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Somewhere in the Western Pacific

Men of the fighting destroyer USS Hadley told today (June 18) how they shot down a record of 23 Jap Planes in 94 flaming minutes during which the vessel was hit by three suicide planes.

The Hadley was left dead in the water after the action but the valiant ship and her crew refused to quit. The action was the destroyer’s first major engagement since she was commissioned last November. Her captain is Commander B. J. Mullaney, New Bedford, Mass.

With the destroyer Evans which shot down 19 planes in the same action, the Hadley took a guard station off Okinawa on the night of May 10. This job in connection with combat air patrol was to intercept Jap planes roaring down for a crack at American shipping in the Okinawa.

The first target of the enemy aircraft is a ship on patrol and the men who sweat out the watches through the long night know it. From sunset to dawn, weary gun crews were at battle stations and Jap planes were reported all over the area. At 7:45 AM. the Hadley shot down a Jap float plane and the action appeared over. But it was only the beginning. Ten minutes later Jap planes were coming in from all directions and continued to attack for the next hour and a half. Every gun aboard the ship was fired until it was blistering hot. A total of 156 enemy aircraft took part in the attacks and the Hadley and Evans bagged 42 of them. American planes accounted for another 50 Jap planes.

The Evans was hit by several Kamikaze suicide planes and went out of action at 9 a. m. and the Hadley continued to fight alone.

The battle was a wild scramble according to S1/c Franklin Gebbart, Lafayette, Ind., who said things were happening too fast to follow. “I ran to my station a 20 millimeter gun mount and saw a Jap float plane coming in astern. He bellied up about 1,200 yards out and every gun was turned on him.” “We splashed him in flames right there.”

Gunner’s Mate Third Class August Hodde, Brenham, Tex., gun captain of a 40 millimeter on the port side, said: “Then the started coming in all directions and everyone was shooting at the nearest plane. We would shift targets all the time and it didn’t seem like we had been at the guns long before an hour had gone by. The Nips were splashing all around us and I think my crew got two. About this time we were hit by the first Kamikaze and another went between the stacks so low he clipped the radio antenna.”

All this time the Hadley was operating a 27 knots with her rudder hard over to circle and give every gun a chance to fire. Most of the time she was separated from the Evans by two to three miles.. The first formation of Jap planes which was spotted streaking to pass the Hadley but she shot down four of them. In furious action between 8:30 and 9:00 AM, the Hadley attached a large formation of Japs head-on and shot down 12.

From his gun position on the starboard side, GM2/c Richard Bennett, Ventura, Calif., said he saw nine Jap planes coming in at once. The Japs evidently had been saving their fiercest attack until the last. The Hadley fought off the bulk assaults for the next 20 minutes with all her guns firing in all directions. Ten Jap planes surrounding the Hadley turned to attack simultaneously, four on each side of the bow and two astern. All 10 were shot down either by the Hadley’s guns or covering Corsairs which had been doing a magnificent job of support.

It was in the final period of the action, lasting not more than four minutes, that the Hadley suffered almost all her damage. She was hit by one bomb and two Kamikazes. With fires raging all about and a number of her men killed or wounded the Hadley appeared doomed and the order was given to abandon ship. But then 50 officers and men under Damage Control Officer Lt. Craig Clemons, Storm Lake, Iowa, organized for a last ditch battle to save the destroyer. Save her they did. Disregarding their own safety, the men had the flames under control in fifteen minutes. Two small craft came to the rescue and made fast along the sides of the Hadley.

“When the men heard the order to abandon ship passed, many gun crews jumped over the side but came back a few minutes later to help flight the fires and jettison ammunition. Examples of heroism were almost too numerous to single out for mention.