Thursday, February 27, 2020

In Harm's Way

USS Hazelwood (DD-531)
Before we get started, this post started by being all about a particular ship, then I did some more reading. Spent a lot of time at the U.S. Naval Academy Memorial Hall website, where I spent time reading about graduates of the Academy who had been lost at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 (24 killed in action on that day, from ensigns to a rear admiral). Then I dug into the history of the ship I planned on posting about, things got dusty in a hurry. (Still kinda dusty as I type this.)

The ships by themselves are nothing. It is the crews of those ships that turn them into warships, instruments of national power. This is the story of the crew of one such ship. So how did this post get started? As often happens, it was a comment from a reader...

LL blogs over at Virtual Mirage and is a man with experience in defense of the Republic. Damned fine writer as well. As his dad served in the Pacific, I thought to honor his and his shipmate's service. As I started digging, and reading, I was amazed. Where do we get such men?

"Struck by a kamikaze..." doesn't begin to describe the Hell those men went through on that day.

Here's an account* from a man who served aboard USS Hazelwood (DD-531) with LL's Dad, Ensign Frederick C. Butler -
On Sunday, 29 April 1945, Task Force 58, under the command of Adm. Marc Mitscher, was defending the Army and Marine amphibious forces that had landed on the beaches at Okinawa on 1 April. Hazelwood was one of the nine destroyers in Destroyer Squadron 47 (DesRon 47) in the outer screen, 10-mi from the fleet center, defending the carriers and battleships against submarine and low-flying air attacks. During the period 1-29 April, the task force’s aircraft had been busy providing bomb support for the land forces and defending against Japanese air attacks.
At about 1650 on 29 April, their sister ship, USS Haggard (DD-555) was hit by a kamikaze about 10 mi from them and the Hazelwood was ordered to stand by her. On their way to assist the Haggard, they were at general quarters with all hands at their battle stations, and the author's station being in the after engine room. Soon, all of the Hazelwood’s 5-in/38-cal guns began firing, along with the 40mm and 20mm guns, too. After a lot of firing, the author felt a small explosion off the port stern and a couple of light bulbs in the engine room were shattered, as a kamikaze flew by at close range but missed the Hazelwood.
Soon, a second plane came in from astern, low on the water, and hit the Hazelwood at 1731. One of the kamikaze’s wings struck the #2 stack and knocked the 40mm director off its mount and down to the main deck. The plane crashed into the port side of the superstructure, just above the main deck and a fire started.
In the after engine room, the crew, including the author, neither felt nor heard anything. However, they lost communication to the bridge and the forward engine room. They did not know they had been hit until, about 10-min after the hit, they started taking smoke into their space through the ventilation system, not a lot but certainly noticeable. A little later, it was noticed, by the author for some unknown reason, the system was losing water. The Chief [Chief Trunkhill] was asked if he could see any leaks in the engine room and, after a quick check, he said no. The Chief was instructed to shut down the main engines. This chain of thought quickly went through all of our minds: We are losing water and will be losing steam and electric power; the lubricating pump for the main engines is motor-powered and if they lose lubrication, the main bearings will be ruined in a New York minute. They shut down the after engine room and notified the after fire room by phone.
Many of the crew was below deck....and did not learn any details of the disaster until they went topside, where they was to see the raging fire. The ship was dead in the water and had little with which to fight the fire. Lieutenant (jg) Chet Locke, the engineering officer, was directing the fire-fighting from the starboard deck, throwing cans of foam on the blaze - the only fire-fighting tool they had until about 25-min later, when other ships came alongside to help them out. The author helped with assisting and supervise the damage-control parties. Of the 18 officers assigned to the ship, 10, including the commanding officer, were killed in the attack; four were wounded, leaving four able-bodied surviving officers, including the author. Of the approximately 310 enlisted men, 67 perished and 30 were wounded. (Source)
Three USNA graduates were among the officers killed in action that day -

Commander Douw was in the process of turning over command of USS Hazelwood to Lieutenant Commander Hering -

