Willie Muse boarded U.S.S. GOLD STAR in Manila in the fall of 1934, for one of the most interesting and productive cruises of his naval career.
In Manila, GOLD STAR embarked with about 115 women and children, several men in civilian clothing, and a number of Naval Officers in uniform. Muse “assumed” that because the civilian men and officers took many pictures during the voyage that they were Naval Intelligence, although none of these people contacted him during the trip. Also aboard, in the civilian passengers, were the “Royal Family” of Guam; the wife and two daughters of the Governor of Guam, a Navy Captain.
Muse and his crew were responsible for direction finding, any time they were near a Japanese target. In addition, Muse and his crew assisted ship’s company by standing radio watches in the “General Service” radio room, Which added up to many hours of work each day.
In those days, according to Muse, it was the practice of the Japanese to hold their “Grand Maneuvers” every four years; and 1934 was the magic year. Each time the U.S. Feet held maneuvers, “the inevitable, Japanese tanker or some other vessel, was always conveniently close to the U.S. area of operations. “This time,” Muse said, “we were going to attempt to accidentally do the same damn thing.”
Muse and staff began work about the time t Gold Star passed the northern tip of Formosa, and continued until her arrival in c Shanghai, where the ship was tied up at the Dollar Dock. The stay in Shanghai was about a week.
GOLD STAR was controlled, and was issued instructions as to where to go, and when a to leave. The messages to GOLD STAR were sent in plain text, but the messages had predetermined meanings to the GOLD STAR Captain.
Can you imagine a naval vessel today, with a load of dependents, including the family of a military governor being sent hither and yon in search of a foreign fleet?
After departing Shanghai, GOLD STAR rolled her way across the Yellow Sea to Miiki, Japan, where 1,500 tons of coal was loaded for Guam. The loading was accomplished by Japanese and Korean women bringing coal aboard by basket, on their heads, all night long.
From Miiki, GOLD STAR progressed a few miles north to Nagasaki, where the ship again ported for a few days, while waiting further instructions.
Finally, the message came; that the big Japanese naval maneuvers were ready to begin, but no details were given. Without detailed information, GOLD STAR got underway and began to steam back toward China . . . or at least until out of sight of land.
Away from observation by land the “Old Man” sent a plain text message advising that the steering engine had broken, and that it appeared to be a major repair job.
During the ‘repair job’, Muse, and CRM M.D. Wood “rode the D/F steadily” for several hours, until they determined that the main Japanese fleet was headed south, around the island. The skipper then sent a plain text message that repairs had been completed, to the steering engine, and that GOLD STAR was once more en route to Kobi.
En route, Wood and Muse worked furiously as GOLD STAR, with every light blazing, the ship lit up like a “Christmas Tree,” ran through the entire Japanese fleet.
The Japanese fleet units were running “darkened” and for a time, a Japanese battleship rode almost alongside, a mile off the quarter. Muse remembers the “0ld Man’s” comment, a phrase that could have been at home in a John Wayne movie some decades later: “If those bastards open up broadside, we’ve had it.”
By daylight, most of the Japanese fleet had moved away, and GOLD STAR proceeded to Kobi. By the time she reached Kobi, it was found that the Japanese fleet had split up, some units had gone to Yokohama, some to Osaka, and some to Kobi. While ported in Kobi, Muse and Wood tried their hand at copying blinker from the Japanese fleet units there, a possible first.
GOLD STAR remained at Kobi for several days, then headed home to Guam; but the adventure was not yet ended.
On the return trip, Gold Star ran into a typhoon and took bearings on a commercial ship sending an S0S. The ship, believed to have been S.S. LARRY DOHONEY had lost her rudder in the storm. About fifty hours later, DOHONEY was found by GOLD STAR and escorted to Guam. According to Muse, by that time S.S. LARRY DOHONEY was almost in better shape than GOLD STAR.
Comments of the Navy dependent passengers at the end of the voyage have been lost to history. In all probability they were never aware of the run through the Japanese fleet, or the work performed by Muse and Wood, but they must have wondered about ‘the many detours in their return trip from Manila to Guam.
Editor’s Note: These are the experiences of “Willie” K. Muse, OTRG, NCVA. Material provided by Pearly Phillips, OTRG, NCVA, (LIFE): Mr. Muse retired a CRM, and is President of Muse Buick, Inc., of Richmond, Virginia.
Source: CRYPTOLOG, Vol. 3, No. 4, July 1982