Aaron Ward (DM 34) - Naval Cruise Book

 - Class of 1945

Page 11 of 48


Aaron Ward (DM 34) - Naval Cruise Book online yearbook collection, 1945 Edition, Page 11
Page 11

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l ! 1 l L- On March 23, we arrived with our ,caravan on the shores of Okinawa. Our ETA had been timed so that we were in our assigned area early in the morning, several hours before sunrise. Condition Able had been set and each one of us was at his battle -station. The sun made its customary appearance, and we proceeded to scan the skies, the water, the nearby island for signs of the ene-my. Yet nothing happened. All was quiet save the roar of our frien-dly planes overhead that swept, wave after wave, onto the Iap shore installation-s. Our battle wagons had already made their welcome appearance and had begun blazing away with their large rifles. Our preinvasion work went "merrily on". We served as a Fire Support Ship for a mine-sweeping unit of AM's that took us perilously close to enemy beaches in the daytime, and at night we entertained ourselves by retiring with the main body of the bombardment force. Every day we witnessed explosions of unfortunate comrade-ships that had failed to avoid a mine or had been victimized by sneak lap suicide attacks, or heard of sister ships that had fared successfully with the enemy. The Ditter, the Shea, the Lindsey, and the rest of Minron 3 had already started knocking Iap planes out of the sky. We received word of the Tolman's epic struggle with 8 suicide boats, and a later mishap that left her stranded on a reef for days. All our friends it seemed had made some contribution to the 'twar effort", and we, outside of the few mines that we had destroyed and several 'tprobablesn in night actions, had not as yet connected. The invasion came. April the lst saw us in the third balcony, viewing the performance from 5Oc seats, and two days later we were bound for Guam, convoying two old warriors, the Salem and the Keokuk, to what rightfully should have been their final resting place. Several days out of Okinawa, we discovered that the Iapanese had started a furious suicide offensive that was claiming two or three ships each day. Ours was more than an arbitrary interest, for we knew th-at, shortly, we too would be back in the scrap. Guam was a reprieve that we shall never forget. For ten days we sipped the nectar of beer parties, softball games, swimming, and riding peacefully at anchor, while up in Okinawa the demon god of war was having one helluva time. The beginning of one of the greatest and most decisive campaigns in naval history had broken out in all its fury. But all good things must eventually come to end, and on Ap-ril 20, we were back on our old Okinawa stomping grounds. Then it was that we became familiar wit-h all the picket stations, and there we established a camara- derie with our brother ships, the big and small DD's and the little LOS's that accompanied us on those harrow- ing 4-5 day t'picnics" far from the noise and confusion of Kerama Retto and l-lagushi anchorages. For several weeks we kept our decks and superstructure clean, seeing little action during the day and spending many sleepl-ess hours at night. Each night saw us blazing away at enemy planes that we couldn"t see, but who appeared intent on causing us trouble. Several times we threw up a deadly curtain of fire that made us almost cert-ain that we had destroyed the enemy. Finally, on April 27, on a clear, moonlight night, patrol- ling north of Okinawa, we won our "spurs", For seven long hours our ship p-atrolled her station, and for seven 'long hours the boys in plot, the director, in the fire and e-ngine rooms, on the deck, and in CIC and the Radio Shack, kept faith with their ship and country. That was the night we registered our first visual t'kill", shooting two Betty's and one Val into the ocean. Only after we had fired at 10 separate attacks and reported some 37 enemy raids to "Point Bolo", and had received the all clear signal from CIC, did we secure from GO. The following morning we stuck out our chests with pride when we read Admiral Turner's congratulatory message th-at labeled us "lap exterminators". Can we ever forget that n-ight in Kerama Retto, when after tying up alongside an ammunition ship, we witnessed the terrifying spectacle, a drama in one act, tlhe sole player, one Val, intent on hitting the ammo ship. Can we ever express our heartfelt gratitude to its only challenger, an unknown s-mall craft that deflected it from its path wit-h a few bursts of machine gun fire. And then to watch it go racing madly, weaving from side to side, in the midst of hundreds of silent, yet fearful ships, until it plunged headlong into the Pinckney, exploding with a tremendous crash and a ball of fire that lighted the area for miles around. lf what we 'had seen had unnerved us, then the subseCI1leI1T events left US 9059319 tot breath- Yet ttttu the smoke, the thousands of tracers that were fired at what "could have been" a lC1PCff1eSe Dtcmef with Stttctpttet falling like rain, the burning fires and explosions on the Pinckney, we felt secure in our horror and grim uncertainty. When the "storm" had subsided, we naturally gave a sigh of relief, but with our sigh, went a prayer of thanks to l-lim above and to our captain who had maneuvred and conned the ship so adroitly. exhibiting so inspiring a quality of leadership totpull us thru. And all the time, the "skipper" was disap- pointed, because the thousand odd craft thvat we had miraculouslY avoided, had prevented him from help- ing the stricken ship. Our days were numbered. This we did not know, but the reports concerning our fellow "picketeers" were far from encouraging. Night after night we heard the tragic news of ships being sunk and damaged -wi-

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