The following email received on 1 February 2009.
Dear Mr. Brouchoud, please accept this notification of the death of Deale Binion Cochran, CL50, 3765 Clubland Trail, Marietta, Georgia 30068, 42-43.
Ann Goode Cochran
Deale Binion Cochran ‘43
Deale Binion (Bin) Cochran, age 87, Marietta, GA, died on January 10, 2009.
Bin was born in Holly Springs, MS, graduated from Holly Springs High School, and attended Marion Military Institute, Marion, AL.
A 1942 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he served on the USS Helena until she sank July 1943 in the Kula Gulf. Along with shipmates he survived over 3 days in enemy waters and 8 days on the occupied island of Vella Lavella.
He then served on the USS Miami, the USS Oklahoma City, and as an instructor at the Navy Sonar School, San Diego, CA.
He was recalled to active duty 1951-1953 with the Office of Naval Intelligence, Washington, D.C.
He worked for Johns-Manville until 1967, then Georgia Power, retiring in 1985. Retirement was devoted to family, friends, and faith.
Preceded in death by parents Samuel Vadah Cochran and Rita Binion Cochran and brothers Vadah Cochran and Clark Cochran of Holly Springs, MS; he is survived by his wife Ann Goode Cochran, daughter Leslie Cochran Carruth, husband John Carruth of Roswell, GA, grandchildren Clark, Deale and Maggie Carruth, and son Cliff Cochran, wife Kriss Paulsen Cochran of Woodstock, GA, grandchildren Brooke, Bin, and Lily Cochran.
Other survivors are sister Rita Cochran Langus and husband John Langus, of Mobile AL, sisters-in-law Doris Cochran and Harriet Cochran of Holly Springs, MS, and many beloved nieces and nephews, their children, and special friends of his grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Thursday, January 15, 2009 in Marietta, GA, and burial followed in Holly Springs, MS, Saturday, January 17.
The following story was recorded in 1994, from Bill Henderson's book "Escape From The Sea".
For information on Bill's book click HERE
Kula Gulf And Beyond
Lt.Jg D. Binion Cochran
||Shortly after the November 1942 Naval Battle of Guadalcanal I was transferred from the USS Helena's Navigation Department to the Gunnery Department and assigned to Turret 5.
Lt.Jg Rielly, the Turret Officer, left the ship shortly thereafter and I became the Turret Officer. At about the same time my class came up for promotion and I then became a Lieutenant Junior Grade.
In the early months of 1943 the Marines turned Guadalcanal over to the Army and the occupation was completed. The Tokyo Express pulled off one of its biggest coups, however. This time they did it by evacuating the entire Japanese force left on the island.
As early as January 5, 1943, the Helena had its first experience in the New Georgia-Kolombangara area, making a night bombardment of Munda airstrip on New Georgia. On January 24, it was a night bombardment of Vila-Stanmore airstrip on Kolombangara.
Around March the Helena went to Sydney, Australia, for three happy weeks of repairs, maintenance and recreation, then it was back toward the Coral Sea and the Solomons. Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides Islands was still our base of operations, but we were occasionally using Tulagi's harbor.
The struggle for control of the Solomons moved up the Slot, and in June the Marines made landings on New Georgia. There, as at Guadalcanal, the Tokyo Express immediately began bringing in troop reinforcements under the cover of darkness. Thus the scene was set for the last days of the CI 50, for surface combat ships were the only effective way to limit the Express' night-time activity around New Georgia.
On the night of July 4-5, 1943, the Helena, along with light cruisers Honolulu and St. Louis, and destroyers Strong, Chevalier, Nicholas and O'Bannon was assigned a night bombardment task in Kula Gulf. The targets were known Japanese strong points on both the Kolombangara and the New Georgia sides of the gulf One, Vila Plantation, on the Kolombangara side, was an unloading area for many of the Tokyo Express' troop deliveries.
On the New Georgia side we would not only bombard, but fast destroyer transports would also land troops at Rice Anchorage.
The bombardment got off to a good start. We entered the north end of the Gulf in column, picked up no enemy ships on the radar screen and preceded south, firing to starboard when we reached the first target area, Vila Plantation. Everything went smoothly in Turret 5; no jams, each of the three six inch guns getting out its allotment of rounds.
The column changed course to the southeast then to the northeast and targets on New Georgia were taken under fire. The Japanese concentrations on this Island were at Bairoko Harbor and Enogai Inlet.
Talk on the main battery circuit was restricted to the bombardment procedures until our firing run was completed and the order to cease fire given. Shortly after that time an air alert was received along with word that the Strong, one of our following destroyers, had been hit, probably by a bomb. Rescue destroyers were left with the Strong, and, while our destroyer transports unloaded their troops at Rice Anchorage, lead destroyers and cruisers steamed north to exit the gulf. We little realized what a bad time the Strong and it's crew were having.
As it turned out Japanese destroyers on the west side of the Gulf were unloading their own troops as we started our operation. They were close to shore and completely undetected. While we were firing to the east they launched spreads of torpedoes at our column of ships, one of which hit the Strong. They then made their getaway up the west side of the gulf. Although one of our destroyers picked them up as they fled, the Helena's radar never did, leaving us confused as to what had happened.
At the Strong everything went wrong. Japanese shore batteries took her and the rescuing destroyers under fire, then, as she sank from the torpedo hit her own depth charges exploded, killing more of the surviving crewmen. As would later happen with the Helena's crew, some of the men were left in the water when the last ships withdrew.
July 5, 1943. After all that had happened in the waters between Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Savo islands it was hard to think of Iron Bottom Bay (now called Iron Bottom Sound) as a sanctuary, but that was what it now seemed to be. We had little time to rest, however, for shortly after reaching this calm, still ominous water coastwatcher reports came in telling of a group of eight enemy ships on their way to the New Georgia area. The assumption was that they were bringing more troops to resist our New Georgia landings and would unload in Kula Gulf. In the late afternoon our column again headed northwesterly up the Slot.
Shortly after clearing Iron Bottom Bay, the destroyer Jenkins approaching the area identified itself by blinker light and asked if it could be of assistance. It was immediately ordered by Admiral Ainsworth to fall in astern and join the task force. We had had only three DD's with the three cruisers so a fourth was greatly welcomed. The force was now composed of light cruisers Helena, Honolulu and St. Louis and destroyers Jenkins, Nicholas, 0 Barmon and Radford.
