January 26, 1943

the Wanderling

On December 31, 1941, the IV Interceptor Command, a military arm of the United States Army Air Force whose primary mission was to provide air defense for the U.S. West Coast just prior to and during World War II, reported that several enemy planes were believed to have landed and been hidden near the inland desert communities of Indio and Brawley in the Imperial Valley of California. They also reported that five messages in Japanese code were being sent daily between Brawley and Mexico City via short wave radio. At 12:32 PM in the afternoon of December 31, 1941, the Federal Bureau of Investigation relayed the following message:

"There is a plan for air and sea attack against San Diego, San Pedro and San Francisco, to take place about dawn either New Year's Day or the following Sunday. It is possible the attack will be made against San Diego and San Pedro first. Expecting cooperation from aliens ashore. The air attack will be by German airmen from across the border where planes are now under cover, taking off before dawn and coming over flying high. If air forces are alert, this can be broken up before they reach their objectives. Am sending you this information for want of better channels to advise. Remember Pearl Harbor."

IV Interceptor Command

The IV Interceptor Command, after receiving heat for releasing the above report on an event that didn't transpire, and regarded by many as 'war hysteria,' was later absolved. The planned aerial attack by German pilots from across the border was not implemented at the scheduled time having been stopped in its tracks and completely thwarted because of the espionage work of the American movie actress Rochelle Hudson --- and the reason why she is famous in the espionage world as a success. Hudson, along with her Naval officer husband, who were traveling incognito as a vacationing couple for the Naval Intelligence Service, uncovered a supply of high octane aviation fuel stashed by German agents in Baja California. After the discovery the stash was dealt with appropriately and without the necessary fuel to implement the planned attack, it was scrapped.

In March 1942, three months after their more-or-less fairly conventional, albeit sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese planned on introducing rather unconventional biological weapons against U.S. and Allied troops during the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines. Before they were able to set the plan into motion the Americans surrendered. Three years later, on March 26, 1945, with Japan now finding herself on the ropes, a highly top secret biological warfare attack, only aimed directly against the United States mainland, partly based on the Philippines plan but much, much bigger, given the code name "Cherry Blossoms at Night," was finalized. The plan was to use special aircraft equipped long-range submarines so designated as I-400s, each carrying three 300 mph Aichi M6A Seiran single wing attack-bomber floatplanes, each loaded with plague-infected fleas:

"The submarines were to surface off the coast of San Diego, then the Japanese planes would fan out over a wide area and deep as possible inland keeping high populations in mind, all the while along their routes dropping balloon bombs filled with plague infested fleas. The end results were to infect and kill as many people as possible, with figures ranging into the tens of thousands. The Japanese, knowing the U.S. might be able to contain the spread of disease somewhat quickly within reason, chose San Diego because of its proximity to Mexico and especially so Tijuana with its high population, and most likely lack of ability of the Mexican government to respond fully to the crisis, thus not containing the spread of the disease before completion of its intended impact."

JAPANESE MIDGET SUBMARINES: Operation Cherry Blossoms At Night

Between the dates so mentioned above, the S.S. Lewis Cass, a type EC2-S-C1 cargo transport Liberty ship originally laid down November 27, 1942 at the Terminal Island shipyards, launched one month later on December 29, 1942, and completed January 12, 1943, appeared seemingly the same as hundreds and hundreds of similar type ships churned out one after the other during the war. What ended up different about the Lewis Cass, and for those that worked on her, was that on January 26, 1943, not even two weeks after she was completed, the Lewis Cass, on a routine voyage from Los Angeles to the Canal Zone loaded with mundane military stores, was laying in ruins after having, they said, broken apart and grounded on the beach on an island called Guadalupe off Mexico's Baja California's west coast, an island probably not more than 325 miles directly due south in a straight line from Terminal Island.

Another thing unusually different about the Lewis Cass and her wreckage was that the Navy reported that the ship had numerous holes in it's hull, just letting it go at that. No explanation as to how the holes got there or what they were caused by. So too, there was no questions or formal investigation by Naval authorities to determine why a brand new ship less than two weeks from having left it's construction lair broke into pieces and sank. Except for the death of two crew members, the 85 man crew, which included a navy gun crew, was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hermes (although one lifeboat with 17 aboard drifted at sea for 20 days before being found). Collectively neither the Navy, Coast Guard nor surviving crew were talking.[1]

(please click image, then scroll down to read the comments as to her fate)

BEFORE the U.S. Liberty ship the S.S. Cass met her untimely demise off the coast of Baja Mexico, some 2000 miles to the west across the Pacific, the huge aircraft equipped long range Imperial Japanese Navy submarine the I-9 surfaced just off the starboard quarter of the Lahaina, an unarmed Matson Lines' steamer enroute unescorted from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland with a civilian cargo of molasses and scrap iron. The day was Thursday, the date December 11, the year 1941, only four days after the December 7th sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

The I-9, still wet from having just surfaced, immediately fired a warning shot across the bow of the Lahaina. Like most merchant traders in the Pacific at the time they were new to any aspects of war. The Lahaina, following protocol, sent out an S.O.S. while the crew abandoned ship. The I-9, rather than using torpedoes on the noble carrier of molasses, stood just off the starboard side but still close enough to unleash a barrage of twenty-five 5.5 inch shells from her deck gun, puncturing the whole side of the ship full of holes, with at least eight clearly hitting the starboard and four port with the rest, if not missing, ripping through most of the upper superstructure setting it on fire. With that, seemingly satisfied with the results, the over 350 foot long submergible warship turned and slipped beneath the waves, silently disappearing into the depths of the Pacific with her 100 man crew, brave men all.

