Tag Archives: Maryland

Kamikaze (3)

I was telling you last time how author Robert C Stern had listed in his excellent book about the kamikaze phenomenon, the numbers of men killed and wounded in various US Navy ships:

“……….with 16 killed and 21 wounded, the Colorado with 19 killed and 72 wounded, the Maryland with 31 killed and 30 wounded, the Aulick with 31 killed and 64 wounded, the Mugford with 8 killed and 14 wounded, the Lamson with 25 killed and 54 wounded, the Drayton with 6 killed and 12……”

The USS John Burke apparently blew up as soon as it was touched by a “Zeke” and both the ship and the 107 men on it were instantly vaporised. Not the slightest trace of them was ever found. This is the USS Suwannee, but you probably get the gist:

The worst day, Kamikaze-wise, was January 6th 1945. The Japanese caused damage to 15 American ships and killed 167 men and wounded 502. They lost 30 aircraft and 30 pilots. And in their strange alien world, it was a good return. US Navy policy was to push badly damaged aircraft into the sea. This was the USS Belleau Wood:

Author Robert Stern, explains extremely carefully the techniques used by the kamikazes. They usually came in fairly slowly, low in the sky, just above the horizon, trying not to draw attention to each other, pretending to be one of the many US Navy aircraft which always seemed to be around. Their favourite time was either at dawn or at sunset, with the light or the darkness helping to hide them. Their preferred weather was a clear morning followed by an afternoon which was cloudy with squalls, perhaps even thunderheads, rising high above the ships. Clouds and poor visibility helped the kamikaze to hide from the anti-aircraft fire. Such weather conditions used to be called “kamikaze weather”. In the picture above, note the sailors all standing in the safest place to stand:

A great many good men were killed or seriously injured by kamikaze attacks. 66 ships were sunk, and an unknown number were damaged, some of them so seriously that they only returned to Pacific waters in 1946.

Nobody ever suggested, though, at any point, that the war should be stopped. There was rather a desire to get the job done with the minimum number of casualties. Even so, the kamikazes had “a terrifying psychological value”. How’s this for “terrifying psychological value”..?

Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro wanted to use this “terrifying psychological value” to force the Allies to postpone or even cancel their attack on the home islands of Japan. He would have wanted a Japanese surrender that was not unconditional, he would have wanted not to have had any Allied soldiers on the sacred soil of Japan, and, fairly unbelievably, for Japan to have kept such overseas colonies as Manchuria.

Some ships were hit by more than one kamikaze either in the same incident or on different days. The most frequently struck ship is usually reckoned to be HMAS Australia. On October 21st 1944 it was hit by a Sonia dive bomber, although this may have been a “jibaku” act, when an already doomed aircraft was plunged into a nearby ship. 29 men were killed and 64 were wounded.

Here’s a “Sonia”:

And here’s HMAS Australia:

On January 5th 1945, a “Zeke” hit the HMAS Australia and killed 25 men and wounded 30. On the 8th, a “Dinah” hit at 0720 hours but caused no damage. At 0739, a second “Dinah” caused lots of serious damage. The ship was forced to list and to have its speed reduced. Many of its guns were put out of action. And then, at 1302 two “Val” dive bombers caused severe damage to the funnel, which rendered the forward fireroom unusable because of the subsequent lack of updraught. At the end of the day, HMAS Australia left Leyte Gulf for repairs, initially at Sydney, then in the USA and finally at Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

Let’s finish with a slideshow. Number one is  “Val”, then there’s a “Dinah”, reckoned to be one of the most beautiful aircraft ever designed, and the last one is a Mitsubishi Zero.

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The photograph of the “Dinah”, I took. If only I had had the brains to crouch down and lose the backlighting. What a stupid “Baka” as the Japanese say.

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Filed under Aviation, History, Pacific Theatre, the Japanese

Kamikaze (2)

Last time I was telling you how I had read a splendid book called “Fire from the Sky” by Robert C Stern. The book traces the history of the Japanese kamikaze attacks which began in the Philippines in 1944. It is an excellent and informative book which, clearly, has been extensively researched.

Experience quickly taught the Japanese that attaching two bombs of around 250-500 pounds, depending on the aircraft, could cause a lot more damage than the aircraft itself, particularly if it was only a small plane such as a Zero. The bombs were never released but they were always live. The best places to aim were directly down the funnel or at the base of the funnel. This ship off Okinawa has had damage done to the boilers, presumably via the vulnerable funnel:

Alternatively, the bridge was a good target because it was full of officers. The absolute best target, though, was to seek out an aircraft carrier and to aim the aircraft and bombs at the elevator because this gave access to the inside of the ship. And below decks there might well be an explosive mixture of “aviation fuel” and air. Certainly fire was the main weapon needed to cause large scale damage inside an aircraft carrier. And those two bombs, as well as blowing out partition walls, might also start the very fire needed to damage such a big ship.

