June 1st, 2012 (Introduction)

Hello, my name is George Retelas.  I was named after my grandfather, and 70 years ago he wrote a journal and took photos during his time in the Pacific (he's the one with his arms on his hips and sleeves rolled up in the group picture).  After going through all the material, I wanted to share it for family members of this squadron and any history buffs who may be interested.

There's public domain photos I've included, as well as photographs my grandpa George took on his 4x5 Graflex camera; along with trinkets and articles he kept.  I started this project a couple of years ago, and I'm delighted to finally share it. Here's a sample of some of the slide film which he had stored in his dry socks to avoid the heat in the tropics at Guadalcanal.

Journal - Slide Film
© Retelasfilm

Journal - Guadalcanal Island
© Retelasfilm

Journal - Guadalcanal Island
© Retelasfilm

Journal - Guadalcanal Island
© Retelasfilm

Journal - Guadalcanal Island
© Retelasfilm

Journal - Guadalcanal Island
© Retelasfilm
I do hope you enjoy this, as it's been a very exciting project to put together.  The blog begins with the first entry and ends with the last known one, followed by a surprising article in the newspaper some 40 years later as the final post. For any questions you can reach me at contact@georgeretelas.com

Also, the following is a scroll he created with the signatures of VT-11 and a poem he inscribed on it. This original document was on display at the Treasure Island Museum before it closed in 97'.

Torpedo Squadron Eleven - Scroll
© Retelasfilm

"Here's a toast to the widening host of Americans serving the nation.  To those millions of lads, and their brothers and dads, who are saving our civilization.  To the men from the mills, and the farms and hills, and the cities and mountains and plains.  To the workers and miners and airplane designers, and the crews on the ships and the trains.  Where ever they are, be it near, be it far, on the land, in the air, on the sea.  With a stoutness of heart, they are doing their part, to keep this the land of the free.  So good luck Torpedo Eleven, may nothing impede you all, nor make you delay or digress. May God find you with power behind you, to roll up a final success."

October 23rd, 1942 (First Entry)

Journal - pg. 1
© Retelasfilm

Climbed aboard the converted Aircraft Carrier, U.S.S. Long Island at 0930 on North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego, CA.  This is the first U.S. warship I’ve been on since my enlistment in the Naval Service and I wasn’t very thrilled.  I stepped aboard, saluted the flag, officer of the day, and checked the register for my name.  I then proceeded below for my sleeping quarters.  Weighed anchor at 1030 from North Island Pier, with two Navy tugs alongside.  In the harbor were twin Troop transports.  The ship loaded with forty-eight marines, but did not follow us.  I stood on the flight deck and watched the last speck of the California coast fall from view.  Our ship was loaded with over sixty-two planes and hundreds of men.  We set out into the Pacific alone, with only one U.S. Destroyer as protection.  As we kept steady course, our escort would circle around and patrol the area.

With no more sight of land, my memories were drifting to my perfect love and the fun I had with all the friends and shipmates I left behind, perhaps not to be seen for a long time or ever.  But there are things I wish, no matter what happens to me, I pray that God look over my mother, dad, kid brother, and my little Dottie. 

I was assigned to general battle station.  Ships lights were out at 1830.  Found bunk in 2nd and 1st class officers sleeping quarters.  Turned to at 1900, for first night’s sleep aboard ship.

October 24th, 1942

0530 Perfect breakfast.  0700 Alarm for general quarters.  0930 Alarm for “Abandon Ship”, were given orders and life jackets.  1000 Man our “Battle Stations.”  Our Destroyer dropped two depth chargers just aft of us.  This was no drill.  A Submarine was sounded and lurking near. Gosh our first day out and trouble already. 

Outside of action, life is quite dull aboard with the routine of laying out on the windy flight, or in the different quarters, listening to the radio or records, and reading every type of book or papers you can.  Then spend your small change at the Canteen.  The football games are coming in from home: Santa Clara 6 – UCLA 14.  Went topside and departed when night fell.  What a night for romance.  Turned all watches back half an hour at 1900.

