World War II Diary of Lieutenant Colonel David B. Harrington Second Battalion, 198th Coast Artillery, Delaware National Guard 1942-1943
Editor: What follows is a transcription of a wartime diary of Lt Col David B. Harrington, who served with the 198th Coast Artillery, Delaware National Guard. He sailed on the U.S.S. Arthur Middleton to Bora Bora, in the Society Islands. This diary is in the collection of the Delaware Military Heritage and Education Foundation, Inc. I have tried to be faithful to the exact order and sequence with which Colonel Harrington recorded his experiences. I have, on a few occasions altered or corrected his spelling, particularly on geographic place names, and period conventions such as changing “to-day” to “today”. His capitalization was inconsistent and so I have altered the original text in that regard as well. Col. Harrington wrote in a legible hand for the most part, but there were one or two instances which were a challenge to decipher. He was a faithful recorder at first, particularly from January to March 1942, but notes that he got too busy to keep up. His notes become fairly sparse after that notation although he does continue after a fashion.
Kennard Wiggins, July 2012
FIRST DIARY ENTRY: Organizations on Bobcat Island 102nd Infantry Lt Col Quinn 198th C.A. Col Schulz 13th C.A. Lt Col Vandersluis 99th F.A. Capt Wahle 8th Station Hospital Lt Col A.J. Baley Co. “C” 94th QMC Bn Lt Holt 175th Sig Lt Williams QMC Det. Capt Damore 695th Sig Capt Eddie Ord Det Capt Lulou Fin Det Lt Vaughan Naval Air Base Lt Rordebush 1st Const Bn Lt Col Sylvester Fuel Depot Lt Comdr Sanders Base Comdr Brig Gen Ostrom
January 26, 1942 37mm A.A. guns were mounted on the decks of the following ships and were manned by units indicted below.
January 27, 1942 Embarked from port of embarkation, Charleston S.C. at 1100. Weather – clear and warm, Sea – calm Escort – six destroyers and two planes Ships in convoy: E. J. Dupont Freighter Mercury Freighter Hamet Freighter President Tyler Troopship Middleton Troopship Alchiba Troopship
January 28, 1942 Weather –cloudy cool and windy, sea – rough, several men sick, Late afternoon sea calming down. Two orders to abandon ship for drill today. Orders just received call for complete blackout at night. No more smoking on deck after dark. Everyone ordered to sleep dressed until further notice. Life preservers must be carried with you at all times.
January 29, 1942 Weather clear, sunny and warm, sea calm. Test fired 37mm guns at 1000. Meals so far are good. Fresh water available only at 0700-0800 and from 1500 to 1600. Warning just received we are passing through a critical zone. Convoy changing course every 15 minutes. Now passing through the Straits of Florida.
January 30, 1942 Weather sunny and warm, sea –slight roll. Soldier from “G” Battery on the “Alchiba” operated on for appendicitis today. Officers changed to khaki uniforms this morning. Water is clear and blue. Cleared the Straits of Florida and now entering the Gulf of Mexico.
January 31. 1942 Weather hazy ,visibility poor, sea – choppy. Three destroyers left the convoy at 1600. Light rain started at 1700. Cleared the Gulf and now in the Caribbean Sea. The water is clear and deep blue.
February 1, 1942 Weather clear and hot, sea rolling. The Dupont dropped out of the convoy having trouble. One destroyer left the convoy to stay with the Dupont. Two hours later, the Dupont speeds back to position. Middleton test fired the guns from her starboard side.
February 2, 1942 Weather clear and very hot, sea calm – ship listing to the port. Ship entered the Panama Canal at Colon-1200. Docked at 1300. No one allowed ashore. Too hot to stay on deck. Refueled and filled up with supplies. Left Colon at 2000 and started through the Canal. Cleared the three sets of locks a Gatun at 2200 and entered Gatun Lake.
February 3, 1942 Weather, clear sunny and very hot. Arrived at Balboa at 0430. Refilled with fuel and water. More cargo taken aboard. Cleared Balboa at 1000. We were the fifth ship to leave Balboa, caught up with the convoy at 1200. President Tyler was still at Balboa when we left. Destination made known today. Headed for “Bora Bora”. We are now in the Pacific Ocean.
February 4, 1942 Weather clear and hot, no relief in sight. Sea very calm. Tyler caught up with the convoy sometime during the night. Convoy now has a new formation Hamel – Middleton – Alchiba in front, Mercury – Tyler- Dupont in rear. Hot water for bathing has been discontinued. Warning – must cut down on use of fresh water. A man on the Tyler fell overboard at 1400, spotted by airplane and picked up by a destroyer.
February 5, 1942 Weather raining and cool, seas calm. Orders just received allowing 1/3 of each unit to sleep on deck starting tonight. The heat is so great down in the hatches that several men have passed out. Tonight we set our watches back one hour. The ship captain announced today that unless we cut down on use of fresh water we won’t have enough to hold out.
February 6, 1942 Weather raining and cool. Sea a little rough. Today was bad. Raining hard and we had to stay below. A class in French was started today.
