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The personal experience and account of
William. A Kroger

(Aviation Ordinance)

I was aviation ordinance. After we finish loading the planes with ammo, bombs and torpedoes, and they took off, I left the flight deck and went to the focsle. When I heard the abandon ship order I cut down a bag of life jackets put one on and jumped over the port side. I hit the water next to a rolled up floater net and was in the process of cutting it loose with plans to swim, with the net, away from the ship. Sometime during this process I lost my helmet and shoes. While trying to cut the net loose I heard a large shell go over my head it hit the focsle above me sending out a sheet of flames. I covered by face with my hands and tried to duck under the water. I wasn't fast enough and received flash burns on both hands, ear, nose and lost all my hair.

After collecting my wits, I left the net and started swimming toward a life raft. During the short swim I joined Earl Fetkenhier and together we made it to a group of rafts and floater nets. Earl with most of his foot shot away and me with the burns made for a sorry looking pair.

I got into a raft and was asked to attend a shipmate in bad condition with both legs laid wide open. The rest of the men in the raft were paddling away from the ship. Earl I believe got on a floater net. I don't recall the man's name in my lap but I did my best to keep him comfortable. I did give him a couple of shots of morphine during the day to ease his pain but he died during the night. In the morning I gave his dog tags to a pilot on our raft and we buried him at sea with a small prayer. I don't believe this was the man whose body washed ashore because of shark activity around us. I believe he was taken by them.

'The afternoon of the second day we could see islands to the west. A pilot and a chief in a two man rubber raft paddled over to them to see if we could land on the beach to get out of the water. No such luck - they returned to advise us that Japanese gunboats patrolled the coast. We gave that up as a bad idea. Our luck changed before dawn the third morning when we were picked up by one of our rocket launching landing craft. We were taken to Leyte harbor and the wounded were transferred to an Army rescue craft. We were given first aid and transferred to the Hosp. Ship Comfort. The next time I saw Earl he had lost his foot but still managed a smile. We went to the Hosp. In Hollandia, New Guinea and from there to Brisbane, Australia on the Matson Liner "Luraline"; to pick up 600 pregnant WACS.

It was hard to get your wound dressed, most of the doctors and medics were busy delivering babies all the way to San Francisco.

Be interesting to know what happened to all those little kids.




USS Gambier Bay CVE 73 - VC10.com