Our normal procedure when heading for a potential intercept area was to minimize enemy search plane detection by steaming four to six hours at near maximum speed then slowing to around 25 knots in the potential contact area. We had no choice this night, but to get to the area as fast as we could. Even so, the Japs got to Kula Gulf ahead of us. As we approached the mouth of the gulf; the Helena's SG radar picked up targets at about 30,000 yards, a group of Japanese destroyers that had unloaded troops and were exiting the Gulf close to the Kolombangara shores.
The Helena's fire control radars found the Jap ships shortly, and "Action Port" came over the main battery circuit from Control (Commander Rodman Smith, Gunnery Officer.) Since Turret 5 was trained aft in the secured position our trainer was ordered to train right, match pointers and shift to automatic. The "match pointers" part of the order applied also to the pointer who locked the guns into automatic in elevation. The dominant sound became the big electric motors keeping the guns in position as dictated by the main battery computer.
Otis Point, the knowledgeable and excellent Turret Captain of Turret 5, and I were in the control area which was in the rear overhang part of the turret. This area was open to the guns except for a waist high partition along which were arrayed our circuit switches, ready lights, etc. An opening at the left side of this partition provided a passageway for crewmen between an access door at the rear of the overhang and their positions.
The turret crew was composed of about fifty men. There were the gun crews in the gun room, the crew in the projectile handling room directly below and the crews in the powder handling room and powder magazine, both at the lowest level. Projectiles and powder cases were put into hoists which automatically fed upward when a round was removed in the gun room for loading. Access to the different areas of the turret could be made either below decks or through the overhang door.
Communication between the turret officer or turret captain and crew members was one way via a loudspeaker system the mike for which hung on the neck of the turret officer or turret captain. The problem with this system was that we were already wearing the headsets for the main battery control circuit, so there were two mikes to keep straight. It took a little getting used to, but soon pushing the correct button to talk became second nature.
Main Battery Plot, where our computer was, began calling off ranges to the enemy ship we were tracking, this coming over the main battery circuit.
Again I found myself wondering when would we get the order to commence firing. I certainly didn't like the prospect of getting as close as we had at either Cape Esperance or Guadalcanal. The guns were loaded, and, as the ranges came down, the guns depressed until they seemed almost horizontal. At around 7000 yards the order finally came, "Commence firing, continuous fire, continuous fire." In "continuous fire" each gun fires as soon as it is loaded and the breech block closed. After the initial salvo and the guns get out of sync due to differences in loading times, there is constant firing.
I watched the three gun crews, and everything was going perfectly. They were the best and they were getting out a maximum amount of ammunition. All the drills pay off when a time such as this comes.
I don't have a good recollection of how long we had been firing when there was a tremendous concussion, and one could feel the ship lurch. There was no order otherwise, so the guns continued to fire. I realized that we had lost the director firing circuit when I saw the gun captains (the three gun captains each operated the rammer and breech block controls for his gun) start firing the guns manually with the lanyard which each gun had for that purpose. We probably were firing without getting good elevation and train signals at this point, but it had gone on for only a short time when two concussions close together made the first one seem mild. It felt as though the turret had been lifted ten to fifteen feet then dropped. With that, all power was lost. Lights went out, all motors died, and the emergency lights came on.
We didn't have to be told that the ship was in big trouble, and the men came boiling up from the gun room and below to get out through the overhang door. I felt that they were right, but I couldn't allow this battle station to be abandoned without being sure that we could fight no longer. At the top of my voice I yelled, "Hold it!" To their credit they all stopped, showing that they had not panicked.
I tried to reach anybody on the main battery control circuit but it was completely dead. Next I said, "All right, one man go see what the situation is and report back" The first man at the partition opening jumped for the overhang door, grabbed a life jacket and disappeared outside. It seemed like a long time, but he was back shortly with the word that the ship was being abandoned. My question to him was, 'Where's the water?" I couldn't help but wonder if it had gotten over the main deck. I got some kind of assurance that the main deck was dry, and Otis Point and I started passing out life jackets to the men as they exited one by one. Finally everybody who had come up through the gun room was out, and I followed, still wondering where the water was.
Outside on the main deck aft there was plenty of activity. The men had lost no time starting to cut loose the life rafts from the turret sides and other locations. These rafts were heavy but they were getting them down and over the side. Men were jumping over the side, but it was so black dark I had no idea how far down the water was. I watched helplessly as one man jumped and a raft came falling right after him. I couldn't see the result, but his chances of surviving were not good.
The main deck aft was above water all right, but it had a slant down as it went forward, leading me to believe that the forward part of the ship was under water. I made a mental observation that we had escaped the thing we feared most - fire. The crude oil that was burned in the ship's boilers was easy to ignite, and I knew the water would be covered with it.
What I didn't know was that the first torpedo to hit us had made contact between Turrets 1 and 2 forward, killing everybody in those two turrets and clipping off the bow at that point. Turret 1 with its barbette must have fallen off, leaving the bow floating free. The other two torpedoes had hit amidships, breaking the structural back of the Helena and wiping out a fire room and an engine room. The stern and what was left of the forward part of the ship were above water, the main deck between these two points was under water. People forward, including Captain Cecil, thought the stern was under water. He had given the order to abandon ship, but the order couldn't be relayed to those of us in the after section. Needless to say, it wasn't needed.
I was preparing to give a hand with getting life rafts over the side when a sight caught my eye that was chilling indeed. Our own task force column had made a 180 degree ship's turn shortly after we were hit, and, probably because we were the middle cruiser, it had gone unnoticed that we had dropped out. Now the entire column passed at about 2000 yards distance on the side away from the enemy ships. Every gun was in continuous fire and their projectiles were going over us towards the Japanese ships. It would have been so easy for any one of the ships to have spotted us visually or by radar and taken us under fire, a thing we had seen happen before to friendly ships in the wrong place. It probably took only eight or nine minutes for the column to pass and for the projectiles to no longer be passing over us, but it seemed an eternity.
In the meantime getting rafts and men over the side continued until there was nothing left that could be done, and things became quiet. Years later a note came from Oza E. Tumlin, a Gunners Mate from No.4 40mm mount, in which he asked me if I was "The Lt. who was one of the last to leave the ship along with Foster, Blahnik and myself" I was, for I thought that if anything happened suddenly with the ship I would be able to swim clear.
I took a last look around to be sure that everybody was off, and then it was my time to leave. The possibility of this moment had been anticipated in several ways:
1. I wore my class ring which I didn't normally, because the stone had been broken out of it.
2. I had a Colt .45 Automatic in its G.I. holster. When the Captain decided not to issue .45's to the officers I had one of the officers returning to the States buy one and send it to me. The men in the ship's armory helped with a new barrel, holster, a belt, and ammunition for practicing ashore; things that didn't have to be accounted for.
