Castle Roland

The Trader

by Charles Bird


Chapter 9

Posted: 11 Feb 16


Copyright © 2012-2015 by Charles Bird

Part One

SS Alpaco

The characters, localities and happenings in this story are the products of the author's imagination or, are used fictitiously. The story is copyrighted and is the property of the author and may not be copied, reproduced or retransmitted without his express permission.

From Chapter 8: They hauled Soldiers and Marines to Silago on a round trip basis for a month, before the demands for men and materials began to slacken. Target destinations began to move northward and the war progressed and, on one return both Captains Turner were asked to a conference. Toby and Gyles sat in a conference room at the Navy Base as they were told of their next destination, IWO JIMA! At LAST The invasion of Japan was about to begin!


Early in February, both the Turner and the McPherson loaded United States Marines and their equipment for the Southeastern Coast of Iwo Jima, Futatsune Beach. They were told it would be a lighter off-loading as there were no harbor facilities available to them on the small island that was to be a stepping stone to Tokyo.

They set sail on February 13th and met their convoy screen at Brisbane. Four Turner ships were involved, the Turner and the McPherson as well as the Packer and the Camel. The latter two were old ships and were capable of only about thirteen knots. That was going to make it a slow trip to Iwo Jima.

They picked up Japanese long range bombers early in the voyage, they didn't attack, but seemed to be following them, trying to learn their destination.

As they passed through the Solomon Islands and out into the open sea, they headed slightly northeast, towards Guam, where they picked up the Saipan Ridge. The Ridge was a dangerous place to submarines and would afford them some protection between Guam and Iwo Jima. They arrived off the southeastern coast of Iwo Jima on the 22nd of February.

The battle had already been raging and the wounded were backed up on the beach in makeshift shelters and only a very few doctors. The cries and pitiful calls of the wounded would make the nearby stones weep. Crewmembers on the ships assisted in beaching the cargo and Marines hauled it away as soon as the cables and hooks were released.

The lighters unloaded the Turner and the McPherson first, as they had the ammunition and heavy guns desperately needed by the troops. The Marines began firing those heavy guns almost as soon as they had maneuvered them to the top of the first line of dunes. Lines of sweating Marines formed a chain to deliver the ammunition to the guns as fast as they were hooked out of the holds.

It took three days, under constant attack, to get the two ships unloaded as they added another four thousand Marines and Soldiers to the forces as well as many tons of ammunition and guns.

The Packer and the Camel had food, fuel and medical supplies for the troops. As soon as the Turner and the McPherson were unloaded, they began the grisly task of embarking the wounded.

The forward holds on both ships had been fitted as hospitals and the ships' engineers were squeezing every drop of fresh water possible out of the distillers so that the wounded could have showers and their clothing laundered.

The Packer and The Camel were assigned the awful task of bringing the dead back to Sydney. Many of the crew of The Packer and The Camel would require psychiatric care by the time they got back to Sydney Harbor. Their holds were like a nightmare of horrors. Especially when the discovered a Marine in with the dead men, who was still alive! It would be a slow and somber trip back, only to be reloaded and ordered to "do it again"!

As the four ships backed from their anchorages, the return voyage began. They were carefully guarded by a destroyer screen and two light cruisers as they started for "home".

Army and Navy Doctors and their staffs were working day and night to save the lives of the wounded warriors, everything the ships could do was for the comfort of their passengers, the galley ran around the clock providing meals and the Captains Turner changed course often, to find the easiest riding course for the comfort of the wounded. The Japanese Navy had retreated north and the destroyer screen could find no trace of Japanese Submarines.

At Brisbane, the Convoy Commodore, Rear Admiral Sir Richard Coglin, Australian Navy, transferred his flag to the Turner and continued with the convoy to Sydney.

His plan was to make sure the wounded were properly treated upon arrival. He did not know of the efforts of Joe Turner and Turner Marine.

When the two ships docked at the Turner Piers, Joe again had the hospital tents erected and a "Welcome Home" meal for the troops was already on the grills. The Australian Coast Watchers had warned Joe of the Fleet's approach.

As the critically wounded were rushed by ambulance to the military hospitals, the walking wounded were treated to hot showers and freshly laundered clothing right there on the piers. When the Soldiers and Marines, spotted the young boys standing there, passing out bars of soap and clean wash clothes, they screamed as they ran to the hot water showers. They were not concerned about their "modesty", not when there was hot, running water to be had.

Those who were injured were helped by their fellow Soldiers and a few of the older boys even helped gently scrub the soldiers down and then helped them dry themselves. The men were so happy to see showers, clean, freshly laundered clothing and under garments, they stripped down right there on the pier, before God and all Sydney watching to get out of their vermin infested clothing and the jungle stink. Many of the soldiers were crying and could not even see where they were going, there were more boys and Australian Boy Rangers (Australian Boy Scouts), in full uniform, helping the soldiers out of the showers. Their spiffy uniforms soaking wet and they did not even care.

