THAT FATEFUL NIGHT
As told by Jim Heinecke
Wednesday, June 14, 1944: Sixteenth Day Out
We're all set. The Captain informed the crew all the dope about the raid. I have the 1800-2000 watch tonight, which isn't so bad. GQ starts at at 0100 and will last all night, day and most of the next night. Chow will be served on our battle stations when possible. We're going in on the third wave, which will land our troops on the beach (Yellow). It's up to them to get the air field.
Radio Tokyo on the air. I quote: "The foolish American forces are
making a sad attempt to gain positions in the Marianas, but the Japs are
too strong for them."
Nothing much to write about now. I'm excited as hell and wish we could get started. I may go a couple of days without writing in this, but will make it up. Securing for now. Hope everything goes as planned. Give 'em Hell, Robinson! The weather is hot but overcast; excellent conditions. Time: 2415. Just secured from GQ. About an hour ago, Radar got a contact dead ahead, range about six miles. After having this "pip" for about five minutes, they reported "TARGET FADING OUT". We knew then that sure as hell it was a sub. As soon as the Jap sub dove, I got contact on it: range 4000 - no Doppler. We ran in for the attack: when in about 2000 yards it changed into a stern attack (mark down Doppler). We dropped a full pattern, deep setting, and then opened range for a re-attack. Plot of radar informed us of results made. It was a "struck" target and now was lying dead in the water. (Huge oil slick in a shape.) The Captain, upon hearing it was a "struck" and dead sub, pulled in right over the spot and stopped. We dropped a deep setting all around her. The last was the pay-off. The Robinson will shell Saipan in about seven hours so seeing that I've got the 0400-0800 watch, guess I'll get some sleep.
U.S.S. Robinson (DD562) (Flagship)
PLAN OF THE DAY FOR THURSDAY 15 JUNE 1944
0415 Call Police Petty Officers
****** A 4-day gap exists in the diary at this point corresponding to the Battle of Saipan *****
Monday, June 19, 1944: Twenty First Day Out
This is a rather late entry but I've taken notes while in battle so will fill this in up to date. On the morning of the 15th (0400), GQ was sounded. The Robinson steamed in between Tinian and Saipan and took her position off Yellow Beach. At the first shot, Old Glory was two-blocked on our for'd mast. We shelled the hell out of the town and sugar refinery (a mass of ruins now). The Japs were rather one way about it and fired back, two 8" for'd of our bow (25 yds.), three 5" aft our stern (50 yds.). The battleship Tennessee took a 5" just above her water line amidship, starboard side. Off Nafuten Point, three Jap ships were burning, almost sunk. Off Mapi Point, the Japs were picking off our Higgins boats; our planes made quick work of them (we lost three planes in the deal).
Our LST's were scattered all over and Higgins boats full of Marines were swarming out of them toward the beach. The guns from our battleships and destroyers were beating the Japs away from the beach to clear the way for the boats. (I saw seven Higgins boats blasted from the water; we knocked out the positions that did it.) We placed tanks on the beach and started the push. Our men and tanks were swarming up the hill. All of a sudden, the Japs opened up with their shore installations and pushed twice as many tanks against us. What a slaughter. They pushed us clear back to the beach. We lost hundreds on the move. Standing on the bridge, looking through a long glass, I could see our men dropping like flies on the beach -- a sight I'll never forget.
We were pounding out shells like mad and finally succeeded in halting the little bastards and drove them back into the hills. The Sound Shack was secured, so all I had to do was watch. The men on the fans were really worked. In the handling rooms below decks, the men were fainting right and left, buckets of water were thrown in each other's faces to keep them going. This went on for four days and four nights without securing from GQ. In this time, I had four hours sleep, some others even less. What a grind. At night, we would fire by star shells. In a way it was a beautiful sight. All of this steady pounding made my ears feel as if they would burst.
The Japs were clever and wouldn't fire for fear of disclosing their positions. Instead, they would hold them until the opportune moment. Whenever we saw a flash, we would center our fire on it. The Robinson's gunners were really on the ball. Some cruisers came up to assist us. What a joke; they killed more of our men than did the enemy until fire control put them on the ball.
Our fire control spotter really had a time. In getting positions, he lost 1 Higgins boat, 2 tanks -- all within a half hour. All the time, I could see our planes diving-bombing Jap positions. We lost very few.
About the most horrible experience that happened to me was when the wind changed. It brought this ghastly smell of burning fuel over the water. Nothing could smell worse. We had an air attack one evening. Four enemy planes flew over us. We threw everything but the "head" at them but missed.
The following is from over our TBS radio:
"Hospital ships filled to capacity".
We were relieved by the USS Phelps to go on transport for a few days -- a much needed rest. Four days and four nights without a shower and in the same gear. Was I filthy! I've been doing nothing but stand my watches and sleep. We had an air attack last night. Three planes flew over and dropped bombs. One landed 20 yds. off our starboard bow (close shave).
Nothing much to say now. Things seem very quiet and peaceful out here (25 miles from Saipan). Score for the ship up to now is: 1 submarine, 14 shore installations, 16 tanks, oil dumps and hundreds of men.
The Captain just spoke over the intercom. He congratulated us all on the work we did. Get all the rest and sleep we can, and we're expecting the Jap task force any day now. We're now attached to the 58th Task Force.