February 7, 1942 Weather clear and warm, sea calm. Today they started making preparations for crossing the equator ceremonies. Sharks were seen in the water today.
Photo of the Equator Ceremony presided over by King Neptune
February 8, 1942 Weather clear and hot. Sea calm. We crossed the equator today at 102 West longitude at 0100. Ceremonies have been going on all day initiating the poly-wogs. I went through the line at 1100 and I am supposed to be a shellback. The ship is now listing bad to the port. At 1700 we ran into very heavy rain.
February 9, 1942 Weather clear and hot, sea smooth as glass. Most of the men now have a good coat of tan. A submarine was sighted off our starboard side at 1515. The destroyer rushed back and cut over to the spot firing two rounds from their surface guns and dropped two depth charges. All on board were alerted to prepare to abandon ship. I reported to my boat station. All ships broke formation and started to zig-zagging. Time was set back 20 minutes at 1700.
February 10, 1942 Weather clear and hot, sea very calm. We are now setting our time back 20 minutes each day. It has been one week since we entered the Pacific Ocean and have not seen any land or even a passing ship. Gun crews from our regiment have taken over all the naval guns mounted on this ship. The drinking water has a bad taste and is hard to take.
February 11, 1942 The weather is clear and hot, seas calm. School started today for men on the use of signaling. Six enlisted men were caught stealing PX supplies stored in the lower decks and were placed in the ship’s brig. The chaplain has been showing movies the past few nights.
February 12, 1942 Weather clear and hot, seas choppy. It was announced today that we have enough fresh water to last four more days and we don’t expect to arrive at our destination until Wednesday or Thursday next week. At 1800 tonight we had another submarine alarm. The destroyer speeded over to the starboard side and the cruiser covered the port side. All gun crews were at the alert position. It was an hour and ten minutes before we received the all clear signal. Two submarines were reported operating.
February 13, 1942 Weather clear and very hot. Sea choppy. This morning a man from Regimental Headquarters Battery was operated on for appendicitis. The operation was performed by Major Schillinger aboard this ship, the Middleton.
February 14, 1942 Weather clear and hot, seas rolling. It was announced today we probably will arrive at “Bobcat” Tuesday morning. Tonight the band was playing on the deck of the Tyler. This ship pulled up alongside of ours and we could hear the music. Some of the officers are now sleeping on deck.
February 15, 1942 Weather clear and very hot. Sea rolling. This ship has been listing very bad to the port all day. The drinking water is very low and what we get is bad. In the evening most everyone who can goes up on deck. It is like an oven below deck. However, it does get very hot on deck during the day, but you do get a good breeze.
February 16, 1942 Weather clear and very hot, Sea calm. This has been the hottest day we have had so far. At the meeting this morning we were told the plan for going ashore when we arrive at Bobcat. We don’t know yet just who or what is on the island. We were told to be prepared for anything.
February 17, 1942 Weather clear and very hot, sea rolling. This morning everyone was on deck looking for land. It was sighted at 0830. We arrived at Bobcat and dropped anchor at 1150. The natives came in small canoes and traded fruit for cigarettes. Only a small group was assigned to go ashore today.
February 18, 1942 Weather clear. This morning several reconnaissance parties went ashore to look the island over for gun positions. My job kept me on board the ship. The ship is at anchor about a mile off shore.
February 19, 1942 I went ashore today and spent the entire time there. The island is covered with coconut trees also some banana, lime and orange trees. Some of the equipment was moved ashore and “E” battery landed their men this morning. All the equipment will have to be moved ashore in small boats and barges.
February 20, 1942 Weather clear. We left the ship at 0800 to go ashore. More equipment was sent in today. We now have “E” and “H” batteries ashore and they have taken up temporary positions. It looks like the natives will not be any problem, they seem to be friendly. I returned to the ship at 1630. Population on the island is about 1400 natives.
February 21, 1942 Weather AM clear, PM raining. Left the ship at 0630. Worked on shore all day. The cargo is now moving ashore very good. The only fresh water found so far is three springs and a small stream coming down the mountain. It looks like we will have o build reservoirs to store up the supply.
February 22, 1942 Weather raining. Left the ship at 0630. We climbed a small mountain range looking for better gun positions. The natives put on a Hula Hula dance at 2000. The governor came over from Tahiti. He is a Frenchman and came over to see how he can tax the army for using the island.
February 23, 1942 Today I was assigned to the ship to see that equipment was unloaded faster and sent to the different beachheads. Yesterday Lt. Brown of the U.S. Navy had his leg broken while directing the unloading of some equipment.
February 24, 1942 Weather clear and hot. Worked on the ship all day.
February 25, 1942 Weather clear and hot. Still assigned to the ship unloading cargo. Most of the men are now ashore and have set up temporary positions.
February 26, 1942 Weather clear and hot. Today we unloaded a large amount of food. Most of the equipment is now unloaded from this ship. This afternoon a man from the 13th C.A. was operated on for appendicitis. Operation took place on this ship (Middleton).
February 27, 1942 Weather clear and hot. Left the ship at 1400, moved bag and baggage to shore. Our headquarters is located near a native village called “Fanui”. We are living in tents right now, but expect to build huts later on.