3. On my khaki trousers' belt I carried a sheath knife as did most of the officers and men when at sea. Many of these knives had already been used cutting away life rafts. On the same belt and to the front was a packet of, I believe, four morphine syrettes. These, too, were carried by most of the officers and many of the enlisted men when in a combat zone.
4. For convenience, my choice for flotation was a rubber life belt that had to be blown up by the user when needed. The belt was worn constantly when at sea.
Many leaving the ship had kicked off their shoes, but I made the decision to keep mine on. I had heard stories of people needing their shoes later, and I felt confident that I could swim with mine on. They were black strap over models. I liked them because I could pull them on rapidly whenever "General Quarters" took me by surprise.
My eye glasses, which I wore when topside to help my distance vision, I now had in a case in my trousers pocket. Luckily I didn't need them very much for the oil would make them useless later.
I also made the decision not to blow up my life belt before going into the water, since I wanted to clear the ship as fast as possible and felt that blown up it would slow me down. Looking back, I am a little amazed at the confidence I had in my swimming ability.
I was preparing to leave the ship from the starboard side at a point close to Turret 5. The ship had apparently turned to almost an opposite heading after being hit, probably the result of its own speed and the loss of the bow. When firing, this would have been the side away from the enemy ships, now it was the side toward Kolombangara.
In the blackness I couldn't see the water, but I knew it would be covered with oil. I decided I would lower myself over the side as far as I could before dropping in order to, hopefully, keep my head out of the oil. To my surprise the water was now only about three feet below the main deck; this was working out fine. In the water I began swimming away from the ship, and in short order a wave went over my head and I was covered with oil as completely as if I had jumped in.
One of the first things I became aware of was that every time a projectile would hit the water, now miles away, I could feel it in my stomach. This went on for some time, my stomach telling me when the firing finally stopped.
I had gotten seventy-five to one hundred yards away from the Helena when her end came. I was close enough to easily see her in the starlight. The stern and the forward end rose as the amidships section went further under, steel beams and plates groaning as they broke. With no more delay she slid below the surface.
I couldn't see them, but it was not hard to locate many rafts. I could hear talking, and some of the groups were doing organized cheers. A leader would yell, "Hip, Hip," and the group would respond with, "Hooray." About this time I decided that it was time to blow up my life belt, and it soon became apparent that I had made a bad decision not doing this before leaving the ship. The metal valve that had to be unscrewed to let in air then screwed shut to hold the air wouldn't budge. Finally I reached a raft filled with men and hung on alongside while I opened the valve with my teeth and blew the belt up.
I must have swallowed some oil during my swimming and blowing up the life belt for I began to feel sick and vomited. I began to pull myself up on the doughnut shaped raft and heard one of the petty officers say, "Let's make some room, Mr. Cochran is sick," or something to that effect. I didn't realize that the raft had all it would hold on it, and, to make room, Skip Flanagan, Machinist Mate Id. would voluntarily slide back into the water. (I didn't find out that this had happened until talking to Skip at the reunion in Helena, Montana, in 1989. I am certainly indebted to Skip, and I was happy to find out that the destroyers picked him up later that night.)
It was about this time that the familiar sight of tracer projectiles suddenly appeared at close range to the east. I could keep a sense of direction, because Kolombangara loomed to what I knew was the south of us. The tracers were followed by a searchlight beam that illuminated the Helena's bow floating a short distance from us. I had the feeling at the time that some of our survivors must have been getting chopped up by the gunfire. The light went out, and I could no longer see anything in that direction, I had observed one of the two destroyers sent back to search for us firing at the floating bow, then discovering our fate by reading the number 50 on it.
On the raft we all felt optimistic about being picked up by returning destroyers, but looming Kolombangara seemed so close that I began to fear washing ashore among the many Japanese there. It was actually about five or six miles away but I imagined it getting closer, so I got the men busy paddling in the opposite direction. We soon teamed what an unmanageable craft we were on, for it seemed to be going nowhere, and the paddling did not last long.
The raft that I was on was shaped like an oblong doughnut. Made of canvas covered balsa wood it was about eight feet long by about six feet wide. The diameter of a cross section would have been about fourteen inches. A wooden grid was laced to the doughnut, giving support in the doughnut hole area. We soon learned that these rafts, when overloaded, wouldn't hold everybody out of the water. By lowering the grid, however, we could put more people inside, standing a little over waist deep in water. Paddlers always had to straddle the ring, and, unless there were at least two, one on each side, the raft would only spin around in a circle.
The records show that we had commenced firing at 0157 and that the destroyers began picking up survivors at 0341. My raft found itself near either the Radford or the Nicholas about 0355. A cargo net was over the starboard side amidships, and men from a cluster of rafts were scrambling to get aboard. We were under the DD's starboard bow, but couldn't get close to the net ourselves. One of the men on the destroyer lowered a small line, only large enough to keep us from drifting away while we waited, and I called out to the scrambling men on the net to take it easy so no one would get hurt. I think I said something as stupid as, "Take it easy, we've got plenty of time."
Most of the men had left the raft to get in line for the cargo net climb, and I was still hanging on to the small line. My attention must have been diverted momentarily when something hit me hard on the head. The destroyer had gotten underway at a rapid rate of speed, and I had been hit by the feet of those clinging to the net as it passed over me. Realizing what was going on I left the raft and swam hard to get dear. Some were not so lucky. The Executive Officer, Commander Buerkle, and no doubt others, were kicked off the cargo net in the mad scramble to get aboard and were caught up in the DD's screws, never to be seen again.
As the destroyer pulled away some of the topside crew members yelled, 'We'll be back," and almost immediately the five 5 inch single gun mounts went into continuous fire. Once again I felt in my stomach the ping of projectiles exploding in the water. Those of us left behind pulled ourselves back onto the raft.
What had happened was that two of the Japanese destroyers that had fired their torpedoes at us and retreated had now returned after reloading torpedo tubes (a procedure not possible on U.S. ships.) The Nicholas and the Radford exchanged gunfire and torpedoes with these ships; resumed picking up survivors; then again had to stop as two additional Japanese destroyers that had been picking up their own survivors came on the scene. The U.S. ships scored gunfire hits, but none of the torpedoes that all ships on both sides fired found their targets. These actions went on from 0400 to about 0630, and, with the coming of daylight, these admirable ships could stay around no longer.
