Delmar Albert Higham
Served August 1942 - December 1945
by Shelby Reid
Delmar Albert Higham was born January 10, 1921, in Centerfield, Utah to Albert E. and Florance Childs.  He graduated from high school in 1940 and then went on to Snow College on a music scholarship.  He worked through the summer thinning sugar beets in the hay fields and helping thresh grain to help pay for college.  He left school in the spring because he ran out of money.  He started back to school in the fall of 1941 and then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  That changed the direction of his life.

Delmar enlisted in the Navy, but it wasn't until August of 1942 that he was called into service.  He left Gunnison for the San Diego Navel Training Station and arrived there in September.  This was the first time Delmar had ever been away from Gunnison.  The first night there they were assigned their bunks.  They finally got to bed, lights out at 9 p.m. “That was the shortest night I ever spent.  It seemed like we had just gotten to sleep and someone was shaking us awake.  It was 5 a.m. and breakfast was at 6 a.m.  Then we were issued our clothing, and uniforms etc.  The rest of the day was spent getting our uniforms stenciled, lining up for shots and drilling, and getting assigned to our barracks and Company 504.  From then on it was a busy time.  I didn't know the navy could find so many things to do,” said Delmar.  Each day began with Reveille at 5 a.m.  The bugler would wake them up at 5 a.m.  “We had a saying that went like this: some day were going to murder the bugler, some day they're going to find him dead, and then we'll get the other pup, the one that wakes the Bugler up and spend the rest of our life in bed,” reported Delmar.

There were a number of chores to do.  They had to do their own laundry, make up their bunks, do drills, and take watch or guard duty.  They learned to do hand signals, read a compass, then of course they pulled, or were assigned to mess hall duty.  “We peeled potatoes by the ton it seemed,” he said.  After about two weeks of boot camp, they were assigned some sort of school.  Some were sent to Radio school, others to Communications.  He was assigned to Machinist school.  “I spent about 8 hours a day in school.  It was a good experience for me,” he said.

“I remember one time while I was a young sailor on duty, there was another young sailor with me.  This 90 day wonder (a young officer) came up to us and said to the guard who was with me, “What would you do if a person came up to you and you told him to stop and he didn't, what would you do?”  He took his Billy club and hit him over the head, knocking him cold.  When the Ensign came to, we thought we were in for it, but there wasn't a thing he could do.  He asked what he would do and he got his answer,” Delmar reported.

Well after Machinist school, they were given 10 days leave to go home.  After that they were assigned to duty.  He was assigned to the USS Oyster Bay AGB 6.  The ship was in the process of being built.  He went from San Diego to San Francisco.  He spent a month there and then he boarded a train for Bremerton, Washington, where they waited until the ship was ready.  Finally they boarded and went on a shake cruise for San Francisco where they were outfitted for the trip to the South Pacific.  They left San Francisco January 1, 1943.  They didn't know exactly where they were headed until they had traveled a hundred miles out to sea.  The captain opened the orders and they were told they were headed for New Guinea.

It was at this time that he learned what it was to be a sailor.  They were assigned their duty aboard ship.  “We were like a small self-contained town.” He stated.  There were 350 men and officers aboard the USS Oyster Bay.  The ship was divided into sections or divisions.  The above deck crew consisted of 1st division which was the forward bow of the ship.  The 2nd division was from midship aft to the fantail of the ship.  Then there was the cook's mess hall and then the engine crew.  On the trip over, Delmar was assigned to the wheelhouse, as a Helmsman.  He steered the ship.  We were on watch four hours and off  four hours.  That went on around the clock for the entire voyage of 28 days.  About ten days out they encountered a terrific storm.  “The waves were so high the ships bow would be submerged.  The waves would break over the ship.  I thought the ship would break apart.  That lasted for three  days.  They had made three miles headway and were off course ten miles.  "Glad that was over!” exclaimed Delmar.

There were a lot of seasick boys during that time.  That is the worst type of sickness.  To make it worse, they had an old Gunners mate, about as tough as an old boiled owl.  What did he do, but go down to the ships galley and get a greasy pork chop, tied it on a string and went dragging it around the deck among all the seasick sailors. “I know for a fact that there are little green men on earth.  That's what  seasick sailors look like - green men,” he stated.