The next morning, after spending the night close by in lifeboats, and with no signs of the submarine being near or returning, several members of the crew including the ship's master reboarded the Lahaina finding fire and flooding rampant throughout the vessel. With no way to combat it effectively, after scrambling for potable water and a few stores, they were forced to withdraw. That afternoon the Lahaina exploded, almost instantly capsizing to port and sinking. On December 21, 1941, about ten days after the attack, with the assistance of the USCG cutter Tiger (WPC-152), thirty survivors of the Lahaina reached Maui after having incurred the loss of four lives.

(for larger size please click image)

When the U.S. officially entered the war following Pearl Harbor, my dad, who had been working for Firestone Tire & Rubber, was for the most part, a carpenter by trade. He tried over and over to join what was known as the Sea Bees, the U.S. Navy Construction Battalion, and always, even though a lot of his carpenter and construction friends were accepted and going in, he was continually turned down because of his age. Meanwhile, during the interim as he saw it, he worked in the shipyards on Terminal Island building and repairing Liberty ships, a position or job that he ended up doing for the rest of the war. What he actually did in the shipyards, that is, was he a welder, riveter, pipe fitter, or worked on wood I never learned. I do remember from my childhood he wore big black steel-toed engineer boots and worked long hours and all kinds of shifts.

One day, in a highly unusual move by higher ups, he and a bunch of his fellow co-workers were pulled off the job and assembled together as a group in a room for some sort of a meeting. As it turned out, the only thing any of them had in common besides generally working alongside each other in some fashion, was the fact that each had at one time or the other, worked together on building one specific given ship, the Lewis Cass. The shipyards ran 24 hours a day with numerous shifts and crews coming and going at all hours of the day and night. So said, seldom if ever did a single crew work straight through start to finish on one single ship, although there was often a general three-part core group of workers that came and went assigned to a specific ship.

The powers that be interrogated everyone at the shipyards that had any connection with the Lewis Cass for hours, sometimes individually in isolation, other times two or three in a group, groups that they shifted around between individuals. They even had a few whole group question and answer sessions. Towards the middle of the second or third day they started releasing some of the people, but before they did they asked if anyone had any experience or interaction, no matter how small or minor, with anything that had to do with Japanese submarines. A handful of workers raised their hands of which my dad was one. Of the group, after talking to each worker one-on-one, three were selected with my dad being one of the three. His only experience with anything that had to do with Japanese submarines was him taking me and my two brothers down to the beach in Redondo to look at a two-man Japanese midget submarine that had washed up on shore, with him lifting me up to the hatch to peer inside. No matter, for those doing the questioning, after talking to him about every small detail, it was enough. The next day he and several others, mostly big shot types he had never seen before plus the the other two know-about-submarine guys, both of which were way out of my dad's league when it came to submarines because they each had been crew members aboard ships that had been torpedoed, were on their way by boat to Guadalupe Island.

A few hours into the trip the group was filled in on the Lewis Cass and her fate. Apparently on January 26, 1943, the S.S. Lewis Cass, a type EC2-S-C1 cargo transport Liberty ship only two weeks old and not far from where she was built, was grounded just off the beach on the west side of Guadalupe Island, Mexico, about 250 miles southwest of San Diego, California.

Immediately after the Lewis Cass went down a Navy investigation team arrived on the scene. What became of that investigation is not known other than according to the Navy the demands and rigors of the war effort prevented the ship with numerous holes in it's hull from being salvaged; so the Navy decided to leave it to the sea and the elements. Apparently they went back on more than one occasion. It is known they returned at least one other time, sending a more-or-less higher profile but less official, albeit still Navy, scouting party to look her over.

The men selected at the shipyard were told they were on their way to the wreck site to see if they could determine the cause of the ship's sudden demise. Although nothing had been lodged against the shipyard, the under the breath official story circulating around was that after the Lewis Cass had been driven ashore by a heavy storm, because of possible flaws or potential malfeasance during construction she unjustifiably and prematurely broke into pieces and sank. A few members of the Lewis Cass crew, all of who had been quickly separated and mysteriously disseminated across the seven seas, came forward telling a different story, of which at the time the people giving the briefing were not at liberty to discuss, wanting to hear the outcome of the investigation first.

Thousands of miles across the Pacific from Guadalupe Island was another island, an island of huge major strategic importance to both the Japanese and the U.S. in determining the direction and final outcome of the war. That island was known as Guadalcanal.

