Written by Walter James De Mamiel (1920-2022) as told to Susan De Mamiel March 22, 2022
We recently received a memorial donation for Walter James De Mamiel, who passed away on November 24, 2022, at age 102. Walter was a Gunner’s Mate, Petty Officer First Class, aboard the light carrier USS Cabot (CVL-28), which saw combat throughout the Pacific in 1944 and early 1945. Like so many veterans, Walter never spoke about his service. Only toward the end did he begin to open up about the final days of the war as he awaited the invasion of the Japanese home islands. He spent that time on Shore Patrol on Ulithi, the largest anchorage of World War II and the staging point for the planned final assault on Japan. Walter’s family cherished the little he told about the war and were able to give some context to his story by looking up our blog post on Ulithi and watching our VBC Happy Hour about the remote Pacific atoll. They donated in Walter’s memory to thank us. We’re grateful to the family and sad we never got to hear Walter share his story. Below is what he told his family.
During the last six months of World War II, I was 24 years old and in the Navy, stationed at the Ulithi Atoll, about eleven hundred miles from Tokyo. The Army was stationed there as well.
We knew it was the staging area for the invasion of Japan. It was to be a larger invasion than the one on D-Day.
The atoll is huge, about 15 miles wide and 20 miles long. There was a bay in which the ships were anchored, some for repair. I was on Shore Patrol—our job there was to keep order.
The weather there was great, except when it rained. It wasn’t a hard rain, but heavy, and steady. Our tents were army issue and very sturdy, but the rain even penetrated enough to cause a constant fine mist inside, and everything was damp. In order to completely waterproof the outside of the tent, it had to be painted!
The Japanese knew we were there. A suicide bomber attacked one of the aircraft carriers one night. One of the twin engines of the plane landed in the lagoon about 100 yards offshore from the section of Sorlen Island where we stayed. The impact of the plane threw the other engine clear into the roof of the Quonset hut where we had mess and stuck in the ceiling of the building. No one was in the building then, but three or four of the cooks who lived nearby were killed.
Thankfully the invasion never happened. We knew it was going to be very difficult. The Japanese most likely would not have surrendered, in my opinion.