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The Kamikaze Blow-off
by Mike Roy
Combat, February 1959, pp. 16-7, 48, 50, 52, 54

Introductory Comments

This fictional story depicts Japanese kamikaze attacks on American ships at one of the radar picket stations on April 12, 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa. Although the intense battle action has an air of realism and the magazine Combat presents the story as "true adventure," the story's three ships (destroyer escort Ormsby and destroyers Dunlop and Dugan) never existed, and Radar Picket Station 9 presented in the story did not have any ships hit on that date.

The main character Scotillo is a gunner's mate on the destroyer escort Ormsby, but during the Battle of Okinawa only two destroyer escorts served on radar pickets stations and these did so only for a short period of time (Rielly 2008, 35). The story depicts the kamikaze aircraft as having tremendous success by sinking the two destroyers and the destroyer escort at the radar picket station, but kamikaze planes in actual history only achieved hits or near hits during the Battle of Okinawa about 13% of the time (Yasunobu 1972, 171).

Ormsby gets attacked by three Betty bombers with two of them successfully crashing into the ship. However, Betty bombers never carried out any official suicide attacks as part of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps. Instead, the Japanese Navy used them to carry ohka rocket-powered glider bombs into battle so they could be released to attack Allied ships.

The first two pages of the original story in Combat included five US Navy photographs of kamikaze aircraft that were attacking or had hit American ships. The photo of the kamikaze hit on the destroyer Halsey Powell is shown below.

Notes have been added to the story in order to provide comments on a few inaccuracies. Click on the note number to go to the note at the bottom of the web page, and then click on the note number to return to the same place in the story.

Scotty couldn't believe his eyes–the little planes whined and screamed overhead, most scoring direct hits; the last thing he knew he was sailing through the air while parts of a Jap pilot flew by

Pre-dawn, April 12, 1945. Destroyer-escort Ormsby was cruising easily just south of Kerama Retto, an island cluster 20 miles southwest of Okinawa. As ordered by Com-CortDiv, she had occupied Radar Picket Station 9, one of 19 such stations surrounding the Okinawa area. She was in Battle Condition II, which meant that Gunner's Mate 2/c Danny Scotillo was off-duty, sacked below and sweating out a personal problem.

At Ormsby's port, starboard and stern rode her three pallbearers, an LSM and two LCS's. A mile to port cruised the double-banked destroyers, Dugan and Dunlop. All ships' assignments were clear: To report radar blips of any Jap aircraft winging in from Japan, China or Formosa to complicate the Okinawa invasion.

But Scotillo couldn't sleep, only writhe. A week before, he'd received a letter from a girl in Honolulu. He was a stocky, hairy-chested 22-year-old, in charge of Ormsby's port 20-mm gun mount, but he'd never gotten a girl pregnant before and he couldn't yet handle his thoughts.

"Quit shaking the rack," grumbled S 2/c Paul Hyde, in the cot below him. For cripes sake, she's 4000 miles away." Hyde was 18, a fire-controlman striker. Scotillo looked down at him.

"What the hell do you know about it?" he muttered.

On the bridge, Lt. Com. James Hawthorne, USN, conned the Ormsby in a roughly circular pattern, peering into the gray half-light sky. It was 0500; above he could see only a red ball low-slung over the East China Sea, which was the planet Mars. "The trouble is," Hawthorne said to his exec, Lt. (j.g.) Edson Higginbottom, USNR, "we don't know anything about it. I've never even seen a Kamikaze. Much less an Oka. You?"

Higginbottom shook his head. Hawthorne and the Ormsby were up from Leyte, where the Imperial Forces had been just about eliminated by April. Higginbottom was a replacement, a week out of San Francisco, with two years' service in the ETO.

"I hear they're calling them Bakas, not Okas, because Baka means idiot," Higginbottom said.

0600, the watch changed. Radioman 1/c Elvin Heit entered the crew's quarters, grinning. "Goddamdest thing," he said to Scotillo. "I get this jerk from the Dunlop on the TBS, asks me if we sent up a red flare. Well hell, in war cruising? So I tell him no, that's the planet Mars. I say it three times–Mars, Mars, Mars. So he comes back at me and says he's got no such word as 'Mars' in his code book. Is that a jerk or is that a jerk?"