October 25th, 1942

0600 Working detail.  1200 Another U.S. Destroyer over took.  1430 Sighted seven of our convoy on the horizon; two Oil Tankers, four Troop Ships, and one Destroyer.  Our Destroyer turned back for the States.  1600 Took load off the convoy.  1615 Set all watch time ahead fifteen minutes.  2000-2400 Stood flight deck watch, no moon visible due to dark overhanging clouds.  0100 Turn watch time back fifteen minutes.

Journal - Press News

October 26th, 1942

0530 General quarters lost track of one Destroyer, not in sight.  0820 Man Battle Stations, two ships of convoy changing position, and nearly ran us down doing it.  0915 Sounding of another Sub!  Alarm abandon ship.  One ship of convoy having trouble, rudder was jammed, and O’Malley was on it.  Went on flight deck and had a bull session with the Pilots.  Boy, they would all just as soon be back in the States.  2000 Turned too.

October 27th, 1942

1030 Fire drill. News of the U.S.S. Wasp Aircraft Carrier lost by the Jap Submarine.  I wrote mother and Eddie, and didn’t sleep a wink all night.

Letter to Mother (pg. 1)
© Retelasfilm
Letter to Mother (pg. 2)
© Retelasfilm
Letter to Mother (pg. 3)
© Retelasfilm
U.S.S. Wasp - Aircraft Carrier
Image courtesy United States Library of Congress

October 28th, 1942

Rough at sea today.  Word being sent around that some person fell overboard last night.  Our Destroyer picked him up.  2000-2400 Flight deck watch.

October 29th, 1942

Routine – Just Sea.

LT(jg) Richard Batten: Buzzard Brigade at Guadalcanal
Journal - News Article

October 30th, 1942

Field day.  Got out of work detail.  Rotten sleep – too darn hot.

October 31st, 1942

0800-1200 Stood flight deck watch.  Got in trouble by officer in charge for reading while on duty.  News about another U.S. Aircraft Carrier was reported sunk.  2000 Turned in.
USS Hornet (CV-8) Battle of Santa-Cruz

November 1st, 1942

Journal - Plan of the Day

0600 Land finally sighted the island of Maui.  0700 Two P.B.Y. planes fly out and patrol the area.  0720 Secured.  0820 Went topside on flight deck.  The day was perfect, and the water was clear and calm as glass.  The islands are beautiful and Diamond Head was first seen as we entered the harbor.  0835 Two U.S. Destroyers and five Troop ships meet up with us.  0915 Entered Pearl Harbor.  Some of the “Old Timers” pointed out to me when the U.S.S. Nevada was sunk in 10 ft. of water. Remains of the U.S.S. Arizona were still there, and the scrap of the U.S.S. Oklahoma, with a floating dry-dock still in use. Much of the harbor has been built up since last year’s bombing on Dec. 7th.

USS Arizona - Battleship
Image courtesy www.history.navy.mil
USS Oklahoma - Battleship
Image courtesy National Archives and Records

Nearly the whole U.S. Fleet was in Pearl Harbor today.  Five U.S. Battleships: U.S.S. Idaho, California, Mississippi, North Carolina, and New Mexico.  The Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Saratoga was undergoing repairs due to the three torpedo hits in the Solomon Islands.  Two Heavy U.S. Carriers, as was the U.S.S. Salt Lake City, which was also in for repairs.  Two U.S. Submarines came in on the surface.  What a mess, they really needed a paint job.  The U.S. Destroyers were many in number and undergoing repairs and supplies.  Now the work began on unloading all the planes and equipment.  O’Malley, really glad to see the old boy.  His trip was on the S.S. Tyler, really rough and rotten.  Two meals a day, no showers, and above all, no liberty to San Francisco, only the officers.  O’Malley jumped ship anyhow and saw his wife for a bit.  Aboard the Tyler was Hal Caroll, as a merchant marine seaman.  This really is a small world.  Met some of my 9-42 class from Alameda, what a reunion.

