Kamikaze: "The Day I Can't Forget"
by Henry J. Blossy
Blue Book, May 1950, pp. 53-5
The table of contents in the popular magazine Blue
Book's May 1950 issue lists this three-page story in the section titled
"Stories of Fact and Experience." However, the article lacks details such as
specific dates and ship names that would allow verification. Although the story may be
roughly based on the author's
actual wartime experiences, it seems unlikely that the details are true. For example,
the Chaplain's serving on the bridge as a play-by-play announcer of battle
The magazine article's third page has a drawing of a kamikaze plane diving
on a ship marked "APD-14," which was the high speed transport USS Schley.
This ship was at Okinawa from April 26 to 28, 1945, but not in late March as
mentioned in the story.
The events of war have long ago been washed away by the confusion and circus
trappings of this postwar whirligig of ours. It's all gone and forgotten now–all
except one brief experience. I'll never forget it, not even if I live as long as
It was during one of those stifling mid-Pacific days in late March of 1945.
Plowing across the Pacific from Pearl, it had been an unending succession of
heat-laden days. You waked sweaty; you went through the day sweaty and you
sweated some more in those miserable pancaked bunks at night.
I had been in the Pacific for over a year then. A good many of the others
down in that hold, my buddies, had come out with me in the same replacement
draft. Raw recruits, they called us then.
Shortly after joining outfits, we spearheaded the invasion of the Marianas.
After that we went back to the Hawaiians for a rest and for replacements. Only
we weren't raw recruits any more. We were seasoned veterans then; and the
replacements, such as we had been just a few months before, got the "snow" jobs.
After a short rest period we began training for the next operation. Staging
was old stuff for us that time. We worked just as hard as before,
though–probably even harder. We knew then what doing the right thing at the
right time meant. The new boys learned from us–and listened, just as we had done
a short while before.
Pretty soon they jammed us on a transport again. Your name? Check! Go to the
forward compartment. Follow the others. Follow–follow–follow.
We steamed over to Pearl and then out again, heading for–well, heading west;
we at least knew that.
Our first few days out were just like the time before. Plenty of sack time.
Plenty of time to talk about everything and anything. And plenty of time to tell
the replacements about what to expect. Those guys really looked up to us. And
don't think we didn't like playing the Big Brother act, either!
Of course we used to enlarge here and there on some of our stories–like
Chow-hound Peters telling that hick Bushman about hopping in that Jap pillbox
among a dozen slant-eyes who just stood there in amazement as he picked them off
one by one. He actually had gone into the pillbox after it had got hit by one
for our 105s. He captured the only Jap left alive, who was too dazed even to
raise his arms. Yeah, that Bushman was a card–believe anything.
Right off the farm, he was, when he put on a uniform. He'd sure fall for
"What's a kamikaze?" he upped and asked me one day.
"They're suicide missions," I told him. "They have their funeral before
taking off, and fortified with a nice fat bomb under their plane, and a full
bottle of sake in their lap, they pick out an American ship and crash their
plane into it. If everything goes all right, no more plane, no more bomb, no
more sake, no more ship and no more Jap, who was officially dead when he took
Well, after giving it to him straight like that, I couldn't help rubbing him
down with it a little.
"Yeah, Bushy," I told him, "it's getting to be such a menace that the brass
hats are drawing up plans to equip each ship with metal shields, one for the
front of the ship and one for the back.
"The shields," I said, "are curved and supported by big cranes that can be
run from the bridge. So," I went on–seeing he's taking everything in like a kid,
"when the Captain sees one of these kamikaze diving at his ship, he can position
the shield so it is between the plane and the ship. Then if the plane gets
through the ack-ack it will hit the shield and ricochet off, never touching the
"Yeah," he said after I was finished. "Gee, that's great." And his big ox
eyes looked as if they'd fall out of their sockets.