There were tables and chairs set up and food was being served continuously for the next four days. Local women, mostly wives of Australian Service men and more Boy Rangers, served the wounded soldiers, sailors and marines.

It would not be until after the war had ended that the troops learned that Joe Turner and Turner Marine had footed the bill for their care on the piers and the boys and young Rangers who had assisted them were the children of Turner Employees.


Joe, Toby and Gyles were called to The United States Naval Command, Australia, for a conference. When they arrived they were met by security officers, who had them sign a number of papers before they were given a green badge to wear.

They entered the conference room and stared at a huge map on the wall, it was Okinawa! The southernmost island of Japan proper!

A chill went down their backs, without being told, they knew they were going to be part of the final push to put the Japanese out of the war business!

The invasion was set for April 1, 1945. The Turner Mariner was appointed Convoy Flagship, making its Captain the Civilian Convoy Commodore!

Toby looked around and squeaked, "Who, me…..?

He looked all around, hoping they meant someone else, until Admiral Schaeffer laughed and said, "Yes, you Captain Toby Turner."

He smiled and continued, "Captain Turner, you hold the record for on-time deliveries and I have about ten thousand Marines and Soldiers and a herd of Sailors outside who claim you walk on water! So, yeah, you are Convoy Commodore, you don't think I am gonna upset those men outside do you?"

They then got down to planning the invasion, Joe offered the use of the Camel, Hauler and Trekker to ferry the wounded back to Sydney and the Admiral took him up on the offer before Joe could change his mind.

Joe wouldn't have changed his mind, but the Admiral didn't know that. The poor Admiral was at his wits' end trying to satisfy the needs of the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were fighting the war and also satisfy the desk jockeys back in Washington. He had no damned time to inventory light bulbs or count the number of popped rivets on his ships!

It was already March 10th and they would have to be ready to sail not later than March 20th. The audience groaned as they began figuring how many hours they had to get all that was needed, ready!

After the meeting, the Admiral offered the use of the Navy SeaBees (CBs) to construct bunks and facilities in the holds of the three small ships that would ferry the wounded and Joe took him up on the offer.

They already had fold down bunks in the holds of the Turner and the McPherson, each could hold more men than all three of the small ships combined.

They had ten days to get ready Joe and his sons hurried back at a dead run to Turner Marine and started the wheels turning.

All five ships would carry medical personnel, but the Turner and the McPherson were to be the largest and fastest civilian ships in the convoy, so a large compartment on each was fitted out as an operating room. The Navy supplied all the operating room equipment and they were not "stinting" on what they sent. The last in all the equipment needed was in crates, alongside the pier, waiting to be welded into place.

The fuel barges were scurrying around Sydney Harbor, fueling the ships that were going to participate in the invasion, food and supplies were loaded. The flash of electric arcs continued day and night as welders attempted to fit all the equipment into place, IN TIME for sailing! More than a few welders would continue welding as the fleet departed.

The Turner Marine ships also loaded clothing, medical supplies and simple personal items like towels, wash clothes, bars of soap, even tooth brushes and tooth paste. All supplied by Turner Marine! There were five tons of bundled underwear of assorted sizes and types for the troops, again, supplied by Turner Marine. Local boys and girls combed the neighborhoods of Sydney collecting underwear, socks, shirts and trousers for "OUR BOYS". Joe had everything washed and folded and stored away in compartments nearby to Sick Bay.

By the night of the 19th, all the ships were loaded and, at midnight, using the cover of darkness, the troops were loaded on the Turner Marine Ships.

The three older ships would slow the convoy down, but the Camel, the Trekker and the Hauler were sound ships in good repair. This far into this global war, the free offer of three sound ships, however slow, was like a gift from God!

The convoy was to originate from three ports, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin. The ships from Darwin were mostly loaded with foodstuffs that the warriors would eat once they were ashore. They would meet off the coast of Brisbane and head northeast, then north through the Philippine Sea, straight for Okinawa.

This was Toby's first time in charge of a fleet of sixty merchant ships and having to coordinate with Admiral Schaeffer and his Naval Fleet.

After he shepherded the thirty-five ships departing Sydney, he wondered if he was going to have any hair on his head by the time they got to Okinawa! Like his brother, he was totally grey now, even his eyebrows and private places had turned grey. Neither of them were thirty years old yet.

It was like herding housecats! It got worse when the other twenty-five ships joined them! The two brothers were beginning to talk to themselves. What really frightened them was that they were ANSWERING themselves too!

The convoy was confined to the sped of the slowest ship, which was twelve knots and Toby spent much time searching the charts for favorable currents and ways to bypass islands in order to gain a little time.

