Adventurous Places, Asia, Historical Journeys

Diary of a Higgins Boat Sailor in the Pacific

When one thinks of travel and adventure, a pleasant and well-planned vacation most often comes to mind. There are times, however, when a person is thrown into the midst of an epic adventure that becomes both unpleasant and entirely unpredictable. When speaking of these journeys, there are none more honorable than those enterprises of selfless service where life and liberty hangs precariously in the balance.

In 1942, the entire world was at war. My grandfather, Robert (R.C.) Triebull, answered his country’s call and reported to his local recruiter in Cicero, Illinois for enlistment in the Naval reserves. Though Robert is no longer here to tell his story, he leaves behind a diary to offer a mere snapshot of that experience. There are countless veterans who have proudly served this country since its founding; this is just one sailor’s legacy.

 

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Robert Triebull strikes a pose before going off to war.

 

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Relaxing on friendlier shores.

 

diary1

Identification page of diary

Robert C Triebull

U.S.S. Hercules

Boat Div. c/o Fleet P.O.

San Francisco, Calif.

 

Diary2

 

Navy Diary”

Robert C Triebull

Invasions-

1. Tarawa Nov. 20, 1943

2. Saipan June 15, ’44

3. Peleliu Sept. 15, ’44

4. Leyte Oct. 20, ’44

5. Luzon Jan. 9, ’45

6. Iwo Jima Feb. 19, ’45

Dec. 10, 1942

Camp Hill, Farragut Idaho

1943-

March 15- Destroyer Base Landing Craft School. San Diego, Calif.

July 26-

USS Ormsby PA49

Aug. 4-

Pearl Harbor

Oct. 1 –

USS Bellatrix KA3

 

RobertTriebull was one of 293,000 sailors who attended boot camp in Camp Farragut, Idaho during its 30 short months of existence. Camp Farragut was established as a naval training center in September of 1942. Robert reported there as a fresh recruit on December 10, 1942.

 

recruits

My grandfather (top, left) as a naval recruit in Camp Farragut, Idaho ( Company 166, 15th Battalion) -1942

 

navy idaho

A panoramic view of the Bitterroot Mountain range in the backdrop of Camp Farragut, Idaho.

 

After completing his basic training at Camp Farragut, my grandfather reported to Landing Craft School, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet in San Diego, Ca. – March 15, 1943

 

Landing Craft School

 

It was off the sunny San Diego shores that Robert learned the crucial skills needed to carry US Marines to the hostile beaches of the Pacific campaign.

 

landing craft beach

The Higgins boat or L.C.V.P. (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) offloads combat troops on a foreign shore.

 

Upon completion of Landing Craft School, my grandfather boarded the USS Ormsby (PA49) on July 26, 1943 and landed in Pearl Harbor, HI on August 4.

 

Ormsby

The USS Ormsby (APA-49) in San Francisco Bay, July 1943

 

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Robert Triebull (right) outside Lan Ting Chinese Restaurant in Waikiki, Hawaii in 1943

 

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These two Higgins boat sailors just pallin’ around in the future Aloha State.

 

On October 1, 1943, Robert Triebull got underway aboard the USS Bellatrix (KA-3)

 

bellatrix

USS Bellatrix (AKA-3), 1943

 

Diary3

 

 1943-44

Oct. 10   Crossed the equator.

Oct. 15   Arrived in New Zealand

Good liberty

Oct. 25   USS La Salle P102

Nov. 2   Loaded up with 2nd & 6th Marines for an invasion.

Nov. 10   New  Hebrides, Efate

Nov. 20, 1943   Invasion of Tarawa

Remained 5 1/2 months of “Hell” in boat pool.

April 3, 1944   Boarded USS Yarmouth

left Tarawa “Happy Day”

April 11   Pearl Harbor boarded USS Sheridan ‘PA 51

April 16   USS Calvert PA 32

May 3   Boarded USS Hercules for duty

1944

May 29   Left Pearl Harbor loaded with 5th Marines for new invasion.

June 10    Enewatak Marshalls

June 15, 1944    Invasion of Saipan

June 26    left Saipan for Marshall

July 1    Enewatak, Marshalls

July 4   Roi, Marshalls

July 6   Kwajalein Marshalls

July 12   Back in Pearl Harbor

Aug. 1  Loaded up

Aug 3   Got underway for Solomon Is.