"Yeah, that's straight dope," I told him, and then shut up before I spoiled
Soon after we'd upped anchor at our next stopover, Ulithi, we got the word
official. It was going to be Okinawa in the Ryukyus, a place full of poisonous
snakes and lots of Japs, they told us. And then they told us about the kamikaze
again. They'd been raising hell with the lead ships, just like at Iwo, only
worse. They were really desperate now.
And that's the way it was as we sat in that sweat-box, which we hoped would
be for the last time. For the next day we were supposed to go ashore.
I can remember that heat as though I was still being drained by it. Every
stitch on me was soaked, even the backs of my legs. It has to be pretty hot to
have the backs of your legs sweat like that, believe me.
Pretty soon the Chaplain's voice came over the loud-speaker.
"Hello, this is the Chaplain on the bridge," he said. He always came on like
that. He was supposed to keep us posted on what was going on. I sure wished I
could have been in his shoes, up in the light away from that sweat-hole.
It seemed to me that the Chaplain's voice rasped more than usual. He was
usually cheerful. This time he was solemn. There were reports of kamikaze action
in the vicinity, he warned. Everyone should be sure that his life belt was on,
That had slowed the talk down a bit. Everybody was thinking the same thing:
Those crazy fools might be coming over to ram their planes into us, and there we
were battened down in that packed compartment.
The talk started up again, though. This time it was different, however.
"Kamikaze–kamikaze," every third word was "kamikaze." That word began getting on
We were all sitting nearer the edge of our bunks, those who were sitting. One
or two edged over toward the Captain, our company commander, who was standing at
the foot of the ladder.
There was Blake–he had come out from the States with me. He was twenty feet
nearer the ladder than when I had looked at him last. Stiddler was bunked in the
far end of the second row of bunks. He was standing in the front part of the
first row. He came out with me, too. Pretty tough baby with a grenade, that
Stiddler. He'd tossed a couple of perfect strikes in the Marianas. He had a lot
of guts. But he was nearer the ladder than he had been only ten minutes ago.
The Chaplain came on again. "Jap planes sighted, headed for the convoy," he
Were they kamikaze, or just bombers who would drop their loads and beat it
for home like sensible people? We'd soon know.
"Looks like about ten," the Chaplain reported.
Cripes, it was quiet in that place.
Soon we heard some firing. Must be the D.E.s opening up out front, I thought.
"Escorts firing at planes," the Chaplain reported soon afterward. He sounded
cool and collected. Must have said his prayers, I thought. I knew a few myself.
I wasn't going to be stingy with them then.
"Please, God, just one more glimpse at the Golden Gate and San Fran," I
"They're closing in," the Chaplain reported. He still sounded cool. But he
was up on deck–not locked down in the sweltering trap.
Funny, but I had stopped sweating. My skin was cold. How could you be in a
sweltering Turkish bath like that compartment and have cold skin?
The Chaplain came on again. "They're–" the swabbies started shooting their
little pea-shooters. The Chaplain didn't come on any longer. What a hell of a
time for the P.A. system to go blooie. Those lucky swabbies up on deck!
It was quiet as a graveyard in that compartment. Everybody was looking up,
and at the ladder. Were those blasted kamikaze planes?
The swabbies were throwing everything at the attackers. The ship was going to
shake to pieces if they kept it up, I was sure.
And then that humming whistle started. One of the devils was diving at us.
Closer, closer, louder, louder, he came. He was going after us, and we were
locked down in that crowded compartment.
I braced myself. My nails were digging into my palms. I gritted my teeth. I
grabbed the rail. I was ready to die, to be blown to bits.
And then came the crash. My eyes were closed, my body shuddering.
But he had missed. Not by much, by the sound of the crash, but by enough. We
were safe–for a while, at least.
They were still firing as fast as they could on deck.
How much could a man take? How much could one hundred and fifty men take,
trapped down there in that jammed compartment?
That whistle started once again. It was another attempt to get us. The firing
was deafening. But above it, mercilessly audible, was that whining, moaning of a
diving plane, getting louder, louder, closer, closer.