A U.S. Aircraft Carrier was reported sunk, no name as of yet.  Took all day to unload the planes from the Long Island.  Simmons “Hollywood”, a fellow from Santa Ana, and ex-Lexington survivor, took me around Ford Island.  The whole island is really swell, and everything has really green scenery.  The overturned hull of the U.S.S. Utah is still in the water in the back of our barracks.  Nothing has been done to it since last year.  2100 Really beat, turned to.

Ford Island - Attack on Pearl Harbor
Image courtesy U.S. Navy

November 2nd, 1942

Worked all day completing three T.B.F.'s to become flyable.  First work I ever did!

Grumman TBF Avenger
Image courtesy www.ww2aircraft.net

November 3rd, 1942

Working on more T.B.F. planes on the Liberty.  Knocked off work and checked out the island to go swimming.  Five more U.S. Destroyers came in.

November 4th, 1942

Jumped ship on Liberty with Simmons.  Visited Mr. Abrou, and was taken to the well-known “South Sea” for lunch.  Later, he drove us around to the different views on the island and to the foot of Diamond Head.  Saw the U.S.S. Long Island making its way back to the States.  It had a load of bullet ridden airplanes.  I wish it the best of luck and a safe return.  Mr. Abrou took us to his home for a drink.  Saw many of the homes and stores that were still burned down since last year.  What a place.  White people are very few, the servicemen, plenty.  Took a bus and boat back to Ford Island.  Couldn’t buy anything, cost too darn much.  Had a very nice time, regardless.

South Seas - Dinner Menu Cover
Image courtesy www.arkivatropika.com

November 5th, 1942

Tested T.B.F.’s for check-up and for flying.  Payday: $44.00, went to the Beer Garden with the boys on island to a show.

Journal - Movie Pass

November 6th, 1942

Day off.  Went swimming at Waikiki Beach, and took a couple rolls of film.  Water was swell, except for all the barb-wire fences along the shore.  Turned to for Pearl Harbor.  Our fighting squadron left for Maui.  Simmons and a few were left behind.

November 7th, 1942

Packed sea bags (a little rain). Left all my blues on Ford Island.  No use for them where we're going.  Simmons also left for Maui.  He sure was a swell fellow (all Hollywood).  Loaded on Navy trucks and arrived (20 miles away), at Naval Air Base Barber’s Point.  This air base is just being built, no hanger, roads.  Army style barracks, good chow, perfect weather.

On this point were ex-9-42-10-42. Fellows, little Mahoy was here, Danny Roberts and also Robby.  Glad to see these boys.  Found out Nelson was at Moffet Field for Commando’s School.  Four Army B-24 (PBY-4) are stationed here.  Along with two C.A.S.U.’s, three S.B.D.’s and two T.B.F.’s.  Army also brought a squadron of Q-40’s.  We, being transferred here brought ten T.B.F. planes.  Four were left behind, including mine.  I haven’t a plane as of now.  Later I went swimming on the coral reefs, plenty good.  2000 Turned too with a big fight of mosquitoes.

S.B.D. Dauntless - Dive Bomber
Image courtesy U.S. Navy
Journal - Gunner's Theme Song
© Retelasfilm

Gunner’s Theme Song:
I wished to be a pilot, and you along with me.
But if we were all pilots, where’d the Air Force be?
It takes guts to be a gunner, to sit out in the tail.
When the zeros are a coming, and the slugs begin to wail.
The pilots just a chauffeur, his job to fly the plane.
But it’s we who do the fighting, tho’ we do not get the fame.
If we all must be gunners, then let us make this bet…
We’ll be the best damned gunners, that have left this squadron yet!

November 8th, 1942

Up at 0600, a perfect day.  Had three hops, but O’Malley and I went swimming anyhow.  I took a long distance swim and nearly lost my life.  Same thing happened to me with my swim to Treasure Island in 1940 with my pal Art Gomares.  I made out OK, but never again, at least not until I get more practice for it.

November 9th, 1942

Bomber Squadron Eleven arrived with sixteen S.B.D. planes.  Went swimming all day today, and gathered sea shells to make a necklace for my Dottie.  Torpedo Squadron Eleven is going to raise hell.

