WORLD WAR II VETERANS CONCORDIA PARISH LOUISIANA

U.S. NAVY THEO M. RABB
PACIFIC THEATER

Destroyer-Mine Layer–USS Preble–M.M. 1st Clas–U.S. Naval Reserve

Battle of Midway Battle of Palau Invasion of Phillipines

The USS Preble was credited with sinking 8 Japanese ships in waters from Alaska to the South China Seas.

The USS Preble received 8 Battle Stars for major engagements and Unit Citations from President Roosevelt, Admiral Halsey, Admiral Merrill, Lt. Com. W.A. Armstrong and the President of the Phillipines.

I was born December 4, 1919 in Catahoula Parish to Ivy H. and Alice Beard Rabb. I had two sisters, Ruby Rabb Irvin and Clara Rabb Adams. I graduated from Ferriday High School 1937, and went to work for Arkansas Fuel & Oil Co. in the oil fields at Olla, Louisiana. I was there until December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day.

I joined the Naval Reserve December 10, 1941 and went to San Diego for my basic training. December 25 I was aboard a troop ship headed to Pearl Harbor. I arrived there about January 1, 1942. Ships were still burning in the Naval Harbor and everything was a total mess.

I was assigned to the USS Preble D M 20, a destroyer- mine layer. We went to sea immediately, hunting Japenese submarines around the Island of Oahu. We picked up sounding and began depth charges. The mine tracks were designed to open, drop a depth charge, and close. The track opened, but would not close. So, with the gate hung open, we unloaded all depth charges. We saw an oil slick and debris, but the concussion ruptered tubes in the condensers and we took on salt water. We had to go back to port for repairs.

We were in the Battle of Midway in 1942 followed by continuous action for the rest of the year and all of 1943 in the South Pacific. During the dark of the moon, we would slip into Japanese harbors and mine the entrances, and then get the hell out of there. Our planes would stir them up the next morning to get them started toward the open sea, so that their ships would hit the mines and sink.

There were two mine divisions, with four ships each. Each ship was credited for sunken ships. We were credited for 8. The USS Gamble was credited for 7. J.T. Jacobs of Ferriday was on the USS Gamble, which was sunk by a Japanese Kimakeze plane. J. T. survived.

We saw action from the South China Seas to Alaska, but most of 1944 and 1945 was in the Pacific as our troops moved north, island by island. One of my worst experiences was during the invasion of the Phillipines. We were in a typhoon. We would be about 90 feet high above the sea, and then we would crash down. I am not sure how, but we managed to ride it out. Following is an account of the Battle of Palau, September 1944, as written in a log by me at the time of the battle.

For the past two weeks a powerful task force has been gathering here at Talagi. It is task force 32.5 of the third fleet. There are battleship, carriers, cruisers, tin cans, mine layers, mine sweepers and marine transports. On Sept. 6 we got underway and the force was really a powerhouse. The trip was made @ 15 knots and the only trouble we had was a leaky tube in lube oil cooler. Repair was made in 3 hours, while we steamed on one engine. September 12, 1944, the big day has arrived, dog -3 day. @ 0430 all hands manned their battle stations and stood by for the coming attraction. At 0600 The ship made her daring run on the 100 fathom curve @ 25 knots. Our objective happened to be magnetic mines presumably dropped on the shoals of this 100 fathom curve. We were to drop 20 depth charges and blow our whistle and sirene as we passed around the curve. These mines were acoustically triggered, so it was hoped the additional sounds would cause some to detonate.

At 0610 Whistle and sirens were blowing and the charges were being rolled over the fan tail set @ 50 feet. All around me I could see men with that uncertainty in their eyes wondering if we would explode one of the mines too close to the ships hull and send all hands to their maker.

At 0620 Word was passed that all charges were dropped and that we were pulling that well known naval maneuver, “Getting the hell out of there.” We failed to find any mines, but as we were leaving out an anti-aircraft battery opened fire on us, but they failed to score a hit. We were ordered not to stick around and return fire and since we were only 800 yards off the beach, we continued our present course to the open seas.

At approximately 0700 we were heading back between the two islands with mine sweepers and barrage after barrage of heavy shells were exploding on the beach. Our battleships, cruisers and tin cans were really giving those Japs hell. After the sweeps cleared a channel through the two islands, we dropped buoys to mark the cleared area. Several mines were cut loose and with orders to explode them, our gun crews opened up with 3”, 20mm,50 cal. and 30 cal. I believe our bag was 4 mines, and what a terrific explosion.

