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The personal experience and account of
Wayne Galey

(Electrical Dept)

My experiences in the sinking of the Gambier Bay.

I must start before we were sunk. During all of our activity - Saipan, Tinian all the other actions, I always considered we were very vulnerable, so I kept all my personal belongings in my pockets, billfold, pictures, identification, etc. However, on the evening of Oct.24 I went topside and there all around us were battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers; the whole Task Force 58. I felt safe for the first time. So before climbing into my bunk I unloaded all my pocket stuff into my locker. When the general alarm sounded the next morning, I rushed to my battle station, without giving a thought about my stuff in the locker.

My battle station was in the aft crews' mess hall, along with about 40 or 50 other men. We started to get hit, hard and often. The ship shook violently with each hit. Most men were shaken off their feet and fell to the deck on each hit. I worried about the electrician standing watch at the Gyro-compass. I went through the watertight hatches to check on him. He was able to keep the true settings with great difficulty. I went back to the mess hall.

Sometime afterwards I kind of became aware of my surroundings. I had experienced a blackout, apparently from a concussion. As I looked around the mess hall there was a huge hole, half of the outside bulkhead was gone. Looking around further, there was no one there except a Machinist Mate lying on the deck with his thigh mostly shot away. As I was contemplating what I should do, a Chief Machinist Mate and two others came down the ladder from the hanger deck. The Chief expressed surprise to see me on my feet. I didn't know I had been down. They started to pick up the Machinist Mate. I wondered what they were going to do with him. They said they would drop him in the water like they had done with others, then he would have to make it on his own. I don't know how many others they carried up; I think it was quite a few. They took the Machinist Mate up the ladder to the hanger deck. I followed behind. The ship was fairly level at that time, but there was no motion. They got through the hatchway and out on the hanger deck. I was just about to stop out onto the hanger deck when there was a huge explosion, or a hit, in the after part of the hanger deck. I remember the force tearing my helmet off, that's all.

Sometime later I awoke or came to. My first sensation was that my face was all slimy. I wiped my face with my hand, expecting to see blood, but it was oil instead. That was a relief. I was on my stomach on top of a huge box. When I started to raise myself I became aware of a pressure in my back. I thought I had been hit for sure, but on further awakening I found that my inflatable life belt which was around my waist, and which contained CO 2 cartridges was pressurized. The explosion had set off the cartridges but it was still buckled, causing the pressure. It was squeezing my waist. My next awareness was a hole in the outside bulkhead, right over where I lay. It was about 3 feet in diameter. To this day I cannot imagine how I escaped without at least bursted eardrums. As I got up I became aware of pain in my ankle, but I could still stand.

The ship was in a terrible list. I had to scramble and crawl to get to the pontoon deck In the after part of the hanger deck. As I got there the water was lapping the pontoon deck. The ship was listing so that the flight deck was only about 12 to 15 feet from the water. The flight deck and the ship's hull formed a gable that reminded me of the inside of a barn. Looking out I saw men, some in life rafts, others just milling around in the water. They were about 1000 feet away. As I looked there were three big explosions among the men. From the after splash, which was red, green and yellow, I figured the battle was still going on and the battleships were still firing on us.

I stepped off the pontoon deck into the water and started to paddle. (I couldn't swim then and I still can't). I feel that I was the last person to leave the ship. By the time I got paddled out to where the others were, they had formed a group. Five life rafts and two floater nets were gathered into a group. They were full and men hanging on the sides. I climbed up and squeezed myself onto one of the floater nets. I sat beside Lt. Gellhorn, who was our Communications Officer, I believe. I crowded him a bit, but he was good about it. The Captain was in the group. During the day he had those in the life rafts look for food stuff. Only one can of malted milk tablets were found. He had it passed around and everyone had one tablet. He directed everyone to let the tablet dissolve in our mouth to somewhat quench our thirst. The Captain also warned against drinking the salt water. One group of men in a life raft drank the sea water anyway, saying it was good. Before too long they were out of their heads and were fist fighting among themselves. I left my floater net position and crawled into the life raft to settle them down. It worked, but several of them died anyway. I remember one chap who had part of his skull shot away. You could see his brain pulse with every heartbeat.

During the night the sharks attacked the men who were hanging onto the sides. I am not sure how many we lost. The Captain directed everyone to clap on the water to scare the sharks away. It worked, they left and did not come back. Later the Captain and the head of the Air Squadron (I can't recall his name) decided we should paddle toward Samar Island. We did that pretty successfully, and were within easy sight of land, when they had other thoughts. They were afraid the Japs would be there to greet us, so we allowed ourselves to drift back out into the ocean.

During the second night the Captain fired his Very Pistol to attract attention if anyone was out there. It worked. A patrol craft that had come out from Leyte Gulf, to look for survivors, found us and took us aboard. At nearly daylight but a Jap patrol plane flew over us. The Captain of the patrol craft ordered everyone out of sight. Myself, and several others saw a hatch, opened it and crawled in. As our eyes became adjusted to the darkness we discovered we were in the rocket storage bin and were laying on top of the rockets. We were soon allowed to get out because the Jap plane had left.

Upon getting into Leyte Gulf we were transferred to a large ship. We were shuttled into a large bunkroom. No one paid any attention to us. Some of the guys were in serious condition and needed attention. My leg was swollen to four or five times its regular size, but I could walk. Myself and another wounded guy decided we should get some help. We went topside, but the only people we could find were in the Officers' mess hall. They were just sitting down, in their full dress, to their evening meal. They were a bit upset at our intrusion, but we did not relent. We told them of the others that needed help more than we did. To their credit, they got up from their table and went down to organize help.

Myself, and some others were sent to New Guinea to a land base hospital. I have no knowledge of the others. While at the hospital I received a letter from my brother, who was also in the Navy, and had just had leave and went home. His letter said that if I ever expected to see our Mother again I should get home. I took the letter to the chaplain and to the officer in charge, and they refused to consider sending me home. The next morning I was standing in the chow line talking to some other Chiefs. One was an old timer that knew the ropes. He said I was a Chief and did not have to listen to them. He advised me to sign myself out, and there was a ship in the harbor that was leaving the next day. I did as he advised, but I did not get home in time. My Father had the Red Cross looking for me but they couldn't find me.





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