Journal - News Article

November 11th, 1942

Armistice Day.  Collected more shells.  Fifth anniversary with my little Dottie.

November 13th, 1942

Jumped ship and met O’Malley in town.  Grabbed a train for Barbers Point and had pineapples and coconuts.

November 15th, 1942

Had a big beer bust with stacks of hot dogs at Navy beach, with Officers and men of Torpedo Squadron.  Alert was sounded for take-off of every plane with full crew.  1730 All of Barbers Point were at their battle stations all night long.  No news of alert yet.

November 16th, 1942

Pay day: $66.00.  Finally received a plane, a T-13, what a wreck.  She was the first model out.

BT-13 Valiant
Image courtesy U.S. Air Force
Journal - News Article

November 19th, 1942

Twenty four gunners were flown to Kanenoha for two weeks training.  My plane left, and O’Malley went on a T-4.  An S.B.D. cracked on field, one of the landing gears didn’t come down – No one was hurt.

November 21st, 1942

Routine hops.  O’Malley and I went up in my T-17.  Flew to Naval Air Station to deliver some laundry for a gunnery school.  From here we flew around and circled the island near the mountains.  Oahu is really small from the air.  Check my plane and turned too.  Listened to Cal vs. Stanford game, 26-7.

Journal - Entry

November 22nd, 1942

Word came through for five plane captains to go on a 5,000 mile hop.  I was one of the five picked out.  This trip was to fly six T.B.F. planes 650 miles northwest of Guadalcanal, 150 miles from Borno.  Our flight was to be over enemy territory.  I was checked out for gun turret and oxygen equipment.  Finally heard from mother, Ann, Dottie, and Tex.

November 23rd, 1942

Routine flight.  Got Larry Muhoy to hop in my plane.  S.B.D. cracked, no one hurt, but the pilot sure didn’t give a damn.  I was first there and that got me sore.  Some of these Officers are really rotten, oh well.  T-4 cracked on me while night flying, and Art is in the Navy in Holland now.

November 24th, 1942

Torpedo hops worked well, and mother sent me $5.00.  Went night flying.  Met a Hawaiian fellow who’s a life guard, that attended Cal Aggies in Davis.

November 26th, 1942

Went up on a hop.  Had a perfect turkey dinner.  Afterwards, had I.W. Harper whiskey with O’Malley, Ramson, Reams, Maloy, and five others.  The class from Alameda gave a toast to the ending of the War, and for all to return home for a happy life.  Note – The whiskey was borrowed from Officer Flyers.

Journal - Dinner Menu

November 29th, 1942

Got liberty back.  Ramson and I hitch-hiked to Honolulu, and went to Mr. and Mrs. Abrou’s house.  They took us to the South Seas for dinner.  We later visited an ex-Navy friend of theirs, and drank some home brewed beer.  Seen Phil Rice’s wife (a pal from Oakland), and found out a couple of fellows from home (Everet Hill and Bill Adess) were killed in action.  Took the train at 0430 and made perfect time.  Terrific storm late tonight.

November 30th, 1942

All planes grounded on rain.  Pay day: $91.00.  Pete is now training for Officer.  Received letter from mother.

December 1st, 1942

Sent money order for $100.00 to my bank and $10.00 to Dottie.  Terrific rain storm.  I was soaked wet while checking my plane.  I came home late during the storm, and all planes were grounded.

December 2nd, 1942

Flight got called off.  Routine duties.  Got a letter from Dottie and wrote here back.

December 3rd, 1942

Station alert!  Up at 0420.  All bombers and scout planes took off.  Hops and 1600 lbs. of bombs were put on all T.B.F. planes.  Wrote Eddie.

December 4th, 1942

Liberty – Went out with O’Malley and Ramson.  Found a camera and met a friend from Oakland.  0430 Took the train back to the station.

December 5th, 1942

No flying.  Lecture and moving pictures.  Wrote all my Christmas cards.

