#7 Kamikaze

Image showing the huge explosion caused by the kamikaze hitting the Halsey Powell, March 20, 1945. The destroyer is on the right, dwarfed by the massive USS Hancock (CV-19) whose stern is visible on the left. Image: navsource.org.

On March 20, 1945 we were in the process of transferring three pilots we had rescued back to their carrier the USS Hancock. We had successfully switched two of them when a kamikaze plane attacked the carrier from her port side. We were alongside her starboard. I was on watch in gun #4 and was standing on the gun captain’s perch watching the transfer when the carrier’s guns started firing. We could not fire because of our proximity to the carrier. The plane overshot the flight deck and crashed into our fantail causing a terrific explosion and fire that you have seen in the picture of the attack. I was blown back down into the gun mount and escaped being injured or burned. We lost steering control and veered directly into the path of the carrier. I had run to my fire station which was on port side of the main deck. My job was to open the hydraulic valves that would flood the #3 magazine. It took me a minute to realize I was standing knee deep in water and that magazines three decks below were already underwater. When I looked up all I could see was the tremendous bow of the carrier bearing down on us. I didn’t think I could be lucky a second time but we managed to squeeze by on the carrier’s port.

Footage shot from the USS Astoria (CL-90) showing the Halsey Powell smoking and down by the stern after the kamikaze attack, March 20, 1945. Video: www.mighty90.com.

The task force continued on and left the destroyer USS The Sullivans to assist us. It was a lonely feeling seeing the big guys leaving. Japanese planes knew we were damaged and they searched all night hoping to put us away. However we headed for Ulithi at about ten knots. Steering by going ahead on one engine and backing with the other.

Additional footage showing the Halsey Powell after the kamikaze attack, March 20, 1945. At the 50 second mark you can clearly see the hole in the fantail deck where the airplane hit. Video: National Archives Video Collection.

We joined up with the carrier USS Franklin which had been badly damaged the day before our attack. We proceeded to Ulithi, the fleet’s base of operation and arrived on March 25th.

The carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) was severely damaged by two bombs on March 19 while attacking the Japanese mainland. 724 members of her crew were killed and she was the most heavily damaged carrier to survive the war.

Below is the official report from the Halsey Powell describing the kamikaze attack and the trip to Ulithi. Source: National Archives.

The kamikaze is described as “Zeke”, which was the official Allied designation for the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter plane. The Allies gave Japanese fighter planes male names, and bombers were given female names.

The USS The Sullivans (DD-537), which escorted the Halsey Powell, still exists as a museum ship in Buffalo, NY. Ulithi Atoll in the western pacific was the site of large floating naval base. The atoll had an ideal anchorage but the tiny islands had no facilities. The navy stationed repair ships, fuel and ammunition ships, and even floating dry docks there to serve as a forward repair center and staging area. The USS Yosemite (AD-19) mentioned in the report was a destroyer tender.

This story was printed in a California newspaper. As you can see the photocopy is not too good. I did not see the original article but my shipmate L.C. Muringham sent this to me. I do not remember the man who saved his life with the flame proof cover. He was a Fireman 1/c (Engine room gang).

Newspaper stories about the kamikaze attack, ca. 1945. (this and the next three images)
The same image from the newspaper article above. The kamikaze’s entry point in the deck is clearly visible. Image: worldwarphotos.info.
Image taken in dry dock showing the hole on the underside of the Halsey Powell. Image: navsource.org.

After temporary repairs we left for Pearl Harbor and on to San Pedro [California], arriving May 8th. In the meantime the repair crews on Ulithi sent all the information on our damage to the dry dock so the prefabricated parts were waiting for us. We were repaired in record time, not that I was in any hurry to go back. I did get a leave and got home to see my family after a year.

We headed back to Pearl Harbor on July 19th with about 50% of a new crew. This was standard procedure so as not to have an all green crew. We had refresher training around the Hawaiian Island and left for the war zone on the tenth of August.

Liberty card from Pearl Harbor, 1945.
Imperial Japanese ten yen note, ca. 1940s.

Charlie does not mention the document below in his text, but it is a claim form he submitted for personal items lost during the kamikaze attack. Fletcher class destroyers had crews’ quarters in near the bow and stern of the ship. The aft quarters on the Halsey Powell were either directly destroyed by the kamikaze or flooded shortly after the attack. Charlie never mentions where his bunk was, but the existence of this document indicates that it was in one of the aft sections that was damaged.

Claim form form for lost items, April 1945.

One thought on “#7 Kamikaze

  1. Cheryl Rogan
    Cheryl Rogan says:

    Another great post Matthew!

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