February 28, 1942 Weather clear and hot. Slept well on the island last night. We are in the northern part of the island on the western side. There are two large bays on this side of the island named Viatope and Fanui bays. They make excellent harbors for the ships. The coral reefs extend out from shore about 100 yards, and are covered with water about two feet deep. Then it drops off to deep water. The center of the bays are about 150 to 200 feet deep.
March 1, 1942 Fishing is very good in the bays. You can even see the fish swimming in the water.
March 2, 1942 A ray fish was seen swimming in Fanuii Bay today. There is no sandy beaches here.
March 3, 1942 Some of the men have such a heavy coat of tan it is hard to tell them from the natives.
March 4, 1942 Everyone is now kept busy building gun positions and roads. Until we arrived there was no roads on this island. They just didn’t have any needs for roads.
March 5, 1942 Alert signal sounded at 0500 today. False alarm. The natives put on a Hula Hula dance tonight at 2000.
March 6, 1942 Today was the hottest day we have had since we landed. We have had some rain or shower every day so far.
March 7, 1942 Too busy now to keep these notes up.
May 22, 1942 Test fired the big 7” Coast Artillery guns at Battery West today for the first time. Everything OK.
May 23, 1942 Enlisted man from Battery “F” 13 C.A. was killed today. They were blasting rocks out of the mountain and a rock came through the tent where he was sleeping, hitting him in the head. He was buried on a hill two miles from the village.
May 24, 1942 Test fired the 37mm guns of Battery “H” 198th C.A. today. Everything OK.
May 25, 1942 Test fired the guns of Battery “G” today. All OK.
May 26, 1942 Test fired the .50 cal. Machine guns of Battery “E” 198th C.A. today. All OK
June 4, 1942 Col. Harry Ray left today on the destroyer Richmond returning to the state. He has been sick for sometime and the force surgeon ordered him returned to the states for hospital treatment.
June 10, 1942 Today a soldier named Robert Chekan of Battery “G” 198th C.A. killed himself shortly after supper (1910). He was alone in his hut and shot himself with his rifle.
June 20, 1942 A soldier from Battery A” 603 F.A. got out of control tonight. He ran in his hut and grabbed his rifle and started firing. He was sent to the Field Hospital.
July 4, 1942 Today Col. Duncan boarded the Cruiser Trenton at 1445 to return to the U.S. for hospital treatment. He also has been sick for some time and the doctors just couldn’t find what his trouble was.
July 13, 1942 Pvt. Duffy Battery “H” 13 C.A. was buried today. He died from burns received in an explosion.
July 14, 1942 Today the natives celebrated Bastille Day. Col Schulz and several others started out in a picket boat for another large island about 20 miles away, but the sea was too rough and they were forced to return.
July 16, 1942 Lt Col Sylvester, Chief Engineer for the task force left today on the Sapolga for Mare Island California. He is going back for reassignment. Sixteen enlisted men were also returning to the U.S. on this ship to enter officer’s training school.
July 17, 1942 Tonight at staff meeting we were informed that a warning order has been received. Which means we are preparing to move. Everybody is wondering just where the next station will be.
October 30, 1942 Cruiser “Boise” came in today damaged pretty bad. 108 of her crew killed. Capt. Moran is in command of this ship and it is returning to the U.S. from Solomon Island. Capt. Moran came ashore and gave a little talk about his last sea battle. This ship sank five Jap ships.
December 25, 1942 Word received today of the death of Mary Lynch, wife of Capt Frank Lynch.
December 26, 1942 The following officers left today going back the U.S. as a cadre. They will get new assignments. Lt Col James Whaley Capt Walter Tindell Capt Frank Lynch Lt J. Coyle Lt F. Joseph Lt Wm. Holcomb Lt F. Ruck
January 25, 1943 Received orders today. The 198th C.A. and the 276th Cd (HQ) will move to Efate, New Hebrides Island
April 21, 1943 Left Efate, New Hebrides 1400 on the S.S. Talamanic for Noumea, New Caledonia
April 22, 1942 Arrived at Noumea New Caledonia at 1200
April 27, 1943 Left Noumea New Caledonia today at 1600. Dropped anchor outside harbor. The captain said he would change his course because of submarine action on the course he had planned to take. Returning to the U.S. on the transport “Sea Witch” for new assignment. Weather heavy Rain and fog.
May 16, 1943 Arrived at San Fransisco at 1600 today. Reporting in at Fort Mason. Having a 48 hour layover, then go to Camp Cullen California. I feel like I have the Malaria.
LAST DIARY ENTRY
Memoranda Enlisted Battery “H” 198th C.A. February 7, 1921 to November 11, 1925 Promotions: Comm. 2nd Lt Nov. 24, 1925 to July 7, 1927 “ 1st Lt July 5, 1927 to Jan. 8, 1931 “Capt Jan 9, 1931 to Jan 27 1942 “Maj Jan 28, 1942 to Jan 16, 1943 “Lt Col Jan 17 to
You may also want to review the personal war diary of LouHester, member of the 198th Coast Artillery. Also see the letter home from Pete Simon.