From the very early stages of the fighting, ever since Japan had moved farther and farther down into the South Pacific, her military forces had been capturing and taking a string of islands all around the northern reaches of Australia apparently gearing up for an impending invasion. Australia was too big of a prize to leave under the control of the U.S. and her the Allies for any reason, staging bases or otherwise. Guadalcanal was a major linkpin in the Japanese plan. They reached Guadalcanal in May of 1942 and immediately set about building an airfield, something the U.S. couldn't allow to happen, at least not for any use by the Japanese. On August 7, 1942, U.S. Marines landed on Guadalcanal moving in eventually gaining control of the airfield, which they quickly named Henderson Field. The Japanese forces were unsuccessful in all attempts to retake Guadalcanal with both sides enduring serious losses in men, ships, aircraft, and resources. The Japanese had lost some 20,000 men with large numbers of the remaining 10 to 12,000 men sick, injured, or starving.

As the events in Guadalcanal continued to deteriorate for the Japanese, turning more-and-more toward a deeply adverse outcome relative to any previously anticipated favorable results, the Japanese military hierarchy back home became deeply divided in how it should be handled. The top dogs, Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo wanted total military success regardless of costs, human or otherwise. The other side wanted the military forces to withdraw in order to have the ability and strength to fight another day. The Emperor and Tojo weren't buying into it. As it was, most of the remaining troops on Guadalcanal under Japanese command were not only basically starving to death, a large number of them were so weak they could barely walk let alone fight.

With no one considering surrender, basically only two options existed. One, let the troops battle to the end with what they already had in place, accepting their fate against the Americans, or two, evacuation. The field-level military brass were not willing to abandon their soldiers to starvation, death and defeat, which by default left open as they saw it, only evacuation. Before any such effort to do so could be officially implemented Hirohito would have to not only be informed, but be receptive to the idea as well. Once told, Hirohito was said to have been irate beyond words. He could not believe that the combined forces of both his Army and Navy had not been able to defeat the Americans in spite of more than four months of intense and exhausting fighting. No matter how the generals phrased it or what the emperor was told, he was not satisfied. After consulting with his own inner circle Hirohito pretty much told them to deal with the evacuation, but something of major proportions would have to be done to redirect the American focus, nothing less than a game changer that would cause the U.S. to redeploy the concentration of ships, troops, and interest from the Pacific --- and he already had that game changer in mind.

Under the Emperor's auspices, he, no longer concerned with Guadalcanal or any outcome thereof except on a broader, more general level, mandated a directive to put into place, at least as a first step, an inexpensive yet feasible non-manpower-intensive strike against America that would disrupt the populace and their ability to continue to ship and produce weapons and war machines from the west coast. Which leads us back to Guadalupe Island, my dad, the S.S. Lewis Cass, the I-9, the Lahaina, and a person I call my Merchant Marine Friend.

During the above period, the previously mentioned semi-infamous aircraft equipped trans-oceanic IJN submarine the I-9, whose modus operandi was known to use her deck guns to blow holes into hulls and superstructure of unsuspecting merchant cargo ships until they sank, after arriving off the North American coast near Cape Blanco, Oregon on December 19, 1941, was sent on December 22nd to her patrol sector, which of all places, just happened to be Guadalupe Island. Then, following orders to depart after malingering in Guadalupe waters, the I-9 arrived in Kwajalein January 1, 1942.

In response to the Emperor's re-focusing strike against America, which had since gone from a request or idea into the hands of others to actually implement something, a something that had morphed into a covert operation involving not only Guadalupe Island, but also the I-9 because she had been deployed in that location previously and her officers and men thus then, could be considered somewhat more knowledgeable of the area than others might be. So said, on January 10, 1943, despite what records may or may not indicate, kept records which until she shows up again around February 12, 1943 in Yokosuka, are almost day-to-day photo-copy repetitive with no positive results forthcoming from any action she may have been reported as participating in, the I-9, one year after having left Guadalupe, under a total high security blackout, departed for there once again.

The Japanese kept highly precise and accurate records on the movement and whereabouts of all the submarines in their fleet, where and when they were at a given place, commanders and crews, and their ultimate demise and location. So too, the U.S. and her Allies kept tab on them as well, more specifically so as found in the Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee report and, except in some places where the records were manipulated in some fashion to cover a covert mission, pretty much match right on. One example of mismatches or manipulation can be found in relation to the I-25 when it disappeared for several weeks while on a highly secret covert mission delivering a two-man midget submarine to one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California in the hopes of nuking Los Angeles. Another was the Japanese ghost submarine the I-12. Nobody is sure about that one. The I-12 shows up in official reports as having been sunk by different ships in different locations at least five times. The I-9 falls into that manipulation of records category as well, however, where the I-12 was a bit more on the unconventional side in what she did and how she did it, the I-9 leans like the I-25, more toward the conventional side. Although it must be said, all three covert missions by all three subs were on the way out side. The I-12 by the way, had a grand legacy, like the I-9, of machine gunning defenseless lifeboat survivors from ships they sank as well as unleashing her deck guns against the hulls of the same ships until they sank. The I-12 also had five U.S. "kill flags" painted on the port side of her conning tower.

At the very same time I started high school my brothers and I had all just been called back together as a family for the first time in years. The difference this time though was that our grandmother on our mother's side was going to be the head of the household rather than some foster parent. We all settled into our newly purchased, thanks to my dad, house in Redondo Beach, each with our own bedroom, a shared bathroom for us boys, and one of her own for our grandmother. There was also another room my dad used as an office when he was there. Sometime along the way my dad, after noticing my younger brother and me taking turns struggling to cut our huge front lawn with an extremely ancient rusty and dull push-type hand mower we found stashed in the garage that we oiled-up and sharpened ourselves, than he went to Sears and bought a brand new gas engine power mower for us. Nearly as soon as he left than my brother and I built a small cart out of scrap wood and hauled the mower around the neighborhood cutting lawns for money.

