Whitesburg KY

Tells of heroic action during Typhoon Jane


Hello everyone – I hope all are staying healthy and safe. We are staying healthy so far. This virus is so scary. We have a daughter-in-law that is a nurse and she is on the front line with coronavirus patients. She’s worried that people are going to rush getting back to normal and cause a spike in the number of coronavirus cases. I have that same worry. Please use precautions when you go out.

On Sunday evening, there were four deer in my aunt’s yard. They were looking at us and we were looking at them. By the time I took a picture, there was only one deer available for the photo. It was lovely seeing the deer.

Mike and I are very thankful that we didn’t lose power after the Easter storms. Those that lost power were without power for several days. I believe the last power for the Cowan area was restored by Friday night.

My Great-aunt Louanna and Earl Banks’s house on Little Cowan has been torn down. I know the house needed to be torn down but it has always been there in my lifetime. My cousin, Donna Watts, was able to get some items out of the house from the new owners. Donna gave me a green vase, which I will treasure. Back in my childhood, Aunt Louanna would save her old catalogs for me so I could cut out paper dolls. The house may be gone, but my memories will always be there.

Spencer Stevenson has been accepted into the U.S. Air Force Summer Seminar for this upcoming summer. He is currently finishing his junior year of high school. Spencer’s goal is to have a career in the Air Force and to serve his country. Spencer is the son of Renee and Shawn Stevenson of Bexley, Ohio, and the grandson of Verna Rayburn of Liberty and the late Chester Rayburn. Spencer’s great-grandparents were the late Bernard and Minnie Vae Banks of Little Cowan. Congratulations to Spencer.

Jill Kent of Wise, Va., sent me a message saying they were just sitting at home. I think that’s the right thing to do. Jill is the daughter of Carol Caudill of Little Cowan.

My brother has two dogs, Lady and Buddy. One afternoon, Buddy was at our house and they started barking at something under the house. I go outside to see what’s going on. Lady comes hobbling up from my brother’s house (Lady has arthritis). They are both barking.

Then Mike comes out of the garage. Mike and both dogs are looking under the porch. Lady was very intent on a flowerpot that was there, so I knew she found something. It was the biggest and longest black snake I’ve seen around here. The dogs and I were the only ones who saw it.

When it was over my brother came up because he heard the snake bark from his dogs. This was the second snake that has been seen around here this year. Mike and Lady saw one by the creek. It make Lady jump back and Mike saw it heading for the creek. Last year, we didn’t see snakes around our house but they were seen at my brother’s house. I’m not ready for snake season.

The following is an interesting and true adventure story. A cousin, Russell Yonts of Indianapolis, Ind., sent this story to me. It’s a part of history that if it isn’t written down and shared, will disappear. I appreciate Russell giving me the opportunity to share his story.

Sheet bend hawsers defeat Hurricane Jane afore Inchon invasion

“U.S. Navy sends ships out to sea to seek safety,” said news headlines around the world Sept. 2018 as Hurricane Florence approached the United States’ eastern shore. Publicity and the luxury fair winds and fallowing seas was not an option Sept. 3, 1950, for USS President Jackson as it met the torrents of Typhoon Jane while docked in Kobe Harbor, Japan.

On board Jackson was the infamous 10th Corps, 1st Marine Division. They had departed San Diego Aug. 14, 1950 and docked on Kobe Harbor’s Pier 3 Aug. 29, in advance of the U.S. invasion of Inchon, South Korea.

Also on board was U.S. Navy Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Harold R. Yonts. Now retired and a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, he describes how a change in weather put him in charge of a heroic struggle to save the ship and the mission.

Looking out on Kobe Harbor Sept 3, 1950, Yonts watched a docked German luxury liner as eerily calm skies grew menacing. The liner suddenly started to depart with sirens and whistles blaring and headed quickly out to sea. He remembers how the wake from the liner slammed against Jackson’s hull. “The whoosh rocked our ship big time,” Yonts said, “While other crewmen asked, ‘Who put a burr under their tail?’”

