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My Memories of the USS Daly DD519 - 1944- 45

     By Charles L. Dunn

Charles L. Dunn was 18 years old and fresh out of High School in 1943 when he was inducted into the Navy as a recruit.  His brothers were already serving their country since Pearl Harbor in 1941.  Immediately after boot training he was sent to the Pacific and later assigned to the USS Daly.

He served as a Radioman RM3/c on board the Daly and was a member of a 5 inch gun crew while at General Quarters.

He was discharged in early 1946 and married in 1947. He has a daughter and son who live in Alabama.

He worked for 30 years until his retirement at the Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, AL, working for the Army Ordnance Guided Missile Center, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and NASA - Marshal Space Flight Center. His job was supervisor of a team of electronic technicians who repaired, calibrated and operated hundreds of channels of instrumentation that recorded pressures and temperature flow of missiles fired on test stands.

He now spends his retirement repairing clocks as a hobby for relatives and friends.

With the able assistance of his daughter, his naval experiences have been chronicled here that cover 1944 though 1945 in the Pacific Theater.

 

 

My Memories of the USS Daly  1944 -1945

As written by Charles L.Dunn Sr.  2008

 

I hesitate to write because I know that everyone who witnessed a battle saw it a little differently, but here are a few of my memories. Time dims our memory, but some scenes are so horrifying that you can never erase them. Things like a sinking ship with wounded survivors in the water, or a crashing Kamikaze suicide bomber, or watching men work all day to remove bodies of sailors from a "bombed out" destroyer at Kerama Khetto, the destroyer graveyard. You just live with those memories.

I was fifteen when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I worried as my three older brothers went to war. I had spent my days high on the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee. I had never been out of my state. I had never seen an ocean.

As soon as I turned eighteen, I was drafted out of high school. After boot camp, at San Diego, there was no leave and no school. I found myself on a troop ship bound for Milne Bay, New Guinea.

They told me that I was going to a shop repair base, at Brisbane, but when they handed me a booklet entitled, "How to Survive in the Jungle", I knew I was not going to Brisbane.

After a few weeks unloading cargo ships, fighting mosquitoes, and having "Jungle Rot" between my toes, at Milne Bay, I was told I was going aboard a "Tin Can". I had no idea what a "Tin Can" was, but they put me in a boat and we searched for the USS Daly. It was late in the day when she came cruising into the bay. She was back from her daring midnight raid on the enemy base of Wewak. I was impressed. I thought, "Now I see why they call her a destroyer." From bow to stern, she was loaded with weapons of destruction.

They dropped a net ladder over the side and I climbed aboard. I had not eaten all day. Chow-time was offer and no one was going to feed me. Just then, Kenneth (Freddy) Fredericks showed up and led me to a locker full of stashed food. We kept in touch all through the years, until he passed away. I shall always remember Freddy and E. J. Dunn, as two of the finest people I have ever met. I decided that "Yankee" boys were not all that different from us southerners.

I was put in the deck crew, and I chipped paint for boatswain's mate Anthony T. Pignatelli. I was assigned to the crew of number three, five-inch gun, and five days later, we bombarded troop concentrations, etc. at Hansa Bay, Madang and Alexishaven, New Guinea.

It was very frightening to me, the first time that big gun fired, with me inside that dimly lit mount. A man would lay a thirty-inch brass powder case in the loading tray. My friend, Swede Masching, would toss a fifty-five pound projectile in front, and ram it into the chamber. It would rattle my teeth when the charges exploded. The breech block would fly up with a loud click and come traveling to the rear. There was a loud hissing sound, as the barrel was purged and that blistering hot brass powder case would come flying to the rear. A man stood at the back of that gun, with arm length, asbestos gloves, caught those powder cases, and dropped them through a hole in the mount deck.

About twelve days later, we attacked the enemy base at Hollandia, in support of our invading troops. We fired most of the day at various targets. I was beginning to get accustomed to that monster gun. That night, enemy bombers came over us. They set off an ammunition dump that shot fireworks into the sky.

I always remembered Hollandia because something about the sea there caused the Daly to roll badly, from side to side, even at anchor.

During the next four or five months, we bombarded and supported invasions of Sawar, Wakde, Biak, Noemfoor, and Moorota Islands.

I managed to transfer to the radio operator's crew, where I found new friends, E. J. Dunn and James T. (Jake) Powell.

When we returned to our base at Seeadler Harbor, Admiralty Islands, in early October, 1944, we were amazed. A great assault had filled the harbor! They did not have to tell us what that was about. We were going to liberate the Philippine Islands!

