Picket Line Duty Around Okinawa
May 20, 1945
We were patrolling station A35 with the destroyers USS Thatcher and USS Boyd, when we came under kamikaze attack.
Thatcher had been hit by a low-flying “Oscar” aft of the bridge. The kamikaze also carried a bomb which blasted a 6-foot by 9-foot hole between the bilge and the keel (14 killed, 53 wounded). Thatcher limped to Kerama Retto for repairs and ultimately, under her own power, returned to the States, where she was scrapped.
A note from the Thatcher that I managed to retain.
The 27th through the 29th of May proved to be the most hectic of our days at Okinawa. In the early morning of the 27th we were patrolling station B-28 on anti-submarine screen, when we made a sonar contact. At 1:40 am we attacked, dropping five depth charges. At 1:47 am we again attacked with five more depth charges. With the other destroyer escorts, USS Yokes (APD 69), USS Hubbard (DD 748) and USS Rednour (APD 102), we continued the search until, at 5:03 am, we again made sonar contact and dropped four more depth charges. This time a large oil slick appeared which continued to expand. We were pretty sure we got him, but an oil slick can be a deception technique and, without more evidence, we couldn’t formally claim him. However, we passed the area again the next day and the oil slick was still spreading.
The picture (left) shows a depth charge explosion behind the USS Pavlic, which I think was taken during training off Bermuda. In combat, our cameraman had other duties, and I know of no pictures taken on our ship during combat.
We refueled at Kerama Retto and picked up 16 depth charges and went back on patrol with the USS Ingram (APD 31). That evening at 8:15 pm we commenced firing on a bogie on the starboard side and splashed him.
I remember hearing the CIC (Combat Information Center - the radar plotting room were they kept track of incoming planes) reports on the sound power phones giving the azimuth and range of the bogie from our air-search radar. The azimuth stayed constant as the range steadily decreased so we knew he was coming for us. Even though CIC could tell you where to look, the gunners had to spot him to get their sights on him. As the range got short you could hear the gunners trying to find him in the growing darkness. “I can’t see him, I can’t see him!” --- ‘I see him, I see him!”. There is a burst of 40 mm gunfire and everyone scrunches down waiting for the impact. Finally we realize that they’d splashed him and we all relaxed for a bit.
Our kill was confirmed by the destroyer, USS Abercrombie, (DE 343). However, there was still a large-scale kamikaze attack in progress so we were again at general quarters at 11:20 pm. Shortly afterward we were shooting at another bogie along with several other ships. It was splashed, but someone else was credited with the kill. At 11:43 pm, a ship on the port bow was hit by another kamikaze, and it turned out to be our old friend the USS Rednour (APD 102), shown below.
We proceeded to the USS Rednour to assist with firefighting and stopped to put a boat in the water to send a doctor to them. Their doctor was killed when the kamikaze hit. We carried an extra doctor aboard because we had been designated a rescue ship. An unidentified ship eight miles to starboard had also been hit. That was probably the USS Braine (DD 630), which was hit by two kamikazes and severely damaged that night (50 killed, 78 wounded).
May 28, 1945
Captain Kennaday Commander
That same night at 1:10 am we began taking evasive action to avoid enemy aircraft in the vicinity. At 1:28 am we opened fire on a Betty bomber on the port bow at a range of about 500 yards. She missed our bridge narrowly and was subsequently shot down under fire from several ships. Since my general quarters station was on a voice radio in the upper sound hut at the top of the bridge, that was a close one for me.
At that time, we had Captain Kennaday, our transport division commander, aboard. One of the boys told me he was outside on the flying bridge as the kamikaze came straight in at him and was standing there firing his 45 caliber handgun at it. That takes guts. I was inside the upper sound hut at the time so didn’t see it.
At 6:00 AM we headed back to Hagushi Anchorage but were immediately ordered to Radar Picket Station 15 to pick up survivors of the destroyer, USS Drexler (DD 741) The Drexler had sunk by the time we got there, but the LCS 114, who must have been one of the “pall bearers” on station with her, had 134 of her survivors, which we took aboard and transported about 30 miles to the large troop transport, USS Crescent City, at Hagushi Anchorage, by 12:45 PM. That’s where those extra 150 bunks we had came in handy--to help cope with all the casualties.
The USS Drexler (DD 741) and USS Lowry (DD 770) were initially attacked by two kamikazes. They downed the first, but the second dove on Lowry and somehow blundered into Drexler. Badly damaged, Drexler kept firing and helped splash three more bogies, but a fourth crashed her superstructure causing a huge explosion. She sank stern-first within a minute of the second hit, hence the heavy casualties (168 dead, 52 wounded). At 6:00 PM we were at Flash Red again in the Hagushi anchorage with all guns manned.
May 29, 1945
At 12:30 that night we got underway to go to Radar Picket Station 16 to pick up survivors from the USS Shubrick (DD 639). At 2:00 AM we were again at general quarters. We closed with the USS Van Valkenburgh (DD 656) at Radar Picket Station 16 and took aboard Shubrick survivors. Shubrick had been attacked by two aircraft. She shot down one but the other crashed into the ship superstructure at a 40 mm gun.
We hurried back to Hagushi Anchorage and by 7 AM were transferring Shubrick personnel to the USS Clinton (APA 144).
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