"The people they give you to work with," Scotillo mumbled vacantly.

"Oh, you know what else just came through?" Heit said, scaling his hat.

"Okinawa's all secure. We're going home," Scotillo said.

Off Kyushu, the southernmost island in the Jap chain, about 650 miles north of the Ormsby's position, no destroyerman in Task Flotilla 5 knew exactly what was happening. For that matter, no one in Intelligence knew either. In Task Flotilla 5, surrounding the Okinawa transport area as radar pickets and ack-ack guards, there were 97 destroyers–alphabetically from the Ammen to the Wren–and 51 destroyer-escorts–alphabetically from the Abercrombie to the Wm. Seiverling. One hundred forty-eight ships, approximately 45,000 men, and not one of them knew how the tattered remnant of the Imperial Air Force was planning to celebrate the death of the American president [1].

0600 on Kyushu Air Base, 200 graduates of the Emperor's kikusui program climbed into a collection of junk–battered Vals, Zekes, Bettys, Oscars and Jills. Most of the planes had seen extensive service at New Guinea and in the Philippines; a few had limped home from Pearl Harbor three-and-a-half years before. Some lacked sections of fuselage, others wing-tips. Each carried a 200- to 500-pound bomb in its nose [2]. The Imperial Air Force was short on gas, so the supply was carefully apportioned among the 200 planes–each got enough for a one-way trip to Okinawa.

Kamikaze–The Divine Wind–was blowing towards the Last Battle. Little could be gained. General Mitsuru Ushijima's 120,000 troops on Okinawa had already been decimated by the U.S. Marines and GI's, by the Navy's hot shells. The war, months before the A-bomb, was as good as over. The Divine Wind's Last Battle was a GESTURE, in capital letters. It was the Emperor's way of saying to his suiciders. "You've worked so hard at foreplay. Here's your Climax."

0900 on the Ormsby, a blue morning sky, sun gold on the sea. A bunch of intellectuals were sitting around the engine room.

"Mortality precludes mass suicide," said Machinist's Mate 1/c George Henty, a pre-war engineering student at Villanova.

"Western morality," MM 2/c Al Perelli corrected him.

"Tell Mr. Henty about the lemmings, Perelli," Fireman 1/c Bill Heintzmann baited. "Don't they kill themselves for no good goddam reason at all?"

"Yeah, but lemmings are animals–" Henty started, then grinned. Heintzmann, an ex-New York cop, liked to ride him and he knew it. They were very good friends. They followed each other alphabetically on the muster list.

Nerves in the ward room, on the main deck just below the 5-inch 38's on the forward superstructure.

S 2/c Hyde, USNR, checked his three aces, then raised the five-dollar opener laid down by Boatswain's Mate 1/c Jug Jarrell, USN. "You goddam cut-throat little bastard," Jarrell snarled, and swung his fist at Hyde, who ducked, slipped and sprawled on the deck, bewildered.

"What'd I do?" Hyde asked.

Scotillo helped him up. "You don't check and raise, boy, unless you're playing Japs. They'll kill you around here for that."

"I didn't know," Hyde stammered. "It seemed the way to win. I had three aces."

Disgusted, Scotillo walked out the hatch onto the open deck.

The antennas of the SC surface-search and SG air-search radars revolved like robot heads. The sky was bright and still empty. The small-craft pall-bearers–pall-bearers because they would pick up the living remains of a picket DE, if it were hit–maintained 10 knots, the Ormsby's speed. The intellectuals below cursed their poor card hands.

Scotillo suddenly ran past four deck-swabbing strikers to his 20-mm mount, manned by the forenoon-watch duty crew. GM 2/c Ken Barbado was leaning back on his belt support, dug into the gun's shoulder rest, chewing gum and looking at the sky. The mount was high on the superstructure abaft of the rear stack.

"Hey, Barbado," Scotillo yelled, craning his head back.

Barbado looked down questioningly.

"Did you ever get a girl in trouble?"