Why didn't someone do something? Why didn't someone scream, shout, fire his
rifle, anything? I couldn't take it any longer. I couldn't sit there staring at
Why didn't I say something? We've got to set an example for the recruits, I
thought. Only Swartz wasn't a recruit. Neither was Gino. But they were edging
toward the ladder. Get back, you fools, I tried to say. Only I couldn't say it.
I couldn't say anything.
And then–I wasn't on my bunk any longer. I was on the deck. I was moving
nearer the ladder.
They couldn't miss twice in a row. The moan got louder. It couldn't have been
up more than a thousand feet. It wouldn't be long. Then came a whirr, a
straining. The plane pulled out of its dive.
His motor got louder, louder. It was going to ram us horizontally. This was
it. I was vibrating. Oh, no, God, no!
But it hadn't happened. The plane went overhead.
Everybody was in a knot. We were all crowded near the ladder. Those damn
kamikaze. What had they done to us?
We had been told to stay down there. The best place, they had said. But could
we? Could training win over that fear? Damn those kamikaze, I thought, what are
they doing to my company? What are they doing to me?
The Captain felt it too. He knew someone might have bolted for that ladder
any minute. He had his hand closer to his pistol. Why didn't he say something?
Why didn't he say he'd shoot the first one who tried to force his way up the
He probably lost his voice. Probably was as scared as I. Sure, why shouldn't
he? He was only human. How much could a human take?
There was no noise of a diving plane for what seemed like an eternity.
Why didn't someone say something, I thought. And then someone did,
Bushman–that lame-brained. Bushman said something. "Shields–" He wished our ship
had the new kamikaze shields so's the skipper could make the planes ricochet
off. I almost laughed out loud. The guy still thought the gag about the shield
"What about those shields?" It was the Captain. He knew the story on Bushman.
He must've known it was a gag. Maybe he wanted out on that silence, I thought.
Okay, I'd give it to him.
"You know, Captain," I screeched. "Those new inventions for making kamikaze
ricochet off them, so they won't crash into a ship. I told Bushy about them," I
Shields, ricochet. First it was just a ripple. Then a little louder. And then
it was a roar. Shields, ricochet. What a laugh. Funny as hell. Jones was
laughing. Stiddler was laughing. The Captain was laughing. Everybody was
laughing–everybody, that is, except Bushman.
"Yeah, and there's something else they're working on, Bushy," that was
Freddie's voice. "They're going to have trapdoors on every ship–then when a
kamikaze dives at a ship, the Captain'll just open it up, and the Jap will dive
right through and into the sea," he ad libbed.
Trapdoors–open them up–Japs dive into the sea. That was pretty good. I
slapped someone on the back in mirthful ferocity. They were still firing on
deck. There was more whistling which told of diving planes. But I didn't have
the slightest foreboding. How could you, when splitting a gut in roaring
Next they had the decks painted with invisible paint so the ship couldn't be
seen from above–each ship would have a fountain forward to make them look like
whales . . . . What cards, what jokers! Everybody was laughing, including
Bushman. Outside, Japs were still whistling, diving, moaning. But who cared?
Shields–trapdoors–invisible paint–whales–everybody was laughing.
How long did this go on? I can't say. There were too many jokes. Too much
laughing. But before we realized it, it was quiet out. No shooting. No sound of
Pretty soon the Chaplain came on again. They had got the P.A. system working!
"Well, we made it," he said. "Shot down a Sally, I think. It missed the ship
by fifty feet," he fairly cooed in relief. "We were lucky," he confided.
"Another torpedo plane launched a fish at us which missed by about one hundred
feet. Lucky again."
Lucky–lucky. Ha, ha! If he had only known how lucky! If he had only known
about that forward compartment!
Yes sir. I might live to the age of Methuselah, but I'll never forget that
hot day in late March of 1945.
Shields, invisible paint, trapdoors, whales. I still get a belly-laugh just
thinking about it. And I also shudder sometimes too, when I think how it could