Charles A. Weygandt, QM3
It was a pleasant day when my ship, the destroyer Laffey 724, pulled alongside another destroyer and tied up at Okinawa.
On the starboard deck I was able to chat with a sailor from this destroyer who pointed out the loss of their main huge radar antenna to a kamikaze, which loss resulted in their being relieved from a radar picket station about 50 miles northwest of Okinawa. Their job was to report incoming Japanese planes to Okinawa. My first thoughts after learning the Laffey was their replacement was that this did not sound like a pleasant naval duty assignment. I was right.
Under beautiful, peaceful, blue waters, the Laffey took the assignment and enjoyed a calm pleasant patrol. This did not last more than two days when on the intercom, I heard of two Japanese planes coming for our ship. My job was below decks, after steering, which was to steer the ship from pilot house commands after their loss of control. We got the first two, but there was a lot more to come. In number, a total of 22 Japanese planes took turns making runs on our ship, strafing, bombing, and the worst - the Japanese kamikaze pilots with no care for their lives. After my station was made inoperative by a bomb hit on an adjacent compartment, I had to point out with the electricians mate with me that it was my life jacket I was wearing, that he did not bring his. He reluctantly agreed.
After using an escape hatch, I got topside to help with fire hoses. After being able to maneuver only in a circle, after seven Japanese planes either grazed or hit our ship directly, after almost 50% of our firepower was gone, after fires and being low in the water, American planes circled above to protect us further. A tug from Okinawa towed us there. All this happened in about 90 minutes. Try lighting a cigarette after the action and after being in Okinawa Harbor during a bombing raid that night.
Europe was a walk compared to this, when we escorted landing craft full of soldiers to the landing beach area.
Off Cherbourg, France, we provided smoke screen cover to large ships doing bombardment. I was in the pilot house when the Chief Boatswains Mate comes racing up to the pilot house to tell the Captain we have an 8" dud shell in our bow. I can still remember the exact words of the Captain..."For Christ's sake, get it out", which was done, no big damage.
The Laffey 724 received much congratulations from other ships and the Presidential Unit Citation , as well as being on public display in Seattle and Tacoma in an effort to help recruit ship workers