Aug. 13   Arrived in Guadalcanal

Aug. 16   Tulagi

 

la salle

USS La Salle (AP-102)

 

On October 25, 1944, after enjoying some good liberty in Wellington, New Zealand, Robert Triebull boarded the USS La Salle  with the 2nd & 6th Marines and prepared for the invasion of Tarawa.  As part of Task Force 53, the USS Lasalle steamed into the New Hebrides on November 10, where Robert conducted  landing boat exercises with marines in preparation for the assault on Tarawa.

On November 20, my grandfather participated in the bloody invasion of Tarawa by delivering the 2nd and 6th Marines to the beaches under the heavy  fire of 4,500 Japanese defenders. Unfortunately, on the day of the invasion, the tides fail to rise like normal and the majority of the Higgins boats got caught on the reefs stranding many marines 500 feet off shore.

 

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Marines climbing down ropes to awaiting Higgins boats below during the invasion of Tarawa.

 

Marines Tarawa

Loaded up with  2nd & 6th Marines, this is the view my grandfather would have beheld as he sped towards the exploding Tarawa beach .

 

After surviving the invasion, my grandfather remained on the island of Tarawa for what he referred to as “5  1/2 months of hell”.

 

Japanese woman

Photograph my grandfather presumably removed from the remains of dead Japanese soldier on Tarawa

 

type 99

My grandfather brought this Japanese Type 99 Light Machine Gun home from the Pacific by allegedly concealing parts inside cigarette cartons and duffel bags.

 

On May 29, 1944,  Robert Triebull loaded up with the 5th Marines aboard the USS Hercules (AK-41) and set sail from Pearl Harbor – underway for a new invasion.

 

uss hercules

USS Hercules (AK-41)

 

On June 15, 1944, Robert Triebull participated in the invasion of Saipan. During the onset of the invasion, Japanese warplanes made multiple attacks on his ship without causing any significant damage.

 

sunken higgins

A sunken Higgins boat still rests on the ocean floor. It  took a direct hit during the Saipan Invasion on June 15, 1944.

 

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1944-1945

Aug. 24    Russell Is.

Aug. 28    “Espirito Santo”  New Hebrides

Sept. 2     Back in Guadalcanal

Sept. 8     Underway for a new invasion.

Sept, 15, 1944   Invasion of Peleliu in the Palau Group

Oct. 1     Hollandia, New Guinea, Dutch  East Indies

Oct. 5    Loaded up with doggies (army soldiers) for new invasion.

Oct. 20, 1944    Invasion of Leyte in the Philippines

Oct. 27    Back in Hollandia, New Guinea, Dutch East Indies

Nov. 5     Morotai Is.,  New Guinea across from Jap held Halmahera

Nov. 6      Loaded up with more supplies & doggies to take to Leyte.

Nov. 14-17   Unload at Leyte

Dec. 1     Aitape, New Guinea

Dec. 28    Underway with doggies and cargo for new invasion

Jan. 4    Mindanao Sea

Jan. 5    Mindanao Sea

Jan. 6    Sulu Sea

Jan. 7    South  China Sea

Jan. 8    South China Sea

Jan. 9-13, 1945    Invasion of Luzon Philippines, Lingayen Gulf

 

Peleliu

Aerial view of Peleliu invasion on September 15, 1944

 

After offloading marines to shore during the assault on Peleliu, Robert Triebull  returned to the USS Hercules where he set sail for New Guinea.  In Hollandia, the USS Hercules was loaded up with army soldiers and new supplies in preparation for the next invasion.  On October 20, 1944 , my grandfather was amongst the group of sailors that carried General MacArthur to shore in the battle for Leyte Gulf. General MacArthur vowed to one day return to Leyte after suffering defeat there in 1942.  When the General had fled the Philippines nearly three years earlier, he had left behind nearly 90,000 malnourished and sickened American and Filipino soldiers. Those soldiers eventually surrendered to Japanese forces and were led on the infamous Bataan Death March. During the sea battle that ensued outside of Leyte in 1944, American sailors encountered Kamikaze pilots for the very first time.