Around the corner and up the street was a house built on a lot that was on a small hill that was at least five feet above sidewalk level. Because the house had a perpetually unkempt lawn that always seemed in need of mowing I thought it was a perfect place to earn a few bucks. However, the other kids in the neighborhood told me a scary old mummified man that sat staring out the window all day long and hated kids lived there and they warned me if I was smart I would never get any closer to the place than the sidewalk.

One day in the need of some cold hard cash to go to the movies or indulge in some other equally important pastime, and, after having gone to almost every house on the block trying to drum up some lawn cutting business with no success, I forced myself to climb the stairs to the porch of the mummified man and knock. A lady barely looked out from behind the door and told me she was just the housekeeper and worked there only a couple of days a week. About cutting the lawn I would need to talk to the owner, but he couldn't come to the door, I would have to come in if I wanted to to talk to him. She took me to a room that was just to the right of the entry way that looked out over the street and sure enough, sitting in a chair looking out the window was the mummified man.

During World War II, as a merchant marine, the ship he was serving on was queuing up for a convoy and given an early position amongst the other ships in the rear corner on the starboard side that he called "coffin corner," said by experienced hands to be the most easy picking location for submarines in a convoy. Even before the convoy really had a chance to get underway a wolfpack started picking at the edges and in that picking my friend's ship torpedoed. In order to save himself he had no choice but to jump overboard, landing in an area with oil burning along the surface of the water, the fire scorching his skin as he plunged through and returned for air. He spent months in recovery and rehabilitation. Because of the extent of his scorched skin, at least the exposed parts, and the fact that he sat all day in the window reading books, magazines, and newspapers, and very seldom moving, his mummified man legend grew.

He said in all the years he had lived there I was the first kid in the neighborhood to ever come up on the porch and to the door, let alone come in. He wasn't too concerned about the grass one way or the other, tall or short it didn't matter to him, but he could use, he said, a reliable person to do errands for him a couple of days a week, like go to go the post office, pick up and deliver packages, go to the drug store and library and do minor shopping for such things as fruits and vegetables and freshly ground coffee. Hence started what turned out to be a very interesting friendship between me, a ninth-grade freshman just into high school and the older, heavily scared, barely able to move ex-merchant marine, slowly morphing over time into the person I refer to over-and-over in all my writings as my Merchant Marine Friend.

He told me that as a merchant marine he had been all over the world. He had seen the pyramids in Egypt, the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec ruins in Mexico and Central America. Easter Island all by itself in the Pacific and Angkor Wat in jungles of Cambodia. He had been to Machu Picchu high in the Andes of Peru by climbing the Inca Trail and explored Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in England. Every day I came by we would talk about some place he had been. Our discussions on any one place could run over a period of weeks or sometimes just last the few hours I was there. Sometimes we would pick up where we left off and other times we would go off on some tangent discussing someplace else right in the middle of what we were talking about and not come back to the first topic for weeks.

My grandmother, at first pleased I was making a little money and making myself useful, especially helping someone seemingly as physically challenged as the merchant marine, started becoming a little more concerned when she noticed I was spending more and more time with him, a grown man, rather than any of my friends, all who were afraid to go into his house, leaving me then alone in the house with the man. She asked my dad to go by with me sometime and see how he felt. As it was they got along famously, although having a mutual friend from my dad's old shipyard days and the merchant marine's seamanship days named Guy Hague, who I had met several times, didn't hurt. The merchant marine also had a friend by the name of Truman Bethurum my dad always wanted to meet, of which my merchant marine friend was able to set up. The most important part though was when they got into a discussion about the S.S. Lewis Cass.

According to crew lists of ships hit by U-boats, in May of 1942 my merchant marine friend was on the American steam tanker S.S. Halsey. The Halsey had traversed around the southern tip of Florida from New Orleans filled to the gills with highly flammable oil and naphtha, joining a number of other ships forming up into a convoy scheduled to go to Puerto Rico. On Monday afternoon May 4, 1942, around five o'clock Atlantic War Time a sister ship getting ready to position herself to form up in the convoy was hit by one torpedo from U-564 about 15 miles north of Jupiter Inlet, Florida and two crew members were killed. Two days later, near midnight Wednesday, May 6, 1942 the Halsey was hit by two torpedoes from U-333 somewhat less than four miles east of Jupiter Inlet.

"(He) was found weeks, possibly months after his ship had been torpedoed somewhere in the Atlantic strapped with heavy ropes to a piece of debris floating all alone in the middle of the ocean, and except for being unconscious and heavily scared from the burn marks, which had seemingly healed, he was in pretty good shape. Everybody said it was a miracle, that his burns must had healed by the salt water. How he had made it in the open ocean without food or water nobody knew. Most people speculated he had been picked up by a U-boat and ejected at a convenient time so he would be found, although no record has ever shown up to substantiate such an event, nor did he recall ever being on a submarine, German or otherwise."(source)

The merchant marine's ship was torpedoed May 6, 1942 just off the Florida coast. Then, roughly nine months later, on January 26, 1943 2,340 air miles almost on a direct straight line due west across Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and Mexico itself, the S.S. Lewis Cass ran aground on Guadalupe Island, two miles southwest of a location on the island known as Northern Point. Unusually so, the importance of the Lewis Cass loss hardly even reached the height of being a minor ripple in the overall scheme of things. However, in the underground world of the merchant marine community, especially at the time in and around on the west coast, it was big. My merchant marine friend was actually a minor celebrity in that same community because of the mysterious events surrounding his being lost at sea and found alive months, and months later. So said, in those first few months of 1943, among the merchant marines the Lewis Cass was a major topic.

