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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Surigao thought Halsey was guarding San Bernadino.
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
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."
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.
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
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
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.
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."
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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