On October 11, 1944, that great assault force set sail for Hollandia, where we would join forces with Admiral Daniel Barbey, and become known as the Northern Attack Force. At midnight of October 19, the Northern Attack Force began to ease by the mines and enter Leyte Gulf. At dawn, we moved near the landing site, opened fire, and the battle was on. I didn't see him, but I was told, that General McArthur was on the cruiser, USS Nashville, a few ships over. They say some writers were calling the seventh fleet "McArthur's Navy". For awhile, there was fire from shore guns, but they were no match for the fire power we had brought. Enemy planes were in the area, but our planes kept them from bothering us much. Our LSTs were hitting the beach nearby, when a shell landed right in the middle of one. Two of our planes dropped bombs where that fire was coming from, and the firing stopped. Soon, the Daly was ordered to silence anti-aircraft guns on a small island nearby. By dark, things had calmed down and our troops were in good shape on the beach.

For the next few days, we furnished artillery fire for our troops. We began to get reports of a large movement of enemy warships, headed for the Philippines. The Japanese Navy had decided to fight. What followed was the "Battle of Leyte", the greatest sea battle of all time, involving 280 warships. Our part was called the "Battle of Surigao Strait". I think it was the final battle of its kind. I believe that, never again, will great ships, with big guns and torpedoes, just line up and blast away at each other.

October 24, 1944 was sunny and hot as we fired in support of our troops near Tacloban. In the late afternoon, we were ordered to join the rest of the seventh fleet at Surigao Strait. "The enemy ships must be near", I thought. At Surigao, we were ordered to take our position near the entrance of the channel, in two groups. Daly, Hutchens, and Bache were in group one; Killen, Beale, and HMAS Asunta were in group two. The rest of our force of five battleships and a few cruisers were well into the channel. A group of our PT boats would search the dark sea for the enemy and report back to the rest of us.

The enemy plan was to attack us from three directions. From the south, they would come through Surigao with two battleships, four cruisers, and eight destroyers. The central force of four battleships, seven cruisers, and eleven destroyers, would come though San Bernadino and attack us from the seas. I did not know it then, but their northern carrier force would be a decoy force to sucker Admiral Halsey away from San Bernadino.

Admiral Halsey, with task force 38, the world's most powerful fleet, was believed to be near San Bernadino. He commanded fourteen carriers with a thousand aircraft, seven battleships, twenty-one cruisers, and fifty-seven destroyers. Inside San Bernadino, there just happened to be a group of our escort carriers, code named "Taffey 3", with three destroyers and four destroyer escorts.

As darkness came, we began to gather near our battle stations. Soon, it was after midnight. It was very dark now, as we waited for our enemy. At 1:30 A.M., the PTs reported that they had found, and attacked, the enemy task force. They were coming at 16 knots and should reach Surigao in about an hour.

The order soon came to man our battle stations. Swede closed the hatch on our gun mount and latched it down tight, and we waited. At 2:48 A.M., CIC reported that they had the enemy on their screen, closing at 16 to 20 knots.

Captain Visser had decided we would attack their largest ship with high speed torpedoes. At 3:21 A.M., he gave the orders, "All ahead full, stand by to fire torpedoes." We could feel the great surge of power as her twin turbines revved up. We clung to the railings as she tossed about. Two torpedoes crossed our path. Then at 3:32 A.M., came the order, "Fire torpedoes!" Five large torpedoes blasted over our main deck, splashed into the water and went speeding on their deadly way.

These next orders told us that the fight was just beginning: "Main battery, match pointers and switch to automatic, load your guns." We waded right into that enemy force with five guns blazing. For what must have been twenty or thirty minutes, we fired as fast as we could load, without a pause. With the rapid firing, we knew we were in a battle and we knew our chances were best if we kept that gun roaring, so we worked hard and fast.

Top side observers saw two torpedoes go right under us, and at 3:44 A.M., they saw three orange balls of fire in our torpedo water and heard a boom, boom, boom as our torpedoes struck the Japanese battleship, Yamshiro.When, finally, the cease firing order came, the smoke in our mount was near the choking stage and perspiration was running into our shoes. Swede opened the hatch. It was daylight. I leaned over to look out and get a taste of fresh air. I saw an enemy ship sitting dead, with black smoke rolling out. One of our cruisers was pouring shell after shell into it, until it finally went down.

As we began to relax, we received word that the Japanese central force had entered San Bernadino and was attacking Taffey 3's carriers and escorts. We must prepare quickly to fight the enemy central force! Our squadron commander ordered all our ships to report on our remaining ammunition and torpedoes.

Everyone at Surigao thought Halsey was guarding San Bernadino.