Well, they survived that!  As they neared the equator, it was sort of a tradition that all new sailors be initiated into the Davey Jones Locker.  Its quite a ceremony.  For two or three days, the old salts aboard made preparation for the ceremony.  They built a big tank on the deck and filled it with water.  They had to build a chair that could be tipped backward so that those who were initiated could be dumped into the tank.  Getting in was easy; the hard part was getting out.  “You see the tank was lined around the outside with men who were there to keep you from getting out.  It was like trying to climb out of an ice pit with soapsuds on the walls.  Every time you tried to get out, someone pushed you back down.  Well, I survived that ordeal.  We were made members of King Neptune’s Kingdom,” he stated.

Well, the fun was over.  They were now considered Old Salts, Seasoned Sailors.  On the way to Brisbane, Australia, we had a submarine scare.  Their radar picked up a submarine following them.  To make matters worse, one of the ship's main engines was out of commission.  “Did you ever try steering a ship with two engines pulling against one?  Not an easy task,” he stated.  They managed to outmaneuver the submarine and arrived safely in Brisbane, Australia.  They were off to a place on the northern tip of Australia called the Townsville.  Then on to Kana Kopa, New Guinea, where they picked up two Squadrons of PT boats.  That was the mission of the USS Oyster Bay.  They were a tender.  That is, they carried the fuel, ammunition, and torpedoes and made repairs for these boats.  They carried 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel, plus all spare parts for the needs of the boats.  This, in addition to preparing meals and feeding 350 men, plus the crews of all 24 PT Boats, assigned to them.  “I was assigned as a crane operator among other duties.  We were all assigned to be on a gun crew,” he said.  They had two 5” guns, four 40 millimeter twin turrets, and six 20 millimeter anti-aircraft guns.  It wasn't too long after reaching New Guinea, that we were engaged in a few anti-aircraft skirmishes.  “It seemed like it was shortly after we arrived in New Guinea that General McArthur was making his advances toward the Philippines.  From then on, we were in on practically every invasion up the coast of New Guinea.  It's interesting to note that General McArthur’s strategy, was rather than slog his way foot by foot through New Guinea, he decided to cut through the islands from both sides, an invasion cutting off the island in sections. Cutting off the Japanese forces from all supplies.  It worked and it saved a lot of lives,” he stated.

“I have given you a short glimpse of what we did as we progressed on toward the Philippines,” he stated.  Things began to get more active.  The Japanese began to lose more and more positions.  The first big battle that they engaged in was the landing at Leyte Gulf.  That was the sea battle that broke the Japanese Navy’s back.  During this battle they were attacked by Kamakize planes and Suicide planes.  These planes were given just enough fuel to reach their destination and then crash with the bomb into the target.  “You either shot them down or were hit and sometimes sunk.  It came awfully close a couple of times,” he stated.  It was at the battle of Philippines Sea, that their ships and aircraft destroyed 200 planes.

“I remember the moonlit night. We were anchored, and a lone Japanese reconnaissance plane flew over.  There was one PT Boat anchored about 100 yards off the starboard side.  There was a crewman sitting on the bow of the boat straddling the bullring, where the anchor houses go through.  This plane dropped a 500-lb. bomb hitting his boat blowing it to kindling wood.  The miracle of it was, the man sitting on the bow of the boat was blown out into the water where he was picked up.  There wasn't a scratch on him.  He suffered shock, but no physical injuries.  Believe it, or not, it is the truth.  I’ll tell you another one similar to that.  It was during a dogfight between an American fighter plane and a Japanese Zero.  The American plane was hit and virtually exploded.  The pilot was blown free of the plane still strapped into his seat landing in the ocean about 2 or 3 hundred yards from us.  We sent a launch to pick him up.  He was brought aboard unharmed, as I remember, he gave his parachute to the crew and said, “Keep it for a souvenir.”  Miracles do happen,” he stated.

“I believe the most scared I became, was when we were anchored in a harbor off one of the Islands, in the beautiful moonlight, almost like day.  All of the sudden, we saw something streaking toward us.  As it came closer we could see it was a torpedo.  We couldn’t do anything but watch it come.  I thought this is it, but fortunately for us, whoever launched the torpedo, misjudged the depth, because it went directly under us, traveling on beyond us and striking a cargo ship anchored opposite us.  I guess someone was looking out for us.  A power greater that we were,” Delmar said. 

It wasn’t too long after this that the war ended and he returned to San Francisco.  Then he received a 30 day leave to come home, after which he was discharged from the Clearfield Navel Barracks, North of Salt Lake City in December 1945.