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It was November 1944.  I had just graduated from a Navy Electrical school and figured that if I was going to war I might as well go on a fighting ship.  I requested destroyer duty and one week later I was in San Francisco assigned to The USS Daly, which had just completed a Pacific tour.

I had a great time in San Francisco for a couple of months and then we sailed for San Diego to load ammo. Our journey continued as we steamed west to Pearl Harbor.  Can you imagine what it was like for an eighteen-year old being away from home for the first time?  Spending two or three months in San Francisco and then make port  in Pearl Harbor.  I liked being on a Navy Destroyer and thought things were just great. 

Naturally, I was assigned to the Electrical Shop, I had a great bunch of  guys to work with. They were very helpful, without them I wouldn’t have known where to begin. Most of men in the group had been on the ship for the first tour. They were well experienced. We did a lot of practice for General Quarters  rehearsing what we were supposed to do. It was vital training for what was to come.

I really loved being at sea. While we were underway I used to get as high up on the ship as I could, climbing the mast, well above the bridge and watch the bow plunge down into the water and then as it came up watch the water run off the fo’c’sle.

It wasn’t too long until one night we heard that familiar order over the loud speakers, “General Quarters, General Quarter, all hands man your battle stations.” This time it was the real thing.  We were supporting the assault of Iwo Jima, in my memory the date has stood out to this day.  I believe it was February 19, 1945,  but I could be wrong.

On February 21, Fifty Japanese planes were overhead, five Kamikazes smashed into the Aircraft Carrier Saratoga, wrecking her flight deck. In the same attack the CVE Bismark Sea, a small escort carrier we were escorting, took a five hundred pound bomb. Before I knew what happened I was witnessing the destruction of the carrier. I believe there were  three large explosions, forward, midships and aft.  In a matter of minutes, the carrier was sinking beneath the waves.

 We were moving along at a pretty good clip, steaming toward the Bismark Sea with the intent to pick up survivors.  I remember the Captain ordering that the thirty-six inch searchlight be played on the area so we could rescue any survivors.  Reality suddenly set in, I realized that I was not on a “pleasure cruise”, this was combat at sea.  We could see lights afloat and hear the men in the water, the only men that got saved were the men that had their GI(Government Issue) watertight flashlights and whistles attached to their lifejackets. I was on the fantail while men were being brought aboard.

According to Naval Records the Bismark  Sea suffered 347 fatal casualties which included officers and crew. The Daly rescued 11 survivors.

We were sent back to Leyte Gulf for replenishing and a little relaxation.  I had been elected or should I say assigned to be one of the movie operators.  A great job that paid one dollar for each show.  Usually one for the enlisted men and one for the officers.  That could end up being an additional twenty dollars or so a month, you have to realize that I was only getting paid about fifty dollars a month including an additional twenty percent for sea duty.

I still loved the life at sea, except for cleaning the bilges.  They had to be clean because that is where we used to make the ice cream every night.  We would confiscate cans of ice cream powder and add some cut up candy bars.  We mixed that in an ice cream maker, that someone had brought aboard.  It was great.  We closed the hatch to the electrical shop, went down into the bilge compartment, closed that hatch for privacy and made ice cream.

The next thing I remember other than being on routine patrol and doing exercises was that we had been cruising at night and I had been sleeping as usual. When I awoke and went topside I saw one of the most memorable sights that I had ever seen.  We were at anchor and as far as the eye could see were ships all over the place. I’m guessing there must have been five hundred ships of all types.  Something else I haven’t forgotten to this day and never will was on Easter Sunday morning.  April 1, 1945, D-Day on Okinawa.  We spent quite a bit of time bombarding the beach and other parts of the island and at night it was General Quarters most of the night.  After a period of time I remember the ship fitters took a torch to the bolts holding down the thirty-six inch searchlight and with a block and tackle lifted it up and dropped it into the Deep Six (overboard).  The captain had a better use for the searchlight platform.  A twenty-millimeter gun was put in its place.  They also installed brackets along the rail on the main deck and put thirty and fifty caliber machine guns along the rails.  We needed everything we could get.  