Taffey 3's little carriers tried to run. The destroyers Johnston, Hoel, and the D E, Samuel B. Roberts, attacked the overwhelming force with guns and torpedoes, and all three were lost. The carrier, USS St. Lo, was sunk by a suicide plane later in the day after the battle off Samar was over. It seemed that we would soon be fighting a force more formidable than the one we just destroyed! Then, in a strange decision, the Japanese admiral decided not to proceed any farther, turned, and left San Bernadino. Some believe that he thought Admiral Halsey's force was waiting for him inside the channel.

For more than 60 years, I wondered how it came to be that Taffey's 3 was left to defend San Bernadino, against such a powerful enemy, then, I finally read about it. In previous battles, the Japanese carriers had lost so many pilots and planes, that it was no longer much of a force. They would use them as decoys to coax Halsey away from San Bernadino. Halsey was allowed to do about as he pleased and his subordinate officers were afraid to question his actions. So it pleased him to remove his entire fleet from the battle and chase the carriers, leaving San Bernadino completely unprotected.

A few days later, Captain Visser sent a repot to Comdesron 24. It said, "Our gunfire targets appear to have been one Tone class heavy cruiser and one heavy destroyer. Upon bursting into flames, the cruiser turned two searchlights on us. These lights were one above the other, on two decks. These lights went out when our next salvo hit amidships and the ship exploded. The destroyer exploded when the second salvo hit her. Two torpedoes passed under our number one gun and under bridge. Five and six inch salvos splashed repeatedly about fifty yards from the Daly after searchlights turned on us, and before exploding the cruiser.

The next day, Captain Visser sent another report. It said, "Have plotted torpedo tracks Hutchins, Daly, Bache, and also assimilated all info available on times of torpedo firings by other destroyers at Sarigao, including TBS logs. Also plotted positions by PPI scope tracings of own and enemy forces throughout battle and have conclusive proof that torpedo explosions, which I personally observed could have been none other than those of the Daly. Our target the largest pip and concluded to be battleship of Fuso class. All bridge personnel, including Commander Bradley, saw three orange balls at 0344 to northeastward as we made second run in. This was 12 minutes after firing. Target was in our torpedo water, and slowed from 16 to 2 knots up to last plot at 0402."

Condesron 24 replied with, "In my preliminary report, you were credited with three hits on battleship. You have done a good job!"

Soon after that, Captain Visser left us. Commander Bradley took command and we headed to California for an overhaul. On the way back, we met the destroyer, Hutchins, and the battleship, Tennessee, and departed for Saipan to load ammo and supplies. About the middle of February, 1945, we joined the bombardment of Iwo Jima.

At dawn of February 19, 1945, our marines began their assault in a terrible, bloody battle. We joined the screen around a group of escort carriers as their planes bombed the island.

It was just before sunset of February 21st, when General quarters alarm was sounded and we began to await orders. Then Commander Bradley, through the loudspeaker, said, "Enemy planes at twelve miles and closing fast. Be on the lookout for low-flying planes."

On that day, my battle station was at the emergency radio room at midship, port side. I had a very good view of the carriers. Suddenly, Kamikazes came streaking low over the water, maybe eight or ten of them. It all broke loose. All ships opened fire! Tracers were everywhere! There was tremendous danger from friendly fire.

 The first Kamikazes dived on the USS Lunga Point, which was right ahead of us. Gunners brought one down in flames, but the second crashed onto her deck. The crew was fighting the flames. The next two came streaking across our bow. Our guns blew the first one away, but the second one hit the USS Bismark Sea, which was just a few yards off our port beam. She was doomed. She was hit while refueling her planes and great explosions rocked her hull. A gaping hole was blown in her side. She rolled over toward us and was quickly gone. Once again, the Daly stopped dead during a battle to lower her boats and pick up survivors. We stayed until the battle of Iwo Jima was under control, then returned to Leyte Gulf.

At Leyte, we watched the huge build-up of warships, so we new something big was coming. On the 26th of March, 1945, Commander Bradley announced that we were going to attack the Ryerkyee islands. None of us had ever heard of Ryerkyee, but he told us they were about three hundred miles from our destination, Japan. On the twenty-seventh of March, that great task force, of mostly destroyers and troop ships, set sail for Okinawa.

 It was Easter morning, April 1st, 1945. We were at battle stations about an hour before dawn. We went, two at a time, for breakfast. At the first light of dawn, we saw an incredible sight. There were American warships as far as the eye could see! A story in Readers Digest said fourteen hundred ships had come for this battle and would be forever know as "The Fleet that Came to Stay."