The very, very best time to strike was when the US Navy fighters had just returned from combat and were being “safed” which I presume means pumping out the unused avgas and removing any hung-up bombs. Even better, perhaps, was that moment seconds before takeoff, when everybody was ready, propellers spinning, bombs armed, full fuel with perhaps drop tanks too, and all the aircraft, by necessity, extremely close to each other.

This attack was clearly aimed at both the flight deck and the elevator. The ship is the USS Bunker Hill:

Diving an aircraft down to hit a target on the sea is apparently not the most simple of manoeuvres, and the best kamikaze pilots were capable of flipping their aircraft over upside down so that they could see the target clearly as they dived down to hit it. You can see this manoeuvre on the old films of Stuka dive bombers. Here is the version produced for the Luftwaffe Ballroom Dancing Team:

Defenders soon realised what a kamikaze pilot was trying to do, and they soon realised too that machine gun fire and cannon fire was comforting for the people on the ship but of virtually no value whatsoever. Most effective were five inch guns or bigger because the plane would need to be disintegrated to stop it carrying out its mission. On occasion, aircraft still caused large amounts of damage after their wings had been shot off.

It was extremely rare for kamikazes to sink big ships or even to damage them greatly. Much more likely prey were landing craft or the radar pickets protecting the fleet. Smaller ships could not absorb the combination of speed and explosive power. They were either sunk completely or suffered huge casualties. On one occasion a kamikaze blew fifty men off the deck of a warship and none of them were ever seen again.

In one chapter, author Robert Stern lists the casualties for all of the ships attacked between November 27th-December 28th 1944. The first figure represents the men killed and the second figure the men wounded. Thus we have the St Lo with 16 killed and 21 wounded. Here it is:

The Colorado had 19 killed and 72 wounded, the Maryland 31 killed and 30 wounded, the Aulick 31 killed and 64 wounded, the Drayton 6 killed and 12 wounded, the Mugford 8 killed and 14 wounded, the Lamson 25 killed and 54 wounded, the Liddle 38 killed and 20 wounded.  The Hughes had none killed but 73 were wounded, the Caldwell had 33 killed and 40 wounded, the Nashville had 133 killed and 190 wounded, the Haraden had 14 killed and 24 wounded, the Orestes had 59 killed and 110 wounded, the Pringle had 11 killed and 20 wounded, LST 472 had 6 killed and 50 wounded and the two LSTs, Nos 460 and 749, had 107 killed.

And from the Japanese point of view, that is an excellent return for the lives of a relatively small number of men.

 

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Filed under Aviation, History, Pacific Theatre, the Japanese

“Greater Love Hath No Man”

For nearly thirty years we have taken our holidays in Cornwall, enjoying an invigorating fortnight in the land of the Cornish Pasty. As Cornwall is in the extreme south west of England, and we always holiday in the very westernmost area, named Penwith, we are no strangers to rainy or overcast conditions.
On August 27th 2009 we decided to go to Godrevy, one of our favourite sites either to sit on the beach or to look for seals and seabirds. Alas, this day, conditions were misty and wet:

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The famous lighthouse was barely visible:

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We decided, therefore, to drive to Hayle, the nearest town, to take an early lunch. My wife went to the local pasty shop to buy some traditional local food. “Philps Famous Pasties from Cornwall, freshly baked every morning”:

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Meanwhile, I went off to lay claim to a seat overlooking the harbour:

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On the left there is an Art gallery which used to be a butcher’s shop. Looking through the window, I thought this apparent Roman mosaic was the best bit of art in the place:

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And this one. An Art Nouveau bull with a thousand yard stare:

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And then suddenly I saw it, on the opposite side of the road. A huge stone, surrounded by brightly coloured flower beds, which really stood out from the rather drab grey, misty surroundings:

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I crossed the road for a closer look. It was a plaque dedicated to bravery three thousand miles away:

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And presumably, it is exactly because that bravery took place three thousand miles away that these heroic deeds remain completely unknown and unheard of in his own country. Let me put that right, though:

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“Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla
Rick Gave His Life In The Terrorist Attack
On The World Trade Centre, New York,
September 11th 2001,
While Directing The Evacuation
His Actions On The Day Saved Over 2,700 Lives
“Greater Love Hath No Man”

Here are three maps to help orient yourself. The orange arrow marks the spot:

