The following was written by Robert Sinclair Parkin and published in the Sea Classics 30th Anniversary issue.


On the evening of 10 May 1945, the destroyers USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774) and USS Evans (DD-552) arrived at their radar picket station (No. 15), approximately 30 miles northeast of Okinawa. Already on station were the LCS (L) 84, LCSs 82 and 88, and LSM (R) 193, serving as support ships. The primary mission of the destroyers was to detect and report approaching aircraft and prevent them from reaching the transport areas at Okinawa.

The Okinawan campaign was in its 40th day and the casualties on the bitterly tested island were running high on both sides. The sea surrounding Okinawa was a seething cauldron of burning and sinking ships with the skies pock marked with deadly bursting flak, aglow with incandescent tracer shells, and smudged and stained with oily, black and gray smoke from falling, flaming aircraft.

"No crew ever fought more valiantly against such overwhelming odds"

Since the opening of the campaign on 1 April, seven battered and broken destroyers and many of their gallant crews had been dispatched to their watery graves by the fiery onslaught of the fanatical kamikazes. Except for submarines, no ship was immune from the ravages of the "Divine Wind," which had killed and wounded their crews by the thousands and crippled and mangled over 100 ships before the island was ultimately taken. Within less than 15 hours of assuming their picket duty, Hugh W. Hadley and Evans would join the ranks of this battered brigade, but not before these two stalwart "tin cans" had swept the skies clear of 46 suiciders.

Shortly after their arrival, a lone aircraft was sighted closing in on the formation at a distance of five miles. Both destroyers opened up on the intruder; the Evans pouring some 32 rounds of .40mm shells into the planes and expending 36 rounds of 5-inch projectiles before it crashed in a fountaining splash 1500 yards off her port side. With several enemy planes snooping about, the ships remained at battle stations throughout the night, expecting a vicious air attack at any moment.

The 11th dawned with a low-lying mist. At 0740, an enemy float plane suddenly emerged from the opaque shroud, diving upon the Hadley. With an assist from the Evans, the would-be Kamikaze quickly burst into flames and plunged to its death. Minutes later, at 0755, Hadley's radar detected a swarm of bogeys bearing down on the formation at a distance of 55 miles. He fighter director officer estimated that a total of 156 planes were approaching at various altitudes. The Hadley's captain, Cdr. B.J. Mullaney, USN, described the oncoming threats in his battle report:

"One division (12) of CAP fighters was ordered out to intercept...the estimated number of 156 enemy planes were in groups as follows: Raid One - 36; Raid Two - 50; Raid Three - 20; Raid Four - 20-30, and Raid Five - 20."

Hadley was soon attacked by a group of planes closing in on her port and starboard bows. Every gun that could bear on the bandits opened up with the ship's marksmen splashing 10 of her assailants.

Evans, now some three miles northeast of Hadley, had her hands full. Scores of aircraft were swarming about the destroyer like angry hornets hurtling themselves into a frantic fusillade of AA fire so intense that the ship was enshrouded in a pall of smoke from her own guns. Without let-up, Evans fought off the suiciders for 73 minutes before four kamikazes penetrated her ring of defensive fire and stopped her in her tracks. All told, Evans downed 15 raiders, shared four assists with Hadley, plus the four "Sons of Heaven" who had crashed into her; an all-time record for a 2100-ton Fletcher Class destroyer.

The Evans' doctor, Lt. James M. Smith, USNR, described the action as "...a whirlwind of planes coming at us from all directions. Our guns were firing so rapidly that reliefs had to be provided for the exhausted loaders. After one hour of splashing all attacking planes, a 'Kamikaze artist' maneuvered through the barrage, winged over and crashed into our port bow. A hole at the waterline resulting from this hit flooded one of the living spaces. Then in quick succession, hits two, three and four occurred. The second and third resulted in critical damage to the Evans. The fourth plane, an "Oscar," already hit and on fire, released its bomb which exploded beneath the aft engineering spaces, flooding them immediately, and then crashed on the fantail."

During this assault, Executive Officer Lt. John W. Gilpin, rushed aft to assess the damage when a violent explosion flung him into the sea. Without hesitation, Seaman First Class Pat J. Macciocca, dove overboard to his rescue and held the wounded and stunned officer afloat until they were picked up by one of the support ships.

Lieutenant Smith's report continues: "With all power lost, the Evans lay dead in the water. Smoke and steam billowed out from the engineering spaces while flames licked about the forward torpedo tubes from which one of the torpedoes had been jarred out of its tube and driven into the galleys overhead. It was necessary to resort to small CO2 fire extinguishers and bucket brigades to douse the fires and bring the flooding under control. Despite the strenuous efforts of the Evans crew, the ship would have been lost had it not been for the support ships coming alongside promptly to quell the fires and pump out her flooded spaces."