As daylight arrived a feeling of dejection came over us, for we knew that the destroyers couldn't remain in the area. Ships could dominate at night, but in daylight planes became effective and nobody controlled the sky's over this area. We would have to tough it out until the sun set, and we were sure the destroyers would then come back for us.
The big islands across the Slot, Choiseul and Santa Isabel, became visible as did other rafts scattered nearby and the still floating bow of the Helena. No men were recognizable for we were all covered with the Helena's black oil. My attention was attracted to one of the men on my raft, completely dejected, head hung, never opening his oil covered eyes, as though trying to shut out reality.
During the night we had decided to make room in the raft by letting our emergency ration filled powder case tank float outside, held by a small line. With daylight the tank was missing, leaving us with no food or water. Someone suggested that it had been cut free and stolen by someone on another nearby raft, but we never knew whether that or a case of poor knot tying was the cause. At any rate we had to resign ourselves to having no food or water until the destroyers came back after dark.
When the sun rose what had been pain from oil burning the eyes became torture. The sun amplified the pain as oil continued to run down into eyes from oil soaked hair. In time, as we drifted into clearer water, I would try to rinse my eyes with seawater, but in the first hours there was nothing I could do.
I knew the Solomon Islands, the major ones, anyway. I could see across the Slot Choiseul and Santa Isabel. Choiseul had a bad reputation regarding native cooperation with the Japanese; Santa Isabel had a good reputation of natives working with the Coastwatchers. As we had done the night before, we started energetically paddling toward Santa Isabel, and, as before, the realization came soon that we weren't making much progress in that direction, and the paddling stopped.
The daylight brought on a lot of air activity, most of it high flying up and down the Slot. Then at some time in the morning U.S. planes started flying low over us. I am still amazed at one little Lockheed Hudson bomber that came low over the scattered rafts, one man waving from an open side door. Maybe he was covered from above, but he would have been easy pickings for a Zero. A 13-24 came in low and dropped a rubber raft, starting a wild race by every raft to get to it first. The nearest raft, of course, won, and the others stopped flailing the water. My raft made it first to one dropped packet only to find with disappointment that it contained several fish hooks and line.
Later in the morning we watched a single plane coming in low over us, and before we could do anything we realized it was a Zero. He went by not more than a hundred yards away and only about fifty feet over the water. He looked us over and continued on his way, the Zero engine giving its powerful, unmufflered tractor sound.
Time passed and two Zeros appeared flying low over us, again at only about fifty feet high. These, too, got by before we could make a move, but as they cleared us they gained a little altitude while making a 180 degree turn and came back towards us, again dropping to about fifty feet over the water. As they were making their turn we heard them fire several rounds from their machine guns, and I was sure this was to be a strafing run. I yelled for everybody on the raft to scatter, and we hit the water, swimming in all directions. Stopping and turning toward the planes I looked over at one of our rafts about fifty yards away. Everybody was still on it, and they were all, waving at the Jap pilots. I could see one of the pilot's head moving back and forth as he looked us over, but evidently he couldn't tell whether this black oil covered bunch of survivors was Japanese or American. The two gained altitude and left the area. Since that time I have wanted to shake the hands of the waving men on the nearby raft, but I have never known who any of them were.
After the Zeros left we swam back to the rafts, but not always to the same one we left. Thirteen men gathered on the one I returned to, the third different group of raftmates I had had and the final group I would be with. Other officers aboard that I knew well were Lt. Sam Hollingsworth and Ensign Lee Spaulding.
During the afternoon of July 6 the rafts became more and more scattered and finally drifted completely out of sight of each other. I recall one raft coming back into our sight and having us nervously wondering if it was U.S. or Japanese. Oil covered survivors all looked alike. At one point somebody yelled, "Sharks," and we tried to pull our legs out of the water. That was tiring, and when nothing further was seen we all relaxed.
With darkness came the hope that now the destroyers would return and pick us up. They did try, but currents had taken us away from the area of the sinking, and we never saw or heard them. Time passed, hope faded and fatigue started taking its toll.
The moon must have come up for suddenly we were aware of Vella Lavella looming high out of the water and seeming much closer than it actually was. We didn't know what island this was, but we were reaching the point that any land was better than where we were. Paddling started, the idea being to get on in to this seemingly close haven, but with it came a screaming objection from one of the men, a mess attendant. "Don't go in there," he pleaded. "I was in there last night and there're "Jeeps" in there." He said this over and over and the paddling was disrupted. I had to do something for fear that discipline would be completely lost, and I yelled at him to pipe down. The exact words I used I don't remember, but I managed to get him settled down. This was the first case of fatigue bringing on hallucinations. Before we would reach Vella Lavella almost all aboard our raft would have them in one form or another.
The night of July 6-7 was relatively inactive from that point. All hands just stood quietly on the lowered grid inside the oblong doughnut raft, water up to a little over waist high. Since there was no way to relax at any time, the moment a man would doze he would fall forward into the water and be awakened. There was a constant noise of someone flopping over from the waist, hitting the water, reviving and straightening back up. The man next to me did this so many times that I reached over and grabbed a fist full of his shirt in front. Then when he fell, forward he would hit my arm first, come to and straighten up without going into the water.
Nothing is all bad. Though we had no fresh water, being over halfway immersed we absorbed enough water to not get very thirsty, even urinating periodically. One of the fellows said later that he would look forward to the urinations and the little bit of warmth it brought. Nights in the ocean, even this close to the equator, were cold.
Daytime came on the seventh, and we realized fully now that the searching destroyers hadn't found us, that we were on our own. We also realized that the current was taking us up the Slot parallel to this unknown island's coastline. This, obviously, was away from U.S. forces and towards Japanese strong points. I knew that we had to get in to this island.
The last mail to reach the Helena had brought the news from Holly Springs, Mississippi that a baby sister had been born June 9th. My thoughts often went to home and this little girl, and I wondered if I would get to see her.
No planes gave us any attention this date, all the traffic being unidentifiable and high, up and down the Slot. My main recollection for this day is paddling, four at a time. We would take turns straddling the doughnut on opposite sides and trying to coordinate paddling to head us toward land. With at least nine people standing in the water on the grid and creating a substantial drag, our progress was painfully slow. At one point I tried to get my feet on the doughnut and stand up for a longer look over the water. My legs wouldn't push me up.
