This section of my website is dedicated to LST 612, a U.S. Navy ship that my uncle, Harold Conrad, served on during World War II in the Pacific Ocean.  Harold served on LST 612 throughout the ship's active service in the Navy, from the ship’s commissioning in May 1944, in New Orleans, to the end of the war, in September 1945 at the island of Okinawa near Japan.  I never met my Uncle Harold, who died shortly after I was born, but I was a close relative of his widow, my Aunt Dorothy, and she told me many stories about him.

This is the third website tribute I’ve posted about the U.S. Navy and World War II, all of which involve my family members.  Shortly after my father died in 2002, I wrote a section describing his former unit, called SACO – the Sino-American Cooperative Organization, a little-known yet highly effective group of 2,500 U.S. Navy men who fought in China in a joint effort with the Chinese army against Japan during the war.  SACO was a unique unit, being the first (and only) group of American soldiers to ever be integrated with a foreign army and put under the command of a foreign leader.  My Dad, an Ensign and later a Lieutenant Commander, was in the first group of a new Special Operations unit in the U.S. Navy called “Scouts and Raiders,” which later became the Navy SEALs and he spent several months in China with SACO.

A year after posting that story, in 2004 and shortly after my Dad’s brother Bill died, I created over 30 webpages describing the Navy tanker which Bill had served on during World War II, the U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23).  The Neosho was docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, tied up between the battleships U.S.S. Oklahoma and U.S.S. California on the morning of December 7, 1941 during the surprise attack by the Japanese, but fortunately it wasn’t hit.  In fact, it was the only ship on Battleship Row that morning which wasn't damaged.  But a few months later during the Battle of the Coral Sea near Australia, in May 1942, it was attacked by dozens of Japanese warplanes and heavily damaged, and eventually it sank.  The little-known tale of the crew's survival is, I believe, one of the most amazing sagas of World War II. 

The story of Harold’s ship, LST 612, isn’t quite as dramatic but its service to the Allied war effort was just as important.

Harold and Dorothy

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Above:  Harold Conrad and my Aunt Dorothy on their wedding day in Seattle in 1937.

Harold Conrad was born in 1910 and grew up in Everett, Washington, north of Seattle.  After finishing high school, he worked as a department store salesman in Everett and in 1937 at age 27 he married my father’s sister, 20-year old Dorothy Leu.  In 1942, Harold enlisted with the Navy during World War II.  After the war, Harold and Dorothy moved to Portland (and ironically, just a few miles from where I currently live) and Harold got a job as a piano and organ salesman in downtown Portland – from what I understand, he was a great organ player.  Sadly though, Harold died at age 50 of a heart attack in 1960 and because of that, I never met him.  After Harold’s death, Dorothy returned to Seattle, where she lived alone until age 91, passing away in 2008.

My Dad was always close to his older sister, Dorothy.  In fact, in 1945, he named his first child after his sister – that was my sister Doti.  My Aunt Dorothy was smart as a whip and always chipper, and she had a strong interest in family history, as do I.  While I was growing up, I saw my Aunt Dorothy at least once a year, and more often than that after I moved to the Northwest in the early 1990s. 

Dorothy and Harold never had children, and so during one of my visits with her, in 1999 when my Aunt Dorothy was in her early 80s, she asked if I’d like to have some of her personal things.  I gladly said yes, which delighted her, so she gave me her childhood photo album containing family photos going back to 1917, the year she was born.  She also gave me a small box of her late husband Harold’s belongings, which she had kept in her closet for decades, including items from his service during World War II.  I later looked through Harold’s box and then put it away, but I kept it during my many, subsequent moves. 

Dorothy was the unofficial keeper of history for her generation of my family’s relatives, just as I am for mine, and since that visit, 20 years ago, my stash of family history items has grown considerably as I’ve accumulated the photos and mementos of other family members who’ve subsequently passed away, including both of my parents and two of my siblings.  Hoping to pass these things onto the next generation, a year ago I began scanning all the items that I’ve accumulated and started putting them into a family history digital archive.  So far, I’ve scanned over 13,000 family photos, newspaper articles, letters, and other items, some going back to the 1800s.

Harold’s Journal

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Above:  The uncle I never met:  Harold Conrad, Storekeeper First Class, at the typewriter in his tiny office on LST 612 in the Pacific in 1945.  A picture of his wife, my Aunt Dorothy, is on the shelf behind him.

I’m nearly finished with my massive scanning project and as part of that task, last week I opened Harold’s box for the first time in 20 years and looked again through the contents.  From the items, I was able to piece together his life’s story and learned that during WWII, he had served with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific on a ship called LST 612.

The most interesting item that I found in Harold’s collection was a 150-page journal that he wrote during the war from 1944 to 1945, describing the events that he’d witnessed onboard LST 612.  The events involved the invasion of the Philippines where, two years earlier and in the face of the advancing Japanese, General Douglas MacArthur skedaddled but proclaimed “I Shall Return."  Then, two years later in 1944, he did just that.  Harold also described the U.S. invasion of Okinawa, with the vanguard of the American forces that were heading towards Japan.

When I first saw Harold’s journal, two things immediately surprised me.  First, from my prior historical research, I knew that servicemen during World War II weren’t allowed to keep journals, in case their writings fell into enemy hands.  Either Harold was able to hide his journal from his commanding officers or they were very understanding. 

The other thing that amazed me was that he had typed out his journal, rather than writing it by hand.  As I learned, along with being one of the ship’s gunners, Harold was the ship’s Storekeeper, the person who kept track of food and supplies on the 120-person ship, and frequently had to type out requisition orders, so he had access to a typewriter.  As I read through his journal, I could envision him pounding away at the keyboard each night, in the tropical heat in his tiny, stuffy office at the back of the ship, describing that day’s adventures.  I figured that his journal is probably one of the few typed journals ever written from the front lines during World War II.

After I finished reading Harold’s journal, I realized what an amazing first-hand account of World War II it was, so I decided to share it with others.  I’ve compiled his journal into a 150-page PDF file that you can download here.  I’ve added the Table of Contents and the Section pages, but otherwise it’s in its original, unvarnished form.

I then decided to learn more about the ship Harold served on, LST 612, so I did some research and this is what I discovered.

 

 
 
 
 

 

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