [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling] on the ship. While at Pearl Harbor, he brought Pat O'Brien [Annotator's Note: William Joseph Patrick O'Brien], the movie actor, on the ship for dinner. Goss anticipated casualties at Iwo Jima. He is still in contact with a member of the bomb disposal outfit who had stories about disarming unexploded ordnance on Iwo Jima. Lessons were learned from Gallipoli [Annotator's Note: a failed amphibious landing in World War 1] and Guadalcanal [Annotator's Note: Guadalcanal Campaign, 7 August 1942 to 9 February 1943, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands] about combat loading a ship such that immediately needed supplies and equipment are not at the bottom of the cargo holds. There was a Marine lieutenant Transport Quartermaster named Dugan [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling] responsible for efficient loading and offloading of supplies on the APA. The Marines also had a TQM—Troop Quartermaster - who had the same job for personnel. Last things loaded on the APA had to be the first things off. The neurosurgeon stayed aboard the ship for the first ten days of the invasion [Annotator's Note: Battle of Iwo Jima, 19 February to 26 March 1945, Iwo Jima, Japan]. He seemed to enjoy the stay aboard the Bladen.


Samuel Goss practiced at Tinian [Annotator's Note: Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands aboard the USS Bladen (APA-64)]. He went into Iwo Jima on 19 February [Annotator's Note: Battle of Iwo Jima, 19 February to 26 March 1945, Iwo Jima, Japan]. Prior to reaching the island, a destroyer had informed the Bladen officers of the conditions of the invasion beaches. Onboard APA-63 was a scale model of the beaches that the Marines had. It was a wonderful representation to prepare the assault troops and boat crews on where they were to land. The Underwater Demolition Teams reported the beaches in good condition and capable of supporting any types of vehicles. Instead, the beaches were horrible. They were composed of black, volcanic ash. One would sink to the ankles when trying to walk across the beaches. There were stranded vehicles everywhere when Goss landed. Before going in, there were multiple emergency drills conducted including man overboard, collision and fire drills. During the fire drills, the deck was sprayed with water. The slippery deck later resulted in Goss spraining his ankle just prior to the assault. He could not walk on it. He went to the dispensary where the doctor said he could inject Novocain [Annotator's Note: an anesthetic drug] into his ankle the morning of the invasion. Goss opted to have that done because he did not want to be thought of as a coward. He had five or six injections and managed to walk with his injured ankle. Another officer named Johnny Dunn [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling] was Goss' closest friend on the ship. He was not given an assignment. He wanted to go in with Goss. Dunn received permission from boat commander Armeano [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling] to accompany Goss. Because officers became sniper targets, the boat officers wore enlisted uniforms with no insignia of rank. A carefully wrapped .45 pistol [Annotator's Note: .45 caliber M1911 semi-automatic pistol] was carried as a sidearm. It was wrapped to keep seawater out of it, but that made it unusable. Three boats from the Pinkney [Annotator's Note: USS Pinkney (APH-2)] were to accompany Goss' boat. The three Pinkney boats were heavily loaded with ammunition. They were loaded with mortar ammunition in boxes inside a cargo net. It was dangerous. Goss went to the control ship stationed a mile off the beach sector which it coordinated. The sectors were Green, Red, Yellow, and Blue Beaches. Goss landed at Blue Beach near the cliffs. Mount Suribachi was near Green Beach. The control ship held up further landings on Blue Beach because of heavy enemy mortar fire. The beaches were narrow and yet 45,000 troops with supplies were landed there. Wreckage on the beaches prevented LSTs [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank] from landing. Goss decided to bring the ammunition carrying LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Higgins boat; landing craft, vehicle, personnel] to another ship to raise the cargo nets full of ammo so as to access the pumps. Just as the net had been hooked, the control ship told Goss to take his wave in. The attempt to reach the sump pumps had to be aborted as they went into the beach. While in the transport area, an enlisted man on Goss' LCVP fired one of the two .30 caliber machine guns [Annotator's Note: Browning M1919 .30 caliber air cooled light machine gun] on the landing craft. Making sure there was no injury or damage done, Goss adamantly told the sailor to get his finger off the trigger. The assault boats went into the beach in terrible shape. They were low in the water. The beach was full of stranded vehicles with some hit by enemy fire. Along the first terrace at the beach, many of the troops were hunkered down to avoid enemy gunfire. Goss thought the invasion was stalled. The next terrace led inland where the Marines advanced to take the airfield, Motoyama 1 [Annotator's Note: also called Chidori Field, or South Field on Iwo Jima, Japan], which was a major objective. The steep gradient of the beach prevented the Goss' boats from getting in very far. When the ramp was dropped, the sea rushed in, and all three boats became derelicts on the beach adding to the congestion. Nearby was a Japanese landing craft that had a radio operator coordinating enemy fire on the Marines. The cliffs were off to the right of the landing site. There were enemy guns on railroad tracks sheltered in the cliffs. Goss requested aid from the Marines, but they could not tell he was an officer nor were they allowed to move from their position. Dunn and Goss worked at throwing the crates of ammunition off the landing boats before they sank. They were stranded on the beach armed with a wrapped .45. Goss lost Dunn and observed dead and wounded Marines on the beach.


After an hour [Annotator's Note: of being stranded during the Battle of Iwo Jima, 19 February to 26 March 1945, Iwo Jima, Japan following the swamping of his three overloaded landing crafts], Samuel Goss and an enlisted man carried a wounded Marine aboard a retracting landing craft [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP; also known as the Higgins boats]. The Marine had an M on his forehead indicating he had been given morphine [Annotator's Note: narcotic used to treat pain]. As the boat was pulling away Dunn [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling] jumped aboard [Annotator's Note: a fellow boat officer aboard Goss' ship USS Bladen (APA-63), Dunn had been lost in the confusion of battle on the beach]. The wounded Marine was taken to a triage ship which was an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. Many of the physicians previously aboard Goss' ship were on the LST. Goss went to the Pinkney [Annotator's Note: the USS Pinkney (APH-2)] and reported to the ship's captain that the officer's three landing craft had been overloaded and thus lost in the assault. The captain took note of the issue. On returning to his ship [Annotator's Note: the USS Bladen (APA-63)], the chief medical officer saw Goss was limping badly [Annotator's Note: he had severely sprained his ankle the day prior to the assault]. The doctor told Goss to take a shower and, giving him a miniature bottle of brandy to ease his ankle pain, told him to go take a rest. That was the first day at Iwo Jima. Casualties came from the battlefield continuously. Goss did salvage duty with pumps to remove derelict ships and vehicles from the beach. He carried wounded also. He was there for 12 days. The bomb disposal man said that he found several hundred Navy 5-inch shells that had misfired due to corrosion after being stored on the deck. The message got out to the fleet to correct the practice before Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, 1 April to 22 June 1945, Okinawa, Japan]. A Japanese landing craft at Iwo Jima was loaded with the unexploded ordnance and taken out to sea for disposal. Some of the wounded died on APA-63. A Marine officer was operated on in the wardroom while the crew ate sandwiches and drank coffee. Much later, Goss met the officer. Iwo Jima was a horrible battle.

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