Of course, by the time my dad came upon the scene and he and the merchant marine met for the first time it was a good ten years after the fact, the Lewis Cass having long since passed from everyone's thoughts. However, when it came to be that the Lewis Cass was one of a few things my dad and the merchant marine had in common and since both had, at least at one time an avid interest in her, she became one of the main discussion topics between them. Because of the physical challenges the merchant marine faced he was not able to visit the wreck site itself. Most of what he knew, although well documented and researched on his part, was from second hand sources. My dad though, as mentioned above, had personally visited the site within a very short time of her demise, plus the merchant marine actually knew a fellow merchant marine, an officer, that served on the Lewis Cass, and although it was a long time since they had been in contact, he felt he could get in touch with him.

The former Lewis Cass merchant marine officer, who lived in the Pacific Northwest, was named Harry E. Hennessey. Before he became a merchant marine Hennessey had graduated from law school, passed the bar, and was a lawyer, when one day, well before the war, he decided to "go to sea" and joined up. When the Lewis Cass went down he was age 28, making him a few years short of being age 40 when my dad and I met him. Even though what happened to the Lewis Cass happened a whole decade before, without an explanation, Hennessey told us he wasn't sure if he was at liberty to discuss anything about her. Since my dad had been to the wreck site shortly after the fact, Hennessey wanted to know what is was he saw. My dad wanted to know if the Lewis Cass was a simple, straight forward going down, then why the mystery?

My dad said the starboard side of the ship's hull just above the waterline, bow to stern, as well as the above the deck superstructure, were filled with a staggered uneven line of holes, holes with a diameter of at least the size of a one pound coffee can. He had been in and around the desert for years and had seen or shot at many a tin sign and he knew what the exit side punctured by a 30-30 round looks like. The backside of the holes in the thick steel hull of the Lewis Cass looked just the same, only huge in diameter, as though done by a projectile or shell as big around as five inches. He knew to what extent it took to construct and build a viable Liberty ship. After personally observing the amount of external damage applied against her, he could see why she broke into pieces. Any deeper water and it would have broken in two, capsized, and sunk. My dad said in just the short time that elapsed between the time the wreck occurred and he showed up on the scene, the whole hulk had been gutted. Except for heavy engine compartment stuff there was nothing. No old mattresses, furniture, empty food cans, paper work, or books. Bolted down communication equipment such as should be found in the radio room had been removed as well as almost everything in the ship's control room and bridge. He also said if five inch projectiles, or projectiles of size, large or small, had passed through the sides of the hull into the below deck interior, or the holes as had been seen relative to the superstructure, there was no sign of any projectiles anywhere having done it.

Hennessey, an officer in the Merchant Marines, was also a lawyer. Being a lawyer he was viewed as, although he wasn't, since he was really no more than the sailor that he was, a trusted Officer of the Court. Thus said, he was brought in, included in and privy to, information a typical seaman aboard the Cass or anybody else would not be privileged to or entrusted with. Knowing that or pretty much guessing it to be so, I could tell my dad was getting increasingly frustrated with the evasive answers and just about the time my dad was about to tell him fuck off Hennessey looked at his watch and said he had to get going, he had a plane to catch. Swinging his jacket around after pulling it up off the back of the chair to put his arms into the sleeves, a fairly thick business size envelope apparently stuffed with folded papers, fell from an inside jacket pocket to the floor. Almost immediately my dad picked it up saying it must be his, i.e, Hennessey's. Hennessey said it couldn't be his because he didn't have an envelope in his jacket. With that he shook hands all around then went out the door down to a car parked across the street. My dad walked with him, but only after he handed the envelope to the my merchant marine friend, who was well into reading the second or third page by the time my dad returned.

The unaddressed sealed envelope had a half a dozen 8X11 pages inside. The pages were all neatly folded over into overlapping thirds, creating a perfect fit one inside the other, each typed in full, top to bottom, with sentence after sentence all done in lower case done on cheap, plain untraceable newsprint, using a new clean black ribbon. There were no dates, page numbers or signatures. So too, as was pointed out to all later, although what was written prose-wise was straightforward and simple, it was very well thought out and literate. There were no typos, misspelled or missing words, nor were any used in a wrong fashion. The last line asked that the pages not be shown to anybody else and to burn each of the pages until they were unrecognizable ashes or soot.

