Picket Line Duty Around Okinawa
May 4, 1945
The next morning we thought we’d found one more survivor, but when we got closer we found there wasn’t much left below the life vest.
The guys in the Higgins boat had to fight off sharks to get him to the ship. He had been one of the crew of the LSM-195 that had been sunk. That afternoon between general quarters alarms, the captain and Dr. Putzel conducted a burial service, and he was slipped over the side. The deck log said, “At 1928 burial services were conducted by commanding Officer, Lt. Cmdr. C.V. Allen, USNR, for Ruhlman, George J. (rate unknown), serial No. 952 62 47, who was killed in action May 3rd, 1945 in the service of his country, while serving aboard the USS LSM-195. His remains were committed to the sea in position Lat. 26 deg. 37.5 N, Long. 127 deg. 21.0 E”.
In fairness to the captain, I think that had been the practice earlier in the war in the South Pacific, but we never did that again. At Okinawa, there were transport ships and hospital ships for the wounded, and transports that returned the dead to the States--or they might be buried in temporary graves ashore.
I note from internet data, that that morning of May 4th, at about 7:30 am, while we were still searching for other survivors at radar picket station 10, elsewhere in the radar picket screen, the veteran destroyers Luce (DD 522) and Morrison (DD 560) were both sunk in attacks by multiple kamikazes. Luce lost 126 out of a crew of 312, Morrison lost 152.
USS England (DE 635) was patrolling with us on station A-37a. The USS England was the best submarine hunter of the Pacific fleet. Before coming to Okinawa she had already sunk six Japanese subs. Unfortunately, she was hit the next day by kamikazes while on radar picket duty on a nearby station, (37 killed, 9 wounded), and while not sunk, had to be towed to Kerama Retto, eventually repaired at Leyte, and then was able to get back to the States under her own power. The USS England was given a Presidential Unit Citation.
We were patrolling station A35a with the USS Oberender, (DE 344). At 6:53 pm she was hit by a kamikaze. We lowered 3 boats to pick up survivors and got three sailors. The USS Oberender was towed to Kerama Retto but was beyond repair. (24 sailors killed or wounded). The USS Oberender appears to have been an updated DE in that she has 5” enclosed gun turrets fore and aft. However, I don’t see any radar fire-control antenna, so, like us, she wouldn’t have found them very useful in a night attack. We returned to the Hagushi anchorage and transferred the three survivors to the USS Crescent City (APA 21).
May 10. 1945
We escorted the hospital ship USS Relief (AH 1) as it left Okinawa en route Guam, in case of a kamikaze attack. We stayed with her until beyond the range of Japanese planes. Escorting a hospital ship was against international convention at the time, but another brightly lit hospital ship, the USS Comfort, had taken a kamikaze hit at Okinawa not long before then, which had wiped out a whole surgery and killed a lot of people. Needless to say, sailing along not too far behind a brightly lit ship wasn’t a very desirable job with kamikazes in the area.
Escorting the hospital ship was a bit of luck for us, because we were away from Okinawa when Kikusui #6 took place, another mass kamikaze raid. On the morning of May 11th, the destroyer Hugh W. Hadley (DD 774) reported raids coming in totaling 156 planes and called all the CAP airplanes to intercept them. During an hour and forty minutes, the Hadley managed to shoot down 20 planes and was hit by another two plus a kamikaze Baca bomb. Destroyer Evans (DD 552) accounted for 13 more, 4 of which hit and completely disabled her. Both destroyers were towed to Kerama Retto for temporary repairs and then were towed back to the US and scrapped.
In this mass raid two kamikazes also hit the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill with Admiral Mitcher aboard. That took her out of the picture for the rest of the war.
May 12, 1945
We were in Hagushi anchorage under evening air attack when the battleship USS New Mexico was hit by one of two kamikazes, in spite of a huge anti-aircraft barrage from the whole anchorage. I was watching from the flying bridge and could see these two dots coming in high over the anchorage.
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