From "Aircraft Carrier" by J. Bryan, III
April 28th [1945]. At sea
As we stood away, one of the Hazelwood's officers took me up to the bridge and introduced me to their skipper, Comdr. Volckert P. Douw, a crisp, smart-looking man, with the warmest smile I've ever seen. We chatted a few minutes, then he said, "I bet you don't know who you're talking to. No? I'll tell you: you're talking to the happiest guy in the whole goddamn Navy! See that man standing there?"—he pointed to the other wing of the bridge—"That's my relief. He's going to take over in a couple of days, and I'll go home and see my wife and kids for the first time in God knows when."
We were coming alongside another CVE, the Attu, which was giving me a lift to Guam, so I told the skipper goodbye and wished him well. He had no messages for me to send his wife; he thought he'd get home before I would.
April 30th [1945]. At sea
… This morning [my friend] Hays took me up to the bridge and gave me the long glass and pointed to a destroyer on our starboard beam. "Look at that mess," he said.
Her bridge was smashed flat. Her foremast was hanging over the side. The starboard 40mm mount was lying on the deck.
Hays said, "A kamikaze hit her Saturday afternoon, just after you came aboard. I saw the dispatch, but I've forgotten the exact number of casualties. I know she's requesting a new skipper."
I put the glass on her bow. Her number stood out clearly: "531"—the Hazelwood.
Damn, just damn...

USS Hazelwood after the kamikaze attack.

It's not enough, at least for me, to know the names of the ships and the actions they were involved in, it's also important to know the names of those who gave the last full measure...

  • CDR Volckert P Douw - Commanding Officer, KIA, Body not recovered
  • LCDR Walter A Hering - Executive Officer, KIA
  • LT James P Lenderink, KIA
  • LTJG Edward L Broadwater, KIA
  • LTJG John P Dunbar, KIA, Body not recovered
  • LTJG Malcolm H Robertson, KIA
  • LTJG Phillipp P Sebastian Jr, KIA
  • LTJG Joseph J Silhavy Jr, KIA
  • LT William E Strube - Ship's Doctor, KIA, Body not recovered
  • WO Kenneth R Sturgeon, KIA
  • MOMM3 E C Adams, KIA
  • Y1 David M Barber, KIA, Body not recovered
  • RM2 Kenneth E Barrett, KIA
  • SEA1 Joseph Bellas, Died of wounds
  • B1 Edward S Bends, KIA
  • RDM2 Theodore W Bergstrom, KIA
  • CWTP Leo A Bowers, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SEA1 Ernest J Brady, KIA, Body not recovered
  • RDM3 Joseph A Burd, KIA
  • QM2 Homer V Callis, KIA
  • FCO2 John P Campbell, KIA
  • RDM3 William A Carbone, KIA
  • CCSP Luigi C Celentano, KIA
  • RM3 Edmund J Cieciorkoski, KIA
  • MM1 David G Comstock, KIA
  • SOM2 Russell L Craven, KIA, Body not recovered
  • RM3 Bennie E Damelin, KIA
  • TM2 Robert J Fahrig, KIA
  • EM2 Eldon G Fisher, KIA
  • EM2 Gerald M Green, KIA
  • MM3 Swift C Greenway, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SEA1 Leslie E Gunderson, KIA
  • SK1 Paul Gwinn, KIA, Body not recovered
  • RM1 Thomas F Hannon, KIA
  • WM2 Robert J Hubkey, KIA, Body not recovered
  • FC1 Edwin R Johnson, KIA, Body not recovered
  • BM2 Albert F Kalkbrenner, KIA
  • SOM1 Edward E Kallin, KIA
  • SEA2 Nathan F Kett, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SOM3 Willard L Kunze, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SEA1 James R Lanning, KIA, Body not recovered
  • RDM3 Robert H Law, KIA
  • MOMM1 Kenneth E Long, KIA
  • RDM3 George J Lorber, KIA
  • RDM2 Edward J Magliochetti, KIA, Body not recovered
  • RT1 Paul Mcmills, KIA
  • SEA1 Dan F Mcnamara, KIA
  • PHM1 Frank Myernick, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SEA2 William E Newell, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SF1 Melvin L Nicholson, KIA
  • MM1 Allen E Olson, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SEA1 Harold B Parks, KIA
  • RDM3 Frank Patronis, KIA
  • GM3 Richard T Peterson, KIA
  • SEA1 Edward A Rafferty, KIA, Body not recovered
  • Y1 Harold A Read, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SC3 Robert J Reese, KIA, Body not recovered
  • RM2 Eugene W Riley, KIA
  • SEA1 Kenneth C Riness, KIA, Body not recovered
  • QM1 John W Roberts, KIA
  • RDM3 Robert L Sarr, KIA, Body not recovered
  • EM1 Glenn C Stabenow, KIA
  • RM2 Clifford J Stipanovich, KIA
  • WT2 Alex G Targonski, KIA
  • CBMA John A Vanmeter, KIA, Body not recovered
  • EM3 Glenn E Vogt, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SM2 Robert K Voisinet, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SEA1 Carl E Wainwright Jr, KIA
  • BKR3 Arlo H Wanless, KIA, Body not recovered
  • F1 Mitchel W Wewiorski, KIA
  • TM2 George J Wheeler, Died of wounds
  • SEA1 Charles H Wilson, KIA, Body not recovered
  • CFCP Joseph W Witkowski, KIA, Body not recovered
  • SM3 Clarence G Witzig Jr, KIA
  • RDM3 Anthony C Zadrozky, KIA
  • WT3 Raymond J Zoska, Died of wounds

Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the wide and starry sky,
    Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
    And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
    Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

The Greatest Generation indeed.


* With some minor editorial corrections from Your Humble Scribe
USS Hazelwood survived the war, she was decommissioned in December of 1974. (Source)


  1. We need anther ENGLAND in the Fleet, too!

  2. Very good and very somber post.
    I didn't make it past the opening notes of The Navy Hymn before having problems.

    1. The Navy Hymn always chokes me up.

    2. Thankfully it wasn't the full Hymn or I'd be wrecked for the whole day. Dang. That hymn, which I only heard once I found this site, has the power to just shut me down. Like a good rendition of "Homeward Bound" which I only found out about after reading some book about subs in space.

      Did you notice the people on the our left, stage right? Seems to be a delegation of Japanese dignitaries. Interesting.

    3. Yes, the Navy Hymn can pretty much shut me down for quite a few moments.

      As to the video, they are Koreans, the video is the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters performing the Navy hymn at the commemoration of the 59th anniversary of the Korean War armistice at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. on July 27, 2012.

  3. So many lost, not recovered. I felt the same when I saw the amount on unknowns at Vicksburg. So many gave their full measure.

    Hard times breeds toughness. And those men had seen some hard times in the 30's, and at war. Pollen is a bit thick today.

    1. Copy that regarding the pollen in the air.

      A hard post to write.

  4. Over half of the officers and almost a third of the enlisted lost....... it is dusty this morning.

  5. Dusty?? "Dusty" doesn't EVEN begin to describe it..

  6. The thing that I always contemplate on reading these types of stories is that all these men who made the ultimate sacrifice were nothing special. And by that I mean the huge majority of men and women serving in WWII would have made such a sacrifice while thinking anyone else they served with would do the same. All the veterans of that generation I've ever had the honor to speak with said the same thing: "anyone else would have done the same thing in my situation." Truly a great generation, we owe them so much. And it is distressing that so many of today's citizens disrespect them by buying into the idea that our country needs to be more socialist... it's already too much that way!

    1. Bingo Tom. They were everyday people, given a job, they did it.

      Concur on your last.

    2. From 'The things they carried'--

      "They carried the weight of the world. THEY CARRIED EACH OTHER".

      They surely did.

    3. It's not that they were Giants themselves. It's that so many just... did it. Did what they needed to do, did what they had to do to survive and succeed. In conditions so horrible the civilians would/could never understand.

      Being in a hot engine room in the Pacific. Being on deck during the day in the Tropics. Dressed in full gear sludging around the islands. Yet they kept going. That's what they did. Overall no quit in them, though some just did. But the rest? Just... kept going. Until it was all done. Until the ships were moored and struck and broken up and the crews final musters. Just... kept going.

  7. Hey AFSarge;

    Dang good post and you writing about them honors them so their memory isn't forgotten.*Sniff*

  8. My uncle was at Okinawa, on a net tender.
    All of the ships were subject to attack by kamikazes.
    One of his few comments about his service had to do with realizing there was no place to go to avoid a kamikaze.
    Scary thought!