The Ormsby was of the Rudderow class. It displaced 1450 tons, was 306 feet long, could tie on 24 knots when necessary, and carried 220 men including officers. It was a platform that floated two 5-inch 38's, one forward and one aft, that could throw 54-pound projectiles at aircraft six miles away; two 40-mm ack-ack twins with useful ranges up to 2800 yards; two 20-mm tubs whose barrels could pump 450 rounds per minute including tracers; and three 21-inch torpedo tubes, dead amidships. Plus depth charges on the fantail.

Below there was a mess of gear–engines and ammunition handling rooms–that kept the ship moving and helped make its guns work.

It was the guns, though, that got knocked out first.

At 1030 Radarman Jack Burke, on duty at the SG indicator, grabbed Radioman Heit and pointed to his screen. Heit, on his TBS, radioed Dunlop and Dugan, destroyers in area 9. "Thunderbolt, Tomahawk, this is Rosebud. We see bandit one three five. Do you concur?"

"Christ yes!" screamed back.

Confusion. Blips quickly filled the SG indicator, like dots of sprayed paint, all bearings, all ranges. Forty miles off, Kerama Retto-based Corsairs took off to intercept. Zekes, Bettys, Vals, Oscars–the legion from Kyushu–crashed through the interceptors, despite the Corsairs' superior fighting power. Fragments were torn off their wings, props were shot off, they streamed black smoke, but still they kept coming.

Communications Officer Lt. (j.g.) Bud Chandler was at Heit's back when the call came in from Kelsey, task force flagship, 30 miles off.

"CortDiv, DesDiv, all ships. Report Kamikazes. 200 planes, headed south.

"Morley hit. Robinson hit. Kiely's back broken. Jesus!"

In response to Lt. Chandler on the inter-com, Lt. Com. Hawthorne conned Ormsby to 90 degrees true bearing, so all guns would bear on the suiciders, flying down from the north.

Below, C.I.C. couldn't handle all orders. SC radar reported a Val 180 degrees. Dunlop radioed that a Jap ship was 10,000 yards astern, which was a faulty report. Ormsby wheeled in her tracks, but an LCS pall-bearer, not getting C.I.C.'s delayed message, plowed straight on and rammed Ormsby's starboard stern.

Ormsby pulled off. Men raced to repair the ugly but not serious gash.

Ship's siren was blasting and Chief Boatswain's Mate Alton Trumbull was screaming, "General Quarters!" over the PA, but the command wasn't necessary.

Scotillo, who had been topside when the hell broke, leaped into the port 20 tub immediately. All hatches burst open. Scotillo's trunnion operator, Tom Meyers, and his loader and talker, Russ Johnson and Ben Johnson (no relation), assumed their positions in the mount.

The planes could not be spotted visually as yet. "What do they look like? I don't even know what they look like," Meyers muttered nervously, but nobody answered.

Orders were being shouted from all quarters, in voices that, pitched alarmingly too high, could not be recognized. "Men to aft 5-inch mount!" someone yelled, and the 10-man crew spewed on deck, racing. "Shut down forward engine-room ventilation," someone else yelled, but this order was not complied with.

At 1045 two Vals appeared to die on destroyer decks. They were visible as dots seven miles off, high out of range, on a course converging on the Ormsby's bow. But it became obvious these Jap pilots had not selected the Ormsby to die on.

Dunlop and Dugan, 2000 yards to starboard, were double-banking their picket station, capable of opening a parasol of flak that would discourage the average Jap pilot. One of the Vals went for the Dunlop, the other for the Dugan.

The Dugan's attacker went into a vertical dive towards the ship's belly. Dugan's gunners flung up hedges of 5-inch, 40 and 20-mm fire. Scotillo, on the Ormsby, swung his 20 to bear on the plane, peppering it–along with all other guns in the area–until it belched smoke, its intestines ripped. But the Val did not alter course. There was a blinding crash as it struck Dugan's superstructure just abaft No. 1 stack. A 500-pound bomb ripped into the ship's interior, exploded in the forward engine room and flung a 4000-pound blower out of the engine room onto the bridge. Men and machinery were hurled skywards. Gutted amidships, her keel buckled, Dugan opened up like a beer can. Her engineering crew poured out into a sea of oil, sludge and blood. In five minutes Dugan sank.