At dawn, the sky was filled with Kamikazes. A "Betty", twin engine bomber was headed for us and we opened fire immediately. Other ships joined in and it was quickly splashed. A look around the harbor told me that several Kamikazes had found their marks. Several of our ships were burning. We moved in close and began bombarding the landing area as our troops began pouring off the transports behind us. I did not know it then, but one of those marines was my brother, George.

We fired all day, then through the night we fired star shells over enemy positions. The battle was so intense that we spent the next several days on the guns and ate battlefield rations. Almost every day, Kamikazes would start appearing near sunset. We began to lay smoke over Buckner Bay to hide under. The next week we received word that our commander-in-chief had died and General Simon Bolivar Buckner and correspondent, Ernie Pyle, had been killed nearby.

Someone decided we would establish an early warning system of picket destroyers, two per station, about fifty miles out. So we became the favorite targets of incoming Kamikazes: Two lone destroyers way out in the ocean, with very little, if any, air support. So the U.S. Navy suffered its greatest losses in a single battle.

Many time, in April and May, the enemy sent Kamikazes in swarms. On the 28th of April, we became a victim of one of them. The Daly and the USS Twiggs were assigned to one of the most dangerous of the picket stations. I could not believe my eyes, but, above us, were two beautiful Navy F 4-U fighters. Radar picked up the Kamikaze swarm, and our fighters were ordered to attack. However, the fighters did not find them, and flew right past their planes. Suddenly, they appeared as little black dots. We opened fire with our main battery as we and the Twiggs began high-speed zigzagging. As our five inch shells began to pop near them, they circled so they could come at us out of the sun, and like angered hornets, they peeled off and dived on us and the Twiggs, which was just ahead of us.

As they came into range, all our gunners opened fire. We dropped the first one, and the second and the third. Our fighter planes returned. I saw one give a burst with his guns and the Kamikaze came tumbling down, end over end. As I glanced ahead, I saw one crash into the starboard bridge of the Twiggs. Black smoke was rolling out, but she was still moving and still firing. In the space of five minutes, we splashed five of them. The fourth Kamikaze just seemed to have our number. Nothing seemed to stop him or sway his course. He came out of the sun as we threw everything we had at him. I could see white flashes across his wings as he fired his guns at us. I could see our tracers finding their marks.

Soon, his guns were silent and flames began to leap high from his cockpit. The pilot was surely dead, but he never wavered. He was headed right for our starboard midsection. He was flaming like a torch now, as our tracers continued to pore in. I could read his serial numbers, and see the big bomb, slung underneath. It seemed to me, that as we zigzagged sharply, our stern slid, ever so slightly, under the trajectory of that flaming missile. I could hear the great roar of his engine and feel a blast of heat from his flames as he came in right between the stacks. The fifth Kamikaze attacked from the rear and was knocked down a good ways out.

I could never remember hearing the blast as the bomb and plane exploded, spewing deadly shrapnel from bow to stern, on the port side. I landed on my back side as wounded shipmates crumpled to the deck. I looked up at our wild-eyed chief. The right side collar of his life jacket was blown off and blood was beginning to ooze from his neck. Above me, on the aft stack, August Scheidt's body was slumped on the railing. They carried my Tennessee friend, Wallace McElyea, past our position. The man we needed the most, Doctor Curby, was dead. Chief Pharmacist Meeder did his best. We urgently called for a doctor. A destroyer came quickly to our side and sent their doctor over, on lines.

We had several holes in our hull, mostly above the water line. Most of our starboard searchlight was blown away. Our main mast had a football size hole at its base. We and the Twiggs made our way to Xerama Rhetto. More Kamikazes approached, but did not attack, as we opened fire.

For fourteen days, workmen toiled day and night, until we were ready to fight again. The Twiggs was also repaired. On June sixth, she was hit by a Kamikaze and an aerial torpedo, and was lost.

After the war, we were among the first to reach Japan. We supported the removal of our prisoners-of-war and the landing of troops at the big naval base at Sasebo. After about two months of the occupation, we were finally going home. We arrived at San Diego on the sixth of December, 1945.

There I found a newspaper. On a back page, I found an article that said, "A fighting flock of 'Tin Cans' sailed home today. Six battle-scarred destroyers, all that remains of squadron 24, steamed into port today. The six destroyers were the Beale, Anthony, Wadsworth, Daly, Ammen, and Von Volkenburg. Squadron 24 destroyed more suicide planes during the Okinawa campaign than any other fleet unit. Their glorious battle saga includes New Guinea, Leyte, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the famed battle of Surigao Straits."

The "Fighting Five Nineteen" came home with patches all over and some of her equipment blown away, but she brought us home and we could never forget her.

Written by Charles L. Dunn, Sr.

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