It is dark and we are underway in Manila Bay. I take a trip up topside for air and now I realize something disastrous is taking place in Manila. The sky is red and heavy. Explosions are going off continuously in that direction.
We took on as much oil as we could and got underway. We had to go through Navy mine fields, which contain contact mines. That night, we lost the fire in the boilers twice because of water in the oil. If the ship remained dead in the water, we could have drifted into one of the mines. We had to hand feed the boilers. We formed a “bucket brigade”, which handed off buckets of diesel oil from man-to-man, so we could keep the boilers firing. Luckily, we avoided the mines and arrived at Mariveles Bay, which is on the southern tip of the Bataan peninsula. We covered the ship with fishnets and tree branches to hide it from air attack. This would be the last place the Canopus would stay before we sunk her.
We were still fully operational. All shops were at 100%. We had time to fix anything mechanical, which we proceeded to do. We were able to service jobs until February, 1942. We serviced PI boats and all kinds of small crafts that patrolled the defense area.
December 25th, 1941. Yeah, today is Christmas, and here we are in Mariveles Bay, tying up to a makeshift dock. Why? Because we are too big and slow to make a run for it, so we have to stay here and let the Japs use us for bombing practice. Oh well, that’s the breaks.
December 29th, 1941. We thought we were pretty well camouflaged. That is, up until today. A group of high altitude bombers came over and dropped the mail around old Mama-San. We were pattern bombed. We were hit once by a 500 bomb. It went through the three decks aft and exploded on the propeller shaft in the shaft alley. The force of the explosion traveled upwards and killed one man, a friend named Rex. The shaft alley sent the main force to the engine room. This is where the engine room crew and fire room crew took shelter. Five out of ten men were killed and four were wounded. Only the Chief Officer was uninjured. A sailor named “Bull Shantz” had carried away nearly everybody who was injured in the engine room.
My boss, Squire Boon Zane, who took the place where I was usually assigned, was killed. I had taken shelter ashore. There were four of us under an overhang of rock on the beach about a half-mile from the ship. The bombs were exploding all around us. The one that hit close was ten feet directly above us. I thought we had it, but when the smoke cleared, we were shaken but okay. We ran back to the ship to help put out the fires and buried the dead that night at sea. I was in the burial party, as I knew all the men who were killed. As we were committing one at a time to the deep and after counting six splashes, we heard a seventh splash.
I remember it was pitch black and talk about being scared. We fished out one of the party from the water; his name was Earl LaFrance. He was alive. It was like a scene in a movie, as I think back.
The ship was patched up and back in business that day. A few days later, she was seaworthy again. I had many duties besides pumping oil, water, and different fluids off the ship. As time went on, our supply got low and in order to replenish it, we would patrol Manila Bay during daylight hours all the way to Manila thirty miles away. There would be five in the crew of a forty-foot motor launch equipped with empty 50 gallon barrels, a couple of pumps, and shallow water diving equipment. We had a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on the stern. Our Skipper, Commander Sackett, wanted the gun mounted on the bow. He relented when we told him we weren’t going in to attack, but the gun was there so we could get out of any situation. We salvaged quite a bit of oil from barges and small ships that were abandoned all over Manila Bay.