December 6th, 1942

No flying due to heavy weather storm.  Played cards all day, and later went to a show in terrific rainfall.

December 7th, 1942

Big day today in Hawaii, remembering Pearl Harbor one year later.  Alert 0500.  Turned out for a quick take-off and manned our planes.  No flying due to very bad weather.

Journal - Entry
© Retelasfilm

December 10th, 1942

All planes took off for overnight to Maui.  A mock attack on Honolulu and Pearl Harbor by our planes tomorrow.

December 11th, 1942

Secured till 1700.  Planes came in after mock attack on Hawaii.  Army and Navy put on a good show.

December 12th, 1942

My plane brought to shop for major overhaul.

Journal - News Article
© Retelasfilm
Journal - News Article
© Retelasfilm

December 17th, 1942

Liberty – O’Malley, Ramson, and I took Norma to lunch.  Went to “Breakers”, what a time.  Had beers with the boys from Alameda, and raised hell with the cops.

Journal - War Bond
© Retelasfilm

December 19th, 1942

Went on a hop to Kaneanohe with the skipper.  Picked up two survivors from plane crash.  Won $11.00 in Blackjack.

December 20th, 1942

Liberty – Ramson and I visited Mr. and Mrs. Abrou and had dinner.  Later, we had a party at Tony’s and had brew.  We missed the train and bus and had to hitch-hike.  Received word that Art got married.

December 24th, 1942

Received little Dottie’s Christmas gift, and boy I can say I was really happy to get her gift.  The darling didn’t have to spend so much on me.  Later, I took a walk in a perfect moonlit night and prayed to be back for my little Dottie when this damn War is over.  Turned in a little late, and listened to a few Christmas carols on the radio.  Some of the fellows were drunk, and to my surprise – I turned down a drink.

December 25th, 1942

Routine flight.  We were the only outfit working.  Had a perfect turkey dinner.  O’Malley gave me $4.00 and a gift for Christmas and for our friendship.  It made me feel a little funny.  It goes to show you what a pal is, and he really is a pal.  I sure wish him a safe return to his wife and future kid.  I hope for a big reunion someday, if I’m able.

Journal - Dinner Menu
© Retelasfilm

December 27th, 1942

Liberty – O’Malley and bought Art and Audrey a wedding gift.  Tex sent me a Testament, really nice of him.  Three gifts from mother.

December 28th, 1942

Gunnery hop in my plane.  A near tragedy: The radio man and turret gunnery nearly went west.  We pulled the radio man out of the plane and he passed out, nearly died from fumes.  Taken to sick bay – Recovered.  Turned to after duties.  First aid lecture.

December 31st, 1942

Worked all day.  Very quiet New Year’s Eve.  Few of the boys had bottles.

January 1st, 1943

Worked all day – Routine flight.  O’Malley and Ramson flew to Ford Island.  Georgia Univ- 9, UCLA- 0.

January 2nd, 1943

Pay day: $90.00.  Routine flight.  Bought $100.00 Bond.

Journal - War Bond
© Retelasfilm

January 8th, 1943

Air Group returned 1000.  Two T.B.F.’s were cut to pieces.  B-24 bomber, 3 killed.  S.B.D. plane came in for crash landing!  No landing gears made a perfect pancake landing.

January 10th, 1943

Finally got rid of my plane.  Flew it to Ford Island for a new one.  All planes took off for Ford Island overnight.

January 16th, 1943

Half-day duty, then a show and band at station.  Three busloads of women.  Had a pretty good time.  O’Malley did what I hadn’t expected him to ever do – Got one large Navy tattoo.  I hope I don’t do the same – At times it’s pretty tough though.

January 17th, 1943

Received candy and a knife from mother.  Tex Taylor got married in the States – Good luck old boy.

January 21st, 1943

One year today in the Navy.  Liberty – Spend $50.00 on gifts.  Hula shirt $8.00.

January 23rd, 1943

Near tragedy in air!  T-2 and 3 had a mid-collision.  Lady Luck was with pilots.