A couple of years after the war and still a young boy, my stepmother gave me a book titled Lady and the Tigers, a book that turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time. It was all about the Flying Tigers, written and published during the height of the war when nobody was sure who was going to win. The author, who lived through it all by actually being there, was a woman named Olga Greenlaw the wife of the second in command of the FlyingTigers. Inside the book was something she wrote that I, as a not yet 10 year old boy, never forgot. Recounting the fate of several pilots she wrote:

"I wonder what happened to him --- probably a prisoner. But the Chinese scouts found a body in the same location or thereabouts where Black Mac bailed out when Jack Newkirk got killed --- in March.

"The body was unrecognizable, as there was nothing left, the ants had eaten all the flesh, but the uniform the bones were covered with was an A.V.G. flying suit with the insignia still on it."


You might imagine what I, as a young boy thought of when I first read about the jungle ants gnawing the flesh completely clean right off the pilot's skeleton leaving nothing but bare bones laying inside the flight suit, all the internal organs gone.

So said, when I was in high school, except possibly for a little extra effort on my part in journalism and maybe art, I probably wasn't the best student Redondo Union High School ever had. However, I still remember in one of my English classes, although I don't remember which grade, we were assigned to read Carl Stephenson's short story "Leiningen Versus the Ants." The story revolves around an owner of a plantation of some kind out in the middle of the Brazilian jungle who had to do battle with a mile wide hoard of army ants devouring everything in their path, with the hoard headed straight toward his plantation. After reading the story we were to write then give an oral report. I combined what I read in Leiningen with Greenlaw's description of the downed A.V.G. pilot and for the first time ever --- and most likely my last for a high school English assignment --- I got an A.

I only bring any of the above up because at the same time the Lewis Cass stuff was going-down with the merchant marine, my dad, and me, that is, the three of us and Hennessey meeting, then the three of us reading the all of the pages that were in the envelope that fell from Hennessey's jacket pocket as he was leaving, and of which he denied ever having, was the exact same time in my life I was reading "Leiningen Versus the Ants."

Now, while both the reading of Leiningen and the reading of the typed pages regarding the Lewis Cass took place many years ago, and even though I cannot, for example, remember every tiny fraction of Leiningen down to the very last word, unlike most of my high school peers no doubt, I can recall or remember most of it enough to give a fairly good rundown on it if I had too. Unlike my peers, Leiningen took on a totally different status, becoming important to me on a personal level because of the role the Flying Tigers took in my life and the fact that it was the first time I ever got an "A." The same is true regarding the Lewis Cass typed papers. The whole scenario, start to finish was huge in my life. The papers, although like Leiningen I can't remember word for word, is nothing to this point that I have ever forgot.

According to the typed papers handed my dad, and of which I read, after the Lewis Cass left the Los Angeles harbor area headed toward the Canal Zone on what was thought was going to be no more than a routine voyage, just as the ship was about to reach a point even with the far northern tip of Guadalupe Island, unexpectedly and unannounced a pontoon equipped single wing, single engine aircraft bearing bright red Japanese insignia on her wings and fuselage swept in off the island flying the full length of the ship's hull stern to bow. While doing so, on the approach, the plane tipped to the side, one wing lower than the other, and at close range using a rear-mounted open-cockpit heavy machine gun fired by an observer aft of the pilot, began strafing the ship's upper deck and bridge. Swinging around for a second pass, and before the gun crew of the Cass could effectively man the ship's weapons, the aircraft's gunner had taken out the 5-inch stern gun and three of the four 20-mm deck mounted machine guns, rendering them inoperative. The wireless radio communication system was also disabled, at least for the short term.

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The ship and her crew, caught by surprise and suddenly left with no operable defenses, found themselves between the island on one side and a huge heavily armed aircraft equipped Imperial Japanese Navy submarine on the other. Apparently the submarine, clearly marked on the conning tower as the I-9, had either been leisurely sitting basically unseen some distance off the island's coastline, or just surfaced as the Lewis Cass came into view. The next thing the Cass and crew knew, making a squeeze play, the submarine, paralleling what little room the liberty ship had to try and make a run for it between the sub and the island southbound, began getting hit broadside by a full barrage of one after the other 5.5 inch rounds from the sub's deck gun, puncturing the whole side of the ship's hull and upper deck full of holes. Within minutes the Lewis Cass had run aground and began breaking up, with the crew attempting to escape in two lifeboats on the side of the ship facing away from submarine, that is, between the ship's hull and the island's cliffs. One of the lifeboats capsized, plunging 19 men into the sea. All others on the ship, including the navy gun crew, were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hermes sometime later after crew had scurried onshore, taking refuge among the rocks and cliffs. The other lifeboat, of which the page writer wasn't a part of, with 17 aboard, somehow slipped by the submarine's wrath, drifting at sea for 20 days before being found by the coast guard.

Immediately after the attack on the Lewis Cass and ensuring it had been rendered totally ineffective in any fashion for retaliation the I-9 began concentrating on putting herself into position to reload and secure her floatplane into the water tight compartment. However, before the plane could be loaded the Hermes came into view and closing fast. Not wanting to fall within gun range of the heavily armed cutter the I-9 quickly submerged, leaving the floatplane and her crew and anything else the sub may have been doing or planned on doing concerning Guadalupe and it's environs behind. Within seconds the plane, abandoned by her mothership, was in the air rapidly gaining altitude at first headed due west putting as much distancing between herself the cutter as quickly as possible, then was seen turning north disappearing from sight.

