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.
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.
crew ever fought more valiantly against such overwhelming odds"
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.
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.
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:
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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
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."
had suffered the loss of 28 officers and men and 67 wounded. Evans
lost 32 of her officers and men, with 27 wounded.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.