 

Leyte

General MacArthur wades to shore in the invasion of Leyte, Philippines.

 

Higgins boats also carried General MacArthur to shore in Luzon  on January 9, 1945. The Allied victory in Luzon ended the Japanese occupation in the Philippines permanently.

 

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Jan. 13    South China Sea

Jan. 14    South China Sea

Jan. 15    Sulu Sea

Jan. 16    Leyte, Philippines

Jan. 19    Underway for Ulithi

Jan. 23    Arrived in Ulithi, Carolines

Feb. 6     Underway for Guam

Feb. 8     Arrived in Guam, Marianas

Feb. 17    Left Guam loaded with 3rd Div. Marines & cargo, headed north for scheduled operation.

Feb. 19    circled island

Feb. 27    Iwo Jima operation “D+8”  unloaded 3rd Marines and cargo

March 20    Underway from Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands with 4th Marines & cargo, headed for Guam

March 22    Arrived in Guam

March 23    Underway with same load aboard, got rid of boats but we stayed aboard.

March 27    Arrived in Enewatak, Marshalls

March 28    Underway with same load for Hawaii

Apr. 4          Pearl Harbor

Apr. 6          Underway with same load for Maui, Hawaiian Is.

 

My grandfather carried the 3rd Marines to the shores of Iwo Jima on the eighth day of the invasion – February 27, 1945. He arrived the  same day the American flag was being  raised over Mount Suribachi. The historic photograph snapped that day would inspire a war-weary nation and forever symbolize the faithfulness and valor of the United States Marine Corps.

 

Iwo Jima

US Marines raise the Stars and Stripes over the volcanic island of Iwo Jima.

 

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Apr. 7    Arrived in Maui, Hawaiian Is. had a big reception waiting at the dock for the 4th Marines. WELCOME HOME IWO HEROES. Native girls danced, ect. Unloaded troops and cargo

April 8    Back in Pearl Harbor

May 1    Honolulu Harbor loaded up.

May 4    Underway for Guam. Scuttle butt pretty thick about going to the States after Guam.

May 12    Enewatak, Marshall.

June 1st    Underway for Guam

June 3       Arrived in Guam, commenced unloading

June 9       Underway for San Francisco “Happy Happy Day” (final entry)

 

in memory of

In memory of Robert Charles Triebull, US Navy – WWII

 

Whatever journey life takes us on, let’s not forget those that have gone before. Many have sacrificed greatly so our paths could become easier.

 

Happy travels,

Big John

 


14 comments on “Diary of a Higgins Boat Sailor in the Pacific

  1. Big John! Thank you so much for posting this beautiful reflection of history. My Grandfather, Edgar Lewis Barker served as a CMM on board the La Salle. I know there is a very slim chance our grandfathers meet, but through your writing I was able to get a glimpse of what my grandfather went through. I know that after Tarawa, he wrote that he was a “changed man” and “would never be able to go back to the way he was”. Now, I can understand his statements a little bit better. Thank you again.

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  2. Awesome! That is amazing what you have put together for your grandfather’s log. My grandfather was on the LA Salle in ww2. I still have all his maps of the landing craft rts and the maps of the invasion of Saipan. My grandfather’s name was Frank Harkai.

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  3. My Dad, my hero! Dad you often said you didn’t understand why you came back from the war alive when you saw thousands perish around you. But you had a legacy to fulfill! Namely your wife, 6 children destined for heaven, 22 grandchildren, and presently 33 greatgrandchdren.! I know our Jesus is pouring on you all the love and acclaim you always deserved! Your No. 1!!!

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  4. Wow! I’m even more proud of my Daddy, if that’s possible! John my Dad would be so thankful of you for doing that for him and all the other men that had to live that nightmare. Anyone that knew my Dad, knows he could never talk about that time in his life. But with you John, he was able to open up some, and I thank GOD he was able to talk to you even though it was so painful. You did a wonderful tribute for him, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart! I Love You John, Aunt Diane

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    1. Hi, long shot here but do you know if your dad was related to Paul Triebull who lived in Cicero. He was married to Esther Magull. They had a daughter Ada. I am researching my family history and trying to determine if the Magull family was related to my Wegner family. Thank you, Gail Wilson Gswilson19@aol.com

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