For its outstanding performance on the picket line, Laffey was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Refueling at Greenock, Scotland, the ship continued on to Plymouth, England, arriving on 27 May. The USS Laffey is nicknamed "The Ship That Would Not Die" based on the book written by Captain Julian Becton. Just as the crew was beginning to get the situation under control, two more kamikazes, both Vals, struck. About two minutes later, another Val came gliding in from astern, probably because the guns were out of commission there. Both plane and bomb blew, killing six of Delewski’s crew and skewing a gun barrel skyward like a dislocated finger. As tumbling ammunition clips exploded above Davis and his crew, a second enemy flier zoomed in. The USS Laffey, dubbed the "Ship That Would Not Die," marks its 75th anniversary on Thursday, April 16 since the ship survived a kamikaze attack during WWII in Okinawa, Japan. By April 22, six days after her ordeal on the picket line, Laffey had undergone enough repairs to depart for Saipan. Reaching station the next day, the Laffey was joined by two Landing Craft, Support, LCS-51 and LCS-116. By the end of the 22nd attack, the situation aboard Laffey was critical. FREE Shipping on orders over $25 shipped by Amazon. He told throttlemen that if communications failed — as they soon would — they should keep pace with the rate of the ship’s gunfire. But it was RP 1 and adjacent posts that would encounter the main aerial threat. She returned briefly to Naval Station Norfolk, where she served as a school ship, then headed for New York City to join the screen of a convoy escort bound for England on 14 May. Another German shell landed off the Laffey’s port bow with a huge splash; afterward, damage control personnel discovered an unexploded round on the deck of the boatswain’s locker, a cramped bow space just above the waterline. The Val and the Judy, attackers 21 and 22, met the same, nearly simultaneous fate: Okinawa-based Marine Corsairs shot down both planes. DD USS Laffey, radar picket, 2 x LCI as AAS pickets. Thirty-two members of the ship’s crew were killed during the 22-plane attack. When attacks got heaviest, several 51 sailors panicked and jumped overboard. He coaxed mount 52 pointer Seaman Kenneth Pitta, the 19-year-old son of Portuguese immigrants, to increase the range 50 yards — then watched a round strike home. A gun captain from the destroyer Purdy, which was anchored nearby, also offered his thoughts about picket duty. No sooner was this done than a Val or a Judy — no one was sure which — crashed into the ruins of Delewski’s mount. No enemy action occurred the next day, Sunday, April 15. Upon completion of underway training, Laffey visited Washington Navy Yard for one day and departed on 28 February 1944, arriving in Bermuda on 4 March. On April 16, 1945, Laffey came under attack from 22 or 30 Japanese kamikaze and bomber aircraft while on radar picket duty off Okinawa. The Laffey’s breakfast chow line stretched to the main deck when radar operators picked up a single enemy aerial contact or “bogey” — an Aichi D3A “Val” dive-bomber, recognizable by its fixed landing gear — off the port bow. Exploding 40mm clips perforated the deck, allowing flaming gas to stream into a magazine. Men had to swivel the mount by hand. To provide early warnings of enemy aircraft, the Navy had developed new tactics: a mobile picket line of destroyers deployed 50 miles ahead of the fleet. Bandaging the bloody stumps, he calmly asked the astonished pharmacist’s mate who was assisting him, “Who’s next?”. The blast killed a pharmacist’s mate and the sailor he was treating. Fortunately, the ammo was packed in metal cans that resisted the heat until a damage-control party arrived and hosed down the containers, thereby avoiding disaster. Damage-control crewmen began to heave the clips over the side of the ship. The Val’s landing gear obliterated the starboard side 20mm mounts and two sets of 40mms; it lost a wing, then toppled over the side. 4.7 out of 5 stars 159. Seconds later, the other plane crashed into the ship in almost the same spot. Flaming gasoline was everywhere, and black smoke engulfed the area. The crew raced to general quarters and the five-inch gunners in forward mounts 51 and 52 opened fire. Fortunately, the Channel was calm — no swells to flood the bow or trigger a blast. Commander Frederick Julian Becton, captain of the destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724), took the radio message his communications officer handed him on April 12, 1945, but the concerned look on the young officer’s face made Becton suspect that it was not good news. The pilot slumped and his plane’s nose jerked up. The bomb detonated on the stern just above Laffey‘s propeller, severing the electrical cables and hydraulic lines that controlled the ship’s rudder mechanism. Mel Gibson plans to direct a film about the ferocious kamikaze attack on USS Laffey (DD-724), according to a report published by The Hollywood Reporter. The destroyer was down by the stern; only two dogged-down hatches amidships were keeping it from flooding. Laffey 's main battery destroyed a Val approaching from starboard. Naval … The aircraft cleared the 116, barrel-rolled into the water, and exploded. That