By late afternoon the ones who could answer the call for paddlers had dwindled to about eight. Later it was four, but we were making progress toward land. Lee Spaulding hallucinated. Thinking he was jumping into a bunk on one of our fellow cruisers he jumped outside the raft. We helped him back in. Others could give no reaction at all when asked to paddle. I don't know how they kept themselves out of the water.
For some reason, as weak and nauseated as I had been the first night, my strength and awareness held up. I was only one year out of the Naval Academy, and I have to credit its physical demands, along with my high school years of athletics and hunting, as the most likely answer.
The paddling continued into the night of July 7-8. At some time the number able to paddle dropped to four, but that four continued, two paddling, two resting. Then there were only two of us left. I remember my co-paddler opposite only as Ski, but Ski and I stayed with it; we were getting so close.
Then Ski stopped paddling. He was still astride the doughnut opposite me, but his head had fallen onto his chest and he wasn't moving. I yelled at him with no result. Next I poked him with my paddle, still no movement. In desperation I reached over and hit him across the back with the flat part of my paddle. When he didn't budge I hit him twice more, as hard as I could. In my weakened condition that probably wasn't very hard but the best I could do. Still no movement from Ski, so, feeling completely helpless and hopeless, I slid back into the water inside the raft. The current was going to take us by this island, and I could do nothing. My feet had hardly touched the grid when Ski jerked erect and yelled, "Hey, let's go, let's go!" I lost no time getting back astride the doughnut, and the two of us started paddling again.
It must have been some time after midnight on July 8 that we found ourselves on the verge of a landfall. I had a sinking feeling at one point when a tree on a high part of the beach looked an awful lot like a ship or barge hiding out. We got very quiet then saw what it actually was. About this time Lt. Sam Hollingsworh came over to me and said with complete sincerity, "Bin, we've got some men here who badly need medical attention. As soon as we get ashore we want to get them to a doctor as soon as possible." I said, "Sure, Sam, sure."
A little more paddling and the lowered grid of the raft dragged the bottom. Whatever lay ahead, we had escaped the sea.
The thought of dry land and sleep must have energized the men, for every one found the strength to stumble ashore. Several of us dragged the raft in as far as we could. Every individual looked for a dry spot to get precious sleep that had been impossible for three to four days. I found a section of sand that was a foot or two above sea level. It was covered with tall grass or bushes that gave a feeling of concealment. I dug a trench with my hands, got in, pulled the sand over my body for warmth and blacked out.
Before my eyes opened I was aware of voices. One said, "What's that?" (I guess, with the sand pulled over half of me, I looked like a body washed ashore.) The other voice said, "That's Lt. Cochran. He worked his butt off getting us in last night." I had just heard the only thank you that would be coming my way. Not that I missed it at the time it's just the way men are-in those situations, anyway.
After hearing the voices I awoke completely, realized it was daylight, and jumped up, fully aware that we were on a Jap occupied island. Even though I didn't know the name of it, I knew about where this island was in the Solomon chain.
I saw that we had landed at the mouth of a little shallow bay, no more than a hundred yards deep and thirty yards wide. I had slept on the northwest side of the mouth which was on the northeast side of the island. To my horror some of the men, their medical problems cured by a few hours sleep, were cavorting playfully in the open area of the bay, the water little more than ankle deep. No shots rang out from the trees bordering the bay, and, with every second passing that there were none, my anxiety lessened.
Just as I was about to yell at the men to get out of the open area I noticed another group on the southeast side of the bay going up to a native Melanesian boy of about twelve who had suddenly appeared from the trees. I rushed over that way myself, completely comfortable with his presence, for we had been associated with the Melanesians in the New Hebrides and knew of their helpful activities in the Solomons. The boy couldn't speak English, but he pointed to the Northwest, parallel to the shoreline, and said laps. He then pointed in the opposite direction and said, "Mericans." It was an easy and unanimous decision, every one of the group pointed in the direction of the "Mericans."
Before beginning our trek in the direction of help I got back in the water and washed the sand off of me. Then we started, single file, following the boy along a path that paralleled the beach but which was mostly in the trees. The thirteen of us didn't have any trouble keeping each other in sight.
I would learn later that this trail was also used by Japanese patrols from their base at the northwest end of the island, by downed pilots of both sides, and, of course, by the Melanesian natives. Luckily, this day the trail was ours to use.
No planes came over us while we were in the opening at the landing site, but now, as we walked along, they were over us quite often. We took no chances as to whether they were friend or foe, and, in each instance, we would stop and hide our faces, usually by getting prone on our stomachs. By the time we had arrived at the island enough oil had been washed from our faces by the sea to make us identifiable.
I made the assumption that the Americans we were trying to reach would be a Marine raider battalion, and whatever had brought them would surely take us off'. This was a comforting thought as we trudged along.
Much of the path that we followed was close enough to the ocean to be pure coral, and the men, almost all of whom had taken shoes off before abandoning ship, soon began to have bleeding, hurting feet. I may have made a bad decision by not blowing up my life belt before leaving the ship but I realized now what a good decision it had been to leave my shoes on. After a while the men could bear the pain no longer, and we stopped while makeshift sandals were made from cut up life belts. These didn't stop the hurting, but they did make mobility again possible. At some time during the day I looked at the native boy's bare feet, and, as tough as they would have been, they, too, were bleeding.
At some time, I'm guessing around midday, the beach path led to a lagoon. It must have been about two hundred yards wide at its mouth and went inland a discouragingly long distance. Trees were close to the edge on both sides. The native boy had evidently come this way looking for survivors, for there was an outrigger canoe tied up on our side. The canoe would hold, I believe, a maximum of four, so the boy started ferrying us across. He got help paddling to the other side then would bring the canoe back by himself and load three more.
One other person was with me and the boy on the last trip across when, right about midway, a plane or planes, came over, headed toward New Georgia. There was no place to hide, so the two of us survivors bent over as far as we could, hiding our faces, while the boy kept paddling. The aircraft sounded as though they were low enough to spot us, and it seemed to take forever for them to pass far enough for us to continue paddling.
After we had assembled again on the southeast side of the lagoon the painful hike was resumed. The coral continued to torture the men without real shoes, and I continued to be thankful that I had kept mine on. The best I can estimate the length of our trek is that it was ten to twelve miles of twisting, rough trail; through trees, on open coral, across creeks and across the open water described. On the map it was from the vicinity of Java to Lambu Lambu.