After locating the surviving crew members some 20 days later and being questioned by the officers of the Coast Guard cutter that picked them up, the vessel circulated around the northern tip of the island anchoring off what is called the Northeast Anchorage sending in a ground party. What was found was way above their pay grade.

It wasn't long before those ground crews discovered why the I-9 was in Mexican waters, and more specifically the why of the Japanese interest in Guadalupe Island. The uninhabited island was remote yet strategically located for their up to then unknown diabolical plan for biological warfare and the delivery thereof against the United States. The photographs below show the two easily accessible from the ocean island based already in place structures the Japanese modified and used to culture and cultivate the "germs" and the surrounding ground area to set up and test its effectiveness against live sheep.

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The S.S Lewis Cass stumbled on the I-9 just in the early stages of the submarine crew and scientists setting up the growth and delivery system for that biological warfare against the U.S. and Mexico, and many paid the price. How the remaining members of the Lewis Cass crew left alive escaped without being slaughtered down to the last person, considering the depth and insidious aspects of the Japanese plan and how the Japanese would typically solve a plan so compromised, is beyond comprehension. The whole operation being put into place, intentionally or unintentionally, was as mentioned previously, a precursor or blueprint to the few years later "Cherry Blossoms At Night." Only Japan's surrender stopped that.

In an article titled "Japan Wanted to Drop Plague Bombs on America Using 'Aircraft Carrier' Subs" by Sebastien Roblin that collaborates my own research, Robin writes that in March 1942, plans were made to drop 150 million infected fleas in ten separate plague-bomb attacks against U.S. and Philippine forces, who were fighting a desperate last stand on the swampy Bataan Peninsula of the Philippines. However, Allied forces surrendered that April, before the attack could be executed.

In March 1942, three months after their more-or-less fairly conventional, albeit sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese planned to drop 150 million infected fleas in ten separate plague-bomb attacks against U.S. and Allied troops during the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines. That April, before the Japanese were able to set the plan into motion the Allied forces surrendered.

Three years later, on March 26, 1945, with Japan now finding herself on the ropes, a highly top secret biological warfare attack, only aimed directly against the United States mainland, partly based on the Philippines plan but much, much bigger, given the code name "Cherry Blossoms at Night," was finalized. The plan was to use special aircraft equipped long-range submarines so designated as I-400s, each carrying three 300 mph Aichi M6A Seiran single wing attack-bomber floatplanes, each loaded with plague-infected fleas.

As a runner up to those potential attacks against the U.S. and her allies, Japan had already put into place and practicing their biological and chemical warfare craft against the Chinese in reality. Wikipedia writes in their coverage of what was know as Unit 731, a top secret covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army actually undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) of World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Imperial Japan. Unit 731 was based at the Pingfang district of Harbin, the largest city in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (now Northeast China).

World War II, the Japanese had encased bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox, botulism, anthrax, and other diseases into bombs where they were routinely dropped on Chinese combatants and non-combatants. According to the 2002 International Symposium on the Crimes of Bacteriological Warfare, the number of people killed by the Imperial Japanese Army germ warfare and human experiments was around 580,000. According to other sources, "tens of thousands, and perhaps as many as 400,000 Chinese died of bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax and other diseases" from the use of biological warfare.

So, with all of the above it wasn't way too out of line for Japan to cook up the Guadalupe Island thing. It was cheap, easy, didn't require a lot of manpower or conventional military equipment, and potentially highly effective. Plus, the Japanese had almost everything needed basically at their fingertips. To pull it off all they had to do was transport what they needed from one place to another without detection. The Lewis Cass and the float plane changed all of that.

The E14Y floatplane that had strafed the Lewis Cass knocking out all of her deck gun defense systems in two passes was returning from Guadalupe Island's Northeast Anchorage when it stumbled across the Cass while she was unwittingly steaming toward a possible accidental intersection with the I-9. To inhibit that possibility and making known the existence of the I-9 in Mexican waters, the floatplane, in a complete example of overkill, attacked the Lewis Cass with the I-9 finishing the job. However, the Cass, although rendered inoperative didn't sink to the bottom but instead ended up on the rocks with the crew escaping the full wrath of both the submarine and the floatplane. With some portion of the crew scattered onshore among the cliff rocks and others making it to a lifeboat pretty much undetected the I-9 abandoned their effort, if not for the long term, at least the short term. As for the floatplane the following appeared a couple of paragraphs back:

"Not wanting to fall within gun range of the heavily armed cutter the I-9 quickly submerged, leaving the floatplane and her crew and anything else the sub may have been doing or planned on doing concerning Guadalupe and it's environs behind. Within seconds the plane, abandoned by her mothership, was in the air rapidly gaining altitude at first headed due west putting as much distancing between herself the cutter as quickly as possible, then was seen turning north disappearing from sight."

