Kent L Sanborn

Kent L Sanborn







In Loving Memory of Kent L. Sanborn



Kent L. Sanborn was good at everything he did. He was a good husband, a good
Father, and a Good Sailor. Kent passed away in 2004 but will be long remembered.

Kent was a Merchant Marine and had every reason to be proud of it.

Kent served on the following ships:

S.S.Thomas Nelson              02/17/44-01/29/45
S.S.Abigail Adams              03/06/45-08/31/45
S.S.Adrian Victory             10/12/45-12/19/45
S.S.Edward A Macdowell         01/17/46-09/13/46
                    



Picture of the SS Thomas Nelson


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Kent Sanborn:

I was a member of the crew of SS Thomas Nelson from February 17, 1944 to 
January 29, 1945.  The Nelson was a Liberty ship in the US Merchant Marine and
was  operated for the government by a division of the W.R. Grace Company.  She
was hull  number 30 of some 2750 Liberty's built during the early part of
World War II, and was  unusual in that she was all riveted rather than welded
like most later ships of that design.   Her port of registry was Baltimore but
she was operating in the Pacific in 1944.  We  sailed out of San Francisco
with a cargo of mixed supplies destined for use by army units  in New Guinea. 
After a thirty day crossing we made our first stop in Milne Bay.  The  next
several months were spent ferrying supplies and equipment along the New Guinea
coast all the way from Port Moresby to Biak and nearly every place between.

In October of that year we loaded some of the troops and equipment of the Army
Air Force's 345th Bomb Group at Biak and proceeded to Hollandia, New Guinea. 
There  we joined a convoy that was scheduled to be part of the Philippine
Island invasion force.   That trip into Leyte Gulf turned out to be the last
shuttle for the Nelson that year due to  damage sustained in a Kamikaze attack
while at anchor near the town of Dulag on the  island of Leyte.

My recollection is that the harbor at Hollandia was pretty well filled with
ships.   Some were Navy fighting vessels, but most were merchant ships like
ours.  I remember  the night before our departure as being very dark.  We
watched masthead lights on the  warships flash rapidly for a couple of hours
as signalmen talked with each other in a  steady stream of coded messages. 
Sometime after midnight I stood on our flying bridge  with the ship's Second
Mate and watched as the Navy pulled out, ghosting past us almost  without a
sound.  I remember wondering at the time how it was possible to go through all
the commotion of hoisting anchors on several large ships and stowing them
away in  nearly total silence.  By dawn they were gone.

The trip to Leyte was slow.  All trips on Liberty ships were slow.  For the
Thomas  Nelson, ten knots was a pretty normal speed when she was traveling
alone.  Convoys  were usually a bit slower than the slowest ships.  Without
knowing, I imagine the same  was true of formation flying where maintaining
position and maneuvering requirements  might limit the flexibility a pilot has
when he's alone.  I don't remember how many days  it took us to get there, but
the trip was uneventful.  Some might even characterize it as  boring with
pleasant weather, bright skies, a gentle rolling motion and time spent lolling
against the rail watching the flying fish do their thing.

When we arrived in Leyte Gulf on October 29, 1944, some of the convoy 
anchored near Dulag.  I don't remember whether all did or not, but we did, and
so did SS  Morrison R. Waite on which some other 345th people had made the
trip.  For reasons I  don't know about, the Army wasn't ready to accommodate
the 345th on shore  immediately.  One story I remember hearing was that the
airstrip wasn't ready to accept  their airplanes.  Maybe someone else can shed
more light on that.  For whatever reason,  they stayed on the two ships for
several days.  During that time we knew there were air  raids around because
we could see and hear the anti-aircraft artillery, but none of it  seemed
particularly threatening to me.  The targets seemed to be on the beach a
little  north of our location, closer to the town of Tacloban.  In those days
I was barely eighteen  years old and, like Alfred E. Newman of "Mad" magazine
fame, subscribed to the  philosophy "What?  Me worry?"  I was too ignorant to
be frightened.  All of that changed  abruptly at lunch time on November 12,
1944.