Then the executive officer appeared on quarterdeck, grabbed Yonts by the arm, and ordered him to take a working party to the dock. Yonts looked around then back at the executive officer asked, “What working party?”

The executive officer snapped back, “This working party!” as he pulled a Marine from the chow line and “detoured” 12 to 15 more. The executive officer pointed at Yonts directing, “Marines, follow him. Go double and triple all mooring lines!”

Minute-to-minute weather updates were not typical in 1950. Records today tell how Hurricane Jane reached Category 3 as it hit Japan’s east coast. An eerie calm before the storm gave some a false sense of security that day Yonts and 15 Marines were yanked from the chow line. The executive officer knew better as a Category 3 typhoon approached Kobe Harbor.

Yonts recalls, “The water, before the typhoon hit, was 2 fathoms below the dock and the Marines thought it was silly to double and triple the mooring lines. The calm winds got stronger and the work securing mooring lines got more difficult. Almost from nowhere, wind and rain began to crash against the beach with fury. Trees were thrashed with powerful gusts of wind. The sea boiled, rose, and covered the pier. A constant barrage of breakers exploded against Jackson. Typhoon Jane tore us up with 120 knot winds.”

The Marines followed Yonts’s direction as they battled to keep the vessel tied down. If they failed, the ship could run free in the harbor and cause untold damage to life and property. More importantly for Jackson, they could not risk the 10th Corps, 1st Marine Division missing the Inchon invasion.

At times, waves lifted the men off their feet as they struggled to connect and tie wet, heavy lines. Men were washed backward and away from the Jackson as moor lines snapped.

Yonts recalls, “One wave stormed over the dock, lifted four of us up in the water over our heads then threw us backwards toward a warehouse behind the dock. Just before we slammed into the warehouse, the wave knocked the double doors open and we were washed into the building. Amazingly, we were set down gently. No one was hurt, except one Marine who scratched up his leg real bad.”

Mooring ropes, known to sailors as hawsers, can reach up to 8 inches. They are huge and tying these thick, heavy lines together in good weather is tough. Typhoon Jane snapped Jackson’s hawsers like twine. Marines fought to pull broken line ends back to the dock to be retied. The wrench operator on board Jackson would tighten up the lines to the breaking point.

At the height of the storm, Jackson was too far from the dock to throw a heaving line. Instead a small line throwing gun, a 30-caliber rifle with a flanker, was used to shoot a smaller cord to the dock. The smaller cord was connected to a hawser so Marines could pull a hawser from the Jackson to the pier then tie a knot that could survive the storm.

Yonts reflects with amazement how the impromptu work party he led kept the ship and the dock in one piece.

“From noon until late in the evening, we battled the typhoon as the eye of the storm passed overhead,” Yonts said, “Typhoon Jane finally moved on and left Kobe Village and surrounding areas demolished.”

Jackson remained afloat, undamaged and ready for the invasion of Inchon. While many hawsers snapped from the typhoon’s fury, not one knot failed. Jackson would sail Sept. 11, 1950 with Task Group 90.2 to unload on the assault beaches of Inchon, serve as a casualty receiving ship, and then evacuate casualties to Yokohama and San Francisco.

Yonts recalls one more detail with the humor of a sailor. The Japanese built a portable toilet on a 2’ by 12’ board extending off the dock and out over the bay.

“It was a box with halfa wall for privacy. Well, some privacy, anyway. It was completely under water during the typhoon. After all the rage and fury of the storm, there was the pier 3 porta-john with no damage at all,” describes Yonts.

Yonts chuckles, “After all we endured, the first person to use the port-john got a big cheer!”

I love Russell’s true story. Thank you Russell for your service.

This week’s quote is attributed to Willa Cather. “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in a storm.”

Please send your news to Cowannews@aol.com.

Thank you. Have a healthy and safe week.

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