Historical Documentation from Crewmembers

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Dwyer’s Pentagon Rep.

This document was written for the NAVY History Section at the Pentagon and is the personal recollection of Thomas Dwyer, LTJG, member of the crew of the USS HUGH W. HADLEY.

On the morning of 11 May 1945, USS HUGH W. HADLEY (DD774) was patrolling on Radar Picket Station 15, some 60 miles north of Okinawa’s Point BOLO, in company with USS EVANS (DD552) and four support craft. Commencing at about 0755, and continuing until 0940, the two destroyers and their escorts were subjected to a succession of waves of kamikaze attacks by some 150 Japanese aircraft. These aircraft had flown from southern Kyushu airfields and were en route to attack ships and shore installations at Okinawa. HADLEY’s and EVANS’s job, together with the 12 Marine F-4U CORSAIR pilots assigned as combat air patrol (CAP) was to prevent them from carrying out their mission.

The Marines joined the fray first, ranging out to intercept the Japanese aircraft as they approached from the north. Obviously, the Marines could not stop them all, and many broke through circling the two destroyers like the Indians around the wagon train. From time to time the Japanese would launch crudely coordinated attacks by from 4 to 12 aircraft against the embattled ships.

EVANS put up a valiant struggle until she was knocked out of action at about 0900.

Some twenty minutes later, HADLEY took her first kamikaze hit on the after port quad 40mm mount (Mount 44). Mount Captain Nicholas’s last words were, “We’ll get the S. 0. B.” as the aircraft dove right down the barrels of the gun mount, killing the gun crew on the spot. Almost simultaneously several bombs penetrated the ship and detonated under the keel lifting, the ship out of the water. Shortly thereafter, another aircraft struck the starboard side amidships at the water line. The fuselage pierced the hull and caused heavy loss of life and severe flooding in the engine and fire rooms. Yet another kamikaze dove on the ship and passed between the foremast and the after stack, clipping some wires as it fell harmlessly into the sea.

HADLEY was now dead in the water and mortally wounded. The ship was in imminent danger of capsizing, due to the flooding caused by the hit at the water line. Fires were raging back aft from the hit on Mt, 44, and Torpex was dripping from the punctured torpedo warheads into the flames, the main battery was out of action, and she was still under attack.

At this moment, CDR BARON J. MULLANEY, Hadley’s Commanding Officer, ordered the signalmen on the bridge to hoist the colors at all six signal halyards, to join the battle ensign flying from the foremast. As the colors rose on the halyards, he passed the word, “If this ship sinks, she’ll sink with her colors flying. ” This act of defiance in the face of the enemy created a tremendous stimulus to the surviving HADLEY crewmen, who continued to fight the ship while desperately trying to keep her afloat.

After two more unsuccessful attacks, the remnants of the enemy force withdrew. HADLEY was credited with shooting down 25 Japanese aircraft in the 105 minute engagement and EVANS with 15. The Presidential Unit Citation subsequently awarded HADLEY stated, in part that “this was the greatest air-sea battle of World War II.”

Meanwhile, the Marine fighter pilots were busy shooting down some 50 Japanese planes while trying to shield the ships from attack. At least one Marine pilot, having run out of ammunition, downed a potential kamikaze by damaging the Jap’s tail assembly with his propeller. Ultimately, all of the Marines ran out of ammunition, but they requested permission to remain on station until dwindling fuel supplies forced them to return to base.

On a humorous note, one of the LSM(R) skippers came alongside the burning and sinking HADLEY and yelled, “Hey HADLEY, if you promise not to blow up, I’ll take you in tow.”

On the following day, 12 May, HADLEY was towed to the vicinity of Ie Shima, where USS PANAMINT, Flagship for ADM R. K. TURNER, USN, Commander Amphibious Task Force was anchored. As the battered HADLEY limped under tow past PANAMINT, with seven ensigns still flying, the Admiral passed the word over the ship’s bull horn, “Render honors to that man-of-war standing down my port side.” The men of HADLEY, although exhausted from the battle, and deeply saddened by the loss of so many of their shipmates, proudly returned these unprecedented honors.

My purpose in putting these thoughts on paper is to pay tribute to the unflagging devotion and courage of the HADLEY crew – the engineers who died at their posts below decks; the gun crew that refused to leave their station in the face of certain death; the damage control crews who kept her afloat against all odds; the officers and men all – but most especially to a great inspirational combat leader – COMMANDER BARON JOSEPH MULLANEY, USN, our Commanding Officer.

This was the personal recollection of Thomas Dwyer, LTJG Asst. Gunnery Officer on Hadley (later Capt USN Ret).