The second Val carried two bombs, one 100-pounder and one 500-pounder [3]. It swooped low over the sinking Dugan and dropped the first in the midst of Dugan's survivors, reddening the water with mangled bodies [4]. Looking at the meat in the sea, Scotillo's fingers froze on his triggers. The Val skidded left, then climbed up high like a chicken-hawk to get in position over Dunlop's bow.

"Get it, Scotty, get it, Scotty," talker Ben Johnson shouted, pounding his back. Blank, Scotillo lost his bearing when Myers turned the wheel and raised the gun column. He lost eight seconds, then lined up the Val in his ring sight and started pumping again.

The Val was silhouetted by flak. All of Dunlop's armament, Scotillo's rounds, the rest of Ormsby's guns, couldn't put it down. Scotillo saw his tracer zip into the cockpit and knew, by all odds, he had torn the Jap pilot's head off.

In a straight vertical dive, the Val plummeted into Dunlop's bow and exploded, squashing the forecastle like a melon. The Val itself disappeared in fragments, its own wings, rudder and fuselage becoming the firebrands that swept Dunlop's decks. Flames swept downward into the destroyer's bowels towards the 5-inch ammo handling room. Dunlop's skipper backed her into the wind to contain the fire forward. A minute later, the ammo went and the explosion jettisoned most of the crew. The ship, buckled like the Dugan before it, slowly settled and sank. Its pall-bearers pulled over to pick up survivors.

Single direct hit by kamikaze sank the destroyer Halsey Powell [5].
Plane crashed right through the ship's deck
(caption from original article)

The nearby sea was now clean of Ormsby's cohorts and the sky was clean of suiciders. In the ensuing lull, life aboard Ormsby went temporarily crazy. Only Radarman Burke and Radioman Heit, busy with their SG and TBS reports, did serious work, collating other Kamikaze blips and conveying them to C.I.C. More than 50% of the Kamikazes were still in the air.

A number of queer things happened. On the bridge, skipper Hawthorne looked overside at the destruction, put his head in his hands and said, "I can't believe it. Those Japs killed themselves."

Al Perelli opened the engine-room hatch and walked on deck, start naked, a way he sometimes worked in the heat below. He walked, dreamlike, to the rail and surveyed the carnage. Then he walked down below to the crew's quarters and came up again, moments later, wearing his jock strap.

Ship's Cook Sylvester Hawley, Jacksonville, Fla., came topside from the aft ammo-handling room–his General Quarters post–carrying a .45 revolver and a butcher knife. He ran to Scotillo's mount.

"Scotty," he said, looking up and waving the knife, "tell me what to do."

"Drown," Scotillo said wearily. "Anything. Get the hell out of here." Hawley dropped the knife, said, "Nuts," and ran back down below, rubbing the sweat of his hands dry on his dungarees.

As for Scotillo, he stared emptily at the sea where much metal and many bodies had sunk, his stomach cold. I ought to get killed now, he thought. I ought to get everything in me blown to hell. It'd serve that no-good dame right . . .

At 1100 three Bettys showed in the blue near-noon sky, in their simple appearance strengthening the minds of all Ormsby crewsmen. The Ormsby had no supporting gun power now. But for its pall-bearers, it was alone in this section of the East China Sea. Its task was grim but clear.

Scotillo's hands automatically went to his triggers. "Wait for range," talker Johnson said, and Scotillo nodded. Skipper Hawthorne swung the ship broadside to the onslaught so that all guns would bear.

The maneuver, however, held guns bearing only for as long as the Bettys remained out of useful range. Bursts of 5-inch shells fired the air around the planes, flying in tight formation at 6000 yards. None hit.