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Rick Rescorla was born in Hayle in 1939. During the war, he made friends with American soldiers from Maryland and Virginia, stationed in Penwith, and preparing for the D-Day invasion. Rick idolized the American soldiers and decided to become a soldier when he grew up.
He joined the British Army in 1957, eventually joining The Parachute Regiment. He then served with an intelligence unit in Cyprus. In 1960 he became a paramilitary police inspector in the Northern Rhodesia Police in central Africa. Back again in London, he joined the Metropolitan Police Service.
He then moved to the United States and eventually went to fight in Vietnam:

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For his bravery with the famous 7th Cavalry Regiment, Rick was to win the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, a Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry:

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Eventually, Rick found himself working in corporate security for Morgan Stanley, with an office on the 44th floor of the South Tower, Tower 2, of the World Trade Centre:

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One of the first things Rick did was to instigate emergency evacuations every three months for everybody, including the most senior executives.
He trained everybody to assemble in the hall between the stairwells and then to descend, calmly, in pairs, down to the 44th floor. His strictness with these emergency evacuations caused friction with some of the top management, but he insisted that they were necessary, should a real emergency ever occur. Just as he would have done in the forces, he timed the employees’ performance with his stop watch and gave them detailed instructions on the most basic elements of safety in the event of a major fire.
These measures all came from the fact that Rick, and his colleague, the counter terrorism expert, Daniel Hill, Rick’s old friend from Rhodesia, both believed that an attack could well take place one day, involving a plane being crashed into one of the towers.
At 8:46 a.m. on that fateful morning of September 11th, Rick heard the explosion as American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower and then watched the huge conflagration from his window.
A public  announcement was made that everybody should stay at their desks, but Rick ignored it and immediately grabbed his megaphone, radio and cell phone.
He ordered the Morgan Stanley office workers to leave the building, descending by the stairwells with which they were so familiar. He also made sure a thousand workers were evacuated from World Trade Centre 5.
After a short interval, the South Tower was shaken violently by the impact of United Airlines Flight 175, almost forty floors above them. Rick continued to calm his fellow workers, and the much practiced evacuation continued to proceed smoothly down the stairwell. One of the company’s office workers actually took a photograph of Rick with his megaphone that day, “a 62-year-old mountain of a man coolly sacrificing his life for others”. Here are Rick Rescorla and his colleagues, Jorge Velazquez, and Godwin Forde – leading the evacuation on 9-11:

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As he had done with his scared soldiers in Vietnam, in an effort to allay their fears, Rick sang to the frightened staff members as they descended. He used his own song based on “Men of Harlech”:

“Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;

Can’t you see their spear points gleaming?

See their warriors’ pennants streaming

To this battlefield. Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;

It cannot be ever said ye for the battle were not ready;

Stand and never yield!”

The vast majority of Morgan Stanley’s 2,687 employees were now safe, thanks to Rick Rescorla, but he went back into the building to make sure that he had not missed anybody and that there were no stragglers.

Rick was seen for the last time on the tenth floor, climbing upwards. At one minute to ten, the South Tower collapsed. Rick was never found. Of the huge number of people whose protection was his responsibility, all but six survived.
There was almost unbelievable bravery shown that day by the members of the Fire Department, City of New York:

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Equal levels of bravery came from the members of the City of New York Police Department:

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Rick Rescorla, an Englishman, was not found wanting.

He had not been found wanting in Vietnam either:

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One of his fellow soldiers described him:

“My God, it was like Little Big Horn.  We were all cowering in the bottom of our foxholes, expecting to get overrun.  Rescorla gave us courage to face the coming dawn.  He looked me in the eye and said, ‘When the sun comes up, we’re gonna kick some ass.'”

Rick has not been forgotten in his home town of Hayle. Here is the Rick Rescorla Wildlife Garden at the Penpol School in Hayle (ages 5-11):

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The Cornish Stannary Parliament honoured Rick with “The White Cross of Cornwall”, “An Grows Wyn a Gernow”. It is made from pure Cornish tin and Cornish Delabole slate in a hand-madebox of Cornish elm:

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In this picture, Jon Daniels, in the centre, presents the cup to the winners of the Rick Rescorla Memorial Triathlon:

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To finish with, here is the song “Men of Harlech”. It is taken from the film “Zulu“, as more than four thousand African warriors lay siege to Rorke’s Drift, defended by just 150 British Empire troops of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot (2nd/24th) and 2nd/3rd Natal Native Contingent:

And finally, the full quote from the Gospel according to St John, Chapter 15, Verse 13. Christian or not, it is no less true:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

 

 

 

 

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