It was late afternoon of the 8th when we reached an area where there were several native houses on stilts, and we were met by one of the Americans we had been trying to reach. Instead of a well equipped Marine, however, he looked like one of us, his clothes black with oil and his equipment no more than a sheath knife such as most of us were carrying. Not knowing what other ships might have been sunk the same night we were I asked him what ship he was from. He replied, "The same damn ship you came from." He obviously didn't like my not recognizing him.
Two or three other Helena survivors were at this beach location helping direct survivors like ourselves, and we began to
collect a few facts about our situation. The island we were on was Vella Lavella. The only Americans on Vella Lavella were Helena survivors who were gathering inland at the house of a Chinese trader, Sam Chung. An Australian Methodist missionary turned Coastwatcher, Reverend A. W. E. Sylvester, was doing all he could to assist survivors coming ashore near Lambu Lambu.
Someone offered to lead us inland to Sam's house, and we began another three or four miles of hiking before we could relax. The first mile was flat, through coconut palms and swampy areas, but then the path started rising steeply. Everything from that point was up and rough going. We were all reaching a condition of exhaustion, and we had to stop numerous times to rest before we could continue. Darkness came a short time before we reached the house.
I wish I had a picture of the house. I remember a couple of rooms with a porch on the back side. A lot of bamboo had been used in its construction. That night I can only recall somebody giving me a small amount of very thin soup, the first food in over three days, then sleeping on the split bamboo floor of the front left room. I must have talked to Lt. Commander Jack Chew, the senior officer among us, now trying to get the influx a little organized, as well as others, but I have no recall of it only of eating something and finding a place to sleep.
On July 9, 1943, I awoke with the marks of the split bamboo floor deeply embedded in my body and proceeded to find out more about our situation. When Lt.Cdr. Warren Boles showed up during the day, the last man to join our group, we numbered 104 survivors. The number itself created problems.
I would find out later when Reverend Sylvester communicated with Coastwatcher Henry Josselyn, located somewhere at the northwest end of the island, that there were two other groups of survivors. Fifty were with Ensign George Bausewine, and eleven were with Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Dupay. Josselyn, with the help of natives, had gotten them pocketed inland off the coastal paths used by Japanese patrols.
The Coastwatchers, with the help of the natives, systematically searched the Vella Lavella beaches and hid rafts and any other signs of our coming ashore. When I heard of this, I realized how dumb it had been to leave our raft unconcealed. At the time, though, our only thought was heading in the direction of help.
Immediately in front of the left side of the house, at a distance of about thirty feet, ship's cooks had set up a large iron pot for cooking. Reverend Sylvester had come up with this from somewhere, maybe it was Sam Chung's. The house, of course, had been overrun, so it now became the headquarters for Sylvester and Chew. The men, along with myself and other junior officers, found space on the ground in front, generally on the right facing the house. A canopy of tall trees screened the camp from enemy plane observation.
The right room of the house became a hospital room for a couple of wounded men. One man was so badly wounded, a number of compound fractures, that I had nothing but admiration for his friends who had gotten him there. To my knowledge they never received any medals or official recognition. A sulfa drug powder from somewhere kept this man alive.
I received that first morning one of my most cherished possessions of the stay on Vella Lavella, a large burlap bag from a stack that Sam Chung had used in his trading. That bag became my mattress and security blanket. At all times of the day I either carried it, wore it or slept on it. I believe that every one of us shared that affection for his burlap bag. I should have brought mine back to the States with me.
I was lying on the ground that same morning, still a little groggy from the exertions of the past few days, when one of the ship's marines approached me from the direction of the house. Major Bernard Kelly, the Helena's senior marine, was beginning to think defense, and they had spotted my .45 pistol. The marine said, `Would you mind if we borrowed your .45 for use by watch standers guarding the camp? We'll clean it up good then return it when we leave the island." I, of course, gave it to him, for this was the best use of it at the time. One other gun had made it to the camp with survivors; an aviation machinist mate had gone back into the sinking Helena's hanger to get Lee Spaulding's .38 revolver. Later several World War 1 vintage military rifles were sent to us by Henry Josselyn from the other end of the island. I have heard that he sent seven; I remember seeing a Japanese rifle, a British Enfield type and a U.S. Springfield type. So was born what we laughingly called "Kelly's Irregulars."
At Reverend Sylvester's request the word was passed around that nobody was to leave the area of the camp. As much as we would have liked to do some wandering around and searching for food it made sense if we were to escape detection. Also no fires other than the cook fire were to be started.
The exception to the restriction on leaving the camp was the coveted job of bringing water from a stream about halfway down the mountain. I did this a couple of times, and getting into the cool water after filling containers was the nearest thing to pleasure we would have.
Food never became a pleasure. The cooks did the best they could, twice a day feeding a lineup of men holding half coconuts and the like from the pot of gruel, but it was survival food only. The hunger grew day by day. Into the pot went anything that the natives would bring in. They showed up periodically, always with a round of hand shaking, bringing local root vegetables, canned foods that had washed up on the beaches from sunken ships, and a few fruits which were reserved for the injured. One felt lucky when he got a small piece of Spam in his soup ration.
One morning it was discovered that one or two pieces of native fruit that was being held for the wounded had been stolen. All of us who were aware of this were upset and angry, but the culprit was never known.
I remember July 10 well, for that morning more than the normal number of natives showed up. Reverend Sylvester had arranged for them to build a structure to protect us from rains, and they proceeded at a rapid pace. Using strips of bark they lashed poles together to frame in a shed forty to fifty feet long and twelve to fourteen feet wide. It was located where most of us had slept the night before, in front of Sam's house, to the right as we faced the house.
It really got interesting when they started the roof. They made up many sections by lashing at 90 degrees the butt end of many palm leaves from one end to the other of a stick about six feet long. The roof framing had rafter poles that these sticks were lashed to, the leaves flowing down over sections previously attached. Starting at the low end it was just like shingling a house. A night or two later a hard rain came, and I don't remember a drop coming through that roof.
This same day Kelly's marines were putting their training to use by building a latrine. It was located in an area directly in front of the house but well away from the camp area. Between our shed and the latrine the trail north down the mountain started.
As far as I know this latrine was never used for a bowel movement. We were chatting in front of the house one day after four or five days in camp when a medical corpsman came over, concerned that nobody was having a bowel movement. He volunteered that by using an altered life belt and its blow up tube he could give everybody an enema. I shuddered at the thought. Jack Chew looked at the corpsman for a few seconds then said, "You're not going to give me one." The idea went no further.
