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The personal experience and account of
Herman Privette, Sr.

(Communications Dept)

Lou Vilmer, James Powers, Richard D. Gardener, and I boarded our ship to Eniwitok. As I recall, we were located on the southwest part of the island and the ship docks were on the northeast part of the island.

The jeep driver that picked us up to transport us to the boarding area missed loading my sea bag so he had to take me back to get it. When we got back to the dock our ship had left. I don't know who arranged it, but there was one of our TBM's or TBF's waiting. As I was an ARM (tailgunner) they put me in the belly. That's how I came aboard!

On the morning of the 25th, I passed on breakfast which was cold bean and cornbread. Shortly thereafter, general alarm sounded. An announcement was made over the intercom that ships were approaching from the north, but they were presumed to be our forces. We found out otherwise when they started shooting a us.

I did not hear the abandon ship order. When the passageways stared filling with smoke and fumes, I figured it was time to leave.

I climbed down the cargo net on the listing side. I attempted to swim away from the ship at a right angle, but the incoming tide kept moving me back. I could look up and see the overhanging gunwales getting closer and closer. I concluded that I better try swimming at an angle along side of the ship. I also partly deflated my Mae West (life vest) to make it easier to swim. It worked and I was about 200 to 300 feet away when she keeled over and sank.

We could see sailors running back and forth on the ship closest to our group. Although there were a few shells lobbed into the water, I do not think that they were shooting at us.

R.D. Gardener was in our group. He had a mortal shrapnel wound to the midsection and died that day.

Fortunately, we had a Corpsman in the group that had a supply of morphine. We also had some life rafts, but I do not recall how many. We also had some cargo nets. The wounded were put in the rafts and the rest of us used the cargo nets. I took Gardener's place in the raft when he was buried at sea.

Our group had no water. The water contain er was filled with salt water or food.

Another fright was when out of the ink black darkness bright spot lights were trained on us. We did not know there were ships in our vicinity. Was it friend or foe?

The only injury I had received, other than sun burn, occurred when I was helping move a raft with a shrapnel injured leg so that one of the PC could reach it. As I handed him the e lead rope, I reached down to cut the raft free and swiped my left arm just above the wrist.





USS Gambier Bay CVE 73 - VC10.com