The invasion of Okinawa in the pre-dawn darkness was an awesome sight.
The Salt Lake City was one of a large task force headed for the island and
providing anti-aircraft fire to protect our troop ships and warships
against the KAMIKAZE planes. The ship was at Battle Stations, mine being
located amidships on the first deck under the weather deck.
Below us was the forward fire room (boilers). In our damage control area
we had a crib with damage control equipment such as sledge hammers, wedges,
fire hoses and "Handy-Billies" (portable gasoline engine powered pumps to
control flooding if required).
We also had phone communication with the two fire rooms and the bridge. As
usual, at Battle Stations many chain smoked cigarettes, non-filter,
lighting one off the butt of the previous one.
Soon we heard our anti-aircraft guns firing. These consisted of 5 inch -
25's, 40mm and 20mm quad mounts.
Then my curiosity got the better of me and I broke a prime rule... to keep
all hatches battened down. In a large rectangular hatch used for access
to the well deck was a small round hatch just large enough to allow a man's
shoulder through. This I opened far enough to see the sea and sky around
the ship. Our ship was in single file with other warships heading for
Okinawa. The sky from horizon to horizon was filled with tracer shells
and bullets being shot at Japanese warplanes and Kamikazes attacking the
invading force. The tracers gave the gunners direction on how to correct
their aim to hit the enemy. As I watched, a Kamikaze approached the ship
directly astern of us from the port side at low altitude then crossed the
ship's stern in a graceful turn and hit the ship on the starboard side
about amidships. I closed the hatch quickly and lit another cigarette.
The other ship survived though badly damaged.
Okinawa is remembered also for the surprise we received one night. After
many days on alert, increased watches and lack of sleep the situation was
considered secure enough to allow the ships to resume normal activity. We
were all at anchor in Buckner Bay when General Quarters sounded about
2 a.m. It appears a Jap reconnaissance plane had avoided all the radar by
flying low and had flown directly over all the fleet in the harbor at mast
height and was gone before a gun could be fired.
Also occurring at this time was the well remembered typhoon of July 17-21,
1945 [DORIS]. The entire fleet was ordered to leave harbor and head for the open
sea without any asemblance of order. Battleships and mine-sweepers were
side by side leaving the harbor. More than one man swept over the side
was picked up by the ship following. We survived that one too, even
though we were top heavy with anti-aircraft guns added after the ship was
designed and launched. I believe some destroyers were lost do to
Written by Robert J. Serazin, Lt. (jg)
If interested, check out this site that tells about the typhoons of
Tropical Cyclone Data for 1945
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