Death from the Sky: This Is What It Was Like to Survive a Kamikaze Strike

August 11, 2018 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: World War IIImperial JapanOkinawaWorld War II HistoryKamikaze

Death from the Sky: This Is What It Was Like to Survive a Kamikaze Strike

On May 11, 1945, the destroyer USS Hugh W. Hadley survived a series of Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa but was shattered in the process.

Later, the battle-blackened destroyer was towed to Kerama Retto and entered floating drydock ARD 28 for temporary repairs. Sailors from the repair ship USS Zaniah went to work. In July, steel I-beams were welded to the interior of the hull to hold the shattered destroyer together, and the exterior of the hull was patched with steel plating. From there, the Hadley was towed to Buckner Bay, the main Okinawa anchorage, provisioned, and taken in tow by the tug ATA-199.

With a reduced crew, the ship was towed 7,000 miles at an average speed of seven knots, stopping at Saipan, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor before the two-month odyssey ended on September 26, 1945, at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard near San Francisco. Along the way, the Hadley skirted a typhoon and the towline parted nine times.

A Presidential Citation For the Hadley

The gallant Hadley never went to sea again. On November 7, 1945, she was decommissioned, and on the 28th she was stricken from the U.S. Navy roll. Her entire service career had lasted less than two years. On February 11, 1947, the rusting hulk was sold for scrap. Somehow, it seems that such a heroic ship deserved a more fitting fate.

Mullaney and Lieutenant Patrick H. McGann, the Hadley’s gunnery officer, received the Navy Cross for the picket line battle, while seven members of the crew received the Silver Star, and seven the Bronze Star. More than 100 Purple Hearts were presented. The entire crew received a Presidential Unit Citation.

Perhaps, though, in summing up the superhuman effort of his crew, Commander Mullaney paid greater tribute to the ship and her complement than any medal or other acknowledgment could.

“No Captain of a man of war ever had a crew who fought more valiantly against such overwhelming odds,” Mullaney wrote. “Who can measure the degree of courage of men, who stand up to their guns in the face of diving planes that destroy them? Who can measure the loyalty of a crew who risked death to save the ship from sinking when all seemed lost? I desire to record that the history of our Navy was enhanced on 11 May 1945. I am proud to record that I know no record of a Destroyer’s crew fighting for one hour and thirty-five minutes against overwhelming enemy aircraft attacks and destroying twenty-three planes. My crew accomplished their mission and displayed outstanding fighting abilities. I am recommending awards for the few men who displayed outstanding bravery above the deeds of their shipmates in separate correspondence. Destroyer men are good men, and my officers and crew were good destroyer men.”

Originally Published December 22, 2016

This article by Michael E. Haskew originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.


Image: Wikimedia Commons