Monday, February 2, 2009

A Music City Sailor’s Experiences in Five Years Service in the Pacific

Nashville Tennessean. 4/19/44

Nashville Sailor Sees ‘Plenty’ During Five Years In Pacific

Home from the pacific after nearly five years, Radioman First Class Newton K. Brooks, 26 son of Mr. and Mrs. H. N. Brooks, 850 Bradford Avenue, is a walking encyclopedia on South and Central Pacific geography and naval warfare.

As radioman on an American destroyer, Brooks has just about “seen all, heard all” on the fantastic struggle being waged by the Japs and Yanks in the midst of the world’s largest ocean.

Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Guadalcanal, Battle of the Solomons, New Guinea, Milne Bay, New Britain, Hebrides, Arawe, Cape Gloucester, Saidor, Gasmata – Pacific names roll off Brook’s’ tongue with the ease and familiarity of only a man who has been there.

Started at Pearl Harbor

His destroyer started his bag early. At Pearl Harbor it was credited with a baby sub and a Zero while making its way out to sea. On two other occasions in the Southwest Pacific depth charges brought up oil slick [sic] that led the navy to credit the ship with two other “probably” subs.

Brooks’ ship scoured the ocean looking for survivors after the Coral Sea engagement. Almost a week after the battle they found a raft with four men on it. At the start the raft had 93 men aboard. Expecting to be rescued, they drank up their water and ate their food the first day. In the days the followed they slipped off into the waves one by one. Of the four remaining survivors, one died the first night aboard the destroyer and was buried at sea next day. Another died in Australia and a third was reported killed by an automobile while going to the funeral of his buddy. Brooks said, thus leaving only one survivor of the original 93.

Saw Cruiser Burning

During the Battle of the Solomons, a night fight, Brooks related that he was relieved at his post and wandered on deck. Seeing three blazing ships off port, he remarked to himself, “Gee we seem to be doing all right.” Just then a breeze lifted the cloud of smoke and swung the burning vessels broadside, and Brooks was horrified to see that they were American heavy cruisers – the Astoria, Quincy and Vincennes, all of which went down.

Just then a Jap cruiser turned its blinding searchlight on his destroyer and Brooks heard the scream of shells uncomfortably close overhead. Luckily none took effect and the ship rode out the entire battle without even a shrapnel scratch.

The Nashville seaman took radio messages from the beachhead forces on Guadalcanal during the invasion of that island, the destroyer responding by dropping shells on landmarks and fortifications as the landing forces called for help.

In Many Island Invasions

His ship also aided in the invasion of New Guinea, Toriband Islands, New Britain Island and Arawe. In addition, it helped convoy troops to practically every invasion point in the Southeast Pacific. For a time the boat did patrol duty off Australia, carrying on a steady sub hunt.

Though the destroyer was attacked numbers of time by Jap planes, the nearest it ever came to being hit was at Pearl Harbor, where a bomb near the stern opened up seams and let in water.

A destroyer is a bucking broncho and five years of rough riding to every out-of-the-way place in the Pacific have only made Brooks look with greater longing at the lazy rolls of the navy’s big “battle wagons,” he admits.

After graduation from height school here in 1936, Brooks served a year as a substitute railway clerk at the Nashville post office, and then answered the all of the far-away places. Two years later he returned home on the only leave he enjoyed in seven years of navy life until the present one. And bad news overtook him yesterday. A wire from his commanding officer sliced is 30-day leave to a measly 27 days.