At 3000 yards the 40's opened fire and Scotillo, in the port 20, and Barbado, in the starboard 20, followed suit. But at this range the Bettys peeled off and took converging courses. One skidded right and got on Ormsby's wake, swooping down to a height of 30 feet so that bow guns wouldn't bear. The second adopted a similar tactic, its nose blasting straight towards Ormsby's bow. Both were at range 2000. Ormsby's guns popped, half at the bow Betty, half at the stern Betty.

The third Betty carried a machine gun; it came square at the ship's port side, between stacks, spraying lead, and the triple-attack drove all gun crews senseless by virtue of the fact that choice was impossible.

Talker Johnson, babbling in his mike, pointed to the firing Betty and Scotillo, devoid of thought, swung his barrel in its direction. The Betty was 40 feet over the water, skidding right and left to avoid fire, but otherwise coming straight in, range 1500 yards. Scotillo's tracers smashed the air around it, then three of his shells in a row hit sections of it. Smoke was pouring out the Betty's tail as it sputtered low over the deck, engine missing, machine gun keeping up a steady stream of fire. The Jap pilot could not possibly have selected a target; his guns kept blazing into open air even after he had passed over Ormsby's starboard side and started to loop back.

But he had made a few hits.

At the bow 5-incher's Mk. 14 Gun Director, Firecontrolman 3/c Oscar Lacy put his hand up to his right ear. Betty's tracer had blown the gold ring out of it along with part of the lobe. His hand darkened with blood. "My ear," he said.

Two others named portions of their anatomy when hit. In Scotillo's crew, trunnion operator Tom Meyers shrilled, "Damn you, Jap, you hit my throat," but the bullet had only creased the flesh on his neck and he was not hurt badly. He was in shock for less than five seconds.

But S 2/c Hyde, who at the start of the attack began running from No. 3 mount to No. 4 mount, where his services were not required, was on the main deck, hemorrhaging badly through a hole in his stomach. He lay with both hands trying to hold the wound closed, murmuring, "Not right to get hit in the stomach. Not right." He died as a hospital corpsman reached his side with plasma.

While fore and aft guns kept the bomb-laden Bettys maneuvering in the air, seeking favorable positions to dive from, Scotillo followed the shooting Betty as it came in for its second pass, 35 feet high and off the starboard side. The Jap pilot was insane. He had no bomb to do damage with, only the one small arm. It was apparent he intended to die aboard the Ormsby anyway.

But he didn't quite achieve his glory. As he roared in, Scotillo paved his road with ack-ack. He got off about 200 rounds, almost all shells hitting; the Betty holed like swiss cheese. At 500 yards range, the Betty suddenly skidded, turned over on a broken wing and made a haystack splash into the sea.

Half the ship let out terrific yells of triumph, obscuring orders.

The Divine Wind kept scorching. The two remaining Bettys buzzed the sky, hovering in circles high over bow and stern.

Through binoculars, skipper Hawthorne saw 500-pound bombs in each, with what he surmised were instantaneous fuses. He called the engine rooms to tie on 24 knots, and went hard rudder right to complicate the Bettys' problems.

In Ormsby's forward engine room, Machinist's Mate Henty turned up throttle, sweating bullets. The noise was deafening, above and below. "What the hell's going on up there?" he mumbled to Machinist's Mate Perelli, next to him on the runway.

Perelli wiped sweat, turned his wheel and began to whistle, "The Ballad Of Rodger Young," the infantry song.

Topside, some confusion had been eliminated by the downing of one Betty. Bow guns bore and ranged on bow Betty; aft guns took the other. Scotillo's crew, because of the obstacle forward due to the radar antennas, swung their gun aft.

Their Betty's Jap pilot quickly demonstrated a superior intelligence. The plane peeled off from a height of 600 feet and got in Ormsby's wake, range 2500. Then it went into a long toboggan slide that seemed to last an hour.

Scotillo's gut tightened with frustration. To necessitate a high deflection rate, higher than the 20-mm could follow manually with accuracy, the Betty zoomed, climbed, slipped, skidded, sped up, slowed down. His barrel pumping furiously, Scotillo found his tracers missing by wide margins. Yells, curses, screams all around him indicated the other Betty was presenting the same difficulty.

