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
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
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
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.
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
Local Newspaper Article
Published The Day After The Arrival In USA
‘Tin Cans’ Steal
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
came the Squadron’s Commodore, or Commanding Officer Capt. Edward Watson
Young, 44 who formerly served here as Commander of the West Coast Sound
Pins on Navy Cross
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.
was Capt. Clarence M. Bowley, of Provincetown, Mass., for heroic command
of the destroyer Pritchard in action last April at Okinawa.
William P. Burford, who commanded a destroyer squadron off Japan, returned
aboard the Daly.
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
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