I'll Never Forget

Lew Cowden: Then & Now


The following is excerpted from a letter sent by Machinist Mate second class, Lewis Cowden, to his parents from USS Whitehurst on Nov. 7, 1944


Dear Mom & Dad;

We received word today that we can tell you a little bit about what we have been doing and what action we have seen in our latest operation.

Well it was the invasion of the Philippines.  You are always trying to guess where I am.  Did you guess right?

We were assigned to a convoy of tankers and ammunition ships. We were to refuel the fleet outside the Philippines.  We left our port and cruised around fueling different sections of the fleet each day.  We were in Jap waters at the time.  The invasion had not started yet.

We were not in the first wave that hit Leyte Gulf, but we were there darned soon after.  We had precious and badly needed cargo, and word was passed that we were to protect our convoy at all costs.  When we got into Leyte, the big ships were still knocking out positions on the beach.  We were under constant air attacks the first three days we were there.  We were laying smoke screens all day.  Our uptakes got so hot there was a fire in the forward drying room.  We continued to refuel the fleet as we could.  The air attacks disturbed that very much.  We saw our fleet battle it out with a Jap task force at the mouth of Leyte Gulf.  It was a sight I'll long remember.  We couldn't tell which were our ships.  We heard Jap propaganda all day telling how the American Navy was destroyed, and they said the entire bay at Leyte was littered with wrecked ships.  We could look out and see our ships standing just as strong and proud as ever.  I wonder who they are trying to kid?

We got our cargo unloaded and our tankers emptied and left the Philippines.  It was on our way back that we were attacked by a submarine.  There is no doubt in our minds as to whether we were the victor in that battle.  We are all proud in our own way that we were able to make a few good Japs.

We are headed for a base now and mail, I hope.  Write soon

Submitted to "The Times"* by Cowden's daughter, Lynn Moore, Pleasanton. She notes:  "As I reread this letter I am moved by the racial slurs toward the enemy.  I guess that is the only way good people are able to kill others.  My father did not carry that with him.  One of his best friends and frequent guest in our home, was a Japanese engineer with whom he worked on many projects." 

*The Times serves San Ramon, Pleasanton, and several other California towns east of Oakland.


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