I was standing in the starboard companionway of the main deck house, just
inside  the forward doorway onto the main deck, when a fierce explosion
knocked me to my  knees.  One of the ship's cooks was there with me and both
of us needed several seconds  to recover from our initial shock.  When we went
outside to see what had happened, we  looked first toward the foredeck, which
was nearest to where we stood.  We couldn't see  anything there that would
account for the explosion so we ran aft along the outside  companionway.  As
soon as we cleared the end of the deck house, we stood near the head  of the
temporary ladder into the number four hold where many of the 345th people were
quartered.  From there we could see a major fire in the aft end of the ship. 
I recall that  the worst of the fire was on the port side and a little aft of
the mast between the fourth  and fifth holds.  I also recall the feeling of
alarm that struck me when I realized I couldn't  see the after deck house
where our Navy gun crew people were quartered and where there  were magazines
full of ammunition for a four-inch surface gun and two twenty  millimeter
machine guns.  There was absolute pandemonium for a few minutes, but at the 
time it seemed like hours.

When I finally "got my wits about me" I went to a nearby fire hose location.  
There were already people there trying to get the hose, which had been
damaged, into  service, so I went up the ladder onto the boat deck to get
another hose.  With help from  somebody nearby the hose was pulled out, but
when the valve was opened we found that  the hydrant had been destroyed by
shrapnel.  It was quickly decided that any useful hoses  had to be fed from
hydrants inside or forward of the deck house.  Several people got that  done
after what seemed like an eternity.  I have no idea how long it took to get
water on  the fire.  It was probably not more than ten minutes or so, but that
ten minutes seemed  like forever.  After the fire had been knocked down I went
aft to my battle station in the  four-inch gun tub and spent the rest of the
afternoon unloading magazines and throwing  overheated  ammunition overboard.

As we moved around the deck that day, we could see a lot of people who had 
been killed or very seriously wounded.  We could also see people in the water
alongside  the ship.  Some may have been blown overboard.  Others, including a
gunners mate from  our Navy gun crew, probably jumped to escape the fire. 
Sometime during the early  afternoon we began to see small boats coming out
from the beach in an effort to help.  In  Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest
Generation", he tells about one of those people, John  Assenzio, who was
awarded the Bronze Star for his lifesaving efforts.

Eventually I looked around the anchorage at the other ships and saw that the 
Morrison Waite had also been hit.  It appeared to me that the damage to that
ship was  worse than what we had on the Nelson.  The airplane that hit us
appeared to have struck  the rigging near the masthead aft of the main deck
house.  Most of the airplane went into  the water and the fire with which we
had to deal was burning fuel from his ruptured  tanks.  On the Waite it
appeared the airplane had hit the side of the ship below the rail  and just
aft of the starboard anchor hawspipe, opening a large triangular hole into the
number one hold.  However, we were anchored some distance apart so that
impression  may not be accurate.  In any event, both ships sustained
significant damage and the  human loss was indescribable.  I had never seen
mayhem like that.  It was unnerving and  ugly.  The memory still brings tears
to my eyes and I know it will be with me for the rest  of my life.

I never heard how many 345th people were lost that day.  Of our crew, two of
the  fourteen man Navy gun crew were killed and two were taken ashore wounded.
I never  saw them again.  Probably because it was lunch time and people were
inside the deck  house preparing to eat when the plane exploded, none of the
35 merchant seamen were  killed.  Only two had relatively minor wounds. After
the raid the Army moved quickly to  get their people ashore.  I think all of
them had gotten off our ship by nightfall that day.   Following that, the
supplies and equipment were unloaded with priority given to things  needed
most as determined by the Army's port commander.  It took two or three days to
get most of it ashore.  In our lower holds we had bombs which were not high
on anyone's  want list, so we sat there for a few more days.  Eventually we
moved the ship closer to  Tacloban where we waited again for someone to want
those bombs.  It was probably  about a week after we dropped anchor at
Tacloban that we joined a southbound convoy.

It seems to me that Mother Nature has a wonderful way of softening the effect
of  catastrophic events for us.  I'm glad because it would be hard to go on
sometimes if that  didn't happen.  I'll never forget that day in Leyte Gulf. 
But more importantly I'll always  remember the time I had with 345th after we
left New Guinea and before we met with  disaster.  I met some fine people and
have felt a strong affinity with them ever since.

Kent Sanborn        June, 1999


SS Abigail Adams Discharge


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Adrian Victory Discharge


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Customs


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SS Edward A McDowell Discharge


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Immunization Record


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Passport


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Passport


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Passport


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Passport


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Back side of next picture


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Kent Sanborn is 7th from left in middle row


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Kent Sanborn is the one on the inside of the 7th row


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Back side of the next picture


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Picture from Kent


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Back of next picture


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Picture from Kent


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Back of next picture


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Kent Sanborn is on the right


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Picture from Kent Sanborn


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Signed Bill - Back


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Signed Bill - Front


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SS Thomas Nelson Discharge


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