Next came the dive bombers, and as they went into their dives, they opened fire with their guns and strafed the ground below them. Now it really was a living hell for all on the island. Picture; bombs being dropped from dive bombers, shells from cruisers, battle wagons and tin cans exploding, fires burning fuel tanks, ammunition dumps sending billows of smoke, debris and what have you, a hundred feet in the air, trees broken like match sticks and strewn around. And the Japs were trying to escape their just punishment.
We were now in pretty close to the beach and Nolan and I were watching the chaos on the beach, when we saw the water kicking up about 50 feet from the ship. Our first thought was of shrapnel, but when we heard a zip, zip, zip noise we decided we had business elsewhere and fast.

This destruction continued throughout the day and @ 1800 we retired to neutral zone to await the following morning, dog day -2. What is in store for them for the next few days is something they will remember as long as they live, which I would judge as being extremely short. September 13, 1944, today, dog day -2, was rather eventful. I slept from 2000 to 2345 and then went on watch until 0400. @ 0445 all hands manned battle stations and we started in following the sweeps.

The battleships, cruisers, tin cans and planes have started their unmerciful pounding once more. I have noticed a big fire started on the beach for the third time, and those little yellow bastards have put it out each time. They can’t possibly escape death leaving their foxholes and bomb shelters in order to fight fire, but it seems they will fight to the last.

At approximately 1000 we sighted a mine and promptly sank the same. The sweeps are taking strip after strip to get rid of these highly explosive mines. It is a tedious operation and one slip could cause lots of trouble.

Looking through the glasses at the town you can see some rather nice looking dwelling houses and a large phosphate mine and plant. The population of this town was between 30,000 and 40,000, but since it is now near complete ruins, I cannot estimate its present population.

At 1418 the Perry, mine sweep, steaming about 200 yards ahead of us hit a mine. The ship is listing badly and we are trying to pick up the survivors. The lookout watchers have sighted several mines, one 10 feet off the bow and the Captain gave me a full backing bell. I guess you know he got it and then some. There is another just aft of the fan tail.
We are in one hell of a fix. Japanese snipers are in the trees on the beach and men are leaving the stricken ship. The men are swimming frantically in order not to be swept to that beach and to get out of the oily water. Death faces them from several sides now. Jap snipers, sharks and the main one happens to be those mines about 6 feet under the water. If we hit one, or if the Perry drifts into one, all men in the water will be killed instantly.

After an hour and 15 minutes of this and we have the survivors aboard and are getting out of there. These we took to the Cleveland and the Tennessee. The Perry was hit in the forward firerooms and all on watch were killed instantly. A score of others were hurt pretty bad. She stayed afloat one hour and 45 minutes before sinking.

It is almost dark now so we will retire to a neutral zone and await the coming day, dog day –1, then we must clear those mines before dog day, which is invasion day.

These Japs are a strange people. I can’t see why they haven’t sent some planes from the Phillipines or some other near base to contest our actions. We have wiped out the airfield here and one report I heard was that the Jap planes are a mass of wreckage strewn about the island. Tomorrow is another day and I will sign off with my thoughts of what will happen then, War is certainly hell.

Dog day-1. Old lady luck seems to be riding with us still. The big boys shelled the beach all last night and this morning we were destroying some mines in close to the beach. We were fired on twice, presumably by a 6” shore battery. I found out for certain that another destroyer was sunk, either by shore battery or enemy mine night before last. We destroyed 8 mines today and shrapnel fell all over the ship.

In the morning (Dog day) @ 0800 landing will be made on the beaches. According to plan, we should be in full possession of them in 72 hours. I know now, why the Japs failed to send planes down from the Phillipines. We have another force ther pounding them into submission. (I hope)
Due to so much firing of guns and exploding mines, two more tubes carried away in after cooler. Repair was made in 3 hours. Eng. room temp 120 degrees, injection 86 degrees, Topside 108 degrees. I would give $25 for a good night’s sleep and the same amt. for a good meal. (lots of money then) By Theo Rabb M.M. 1 C. I was discharged in September 1945 and returned to Ferriday, which has been my home ever since.

February 24, 1946 I married Jean Galloway and we are enjoying life here on Lake Concordia. We had 3 sons: Morris Rabb, Mike Rabb and Mark Rabb (deceased).

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Machinist Mate Theo Rabb

 

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Our ship the USS Preble was credited with sinking 8 enemy ships and 1 submarine. In recognition of this 9 Japanese flags were shown on a poster mounted on the bridge. Many years later, I had the opportunity to have my picture made with this poster.