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days, a gigantic typhoon had somehow, out of season, sprung to life and began sweeping past Saipan and into the Philippine Sea. As the storm grew more violent, it raced northward and kicked up waves 60 feet high. Navy Meteorologists eventually became aware of the storm, but they expected it to pass well between Formosa and Okinawa, and to disappear into the East China Sea. Unexplainably, on the evening of October 8th, the storm changed direction and abruptly veered to the east. When it did so, there was insufficient warning to allow the ships in the harbor to get under way in order to escape the typhoon's terrible violence. By late morning on the 9th, rain was coming down in torrents, the seas were rising and visibility was zero. Winds, now over 80 miles per hour blowing from the east and northeast, caused small crafts in Buckner Bay to drag their anchors. By early afternoon, the wind had risen to over 100 miles per hour, the rain coming in horizontally now was more salt than fresh, and even the larger vessels began dragging anchor under the pounding of 50 foot seas. As the winds continued to increase and the storm unleashed its fury, the entire Bay became a scene of devastation. Ships dragging their anchors collided with one another; hundreds of vessel were blown ashore. Vessels in groups of two's and three's were washed ashore into masses of wreckage that began to accumulate on the beaches. Numerous ships had to be abandoned, while their crews were precariously transferred between ships. By mid-afternoon, the typhoon had reached its raging peak with winds, now coming from the north and the northeast, blowing up to 150 miles per hour. Ships initially grounded by the storm were now blown off the reefs and back across the bay to the south shore, dragging their anchors the entire way. More collisions occurred between wind-blown ships and shattered hulks. Gigantic waves swamped small vessels and engulfed larger ones. Liberty ships lost their propellers, while men in transports, destroyers and Victory ships were swept off the decks by 60 foot waves that reached the tops of the masts of their vessels. On shore, the typhoon was devastating the island. Twenty hours of torrential rain washed out roads and ruined the island's stores of rations and supplies. Aircraft was picked up and catapulted off the airfields; huge quonset huts went sailing into -22- [[end page]] [[start page]] the air, metal hangars were ripped to shreds, and the "Tent Cities", housing 150,000 troops on the island, ceased to exist. Almost the entire food supply on the island was blown away. Americans on the island had nowhere to go, but into the caves, trenches and ditches of the island in order to survive. All over the island there were tents, boards and sections of galvanized iron being hurled through the air at over 100 miles per hour. The storm raged over the island for hours, then slowly headed out to sea; then it doubled back, and two days later howled in from the ocean to hit the island again. On the following day, when the typhoon had finally past, dazed men crawled out of holes and caves to count the losses. Countless aircraft had been destroyed, all power was gone, communications and supplies were nonexistent. B-29's were requisitioned to rush tons of rations and supplies from the Marianas. General Joseph Stillwell, the 10th Army Commander, asked for immediate plans to evacuate all hospital cases from the island. The harbor facilities were useless. After the typhoon roared out into the Sea of Japan and started to die its slow death, the bodies began to wash ashore. The toll on ships was staggering. Almost 270 ship were sunk, grounded or damaged beyond repair. Fifty-Three ships in too bad a state to be restored to duty were decommissioned, stripped and abandoned. Out of 90 ships which needed major repair, the Navy decided only 10 were even worthy of complete salvage, and so the remaining 80 were scrapped. According to Samuel Eliot Morrison, the famous Naval historian, "Typhoon Louise" was the most furious and lethal storm ever encountered by the United States Navy in its entire history. Hundreds of Americans were killed, injured and missing, ships were sunk and the island of Okinawa was in havoc. News accounts at the time disclose that the press and the public back home paid little attention to the storm that struck the Pacific with such force. The very existence of this storm is still little-know fact. Surprisingly, few people then, or even now, have made the connection that an American invasion fleet of thousands of ships, planes and landing craft, and a half million men might well have been in that exact place at the exact time, poised to strike Japan, when this typhoon enveloped Okinawa and its surrounding seas. -23-
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