Monday, October 26, 2015

Hauling gasoline up the Chittagong River to Chittagong, India. CBI** (Chinese, Burma India) Front, WW II

"We'd take the gasoline up. Unload it and come back and get some more. And we would bring back anything they wanted us to bring back."

Lemuel A. Tanksley enlisted in the World War II Navy during high school, and took specialized training in amphibious landing, on LSTs, LCTs, and LCIs. He and his crew of ten, joining a convoy to North Africa in preparation for a big invasion of Italy. His next assignment was in the CBI Theater, where he carried fuel into Burma for US planes, up to the summer of 1945. He was then assigned to the Pacific fleet, hauling tanks to Okinawa and Saipan, to be used in the invasion of the main Japanese islands. His units saw no action, due to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended the war; and he spent his last few weeks in Japan, before returning home.

Went back to Bizerte in Tunis. And we were refitted with everything that we needed or ---the ship was overhauled. Well I say overhauled---but we went over the engines carefully. Went over everything properly. And then we went on our next assignment. To India. 


India. We left there and went through the Mediterranean to the Suez. Went through the Suez. And into the Indian Ocean and to Bombay. 

And what did you do over there in India? 

We were assigned to the British command over there which is China Burma India. And Admiral Mountbatten was the commander of that China Burma India theater. That was primarily British. We went to Bombay and we stayed at Bombay about 3 weeks I guess. There was a military detachment there of American soldiers I believe. I can't remember what it was now. And we did some training work with them. And we took some tanks out and we'd bring 'em back in and beach. And do some things we'd been doing before, you know. And then we were ordered from there to go around to Calcutta which is on the ---around ---through---by Ceylon which is now Sri Lanka, but at that time was Ceylon, up through Calcutta. 

And about when is this---in terms of the year, about the month and so forth---

I guess it would be somewhere---we were there in the summer. And, let's see we would have stayed in Africa to maybe----We went into Calcutta I remember distinctly. We went into Calcutta on Christmas Day. 

What year?

It must have been '43? '44. 

'44. On Christmas Day. And I remember seeing all these little children there on the dock with their little bellies extended and just wearin' a string around 'em. And our cook went down in the galley and fixed a whole big thing of sandwiches that we took out to these kids to eat. And I remember them taking the bread and separating the sandwiches, scraping the meat off---scraping the bread and then eating the bread and throwing the meat away. And I was thinking, "Gee they're starving and ---stuff we eat every day---"But they were Hindus and primarily it was against their religion. I remember that distinctly. 
So you weren't over in India primarily just for training and helping to---

We had ---we didn't know it, but we were assigned there temporarily for training and then we left there and went around the horn of India up by Ceylon to Calcutta which is on the other side. 

In Calcutta we were assigned to take gasoline up the Chittagong River to Chittagong which was a little place up---but they were---This is where the U.S. Army, U. S. Air Force flew their bombers over the ___ 

We supplied 'em with gasoline. We would take drums. We could carry as much as 200 drums ---55 gallon drums of high octane gasoline up the Chittagong River which was a real narrow river ___. Well, a little smaller than the Cumberland River, but about that size maybe. Wound up through the jungles up to Chittagong. We'd take the gasoline up. Unload it and come back and get some more. And we would bring back anything they wanted us to bring back. We did that for, oh I guess 6 months. Hauling gasoline. Pretty monotonous job, but that's how the Air Force got their gasoline because they couldn't get any tankers up there, you see, anywhere near that air field. And so we hauled it. The Navy hauled it up there. 
So this would have put you into somewhere around the summer of '45? 

Yeah. Would've been there. And then they brought us back to---they'd turn these LCT's over to the British Navy and they flew us back to pick up some ships in Norfolk. And these were new LST's. Or I say new, they were newly built LST's. 
We took these LST's down through the canal, through the Panama, out into the Pacific. Went to---first to Australia and then from there over to –on out to Midway, Guam. And we landed at Okinawa and then as we got to Saipan—and the war was over.

**Today in Bangladesh. During the Burma Campaign in World War II, the city was also a key base for Allied Forces.

[1] Nashville Room, Nashville Public Library, VHP TAPES 55 & 56

Recorded July 30, 2002

Site: Green Hills Branch of Nashville Public Library, Nashville, Tennessee

Interviewer: Larry Patterson, Nashville Room, Nashville Public Library Volunteer

Transcribed by: Carol Key, April 2, 2004

Edited by: Carol Key, May 14, 2004

copyright 2002 by the Nashville Public Library, Nashville, Tennessee