member Bill Brown (deceased) use to tell a story about shipmate Red Harper:
We were under attack from Jap Kamikazes, the sky seemed full of them and
all guns were blazing. When it was all over, Red shot down 3 Sea
gulls, tore up one movie screen.
I had to stand shaft alley watch on Magic Carpet run. I
said to myself if anything happens while I am down here I don't have a chance
of getting out of here. You can bet I was glad when that watch was over.
I had a work party of new seamen in Tokyo and one was over the side, I looked down he was asleep, I pulled on line about a foot to wake him
up he fell into the drink. It scared me but Boats Stanley never said a word except he should not have been asleep and let you catch him.
George La May
About: Ace Hager
After many refuelings at sea it was acknowledged that one man and one
only knew what he was doing when it came time to get a line across to the tanker. The
Executive officer would get on the horn and let out the call - "Gunner Hager report to the
bow". Hager would show up with his
shotgun, hook up a line with a lead weight on it and shoot the line across
the bow of the tanker where it would be retrieved by the oilers crew.
This day however the wind was blowing a gale and even Hager was
having trouble. The Exec was riding his tail and as I watched with a long glass from the signal bridge I saw Hager stare at the tanker and
I knew he was mad. All of a sudden there was a letup in the wind and Hager
fired the line across to the tanker. The only problem was that he hit the bulkhead separating the ships dinning room from the outside air.
Needless to say there was a rather large hole where the lead and line went through the bulkhead. The
Exec blew his top and screamed at Hager!!!! "I told you to get the line over not sink the g-----m
Needless to say, Hager has been hearing that story with many
variations for years.
George La May:
After the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima the San Juan made
arrangements to meet up with the British aircraft carrier Victorious.
(We had never seen sight of her all war long). At the time I was performing a duty
for some of the crew. I was aging some very fine alcohol in the after flagbag
on the port side of the signal bridge. The alcohol was the sediment of the fruits that came in wide top glass gallon containers.
To the sediment yeast was added, holes punched in the lids and a pennant
type flag was tied to the jug and the jug allowed to swing and sway until we figured it was time to sample. The pennant flag in this case was
the British pennant which was to be displayed whenever we met up with a British
ship and meant that all communications were to be in international code
(Morse). Not ever seeing a British ship while at sea under battle conditions we had no reason to think the pennant would
Were we ever wrong!!!!! Out of the blue comes the Victorious and the
British pennant is raised to the dip position awaiting the British answering
pennant. I was at the console that led to the actual signal bridge when I spotted the gallon of hootch. I quickly got on the horn
and very quietly said get rid of the bottle. The answer I received was--what bottle?? Someone looked up and saw the bottle and the
pennant was quickly hauled down!! No one in battle 1 noticed a thing. That
was the last bottle brewed in the flag bags!!!!
This incident was just before entering Tokyo bay!!
When: A considerable period of time
Where: A good part of the south Pacific
Given the length of time between drinks, several of us more adventuresome sailors found various
ways to alleviate that problem. One of my associates in Sick Bay (no aka) was humanitarian
enough to ensure I, and my alcoholic buddies, had access to an ample supply of 190 proof
alcohol, used only for non-medicinal purposes, of course. Needless to say, our cocktail
parties ended up not only in oblivion, but rather late evenings. We took the precaution of
sleeping at our battle stations on our life preservers so that we wouldn't screw up the chinese
fire drill we had every morning at GQ. We got coke from the gedunk stand and
fruit juices from bakery. There is little doubt that we spent a fair amount of time in things not even concerning
the war in the middle of the south pacific. War in lala land, but we had a good time.
|From: John J. Herman, son of San Juan crewman Elwood N. Herman
A story related to me by my father, Fm/1c Elwood N. Herman.
My father was bunking in the deep six and his bunk and several of his shipmates was near a
freezer area. While they were loading several turkeys into the freezer, several were
puloined from the storage area. These then spirited to the boiler rooms were my father had his
duty station. By placing them between the firebricks and the outer casing the cooking had
begun. A Delicious aroma soon filled the boiler room and the men were anticipating their feast.