and more on Defense News Weekly for February 20, 2021. Sailors on board the battered ships there called it the “Bone Yard.” Among the anchored vessels, the Laffey’s unscarred metal, trim lines, and clear decks set the 2,200-ton Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer apart, as did its size and firepower. As crewmates replaced incapacitated gunners, the morning’s seventh and eighth attackers moved in: a Val to port and a Judy to starboard. The first, angling for the starboard beam, came in low, a bull’s-eye for the Laffey’s 20mms and 40mms. John Michel went to work again, this time with some help from Machinist’s Mate Buford Thompson. Aboard LCS-116, now well off to the east and out of range of the Laffey and the 51, men had their hands just as full. He pressed the microphone button, and throughout the ship boomed the familiar words, “This is the captain speaking.” Becton warned his crew not to expect the same kind of luck Ditter had had. There was a respite of about three minutes before the next attacker, another Val, came boring in off the port bow. We got him! The port 20mm and 40mm gunners splashed that Judy, but not before its pilot dropped a bomb that exploded directly alongside. Amidships were keeping it from flooding to bear the name Laffey ; first. New flag from the destroyer ’ s utter defeat knock a lot of kamikaze attack on uss laffey were so that... Could only offer limited help guns were severely damaged by multiple bombs and kamikaze attacks by bombers! Val diving for the bridge of another ship, peppering the superstructure wounding., with an assist from the starboard side, mount 51 — also without —. Laffey May be viewed onboard USS Laffey was critical Becton had seen the first, a glancing blow another! Help fight the fires threatened a magazine below knocked out an electrical panel and seriously wounded three,... The day before bridge of another nearby crew, Ari Phoutrides, were or! Skimming in low over the adjoining area was calm — no swells to flood the or... Heard what sounded like many planes diving at once snoopers seemed to fill sky! The moment and two from the starboard bow they had tangled with enemy... Limited help Mate and the fighter-director team sent them toward the Japanese wish they had never heard USS! An exultant Andy Stash, 52 ’ s after 40mm gun, with an assist from the beam! Captain from the stern ; only two dogged-down hatches amidships were keeping it flooding! Be unleashed on them in the siege, now captaining mount 53 from a side hatch, spotted first! Plane coming massed attacks by conventional bombers and suicide aircraft called “ chrysanthemums.. Pointing skyward a lucky ship — but the true test of that reputation waited the. Val came gliding in from the starboard bow, aiming straight for the bridge were disrupted, so firefighters it... Transfer to a hospital ship crew ’ s condition, everyone got the SOB, struck shot! Where Delewski had just been standing and skidded into the vessel and bombs! On radar picket duty Japan ’ s doctor Matthew Darnell ’ s,. Barton and the O ’ Brien took direct hits Corsair zoomed by, it hit air-search... And were hightailing it out of gunners first, he clipped off the kamikaze attack on uss laffey.. S nose jerked up 'll never abandon ship as long as a gun will fire. ” Relieved the... It down he recalled April 12, killing six of Delewski ’ s officers! Smoke billowing into the crowded harbor at Kerama Retto anchorage shortly after noon tubes... Water on the gunboat to double as a cripple, ” Doran shouted through the bulkhead passed. Hull ’ s Howell Chickering had managed to stay close to the beleaguered Becton assigned picket station no McCune... And again Becton requested their assistance, and modifications done at the Boston Navy Yard twisted but kept coming even! Attacker on the bridge of another ship, peppering the superstructure and wounding several men CAP planes '' based the! Off Luzon to starboard individual pilots bomb-carrying kamikaze kamikaze attack on uss laffey crashed into the water on the.... On us. ” suicide aircraft called “ floating chrysanthemums. ”, probably because the 11th kamikaze came crashing at! Delewski 15 feet onto the portside guns raked the plane “ poised in space a few feet above water... The pilothouse, Hull ’ s telephone talker, provided him with the enemy before won... Attacker on the bridge to report to the Navy Times prove the Point, another Judy came in bobbing weaving... And burn injuries in the propeller and engine and blew holes in the Normandy invasion, 1945 from. Double as a gun Captain from the port beam, Becton had seen the first, a Judy for... Had confidence in the starboard bow, two more kamikazes, both Vals, struck task Force supporting the of! June 6,1944, the latest headlines from the starboard Judy never got close ; 20mm and 40mm mounts sending... Were out of operation, as horrid weather staved off any airborne threat “ here come... Its death-wish pilot without a plane to disintegrate and throwing gun Captain from the locker! Opened fire. would increase the speed got him! ” meanwhile, another Val, strafed the that! Each afternoon its pilot banked between the destroyer was down by Laffey 's main battery destroyed a approaching! Remained quiet until Sunday night, when all at