The double-kill came almost simultaneously. Scotillo's target, aft, circled out to 4000 yards, leveled off on bearing 170 degrees, then came straight in at a height of 150 feet. As Ormsby turned with full right rudder, it skidded to hug the wake.

At range 1200, Scotillo got a hit, then another. The two shells ripped off the plane's rudder. It kept coming, throttle wide open, its wings in position to slice off the aft stack.

It passed over the stern and Scotillo couldn't bear. Choked and frozen he sat tight and waited. Some other gun got in a final shot. Out of control, the Betty fell nearly vertically between the 40-mm mounts and its bomb went off.

The 500-pounder's explosion ripped open the aft stack. Shrapnel slashed the superstructure. The 5-inches were put out of commission. GM 1/c Ed Border's 40-mm gun tub was completely demolished. Both SC and SG radar antennas were blown sky-high off their masts; they crashed into the sea like unmanned flying saucers.

Ship's complement was reduced 22 per cent.

Debris, wings, a fuselage, bodies smoked, oiled and bloodied up the sea in a 50-yard perimeter around the Ormsby. Unhit, Scotillo jumped out of his tub down to the main deck; the deaths of the two Johnsons, flicked by shrapnel beside him, had made his gun useless. Stumbling and slipping in men's blood he raced to the ward room where, leaning on its hatch, Lt. (j.g.) Edson Higginbottom, Ormsby's exec, was trying to pull himself to his feet. The lieutenant had been blown off the bridge. He had no feet. Both legs were sheared off four inches above the knees. As Scotillo reached him, he began to walk. He put his hands on his groin, asked, "What will happen to my wife, Scotillo?" and walked 15 feet on his bleeding stumps before he fell over and died.

Bow guns were somehow still operating, keeping the remaining Betty off. Scotillo, looking around him wildly, started to run forward to replace a lost man.

Shouts from below stopped him. There were flames from stern to bow; firebrands licked at all hatches. Flames had been sucked down, too, into the forward engine control room, due to the ventilation intakes not being shut down earlier.

Scotillo swerved and headed for the control room port hatch to let out the engineering crew trapped below. He found the dog jammed, accounting for the screams. He grabbed a fireaxe and broke off the jammed dog, then swung open the hatch. Perelli, Henty, and Heintzmann, plus 20 others, came streaming out just as, at that moment, the forward fireroom blew up.

Henty's T-shirt was afire and Heintzmann was slapping at the flames with his bare hands. Peas in a pod.

Scotillo took notice that the main deck was awash; waves lapped and splashed at the combing. He saw, with an almost disinterested curiosity, that Henty–berserk–was headed for the rail to dive overside, Heintzmann attempting to dissuade him.

Then he saw nothing.

When the second Betty hit, its 500-pounder cut the Ormsby in two, crashing into the hull near the after engine room and splitting both port and starboard plates. Tons of sea coursed in to swamp all lower compartments, spewing out remaining living personnel through the ship's gashes. The explosion of the 40-mm magazine ended the ship's life. Machinist Perelli had gone inside to fetch a batch of hot powder containers to prevent the explosion, when the explosion occurred.

The Betty itself was ripped into several parts. The bomb sheared off a wing which, ironically, beheaded both Henty and Heintzmann in their tracks.

As for the Jap pilot, parts of him joined Danny Scotillo in an unaided 300-yard flight through space.

Scotillo regained consciousness while still in the air. No bomb fragment had struck him; he had been sucked skyward by the tremendous force of the explosion, and hurled, like a projectile, three times the length of a football field, off Ormsby's port (leeward) side.

In his flight, Scotillo saw no specific object, though the sea around was cluttered with Dunlop, Dugan and Ormsby debris, and felt no specific sensation, though the heat of the Kamikaze blast had singed all the hair off his head. He fell sideways through the air, weightless. His eyes were wide and his mouth had assumed a curious, frozen expression. He thought, The sun is yellow. The sea is blue.

When gravity got the best of his trajectory, his body belly-whopped the whitecap of a small wave and he sank quickly to a depth of ten feet. Submerged, cold water bathing his head, he regained just enough thought power to open his mouth and scream for help. The sea rushed into his throat, and for the first time since the initial Kamikaze attack he felt alarm for his personal safety. He was choking to death.

