February 1945 — Philippine Islands
The Washington National Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885. The USS Renshaw, DD 449, was torpedoed sixty years later to the day; but there is no monument to Renshaw, only the retinal image I have of the stricken destroyer, dead in the water, not listing, but thick black smoke issuing from its port side.
The Renshaw was an escort protecting a convoy of LSTs on a voyage from Tacloban, Leyte bound for San Jose, Mindoro in the Philippine Islands. My ship, LST 719, had only its deck as an accommodation for most of the infantry replacements on board. Four of us lay on our blankets under the bow 40mm gun mount. We took turns going down a hatch with our helmets to scoop up sea water to wash our faces. The sea almost boiled under the LST's false bow door.
Two days out of Leyte, in the afternoon, in a calm sea, we heard the carumph! of the torpedo as it hit the Renshaw, which was trailing our port stern by about six hundred yards. Sirens blew but the convoy continued on leaving only the Renshaw and another destroyer as its escort.
Decades later, I learned what happened. A Japanese submarine, RO-43, had fired a torpedo and then dived for cover. Renshaw had lost fifteen men, mostly in the boiler and engine rooms, and two men that were blown out of their gun mount. The vessel was towed back to Leyte and later scrapped. The RO-43 had only five more days to live as it was spotted and sunk February 26, 1945 off Iwo Jima by carrier planes from the USS Anzio, an escort carrier. As for LST 719, she was used as a target ship at the Bikini Island H-bomb test on July 1, 1949.
The only tangible evidence I have of that fateful voyage is my service duffel bag. It has a hole in it, chafed through the canvas by the muzzle of my M-1 rifle during the voyage, as the bag was used as a pillow. The Renshaw and LST 719 continue to sail on a never ending voyage whenever I see that duffel bag.