I hadn't even entered kindergarten before my mother began exhibiting signs of a developing illness, eventually only to die a year or so later from that illness. Prior to her death, because it was becoming increasingly more difficult for my father to care for my mother as well as take care of three young boys he decided to investigate the possibility of a full time care facility for her. One of the facilities he looked into was an around the clock full-care sanatorium-like hospital in Santa Barbara, California. The day he went to see it he took me and my mother along. While we were there the three of us went down to the Santa Barbara pier, known as Stearns Wharf in those days. Somewhere along one edge of the pier was a crane-like boom that was in the process of pulling an airplane out of the water and placing it on a flatbed trailer. To me the plane was what I would call a seaplane. On its wings and behind the wings on both sides of the fuselage were clearly distinguishable bright red circular Japanese insignias. The plane was intact and showed no signs of visible damage that at the time I was aware of. Years later I would identify the plane being lifted onto the dock as a Yokosuka E14Y Floatplane, especially so in that the aircraft was fairly typical of the type plane carried by the long range Imperial Japanese Navy I-Class Type B-1 submarines.

The Office of the State Historian, State Records Center & Archives, under the banner of New Mexico has an article on the Japanese Internment Camp that existed during World War II in of all places, Lordsburg. On their internment camp page can be found the following:

"Perhaps the most remarkable incident during the stay of the Japanese came about through the Army's mistake of sending some prisoners of war captured overseas to the camp. Rumors went around that these were the men who had shelled Santa Barbara, California. They had their heads shaved in Japanese military fashion, and the internees hailed them as heroes, going so far as to run a Japanese flag over their barracks. It was a tense time at the camp."

Lordsburg Internment POW Camp

Lordsburg was an internment camp whose primary purpose, right or wrong, was to house Japanese American citizens or inhabitants during the war. It was never designed nor intended initially to house battle hardened military POWs, that's why I find it so interesting that two, and only two, actual war-duty veteran fighters were confined there.

It is my opinion that the captured Japanese POW's, who were not U.S. internees, but actual prisoners of war combatants spawned from overseas, were either from the midget sub that washed ashore after being bombed off Redondo Beach or instead, if not from the midget sub, the pilot and crew member of the Yokosuka E14Y Floatplane that was found floating abandoned in the channel islands off Santa Barbara. After all, after she was abandoned by her mothership, the floatplane was in the air rapidly gaining altitude headed due west putting as much distancing between herself the cutter as quickly as possible, then was seen turning north disappearing from sight. Turning north would put the plane right on top of the Channel Islands in short order. It was said to have a damaged or broken propeller (i.e., couldn't fly, possibly done so by the crew after running out of fuel) and since the plane was found abandoned, who abandoned it and what happened to those that did abandon it?



Although as it turns out as it is totally unrelated to the Lewis Cass in any way, there is, or was, a wrecked World War II B-25 on Guadalupe Island that I get a continuing stream of questions on. Everything I know including pictures can be found at Footnote [2]













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As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.

Footnote [1]



MARCH 1, 1943

(by Associated Press)

Los Angeles. February 28. Loss of a medium-size U.S. merchant ship more than a month ago when it was driven by a storm on the precipitous Guadalupe Island, 310 miles south of here, was just revealed today with the release of the survivor's story.

Robert Elliott, 34, of Pasadena, and Donald Pickett, 21, listed only as from Texas, messmen, were lost when a lifeboat capsized, plunging 19 men into the sea.

All others on the boat, 66 including a navy gun crew, were rescued but one lifeboat with 17 aboard drifted at sea 20 days before being found by a coast guard vessel. The men told how they rationed themselves to six ounces of water apiece daily.

March 1, 1943 [San Bernardino Sun]: “Ship Wrecked on Guadalupe. Los Angeles. February 28.—Loss of a medium-size U.S. merchant ship more than a month ago when it was driven by a storm on the precipitous Guadalupe Island, 310 miles south of here, was just revealed today with the release of the survivor's story. Robert Elliott, 34, of Pasadena, and Donald Pickett, 21, listed only as from Texas, messmen, were lost when a lifeboat capsized, plunging 19 men into the sea. All others on the boat, 66 including a navy gun crew, were rescued but one lifeboat with 17 aboard drifted at sea 20 days before being found by a coast guard vessel. The men told how they rationed themselves to six ounces of water apiece daily.”



There was a fire in the building our data center is in resulting in the campus locking down the building. We are unable to complete maintenance until the lockdown is lifted. Images are unavailable.

Footnote [2]


On the center of of Guadalupe Island at an elevation of 1,942 feet, is a 3,900 foot long dirt airstrip known as Campo Pista, Isla Guadalupe.

At one end of the runway, as seen in the Google Earth graphic on the left below, is the remains of a wrecked Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar which overshot the runway during landing. On the other end of the runway, as seen on the right side of the Google Earth graphic as well as in the center of the second graphic below, can be seen the wreckage of a World War II North American B-25-J bomber that is said to have crashed resulting in such serious damage after trying to take-off overloaded it had to be abandoned (c/n 44-86712). Mysteriously, the wreckage of the B-25 no longer appears in current Google Earth shots, having just disappeared, i.e., totally removed from the island. Who took it or how is not known, nor since it's removal has any efforts of it being restored or signs of it being registered have shown up.

In the second of the two Google Earth graphics below, the one with the wreckage of the B-25 more or less enlarged and in the center, you will notice a little lower and toward the right, some distance from the main carcass is what is suspected to be the plane's tail section. If you look carefully there is clearly no visible signs of a tail section attached to the fuselage in the graphic. The wingspan of a B-25 is listed as being around 67 feet, 7 inches. Taking the wingspan as guide from the graphic it would make the tail section being over 400 feet from the fuselage.