His panic aided him. Flailing arms and legs wildly, he broke surface at about the time he thought his lungs would burst.

He took air in gasps, treading water with one foot as he hastily removed each shoe in turn. Far off, the Ormsby was sinking, capsized on her keel. A gap of ten feet separated the ship's blown-apart halves and grotesquely, it went down.

Above and behind him he heard the whine of aircraft and spun around, prepared to see the Kamikaze that would bomb or strafe him to death. But the plane was a Corsair, arriving too late to intercept the suiciders that had wiped out all three ships on the picket station. The Corsair dipped its wings at Ormsby's survivors.

Scotillo could see approximately 30 men of the original complement of 220 still afloat; they were a couple hundred yards closer than he to the three pall-bearers, which began to nose towards them slowly.

The Corsair waved good-bye once more and winged northeast, and Scotillo figured that other Kamikazes were still operative. His assumption was correct.

Then Scotillo heard the pall-bearers' bull-horns calling him in. The horns, by their low, prolonged moans, told him, Easy. We've got you covered. Come to us, and he began to swim towards them slowly, savoring each stroke that let him know he was still alive.

Voices from the LSM's deck called to him when he was still 50 yards off. They were flat, dead, unfamiliar voices. "This way, mate," they said.

When he arrived at the LSM's hull, a ladder-swing was dropped for him. He climbed on and let himself be hauled aboard.

Shivering slightly in his wet clothes, he let the LSM's yeoman count him in as an Ormsby survivor along with several others, one of whom was Radioman 1/c Elvin Heit, still on his feet.

"Ho, mate," Heit said. "Looks like our war's over."

"Looks like," Scotillo said.

"Now you can go back to Honolulu and be a father," Heit said. "If that's what you want."

"Maybe yes, maybe no."

He walked with Heit to the galley, wondering what was for chow, besides hot tea. The rest didn't matter much. Life, death, girls, babies meant a little, but not a hell of a lot.

Before that April 12 had ended, the Suicide Patrol had celebrated one 63-year-old man's death in Warm Springs, Ga., by sending to the bottom or wrecking beyond repair scores of American ships [6].


1. People in Japan did not hear of the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt until April 13, 1945, so the military could not have celebrated on April 12 with kamikaze attacks against American ships. Roosevelt's death certificate gives the time of death as 3:35 p.m. on April 12, which would have already been the morning of April 13 in Japan due to the time difference.

2. A kamikaze aircraft, except the ohka glider bomb, generally did not carry a bomb in its nose. The bomb usually was carried under the fuselage or a wing.

3. A kamikaze plane in general did not carry two different size bombs, such as a 100-pound bomb and a 500-pound bomb, at the same time.

4. This type of attack method is fictional, since a kamikaze pilot intent on hitting a specific ship would not divert his attention to drop a small bomb in the midst of survivors of another ship.

5. A Zero fighter crashed into Halsey Powell (DD-686) on March 20, 1945, but the destroyer did not sink as claimed in the photo caption. The kamikaze attack killed 12 men and injured 29, but the heavily damaged ship was able to leave the attack area under her own power (Rielly 2010, 199-200).

6. On April 12, 1945, kamikaze pilots of the Japanese Special Attack Corps hit many ships, but they did not send to the bottom or wreck beyond repair scores of American ships. Warner (1982, 329-30) lists 2 ships sunk and 16 ships damaged by kamikaze aircraft on that date.

Sources Cited

Rielly, Robin L. 2008. Kamikazes, Corsairs, and Picket Ships: Okinawa, 1945. Philadelphia: Casemate.

________. 2010. Kamikaze Attacks of World War II: A Complete History of Japanese Suicide Strikes on American Ships, by Aircraft and Other Means. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.

Warner, Denis, Peggy Warner, with Commander Sadao Seno. 1982. The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Yasunobu, Takeo. 1972. Kamikaze tokkōtai (Kamikaze special attack corps). Edited by Kengo Tominaga. Tōkyō: Akita Shoten.