On the 10th of February, 1945
On the 10th of February, 1945, the Alaska made her first sortie as part of a combat force. During the first twenty-four hours away from the fleet base at Ulithi, all hands were told that the Alaska had been designated as one of the large ships to escort and protect the carriers Saratoga and Enterprise in their night air strikes against Tokyo and its air fields. The group was small, was to cruise off the southeastern coast of Honshu during the two-day strike and move in close to Tokyo Bay at night in order to launch the striking planes as near as possible to their target. During the 1500-mile voyage to our operating area there was some speculations on the part of all hands as to how we would do. Three quarters of the ship’s company had, at that point, never even caught the scent of an enemy and the old hands, many of them veterans of a dozen actions in many areas, were much in demand for counsel and advice.
Captain Noble, sensing the tension, made a short talk over the ship’s public address system that, in a half humorous, half serious way, imparted to all hands the confidence he had in us. The result was instantaneous and universal. Reassurance left no place for nervousness.
As it developed the operation was uneventful, weather and the power of our carrier planes preventing the Japs from any retaliatory action, but the experience ha,d someho~ given us a sense of being seasoned and the nervous tension had been dissipated by the time we withdiew from the area and joined the Task Group 58.4 supporting the invasion of Iwo Jima. Within a few weeks, though still on our toes, the monotony of steaming back and forth over the same few miles of water with no enemy attacks directed at us, had made us confident that our lives were charmed. Other ships had been hit, and one, the Bismarck Sea, had been sunk with heavy loss of life, but we were unscathed. On 9 March, with Iwo Jima almost secured by the Marines, our task group headed back to Ulithi where, for several days we took on stores and made repairs.
“This Is the Captain Speaking to You from the Bridge”
The Alaska has joined the fleet and is starting on her first offensive mission. Now we will have the opportunity to put into effect many of the things we have been studying and drilling for.
We will have only a few more days of drill and training before we see the real thing. Let us be sure we take advantage of every opportunity during these few days, of perfecting our training, our techniques, and our procedures.
I cannot too strongly emphasize what I have mentioned before, the necessity for teamwork. The Navy is a big team, playing a game vital to our country, and, we believe, to the world. Each ship is a team, and on each ship are innumerable smaller teams, each of which must contribute to the support of the whole. Whether you belong to a team at a gun, in the fire room, to the look-out team, or a damage control team, your contribution is vitally important to the whole and to each individual member of the ship’s complement.
I wish to offer a word of advice and request. Let each man do his assigned task thoroughly and promptly. And those of you who may be stationed topside, where you may have a ringside seat, remember this is not a single ring circus. While one group of guns may be shooting down an enemy plane, don’t be sightseeing. Another plane may, and probably will, be coming in from another direction. We mustn’t be caught with our pants down due to having our attention diverted.
We are a member of a large task force which is going to pitch directly over the home plate of the enemy. It is our particular job to back up the pitchers. We, ourselves, will not be quite close enough to Tokyo to use our guns on the Emperor’s palace. Our carrier planes will drop bombs on targets more important than the Emperor’s palace, and in all directions around the palace.
When opportunity permits, we will attempt to keep you informed of events by means of this announcing system. Let’s all get together in this big undertaking, and soon we’ll all be back where we can have a beer.