The Don Jose was squatting on a reef, but the enemy didn't know this. Every day the Japanese dive-bombers came to bomb and strafe and after several weeks, they were perplexed as to why this ship did not sink like the others. Once, a boarding party from the U.S.S. Oahu (Navy Inshore Patrol) managed to get aboard to see what damage the enemy had done and possibly salvage something, but after a thorough inspection it was found everything had been burnt out. The ship's heavy wire rigging had melted and the decks had collapsed from the intense heat from previous fires.
To be of any use, the ship would have to be rebuilt from the hull up.
Various methods were used to entice American gunboats and mine-sweepers into Japanese hands. At night, small rafts with a length of hollow bamboo secured in the center with batteries and a flash-light inside at the top, would be turned loose by the enemy from Bataan hoping that any American craft would put their search lights on to see what these strange lights were. The Japanese would then quickly sink the ships.
The U.S.S. Oahu and other crafts managed to retrieve one of the rafts without firing or putting search lights on, and the trick was exposed.
One late afternoon in a day of March, a strange object was observed floating in the water coming toward the U.S.S. Luzon. Upon closer look, it was identified as either a man or a woman blown up to two or three times the normal size. The color was grayish and appalling. A knife-like fin could be seen racing through the harbor waters and heading for the body. After the "thing" struck the body between the ribs, tearing out a big chunk, it was found that the "thing" was a man-eating shark who was hungry. In a few minutes another shark joined in and a tug-of-war resulted. One of the sharks had an arm in its mouth and was turning the body over and over, finally pulling the arm loose. By this time, about ten or twelve 30-caliber machine guns were laying a withering blast toward the sharks, but it seemed to be of no avail as the tide was fast carrying the body out towards the sea and out of firing distance. Any thought of swimming in the future was dispelled right then and there.
Another type of fish similar in man-eating tactics was the large Jew-fish with two rows of razor-sharp murderous teeth, who always swam around the ships in the harbor. These fish were brightly colored, like a rainbow, and were about four feet in length. Some of the crews of various ships in Manila Harbor around Fort Mills and Corregidor would try and catch fish to help the food situation and for a change in diet.
A ship's fireman and myself (ship's cook) decided to try and catch some deep-ocean fish. First we asked one of the machinist's mates in the engine room if we could borrow one of the large wire mesh doors of a tool locker. With solemn oaths that we would soon bring the door back, we quickly scrambled to the aft part of the ship (called fantail in Navy Language). There we would assemble our fish trap.
Various members of the crew said we were crazy and wouldn't catch anything. We then got all the copper wire we could find plus write from wooden food cases and finished the trap in two days. Now we found we didn't have enough heavy line for lowering the trap to the bottom of the bay. "Well", we said, "looks like we will have to get a few heaving lines", but the boatswain mate wasn't so enthusiastic about the fish trap. He said the heaving lines would be frayed on the ship's hull and then he wouldn't have any heaving lines left. So we thought we would see one of the seaman who was a good friend of ours and he could get two heaving lines for us to use in our fish trap. Finally, all was fixed and we lowered our trap to the bottom of the bay.
After the trap had been down for an hour, we decided to haul up the trap to see what we had caught. Net results was one pilot fish, which is a dirge in Manila harbor. These fish are not good to eat as they are very tough and bony. A good sharp hatchet is needed to chop them up for bait. They have a good set of teeth and would nip anyone who fell into the water.
After hauling up the trap many times without any results or fish to eat, we decided to cut up some pilot fish and place them inside the trap for bait. After lowering the trap into the water again and waiting for an hour or so, we once more decided to bring up the trap to the surface for inspection. About half-way up, the line seemed to give way.
We wondered what was the matter and after pulling and pulling, the end of the line came into sight minus the trap and one heaving line, much to our chagrin. How to explain the missing door to the machinist mate and the heaving line to the seaman? We decided to go to the engine room first and after talking to the machinist mate on various subjects we said, "You know, a funny thing happened to us today." The machinist mate said, "Yeah?---what was that?" "Well", we said, "here's the dope." We told him how carefully we pulled the trap up and alas, no door at the end of the line and that barnacles must have frayed and cut the heaving lines so the door was now lying in about 85 feet of water. After much swearing and threats from the machinist mate, we beat a hasty retreat to top-side. Probably we would not be popular around the engine room anymore, not to count losing face with the crew.
After about an hour or so on top-side, our friend the seaman comes along and says, "I would like to have them heaving lines back." "You know", we said to the seaman, "we were just talking about heaving lines. We had very bad luck today and lost one of the heaving lines and the other is badly frayed. However, don't be alarmed as two more can be obtained for the damaged ones." The seaman said, "And how is that, may I ask?" We said, "Soon, we shall make a visit to the U.S. Army docks at Fort Hughes and there, our good friend, the Navy Beach Master will get two heaving lines for us from spares." With those words, we beat a retreat again, but only after promising to have the new heaving lines by the next day.
We then had to figure out how and when we could get over to Fort Hughes. After several days, the Stones boat crew, our pals, managed to borrow two slightly used heaving lines from the Fort Hughes Beach Master, and all was serene with the seaman again.
The Oahu's mascot was a gray and white female cat about 18 months old. Our cat looked kind of down and out so I decided to catch a pilot fish for her. I brought the pilot fish below the decks and called for Kitty. She soon came running and just then the pilot fish, which was lying on the steel deck, gave a twist. Quick as a flash, Kitty was aboard, but not for long.
The pilot fish smacked Kitty alongside her head and away went Kitty. These pilot fish have a very strong head and so Kitty decided to leave well enough alone. I tried to take the fish to top-side and throw it overboard, but the old pilot fish had decided otherwise. The back of its head is like a suction cup and was firmly glued to the steel deck plates. I tied a string to its tail and poured sodium that we use on the ice-machine over it. As soon as the fish started to jump around I lifted it up and heaved it over the side.
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