Then came radar picket duty.  I believe we were assigned an area about one hundred miles north of Okinawa so our radar could pick up Japanese planes heading for Okinawa.  That extra hundred miles advance notice gave the people on Okinawa more time to get prepared for the inevitable attacks.  We didn’t have anyone north of us, giving us warning when the Japs were coming,  and come they did, you can be sure of that.  They used to come around dinnertime, you could see them, the sky was covered with planes at times.  I used to hang around the number five gun mount, naturally they had fire control, but I used to help locate the planes for the gun crew.  I remember I was standing on the port side beside the number five gun, BM1/C Pignatelli was the gun captain.  I saw this Jap plane coming towards us at about forty feet off the water and I hollered, “Hey Pig, there’s one coming in on the port quarter.”  They swung the gun around and fired a round at the plane and missed.  I was standing beside the inner lifeline at the time and I said to myself if they miss the next time I’m over the side.  I guess that any place on the ship it would have looked like the plane was coming right at you.  Fortunately they blew him out of the air on the second blast and I stayed dry. 

 That story of radar picket duty went on for months and it got very tiring, the anxiety kinda wore off.  During General Quarters I used to lay down on top of the metal lockers and fall asleep.  It didn’t bother me too much until they started firing the twenty millimeters, the fifty and thirty caliber.  Then it was time to be concerned, I knew a plane was bearing down on us at close range.

Then the good news came, Japan surrendered.  I don’t remember where we were then but we were at anchor and there was friendly fire all over the harbor.  We stopped at Yokosuka, Wakayama and took a tour of either Nagasaki or Hiroshima, I don’t remember which.  We were driven around the area in a stake body truck, the explosions sites were so hot that all of the electrical wires were melted to the point that they hung to about ten feet from the ground.  The Japanese were all wearing surgical masks, but not we American Heroes. I don’t feel any the worse for it to this day.

Another memorable sight was when we arrived at the pier in San Diego.  There was a sign that had to be twenty feet high and two hundred feet long that said “WELCOME HOME JOB WELL DONE”.  That was all the thanks I needed.  It was a great and memorable experience and I am sorry for the men that did not return, but it was a job that had to be done.  I am proud to be a part of it.

Bill Wyatt  EM3  1944-46

A Local Newspaper Article

Published  The Day After The Arrival In USA



‘Tin Cans’ Steal Harbor Glory

Their decks atilt with Pacific veterans crowding to the dockside rails, nine warships today steamed into san Diego harbor, with the six smallest of them grabbing largest share of attention. 
The six were the half dozen rugged “tin cans” of the original nine units of Destroyer Squadron 24.  They came in formation even as they had fought through three years of combat in the North and south Pacific.

First to tie up was the flagship Anthony, followed by the Wadsworth, Van Valkenburgh, Daly, Beale and Ammens.  Never to return were the Abner Read, Bush and Bronson, sunk in action while the squadron was compiling its unequaled battle record, which included three months of picket duty against Jap kamikaze planes over Okinawa.

Sets Picket Record        

            Destroyers of Squadron 24 shot down 75 Nip suicide planes and were responsible for the destruction of 200 more.  The Wadsworth holds the fleet record of standing 36 consecutive days of Okinawa picket duty.

The six Destroyers and the Escort Carrier Breton, Destroyer Escort, Wesson, and battle cruiser, Guam, returned a total of 2113 navy, marine and coast guard personnel in almost simultaneous arrivals today.





           With a fine disregard for rank, first “passenger” off the Anthony was Snowshoe, a dog picked up by the crew in Pearl Harbor and taken as mascot through all the ship’s campaigns.


Next came the Squadron’s Commodore, or Commanding Officer Capt. Edward Watson Young, 44 who formerly served here as Commander of the West Coast Sound School.


Pins on Navy Cross

In one of the first local ceremonies of its kind, Capt. Young then went aboard the Destroyer Van Valkenburgh, and before the assembled ship’s company, pinned the Navy Cross on one of his Divisions Commanders.

Decorated was Capt. Clarence M. Bowley, of Provincetown, Mass., for heroic command of the destroyer Pritchard in action last April at Okinawa.

Capt. William P. Burford, who commanded a destroyer squadron off Japan, returned aboard the Daly.

First off the Anthony, flagship of Destroyer Squadron 24, when the squadron’s six ships docked here today, was “Snowshoe”.  The dog, which was aboard through all the ship’s campaigns, is shown just before bounding down the half-lowered gangplank.

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