Prior to establishing the depot in Leyte, my outfit was temporarily stationed in New Guinea. We transferred to the Philippines via a 25-ship convoy, consisting mostly of LST’s, a journey requiring several days.. The deck of my LST was jammed with a variety of military vehicles – so much so that it was a challenge to find a bit of steel deck to serve as my bed for the night. Sometimes the only space I could find was dangerously near the edge of the deck and in order to avoid falling overboard in my sleep I tied myself to the railing with a length of rope..
Starting at dawn and until dark on our last day at sea, we were repeatedly attacked by a series of small groups of Japanese planes, many flown by Kamikaze pilots. They dove into our ships and did succeed in sinking three. But many of the Kamikazes dove into the sea at great distances from our ships. This gave the appearance that at least some of these pilots - who knew they could not return alive - just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. This caused me later to wonder about the effectiveness of this means of warfare. Some of the planes flew over, strafing our ships, and I remember diving under a truck on our deck for cover.
That night we landed on the beach at Leyte just after dark. A large group of Japanese planes attacked the beach which was jammed with ships of all types and many huge supply dumps All lights were immediately extinguished, of course.. Those of us who had just arrived ran back into our LST for its (questionable) safety but we were immediately ordered to return to the beach We stood under the dark skies filled with the darkened silhouettes of circling planes – both Japanese and American, watching the tracer bullets light up an otherwise darkened sky. When the attacking Japanese planes finally left, an “all clear” signal was sounded. Then the entire beach was lit up again like a later day Las Vegas Strip. And all the planes in the sky turned their lights on.
Suddenly and simultaneously all the planes circling overhead extinguished their lights - except one plane. And that plane was immediately shot down! The story we heard later was that the when the Japanese flew away in the dark they often left one suicide plane behind and so that when all the beach lights came on that sole Japanese would have his pick of “juicy” supply dumps to dive into. But the Americans had come up with a defense. By radio they were ordered to extinguish their lights and the one who did not could be presumed to be a Japanese plane whose pilot was not privy to the same radio frequency.