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as they approach. ln their isolated positions these picket vessels are easy marks for the ene-my, and at
Okinawa hundreds of Kamikazes met death trying to crash the picket vessels. Many attacks were by single
planes or small groups, against the Aaron Ward the dozen or more attacking planes were co-ordinated
and timed with accuracy, and one of the Kamikazes circled out of range acting as a "suicide director". "l-le
was a traffic cop of death with wings," in the words of an Aaron Ward officer. 4
The Ward was steaming on picket station with a destroyer, the U.S.S. Little, and four landing craft
as supporting vessels the late afternoon of May 3.
' The weather, overcast earlier, had cleared. The wind was light. The sea was calm. "Enemy air
attack was more or less expected," the battle report says, "due to the decided improvement in the weather."
At 5522 PM., or l822 ships time, 45 minutes before sunset, the Aaron Ward sounded the general alarm
when planes were detected about 25 miles distant. ln a few minutes the "Bogies" .came within visual
range, and six planes were sighted, four of them "friendlies" of the Wards combat air patrol.
The laps managed to evade attack by the American planes and at l829, seven minutes after GQ
had sounded, the attack began. From then on it went something like this:
l829 Val sho-t down, landing l00 yards from Ward. Engine propellor and wing section hit Wardg no
l830 Second Val shot down, l,200 yards from ship.
l83'l. Third Jap, a Zeke, taken under fire at 5,000 yards, hit repeatedly, but continued Kamikaze attack
from port quarter. Plane released bomb which pen.etrated portside to after engine room, and in
split second plane its-elf crashed ship on superstructure deck amidship, just below after quad gun-
mount. This plane and bomb caused fire topside, put after engines out of commission, and jammed
rudder left, causing ship to circle. A
l83l to Planes circled at distance, were taken under fire but made no attack runs. Three planes attacked
l859 Little, which sank in short time. LSMKRJ l95 attacked and sunk. LCSCLD 2.5 attacked and damaged.
l359 Val made attack, destroyed at 2,000 yards. Ship still circling and speed reduced to give partial
manual contr-ol of rudder. -
l904 Betty circling at l0,000 yards taken under fire and destroyed Cthis believed to be the suicide plane
l908 U Val made steep attacking dive, swerved because of heavy fire and crashed into water after left
wing clipped forward stack and carried away radio antennae. Damage to Ward slight.
l9'l3 Few seconds after above entry Val crashed be-low bridge.
l9l6 Zeke approached through smoke, crashed on superstructure deck amidship. Belly gasoline tank
exploded, spraying burning gasoline over the deck. Ship now dead in water, fires raging, casualties
strewn about the decks. i ,
l9Zl Unidentified plane crashedat base of Numbered 2 stack, bomb exploding. Stack, gunmount and
searchlight blown into air and crashed on deck. This was the las-t attack, but no one aboard the
Aaron Ward knew it. All that the men of the Aaron Ward knew was that their ship was a desperate
case and that their job was to save it. H y
Even with guns blazing and planes crashing the ship, the first lieutenant's men had been fighting fires,
and insuring the watertight integrity of unflooded spaces below. Working amid flames and exploding
ammunition, these men continued their job. A
Gunnery men and sailors from the black gang whose stations were no longer tenable helped out, and
the work of handling the wounded. Only a few of the guns could still shoot, and these were manned. Gas
fumes were so thick insid-e the five-inch mounts that gr.imy sailorsstaggered -out and vomited on the deck.
Then, gulping a little fresh air, they returned to their posts.
"Everybody pitched in," said Captain Sanders, 'Those whose guns had been put out of acti-on were
taking the wounded to the fantail or to the wardroom, or helping the doctor, or helping the damage control
"During the entire time," he reported, men constantly braved exploding ammunition and the blazing
inferno to res-cue and render aid to their injured shipmates. Acts of heroism above and beyond the call of
duty were common occurrences rather than the exception."