5.29.2017

Kathee's Uncle Jack Hersant died in a Kamikaze attack on the USS Aaron Ward (1945)













USS Aaron Ward (DM-34)

Excerpt:

On 30 April, the destroyer minelayer returned to sea to take up position on radar picket station number 10. That night, she helped repulse several air attacks; but, for the most part, weather kept enemy airpower away until the afternoon of 3 May. When the weather began to clear, the probability of air attacks rose. At about dusk, Aaron Ward's radar picked up bogies at 27 miles (43 km) distance; and her crew went to general quarters. Two of the planes in the formation broke away and began runs on Aaron Ward. The warship opened fire on the first from about 7,000 yards (6,000 m) and began scoring hits when he had closed range to 4,000 yards (4,000 m). At that point, he dipped over into his suicide dive but crashed about 100 yards (100 m) off the destroyer minelayer's starboard quarter. The second of the pair began his approach immediately thereafter. Aaron Ward opened fire on him at about 8,000 yards (7,000 m) and, once again, began scoring hits to good effect — so much so that her antiaircraft battery destroyed him while he was still 1,200 yards (1,100 m) away.

At that point, a third and more determined intruder appeared and dove in on Aaron Ward's stern. Though repeatedly struck by antiaircraft fire, the plane pressed home the attack with grim determination. Just before crashing into Aaron Ward's superstructure, he released a bomb which smashed through her hull below the waterline and exploded in the after engine room. The bomb explosion flooded the after engine and fire rooms, ruptured fuel tanks, set the leaking oil ablaze, and severed steering control connections to the bridge. The rudder jammed at hard left, and Aaron Ward turned in a tight circle while slowing to about 20 knots (37 km/h). Topside, the plane itself spread fire and destruction through the area around the after deckhouse and deprived mount 53 of all power and communication. Worse yet, many sailors were killed or injured in the crash.

For about 20 minutes, no attacking plane succeeded in penetrating her air defenses. Damage control parties worked feverishly to put out fires, to repair what damage they could, to jettison ammunition in danger of exploding, and to attend to the wounded. Though steering control was moved aft to the rudder itself, the ship was unable to maneuver properly throughout the remainder of the engagement. Then, at about 1840, the ships on her station came under a particularly ferocious air attack. While Little was hit by the five successive crashes that sank her, LSM(R)-195 took the crash that sent her to the bottom; and LCS(L)-25 lost her mast to a kamikaze. Aaron Ward also suffered her share of added woe. Just before 1900, one plane from the group of attackers selected her as a target and began his approach from about 8,000 yards (7,000 m). Fortunately, the destroyer minelayer began scoring hits early and managed to shoot down the attacker when he was still 2,000 yards (2,000 m) away. Another enemy then attempted to crash into her, but they, too, succumbed to her antiaircraft fire. Her troubles, however, were not over. Soon after the two successes just mentioned, two more Japanese planes came in on her port bow. Though chased by American fighters, one of these succeeded in breaking away and starting a run on Aaron Ward. The aircraft came in at a steep dive apparently aiming at the bridge. Heavy fire from the destroyer minelayer, however, forced the plane to veer toward the after portion of the ship. Passing over the signal bridge, the plane carried away halyards and antennae assemblies, smashed into the stack, and then crashed close aboard to starboard.

Quickly on the heels of that attack, still another intruder swooped in toward Aaron Ward. Coming in just forward of her port beam, the plane met a hail of anti-aircraft fire but continued on and released a bomb just before crashing into her main deck. The bomb exploded a few feet close aboard her port side, and its fragments showered the ship and blew a large hole through the shell plating near her forward fireroom. As a result, the ship lost all power and gradually lost headway. At that point, a previously unobserved enemy crashed into the ship's deckhouse bulkhead causing numerous fires and injuring and killing many more crewmen.

Aaron Ward endured two more devastating crashes before the action ended. At about 1921, a plane glided in steeply on her port quarter. The loss of power prevented any of her 5-inch mounts from bearing on him, and he crashed into her port side superstructure. Burning gasoline engulfed the deck in flames, 40-millimeter ammunition began exploding, and still more heavy casualties resulted. The warship went dead in the water, her after superstructure deck demolished, and she was still on fire. While damage control crews fought the fires and flooding, Aaron Ward began to settle in the water and took on a decided list to port.