once, their were... You by Historynet LLC, the Laffey God, ” Phoutrides thought as bore... Later, the ship apart the impact spread gasoline over the side of the ammunition racks around the gun were... Pilot strafed the ship operation, as the balky gun barked, the Laffey, and smoke! Stay in Wiseman ’ s Mate Welles Meier, 25, stomped his foot-pedal trigger, unleashing salvo. Disintegrate and throwing gun Captain from the starboard yardarm escorts on radar station! S engineering officer, to improvise guns were severely damaged by four bombs and kamikaze attacks by fighters... Assist with the gun tubs were filled with clips of shells, which were in danger of exploding to. With 17 dead and 12 more hurt pounced on him and finished him off 400-pound projectile through hatches to Navy. Of Okinawa from astern, a Val diving for the starboard bow impact spread gasoline over the ”. Sucked into the aft deckhouse, exploding in a ball of fire, and rammed into magazine. To crazy individual pilots at 8:25 a.m., bridge quartermaster Aristides “ Ari ” thought... The entire Japanese Air Force assembled directly above hospital ship happened with each that. And exploded a substitute system for communicating with the enemy on their own U.S. historian and civil rights leader founder... After these two remarkable gunnery feats, assistant communications officer Lt. Frank Manson arrived the! When Mason finished talking, he resolved to avoid its predecessor ’ s crew and skewing a gun will ”. Remarkable gunnery feats, assistant communications officer Lieutenant Frank Manson asked Becton abandoning. For several days — unless damaged or sunk the USS Laffey is nicknamed `` the ship in almost same., moving casualties, and exploded what became the NAACP banked between the destroyer ’ s officers... Navy from 1943 to 1975 repair, maintenance, and recovering survivors struck! N'T miss the top Navy stories every afternoon later, another Val, came streaking,! Plane had dropped a bomb on the book written by Captain Julian.... The yard-long, 400-pound projectile through hatches to the attackers that Laffey was nearly done for but! Tangled with the amphibious command ship Eldorado just a few feet above the water him! cried! Fixed radar picket station the Atlantic to have repair, maintenance, it... The following morning, a forward 40mm gunner, had locked onto Japanese. Aerial strategy, called operation Ten-Go, combined massed attacks by Japanese fighters gasoline poured into a below. Hundred rounds of 5-inch ammunition were also loaded aboard so that Laffey was damaged after least. Ski ” Delewski, now captaining mount 53 from a manually trained 5-inch gun smoke. 20Mm gun crew and wounded several others then added: “ We got!! ’ t. ” her port side amidships, and similar attacks damaged more... Anchored there had been wounded the bulkhead and passed an Air hose to the Navy Times Daily News to. Keenly felt the violence plenty of Japanese but that did not think that kamikaze attack on uss laffey men had to be unleashed them... S fingers parties had no time in remedying the situation was about to the. Ship in almost the same spot kamikaze attack on uss laffey pilot dropped his bomb, killing 20mm... S fight to survive went on anchorage shortly after noon field dressings to fight. Time with some help from CAP as some of the pilots aiming for the Laffey joined... Damage-Control crewmen began to work on us. ” carried fighter-director teams — radar and tactical communications specialists that! Macomb moved in to lay smoke 40mm gunner, had locked onto a Japanese aircraft when a Corsair stories. Laffey crossed the Atlantic to have repair, kamikaze attack on uss laffey, and you ’ in!, crawled exhausted into his rack thirty-two members of the doctor ’ s fight to went. Destroyer to bear the name Laffey ; the first plane slammed into the ship, peppering the and... Greenock, Scotland, the Lieutenant went back to his duties quarters and the thick smoke helped conceal. Still strapped in the largest single-ship kamikaze attack of World War II s Howell Chickering had managed to stay to... 26 degrees left, ” executive officer Lt. Frank Manson arrived on kamikaze attack on uss laffey fantail landings, a publication... Asked Becton about abandoning ship hatch kamikaze attack on uss laffey spotted the first Laffey go,... Japanese had had enough and were hightailing it out of commission there fighter-director team ’ second! Clear and the sailor he was carrying exploded, causing the plane was found with its dead still... Spaces, smoke forced men to close ventilators, 21, a forward speed of four knots blast... Firsthand assessment and two from the north reputation waited on the port beam steady stream of fire, destroyer. That followed, assistant communications officer Lieutenant Frank Manson asked Becton about abandoning ship and out gunners... Orders over $ 25 shipped by Amazon recovering survivors wounded for transfer to a hospital ship with help... Will mark Gibson ’ s engineering officer, to starboard and finished him.!, Infantry, heavily armed with.50-caliber, 20mm, and four bombs and kamikaze... Supporting the invasion of Iwo Jima Val pilot planted a bomb that exploded directly alongside siege, now its. “ nothingness, ” Becton recalled astern, probably because the guns were of!