Mariners and Armed Guard Together at the Guns

American merchant vessels shoot down 107 Japanese planes off the Philippines

Odlin - Maritime 62

 PR 2140 (W)


Advance Release for

 Issued and Released

Sunday Morning Papers

 Through Facilities of the

January 21, 1945

 Office of War Information

Merchant Marine and Navy gunners aboard American merchant vessels shot down 107 Japanese planes off the Philippines in the ten weeks between the Leyte landing and January 1, the War Shipping Administration announced today. This is believed to top any comparable achievement by merchant ships in any other war theater.

Much of this shooting was done by merchant seamen who took over when Navy armed guards were short-staffed or had suffered casualties in previous bombings and strafings, a report radioed by Lieutenant John Macauley, USMS, WSA representative in the Southwest Pacific, asserts. The "box score" for the merchant ships under direct attack of the Japs showed an average of three planes downed per vessel, he added.

"The task of Merchant Marine and Navy gunners was made doubly hazardous by the fact that Jap pilots, flying new, faster and more maneuverable Zeros and new, very maneuverable and fast low-level bomber-strafers, were willing to take any risk to send large cargo vessels to the bottom," Lieutenant Macauley continued.

"The Japs recognized and will continue to recognize that our lines of shipping communication, strung out along 900 miles of water within reach of their fighters and bombers, constitute a series of potentially vulnerable targets. An overwhelming percentage of ships plying back and forth along this route, which before the Luzon smash stretched deviously from Morotai to Mindoro, winding in and out of cut-off enemy island bases, are United States merchantmen. Their accurate gunnery has been one of the vital factors keeping this lifeline operating at highest possible efficiency.

"Jap planes probably have taken a higher toll of seamen's lives in the Philippine campaign than in any other during the entire Pacific war. The Army and Navy have cooperated exceedingly well in keeping many Nip planes away from supply convoys by means of carrier-based and land-based aircraft and escort vessels. When enemy planes have broken through this cordon surrounding moving convoys or cargo vessels at anchor, however, it has been up to merchant ships to defend themselves.

"Merchant ships have been damaged or sunk by the Japs only because Hirohito's pilots have been willing to take many grave risks. Some enemy planes have flown so close to their targets they have crashed on the decks of our ships when they were shot down. This has caused vessel damage and casualties but quick and efficient action on the part of merchant crews in putting out fires as well as in patching holes made by fragmentation bombs has saved ships and kept them sailing.

"When merchant seamen set out on the hazardous run from New Guinea to the Philippines they are very aware of the fate which may await them. Succinctly they say this trip will give them a real opportunity for a crack at the Jap. They appear to ignore the risk to their own lives.

With American forces back on Luzon, merchant ships can expect no cessation of raids by Jap aircraft. The Nips are profoundly aware of the value of merchant vessels generally to the United States' war effort and specifically the in the Philippine campaign. But merchant skippers say this merely means further opportunity for the guns of American merchantmen to write additional chapters in obliteration of Tokyo's first line pilots in pink tracers across Philippine skies."

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