POTTER, WITH REST OF TASK GROUP PULLS BACK TO TACLOBAN HARBOR IN THE PHILIPPINES AFTER OKINAWA OPERATION

June, 1945


Finally back to the States for overhaul.

When we, with the rest of our task group were ordered to retire southward to the Philippines, and Tacloban harbor opposite Leyte, we had no idea it would soon lead to us being sent back to the States for overhaul, preparatory to the long‑expected invasion of the Japanese homeland. We arrived in Tacloban on June 1, giving us a chance to go ashore there and view the local culture (!), but also for some of us to enjoy a few drinks (and become members) of the Leyte officers club on Samar Island.

While tied up in Tacloban harbor, Underhill had gone ashore to visit some old friends and leave his assistant communications officer, Dave Brown to mind the new set of Electric Coding Machine wheels which he was to pick up ashore at base headquarters. Dave duly got the top secret ECM wheels, and stopped by the officers' club to imbibe a few. Next day, when Undy checked the new communications materials, no wheels could be found. Of course, the Captain had to be informed, and he sent Undy and Dave retracing Dave's steps of the day before.

Finally the 9 x 4 x 4 black metal box was located, having been turned over to the Beach Master by a chief petty officer who thought it may have been some sort of bomb. The Beach Master had put the mysterious box in the hands of a superior, a Navy lieutenant. Meantime, Underhill had to get written statements from everyone who handled the box to assure the code wheels had not been compromised.

No one was unhappy when after about a week in the Philippines, we were given orders to proceed to Pearl Harbor, and then to Mare Island, California for a long overdue overhaul, having cranked out over 250,000 miles of almost continuous operation. The rest of the Third Fleet, of which we were now a part, went north for strikes on the Japanese islands. The voyage from Tacloban to Pearl Harbor took nearly two weeks, in company with slower destroyer escorts.

When we arrived at Pearl Harbor, one special treat was our first chance in nearly two years to sink our teeth into some fresh tomatoes and lettuce brought on board from the beach. In just two or three days, we were on our way to San Francisco Bay. Once again, we steamed under the Golden Gate Bridge, on up to Mare Island, arriving there the first of July, 1945. We, of course, had no idea then how soon the War with Japan would end, knowing only that we were being overhauled to take part in the invasion of the Japanese homeland, an operation for which as many as one million casualties were projected. A number of transfers for both enlisted men and officers came through when we were undergoing overhaul, but most of the original crew remained attached to the Stephen Potter.

The explosion of the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima on August 11 put a different slant on the progress of the war, but we had no indication then that it would bring the war to an end. A second A‑bomb hit Nagasaki two days later, and then on August 15, the Japanese sued for peace. That naturally brought great relief to us all, but our orders to leave two weeks later for a post‑overhaul shakedown to San Diego remained unchanged. So on Sept. 2, we departed Mare Island, on shakedown cruise for the second time in the Potter's lifetime.

After ten days of post‑overhaul training in and out of San Diego Bay, we were ready to proceed to Pearl Harbor when the word came that instead, we would decommission the ship at the Destroyer base after preserving all operating equipment in mothballs. The mothballing was something none of us knew much about, so we had to have lots of help and advice from Destroyer base personnel. Doing the best we could we tried to leave the beloved DD 538 ready for whatever future it would have in peacetime. With only a handful of the original officers and crew members still on board, formal decommissioning took place on December 19, 1945 at the Des Base in San Diego.

Taken from "USS Stephen Potter - The Story of DD538" compiled and edited by Lt. Wilson F. (Bill) Minor USNR (Ret).