They were attacked by Japanese planes several times and they had to fight off one attack of suicide bombers. Fortunately, no ship was sunk, but several had been damaged. Repairs were accomplished while still underway, no ship, no matter how small, could be spared!

The worst part was, every time they were attacked, the civilian captains scattered and, it took hours for the destroyers to locate them and get them back into formation. Any of them getting lost would be a disaster, the cargoes on every single ship were vital and worse, there was NOTHING left back home, this was a total evolution, do or die!

Finally, as dawn was breaking on April 1st, Kyan Cape came up over the horizon. They were looking at the southernmost tip of Okinawa! This was the beginning of the end for a warlike Japan!

Their objective was the large bay hidden behind Kaduka Island on the East coast of the island.

The civilian convoy stood offshore while the Navy ships bombarded the coastal defenses. Each night, Soldiers and Marines were put ashore in small boats to combat the Japanese forces on the island.

It was brutal, in two days the Trekker was filled with the critically wounded and was dispatched back to Sydney with two destroyers in escort. The less seriously wounded began to fill the forward hold in the Turner, even while they were still discharging cargo and troops.

The destroyers, cruisers and one old battleship pounded the island day and night with artillery shells. The carriers flew planes on a continuous basis, dropping bombs on any targets they could find.

On the ground, there were nearly ten thousand American and Australian troops moving across the small island. The island was like a long noodle, with a bulge near the northern end and the Japanese were dug in and contested every inch as they were forced northward.

Twelve days after they landed, they received news that President Roosevelt had died. The Japanese attacked with renewed vigor, hoping the death of their leader would weaken the Americans' resolve, but that was not the case. If anything, it made the Americans even more stubborn and they attacked with renewed energy. There were rumors flying around that were later proved untrue, but the rumors that the Japanese had killed the American President spurred the American forces into a violent assault on the Japanese Forces, killing most of them. They weren't interested in capturing living Japanese, the American Soldiers wanted them DEAD, NOW!

On May 8th, victory was declared in Europe, but the Japanese vowed to continue the fight. There began a furious battle, the Japanese forces began pouring vast amounts guns and rockets at the American Forces in an effort to discourage them.

On June 2nd, with their backs to the sea, The Japanese surrendered on Okinawa. They surrendered the Philippines six days later. They were out of food, ammunition and replacement soldiers, they were defeated!

The convoy loaded all the wounded and, leaving a garrison to maintain order on the island, they departed Okinawa, leaving a broken people on a broken island.

Tens of thousands of tons of bombs and other munitions had been dropped, gunfire from whole shiploads of ammunition had been shot into the land and thousands of soldiers, from both sides, had shot at anything that moved. That any native person remained alive on Okinawa was a wonder.

The back of the Japanese fleet was broken and only a few of their planes remained airworthy. Most of their ships were now burned out hulks of scrap iron, filled with the bodies of their sailors, they were floating graveyards.

The convoy headed home, still maintaining its vigilance. Several times, Japanese planes were spotted, but they veered away from making any contact. They heard reports of suicide planes closer to the main islands of Japan, they were being called Kamikaze, but no ship in the convoy was attacked.

They sighted one Japanese warship and the destroyers surrounded it as it signaled surrender. The Japanese sailors had neither food nor ammunition remaining and their ships were low on fuel.

The convoy broke up off the coast of Brisbane and the Sydney contingent sailed on to their homeport.

On July 25th, the Sydney based ships entered port to the cheers and celebration of the entire city. The war was not over, but everyone knew the Japanese could not hold on much longer.

There were reports of swarms of American Army Air Corps bombers dropping thousands of bombs on the Japanese home islands. Toby and Gyles worked, getting their ships ready for the next convoy.

On the morning of August 6th, there was brief announcement on the radio that a special bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki. Nobody paid particular attention until later that day, when the American Armed Forces Radio announced that Tokyo had been destroyed by a bomb they called an Atomic Bomb!

They could hardly believe it, could a single bomb really destroy a whole city?

Three days later, people were still having a hard time believing the reports about this Atomic Bomb, when the Americans dropped a second Atom Bomb on Hiroshima and that most of the city was reported flattened and what remained was on fire!

Five days later, on August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally.

All Hostilities ceased, at long last, after years of fighting, The War was over!

The entire city of Sydney was dancing in the streets, men and women hugging each other. Joe gathered all his Captains, who were in port, and he had a quiet drink with them and thanked them for all they had done during the awful conflict that just ended. As they left, Joe asked Toby and Gyles to remain behind.

He sat down with his sons, for he had adopted Gyles and Gyles had taken the name, Turner, just after the war had begun.

Those downstairs in the building heard both Toby and Gyles shouting, "NO" and then there was quiet.

Joe had told them he was going to retire and they were going to take over management of the company.


The war is over, now what will become of Turner Marine Services Company?

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