When the natives had finished their work on the shed it was late afternoon, and Reverend Sylvester called all of us up to the area in front of the house where he was standing. The natives were in a group in front of their new structure. It started out as a prayer meeting to thank God for our blessings to this point and to ask for deliverance, but by the time it ended it was as memorable a service as any of us would ever witness. We sang some of the old favorite hymns like "The Old Rugged Cross," "Rock of Ages" and "Onward Christian Soldiers." The Helena men remembered words as best they could, but the natives were
outstanding. Singing in their native tongue their deep voices boomed out above ours, a different sound, beautiful, burning that moment into our memories. There were no atheists at that service or others like it. More of these wonderful services would be held, usually in the late afternoons, on days when Reverend Sylvester was not preoccupied with his Coastwatcher duties.
The natives name for Reverend Sylvester was "Gish," for Bishop, and it soon became the name we all affectionately used.
Some of the most interesting moments came listening to Bish talking to a native in pidgin English. I had seen some of the pidgin leaflets that were dropped in the Solomons so I was familiar with it, but to hear him rattle it off was something else. Pidgin being a combination of several languages I could follow a little of what he was saying, but I certainly couldn't have spoken it myself.
Over the next five days I have trouble pegging in just when certain things I remember occurred. Bish would leave the camp at various times with his radio pack that must have weighed thirty or more pounds. Sometimes a native would assist him. He would walk a number of miles to different spots remote from the camp, communicate with other Coastwatchers, then immediately get away from that spot. On occasion our watch would have us monitoring that battery powered radio, on alert for crisis warning code words.
One night sentry duty had me stationed on the back porch of the house, looking out on an area behind the house. I had one of the old rifles, loaded and ready, leaning against the wall in easy reach. At around 2300 I heard a shout from about a hundred yards behind the house, and my reflex thought was, "They've found us." In the black dark I grabbed for the rifle, but instead of my fingers closing around it I knocked it to the floor. In reaching for it my chair fell over (probably because of the bamboo construction) and we were, chair, rifle and me, all on the floor. Retrieving the rifle as fast as I could I jumped up just as Bish, coming in from one of his radio missions, identified himself.
After the first few days activities fell into a waiting period of routine chores and lots of bull sessions. From time to time Bish would bring in some news about the other groups or rescue maneuvering, but the topic of ninety-nine percent of the talking was about food. Time after time when I would be in a group, or just listen in on one, the men would be planning the meals they were going to have when they got back to the States. On board ship the conversation would most likely have been about dates and women in general, but now hunger had completely eliminated sex drives.
Frenchy Adams, a Marine from New Orleans, swore that after the war he was going to have a restaurant/bar there, and any Helena men would be wined and dined free.
On the night of July 12-13 1 was sleeping on my burlap bag in the shed when, at about 0100 of the thirteenth, I was awakened by the sounds and feel of heavy gunfire and heavier concussions that actually shook the earth. It went on and on, and I decided that it must be a bombardment of Kolombangara to make the ground shake so. Actually the Battle of Kolombangara was taking place in the same waters where we had been sunk. Our old Cruiser Division, our place taken by the light cruiser HMNZS Leander, and reinforced by additional destroyers, was again engaging the Tokyo Express. The heavier concussions I felt were torpedoes hitting all three of our cruisers and one destroyer, only the destroyer sinking. One other concussion no doubt occurred when a Japanese cruiser used searchlights and drew concentrated fire that caused it to blow up. The record shows that the gunfire and torpedo explosions went on for over an hour. I am still amazed that the sounds and earth tremors of this battle were at such an intensity at a distance of approximately twenty miles over water.
One day, around the fifth on the island, the native scouts got word to us that Japanese patrols were in the beach area close to the path leading up to our camp. All fires had to be extinguished, and care was taken not to make any sounds that might carry. That meant the soup pot fire went out, and things got tedious.
The tedium was broken at some time in the afternoon when a plane passed close overhead, but not where I could see it, followed almost immediately by a string of heavy machine gun fire. That got our attention, but all we could do was speculate on what was going on. We were told later that a Japanese patrol from a barge was headed our way when the plane's firing sent the soldiers scurrying back toward the beach. The plane was identified as an E4U Corsair which would have been firing six .50 caliber machine guns. Somebody was watching over us.
About July 13th. Bish was telling us of plans for a rescue pickup worked out between the Coastwatchers and the Navy. It would have been worked out sooner, but the activity of the Tokyo Express, resulting in the Battle of Kolombangara, forced a postponement. Lt. Cdr. Chew began organizing for the withdrawal, and Sam Chung managed to communicate with other Chinese who, like Chung, had been forced by the Japanese occupation to flee into the mountains.
The Chinese began arriving in camp by family groups on the 14th. and by the 15th. there was a total of sixteen. Every arrival was accompanied by a round of handshaking as we had had with the natives. The group included a couple of new babies and one woman very close to giving birth. Under Jack Chew's evacuation plan my good friend Lee Spaulding was put in charge of the Chinese for the journey down the mountain to the pick up spot at the beach. He would be tested.
My job in that evacuation plan was to be in charge of ten men, and other officers were given similar responsibilities. Major Bernard Kelly, with his marines, some sailors and all the firearms, would be an advance guard.
At about 1500 the afternoon of July 15 the evacuation procession got started slowly down the path leading to the beach. Each group kept close to the group ahead. Mine was about two thirds back in the column. Somewhere in the column stretcher bearers carried the seaman with the compound fractures and, I believe, one other wounded who couldn't walk.
About halfway to the beach the column was stopped, and some time was killed to keep from reaching the beach area before darkness. We started again, and it was still daylight when we reached the flat area between the mountain and the water. Suddenly, one of the native scouts came running down the line signaling wildly for us to turn around and go back. A message was relayed back that there were men on the beach with guns. We didn't get disorganized, but we turned around and jogged several hundred yards in the direction of the camp, thinking that a Japanese patrol was too close for comfort. Before we had gone too far, though, another message came down the line, "Hold up, those were Major Kelly's men who were spotted."
After that scare we did some more waiting and, with darkness, proceeded on to the beach and an area close to Lambu Lambu. Lambu Lambu was a tiny trading community at the mouth of a little river. It contained a rustic wharf and was our rendezvous spot. There were a few native houses, thatched, off the ground on poles, in the vicinity. I observed no activity around these houses at all.
