Interview With Richard Plank

From the interview with Richard Plank of Kaiser, OR conducted by Clio Ward on March 4, 2014 from the Fort Worden History Center. Mr. Plank served in the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, Company B in 1949-51, assigned to the Weapons Platoon as a staff sergeant. Here he discusses a memorable maneuver:

“ Our first maneuvers were in Hawaii and it was a military operation called ‘Operation Mickey’. We made our amphibious landing on the opposite side of Oahu from Honolulu. We were just under that big range of mountains on Oahu, this range of mountains is pretty high, and it comes right down, almost to the shoreline. Anyway, the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment was a combat engineer outfit that specialized in amphibious landings and that is what we did. An APA is about a 550 foot troop transport,the Pickaway. We loaded off the Pickaway into landing boats and made an amphibious landing on the beach and our job was transporting troops and materials across the beach. That is what this outfit specialized in.

My three machine guns, one was on one end of the beach and the other was on the other and the third one was right in the middle of everything and our job was to keep an eye and make sure that the enemy forces didn’t come in by boats and flank us. This maneuver lasted three or four days. From there, we reloaded, After Operation Mickey, we spent about the next seven days in Honolulu at a military base. From there we loaded on an LST and floated back up to Port Townsend.

They were slow moving suckers. They are off speed about nine knots, I think. Anyway, we had on the trip back to Port Townsend, to Fort Worden, about the first three days out of Honolulu, the weather was just absolutely beautiful. The ocean was flat. Then we hit a nasty storm and it was stormy almost all the way to Port Townsend. I was stationed on this ship which was full of heavy earth-moving equipment, caterpillars and graters and all kinds of things like that. I was in a compartment along one side that was initially a Navy chief’s facility and it wasn’t a very big room. My bunk was right under the main deck, the top deck of this ship, and running the length of it, right over my berth, was a steel runner of some sort, like a C-shaped runner or something, right under the main deck. In this compartment, which was only about ten feet long, I could lay in my bunk during this storm and watch this steel runner. It was kind of interesting. I would go up on the deck and stand with my back to the superstructure on an LST which is located on the stern and watch as the LST went over these big waves coming at us. We were heading right into them, and watch the deck plates buckle as the ship went over them.

There is not a big crew on LSTs. In the middle of the mess deck, hung a great big coffee urn. The thing would probably hold 20 gallons of coffee. It was hanging on a chain and you could go in there at any time and get a cup of coffee except when during this storm, this thing was swinging back and forth, and you didn’t dare get close to it, because if it ever hit you, it would knock you clear across the compartment. It was a fun trip, so to speak.”

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