    1. Facing a kamikaze had to have been a terrifying experience. The guy wanted to die and take you with him!

    2. The kamikaze threat was bad enough when it was just damaged planes taking the dive. But when they went full purpose kamikaze, just insane.

      The same thing happened on the island and in the jungles. Soldiers with bombs strapped to them charging tanks and positions. Purposely.

      How utterly alien to the US serviceman at the time.

    3. Yup, we had nothing in our experience to really cope with that.

  9. The radar picket destroyers took a beating during the Kamikaze phase of the war. Between subs, mines, hidden gun emplacements and kamikaze boats and planes, being a destroyerman was past being in harm's way.

    Yet they endured.

    The bridge smashed flat, top burnt, directors destroyed. And the ship requests a new captain so it can keep going?

    Beyond heroic. And you have me crying like a little kid.

    Good post.

    1. Thanks Beans. You should have seen me researching and writing the post.

  10. Film of kamakazi attacks, Okinawa, late April 1945. Produced by the War Dept. It is harrowing.


  11. Again, imagine LCS taking that kind of damage...
    and, anothe r USS Laffey to replace the one lost at Guadalcanal...
    money quote:
    Laffey survived despite being badly damaged by four bombs, six kamikaze crashes, and strafing fire that killed 32 and wounded 71. Assistant communications officer Lt. Frank Manson asked Captain Becton if he thought they'd have to abandon ship, to which he snapped, "No! I'll never abandon ship as long as a single gun will fire." Becton did not hear a nearby lookout softly say, "And if I can find one man to fire it."[6]
    Imagine LCS, hell, modern DDG taking that kind of beating...
    best part yet to come:
    Laffey was then taken under tow and anchored off Okinawa on 17 April 1945. Temporary repairs were rushed and the destroyer sailed for Saipan, arriving on 27 April. Four days later, she got underway for the west coast via Eniwetok and Hawaii, arriving at Tacoma, Washington on 24 May. She entered drydock at Todd Shipyard Corp.[7] for repair until 6 September, then sailed for San Diego, arriving on 9 September.

    Two days later, Laffey got underway for exercises but collided with the submarine chaser PC-815 in a thick fog. She rescued all but one of the PC's crew before returning to San Diego for repairs.

    On 5 October, she sailed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 11 October. Laffey operated in Hawaiian waters until 21 May 1946, when she participated in Operation Crossroads, the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, actively engaged in collecting scientific data. Radioactive decontamination of Laffey required the "sandblasting and painting of all underwater surfaces, and acid washing and partial replacement of salt-water piping and evaporators."[8] Upon completion of decontamination, she sailed for the west coast via Pearl Harbor arriving San Diego on 22 August for operations along the west coast.

    In February 1947, Laffey made a cruise to Guam and Kwajalein and returned to Pearl Harbor on 11 March. She operated in Hawaiian waters until departing for Australia on 1 May. Laffey returned to San Diego on 17 June, was decommissioned on 30 June 1947, and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

    they repaired her and she survived a collision and nuclear contamination...

    1. She was a tough ship!

      She is now a museum ship in South Carolina!

  12. Because of the way they lived, babes born on our blue marble today inherit wellbeing scarcely imagined 80 years ago.

  13. All I can say is thank you. I am one of my family historian/genealogist. I rotate my research regarding family members. I added John Patrick Dunbar to my family tree years ago and added sources to him that applied. His death was noted as 29 April 1945, place of burial, the war memorial in Hawaii. Earlier this month info was added by a person unknown to me. I contacted this person and he was able to tell me that Lt. John Patrick Dunbar died at Okinawa. This sparked my interest to know about my relative's death. What ship he was on, what his duties were. I felt compelled to learn more about him because of all the relatives that I know who served, they all came home except for John. I just feel like his story needs to be written into my family's history. That he's not forgotten, that his life that was given up mattered. Thank you for this blog. My search for his info is almost complete, I just need to know what his position on the ship was, what his duties were, etc. I would like to add your blog as a source if I have your permission and how would I go about doing that...if it's possible. Any way thank you and may God bless all those souls lost and their families.

    1. Certainly you have my permission, one of my missions in life is to honor those who went before. Just copy the URL to link here.


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