From the time we got close to the beach area the entire procession was completely silent, and they remained so as we waited in the dark, each group staying together. I believe an unsuspecting person could have walked through the area and never known that anybody else was around. Time passed and then from out of the darkness about twenty yards across an opening from my group came the loudest of squalls from one of the Chinese babies. Several times later it was repeated, whether by the same baby or not I don't know. I do believe that every man there had the inclination to clap a hand over the guilty mouth, or mouths. We held our positions, though, and, somehow, Lee Spaulding and the mothers got the baby, or babies, quiet.
Too much time passed and we realized that the rendezvous time had come and gone. There was whispering that we may have to head back to Sam Chung's house. Finally, around 0400,
July 16th. the sound of a Higgins boat was heard, and we knew they had come.
From the position where my group was waiting we could only hear the activity at the wharf Chew checked off group by group as they filled Higgins boats which then headed down the little river to the open sea. Finally it was our turn, and we moved up to the wharf
Standing near the loading area was Bernard Kelly and his constabulary, Bish, and three men I had never seen before. One of the strangers was Ensign Rollo Nuckles, obviously the boat officer handling the lift; his uniform was clean, and he even wore a helmet. Beside Nuckles and smiling broadly at the prospect of getting rid of this big headache was Henry Josselyn, Vella Lavella's senior Coastwatcher. Before he introduced himself I knew who it had to be from following Bish's conversations on activities at the other end of the island. Standing with them was another stranger, hatless like ourselves and with a big unhealed cut across his forehead. This was a P-38 pilot who had been shot down by antiaircraft artillery. He had made connection with Josselyn and had been working with Henry for several weeks. This was his chance to get back also.
Somebody from Kelly's guard group carried out their promise to return my .45 and brought it over to me. I took off my sheath knife and handed it and the .45 to either Bish or Josselyn; shook Bish's hand for the last time and followed my ten men into the Higgins boat.
Leaving my knife and gun with the Coastwatchers was not a spur of the moment thing. It had been thought about and discussed previously, and certainly the pitiful rifles they had gotten to us showed that they needed any help they could get. There wasn't much we could do to repay these people, both Coastwatchers and natives, but most of us had knives that the natives could use. I believe that everyone who had knife left it.
Before leaving the camp a number of us had begun to wonder what we could do for Bish. One officer had a fine Movado wrist watch that, unlike my watch, had survived several days under water, and it became the gift for Bish. The officer would have given it himself, but we wanted it to come from all of us and bought it from him for about one oil soaked dollar bill each. I believe that Lt.Cdr. Chew made the presentation on that last day.
My Higgins boat was from the USS Dent which was waiting, along with the USS Waters, when we reached deeper water. These were old World War I destroyers that had been converted for use as high speed troop transports. They were ideal for the present mission. Out of sight somewhere in the Slot were two groups of four each, new type, combat ready destroyers, giving protection to the operation.
On board the Dent the first thought of everyone was food. A long chow line was being fed below, and my men lost no time heading for it. I decided I would try for another source of food and found my way to the wardroom, along with Lee Spaulding. There to my surprise I ran into my Academy Plebe Summer roommate, Gail Ellerbe, now assigned to the Dent. We had a lot of conversation, but nobody offered any food other than some coffee. Finally either Lee or I asked politely, "Do you suppose we could have some toast?" Toast with your coffee was a common snack in wardrooms, and we were indeed, served two pieces of toast each. That was gulped down with some jam, and another serving requested. After three orders of toast we were still hungry but too embarrassed to ask for more.
We went below at that point to see how the chow line was moving. Daylight had come, and all the ships were racing back down the Slot. In the mess area nearly everybody had been fed, but I was told that there were no clean serving trays. My dilemma was solved almost immediately, for up walked an MP with his Japanese prisoner who had just finished eating. The prisoner was a downed pilot who, I was aware, the native scouts had taken near Bausewine's and DuPay's hideouts. I grabbed the prisoner's tray, saying, "He looks healthy to me," then used it as it was to get some much needed food.
Lee's pregnant Chinese woman was really very close to giving birth, and the Dent's medical corpsmen were most nervous on the run back to Tulagi. We heard later that the birth did come within hours after our reaching Tulagi.
Arriving back at Tulagi the afternoon of our pickup we were well taken care of. We took showers and were examined by physicians who primarily swabbed oil out of ears. Our oil soaked clothes were traded for new khakis or dungarees. I believe it was the Red Cross that provided each of us with a small cloth bag that contained a toothbrush, soap, a razor and a comb.
I was assigned a cot in a tent, showed where the nearest air raid shelter was, then, with Sam Hollingsworth, paid a visit to the HMNZS Leander.
At the Leander, sitting on the bottom awaiting temporary repairs to its torpedo damage, we were welcomed to the wardroom as though nothing had ever happened. We were given drinks, as the British were able to do, and had a delightful time trading stories with the Leander officers.
Back ashore and in our cots for a needed night's sleep I was awakened by an air raid siren. Figuring that it was the usual heckler type raid I took my time getting to the bunker, but when I got there it had reached its occupant limit and I couldn't get in. I returned to my cot and lay there with antiaircraft guns all around, one very close, blasting away. Lee Spaulding, caught in the same predicament, entertained himself watching the spectacular AAA tracers across Iron Bottom Bay at Guadalcanal. The next night, when the sirens sounded, I was in the bunker quick enough to have to wait for others to arrive.
Two nights on Tulagi then a number of us were taken by boat to Guadalcanal. After another night of racing others to an air raid shelter, we got a DC3 flight from Henderson Field to Noumea, New Caledonia.
For several days in there my total possessions consisted of what I wore and the little bag with my razor and soap in it. At Noumea I would start acquiring things, but for a time I experienced a feeling of unencumbered freedom that was exhilarating.
I was graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1942 and was commissioned as an Ensign. I then joined the Helena and served on her until she was sunk in July 1943. I served on the Miami, the Oklahoma City and as an instructor at the Navy Sonar School at San Diego, CA. I resigned my commission in 1947 but was recalled in 1951 to active duty with the Office of Naval Intelligence, Washington. DC until 1953. I worked for Johns-Manville Corp. as a sales representative in Mobile, Alabama until 1967 at which time I was employed by the Georgia Power Company, retiring in 1985. My wife Ann and I have a daughter who is an architect and a son who is an attorney. In retirement we are enjoying our grandchildren, an occasional round of golf and other activities in East Cobb County, near Marietta, Georgia.
To see a recent picture of Bin, click Here.
Lt. Jg. D. Binion Cochran's Military Awards
Navy Unit Commendation
American Defense Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic Pacific Medal
With Eight (8) Battle Stars
World War II Victory Medal