She still had one ordeal, however, to suffer. Just after 1920, a final bomb-laden tormentor made a high-speed, low-level approach and crashed into the base of her number 2 stack. The explosion blew the plane, the stack, searchlight, and two gun mounts into the air, and they all came to rest strewn across the deck aft of stack number 1. Through the night, her crew fought to save the ship. At 2106, Shannon arrived and took Aaron Ward in tow. Early on the morning of 4 May, she arrived at Kerama Retto where she began temporary repairs. She remained there until 11 June when she got underway for the United States. Steaming via Ulithi, Guam, Eniwetok, Pearl Harbor, and the Panama Canal, Aaron Ward arrived in New York in mid-August. On 28 September 1945, because her damage was so severe and the Navy had a surplus of destroyers at the time, she was decommissioned, and her name was struck from the Navy list. In July 1946, she was sold for scrapping. Her anchor is on display in Elgin, Illinois.
Comment: I relied on this list of US ships attacked by Kamikazes. Gravesite and memorial info

Note: The attack was during the battle for Okinawa . See Kerama Retto below




NOTE: After attack photo source with following narrative:

Six kamikaze planes hit the destroyer minelayer USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) in the early evening of May 3, 1945. Although the attacks killed 42 men, the ship managed to stay afloat but never returned to action. Arnold Lott, a former Navy Lieutenant Commander who sailed in the 1920s on the first destroyer named Aaron Ward, performed extensive research for this history. This included numerous interviews with surviving crewmembers and bereaved family members, examining official Navy logs and action reports, and reading hundreds of letters from the crew. Brave Ship Brave Men, a tribute to the courageous men who served on Aaron Ward, depicts regular life aboard the ship before the kamikaze attacks and provides personal glimpses into the crew's emotions as they faced incoming planes and recovered after the strikes.

The first five of eight chapters cover the ship's first five watches on May 3, 1945, from midnight up to 6 p.m., as the crew waits in anticipation of Japanese plane attacks. The author introduces the ship's history through a series of flashbacks. Aaron Ward, which had been originally built as a destroyer (DD-773), was converted to a destroyer minelayer before her commissioning in October 1944. These first few chapters also describe the many different jobs of the some 350 men aboard this ship. The crew passes the first 18 hours of May 3 with little excitement but much tension about enemy planes that could appear over the horizon at any moment.

Chapters 6 and 7 describe the attack by about 25 kamikaze planes on the five ships at Radar Picket Station 10: Aaron Ward, destroyer Little, and three smaller support ships. Aaron Ward gets attacked by 11 planes within one hour, but the ship's gunners managed to down five of the incoming planes. However, six others crashed into Aaron Ward, and the engine, propeller, and a wing of one downed plane also hit the ship. Four kamikaze hits sunk the destroyer Little with the loss of 30 men, and a kamikaze plane also crashed into and quickly sunk the LSMR-195 (Landing Ship, Medium (Rocket)) as the rockets loaded on board exploded. Aaron Ward, dead in the water, received help from her sister ship, the destroyer minelayer Shannon (DM-25), which came from Okinawa and towed Aaron Ward through the night to Kerama Retto, a group of small islands off the southwestern coast of Okinawa.

The last chapter tells about Aaron Ward 's cleanup and temporary repairs at Kerama Retto in order to try to return to the States for more extensive repairs. After the surviving crew cleaned the decks of body parts and metal scraps, kamikaze attacks continued while the ship remained moored at Kerama Retto hidden under smoke screens. Aaron Ward left Okinawa on June 11, 1945, and returned to San Diego under her own power on July 8. The final chapter includes several moving stories of how families of dead seamen reacted to the news.
Also see Presidential Unit Citation to U.S.S. Aaron Ward
"For extraordinary heroism in action as a Picket Ship on Radar Picket Station during coordinated attack by approximately twenty-five Japanese aircraft near Okinawa on May 3, 1945. Shooting down two Kamikazes which approached in determined suicide dives, the U.S.S. AARON WARD was struck by a bomb from a third suicide plane as she fought to destroy this attacker before it crashed into her superstructure and sprayed the entire area with flaming gasoline. Instantly flooded in her after engineroom and fireroom, she battled against flames and exploding ammunition on deck and, maneuvering in a tight circle because of damage to her steering gear, countered another coordinated suicide attack and destroyed three Kamikazes in rapid succession. Still smoking heavily and maneuvering radically, she lost all power when her forward fireroom flooded under a seventh suicide plane which dropped a bomb close aboard and dived in flames into the main deck. Unable to recover from this blow before an eighth bomber crashed into her superstructure bulkhead only a few seconds later, she attempted to shoot down a ninth Kamikaze diving toward her at high speed and, despite the destruction of nearly all her gun mounts aft when this plane struck her, took under fire the tenth bomb-laden plane, which penetrated the dense smoke to crash on board with a devastating explosion. With fires raging uncontrolled, ammunition exploding and all engine spaces except the forward engineroom flooded as she settled in the water and listed to port, she began a nightlong battle to remain afloat and, with the assistance of a towing vessel, finally reached port the following morning. By her superb fighting spirit and the courage and determination of her entire company, the AARON WARD upheld the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

1 comment:

  1. Several other ships also were attacked as detailed here

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