As fate would have it a LT. jg. happened by and was questioning the aroma. The shipmates had
their feast but I'm not sure how they accommodated the LT. Perhaps he shared in. If anyone is
familiar with this story maybe they can fill in the blanks.
|From: John Logan, son of San
crewman Thomas Logan
My father told me this incident:
While steaming in the Pacific the San Juan was
zigzagging, in the middle of the night. My father and a buddy from the fire room
came above decks onto the fantail to relax a bit and get some fresh air. As they were about to return to their respective duty stations, my father
looked out over the shimmering ocean. An iridescent streak in the water caught his eyes. He
stood there transfixed as the streak passed not 30 feet behind the stern of the ship and
proceeded on its way! A Jap torpedo had just missed the San Juan. He never did tell me if he told anybody about it, as he wasn't supposed to be up there.
He also told me that when the San Juan was put into dry-dock on returning to the
States, in 1944(?), they found a dent in the hull where another Jap torpedo had hit, but failed to
Dad was a non-smoker when on the San Juan. He would buy up his allotment
of cigarettes and save them for the smokers, for when they ran out. The rate of exchange was 2 for every cig borrowed.
Anybody remember him let me know at
From: Mike Sloan, son of San Juan
crewman FC3c Jack Sloan
POW Camp Liberation
My father told a story about the liberation
of the camps. As he told it, the war was essentially over, and the atomic
bombs had been dropped, but peace had not yet been formally declared.
Another enlisted man approached my father and suggested that they
volunteer for a shore party that was being put together to liberate one of
the camps. Perhaps it was the camp that Pappy Boyington was being held in,
but I may have my stories confused.
In any event, my father went to great lengths explaining to this other
guy how he was nuts, that they had survived the war and seen considerable
action, and my Dad did not want to be the last person killed by some
However, a short time later, a junior officer with whom my father was
friends came to my dad and said the he ( the officer) had been assigned to
lead the shore party, and that my dad was "volunteering" to go ashore with
him. So my dad returned to the other enlisted man, this time with some
story about how this would all be a great adventure. I think the other
enlisted man also "volunteered".
So they did go ashore and liberate the camp. They encountered no
opposition, which according to my father was a good thing. As he
explained, they were sailors, not Marines, and "if someone had set off a
firecracker, we would have shot one another."
From: Leonard Buel Hutchison (brother of shipmate
Joseph A. Hutchison)
When: October 1942
Where: Gilbert Islands
Brother, Joseph A Hutchison MM1/C, who had been onboard the San Juan
since the shakedown cruise of March 1942, was given a 21 day leave while
the ship was in Mare Island for overhaul in September 1944. He came home
to see his family at Vienna Missouri for the first time since graduating
from Boot camp in October 1941.
He related to me while home, about the San Juan
sinking two Japanese Patrol vessels during the Gilbert Islands action in
October 1942. I do not remember how many Japanese prisoners were taken
from these vessels, however I do remember him saying it was the largest
number of Japanese prisoners taken in a group, by our armed forces up to
that time in the war. Up until that time the fanatical Japanese had
fought to death rather than surrender. However with their ships sunk out
from under them they were helpless floating around in the ocean and it
was just a process of fishing them from the water.
Joe related how fanatical these prisoners really
were. When they were put in the ship’s brig, some of them tried to
commit suicide by ramming their heads into the bulkheads of the brig.
The guards then had to tie some cushioning material around their heads
to prevent them from being successful in killing themselves.
Joe said the San Juan delivered these prisoners
to the Marines in Espiritu Santo a few days later and was sure that if
they tried to commit suicide there, the Marines would oblige them.
From: John Clyde Neal, Jr.
When: Prior to 1944
Where: Somewhere in the Pacific
This particular night I was the phone talker on the
bridge during battle stations and a kamikaze plane was coming up between
the San Juan and a destroyer. The destroyer opened fire on the Japanese
plane. Tracers were coming toward the San Juan and appeared to be aimed
right at me. I broke and ran from the port side of the bridge to the
passageway to starboard. When the phone cord ran out, I tripped, hit the
deck and thought I was shot. I looked around to see who witnessed my
cowardly act and realized that I was all alone.
here to add a San Juan related story
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