While Evans was fighting for her life, Hadley was struggling for herself in a similar fashion. Commander Mullaney's battle report reads as follows: "For twenty minutes, Hadley fought off the enemy singlehandedly, being separated from the Evans by three miles and four small support vessels by two miles. Finally, by 0920, 10 enemy planes which had surrounded the Hadley - four on the starboard bow, under fire by machine guns and the main battery, four on the port bow, under fire by machine guns, and two astern also under fire by machine guns - attacked the ship simultaneously. All 10 were destroyed in the remarkable fight and each plane was accounted for."

However, the Hadley did not emerge from this action unscathed. Within those short 20 minutes, she had been hit by a bomb, struck by a "Baka" bomb and two suiciders. The blows were devastating. With her hull plating torn open, two engine rooms and one fire room were swiftly inundated, which killed all power and caused her to take on a precarious list to starboard. Fires and lethal explosions ravaged her topside and below decks. Nevertheless, despite the mantle of smoke and the conflagration, her gunners, like the gun crews on the Evans stood steadfastly by their weapons, splashing their assailants to ribbons and dispatched the divine "Sons of Heaven" to their honorable ancestors.

By day's end, the two war-weary destroyers broke every record as the champion kamikaze killers on the dreaded Okinawa picket line. But the gallant battle was not without severe cost to the USS Hugh W. Hadley and USS Evans. Both ships were so badly mauled that their own survival was in question.

By 0930, except for the smear of gray smoke and the residue of flak bursts, the skies were clear of enemy aircraft, but the Hadley was in dire peril. Dead in the water and settling fast, Commander Mullaney, fearing that the ship would turn turtle at any moment, ordered all but 50 of the ship's company to abandon ship. Commander Mullaney's report continues: "A truly amazing, courageous and efficient group of men and officers, with utter disregard for their safety, approached the fires and explosions with hoses and for 15 minutes kept up this work. The torpedoes were jettisoned, weights were shifted to port side and finally, the fires were extinguished, this list corrected, the flooding brought under control and the ship was saved.

"The total of planes destroyed by the Hadley in this one hour and thirty-five minutes was 23. This includes 20 shot down in the water and three suicide hits. Our mission was accomplished ... by the action of our ships. We bore the brunt of the enemy's strength and absorbed what they had thrown at us. It was a proud day for destroyermen."

The Hadley had suffered the loss of 28 officers and men and 67 wounded. Evans lost 32 of her officers and men, with 27 wounded.

Later that afternoon, the ocean-going tugs Arikara (ATF-98) and Cree (ATF-84) arrived to carry out salvage operations, remove the wounded and to tow the crippled vessels to Kerama Retto. After temporary repairs were effected, Evans stood out to sea towed by the Akikara, en route for Saipan on 19 June, arriving there on the 25th. On the following day, she departed under tow by the Startford Point (WSA tug) for Pearl Harbor. Arriving there on 12 July, she then cleared Pearl on 16 July for San Francisco under tow by the motor vessel Pigeon Point and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard on 27 July.

While undergoing alterations and battle repair damages, the war ended and, on 17 August, all repair work stopped pending further instructions from the Chief of Naval Operations. Considered beyond economical repair, the Evans was placed out of commission on 7 November 1945. She was sold to J.C. Beckwit & Co., San Francisico, CA on 11 February 1947 for scrapping.

Hadley, after completing temporary repairs, was also towed to San Francisco. However, while en route to Pearl Harbor, the ships were swept up in a mini-typhoon. For several hours it was doubtful the already disable Hadley would survive the tempest, but by some miracle, she pulled through her ordeal. Having developed additional leaks and suffering storm damages, she layed over at Pearl Harbor for repairs.

Arriving at Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard on 26 September, she too was considered beyond economical repair and was subsequently sold for scrapping to Walter W. Johnson & Co. on 2 September 1947.

The Evans was commissioned on 11 December 1943 at Mobile, AL. Entering the Pacific war zone in March 1944, she was awarded five battle stars for her participation in the Marianas, Western Carolines, Philippine, Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns. She was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. During this period, she was accredited in the shooting down or assisting in the destruction of 26 aircraft.

The Hadley, a 2200-ton Allen M. Sumner class destroyer, was commissioned on 25 November 1944 at San Pedro, CA. During her brief wartime service, she had served as a convoy escort in the central Pacific prior to her arrival off Okinawa, having shot down an attacker en route. Up until her first and last battle, the Hadley had provided shore bombardment off Okinawa and carried out patrol duties against the infiltration of aircraft and submarines in the transport area. She was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.