January 26th, 1943

Night flying.  2nd hop – T-10 crashed in the Pacific.  Pilot and gunner were saved but Anderson lost his life!  Andy got tangled up in his chute chord.  No one went to sleep.

January 27th, 1943

Liberty – Received three letters and two boxes of candy from mother and Dottie.

January 31st, 1943

Pay day: $90.00.  Services for Anderson $13.00.  News of six planes leaving for South Pacific.

February 17th, 1943

Came aboard the converted aircraft carrier U.S.S. Altamaha in Pearl Harbor.  Visited Hal Carrol on the merchant transport S.S. Tyler.

February 18th, 1943

Delivered some uncensored mail to Hal.  Fooled around on the Sub-Base.  Went swimming on Ford Island.

February 19th, 1943

Shoved off from Ford Island 0830.  Navy band played us a few farewell tunes as we drifted from the pier.  We’re under way – with a million dollar cargo of planes and War equipment.  Got a little sea sick.  Note – Just before leaving, O’Malley and I borrowed three cases of bottled beer.

Tragedy – News by wireless came in late in the night way out at sea of the death of Mike O’Malley’s wife as a result of childbirth.  Baby girl is in perfect health.  Born Feb 14th, 1943, 2:30 am.  Named Diane Shannon.

February 20th, 1943

Still sick or rather sea sick.  “What a salt”, hanger deck watch 00-0400.

February 21st, 1943

Went to church services aboard ship.  Sea sickness condition a lot better.  Slept on top flight deck – Terrific tropical storm during the night.

February 22nd, 1943

Crossed the Equator 1430.  Became a shellback.  All my hair cut off.  Turkey dinner, oh man.

Shellback Certificate
Aboard USS Altamaha

February 24th, 1943

Our Destroyer escort came along side for refueling.  Sighted two islands on the horizon.

February 25th, 1943

Sighted more islands.  Three fighters and eight scout bombers took off flight deck for the Fiji Islands.  Three planes damaged.  Hanger deck watch.  International date line – Skip a day.

March 1st, 1943

Fiji Islands.  Rest of planes took off.  Dropped anchor in bay – no harbors or piers – unloaded all gear into landing barges.  Landed on island 1500.  Many natives.  Traveled fifteen miles to our camp, Army style – cots, mess kits, and pitched camp.  Islands are very beautiful, natives still wear primitive clothing, but speak English very well.  All cars and trucks drive on the opposite side of the road.  No blackout rules.

March 3rd, 1943

Secured flying in the morning.  Went down to the river for some swimming, but it was too dirty.  Attended Army show.

March 4th, 1943

Flight 1300.  Searched for Subs – no results.  Pilots and flight crew flew in from Canton Island.  Lost one T.B.F. in takeoff – Crew OK.

March 6th, 1943

Morning flight for Subs – no results.  U.S.S. Long Island arrived with Fighting Eleven.  F4F crashed into S.B.D. on ground – no one hurt.

March 7th, 1943

Light duties.  Sent mother and Dottie uncensored letters by a fellow returning to the States.

March 9th, 1943

Two T.B.F.’s wrecked in air!  Both planes returned safely – no one hurt.  Went up on a test hop in my plane and flew all around the island.  VG5-16 flew in from Guadalcanal with battered up planes.

March 15th, 1943

Pay day: $13.00.  Night flying – Lost an S.B.D.  Crashed in the Ocean – Crew saved.

March 16th, 1943

Collected $500.00 from the entire Air Group Eleven for a Trust fund for Mike O’Malley’s baby girl – Diane Shannon.  VG5-11 flew in with a few boys from 9/24 class.  Lost an F4F in the Sea – Pilot was killed.  Went night flying.

March 17th, 1943

T-8 crashed on take-off when pilot pulled up landing gears before he was off the ground.  Plane a complete wreck – no one hurt.

March 18th, 1943

Group Commander ordered all beards shaved off and to wear hats and shirts.  I wonder if he thinks we’re in Hollywood.

March 20th, 1943

Dress white inspection – What a joke.  I was recommended for examination as Aviation Machinist Mate Second Class.